NEW – On The Turntable

22 02 2010

The ‘On The Turntable’ page has been updated. If you still want to access the old stuff from last month you can via an archive I set up in the sidebar to the right. It is located below the other archive links. You have to check out the page to see it all but here is a little taste of what is new…

It’s a little bit of Curtis/Live!, a great live Curtis Mayfield album from 1971 recorded at The Bitter End, here in The Village of downtown NYC. These 3 songs are a few of my favorites from the album:

We’ve Only Just Begun

People Get Ready

We The People Who Are Darker Than Blue

I especially like the Carpenters’ cover of “We’ve Only Just Begun”. Written by the songwriting team of Roger Nichols (music) and Paul Williams (lyrics), the song originally debuted in a commercial for Crocker National Bank in California in 1970, with Williams providing the vocals. It has since been played by many different artists with the Carpenters’ version being the most popular. I found this instrumental version by jazz guitarist Grant Green, which I really like too. It’s from his 1971 album Visions from Blue Note and features one of my favorite drummers from this period, Idris Muhammad.

Some might argue this type of “pop song turned instrumental jazz” style is in fact the precursor to the Muzak we mock today but I really like the way the rhythm section drags and pushes on this one, it gives it a great soul jazz feel that is indicative of what was going on in the genre at this time.

*Buy Curtis/Live online

**Buy Grant Green’s Visions online

Beware The Two Headed Freap

18 02 2010

I’ve been looking for a Ronnie Foster album from 1972 off Blue Note entitled The Two Headed Freap. I’ve tried to track it down on vinyl for a while now but just can’t seem to find a copy in my local record shops. It’s a great “acid-jazz” album that features this cult(ish) classic “Mystic Brew”. The tune may sound familiar as it has been sampled numerous times by a hand full of hip hop artists. The most notable in my mind is A Tribe Called Quest’s “Electric Relaxation”, from their 1994 album Midnight Marauders. It’s a great example of how a sample can be used to create a piece that stands on it’s own. In this case, it may even be regarded as better… well, certainly more successful. That aside, there’s definitely something slightly more compelling about the Tribe song than the original. But that’s mostly attributed to the fact that this early acid jazz was really watered down at the time plus Tribe tends to make a lot out of a little as seen in most of their work. Also notable is the fact that the beat is a three bar loop which is very uncommon in Hip Hop. Most popular music utilizes even meters and/or time signatures but the cool thing about 3 (odd) is that once you double it, it becomes 6 (even) so you can be playful with the feel, taking it in either an odd or even direction. Wayne Shorter’s “Footprints” is a phenomenal example of this in the jazz world.

Below is Ronnie’s “Mystic Brew” and A Tribe Called Quests’ “Electric Relaxation”. To give it another dimension, I have also included contemporary jazz pianist, Vijay Iyer’s version of “Mystic Brew” from his 2009 album Historicity. I like to place them all side by side to see/hear the transformations and adaptations that have occurred over the years.

Other uses of this sample include:

Madlib’s “Mystic Bounce” off Shades of Blue

Pete Rock’s ’99 Mix Tape version off Diggin’ On Blue

Freeway’s “Alright” off Philadelphia Freewayinstrumental version too

Marco Polo’s “Relax” off Port Authority

Joy Jones’ “Over” off GodChild Directed

Rell’s “Real Love” (Single produced by Kanye West)
Other Links:

More about Ronnie Foster’s career

More on Sampling as an industry practice

Academic brief on Sampling

Ref: Wayne Shorter’s Footprints from Adam’s Apple (Blue Note ca 1966)

Herbie’s “I Have A Dream”

18 01 2010

For MLK Day, I have to post the first track from Herbie Hancock’s final Blue Note album, The Prisoner. As you can probably tell by the title, it’s a  tribute to the late Dr Martin Luther King Jr. Recorded in 1969, this album evokes the feeling of the times, tension and all. Reflecting on the end of the civil rights movement, it considers how far we had come and at the same time how far we had yet to go.  “I Have A Dream” is a particularly savory piece. It’s a compositional masterpiece, plus, the group of sidemen assembled for the session create a really elegant, interesting and accessible aesthetic while embracing the Hancock sound.  That, coupled with the individual contributions of the soloists, makes it a real “Easter Egg” in Herbie’s repertoire. In addition to “I Have A Dream”, I included the title track as well. These two songs make up Side 1 of the LP. Sorry they don’t play continuously, I’m working on it…

Track 1:

Track 2:

Herbie Hancock - The Prisoner

*For more info on this recording session, click here.

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