Wynton Marsalis & Eric Clapton/Nils Petter Molvaer
Wynton Marsalis & Eric Clapton: Wynton Marsalis & Eric Clapton Play the Blues: Live From Jazz at Lincoln Center (Reprise Jazz)
This isn't just figureheads rising to the occasion or getting back to where they once belonged, although both models pertain‑-especially for Marsalis, who enjoys the blues enough that his monster chops masticate them lip-smackingly rather than chewing them up and spitting them out. What's decisive, however, is a conception in which the members of a blues horn section interact polyphonically rather than uniting in the soulful Texas manner while blues polymath Clapton dictates as well as plays and sings a repertoire that includes Memphis Minnie and Howlin Wolf as well as W.C. Handy and Johnny Dodd. The juxtaposition may discomfit at first‑-we're not used to blues so jaunty and effervescent. But let it and it'll lift you right up. A MINUS
Nils Petter Molvaer: Baboon Moon (Thirsty Ear)
Recorded live in the studio with a worldly-wise drummer and a sonic guitarist who adds some modest Teo Macero moves, this is less techno and dubby than the trumpeter's norm, in its many quieter moments evoking the exotica stylings of Jon Hassell. "Recoil" lifts into a riff-driven guitar workout at track three before the music recedes back into contemplation, with Molvaer varying his embouchure and the drums all demonstrative as the guitar seeks out effects. Then the seven-minute title track goes all in on a crowd-pleasing finale. He's always a little too subtle. But in a way that's always the point. A MINUS
Am digging both of these most recent EW picks a lot, and they're a nice vacation from my current semi-obsession: I started out a few weeks ago on a Fairport binge that turned into a Richard & Linda binge and shows all signs of continuing into both Richard and Linda's solo stuff.
I got close to the same amount of pleasure listening to Fairport albums 2-5 (for some of the same reasons and some wildly different reasons) that I did when I went back through the Grin albums (cued by Xgau's review of their best-of). For that short period (to a lesser extent on album 5) they were really on fire, in their comparatively quiet way.
R&L sound as great as ever, too - when Xgau did his Rock & Roll &...Thompson piece years ago I was happy to see that Pour Down Like Silver had risen in his estimation - that one feels more beautiful and transportive all the time, especially "Night Comes In." The small revelation was how much more I like Sunnyvista. Still no classic, but except for the lamer-than-ever title song* and a few other instances it's strong musically and lyrically, and just a pleasure to hear. Almost pure delight: "Saturday Rolling Around," which would do any dance comp proud. And how about them McGarrigles! I can also vouch for a bootleg - Once Brave Henry, live acoustic from 72-73, not-great sound, but Linda sings like she's aware of the hidden tape recorder and wants to make sure she's heard, and she sure is. I'm about 3/4 happy with Rhino Handmade's Shoot Out the Lights live disc...it has a couple of nice guitar showcases ("For Shame of Doing Wrong" and "Living On Borrowed Time") and a lovely, circumstantially-very-sad "Dimming of the Day," but also "Pavanne," which always sounded like a song Nico should sing (it could certainly be about her) and "Did She Jump Or Was She Pushed?" sung by Richard, which, when Linda was right there available to sing it, is just wrong.
As to the solo years, I have no plans to hit every album, and am steering clear of all the boxes, but am going to try a couple of the records I've skimmed or skipped altogether, and would love some recommendations, if anyone here wanted to chime in. Greg M., I believe you have a few thoughts on the subject. :) Here's where I'm at: I'm familiar with everything up through Rumour & Sigh. Listened to most of Mirror Blue a few times before falling back exhausted. Made it through two songs of You? Me? Us? before falling back exhausted. Own and enjoy Industry and Sweet Warrior. Downloaded "Oops, I Did It Again." Everything else is virgin territory.
*Though Richard obviously has an affection for broad satire his stabs at it have been wildly erratic...like whimsy, it's an area where one has to be a zen master in every moment, or it can turn unbearable very quickly.
My final words on the touchy topic (for now, anyway): not everyone has a problem with "tone" in chat/blog posts, of those who do, however, a remarkable percentage have the same one.
I didn't include any Brubeck in my top 100 1960's core list, so I'm not surprised that he didn't get any votes. I credit him with three A- sets from the decade (actually, 1960-63; after that he trails off, although I haven't heard everything): Brubeck and Rushing, Countdown: Time in Outer Space, and Time Further Out. I had about 300 A- or better records from the decade, so lots of good records got cut. I went with a different Rushing record (had three to choose from -- if you want to complain about someone not registering in the poll, start with Mr. 5-by-5), and the other two immediately referred back to Time Out, excluded only by date. (As I mentioned before, I had nine Andrew Hill records at A-, and only wound up picking one for the core list -- something I feel much worse about than omitting Brubeck.)
Several Toms around here, so I'm not sure if I'm the one expected to litigate Paul Desmond's "whiteness" but that seems like a fruitless task given Christgau's other qualification ("that I can actively enjoy"). My guess is that eliminates Kenton and plenty more I'd just as soon not wrack my brain trying to think of. I will say that while Brubeck had some "white negro" tendencies (but nothing like Mezz Mezzrow), I'm not aware of Desmond having anything more than a profound admiration for Johnny Hodges. I'll also note that nearly all of Desmond's post-1965 albums were simply awful. (Although his Two of a Mind with Gerry Mulligan is as gorgeous as good jazz gets.)
I agree that Pithecanthropus Erectus is one of the great Mingus albums. I also recommend Presents Charles Mingus. Also Changes I (and less so II), which came late but introduced the George Adams-Don Pullen group.
I was totally unaware of The Popular Ellington, although I know all of the songs many times over, and love that edition of the orchestra. As for the 1953-55 Capitol period, those were "troubled" years for Ellington -- most obviously because that's when Hodges went AWOL (or on strike, depending on your viewpoint), but also because Ellington was grappling with bebop (whereas Armstrong just ridiculed it) and was trying to live up to his newfound reputation as America's greatest composer -- the whole jazz is America's classical music thing. I've heard Mosaic's 5-CD The Complete Capitol Recordings of Duke Ellington and have it at B+; some interesting stuff there but little of it prime. After 1956 Hodges returned, Ellington reverted to being the Duke, and nearly everything he touched for 15 years turned out fabulous -- that is, until he started preparing to meet his maker.
I too much prefer small groups to large ones, starting back in the late 1930s when big bands predominated and many of the best small groups were spinoffs, all the way through today. But I haven't let that rule prevent me from enjoying the exceptions, which number well into the hundreds. Indeed, if you let such rules of thumb preclude you from the experience, you'll miss out on all the surprises.
enjoying Brubeck is about enjoying Desmond,Man, ain't that the truth. For those Desmond fans who don't know already, lemme direct you to the nicely reissued sets with Gerry Mulligan, Quartet (1957) and Two of a Mind (1962). The stronger Desmond grows, the more loverly the proceedings. Great titles, too: "Blight of the Fumble Bee," "Battle Hymn of the Republican."
My final words on the touchy topic (for now, anyway): not everyone has a problem with "tone" in chat/blog posts, of those who do, however, a remarkable percentage have the same one. Something to think about.
All of that said, I like Milo's post last night. And please, criticize the poll! Polls are imperfect, and though they are useful, they aren't necessarily definitive--why do they need to be? I like polls, this was fun, I'd do it again, and I thank you all for contributing!
Two things that annoy me about a lot of jazz I hear from the 50s-60s (more or less): the drumming (I want to take those motherf**kers' cymbals away) and the piano (I can't stand tinkly sh!t). Those are also my two favorite things about "Take Five".
Like JeffC77, I greatly prefer small-group jazz to big-band jazz, for pretty much the reasons he enunciates.
That said, I pulled my vinyl on Mingus Ah Um last night and enjoyed it enough to try it again. Looked unplayed. Don't know whether I own Antibes--MIN is a buried patch of shelf that's hard on my aging eyes and knees.
Played Time Out at breakfast. Carola was delighted, illustrated possible choreography for the title track. What must be remembered about Brubeck is this: enjoying Brubeck is about enjoying Desmond, the whitest player from that period I can actively enjoy. (Yes I said whitest, Tom. Sue me.) Next thing to remember: enjoying Morello also important. Brubeck comes in third in that band.
Played In a Silent Way at lunch. For some reason Carola didn't have that one on speed-dial. Big hit. Rinse and repeat.
Clearly such a miscommunication has happened here--it's not just me, you can tell by the thumb bombs. Please contribute, please know you're welcome, and please know that you are free to give your opinion any time on any subject. But I'm also free to give mine, and in this instance, I read your comments to be mean-spirited, and I was sticking up for my man Joe, for what I don't even remember anymore. Oh well. Maybe we should all move on.
Alright, Chris. You talked me into springing for Antibes, too. (Six bucks used.)
Looks like next week's listening will be (in order): Mingus, Mingus, Mingus, Mingus, Mingus (but not Mingus Mingus Mingus Mingus Mingus).
Les McCann & Eddie Harris' Swiss Movement. A friend gave that to me and said it was one of the better "soul jazz" records. So what's the deal? How do you jazz fiends feel about it?
about the blogger
Starting in 1967, Robert Christgau has covered popular music for The Village Voice, Esquire, Blender, Playboy, Rolling Stone, and many other publications. He teaches in New York University's Clive Davis Department of Recorded Music, maintains a comprehensive website at robertchristgau.com, and has published five books based on his journalism. He has written for MSN Music since 2006.