Albert Ammons/Masters of the Boogie Piano
Them Three Kings
Albert Ammons: Boogie Woogie Stomp (Delmark '98)
The canonical recording is The First Day, Ammons's first studio session with Meade Lux Lewis, which launched Alfred Lion's even more canonical Blue Note label in 1938. But its status partly reflects the room it makes for Lewis's blues feeling, which in truth is nothing special‑-there are hundreds of better blues players across the spectrum, from Speckled Red to Otis Spann to Thelonious Monk. For the left-hand speed rolls and right-hand sparklers that are why the world cares about Ammons and Lewis, this knowledgeably annotated excavation tops the Blue Note easily. I'd prefer more duets, but although there may be something better out there, I doubt the improvement would justify the search. Most of it was recorded live at a radio broadcast from a Chicago hotel in 1939, which given how uncomplicated it is to mike a piano is of no sonic consequence; the last four songs are from a stray studio session. Eighteen tracks in all, most under three minutes and three under two, with Lewis taking half a dozen and Pete Johnson a pair. You want blues feeling, try Lewis's "Chapel Blues." You want Ammons to shout for joy, wait till he gets away from those radio guys and lets loose in the studio. A MINUS
Masters of the Boogie Piano (Delmark '03)
Or you could settle for the two tracks commandeered from the Ammons album‑-one Ammons, one Lewis, both mastered eight seconds faster‑-on this go-for-the-hips budget comp released to celebrate the Chicago label's golden anniversary. Jumping, as one reviewer wrote, from "fist-fingered old pros" to "lightning revivalists," its most breathless moment comes when Roosevelt Sykes's two-lane "North Gulfport Boogie" is passed on the left by Pete Johnson's four-lanes-and-counting "66 Stomp." And it's topped off by that special thing, an Ammons-Lewis-Johnson trio. A MINUS
'...and I guess would give it an A-.'
I am pretty borderline with this; I thought it was at first, too! IDK, it could well be! I just feel it doesn't have that craftsmanship/tempo; I could be wrong! I guess, I'll keep on spinning!
Can all you guys get the new Nicki Minaj, so we can talk about that, please?!
"Sydney tries to keep a psychiatrist from shattering his wife's sanity", Sydney is Mariel Hemingway as the attorney.
And it's a lesson in how hard it is to split the rigors of formalism
Well said, Cam. I've been trying to figure out how to give Sonic Youth credit for "Kool Thing" from 1990 and that's exactly it. They've never been limited by any formalism other than their own so it was much easier to break those restrictions at the time of their choosing.
Hairy Irene's Social Hour
My new favorite band name.
So, what's with the old-->new Greg Teta? Did you find Jesus? Re-invite the Dean into your heart? Dedicate your life anew to his espoused humanism? Spill.
OK, done willfully disregarding the content of this post in favor of Hairy Irene's Social Hour.
And yeah, I know "Lift Me Up"--it's funny I was partly thinking of all this because I was reading the Rolling Stone interview with Bruce last week and he talks about "discovering" he had that falsetto voice when he was 40 or so. He was a little younger I think--if you don't count the yodeling on "Johnny 99"-- more like 38 when he got it down on "One Step Up"
Wish I could remember the details of the series, but yeah, that's one great song.
Speaking of Bruce's falsetto, are you familiar with "Lift Me Up" from John Sayles' much underrated "Limbo"?
And thank you.
I really like thinking about the "when" you raise: Bruce did make that first step you describe back at the 9/11 tribute concert (Tribute to Heroes) by singing "My City of Ruins" with some of his usual folks, but also two African American singers, one of whom, Delores Holmes, had been in his band in the late 1960s/early 1970s. It's interesting to think about how much more mixed his band (and his sound) were in the beginning.
Will Adele sing the next James Bond Theme?
Chiddy Bang: Breakfast: A−
Carolina Chocolate Drops: Leaving Eden: A−
Balkan Beat Box: Give: B+/A−
Burial: Kindred: B+
Imperial Teen: Feel the Sound: ***
Much of the night I got the impression of listening to what must be the world's most prestigious cruise ship band. It was a generalized blues, both emotionally and tonally, and a generalized jazz, and a generalized gospel. The emotional specificity came in specific moments from specific performers, and in the meantime the multiple generalizations bolstered each other's improbable ascent, while the bassist's high mix replaced the types of fun those musics usually give off with a more funky variety. The fellow [note: James Andrews; tall, bald, smiley, and dancing] who was the physical and performative emblem of Pops on stage was not terribly impressive to me as a horn player, but maybe he wasn't trying that hard, I couldn't say. Microwave gumbo, all flash, no pan. Kermit was the real musical evocation of the presiding spirit, out of all else I saw. It has something to do with him being a horn player of quality standing in his shadow, there's a certain amount of cognitive overlap both for him playing and us listening at an event like this, but it also has to do with his ease and fluency. Kermit dug around in notes and melodies with the kind of attention and indifference that was more than reminiscent of the big guy, but his music was also loaded with jokes. And that's crucial. It takes alot to crack wise when you're kissing a metal tube, and it takes alot of good stuff to let your chops be more than just chops. He does what many solo horns don't bother doing, if most of them ever did, and turns the already existing music into a music he wants to exist: he took someone else's phrase and made it his sentence.
The other instance of Louis's presence among us, it seemed to me, was the inter-sex banter of John and his singer. The warm, open sexuality and charisma of both parties, loaded with outrage and relish, was the closest I got to seeing the man's spirit brought to life, or directly paid tribute to. Way out in left field, though, was Ms. Diaz and her concatenating assonance, which probably sounds sexual for a reason. I've listened to spanish island hiphop before, so I was in whatever small way prepared for what the Spanish language can do in a context which prizes aural density, but since I couldn't say she was rapping, I wasn't all that prepared. What it reminded me of more than anything was listening to Italians read Dante. They're both good examples of the virtue of having languages in which most words rhyme with at least a few hundred other words, but I bet if I were Ms. Diaz, I would have to work just as hard as Dante at shaping that resource into an actual musicality. She was stunning and I thank her mother.
Dr. John held the center admirably, with a wise left hand and a voice that did its duty. I'm not sure if he was asked to do this or he volunteered, but he seemed sheepish enough about the whole idea of it, either way. If I were a musician and someone asked me to pay tribute to Louis Armstrong I wouldn't know whether to cry or declare war.
That covers the bulk of what I experienced most vividly about the event. The parts where I was bored I might have just been skeptical, but most of the parts where I was bored are very nearly gone from me, already, so it's certainly something I enjoyed. The backing horns were really tight.
Looking over this I'd only add that Rene (who only gets a mention under intra-sex banter) was lovely, and the Blind Boys underused. The things me and Bob were in most direct agreement about were how impressed we were by Telmary Diaz, and how unfair it would be to hold the event and its members to the standard set by the man it was honoring. I'd never seen Dr. John in concert before, and had never really thought I would, so it was a good way to spend an evening.
Kermit Ruffins [horn, happy, fedora]
Rickie Lee Jones [singer, zooted, smile]
Roy Hargrove [horn]
Arturo Sandoval [horn]
Blind Boys of Alabama [choir]
Wendell Brunious [horn]
Telmary Diaz [singer(?)]
James Andrews [horn]
Rene Marie [singer]
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.
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