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.

I Lied: Musical Morning at The Elms (May 29th, 2018, Excelsior Springs, MO)

I thought I was gonna take a few days off, as we are ensconced at the above OG resort hotel, and yesterday’s post wasn’t shit other than celebrating a scary narcissistic value-free asshole’s political meltdown–here’s the moment I learned Missouri’s “governor” resigned:

But turns out you can’t stop the music. Imagine that! We’ve had a wonderful morning playing Canasta (learn it, if you knows what’s good for ya) and being centered by a) an Ethiopian nun who’s piano playing searches into the most uncertain corners of your being…

…and a long-gone pianistic genius from Memphis who played splintered shards of light and rapid-fire sparks of rhythm:

Also, in the early morning hours (we party late and rise early), I ate up brother Calvin Newborn’s hard-to-find memoir of growing up Memphis and living with and observing Brother Phineas. Seek it out if you wanna be electrofied by a mid-20th century account of being black and mid-South.

Short-shrift Division:

We also listened to a dude named Charlie Parker (35 minutes away from the city where he caught fire) while Nicole dealt caliente upon me as we played cards (3180 – 2650).

‘14, ‘17, ‘24, ‘31 (March 6, 2018, Columbia, Missouri)

I spent half my day with a group of my favorite jazz pianists. This was set in motion by the unexpected arrival from Strut Records of Sun Ra’s In Some Far Place: Roma 1977(Earth’s water supply may run out before Mister Ra’s vault does). I’d subscribed to the label’s Original Masters series in February of ’17, mostly out of interest in some curated international dance records but also because the cost of my purchase was being donated to a great social justice organization. Four records were to come my way, but the label couldn’t secure rights to the fourth, so in its stead I received this double-disc sans-Arkestra show. Hearing Sun Ra alone or with drums only (as one does here) can be a revelation: his sense of humor comes more to the fore, the path of his thinking’s a little easier to trace, and, while I prefer to hear him leading the Arkestra, it’s a fun and trippy ride across styles and eras, with the pianist occasionally switching from acoustic to electronic keyboards as the mood suits him and toggling between his own catalog and beloved standards.

As Nicole and I settled in to read in the evening, I loaded three study-friendly discs into the changer. The first was Memphis pianist Phineas Newborn Jr.’s 1956 outing, Here is Phineas. As the Ellington interpretation linked above demonstrates, the man could fly across the 88s–perhaps, as this early album occasionally reveals, too speedily for his own good. But his light, precise touch and feeling for the blues tempers that tendency; the album’s a decent way in for the beginner. (According to the expert Memphis sources I’ve consulted, his name’s pronounced FEE-nuss.)

Next up was 1959’s Thelonious Alone in San Francisco. Every night’s a great night for Monk’s music in the Overeem home, and, after the pleasantly wandering experimentalism of Sun Ra and the full-bore momentum of Newborn, this solo recording, featuring both familiar and relatively obscure originals as well as some very mischievous interpretations (like the above), was the perfect shift. Listen to this ’53 version of “There’s Danger in Your Eyes, Cherie,” from Rich, Young, and Pretty (!), then try Thelonious’ adventure navigating it, and ask yourself, “What did he hear in this tune that attracted him to it? Without the assistance of words, what does he transmute it into?”

We closed out the night with Bud Powell’s 1956 recording, Bud Plays Bird, which is one of the few releases I’ve owned in which the notes significantly enhance the music. They’re penned by old hand Ira Gitler, who examines the complicated musical and personal relationships between the titular two, shares his experience having witnesses the men play, and leads us through some very close and adept listening. Powell, while not in his earlier, frighteningly skilled and intense turn-of-the-decade form, plays exceptionally well, and is fluently augmented by George Duvivier on bass (that man’s invaded my house!) and Art Taylor on drums. A great addition to any be-bop enthusiast’s collection.

Note: The post title refers to the respective birth years of Ra, Monk, Bud, and Newborn. The earliest-born outlived them all. With the exception of Bud, whose career was damaged by the brutality of racist law enforcement in the North, these men were Southerners who came of age and worked in the shadow of Jim Crow–how might their work have shone more brilliantly without the obstacles of systematic oppression?

Short-shrift Division:

Oh, and before all that I listened to the expanded edition of Joy Division’s Unknown Pleasures, learning to appreciate the production ideas of Martin Hannett (I hadn’t realized that the effects didn’t also emanate from Ian Curtis’ tortured soul) and the raw-and-daily-growing attack of the band on stage in ’79.

Tomorrow:

Influenced by the man pictured below, who spoke to my comp / pop music class this morning about writing record reviews, I am going to interface at length with K-Pop–specifically, Jonghyun’s POET | ARTIST. Wish me luck! Dive in with me and we can compare notes tomorrow.