Miles Davis and John Coltrane and Wynton Kelly and Paul Chambers and Billy Cobb, So What

This is jazz, recorded live in 1960 in Sweden. So What is a classic jazz cut, the first track on Miles Davis’s Kind of Blue. It is the kind of music that even if you think you haven’t heard it, you’ve heard it.

This live performance from Sweden is a classic demonstration of jazz and why. Fantastic performers, all five of them, take the tune and turn it into something huger. Yeah, that’s the best word I can come up with. Huger. A better word than amazing, but that, too.

If you want to check out the original album cut, which is great, too, here it is.

Wikipedia note: The actor Dennis Hopper at some point claimed that the name of the song came from a philosophical conversation Hopper had with Davis, during which Davis would say something and Hopper would say, So what?

Cecil Taylor Died Today.

I’m a rockist, but I have some jazz leanings. And when I heard today that Cecil Taylor died, I thought about all of his music that moves through me.

One thing I can say is that the two times I saw Cecil Taylor live I felt my life change. Both times. I would play the records and get caught up in the thoughts of what he and his combos were doing, but seeing Cecil Taylor and his band live was living a musical experience that pushed you to places you could not possibly have known about. Some of this was referential, Taylor freely sampled, he loved other music, but a lot of it was structural. He loved breaking down the usual form.

His was music that demanded great playing, and even greater creativity in the improvisation. Watching/hearing Cecil Taylor and his combo create was like becoming privvy to great minds operating at maximum capacity, and letting you see how the magic is made.

I can’t think of another musician who operated on both the sensual ground level and engaged the absolutely intellectual spheres so directly.
And maybe I should mention that these shows I saw pulsed, were full of musical exuberance and passion.

I happened to be out walking today and stumbled into a great used bookstore in Prospect Heights I rarely get to. The music playing was frenetic and sort of atonal but clearly not, and my guess was that it was Cecil Taylor. I didn’t know he had died, at that point, but I also admired the bookstore for its amazing hipness (in the good sense) and love of great writing.

This clip gets at how percussive, melodic, energetic and disciplined Cecil Taylor’s music was. As with any musician, there are many more shades. But the point is, even if you don’t know about him, he was a giant.

The Dead South, In Hell I’ll Be In Good Company

Clever video. But simple.

Simple song. But maybe clever. The lyrics seem to show a dark murder ballad, though I didn’t get that on first listen.

Whatever. Somehow this cute video and folkish trad song has scored 44 million plays on YouTube. That’s huge, it is real money, and it comes from Canadians into bluegrass, even if the music isn’t bound by genre exactly.

More power to them. This isn’t rock, but if these folks can earn green on this fine but totally uncommercial song, I’d say they’re successful remnants.

Also, good title and band name. Especially for northerners. Maybe not as good as The Band.

Good Old Boys

Randy Newman’s first three albums are full of good songs. Songs that were hits for others, like Mama Told Me Not to Come, and songs that made his reputation as a song craftsman and satirist. But it was his fourth album, Good Old Boys, that I think is his masterpiece. Here the satire is scathing, and then the sentiment is true, and in a song like Birmingham, the two come together seamlessly.

Thinking about Alabama tonight, and thinking how in the 43 years since this great album came out, the same problems persist. Maybe things are worse.

If Roy Moore wins in the Alabama race for the Senate seat tonight (Ed. Note: He didn’t.), we should probably all sing Kurt Weill’s and Bertolt Brecht’s Alabama Song, something of a hit for the Doors back in the day, (Show me the way to the next whisky bar, oh don’t ask why, oh don’t ask way. Show me the way to the next little girl, oh don’t ask why, oh don’t ask why.), but in the meantime, these three songs from Good Old Boys will get you started:

Songs that immediately clicked

That’s what Lawr posted about. I’m with him on Locomotion. Here’s his post about songs that grabbed him immediately. That’s a great idea, and I’m with him on Complete Control, maybe the greatest of the great Clash’s cuts.

I think he’s out of his mind on the Peter Gabriel, but that isn’t my call. What is my call is this is No. 1, without a doubt. Changed my life. Really.

But the Beatles were huger.

 

Buck Owens, Waitin’ On Your Welfare Line

I tried to write about this song as politics, because clearly Buck’s perspective on the benefits and costs of welfare in 1966 were courtly and open-armed. At least until he got a hug in and a kiss. But clearly Buck’s metaphor is romantic, not political, and it better serves this funny novelty to remind us that there was a time, say 1966, when the basic idea of government services providing a safety net and a leg up were not seen as some sort of political litmus test. Even if he’s driving a Cadillac.

I don’t think the general population disagrees with this any more than they did back then, but the schism is much more sharp today.

In any case, back in those simpler times a crazy extended metaphor could spend ten weeks at No. 1, and Big Government looked a lot like busted love.

Most Pompous, Overblown Record Review Ever?

Remember Sheer Mag? They’re a more-than-just-punk band from Philly who have lots of folks excited. Up until now, they’ve only put out vinyl or download EPs. Since I’m the only CD man left on earth, I have nothing and am very much looking forward to getting their first full album (on CD, of course) this month. (Also new Queens this month and new Ruby The Hatchet this month – musical life is good.)

But here’s the “Editorial Review” from Amazon. Can you get further than two sentences in before quitting? Give me a break:

Vinyl LP pressing. A tear in the firmament. Beyond the noxious haze of our national nightmare – as structures of social justice and global progress topple in our midst – there lies a faint but undeniable glow in the distance. What is it? Like so many before us we are drawn to the beacon. But only by the bootstraps of our indignation do we go so boldly into the dark to find it. And so Sheer Mag has let the sparks fly since their outset, with an axe to grind against all that clouds the way. A caustic war cry, seething in solidarity with all those who suffer the brunt of ignorance and injustice in an imbalanced system. Both brazen and discrete, loud yet precise, familiar but never quite like this, Sheer Mag crept up from Philadelphia cloaked in bold insignia to channel our social and political moment with grit and groove. Cautious but full of purpose. What is it? By making a music both painfully urgent and spiritually timeworn, Sheer Mag speaks to a modern pain: to a people who too feel their flame on the verge of being extinguished, yet choose to burn a bit brighter in spite of that threat. With their debut LP, the cloak has been lifted. It is time to reclaim what has been taken from us. Here the band rolls up their sleeves, takes to the streets, and demands recompense for a tradition of inequity that’s poisoned our world. However, it is in our ability to love-our primal human right to give and receive love -that the damage of such toxicity is newly explored. Love is a choice we make. We ought not obscure, neglect, or deny that choice. Through the tumult and the pain, the camaraderie and the cause, the band continues to burn a path into that great beyond. But where are we headed? On Need To Feel Your Love, they make their first full-length declaration of light seen just beyond our darkness. Spoken plainly, without shame: it is love.

Ella Fitzgerald Was Born 100 Years Ago

The centenary is a big one, and Ella’s is coming up next week. She’s perhaps the greatest of jazz singers, without a doubt in that conversation and most likely on top of the heap, but rooting around in her discography yesterday I came up with a record called Sunshine of Your Love, which was recorded in San Francisco’s Fairmont Hotel in 1968.

It isn’t a rock album, but it takes it’s title from Cream’s classic rock song.

I find the cover of Hey Jude, which precedes this on the elpee, to be the worst of rock-jazz fusions, but this is different and pretty hot. Not Cream, but rockin’. I can just imagine the hep cats in their Nehru jackets at the Venetian Room, waving their cigarettes over their Scotch on the rocks as they listen in time.

Oddly, thinking about jazz and rock and what can work across the genres got me thinking about Anything Goes, an old Cole Porter chestnut that happened to be a hit single for a band called Harpers Bazaar in 1967. Ella covered it in 1956, and unlike the willful nostalgia of the insipid Harpers Bazaar version, and other cute stage versions of the tune, her version is absolutely adult and knowing. An acknowledgement of the ways and passions of the grown ups in the room.

This doesn’t make the music rock, the song is an 80-year-old show tune, but it connects the tune to the emotional directness and honesty that grew out of jazz and soul and r&b in the 50s into much of the best rock songwriting of the 60s and 70s. The singer does that, with the help of a crack band.

Happy birthday, Ella!

Rock’n’Roll Is More Than Three Chords

Before I retired, I was a pretty high level Project Manager at ATT, a gig I worked my last eight years with the company.

Of course at work we all have our own styles, and my boss decided to audit a meeting I was holding one day. This was fine: I liked my boss a lot, and was good at my gig and always got good reviews and such.

And, with my job, I usually ran between 4-6 meetings a day. As it happened, during one of the agenda items the day my boss listened in, a couple of team members got tasks accomplished that should have taken at least another month and I blurted out, “you guys so rock it.”

The only comment Yolanda made about handling my duties was suggesting maybe another word than “rock” was appropriate. But, after another year, she retracted since my clients mostly loved my work and style telling me, “Just keep doing what you are doing and be yourself. That seems to work quite well.”

It was a big moment, for being told professionally to be yourself, was not something I have ever been used to hearing in any environ.

I have thought about that incidentt in concert with the stupid and incessant discussions (nee arguments) on this site about what RockRemnants is about.

It is clear to me that in Steve’s view, we should only be writing around Rock’n’Roll for as he points out, that is in the name of the site.

But, aside from that being boring, not to mention smacking the face of Aristotle, our first literary critic, who said writing should “teach and delight,” Steve’s provincial view of the term as it applies is just a bunch of crap.

For one thing, we all have views and the site is for fun, so suggesting some category of music or art shouldn’t be included is specious. If all he wants to write about is the Germs, fine. Boring, yeah, but again, if that is what he likes, who am I to call him “an idiot” or suggest he “ramble incoherently?”

But, to me, as I have stated repeatedly, Rock’n’Roll is about attitude and the music is simply a subset of that mindset, irrespective of whether Allan Freed named the shit before he saw Elvis swing his hips or not.

For sure Rock’n’Roll is in the first licks of Johnny B. Goode, but it also lies within the words of Howard Beale (Peter Finch in Network) when he screams “I’m mad as hell and I’m not gonna take it anymore.” Rock’n’Roll is in the soul of any teenager who ever sneaked out of the house in the middle of the night to meet a lover in secret, or see a forbidden band, or ride fast in cars with one’s mates. And, like it or not, it is within Johnny Paychecks words when he said “take this job and shove it.”

So, for fun, here are some things that define Rock’n’Roll as far as I see it.

  • Muhammed Ali’s poetry and left hook.
  • James Dean’s smile.
  • Johnny Rotten’s sneer.
  • The Doors saying fuck you to Ed Sullivan with Jim Morrison screaming “girl we couldn’t get much higher” rather than the “much better” Sullivan insisted upon.
  • Mick and Keith’s on-stage interplay.
  • Joni Mitchell refusing to sell her song rights for commercial use.
  • Prince refusing to allow Itunes and Spotify stream his songs.
  • Marilyn Monroe’s voice.
  • Raj Davis’s homer to tie the 2016 World Series, and Ben Zobrist’s tenth inning double to tie it back up.
  • The wings at Virgil’s.

I could list more, but I think I make my point, and well, this is how I will continue writing and supporting the site because to me, Rock’n’Roll is indeed a music genre, but it is also part of a musical bigger whole, and music is one of the arts–like movies and painting and writing and all the other slices of imagination–the Muses ruled over.

To make one more point, if by having the name RockRemnants we are supposed to be limited to just Steve’s definition of the words and art form, then I suppose “all men are created equal” should only be applied to rich white landowning men, right?

And, if this song by Gabby Pahinui doesn’t kill you and tell you Rock is in everything, well, I feel sorry for your parochial existence.