I’ll Be Frank

sinatraSinatra. Whenever I thought of him – which was not often, until a few months ago – he appeared as a symbol of cultural and moral decadence, the essence of a Las Vegas that was the essence of a particular smug, moneyed ghastliness; smooth self-satisfaction with an edge of thuggishness and an all-pervasive atmosphere of sexism and casual racism; showbiz in the worst possible sense. More prosaically, when I was growing up he seemed like the dark heart of Radio 2 in the days when Radio 2 was the antithesis of everything exciting and wonderful about pop and rock and soul; something like Big Band Special felt quite harmless, albeit laughable, in its wish to pretend that the 1960s had never happened, whereas Sinatra was reactionary nostalgia weaponised. The dinner suits, the cocktails, the notion of suave, the eau de Playboy (even less appealing when adopted by the likes of Robbie Williams). Bloody My Way – the Sid Vicious deconstruction felt, to my father as much as to me, not only brilliant but necessary. Yes, I did like Guys and Dolls, but for Damon Runyon and the songs, more or less despite Sinatra; I would at the most grudgingly admit that he played a sleazy lowlife pretty well, and feel that Miss Adelaide would be better off with more or less anyone else… Continue reading

Stories from the City, Stories from the Sea – A Week with Myself (Feat. Guest DJ Panthercub)

Scholar

Last week I had a research paper/book chapter thing to write, so I took the week off work, set up a desk by the window in the warmest room in the house overlooking the garden, and settled down to work. For someone like me who spends most of the day out of the house, has a young family and a partner not terribly au fait with the concept of compromise (not to mention taste in music on the slightly noisy side) this opportunity to be by myself and listen to whatever the hell I wanted to all day for a week was a very rare and precious thing indeed.

Over the course of the week I listened to about 50 of my own records and despite the mental taxations of the task in hand had one of the most enjoyable weeks in a long long time.

Finding even more time to myself to put it all together to make a podcast was pretty impossible, so I enlisted Panthercub as my official selector and made a fun game of it on a rainy afternoon. It ended up completely different to what I had in mind (I was thinking more noise and less electronica), but there you go, it was out of my hands!

ALL NEW PODCAST – Enjoy!

New Snarky Puppy album

Described as “led Zep meets P-Funk” in a recent review, here’s the flagship video release from Snarky Puppy’s new, live recorded album We like it here. An astonishing level of coherence, fantastic control of dynamics, compositional complexity and damn funkiness characterise this band’s performances, which just get better and better.
They are on tour in Europe again this year, unmissable for anyone with the slightest interest in the funkier side of the musical spectrum.

Grammy for Snarky Puppy

It’s always good to see an independent band getting some long-deserved recognition in a mainstream awards show.

Texas/New York based Snarky Puppy won a Grammy award last night in the category best R&B performance for their collaboration with Lalah Hathaway, Something, from their latest LP Family Dinner vol. 1.  It’s a phenomenal track, for Hathaway’s astounding vocals as much as Snarky Puppy’s trademark compositions which switch seamlessly across dramatically contrasting moods and tempos.

Something will probably be getting considerably more air-play in the coming months so here’s my favourite track from the same album, Gone Under featuring Shayna Steele, a revitalising blast of gospel-drenched soul jazz.

Farewell to Hall

Another remembrance post, this time for jazz guitarist Jim Hall, who died yesterday. Hall was present on an astonishing variety of great jazz albums as well as establishing a quiet but revolutionary set of recordings under his own name.  His accompaniment was always intelligent and nuanced; able to play apparently independent of pulse and harmony if necessary, and with a very modern sounding tone for a jazz guitarist, often more reminiscent of blues or folk than the usual be-bop lines.  Three contrasting tracks- the wonderful folk-jazz The train and the river, recorded with Jimmy Giuffre in 1957; then two duets, firstly the brooding and evocative Romain with pianist Bill Evans from the album Undercurrents; secondly the Sonny Rollins calypso classic St. Thomas, played  with bass player Ron Carter from a live concert recording.

Hail and Farewell

Don’t have time for more than a minimalist post at the moment, but wanted to mark the occasion…

HAIL to Ernst-Ludwig Petrowsky on his 80th birthday; doyen of the East German free jazz scene, not least because of his role in the wonderful and subversive quartets Synopsis and Zentralquartett. He was looking very frail when I saw them in the summer, but reports of a recent celebration of Frei Jazz Ost suggest that he’s still going strong.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1yRxRmhZlVg

FAREWELL to the amazing Stan Tracey, one of Britain’s finest jazz musicians of the 60s and 70s. Obituary here.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QUNuxalrCis

Playlist pairs- 7/4 time

A new album from Juana Molina starts off with a fine, moody, and angular composition in 7/4. Juana is an Argentine multi-instrumentalist with a long career as a musician, comedian and TV star; her latest solo album Wed 21. is a wonderfully offbeat discursion into electronic folk music.  More info from her label.

This music is quite distinctive and it’s hard to find a good matching track; so to pair it I’ve fallen back on my favourite 7/4 composition, Joe Zawinul’s 74 miles away, performed by the Cannonball Adderley sextet.