Posts Tagged ‘Jass’

John Coltrane ballads

I have been sick the past few days leaving me with plenty of time to just sit and listen to some of my favorite music.  Finally feeling a little bit better today I thought why not post a groovin’ High.  Its been a while after all.  How about some Coltrane.  Growing up as a young tenor saxophonist I actually despised Coltrane.  I never understood half of what he played, thought his avante garde stuff was absolute gibberish and hated his tone.  I think my anger towards him also stemmed from that fact that there was this kid from North Jersey who was literally a Coltrane clone in sound and style.   Mainly because he spent all of his practice time committing Trane transcriptions to memory.

The little unoriginal copy cat mother fucker used to beat me out for first chair every year at All State Jazz band.  It was always my outlandish solo’s that always blew the audience out of their seats though.   Originality will always bring down a hack.  As a youngster I preferred Sonny Rollins.  I found he had such a bigger tone and brighter perspective.  Coltrane always sounded so sad to me.  Now years later I must say I am equally at awe with both men if not leaning a bit more on the Trane side.

“Say It (Over and Over Again)” is from the John Coltrane Album “Ballads” released on the Impulse label, 1963.  I initially came across it at a thrift shop in New Jersey back in 2004 on vinyl and at the time had an actual turn table to play it on.  On instinct I was not expecting much never being a real fan of any of the ballads Coltrane played let alone an entire album.  As soon as the needle hit the record and I heard that pop I was captivated by the magic that is John Coltrane.  From that day forward I guess one could say I am a Trane fanatic.

This tune is my absolute favorite from the album.  Coltrane’s sound is just so sultry   Add in the fine piano workings of McCoy Tyner and it is absolutely a charm to listen too.  “Ballads” it one of my favorite by him and as a matter of fact I have that same vinyl LP I bought years ago hanging on my bedroom wall.  Occasionally someone recognizes good music and it is refreshing.  More times then not I get “Why is there a black man’s head on your wall”.  Listen and enjoy a master piece.

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My second installment in this Groovin’ High series of people who inspire me to wail on the saxophone is none other then my favorite saxophonist of all time, Kenny Garrett.  Before I go on I want to clarify that in this series I am going to feature artists that are still alive and creating new music today.  The jazz cats who are on the scene right now.  There are plenty of guys from the past who helped shaped me into the player I am and I may run that theme at some point as well.  For this succession I am sticking with the players who are turning heads right now.

Kenny Garrett is in my opinion the best altoist I have ever gotten to hear play the instrument.  I have had the privilege of seeing him multiple times in concert and have never failed to be impressed.  If you have never heard jazz live before and have the opportunity to catch a Kenny Garrett show I implore you to check it out.  Whether a jazz fan or not I believe you will walk out in awe.  I brought this classical flutist I was seeing back when I went to Berklee to hear him play.

She was one of these conservatory snobs over at North Eastern. I met her at some frat party over at Boston University.  We were both fish out of water at the thing so it was only obvious that we gravitated towards one another.  As it turns out she was a nut job eventually stalking me for nearly I year after we had broken up.  She was always down on the musicianship of a jazz group.   After hearing Garrett she never had anything to say again.  I took my Dad to one of his shows as well and he too walked out stunned.  The guy is that good.  What else would you expect from a man who played in both Duke Ellington’s and Miles Davis’ last band.

Lets talk a bit about the tune and the album.  “Lonnie’s Lament” is a tune originally written and performed by John Coltrane on the album Crescent and was in the midst of his more avante gaurde recordings.  The important thing to consider musically about Lonnie’s Lament is the fact that  it is a modal tune that incorporates a complex V’s pattern in the chord progression allowing for more interesting improvisation where as in many modal tunes such as “Foot Prints” or “Equinox” the changes can get rather stagnant for the improviser.

The tune can also open the argument that Modal tunes are suppose to be left simplistic to allow for more freedom in one’s improvisation.  What I can say is Lonnie’s Lament is a tough to tune to blow over, but once you figure it out playing on it becomes addictive and its not uncommon to hear a soloist take an excessive amount of choruses as a result.  I know I am good for at least ten before my band would pull the hook on me.  I think most saxophonists on the whole are refrain hogs.  I once saw Sonny Rollins blow fifties choruses of one of his tunes for his solo, then blew on it again after each of his band members took their solos.  I think they played that song for almost 25 minutes.

Lonnie’s Lament is off his 2006 release Pursuance: The Music of John Coltrane.  At first I was uneasy to purchase a tribute album my reasoning being if I want to hear the music of John Coltrane I will just listen to John Coltrane.  In my quest to listen to every track ever played by Garrett I decided to give the album a shot.  I was blown away.  Guitarist Pat Metheny joins him on this collaboration.  Metheny is another one of these players that influence me and will most likely be featured in his own blog at some point.

The two of them burn on the album but really flow in this tune.  Their duel at the end of the song is so fucking hot.  I could go on and on but instead all I am going to say is listen to it…

Then if your enticed please listen to this solo of his from his days with Miles.  This tune is “Human Nature”, Miles’ cover of the Micheal Jackson hit.  It’s a live recording and it really shows how explosive Kenny Garrett really is live.  The solo starts at 3:16 and runs till the end of the track.  I recommend listening to the solo in its entirety.  He locks in so tight with the band towards the end it will have you in an uproar.

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Then man Killing it…

Now that I am writing again, I know its pretty amazing isn’t it?  I don’t really know what gave me the sudden angst to get the mind working again, but I’m back baby!  There are only another six weeks left in the Summer of Alf.  At the moment I have not decided if it was total flop or semi-success story.  I guess we will all just have to wait another six weeks to find out.  For the remainder of the Summer of Alf I have decided that every week I will post a Groovin’ High of what I really consider great music and more then that great music played, written and performed by masterful musicians.

These are the people that inspire me to play the saxophone on a higher level and constantly allow the bar to continue to be raised.  I feel on the whole most of what I post here in Groovin’ High are decent songs by decent artist.  Usually I pick a song by how it pertains to my life at that moment.  For me music has always been more of a stream of consciousness then just something to fill space or a vehicle for dance.  The next six weeks I will spot light six tunes by six artists that have helped shape me into the person and artist I have become.  If this is not your particular genre listen anyway and keep an open mind.  When “Call Me Maybe” is top on the American music charts I think it is time to give a comparison on what skilled artists are doing.

The first song in this installment is “Of Things to Come” by Stefon Harris and it appears on his Black Action Hero album.  He released it in 1999 and it found its way into my hands in 2000.  I have always been a huge fan of the vibraphone enjoying the likes of Milt Jackson and Roy Ayers.  I came across a very interesting write up in a Jazz magazine about this young vibes player who was combining contemporary jazz, R&B, Soul,Hip Hop and Jungle beats to create a very distinctive sound.  The description alone was enough to get my purchase.  I love the jungle work done by Dizzy Gillespie back in the 60’s.

“Of Things to Come” was the first song to really catch my attention on the album.  I was already blown away by the playing, but had yet to hear anything that really grabbed me.  Then this track came on and I was mesmerized.  I think I played this one on loop for nearly a month after hearing it.  I own another five albums, four solo and one collaboration by Stefon and I must say I am truly impressed.  I would have to put him as my favorite vibraphonist and in my top ten favorite Jazz Musicians.

The band on this are no slouches either.  Every player is masterful.  Greg Osby is playing Alto Saxophone and he also is at the moment one of the hottest jazz altoist on the market.  Listen to the infliction of his solo on this track.  The guy fucking burns.  On trombone you have one of my former jazz mentors, Steve Turre, who in his own right may be the best living Latin jazz trombonist at the moment.  I have had the opportunity to perform with Mr. Turre a few times in my life and if you think he blows on the trombone you need to hear what he can do with a conch shell.   As for the rest of the group they kill it too although I am unfamiliar with any of those cats.

I could go on and on about this tune but I would rather have you just listen to it.  Enjoy and please let me know your thoughts on the song, the playing, the style, or even the new direction of Groonin’ High in the comments.  I am always stoked for feedback.

Now Listen to this and tell me there is not a big difference in musicality.  If you can’t understand the difference please stop reading my blog.

“Before you came into my life I missed you so bad…So Call Me Maybe”  Now if that is not great American song writing I don’t know what is.  Rodgers and Hart, Gershwin, you guys have nothing on this tune! FTW…

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This song found its way onto my ipod shuffle after I got out of the grocery store on my way home for work this evening.  What did I buy you ask?  A shopping card full of booze.  That’s right, I looked like Nicholas Cage in Leaving Las Vegas.  Ok maybe not quite that bad.  On line everyone else had actual food meanwhile I had six bottles of wine and a handle of Bacardi Select.  I know its a step up for me.  Truth of the matter is they were out of Bacardi Gold and Select was the same price.  As long as there is a handle of some type of Bacardi in the freezer here at the Palace Lisanti Land will run smoothly.

Enough about my drinking problem and back to this week’s Groovin’ High entry (this weeks, ha what a fucking joke, its more like this months.  Its been so long since we had a Groovin’ High entry I cant even remember.  Or maybe that is a result of all the brain cells killed by the alcohol. You can be the judge.  All I will say in my defense is that some of the greatest men were drunks.)  Uptown Groovin’ by Soundscape UK from their album Uptown Groove.   I first was turned on to this band back in high school when their single Brand New Day was on the radio.  I think I was a sophomore meaning we are talking back in 1996.  A few years later they dropped this album.  It was never promoted on the radio. I actually found out about it from the internet and purchased the album on the blind faith that it would be as good as the last one I got from them Surreal Thing.

This was the first song on the CD and it captivated me.  Funny story I got the CD in the mail two days after this big blizzard we got hit with in NJ back in ’03, I think.  I was up on the roof of my house shoveling snow off the flat roof of the solarium. We received about  four feet of snow and the weight of the melt could have caved in the roof.   I was sent up to take care of the situation.  The whole time the thinking the weight of the melting snow and my own might just send me through the roof with it.

I had just got the CD that morning and decided to throw it in my boom box (that’s right back then they were still called Boom Boxes, heck I currently play my ipod through a circa 1980’s clock radio.  The shit sounds better then any speakers I have owned.) and play it from the window while I shoveled.  Uptown Groovin‘ was the first song on the album.  It’s a great tune and ever since that first listen I have been captivated by it every time I hear it.

Fast forward to March of that same year, 2003.  Sindia and I decided to go on a tour of California with our friend Alex who claimed he knew all the good surf spots.  As it turned out he was a kook and did not know the first thing about anything.  Living in California I know exactly the type of “surfer” category he fits into.  Back then I just figured anyone from California who surfed must be the shit.  The only good thing (or bad depending on the day, my mood and out look) that came of the whole fiasco, where by the way Continental bumped my boards to a later flight delaying me in San Francisco Air Port.  The Port Authority almost arrested me for taking out my frustration on a baggage carousel, but that is a blog for another day.   Let me just say this there was a time when I was not as mellow as I am now.

The only good thing that came out of the trip was that I was introduced to Santa Barbara, Jason Feist of J7 Surfboards and began my infatuation and subsequent love affair with Rincon.  Now almost ten years later I live here almost directly as a result of that trip.  We drove into Santa Barbara from Monterey.  I was sleeping in the back of this beat up van Alex’s friend Brian owned when this song came onto my ipod.  We ended up checking what I believe was Naples although my knowledge of the area at the time was less then novice.  Long story short we ended up surfing twelve foot Devereux with Jesse Merle Jones and to this day is still the biggest Devereux I have ever surfed.  Then again I also never surf there.

Face it these days I only really surf Rincon.  Sorry I am a snob like that.  Whenever I hear this song I am always brought back to both those moments.  The song still amps me up.  I guess that is what makes a great song.  That is the amazing thing about music in general.  It can stir up some of the most amazing emotions in the human soul.  Below is the tune you have spent all this time reading about.  I hope you enjoy it.

Me circa winter '03, look at that baby face. Oh wait I forgot I have not really aged all that much in the last 8 years.


That Faithful Day at Devereux

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