Archive for the Now Playing Category
Though Monk cut many superb records with bands large and small I’ve always loved his solo excursions best and discovering these recordings, particularly the Black Lion sessions from quite late in his performing career, is a great pleasure. Last night I watched a documentary about György Ligeti wherein he spoke of his lifelong quest for a music that would be completely static and “always there”, like the landscape outside a window that is open for the duration of listening. For me Monk’s music has that quality, changeless and hypnotic, revolving slowly forever.
This is a collection of outstanding works by the acclaimed Finnish composer and I am particularly enjoying the richly atmospheric Six Japanese Gardens, “a collection of impressions of the gardens I saw in Kyoto during my stay in Japan in the summer of 1993 and my reflections on rhythm at that time,” Saariaho says.
Some of my earliest rock and roll thrills came from childhood listening to my mother’s Cream records and songs like “White Room”, “Tales of Brave Ulysses”, “Strange Brew” and “SWLABR” have long been part of the musical furnishings of my mind. Indeed so young was I when I first heard this music that I could not interpret the cover of Heavy Cream and, never having seen a guitar amplifier, imagined that the cartoon figures with guitars were performing inside telephone booths. Naturally it was with sadness that I learned of the death on Saturday of Jack Bruce. Here’s a nice picture of the heaviest band in the world, taken by Art Kane for Rolling Stone in 1967, with Bruce at right. Note that the cadaverous Ginger Baker, centre, is still going strong at 75.
Born Salvatore Massaro on this day in 1902, Eddie Lang was the first great guitarist in jazz, and among the earliest guitar heroes in the history of popular music. A virtuoso on his instrument, Lang and his violinist partner brought classical chops to their music and pioneered an influential form of chamber jazz that would be so successfully imitated by Django Reinhardt and Stephane Grappelli as to nearly eclipse their own reputations. Lang died tragically at the age of 30 but fortunately for music lovers he was a prolific recording artist as soloist, sideman and freelance session player and his superb musicianship is well documented. Highlights include his solo recordings, which feature his own charming compositions and extreme virtuosity; his many small group recordings with hot jazz stars like Clarence Williams, Bix Beiderbecke, King Oliver and of course Joe Venuti; and his brilliant duets with Lonnie Johnson, probably his only equal at the time. What he might have accomplished had he lived into the age of bebop and electrification can hardly be imagined.
It’s nearly ten years since the death of hip hop’s holy fool, and close to twenty since, with the assistance of his Wu-Tang colleagues, he dropped his first album, one of the maddest and baddest records of all time, in any genre. A bizarre collage of gritty beats, freakish sounds, filthy anecdotes and deranged rants it is unique and inimitable and always gets my head nodding while raising a smile. Here are the original album art and another Blue Note influenced re-styling by Logan Walters.