Mose Allison: Allison Wonderland (Rhino)
Allison was born and reared in the tiny Mississippi town of Tippo, deep in the heart of the Delta, where he soaked up the blues as played by Memphis Slim, Lightnin’ Hopkins and Sonny Boy Williamson. After honing his chops in Louisiana, Allison landed in New York in 1959 with the facility to play any kind of jazz from Ellington’s complex swing to the bop pyrotechnics of Bud Powell. But his own music never strays too far from the blues. Ranks with Tom Lehrer and Spike Jonze as one of the wittiest songwriters in American music, ie., “Your Mind is On Vacation,” “I Don’t Worry About a Thing,” “Your Molecular Structure.” While lighting a joint, Gnossos Pappadopoulis, the hirsute hero of Richard Farina’s classic Been Down So Long It Looks Like Up to Me, slaps an Allison record on the turntable, which you gives you an idea of his standing in the beat underground. Was Mailer listening to Allison when he penned the White Negro? Don’t blame that tract on Allison, but he remains the epitome of white cool.
Lee Morgan: Search for the New Land (Blue Note)
Lee Morgan was the most gifted trumpet player since Clifford Brown and like Brown he died too young, gunned down by his wife during a gig at Slug’s Club in Manhattan in 1972 at the age of 34. Morgan was discovered as a teenager by Dizzy Gillespie, who quickly made him a featured player in his band, and promoted him to Blue Note, where Morgan soon became a top session player. You can hear the early Morgan sound on Coltrane’s classic early 60s record Blue Trane. Morgan had flair for writing catchy pop riffs that concealed the innovative improvisational structure of his music. Three of his songs defied the odds to become hit singles: Sidewinder, The Rumproller and Cornbread. Search for the New Land, though, forgoes the pop flavor of Sidewinder for a funkified excursion into modal jazz with superb backing from Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter and the wonderful Grant Green on guitar. One of the forgotten masterpieces of 1960s.
The Radiators: Live at the Great American Music Hall (Pop Mafia)
The Radiators 20th anniversary concert recorded in San Francisco captures the zestiness of one of the all-time great roadhouse bands: the sound of New Orleans funk mating with Memphis soul. Like most bar bands, the Radiators excel at covers and Clarence Carter’s “Slip Away” has never been given a better treatment (except by Carter himself).
Sonny Landreth: South of I-10 (Volcano)
Clifton Chenier’s guitarist arrives as a solo artist with a classic of swamp slide. As a sacrifice to the Gods of Hurricanes, drop the needle on “Great Gulf Wind” and play. Or is that pray?
Loretta Lynn: You Ain’t Woman Enough (MCA)
If, like me, you feel the urgent need to eradicate the bad taste left over from Van Lear Rose, the terrible Jack White album marketed as a Loretta Lynn record, soak yourself in the inimitable twangs of this Lynn classic from the mid-1960s.
Red Garland Trio: Groovy (OJC)
The exquisite sound of three talented junkies in a groove.
While waiting for the new John Ashcroft/50 Cent a capella collaboration to be released, I’m listening to.
Sun Ra: Untitled LP
On one side the label is hand-colored orange and green. Somebody wrote “Sun Ra” in black above the hand lettered list of four tunes which include “Space is the Place, “Dedicated to Natures, “The Cosmos Me,” and “Space Shuttle.” Under that is a crinkle-cut pasted-on piece of paper that has “compositions by SUN RA” typed in black. I have no idea when this is from. I know it’s before the summer of 1977, because that’s when I got it. You’ve got to pull out some Ra now and then. It’s as fresh as it was the day it was recorded, and has never been surpassed on a lot of levels. Ra was the ultimate trickster, a genius who might have, indeed, been from another planet. The brilliance and cheesiness, the great musicianship and the head-shaking weirdness of it all proves Ra’s famous quote, “It ain’t necessarily so that it ain’t necessarily so.” And it ain’t.
Stanton Moore: “All Kooked Out!” CD (Fog)
Best known as Gallactic’s drummer, he’s already in the pantheon of great New Orleans drummers, having studied at the feet of some of the current masters. This is from 1998 and has Charlie Hunter on 8-string guitar, Skerik, the little-known but much admired saxophonist. This is Moore at the start of his career, all young and bursting forth.
The interesting thing about Moore is that as good as this is (I had it on in the car for a week), he’s gotten that much better over the years.
I once heard a street argument in Portland, Oregon over who was the best drummer in New Orleans, Russell Batiste or Stanton Moore. I voted for Russ between the two at the time, but you can find great drummers on any street there. Or you could before Katrina.
I could get started on the current diaspora in New Orleans, but you can read about that here, in a piece I wrote on Jazzfest 2006.
Phillip Glass: “Mishima” soundtrack CD (Nonesuch)
I was driving from Portland to Seattle to see the Orioles game and suddenly remembered the delights of driving fast with Phillip Glass blasting out of the speakersespecially Mishima, with its electric guitars, and martial drums.
Even though it evokes the persona of Mishima, the music itself is more effective by itself than it is in the movie it was written for. The opening is one of the most thrilling two minutes and forty-five seconds ever written.
When they used to let you use electronic equipment on planes during takeoff, this or The Photographer would always be in my ears. I still think about it when I’m taking off.or driving 85 on I-5 between Seattle and Portland.
Is that dishonoring Mishima? He can’t get to me. He daid.
The Meters “Kickback” CD (Sundazed)
Sundazed Music released all of The Meters LPs a few years ago. This is a collection of tunes that never got on any Meters’ albums. There’s some great stuff on here, and some not-so-great. They take pains to point out that the previously unreleased “Love The One You’re With” is based on the Isley Brothers’ version and not the original. Doesn’t really matter though, there’s a reason it wasn’t released.
These are from the Warner Brothers/SeaSaint days of the mid 1970s.
The gem is “All I Do Everyday” which I re-discovered because New Orleans/now Portland, Oregon saxophonist Reggie Houston does it in nearly every set his Earth Island Band plays. I think I played this song 5 times in a row one day in the car. I’m going to go play it again now.
When the Meters played their famed reunion concert at Jazzfest 2005, they pulled out “He Bite Me,” a song that’s also on this. It could be the funniest song they ever recorded. It’s about a dragon. Zig and George growl. Don’t ask.
“Keep On Marching (Funky Soldier)” used to be in the regular set list of The Funky Meters, Art and George’s band with Russell Batiste and Brian Stolz who kept the Meters’ music alive until they finally figured out how to get along.
Michael Haberman “Plays Sorabi-The Legendary Works for Piano”
Kaikhosru Shapurji Sorabji (1892-1988) wrote dense solo piano music, which Habermann discovered in a little shop in Mexico City in the 1970s. He became the only pianist Sorabi would trust to play his music.
It is not Cecil Taylor-like pounding and histrionics. A lot of it is just flat-out beautiful, if difficult. Some of these pieces have 8 staves for two hands. It took Habermann years to get them down.
He used to live in the apartment next to mine in Baltimore in the 1980s and I could lay in bed and listen to him practice. Before he knocked on my door to ask if he was bothering us, I thought angels lived next door.
Brian Eno “Music for Films” “Music for Airports” LPs
Although he never really disappeared, Eno has wormed his way back into public consciousness by working on Paul Simon’s latest album. What’s fun about these is that they’re LPs and have scratches, adding to the “ambience.”
I bought into the whole concept when they were released in the late 70s. They hold up. Could have been made today. In the back of my head there’s a voice saying, “It’s not New Age. It’s not New Age. Really, it’s not.”
The music on here works the way it was designed to work.
It’s isn’t New Age. Really, it’s not.
Eric Dolphy “Out There” LP (OJC)
Oh man. Dolphy on alto, flute, clarinet and bass clarinet. Ron Carter on CELLO and George Duvivier on BASS and the young Roy Haynes at his young and gnarling best. Recorded FORTY-SIX years ago.jazz players today should BE this innovative.
What ever happened to the avant-garde?
Dolphy’s tribute to Mingus, “The Baron,” a Randy Weston tune and the rest Dolphy originals.
This album jumps out the speakers and runs away begging for new listeners and the long life it deserves.
I have the 1969 re-issue with notes from Ralph Berton in which he says, “you won’t ‘know where you are;’ you won’t hear the well known chords and changes; you’re on your own with the music being flung your way, music representative of a great deal that’s happening now. Are they speaking to you? Or just thinking out loud? And do you like listening in?”
Is it me, or did the avant-garde stop? Somebody called today’s scene “museumification of the music.” The music on here is bright life. A museum couldn’t hold it.
Oregon “Crossing” CD (ECM)
The final recording with Colin Wolcott, and possibly their best. Well, it’s the best one of theirs I’ve listened to this month, anyway. I have never gotten tired of Glen Moore’s “Pepe Linque” and I’ve heard it a million times.
They are still huge in Europe. They are still little-known in America. Don’t get me started. Sometimes I think most of the greatest music will never be discovered by most people. Oh well, that’s show biz.
Glen Moore once unlocked Oregon for me, even though I had always loved them. He told me that when they started out, their objective was to make music as beautiful as Bill Evans’. Makes sense, huh?
Big Joe Turner “In The Evening” LP (OJC)
Back when Joe had to sit down to sing. On the stool, becalmed until it was time for him to sing a verse, he would fill with some sort of inspired helium and belt out his lines, only to slump back on the stool until it was his turn to sing the next verse.
This is a Pablo release from 1976 backed by a quintet, including piano and guitar. Joe was a blues droner as well as a blues shouter by then. He’s lanquid and old and world-weary. This makes “I’ve Got the World On a String” especially effective.
I’ve pretty much destroyed this record over the years by playing it when I’ve been pretty much destroyed, myself. It works every time. Like I said before, scratches help.
Tom D’Antoni is a writer and TV producer/reporter living in Portland Oregon. His book “Rabid Nun Infects Entire Convent and Other Sensational Stories from a Tabloid Writer” was published by Villard/Random House in November. His documentary on Oregon’s Death With Dignity law “Robert’s Story: Dying With Dignity” is currently being marketed.