Sunday, February 1, 2009

Playlist: The jazz tracks that turned me out

Let me start off Black History Month with a personal reflection.

I lived more than 40 years not knowing shit about jazz. Musically, my main bag was funk... P-Funk in particular.

I was also deep into ’70s pop and soul... the music I grew up on. (Plus, of course, the Beatles.) My tastes had broadened into areas like South African music and rock en español.

As for jazz, well... I dug Cab Calloway from childhood on. When I discovered the World Saxophone Quartet in 1984, I became a fan. And I got around to copping “Kind of Blue” in the mid-’90s. Played it to death.

But Monk? Mingus? Trane? I was absolutely ignorant. (Never mind cats like Booker Little, Joe Henderson and Sonny Criss.)

Then came the autumn of 2003.

I was writing a pilot script about an L.A. private detective, and I had a half-assed notion that the character was into classic bebop... just because that’s a sound you don’t hear in TV dramas.

Already a music downloader, I went to eMusic.com and got a few modern-jazz MP3s. Also bought a few CDs... basically at random.

My mind was immediately blown.

I made up for lost time by acquiring vast amounts of small-group jazz from the 1950s and ’60s. It was an obsession that waned only when I started to blog. (Then this became my obsession).

The private-eye project went nowhere. But now – 4,000 MP3s and 300 CDs later – I have a basic familiarity with the hard-bop repertoire and all the major players. I can call myself a jazz head.

Below are some of the tunes that turned me out. It was a revelation to me that modern jazz had hooks... like the best pop records.

And that it could groove as hard as the best funk.

I don’t expect this music to trigger in you what it triggered in me. But these tracks move me emotionally... because they still evoke that wonderful feeling of discovery from five years ago, when jazz opened itself unto me.

Click the titles to listen on my Vox blog.

1. “Strode Rode” – Sonny Rollins
(With Max Roach killing his drum kit.)

2. “Ching Miau” – Yusef Lateef
(I’m aware of only two other tunes with a 5/4 time signature: Dave Brubeck’s “Take Five” and Lalo Schifrin’s “Mission: Impossible” theme.)

3. “Delilah” – Clifford Brown and Max Roach
(With Harold Land on tenor sax.)

4. “Jump Monk” – Charles Mingus
(With two unsung horn players: George Barrow on tenor and Eddie Bert on trombone.)

36 comments:

Michael Fisher said...

I've got no words.

I can't imagine a black person born in the 50's or in your case, the 60's, not having been fed with a steady diet of the sonic paintings of Miles, Coltrane, Mingus, Dizzy, Adderley, Duke Jordan, Max Roach, Bird, Monk et al from cribhood on.

That explains a lot.

Undercover Black Man said...

^ Fish Fish Fish... still making believe you're the one issuing and revoking Black Passes?

Knowing damn well half your family be doin' the polka.

maria said...

curious. i'm a white woman raised in the 60s. what should i be have been listening to as a kid?

bklyn6 said...

But Monk? Mingus? Trane? I was absolutely ignorant.

I'm not sophisticated enough to appreciate their kind of jazz. I bought a Charlie Parker CD and I just couldn't wrap my brain around it.

I'm not a jazz enthusiast but I really enjoy listening to Wes Montgomery, Cal Tjader, Dave Brubeck, early Ramsey Lewis and Quincy Jones.

I like that lounge-type jazz sound. The kind you can sip cocktails and chill out in a bachelor pad to. :-)

Undercover Black Man said...

^ I remember Wes from childhood. Particularly that "Day in the Life" album. I loved his version of "Windy."

Come to find out that stuff hardly qualifies as jazz. That was a pop record.

If you wanna hear Wes doing the bebop thing, click here for "Delirium" (a Harold Land tune)... a 1961 track by the Montgomery Brothers. (Buddy Montgomery on piano, Monk Montgomery on bass.)

Michael Fisher said...

Mills...

"Knowing damn well half your family be doin' the polka."

Nope. (1) the Polka is Polish and Czech, not German. (2) In addition to Mozart et al, they listened to the same stuff.

Michael Fisher said...

"still making believe you're the one issuing and revoking Black Passes?"

Not exactly. You're the one who said that he ain't living as a black man on a daily.

Undercover Black Man said...

^ You're a nutty guy, Mike.

Now why don't you get this thread to cooking by recommending a boppish cut for me to stream? And please, nothing obvious.

Here's your chance to school me, since apparently you been hip since the days of sucking on your mama's titty.

bklyn6 said...

Come to find out that stuff hardly qualifies as jazz. That was a pop record.

Oh. :-(

I listened a little to "Delirium". I like Montgomery's "pop" sound better.

I like Duke Ellington too.

Undercover Black Man said...

I like Montgomery's "pop" sound better.

It's all good, bklyn6!

Undercover Black Man said...

(1) the Polka is Polish and Czech, not German.

Ah. I stand corrected.

Okay now, Fish, here you go. A little something to make you homesick.

(And don't front like you ain't feeling it. It's in your blood!)

Michael Fisher said...

Mills...

"You're a nutty guy, Mike."

maybe. But like I said, I ain't the one who said that he is living as a white person on a daily. That be you.

"Okay now, Fish, here you go."

That's Bavarian, Mills. Nothing to do with moi.

Bavaria is only pro forma German. In fact, Bavaria never even ratified Germany's constitution and consider itself a "Free State".

Dang. For someone who loves to laud the achievements of European civilization you're a bit slow on European culture and politics. Eh?

Maybe that's why you laud same achievements?

Undercover Black Man said...

^ Dang. You mean weisswurst ain't German? Oktoberfest ain't German? I'm learning so much today. Thanks, Fish.

Now call out one of your childhood favorite modern-jazz cuts so we can blow a few heads.

Michael Fisher said...

Mills...

"since apparently you been hip since the days of sucking on your mama's titty."

Sheeet, Overcoverwhiteboy. My parents met in Germany's oldest live Jazz club and I spend my toddlerhood and later my law student days in the same.

Some tunes?

There's so many. But since you done already streamed Yusef Lateef, go with some Monk. Pick one, any one.

If you into piano, Duke Jordan ain't got No Problem

Michael Fisher said...

spent

Michael Fisher said...

Maria

"i'm a white woman raised in the 60s. what should i be have been listening to as a kid?"

Who cares?

Undercover Black Man said...

... go with some Monk. Pick one, any one.

Way to pitch in, mein verrückter freund.

Here's Monk doing Gershwin... one of my favorite cuts of his. (And a cut that doesn't get played to death.) BAM!

maria said...

FU, MF...

i thought because you could so easily stereotype what all "real" black people should have been raised listening to, i figured you could say the same about whites.

Michael Fisher said...

Maria...

"i figured you could say the same about whites."

(((shakin' head)))

Some white folk go apeshit when a black person doesn't even think about them.

And yes, I as most black folk, in fact, as most Chinese and Japanese and most people in the world, really don't care what white women who grew up in the sixties listened to as kids.

This convo ain't about you, Maria.

Undercover Black Man said...

^ And a gentleman too! No wonder Michael Fisher is the most popular guy in the black blogosphere...

Michael Fisher said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Michael Fisher said...

Mills...

"And a gentleman too!"

And why would I be a gentleman with a person who butts into a convo on the basis of "I'm a WHITE woman, tell me what you think about ME"?

That ain't just pathetic, but above all it is rude. You don't think, Mills?

Come on. Who gives a good shit?

Undercover Black Man said...

^ Don't act like you're unacquainted with the art of Socratic questioning.

Obviously maria gives less than a shit about what you might think of her taste in music.

Undercover Black Man said...

^ Although, Fish... being half white, you should be just as qualified to prescribe her childhood musical consumption as you are mine.

Kellybelle said...

I wish I could tell you what I was doing when I discovered the genius of John Coltrane. Let's just say I can do it for all 13 minutes or so of "My Favorite Things."

I did a play a long time ago about Jack Kerouac and got into Lester Young and Charlie Parker. I'm still a novice--so thanks for the new listens.

Michael Fisher said...

Mills...

"Although, Fish... being half white"

What's "half-white"?

Undercover Black Man said...

Let's just say I can do it for all 13 minutes or so of "My Favorite Things."

Intriguing. (Or am I over-thinking it?)

You know what, though, Kellybelle? Coltrane's version of "Summertime" is what rocked my world.

... and got into Lester Young and Charlie Parker.

As deep as I've gotten into the hard-bop era, it's humbling to realize that that's just a sliver of the "jazz" corpus. I haven't delved deeply into '40s music, let alone the Swing Era.

It's kind of a fidelity issue. The recording technology just hit a level in the '50s where the sound was just so rich and crystal clear.

I'm also just starting to dig deeper into the free jazz/avant garde stuff of the '60s.

bumpster said...

Down to the Nightclub by Tower of Power, I have been told, is played in 5/4 time. Probably why it was effing hard to dance to all these years.

My dad's jazz albums lit me up when I was a kid. Kind of Blue, Eddie Lockjaw Davis, Oscar Peterson, Dave Brubeck, Bird, Sarah, Dinah, Ella, Lionel Hampton, Wes. My intro to hard bop came when I bought some of my girlfriends dads lps at a garage sale after her little brother burned their house down. I pray as I listen to Coltrane. I cannot think of any tune more uplifting than the live version of My Favorite Things. Had no idea

Finally, please let me brag that I saw Harold Land with Bobby Hutcherson at the UOP Conservatory of Music when I was a kid.

Undercover Black Man said...

^ Cool, bumpster.

Probably why it was effing hard to dance to all these years.

On that note, something I've always wanted to know: Could people dance to "Fencewalk"?

... Sarah, Dinah, Ella...

That's something else I've hardly explored: the vocalists. Small-group instrumentals are where my ear is at.

Sam said...

Anything Max Roach played on is amazing. The band he had with Sonny Rollins, Clifford Brown and Richie Powell (Bud's brother) was so deep. Both Powell and Brown were killed in a car crash, I believe.

I haven't heard Roach's "Freedom Now Suite," the political album he made with Abbey Lincoln. Probably a good one to track down for Black History Month.


UBM: Any chance of posting the script from the private eye pilot?

odocoileus said...

I'd like to get Fisher and AD Powell alone in a room together. Fight to the finish, MMA style.

bumpster said...

Only the most limber or totally stoned could dance to Fencewalk.

Checkout Sixties era organ combos. R & B and Jazz sideman laying down grooves.

Undercover Black Man said...

Checkout Sixties era organ combos. R & B and Jazz sideman laying down grooves.

Charles Earland's my favorite. Check this out.

Undercover Black Man said...

UBM: Any chance of posting the script from the private eye pilot?

I'm afraid not, Sam. It was a mess.

David Garrett said...

The Undercover Black Man grew up on Funk, etc. I grew up on rock (Beatles, Stones, Yardbirds)--I'm a little older than he is.

But I had a ne'er-do-well uncle--no matter how many times my mother kicked him out of her house, he always found a way back--who loved jazz.

So I also grew up listening to Miles Davis and Charlie Parker and John Coltrane and Charles Mingus and Billie Holiday and Sarah Vaughn, though it would be some time before I really understood who they were and why they were important.

I can't list just one tune. But off the top of my head, some favorites: "Salt Peanuts," "A Night in Tunisia," and "All the Things You Are" (check out the version on "Live at Massey Hall"/AKA "The World's Greatest Jazz Concert Ever", where Gillespie imitates a jackass on his horn after Parker's solo).

Anything from Jackie McLean's "Right Now" album or Eric Dolphy's "Out to Lunch." Ditto Coltrane.

If you make me choose, I might take any cut from "Coltrane Plays the Blues," though whenever I move I always play "A Love Supreme" as a way of blessing my new domicile.

And then Monk, Wardell Gray, Phineas Newborn, Jr. . . .

Undercover Black Man said...

Anything from Jackie McLean's "Right Now" album or Eric Dolphy's "Out to Lunch."

Thanks for joining in, David. And welcome to my spot.

Let me spin a couple based on this suggestion... just 'cause many folks might not've heard any Jackie McLean or Dolphy.

Click here to hear "Christel's Time" (McLean).

Click here for "Gazzellioni" (Dolphy on flute).