30 July 2010

Happy birthday Buddy Guy!

Buddy "Motherfucker" Guy was born on this day in 1936 in Louisiana. He's known as one of the wildest performers of the blues and he's playing the blues since early 50s. Today he's one of the most important guitarists in the world.

Buddy's albums to get: Damn Right, I've Got the Blues and his recent Skin Deep. Happy birthday to the king of modern day Chicago blues!

26 July 2010

Various memories

Sometimes there are songs so bound to places, times or people it hurts me not to think about the past. My iTunes just shuffled me a tune from 1976's the Grateful Dead tour called "Cassidy". Only four minutes of great, folk-influenced rock and roll, and a wonderful riff and refrain. I used to listen to this song a couple of months ago waiting for my girlfriend before school, I always took the earplugs out, chatted with her as we made our way to the bus, and the song was, very silently, playing in the background. That was cool ;-) Contrasting with the lyrics, this used to be my true happiness.

She once said she had hated "my music" but loved the way I had loved it (so many mixed tenses in one sentence I had to screw something up, rrright). And almost every time she was at my place I played her Mingus' "Better Git It In Your Soul" and after a thousand tries she said, "hey, I've heard it somewhere before!" during the piano part. Priceless ;^)

23 July 2010

New releases: Muddy Waters, James Cotton, Ronnie Wood

About.com Blues Blog announced new Muddy Waters reissues from the BGO Records specializing in blues, folk and jazz CDs. There's nothing on the label's official page, but the thing seems interesting. One of the disks is a compilation They Call Me Muddy Waters, which would be great if not for the fact that it contains material from early 50s to late 60s. There are many better releases! But the second one looks damn better: it's Live at Mr. Kelly's from 1971. Awesome band (Cotton, Perkins...) and awesome setlist: there are even covers of Jimmy Reed ("You Don't Have to Go") and John Lee Hooker ("Boom Boom").

Another good news: mentioned previously James Cotton, a brilliant harp player, is releasing a new album on Alligator Records. More here. Get ready ;)

I'm also waiting for anothet Ronnie Wood's solo release. Rumours state it's gonna happen this year, probably in September. The album called More Good News was recorded a long time ago...

22 July 2010

Sexy girls making good music

Well, there've been a couple of them. I have no idea if there's anything better than a sexy chick singing the blues. ;) Grace Slick from the Jefferson Airplane has always been a favorite of mine.

Now Debbie Harry. She was even better ;) Ex-Playmate and the lead singer and songwriter for Blondie. Just hearing her sing "Rip Her to Shreds" gives me chills ;)

And erm... last but not least. Not too well known Ellen Foley - I love her cover of the Stones' "Stupid Girl" (Mick Ronson on guitar!). Hot, gorgeous and scary. ;)

21 July 2010

Muddy Waters - Screamin' and Cryin'

This album by Muddy is very close to my heart. It was recorded in my hometown, 16 years before I was born and 16 years after the famous Newport performance that marked his prime days. Waters was 61 at that time and well after his best years, but what does it matter? The recording is in very fine quality, the band is tight (my favorite, Pinetop Perkins, is on piano) and I'm sure all of the fans gathered at the Warsaw Jazz Jamboree '76 festival were amazed such a legend invaded Poland.

Everything starts kinda shaky but by the time the band gets into 3rd song ("Corrina, Corrina" sung by a duet Muddy-Pinetop) it's obvious I'm in for a treat! The legend is literally screamin' and cryin', but he's also a charismatic bandleader. He leaves the stage for a couple of songs to let his band show off ("Floyd's Guitar Blues" is remarkable - "hey, I know this riff!"), but then suddenly Muddy's back, never tired of singing his biggest hits: "Got My Mojo Workin'" and "Hoochie Coochie Man".

Highlights of the lenghty show include "After Hours" - several years later Pinetop Perkins recorded a solo album containing this song with the same title - and closing tracks (of 16 all - were they encores?), standard "Goin' Down Slow" and "What's the Matter With the Mill" also known as "Can't Get No Grindin'" straight from the 30s.

It's better than his previous work from the 70s and way more natural than all of the work he did after this while pairing with Johnny Winter. It's the last time we can hear Muddy howl "Howlin' Wolf" (by the way, the real Wolf died that year) or "Blow Wind Blow". Apart from a surprisingly great 1974's Unk In Funk, for me this is the most important of Muddy's outings from the 70s.

20 July 2010

Frank Frost's Downhome Blues

Remember Sam Phillips? Yeah, that legendary producer from Sun Records (Memphis, Tennessee). Just like Chicago blues was the trademark sound of Chess Records, Phillips most of his works recorded in a strong rockabilly vein. It shows when I listen to one of his last projects, early 60s songs by Frank Frost.

Frost came from Arizona, but played delta blues influenced soul all over the country juke joints. He played guitar, harp and a little piano, too. The compilation Downhome Blues is a set of his best works, this time with Jack Johnson and Sam Carr. A couple of years later Frost played with Scotty Moore.

I like the tunes. Many of them are a nod to Jimmy Reed (who is uncredited). This sounds like Reed on Sun Records, exactly. Frost played music which would be admired by Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash and Eric Clapton alike. On the other hand, it was as unorginal as it was only possible. It resulted in the fact that Frost never made it big. He became an obscure blues shouter, today long forgotten despite quite ambitious come-backs in the 80s and early 90s - Frost even appeared on Deep Blues soundtrack in 1992.

You can hear his songs on YouTube: Didn't Mean No Harm and Back Scratcher.

Lee Morgan

My jazz library is steadily growing. Recently I've almost completed Blue Mitchell's and Lee Morgan's discographies. Morgan was a much better trumpet player than Mitchell, more prolific and more popular too, but they share some similarities. Both were recording for the Blue Note Records for a long time and both recorded some swinging takes. Blue Mitchell on several occasions tried to copy Morgan's style on "The Sidewinder". They really have this in common, because Lee Morgan also tried to copy his hit single, shamefully with no great success. Listen to "The Rumproller" from the following year, you'll understand.

A funny fact: "The Sidewinder" was an outtake. Morgan recorded it without releasing it in mind. What happened after was enormous success in the pop world (which was fairly odd for a 10-minute-long jazz track) and so-called "The Sidewinder" syndrome, because for the couple of months many Blue Note LPs started with long groovy tracks that were really swinging (boogaloo they call it) but failed in recreating the magic of the unexpected 1964 hit.

But all in all, Lee Morgan was a very advanced player. Not in the terms of Miles or Diz, he wasn't a giant, but he was a real cool bloke. His girlfriend shot him six years after "The Sidewinder". May he rest in peace, he had gone away too soon. That's what he has in common with his idol and guy he learned from - Clifford Brown. Memorable song "I Remember Clifford" (he died in a car accident) was recorded not only by Morgan, but also Sonny Rollins and many others.

Brownie died in 1956 along with Bud Powell's brother, Richie. We'll never know what would be Clifford's answer to "The Sidewinder". Sometimes I close my eyes, listen to the sound of silence and think about it.

18 July 2010

The Killer strikes again

The wildest man in rock and roll ever. Now he's 74 years old and he obviously has no clue about it. His duets album from 2006 is one of my favorites - it's called Last Man Standing. It's because he's the only one left from the great bunch of Sun Records' stars.

Of course, it's Jerry Lee Lewis. He's planning a new release this year called Mean Old Man. With awesome guests (Ronnie Wood, Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Eric Clapton, Willie Nelson and more) and awesome tunes ("Sweet Virginia" and "Dead Flowers" by the Stones, "Roll Over Beethoven" by Chuck Berry and "Please Please Me" by the Beatles) it's gonna be wonderful. I'm waiting. ;)

14 July 2010

Grachan Moncur III for president

I've always been keen on free jazz (also known as the New Thing). Musician's music on the highest level, high quality jazz without any sense of rhythm or melody, spiritual trips to heaven and hell ;) The way Trane mixed free jazz and hard bop on A Love Supreme is just for starters. Dolphy released an album called Out to Lunch! on Blue Note Records which was far more into the new thing in 1964, and Blue Note very rarely released albums that weren't straight ahead bop. Dolphy's playing was amazingly great. I've also got some early works of Archie Shepp and Albert Ayler, another free jazz pioneers, and enjoy their music even if I don't understand a bit. Free jazz is a kind of really hardcore jazz that could be used to torture prisoners.

For me, the Blue Note sound connected with not-so-extremely-free playing was the thing. But as I mentioned before, that label wasn't interested much in this kind of music. They made an exception, though, for Grachan Moncur III - a wonderful, gorgeous trombonist and composer. He released two Blue Note albums, Evolution in 1963 and Some Other Stuff in 1964 (with the best cover art ever!). Moncur was associated with Jackie McLean back then and inspirated by Thelonious Monk.

You can't even imagine how the music on those two albums sounds. Divine! With titles like "Monk In Wonderland", you just know there's magic. It's got Lee Morgan's best playing ever - just a month before "The Sidewinder". On his second album he featured Wayne Shorter just before he joined Miles Davis' band.

Moncur's albums were extremely highly acclaimed by critics but fell into obscurity shortly after. Such a shame! Read a lenghty interview with Grachan to understand his music and position better and buy his stuff!

12 July 2010

Photos from Blue Note

Kill me, I'm not a big fan of Curtis Fuller - at least yet. But I was always interested how did the sessions for Blue Note Records look from the inside and when I got a set of Fuller's records for Blue Note label and a beautiful booklet, I've cut a few photos for y'all to see. ;) Photographs are of course taken by one and only Alfred Lion. Beautiful, aren't they? (And they get larger when you click, whaow ;^)).

11 July 2010

Tina Brooks - The Waiting Game

Tina Brooks released only four LPs and the Waiting Game was the hardest for me to find. It may not be the best session of his, but it's still such a wonderful hard bop date. One look at a typical Blue Note cover and a typically gorgeous set of musicians made me sure I'm gonna spend another 40 minutes listening to this album once again. Jazz, and bebop especially, really helps me forget about all the trouble I've got and keeps me focused enough not to drift away.

Johnny Coles is on trumpet, he's the guy who played with Mingus on his 1964 tour which speaks for itself. Enough to love him ;) Kenny Drew's on piano. He's a very bright pianist - I have only one album of his called Undercurrent and he certainly is groovin' the blues. Rhythm section is as follows: Wilbur Ware (known for his masterful playing with Sonny Rollins) and Philly Joe Jones - who was admired by you know who ;)

Tina Brooks doesn't overuse minor tones, even plays cheerfully at times. His interplay with Johnny Coles is absolutely amazing and the way Kenny Drew plays behind them sends chills down my spine - not to mention his solos, and he gets quite a few of them. Of the six songs, all of them are rather short, clocking at about 5-7 minutes - I'd love to hear those tunes played live by Tina's band, stretched to the limit.

There are quieter moments but don't wait for ballads - even if some moments are slow, they are loud and proud. The songs that I find the best are the opening track ("Talkin' About") and eponymous closing track. I rate those compositions higher than many of the well-known ancient jazz standards played to death on too many occasions during the 40s and 50s.

All in all, the Waiting Game is not as overwhelming as Tina's masterpiece, True Blue. It isn't exciting enough to be in every jazz enthusiast's collection. Neither it's original or rare enough to cost you fifteen bucks - unless you're a bebop lover. And I'm quite a maniac now ;) I wildly crave for jazz LPs that are swinging like famous Lee Morgan's "The Sidewinder" but are challenging enough not to be called "radio-friendly". On this album, Brooks gets close.