Friday, February 28, 2020

Full Force Gayle

We'll begin the weekend, and end Black History Month, with the 81st birthday of an iconoclast with as compelling a life story as anyone I've ever covered on here.
He didn't even make a record until 1988. Before ever setting foot in a recording studio, though, he must have lived 100 lifetimes in 20 years on the streets of New York City.
I'm certain I saw him, as his alter ego Streets the Clown, walking down 2nd Avenue playing the most wicked, out there shit on an alto saxophone, sometime in the early 1980s.
It's hard to forget a hobo-looking guy in a clown outfit playing like that, you know? I maybe am inventing the memory but I am somehow sure I saw this. Back then, such things weren't at all unusual in NYC.
So, yes. He made his first record in 1988. He's made 40 as a leader since that I can count, and a whole bunch as a sideguy too. Mama used to call that "making up for lost time".
He ain't just a blazing saxophonist in the mold of a Pharoah Sanders-meets-John Zorn-at-Marzette Watts' cookout, either. He's a topnotch piano player who sounds like a cross between Thelonious Monk and Horace Silver, with a fair helping of Mal Waldron thrown in for good measure. Or mood gesture.
Outside of that, he also plays the bass. And the clarinet. Maybe the shorter list is instruments at which he's not proficient, I dunno.
Notorious for between-song stage raps about religion and the cosmos that sometimes go on longer than the concert, he's as unfiltered an artist -- and a guy as completely himself -- as anyone I will ever write about on this page.
I am tryna think of a cat as 100% authentic as Charles Gayle -- or another figure of contemporary music with a life story as intense as his -- and I'm coming up about as empty as the conscience of Capitalism itself.
And let's be clear: this isn't intended as a feelgood screed about how you can save yourself from the depredations of this porcine paradigm we accept as real. 
There's simply no way someone this multitalented should have ever walked the streets barefoot for the better part of two decades. A social construct that treats its most visionary creatives like chattel isn't a social construct at all. 
It's a fragmented, abysmal and deathdealing shitshow, waiting to moulder on the dustbin of all history whilst its surviving victims dance around its funeral pyre with Pure, unadulterated Joy.
All right, enough polemics. Let's get to the saxophone histrionics!
Charles Gayle Trio
The Red Rose
London, UK
9.21.2007

01 Jez Nelson FM intro
02 Understanding
03 Forgiveness
04 Kevin LeGendre interviews Charles Gayle
05 Jez Nelson FM intro
06 Brotherhood
07 Body & Soul
08 Love
09 Humility
10 Naima/Charles Gayle outro
11 Jez Nelson FM outro

Total time: 1:22:04
disc break goes after Track 04

Charles Gayle - alto saxophone & piano
William Parker - bass
Mark Sanders - drums 

digital capture of the complete 2008 "Jazz On 3" BBC 256k rebroadcast
officially released material has been removed from the interview segment
this will fit and play seamlessly on a single CD if the interview segment itself is removed
402 MB FLAC here
There aren't a whole lot of unreleased items in his catalog -- he is someone that tends to err on the side of releasing it all -- but this unissued performance has everything that makes Charles Gayle the exercise in uniquely furious passion that he is, and features him on sax and piano operating at the peak of his considerable powers.
That will do it for February, eh? My first month back trying to do this at my regular level of frequency and commitment. And it's fitting that it's about Charles Gayle -- born this day in 1939 and outlasting all the other clowns who abused and marginalized him for so long -- whose commitment to the vibrational frequencies emanating from his horn and other axes brought him from the depths of an uncivilized civilization and into a place where he could be heard as the avatar he unquestionably is.--J.

Tuesday, February 25, 2020

Fat Bluesday: Son Seals Delivers

We'll begin to wind down February and the BHM celebrations with a ridiculous 68 minutes of blistering Bluesiness from one of the less-acknowledged all-time deities of such things.
Today's 12 alarm Chicago Fire was taped 35 years ago today and features a player not enough people know about, or mention enough IMO.
At least not in the way where he is automatically spoken of as in the upper firmament of the genre, with the B.B.s and the other Kings. I aim to change that.
He began in the late 1960s and was soon discovered by the head of Alligator Records, who started recording him in the early 1970s.
More acclaimed records followed as he amassed a reputation as one of the must-see players, especially onstage, where his performances quickly became legendary for their explosiveness.
The thing I love most about Son Seals is how he utilized dynamics, in a kind of music that can get kind of monochromatic and leaden in unimaginative hands. 
When you hear this tape -- yes, it's wild -- you get the sense of this writ large, as he takes the band from a full roar to a whisper and back up again, often several times within the same song.
For me, he's one of the most underrated guys of our lifetimes, and I'm amazed he doesn't get more of a top mention when people talk about The Blues and its many leading lights.
He's got a really thick, instantly recognizable tone too... it only takes a few notes to know who it is.
He passed in 2004 at the too young age of 62, but the music he left behind in his wake won't be dying anytime soon.
This little anniversary special, recorded in a small club in Tucson, AZ this day in 1985, oughta give the uninitiated pause and cause to dig into his stuff deeper.
Son Seals Blues Band
Terry & Zeke's
Tucson, Arizona USA
2.25.1985

01 Chicken Shack
02 Bird Nest On the Ground
03 introduction of Son Seals/San-Ho-Zay
04 Don't Lie to Me
05 The Woman I Love
06 I Can't Hold Out
07 Help Me to Spend this Dough
08 Trouble, Trouble
09 I'll Play the Blues for You

Total time: 1:08:44

Son Seals - guitar & vocals
Larry Burton - guitar
Charles Taylor - bass
Rick Howard - drums
Carl Snyder, Jr. - keyboards & vocals

sounds like a DAT straight from the soundboard
slightly edited, retracked and tracklist corrected by EN, February 2020
372 MB FLAC here
I shall return at the end of the month with one last blast of Blackness before we commence to Marching.
You better check out this Son Seals show, though. Just click that Mardi Gras link and he will play The Blues for you! Watch out though, he might melt the wires on your hi-fi if you aren't careful.--J.
8.13.1942 - 12.20.2004

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

i.
Alhambra
Paris, France
2.22.1964

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

ii.
Maison de la Radio
Paris, France
2.23.1964

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
9.20.2008

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