A loving tribute to electric Miles, GET THIS NOW!! Mederic Colignon – Shangri-Tunkashi-La

I came across this gifted artist quite randomly, and yet he has a shocking affinity for some of my favorite music ever recorded.  Time has been kind to Miles Davis’ electric period (1969-1975), even though that body of work was not well thought of upon release.  During my college career (1990-1994), that era of music became the most important signpost on a musical journey that continues to this day.  What I learned from listing to ‘In a Silent Way’, ‘Jack Johnson’ and ‘Dark Magus’ shaped the person I have become, both musically and otherwise.  I still routinely return to those and other recordings and find more undiscovered nuance of melody, rhythm and groove.

And in much the same way that Simone Rosetti’s The Watch has absolutely nailed the Gabriel-era Genesis, Collignon has uncovered a similar resonance with that extraordinary time in the career of Miles Davis.  His latest release is Shangri-Tunkashi-La and it is a pure delight.  Firstly, it is readily available on iTunes, which surprised and delighted me.  Second, the renditions of Bitches Brew, Billy Preston, It’s About That Time, and others are not replicas of the originals, but incorporate the jubilant spirit of improvisation which was such an important part of how those compositions came into the world.

The record is now favorably reviewed in English, has gorgeous cover art and can be downloaded by anyone with an iTunes account.  All that remains is a North American tour schedule.  Hope springs eternal.

Give “Billy Preston” a listen below.

Does this LOOK like a jam band?

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Let’s not worry about ‘prog-rock’ for a minute.  I’ve no real beef with the label.  Labels can be helpful, they can even be necessary.  Certainly ‘jam band’ is a label.  But if you’ve decided to use a label (and I am talking about you), then it’s absolutely essential to realize the infinite variety that can exist within any grouping that may share a single characteristic.  There’s a lot of different kinds of prog out there.  There’s a lot of different kinds of jam bands too.

So, with all that out of the way, let’s get to the topic du jour – Genesis.  Here’s an easy one, an absolute, something you can hang your hat on, unchanging, objective reality.  Gabriel-era Genesis was not a jam band.

Many other popular bands from 1970 through 1975 conducted sonic explorations that happened right before the audience’s very eyes.  They threw caution to the wind and ventured into the world of improvisation where anything could happen.  And such behavior was not limited to the Grateful Dead and the Allman Brothers, although those are two fine examples from the era.  Even real prog bands would strip themselves naked of any script or predictability and just see what happened – King Crimson is a perfect example.

As Miles Davis was bringing elements of rock into jazz, bands that improvised were really bringing elements of jazz into rock.  Zappa would use his entire ensemble (and sometimes an audience) as an instrument and conduct noise to tell the story or make the point.  In the earliest parts of this period, Syd Barret-era Pink Floyd experimented with music/noise to match their groundbreaking visual show.

One of the most important aspects of improvised music is the relationship (or lack thereof) between the players.  Ideally, great improvisation happens when the group all know one another so well that they can basically read each others’ minds.  The result is that classic moment of the whole becoming a unit that is greater than the sum of its parts.  Its a cliche, but in this case, it is true.

On the other hand, jams can become much more interesting by the presence of a destabilizing influence.  The great example of this is Miles Davis in 1970.  He spent a lot of time and did a lot of touring with band that consisted of himself on trumpet, Gary Bartz on sax, Michael Henderson on bass, Keith Jarrett on keys, Jack DeJohnette on drums and Airto on percussion.  Although the band had a strong improvised element, the whole thing was beautifully thrown off one night when John McLaughlin joined on electric guitar.  Everyone was thrown out of their comfort zone and the thing got even better.

So, once again, Gabriel-era Genesis was not a jam band.  They composed together for five glorious years (all writing credits were always given to all five members) and their goal upon going in front of an audience was to recreate, as much as possible, the sound on the record.  But with all that talent, all that original thinking, all those fancy toys, and all that affinity from years of playing, recording and touring together, I have always wondered, what would it have sounded like if THIS band jammed?  What if they just started with some very basic ideas, musical germs, and noodled a bit and jammed and worked on making something from nothing?  What would that sound like?

And now I know what it would sound like and it is a beautiful noise.  And, in the very near future, I look forward to sharing it with you over at Blogerantz.

Charlie Mingus – powerful romantic

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I’ve got plenty of writing to do this morning, writing, proofreading, citating, etc.  Nothing like a deadline to make sure the work gets done.  But just as important is the music.  Mingus is an artist with whom I need to become more conversant.  I’ve heard a little bit here, a little bit there, and it’s all good.  The other magnetising factor drawing me in is the huge influence he had on Zappa.  I can hear it plainy (plus I’ve read about it), but there also that touchy issue of band politics that has fascinated me since I was first in a band in college.  Mingus ran some tight bands.

So that’s what’s on the speakers today, mostly from the 60′s output.  I hear his bands jam with ferocity and then switch back to a romantic swagger.  Picture a late night in New York City circa 1962.  The big black Cadillacs reflect all the glittering lights of the city as they make their way through the Village.  Beatniks mix with couples who are dressed in formal evening attire.  Martinis flow like water and, unlike today, you have to go outside to get away from the cigarette smoke.

On stage, the band sweats through another arrangment and everyone is in a trance as the big man behind the bass conducts the proceedings into the early morning hours.

Wayne’s World

As part of my ongoing celebration of Wayne Shorter’s music this week, here is New York Times review of his 75 birthdy concert at Carnegie Hall.  He was joined by a classical wind section, but reviewer Ben Ratlif gives you a feel for what the extraordinary quartet has done during this amazing 8-year run.

They don’t stop between songs, they keep melodies obscured through harmony that’s constantly flowing, and they allow breathing room for everyone, almost rendering obsolete the old notions of jazz architecture — solos, backgrounds, vamps, bridges and so on. Why would you want anything to get in the way of that?

Read the whole article here.

Wayne Shorter – Atlantis (1985)

The first outrageously long Wayne Shorter mediation is posted over at Blogerantz.  It occurs to me that one week is not nearly enough time to say everything I want to about this guy, but here’s a start.

I think I’m just going to focus on that troubling, yet fascinating, period of solo albums from the end of Weather Report (mid-80′s), leading up to the re-emergence of Wayne as an acoustic jazz icon (c. 2002).  The post is about all kinds of Wayne-related shit, but the album that gets the rumination started is 1985′s Atlantis.

Mpomy/Blogerantz Artist Of The Week – Wayne Shorter

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It’s a little hard to understand the gravity of this man’s achievment.  He is, without a doubt, one of the most outstanding American composers ever.  He’s up there with Zappa.  He’s that big, but simply doesn’t get the credit, most likely because he has always taken things, especially with his solo albums, in his own direction.  But, besides being singularly unique and enormously influential, he has also managed to create the most delicate, complex and achingly beautiful music I have ever heard.

I am going to try and start something new with Wayne – an ‘artist of the week’ feature.  So I’ll try to share some of my general thoughts and observations on this sight and I’ll post some music over at Blogerantz, and, hopefully, there will be conceptual continuity and rejoicing.

More to come…