1001 Albums: Wild is the Wind

#75

Album_75_Original

Artist: Nina Simone

Album: Wild is the Wind

Year: 1966

Length: 39:08

Genre: Jazz/RnB

“You’re life itself
Like a leaf clings to a tree
Oh my darling, cling to me
For we’re creatures of the wind
And wild is the wind”

Just last week I remember thinking to myself that I kind of missed the vibe of the 50s. Don’t get me wrong, I’m loving all the rock music especially as it starts to get heavier and more aggressive (I’m a big fan of punk and New Wave), but I did find myself missing a little variety in the music. I didn’t think I’d find myself actually missing jazz my old friend after listening to album after album after album of jazz and jazz related music, but I kind of did. I found something soothing about moving my way through the 50s, from Sinatra’s crooning to swing and piano, Billie Holiday’s raspy singing, Ella Fitzgerald’s beautiful tunes, Sarah Vaughn’s playful jazz stylings and trumpet master Miles Davis’ melodic and soothing jazz. There really was a particular feel to the whole decade that quickly dissipated once the mid 60s hit. It’s not that I wanted to suddenly go through a series of albums that would do that, but just getting one would have been really nice.

Thankfully, just as I thought that I found myself listening to Nina Simone. The answer to my wishes. If this isn’t a throwback to the jazz vocal and songwriting styles of the 50s than I don’t know what is. It came at the perfect time too. The past week has been really rough on me mentally. With final assignments, exams and no break between both semesters at school, on top of a crazy work day sunday and barely any sleep, I have felt mentally exhausted all week and needed to take a break to rest my mind today. As I lay on my couch relaxing I had the album playing in the background and boy was it the right type of music to just lose yourself in. The simplistic arrangements, specifically asked by Nina to only be piano and bass drone, really gives for a soothing experience as every piano chord is gently played. For the most part it would have been nice to see a little variety in the album itself as most songs sounded almost exactly the same, but that being said, it did what it had to do for what I wanted and needed at that specific moment, so credit is due for the album there.

Music aside, Nina Simone really seems to shine on this album. I don’t know her or ever been exposed to her, but here she seems to be heavily inspired by the spirits of Billie Holiday and Ella Fitzgerald, finding a perfect blend of both those women. She manages to sing with the soul and emotion of Billie Holiday and the elegance of Ella Fitzgerald, while still managing to hold her own. I bet those women would e proud to hear what Nina had to offer, both acting as an extension of their styles and a throwback to the women Nina clearly idolised. She manages to recreate a sense of romance in her music that never crosses the line into cheesiness. It’s pure personal emotion being evoked through song that feels like it’s really coming from deep inside her and never feels artificial or shallow. It seems this album was put together from recordings that didn’t make it onto her last album, which is good because they seemed to save the best for here.

A few of her songs would go on to be covered by the likes of David Bowie and Jeff Buckley and one of the songs would even be banned due to some of it’s lyrical content (“Four Women”), which would only help garner attention to the album than anything. if you’re looking to set the mood for a romantic evening with your loved one, this would definitely be an album to put on.

Song of Choice: Four Women

-Bosco

 

 

1001 Albums: A Love Supreme

#53

ALbum_53_Original

Artist: John Coltrane

Album: A Love Supreme

Year: 1965

Length: 33:02

Genre: Modal Jazz / Free Jazz / Hard Bop

 

“A Love Supreme
A Love Supreme
A Love Supreme”

 

Now comes the fun part of the end of a vacation: Unpacking. I had left my suitcase fully packed for a few days and figured I’d get around to doing it eventually. Needed my parents telling me to do it about fifty times before I actually did it. Not my fault (well yes it is) but I had made a long list of things to do for the weekend before I make my move to Toronto, so I was occupied with getting things done on it (plus some cool down from the 25 hour drive back from Florida).

Enough was enough I guess, so I made my way to my room and figured, Hey, I can listen to the next album on the list as I do that. I figured it’s another instrumental jazz album, perfect music to do chores to. Just put it on in the background and work away.

It took me about 6 minutes to unpack, which means I barely got through one song (remember too, these jazz albums have long, free-form songs that sometimes feels like ages to get through, so it’s not very surprising when you think about it). My attempts to listen to another album weren’t successful, but it didn’t matter, I would listen to it… eventually.

Wasting no time, I was getting some writing done this morning and decided to have it play as I wrote. I love listening to music as I write. I find it pumps me up and gets me focused on the page, cranking out words and pages as the music blares in my ears. It may seem odd, but it works. Music is the key to me being productive. I play it to get work done, to do chores, to basically make sure I’m focused on what I need to do. Maybe it’s because it blocks out every thing else around me and prevents me from getting easily distracted, but who knows. It’s a good assumption.

So here we are. John Coltrane’s A Love Supreme had blurted it’s way through my writing session and I found myself at a loss for words. Not because the album itself is breath-takingly amazing that it left me speechless (although according to all the reviews of this album it would say otherwise) but because I found myself, once again, struggling to talk about a Jazz album. As I have said many times before, I am not proficient in the stylings of Jazz. For the most part I have no idea what I’m talking about and usually try my best to vocalise the feelings the music created within me. Because I don’t understand what makes a good jazz album a good jazz album, it’s hard for me to really delve into the depths of the musical proficiency of any jazz album, but damn do I try my best. It’s really come to the point that I really don’t know what to say without repeating myself from previous posts and I think there was the benefit that I had to sit through albums of varying genres before arriving on another Jazz album (which was practically every single album right at the beginning of the list). I can probably name ten people I know who could do a better job at talking about this album, but you know what? I’m a person who loves music and has opinions too, so I think I am more than capable at doing this.

Let’s Go!

If I was going to speak based on what everyone else has said about this album I would probably say that this is one of the greatest jazz albums of all time, if not the best. It is one of the most critically acclaimed jazz albums of all times and widely considered to be Mr. Coltrane’s masterpiece. Created as a four-part suite, Coltrane went in trying to master a more spiritual album than any he had made before. According to him, this wasn’t him playing the saxophone but his saxophone taking control of him (widely paraphrased). I honestly won’t disagree with that. He plays his saxophone with so much glee and child-like enthusiasm it’s hard not to think he just lost himself into the music and did whatever came to his mind. He’s clearly having a lot of fun in the studio and comes across as if he was possessed by some sort of jazz playing ghost. He blurps and spurts his way through fast-playing notes and quick arrangements, mixed in with some complex saxophone burping and you got a one hell of a musical experience. If someone told me this was the spirit of jazz, I would accept it.

It doesn’t end there. The rest of the band joins Coltrane in this spiritual connection and play their instruments with almost as much (and at times maybe even more) glee as Coltrane. The drummer, Elvin Jones, smacks away at his kit like an infant who just discovered pots and pans make noise, although here he makes it sound good (unlike your 2-year old who has no skills in keeping the beat whatsoever, no matter what you tell yourself). The bassist, Jimmy Garrison, for the most part keeps it simple, forming the base (ha base) of the music, but doesn’t hold back when it’s his time to shine. He’s given quite the nice solo in Pursuance and doesn’t waste his moment. It wasn’t anything crazy but sometimes a more melodic approach is more effective than how many notes you can hit in a short amount of time.

This is where I wish I knew more about the music behind Jazz because for the most part… it just sounds like a jumble of notes to me. I mean, it is a very effective jumble of notes, but it’s really difficult for me to analyse why this particular jumble of notes is better than any other. I will say this though, John Coltrane went into this feeling at his most spiritual and being heavily influenced and driven by his religious beliefs that it adds a layer to the music that may have not been there before. If I hadn’t read about it, I may not have noticed, but it did give me a whole new perspective on the album and explained a lot of things I didn’t quite grasp from my first hearing. He does come across as one with his music and really let’s it all out with every feeling he’s got creating something deeper than he even expected to make I think. There is that subtext there, which might be difficult for the average listener to hear (such as myself), especially due to the absence of lyrics (other than his “A Love Supreme” mantra he chants briefly in the first song), but it’s definitely there and goes to prove that sometimes the music is enough to provoke. A sort of show don’t tell situation that works on it’s own accord.

Not my favourite, but can see why this touched the hearts of many jazz lovers.

Song of Choice: Pursuance

-Bosco

1001 Albums: Getz/Gilberto

#41

Album_41_original

 

Artist: Stan Getz and Joao Gilberto

Album: Getz/Gilberto

Year: 1964

Length: 33:46

Genre: Bossa Nova

 

“Quiet nights of quiet stars
quiet chords from my guitar
floating on the silence that surrounds us
Quiet thoughts and quiet dreams
Quiet walks by quiet streams
and a window that looks out on Corcovado
Oh, how lovely”

I’m doing something a little different with this post. Instead of listening to the album and then gathering my thoughts, I will write this post as the album plays. As I write this the album is on the first song, playing loudly, yet softly, into my ear. Seeing as this was the second effort of Stan Get on the album, and so soon after his other album, I figured it’d be a great opportunity to try it this way. I’m also on my six-hour long ride back from Toronto, so it just feels more productive doing it this way.

I think part of me was also worried about not knowing what to say, it was another Jazz Bossa Nova album. Since I didn’t really have much to say on the last one and with fear of repeating myself, I figured this would be the best way to say something a little different. It will be raw as I puke out my initial thoughts and ramblings that come to my mind. It might end up being a little long because the album is 33 minutes in length, but maybe I’ll take a few breathers here and there… who knows, we’ll see where my ramblings take me.

Right off the bat, what makes this album a little different for me is that there’s actually singing in it. It’s one of the first instances where there’s actually singing on a jazz instrumentalists album. Unless the album was by a Jazz Vocalist (Sarah Vaughan and Ella Fitzgerald) it was usually purely instrumental. It’s a nice little surprise, even if the singing is in spanish and I can’t understand a word that’s being said. It also starts with the famous Girl From Ipanema, which would widely be covered by many artists. I don’t know if this is the original recording, but the pianist on the album is credited as being one of the song writers, so it is a strong possibility it is, which is pretty exciting… unless it’s not then… whoops. It might not be…

I have to say, I think I’m liking this effort by Stan Getz much better than the first one. The other one came across as a straightforward Instrumental jazz album that had latin influences. This one cranks the latin influences way up, with the latin singer and the acoustic guitar plucking some latin ear flavours. it really gives off a whole different vibe which comes off as quite relaxing and peaceful. There’s a nice veranda vibe to it, meaning the kind of music you listen to while chilling out on the deck with a glass of sangria (I realise I’m playing on cliches here, but sometimes cliches bring your visual across much better). The acoustic guitar has a nice rhythm to it as it backs up the trumpet that very soothingly plays its way across each song. It’s never obnoxious or too blowy, it’s currently been rather soft and fluffy as a trumpet sound, which is always key to relaxing music.

I really wish I understood spanish. I know a few Italian words, but nothing that would help me in this situation. “Non cacare il cazzo” probably isn’t going to pop up in any way, shape or form, so I’m at a loss here. Which is a shame because his singing sounds very calming, as if he’s trying to lull you to sleep, or make love to your ears, either one works depending on how you’re feeling, or how old you are. I’d like to imagine he’s actually singing in a way that paints visuals of ebautiful landscapes and romances and cultural life. But for all I know he might be singing about somethign stupid like “I love grapes, grapes taste good, I like grapes, they are good food”. If not, I claim that song as my own.

WOAH! English singing! I actually understand what’s being said for a song (There was english singing in the first song too, but after a bunch of spanish songs this comes across as a tasty treat). I lied, he’s back to singing in spanish after three lines of english vocals. Oh well. I find that quite interesting actually, the blend of english vocals (sung by a woman, which I guess for the english listeners sounds easier and prettier on the ears) and spanish vocals (sung by a man, which honestly no matter who sang in spanish, to english listeners it always sounds pretty). I’m curious to know how they made that decision, but it could easily be the American Stan Getz infusing his style with the Bossa Nova style that heavily influenced this album. Because… why not? Right?

So, I decided to do some research on the album, as I have been with every album to help me out a bit, and found out it was a pretty hot-selling record. It seems it continued what his other album did and continued to boost up the Bossa Nova craze in the US (which makes sense, I guess). This album also has the distinction of being the first Jazz Album to win album of the year and would remain the only jazz album to do so until 2008, when Herbie Hancock would win as well. That’s fascinating. How is it that out of all the jazz albums coming out, this was the one that would end up winning Album of the year? With Miles Davis, Thelonious Monk, Charles Mingus, Count Basie, Duke Ellington, who ahve all been widely critically acclaimed, with a few of them even having albums considered to be some of the greatest jazz, even just plain album, of all times, why is it that this one was the one to finally get recognized and get album of the year? This one doesn’t even appear that high on any top lists, so what gives? Was the Bossa Nova craze really that big in 1964? Was it that much bigger than the Jazz craze was? I mean this is a sub-genre of jazz, yes, but musically straight up Jazz had way more of a cultural impact than Bossa Nova did. Ask anyone and they all know what jazz is, but probably haven’t even heard of Bossa Nova. I’m guessing this was just a big fad in the early 60s, that died out once rock music started to take over as the next big thing. Maybe it was to the 60s what grunge was to the 90s. A cultural imprint in time that resonated with people for a limited duration. That makes sense, I’m willing to accept that as a logical answer.

The album is nearing the end, I can see the last song in sight (because I was looking at the playlist). As a whole it’s some really nice, tender, soft, sexy-hip-moving jazz. It’s not hip moving in the sense that I’m about to tear the dance floor up, but it definitely lends itself well to some pseudo-slow dancing with your gal pal, or boy pal… depending who you are. I can easily picture myself grabbing Sandra by the hand and trying to get her to dance with me if this started playing. I wouldn’t do it well and would probably start acting like a goof causing Sandra to laugh in disbelief as she usually does, but it would still be a fun time.

I’ve come to the end of the album feeling rather satisfied with it. It was a good album to sit back on a long trip and just write to. I don’t know if I’ll do this again (writing while listening), I probably will because it was a fun little experiment in writing for me and for the most part it made writing about a genre I don’t really know that much easier because I let my thoughts and feelings out instantly rather than trying my hardest to remember what it was (even though I write them down first, it doesn’t come out exactly how it was initially).

Oh well, until then, I hope I’m done with jazz albums for awhile. I realise I keep saying this and I keep encountering a new one a few albums later. I think I only have a few left before the musical genres start to really get diverse, so I’ll do my best to enjoy the remaining jazz albums instead of dreading them, because there’s a good chance I’ll miss them once they’re done.

Song of Choice: So Danco Samba

-Bosco

 

 

 

 

1001 Albums: The Black Saint and The Sinner Lady

#39

Album_39_Original.jpg

Artist: Charles Mingus

Album: The Black Saint and The Sinner Lady

Year: 1963

Length: 39: 25

Genre: Avant-Garde Jazz

 

 

“jazz instrumentation”

I realise I’ve been quite behind in writing these posts. I’ve had one of those weeks where you don’t even see it go. Kind of turn around and the week has already passed, done before you had a chance to see it. It’s not that I wasn’t paying attention to it, it was more just a really busy week. I’ve had a lot going on and had been preparing myself for a lot of things. So, my time was consumed and without realizing it I had been behind on my post.

No worries though. I am currently sitting in the back of a car, zooming on my way to Toronto for the weekend. It is almost 3 am in the morning, which I feel is the perfect time for me to catch up on these posts (because why would I sleep and rest?). The long trip also gives me the opportunity to get through quite a few albums at once and since I have my laptop with me, I can actually crank out the posts really easily and efficiently. No waiting until I get home from work, instant response.

Enough talk about that, let’s see what we have in store now.

Uh oh…

Oh no…

Just as I feared… jazz…

My relationship with Jazz has really taken a turn. Where I started to love it and even grew to be incredibly fond of it, I am now dreading and fearing it. This is one of the moments where I really wish I knew what I was talking about. I had a conversation with a friend of mine when it came to discussing the jazz albums on the list and he seemed to agree with me for the most part. Jazz is incredibly difficult to talk about, especially if you’re not trained in jazz musical theory. Even the critiques in the book for the most part say “This album is amazing, so good, wow amazing jazz.” If those guys couldn’t say anything coherently specific, how am I supposed to even talk about it?

I mentioned it in my Jazz Samba post that at this point I feel I don’t really know what else to say without repeating myself from previous posts. Heck, I just repeated that because I have no idea how to go about talking about this album.

For the most part, it’s one of those difficult jazz albums to listen to. It’s not to the level of Thelonious Monk, but it does come close. Whereas most Jazz I can easily get lost in, this one at times hurts my ears and even gave me a headache. It’s not the easiest jazz to listen to, but that being said I do recognize the incredibly complex arrangements that Mingus pulled off here, especially with his use of an 11-piece ensemble, which really brings out a rich texture of varying sounds that you might not get on other albums. It ranges from the odd to the melodic and can shift easily from hard-bop to swingin’ jazz. It really is a fascinating and remarkable album when you sit back and think about it and Mingus manages to make his album a little undefinable. With the mix of styles and vibes and feelings that flow from one to the other seamlessly, it’s hard to really say what he’s doing with the album, but he definitely takes you on a journey with your ears as you experience almost everything the jazz genre has to offer.

I read that this album was actually written as one long composition and as a ballet, separated into four songs and six divisions. If this was written as a ballet, I’d be curious to see it performed by an actual ballet. We have Les Grands Ballets right here, which is a damn prestigious ballet company, it’d be interesting to see them take this piece and turn it into a show. Knowing nothing about how ballet works in terms of choreography, I’d love to see what kind of dance moves they crack out to this. I haven’t seen very many ballets in my life (only one actually, The Nutcracker, which I found disappointing for the most part) but I would definitely pay to see the ballet of The Black Saint and The Sinner Lady purely out of curiosity.

Speaking of which, this is probably the first instance of a jazz album where I felt the names of the songs actually made sense. I remember the little piece I wrote in my Brilliant Corners post about trying to understand the naming of jazz songs and how they came up with them. To this day it’s still a fascinating topic and I would love to get some more insight on how they choose the names of their songs. But this one, I get it.  Solo Dancers, Duet Solo Dancers, Group Dancers, Trio and Group Dancers… it’s very straight-forward, if not a little uninspired. He took the naming quite literally here and didn’t really leave room for much to the imagination. But at least I know how many dancers he was aiming for each song and if I really wanted to (not really, but maybe) I could picture that while listening to the music. The Solo Dancers song could easily be each dancer one by one, showing what they’ve got, trying to out-do the previous one. Heck, the whole thing could be a non-stop competition between dancers, until the big finale where they all band together and have a dance-off of epic proportions.

This ballet practically writes itself, maybe I should do it….

HAHAHAHAHAHAHA… yeah right…

This album is considered to be one of Charles Mingus’ masterworks and one of the greatest achievements in jazz. I can’t disagree with that because even if I did I’d have no idea how to argue against it. I guess they’re right. But putting that aside, it really is a beast of an album and it doesn’t take a genius to see the amount of work and effort that went into it. Even if it’s not really my type of album, I still found myself impressed the whole way through, even though I have no idea why. Maybe I was able to see the complexity of it all and how the ensemble really blended together to create an atmosphere and vibe that Mingus was trying to capture. And maybe Mingus’ musical genius shown through in ways I can’t explain, but it still left an imprint on me as a listener. It’s funny how the more I think about it the more I seem to find it better and better. Everything from the horns to the piano to even the acoustic guitar were so masterfully arranged with such intricate detail and perfectionism that maybe, just maybe, it’s hard not to recognize the weight of this album, even if you have no idea what you’re talking about.

Despite all that, by the end of it all there is definitely one thing that I know for sure…

That’s a pretty sweet hat he’s wearing and I’d like to get one for myself. Just to wear, you know.

Song of Choice: Mode D – Trio and Group Dancers

-Bosco

 

1001 Albums: Jazz Samba

# 33

album_33_original

 

Artist: Stan Getz and Charlie Byrd

Album: Jazz Samba

Year: 1962

Length: 33:12

Genre: Bossa Nova

 

 

“Instrumental jazz type music”

So, I have some interesting news. Ok, it’s not really news but it’s not really a story either… interesting tidbit? Well the interesting tidbit sets up a little story… if that helps. No? Oh…

Either way. This Sunday is the Oscars and excitingly enough, the company I work for is nominated for one! That’s not my point, but because of it this whole week has been dedicated to the Oscars with a big, fancy type party thrown this evening. Nothing new with that since there’s a festivity every last Friday of the month anyway, but this particular one had a little more worth to it. Anyway, the week has been full of Oscar related activities, from a pub quiz to an Oscar statue sculpting contest. Being the good organizers they are, they saved the best one for last: Celebrity look alike competition.

Being the ever participating… participant I am, I wanted to enter into it! One problem: I had no idea who my celebrity look alike was. That’s a bit of an issue, you kind of have to look like someone to be able to contend. This became more a search to find who I looked like rather than actually being in the competition. My curiosity grew as I tried to figure out who it was, and it wouldn’t be satisfied until I do. I had to, I just had to.

Luckily, Thursday night, literally hours before the next day would start, it happened. The Discovery. There was a collective agreement from my co-workers, friends, parents and Sandra: I looked exactly like the guy (with minor differences, but overall the resemblance was pretty striking).

I’ll stop teasing. My celebrity look a like was Bret Mckenzie:

968full-bret-mckenzie

Spitting image.

I donned a white shirt and tie (but still wore jeans and dirty converse. Stayed fancy yet casual at the same time) and got my hair it’s usual curly self. I slammed my best dead-pan face (Only way to imitate the Flight of the Conchords guitarist) and showed everyone a photo of him (Because a lot of people had no idea who he was. He’s won on Oscar for christ’s sakes!). The reaction was the same: Holy shit you look exactly like him. I had this in the bag for sure. I was going to win, no way I could lose. Random employees I’ve never talked to stopped me in the halls and told me they hope I win, I looked exactly like him. Today was my day.

I didn’t win. But to be fair the girl that won totally deserved it. Her resemblance to Nicky Nichols from Orange is the New Black was as striking, if not a little more, as my resemblance to Bret. It was tight competition.

I’m glad this happened today otherwise I wouldn’t have had much to say today. Even now as I start to write about the album I find myself struggling to know where to start or how to begin. It’s not that the album was bad, not at all. Actually, I wish it was bad, it would be so easy to write about. I’d be able to just vent how horrible it was and how much I hated it. But I didn’t. I quite liked it. It was a solid album from start to finish, with no low points or dips in quality. Stan Getz plays one mean Tenor Saxophone and holds the music together with his skills. It’s great to finally hear the sax take the front stage after hearing so much trumpet playing. It really has a distinctive sound to it that brings a whole new feel and quality to the music, that I would debate is better than the trumpet (and I really love the trumpet). I always found the saxophone to be like the trumpet’s mature cousin, it was sexier and had a more adult vibe to it, while the trumpet blurted and farted. Miles Davis was cool, but Stan Getz was pretty damn sexy. See the difference? No? Well it makes sense in my head, so tough shit.

I’ll be honest, the reason I’m having so much difficulty here is because it’s just another instrumental album… and it’s jazzy. The beginning of this list seems to have an over-abundance of instrumental jazz music, it’s a jazz aficionados wet dream. I’ve learned through this challenge that I love Jazz with all my heart, but dear lord I need to separate myself from it for some time. Every new jazz album that appeared got me excited, but now I’m sort of dreading it because I have no idea what to say without reiterating myself. It’s the usual list of things:

-It’s great to relax to.

-It’s a great album to just play and let your mind enjoy it subconsciously.

-You get lost in it.

-It’s structured in a non-structured way that won’t make any of the songs stick in your head in a catchy way, but you still get immersed into the music and just let it seep over you like a warm blanket.

Ok that last part I never said (so maybe I do have new things), but it’s really just saying the same thing in different words. And the fact that it’s another instrumental one makes it so much harder. I’m not a musical expert, never claimed to be. I don’t know anything about musical theory, especially not with jazz, so I can never analyse why the music is good on a technical level (except for when my base knowledge comes in handy for certain things). I am merely a person who loves music so much he’s read a shit ton about different genres, bands and styles and wants to expand his knowledge of what’s out there. That being said, it gets hard to talk about instrumental jazz, especially when it’s like the tenth one I hear. By now, it all kind of sounds the same to me, even though I’m aware that it’s not.

I found this album underwhelming as a whole. I went in expecting to hear something different and got exactly what I was told: Jazz Samba. I find it funny how literal the title is. It’s basically telling you exactly what you’re going to get. It’s like if Miles Davis called his album “Cool Jazz” or The Beatles called their album “British Invasion” or if Led Zeppelin called theirs “Hard Rock” (Although to be honest that would have been fine, since they were too lazy to even name their fucking albums (Seriously three Self-titled albums then an Untitled one? Too hard to come up with an album name? Please)). I guess I can’t complain, they tell you what you’re in for, what you see is what you’ll get kind of deal.

I realise it sounds like I’m being negative towards it, but I really did enjoy it. I still found myself tapping my foot, shaking my booty and losing myself to it as I always do. I just want something new for now. Something different.

I will tell you this, there’s a very good reason this appeared on the list. It was more of a historically important album than a quality one. In 1961, Charlie Byrd visited Brazil while on a tour and discovered the jazz scene there, which is also known as Bossa Nova Jazz. Loving it so much, he took the influence it had on him and brought it over to the US where he wrote music for Stan Getz to play. This album would cement itself in music history as it’s impact would be enough to get the Bossa Nova craze started in the US. Yes, it was this album that did that.

I think that’s pretty neat.

Song of Choice: Samba Dees Days

-Bosco

1001 Albums: Sunday at the Village Vanguard

#30

album_30_original

Artist: Bill Evans Trio

Album: Sunday at the Village Vanguard

Year: 1961

Length: 68:16 (???)

Genre: Jazz

 

 

“Slapping upward Bass”

I had one hell of a day at work today. Usually my days go by pretty smoothly and for the most part I don’t exert that much energy. But today they had me running around almost non-stop. it’s actually rare that I do that many runs in one single day.

For those wondering, I currently work as a runner at a film studio that specialises in post-production. The job itself isn’t anything crazy (doing dishes and running for lunch orders isn’t the most exciting) but it does expose me to the business and is giving me some valuable experience. So today, from the start of my shift at 1, I was on lunch runs, which usually calms down by 2. Not today, went on until 2:30. That’s not all. The runs usually are minimized to one location, going back and forth purchasing sandwiches. Today, I had to run to a restaurant five blocks away, pick up some sandwiches and a coffee at the regular place on the way back and then buy two soups in the building. Imagine me carrying all this stuff at once and trying to open doors. It was exactly as much fun as it was.

Did I get a break? for five minutes until at 3 I had to go pick up vases at the Dollar Store. No, not the one nearby. the one that required me to walk ten minutes to the metro, hop on, change metro lines and go a few stations. This culminated in me carrying ten glass vases all the way back, fear of them shattering on me lasting the entire way.

Get back and almost immediately they tell me I have another run to pick up breakfast items at The Metro nearby. After my scheduled one hour break of course. Metro run was uneventful except for a fun pee break where I had to use their bathroom, but it was one of those where you needed a key, but someone was already in there and then came back and when I grabbed the keys they were all wet. yeah…

The rest of the night would follow as thus:

-Huge confusion with one of the supper orders

-Special task of cleaning swiffer pads

-Special task of cleaning all the chairs in the kitchens

-ended that quickly to instead go dust the tops of every frame in the studio

Needless to say, I ended the night feeling physically exhausted for once instead of mentally exhausted. Believe it or not, it actually felt good and I found that really refreshing. Also, a plus side to the day was that it passed by super quickly and I never had a moment of long boredom, walking aimlessly around looking for something to do.

I think Bill Evans had perfect timing, appearing on the list at the exact right moment for me. There’s absolutely no better way to end the night, your entire body tired and mind calm, than listening to some good fucking Jazz. Everyone knows my story with Jazz already (and if you don’t, read my other posts), so I won’t go on again about the effect Jazz can have on me, but you can probably already imagine how rewarding it was to sit back in the metro on the way home and just get lost in the music.

Did you know this album is widely considered to be the greatest Jazz recording ever? I didn’t. I guess I can see why. Did you know this was a live album? Yup, I got to listen to two live albums in a row. However, I won’t delve into the idea of the live album like I usually do because this album is a live album in the same way Frank Zappa’s albums were live albums. Sure a lot of it was recorded as a “Live” performance but the goal wasn’t to make a live album but to make a coherent album. The only time you’re ever given the vibe that it’s a live album is the awkward clapping sounds (that honestly sound like bad foley work than actual clapping) that appear between songs. Also, it’s interesting to note how some of the song names actually include notes like Take 2 or Take 3 on them, implying they did more than one take of it at a live venue to make sure they got they were able to choose the one they wanted for the album. It’s as if they used the live venue as a studio rather than an actual live performance.

The music itself is pretty damn wonderful. Bill Evans just swims his fingers over that piano, giving us some beautiful melodies from classic jazz and sometimes smashes his hands against it reminiscent of some hard bop we’ve heard before (looking at you Brilliant Corners). He gives a little slice of every jazz styling while still being accessible to the average listener, which is nice of him.

For me, though, the real hero of the music was the bass. This is probably one of the best bassist’s I have ever heard. It’s rare that you get to put the bassist in high regard, who is often drowned out by the rest of the music or just there to play a simple melody throughout. But this bassist slaps away at his standing Bass with so much glee and energy that he brings the bass right there at the front and makes you notice him. The bass doesn’t just play simple melodies here, it goes complex, almost as if the bassist is shredding on the bass in the way Eddie Van Halen does with his guitar. If finger-picking was a technique for bassists, this guy would be the guy to invent it (even though he didn’t, but that’s definitely how it sounds). There’s nothing more awesome than the sound of the upright Bass. The noise of the strings still vibrating after being picked, the sound of them slapping against the backboard, the sound of the finger (sometimes asgressively in the most beautiful way possible)picking the string, it really gives for a whole different vibe. Honestly, if it weren’t for the bass in this album, I don’t think it would have stood out as much as it did.

What makes it more fascinating is that this group was just a trio. Just three dudes playing a piano, drum and bass together. For only three instruments they succeeded in feeling like a whole orchestra, the music feeling just as layered as the bigger ensembles feel. It’s more impressive hearing how tight they are together, blending their instruments together to form each song in a seamless way. I can see why critics have considered this a top-notch jazz album.

But cut out that damn clapping, honestly, it sounds awful.

Song of Choice: Solar

-Bosco

Photoshop Credit: Julian Branco

1001 Albums: Back at the Chicken Shack

#28

album_28_original

Artist: Jimmy Smith

Album: Back at the Chicken Shack

Year: 1960 (1963)

Length: 37:50

Genre: Soul Jazz

 

 

“Smooth Organ playing”

Before I get started I feel it’s very important to set you, the reader, straight about something first. This might seem like a disappointment right off the bat, but believe me when I say it really isn’t. You’ll feel betrayed but the album will redeem itself, you’ll have to trust me on this one.

Are you ready? ok…

For an album called Back at the Chicken Shack there is a surprisingly huge lack of chickens in it. I know, I know… it’s appalling… awful… plain unforgiving.

Not even a cluck or a gobble? No, not even.

So to satisfy your poultry needs here’s a picture of a beautiful chicken wearing pants:

chicken-shorts-arizona

There, now we can all sleep happily.

I think Jimmy Smith saved my life. Ok, that might be a gross exaggeration. I was coming off the heels of the Everly Brother’s and there whiny voices, wondering if music could ever be good again and as Cathy’s Clown (expletive removed) faded to obscurity never to be heard again, this album started. This beautiful, beautiful album.

This album probably seemed way better than it really was only because it followed A Date with the Everly Brothers and my mind went from “God please end” to “Jazz, my old friend, never leave me again”. I think I’ve taken Jazz for granted all those times I wanted it to stop being clingy and it came back to save my life. I will never let you go Jazz, never again.

That being said, this album is pretty damn great. Jimmy Smith is one hell of an organ player and I honestly would sit through an entire album that consists only of him playing the organ layered on top of other organs. Just pure organ chaos. That’s an idea right there, someone should get on that.

As a whole, the jazz in the album doesn’t actually offer much. It’s no different than any of the jazz I heard on previous albums and for the most part, doesn’t stand out as it’s own. That is… except for one crucial element: The Organ (as mentioned above). The Organ is really what ties the album together and allows it to surpass expectations and go beyond what we know jazz to be. It’s also thanks to this album and Jimmy Smith’s playing that the organ itself started to find it’s way into jazz albums and mainstream music. if it weren’t for this, Soul Jazz probably wouldn’t have really been a thing, which is a shame because it’s quickly become one of my favourite stylings of Jazz.

And before you get a weird visual in your head, no it’s not a church organ I’m talking about. It’s that one special organ we’ve all come to love (at least those who have listened to it). It’s none other than the famous Hammond B3 Organ.

organmain

Pictured here so you can visualise it in all its glory.

It’s quite the amazing instrument and even though you might have no idea what I’m talking about (although some of you most probably do), you have most definitely heard this before. The gurgling and bubbling synthetic organ noises that sound as if they’re being played through an underwater speaker. The crisp sustain that wahs and the plucky fast notes that blurp and bloop. My onomatopeic descriptions are hardly doing it justice, but that gives you more reason to listen to this album to see for yourself.

Obviously, I can’t end this without mentioning the skills of the other band mates who hold up a majority of the songs with their own instruments. The sax playing is just beautifully done and I got excited every time I heard a sax solo. Although the organ is the true hero of the album, the rest of the band plays their part in bringing it together as a whole, which required a ton of skill and precision on their parts often seen in jazz but should still not go unnoticed. We see you back there, don’t worry.

This was also an instance where I listened to the extended CD version rather than the original LP. Thankfully, unlike the Marty Robbins album that added songs and completely rearranged them, this one only tacked on one song at the end and I didn’t mind at all. One more song meant more Jimmy Smith to enjoy and since it was just tacked on at the end it was like a little bonus to my listening experience.

Now if you don’t mind, I’m going to go find some chickens. Not for anything weird…  I just  like to watch them… they’re funny… right?

Song of Choice: Back at the Chicken Shack

-Bosco

Photoshop Credit: Julian Branco