Cubano Beatitudes

I’ve been in an unshakable jazz mood for the most part the last two days, with a nice boost from fellow phono phanatic and ace Cuban cook Jimmy Trotter. I’m telling you, if you’re ever in Fulton, Missouri, between 11 and 2 in the afternoon, find The Fulton Cafe and ask Jimmy what you need–he will tell you with great accuracy and verve, then serve it to you with relish. Yesterday? A Cubano sandwich for me, ajiaco for Nicole, and fresh fruit salad, sweet espresso and poached guava with cream cheese and crackers for us both! Damn, man! And on his visits back to the table to check on us, Mr. Trotter educated us on the band Acetone, which I will be reporting back on in a few days. As I left, I was moaning to him about physical media, and instead of commiserating like most everyone else does, Jimmy enthused, “It’s all about building the perfect collection, man.” Yeah. I digress, but when I got home I jacked the Cachao comp referred to below in the changer and cranked it, and went ahead and ordered that Patato & Totico LP I’d been hesitating about for three weeks.

For your listening pleasure, here’s a playlist sampling the records below–including the entire Cachao compilation.

Also, did you know Carnival season has begun? Get yourself loosened up Louisiana style with yet another Living to Listen playlist! Shuffle these 47 tracks and you will be lit and lifted.

Cachao: Master Sessions, Volume 2

The titular master’s tumbling lope drives these tracks, but guest Paquito D’Rivera’s alto sax and clarinet often shift the mesmerizing rhythm into a classical gear. Volume 1 is terrific, too, and dig Doug Erb’s cover art for both volumes!

Leonard Cohen: Can’t Forget

A weird live document consisting of mostly soundchecks, with the late scoundrel audaciously (not to say successfully) singing the blues and covering George Jones. Like his fellow “poet” Robert Zimmerman, he gets away with some serious shit.

Creation Rebel: Vibrations 1978-1982

Take several pieces of Prince Far I’s band–like a lot of instrumental reggae and Adrian Sherwood productions these leave me a little cold.

Global Unity Orchestra: Baden-Baden ’75

Check out the number of artists listed on the cover (and, of course, their names), and you might question how much orchestral unity is possible. Skepticism is good. But these folks have great ears, and the move as a team–it’s a matter of expanding your idea of unification. A turbulent, dense, and exciting session.

The Kinks Are The Village Green Preservation Society

Cute, wry, attractively loose, tuneful, this album is certainly one of their best, and it’s got philosophical teeth, too. I was delighted to hear my wife humming along in the next room to several songs about impermanence. I wish “Days” had closed the original release, but at least it’s on my expanded edition.

Charles Mingus: East Coasting

A foggy, restrained vibe–in contrast to the hot, direct sunlight and nearly wild atmosphere of better-known Mingus sessions–conceals a classic unit (Hadi, Richmond, Knepper in particular) playing with great soul and power. One of the bassist-composer’s most underrated records.

Phineas Newborn: Fabulous Phineas

The deft-fingered wizard from Memphis delivers his first solo session, and quicksilver would be an understatement in describing this ’50s solo session.

Charlie Parker: Early Bird–with Jay McShann and his Orchestra

I wager many have checked this Stash-label recording out strictly as Bird-watchers and have come away gobsmacked by one of the best swing bands of the war years. McShann was the man for many decades; every American house should have a record the pianist plays on. The kind of blues Albert Murray vaunted as an aid to stomping out of the briar patches of life.

Jimmy Scott: Falling in Love is Wonderful

The album cover will not delight the #MeToo movement, but inside the jacket the man who influenced as many female as male singers is at his absolute best, stretching and bending a set of heartbreaking standards. With Ray Charles playing piano and label-head.

David S. Ware: Godspelized

That title is a bit awkward, but Ware, a tenor saxophonist of gravid tone and wide beam, takes outward stylistically and upward spiritually. No gospel covers, unless Sun Ra’s “The Stargazers” counts, but a call is being placed to the beyond. Featuring Ware’s frequent partners Matthew Shipp and William Parker, with Susie Ibarra on drums–no slouches they.

Songwriters’ Special (May 8th, 2018, Columbia, MO)

Nothing special on this day–other than the songs. I experienced a sudden craving for pithy, 2-to-3-minute country songs, which sometimes get crowded out by my striving to hear everything, stay on top of new releases, and the ascension of jazz as my musical respite of choice. Used to be, around here, that every weekend, especially Saturdays and Sundays, country was always on the box; the friends we saw regularly were also dedicated to the stuff, as well as drinking beer and yelling along with songs. We’re older, busier, and many of our boon companions are raising kids. As well, though there’s plenty of good country songwriting, the singers seem safer–better for them, not so much for the music, and us.

I guess I experienced a flash of reminiscence and had to go back to the well. And in the well was some golden elixir: tales told by a gravedigger suddenly $40 poorer, a daughter realizing that time’s snatched her mourning, a Stetson-less Texan who’s just as big as you are, a heartbroken lover demanding the taverns close so his baby can’t get in, a rounder whose eighth-grade education doesn’t mean he was born yesterday, a leather-clad redhead whom Death gifts a motorcycle, a murderous cuckold lost in the cave of his crime, a scared greenhorn who can’t find the Memphis-Arkansas Bridge…that’s just scratching the surface, but how can one resist their stories.

I’ve prepared a playlist with some highlights. The singers aren’t always the songwriters, but in those cases the songwriters show up as singers later in the playlist. I recommend this to readers who think they don’t like country, or who are startin’ to hate country (but still love cowboy songs).

Short-shrift Division:

Free jazz I find hard to shake. I listened to the whole of David S. Ware’s Live in The World: three discs of sweeping, dramatic music within which Ware and his pianist Matthew Shipp vie to snatch your heart out of your chest. You haven’t lived until you’ve heard this band take “The Way We Were” into the cosmos; they also push Sonny Rollins’ “Freedom Suite” off the edge of the planet, and Ware’s own “Aquarian Sound” and “Mikuro’s Blues” hold their own with both. A terrific intro to a tenor saxophonist who was gone too soon (the artistic offspring of Ben Webster and Pharoah Sanders!) and a classic quartet that was fairly inarguably the turn of the century version of Trane’s. No shit.

Literary/Photographic Note:

Billie Holiday fans are directed to check out Jerry Dantzic: Billie Holiday at Sugar Hill, a collection of Dantzic’s 1957 photographs of Holiday assembled by Dantzic’s son Grayson. The book opens with a blazing Zadie Smith story in which she inhabits Holiday’s gone soul and looks back on its final days; I advise listening to Smith read it–the inhabitation reaches beyond the written word. Half of Dantzic’s photos capture the singer so incandescently that it’s unfathomable that she’d be dead within the next year; the other half suggest that a termite loneliness is eating her from within. A haunting collection.