Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Thelonious Monk and John Coltrane Carnegie Hall 1957

In February 2005, Larry Appelbaum, the recording lab supervisor at the Library of Congress, was looking through a box of Voice of America acetate tapes waiting to be digitized and added to the collection. During this process he found some tape boxes labeled “Carnegie Hall Jazz 1957” and a hand written note that said T. Monk. Amazingly these tapes contained the lost and never released recordings of Thelonious Monk and John Coltrane’s legendary concert at Carnegie Hall from 1957. The anniversary of the concert is November 29. This was a huge discovery. Not just for jazz, but for American music as a whole.

Listening to this concert a little over half a century later, the music is still tremendous. For Thelonious Monk, this represents one of the high points of his creativity. For John Coltrane, who was mentored by Mr. Monk, this recording comes just weeks before he rejoined Miles Davis. A partnership that led to the recording of the famed “Kind of Blue.” Coltrane then went on to make his masterpiece “A Love Supreme.”

This is really a must have record in any collection, not just those who are regular listeners to jazz. The coming together of these huge figures in American music was nothing short of astonishing. Finding this recording hidden away for all those years in a box was remarkable. Fortunately for us, we are the beneficiaries of the concert and the discovery.

Here are some of the tracks from the concert.
Monk and Coltrane


Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Cassandra Wilson Live at The State Theatre in Ithaca, NY

As much as I like rock and roll music (a lot!), many of my most memorable concerts have been either classical or jazz performances. There was seeing Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring at Boston Symphony Hall or Henryk Górecki’s Symphony Number 3 in Portland, Oregon. On the jazz front, I once saw Charlie Parker protégé Phil Woods play at the now defunct Zootz, a tiny club in Portland, Maine. It was an acoustic show and I was sitting five feet from the band. Sunday night at the State Theatre provided me with another concert for my list. Cassandra Wilson played to a much too small crowd of about 400.

Cassandra Wilson is to my mind the preeminent jazz singer performing today. As my wife describes it, she has a way of finding the song within the song. So when she performed Glen Campbell’s song “Wichita Lineman” at her show, the tune was totally morphed. For Wilson, it is as though the song is a sheet of paper to be folded like origami. The paper is still there, but is has turned into something greater, and certainly more beautiful.

As a performer, she and her amazing band didn’t disappoint. They were a tight, serious, and playful band adding guitar, piano, bass, drums, and percussion to her vocals. This was aided by the excellent sound provided by Calf Audio. The secret to a show like this is that it shouldn’t sound amplified at all. And it didn’t. You could hear all of the instruments in the mix perfectly. If you wanted to listen specifically to the bass, for example, you could. And it sounded acoustic.

What this means is all of these elements, built on Ms. Wilson’s incredible voice, created an evening of transformative music. When I closed my eyes and listened it was as though I was floating. I’m not sure how else to describe it. This was one of those concerts I’ll never forget by an artist that I’ve wanted to see live for over a decade.

Set List:

A Sleeping Bee
Black Orpheus
St James Infirmary
Sweet Lorraine
Them There Eyes
Wichita Lineman
Dust My Broom
Till There Was You

Encore: Death Letter/Arere

Here's a live performance of Cassandra Wilson and her band playing "Death Letter."


Sunday, November 9, 2008

Cassandra Wilson Live

Oh, Man. I am just back from seeing Cassandra Wilson play at the State Theatre in Ithaca, NY. It was totally amazing and mind blowing. A more complete and set list will be coming soon.


Thursday, November 6, 2008

Hope and Change

Wow. Tuesday. Barack Obama elected. It's all so amazing. I actually met Obama in 1996 while living in Chicago (SOUTHSIDE!). I was working with inner city youth and he was just getting his start in politics. What impressed my most was that he really listened to what we had to say.

For the last 8 years, I have felt out of step with America. As a Christian, I have seen my faith twisted by Bush and his other right wing cronies, turning a message of love into a massage of fear. As a progressive, I simply wondered if there was any possibility of a return to a politics and a nation that had an actual concern for its citizens and people around the world, especially the most vulnerable.

Tuesday night listening to Barack Obama with tears running down my face, I had my faith restored. I felt perhaps now is our chance to really make things better. Certainly there is much work to be done. But now it seems possible. Now there is hope. And when I kiss my kids goodnight, hope and love is what I want for them. And for the world.

Here is a little playlist for Hope and Change.

Hope and Change

Plus a great election night video from R.E.M. "I Believe"


Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Album Review: The Confiscation from Samantha Crain

Due to being in Detroit, being struck down by the flu, and the election, my focus on music has been somewhat diminished—and this is certainly uncommon for me. However, during my illness, I received Samantha Crain’s amazing EP, The Confiscation. This singer and guitarist is just 21 years old, but writes like a much more seasoned songwriter. Her music is, broadly speaking, in the singer songwriter genre. However, one of the things that really makes Samantha Crain’s music so luminous is the combination of her influences. She is as versed in Bob Dylan and folk music as she is in Radiohead and, for lack of a better word, alternative music. This EP really sticks with you. After a few listens, I was walking around and singing the songs, and listening to the disc on repeat. And for me, repeat is one of the highest forms of flattery.

Check out a live performance of "Traipsing Through the Ailses" below.