Friday, February 24, 2017

Friday Night Is Music Night: Musical Balm, by JD

Photograph taken in Barter Books, which is in the old railway station in Alnwick

"All thing shall be well;..... Thou shalt see thyself that all MANNER [of] thing shall be well;" ― Julian of Norwich; Revelations of Divine Love xxxii

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Java Jazz Man: The Genius Of Charles Mingus, by Wiggia

Almost all of the current jazz musicians have been influenced by the past, some more than others. Indeed some despite their own fame could almost be called tribute acts; that would be grossly unfair, yet for those there is a very close relationship with the music that influenced them.

For others that early influence only drove them on down a path of their own, Charlie Mingus was one such artist. Notoriously difficult to work with, he was uncompromising and would berate anyone who did not toe his line and sackings were not unusual or fights - he was sacked by Ellington for fighting .

His Wiki page is worth a read and is comprehensive…..

Very few bassists, even famous ones, break through to become band leaders, composers, writers; in fact it is difficult to think of anyone other than Mingus who achieved that status. Much of his music coming from a hard bop and soul influenced background was ground-breaking, his bigger groups and bands especially so.

And he also, if they could stand the pace, produced some outstanding musicians that played alongside and went on to form their own groups, people like Pepper Adams and Horace Parlan, just two of many.

Mingus must be one of a very small group of musicians who have played with Louis Armstrong , Duke Ellington and Charlie Parker; he could never be accused of being stuck in a groove.

His first major work in his own name came in ‘56 with Pithecanthropus Erectus [aka Java Man - Ed.] that also showcased Jackie Mclean on alto, one of my favorite saxophonists but clearly a Parker disciple, and the talented pianist Mal Waldron. There were elements of free jazz in this album but with Mingus there were elements of almost everything in all his albums and there were a lot of them in the sixties.

For me it was his Mingus Ah Um album that really got me hooked on his music and that was followed by Blues and Roots and many more.

This is a ‘75 Montreux Jazz Festival recording of Goodbye Pork Pie Hat from the Ah Um album and featuring a wonderful solo from Gerry Mulligan and the opener from pianist Don Pullen. The drummer here is Danny Richmond who was with Mingus to the very end, one of the greatest jazz drummers of his era.

And for a complete change of mood, from the same period ‘57 Ysabel’s Table Dance from the Tijuana Moods album.

This from a live ‘64 concert has an amazing piano solo from Jaki Byard and features Eric Dolphy on bass clarinet and if nothing else shows that modern jazz can swing with the best when you have musicians of this calibre.

Hardly needs any introduction, Moanin’ from the ‘59 Blues and Roots album at the time a number that was as Eric Dolphy would say “Far Ahead” made an enormous impression at the time and still does as a jazz standard of the highest quality.

Finally a tribute to the man, a Mingus album: Me Myself and Eye 1978, Mingus composed and wrote the album but was by this time, a year before his death, unable to play, suffering as he was from ALS; but this big band did him proud with this rendition of “Devil Woman” featuring Laryll Coryell on guitar Michael Brecker on tenor sax and Randy Brecker on trumpet; also, there are Pepper Adams on Baritone and Lee Konitz alto.

DEVIL WOMAN CHARLES MINGUS from rascaldani on Vimeo.

Of all the albums of modern jazz I have, Mingus remains along with Roland Kirk at or near the top of most played. His work is lauded as comparable with classical compositions and is used as teaching material in many forms of music, a giant of music whatever the form.

For those interested this film Triumph of the Underdog is worth watching, a Mingus biography.

Charles Mingus Triumph of the Underdog by filmow
Sackerson adds:

A favourite with both Wiggia and JD is "Money Jungle" (1962), where Mingus plays with Max Roach and Duke Ellington:

What is the matter with Hugo Rifkind? Three competitions.

Is Hugo Rifkind seeing things?

Another précis challenge, this time of Hugo Rifkind's latest in the Spectator magazine:

The original is 905 words long. Condense into 200 words or fewer (I think it can be done in half that). You may or may not wish to retain this excerpt, on Rifkind's seeing Trump's beach resort and apartment complex:

"If I said it was like seeing a swastika banner on the Arc de Triomphe, I would of course be exaggerating ridiculously; but I find on reflection that I am totally going to say it anyway."

[Experienced précis-ers will know that "of course" and "totally" are expendable, but once one starts down that road it is hard to know where to stop, with this writer. The function of such phrases is, of course, emotional, an attempt to gain complicity with the befuddled but self-consciously right-thinking reader. "Totally" is a usage a little too old for current cool, though. Should he have tried for a winsomely humorous "totes"?]

Alternatively, you may wish to write an essay on the state of America, as it exists in Hugo's mind, and how you think it is in reality. The Spectator article is dated 18 February, 28 days after Trump's Presidential inauguration, but the magazine is available in shops 2 days earlier and Rifkind's experience dates back to the previous week. Here is his conclusion, after 3 weeks of Trump's occupation of the Oval Office:

"This is the stench of death. This is broken. This is America running out of road."

Extra marks will be rewarded for some consideration of events years or decades earlier than February 20, 2017 that may have influenced the society and economy of the USA.

Finally, you may instead prefer to consider Rifkind's performance against generally accepted standards of journalism - see here for Wiki's briefing:

In your discussion, you may wish to make reference to a rumour that Rifkind failed to fact-check before sending it "viral" on Twitter, that implied incestuous impulses in Trump. The original is now unavailable, but a version of it can be found listed on a Google search:

"Guido" guys it here - - ending:

You may also like to consider an earlier Rifkind article in the Spectator, also with salacious undertones:

- the concluding paragraph of which reads:

"Plenty of people seem to believe that Trump does this, too. That whenever he says his latest arresting, infuriating, insane thing, he’s also playing a trick, trying to wind people up. Personally, I don’t buy it. More to the point, though, I’m not sure it makes any difference. Likewise those sieg heils in those Washington restaurants. For show? For real? In the end, the question is meaningless. This is what they give us, so this is who they are. The trick is all there is. The carapace is sealed. Everything beneath has rotted away."

The "sieg heil" (you will detect here a long-running theme in the mind of the writer) is a glance at a function which had nothing to do with Trump personally but serves this journalist's purpose in the form of guilt by association (however tenuous). The incident in question is covered here:

You may be tempted to draw an ironic analogy with the dangerously inflammatory, lying, misleading and calumniating propaganda of Julius Streicher; you must resist doing so.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Flynn's firing: part of Trump's deception plan against Democrat-supporting spooks?

The dismissal of President Trump's National Security Adviser, Lt-Gen. Michael Flynn, is a smokescreen hiding a successful operation to identify subversive elements in the intelligence community, claims writer Thomas Wictor.(1)

According to Wictor, different versions of a false story about discussions between Flynn and the Russian Ambassador to the US were fed into the community as a "barium meal" to disclose how classified information is illegally passed on in order to undermine the President, and who is prepared to use it. Acting Attorney General Sally Q. Yates is, he says, the first to be unmasked by the deception.

Wictor draws an analogy with the disinformation that revealed where the Japanese were going to attack in the Pacific in June 1942, and led to the Americans' destruction of four enemy aircraft carriers in the Battle of Midway.(2)

If so, hit and sunk, Mrs Yates. She was fired on January 30 for defying Trump's selective immigration moratorium; that's the mainstream media story, anyhow.(3)

The battle in the shadows goes on. But if Wictor is right, the intelligence community is on notice that long terms of imprisonment could await those who dare to plot the downfall of the nation's Chief Executive.



Friday, February 17, 2017

Friday Night Is Music Night: Sudamericanos, by JD

This week we have a Latin American flavour! (Programme notes at the end.)


"Girl from Ipanema" (Garota de Ipanema) was written by Antônio Carlos Jobim in 1962 with lyrics by Vinicius de Moraes. It is thought to be the second most recorded pop song in history, second only to Paul McCarthey's "Yesterday" The English lyrics were added later. According to a recent BBC programme about the song Moraes hated the English translation as it turned the girl into an object of lust where the Portuguese lyric was all about 'this vision of grace' Here is a good explanation of the difference between the two-

Violetta Parra was a Chilean singer and songwriter whose most famous song was "Gracias a la Vida"

"Alfonsina y el mar" was written by Ariel Ramírez with lyrics by Félix Luna. Ramírez plays piano here for Mercedes Sosa. The song is about Argentina's most famous poet Alfonsina Storni who committed suicide in the Mar del Plata. She had incurable breast cancer so took that option instead of living in pain for years. "Although her biographers hold that she jumped into the water from a breakwater, popular legend is that she slowly walked out to sea until she drowned." The lyrics of the song reflect that legend.

I was intruduced to the music of Mercedes Sosa by my (ex) wife many years ago and I have loved it ever since. Sosa was a huge star in the Spanish speaking world and was admired and respected by musicians all over the world to the point where she recorded with the likes of Joan Baez, Luciano Pavarotti and even Shakira!

Mercedes Sosa's funeral was broadcast live on Argentine TV and the song "Alfonsina y el mar" was sung and played there.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

"Famine, The Unanticipated Catastrophe", by Jim in San Marcos

Image source:

The Great Bengal Famine of 1770, commented on by Adam Smith in "The Wealth of Nations" (1776) was caused by links between China tea, silver and opium. 
One starting point to explore the issue is here:
(Image and caption added by Sackerson)

People assume that famines are caused by a poor growing season. This is true in agrarian societies where everyone farms. However, a financial world banking catastrophe could lead to the same result; where starvation occurs from lack of funds to purchase food. Also, we may be fast approaching a limit where food production can’t keep up with the increased population. War in the Middle East, is curbing a lot of farm production, which is leading to starvation for many.

And then there is global warming. Once the North polar ice cap melts, the Gulf Stream ocean current could change its direction a tad, making Eastern Europe too cold for food cultivation.

A famine could affect a large part of the world’s population. We are at a point now, where bad weather, financial instability or political instability, could determine who will live or die. A nuclear skirmish in a quest to grab resources, could make food very scarce in some areas.

The next famine will not be anticipated. It may be an economic or financial disaster that triggers it. When it happens, the logistics of transporting food to those that need it could be very hard to accomplish. Imagine a high-density population area like India, where many are already at starvation levels and barely surviving. This could be the end of the road for them.

Without the means to purchase food, life is a real struggle. Most of us are not in a position to grow and produce the food we need; we pay others to provide it to us. Those in the third world who are starving to death slowly, could be the medium for new super diseases that the rest of the world will have to deal with in the future. It is this group, with very weakened immune systems, that could be the incubator for a future plague far worse than any war imaginable.

The funny thing is, the third world was our source of cheap labor. As our economy slows down, the funds that made life possible for them will disappear. That thought worries me. A hungry mountain lion is not going to knock on your door and bargain with you over the price of its next meal -- your pet dog in the back yard.
Reposted from Jim's site, original here:

Sunday, February 12, 2017

The Saxophone Range: A Gallery Of Classics, by Wiggia

Following on from the tenor sax all the other versions of the instrument fall into place, none more so than the alto sax with which Charlie Parker did so much with to change the direction of modern jazz and begat be bop. Although he died at the age of 34 he packed more into those years than most of us would in treble that time. There is to much to write about Parker without filling pages so a link to his Wiki page is justified, he earned his dues as they say:

There was also an autobiographical film of his troubled life, “Bird”, made in 1988 .

This is “Koko” with Dizzy Gillespie and Max Roach on drums recorded in 1945, Parker's and jazz's first be bop album.

In direct contrast to the style of Parker there was Johnny Hodges with the Ellington Orchestra and Paul Desmond who became hugely popular with Dave Brubeck; a million miles away from Parker in style but giving huge pleasure to millions on record and live.This from Hodges is almost an Ellington and Hodges calling card:

And here from the Pacific College album, the Oberlin album before this was one of my first jazz album buys, with Brubeck in ‘53; a classic Desmond performance:

At the other end of the sax scale is the baritone. Normally a backing instrument, it was used by Gerry Mulligan, a New Yorker by birth. He was an early cool jazz exponent, an accomplished piano player and also of other reed instruments , and he was also an arranger and composer. He played with all the greats of the time and several small groups later in life including Brubeck; a unique sound.

This is another case of little of value live being available; here with Ben Webster is as good as it gets. Mulligan was also responsible for a rash of jazz film scores after he was responsible for the score to I Want to Live in ‘58, a film that had Susan Hayward in the title role:

Gerry-Mulligan-&-Ben-Webster-Quintet_Whos-Got-Rhythm.mp4 from brunosaeg on Vimeo.

And whilst others like Pepper Adams made a mark with the instrument, the only other player that I liked was Serge Chaloff. This is a later number and better recording, giving tonality of the instrument full justice. Not nearly enough was heard of Serge, who apart from a heroin addiction that caused gaps in his playing also developed cancer of the spine and played and lived in appalling agony in his last years.

Roland Kirk was a multi-instrumentalist who not only played a wide range of them on records and live but often several together; this wasn’t a gimmick, it was part of his approach to his music. He was another who despite being blind from an early age and suffering poor health - he had two strokes and the last one was fatal - gave so much in his performances that he became hugely popular and rightly so, one of my personal favourites. Here he is with McCoy Tyner in ‘75, just two years before his passing:

Another of the younger (he is in his sixties now) exponents of the saxophone is the hugely accomplished David Murray. This version of Billy Strayhorn's Chelsea Bridge is as good as any:

This is for JD who some time ago said (in jest?) That no one could play the soprano sax in the modern age. John Coltrane made this number one of his greatest hits with the instrument. Again the original album version available has awful sound; this one is not great, but it is live and gives a half decent version of this iconic number:

My favorite things - John Coltrane from A JAZZ SUPREME on Vimeo.

The forties through the sixties begat most of the greats of the saxophone era following the foundations laid by the likes of Carter et all. It also saw the start of another form of music started by Ornette Coleman, free jazz - that was also the title of his ‘61 album that started the movement. I personally have never been able to go that route: whilst appreciating the technical ability and the fact that proponents were as with all “art” trying to move on to the new, I simply did not enjoy listening to most of it so my recollections are few and muted.

The only one from whom I have heard anything I like is Anthony Braxton who is prolific in his output, over a hundred albums since the sixties and a multi reed instrumentalist; not all is my type of music but amongst his more staid works are items I like and as a promoter of this style he is as good as any currently playing, and easier on the ear. Later, apart from playing all saxophones from piccolo to ultra bass, he also started to play the piano more than in the past as he went on another tangent, none of which was my cup of tea , but this is:

I could go on forever, there are just so many old and new that should be on any list, and that is the problem. All “lists” are finite, that is the nature of them, so I will finish with this from one of the most celebrated modern jazz albums of all time, Something Else, where we have in a stellar group Julian “Cannonball” Adderley playing alongside Miles Davis; for me, Adderley's solo is up there with any of them - enjoy: