The Ten Days (June 25th, 2018, Columbia, MO)

On Facebook these days, a kind of game’s going around where you tag people who are insane and will take the time to share their 10 favorites movies or albums, once a day for ten days. On the face of it, it’d seem anyone who’d participate would only be doing so to show off their fabulous taste, and who needs that? It’s already been shown that the ‘book’s great at making folks feel like they’re not measuring up, and I must confess complicity in that process. But I’d like to think there is also an aspect of gifts being paid forward: I can’t really imagine what I’d be like if people hadn’t recommended particular artwerx to me that deflected me into betterment.

I’m plagiarizing myself yet again, but one of the better students I’ve taught who is a passionate fan of music asked me to play, and (as usual) I tweaked the task so I was striving to share albums I loved that few people I know know much about, and albums that spanned genres, just to encourage folks to by God open up a little bit. I thought I’d put ’em all in one place because, upon looking back, I think I met the challenge.

Day 1: Jean Grae–Jeanius

I have been a big rap fan since I heard “Rapper’s Delight” in Carthage, Missouri, in ’79–I had a friend who’d moved there from NYC and brought the single with her–and that condition shows no signs of changing. One of my favorite MCs is Jean Grae, and my favorite Jean release is JEANIUS. Great beats, amazing bars, and hilarious album art. She’s still in the game, and a more underrated female rapper there is not. Enjoy!

Day 2: Willie King–Jukin’ at Bettie’s

I dig juke joint blues as frequently captured by the Fat Possum label, but this ain’t exactly that. First, King’s from Alabama; second, his kit bag’s a bit bigger than the average North Mississippian’s. Not saying he’s better — saying he’s different. He can lock you into a boogie trance, but the occasional keyboards and steadier beat take nothing away from a sweaty good time.

Day 3: Horace Tapscott–The Giant Has Awakened

Horace Tapscott was a great Houston-born, L.A.-based bandleader, composer, pianist, teacher and community activist. Besides being staggeringly effective in all those roles, he planted a tree the branches of which stretch to Kamasi Washington, Thundercat, and Kendrick Lamar. The album from which this, the title cut, comes should be in the jazz canon, and features a frighteningly talented and intense band.

Day 4: The Power of the Trinity–Great Moments in Reggae Harmony

Today’s choice is in the reggae field. Reggae’s produced some KILLER compilation albums: The Harder They Come, Rockers, Tougher Than Tough are just a few. This gem spotlights an era in the music’s development that in its way stands with the glory days of southern soul and the blossoming of doo wop. Great harmony singing, messages of inspiration (we need those now)…and the riddims! Informative notes from Randall Grass if you buy a physical.

Day 5: Johnny Gimble–Texas Dance Party

If you claim to be a country fan and you DON’T know the great fiddler Johnny Gimble (he played other instruments, too), I am sorry–you are not much of a country fan. Gimble played with everybody, from Bob Wills to George Jones to Merle Haggard to Guillermo Nelson. However, he also made his own LPs, and the one from which this track comes is a dandy that you will have no choice but to swing to. Unfortunately, it’s hard to find; I guess that’s what YouTube is for. Dedicated to all my Texas friends and family, and, as always, specifically, to Mr. Walter Daniels!

Day 6: Zeal & Ardor–Devil Is Fine

This act has a new album out, but for me the jury’s still out on it. THIS ONE, however, has rocked our house numerous times. Its combination of metal explosions, slave chant effects, and blues feeling speak to the times mighty well. Don’t be afraid of the devil.

Day 7: Dead Moon–Trash & Burn

It’s odd that it’s taken seven days for me to share my favorite record by Clackamas, Oregon’s greatest punk/garage/ROCK AND ROLL band! A stripped-down, three-piece, three-minutes-and-a-cloud-of-smoke attack that lives up to its title, once you sample this, you’ll want more. Also: to my mind, the most amazing husband and wife combo in American music history–hands down. This goes out to Weeden, Ingrid, Shane, Amanda, and Toody today–you continue to be an inspiration in our household!

Day 8: Bo Dollis Jr. and The Wild Magnolias–We Come to Rumble

New Orleans music is certainly in my wheelhouse. A great subgenre of the NOLA sound is Mardi Gras Indian funk–even when it is simply in chant form, it’s usually got the funk, and it can be argued that funk itself sprang from Indian ritual. Here, the son of a great chief, and now head of one of the most famous tribes, fuel-injects the tradition with a different kind of juice than it’s used to. The lead track, “We Come to Rumble,” serves notice. Mighty kootie fiyo, and get out the way!

Day 9: Lynn August–Sauce Piquante

When most folks think of zydeco, the infectious, accordion-driven dance music of Louisiana and Texas, they think of Clifton Chenier and Buckwheat Zydeco. Mr. Lynn August merits your attention for his love of articulating the r&b basics of the genre as well as reaching wayyyyyyyy back into its furthest past (here, to the juré). The resulting sauce IS piquant!

Day 10: Julius Eastman–Unjust Malaise

It is now in fashion to be singing the praises of classical composer, pianist, and singer Julius Eastman, and I just learned about him two years ago myself. But he worked largely out of the wider public view while he was alive, experienced a tragic and lonely final set of years on this turf, and those circumstances were certainly at least partly due to his being black, gay, and a challenging artistic creator. This collection of many of his best compositions is a powerful introduction. Think about giving it a shot.

Short-shrift Division:

Jon Hassell: Listening To Pictures (Pentimento, Vol. One)–Is anyone as effective in creating ambient music that is soothing yet disruptive, grooveful yet interruptive? I think not. Think for yourself:

The Beginning of the End: The Beginning of the End and Funky Nassau–Seventies fonk from the Bahamas, re-ished by Strut! Records, who still haven’t taken me off their exclusive subscription service, even though I ain’t paid. Vocals not the most inticing, but rhythms and guit might put a hook in yer ass.

Speedy Ortiz: Twerp Verse–No twerp.

The Carters: Everything is Love–Perhaps, but mountains of money helps maintain the illusion if it ain’t. In addition, this couple’s venture into trap soundz is extremely awkward, but they’re daring you not to say so. “No more kings,” saith Bob Dorough.

 

 

Another Tequila Slumrise (May 25th, 2018, Columbia, MO)

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Picture a married pair of teachers, spending one of their first ed-genda-free days together after getting in a good, long walk and some reading during the early morning hours, standing in their kitchen examining the unfolding late morning and early afternoon as their shared oyster and wondering, “What to do?” No papers to grade. No tutorial appointments to keep. No student teachers to observe. No students whose grades need tracking. What to do when one (make that two) can do anything? One teacher catches a familiar cocking of his partner’s eye, and translates it–after many years, mere twitches can communicate paragraphs.

“Huevos rancheros and margaritas!”

The pair hightail it to their favorite joint. The huevos are great; the margaritas are so good, they shrug and admit, like lush-life Ernie Bankses, “Let’s drink two.” And a shot for good measure when they get home.

Two hours later, they awaken to slum the rest of the day away–well, their slumming might be considered more industrious than most folks’, but slumming is the name of the pace and the character of the choices, especially the musical ones. He browses the stacks for something that perfectly suits their pleasantly bleary mood, something that signifies creeping into consciousness, something that dawns slowly and then breaks brilliantly, something they both dig the most (and that they were digging the day before).

Ah. Yes.

After a few more tracks from the CD–“Can You Get to That?” “Me and My Folks, You and Your Folks,” “Super Stupid”–it occurs to him that the darkness of the, um, analysis is outracing the darkness of the actual day. There is a chill that blows in off of this Funkadelic album that might well suit the state of the nation, but does not match the state of the home. Also, a paranoia pervades Mr. Clinton’s sentiments, perhaps; is this what the couple need as they enjoy some well-earned freedom?

Warmth! Fondness! Good cheer! A seductive drawl, perchance? That’s right: he doesn’t even have to choose, he doesn’t even have to ask her if it’ll do. That quartet of requirements just adds up to an inevitability.

The intoning of Mr. Frizzell fits the cut of their slumming like a perfectly worn pair of sweatpants from ’05, and the pair just let Lefty roll from their, with a softly swinging closer a couple of hours down the night.

Short-shrift Division:

George Clinton & Parliament: Medicaid Fraud Dogg–I didn’t quite complete the near two-hour journey of what might well be the final Uncle Jam record, but–and I say this to comfort the cognoscenti–a weird journey it is. It’s damn near ambient funk, it’s so hushed, but it flows like lava, it’s offers a kind of concept that adepts will recognize (“One nation / Under sedation”), it hides munchkins in its grooves, it guest-stars an intriguing, speech-impeded pimp (Mudbone Cooper?), and, yes, it does indeed feature the grizzled Dr. Funkenstein hoarsing around funkily with his considerable accumulated wisdom. I am not sure how many times I (or you) may listen to it, but I can testify that it is interesting. And did I mention it flows like lava?

 

They’re/he’s back.

 

 

 

 

 

“What A Diff’rence a Day Makes” (January 1st, 2018, New Orleans, Hotel Monteleone)

 

I’ve been resolving to write more frequently, and meaningfully, for a year, and a fat lot of good that’s done me. I’ve always been good at attributing blame for my inaction, and 2017 gave me plenty raw material: a national predicament with distraction as its personality, multiple part-time jobs that were “interfering with my creative continuity,” my 55th year of life–which, for me, somehow symbolized the absurdity that I would have anything meaningful to say about music–and my lifetime bibliomania (“Why write when I can read?”). You name it, I have had it handy: enough excuses not to write as there are cards in a deck.

Well, no more!

I’m serious!

Nudged by a fellow music fanatic’s comment on a question I stole from Rough Trade Records’ Twitter feed and posted on a music forum, I’m attempting to make journaling about my listening a daily habit (along with, let’s see, meditation, exercise, reading 80-100 pages a day, I’m sure there’s more–I am a habitual man). Perhaps I’ll have something stimulating to say, but, at the very least, when someone asks me what I’ve been listening to today, or lately, I’ll be less likely to reply as I have been lately: “Ummmm…let’s see…uh…dammit…I can’t remember!” That, after, usually, a day when I’ve listened to several hours‘ worth of music. All of the technology in my life is reducing my need for memory, and that scares the living fuck out of me. Fear: the great motivator.

I shall now sally forth. I doubt every entry will be this detailed when I’m back to work, but I will strive for it.

Last night, the final one of a truly terrifying year, found us holed up in this hotel, watching a decent movie (Ingrid Goes West), playing Phase 10, and, of course, listening to a tsunami of music, while a 40-degree drizzle reigned outside. Rather than just be scrolling through song choices every five minutes, I utilized some YouTube playlists I’d created. Since I, wisely or unwisely, subscribe to YouTube Red, we didn’t have to hear ads; this comes in handy in my pop music/freshman comp class at Stephens College, when I’m using them for instructional purposes.

One of these was a “life playlist” I’d created for a fellow instructor, Juan Diaz, when I was teaching high school at Hickman. He’d made the assignment for his pop culture class and I couldn’t help joining in. You’ll have to guess at what kind of life event each song represents. Or maybe you’d better not.

Another was a Top 20 mix that plucked a dandy song off each of my favorite records of 2017. I was a bit nervous about how some of the songs would land on Nicole’s ear, as she’s (mostly) a staunch American music classicist; in particular, she adores ’50s and ’60s electric Chicago blues and Dinah Washington. Fortunately, she didn’t seem to mind some of the stranger items on this playlist. Listening to the great young EDM artist JLin in the context of her fellow Top Tenners gave me even more confidence that I’d rightly placed her in their company.

We closed out the evening and the year with an in-progress companion I’m making for music scholar Rich Kienzle’s fascinating but prosaically titled out-of-print Great Guitarists, within the pages of which I’ve found many obscure classics, several included here:

Through the vodka-smudged chambers of my memory, I believe Elmore James’ exploding, abrading slide guitar was the last musical sound I heard in 2017.

This morning, after arising and pouring down some coffee, Nicole and I went up to the roof to see the early morning sun shining over The City That Care Forgot. The best view accessible to us, unfortunately, was in the stanky hotel fitness center, but the hotel employee in charge noticed us taking pictures and snuck us into the super-secret rooftop conference room, the view from which was stunning.

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Blissed out by such views, we went down to the hotel restaurant to dine (in case you’re curious, I enjoyed–I mean enjoyed–chicken-fried green tomatoes, boudin blanc, and poached eggs–but no cocktail). Every time we’ve eaten at Criollo, the music has been fantastic; they lean heavily on ’50s Verve-label jazz, but it’s clearly curated, not just thrown together. While waiting for breakfast to arrive, we heard Ella Fitzgerald’s version of Rodgers and Hart’s “Bewitched, Bothered, and Bewildered,” a song I knew best from Anita O’Day’s version, which I thought definitive. After all, who better than the headfirst-into-the-flames Miss O’Day to convey the exquisitely detailed and varied pain suggested by the lyrics?

I’m often wrong, and I was again. Ella’s often written of as projecting a girlishness, but her delivery almost sadistically twists ecstasy and injury in a manner only available to someone who’s been to the bottom of lust’s (and love’s) well.  Here, try it yourself, and check Hart’s lyrics, which I assume from what I know of his sex life were written about a man:

Damn. 

Our meal closed out perfectly with one of Nicole’s all-time favorite songs, Dinah Washington’s classic “What A Diff’rence a Day Makes.”

And I hope it does. For at least 364 more.

I must away to attend to finishing Richard Lloyd Parry’s haunting account of the destruction of a school and most of its students and teachers, Ghosts of the Tsunami: Death and Life in Japan’s Disaster Zone. Cheerful stuff, but masterfully written.

Short-shrift division:

SZA’s CTRL.

Erik Reece’s Oxford American piece on Freakwater.

What we skipped, live in NOLA: a second line w/Hot 8, Slick Rick, Tank & the Bangas.

Gary Giddins’ Map to Post-War Jazz

Surcease of Sorrow: My Favorite New Releases of the First Half of 2017, and My Top 40 Older Thangs I’ve Bought

In so many ways, this year has flat sucked. I’m a born optimist, and I’ve never considered that a disability, but now? I guess that I just don’t know. As long as I keep certain names off my tongue, my eye on the courts, my feet on the street and trails, my arms around my woman, and my ears on this stuff, well…I guess I will power through. Perhaps you will be tempted to try one of the following aural encouragements, and it’ll help you through, too.

TOP 50 New Releases of the First Half of 2017

(in order of my preference if the world goes up in flames tomorrow):

  1. Zeal and Ardor: Devil is Fine
  2. Orchestra Baobab: Tribute to Ndiouga Dieng
  3. Harriet Tubman: Araminta
  4. Kendrick Lamar: Damn
  5. Ibibio Sound Machine: Eyai
  6. Various Artists: Miracle Steps (Music from The Fourth World 1983-2017)
  7. Golden Pelicans: Disciples of Blood
  8. Preservation Hall Jazz Band: So It Is
  9. Rhiannon Giddens: Freedom Highway
  10. Mostly Other People Do The Killing: Loafer’s Hollow
  11. Obnox: Niggative Approach
  12. Aram Bajakian: Dalava–The Book of Transfigurations
  13. Syd: Fin
  14. Steve Lacy: Steve Lacy’s Demo (EP) (Not the late jazz soprano master Steve Lacy, BTW!)
  15. Various Artists: Battle Hymns
  16. Sampha: Process
  17. Jens Lekman: Life Will See You Now
  18. Thurst: Cut to the Chafe
  19. Cloud Nothings: Life Without Sound
  20. Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah: Ruler Rebel
  21. Arto Lindsay: Cuidado Madame
  22. Body Count: Blood Lust
  23. Angaleena Presley: Wrangled
  24. Sarah Shook and the Disarmers: Sidelong
  25. Joe King Cologbo & High Grace: Sugar Daddy
  26. Filthy Friends: “Any Kind of Crowd”/”Editions of You”
  27. John Escreet: The Unknown
  28. Various Artists: Spiritual Jazz #7—Islam
  29. James Luther Dickinson: I’m Just Dead I’m Not Gone (Lazarus Edition) READ THE BOOK!
  30. (The Late) Mariem Hassan: La Voz Indominata
  31. Let’s Eat Grandma: I, Gemini
  32. Randy Weston: African Nubian Suite
  33. Alice Coltrane: The Ecstatic Music of Alice Coltrane Turiyasangitananda
  34. Thundercat: Drunk
  35. New Pornographers: Whiteout Conditions
  36. Gato Preto: Tempo
  37. Paul Rutherford and Sabu Toyozumi: The Conscience
  38. Hurray for the Riff Raff: Up for Anything
  39. Various Artists: Mono No Aware
  40. Karreim Riggins: Headnod Suite
  41. Various Artists: Outro Tempo–Electronic And Contemporary Music From Brazil 1978-1992
  42. Garland Jeffreys: 14 Steps to Harlem
  43. Elliott Sharp, Mary Halvorson, and Marc Ribot: Err Guitar
  44. Daddy Issues: Can We Still Hang?
  45. Bob Dylan: Triplicate
  46. Damaged Bug: Bunker Funk
  47. Black Lips: Satan’s Graffiti or God’s Art?
  48. Vagabon: The Infinite Worlds
  49. Tamikrest: Tidal
  50. Chuck Berry: Chuck

Note: the above is not featured on the Wayne Cochran album listed below, but it’s what you need to know to make a more informed choice.

40 Great Older Releases That I’ve Bought in ’17 That I Still Can’t Get Enough Of

  1. Allison, Mose: I’m Not Talkin’—The Song Stylings of Mose Allison 1957-1972
  2. Anderson, Fred, and Hamid Drake: …together again
  3. Astatke, Mulatu: Mulatu of Ethiopia
  4. Blythe, Arthur: Illusions
  5. Bowie, David: Cracked Actor (Live Los Angeles ’74)
  6. Carmichael, Hoagy: Music Master
  7. Case, Neko: The Tigers Have Spoken
  8. Cochran, Wayne: Wayne Cochran!
  9. Cohran, Philip: Armageddon
  10. Coursil, Jacques: Trails of Tears
  11. The Creation: Action Painting
  12. Davis, Anthony: Episteme
  13. DiMucci, Dion: Kickin’ Child–The Lost Album 1965
  14. d/j Rupture: Minesweeper Suite
  15. E: E
  16. Evans, Bill: Some Other Time–The Lost Session from the Black Forest
  17. Fela: The Best of Black President, Volume 2
  18. Fela: Live in Detroit
  19. Gibbs, Melvin: Ancients Speak (all hail Pete Cosey!)
  20. Gonzalez, Dennis: Idle Wild
  21. Ink Spots: These Cats Are High
  22. Instant Composers Pool: Aan & Uit
  23. Jamal, Ahmad: The Awakening
  24. JJ DOOM: Bookhead
  25. King: We Are King (would have been in my 2016 Top Ten had I been on the ball)
  26. London Jazz Composers Orchestra: Theoria
  27. McGann, Bernie: Playground
  28. Outkast: Speakerboxx/The Love Below (that’s right—I only just NOW bought this for myself)
  29. Perry, Lee Scratch: Voodooism
  30. Spontaneous Music Ensemble: Face to Face
  31. Stanko, Tomasz: Leosia
  32. Sun Ra: The Space Age Is Here to Stay
  33. This Heat: Out of Cold Storage
  34. Morgan, Lee: Live at The Lighthouse (please go see this documentary on Mr. Morgan!)
  35. Various Artists: After-School Special—The 123s of Kid Soul
  36. Various Artists: Hanoi Masters–War is A Wound, Peace is a Scar
  37. Various Artists: Killed by Death #5
  38. Various Artists: Songs from Saharan Cell Phones, 1 & 2
  39. White, Ruth: Flowers of Evil
  40. Wray, Link: Beans and Fatback