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Archive for the ‘Duke Ellington’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: AIMEE MANN-Bachelor No. 2 or, the Last Remains of the Dodo (2000).

Aimee Mann writes really pretty (often sad) songs.  From seeing her play live (in person and on video), she is very upright when she plays.  And I feel like this uprightness comes forth in her music.  She is very serious–not that she isn’t funny, because she can be–but that she is serious about songcraft.  Her songs, even when they are catchy, are very proper songs.  I don’t know if that makes sense exactly.

It also means to me that most of her music sounds similar.  She has a style of songwriting and she is very good at it.  For me, it means that a full album can start to sound the same, but a few songs are fantastic.

“How Am I Different” opens up with a super catchy melody and a guitar hook that repeats throughout.  “Nothing is Good Enough” is a bit slower and less bouncy.  But “Red Vines” brings that bounce back with a super catchy chorus (and backing vocalists to punch it up).  The piano coda is a nice touch.

“The Fall of the World’s Own Optimist” starts slow but adds a cool guitar riff as the bridge leads to a catchy, full chorus.  “Satellite” slows things down as if to cleanse the palette for “Deathly.”

Now that I’ve met you
Would you object to
Never seeing each other again

The chorus is low key but the verses have a great melody.  It stretches out to nearly six minutes, growing bigger as it goes with a soaring guitar solo and better and better rhymes.

“Ghost World” has some wonderful soaring choruses while “Calling It Quits” changes the tone of the album a bit with a slightly more jazzy feel.  It also adds a bunch of sounds that are unexpected from Mann–horns, snapping drums and in the middle of the song, the sound of a record slowing down before the song resumes again.  It’s probably the most fun song on the record–unexpected for a song with this title.

“Driving Sideways” seems like it will be a slower downer of a song but once again, she pulls out a super catchy intro to the chorus (with harmonies) as the rest of the chorus trails on in Mann’s solo voice as we hang on every word.  It ends with a tidy, pretty guitar solo.

“Just Like Anyone” is a quiet guitar song, just over a minute long.  It’s a surprisingly complete song and shows that not only can she pack a lot into less than 90 seconds, she should do it more often.

“Susan” is a surprisingly boppy little number that bounces along nicely on the two-syllable rhythm of the title character.  “It Takes All Kinds” slows things down with piano and gentle guitars and “You Do” ends the album with Mann showing off a bit of her falsetto.

This is in no way a party album, it’s more of a quiet autumn day album.  And it’s quite lovely.  Thanks, Nick, for reminding me of it.

[READ: May 20, 2019] “It’s a Mann’s World”

Nick Hornby wrote High Fidelity and became something of a musical expert because of it.  As such, he wrote a half a dozen or so musical review sections for the New Yorker.

This was his first and, as one might guess from the title, it is about Aimee Mann.

He begins by talking about the British magazine Mojo and how every month they ask a musician what he or she is listening to.  He says that many musicians of a Certain Age seem to have abandoned rock and roll and are listening more to jazz or classical.  They are doing this “for reasons I can only guess as: Prokofiev! Ellington! Take that Hanson and Wu-Tang Clans fans! ”

These performers seem to suggest that pop music is dead.  Much in the way that people say fiction is dead.  Meanwhile good, talented musicians continue to make albums that people continue to listen to and good talented authors continue to write novels that people continue to read. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: JINGLE BELL SWING (1999).

I grew up listening to swing music so I love all the greats–Duke, Benny, Glenn.  Anyone else.  This collection fits right in that comfort zone, although they liberally sprinkle the disc with some more beat than swing pieces, which is pretty amusing, too.

Duke Ellington And His Orchestra-“Jingle Bells”
A fun instrumental swing version of the classic song.

Herbie Hancock, Chick Corea-“Deck The Halls”
Obviously, Herbie and Chick were not around during the swing era.  But this song does in fact swing.  It’s a fast zippy number with some decidedly 1970s era horn blasts and percussion.  The song is nearly 5 minutes, which is long for  Christmas song, but it’s good jazzy fun.

Tony Bennett-“Winter Wonderland”
Tony Bennett is not one of my favorites, but this is a decent version.  Even if it’s not really swing.

Duke Ellington-“Sugar Rum Cherry (Dance of the Sugar-Plum Fairy)”
The Duke Ellington Nutcracker Suite is awesome.  This is one section in which he make a cool, jazzy version out of the Sugar Plum Fairy’s Dance.  I love this so much.

The Glenn Miller Orchestra, Tex Beneke-“Snowfall”
A pretty, slow instrumentalist that invokes snowfall for sure.

Benny Goodman And His Orchestra-“Winter Weather”
Peggy Lee sings the female vocals and Art Lund sings the male vocals and every one dances to Benny’s clarinet.

Louis Prima-“What Will Santa Say (When He Finds Everyone Swinging?)”
Louis Prima is always a hoot, and this song is no exception.  Everyone is swinging when Santa comes to his house.

Pony Poindexter-“Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer”
I’ve never heard of Pony Poindexter before.  This version is quite dissonant.  The orchestra hits are loud and sharp and the two horns playing together don’t always meld.  But the middle section is jazzy fun.

Russell Malone-“O Christmas Tree”
This is a pretty standard jazzy version–sounds a lot like the one in A Charlie Brown Christmas.  Delightful.

Lambert, Hendricks & Ross-“Deck Us All With Boston Charlie”
The first part is a hilarious rewording of Deck the Halls, and the second part is just an insane couple of minutes of scatting.

Deck us all with Boston Charlie,
Walla walla, Wash., an’ Kalamazoo!
Nora’s freezin’ on the trolley,
Swaller dollar cauliflower alley’garoo!
Don’t we know archaic barrel,
Lullaby lilla boy, Louisville Lou?
Trolley Molly don’t love Harold,
Boola boola Pensacoola hullabaloo!

Bark us all bow-wows of folly,
Polly welly cracker n’ too-da-loo!
Donkey Bonny brays a carol,
Antelope Cantaloup, ‘lope with you!

Hunky Dory’s pop is lolly gaggin’ on the wagon,
Willy, folly go through!
Chollie’s collie barks at Barrow,
Harum scarum five alarum bung-a-loo!

Duck us all in bowls of barley,
Ninky dinky dink an’ polly voo!
Chilly Filly’s name is Chollie,
Chollie Filly’s jolly chilly view halloo!

Bark us all bow-wows of folly,
Double-bubble, toyland trouble! Woof, Woof, Woof!
Tizzy seas on melon collie!
Dibble-dabble, scribble-scrabble! Goof, Goof, Goof!

Miles Davis “Blue Xmas (To Whom It May Concern)”
This might be the most anti-commercial Christmas song in the history of music.  In addition to Miles’ gorgeous horns, you get a scathing attack on commercialism by Bob Dorough, who you will know from Schoolhouse Rock.  His beat-style delivery of these words is brutal.

Merry Christmas
I hope you have a white one, but for me it’s blue

Blue Christmas, that’s the way you see it when you’re feeling blue
Blue Xmas, when you’re blue at Christmastime
You see right through,
All the waste, all the sham, all the haste
And plain old bad taste

Sidewalk Santy Clauses are much, much, much too thin
They’re wearing fancy rented costumes, false beards, and big fat phony grins
And nearly everybody’s standing round holding out their empty hand or tin cup
Gimme gimme gimme gimme, gimme gimme gimme
Fill my stocking up
All the way up
It’s a time when the greedy give a dime to the needy

Blue Christmas, all the paper, tinsel and the fal-de-ral
Blue Xmas, people trading gifts that matter not at all
What I call
Fal-de-ral
Bitter gall . . . Fal-de-ral.

Lots of hungry, homeless children in your own backyards
While you’re very, very busy addressing
Twenty zillion Christmas cards
Now, Yuletide is the season to receive and oh, to give and ahh, to share
But all you December do-gooders rush around and rant and rave and loudly blare
Merry Christmas
I hope yours is a bright one, but for me it’s blue…

Louis Prima-“Shake Hands With Santa Claus”
More fun from Prima.  He even alludes to bananas (Yes We Have No Bananas) in the zippy lyrics.

Art Carney-“‘Twas The Night Before Christmas”
Art Carney in his mid 30’s reads a beat-style delivery of the titular song set to a simple hi-hat rhythm.  It is so much fun.

Carmen McRae-“The Christmas Song (Chestnuts Roasting On An Open Fire)”
This is a slow, rather long version of this song set mostly to a bass and twinkling vibes.

[READ: December 12, 2018] “A Clean Break”

Once again, I have ordered The Short Story Advent Calendar.  This is my third time reading the Calendar (thanks S.).  I never knew about the first one until it was long out of print (sigh).  Here’s what they say this year

Fourth time’s the charm.

After a restful spring, rowdy summer, and pretty reasonable fall, we are officially back at it again with another deluxe box set of 24 individually bound short stories to get you into the yuletide spirit.

The fourth annual Short Story Advent Calendar might be our most ambitious yet, with a range of stories hailing from eight different countries and three different originating languages (don’t worry, we got the English versions). This year’s edition features a special diecut lid and textured case. We also set a new personal best for material that has never before appeared in print.

Want a copy?  Order one here.

Like last year I’m pairing each story with a holiday disc from our personal collection.

Is this “The most Jewish story ever written for an advent calendar?”

Possibly.

It also has footnotes! (more…)

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july 28SOUNDTRACKJazz Lives At Duke Ellington’s Resting Place (Field Recordings July 2, 2015).

Playing jazz at a cemetery during the day seems like an odd decision.  But it’s all part of the one-day Make Music New York festival (MMNY) which celebrates music and community.  It happens every June 21 with more than 1200 outdoor concerts across the five boroughs running from morning till night.

For the 2015 edition, the festival’s organizers invited musicians to six different burial grounds across the city to riff on the idea of “exquisite corpse,” a surrealist parlor game popularized by artists and poets in the 1920s. In the game, someone writes a phrase (or draws part of a figure or scene), folds that part of the page over, and then passes it to the next player, who then does the same. The game ends when everyone has had a turn. That game is a natural bridge to the art of improvisation, and to jazz.

Woodlawn Cemetery is a mecca for the jazz world — it’s the final resting ground of royalty like Duke Ellington, Miles Davis and many others, including Ornette Coleman now as well. So as a tribute to their musical forerunners, the group — singers Michael Mwenso and Vuyo Sotashe, trumpeters Alphonso Horne and Bruce Harris, saxophonist Tivon Pennicott, pianist Chris Pattishall, bassist Russell Hall, drummer Evan Sherman and tap dancer Michela Marino Lerman — took as their point of departure W.C. Handy’s 1914 tune “St. Louis Blues,” a tune essential to jazz’s DNA. But they made it their own via surprising and turns that saunter through many textures, colors and rhythms.

The song begins with vocals from “St. Louise Blues” from Vuyo Sotashe and accordion from Chris Pattishall.  After a verse, Michael Mwenso (whose voice sounds very different) takes over.  The accordion drops out and it’s just voice and bass.

They pass the baton along to the horns, two trumpets, one with a mute in, the other using the mute  and a saxophone play a lively instrumental break.  This is followed by the percussion.  Evan Sherman and Michaela Marino have a percussive call and response.  I could have watched that part for a lot longer.

When that’s over the whole group joins together to end the song.

[READ: September 10, 2018] “Audition”

The first line of this story reads, “The first time I smoked crack cocaine was the spring I worked construction for my father on his new subdivision in Moonlight Heights.”

A first implies a second (especially with crack).

The story is about a 19-year-old college dropout. He went to school to study theater but “unmatriculated” and has been working for his father’s construction firm.  His father came from nothing and build up this firm which is presently creating a development.  His father is not too happy about him wanting to be an actor and as such is paying him the same as everyone else (which isn’t much).

He still acts–in community theater, but usually to 15 people at a time.

No one knew that he was the owners son and he liked it that way–he was using this time to study the laborers to learns their mannerisms–he was acting in his job, too,   New workers came through all the time (the pay was lousy after all).

The crack came from a coworker Duncan Dioguardi who was not acting.  He was a laborer living in his mother’s basement and longing to party.

The narrator knew “party” meant get high. When Duncan’s car died and the narrator drove Duncan home (an hour out of his way), Duncan invited him to party. The narrator was intimidated, then intrigued so he did.  And that was the first time he smoked crack.

He marveled how the lump of crack looked like some drywall that could easily be swept away.  Duncan showed him how to smoke it.  It tasted like nothing.  It smelled like nothing.  It was ant climatic except for his new-found fondness for Duncan whom he now considers a good friend.

That following spring he received a call from his old acting teacher to audition for a role  It was a stage show. The character would be on stage for all three acts but would not speak a word.  The narrator didn’t know if this was a step forward or backward.  The audition went well and he was sure he would get the gig.

Duncan’s car broke down again and the narrator told him all about the potential role.  But the narrator was more excited about the option of partying some more.

The story ends soon after this, which is a little disappointing as it is told from many years later and we never learn how he turned out.  But i did like the details of the past like “wiring th ehouse for internet, whatever that was.”

For ease of searching, I include: Said Sayrafiezadeh

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SOUNDTRACK: CHRISTMAS REMIXED: Holiday Classics Re-Grooved (2003).

This has been one of my favorite Christmas albums for many years now.  Most of the songs remain faithful to the original with just an upbeat drum track underneath the vocals.  I’m sure some parts are sped up and some parts are looped over and over.  But it’s all in good fun and really gets these songs moving, tastefully.

Andy Williams – “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year” (A Shrift Remix)
We liked this song so much we used it for a home video one year.  The horns are terrific and Andy Williams is pretty awesome in general.

Bing Crosby – ” Happy Holiday” (Beef Wellington Remix).
This song adds a big old fun dancey drum beat and loops the orchestration.

Dean Martin – “Jingle Bells” (Dan the Automator Remix)
There’s some fun scratching on this and Dan manipulates Dean’s voice here and there.

Kay Starr – “I’ve Got My Love To Keep Me Warm” (Stuhr Remix)
A big fun bass line is looped and a horn melody is tacked on. I think her voice is sped up a tad, but it’s not too noticeable.

The Cathedral Brass – “Joy to the World” (Mocean Worker Remix)
This track adds some drums and some synths to a jolly instrumental.

Johnny Mercer – “Winter Wonderland” (Rise Ashen’s Brazilian Beach Mix)
Lots of drums and percussion added to this.

Charles Brown – “Merry Christmas Baby” (MNO Remix)
They have stripped out a lot of the music in this and made it kind of slow.  The original is my least favorite Christmas song and the is my least favorite track here.

Berlin Symphony Orchestra – “Nutcracker Suite” (Baz Kuts Breaks Mix)
But this is one of my favorites. I love the Nutcracker and this is just a an awesome way to add some other kinds of dance to it.

Louis Armstrong & Velma Middleton – “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” (Mulato Beat Remix)
Both performers had a blast with this original song.  And Mulato Beat don’t do all that much to it–mostly playing around with Louis’ performance–leaving in all of the laughs that were in the original and just making it a bit more dancey.

Duke Ellington – “Jingle Bells” (Robbie Hardkiss Remix)
I love the way this one loops a small part of the horn melody as a hook and then uses all of the tubular bells to push the song along.

Bing Crosby – “The First Noel” (Attaboy House Party Mix)
This opens with Bing talking over a thumping beat and then the whole choir sings along and it really works.

Mel Tormé – “The Christmas Song” (Michael Kessler Open Fire Mix)
This is slow version by the Velvet Fog.  They echo Tormé’s vocal on sounds seven more foggy.  A mellow ending to a righteous disc.

[READ: December 1, 2017] “The Journal”

Once again, I have ordered The Short Story Advent Calendar.  This year, there are brief interviews with each author posted on the date of their story.

Hello. Welcome. It’s finally here: Short Story Advent Calendar time.

If you’re reading along at home, now’s the time to start cracking those seals, one by one, and discover some truly brilliant writing inside. Then check back here each morning for an exclusive interview with the author of that day’s story.

(Want to join in? It’s not too late. Order your copy here.)

This year I’m pairing each story with a holiday disc from our personal collection

This story was pretty trippy.

On her 12th wedding anniversary, Laurie found her husband’s journal in the nightstand.  She flipped through it without actually reading it. She saw words like dinner, rest, etc, as well as some pictures.  Nothing useful, but she felt bad for snooping.

It had been a long time since she felt close to him.  That night, they went out to dinner and had a polite meal.

The next morning she woke up and every time she looked at words, they seemed to wiggle off the page until the page was blank. (more…)

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CV1_TNY_12_17_12Sorel.inddSOUNDTRACK: JONI MITCHELL-“The River” (2002).

joniMuch like Zadie Smith in the article, I was never much of a Joni Mitchell fan.  We may be one of the only houses in America without a copy of Blue somewhere.  Much of my ignorance about her comes from simply not being exposed to her.  Which also seems absurd and yet it is true.

I know her from covers, which should establish her as a great songwriter, if nothing else.  And by now I know a number of her songs, like this one.  This is kind of a Christmas song (it has the word Christmas in it), although it’s not very Christmassy.  I have a hard time believing that Zadie Smith’s husband never noticed that she is quoting the music from Jingle Bells in the beginning of the song though, as it’s really quite obvious.

It’s a  pretty song, and hey maybe it’s time to see what else is on Blue.

[READ: December 20, 2012] “Some Notes on Attunement”

I love hearing about Zadie Smith’s family–her hip black mother and her dorky white father.  I love that she embraces both sides of her life.  And when she writes about it, she presents it so fully.  So growing up her parents listened to Burning Spear and Chaka Khan and Duke Ellington and James Taylor and Bob Dylan and yet somehow never Joni Mitchell.  And she wonders how they didn’t know or perhaps why they didn’t like her.  [My parents were to old for folk music, so that’s my excuse].

She talks about the first time she heard Joni, at a college party (it was Blue, of course) and frowned at it.  Her friends, both black and white said, “You don’t like Joni?”  But, she explains, “Aged twenty, I listened to Joni Mitchell–a singer whom millions enjoy, who does not, after all, make an especially unusual or esoteric sound–and found he incomprehensible.”

And then at 33 she had another experience–listening to Joni Mitchell in a car with her husband on the way to Wales.  Which is where we hear her saying “And that bit’s just Jingle Bells.”  She says she didn’t expect to get much out of that line “and was surprised to see my husband smile, and pause for a moment to listen intently: “Actually that but is Jingle Bells–I never noticed that before.  It’s a song about winter…makes sense.”  Wait, how could he not hear that before??? (more…)

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