music clip of the day


Month: September, 2010

Thursday, 9/30/10

Mali—one of the poorest countries economically, one of the richest musically.

Amadou & Mariam

Live, Mali (Festival of the Desert), 2010


“Dimanche A Bamako,” live (with David Gilmour, guitar), England (Islington), 2009


“Welcome To Mali,” “Africa,” live, South Africa (Johannesburg), 2010

Want more? Here.


I saw Amadou & Mariam, like Orchestra Baobob, with my son Alex—last year at Chicago’s Park West.

How far away does Africa seem to Alex?

About as far, I think, as South Carolina seemed to me at 23.

Wednesday, 9/29/10

From a small orchestra in Germany to one in Senegal.

Orchestra Baobab, “Utru horas,” live

Here’s a big (23rd) birthday shout-out to my son Alex—with whom I saw these guys a few years ago at Chicago’s (much missed) HotHouse.

Tuesday, 9/28/10

crystalline, adj. Clear and transparent like crystal. E.g., Mitsuko Uchida playing Mozart.

Mozart, Piano Concerto No. 20 in D minor, KV. 466/Mitsuko Uchida (piano and conducting), Camerata Salzburg, live, Germany (Salzburg), 2001

Part 1 (first movement)

Part 2 (first movement, cont.)

Part 3 (second movement)

Part 4 (third movement)



I like to make the gestures of the piano concerto, so big and public, much smaller and intimate, as if I were sitting alone or simply dreaming.

—Mitsuko Uchida

Monday, 9/27/10

Something new to sing in the shower.

Felix del Pilar Perez Castro, “Amor Loco,” Soy Cuba (I Am Cuba, 1964)



Paul Anka, “Crazy Love” (1958)



In response to yesterday’s clips:


Sunday, 9/26/10

two takes

I’m too close to heaven, I just can’t turn around . . .

“Too Close To Heaven”

Brooklyn All-Stars (featuring Hardie Clifton), live, 1989


Bessie Griffin, live



radio gems: gospel

Sinner’s Crossroads
Jersey City, New Jersey; Mt. Hope, New York
Thursday, 8-9 p.m. (EST) (archived shows)
One of my all-time favorite radio shows.


reading table

Shelby had been fooled about Florida, but that was okay. She wasn’t the first. She’d imagined a place that was warm and inviting and she’d gotten a place that was without seasons and sickeningly hot. She’d wanted palm trees and she’d gotten grizzly, low oaks. She’d wanted surfers instead of rednecks. She’d thought Florida would make her feel glamorous or something, and there was a region of Florida that might’ve done just that, but it wasn’t this part. It was okay, though. It was something different. It wasn’t the Midwest. It wasn’t a place where you could look around and plainly see, for miles, that nothing worthwhile was going on.


“Everybody calls this the real Florida . . . . I don’t understand an expression like that. Is part of the state imaginary?”

—John Brandon, Citrus County (2010)

Saturday, 9/25/10

I’ll take some of whatever he’s having.

Hylton The Whistler Brown, Reggae Radio Show, 2007



radio gems: sounds of Jamaica (reggae, rocksteady, ska)

Eastern Standard Time
New York (Columbia University)

Saturday, 6-10 a.m. (EST)
(archived shows)

Friday, 9/24/10

Career plan for the next life, if tap-dancer and rubboard player don’t pan out: reggae bassist.

Lee “Scratch” Perry, Junior Murvin, The Heptones, The Congos, The Upsetters, “Play On Mr. Music,” live, Jamaica (Roots Rock Reggae [1977]),

Thursday, 9/23/10

Happy Birthday, Trane!

John Coltrane, September 23, 1926-July 17, 1967

“Naima,” live (with McCoy Tyner, piano; Jimmy Garrison, bass, Elvin Jones, drums), Europe, 1965

#1 (7/27/1965, Antibes, France)


#2 (4/1/1965, Comblain-La-Tour, Belgium)



[Coltrane’s sound is] [b]ig, resonant, and it begins at a very high level. He comes to the microphone and delivers a big block of sound rather than doing the normal sort of bell-shape that the best soloists tend to do, where they start out small, then they get big, then they get small and elegant.

Physical descriptions of his sound, especially from my own mouth, always sound meager, because the whole thing about his sound—and the reason I keep using that word in the book—has to do with the fact that if you follow his career, and if you look at what he was doing at the end of his life, you hear these tracks that seemed more and more similar from one to the next, so in the end the message of his work was not so much about composition or structure any more, it was about sound—both the sound coming out of his individual instrument, and the sound coming out of his band.

Ben Ratliff


thinking about time

The distance between today and 1965—the year of these performances (yesterday’s, too)—is like that between 1965 and 1920.



Today it’s all Trane all the time on WKCR-FM.

Wednesday, 9/22/10

Some performances are so full of energy and ideas and feeling—so full of life—you wish they’d never end.

Sonny Rollins (with Alan Dawson, drums; Niels-Henning Orsted Pedersen, bass); “Oleo” (excerpt), live, Denmark (Copenhagen), 1965

Often, as here, the heart of a jazz performance can be found in the interplay between horn and drums. Listen, for instance, to the way these two play off one another at :44-58.



More from the same performance (featuring drummer Alan Dawson).



Where did Tony Williams come from?

He began taking lessons from Alan Dawson, in Boston, when he was eleven years old.

At seventeen, he was playing with Miles Davis.


Want more of Sonny Rollins? Here. Here.

Tuesday, 9/21/10

No tenor player moves me more.

Von Freeman

“I Can’t Get Started” (excerpt), live, Belgium, 1992


“Blues for Sunnyland,” live, Germany (Berlin), 2002


Live, Chicago, 2009



Being a local legend can be a mixed bag. Consider Von Freeman, the 72-year-old tenor saxophonist who reigns as Chicago’s preeminent local jazz legend. In the 40s, he performed with bop genius Charlie Parker. In the 60s, Miles Davis tried to hire him as a replacement for John Coltrane. In the 80s, he and his son Chico, a formidable saxophonist himself, shared an album with the first family of jazz: trumpeter Wynton Marsalis, his saxophonist brother Branford, and his pianist father Ellis (Fathers and Sons, Columbia). And in the 90s, he’s performed at New York’s most prestigious concert halls–Lincoln Center and Carnegie Hall.

But legendary status can have drawbacks. It’s opened a lot of doors for Freeman, making him a familiar figure at a variety of local clubs (including the Bop Shop, the Green Mill, Pops for Champagne, and Andy’s). But appearing so often at so many places can make a performer seem as unremarkable as a crooked alderman. And the tag “legendary,” which smacks of the sort of hushed reverence usually reserved for the dead, can make a performer seem less a vital artist–one who continues to take chances–than a bloodless icon.

But Freeman is neither unremarkable nor bloodless. Hearing him live is like taking a tour of a fun house: you never know what you’ll find behind the next door.

Upon entering, the first thing you notice is that the floor seems tilted–the result of Freeman’s distinctively oblique intonation. His sour off-center tone–which occasionally prompts charges that he plays out of tune–invests the best of his performances with a hard-edged emotional intensity. When he played Charlie Parker’s “Confirmation” on a recent weekend at the Jazz Showcase, where he led a fine quintet (Brad Goode on trumpet; Joan Hickey on piano; Mendai on bass; Robert Shy on drums one night and Michael Raynor on drums the other), he bristled with energy but also sounded wounded. And when he played the ballad “Lover Man,” he conjured up a world that was unremittingly bleak.

Freeman’s improvisations take you quickly from one room to the next. Some of them, like the meowing slurs during an unaccompanied solo on the ballad “Body and Soul,” are breathtakingly strange. Others, like the wild chorus at the top of his range on Duke Ellington’s “Caravan,” offer hair-raising adventure.

Not all of his ideas are equally striking. But jazz improvisation on the order of Freeman’s is necessarily a hit-or-miss affair. As Somerset Maugham put it, only the mediocre are always at their best.

Throughout the recent performance Freeman played the role of genial host. One moment he was encouraging the bassist: “Hit it, Mendai!” The next he was indulging in Von-speak, adding the ending “-ski” to proper nouns, turning himself into “Vonski” and the Duke Ellington piece into “Caravanski.” And in another he was explaining, in a tone half mocking and half serious, the unpredictable nature of jazz: “Sometimes this horn plays and sometimes it doesn’t. I have no control over it.”

At their best, Freeman’s performances dazzle in ways all too rarely encountered in jazz these days. While the well-mannered music of many of today’s most acclaimed performers (Wynton Marsalis, Marcus Roberts) may have its appeal, it generally lacks those undomesticated virtues that Freeman’s music celebrates: daring, originality, and unpredictability. Like the man himself, Freeman’s musical values are a product of this city. He began developing them while attending DuSable High School, where–like many other Chicago-bred jazz giants, including fellow tenor saxophonists Gene Ammons, Johnny Griffin, and John Gilmore–he studied under the fabled music teacher Captain Walter Dyett. As Freeman once explained in a New York Times interview, Dyett stressed originality, preaching a message both simple and elusive: “Try and find yourself.” Even when performing classic material (Ellington, Parker, Monk), Freeman’s music sounds brand-new. The difference between him and many younger musicians who have achieved greater renown is like that between a fun house and a museum.

“Jazz Tilt-A-Whirl,” (review of Von Freeman, Jazz Showcase, 1/13-14/1995), Chicago Reader, 1/26/1995 (yeah, I’m cannibalizing myself here)


. . . one of the most original and creative tenormen of the 1950s and, in light of other work I’ve heard by him, a great tenor player by any standards.


An exceptional artist, he belongs in jazz’s pantheon.

Harvey Pekar, JazzTimes, 1-2/2001

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