Sunday, February 23, 2020

A Monk of Sundays

I got three more Black History Month salvos loaded up to take us to the end of February, beginning with this boplicious broadside here.
Obviously today's gentleman needs little introduction.
I was thinking as I was preparing this the last couple of days how this guy subtly but profoundly influenced the entire vocabulary of harmony and melody in the 20th century, in terms of what was permissible.
It's a testimony to his artistry and the brilliantly angular corners of his conception that what people would have heard as melodic errors before he came on the scene, they came to hear not as mistakes but as deviations from expectation after his advent.
And it's all so danceable. Every tune this cat ever did can set the body into motion.
There's probably never been a composer whose material was at once so complex and difficult, yet so accessible and fun.
Along with Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie, he is the primary architect of Bebop, pure and simple.
What I have always loved most about his music is how all his songs sound cut of the same cloth -- as if they are endless variations on the same tune -- yet each is crystallized in a unique zone all its own, separate from the others yet inextricably linked.
He's been dead since a lotta folks were born, but his melodies and standard-setting tunes are being played by someone, somewhere on Earth, at all times.
Today we celebrate the inestimably timeless music of Thelonious Sphere Monk, with two Paris concerts from 56 years ago this weekend, taped on back to back nights in the City of Lights.
Thelonious Monk Quartet
Paris 1964

Paris, France

01 Stuffy Turkey
02 Brake's Sake
03 Blue Monk
04 Ruby My Dear
05 Rhythm-A-Ning
06 Epistrophy (theme)

Total time: 53:07

Thelonious Monk - piano
Charlie Rouse - tenor saxophone
Butch Warren - bass
Ben Riley - drums

spectral analysis indicates a pre-FM reel, possibly the master

Maison de la Radio
Paris, France

01 Four In One
02 I'm Getting Sentimental Over You
03 Straight, No Chaser
04 drum solo
05 Well, You Needn't
06 Epistrophy
07 Blue Monk
08 Sweet and Lovely
09 Hackensack
10 Rhythm-A-Ning
11 Bright Mississippi 
12 Epistrophy

Total time: 1:47:50
disc break goes after Track 06

Thelonious Monk - piano
Charlie Rouse - tenor saxophone
Butch Warren - bass
Ben Riley - drums

spectral analysis indicates a pre-FM reel, possibly the master
retracked by EN, February 2020
both shows zipped together
847 MB FLAC here
I shall return on Tuesday with more mindmelting BHM madness, as we take a journey into some fierce Chicago Blues.
You needn't miss out on this classic pair of performances though, trust me. Charlie Rouse especially goes nuts in these, from the first beat he is in top form.
So pull 'em down and get on up... in this Monastery, we dance.--J.
10.17.1917 - 2.17.1982

Thursday, February 20, 2020

Nancy with the Lasting Grace

We're back and we're still pretty Black, with another necessary BHM post chronicling another severely undersung superstar.
I admit I have wanted to cover her since I began this page in 2013, but the total paucity of archival material prevented me from doing so.
When she passed at the end of 2018, I searched up and down but came up empty. All that changes today, as we celebrate what would have been her 83rd birthday.
For a few days ago my endless searching was rewarded with an absolute gem of a show, from just a few days after her husband of 35 years himself passed.
But rewind for a second. What astonished me about the lack of live and unissued stuff was the idea that here was someone who'd been out doing it for over 60 years (!!!!), yet somehow had never had a concert played on the radio. It seemed unlikely at best and utterly unjust at worst.
Beginning in the 1950s, when she first started professionally, she's been one of the uncategorizable song stylists I have gone back to time and time again.
She first blew up in the early 1960s, when she took a cut more in tune with the classic cheatin' songs of Country music and made it a Jazz standard for all times.
Her records with the legendary Julian "Cannonball" Adderley were all over the charts during that time, and she proceeded as the decades spun by to solidify her reputation as someone who could take any song you could name and stamp it with her own, original imprimatur.
When she left us a little over a year ago, I was certain that the flood of archival material was just about to happen. At the least, France Musique would do a thing. But nothing appeared.
I'm sitting there wondering how it's possible that an artist of this caliber, pedigree and longevity went essentially unbootlegged for six decades.
Then, a few days ago, I happened upon this 70 minutes of marvelousness stashed away on another blog.
Some basic retracking, a little levels-boost, and a cover thumbnail later, we are here to reflect upon the unparalleled artistry of the one and only Nancy Wilson.
Nancy Wilson
"A Tribute to Cannonball Adderley" 
Monterey Jazz Festival
Monterey Fairgrounds
Monterey, California USA

01 Never Will I Marry
02 Nancy speaks 
03 Save Your Love for Me
04 Nancy speaks  
05 A Sleepin' Bee 
06 Nancy speaks  
07 (I'm Afraid) The Masquerade Is Over
08 Nancy speaks 
09 Road Song
10 Moondance
11 Nancy speaks 
12 I Wish I'd Met You
13 Nancy speaks 
14 Take Love Easy
15 Nancy speaks  
16 I Can't Make You Love Me
17 Nancy speaks 
18 Guess Who I Saw Today

Total time: 1:10:16

Nancy Wilson - vocals
Tom Scott - saxophones
Terence Blanchard - trumpet
Llew Matthews - keyboards 
Roy McCurdy - drums
John Belzaguy - bass

sounds like a digital capture of the original KUSP-FM broadcast
retracked, repaired and annotated by zootype, April 2016
very slightly retracked, with files titled & tagged -- and volume boosted +7 dB throughout -- by EN, February 2020
302 MB FLAC here
This show is kind of what this stuff is all about in a lotta ways. Like I said this was Nancy's first time in front of people since her loss, and she battles like a warrior through the set to not just go completely to pieces in the middle of every tune.
Her between-song commentary about her husband and what he meant to her is so real, I challenge anyone with a heart not to tear up during this performance.
I have a couple more tricks up my sleeve for Black History Month, so stay tuned for more gems coming soon to a page near you.
For now, though, I surely do hope you'll get next to this amazing tape, provided in homage to a hugely underrated and unforgettable vocalist I know I will adore forever.--J.
2.20.1937 - 12.13.2018

Wednesday, February 19, 2020

Miracle Milestone: Smokey Robinson 80

Greetings and ooh, baby baby it's time to celebrate more Black History Month glory with a mega-milestone birthday for one of the true touchstones for the music of our age.
This guy though. Look at that mug. He must have had the ladies lined up to the horizon after the show, huh? Damn.
And that voice, sweet Jesus on six bicycles. If they didn't wanna take him home after laying eyes on him, once he opened his mouth they must have had to peel the chicks off the ceiling.
It wouldn't have mattered if he had three heads, really. Some people come with something so genre-defining and distinctive, they could be singing the phone book and people would lose their minds before they got to Aaron.
Let's be direct: this person did as much to define the sound of American music of our epoch as any single guy you could name.
They called it The Motown Sound and he was a ground-floor, formative architect of it. 
Not long after that, he essentially invented the whole Quiet Storm thing, for which there's a radio station in every city and town now but which back then didn't exist as we know it today.
I feel like if you had a dollar for every child conceived to his music, you'd be able to buy the city of Detroit.
And wouldn't you know it? Smokey Robinson is 80 years young today. Every post I do on here, I get to feeling a little bit older.
He still sings and plays shows, too. And I'd bet my last Soul Train money with Don Cornelius that Smokey's never once used Autotune, either.
There aren't a whole lot of unissued items from his vast output over these last six decades, but there are a few gems lurking.
Like this one, for instance. It is the soundtrack for his episode of the superlative 1970s/1980s German TV extravaganza Musikladen, which started as Beat Club in the Sixties and took over the European music TV market before videos and MTV.
How this entire performance isn't available on Blu-Ray or Electric Hologram Generator or whatever the kids use today I have no idea, except to say All Empires Fall and America is next.
Smokey Robinson 
"Musikladen Extra"
WDR-TV Studios
Bremen, Germany 

01 Open
02 I Am I Am
03 Baby That's Backatcha
04 The Agony & the Ecstasy
05 Vitamin U
06 The Tracks of My Tears
07 Tears of a Clown
08 Ooh Baby Baby
09 Theme from "Big Time"
10 "Big Time" reprise

Total time: 43:19

Smokey Robinson – vocals
Reginald "Sonny" Burke – keyboards
Marv Tarplin – guitar
Wayne Tweed – bass
Scotty Harris – drums
James "Alibe" Sledge – congas & vocals
Fred Smith – saxophones & flute
Michael Jacobsen – saxophones & cello
Ivory Stone Davis – percussion & backing vocals
Patricia Henley – vocals

audio of a German TV broadcast; exact source unknown
slightly retracked and band info annotated by EN, February 2020
258 MB FLAC here
I will stroll back by tomorrow with more diamonds from the mine, when we'll continue the BHM musings with yet another performer for the ages.
 But today we are going to a go-go, and paying necessary tribute to Smokey on his 80th, hoping everyone seconds that emotion by clicking the link and pulling down this smokin' set from his underrated-but-oh-so-very-funky mid-'70s period!--J.