Music and Recording Features

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Sasha Matson  |  Dec 27, 2018  |  3 comments
Autumn in New York—watching Central Park change colors. Also time to catch the Bill Charlap Trio during their annual residency at the Village Vanguard: Charlap at the piano, Peter Washington on bass, and Kenny Washington at the drums in the Church of Jazz, the room the Bill Evans Trio called home in the 1960s and '70s. Exploring the great traditions of jazz and American song has become a Charlap trademark.
Ken Micallef  |  Jan 07, 2020  |  9 comments
Of the celebrated triumvirate of John Scofield, Pat Metheny, and Bill Frisell—the most original and influential jazz guitarists of the past 50 years—none is more distinctive, or self-effacing, than Frisell, a true changeling of the guitar. Frisell is a jazz-based musician, but his music crisscrosses genres, and his guitar playing isn't bound to or limited by a specific technique. He's a master illusionist, able to alter a song's meaning far beyond its original intent with the aid of a Telecaster guitar, a modest effects chain, and, most importantly, his rich imagination.
Robert Baird  |  Jan 04, 2016  |  2 comments
Let's face it: If you're one of those sedentary audiophilic types or you have a genetic disposition to growing pear-shaped later in life (genetic . . . right, that's it: nothing to do with couches or hooch), it's wise to adjust your fashion sense accordingly. And nothing says "portly gentleman in disguise" like a guayabera—a shirt that, I have just discovered, blues guitarist Bob Margolin and I both love. He even wears one on the cover of his new record, My Road.
Robert Baird  |  Apr 07, 2016  |  3 comments
In conversation with Bonnie Raitt these days, one word continually jumps out: groove. She's speaking of her music, of course, but the blues singer and guitarist—her gifts as commanding as ever on her latest, Dig In Deep—has also survived some family struggles in the past decade that nearly forced her out of her personal groove.
John Marks  |  Aug 28, 2005  |  0 comments
A Love Supreme: The Story of John Coltrane's Signature Album
by Ashley Kahn; Foreword by Elvin Jones. New York, Viking Books, 2002; hardcover, 260 pages, 9" by 8". $27.95.
John Marks  |  Sep 21, 2004  |  First Published: Sep 01, 2004  |  0 comments
Flowers in the Dustbin: The Rise of Rock and Roll, 1947-1977
by James Miller
New York: Fireside/Simon & Schuster, 1999. Paperback, 8.5" by 5.5", 416 pp. $15.00. ISBN 0-6848-6560-2.
David Lander  |  May 02, 2017  |  2 comments
Kill 'Em and Leave: Searching for the Real James Brown and the American Soul
by James McBride. Spiegel & Grau, 2016. Hardbound, 232 pp., $28. Also available as paperback, eBook, and audiobook.

Comparing James McBride's search for James Brown with the quest depicted in the classic John Ford film The Searchers reveals some dramatic changes in American racial attitudes over the years, along with some consistencies. Ford's film begins in post–Civil War Texas; its white protagonist, a former Confederate soldier named Ethan Edwards (John Wayne), spends most of the film hunting for the Comanches who've kidnapped his niece. To Edwards, such captives are tainted—"they ain't white," he rails—and he intends to kill the girl when he finds her.

Phil Brett  |  Feb 04, 2021  |  2 comments
Make More Noise! Women in Independent Music UK 1977–1987
Various artists. Various producers.
Cherry Red Records. CRCDBOX99. 4CD set and book.
Music *****
Sonics ***

The title of this set—4 CDs and a book—comes from British suffragette Emmeline Pankhurst's call to arms for women to fight for their rights: "You have to make more noise than anybody else," said Pankhurst, who died in 1928.

The first words you hear on Disc One of Make More Noise! are sung by Poly Styrene of X-Ray Spex, who was born almost 100 years after Pankhurst and died a decade ago, in 2011: "Some people think that little girls should be seen and not heard." This opening lyric, from the song "Oh Bondage Up Yours!," is followed by a raw sax solo by Styrene's bandmate Lora Logic.

David Lander  |  Apr 20, 2012  |  0 comments
Norman Granz: The Man Who Used Jazz for Justice
By Tad Hershorn. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2011. 470pp. Hardcover, $34.95.

One night in 1942, Billie Holiday was singing at a Los Angeles nightclub. Between sets, she crossed the street to have a drink with Norman Granz. She was in tears because some black friends who had come to hear her had been turned away.

David Lander  |  Jun 06, 2011  |  1 comments
Pops: A Life of Louis Armstrong, by Terry Teachout (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2009): 475pp. Hardcover, $30; paperback, $16.95.

If you plan to read just one book about Louis Armstrong, whose virtuosic cornet solos pushed jazz past rudimentary ensemble playing and launched his phenomenal career as an instrumentalist and singer, make it Pops. Teachout built it on brickwork laid by authors who preceded him, so you'll benefit from their research, as well as from narrative on 650 previously private reels of tape that Armstrong recorded and archived. Moreover, Teachout is a musician and music critic who offers opinions on his subject's discography.

Few people seem to realize that Armstrong (1901–1971) called himself LOU-iss. "All White Folks call me Louie," he once noted, and in some instances that may have been patronizing. In others, it was surely an instinctive response to the man's infectious warmth and informality.

David Lander  |  Feb 27, 2018  |  0 comments
Queen of Bebop: The Musical Lives of Sarah Vaughan
By Elaine M. Hayes. 419 pp. Ecco/HarperCollins, 2017. Hardbound: $27.99. Available in eBook and digital audiobook formats.

This is the second biography of Sarah Vaughan (1924–1990), whose towering vocal talents took her to the top rung of the jazz ladder, beside Billie Holiday and Ella Fitzgerald. The author, trained as a classical musician, puts far more emphasis on the singer's recordings than Leslie Gourse did in Sassy, her 1993 Vaughan biography. Hayes's grasp of music, and her definitions of the musical terms she uses, make this the better account.

David Lander  |  Dec 20, 2010  |  0 comments
The Cello Suites: J.S. Bach, Pablo Casals, and the Search for a Baroque Masterpiece, by Eric Siblin (New York: Atlantic Monthly Press, 2009); hardcover, 318 pp. $24.

In his lifetime, J.S. Bach (1685–1750) was an obscure figure. He never lived in a major city, he didn't work in the musical form—opera—that in his era could propel a composer to stardom, and his style seemed antiquated to many. Bach saw a mere nine of his compositions published; when his consummate masterwork, The Art of the Fugue, appeared the year after he died, it sold just 30 copies.

Eric Siblin includes these and countless other facts in The Cello Suites, a book that will fascinate anyone who loves Bach's music. He notes, for instance, that Bach's four musical sons kept his work in circulation, that Mozart was mightily impressed by a motet he heard at a Leipzig church, and that the 12-year-old Beethoven raised some eyebrows when he performed The Well-Tempered Clavier in Vienna.

David Lander  |  Feb 01, 2011  |  0 comments
Thelonious Monk: The Life and Times of an American Original
By Robin D.G. Kelley (New York: Free Press, 2009): 588 pages; hardcover, $30; paperback, $18.

Bebop was new and controversial when, in September 1947, writer-photographer Bill Gottlieb profiled an obscure jazz pianist for Down Beat magazine. The story, which appeared just before Thelonious Sphere Monk (1917–1982) turned 30, called him an "elusive" figure "few have ever seen."

Then Lorraine Lion, the wife of Blue Note Records' Alfred Lion, began to tout Monk's first releases on the label. Her hyperbolic prose portrayed him as a man "surrounded by an aura of mystery . . . a strange person whose pianistics continue to baffle all who hear him." Ms. Lion anointed Monk the "High Priest of Bebop."

Richard Lehnert  |  Nov 09, 2017  |  First Published: Sep 01, 1991  |  8 comments
Break On Through: The Life and Death of Jim Morrison by James Riordan and Jerry Prochnicky
544 pages, $20 hardcover. Published by William Morrow & Co., Inc., 1350 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10019.

Riders on the Storm: My Life with Jim Morrison and The Doors by John Densmore
319 pages, $19.95 hardcover. Published by Delacorte Press, 666 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10103.

With at least six books on Jim Morrison and The Doors now on the shelves, five published within the last year to take advantage of tie-in sales on the flowing, copious coattails of Oliver Stone's powerful film, The Doors, you'd think one of them, at least, might approach "very good," "excellent," even "definitive."

Not so.

Ken Micallef  |  May 30, 2019  |  4 comments
Louisiana-born, 58-year-old saxophonist Branford Marsalis has achieved singular status in the worlds of both jazz and classical music. He cut his teeth playing hard-hitting hard bop with Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers, led The Tonight Show band, and kicked it with the Grateful Dead. He's toured and recorded with Sting, costarred in the Spike Lee film School Daze (1988), and made his classical debut with the New York Philharmonic performing Glazunov's Concerto for Alto Saxophone on Central Park's Great Lawn.

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