music clip of the day

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Month: December, 2009

Thursday, 12/31/09

In the public imagination, the guitar’s associated with freedom and individuality. The musical reality’s different. Guitarists travel in herds; few stray from the pack. One who has gone his own way is this man, who’s played with everyone from Muddy Waters (as a session musician for Chicago-based Chess Records) to Miles Davis (as a member of his group [1973-1975]). He employs a variety of unusual tunings and effects. He sounds like no one else.

Pete Cosey, guitar

“Calypso Frelimo” (excerpt), Pete Cosey’s Children of Agharta (JT Lewis, drums; Gary Bartz and John Stubblefield, saxophones & flute; Matt Rubano, bass; Johnny Juice, turntables; Baba Israel, words and beats; Kyle Jason, voice; Bern Pizzitola, guitar; Wendy Oxenhorn, harmonica), live, 2002, New York

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Live (with Melvin Gibbs, bass; JT Lewis, drums; Johnny Juice, congas and turntables)

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He’s [Pete Cosey’s] the guy who, after Hendrix, showed you how ‘out’ you could go with guitar playing, particularly in the improvised context.—Greg Tate

Wednesday, 12/30/09

Musicians (and composers) fall into two camps: less-is-more and more-is-more.

The less-is-more camp may, in turn, be divided into the less-less-is-more and the more-less-is-more.

And the less-less-is-more . . .

Jon Hassell and Maarifa Street (Jon Hassell, trumpet; Peter Freeman, bass, laptop; Hugh Marsh, violin; Steve Shehan, percussion, laptop), live, Serbia (Belgrade), 2006

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Want more? Here.

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. . . Jon Hassell’s ideas and techniques have so thoroughly permeated lo- and hi-brow contemporary electronic music, albeit often in a third or fourth hand way . . . that it’s difficult to think what contemporary music would sound like without his influence. . . . there’s categorically no doubt that Hassell has had as an important effect on contemporary music as Miles Davis or Jimi Hendrix or James Brown or the Velvet Underground.—The Wire

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reading table

More on John Berryman (12/28/09): Here Pulitzer-Prize-winning poet Philip Levine recalls John Berryman (also Robert Lowell) as a teacher at the University of Iowa Writers’ Workshop.

He [John Berryman] took that class with a seriousness I had never seen before. . . . He was entrancing. He was magnetic. . . . He had a marvelous sense of humor. . . . He really took this seriously. He was a great teacher. He was the greatest teacher I ever had—and an inspiration.—Philip Levine

Philip Levine, live, England (Aldeburgh), 2009

Tuesday, 12/29/09

Is there any greater joy than to hear something fresh?

Steve Lehman (saxophonist, composer, bandleader), talking and playing, 2009

Want more? Here (click on the “listen” tab).

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. . . the most important thing, and the most important element of the music, and the most important compositional step is deciding who it is that you’re going to work with—even more so than what notes they’re going to play, or what context you’re going to put them in.—Steve Lehman

Monday, 12/28/09

genius at work

Thelonious Monk with saxophonist Charlie Rouse, working out a number, “Boo Boo’s Birthday,” during a recording session, 1967

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Thelonious Monk (with Charlie Rouse, tenor saxophone; Ben Riley, drums; Larry Gales, bass), “Boo Boo’s Birthday” (Underground [Columbia], 1968)

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reading table

One of the great discoveries I made in college, besides Bach (10/19/09, 10/24/09, 12/25/09) and Blind Willie Johnson (11/15/09) and Bill Evans (11/18/09) and Hound Dog Taylor (10/30/09), was John Berryman. Hearing him read his poetry, not long before he died (jumping off a bridge in Minneapolis), changed my life. Really. That night made me realize, in ways that I never had before, just how lively and surprising and exciting poetry could be. It made me realize, too, that what a great poem offers is an experience—one you can’t get anywhere else. And so I have Berryman to thank not only for his own poems (especially The Dream Songs [which would be on my desert-island packing list]) but also for making Emily Dickinson, Gerard Manley Hopkins, Wislawa Szymborska, Charles Simic, et al., such important figures in my life. Just as my life would be immeasurably poorer without Thelonious Monk (11/2/09, 11/25/09, today) and Vernard Johnson (12/6/09) and Morton Feldman (11/7/09, 12/5/09) and Lester Bowie (9/8/09, 10/28/09), so too would it be without them.

This recording, for all its technical shortcomings (headphones help), captures some of what I heard in Berryman that night almost 40 years ago. Blustery and grandiose and vulnerable, jazzy and funny: he was all these things—and more.

This is not a cultural occasion, ladies and gentlemen, in case you were misled by anyone. This is an entertainment.—John Berryman

John Berryman (1914-1972), live, Iowa City, 1968

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Sunday, 12/27/09

Chicago’s not only the blues capital of the world; it’s the birthplace of gospel. Both could be found on Maxwell Street. The other day we went there to hear some blues (12/22/09). Here’s some gospel.

Carrie Robinson (AKA Carrie Robbins, Mary Washington), “Power To Live Right,” Chicago’s Maxwell Street, circa 1964

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mail

Wow! [Lou Rawls and the Pilgrim Travelers, 12/20/09]

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OK, so I’m a meathead, but I much prefer John Lee Hooker [12/25/09, to Tristan Murail, 12/26/09].

Saturday, 12/26/09

Food, people, music: part of what fascinates is variousness. Take the world of contemporary classical music: it’s inhabited not only by Elliott Carter’s thorny dissonance (11/19/09, 12/12/09), but also by this composer’s spectral elegance.

Tristan Murail (1947-), “Le Lac pour ensemble” (2001)/Argento Chamber Ensemble

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Composers who have taken inspiration from spectralist methods . . . aren’t tune-happy populists by any means. But they have brought a new sensuousness to European music. In place of the spastic gesturing that was de rigueur during the Cold War era, their work often unfolds in meditative, deep-breathing lines. While spectralist music would hardly serve as the soundtrack to a yoga session, it does have the capacity to generate a state of eerie calm. In a way, it is the European counterpart to American minimalism, which, back in the nineteen-sixties, returned emphatically to musical ABCs.—Alex Ross

Friday, 12/25/09

John Lee Hooker, Rahsaan Roland Kirk, Dinu Lipatti: where else would you find these three artists together, performing back to back, besides a cyberstage?

John Lee Hooker, “Blues For Christmas” (1949)

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Rahsaan Roland Kirk (tenor saxophone, manzello, flute, stritch), “We Free Kings” (1961)

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Dinu Lipatti, “Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring,” Johann Sebastian Bach/Hess transcription (1947)

Thursday, 12/24/09

. . . I want to be your Santa Claus even if my whiskers ain’t white.—Blind Lemon Jefferson

Blind Lemon Jefferson, “Christmas Eve Blues” (1928)

Wednesday, 12/23/09

The French Quarter: the spirit of some places is so strong you can go there, in mind if not in body, just by saying their name.

Rebirth Brass Band, live, New Orleans’ French Quarter, 2008

Tuesday, 12/22/09

Yesterday’s clip roamed all over the world. Today we travel to one city, Chicago. This is the Chicago of another era, where, on Sunday morning, on the near west side, on Maxwell Street, you could hear—right on the street—some of the greatest musicians in the world, including this man, one of the finest slide guitar players of all time.

Robert Nighthawk (AKA Robert Lee McCollum; 1909-1967), “Eli’s Place,” live, Chicago’s Maxwell Street, circa 1964

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