Rabbit Holes

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Andrey Henkin  |  Jul 01, 2024  |  2 comments
Seventy years ago this summer, a young pianist from Tryon, North Carolina—a town of fewer than 2000 residents—made her professional debut in Atlantic City. This was not the culmination of a dream but rather an economic choice born of the racial circumstances of the era. It was a letdown.

The venue was the Midtown Bar. If they'd known what she was doing, her parents would have objected and her musical peers would have sneered, so Eunice Waymon performed under a pseudonym: Nina Simone. Adding to the indignity for this classically trained pianist, playing wasn't enough; she was also expected to sing.

Thomas Conrad  |  Feb 27, 2024  |  0 comments
Art Pepper Photo by Laurie Pepper

That title must have gotten your attention. Not the part about Art Pepper but the part about the CD. Nobody has anything good to say about the compact disc anymore. CD sales suck. Streaming and downloads rule the world. Vinyl (an album format that warps, scratches, and has to be flipped every 22 minutes) now outsells CDs.

But the CD still deserves a place in your heart. One reason: box sets. Many of them are worthy of coveting. For example, there is an amazing new project on the Omnivore label, Art Pepper's The Complete Maiden Voyage Recordings. It contains eight hours and 20 minutes of music on seven CDs. Collections that large do not lend themselves to LPs.

Andrey Henkin  |  Oct 03, 2023  |  1 comments
In 1984, Metal Blade Records of Van Nuys, California, released the fifth edition of its Metal Massacre series, which had already unleashed such bands as RATT, Metallica, Slayer, and Lizzy Borden onto an unwitting music-buying public. On the second track, among future stalwarts Overkill, Fates Warning, and Metal Church as well as no-hit wonders Lethyl Synn and Jesters of Destiny, was an oddly named band from Jonquière, Quebec: Voïvod, spelled Voi Vod on the album cover. Voïvod's four members were Blacky, Away, Piggy, and Snake.
Thomas Conrad  |  Aug 28, 2023  |  3 comments
Something has happened in jazz culture in the new millennium. There is more emphasis on original composition than ever before. There has been remarkably little discussion and analysis of this phenomenon, perhaps because many assume it is a positive development. Jazz, after all, prioritizes originality.

There is a counterargument. It goes like this: Jazz today is vital and dynamic because great players keep popping up, all over the world. Very few of those great players are also great composers. Yet they apparently feel obliged to be. A large proportion of new jazz albums contain all or mostly originals.

Tom Fine  |  Jul 31, 2023  |  1 comments
Behold the genius of Quincy Delight Jones Jr., well known as Q, still with us at age 90. There isn't enough space to get into all his accomplishments, so I will focus on five favorite albums, which he either headlined or was heavily involved with.
Robert Baird  |  Jun 05, 2023  |  0 comments
FLASH! Record Business Conquers Death! Musicians Live Forever! There is life after death in the world of recorded music. Elvis left the building 46 years ago. Jimi Hendrix has been absent for 53 years. Yet both continue to release albums of unreleased material. Bob Dylan, Neil Young, and Bruce Springsteen wisely recorded much of their music throughout their careers, live and in the studio; they'll continue to release "new" music long after they pass.

Keeping fans satisfied but also looking forward is an effective marketing tool, one that Ernst Mikael Jørgensen, the guru of all things Elvis, has mastered. His latest project is the six-CD box set Elvis On Tour, which is connected to the 50th anniversary of Presley's 1972 US tour and the rerelease of the MGM documentary/concert film of the same name, a Blu-ray of which is also included.

Anne E. Johnson  |  Apr 27, 2023  |  18 comments
In 1955, Canadian pianist Glenn Gould surprised executives at Columbia Masterworks by choosing J.S. Bach's Goldberg Variations for his debut recording. His performance was fast and fluid and sparkling and delicious, and it was an astonishingly big seller. In 1981, Gould came full circle and recorded the Goldbergs again. It was his last studio recording. That second attempt could not be more different from the first: relentlessly intellectual, percussive, insistent.

Late last year, to honor what would have been Gould's 90th birthday, Sony put out a package with a full-color coffee table book and 10 CDs of unreleased outtakes from the 1981 sessions—The Goldberg Variations: The Complete Unreleased 1981 Studio Sessions—with an 11th disc containing the 1981 album.

Tom Fine  |  Dec 07, 2022  |  4 comments
The year 1965 was turbulent, pivotal, and consequential. LBJ sent soldiers to the Dominican Republic, stepped into Vietnam with both feet, and signed laws expanding voting rights and creating Medicare and Medicaid. Antiwar protests gathered steam, Bob Dylan went electric, the Beatles played Shea Stadium, Sandy Koufax pitched a perfect game, and pioneering DJ Alan Freed died.
Tom Fine  |  Jul 05, 2022  |  7 comments
My tastes coalesced around rock music, particularly the harder and faster kind, by the time I was in middle school. Earlier, they were oriented toward pop: The Beatles are my first and forever musical love.