Thursday, March 25, 2010

How the Artist Pictured the Artists

Recently the music world has lost yet another true pioneer of images...I'm talking about Jim Marshall.  So well known are his images of Jazz and Rock royalty, they are part of the way we view these artists.  Each of his photos seemed to capture the "soul" of a particular artist, particularly in a time before the mass media of MTV and the Internet when an artist's image was what represented him or her. Marshall was born in Chicago in 1936, but grew up in San Francisco's Fillmore District.  He caught the photo bug at a young age and knew than that was his calling.  Jim bought his first camera in 1959 and soon began taking pictures of Jazz heroes that  appeared in the Bay Area (including the likes of John Coltrane and Miles Davis).  Soon Jim ended up moving moving to New York to be in the center of the Jazz scene.  By the mid 60's he was back in the Bay Area taking pictures of the groundswell of activity taking place there.  Known for his candidness, artists respected his eye and frequently would hire him as their official photographer.  He worked much in this same role till his death, leaving behind a popular legacy that has stood the test of time.
I think that Jim has done the best in describing his drive:  " Too much bullshit is written about photographs and music. Let the music move you, whether to a frenzy or to a peaceful place.  Let it be what you want to hear-not what others say is popular.  Let the photograph be one you remember-not for its technique but for its soul.  Let it become part of your life-a part of your past to help shape your future.  But most of all, let the music and the photograph be something you love and will always enjoy." I have uploaded two important photos, but the best way to see more is to visit www.marshallphoto.com , you will be amazed.  Who better to chronicle popular music...these memories will live forever!

Monday, March 22, 2010

Desert Island 2

Well here it is finally! another instalment in the series of "Desert Island Music" that i have recently undertaken....this instalment is about Jazz and the way it influences the way I listen to music.
  1. Vince Guaraldi's Grammy-winning song "Cast your fate to the wind"(1963) is the song that started it all for the composer better known for his work with most of the "Peanuts" television and movie soundtracks.  This song has a lilting quality that shows how underrated and under-appreciated that Vince Gauraldi was in terms of his contribution to the musical mix. I encourage all who are not familiar with the song to give it a listen.
  2. What desert island list would not be complete without mention of Django Reinhardt? especially my favourite "Minor Swing"  This song showcases Django's brilliant mastery of the guitar...this is a man who had to re-learn how to play the guitar when he suffered a nearly disfiguring injury rescuing family members from a fire! Yet he is able to make it sound like a beautiful rhythm with little or no effort.  Many contemporary artists mention him as a major influence. 
  3. Louis Armstrong is another favourite on the list...it was hard to decide on a particular song, but I think " St. James Infirmary" is on that encompasses the the feel of his roots within the New Orleans Jazz scene. It has the feel of a New Orleans street funeral march, but it gives Mr. Armstrong ample room to "stretch out" smooth and slow.  BTW a recent cover of this song by the White Stripes is very noteworthy.
  4. Big Band Swing Jazz is so important to my music appreciation and Chick Webb is one of the greats...known in the day as the victor of many "cutting contests" and a fixture of the Savoy Ballroom in Harlem....his signature song is "stompin' at the Savoy" authorship is attributed to Edgar Simpson (Webb's saxophonist) , but it is Benny Goodman that had the most commercial success with the song.  Goodman was known to frequent the Savoy after hours to take in the scene, and frequently competed with Webb's band.
  5. Another Big Band Swing contributor is Count Basie, and my favourite of his songs is "one o' clock jump"  Basie shows his skills as both a band leader and as a smokin' keyboard player (the video on youtube has Basie in a six piece that really moves the music like a big band)  Another noteworthy version of this song would be by the Glenn Miller Orchestra.
  6. Charlie Parker is known as one of the founders of "Bop" Jazz, beyond his years in the interpretations of "tapestries" of notes...the best example of this is probably "Ko-Ko" (1947), which was originally recorded with Dizzy Gillispie (see "Salt Peanuts" also 1947), another founding father of "Bop" Jazz.  Ko-Ko is a free-flow of notes that are strung together like beads that move all around the room.  Truly a joy to listen to these master craftsmen blending with each other. Unfortunately the demons of several addictions claimed Charlie Parker's life just as his sound was coming into its own.
  7. John Coltrane was another of the most influential tenor sax players of his generation and several following his...where Charlie Parker is energetic and almost manic sounding, Coltrane manages to establish a fluidity, and the best example of this is probably "Blue Trane" (1957).  Runners-up are most likely "Love Supreme" and his opulent cover of the Rogers and Hamerstein "Favourite Things" (1961).
  8. Duke Ellington rounds out the list with his own brand of Big Band Swing, and a good example of this would be "Take The A Train", especially when Ella Fitzgerald is on vocals.  Ellington's arrangements have influenced artists such as Dave Brubeck and Wynton Marsailis.  Runners up would be "Caravan" or possibly "Mood Indigo"  Just go to YouTube and watch "Sir Duke" go to work!  You will be amazed.
Okay...now that you have some of my favourites...let me know what yours are and why....for example does a particular song stand in mind because a friend or relative listened to it and thereby created a favourite for you? Happy Listening

Friday, March 19, 2010

Farewell to three icons

This week has witnessed the passing of three icons of baby-boomer pop culture, all of which influenced the entertainment industry. 
March 14 saw the passing of Peter Graves, Television and Movie star of the 50's 60's and 70's, best known for his role as "Jim Phelps" on the cult classic TV show "Mission Impossible" and earlier for his role on "Fury".  As a kid I grew up in admiration of the impossible mission team and their amazing adventures...on a show that helped the careers of several other actors as well...Leonard Nimoy, Martin Landau, Barbara Bain,and many others.  His contribution will live on in the imaginations of many of my generation. He was 83
March 17 saw the passing of Alex Chilton, one of the founding members of the Box Tops, mostly known for the song "the Letter" (67'), but also known for "cry like a baby"(68').  He started his career in Memphis with the legendary Chips Moman (who also worked with Elvis, Bobby Womack, Carla Thomas..to name a few). After the Box Tops disbanded, Chilton formed Big Star in 1971, which became immensely influential to later groups (such as the Replacements and REM) as a the "power pop" sound. One of their songs "in the street" is the opening theme to "That 70's Show". Since that time Chilton had been recording solo efforts and even a reunion of Big Star in 2009....Chilton was even scheduled to perform at this years' South by Southwest conference in Austin. There will be instead a tribute at Antoine's  with a long list of stars, including Mike Mills (REM) and John Doe (X). He was 59
March 18 saw the passing of Fess Parker, commonly known as Davy Crockett in several Disney features and as Daniel Boone from 1964-70 on television.  Parker is widely known as one of the first widely merchandised faces on memorabilia..primarily the "coon skin cap", which due to the incredible popularity of "Davy Crockett", almost every child in America could be seen wearing one! Not to mention lunch boxes and numerous other items.  In later life Parker became involved in wine making and development, running a bed and breakfast at his winery.  Parker breathed life into historical figures Davy Crockett and Daniel Boone, by bringing their stories to many people in America and abroad he will be missed.  He was 85.
All three of these people contributed to the formation of my outlook and opinion of popular culture....We at the Garage will miss them.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Lost Treasure

A recent trip to Half Price Books has once again netted a find for me: This disc came out in 2006 and it is by Sam Moore (known mostly from the Stax singing duo Sam & Dave) the name of the album is "Overnight Sensational".  The album is a group of duets with various friends of Sam's from the business.  Sam's voice still has remarkable range and power that has not aged since the Stax days...Stand out tracks are "Better to have and not need"; a duet with Bruce Springsteenthat rocks endlessly and really showcases the boss' blues chops. "None of us are free": a duet with Sting that has an anthem-like feel. Perhaps one of my favourites is "If I had no Loot" which has a positively infectious groove that makes you hit the repeat button.  Very touching tracks are "it's only make believe", a faithful cover of a Conway Twitty song that only Sam can interpret; and "you are so beautiful" a duet with the late great Billy Preston (who incidently passed during the recording of this effort and only appears on 2 tracks).  The liner notes are written primarliy by Joyce Moore, Sam's longtime wife...each track is introduced and how and why each guest musician ended up on that track.  All in all a very tasty effort and first solo album in 30 years for Sam...if you love old soul or R&B like I do, then find this and buy it or download it! you won't be sorry!