Musicians whose careers were derailed by personal demons is a very old tale. Write about music and after a couple decades they all begin to have a similar ring: someone got addicted to something and began blowing off gigs, trashing friendships, and generally lying to themselves and everyone close to them. It usually doesn’t end well. And after they’re gone, “far too soon” (to use the usual bromide), everyone thinks about their own issues while tsk tsk’ing about what could have been done and how awash in self-loathing and focused on ending it all the deceased had eventually become.
Every once in awhile an old friend on this path turns it around and I’m very happy to say that my old friend from Tucson singer/songwriter Billy Sedlmayr has done just that. . .
I know folks, dedicated jazz fans no less, who cannot be dragged into piano and bass duo gigs. Something about not having a drummer spells boredom for them. Not enough going on I guess. Or more likely, there isn't a horn at work. While jazz virtuosity is most often thought of in terms of the more ostentatious sounds of saxophones and trumpets, and the most common perception of jazz groups is quartets or quintets, it's the duo format, at its most pure piano and bass, that has always inspired a special vocabulary and sonic signature. Just a pair of instrumental voices and musical visions engenders the kind of special chemistry and quiet connections that can be heard on the new Kenny Barron and Dave Holland project, the appropriately named The Art of Conversation.
The story is familiar. The British Invasion caused a deadly tsunami in the American music scene. Established stars, from Elvis to John Lee Hooker to Tony Bennett, saw their careers swept away in a matter of months in 1964. Few groups were impacted quite like the Beach Boys, whose resident genius, Brian Wilson, went into an emotional tailspin trying to compete with the Beatles . . .
Do the singles in this boxed set which features a quality pressing job and nice if no frills packaging sound better than the CDs that both Rhino and the pair’s own label mentioned above have been releasing over the years?
For the musically literate it’s an old story but one that I never tire of telling. It was the scruffy, outlaw country singer warbling Irving Berlin, Duke Ellington and the Gershwins? He wasn’t singer enough to carry it, they all said. And even if by some miracle he did, his label was convinced it would never find an audience, it would never sell. When Booker T. Jones of Stax Records fame signed on as producer, heads were scratched, skeptical eyes rolled northward and virtually everyone had their doubts.
And then there was Pono! Or not. Despite prompt denials by the folks at Pono, it now seems likely that the still mythical, high resolution music player will not be delivered to customers, who to date have kicked in $13 million via Crowdfunder and Kickstarter, until early 2015.