Feelin’ Good

27 04 2010

This tune is simply a classic. Written by Anthony Newley and Leslie Bricusse for the 1964 musical The Roar of the Greasepaint—the Smell of the Crowd it has been covered and/or sampled by countless artist. The most notable version though has got to be Nina Simone’s from her 1965 album I Put Spell On You. Below is a student produced music video for that epic song.

There are so many others that I cannot include them all here but there is a list of just a few below. Each artist’s name is actually a link to their unique version. Have a listen and see how each puts their own personal touch on this timeless hit. There are quite a few cool versions here. My favorites are probably Coltrane, Traffic and Jean DuShon, with My Brightest Diamond and Joe Bonamassa coming in close second… but the others are excellent as well. Too close for me to make the call. Go ahead and judge for yourself:

John Coltrane

Gilbert Price

Traffic

Sammy Davis Jr

Bobby Darin

Freda Payne

Joe Sample & Randy Crawford

Jean DuShon

Joe Bonamassa

George Micheal

My Brightest Diamond

Muse

*For a complete list of artists and some more info about “Feelin’ Good” click HERE.

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Mercy, Mercy, Mercy

19 04 2010

If you’ve never heard this song before it’s a damn shame… perhaps even a tragedy. This is an absolute classic from Cannonball Adderley’s 1966 album Mercy, Mercy Mercy! Live at the Club. The title track was composed by his sideman, keyboardist Joe Zawinul, who would later go on to form the jazz fusion supergroup Weather Report with Wayne Shorter. Not only is this a great song and album but there is an interesting story behind it’s release. With one listen you can here the “live” feeling of the recording with a heartfelt introduction from the leader himself and numerous whoops and hollers as the band really digs in. The liner notes on the gatefold state that it was recorded LIVE at a Chicago venue called “The Club”.  What has been revealed since, is that this elaborate story is all fiction. The album was actually recorded in the Capitol Records studio in LA. You see, The Club was originally called Club DeLisa when it opened in 1938. It then closed in the late 50’s and was reopened the same year this album was released with it’s new name. Cannonball was a nice enough guy and offered to help out the club’s owner by giving them some free publicity, hence the fake story. Despite being sold under false pretenses, this audience is 100% real. Cannonball invited a bunch of friends and family into the studio to make it sound and feel live. In order to ensure that everyone was having a good time and it was authentic to the club scene, there was even an open bar. I’m sure it was smokey as hell in there too. Although not common, this type of thing is really not that odd considering that during this period of post-bop meets soul jazz all tracks were recorded as a single take in order to preserve the organic interplay between the musicians. This time, they just created a party around them. It’s actually quite brilliant. Musicians feed off that live energy so why not bring it into the studio. I mean, you can’t bottle the stuff so you’ve got to do something, right?

If you like that tune, you will most certainly enjoy this one as well. It’s called “Walk Tall” and is from another of Cannonball’s “live” albums: Country Preacher: Live at Operation Breadbasket… CLICK HERE TO PLAY THE SONG

Reference Links:

More info on this song: “Mercy, Mercy, Mercy”

More info on this album: Mercy, Mercy Mercy! Live at The Club

Click here to read the original liner notes on this LP

More info on Julian “Cannonball” Adderley

Buy this album on Amazon





The Rite Of Spring

22 03 2010

Yesterday was officially the first day of Spring. I figure what better way to kick of the season than “The Rite Of Spring”. It’s a classic Igor Stravinsky composition that has an insane history. Stravinsky spent almost a full year (1912-1913) composing the piece which was very much ahead of it’s time, even making last minute revisions up until the night of its debut. That debut, the premiere of this epic work, is one of the wildest stories I’ve heard in music history. This is going to sound crazy but it’s known as one of the most famous musical riots ever. Yes… RIOTS! This is classical music we’re talking about too so just try to imagine the events of the evening erupting in a full on riot… crazy. It was premiered on May 29, 1913 at the Théâtre des Champs-Élysées in Paris. This was a time when classical music was more conventional and involved more demure themes. Not to mention that the compositions that were most popular were traditional ballets stooped in romanticism. Then, here comes Stravinsky with a piece that not only is intensely rhythmic but also features tonal dissonance like no other piece had done before. This day and age we are accustomed to such things in our music. In fact, dissonance is often used to create tension in music where it then shifts to consonance in order to resolve in a very sweet and natural sounding  manner. It’s a tool that is now used with great artistic license but in 1913 it was basically unheard of. This raucous premiere has been scrutinized heavily over the years by historians, musicologists and even neural scientists. This is where it really gets interesting. Scientists have found links in human brain activity to sound. I know, no surprise there but, more specifically, they have determined that when you hear a dissonant grouping of notes that uneasy feeling is not just emotional it’s actually a physiological reaction in your brain. As a result of the study researchers have concluded that when certain neurons responsible for perception patterns in sounds fail to find one, they may cause an excessive production of dopamine, which may result in a mental state close to schizophrenia and thereby contribute to rioting tendencies. To paint a picture of what happened that night, you have to imagine an audience of ballet goers all anticipating the status quo. Then the opening melody starts on bassoon and they begin to boo. The lead notes over the harmony starts to make them uneasy. As the choreographed performance ensues they grow more agitated. Soon there are loud arguments in the audience between supporters and opponents of the work. That is soon followed by shouts and fistfights in the aisles. The unrest in the audience eventually erupts into a riot. The Paris police had arrived by intermission, but they restored only limited order. Chaos reigned for the remainder of the performance and the rest is history. Another interesting component of this story is how the human ear evolves. Stravinsky made another attempt with the same music, in the same venue almost a year later and it was received with much acclaim. You see, by that time the work had been heard enough times that people could make the connections necessary to process the sonic information. In listening to it now, it’s actually quite nice. The opening bassoon even sounds more sexy than coarse.

This event was featured in a fantastic episode of the WNYC (NPR) show Radiolab a few years back. The info I provided here is just a snippet of the full story. Fortunately, Radiolab does an amazing job of explaining not only the neurology behind it but also at capturing the feeling of what was going on at the time and how such chaos could sprout from a simple piece of music. It’s about an hour long but it’s extremely well produced and very easy to listen to. Stream it from WNYC’s website here… it’s worth it.

Here an abbreviated version of “The Rite Of Spring” by Hubert Laws.

The Rite Of Spring on Classical Notes

The Rite of Spring Riot on Wiki

WNYC’s Radiolab: Musical Language





Valentine’s Day

14 02 2010

This one’s for the Lady GG…

This is one of her favorites. It’s Bobby Darin doing his classic version “Beyond the Sea’. Originally written by Charles Trenet and  Jack Lawrence in 1946 (with French Lyrics). However, their version was titled “Le Mer”. This live footage of Darin is from 1960 and is really vintage. Great song off a great album… to be enjoyed with your Valentine.





Le Bon Tempe Roule!

8 02 2010

With the Saints winning the big game last night, I thought it was the perfect opportunity to show off some of my NOLA favs. New Orleans is without a doubt one of my all-time favorite cities. The culture there is overwhelmingly lush, combining so many amazing elements. Everything is just so cool and unique to the city whether it’s the food, architecture, attitude or music. There’s a short list below of some of my favorite acts to see while in the Big Easy. Mardi Gras is right around the corner and Jazz Fest is coming up this spring so there are many opportunities to see them. The great thing is, you usually don’t have to wait until then as they often play around town on any given night in NOLA. Le Bon Tempe Roule…

The Meters

Rebirth Brass Band

Walter “Wolfman” Washington… with Galactic as his backing band

Lou Donaldson

The Neville Bro’s

Please feel free to add anyone I may have left out via comment. Also, below are a few links to some of NOLA best spots and events. You have to get down there to experience it for yourself…

Events:

Jazz Fest

Mardi Gras

Venues:

Tipitina’s

Howlin’ Wolf

Maple Leaf

Snug Harbor

Blue Nile

d.b.a.

Le Bon Tempe Roule

Rock and Bowl

Other Links:

Directory of NOLA bands

NOLA Music Calendar

NOLA.com





Rain, Rain… Go Away

25 01 2010

It poured all morning in NYC. Total deluge. I went out to walk the pup and came back completely soaked regardless of how “prepared” I was. It made me think of some of my favorite rain tunes. Sorry, Doors fans there is NO “Riders on the Storm”. It’s just seems a little tired.

First, there’s Led Zeppelin’s “The Rain Song”. I really like the richness of the studio version. It includes all of Jimmy Page’s guitar parts and both John Paul Jones’ bass and Mello-Tron work. But if you want it LIVE (albeit a little stripped down)… here it is. It’s not the Song Remains the Same footage (here) as I thought it was a little too campy with all the extra medieval Robert Plant sequences. I just can’t take that stuff seriously.

Next, is Traffic’s “Rainmaker”. It seems like nobody knows this one but I like it… a lot. I used to work in an industry where rain would equal a day off.  This was my anthem as I used to play it  to summon the rain gods when I wanted to go home early.

Finally, this is blues great Freddie King’s version of “Ain’t No Sunshine”. It’s a Bill Withers tune and for the record: nobody does it like Bill. His is definitely the best one but I am reserving it for another post about the man. That said, I will add one nice anecdote: When Withers first came to the recording session for Ain’t No Sunshine, he didn’t even realize he was coming to work. He thought he was just the songwriter on the gig. You know… hang out, watch the artist, give notes. Then he gets there and they want him to sing and play guitar. What humility! The guy ends up producing a hit that has spanned decades and been covered a crazy amount of times. Just wait for the Bill Withers post, it’s got some great stuff in it.

*alright, alright… I caved: Riders on the Storm








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