Thursday, January 29, 2009

Gone To See The Man Upstairs

I don't usually post anything when someone I admired dies. I even ignored Patrick McGoohan's passing. That's because I usually run across scores of tribute to that person. Today is different because one of my favorite musicians just died and he's someone I'm not going to see a lot of tributes to right away.

Singer-songwriter John Martyn passed this morning at the age of 60. Martyn came up in the British music scene as one of the many folksingers of the mid-60's but his muse took him in his own direction with a viscous, fluid music that encompassed folk, jazz, funk and blues covered over by a husky, burring voice that seemed to emerge out of a fog. I first heard him in the early 70's with the song "Solid Air", a serpentine, half-submerged groove of dark, ambient jazz and I followed his work through albums like One World, Sunday's Child and Grace And Danger. I followed him as he cut his own individual path through folk songs, electric noise, reggae and dub with amazing songs like "Man In The Station", "Bless The Weather", "May You Never", "Discover The Lover", "Our Love" and "Big Muff".

Martyn's music turned a little too mellow in the 80's and eventually it became very hard to find his albums in the U.S. when he actually released something. Most of his recent CDs seem to be releases of old concert tapes. I have run across some quality later material though. One is The Church With One Bell, a sweetly funky covers set that touches on Ben Harper, Elmore James, and Billie Holiday with snaky readings of Randy Newman's "God's Song" and Portishead's "Glory Box" and a spine-tingling "Death Don't Have No Mercy". The other is, barring some posthumous release, his final release, On The Cobbles memorable if for no other reason than a gritty duet with Mavis Staples on "Goodnight Irene". Martyn was one of those singers who could chill your blood and haunt your nightmares. I wanted to post some clips of him but YouTube seems to running really slow today. I'll try to get some up tomorrow.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Barbara Thompson

Barbara Thompson is a leading saxophonist and composer on the British jazz scene and here is a clip of her from the 80's with her band Paraphenalia doing some spacey jazz-rock. The drummer is her husband, the renowned Jon Hiseman, and the MC is a Brit jazz legend, Ronnie Scott.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

THE Ornette Coleman Quartet

One of the great groups in modern jazz, the classic Ornette Coleman Quartet with Don Cherry, Charlie Haden and Billy Higgins. This was from a concert in Spain on their last tour together in 1987.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Toshinori Kondo & IMA

Toskinori Kondo is a trumpeter from Japan known for working with progressive types like Bill Laswell and Peter Brotzmann. Like a lot of other jazz musicians in the 80's and 90's he also at one time tried the electric rock-fusion scene with a band called IMA. Here he is with a video from that group called "China Demonstration". It reminds me a little of "Rockit"-era Herbie Hancock.

Friday, January 23, 2009

James Blood

Here is the mighty James Blood Ulmer doing a solo version of his old classic "Are You Glad To Be In America?". Today I think a lot of people would answer that differently than they might have a year ago.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Hiromi & Chick

Hiromi Uehara is a young Japanese pianist who's gotten a lot of attention recently. She reminds me of a certain famous other pianist who happens to be playing with her here. They are doing "Concerto de Aranjuez" followed by, appropriately enough, "Spain".

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Brotzmann in 1974

Here is an amazing little rarity. I posted a clip of German saxophonist Peter Brotzmann playing with Last Exit in 1986 the other day. Here is an even earlier piece of Brotzmann in 1974 playing in Warsaw with other key members of the first wave of European free jazz, Alexander Von Schlippenbach on piano, the late Peter Kowald on bass and Paul Lovens on drums. This shows more of their humorous side than the full out assault they were capable of and it's amazing to see them all looking so young.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Last Exit To...

This is Last Exit, a short lived free jazz "supergroup" of the Eighties, that consisted of four of the ferocious musicians of the day, saxophonist Peter Brotzmann, one of the founders of the European free jazz scene, legendary guitarist Sonny Sharrock, drummer Ronald Shannon Jackson who had played with Cecil Taylor and Ornette Coleman and bassist and constant musical experimenter Bill Laswell. These four men played ruthless, take no prisoners noise that had the rough shape of rock but the barrelling force of unfettered jazz. They didn't stay together for that long, just a few years before other projects took them in different directions and Sharrock's death in 1994 ruled out any chance of a reunion but as you can hear from this 1986 live clip from a Frankfurt concert they were something to behold.

Linus The Lionhearted

This is a piece from a cartoon show that will probably never see the light of day on DVD or any other home video format, Linus The Lionhearted. The show ran on CBS on Saturday morning in the 1960's and starred several characters who all started out as trademark symbols for various Post cereals. There was Linus, a lion who ruled a jungle (the star for Crispy Critters cereal), Lovable Truly, a mailman (Alpha-Bits), Sugar Bear (Sugar Crisps) and So Hi, a little Chinese boy (Rice Krinkles). It's certainly not unusual for cereals to have cartoon spokesmen in commercials like the Trix rabbit, Captain Crunch and Quake and Quisp but this is the only time I know of where those characters were put into full length cartoons.

The cartoons weren't bad and deserve to be remembered as more than just extended commercials. The animation was good, the stories, like this Linus example, tended to have an adult level of humor as well as the kiddie stuff and the voice talent included some well known actors who were associated with some of the prime time CBS shows Post sponsored like "The Dick Van Dyke Show" and "The Andy Griffith Show". Sheldon Leonard and Carl Reiner are doing the voices here and I remember Howard Morris and Jonathan Winters doing voices in some of the other cartoons.

Obviously the commercial ties of these cartoons make them verboten for release today even though I don't think Post even makes most of those cereals any more so this is a real rarity. Here is Linus The Lionhearted in "Travel Is Broadening".

Sunday, January 18, 2009

A Narrowing Of Focus

I haven't posted for a while because I've been rethinking what I want to do with this blog. I do like the idea of posting music clips but I've really been random with them and it was really starting to look like an oldies party around here with the last few posts. Instead I want to concentrate on all the jazz works I've been finding especially rare clips by modern musicians especially those who don't get much recognition these days. There is still some rare stuff in other areas out there I want to post and I will not neglect some of my other favorite niche genres like female British folk singers but I want to concentrate for a while on giving some love to jazz and other improvising musicians like the following...

NBC doesn't seem to have a problem with clips of the Johnny Carson era Tonight Show on YouTube because Carson of course had an excellent big band on his show and loved having visiting musicians come in and play with them, including here someone not known for straight ahead work, the great guitarist John McLaughlin. He does himself proud here, just nonchalantly sitting down with an acoustic and jamming the hell out of "Cherokee".

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Shaw Sings Nilsson

I mentioned Sandie Shaw yesterday and here she is. I meant to post "Girl Don't Come" but then I found this clip of her doing a medley of Harry Nilsson's "One" and "Without Her".

Friday, January 2, 2009

Gene Pitney

I'm not much for nostalgia but I have to admit a fondness for some of the big voiced pop singers that were around when I was a small kid, singers like Chuck Jackson, Cilla Black, Dusty Springfield, Dell Shannon, Sandie Shaw and most especially Gene Pitney who got to use his magnificent voice on some of the most sophisticated and stylish pop of his day. Here is a vintage clip of him doing "Town Without Pity".

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Lee Hazlewood & Friend

I was looking through some old Lee Hazlewood clips on YouTube. There are a lot of duets with Nancy Sinatra there of course, but I was looking to see if I could find one particular song he did with Ann-Margaret called "Sleep In The Grass". That does not seem to be there but I did find a clip of Hazlewood doing that song with a singer named Siw Malmkvist from one of his Swedish TV specials. Honestly I'm now not sure which version is better.