Saturday, April 21, 2018

Ratdog - 2006-03-01, KPFA Studio, Berkeley, CA

I'll be the first to admit I can't keep track of all the post-Grateful Dead side projects. I understand all the members have their own bands, and occasionally play with each other in some other bands, but quite frankly I feel like Charlie Kelly when I try and keep track of them all:

But of the ones I do know, and actually listen to, Ratdog is the best. Actually, they're the only one, actually. Why? Because, as this live broadcast shows, they're heavy on loose, Blues for Allah era jams that are just the right amount of light fusion. They take the tricky rhythms of "Slipknot" and whip through them like it's nothing special, then work themselves into a nice, slow groove. The saxophone and wah-guitar give them a nice 70s vibe, and I like the way Bob Weir and Mark Karan's guitars mesh. It's maybe a little slow-going for some people's tastes, but I think it's just about perfect for a lazy afternoon where I sit around doing nothing.

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Bill Laswell, Bernie Worrell and Material - 2012-10-24 - Milan, Italy

One World Music...

I've been on a bit of a Laswell kick as of late, listening to his solo record Means of Deliverance and a bunch of Material. Why? Because they've all been re-released on Bandcamp, often with new cover art and great sound. It's tempting to just buy them all, especially after a couple of drinks, but since I own a few of them already, and a few don't really do much for me, I've just stuck with his Material albums: One Down, Seven Souls and The Third Power. 

One thing I've noticed is that there isn't a lot of Live Laswell out there. I guess there's a few EPs, but generally it's just lots and lots of studio recordings. Which makes today's share all the more interesting: it's a Material show from 2012, and at this point Laswell was on something of a jazz kick. He'd also brought along sometime-compatriot and P-funk legend Bernie Worrell on keys, which immediately makes this a must-listen

And it's a rewarding one, too. It opens with a lengthy Worrell solo, then the band hits into a laid-back groove for "Volunteered Slavery." From there's the electric funk of "Goodfellas," the spacey almost dub of "Tendi" and some guitar heroics on "Thinking of Hendrix." There's a lengthy percussion solo, which would almost put the Dead's Kreutzmann/Hart to shame and lots of dub/reggae grooves in the show's back end. It sort of promises what the bootleg title delivers: One World Music, as many ideas from what we'd call world music all happening at once.

I'm not sure exactly the details of this recording; it's taken from a radio broadcast, and I don't really know if all the titles are correct. According to one site, the lineup is:
  • Bill Laswell, bass
  • Bernie Worrell, keyboards;
  • Dominic Kanza, guitar;
  •  Hamid Drake, drums
  • Ayib Dieng, percussion
  • Steven Bernstein, trumpet
  • Peter Apfelbaum, tenor sax

Monday, April 9, 2018

Ralph Towner - 1974-03-12 - Postaula, Bremen, Germany

From the NDR Archives...

Is Ralph Towner jazz? He doesn't make music that swings, and even in a full band context (Oregon, for example), calling them jazz seems to take the label to a breaking point.

Regardless, I like Towner's playing a lot. When he plays guitar, he makes it sound like a thousand instruments, alternating between crashing chords and lightning-fast runs up and down the fretboard. I don't think it's too unfair to compare him to John McLaughlin, although I'd argue Towner's a more atmospheric player, in that his playing fills the room with emotion and feeling; McLaughlin's as impersonal as a machine gun at times.

This set was recorded live in 1974, I believe by NDR. Or perhaps Radio Bremen? I'm not sure, and if I spoke German I could probably look it up. What that means for you, is the sound is crystal-clear, sounding like you're right in front of his guitar (or, for "Rainmaker," his piano). He takes standards and twists them on their head (wonder what Mingus made of his "Goodbye Pork Pie Hat",) while originals are cast in a new light: "Nimbus" is all tension and a cloud of notes, while "Rainmaker" shows off his underrated piano skills.

So: is Ralph Towner jazz? My answer: does it really matter when the music's so good?

Thursday, April 5, 2018

Kip Hanrahan - Sex, Romance And Passion. Anger, Lies And Deceit

He's the wardrobe master of paradise...

In a more just world, I wouldn't have annoying dysphoria issues, Trayvon Martin would still be alive and Kip Hanrahan would be more well known, or at least to the same extent that Hal Willner or Bill Laswell are.

That ism there's a good chance that you've heard of Laswell or Willner, and even if you haven't, you know the stable of musicians they're able to call upon: Ginger Baker, Sonny Sharrock, Elvis Costello, and Lou Reed, among others. And Hanrahan, during his American Clave prime in the 80s, was able to call in some big names: Byard Lancaster, David Murray, Jack Bruce and even Laswell himself.

But not everything in life is peaches and cream, and I think Clave went out of business a few times over the years. Or at least garnered an impression that their records are hard to find. I've only seen one in the wild, and I've been to record stores literally all across Canada. Which is interesting, since on Discogs you can find his stuff for pretty cheap!

Anyway, this share is a mix made by - and I'm going from memory here - a guy named Miles on a long-defunct blog called Birds With Broken Wings something like a decade ago. I grabbed it from another long-gone blog a few years ago, and not only have I not seen it anywhere else, I can't even find anything on Google about it. Go figure.

The music is what you'd expect from a Hanrahan release, but if you're not familiar it's something like this: smoky, back-room jazz, with speak-singing that's closer to a poetry recital than anything; Latin-infused rhythms and horn riffs; ECM-style jazz guitar; jazz that's maybe a little pretentious, but always interesting and never demands much more than an open mind from the listener.

I'd list the sources and players, but honestly I don't have them. Mostly, it's from 90s records like Exotica, A Thousand Nights and A Night, and a few others; there's nothing here from his first couple of records, which are also very cool and recommended. I hope you enjoy, and thanks again to Miles, wherever you are.

Monday, April 2, 2018

Arthur Blythe - May 4, 1979, Public Theater, New York, NY

Back to the Beginning...

In 1979, Arthur Blythe looked like he could've been the next big name in jazz. He'd built up an impressive run as a sidesman and a leader on small labels. And when CBS released Lenox Avenue Breakdown, the Village Voice's Gary Giddons wrote a long, positive review. To wit:
For me, he is one of the four or five most stimulating jazz musicians to come to the jazz fore in the past decade... If Columbia can tap into Blythe's potential audience, the album could be the wedge with which other loft veterans break through to larger audiences.
No small feat considering he was compared against peers like David Murray, Ray Anderson and Butch Morris, among others.

What happened next, and how his records all sort of slipped into the cutout bins, is a story for another time, so let's reward the clock back to the late 70s, when Blythe was gigging with James Ulmer, Abdul Wadud, Bobby Battle and Bob Stewart in New York and radio stations would play his sets over the airwaves.

This one comes from May 4, 1979. It's from early in his career as a bandleader, and if this site can be believed, it's the earliest circulating show of his band. Which is neat, but wouldn't mean too much if the music wasn't so good. Take a listen and think about all the potential and talent, and you know, the stuff that made seasoned critics like Giddons start salivating.

Sunday, April 1, 2018

Horace Silver - 1987-06-30, St. Denis Theatre, Montreal, Quebec

From the CBC Radio archives...

Throughout most of the 50s and 60s, Horace Silver was on a hell of a streak. Just about all of his Blue Note records - and there's a lot of them - just about defined what hard bop was supposed to sound like. And they're just dripping with cool: Song for my Father mixes in Latin grooves, while Tokyo Blues opens with jutting horns. And througout, Silver's piano has more hooks than the average pop song. It's no wonder he hasn't just been sampled like a million times, but even been ripped off Steely Dan (see: "Rikki Don't Lose that Number").

Anyway, even if his commercial and artistic peak was a good two decades behind him by 1987, Silver and his band still could bring it when playing live. I've got something like a dozen bootlegs of him from all kinds of places, ranging from the late 60s to the late 80s, and the genius of his songs (and band arrangements, too) has each of them sounding as good as anything from his Blue Note records.

In fact, I'd argue this show from the Montreal Jazz Festival sounds not only as good as any of them, but at moments sounds even better. Think I'm kidding? The way him and his band blast into "Tokyo Blues" sounds like the opening theme to a forgotten 70s cop show, giving the music a harder edge than the laid-back original. Must've been a blast to see in person.

The rest of the show isn't a slouch, either.  Take "The God of Aruba." Through as a few extended solos, the band stretches out while remaining pretty accessible: solo, theme, a few more choruses, then the theme again and repeat. Compare this to, say, the stuff David Murray or Ronald Shannon Jackson were doing at about the same time, and you'll see what I mean. And, unlike Wynton, who at the same time was all about doing jazz as a museum piece, Silver's music remains playful and fun.

Friday, March 30, 2018

Sam Rivers and Friends - 1978-10-15, Keystone Korner, San Francisco, CA

A little free jazz for the birds...

Rivers, Daley and "friend"
To some, the San Francisco club Keystone Korner is maybe best remembered a place where Jerry Garcia gigged all the time. Except, you know, the Keystone Garcia gigged at was the other Keystone, located in Berkley. Confusing, I know!

The Korner was a jazz club, somehow improbably successful throughout the 70s at a time when jazz clubs were largely a thing of the past. An insane number of live records were recorded there, my personal fave being Keystone Bop featuring Freddie Hubbard, Joe Henderson, and Bobby Hutcherson, among others. And it played host to all sorts of jazz: electric Miles, various Art Blakey lineups (including one with a young Wynton Marsalis) and even the occasional free jazz show.

Today's share comes from one of those gigs. This one came to me under Sam Rivers leadership, and who knows, maybe he was considered the headliner here. But the lineup also includes Anthony Braxton, Dave Holland, Joe Daley and Thurman Barker. And by this point, both Holland and Braxton were established leaders of their own, with records on ECM and Arista. Rivers, meanwhile, was releasing stuff like Sizzle for Impulse, and most probably, the cutout bins.

And of course, one may remember that Holland, Rivers and Braxton all recorded the seminal Conference of the Birds a few years previous. And that Holland and Rivers had been gigging as a duo occasionally. And that Braxton had been dabbling in his own NYC-based experiments. And that... but I'm rambling.

The music here is probably one long piece, mostly improvised. I say probably because for one, there's a few dropouts and cuts through the one long file. And second, I think there's a few moments where they sound like they're building on some themes or ideas. I'm hardly an expert on free jazz, so please feel free to sound off below and tell me they're all, I dunno, playing an arrangement of Charlie Parker solos. That's another thing Braxton was doing around this time, you know. Still: it's about an hour of some pretty cool music, no matter the content or whose name got top billing. Hope you enjoy!

Thursday, March 29, 2018

Lucinda Williams - House of Blues, West Hollywood, CA; July 30, 2001

One more for International Women's Month...

Maybe you noticed a theme here this month: I posted only boots by female musicians. Because hey, it's international women's month and because it wasn't really all that hard. And there's plenty of good music to share.

The last one I've got for this month is a nice show from Lucinda Williams. It's a lengthy show from the House of Blues in Hollywood from 2001, and features a nice band:  
Lucinda Williams - vocals, acoustic and electric guitar
Doug Pettibone - electric guitar, electric mandolin, steel guitar
Bo Ramsay - electric guitar
Taras Prodaniuk - bass
Don Heffington - drums
Honestly, I can't say I'm overly familar with her music, at least enough to say if this is like the Cornell '77 of Williams bootlegs or anything, but it's a fun listen and that's usually enough for me. Hope you enjoy, too!

Monday, March 26, 2018

Diana Krall - 2004-06-24, Black Orchid Supper Club, Chicago, IL

Almost blue...
Cor baby, that's really her

I can hear it already: this is too smooth, too easy listening, too mainstream, blah blah blah. I can understand why some people might not like Diana Krall, but I don't really agree with it.

Maybe it's because she's such a crossover success that it's almost impossible not to find her records in thrift-stores and second-hand CD shops. Maybe it's because she doesn't play outside/free jazz or records for a hip, small indie jazz label. Maybe it's because (gasp!) she's a woman who leads her own band. I dunno. But I think that in a vacuum, Krall's a remarkable talent. She possesses a husky voice that drips smokey vibes and emotion and it able to not only turn a song like Elvis Costello's "Almost Blue" into a standard, but make you think it's been one all along. I mean, people love Chet Baker for almost doing the same thing and he threw away most of his talent. And he couldn't play and sing at the same time, like Krall does.

This set was recorded live in 2004, but as per the notes on Ousterhout, it wasn't broadcast until 2008. I grabbed this off a long-vanished blog a few years ago, so any details on the broadcast are long gone, but Krall was touring with a crack band (that's Peter Erskine on drums, who you may remember from his stint in Weather Report) and had an interesting setlist this evening. So: it's a great sounding recording, a good band and a nice setlist. Maybe take a listen, will ya?

Saturday, March 24, 2018

Cat Power - 1999-05-14, Bellingham

One of her better nights...

My sister's fiance used to work at a radio station, and even though he's not a music guy, he's been to a lot of shows over the years. I asked him about Cat Power once, and he said she was not good: withdrawn, rushed through her set and was gone after like 40 minutes. He wasn't alone; the New Yorker once wrote about how bad she was on stage; little did they know she was an alcoholic who drank to excess to combat stage freight.

This share isn't one of those nights. On this night in Bellingham, she mostly played covers (all from the then-new The Covers Record), a few originals and even a cover that she'd get around to releasing a few years later. It's an intimate show, just her and a guitar (or piano), her voice occasionally a little hoarse, but still carrying emotion. At the time, she was easily capable of creating a tender, fragile performance. And when she performs solo, it's a lot easier to hear her connection to the blues, often a source of influence in her music. It reminds me more than a little bit of Songs: Ohia actually, but unlike Molina, she was able to overcome her personal demons.

The way she takes apart covers is interesting, too. "Satisfaction" is stripped to the sinews, like it might've been performed by Elmore James; "Wild is the Wind" is similarly bare and stark, with just her voice and a booming piano. The whole set is like this. It's not a fun time, but it's a compelling time.