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!

In Walked Budd (February 24th, 2018, Columbia, Missouri)

Budd Johnson, that is! From the opening notes (just click above, podnah) you know you’re going on a deep tenor sax dive, which is what I did yesterday with Johnson on his Swingsville album, Let’s Swing, and indirectly on Etta Jones’ luxuriously blue Lonely & Blue, where Budd, with assistance from the equally great tenor man Gene Ammons, wraps the singer in thick, slow-swinging swaths of indigo.

Both LPs are simply classic. Both are rendered in Rudy Van Gelder’s stunning sound. Both feature a richness and depth of feeling you’ll have some difficulty finding in a new set today.

Funny: I just read an article on meditation written by Repa Dorje Odzer and published in tricycle, and I’d advise you to listen these in much the way the article advised me to sit:

1) Don’t think about past records you’ve heard.

2) Don’t judge what you’re hearing now (hear it arise and unfold).

3) Don’t imagine where the music will go.

4) Don’t try to figure the music out.

5) Don’t try think about how the music could be/should be different (resist controlling thoughts).

6) “Rest, like a bee stuck in honey,” and let the music wash over you.

Easier typed out than done, but Johnson’s and Jones’ (and Ammons’ and Van Gelder’s) work provides a perfect opportunity to try and merge meditation and fully present listening. I’m trying it in a bit.

Short-shrift Division

Hailu Mergia: Tche Belew(Wow! Truly a master Ethiopian jazz-funk composer–I get the funk now.)

Harlem River Drive (all hail the Palmieri Brothers!)

Dennis Gonzalez’ Yells at Eels: In Quiet Waters (Wow! Truly a master free jazz composer!)

Jason Marsalis and the 21st Century Trad Band: Melody Reimagined, Book 1 (Doesn’t quite live up to the ambitions of the band name or album title, but it’s swinging and lilting and lively nonetheless. The leader’s on form.

Clarinet Magic: Omer Simeon / Harlem River Drive LIVE / “Springtime for Hitler” (February 14, 2018, Columbia, Missouri)

Simply put: my friend Paul gifted me with a recording out of the blue earlier this week that reached out, slapped me across the face, and proceeded to delight the hell out of me for an hour. The name? A bit of a mouthful (and indeed it unnecessarily lowered my expectations): Rare Cuts – Well Done (Volume 7) – Omer Simeon – The Rarest and Greatest Tracks 1929 – 1954. Initially, I think I quit reading the title after “(Volume 7),” but it’s the last five that matter; I’m going to look into the other volumes now. Simeon was one of the greatest clarinetists in New Orleans history, which is saying something; trained by the legendary Lorenzo Tio, Jr., beloved and wonderfully employed by Jelly Roll Morton, ably matching solos with the likes of Earl Hines and James P. Johnson, he’s someone I should know better. In fact, halfway through this very well-selected compilation, I realized I’d seen a television segment in which Dr. Michael White, a bit of a skilled black-stick blower himself, talked about Simeon and Tio. (Unfortunately, I can’t find the clip, but here’s what it entailed.)

Paul, thanks: this collection is why they call it hot jazz!

Thanks also to Taylor at Hitt Records for alerting me to the existence of a live recording of Eddie Palmieri’s Harlem Drive project, Recorded Live at Sing Sing Prison–and to my ear and ass it’s liver than the studio release. Eddie and the band are muy caliente, but special notice goes to brother Charlie out of his mind on the organ, and reminding me that early ’70s Miles was not a little influenced by Latin sounds. Join the inmates in feeling at least momentarily liberated by a track from this explosive and politically charged LP!

Short-shrift Division:

Mel Brooks, words and music, “Springtime for Hitler” (from The Producers): Nicole and I watched the film for Valentine’s Day, died laughing during the climactic scene that features this song, and I was left wondering, “Did Dick Shawn’s ‘LSD’ help spawn Robin Williams?” It sure seems so!

Two songs for Parkland, Florida: