from Palos Park, IL

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    • Wow

      13 years ago


      I'm currently listening to a bootleg recording of Jimi Hendrix playing with Larry Young. It's mostly jamming in the studio from 1969, and the musicianship is - as expected - virtuosic. Some of you may not know who Larry Young is, which is a real shame, because he has been called "the John Coltrane of the organ" (with Jimmy Smith being "the Charlie Parker of the organ").

      Anyways, the bootleg has Hendrix on guitar (and some vocals), Young on organ, Mitch Mitchell on drums, and Billy Cox on bass. I think the bootleg is cool simply because you get to see a side of Hendrix that was rarely, if ever seen in his studio recordings. And while Hendrix and Young are at the forefront, Cox and Mitchell make a great and stable rhythm section (Mitchell especially, since he's always been a jazzy drummer).

    • Harakiri

      13 years ago


      Seeing as how several of you seemed to enjoy my recommendation/quasi-review for Samurai Spy, I've decided to do the same thing with Masaki Kobayashi's 1962 film, Harakiri. It is widely considered to be one of the top three or four films of Japanese cinema (it also won the 1963 Cannes Film Festival's Special Jury Prize), and is nothing short of a masterpiece.


      The term harakiri literally translates to "stomach-cutting" or "belly slicing". Another name for the same action would be seppuku - ritual suicide by disembowelment. However, in Japanese, the term harakiri is seen as a colloquial, if not downright vulgar term when compared with seppuku. You'll see why I mentioned this later.

      The film takes place over several years (many parts are told through flashbacks), but the vast majority of the film takes place in 1630. The Tokugawa shogunate has abolished many clans, leaving the country roaming with ronin (masterless samurai). Most have flocked to the city of Edo, where some hope to find new masters. Unfortunately, it is a time of peace, which means the members of the warrior class (though especially ronin) have virtually no use. There are also many who find themselves with no reason to live and wish to die honorably by harakiri. The only way to do this is to go to the various existing clans, in the hopes that the clan members will perform the ceremony.

      However, many of the clans are apprehensive about allowing the ronin to go through harakiri. Many ronin are eventually paid off so that they will not bother the clan anymore. There is one particular incident (you never see it, but hear a lot about it), where a ronin was so intent on committing harakiri that he threatened to go through with it in front of a clan's fortress. The head of the clan was so impressed by the ronin's honor, that he actually allowed him to join the clan as a retainer.

      So, now there are ronin who either A) wish to simply die by harakiri, B) be allowed to join a clan and have a new master, or C) claim to want to commit harakiri in the hopes that the master of the clan will pay them to leave.

      As you might imagine, now clans are now even more distrustful by the so-called extortion of them by certain ronin. The story begins with the middle-aged ronin Hanshiro Tsugumo (played by Tatsuya Nakadai) arriving at the manor of the Iyi clan, begging to commit harakiri, as he is tired of waiting for death in his life of poverty. The clansmen are suspicious, as they believe Hanshiro to be looking for money. However, as the story progresses, you find out that there is much more to the story than a simple ronin wishing to die honorably. In a sense, it is very much like Akira Kurosawa's Rashômon - another film that seems simple in its premise, yet unfolds into a masterpiece that makes you think.

      Harakiri attacks hypocrisy, and shows that the code of the samurai (Bushido) is nothing more than a facade. It questions how easily can one determine what is honorable and what is dishonorable, particularly since such a characteristic is seen in many ways. Hell, the film title is, in a way, an attack on the Bushido code. However, it was titled as Seppuku in Japan, perhaps to avoid some controversy.

      I think a special mention needs to go to the cinematography, which is absolutely beautiful. Perhaps the only gripe some may have about the film is that they may find it to be too "talky" - a common criticism of Kobayashi's films. However, this film was never meant to be taken as a fast-paced or tensive action film. In many ways, it resembles a Shakespearean tragedy - don't try to take it as an action film (although there is one jaw-dropping duel that is masterfully shot) and you will find it a lot more enjoyable.

      I can't recommend this movie enough. It is widely considered to be one of the best Japanese films of all time. It is emotionally stirring and thought-provoking. It is wonderfully acted and beautifully directed. And, as I said, the cinematography is beautiful - major props to Yoshio Miyajima. Also, I heard that the film Samurai Rebellion, also directed by Kobayashi, shares many recurrent themes with Harakiri. I have yet to get that, but I'll post another quasi-review when/if I get it.

    • Skies Of America

      13 years ago


      So, I got a $40 gift certificate for Barnes & Noble from my aunt for Christmas. I decided to go there today, and see what music they had to offer. I've found that Borders overall has a much better selection, but I can usually find off-kilter releases by various artists at B&N. I picked up Digable Planets' Blowout Comb, Miles Davis's The Complete Birth of the Cool (essentially the full studio LP with the only known live recording of the nonet), and Ornette Coleman's Skies of America.


      I got Coleman's box set of his revolutionary Atlantic recordings, Beauty Is A Rare Thing, for Christmas, which featured all his surviving studio recordings that he recorded for the label (which only spanned a total of three years, 1959-1961, before the label dropped him). Now, Coleman's music theory, which he calls "harmolodics", has always fascinated me, even though I don't think that I fully understand it quite yet (hell, I've heard that one would have to have a massive knowledge of music and music theory to even utilize the theory in an actual performance/recording). From what I've gathered, it essentially states that by using modulation, many players could solo at once using different keys. However, I digress.

      Skies of America, recorded and released in 1972, is probably Coleman's most ambitious work, which makes it quite odd that most people seem to overlook it. It is Coleman's first recorded orchestral symphonic work (he had composed a few string quartet pieces prior to this, from what I've gathered, but only performed them live), and is a great example of the harmolodic theory in practice.

      That being said, however, this album was already facing problems before it was even recorded. The orchestra that Coleman ultimately ended up using was the London Symphony Orchestra. Sadly, British musicians' union rules prevented Coleman from using his own quartet on the record (who would obviously accompany the orchestra). On top of that, some pieces of the recording were cut out from the final LP due to time constraints on the LP medium. Oh, and let's not forget Columbia dividing up the one-movement symphony into several small pieces, in hopes of getting radio airplay.

      The CD reissue corrects a few errors (there are now no gaps between each "track"), but it was unfortunate that the full piece (which would include the originally removed segments) was not included. Still, this is, at the very least, a fascinating piece of Third Stream Jazz (Third Stream being an honest movement to fuse European classical music and jazz). However, don't go in expecting a light work that could serve as background music. This album is dark and dense, but it is rewarding if you can get into it.

      The overarching "concept" of the symphony, if you will, is to present a view of America. As you might imagine, since there are no vocalists, most of the sociopolitical commentary must be guessed at from A) the "song" names and B) the overall mood of each "song". There is the tensive "The Men Who Live In The White House", the chaotic "The Military", and so on and so forth. The second half of the album is stronger, if only due to the fact that Coleman himself plays on and off from "The Artist In America" on.

      Overall, this does come highly recommended, but keeping an open mind is an absolute must. Third Stream Jazz probably pissed off more jazz purists than bebop or avant-garde did in their respective times. And as I said, this album is dark and unsettling, but it is rewarding and closes on a note of cautious optimism (though some might say outright uncertainty) on "Sunday In America".

    • Samurai Spy

      13 years ago


      So, I went to Borders today, looking to pick up the film Le Samouraï, but they didn't have it in stock. However, I had a 30% off coupon that expired today, so I decided to seize the opportunity and pick up Samurai Spy, another Criterion film, instead.


      I just got finished watching, and I can say that it comes highly recommended. It was made in 1965 and directed by Masahiro Shinoda. Shinoda, along with a handful of his contemporaries like Kihachi Okamoto and Hideo Gosha, were effectively rebels in the chanbara (swordplay) genre. In prewar Japanese cinema, chanbara films often featured sword fights that were highly choreographed - that were supposed to look like some graceful dance of death. However, as time went on, the fights became more realistic and gruesome.

      Also, by the 1960's, directors like Shinoda and the other aforementioned ones were creating a new kind of protagonist. One that was pitiless, obsessive, and who felt alienated from those around him. A person that might have fit the definition of an antihero better than a hero.

      Samurai Spy isn't your typical samurai film. There are action scenes, of course, but most of the film is focused on political intrigue and suspense. It takes place during the 17th century, after the Tokugawa shogunate has been established after years of conflict. The Toyotomi clan opposes the shogunate, but war hasn't yet broken out. Instead, it is a period of tense peace in which both sides are using spies to acquire the right information if and when war breaks out. In case you couldn't already tell, there is an obvious allusion to the Cold War. Neither side is really presented as "right" or "wrong", and Shinoda said he wished about a hero of sorts that could "destroy the fog" and reveal who was right or wrong in the Cold War.

      The main character is Sasuke Sarutobi, a world weary spy who is a member of the neutral (but thought to be pro-Toyotomi) Sanada clan. Throughout the course of the film, there are multiple double crosses and plot twists - very few of which are predictable. However, the film really shines in its cinematography and music/sounds. The entire film takes on a noir feel - dark colors, long shots with the character in the distance, etc. I mean look at some of these shots:




      However, many of these scenes are made even more amazing with the sounds. There is often music leading up to a fight scene, but once that scene arrives, there is complete silence. Then, you may hear some wind blowing or a person breathing, and someone will strike. It's a beautiful tension builder, and will make you love the film even more.

      Overall, this is a great film and comes highly recommended. It can get confusing at times due to the political intrigue, but the handy extra of character bios (which you should watch before the film, obviously) makes it much easier to understand. Yes, there are some minor flaws (there are some cheesy jumps, and the ending may disappoint some), but they are few and far between. Anyways, pick up this film, particularly if you enjoy film noir or mysteries.

    • John Mayall/The Bluesbreakers

      in Forums > John Mayall/The Bluesbreakers | Follow this topic


      I'm surprised that there isn't a thread about Mayall and the Bluesbreakers. Easily one of the most important bands in the British Blues movement of the 1960's, and John Mayall is second only to Alexis Korner in terms of importance with the British Blues and blues-rock movements of the '60s.

      However, it is important to note that, in all fairness, Mayall is probably more important as an icon and bandleader rather than a performer. He did write the majority of his own material, which is laudable, but it varied from overly derivative and faceless to great. Undoubtedly, though, his most important contribution to the British Blues movement was how the Bluesbreakers served as a graduating school of sorts for three of the most important British guitarists of all time - Eric Clapton, Peter Green, and Mick Taylor (all in rapid succession, as a matter of fact). Clapton would go on to join the power trio Cream, Green would form Fleetwood Mac (which started off as a tough blues-rock act, not the pop-rock act that so many are familiar with), and Taylor would go on to join the Rolling Stones after the death of Brian Jones.

      However, Mayall did release some great stuff on his own, particularly the albums Blues from Laurel Canyon and The Turning Point. However, you've really got to admire a man who's still going strong after all these years (he's going on 72 now).

      John Mayall Home Page

      8 replies

    • Classic Album Review #1

      13 years ago


      Since I rarely have anything of note to write about, I've decided to start a "classic album reviews" series. Simply put, it's my reviews of albums that are commonly considered classics in their respective genres (and a few managing to transcend their genres). The albums will be rated on a 5 star scale, 5 being the highest and 1 being the lowest. I will probably use the same system for regular album reviews (ie albums that were just recently released).

      For my first classic album review, I will be reviewing Eric Dolphy's Out to Lunch, which is commonly considered his magnum opus.


      Eric Dolphy has always been something of an anomaly in the free and avant-garde jazz world. For one, he seems to be more well known from recordings he played on or other jazz musicians whom he played with rather than his own recordings. Perhaps the most famous recording he played on was Ornette Coleman's legendary 1960 album, Free Jazz (A Collective Improvisation), as part of the double quartet on the album. The other major factor that set him apart was how he played. Whereas other avant-garde and free jazz musicians often took (and played) their music very seriously, Dolphy always had a sense of humor and his music was often exuberant.

      Although Dolphy recorded several amazing albums, such as Out There and Iron Man, his magnum opus is widely considered to be 1964's Out to Lunch. Sadly, it was also one of his last recordings - he died that same year of a sudden diabetic coma at the age of 36.

      The album, which was released on the Blue Note label (with one of Blue Note's best album covers), features a quintet with Dolphy on alto sax, bass clarinet, and flute; Freddie Hubbard on trumpet; Bobby Hutcherson on vibes; Richard Davis on bass; and Anthony Williams on drums. All of the musicians on the record are clearly well-versed in jazz conventions at the time, yet none of them really felt restrained by them. Thus, you have one of the most accessible avant-garde jazz albums ever released.

      The album opens with the Thelonious Monk tribute, "Hat and Beard." It sets the tone for the rest of the album, as many of the songs almost sound like they belong in an old noir or mystery film (which might've been a factor Dolphy put in as a tongue-in-cheek tribute). Make no mistake, however, as many parts of this album sound utterly alien and seem to flirt with insanity (the mad laughter kind of insanity, though).

      The next tune, "Something Sweet, Something Tender," is a hauntingly beautiful tune. Much of the tune's haunting quality can probably be attributed to Davis's playing of his bass, in which he plays about half the song with a bow and the other half plucking the strings. Still, this just further emphasizes the entire alien and eerie quality of the album.

      On the next song, Dolphy shows just how proficient he is on the flute. "Gazzelloni" is perhaps the most eerie and downright bizarre tune on the album, though more from what it suggests than what is actually played. Throughout the song, one cannot help but feel somewhat unsettled by the quintet's playing, particularly Dolphy's airy and graceful flute. Still, it's hard to pinpoint exactly what makes this song so unsettling and eerie.

      Next is the 12-minute title track. It opens with a militaristic drum beat, before it dissolves into controlled madness. It definitely isn't white noise (a misconception that most people have with free and avant-garde jazz), but it is probably the height of the "alien and bizarre" feeling of the album.

      The album closes with the boozy "Straight Up and Down." When listening to it, you can just picture some poor soul on a drinking binge wandering around the city streets late at night. However, this is easily the most playful and humorous tune on the entire album.

      Overall, this is one of the most accessible and downright catchy albums to come out of the avant-garde jazz world. It is also one of the best, and stands as Dolphy's magnum opus.

      RATING: Five Stars

    • James Booker

      13 years ago


      Well, for those of you still wondering who my avatar is (even after Jimmerz gave a blatant extremely subtle clue and EnterDaMatrx actually said it), it is New Orleans pianist James Booker. The name might not ring a bell, as Booker never managed to reach the fame of other New Orleans players like Dr. John or Professor Longhair, but he was just as talented and influential.

      Booker is what many would consider a member of the "piano professors" of New Orleans, like Jelly Roll Morton or Professor Longhair - pianists who lived their lives just as flamboyantly as they played the keyboards. Booker, however, might have been the most flamboyant among them, often performing with a cape and eye patch. Oddly (and sadly) enough, for a talent and influence of Booker's level, he was extremely underrecorded, only releasing four albums in his relatively short life (and the odd single here or there in the 1950s and '60s - including his only "hit," the organ instrumental "Gonzo").

      Sadly, Booker struggled with drugs and alcohol for most of his life. Although he cut three of his four albums in the late-'70s (Junco Partner and King of the New Orleans Keyboard in 1977 and New Orleans Piano Wizard: Live! in 1978), by the very end of the decade, his performing became increasingly erratic. If you caught him on an "on" night, you'd still be blown away by his magnificent piano playing, but those "on" nights were becoming less and less frequent as the months went on. He became more likely to just walk off the stage halfway through a show or just outright refuse to play. He cut his last album, Classified, in 1982 (many have claimed it's his best, though some say he sounds like he was clearly on the way out) and tried to live a normal life, taking a job as a clerk with city hall in 1983.

      Despite his failing liver, he took up drinking again and lost his job. He did have a few gigs with the Maple Leaf Bar, but he rarely bothered to show up for them. His very last performance there was on October 31, 1983, with only five patrons in attendance (for those of you who visit the ROIO/VOIO torrent site, DimeADozen, I believe there is a DVD of his last performance up for download). He didn't show up for the November 7 gig, and died on November 8 from heart failure after taking low grade cocaine. He was only 43 years old at the time.

      Anyways, I suggest you guys get some of Booker's music. He was just as likely to play Chopin as he was Leadbelly, so be prepared for some eclectic albums.

    • Memphis

      13 years ago


      I got back from my weekend trip to Memphis last night. We went there for the Voodoo Music Festival, which was originally going to be held in New Orleans, but alas, Katrina hit. However, it was eventually decided that two separate concerts be held - one in New Orleans and the other in Memphis - to help raise money for the reconstruction of New Orleans. Since most of the headliners were there later (Nine Inch Nails, Cake, The New York Dolls, etc.) we unfortunately didn't get to see them. However, we did see some other kickass acts - Samurai Deli (an unsigned ska band, got their debut EP for $4 - it was actually on an Office Depot CDR. That's what I call the true indie spirit, people), Mindless Self Indulgence, The Secret Machines, and a few others. Unfortunately, the Giraffes (introduced to me by Jimmerz) were also playing, but I didn't realize it until their set was over (there were two big stages, and one small one outside the minor league ball park where the festival was being held...the Giraffes were on the small stage).

      Of course, there's the Memphis history - namely the Sun and Stax record labels. Sun Records, although usually identified with early rock/rockabilly/country acts like Carl Perkins, Johnny Cash, Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis, etc., also recorded some bluesmen as well (not to mention the soul singer and "funkiest man alive", Rufus Thomas; who unfortunately passed away a few years ago). Perhaps most importantly, Howlin' Wolf and B.B. King. In fact, Sam Phillips said that his all-time favorite artist that he recorded was Howlin' Wolf.

      The Stax museum was amazing as well. As Stax is my favorite R&B/Soul label, I was obviously enthralled by the info that the museum had on the roots of soul, early soul acts (Ray Charles, James Brown, Sam Cooke, Jackie Wilson, etc.), and the subsequent soul explosion and eventual downfall of the label. Plenty of media, instruments, etc. were on display as well.

      Overall, it was a great musical vacation and definitely a place I'd like to visit again.

    • Radio

      13 years ago


      Well, radio starts tomorrow for me. Shows this year are only 25 minutes, though, and I am doing my show with a friend. However, the shows are relatively free reign, and really the only expressly forbidden things (in both talk and the songs) are swears. However, my school favored the internet radio format, so you can listen to Stagg's radio here, though the school/district website has gone through some rearranging, so online broadcast may not be possible just yet. However, my planned playlist for the first day is:

      "Lonely Woman" - Ornette Coleman/"Giant Steps" - John Coltrane (haven't decided)
      "Hard Time Killin' Floor Blues" - Skip James
      "10 A.M. Automatic" - The Black Keys
      "There Is Work" - The M's

      It isn't much, but it's a start. Hopefully during the next show (my shows are Tuesdays at 3:15 PM) I can get some R&B/Soul and hip-hop played, though it does kind of suck that I can't play great tracks like "Evil of Self" by One Be Lo or "Definition" by Black Star just because they have a few swears in them. I may end up playing "Essaywhuman?!!!??!" by The Roots simply because it's more of a jam track, and it shows what talented musicians The Roots are.


      Well, I think it was a mediocre first effort. But then again, neither of us had any radio experience before. After the first song ("10 A.M. Automatic") we loosened up a bit. I sadly probably won't be playing any more jazz, as even the relatively brief "Lonely Woman" made both of us somewhat antsy. So, hopefully our next show will be more loose and entertaining. Otherwise, I feel that this first show was a mediocre effort which seemed too forced and boring.

    • Some Sad News For The Music World

      14 years ago


      In the course of the past two months, we've lost three music legends. Little Milton passed away August 4, R.L. Burnside passed away September 1, and Clarence "Gatemouth" Brown passed away September 10.

      Milton and Burnside were giants in the blues world, and Brown spent much of his life fighting purism by playing a combination of blues, country, R&B, jazz, and cajun music. However, Brown left an enormous impact on the Texas blues world, and countless Texas blues musicians were influenced by his guitar playing style.

      I think the blues world is in serious jeopardy - it has lost three heavyweights in only two months, and with B.B. King's health fading, the future is pretty uncertain.

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