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Posts Tagged ‘Jazz’

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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There was a time when Jazz became watered down and very generic in the late 80’s and early 90’s.  This music was aptly labeled Smooth Jazz and sold to the masses.  The music found its way into elevators, doctors offices, The Weather Channel and in the homes of every white middle aged middle class American.  Kenny G was the most notable and the man everyone thinks of when the topic of smooth jazz comes up.

In the midst of this watered down garbage there were still plenty of solid cats who straight up shredded on their instruments within this format.  Art Porter was one of these men. The cat burned on both the alto and soprano saxophones.  Unfortunately due to an untimely death courtesy of a boating accent he was taken from us way before his peak as a player.  I only discovered his music in 1998 when the album “For Art’s Sake” was released, a posthumous compilation of some of his unreleased tracks and live performances.

My mind was blown by his ability on the Saxophone and my heart saddened that I would never get the opportunity to see him play live.  Like me Porter also spent time at Berklee College of Music in Boston.   Most jazz guys are always the first to discredit smooth jazz saying that it is a travesty to the art form.  Then I will always reference people such as Porter or Grover Washington Jr, David Sandborn, etc. who managed to still play to the best of their ability in the format.

Whenever I have a live performance or am going into the studio to blow over something more contemporary, but leaves me room to get on the wild side I always listen to a bit of Porter for inspiration.  The song I really wanted to share with you guys was a tune called “Lay Your Hands On Me” an 11 minute live version from the North Sea Jazz Festival in 1996.  I would say his playing on that tune in that performance is nothing short of all time.  I was unable to find an embed-able version.  I settled for this version of “Straight to the Point from the same concert and also a very cool Art Porter song.

In this performance he utilizes sheets of sound a jazz technique originally used by pianists and guitarists where multiple layers of notes are played simultaneously to give a sense of a wall of sound and creating the illusion that more then one instrument is being played at one time.  The technique was later popularized on the sax by John Coltrane on his rendition of “My Favorite Things”.  It is a skill I managed to pick up in high school and pissed off many of the traditionalist jazz guy because of it.  Porter also plays two horns at once towards the end of the tune as well.  I hope you enjoyed it.

I though I would leave you with one more, my favorite Art Porter tune, “Inside Myself”.  It is a very commercial version but you can still here how bad ass a player he is.

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Shredding

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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Alright…I’m gonna write this..from a..stream of …….musical consciousness.
My beat..be.in..4/4 time..
Quarter note gets….65…..
Use this tune as your set…cause that is what I am talking in time toooo…ooooo
Oh yeah. Oh yeah
Im-a-talkin’ ’bout that…soooouulllll…..Muuuuussaaaaak…

Who better to put the soul on the track then D’Angelo?  Yeah that’s right not that many.  What am I rambling about?  I am talking about that soulful, easy groovin’ baby making music, that black music.  Yeah I know its been a while since I have written.  My only defense is that I have been bogged down in the out of control, door swinging in the wind life style all of you my readers have come to love.  I don’t even know where to start and I think that has been why I have not been able to get any constructive words on paper.  At the moment I still don’t have words for all that has happened in my life over the previous few weeks.  In the mean time while I compose myself and gather my thoughts and “mouth words” (two extra UCB points if you post in the comments where and what I am referencing in quotations.) you can enjoy this entry of Groovin’ High.

My new couch guy (yes that’s right after being vacant for over two months there is finally an intrepid soul up for the task of being completely Lisantified.  How many words have I made up here on SurfingRuinedMyLife.net with my name somewhere in them? Talk about great moments in narcissism), Sean and I were discussing last night how the majority of America has no soul both musically and symbolically.  America is slowly diluting human ingenuity, integrity and individuality.   If the government had it their way they would start mass producing man like the Mustang and Costco, but that is a master piece blog for another day when I am at my most anarchistic.

What does this have to do with Music or D’Angelo?  Everything.  Americans on a whole have no appreciation for really good, creative and authentic music.  All the people want to hear is generic bullshit that has been re-recorded, re-produced, re-mixed, re-masterd, re-cycled and spit out the back end so they can shake their ass on the dance floor to the same song all night long.  Face it right now the majority of new music being made en mass no matter the genre is complete watered down, inaudible shit.  That is why the DJ’s turn the base real high and load it up with sound effects to make you forget how bad the song your listening to really fucking sucks.  Then people wonder why I cant bring myself to do anything with music anymore. What’s the fucking point?

I was first turned on to D’Angelo while playing with the Proximity Theatre Group this past summer by the music director and in my opinion one of the more brilliant cutting edge composers I have had to pleasure of working with, Ken Urbina.  He had this pre and post show music mix that always opened with “Lady” another great one by this fat cat, D’Angelo.  I used to jam out to it back stage on my soprano sax before each show.  Since then I have picked up a myriad of tracks from him and still jam out on all three of my horns to them.  If I was born black I totally could have been blowing back up for all these guys, but alas I am just a white boy trying too hard as usual.

“Me and Those Dreamin’ Eyes”  is just such a passion filled tune.  That was the whole point of my ramblings earlier in this piece was how too many in this world around me lack passion.  “Whatever” although the one word phrase that should most likely go down as the tag line for my generation is a terrible state of being.  This is the kind music you get down with that special lady in your life to.  Slow dancing round the living room after a hard day at work, bumping and grinding.  Slowly caressing each other as clothing begins to be shed.  I hope you have experienced the passionate love making I am describing  at least once in your life.

When I had a girl friend there was nothing I loved more then sweeping her off her feet in a soulful dance unexpectedly out of nowhere.  Its a bit easier for me since I always have music playing in my house and 1 out 3 songs on my ipod is a soulful, baby making kind of song.  These days I just cross step and shuffle around my apartment by myself on occasion forcing poor Alfie to indulge in a dance on his hind legs with me.  It is after all “The Summer of Alf“.

I want to for a moment refer to the video for this tune as well.  Take a look just for a moment at the scene where this is all going down.  Notice how classy this little juke joint is.  I used to go to places like that to hear music just like this in NYC, NJ and Boston.  Take a good look at the clothing everyone is wearing.  Yeah that’s right they are all dressed fly as fuck.  I don’t see any flannel in this crowd, do you?   I love that the bassist is playing an upright.  When ever I show up to see a group I never heard play and I see an upright bass I know I am in for a solid show.  If I ever get shit going like I want this is the kind of place I want to open up.  I probably wont stay in business too long if I do it in Santa Barbara.

D’Angelo fucking shredding.

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Well on day one Lisanti went into the Wild.  On day 3 Chris Lisanti got fucking wild at the Wild Cat.  Its only fitting that I started Day there at the Kitty.  Last night, gay night was especially gay.  I am pretty sure with the exception of my friends Mark, Adrienne (not my ex-Adrienne) and maybe a handful of other people everyone was playing for the other team.   At first I was taking things in strides. I was a little bummed about how the weekend played out getting blown off by that chick I mentioned in both the surflog and yesterday’s blog “Busy Bee, Spring Break Day 2“.

I was determined not to let the instance turn me to depression drinking.  Then boredom kicked in and around 1am with no real prospects cruising around the club Wild Cat Adrienne said “Get a shot with me”.  I am on spring break after all and have not really gotten hammered in a long time.  I’m lying I got hammered on Friday night with this UCSB graduate school chick I met.  I thought I might be able to pull her, but then she was kidnapped by her friends in the last minutes of last call and taken home to Goleta.  Goleta chicks are near impossible to bring home and visa versa.

Its a solid $30-50 cab ride, pain in the ass bus ride or long, long walk (trust me I walked it once) home for both parties.  Rule of thumb downtown: if she wants me to come home with her and it is back to Goleta I pass and when I try to bring them home to the Mesa it is usually the same effect.  Its just too far, thus the best one can hope for is digits and shoot for a follow up date.  I got her number, now I just have to decide if she was worth giving a call.

Man that got off track.  Anyway, Adrienne and I got a round of Fire Ball Shots (whiskey).  Now I don’t drink whiskey because for whatever reason whenever I do it brings out the worst drunk I can possibly be.  I get angry, emotional,  and crazy in a scary way.  Everyone who parties knows there is no such thing as doing one round of shots no matter how drunk you are.  They are addictive.  There is something about the bartender pouring your choice of poison into those little glasses and the looks on your face and those around you.  Everyone knows that you are on a one way ticket to being out of your mind.

Yeah, one round led to three, the last one taken at last call.  That my friends is the last thing I remember.  What happened after that is beyond my reasoning.  I went to black out town, population me.   This time there was no Kooky to help me put the pieces together.  Somehow I managed to get my jacket from coat check and sign out my tab.  I also managed to walk home, but barely I think.

Fast forward to 9:30am.  I woke up on the floor of my apartment directly adjacent to my front door to a text from Lindsay about if I wanted to surf or not.  I was fully dressed, jacket, shoes and all.  My pants were torn at the knee and the hip and I had a few bruises on my body.  I assume I must have fell down a few times on the walk home, but that is speculation, anything could have happened for that matter.  I checked my outbox/inbox of my phone to see if I sent or was received anything.  Apparently I sent Wild Cat Adrienne a very incoherent angry message, which I apologized for and she was cool with.  That was the only lead I had and she had no recollection of anything after that last shot either.

Whatever, I am still alive.  Since I was up I got changed and decided to go for a surf and it was a good thing I did cause Rincon was breaking.  It was tiny, waist with the occasion chest high set through the Cove, but it was flawless.  I mean oil glass and running down the Cove perfectly.  Some how despite being a bit messed up still I surfed exceptional.  I am talking a top notch backside performance anyone would be proud of.  The crowd was myself and about ten other people.  I was super stoked for the session.

From there I had just enough time to scarf down another bowl of cereal and run to class or nap time as I like to call it.  Unfortunately we had to do group activities in class cutting into my sleepy time.  It was fun and I found out about this cool jazz show that went down tonight of which I have just got back from.  On another note before I get into the show I think this will be the last semester I am going to spend in the Culinary program at Santa Barbara City College.  The program is very unimpressive to me and I just feel that I am wasting my time.

Instead if you remember back to a few blogs ago I mentioned something about how I really wanted to go cook in Italy.  That is exactly what I am going to do.   There are a few different culinary schools out there that offer intensive three month programs where I can earn a master chef certificate in Italian and European Cuisine, a stage 2 sommelier certification and a pastry and baking certificate.  Basically I will do in three months what will take me at my current rate years if ever at City College.  The last five weeks of the program I am required to cook in different restaurants all over Italy.

Who knows maybe I will even meet a nice Italian girl and bring her back with me to America.  There will be more on this in blogs to come as I figure the whole thing out.  It is about time I do something positive for me for a change.  I think a break from both the Wild Cat and Santa Barbara may be good for my health.

Back to the jazz show.  This girl in my group mentioned she was going to a jazz show at Soho, my all time favorite venue to listen to live entertainment at in Santa Barbara.  I took the stage there once myself and all I can say is that it was one of the best sound stages I have ever performed on (check out the blog “About Last Night” for more on that performance).  I asked her about the event and it turns out it was at 7:30 that evening.

I cruised and my buddy was working the door so I got in for free.  Turns out all the cats were local and they burned.   The majority of the cats on stage were so hot they had me hooting and hollering the entire time.   As it turns out they do these “Jazz Jams” as they call them every few weeks at Soho and anyone is invited to play.  The next one is April 2nd and I will guarantee that they will be joined by jazz saxophonist, Chris Lisanti.  I can’t wait to get up and blow with those guys.

I am even more stoked that it is a fairly regular thing.  Hopefully they like my stuff and invite me back to play on other occasions.  I guess I am going to have to do some heavy woodshedding over the next two weeks.  They had another saxophonist with them and he was exceptional, but in a completely different style then I play.  the group was ironically very “West Coast Cool”, where as I am definitely “Harlem Eclectic”.  West Coast Cool is a style of jazz that is more lay back and relaxed such as Wes Mongomery or Bill Evans.  Harlem Eclectic is more in your face hyper active like Sonny Rollins or John Coltrane.

That brings me to right now sitting here on my couch under my leopard blanket putting the finishing touches on this piece while Alfie lounges in felicity on my lap.  Goodnight everyone and stay tuned tomorrow for more Spring Break action.

I am sure I can find a bar just as gnarly as the Shitty Kitty in Italia.

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I think this was an obvious choice for a Groovin’ High entry.   First off if you live under a bigger rock then I do let me inform you that Whitney Houston died at age 48 this past weekend as a result of drug and alcohol abuse.  I must say I was rather saddened by the news.  It is a real tragedy to lose someone with so much talent.  Some asshole tried to tell me that Whitney was never all that good.  The woman had a four octave range and could belt it out with the best of them.  She was a pure Diva.

If you cannot appreciate her ability as a singer then you must be deaf.  As far as her untimely death goes it is a real shame.  I hate to see good people succumb to their problems and then use substance as their escape.  I guess at the moment I am not doing all that much better with such, but I hope to one day be free of the nightmare I live.

When I was studying at Berklee I played a recital with this ensemble put together by a very talented female vocalist.  She was a Whitney fanatic and I believe she did three Whitney songs at the gig.  “Saving All My Love For You” was one of them and it has always been my favorite of her tunes.  It is a terrible song about cheating, but the emotion she sings it with really makes you feel the  true meaning of the song.  I think most of us have been in a position where we were feeling pretty bad cause we loved some one who was not worth it and just taking advantage.  Love is blind after all.  Yet seeing is believing.

We put on a pretty decent rendition of the tune.  I had a cool little intro to it on my sax and a solo mid song.  I later performed an arrangement of the tune on my alto sax while doing some solo work.  Whitney was an amazing vocalist, actress and person who unfortunately decided to take the easy way out instead of dealing with her problems.  She will be missed by all.  I wish her family and friends left behind the biggest of sympathy.  Listen to this live rendition of Whitney Houston performing “Saving All My Love For You” at the 1986 Grammy awards.  Enjoy and remember what she was and not how she left us.

Ah Whitney you will be missed.

I threw this one in just for fun.  They played it at the club Saturday night and everyone just got down in her memory.

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