|The Chick Corea Trio|
My last vacation time of the year has almost come to an end. I always try to take a week off in October before the retail holiday season kicks in. I can’t get vacation time the last two months of the year anyway, so October is my last chance. It’s been a restful week, and I feel I’ve accomplished most of what I wanted to accomplish. I managed to finish a couple of books I’d been reading since spring – collections of essays you can pick up and put down as time dictates. But my wife and I spent a rare day shopping on Wednesday and decided to hit all the bookstores in one day. My wife came home with a dozen books, and I bought 9 LP’s, 5 CD’s and one book myself.
Linda Ronstadt’s musical memoir Simple Dreams is now out in trade paperback which means you can also find hardcover copies on the bargain tables in chain stores like Barnes & Noble. I started reading the book yesterday morning and finished it in one sitting. True to its subtitle, it’s almost all about her music. Her personal life, which, at times, has provided fodder for gossip columnists, is given short shrift here in favor of an in depth discussion of her greatest passion – music. She takes us all the way back to her family life in Tuscon, Arizona and a household filled with music, and details the influences that led to one of the most successful careers the music business has ever seen. There are terrific stories about people she met and worked with along the way, and I came away from it feeling that Linda Ronstadt is exactly the person and the artist I always believed her to be. I can’t recommend the book more highly.
The other three bookstores we visited all have vinyl, but the chain stores really haven’t committed to it, so the selection and pricing leave much to be desired. The used shops are still the best bet. I hadn’t had hardly any success all year at Half-Price Books, but this trip was different. I bought a dozen items there in all and escaped with a bill under 60 bucks. On CD I picked up a Lee Konitz two-fer of a pair of his 1957 recordings for Verve, Very Cool, and Tranquility. Konitz is a master of the alto sax. A guy I once worked with who had an encyclopedic knowledge of jazz, and a passion for Konitz in particular influenced my decision to pick this up even though I’d heard and enjoyed some Konitz, and even owned some of his work on compilation albums. Both of these are fine records that feature Konitz’s smooth style, and his laid back approach. Very Cool is a quintet date from May of ’57 that has Don Ferrara on trumpet, Sal Mosca on piano, Peter Ind on bass, and Shadow Wilson on drums. Tranquility is a quartet session from October of that same year, and has Billy Bauer on guitar, Henry Grimes on bass, and Dave Bailey on drums. It’s a nice introduction to Konitz if you aren’t familiar with him. The uptempo stuff is lively, and the ballads sublime.
The nine LP’s were Solid Ground by Ronnie Laws, Breezin’ and In Flight by George Benson, Multiplication by Eric Gale, Rit by Lee Ritenour, Expressions of Life by The Heath Brothers, Uptown Dance by Stephane Grappelli and Domino Theory by Weather Report – all used, and a new LP of a Bob Dylan album I’d never seen titled Live In Colorado 1976. Those first eight are all jazz records that come from a period in my life when I was still learning about jazz, and listening to a mix of classic and contemporary stuff. All were records that got a lot of in-store play in stores I was working in, so my attachment to them is sentimental. My favorites, though are The Heath Brothers and Stephane Grappelli. The Heath Brothers, Jimmy and Percy, go way back to the 1950’s and the two played with most of the legends of jazz when they were young men. In the 70’s they formed their own group and recorded a few albums for Columbia that featured a more contemporary approach. The records were quite successful on their own terms, and I heard and loved them all, but had not been able to find them anywhere in recent years. Stephane Grappelli, a master violinist who played with the great guitarist Django Reinhart cut Uptown Dance for Columbia, and it was the first place I’d ever heard or heard of Grappelli. I’d never even imagined the violin as a jazz instrument, but Grappelli swings like mad, and I fell in love with this record the first time I heard it. I’ve been looking for it for years, and I finally have it.
The Bob Dylan title was on a European label, DMM, that seems to be able to
find loopholes in copyrighted material that allows them to legally issue
records that cannot be issued by labels in the U.S. Live In Colorado 1976 was recorded at Fort Collins and is part of
the same concert that yielded Dylan’s Hard
Rain album and television special in ’76. This was the second leg of the
storied Rolling Thunder Revue tour, and Dylan still had Joan Baez and Roger
McGuinn traveling with him. There are ten tracks here, four of which are on the
Hard Rain LP. But the remaining six –
all of side one, and one track on side two, were previously unreleased. Baez
joins Dylan on four of them, and the album has the same ramshackle sound as the
Hard Rain album did. The tracks it
duplicates from that LP also happen to be that album’s highlights – among them Shelter From The Storm, and maybe the definitive version of his scathing Idiot Wind. Hard Rain has long been my favorite live Bob Dylan album, and I’ve
been waiting for Columbia to release the entire show for ages now. But until
they do, this set will do nicely. A must for Dylan collectors, it goes for
about 25 bucks online. Half-Price Books was selling it sealed for $12.99.
|Dylan & Baez|
Collector’s Choice Music sent me a catalog the other day, and I spent money with them I haven’t yet earned, but man did I hit the motherlode. They had a big sale going on, with an additional 15% off the entire order if you spent $125 bucks. Normally I wouldn’t be able to come close to spending that amount from a single catalog, but this time they saw me coming. The catalog seemed tailor-made for me, and to hell with credit card debt. I’m still waiting on two titles that were backordered, Step Back, the final record by the late Johnny Winter on vinyl, and the newly expanded edition of Edwin Starr’s Involved CD featuring his much of his early 70’s work with the late, great Motown producer Norman Whitfield (that one is in transit as I write). But I’ve been spinning the rest this week on my vacation. Here’s the take: The Way I’m Livin’ by Lee Ann Womack (on vinyl with a download card included), for my money the best country singer out there today, Offering: Live at Temple University by John Coltrane, Trilogy by The Chick Corea Trio, and four titles from the Wounded Bird label previously issued only in Japan, Herbie Hancock Trio with Ron Carter & Tony Williams, The Herbie Hancock Trio (same lineup), V.S.O.P. Tempest In The Colosseum (Herbie, Ron, Tony, Wayne Shorter, and Freddie Hubbard) and one more V.S.O.P. album, The Quintet (same lineup).
Regular readers of this blog know of my affection for country music (see the previous post), and nobody does it better than Lee Ann Womack. She’s a master interpreter, and a pretty solid songwriter as well. Her new album, The Way I’m Livin’ is comprised entirely of cover songs she comes to inhabit here. I had recently picked up her There’s More Where That Came From, and Call Me Crazy, and if I could mainline her music, I would.
The Wounded Bird label has been making a name for itself of late by issuing jazz titles which were, once upon a time, the domain of Sony Japan – meaning they were titles issued only in Japan, and were either long unavailable to U.S. buyers, or available strictly as extremely high-priced imports. The four Herbie Hancock titles I picked up (there were three more I intend to get at a later time) were all issued between 1977 and 1981, and all of them feature the same players who were part of the second classic Miles Davis Quintet from the 1960’s (save trumpeter Freddie Hubbard who takes the Dark Prince’s place on the two V.S.O.P. albums). Anytime I get the opportunity to hear Herbie, Ron, Tony and Wayne play together – in any configuration or combination – I’ll take it. Most of my favorite jazz musicians have played with Miles Davis at one time or another, and are among the greatest and most accomplished musicians of the last century. I had no idea these albums existed. I remember V.S.O.P. of course because Columbia issued a couple of albums under that name in the late 70’s. If memory serves, Wynton Marsalis appeared with this same lineup on the first in the trumpet chair, and I believe Freddie took his place on the other. Those albums were gems in their own right so discovering there were two more titles available from the same period and for the budget price of a single CD – well, I couldn’t resist. All four of these titles are outstanding. I shouldn’t have to sell you on what these musicians are capable of – especially when they’re playing together.
Chick Corea should also need no introduction from me. His new three CD set, Trilogy, is a 17 track collection of some of the signature songs from Chick’s long career rendered here in recent live versions by his outstanding trio that has Christian McBride on bass, and Brian Blade (who also plays with Wayne Shorter) on drums. I’ve been listening to Chick since I bought Miles Davis’s Bitches Brew album in the early 70’s. I have countless recordings of him with Miles, his band Return To Forever, solo, and with any number of other artists (including Herbie Hancock, Tony Williams, and Ron Carter) in various configurations. I find him endlessly inventive, innovative, and ready to challenge himself and his bands to continually bring something fresh and new to the table. It would be almost impossible to pick one title as a starting point if you wanted to explore Corea’s career. But you couldn’t go wrong starting here because all the things Chick brings to his music, and to jazz as an art form are on display in these recordings. If Miles were still around to hear what his old band mates have done since they went off on their own, he would be radiating pride.
And speaking of Miles’s old band mates, there’s one more to get to before we wrap this up. In 2010, a jazz label called Free Factory issued a previously unissued and incomplete recording of the John Coltrane Quintet Live at Temple University on November 11, 1966, just 9 months before Coltrane died. I found the CD sometime in the last year, and was stunned that something so impressive, and important had not been issued before, nor released on a major label in its complete form. But with lost Coltrane recordings, you take whatever you can get.
As it turns out, the complete show did exist, and after some investigation, the master tapes were found and turned over to Resonance Records who’ve issued them through Impulse Records, Coltrane’s last label. This concert is legendary for several reasons – all of which are detailed in the superb liner notes that accompany the set. I’ll let you discover the whole story for yourself. This two CD release adds the tracks Offering (just over 4 minutes in length) and yet another version of My Favorite Things (clocking in at just over 23 minutes). The sound is vastly improved from the Free Factory release, and if you’re a Coltrane acolyte, you need this – even if you owned the Free Factory edition of the show. Take it from me – don’t ever miss a chance to hear Coltrane play My Favorite Things. For me it’s his signature song, and my library has countless versions in it now, and this one is stunning. If you’re hesitant because this is late period Coltrane when his music was “challenging” and “difficult” for many listeners, I suggest you grow a pair, and open your mind to the brilliance of this greatest of all musicians.
Still on tap before the year comes to an end is the next installment of the Bob Dylan Bootleg series, The Complete Basement Tapes, and the first installment of a new series of live archive releases from the Rolling Stones vaults, Hampton Coliseum 1981. Christmas is coming several weeks early this year.
The new TV season has been very satisfying thus far. Five weeks in, Hawaii 5-0, Person of Interest, The Big Bang Theory, The Good Wife, and the new series Scorpion (all CBS) are all looking like they’re going to have banner years. Scorpion, in particular, has been very impressive – especially for a new series.
And when I’m not watching the new television season, I’m searching for old classic films to watch via TCM, AMC or the MGM network. In the past couple of weeks I managed to catch Alfred Hitchcock’s Strangers On A Train, and Edward Dmytryk’s A Walk On The Wild Side starring Laurence Harvey, Capucine, Barbra Stanwyck, and Jane Fonda. Both were stunning – true classics in every sense of the word. I’ve been on a crusade the past few years to try and see every old classic film I haven’t yet seen. The list is long, but my health is good, and I hope to finish the list before I’ve made my final exit.
The 2014 World Series gets started Tuesday and the matchup might yield one of the greatest fall classics in history. The wild card Kansas City Royals take on the wild card San Francisco Giants, winners of the series in both 2010, and 2012. The Royals are making their first trip since 1985. I was listening to The Herd on ESPN Radio the other day, and Colin Cowherd was downplaying what the Kansas City Royals have accomplished thus far in winning a record eight straight post-season games on their way to the series. Colin, like most in the sports media, is not much of a baseball fan, and he is also no fan of teams in small markets who play what is called “small ball” (essentially that’s a style of play that emphasizes great pitching, defense, strategy, speed, and doing whatever it takes to win ball games). He’s a superstar lover who wants to see the long ball every other at bat. But when push comes to shove, you know he’d rather watch an NBA exhibition game or an NFL matchup between the winless Raiders and Jaguars than have to sit through a World Series game that features the Kansas City Royals. This World Series has the makings of one for the ages because both the Royals and the Giants play baseball the way the game was designed to be played. They are teams, not a collection of individuals. And if there’s not enough glamour to attract the sports media, there’s more than enough to interest the true baseball fan. Baseball, in its essence, remains the greatest of all sports, and when it’s played as it should be played, there is nothing better anywhere. I don’t care who wins. I just hope it goes the distance, and every game is a gem. And to those in the sport media who just can’t get excited about it, who needs you? Go play Fantasy Football, and keep licking LeBron James’s boot heels. The rest of us have a series to watch.
Hey! Florida State! It’s the day after a big game. Do you know where your quarterback is?
The leaves are turning beautiful colors. If you hurry, you can run outside and see them through the 1” screen on your cell phone. I’ll be on my porch watching them fall with my own eyes in widescreen Technicolor the way nature intended.
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