Saturday, May 26, 2012

Musicians' quotes: Levon Helm on music

"We try and play to a tradition. Music is not a fad, and music ain't a style, and it ain't none of that stuff that it has to serve. Music ain't theater... you can make music do lots of things because music don't care."
Levon Helm, who would have been 72 today, interviewed in 1984.


Richard Manuel: piano and vocals
Rick Danko: bass and vocals
Garth Hudson: organ and keyboards
Robbie Robertson: guitar
Levon Helm: drums and vocals


 Snooky Young: trumpet
Earl McIntyre: trombone
JD Parran: alto sax
Joe Farrell: tenor sax
Howard Johnson: baritone sax

 At Academy of Music, New York,
New Years' Eve, 1971.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Celebrating Sun Ra...

Documentary: Sun Ra: A Joyful Noise (Robert Mugge, 1980)

Documentary: Sun Ra, Brother from Another Planet (Don Letts, 2005)

Film: Space is the Place (John Coney, 1974)

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Satchmo on Sunday

There's always something special in duets between a vocalist and an instrumentalist. Neither has anywhere to hide, but they do have more space to stretch out and more flexibility to accommodate each other. 

Whatever your taste, Louis Armstrong, Oscar Peterson and Herb Ellis are phenomenal musicians. Hearing them in this setting is just a delight. Both duets come from the 1957 Verve album Louis Armstrong meets Oscar Peterson (Verve/Universal 0602498840283).

Louis Armstrong (vocals) & Oscar Peterson (piano): "What's New?" (on MySpace / on Spotify)

Louis Armstrong (vocals) & Herb Ellis (guitar): "There's No You" (on MySpace / on Spotify)

PS: Go here for a more thorough post on "There's No You" by wunderkind Satchmologist Ricky Riccardi, whose book on Louis Armstrong, What a Wonderful World, is out now on paperback.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Happy 99th, Woody Herman!

Woody Herman, born May 16, 1913, is my favourite big band leader, and his wonderful organisation (pace Symphony Sid) of 1944-1946, the orchestra that I listen to the most for kicks. Herman surely had an ability to nurture talent as very few people could. In this recording, made on September 19th, 1946 (parts I-III) and December 27th, 1947 (part IV) he gave carte blanche to his 24-year old Ralph Burns to compose "something symphonic", which he did during the summer of '46, while taking a break from the road at the house of bassman Chubby Jackson's mom.

Originally, this suite had only three movements, but a fourth was added as an afterthought in order to complete four sides for a two-record set. The whole piece deserves attentive listening, but some things I'd pay especial attention are: the arrangement in general (the bit starting on 4:30 with the different sections going in opposite directions), including the written-out parts for the rhythm section, the baritone sax solo at the beginning of movement II, the motive played by the piano during the transition from II to III (6:03), the blues explosion at the end of III (7:56), and the angelical eight bars by Stan Getz that close the whole affair, and which put the 20-year old (!) firmly on his way to stardom.

Personnel (from Mosaic Records): 

"Summer Sequence" (I, II, III)
LA, September 19, 1946

Sonny Berman, Cappy Lewis, Conrad Gozzo, Pete Candoli, Shorty Rogers (tp), Bill Harris, Ralph Pfeffner, Ed Kiefer, Neal Reid (tb), Woody Herman (cl, as, vcl), Sam Marowitz (as), John LaPorta (cl, as), Flip Phillips, Mickey Folus (ts), Sam Rubinwitch (fl, bari), Ralph Burns (p, arr), Chuck Wayne (g), Joe Mondragon (b), Don Lamond (d), Ralph Burns (arr). 

2044-1 Summer Sequence (Pt.1) Col 38365 
2045-1 Summer Sequence (Pt.2)   - 
2046-1 Summer Sequence (Pt.3) Col 38367 

"Summer Sequence" (IV)
Hollywood, December 27, 1947

Stan Fishelson, Bernie Glow, Marky Markowitz, Ernie Royal (tp), Shorty Rogers (tp, arr), Earl Swope, Ollie Wilson (tb), Bob Swift (bass tb), Woody Herman (cl, as, vcl), Sam Marowitz (as), Herbie Steward (as, ts), Stan Getz, Zoot Sims (ts), Serge Chaloff (bari), Ralph Burns (p, arr), Gene Sargent (g), Walt Yoder (b), Don Lamond (d). 

3062-1 Summer Sequence (Pt.4) Col 38367

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Musicians' quotes: on influences and honesty

You have to do what comes honestly to you. You're just a sum of your influences. You drink it in, then you spit it back out, and you have to be honest about what comes out.
Rich Hope interviewed on Spain's Radio 3 (39:48).