This wasn’t the plan. It wasn’t even the question. We didn’t really want “lists”, we wanted thoughts, reflections, reminiscences on the special things that have happened this year. They have been brilliant too and I think, they give a real insight into the character of the contributors. I have written something about my Caught By The River moment, it will be up in a couple of days, but I got a bit carried away with the music so I think it’s best this runs separately.
Music; lots of Jazz. I’d banked it. Been deep sea diving for pretty much every other kind of music all of my life. But I banked Jazz. Nothing against it, just so much of it. Save it for later.
I’ve been dipping the last few years but this year was the big one. The one when I fell in love with Lester Young, especially “Pres & Teddy” (Verve), the Clifford Brown & Max Roach record (Verve), the Clifford Brown Memorial Album on Blue Note, Duke Ellington meets Coleman Hawkins on impulse, plus some great music from some great films; Miles Davis’ soundtrack to Louis Malle’s “Ascenseur Pour L’echafaud” (Fontana), Duke Ellington’s “Anatomy of a Murder” (my issue, Columbia / Legacy with a whole heap of great bonus tracks including some cool Duke dialogue), Quincy Jones’ “In The Heat Of The Night” (my version on Ryko as a double with his score for “They Call Me Mr Tibbs”) , Johnny Mandel’s great noir arrangements for “I Want To Live” (Ryko) played by The Gerry Mulligan Combo. All killers, all on heavy rotation. I did my homework and learned my Bill Evans from my Gil Evans. Both of whom were played a lot. I especially enjoyed Bill Evans' "Waltz For Debbie" and "Moonbeams".
I reckon that it’s Gil Evans who is responsible. Him, James Oldham and the Head Brothers.
It happened in a bar one night, of course it did. James played a fantastic piece of “what the fuck is this” music. “Where Flamingos Fly” he said. “Gil Evans”. Next thing, might have even been the next day, I hear that Shack (Mick & John Heads band, who I love) have called their new record “Between Miles & Gil”. Such a fucking cool title (with it’s “Forever Changes” ref too). Worlds collide and pennies drop. So, on goes Miles only this time I get it with Gil. Jimmy O sends me off to get “Out Of The Cool”, a record he writes so well about on these pages, the one that contains “..Flamingos..”, and boom, I got a habit.
Another reason for the Jazz could be down to my not being touched by much “new” music this year. I keep putting it down to age but I’m not sure it’s just that. To a degree, yes, of course. I mean, I’m not in the clubs any more and music radio doesn’t get a look in. But it is my living, so in my position I do listen, but,…….still, there are a few records that I’ve liked; the beautiful and mysterious “The Bairns” by Rachel Unthank & The Winterset (Rabble Rouser), took me a couple of plays and made me work a little. At first I thought that it was gonna be too trad folk and do my head in, but it worked it’s, not inconsiderable, magic and I really do not know how to define it. That is probably my record of this year.
Big surprise is the Robert Plant & Alison Krauss record, “Raising Sand” (Rounder). I’ve never been a fan of the bloke so when I was asked if I’d heard it I was kinda “why would I?”. But then, one afternoon, in the Rough Trade shop on Talbot Road, this big sound disoriented me. A warm, live, cavernous, haunting sound. Great drums. Rock ‘n’ Roll, kind of old time. Then this guy and this girl start to sing, together, and it’s good. And it’s them. So I bought it and I like it a lot. T Bone Burnette produced it really well.
Also, got a real surprise from the “Very Best Of Ethiopiques” set (Union Square). Soul, Jazz, Big Bands, Funk. From Ethiopia, ’69 – ’78. If I had been played it blind I would never have guessed the time or the place. That isn’t a western prejudice, it’s just music with a genuinely unique sound. Hugely recommend it.
I love “Rockferry” by Duffy. That is my single of the year and I am blown away by the new Aretha Franklin record made up of demos and outtakes. Andres raved about “Sweet Bitter Love” back in November and he’s not wrong. The "Aretha Arrives" outtakes are amazing too.
Loads of (other) brilliant comps of music from the past, tons in fact, but I’ll choose these three as my favourites;
“The Mercury New Orleans Sessions, 1950 – 1953” . Wild stuff. Some proper, bar room, melting pot stuff on this. Highlights being the early Professor Longhair tracks, recorded as Roy Byrd & His Blues Jumpers.
“The Roots of Rock ‘n’ Roll, 1946 – 1954” a three disc set on Hip O Select and it’s the real deal. From, “Hey! Ba – Ba – Re – Bop” to “(I’m Your) Hoochie Coochie Man” The greatest jukebox ever. It’s from the States but unlike most of the Hip O releases you can get it on Amazon. It’s no dough, £20 or thereabouts.
“The Cosimo Matassa Story” (Proper); four CDs of Matassa (and the genius Dave Bartholomew) recordings from the birth of New Orleans Rock ‘n’ Roll. Fats Domino, Little Richard, Smiley Lewis, Bobby Charles. Still dangerous. Still a load of fun. And it costs about £12.
One more, sorry; “Twinight’s Lunar Rotation” part of the “Eccentric Soul” series from Numero. There’s a Numero post below (last month) for reference.
As I have mentioned previously, we are yet to work out how to get audio on here. The only way we know how, right now, is to pull a clip off of YouTube. This isn’t something that we really wanted to do, but if we are gonna crap on about music it’s daft that you can’t listen as you read. Did it for Ike, so let’s do it again;
I think this is something special. It’s coming next year. Duffy singing "Syrup & Honey" in the studio, with her producer Bernard Butler. ( JB)