Tuesday, February 21, 2023

The Jazz Messengers, The Jazz Messengers (self-titled, 1956)

Art Blakey was the bandleader and drummer for the Jazz Messengers. I like the fact that Art is the drummer and bandleader. I like the idea of a frontman leading from the back.

I came across Art and the Messengers through Ted Goia's book How to Listen to Jazz. Goia praised the band for its swing and proposed this exercise. Listen for how often the Messengers miss notes, or one of the players falls out. What you'll notice is the ease with which the players are able to pick up where they left off, a sign of discipline and expertise. Bad jazz bands panic and fill, Goia says. Good bands mind the gaps.

This time around, I confess to being a little distracted while listening to this particular album. I had to run errands while listening. Certainly not ideal.

Friday, February 17, 2023

Count Basie, The Atomic Mr. Basie (1958)

It doesn't happen often, but a thought occurred to me. You know how people mourn when an artist dies a non-natural death? I get it, you get it: we all start wondering what would have happened had liver failure not gotten them, drugs, death by suicide, and so on. "Think of what they could have done," people say. But let's not forget what they did do that earned them recognition. And yet there are plenty of people on this planet who never produce any art and who also die. It is their lives that seem to me to be more worthy of mourning than artists.

Is this an unnecessary prejudice? I don't mean, "Blast it all. Those people didn't get to be creative." I mean, rather, that the artists who have already passed have received their reward, recognition. Better we recognize those who content to be fathers, mothers, friends, embalmers, dental technicians.

Tuesday, February 14, 2023

Erykah Badu, Baduizm (1997)


In a new film called The Banshees of Inisherin (2022), Collin Farrell plays an Irishman in 1923 named Patrick who one day goes to visit his friend Colm (Brendan Gleeson). It's an ordinary afternoon in the Irish countryside, a little before two o'clock, and Patrick is ready to head to the bar with Colm, as they have done for years. He knocks at the door. No answer. He looks through the window. Colm is inside, smoking, sitting in his hardwood chair, his dog at his feet, his back facing Patrick. "So I guess I'll see you at the bar at two, then," Patrick says, and goes on ahead.

But Colm doesn't come to the bar. So Patrick returns to Colm's house to check on him and sees on the hillside, walking in another direction, Colm. He's walking toward the bar!

Monday, February 13, 2023

Bruce Springsteen, Darkness on the Edge of Town (1978)

Thanks be to God there's no law that says a man or woman must love Bruce Springsteen's music. His voice and that big-band sound just aren't for me. But I will confess that his slower rock ballads have grown on me.

I like his sincerity in those songs. "Factory" is about his dad going to work, day in, day out. He says of his dad that he goes in to the factory "with death in his eyes."

Now whether this was really about Springsteen's dad is of no relevance to me. It's touching. This song in '78 would have really spoken to a dying working class and would hold some nostalgia now for that generation that lived through that kind of drudgery.

This music can still speak to folks and does. Even for those who live in the world of the gig economy, is it really so different?

Sunday, February 12, 2023

The Jimi Hendrix Experience, Axis: Bold as Love (1967)

I'm sure the title only made sense after one man's Trip, namely Jimi Hendrix's, and indeed that surreal name is an apt advertisement for the record. But amid the tracks' psychedelia is an appreciation of life, love, and fellowship.

Witness: one YouTube commentator on "Little Wing" said she played it at her husband's funeral. Even without that for context, I think I would have teared up at the song.

Life is short, that is what makes it bittersweet, Jimi knows it. It's haunting when on "If 6 was 9," he says "I'm the one who's going to have to die when it's time for me to die." The inadvertent art of it is that through the echo and fade of his words, you can hear him chewing gum.