Thursday, May 28, 2009

Miles Davis - Dark Magus (1974) (mp3, 160kbps)

Tatu is for me the best recording of the Pete Cosey era. Miles has gone through all his keyboardists. Herbie Hancock, Chic Corea, Kieth Jarrett, Joe Zawinul. He tries little known Cedric Lawsin and then it's no keyboard player. From 1972 to his 1975 exile from music that lasted 6 years, the keboard player in the Miles Davis band was Miles Davis. At 48 years of age, the hard living has clearly caught up with him, but its just as clear that he is unble to stop composing, playing and performing. The keyboard gave him a physically less taxing way to be part of the jam.

But when that trumpet comes forth, oh my! Let me set this up for you on Tatu, the first song on the second disc. No keyboard player, but three guitarists and two saxophones, and drums, and percussion. Nine people on stage at Carnegie Hall, no setlist, no songs. Miles is doing a lot of conducting throughout the performance, composing even as the thing proceeds.

So, Tatu starts with a fairly safe funk riff that Miles introduces on the organ. It's picked up by the guitar and bass, and we get guitar solos trading with Miles' absolutely wicked organ work. Pete Cosey urges him on with soaring and warped effects of his own. Miles is ready to let this jam simmer until around 8:20, when he breaks it down and we get dueling sax solos. Up until this point, it's pretty standard fare for this era. Strong elements of the music on 'Pangea', 'In Concert: Philharmonic' and 'Agarta' are present here. But when the sax solos begin, the three guitars go to a totally different feel. The comping is slow and the chords have a major feel. Henderson's bass stays in a similar groove with offsets, stops and starts, all orchestrated by the bandleader in real time. Miles might be too hurtin' to play much trumpet, but he's feeling the music tonight.

At about 10:26, Henderson picks up on the minimal feel and starts to just lay down the root note, over and over again. The drone effect gives beautiful emphasis to the saxes and guitars. After more than thirteen minutes, we still haven't heard the trumpet once.

Things begin to really devolve around the end of the sax solos. Miles signals change with the keyboard, but it doesn't take. The soloist is having a hard time letting go. But at 15:09, he's rescued by the rhythm guitar of Reggie Lucas. And now it sounds like the Rolling Stones, switching out of that soft major mode and playing some blues! The bass threatens to switch back to what we started with sixteen minutes ago. But oh, what's that? Miles has his horn.

Now this band has to deliver. They have to make way and roll out the red carpet with a groove so tasty, because they probably don't know when this opportunity will come again. He comes into the ring somewhat tentative, but making his intentions clear. Then he's conducting again and getting ready to take flight. The wah-wah pedal and the echo can't hide the obvious pain and difficulty he's having - they just make it louder. This is evil live.

At 18:51 it's time to run back to the safety of the keyboard. It appears that the song is over, but, even if the trumpet solo took a lot out of him (also - you always leave them wanting more!), he's still in the music. So now its back and forth with the rel heavy stuff, led by Miles' atonal assaults on the organ. But in a moment he'll stop with a completely innocuous little riff, something you would hear Zawinul play. In the spirit of a World-Music vibe, we get a finger piano solo. It sounds almost like a toy, and yet it usher's in the big finish.

Miles is in charge all the way. There are no more stops. No more conducting. Now it's time to really see what this band can do. Set up the groove and write the song while you play it. The organ does not play any set progression, it just plays the song, like it was always that way. Starting at 21:35, you have some of the best Miles Davis music ever recorded, and probably some of the most unknown. When that horn comes back for the last time, he doesn't sound pained, he sounds like a prize fighter bouncing around the ring and pumping his fists before the fight. And his band rejoices.

This is hard music, to be sure. And there are no flashy sidemen. That six years without making music had to have been a dark time for Miles. Taking him away from music is like taking music away from music. How could either exist? But through this music, you get to experience the horror of that slide as its happening, while never leaving the relative safety of your own home.

March 30, 1974
Carnegie Hall, New York City

Moja 25:23
Wili 25:02
Tatu 25:21
Nne 25:30

  • Pete Cosey – guitar
  • Miles Davis – organ, trumpet
  • Al Foster – drums
  • Dominique Gaumont – guitar
  • Michael Henderson – bass
  • Azar Lawrence – tenor saxophone
  • Dave Liebman – flute, soprano saxophone, tenor saxophone
  • Reggie Lucas – guitar
  • Teo Macero – producer
  • James Mtume – percussion
The link is in the comments

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Wayne Shorter - High Life (1995) (mp3, 160kbps)

UPDATE: As a little post script to Wayne Shorter week, here's a re-post of the one that got me thinking that, hey, this guy is a bona fide genius!

Uncompromising. Every single note has to be in the exact right place. This is painstaking composition, all for the greater good of the song. The result is a set of compositions that seem to float in the air, darting and dodging with the delicacy of a butterfly. But Wayne doesn't sting like a bee, not here at least. Instead, his moments of improvisation come forth with such power that they soar above the beatiful cloud that is creared by all those notes.

This is a beautiful recording, but suffers a bit from Marcus Miller's production. These compositions would hold up perfectly well in an acoustic format, but the production makes it a bit glossier than it needs to be. So please, wade through that and be patient. Wayne is always worth it!

1. Children Of The Night 7:24
2. At The Fair 7:30
3. Maya 5:12
4. On The Milky Way Express 5:35
5. Pandora Awakened 6:19
6. Virgo Rising 6:46
7. High Life 6:28
8. Midnight In Carlotta's Hair 5:54
9. Black Swan (In Memory Of Susan Portlynn Romeo) 5:54

Wayne Shorter
Rachel Z: Piano, Synthesizer
David Gilmore: Guitar
Lenny Castro: Percussion
Airto Moreira: Percussion
Munyungo Jackson: Percussion
Kevin Ricard: Percussion
Will Calhoun: Drums
Terri Lyne Carrington: Drums
Marcus Miller: Producer

The link is in the comments.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Wayne Shorter - Joy Rider (1988) (aac, 256kbps)

We're coming down the homestretch for these crazy albums. This one, again, not well loved by the critics, is perhaps the most powerful of the era. 'Over Shadow Hill Way' and the title track both made it onto the acclaimed Beyond The Sound Barrier, and everybody loves that album (including me)! Is it possible that people heard that so-called contemporary jazz production and just gave up on these records? I think it's more than possible. It is the same formula he'd used on the last two, and I find the results to be similarly stunning. After spending a lifetime in the improv business, Wayne embraced the technology (just like his old partner Zawinul did) but then went off into the inner space of painstaking composition. 'Cathay' and 'Causeways' are the two unsung heroes of this record. They show that atmosphere and composition can go together - if you know your music! In an era when all music was getting more and more stripped down, Wayne took his time and made something that was not necessarily 'of the moment'. Peerhaps that's why, when I listen to this strange and beautiful music now, I find it to be absolutely timeless.

  1. Joy Ryder
  2. Cathay
  3. Over Shadown Hill Way
  4. Anathem
  5. Causeways
  6. Daredevil
  7. Someplace Called "Where"
All Compositions by Wayne Shorter
  • Recorded in Los Angeles, CA, 1988

The link is in the comments.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Wayne Shorter - Phantom Navigator (1986) (mp3, 160kbps)

1986. Genesis have hits galore with 'Invisible Touch'. Peter Gabriel hits one out of the park with 'So'. Dire Straits are touring every corner of the globe in support of 'Brothers In Arms'. All of these albums were HUGE commercial successes by established artists, but none of them are sell-outs (If you disagree with that description, feel free to comment or get your own blog!). And these records have withstood the test of time. Twenty-three years later, I have a moment of thinking that old saying "the masses are asses" might be wrong.

And then I hear a record like 'Phantom Navigator'. The Wikipedia entry has nothing more than track listing and personnel. Allmusic features the following sentence in the review:
Nothing wrong with electronics per se; it's just that Wayne's compositions in that idiom are weak, the endlessly undulating melodic lines go nowhere and have nothing fresh to say.
There are no fewer than fourteen musicians scattered throughout the recording, and it seems like half of them are playing synthesizers. But something has happened. It started with Atlantis and its continuing here. The layering of melody over melody and the ever-changing flow of each song - it's all so carefully composed. People lamented the end of Wayne's career as an improvisational artist. But instead of stretching out his solos, the improv comes out in fits and bursts. And against the backdrop of such painstaking composition, the solos come charging out with such beautiful force. This is especially true on the experimental 'Yamanja', featuring Wayne on a furious lyricon solo. The overarching feeling is that every note must be in its right place and the song would not work unles each and every note were placed and played just so.

The other thing I would advise all the haters is that he's playing these songs now with his vaunted quartet. 'Forbidden Plan-It' and 'Flagships' are part of the current band's repertoire, in addition to other songs from this much maligned period of output. So, let's not hear about how he can't compose in a certain 'idiom' Whether it's with the Imani Winds at Carnegie Hall, an orchestra at the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam, or with a rotating cast of fusion all-stars, as on this record. These songs are exceptional.

Here's the info:
  1. "Condition Red" - 5:08
  2. "Mahogany Bird" - 6:10
  3. "Remote Control" - 7:55
  4. "Yamanja" - 6:28
  5. "Forbidden, Plan-It!" - 6:09
  6. "Flagships" - 6:35
All Compositions by Wayne Shorter
  • Recorded in Los Angeles, CA, 1986
The link is in the comments.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Wayne Shorter - Atlantis (1985) (aac, 256kbps)

Starting in the mid-60's, Wayne Shorter became a prolific solo artist. He had won a lot of recognition and success as the sax-man and musical director for the beloved Art Blakey & The Jazz Messengers. I have always thought that Shorter's stint with Blakey (how about 18 recordings in five years!?!) was exactly the place to start if you wanted to introduce a music fan to the broad concept of jazz. Thanks in large part to Shorter's vast technical ability and passionate performances, this music (to my ears, anyway) is jazz. It's all here - bop, and big band, to fusion and rock 'n' roll. I can hear the whole gamut in those Messengers records. Get 'Ugetsu' and tell me if you think I'm wrong.

So Wayne's becoming a big star. It's 1964 and he starts recording all kinds of solo records with big-name side men. He is also asked to join the second great Miles Davis Quintet - taking over the assignment previously held by John Coltrane.

In 1967, two things happen that change the landscape of jazz and, indeed all music. Coltrane dies at the age of 40 and Miles Davis introduces an electric piano into his combo. Immediately, everyone looks to Shorter to become the new Coltrane. The pressure must have been unbelievable. And all of this is against the background of the Summer of Love, the war in Viet Nam, Jimi Hendrix and political and cultural upheaval. Miles goes supersonic with Bitches Brew and Shorter's solo albums become very improvised and edgy.

But there's something missing. When I listen to these records (Schizophrenia, Super Nova and Moto Grosso Feio), I hear a passionate search, but it doesn't quite come together. Even the album titles tell you that something strange is going on with this artist! I think it very likely that one day I will feel differently, but, to a certain extent, the proof is in the pudding. Unlike Chick Corea, Keith Jarrett, John McLaughlin, Tony Williams, Herbie Hancock and so many others, Shorter did not go right out and set the world on fire with his post-Miles solo career.

Instead, he partnered up with Zawinul for Weather Report and spent the next fifteen years in one of the greatest bands of all time. The story of Weather Report should be told another day, but for now, suffice to say, this collaboration was a high-water mark for all parties involved. Creative freedom and commercial success.

Which brings us to the solo records from after Weather Report, the first of which is posted here. This is roughly classified as 'contemporary jazz', whatever that is, but the more important aspect is the new voice that is emerging. While the production may sound a bit dated, the level of complexity in the composition and arrangement is insane. the improvs are carved out of a sonic landscape that gets more and more detailed with every listen. this music is rich and dense. It keeps changing, and, for a kid raised on rock 'n' roll, it was very difficult to get my head around. This is not easy listening. It's harder than opera.

But it marks a new beginning for one of the greatest and most under-appreciated artists in the history of American music. These strange solo albums - complete with their guitars, synths and drum machines - provide the compositions for so much of what Shorter does now. At 75 years of age, he is leading his acoustic (sax, piano, drums bass), 'post-bop' quartet around the planet, exploring (always exploring) new sounds and directions. Even now, as ever, he is at the top of his game. This record marks a beginning, of sorts, where a great part of that climb began.

  1. Endangered Species" - 4:47
  2. "The Three Marias" - 5:48
  3. "The Last Silk Hat" - 5:25
  4. "When You Dream" - 4:28
  5. "Who Goes There!" - 5:29
  6. "Atlantis" - 4:34
  7. "Shere Khan, the Tiger" - 2:15
  8. "Criancas" - 3:40
  9. "On the Eve of Departure" - 5:55
The link is in the comments.

Brian Eno - Here Come The Warm Jets (1973) (aac, 128kbps)

Whenever a new U2 record comes out, I can't help but think of Brian Eno. Oh sure, he's influenced an entire universe of musicians beyond the boys from Dublin, but when I hear their music created since The Unforgettable Fire, I hear Eno. Sometimes that is because he is present for the recordings, but more it is his love of simplicity. Even when he is not sprinkling his influence, Eno's perfectly simple and achingly beautiful chord progressions are still there.

This record is where it really begins. Eno has been active in Roxy Music, but he hasn't had a chance to run the show yet. Keep in mind, the traditional idea of being a 'musician' didn't apply to Eno. He doesn't have natural ability as a vocalist. His technical skills are limited on the seemingly endless number of musical instruments he has access to. And this is 1973! Punk is not really in sight just yet. But there's Eno, making it cool to kind of bang on the instruments. More importantly, he's making it more accessible.

Even though prog and fusion are really just becoming a dominant force in popular music, Eno is moving on to the next thing - not so much because he's a visionary (although he clearly is), but rather because he couldn't really play with those guys. The genius of Eno's early carrier was his ability (out of necessity) to take a player of extraordinary technical skill like Fripp out of his comfort zone. The result will often be something unexpected.

Eno always knew that you can say more with less. But he doesn't sacrifice drama and melody. You can hear on monster hits like 'With Or Without You' and 'Bad'. And for the first time, you could hear it here.

1. "Needles in the Camel's Eye" (Eno, Phil Manzanera) 3:11
2. "The Paw Paw Negro Blowtorch" 3:04
3. "Baby's on Fire" 5:19
4. "Cindy Tells Me" (Eno, Manzanera) 3:25
5. "Driving Me Backwards" 5:12
6. "On Some Faraway Beach" (Eno, Manzanera) 4:36
7. "Blank Frank" (Eno, Robert Fripp) 3:37
8. "Dead Finks Don't Talk" (arr. Paul Thompson, Busta Jones, Nick Judd, Eno) 4:19
9. "Some of Them Are Old" 5:11
10. "Here Come the Warm Jets" 4:04

The link is in the comments.

Update: Thanks to Anonymous for pointing out a dead link. This should work now.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Genesis - Complete BBC Sessions (1970-1972) (mp3, 256kbps)

What can I say? I'm nothing, if not predictable. The funny thing is that this music is so fundamental and influential to prog, that many folks are tired of it and have been so since the mid-80s. I though it was just Marillion, but countless other bands were being lumped into that 'just like Genesis' category. God knows what those critics would say now.

But I wasn't listening to Marillion in the 80's. I was listening to the blues and Bob Dylan and Neil Young. The progiest things I had heard were 'Nights in White Satin' and 'Lucky Man'. But I didn't know that was prog or what prog was or even that those songs should be considered in the same category with these songs. I had no context, so I just listened to what was there.

Remember, this is early. This is before the flower mask of 'Supper's Ready' or the leather jacket of 'The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway'. The men performing this music were 20-22 years old. What were you doing when you were that age?

1.01 Shepherd (Nightride, 22 February 1970)
1.02 Pacidy (Nightride, 22 February 1970)
1.03 Let Us Now Make Love (Nightride, 22 February 1970)
1.04 Stagnation (Nightride, 22 February 1970)
1.05 Looking For Someone (Nightride, 22 February 1970)
1.06 The Musical Box (Sounds Of The Seventies, 10 May 1971)
1.07 Stagnation (Sounds Of The Seventies, 10 May 1971)
1.08 The Return Of The Giant Hogweed (Sounds Of The Seventies, 09 January 1972)
1.09 Harold The Barrel (Sounds Of The Seventies, 09 January 1972)
1.10 The Fountain Of Salmacis (Sounds Of The Seventies, 09 January 1972)
1.11 Harlequin (Sounds Of The Seventies, 09 January 1972)
1.12 Harold The Barrel (Mix #2) (Sounds Of The Seventies, 09 January 1972)
2.01 The Fountain Of Salmacis (In Concert, 02 March 1972)
2.02 The Musical Box (In Concert, 02 March 1972)
2.03 The Return Of The Giant Hogweed (In Concert, 02 March 1972)
2.04 Twilight Alehouse (Top Gear, 25 September 1972)
2.05 Watcher Of The Skies (Top Gear, 25 September 1972)
2.06 Get'em Out By Friday (Top Gear, 25 September 1972)

The link is in the comments

Monday, May 11, 2009

Bob Dylan - Satisfied Man (1976) (mp3, 128kbps)

Time for a little Bob. His new record is great, so you should just go out and get that right now. Indeed, he seems a bit more 'satisfied' now than he was 33 tears ago when this concert was performed. Some people love the 'Rolling Thunder Review' and some people, not so much. There's some horrendous Joan Baez sprinkled in here, but that might apeal to some people. Roger McGuinn makes an appearance too.

This tour finds Dylan at the peak of his second great career arc. he had come out of hiding in the early part of the decade, got divorced and recorded his masterpiece 'Blood on the Tracks'. After that came Desire, which is even better. The recording of that record was a serendipitous experience. Dylan was literally pulling people in off the street to record, regardless of experience or musical ability. Somehow it all worked out. The album is stellar.

Which brings us to The Rolling Thunder Review. I think Mr. Dylan was flushed with the success of the record and embarked on an anti-tour. He mixed in some of the old political stuff, surrounded himself with a bunch of old friends (musical and not) and took the whole circus out on the road to play smaller venues with as little notice as possible. The experiment didn't quite work perfectly, as the music is, at times, rough and meandering. The violin never stops, which can get a bit grating, and Dylan insisted on painting his face white for reasons that are still not well-understood.

But with all the craziness, you still have some remarkable music, because that's what tends to happen with Dylan at all stages of his career. Keep in mind that when this faze wrapped up, he became a born again Christian and created some of the best and most controversial music of his career. Live version sof that will be posted in the future.

So, almost as always, we find Dylan in transition. He made his comeback with two phenomenal records and then tried to break some rules with this tour. When that didn't pan out, he set off a bomb with the born-again thing. Ballsy? That's what Bob is all about.

Bob's Boots rates this as an 8-1/2 out of ten, and I thinks that's probably right. It is an old recording and has some typical bootleg anomalies, but it still gives you a glimpse at the kind of tour that will never be repeated by a big-time rock star.

Palace Theater, Waterbury, CT Nov.11, 1975

  1. Hard Rain
  2. Romance In Durango
  3. Isis
  4. Blowin' In The Wind
  5. Water Is Wide
  6. I Dreamed I Saw St. Augustine
  7. Never Let Me Go (J.C. Scott)
  8. I Shall Be Released
  9. Simple Twist Of Fate
  10. Oh Sister
  11. Hurricane
  12. One More Cup Of Coffee
  13. Sara
  14. Just Like A Woman
  15. Knockin' On Heaven's Door
  16. This Land Is Your Land (W.Guthrie)
The link is in the comments.

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Herbie Mann - Push Push (1971) (mp3, 320kbps)

Outstanding groove. Awsome chops. Killer chest hair. A different kind of fusion - Jazz flute meets Duane Allman in Memphis. Lots of ingredients, but it all comes out just right. Mann had a special knack for putting the right people in the right places to suit the musical vision. His idea of mixing a Stax-style Memphis groove with the improv of jazz... well, it just worked. This is the best example, but there are plenty of others that you should check out from this same era. Other guests on this release include Al Jackson, Jr. and Donald Duck Dunn - both from Booker T. and the M.G.s.

  1. Push Push
  2. What's Going On
  3. Spirit In The Dark
  4. Man's Hope
  5. If
  6. Never Can Say Goodbye
  7. What'd I Say
  8. Funky Nassau (CD Bonus Track)
The link is in the comments.

Monday, May 04, 2009

Pink Floyd - Meddler (1971) (m4a, 128 kbps)

Bootlegs like this are the reason I love music. Pink was like my security blanket when I was younger. If I were Linus from the Peanuts, Floyd was my blue luvvy. This performance has been put out is so many different incarnations that I'm not sure what version this one is. All I know is that the sound is outstanding (esp. for the age of the performance), and the performance is that of a band that is getting ready to change he world in just a few moments.

  1. Fat Old Sun 15:35
  2. One Of These Days 6:57
  3. Echoes 26:23
  4. Embryo 10:32
  5. Blues 5:24
The John Peel Show, BBC Radio
Recorded live at the Paris Cinema, London September 30, 1971

Waters, Wright, Mason, Gilmour

The link is in the comments.