Tag Archives: USA

Charles Mingus – Goodbye Pork Pie Hat

Charles Mingus – Mingus Ah Um

Charles Mingus – Mingus Ah Um

I’ve recently spent more of my hard earned soldi extending my jazz music collection. I’ve bought Charles Mingus’s Mingus Ah Um as an early Easter present to myself.

If you are not a jazz buff and want to get into the music, where do you start? If you just want to taste the music of the recognised greats, how do you know what albums to buy / listen to? And fancy some Charles Mingus – well he recorded over 60 albums in his relatively short life!

I don’t know the answers to the questions posed above one way to discover jazz music is to listen to Jazz Library on BBC Radio 3. This programme is a great primer and an excellent way to discover the whole range of music that can be found sheltering under the big umbrella of Jazz.

The presenter Alyn Shipton and his guest and Mingus Biographer Brian Priestley surveyed the work of Mingus in May 2007 and recommended Mingus Ah Um as the place to start exploring his music. That is good enough for me.

I’ve had the album for about 3 weeks now (early Easter present with the emphasis being on early!) and I realised that I know almost all of the tracks. Mingus’s tunes have been covered by many artists but I was still surprised to recognise so many of the tunes.

Much of Mingus Ah Um is upbeat, but the track I have chosen to post is a more reflective piece, Goodbye Pork Pie Hat, Mingus’s tribute to saxophonist Lester Young who had died shortly before the album was recorded.

Charles Mingus – Goodbye Pork Pie Hat

Keith Jarrett – KÖLN, January 24, 1975, Part IIc

Keith Jarrett – The Köln Concert

Here is that last in the mini-series, “What I got for Christmas / birthday”; a track from Keith Jarrett’s – The Köln Concert. This was a birthday present from my sister (thanks Jenny), bought at my suggestion. Here’s why I asked for this record.

Having resisted digitalising my record collection for ages, I have finally decided that this is, in fact a good idea. So now I have a large and growing music collection on my computer. I often play an album from start to finish – I like albums that hang together as a whole, sharing a feel, sound etc. However, for a change, I now also put my computer’s music player on autopilot and leave it to chance (or computer algorithm) what tracks are played and in what order.

The frightening thing about this is discovering just how narrow one’s choice in music can be. Now I like many music forms but the breath of what I like is not currently being reflected by the random selections of my computer. Do I really only own records by Martin Carthy and Ali Farka Touré?

Happily the remedy lies in my own hands: 1. buy to the full range of my musical taste and 2. as I proceed with ripping my CD collection to my computer, get a move on digitising the “outliers” in my collection.

That’s enough waffling about how I come to own a jazz piano CD; on with the music:-

Keith Jarrett – KÖLN, January 24, 1975, Part IIc

Robert Johnson – Malted Milk

Robert Johnson – The Complete Recordings

Robert Johnson – The Complete Recordings

To finish this month of blues, I’m returning to Robert Johnson. Today’s track is from the second CD and is Malted Milk. This is one of my favourite Robert Johnson cuts, I love the staccato guitar in the middle of the song, but it is seldom played on the radio.

The subject matter of the song appears at first sight to be somewhat strange – Malted Milk. Some of the lyrics websites helpfully explain what a malted milk drink is – milk with added malted barley! One site however gets it right – “Malted Milk is malted barley, wheat flour and whole milk evaporated into a powder, often used for milkshakes. However, it’s clear that we’re not talking about that…”

So we have whiskey then, some none to heavily disguised, sexual innuendo and “spooks around my bed.” What more do you want from a Robert Johnson blues?

The blues scholars tell us that Malted Milk is developed from of Lonnie Johnson’s Life Saver Blues. If you fancy comparing the songs yourself you can listen to Life Saver Blues on YouTube.

Robert Johnson – Malted Milk

Big Bill Broonzy – C & A Blues

Big Bill Broonzy –  Do that Guitar Rag 1928 to 1935

Big Bill Broonzy – Do that Guitar Rag 1928 to 1935

And back to some acoustic blues with Big Bill Broonzy. Today’s track is taken from the Yazoo album Do that Guitar Rag 1928 to 1935. The opening paragraph of the sleeve notes sums up Broonzy’s varied career and appeal.

“The late Big Bill Broonzy looms as one of the few country blues greats whose career seems as remarkable as his musicianship. He played every professional role available to the untutored black guitarist of his generation: that of the country blues soloist catering to dance audiences, the city bluesman beguiling record-buyers with full-dress lyric themes and a long slow delivery and the folk entertainer trading on familiar standards ear-marked for white listening audiences.

When he became one of the first bluesmen to appear in formal concert by playing Carnegie Hall in 1939 he was (unlike most of the black musicians who had ever received inter-racial recognition for their work) already a popular musical attraction within his own race. Twenty years later, just before country blues began to interest white listeners as an art form, Broonzy was dead at the age of 60.”

By virtue of the early recording dates the recordings on this album are not pristine. Many of the tracks were remastered from rare original copies of the records. That said, after just one or two listenings the music comes forward and the background noise recedes quite remarkably.

If you enjoy the music of Big Bill Broonzy there are several tracks examples of his music on YouTube. Take a look at him playing Guitar Shuffle and Hey Hey.

Big Bill Broonzy – C & A Blues

Howlin’ Wolf – Killing Floor

Howlin Wolf – His Best

Howlin Wolf – His Best

Electric blues this week in the shape of Howlin’ Wolf.

Just like Robert Johnson, Howlin’ Wolf (born Chester Arthur Burnett) is much admired and oft covered by the blues and rock musicians who followed him. Many of the songs on this compilation album will be known to most in the form of their rock covers. Compiling a list of rock groups covering these and other Howlin’ Wolf songs would tax even the most assiduous of rock historians but includes The Rolling Stones, The Animals, The Yardbirds, Cream, Eric Clapton , Led Zeppelin, The Jimi Hendrix Experience, The Grateful Dead, Little Feat.

The CD includes Smokestack Lightnin’, Sitting On Top Of The World, Wang Dang Doodle, Spoonful, The Red Rooster and Killing Floor and I have plumped for Killing Floor for this post. I first heard this song as a cover by The Electric Flag a blues rock soul group led by guitarist Mike Bloomfield. They covered the song on their album A Long Time Comin’ released in 1968 and it was included on a much loved sampler LP The Rock Machine Turns You On also released in 1968. (A CD re-issue was released in 1996 on the Columbia Rewind label).

Aside: this blog is turning into a weekly nostalgia fest for me. The Rock Machine Turns You On and the follow-up album Rock Machine I Love You are part of my musical heritage. More nostalgia, for me at least, to come in the next few weeks.

Howlin’ Wolf – Killing Floor

Robert Johnson – Cross Road Blues

Robert Johnson – The Complete Recordings

Robert Johnson – The Complete Recordings

Apologies for this late posting, I blame the weather / Labour government / the referee / any other person or group who can reasonably or unreasonably be made a scapegoat for my inadequacies!

As promised, this month I’m going to post all blues (or All Blues as Miles Davis and / or Annie Ross and Pony Poindexter might say). I will bookend the month with Robert Johnson, posting a track from CD1 of The Complete Recordings now and, you guessed it, a track from CD2 at the end of the month.

Johnson has legendary status in blues music, partly because so little is known of him, partly because he died at only 27 years old but mostly, one hopes, because of the superb music.

The Complete Recordings set contains every track Johnson is known to have recorded, with the exception of an alternate take of Travelling Riverside Blues (which was curiously released on the King of the Delta Blues Singers CD).

In 2003 it was included, by the National Recording Preservation Board, in the Library of Congress’ National Recording Registry. The board selects songs in an annual basis that are “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant, and / or inform or reflect life in the United States.”

I’m posting possibly the most well known track that Robert Johnson recorded, Cross Road Blues. This was famously covered by Cream (and just about every other rock group / artist who wished to claim some blues roots).

Robert Johnson – Cross Road Blues

Danny Carnahan and Robin Petrie – Penny for the Guy

Danny Carnahan and Robin Petrie – Cut and Run

Danny Carnahan and Robin Petrie – Cut and Run

Autumn is here. I spent yesterday tidying up the garden. I raked and swept up all the leaves that have fallen from our ornamental cherry tree and our neighbour’s silver birch. In the warm sunshine it was a pleasant job, giving enough exercise to feel that I was doing my ageing body some good while not feeling too much like a chore.

And we’re well into the end of the year festival season, Diwali, Halloween, Bonfire night, Thanksgiving, Christmas etc.

I don’t celebrate Diwali, not being a Hindu, Sikh or Jain but I am currently using as my computer wallpaper a slideshow of beautiful photos of Diwali celebrations culled from The Big Picture.

Halloween has been and gone. This American import seems to be becoming a bigger deal year on year, driven, I suspect, by the shops trying to find more and more occasions for us to part with our money. This year we bought some “treats” to hand out to visiting children, but surprisingly few knocked on our door. Far fewer than in the past couple of years, or so it seemed.

And last week brought bonfire night. This year it seemed to have extended over a three day period with fireworks being set off on the night of the 5 November, as well as on Friday and Saturday – more convenient days for most I guess. When our kids were young, we were regulars at the main firework display in town and good fun it was too. Now we’re old crones the most we can manage is to look out of the window and ooh! and aah!

Oh! And play our favourite bonfire night song – Penny for the Guy by Danny Carnahan and Robin Petrie. This comes from a great, if little known album Cut and Run. As well as Danny Carnahan and Robin Petrie it features Richard Thompson, Martin Simpson and Henry Kaiser and has some of the sharpest lyrics you’re ever likely to hear.

(In case you’re wondering, we don’t do Thanksgiving, another American celebration, and mention of Christmas is banned in this household till December!)

Danny Carnahan and Robin Petrie – Penny for the Guy

Ry Cooder – Yellow Roses

Ry Cooder – Chicken Skin Music

Ry Cooder – Chicken Skin Music

This week’s colour is yellow and I’ve chosen Ry Cooder singing Yellow Roses (the old Hank Snow song, not the more recent Dolly Parton number).

I love Ry Cooder’s version this country weepie, from the 1976 album Chicken Skin Music. I probably shouldn’t but I do. I love the way Ry treats it as a great song and delivers such a sympathetic arrangement.

I know nothing of the language of flowers but a quick whizz round the Internet tells me that yellow roses were, in Victorian times, a symbol of “a decrease of love, infidelity, unfaithfulness and jealousy”. Nowadays, possibly to ensure strong sales at the florist’s counter, they are considered a “universal symbol of friendship”.

I’m off now to scan my record collection for songs with rouge, morado or laranja in the title to stop this series of post becoming too Anglocentric.

Ry Cooder – Yellow Roses

Miles Davis – All Blues

Miles Davis – Kind of Blue

Miles Davis – Kind of Blue

“It’s not that easy being green, Having to spend each day the colour of the leaves”. I have been singing Being Green (the Van Morrison version, not Kermit’s!) since watching an article about the use of peat in gardens on Gardeners World on Friday. And thus a Furious Music mini series was born. Colours.

But straight away the usual problem, Hard Nose the Highway is no-longer in my collection (and seems to be out of print), Pink Moon by Nick Drake likewise. No matter; start with Miles Davis and then see where we can go.

Miles Davis’s Kind of Blue is possibly the biggest selling jazz album of all time. It was also chosen in the first selection of The National Recording Registry of sound recordings that “are culturally, historically, or aesthetically important, and/or inform or reflect life in the United States”. To many people, Kind of Blue IS jazz and jazz IS Kind of Blue.

The track I’ve chosen is All Blues (I could also have chosen Blue in Green). I first came across this tune in a vocalese version, lyrics added by Oscar Brown Jnr, sung by the great Annie Ross on the LP Annie Ross and Pony Poindexter recorded live at the 10th German Jazz Festival. What a great record!

Enough reminiscing, listen to the original. And if you don’t have any jazz in your collection – start here!

Miles Davis – All Blues

James Carr – Freedom Train

James Carr – The Complete Goldwax Singles

James Carr – The Complete Goldwax Singles

Last night, we watched an American Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) documentary on BBC Four “The Night James Brown Saved Boston”. The programme told the story of a concert James Brown played in Boston on April 5th 1968. The special significance of this particular concert was that it took place the night after the assassination of the civil rights leader Dr Martin Luther King.

In the aftermath of King’s assassination, there was rioting in more than 100 US cities and so Kevin White, the mayor of Boston at the time, was tempted to cancel the concert to avoid it becoming a potential focus of black anger. After much discussion White was convinced that, by broadcasting the event live on television and enlisting the help of James Brown, that anger could be diffused.

Now, in the time honoured tradition of this blog, I have to own up to not owning a James Brown CD. But for the sceptics who say there can be no substitute for the “Godfather of Soul”, I give you James Carr. Less well known than James Brown, Otis Redding etc., James Carr is considered by many to be one of the great voices of soul music.

Carr is best known for his recording, the first and best recording, of the much covered, Dan Penn and Chips Moman song “Dark End of the Street”. However, I am posting “Freedom Train”, from “James Carr: The Complete Goldwax Singles”. Released in 1969, it is a favourite of mine and beautifully echoes the themes of last night’s documentary.

(See here for a You Tube presentation of this song.)

James Carr – Freedom Train