On Sunday, March 24th, I was still coming off what was a very narrow victory by my Jayhawks over a 16 seed in the NCAA Tournament. So that afternoon’s Tarheel matchup had me a little wary.
If this reads like Greek to you, I’m sorry. I have two serious passions: basketball and music.
Sometimes, due to scheduling conflicts, they are forced to co-exist.
So, I’ve set the mood. My nervous mood, at least, as I watched the time until tipoff.
Moving on to the music…. At least all the participants at BYOV #20 were victorious as we were able to listen to a diverse range of music that was either meaningful or created by a Californian musician (or both).
The themes for BYOV #20 were:
a) It's electric! We would like to hear landmark performances that still startle to this day. Dibs on the 1812 Overture.
b) We're gettin' personal.... Bring a tune that has significance to you in your life's journey.
c) Goin' back to Cali, Cali, Cali.... Let's get regionally specific. Bring a track from your favorite California born/based artist.
1. James Newton – “Choir” from Axum (ECM 1214, 1982)
Presented by Me – LP – Theme: B & C
Once again I was persuaded to go first.
I brought a record by a Californian musician. The recording was also responsible for making me reconsider the problems with the music industry, especially its treatment of artists.
Nearly the second I cued up the overblown, harmonically rich solo flute track, Steve guessed that this was James Newton.
It was indeed the astounding flutist from Los Angeles. Newton has long been an important member of the California jazz community, having begun his career playing with the likes of Bobby Bradford, John Carter, Red Callendar, Arthur Blythe, David Murray, etc. in the early 1970s.
Newton had recorded a number of records for Circle Records of Germany and India Navigation before he recorded this solo album, Axum, for ECM.
My interest in the record was piqued in a class discussion at NYU. During my senior year, I was enrolled in a class called Philosophy of Music, which was quite an amazing class in many ways, though I’m not really one for philosophic mumbo jumbo.
Anyway…. The professor had been involved as a musical expert in a suit that was brought against the Beastie Boys by James Newton. In 1992, the Beastie Boys released a song called “Pass the Mic” on their album Check Your Head. The song used a six and a half second sample of Newton’s playing on “Choir,” which was looped over and over again.
The Beastie Boys had apparently done what they were supposed to do. They paid for use of the sample to the company that owned the rights, ECM. The problem was there was no remuneration to the artist because “allegedly” this was a wholly improvised piece of music.
Here was where the professor came in. The Beastie Boys’s defense hired him to prove that the sample of Newton’s playing was not an “original” musical statement. Thus, he began to track down examples of other flutists and instrumentalists producing harmonics by humming through their instruments. He rounded up recordings by Rahsaan Roland Kirk, African and aboriginal musicians, etc. who used overblowing and similar effects in their music.
Additionally, Newton’s case was vulnerable because the performance was not a written composition or, at least, recognized as such by the court, though he said he registered the composition with ASCAP in 1978. Read more here.
Now maybe it was the music, the circumstance or just the snide way he represented the facts, but I wasn’t feeling the explanation and decision of the case. Prof was proud of the outcome. He had gone on to represent other musicians who, at least in my opinion, had obviously ripped off a creative musician’s work for their own financial gain. He repeatedly namedropped folks like Eminem and Dr. Dre to impress the students.
To make it worse, when I asked who and what record this was, he wasn’t able to tell me the name of the recording or the label.
“Oh, some small label from Germany….”
Hear that, Manfred?
Okay. Let’s rein this in.
Needless to say, this hurt Newton quite a bit. He had to pay the legal fees that the Beastie Boys incurred. Maybe this wasn’t a winnable case but he was trying to protect what was his, right?
The story really made me take a second look at the relationship between musicians, labels, and lawyers. Not to mention professors.
Thomas mentioned that the German royalty collection agency GEMA has allowed improvised music to be considered as composition but at the lowest level, the same as pop music. Since there have been limited avenues for jazz, creative or improvised music to collect royalties, there has been little revenue generated for musicians, even though they are recognized.
We discussed that for some time there has been a value in skilled transcribers who can write down improvisations for musicians who would like to submit them to their respective performance rights agencies. The process would take a lot of work but would definitely protect the artist and hopefully generate a bit more revenue.
There was a “chicken or the egg” conversation, too. We discussed Chopin’s works, many titled “Impromtu,” were generally considered improvisations. Thomas reminded us that all compositions began as improvisations. Now there’s a real philosophic conundrum.
2. Benny Goodman – “Sugarfoot Stomp” from This Is Benny Goodman (RCA Victor LPM 1239, 1956)
Presented by Robert Futterman – LP – Theme: A, B & C
Robert was next up to bat. He didn’t specify what the theme would be but told us that this record was definitely significant to him and his musical development.
Turned out that this record went for the theme trifecta. Explanation coming.
We heard a large ensemble launch into an old school jazz composition, which was a bit more polished than what would have been expected from a piece written in this manner.
Steve ventured that it might be Count Basie.
Maxime was able to guess that this was Benny Goodman and His Orchestra.
Steve: “This is derived from King Oliver. It went from Oliver to Fletcher Henderson to Benny Goodman.”
The tune was originally known as “Dippermouth Blues” written by Joe “King” Oliver and recorded in 1923. Fletcher Henderson recorded the tune alongside Oliver’s protégé Louis Armstrong in 1927. In the early 1930s, Henderson began arranging for Benny Goodman, thus the connection.
Though the LP here was released in 1956, the recording of the tune was made in 1937.
Someone thought that it was Bunny Berigan on trumpet but his famous solo was on “King Porter Stomp.” The trumpet section here was Charles Griffin, Harry James, and Ziggy Elman.
The rest of the band was bassist Harry Goodman, drummer Gene Krupa, guitarist Allan Reuss, pianist Jess Stacy, saxophonists William Depew, Herman Schertzer, Arthur Rollini, and Dick Clark along with trombonists Joe Harris and Sterling Ballard.
Henderson’s arrangement of the piece included quotations of Oliver’s trumpet solo from the 1923 recording. The quotations remained in the arrangement in 1937.
The recording was special to Robert because it was owned by his and Steve’s father. This was Robert’s first exposure to jazz music, as a child.
“My father jettisoned it and it ended up in my basement.”
So the record was special to Robert as a developmental building block in his musical appreciation. The record was also important to the music world at large as Benny Goodman’s band was just beginning to take the world by storm in the late 1930s because of their success at the Palomar Ballroom in California. The trifecta!
The Orchestra’s success in California was built behind radio play and timing. Goodman was being broadcast live from performances in Chicago in the 1930s over the radio, most being later in the evening. When the group went on tour, there were small turnouts until they reached California. While the radio broadcasts of the group were generally later in the evening all over the States, they were prime time broadcasts in California.
Goodman’s success in California was the boost he needed to become the “king of swing” for the next 20 years.
3. J.R. Monterose – “Sonnymoon For Two” from Is Alive In Amsterdam Paradiso (Heavy Soul Music HSM 1502, 1969)
Presented by Clifford Allen – LP – Theme: B
The beauty of BYOV themes has turned out to be that you can interpret them any way you’d like. Sometimes when you happen to be in a rush, like our friend Clifford, the presenter can bend the theme to his/her will.
While considering his options, Clifford’s girlfriend suggested that he bring a significant live performance. So that was what he brought.
Clifford: “I pulled something out that I thought was pretty awesome.”
We heard a charging solo drummer joined by a tenor saxophonist.
It wasn’t long before Thomas guessed that this was a duo between saxophonist J.R. Monterose and drummer Han Bennink. Bennink happened to be a regular collaborator with Thomas.
The record was done on Hans Dulfer’s label, Heavy Soul Music. It was recorded live at the Amsterdam club, the Paradiso, in 1969.
Steve: “Isn’t this a Sonny Rollins tune?” Yes. “Sonnymoon for Two.”
Jason: “So what’s your Dutch connection?”
Clifford: “There isn’t one. I just like the music.”
Thomas said that he owned another live recording from the Paradiso, featuring Dexter Gordon, that he found in an Amsterdam record store for a piece of change. That recording was originally released on Catfish in the Netherlands in 1971. That recording also featured Bennink.
It turned out that Monterose, born in Detroit but raised in Utica, New York, had lived in Europe – Belgium, the Netherlands, and Denmark - for a while in the late 1960s and early 1970s, performing infrequently. Apparently he had developed some “bad habits” while living in Albany, New York and had lost his cabaret card, prompting him to change continents.
Monterose was remembered for a self-titled record released on Blue Note in 1956. He recorded with Teddy Charles, Kenny Dorham, and Kenny Burrell before recording his followup, The Message, for Jaro in 1960. Monterose then fell off the radar until this recording done in the Netherlands.
Clifford mentioned that Monterose was more influenced by pianist Bud Powell than any saxophone player, except maybe Chu Berry.
Jason remarked on how consistent Bennink’s ability on drums has been from the beginning of his career until now and how he has kept growing as an artist.
Thomas: “Experience has an impact. The components of Han’s playing have been there since the beginning. He always had energy. He and Misha had 10 years of playing under their belts before they went free. Han’s father was also a drummer and taught him much about being a classical percussionist. But Han always wanted to be a legitimate jazz drummer.”
Clifford: “His playing is super clean. He’s a monster.”
Thomas: “Han was also the European drummer for Johnny Griffin.”
Clifford: “Him or Johnny Engels.”
Thomas: “But Engels was much younger.”
Monterose was throwing some quotes into his solo. Alluding to our James Newton discussion, Steve: “Did Alice get any money for the ‘Giant Steps’ quote?”
4. Original Dixieland Jazz Band – “Livery Stable Blues” from “Dixie Jass Band One-Step” b/w “Livery Stable Blues – Fox Trot” (Victor 182555, 1917)
Presented by Steve Futterman – MP3 – Theme: A & B
Our next selection was a piece that Steve felt was both a landmark, revolutionary performance in the genre and American music overall.
“It sounds as crazy now as it did way back then.”
The speakers erupted with the sound of a screaming clarinet and marching drums and brass.
The muted quality of the recording was a hint to the age. So were the animal imitations.
Steve: “Think of how much shit is going on in this song….”
Robert guessed that this was “Livery Stable Blues” by the Original Dixieland Jazz Band. This song has gone down in history as the first “jazz” song ever recorded.
Of course, there have always been dust ups between jazz fans as to the origins of jazz music and the unfairness of the entertainment world that an all white band was the first to record what was by all intents and purposes a black music.
Without going into too much detail, it could be argued that the music was always a mixture of elements crossing over from not only black musicians but from creoles of color and whites as well. Treatise after treatise has been written about the elements that make up this music. German marching bands, Italian opera, European liturgical music, African/Caribbean harmonies/rhythms, habanera, ad infinitum.
The fact of the matter was that the burgeoning music industry was owned, operated, and aimed at whites. Therefore, the initial recording opportunities were there to be had by white musicians.
Steve wondered what the entry point was for this group’s popularity as there must have been something before that was a bridge/segueway for the music crossing over to a larger audience.
I just so happened to be reading Gunther Schuller’s tome on early jazz, Early Jazz: Its Roots and Musical Development (1968). He said that New Orleans musicians playing early variants of ragtime and blues had been going to Chicago for at least a decade before the Original Dixieland Jazz Band made their famous trip North.
Prior to the group’s move to New York (where they made their famous recordings), black bandleader James Reese Europe had been making syncopated music for listeners at the Clef Club as early as 1910.
I argued that the music the Original Dixieland Jazz Band was making was anticipated by Chicago and New York listeners, not only by word of mouth from visitors to New Orleans, but by proto-jazz New Orleans musicians and the unique music being created by parallel musical innovators, like Mr. Europe.
The market was ready for the music. It was just a matter of time and place for the jazz explosion to happen.
(If that doesn’t stir up some comments, I don’t know what will.)
5. Marcus Miller – “Splatch” from Tutu Revisited (Dreyfus Jazz FDM 4605036972 2, 2011)
Presented by Maxime Nivet – MP3 – Theme: B
Young Maxime decided to play a track that he really enjoyed. His father had purchased the recording for him not too long ago.
After the electric bass introduction, we heard a very familiar ensemble sound.
“Miles.” It did sound very much like late Miles and Company.
Steve: “Is that Kenny Garrett on sax?” No one was quite sure.
So we kept listening. The trumpet sounded further and further from Miles’s distinctive tone.
We knew who the bass player was: Marcus Miller.
Our instincts were right. It wasn’t Miles on trumpet. This was a tribute album to Miles, specifically his work with Miller on the album Tutu.
The saxophonist in question was one Alex Han while the Miles impersonator was the young gun Christian Scott.
While some, like Clifford, found an affinity toward later Miles that some wouldn’t have suspected, some felt that Miles had given up.
Robert: “Should we care about this music? Was Miles just doing it for the money or just trying to be relevant? It is like he just turned his back on experimentation.”
I voiced my opinion that Miles was trying to make his music relevant to the times he was a part of. He had done it throughout his career, taking sounds he heard and utilizing them to the best of his ability (or his sidemen’s abilities).
Thomas: “I don’t like the Miles of the ‘80s because I don’t like the music of the ‘80s.”
Miles always worked with collaborators. The two main ones from dramatically different time periods were Gil Evans and Miller. In our collective opinion, the work of Miles with the former vastly outshines anything he did with Miller.
Jason: “Musicians were able to make careers on having played with Miles. Look at Mike Stern.”
I mentioned Jimmy Cobb, who has seemingly lived a fruitful musical life as the drummer from the Kind of Blue sessions.
Robert stuck to his opinion that Miles had “got caught up in his ‘image’ of changing.”
Basically, Miles’s image of evolving musician got in the way of his creation of art. Could be….
6. Rova – “The Blocks” from A Short History (Jazzwerkstatt 099, 2012)
Presented by Jason Weiss – CD – Theme: C
For his selection, Jason brought a recording made by a group originating in California.
The tune began with a bouncy duo between soprano and baritone saxophones. Then two other saxes joined the herd. A saxophone quartet.
Clifford: “Oh, yeah!”
Thomas guessed that the ensemble was Rova Saxophone Quartet.
Jason: “The group is based in California. I don’t know if they are all from California originally.”
The ensemble began in 1978. The members were Jon Raskin, Larry Ochs, Andrew Voigt, and Bruce Ackley. Voigt left the group in 1988 and was replaced by Steve Adams. The ensemble has been important in linking experimental composition and free improvisation.
Raskin was born in Oregon and moved to San Francisco in the 1970s and performed with John Adams at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music. Larry Ochs was originally from New York. Bruce Ackley was born in Rochester, NY and grew up in Detroit before moving to the Bay Area in 1971. Steve Adams was also from New York originally but made the move West.
Steve: “Was this group together prior to the World Saxophone Quartet?”
WSQ was a pretty successful amalgam of East Coast based saxophonists that recorded and performed regularly during the early to mid 1980s. The group included Julius Hemphill, Oliver Lake, David Murray, and Hamiet Bluiett. Hemphill, Lake, and Bluiett had all known and worked together as members of the Black Artists Group in St. Louis.
Apparently, WSQ was first assembled in 1977 and recorded a live record on Moers Music called Point of No Return. They were first by the narrowest of margins.
Jason noted the obvious comparisons between the two groups but said that he was always more interested in Rova because of their broader approach to experimentation in their music. He has seen the group a number of times since the 1980s, including their most recent collaborations with Nels Cline on Electric Ascension.
Jason also remembered that the group was very involved with the audience and with other composers/musical thinkers. They had a monthly newsletter and commissioned many pieces by the likes of Anthony Braxton, Butch Morris, and Alvin Curran.
The piece featured here was written by Steve Adams.
7. Hampton Hawes – “Hip” from For Real! (Contemporary Records S7589, 1961)
Presented by Thomas Heberer – LP – Theme: C
Thomas stepped up next: “I really want to show off and I know just how.”
He had brought two recordings with him. One was by one of his favorite musicians of all time and the other an extremely rare record, both representing the California theme.
“Really, I like all these musicians but I should play my favorite California musician first. This selection could also be an underappreciated gem.”
We heard a bluesy tenor and bass introduce the tune, which featured a lithe pianist and drums.
Jason: “It isn’t Buddy Collette?” No.
Thomas: “The pianist is from California.”
Clifford: “Carl Perkins?” It wasn’t the Indianapolis born, Los Angeles based pianist.
Thomas, hinting: “It is the guy with the crazy left hand….”
Jason guessed Hampton Hawes.
Clifford then recalled that the rest of the group was saxophonist Harold Land, bassist Scott La Faro, and drummer Frank Butler.
Clifford: “I love Butler.” The Kansas City born drummer had made a name for himself performing on the West Coast with Land, Curtis Counce, and Art Pepper.
Someone recalled a strange recording that blended West Coast jazz and Afro-Cuban elements called Latinsville (Contemporary, 1960) by Victor Feldman that happened to feature Scott La Faro. It was recorded nearly a year to the date after For Real!, in March 1959.
Robert and Steve recalled the first recordings they had heard of Hawes were his All Night Session releases. There were three LPs released by Contemporary from one long, late-night session on November 12, 1956, which featured Hawes with bassist Red Mitchell, guitarist Jim Hall, and drummer Bruz Freeman.
Hawes’s collaboration with Charlie Haden was also mentioned. He had recorded on two Haden led projects, The Golden Number (Horizon SP-727, 1977) and As Long As There’s Music (Artist’s House AH 4, 1978).
Clifford mentioned that Hawes had claimed to have met Haden in jail. Haden has discredited that information.
Thomas told us why he enjoyed Hawes’s playing so much.
“I like his concept of time. He is sort of the epitome of a swinging player. I also like his energy and, for lack of a better term, ‘funky’ way of playing. He was sort of a rhythm section all to himself.”
Jason: “Do you hear some sort of ‘Californian’ sensibility in his playing?”
“Actually, I think of him as an East Coast musician living on the West Coast. He really sounds black. His music coming essentially from the blues.”
8. Horace Tapscott Quintet – “The Giant Is Awakened” from The Giant Is Awakened (Flying Dutchman FDS 107, 1969)
Presented by Thomas Heberer – LP – Theme: C
Thomas: “Are you up for my ‘showing off’ record? This one is very rare. Jason and Bret should get this. The piano player is the leader and I really love the saxophone player. I think that they are all from California.”
A declarative piano marches in with a strident alto sailing overhead.
Clifford: “Oh, yeah! This is great.”
Steve guessed that this was Horace Tapscott’s group. It was his first recording as a leader on Bob Thiele’s Flying Dutchman label. I wrote a blog post about two related recordings by Bobby Bradford and John Carter a while ago. Check it out here.
This was also the first recording of saxophonist Arthur Blythe, then going by Black Arthur Blythe. Thomas was astounded at how developed his style was already at this early date.
The rest of the group was drummer Everett Brown, Jr. and bassists David Bryant (originally from Chicago) and Walter Savage, Jr. Tapscott was originally from Houston, Texas.
Tapscott went on to be quite a force in the Los Angeles music and African American community.
Blythe went on to New York and established himself within the burgeoning loft scene of the 1970s and 1980s. He garnered a recording contract with Columbia in the 1980s, which was unique for such an avant garde musician. The early output was great but eventually ventured into more spotty commercial efforts.
Someone asked where Blythe happened to be now.
I had heard him for the first and only time live in Kansas City. He performed alongside Rodney Jones’s band at the Madrid Theater around 2002 or 2003. The group was playing rehashed soul jazz material with a bunch of allstars, including organist Dr. Lonnie Smith and drummer Idris Muhammad. I don’t recall there being more than 15 people in the audience.
Apparently, Blythe has a condition that has impaired his ability to play. I recall someone saying that it was a form of dyslexia. It is a tremendous pity. Blythe was such a fabulous talent.
9. Muddy Waters – “Louisiana Blues” from “Louisiana Blues” b/w “Evan’s Shuffle” (Chess 1441, 1950)
Presented by Steve Futterman – MP3 – Theme: B
|I couldn't find a label shot for the single, so I went with this classic image.|
Steve thought we hadn’t had enough examples of music that was significant to our lives.
Jason, jokingly: “So this one was the cause of the breakup of the third marriage….”
No. This record happened to be important in informing Steve’s own musical tastes after he heard it.
We heard a gritty blues with a resonant slide guitar, harmonica, bass, and washboard. I felt that I knew the tune but it was a bit off.
Steve made sure we heard the sudden outburst at the 1:40 mark.
“Take me with ya, man, when ya go.”
We all laughed.
So the track was by Muddy Waters (the outburst by harmonica player Little Walter). I didn’t know the song but I knew the riff. I had heard it as a song with a different title from his Cadet recording, After the Rain (Cadet Concept LPS 320, 1969). He called the tune “Rollin’ and Tumblin’.” He took composer’s credit for both. Seems that there has been a history of blues artists taking older songs and revamping them. Less work for sure.
Steve: “This was my introduction to roots music. It is amazing, emotional, and informal. It is everything.”
Robert couldn’t remember if their father had a copy of this one when they were kids. A joke, of course.
10. Herbie Hancock – “Chameleon” from Head Hunters (Columbia KC 32731, 1973)
Presented by Maxime Nivet – MP3 – Theme: B
Finally, Maxime decided to play another track that was influential to his taste.
The second we heard the bass line, the whole group yelled Herbie Hancock in unison.
“Is that Mike Clark on drums?”
I had forgotten and had to look it up. It was Harvey Mason handling the beat.
“Chameleon” became one of those tunes beyond criticism. It was at one point the future of jazz music but now seems dated. The Head Hunters record marked the point where Hancock’s music became more about widening an audience rather than making art.
Robert: “It is so boring.”
We discussed this group versus the Mwandishi recordings, which are generally regarded as the Holy Grail of improvisation meeting electronic experimentation.
No matter how much you love this record, the listener had to admit that this was Hancock on the decline. Subsequent projects have shown that this was definitely the case.
That doesn’t mean that there weren’t interesting pieces interspersed here and there. My example was his solo recording called Dedications, which was released on CBS/Sony in Japan. One side was solo piano, the other, solo electronics/keyboards. Definitely check it out.
11. Country Joe and the Fish – “Section 43” from Electric Music for the Mind and Body (Vanguard VSD-79244, 1967)
Presented by Nou Dadoun – MP3 – Theme: C
Though our Vancouver pal, Nou, couldn’t get to Brooklyn, he wanted to present this California pick.
So here is your BYOV Bonus Track!
“’Section 43’ comes from the first album by Country Joe and the Fish on Vanguard called Electric Music for the Mind and Body, although there was an earlier version on a four-track EP that has the same basic structure but is slightly shorter. An excerpt of a live ‘Section 43’ is also heard in the Monterey Pop film. Country Joe also played Woodstock, of course, most famously doing the ‘Fish Cheer and the I-Feel-Like-I'm-Fixin-to-Die-Rag’ (for which Country Joe was sued for its similarity to Kid Ory's ‘Muskrat Ramble’!). I've heard rumors that ‘Section 43’ was named for the section of the California Criminal Code that made LSD illegal but I've never been able to confirm that.
“Country Joe MacDonald is still active both musically (saw him at the Vancouver Folk Festival in the 90s) and politically. Lead guitarist Barry Melton (The Fish) eventually became a criminal defense lawyer but still plays with The Dinosaurs, a group of Californian psychedelic-era musicians.”