Fruitful Investigations (March 13th, 2018, Columbia, Missouri)

Once again, no narrative with which to surround these immersions–but I predict, based on the quality of these first-time listens, that narratives may be forthcoming.

South African rapper Yugen Blakrok is one of the few really interesting things about the Kendrick Lamar-curated Black Panther companion. I took a deeper dive into her 2013 debut, and one of the best things I can say about it is her mind-spray and fluid, fluent flow is gonna require I take an even deeper dive. She’s definitely got a seat in the Afro-Futurist spaceship; her rapping sounds to me like incantations; and she’s got a knack for joining abstractions with physical being–check this chunk from “Secrets of the Path,” one of many highlights:

What kinda ism is this?
We’re like light thru a prism before the schism is killed
In the prison of sleep…I keep rhyming through bars, lucid dreaming
Heard that love’s brighter from the outside, believe it
This morning when life woke up, I dove back down into slumber
Cuz in-between realities, there’s glitches when I stutter
Sleep-talking formula with in-breath
Exhale solutions, scientist in me is inbred
My language traps the tongue – caught in diction mazes lost for days – in hazy blazes
While fiery words transcend these mortal planes
My verbal play’s like smoke signals, home of the braves
And wild style thoughts can spray when the clouds spell riverclay
Psycho-analyst type in-between-the-lines reader
Deciphering codes beneath the eyelids as a dreamer
Diving deeper into abstract, non-conformity
My realest self’s created thru celestial artistry

Musically, Return of the Astro-Goth is just fine, though a bit of a static ground. This woman’s going to be much, much bigger, I think.

Saxophonist Evan Parker, almost 74, drummer Paul Lytton, freshly 71, and bassist Barry Guy, about to turn 71 himself, have long been friends, and for almost four decades a performing trio—the cream of British jazz improvisation. One thing I’ve noticed about the very best free performances is that it’s virtually impossible to determine the age of the performers. That idea is in play here: the reflexes, imagination, and ears of these men, surely aided by–yes–the profound familiarity of years, could be those of iconoclastic twenty-somethings looking took cut some old farts’ heads. ‘Cept these are the old farts, who long ago discovered a secret of life. As Parker says in the notes: “”Collective free improvisation is the utopian state arrived at in that other ‘little life,’ as the late John Stevens called the mental space of music making that happens when musicians of a like mind (birds of a feather) play freely together.” Like-minded. Yeah.

As I’ve mentioned a few times in previous posts, I’m subscribing to Joyful Noise Recordings’ “White Label Series,” in which established independent artists choose and curate overlooked albums from the very recent past for monthly vinyl release. March’s entry is one I’ve eagerly awaited; in fact, my motivation to subscribe to the project was largely due to sui generis rap MC Serengeti‘s involvement. I’ve long been a fan of the shape-shifting story-teller from Chicago, though much of his work is so gnomic, muted, depressive, and minimalistic that it not only demands sound-canceling headphone attention but can also, even then, defy parsing. The reason I mention that is Foreign & Domestic’s 2007 release, Your Mountain vs. My Iceberg, Serengeti’s “White Label” choice, shares those qualities. Is there such a subgenre as electro-twee? My first listen here tempts me to coin it. But I will be going back in when time permits.

Short-shrift Division:

Fans of Norman Whitfield, early Seventies protest-soul, and the Palmieri Brothers who haven’t heard this record need to change that fact. A landmark of post-assassination American pop that’s gotten too little attention–hell, I didn’t hear about it until a few years ago, and this stuff’s my meat and taters. With Eddie on piano and “theoretical arrangements,” Charlie on fascinating organ, luminaries like Pretty Purdie, Cornell Dupree, and Bruce Fowler in the musical mix, and the unsung Jimmy Norman on vocals. A taste:

Note: a great live album followed, which I wrote about last month!

I Got Hitt (February 7th, 2018, Columbia, Missouri)

If you’ve been following my blog, you know I’ve been divesting myself of non-essential CDs. I finally reached the end of my task, and brought the fourth and final box in for trade yesterday, to the patient folks at Columbia’s very essential Hitt Records. Taylor and Kyle, the store’s heart and soul (I am not sure which is which–kinda like Mick and Keith in that regard), are patient, knowledgeable, funny, and extremely enthusiastic. Taylor, two of whose siblings I’ve had the pleasure to teach, is one of several “Swiss Army Knife people” in the Ragtag Cinema complex; I knew him first as a local musician, but when I think of him I think of Brazilian music, something we share a passion for. Kyle is remarkably kind and thoughtful–not that Taylor isn’t–and for some reason reminds me of what Gram Parsons must have been like (without the substance abuse issue): lanky, Southern, and laid-back. They are the kind of people you want to meet when you enter a record store.

As usual, they were rockin’ a great record when I showed up with that last box. I had intended to, um, dump and run (parking in Columbia sux), but…this record began kicking my ass when I opened the door to enter, then just kept kicking it, then starting moving it, then the fever spread into the rest of my body, and my mind. What is this beast? It is Sabu Martinez’s Sabu’s Jazz Espagnole.

“Is that for sale?” I asked, pointing to the album’s cover, which they had on display.

“It’s yours,” Taylor grinned (you can grin a declarative sentence).

You see how they operate! Click the link above, and you’ll also see how I was rendered so vulnerable to his salesmanship. Jazz Espagnole is one of the best Latin jazz recordings I’ve ever heard, primarily because the balance between the two elements is so precise, and because the playing is so hot: Sabu, of course, making the congas holler and moan, and his alto saxophonist Bobby Porcelli lacing most tracks with fiery figures. Each side opens and closes with a brash Martinez flurry; side A’s dominated by originals, side B by expert be- and hard bop covers (a “Woody ‘n’ You” that Dizzy would laud, a “Nica’s Dream” moodier than Horace Silver’s own). I’ve played the thing thrice since I exited Hitt with it.

I also picked up a vinyl copy of Eddie Palmieri’s classic Molasses, and Taylor further taunted me by showing me a slab he’d picked up for a dollar: a live Harlem River Drive album, recorded at Sing Sing! This time I fooled him by being to dumbstruck to ask if it were for sale!

Please visit Hitt if you’re in Columbia, Missouri. You will leave with a record.

Short-shrift Division:

Roy Eldridge: Little Jazz, Let Me Off Uptown, and Little Jazz: The Best of The Verve Years