Big Band Not “Big Band”

50ish minutes of modern big band bangers, semi-orchestral jazz and large ensemble avant-funk.

1. Chris McGregor’s Brotherhood of Breath – MRA
2. Philip Cohran and the Artistic Heritage Ensemble – Unity
3. Nucleus – Bull Dance
4. Hugh Hopper – Minipax I
5. Carla Bley – Song Sung Long
6. Sun Ra – Where Pathways Meet
7. Sam Rivers – Tranquility
8. Archie Shepp – A Prayer

Download.

Myths

Myths


Myths
by Mandrew on Mixcloud

A “jazz” mix of mystical, mythical meditations mostly from the seventies, including a bit of echoplex, electronics and unusual instrumentation. Features a number of tracks by/with members of Herbie Hancock’s Mwandishi group*, who everyone who knows me knows I am a bit obsessed with, plus one from the M’Boom LP I blogged about in my list of special records that I will get back to. And, the Tyner track features Alice Coltrane; everyone loves Alice. All from own vinyl collection.

1. Eddie Henderson – Spiritual Awakening*
2. Bennie Maupin – Ensenada*
3. Freddie Hubbard & Ilhan Mimaroglu – Monodrama
4. Eddie Harris – Smoke Signals
5. Phil Ranelin – Time Is Running Out
6. Billy Hart – Rahsaan Is Beautiful*
7. Norman Connors – Morning Change*
8. McCoy Tyner – His Blessings
9. Art Ensemble Of Chicago – The Bell Piece
10. Max Roach/M’Boom – January V

Download.

Songs From The Big Dig 2

BigDig2November2012

Another short late night listening selection, this time made up from records from the 70s that I picked up in Southwest USA. Includes a few tracks sampled in hip-hop for those who like spotting that sort of thing.

1. Eddie Kendricks – If You Let Me
2. Harvey Mandel – Fish Walk (edit)
3. Milton Nascimento – Raça
4. Nina Simone – Funkier Than Mosquito’s Tweeter
5. Dennis Coffey & The Detroit Guitar Band – Garden Of The Moon
6. Ahmad Jamal – Swahililand
7. Odetta – Sakura
8. John Fahey – The Waltz That Carried Us Away and Then a Mosquito Came and Ate Up My Sweetheart
9. Joe Zawinul  – His Last Journey
10. Lee Oskar – Haunted House

Get Up, Chop Into It, Get Involved

James Brown - Get Up Get Into It Get Involved

A bit of a diversion from the Foolhardy Endeavour special records countdown/count-up – which I will return to shortly – but the records in the short tribute below are all worthy of that list.

I recently had a bit of a friendly argument with Matt Poacher over whether the main musical motif in this 1970 James Brown single is a riff or a lick. Apparently the latter is fluid and/or spacious, while the former must bludgeon. However, as I hear it, there are few things heavier and harder than JB’s most driving phrases. The sheer “everything on the one” insistence of his prime 1969-73 funk era grooves makes them as weighty as any rock riff. And this lick, if that’s what we must call it, is an especially good example; there’s definitely heft but as a rallying cry, it’s inclusive rather than oppressive. Maybe a riff is just a lick minus sex, I’m not sure I’ll ever be able to draw a definitive line.

Never mind, but what this record (as a whole) definitely is, is a break. In this case, a break in the evolved sense – there are no clean bars, open drums or obviously loop-ready lines, yet something secreted in the grooves, in the timbre, the momentum, made it so sample-worthy, it just needed deft application. The man responsible for its big break status also happens to be the catalyst for the evolution of the break, Marley Marl. Before DJ Premier took sample slicing to the nth degree and jungle-drum & bass made the endless reconstitution of single breakbeats a viable end in itself, Marlon Williams figured out how to reconfigure, reprogram and extract his own grooves from old records, thereby changing everything and making himself a hugely important figure in the development of hip-hop, studio-based dance music and by extension, the funk itself.

In 1988, a couple of years after he first applied his new techniques, he’d pretty much mastered them, and turned to “Get Up, Get Into It, Get Involved”, a record previously sampled for its a capella intro, for inspiration. THREE times during one year, with three different MCs from his own Juice Crew, he exploited the same source to very different effect, always producing results that were tough as old boots.

For Kool G Rap, one of the most aggressive rappers of the time – his savage cadence and lisp make him a true spitter -  Marley constructs one of the most violent staccato ‘grooves’ ever heard in the genre, stabbing at the track over and over with snatches of guitar and horns. Brutal.

Did “Get Up…”‘s short guitar solo by (I think) “Catfish” Collins really have that sensual eastern feel before Marley looped it up and matched it with Big Daddy Kane’s rapid but super smooth delivery? It’s impossible to hear it any other way now.

If I remember correctly, MC Shan’s battle rhyme showcase was the last of these records to be released. Responding to the brief perfectly, Marley reduces JB’s riotous rhythmic exhortations into a stuttering, hip-jerking, monolithic war dance. The added tank-strength rumble comes via one of the first examples of a filtered bassline, adding kilos of sub-low pressure – proper speakers or headphones advised.

Kool G Rap and Polo - Poison

Big Daddy Kane - Long Live The Kane

MC Shan - Juice Crew Law

A Foolhardy Endeavour Pt.8

Can-Opener-front

Can – Opener (1976)

This one follows on from my last post about Kraftwerk and cheap artist anthologies which once served a very specific, if unintended purpose, for cash-strapped vinyl fiends.

After Kraftwerk, and unless you’re a dyed-in-the-wool prog fan or just a bit weird and somehow got to Tangerine Dream or Faust first, Can is usually the second stop on any journey of kosmische discovery. Whether it’s the early, vaguely Velvets-ish garage rock mantras with Malcolm Mooney or the spacey, groove-laden and proto-ambient (and much more) stylings employed with Damo Suzuki, Cologne’s castle-dwelling misfits really do have something for everyone.

Of course, at the time I bought this, I was mainly after one thing. I must have picked it up some time in the nineties before the glut of Can reissues appeared, and having never seen any of their albums for anything approaching an affordable price, I was understandably excited seeing this compilation relatively cheap. I pulled it out of the rack in that covetous and over-eager manner one has when stumbling upon their personal equivalent of treasure, barely stopping to acknowledge the great/terrible punning title and pop art-referencing image as I flipped it over to see the tracklist. I may have even let out an audible and embarrassing “Yes!” as I discovered it contained ‘Vitamin C’, probably the funkiest of all Can tracks, the one you could play in a DJ set and people would say “What the fuck is this?” in the best way.

Like Elektro Kinetik, this LP brings together a selection of tracks from a short period in a band’s long life and again covers material from three albums*. Unlike the Kraftwerk collection though, this focusses on Can’s mid period/the closing of their golden years, with four tracks from the masterpiece Ege Bamyasi, two apiece from Future Days and the band’s first post-Damo and last great album Soon Over Babaluma. The gypsy-reggae-funk grooves of  ‘Dizzy Dizzy’ and ‘Come Sta, La Luna’ make them the most accessible moments from the latter, and combined with the proto-baggy-but-much-better-than-that ‘I’m So Green’ and ending with the floaty come down of ‘Future Days’ help to make up a consistent collection that, despite the odd assertion in the liner notes that Can are “still the most unsettling of all the German Groups”, could well have been called Can’s Big Party Hits Album. And we’ve all got drunk and sang along to Damo’s divine pidgin English chorus from ‘Spoon’ at some point, haven’t we? Well, perhaps we should.

“Doooon’t sit up-on the cha-ir when nobody wants to care!”

Can-Opener-back

*Perhaps bizarrely, this comp has recently been reissued on vinyl in its own right.

A Foolhearty Endeavour Pt.7

Kraftwerk - Elektro Kinetik - front cover

Kraftwerk – Elektro Kinetik (1981)

Kosmische/Krautrock seems to be an important rite of passage for almost every curious music head and most will have investigated at least two 70s German bands*, one of which will certainly be Kraftwerk, by the age of 25. In the pre-file sharing age of course, this required putting in a fair amount of effort; albums weren’t always available on CD and the originals were rarely cheap – Julian Cope’s hyper-enthusiastic 1995 book Krautrocksampler did wonders for the music, but not so much for those who were cash-strapped and wanted to get their hands on it. To get hold of many of these records, it was all about taping off your friend who usually dubbed them from a cool dad’s or elder sibling’s LP, or perhaps borrowing knackered copies from your local library, or if you were really lucky, buying them cheap when the library sold off all their vinyl.

There was always another way though. If you wanted certain tracks, or even just one, maybe for DJing with, second hand artist anthologies, like this Vertigo release from 1981, were the best option; you could get some relatively rare music and even play it out, without breaking the bank. And now records like this are somehow more alluring than the readily available, if expensive, pristinely packed ‘exact reproduction’ reissues of original albums. They represent, I’m sure for many like me, a kind of cultural purpose that exists in a hinterland between their current state of near-obsolescence and the original intentions (as introductory ‘brochures’ and extra income for record companies) behind their release.

I bought Elektro Kinetik a long time ago from House Of Rhythm, a second hand shop in Walthamstow, where I grew up. In fact, I may have bought it when it was still called Sounds Familiar, part of a chain that had another branch in Romford. I don’t remember the year and nothing really changed between the two names; the shop was always managed by a tall bloke whose semi-long, lopsided hairstyle made him look like a roadie for The Mission, though he always seemed to be playing 80s soul/boogie while he vigorously cleaned dusty discs, smoking constantly and occasionally sipping from a can of cheap lager. The other cheap constants were the price stickers they used, which were a complete bugger to get off cleanly, as illustrated by the terribly spoiled cover above.

The main reason I bought this one was the beautiful ‘Tanzmusik’ from the Ralf & Florian LP, the last of the ‘disowned’ Kraftwerk albums before the band’s self-acknowledged classic era began with Autobahn. The fact that the single version of the latter’s title track is included was a bonus for me. Also included is the second half of R&F‘s ‘Ananas Symphonie’, whose main theme is a wonderfully languid guitar (Yes, Kraftwerk, guitars!), which makes it more akin with Neu! or Ash Ra Tempel than Trans-Europe Express. Still, you can feel their style gradually edging away from the stretched out experiments of Kraftwerk 2  – a couple of great tracks from which are also on here – towards the more tightly focussed, strongly melodic and fully electronic sound they’re famous for. In fact, I sometimes wonder if the only reason Ralf & Florian sits outside of the sanctioned canon is the fact that Ralf still has long hair on the cover.

This marvellous performance of ‘Tanzmusik’ which features Wolfgang Flür, who isn’t on the record, shows the group were still performing it when on the cusp of their next phase:

Kraftwerk - Elektro Kinetik - back cover

*This one was going to a be kosmische double header, but you can wait for the next part.