Saturday, July 17, 2010

Answers to Unaswerable Questions

Waaaay back on March 5, Patrick, Friend of This is Our Music, dropped the following question in the comment box:

some of this stuff has been on my mind recently due to my friend jay asking for our favourite song of the 1950's. yes, one fave song from the 50's. i had to do a top 20 - 5 of those tunes were jazz numbers. what would be on your list?

Impossible!, I replied. So of course, I had to try my hand. The results:

Gerry Mulligan/Chet Baker, “Bernie's Tune” (1952)
Hank Williams, “I'll Never Get Out of This World Alive” (1952)
Horace Silver, “Room 608” (1953)
George Jones, “Why Baby Why?” (1955)
Johnny Cash, “I Walk the Line” (1956)
Sam Cooke, “Touch the Hem of His Garment” (1956)
Bo Diddley, “Who Do You Love?” (1956)
Charlie Feathers, “Can't Hardly Stand It” (1956)
Ella Fitzgerald, “Too Darn Hot” (1956)
Sonny Rollins, “You Don't Know What Love Is” (1956)
Carl Perkins, “Put Your Cat Clothes On” (1957)
Art Blakey, “Moanin'” (1958)
Eddie Cochran, “Summertime Blues” (1958)
Elvis Presley, “Mystery Train” (1958)
Dave Brubeck, “Take Five” (1959)
Ornette Coleman, “Lonely Woman” (1959)
John Coltrane, “Giant Steps” (1959)
Miles Davis, “So What” (1959)
Charles Mingus, “Better Git It In Your Soul” (1959)
Marty Robbins, “El Paso” (1959)

This list is attended by a truckload of caveats, of course, most glaringly the lack of women (lonely, Ella?) If it were a list of 25, there'd have been room for Patsy Cline and Wanda Jackson, but what can you do? The parameters were handed to me and I operated within them. Also, one of my favourite records of all time, Kenny Burrell's At the Five Spot (1959), is woefully absent, but sacrifices had to be made in the interest of a full representation of the decade in question. And god, '56 and '59: hell of a couple of years, huh?

Next, I understand, we're to move to 1960-64. Problematic: the 15 or so requisite Coltrane recordings won't leave much room for all that other stuff.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Son of Sisyphus

Bill Dixon, 1925-2010

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Being With

Sometimes, you're in the right place at the right time. After the IMC's series on the brilliant Montreal saxophonist Francois Carrier aired on The Mighty 93.1 last year, Carrier contacted me to ask if I'd be interested in penning the liner notes to his next project. I answered in the affirmative, obviously. The album, entitled Being With, is an improvised duet recording with vocalist Veronique Dubois, and the results are intriguing. Released earlier this year on UK-based Leo Records ("Music for the inquiring mind and the passionate heart"), the music is available in both physical and an electronic formats.

Reprinted below are my notes from the CD package:

This seems to me to be an aptly titled collection of music, for if being is the most basic state of existence, then surely being with is one of the highest. It connotes partnership, cooperation, commonality, harmony; a connection across that which divides us.

To listen to the music contained herein is to witness moments when the two sounds – Francois Carrier’s horn and Veronique Dubois’ voice – are indistinguishable from one another. That sort of negation of the self is the essence of being with. When me becomes we. When the aims of the individual melt away, and the success of the pairing becomes of primary concern. Such moments are rare enough in human relations; musically they are a precious commodity indeed.

Whether they are whispering to one another, racing each other to the end of a line, or trading baboon calls, these two musicians are always in conversation, always connecting. Veronique Dubois performs the sorts of vocal gymnastics you might expect from Diamanda Galas or Yamatsuka Eye. She keens, soars, dips, her voice sometimes strangled or guttural, at other times crystalline-pure. In other words her vocalizations have much in common with Francois Carrier’s playing. This is what makes them so well suited for collaboration, for being with one another in such a setting.

Francois Carrier continually amazes me with his willingness to meet his collaborators in the fertile middle ground where individual performances are perhaps less technically impressive but where the key to successful improvisation lies (which isn’t to say that Carrier does not possess dazzling technique – he does, of course, but he is judicious in its display). This is true whether the collaborator is his frequent foil Michel Lambert, or a “guest” musician, such as Jean-Jacques Avenel on the brilliant Within. It speaks well of both artists’ sensibilities when such a sympathetic bond is forged, but I have yet to encounter a piece of music featuring this wonderful saxophonist in which he has failed to connect with another musician, and I doubt I ever will.

As states of existence go, perhaps this musical sense of being with is higher still, a plane most of us will never inhabit. In instances when this deeper being with is achieved the result is a wondrous musical communion. Sometimes, as is the case here, the meeting has been captured for posterity, and though the musicians involved are certainly lucky, we listeners are the truly fortunate ones.

Many thanks to Francois Carrier for allowing me the opportunity to contribute in some small way to this project, and, of course, for the wonderful music.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Not Dead Yet

Cue the standard refrain: Sorry for the absence, but I've been busy, and so forth, etc. (But I think newborn twins counts as a legitimate excuse for not posting to a music blog read by no one). But as much to appease my own conscience as to convince you(?), I have to prove that I do indeed still have a pulse and that my good vs. crap music meter is still operational, so here's a brief rundown of what's been heard in my (suddenly crowded) house of late, in no particular order, because that's how my mind works:

Josh Berman, Old Idea
Wardell Gray, Live at the Haig, 1952
Pernice Brothers, Goodbye Killer (naturally)
Male Bonding, Nothing Hurts
George Lewis, Homage to Charles Parker
Phosphorescent, Here's to Taking It Easy
Josh Ritter, So Runs the World Away

I'm still alive! Back with more new content in the days ahead.