Yoruba Hat trick!

The language Yaruba has only been mentioned twice ever on The ‘Spill and both times by GoneForeign, so this one’s for you (if you don’t know them already of course). Ibeyi sing in English and break into Yaruba at various points, when I heard this on the radio I felt the need to find out more about it, which usually means cross-referencing with The ‘Spill. I like the modern jazz/electronic styling and the lack of warbling in the singing. Further research (hi Wikipedia!) shows they’re the twin offspring of a Beuna Vista Social Club member and indeed Ibeyi means ‘twins’.


I was just poking around in my Mac search mode [spotlight], when I suddenly came across an item labeled ‘Spill Jazz’. It was dated April 2009 and I had no idea that it even existed, it was an extensive series of Spill comments relating to a post concerning Jazz versus ‘Free Jazz’. We never seem to have arguments or dialogues like that any more, it took me half the morning to read ’em all. I guess the reason I saved it was because I was one of the principal participants, the others being Abahachi, Chris, Ejay and Nilpferd, though many others chipped in. As part of my participation I included a playlist of the sort of jazz I enjoy, it still sounds great so as a nod to Albahooky’s ‘Absolute Beginners’ post last week I’ll include here. The cuts are: Continue reading

The Japanese Jazz Age and the Modern Girl

Modan Gaaru - Or Modern Girls Enjoying the Beach at Kamakura

Modan Gaaru – Or Modern Girls Enjoying the Beach at Kamakura

In 1918 following riots and civil unrest in Japan Emperor Taisho dissolved  the Military Government and appointed Hara Takashi as Prime Minster and he became the first ever elected official to become Prime Minister and so began the most exciting and liberating period in Japanese history in more than a thousand years.

The era of the Taisho Democracy had started – and with it Japans Jazz age and era of the Modan Gaaru, or  modern girl.

Continue reading

What I Did On My Holidays Part III

pritzker pavilion, chicago

Well, the ‘Spill appears to hate me at the moment, as it refuses to let me post any comments (unless it’s just protecting me from the consequences of getting pointlessly worked up about stuff that doesn’t actually matter – you all know the genius of xkcd, right?) – so let’s see if it will allow me to create a post. This is just a brief report from my latest set of travels, which this week have brought me to Chicago; I’ve had to spend a lot of my time in conference sessions, but my dedication to academic debate has been sorely tested by the fact that this weekend is the Chicago Jazz Festival – completely free, decent beer from Goose Island, all in the lovely setting of Millennium Park. Two big tents, and the amazing Gehry building that is the Jay Pritzker Pavilion, seen above, for the main acts. This evening I caught a fabulous set from the Robert Glasper Experiment, whose records I must seek out asap: avant-garde jazz meets electronica and hip-hop with added vocoder, and a hilarious cover of Get Lucky – cheered along by a capacity crowd of ten thousand or more. No, I must have been imagining that; everyone knows that jazz was ruined and lost all hope of popularity when it started getting all avant-garde…


Happy Birthday DarceysDad !

This is to celebrate the birthday of a most sociable recommender. It marks DsD’s broad-minded but sometimes baffled engagement with the music known as Jazz, and the Scottish connection with St Andrew’s Day.  So, here’s the astonishing Rufus Harley, playing John Coltrane’s A Love Supreme, on the bagpipes. I hope others will join in the good wishes, and maybe even post something DsD will like.  Happy Birthday DarceysDad !

it is not as bad as you think ! ! !


Kinky Jazz

You may have noticed that I’m mad about New Orleans! So when Ray Davies chose to include the Preservation Hall Jazz Band in his recent Meltdown festival, I was off to the South Bank. My few video snippets don’t really do justice to what was a wonderful evening, in a very N’Awlins sorta way, with effortless virtuoso jazz, a ‘second line’ round the concert hall, and dancing on stage to the consternation of ‘security’. Ray sang on a couple of numbers, including his own composition ‘Complicated Life’. I’ve also included a great vid of the band doing this number filmed in the streets of the French Quarter.

Coming Across Criss

A few weeks ago, as her Question 31B, amylee asked for an instrumental song we love. I was thrilled at the clutch of warm responses to my choice of Sonny Criss playing I’ll Catch The Sun. The idea fermented to follow this up with a post celebrating the alto saxophonist, principally to give you a few more examples of his playing. This is what I’m doing here but it occurred to me that I’ve been trying off and on for 23 years to tell the world about Sonny Criss and thus the influence his voice has had on mine is also something I want to consider. As a result, I’m supersizing my blogging by twinning this post with one on my own blog, contemplating the literary issues that unspool from my Sonny Criss fandom.

This is a brief and not at all comprehensive primer, courtesy of YouTube, of my favourite instrumental voice in jazz. That’s an accolade that requires some clarification and contextualisation. There are, if we are to give these terms any meaning, ‘greater’ jazz musicians than Sonny Criss. Quite apart from anything else, Criss was one of the legion alto saxophonists who were turned onto a style of playing by Charlie Parker. There’s a reason we call the likes of Criss, Sonny Stitt, Cannonball Adderley, Jackie McLean, Sahib Shibab and more post-Bird saxophonists – it’s not to their detriment that they stood in the conceptual shadow of someone who, to all intents and purposes, made the music new again. You don’t look to Sonny Criss for game-changing innovation. He wasn’t pulling the blues inside-out: he was playing them straight, sultry, smoky and spine-tingling, as here in Black Coffee:

I bow before Mingus, Monk, Ellington, Carla Bley, Sun Ra and plenty more jazz composers before I think of Sonny Criss. But just as I can hear most songs better when they’re sung by Ella, Sinatra or Sarah Vaughan, Sonny could play a song lyric to the same level of perfection of those vocalists. Here he is on Charlie Chaplin’s Smile and Jimmy Webb’s Up Up And Away (links via text to save screen space).

Nor did he move with the times in the manner of Miles Davis or, more recently, David Murray. Things funked up a little in the seventies but the sound that soared over the top of the groove was still that wondrously fluid, human heart-tugging voice, as here in Cool Struttin’ .

Sonny Criss works for me as instantly as the voices of those I love most in the world. I’ll rave about and dance to and revere and be inspired by countless others but Sonny’s notes trigger a thousand awakenings in my brain and across my body. I feel encapsulated by the sense of mortality and intoxicated by the desire for joy that I hear throughout the dozens of his recordings I own. I want to line up loads more for you to enjoy but I’ll leave you with just this, and embed it so it doesn’t get overlooked and by way of a birthday gift to steenbeck, a captivating God Bless The Child: