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Archive for the ‘Jazz’ Category

Al Jarreau

Posted by purplemary54 on February 12, 2017

You might only remember Al Jarreau if you are a person of a certain age or if you were a huge Moonlighting fan.  A consummate singer and performer, Jarreau had pretty much dropped out of the spotlight in the last couple of decades.  In fact, I think the last pop culture hit he had was the theme to Moonlighting.  At 76, Mr. Jarreau has moved on to the next plane of existence.

Take a minute to familiarize yourself with Mr. Jarreau if you don’t already know his work.  He was originally a Jazz singer, but he crossed into so many genres that he was impossible to pigeonhole.  And wow, was he smooth.  No.  Not just smooth.  Al Jarreau was smooooooooooth.  His voice was silky and pure and clean.  There were no missed notes, no extraneous flourishes, no gratuitous posturing. There was just music, and it was good.

Now all the smooth leaves no room for rough edges, which means Jarreau was never quite to my taste.  But this, singing his 1981 hit “We’re in This Love Together” is how I will always remember him.  Another great voice is just a memory, but it’s a pretty fine one.


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Pete Fountain

Posted by purplemary54 on August 6, 2016

My daddy played the clarinet.  He said he fell in love with the sound it made when he saw a performance of Peter and the Wolf as a child.  He didn’t keep up with it after high school.  He wasn’t interested in making it a career, and hobbies like drinking and talking were more fun to him.  But he always loved clarinet music.  Which is why I immediately thought of him when I heard that clarinetist Pete Fountain had passed away at 86.  This makes the great concert of the afterlife a little more entertaining, and it’ll certainly make my father happy.  Of course, it sadly leaves this plane of existence just a little more bereft.


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As Seen on TV: “Humanism”

Posted by purplemary54 on February 25, 2016

Am I the only one who thinks this is the coolest theme song to come around in years?

Television theme songs might be a dying art form, but don’t tell Jean Batiste & Stay Human that.  This music swings and grooves and funks along like nothing else I’ve heard in a long time.  I included a clip of an actual opening from The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, but if you want to hear the music without any of the surrounding stuff (crowd cheering, guest line-up, or really awesome graphics), click here.  It’s even funkier, even if the clip is reallllly boring.


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Joey Alexander

Posted by purplemary54 on January 28, 2016

I didn’t intentionally go quiet.  I just got kind of distracted.  And I’ll probably be more distracted soon, because the new semester at SJSU has begun. *sigh*  I’m not sorry, just a little rueful that I didn’t get more reading done over the break.

But a couple of weeks ago–right before Rock legends started dropping dead–I was watching 60 Minutes and I saw a profile on this young Jazz prodigy.  And if you haven’t seen or heard him before, then let me warn you, Joey Alexander is very young.

This clip is a couple of years old; I think he’s all of twelve now.  And he is stunningly good.  Self-taught for the most part, too.  That is, I believe, what is known as genius.  Joey is remarkably composed and articulate for his age, also a sign of genius.  He knows his stuff.  What gets me most is the lightness of his touch on the piano, fingers seemingly weightless on the keys.  His playing style reminds me a lot of Vince Guaraldi; if I believed in reincarnation (and I do), I might think this is a rebirth of that great talent.

Keep your eyes and ears on this kid.  He’s going to do great things.

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“Sweet Georgia Brown”

Posted by purplemary54 on December 28, 2015

I try to note the passings of icons from my childhood, musical or otherwise.  Today, I saw on ABC 7’s website that Meadowlark Lemon from the Harlem Globetrotters passed away Sunday at 83.  I see ads for the Harlem Globetrotters every so often, and I always think of the team I remembered when I was a kid in the 70s.

I probably first saw the Globetrotters on some variety show or TV special, or maybe even their appearance on Scooby Doo.  While I was never a basketball fan, I enjoyed the theatrical antics of the Globetrotters.  They were everywhere in the 70s, led by Meadowlark Lemon, who played with the team for over twenty years.  But the team has a much longer history, and still goes on today.  They don’t have the superstar profile they did back then, but little has changed.  They still clown around and play better than just about anyone else.  Their games are exhibitions, entertainments, simple fun.

The Harlem Globetrotters’ theme song is “Sweet Georgia Brown.”  It’s a jazz standard, but the only version I’ve ever heard (and ever want to hear) is the Brother Bones version that accompanies the Globetrotters.  I tried to find a clip of the song that included the 70s era players, but there didn’t seem to be one.  Pity, because they really were fun to watch.

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Allen Toussaint

Posted by purplemary54 on November 10, 2015

Damn.  I was kind of hoping he’d live forever.

Listening to Toussaint is a little like listening to Mingus or Monk for me.  I feel something inside me that I didn’t know was empty, fill up.  His music truly is food for the soul.

Thank you, Allen Toussaint.  Your spirit will always be with us.

Posted in Jazz, Music, Obituaries | Tagged: , , , , | 2 Comments »

Ornette Coleman

Posted by purplemary54 on June 11, 2015

Jazz legend and pioneer Ornette Coleman has died at the age of 85.  (Click here for a good essay about him from ABC news.)

Coleman was a musician like no one had ever heard before; the aforementioned ABC article likens him to James Joyce and Jackson Pollock.  He was revolutionary.  While I don’t own any of Coleman’s brilliant albums (something I should rectify soon), I’ve long enjoyed and been intrigued by his sound.  This is music that demands something of the listener, that makes you pay attention.  You may not like it, but you cannot deny it.

It was also announced today that Christopher Lee had died, so it’s not been the greatest day in the entertainment world.  I guess the Universe needed some more talent in the afterlife.

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“Water Under Bridges”

Posted by purplemary54 on January 15, 2015

So I was tooling around the iTunes store last night, looking for music to spend money on, and I decided to see what Gregory Porter had been up to.  This song came out in 2013, but it hit me like a sledgehammer to the heart.

I cried.  The grief and ache in Porter’s rich voice just hit me so hard that the short preview had me in tears.  There really isn’t anything I can add.  Listen if you haven’t already.  Then listen to more by this unbelievably talented man.  You’ll never, ever be sorry.  (And I want to thank Sandee once again for turning me on to this dude a couple years ago.)

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1000 Recordings to Hear Before You Die: Goin’ Home

Posted by purplemary54 on November 10, 2014

Before my finger landed on this entry in the book, I’d never heard of Archie Shepp or Horace Parlan.  (Of course, my Jazz education has some rather large, glaring holes, so that doesn’t really mean much.)  But Tom Moon feels this is one of the musical pieces that needs to be heard, and from the little I’ve sampled so far, I am inclined to agree.

Archie Shepp was part of the avant-garde Jazz scene in the 60s, but he veered back into more traditional Jazz in 1977 with his collaboration with Horace Parlan.  The piano (Parlan) and saxophone (Shepp) combination is simple but potent.  I can’t tell you much about stylistics or tunings or tones.  What I can comment on is the way this music seems to envelop you in a warm, velvety glow.  This is music to listen to by firelight, maybe with a nice glass of single malt scotch.  It is dark and kind of melancholy, but not negative or sad.  It is just glorious.

This seems to be the only track from the album Goin’ Home on YouTube (it was the only one I could find, at least).  But Shepp and Parlan made at least one other album, Trouble in Mind, and I feel I should also post their version of “St. James Infirmary” because it is a terrific rendering of one of my favorite Jazz/Blues/Folk classics.

I don’t think any music lover will be disappointed by any of Archie Shepp and Horace Parlan’s work.  Feel free to explore more, and suggest some listening for me.  I do still have some room on my iPod, after all.

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“Makin’ Whoopee”

Posted by purplemary54 on July 23, 2014

A little Duke Ellington number came up on the computer this afternoon, and it reminded me of this song for some reason.  There’s no other reason for this post.  I just felt like hearing this fun little song performed by two very, very underrated artists.

Fact is, my brain’s kind of deserted me the last few days.  I feel a bit stuck.  I don’t mind a good rut; I live my life based on routine.  But although my activities and actions are pretty proscribed, my mind is usually going a million different directions at light speed  (trust me, it’s not nearly as fun as it sounds).  I have noticed that my thoughts do tend to run in cycles, with certain ideas dominating at various times.  I have a set of worries and fears that plague me pretty much all the time.  There’s a few story and poem ideas that bounce around in the foreground sometimes.  There’s a set of regrets and what if’s that like to sucker punch me  on occasion.  The daily to do list is always there, waiting to be checked off.  And the daydreams are always ready to move up when there’s nothing else to think about.  The only things that really change are the specifics.

When I get something in my mind, I tend to hang onto it like a dog, shaking it like a rat between my teeth until its little neck snaps.  (I saw our dog–a dalmatian–do that once; it was kind of horrifying.)  I turn ideas over under sideways down in my head, twisting them until they’re recognizable by no one but me.  The current bit of weirdness running through my mind is the idea of paranormal investigations.  I even went so far as to google “paranormal studies” and “parapsychology” today.  During my first great ghost story phase as a kid, I really thought that might be a cool career to get into.  I still think it sounds pretty cool, but I’m not really considering it; it’s just another bee in bonnet.  I have to ride it out until this particular thought flies away.

The inability to settle on one cool idea or line of study has perhaps hindered my life–although it has made me pretty good at Jeopardy! and Trivial Pursuit.  I know a lot of stuff because I’m constantly picking up strange little thoughts and thinking about them until all the thinking has been thunk.  I like to learn things.  Just about anything, it turns out.  It’s led me down some interesting musical paths, too.  Watch the video again just in case you didn’t notice.

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