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Four landmark Jazz albums from 1959:
Billie Holiday & Lester Young (1937-1941)
Stream or Download individual tracks @ Internet Archive
The first popular jazz singer to move audiences with the intense, personal feeling of classic blues, Billie Holiday changed the art of American pop vocals forever. More than a half-century after her death, it’s difficult to believe that prior to her emergence, jazz and pop singers were tied to the Tin Pan Alley tradition and rarely personalized their songs; only blues singers like Bessie Smith and Ma Rainey actually gave the impression they had lived through what they were singing. Billie Holiday’s highly stylized reading of this blues tradition revolutionized traditional pop, ripping the decades-long tradition of song plugging in two by refusing to compromise her artistry for either the song or the band. She made clear her debts to Bessie Smith and Louis Armstrong (in her autobiography she admitted, “I always wanted Bessie’s big sound and Pops‘ feeling”), but in truth her style was virtually her own, quite a shock in an age of interchangeable crooners and band singers.
With her spirit shining through on every recording, Holiday’s technical expertise also excelled in comparison to the great majority of her contemporaries. Often bored by the tired old Tin Pan Alley songs she was forced to record early in her career, Holiday fooled around with the beat and the melody, phrasing behind the beat and often rejuvenating the standard melody with harmonies borrowed from her favorite horn players, Armstrong and Lester Young. (She often said she tried to sing like a horn.) Her notorious private life — a series of abusive relationships, substance addictions, and periods of depression — undoubtedly assisted her legendary status, but Holiday’s best performances (“Lover Man,” “Don’t Explain,” “Strange Fruit,” her own composition “God Bless the Child”) remain among the most sensitive and accomplished vocal performances ever recorded. More than technical ability, more than purity of voice, what madeBillie Holiday one of the best vocalists of the century – easily the equal of Ella Fitzgerald or Frank Sinatra – was her relentlessly individualist temperament, a quality that colored every one of her endlessly nuanced performances.
“This Year’s Kisses” (1937)
“Laughing at Life” (1940)
“Let’s Do It (Let’s Fall In Love)” (1941)
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Jazz geniuses delighting our ears!
Charles Mingus on Bass
Eric Dolphy on Sax, Bass Clarinet and Flute
Clifford Jordan on Tenor Sax
Jaki Byard on Piano
Dannie Richmond on Drums
Johnny Coles on Trumpet
Arguably the most exciting saxophone soloist in jazz history, Kirk was a post-modernist before that term even existed.Kirk played the continuum of jazz tradition as an instrument unto itself; he felt little compunction about mixing and matching elements from the music’s history, and his concoctions usually seemed natural, if not inevitable. When discussing Kirk, a great deal of attention is always paid to his eccentricities — playing several horns at once, making his own instruments, clowning on stage. However, Kirk was an immensely creative artist; perhaps no improvising saxophonist has ever possessed a more comprehensive technique — one that covered every aspect of jazz, from Dixieland to free — and perhaps no other jazz musician has ever been more spontaneously inventive. His skills in constructing a solo are of particular note. Kirk had the ability to pace, shape, and elevate his improvisations to an extraordinary degree. During any given Kirk solo, just at the point in the course of his performance when it appeared he could not raise the intensity level any higher, he always seemed able to turn it up yet another notch.
Kirk was born with sight, but became blind at the age of two. He started playing the bugle and trumpet, then learned the clarinet and C-melody sax. Kirk began playing tenor sax professionally in R&B bands at the age of 15. While a teenager, he discovered the “manzello” and “stritch” — the former, a modified version of the saxello, which was itself a slightly curved variant of the B flat soprano sax; the latter, a modified straight E flat alto. To these and other instruments,Kirk began making his own improvements. He reshaped all three of his saxes so that they could be played simultaneously; he’d play tenor with his left hand, finger the manzello with his right, and sound a drone on the stritch, for instance. Kirk’s self-invented technique was in evidence from his first recording, a 1956 R&B record called Triple Threat. By 1960 he had begun to incorporate a siren whistle into his solos, and by ’63 he had mastered circular breathing, a technique that enabled him to play without pause for breath.
In his early 20s, Kirk worked in Louisville before moving to Chicago in 1960. That year he made his second album, Introducing Roland Kirk, which featured saxophonist/trumpeter Ira Sullivan. In 1961, Kirk toured Germany and spent three months with Charles Mingus. From that point onward, Kirkmostly led his own group, the Vibration Society, recording prolifically with a range of sidemen. In the early ’70s, Kirk became something of an activist; he led the “Jazz and People’s Movement,” a group devoted to opening up new opportunities for jazz musicians. The group adopted the tactic of interrupting tapings and broadcasts of television and radio programs in protest of the small number of African-American musicians employed by the networks and recording studios. In the course of his career, Kirk brought many hitherto unused instruments to jazz. In addition to the saxes, Kirk played the nose whistle, the piccolo, and the harmonica; instruments of his own design included the “trumpophone” (a trumpet with a soprano sax mouthpiece), and the “slidesophone” (a small trombone or slide trumpet, also with a sax mouthpiece). Kirk suffered a paralyzing stroke in 1975, losing movement on one side of his body, but his homemade saxophone technique allowed him to continue to play; beginning in 1976 and lasting until his death a year later, Kirk played one-handed.
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I’m a huge fan of Morphine (I mean the band, not the drug). Albums like Cure for Pain (1993) and Yes (1995) became some of my most cherished companions since the day I’ve discovered them. And more than a decade listening to them have not diminished the excitement those songs – and that awesome sax sound… – arouse in me. With a sax that sounds so damn cool as Dana Colley’s does, who needs guitars? When I first heard Mark Sandman’s voice, I was sure he was gonna become one of my favorite singers ever, and that he could do stuff I’ve only heard in masters such as Tom Waits, Van Morrison and Graham Parker. Well, for those of you who haven’t yet been acquainted with the life and art of Mr. Mark Sandman (1952-1999), I would strongly recommend checking this out: here’s the full Sandman discography for download (including B-sides and lesser-known projects… this torrent is truly precious!). The intention of this post is only to invite you to dive deep into the music – and also to share a rarity I’ve uploaded to Youtube: Mark Sandman’s band before Morphine, Treat Her Right, whose self-titled album from 1986 is a must-listen for anyone who’s interested in rhythm & blues, rock and roll, and intense musical sensations. So here it goes:
01) I Think She Likes Me (3′ 39)
02) I Got A Gun (3′ 37)
03) Everglades (3′ 35)
04) Square (3′ 41)
05) Trail Of Tears (3′ 41)
06) Jesus Everyday (3′ 56)
07) You Don’t Need Money (3′ 17)
08) Don’t Look Back (3′ 36)
09) An Honest Job (2′ 47)
10) Bringin’ It All Back Home (2′ 48)
11) Where Did All The Girls Come From? (4:11)
Group Members: Billy Beard, Billy Conway, David Champagne, Jim Fitting & Mark Sandman.
Similar artistis: Violent Femmes, Bruce Springsteen, John Mellencamp, The Lovin’ Spoonful, Ry Cooder, Van Morrison, J. J. Cale, Uncle Tupelo, Tragically Hip.
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