The first meeting of BYOV in the New Year. It was a bright but chilly afternoon on January 26th, though not chilly enough to explain the small turnout.
Our diehards did show up, for which I’m very grateful. No worries, though. It has turned out that many of the meetings with only a handful of attendees have tended to be great in terms of discussion and coverage. That shouldn’t dissuade anyone from coming in the future, however. We have the room and want to see you.
Here were our themes for BYOV #18:
a) Now you see 'em, now you don't.... Ever again. We'd like to hear about some musicians who showed up for a memorable session only to never appear again.
b) Memorials. 2012 was a rough year for the music community. Let's hear your favorite track from a musician who passed away in 2012.
c) Winter depression buster. Some folks get down in the winter time. We'll bring you up again. Let's hear the track that helps you thaw.
1. Paulo Moura – “Espinha De Bacalhau” from Confusão Urbana, Surbana E Rural (RCA Brasil 1030168, 1976)
Presented by Me – LP – Theme: C
The first piece was an icebreaker that I thought should wake the listeners from their hibernations.
Initially, we heard a fluttery, nylon stringed guitar before a dynamic soprano saxophone barnstormed over the accompanying dual strings. The pace was tremendous.
There were some appreciative, astonished looks.
Thomas: “That is an unbelievably well recorded sax.”
Steve guessed that it might be the French woodwind master Michel Portal based on the virtuosic performance. It was an interesting guess, but no.
Someone asked if the saxophonist was circular breathing. I’m pretty sure the performer wasn’t as you can hear the ebb and flow as the pace slackens and picks up in parts where the inclination would be to breathe.
No one was able to guess that this was Brazilian saxophonist/clarinetist Paulo Moura.
I had come across his name, like many musicians I obsess over, when he passed away in July 2010 due to lymphoma at the age of 77.
This track was released on a 1976 record called Confusão Urbana, Suburbana e Rural which translates to “Confusion Urban, Suburban and Rural.” The concept behind the record was to blend musical elements of the urban Afro-Brazilian population, e.g. percussive elements related to samba, with the more suburban (white) musical tradition of big bands.
The track that I picked wasn’t representative of the concept but was a great performance of a very percussive, upbeat version of the chorinho. The “little cry” was a Brazilian instrumental style that typically featured guitar, the four stringed cavaquinho (the second string voice on the track), and a wind instrument (flute, clarinet, sax, etc.).
“Espinha de Bacalhau” means “spine of a cod.” Composer Sevenno Araújo had the instruments squirming like a fish. The piece featured Moura on soprano sax, Mané do Cavaco on cavaquinho and either Rosinha de Valença or Toninho Horta on guitar.
I picked the piece as my winter funk buster because it has such a tremendous energy and also a hint of South American flavor.
Thomas: “Well the music is gorgeous, but the cover sucks.”
If you want to learn more about Moura check out his website (link here) which is still active and allows listeners to sample nearly every recording he made.
2. Lowell Davidson Trio – “L” from Lowell Davidson Trio (ESP Disk 1012, 1965)
Presented by Thomas Heberer – MP3 – Theme: A
Thomas decided to present a musician who had an opportunity to record but quickly disappeared.
This particular musician had one recording session in his career. A subsequent recording of a later live performance was recently released, however.
Thomas admitted that he had been inspired to pick up the release after reading Jason Weiss’s book on the ESP Record label.
We heard an expansive pianist in trio with a strong bassist and very busy percussion playing.
Robert: “I assume the pianist is a European…?” No, it is an American.
This also happened to be an American recording on an American label.
“Are there multiple percussionists?” Just one busy one, who happens to live near here.
Thomas went on to say the track was recorded in 1965.
I was able to guess pianist Lowell Davidson.
The rest of the trio was made up of bassist Gary Peacock and drummer Milford Graves.
Zak mentioned how interesting Davidson’s story was in the liner notes.
Davidson had studied biochemistry at Harvard before moving to New York. He was recommended to Bernard Stollman of ESP by the great Ornette Coleman. Davidson recorded this single album for ESP on July 25, 1965. He later had a mishap in a lab and never played piano again.
Davidson did reappear on a live recording of guitarist Joe Morris. The recording was made in 1985 and featured Davidson on drums. The album also featured cornetist Butch Morris and violinist Malcolm Goldstein. The album Graffiti In Two Parts was released last year on the French Rogue Art label. Definitely worth hearing, especially Morris’s work on cornet.
Steve wanted to ask a question of Thomas about free improvisation, as he was the resident expert. Steve wanted to know how the musicians knew where to end a piece while improvising together.
“It is instinctive, maybe.”
Thomas went on to say that approaches to collective improvisation were different for every musician. He found that Ornette Coleman was a good example of creating structure in improvisation, as he has always seemed to have a good feel for creating and leading the musicians through it.
Thomas also mentioned that he recently performed in a trio gig with cellist Tristan Honsinger at Downtown Music Gallery. He said that Honsinger has developed a singular way of stopping his play in unexpected places, which creates unique tensions within the music.
We spoke a bit about the audience’s part in music like this. Listeners would need to be willing to open themselves up to the music to register what the musician was trying to deliver.
Overall, Thomas felt that Davidson’s recording was innovative for its time, though he found the already seasoned work that Cecil Taylor was attempting more poetic.
3. Nuevo Quinteto Real – “Corralera” from Timeless Tango (Forever Music, 1996)
Presented by Robert Futterman – MP3 – Theme: C
Robert brought a winter depression buster “based on a conversation from an earlier meeting.” We frequently discuss the differences and effectiveness of highly arranged music versus less arranged, “more emotive” music we frequently hear in jazz.
Robert was especially impressed with this particular composition’s arrangement and focus, which varies from what this group typically hears.
We constantly talk and celebrate the feel and natural sensibilities of musicians in jazz but the converse approach of highly organized music making can be just as effective. (A perfect example that sprang to mind was the funk music of James Brown, which was highly structured rhythmically but maintained an irresistible tension based on overlaid loose, instrumental soloing and vocal styling of Brown.)
Back to the piece at hand….
We heard a highly arranged tango composition featuring a loaded front line of guitar, piano, and accordion.
Steve: “It isn’t Astor (Piazzolla)…. Is the bass player playing arco?”
It did sound as if the bassist was indeed using his bow throughout the piece.
The high notes that were shared between the violin and bandoneon had some of us holding our ears.
No one was able to guess who the group was. This was the Buenos Aires based Nuevo Quineteto Real led by famous tango pianist/composer/arranger Horacio Salgán. He instituted the original Quinteto Real in 1960 with the aim of performing tango music intended for listening rather than dancing. Nuevo Quinteto Real was created in the late 1990s and appeared in an Oscar-nominated film, Tango, no me dejes nunca.
The group that we heard included guitarist Ubaldo de Lio, bandoneon player Nestor Marconi, bassist Oscar Giunta, and violinist Hermes Peressini.
We spoke a bit about the evolution of the tango. Orchestras reigned supreme in the 1930s and 1940s, much like the jazz orchestras in the United States. It was after this that the groups began to become smaller and smaller.
There was a question about the voice you can hear in the midst of the playing. Was the voice cuing the musicians or dancers?
Thomas felt that the voice was for the dancers as the form of the dance changes.
Steve: “Like a square dance.”
Thomas felt that the music here was maybe too fast for the average tango dancer. That made perfect sense with the group’s aim to perform the tango as a musical composition for composition’s sake rather than a vehicle for dance. Thomas went on to mention the potential two cultures of tango, the everyday music for dance and the showcase for virtuosic playing, which we heard here.
Steve asked Thomas if the Instant Composers Pool orchestra, which Thomas has been a long time member of, had ever used tango as an influence. Apart from using colors of the music here and there, Thomas felt that the group was never really influenced by the Argentinean sound. He said that they were more influenced by revolutionary sounds/songs (much like Haden’s Liberation Music Orchestra), music of Kurt Weill, and the circus.
ICP’s music was a counter reaction to a tense and serious 1960s scene. The group tended to buck against the trend of heavily wrought improvisational density and the seriousness of most advanced compositional thought that was popular at the time.
4. Etta James & Eddie “Cleanhead” Vinson – “Misty” from Blues In the Night: The Early Show, Vol. 1 (Fantasy FCD-9647-2, 1986)
Presented by Zak Shelby-Szyszko – MP3 – Theme: B
Zak: “I’d like to play a tribute to a fallen legend. You’ll know who it is immediately. This also happens to be my favorite version of this song.”
We heard a laconic female vocal over a fuzzy Hammond organ accompaniment. The song was a take on Erroll Gardner and Johnny Burke’s “Misty.”
I was able to guess that it was Etta James. The beloved singer passed away on January 20, 2012.
This particular recording was from a live date at Marla’s Memory Lane Supper Club in Los Angeles in 1986. A remarkable, intimate setting for the astounding band with saxophonists Eddie “Cleanhead” Vinson and Red Holloway, drummer Paul Humphrey, bassist Richard Reid, organist Jack McDuff, and recently re-emerged guitarist Shuggie Otis.
As she was mostly known for her R&B and blues performances, Steve wondered what Zak thought of her jazz singing. Zak admitted to being a fan of James in nearly any musical situation.
James’s voice rose at one point to a big crescendo.
Steve: “That’s Etta James! This is loose. She’s having a good time.”
We spoke a minute about Shuggie Otis, who has recently begun touring again. The guitarist began performing alongside his famous bandleader father Johnny Otis in the 1960s. He then released a couple of well-known and sampled recordings in the early 1970s, namely Freedom Flight and Inspiration Information. Since then, Otis’s appearances have been few and far between. Here’s hoping he can keep this comeback alive. Check his website here.
Thomas: “This selection could also be against winter depression.”
5. Ronald Isley & Burt Bacharach – “Alfie” from Isley Meets Bacharach (Dreamworks Records B0 001005 02, 2003)
Presented by Steve Futterman – MP3 – Theme: B
Steve wanted to present another fallen hero but his selection had “a twist.”
Steve: “You have to figure out the twist.”
A dreamy string and guitar introduction led to a soulful male falsetto singing a very familiar tune.
Zak: “It sounds like Ron Isley, but he’s not dead.”
“Neither is Burt Bacharach.”
This was Ronald Isley singing Bacharach’s tune, “Alfie.”
But we still hadn’t figured out the “twist” and listened on in silence for a couple of moments. Seemed as though we were waiting for a breakout solo or something to grab a hold of.
The hero who Steve intended to highlight was lyricist Hal David who he felt hadn’t received the credit that he was due for his long running collaboration with Bacharach. David had passed away on September 1, 2012 at the age of 91. Steve praised him especially for his ability to write tremendously creative songs, like “Alfie.”
Steve went on to say that “Alfie” was an amazing song that was concerned with the meaning of life.
He found that the answer was that love was the meaning of life “if you want it to be.”
“Really profound for a song made for a movie.” The movie Alfie starring Michael Caine came out in 1966.
We also laughed at the fact that Isley went to jail three years after the recording on the charge of tax evasion.
6. Ruth Copeland – “The Medal” from I Am What I Am (Invictus SMAS-9802, 1971)
Presented by Me – LP – Theme: A
I wanted to play a tune from an artist who wasn’t a “one and done” kind of figure, but rather had a very short-lived career while being surrounded by all the components needed for a career of larger impact.
The tune began with an ominous piano joined in duet with a longing female vocalist. The sentimentality of the lyrics swayed toward an earlier era for sure. It was the ‘70s, ya’ll. Then the track exploded into a blues/rock maelstrom.
“Are you sure this isn’t a winter pick me up?”
“Is it Betty Davis?” It wasn’t the mercurial funk vocalist/provocateur and former wife of Miles.
“It isn’t Fontella Bass. She died this year.” No. It wasn’t the great Fontella Bass, either. I had thought of bringing something of hers along, though.
This was singer/songwriter Ruth Copeland on her second recording, I Am What I Am. Her career began alongside that of George Clinton and Parliament but didn’t last anywhere as long.
Copeland was originally from England and moved to the United States where she married Jeffrey Bowen, a producer at Motown. Bowen soon became involved with the Holland, Dozier and Holland record label Invictus.
Copeland started working with Invictus, writing and performing with an unsuccessful group called New Play. After that she became began working with another one of the label’s other projects, Parliament. Copeland helped produce the band’s debut Osmium and wrote two songs that appeared on the album, “Little Old Country Boy” and “The Silent Boatman.”
For her own releases, Copeland was able to corral a number of members of Parliament to be in her band for her two releases, Self Portrait (1970) and I Am What I Am. Both albums have a fair share of Rolling Stones covers.
“The Medal” was a great original composition that featured Bernie Worrell, showcasing his classical piano chops, and a wailing Eddie Hazel on guitar.
She fell off the radio shortly after the release of I Am What I Am. She did release a third album in 1976 called Take Me To Baltimore (RCA). Copeland has since disappeared.
“How do you follow that?”
7. Terry Callier – “Do You Finally Need A Friend” from Occasional Rain (Cadet Records CA 50007, 1972)
Presented by Zak Shelby-Szyszko – MP3 – Theme: B
Zak had another fallen hero who I had apparently hipped him to.
“I’ve been on a two month binge of his music.”
We listened for a couple of minutes. Apparently I had a brain fart as I just kept thinking “Gil Scott Heron,” but it definitely wasn’t him.
Thomas bailed me out by guessing Terry Callier.
The great singer/songwriter had passed away on October 27th. The Chicago born Callier began his music career early with a single for Chess Records in 1962 at 17 years old. His first solo record was The New Folk Sound of Terry Callier, which was released on Prestige in 1968.
In the early 1970s, Callier became affiliated with the Cadet label where he released the Charles Stepney produced Occasional Rain in 1972.
Occasional Rain was a perfect example of Callier’s musical formula of mixing elements of folk and jazz.
8. Horace Silver – “Cookin’ at the Continental” from Finger Poppin’ (Blue Note BST 84008, 1959)
“Song for My Father” from Song for My Father (Blue Note BST 84185, 1965)
Presented by Robert Futterman – LP – Theme: C
It seemed that Robert was really trying to break from a winter funk.
“Here’s another depression buster. I brought three…. You’ll get this immediately. I think that’s one of the virtues of a depression buster.”
The rolling piano intro with hyperactive hi-hats led to a blistering melody shared between trumpet and tenor sax.
Steve: “Horace Silver.” No question.
Thomas: “Blue Mitchell is a god.”
The trumpeter was a hero of Thomas’s, along with some of the other listeners present. Thomas thought that his playing was “pure magic.” Thomas had spent a lot of time transcribing his solos and was especially impressed at the economy Mitchell used in his playing.
“Louis Hayes on drums?” Yes.
“Gene Taylor?” Yes it Taylor on bass.
Robert maintained that Silver has remained under-praised. We all agreed.
“The emotion. You know it is him immediately.”
Thomas: “He had an unbelievable left hand.”
Steve: “The great Martin Williams said he sounded like a cross between Pete Johnson and Bud Powell.”
“Song for My Father” came up next on the compilation album we were listening to. There was a collective gasp and shrug for the unquestionable classic. An “oh yeah” moment.
“Is it a sin to write a good song these days? Or to play a short solo?”
There was mention of Silver’s concept of approaching his piano playing like a big band, mimicking horn lines with his fingers like a written arrangement.
We certainly left the meeting a bit warmer than when we arrived.