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It’s hard to write a brief post about John Coltrane that means much. His music is complex and challenging. Though it was just a bit more than a decade between the time he became famous and his death at age 40, Coltrane went through what experts say is five distinct periods. Some of these, particularly towards the end, featured music that casual music fans may find difficult and off-putting.
Coltrane – known as Trane – was born in Hamlet, North Carolina in 1926 and raised in High Point. He moved to Philadelphia in 1943 and joined the Navy on the day in 1945 when the atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima. He was one of the few musicians to play for the Navy who were not inducted to do so. He was discharged in 1946 and returned to Philadelphia, where he began to make a name for himself. He was influenced – as just about all young saxophone players were – by Coleman Hawkins, Lester Young and, especially, Charlie Parker. He gained more public notoriety when he became a member of Miles Davis’ band.
I spoke about Coltrane with Scott Yanow, the author of 11 books on jazz and a contributor to many websites. Scott and I previously discussed Parker and Louis Armstrong.
The introductory and exit music on the interview is “Acknowledgement,” which is the first segment of "A Love Supreme.” This is from the only recording of Coltrane playing the piece live.
Wikpedia, AllMusic and Coltrane’s website were used to write this post.
Editor's Note: I edit The Daily Music Break. I re-posted posts from there at DK for a long time, and stopped. I am going to start doing it again, though, I think. Check out the site and contact me for free email content updates. Thanks, Carl
Fulton Allen – Blind Boy Fuller – was born in 1908 in Wadesboro, North Carolina. He became completely blind by 1928. An examination near the end of his short life revealed that he suffered the long-term effects of neonatal conjunctivitis. People sing the blues for a reason.
Prospects almost certainly were not great for Fuller once he lost his sight. The Wikipedia profile said that he turned to singing and entertaining to make due as best he could. He studied the records of Blind Blake and took lessons from Rev. Gary Davis, who also was blind. He became, in the profile’s words, a “formidable” guitarist and played around Danville, Virginia and Winston-Salem and Durham, North Carolina. One of his followers was Saunders Terrell, who eventually break through as Sonny Terry.
A site of musicians’ biographies has a nice profile. Fuller played in the Piedmont style and was influential. Indeed, Terry’s long-time partner, Brownie McGhee, sounded so much like Fuller that for a time he was known as “Blind Boy Fuller No. 2.”
Fuller was discovered by a talent scout and record store manager named James Baxter Long. In 1935, he brought Fuller – along with Davis and George Washington (who had the great nickname “Bull City Red”) to New York City for a recording session on the ARC label. This led to more recordings and his eventual notoriety. Fuller died in 1941 -- whe he was all of 33 years old.
Above is "Truckin' My Blues Away," which Hot Tuna fans certainly will recognize. Below is "Step It Up and Go."
Wikipedia and Musician Profiles were used to write this post.
Clearly, yesterday's news from the Supreme Court was bad news, because it threatens the health care of millions of people.
From the purely political POV, however, this could be a godsend to the democrats. Look at it this way: The decision, one way or another, has no impact on the states that already have their own exchanges. This roughly equates with the blue states. Between now and when the first subsidy is not paid, purple and light red states will make accommodations and also not be impacted.
What's left? The deep red states. The loss of subsidies to the folks in these states will create havoc. And it won't be just among the poor. Plenty of middle class people will be impacted. At the very least, the political leaders of these states will be on the defensive. And big time. They are in essence kicking millions off insurance. The republican presidential nominee will be under pressure as well. It's a wedge issue on steorids.
So the political fallout will all be in the democrats' favor. The messaging will be easy-"-call your governor and have him file a one page form to get your subsidy back." It also will be a boon to the progressive elements in those states.
So, to reiterate, I wish the Supreme Court had stayed out of it. But, from a political point of view, this can be a very good thing.
It is hard to characterize Van Morrison. Is he a rocker? A soul singer? An R& B artist. Whatever he is, he's good. This is the start of Wikipedia's profile:
Van Morrison, OBE (born George Ivan Morrison; 31 August 1945) is a Northern Irish singer-songwriter and musician. His live performances at their best are described as mystical and transcendental, while some of his recordings, such as the studio albums Astral Weeks and Moondance and the live album It's Too Late to Stop Now, are critically acclaimed and appear at the top of many greatest album lists.
Known as "Van the Man" to his fans, Morrison started his professional career when, as a teenager in the late 1950s, he played a variety of instruments including guitar, harmonica, keyboards and saxophone for various Irish showbands covering the popular hits of the day. He rose to prominence in the mid-1960s as the lead singer of the Northern Irish R&B band Them, with whom he recorded the garage band classic "Gloria". His solo career began under the pop-hit oriented guidance of Bert Berns with the release of the hit single "Brown Eyed Girl" in 1967. After Berns' death, Warner Bros. Records bought out his contract and allowed him three sessions to record Astral Weeks in 1968. Even though this album wourg ld gradually garner high praise, it was initially poorly received; however, the next one, Moondance, established Morrison as a major artist, and throughout the 1970s he built on his reputation with a series of critically acclaimed albums and live performances. Morrison continues to record and tour, producing albums and live performances that sell well and are generally warmly received, sometimes collaborating with other artists, such as Georgie Fame and The Chieftains. In 2008 he performed Astral Weeks live for the first time since 1968. (Continue Reading...)
Morrison has been around for a long time. Here is Ultimate Classic Rock's take on his top ten songs.
Above is "Tupelo Honey" and below is "Into the Mystic."
Jazz pianist Lennie Tristano is called an improvisational genius and groundbreaker -- but one who was difficult to get along with, at least professionally. Jazz.com sums it up:
But the main reason why Tristano is usually discussed as a symbol or theorist rather than as a musician stems from the man himself. Tristano was frank, opinionated, and not afraid of bucking the system. Critics frequently reviewed the man’s personality rather than his records. And, as time went on, there were fewer and fewer records to review. (Continue Reading...)
The profile at Tristano's site notes that he was an important innovator:
Until relatively recently, it had seldom been acknowledged that Tristano had been the first to perform and record a type of music that came to be called "free jazz." In 1949 -- almost a decade before the making of Ornette Coleman's first records -- Tristano's group (which included Lee Konitz, Warne Marsh, and Billy Bauer) cut the first recorded example of freely improvised music in the history of jazz. The two cuts, "Intuition" and "Digression," were created spontaneously, without any pre-ordained reference to time, tonality, or melody. The resultant work was an outgrowth of Tristano's preoccupation with feeling and spontaneity in the creation of music. It influenced, among others, Charles Mingus, whose earliest records sound eerily similar to those of Tristano in terms of style and compositional technique. Mingus came by the influence honestly; he studied with the pianist for a period in the early '50s, as did many other well-known jazz musicians, such as Sal Mosca, Phil Woods, and the aforementioned Konitz and Marsh. (Continue Reading...)
Here is a nice essay on Tristano by Jeffery Taylor at The Stranger.
There is not much footage of Tristano. Thus, both clips apparently are from the same concert, which was in Copenhagen in 1965. Above is "You Don't Know What Love is" and below is "Lullaby of the Leaves."
Jana Pendragon at AllMusic does a nice job of profiling Ralph Stanley. Here is how it starts:
Born in Stratton, Virginia in 1927, Ralph Stanley and his older brother Carter formed the Stanley Brothers and the Clinch Mountain Boys. In 1946 Ralph and Carter were being broadcast from radio station WCYB in Bristol, Virginia. The music, which was inspired by their Virginia mountain home, was encouraged by their mother, who taught Ralph the clawhammer style of banjo picking. They recorded for such companies as the small Rich-R-Tone label and later Columbia, a relationship that lasted from 1949 until 1952. These classic sessions defined the Stanleys' own approach to bluegrass and made them as important as Bill Monroe. After leaving Columbia, the Stanleys were with Mercury, Starday, and King. Leaning toward more gospel at times, Carter and Ralph made a place for themselves in the music industry. In December 1966, Carter Stanley died in a Virginia hospital after a steady decline in health. He was just 41 years old. After much consideration and grief, Ralph carried on without Carter. Already their haunting mountain melodies made them stand apart from other bluegrass bands, but Ralph expanded upon this foundation and took his own "high lonesome" vocals to a new plane. (Continue Reading...)
Charles McGrath wrote a feature about Stanley in the New York Times four years ago. He paints a clear picture of the man and his music:
The songs tend to be about hard times, unfaithful lovers, deceased children, lonely graves. One of his most famous, “O Death,” is a pleading dialogue with the Grim Reaper himself. It used to be said that when you heard a Ralph Stanley tune, you either wanted to get drunk or go to church and get saved.
Onstage Mr. Stanley looks a little like an undertaker. He’s a small, serious man with wiry, steel-gray hair, and when he’s not using his hands, he tends to keep them clasped in front of him. For concerts he favors coal-black suits and dark shirts with a few tasteful rhinestones. He’s been on the road so long, he said, that he seldom gets stage fright. (Continue Reading...)
Here is Stanley's website. The great news is that 87-year-old Dr. Stanley, as he is known, still is performing.
Above "Little Maggie: and below is "The Rank Stranger."
Pearl Jam, of course, was one of the super groups of the 1990s. It surprised me that they still are touring today. Here is how Sterogum's Ryan Leas begins his list of the band's ten top songs:
Pearl Jam’s status as an artist can be a hard one to quantify. They entered the scene as one of the biggest bands in the world, and after a few years vanished from the mainstream audience radar, even though they continued, and still continue, to be an absolutely monolithic touring entity. Every fan knows the experience of talking to someone who goes, “Oh, they’re still around? I remember that one song they did…” before said person breaks into some ridiculous impression of the chorus from “Jeremy.” (Or maybe that was just me and a high school gym teacher, but I’ve got to imagine this is a semi-frequent phenomenon.) And even with them now falling outside of a lot of people’s attention spans, they’re still a quantifiably “big” band, between their ease at selling out arenas and the fact that their albums still move a respectable amount of copies (especially for a rock band in 2013, even if the numbers pale in comparison to their commercial peak twenty years ago). (Continue Reading...)
Billboard offers a straightforward profile:
Pearl Jam rose from the ashes of Mother Love Bone to become the most popular American rock & roll band of the '90s. After Mother Love Bone's vocalist, Andrew Wood, overdosed on heroin in 1990, guitarist Stone Gossard and bassist Jeff Ament assembled a new band, bringing in Mike McCready on lead guitar and recording a demo with Soundgarden's Matt Cameron on drums. Thanks to future Pearl Jam drummer Jack Irons, the demo found its way to a 25-year-old San Diego surfer named Eddie Vedder, who overdubbed vocals and original lyrics and was subsequently invited to join the band (then christened Mookie Blaylock after the NBA player). Dave Krusen was hired as the full-time drummer shortly thereafter, completing the original lineup. Renaming themselves Pearl Jam, the band recorded their debut album, Ten, in the beginning of 1991, although it wasn't released until August; in the meantime, the majority of the band appeared on the Andrew Wood tribute project Temple of the Dog. Krusen left the band shortly after the release of Ten; he was replaced by Dave Abbruzzese. (Continue Reading...)
AllMusic's bio of blues legend Buddy Guy was written by Mark Deming. Here is how it starts:
Buddy Guy is one of the most celebrated blues guitarists of his generation (and arguably the most celebrated), possessing a sound and style that embodied the traditions of classic Chicago blues while also embracing the fire and flash of rock & roll. Guy spent much of his career as a well-regarded journeymen, cited as a modern master by contemporary blues fans but not breaking through to a larger audience, before he finally caught the brass ring in the 1990s and released a series of albums that made him one of the biggest blues acts of the day, a seasoned veteran with a modern edge. And few guitarists of any genre have enjoyed the respect of their peers as Guy has, with such giants as Eric Clapton, Jimi Hendrix, Jeff Beck, Keith Richards, Stevie Ray Vaughan, and Mark Knopfler all citing him as a personal favorite.(Continue Reading...)
Here is a portion of the profile at Rolling Stone:
Although many of Guy's fans insist that he is best appreciated in concert, his recordings through the '90s have proved critical and popular favorites. Among them are three star-studded Grammy-winning albums: 1991's Damn Right, I've Got the Blues, 1993's Feels Like Rain (featuring Bonnie Raitt, Paul Rodgers, John Mayall, and Travis Tritt), and 1994's Slippin' In (with the Double Trouble rhythm section, pianist Johnnie Johnson, and guitarist David Grissom). Heavy Love (1998) features Jonny Lang and Steve Cropper. In 1993 Guy received Billboard's Century Award. He tours constantly, appearing at blues clubs and festivals around the world. Guy owns a Chicago club called Buddy Guy's Legends, where he can be found both performing and enjoying the playing of other acts when he's in town. (Continue Reading...)
Above is "Damn Right, I've Got the Blues" and below is "Feels Like Rain." One last note: Guy's daughter is the rapper Shwanna, whose given name is Rashawnna Guy.
Bomb disposal experts may be the only vocation more terrifying than playing in a classical orchestra. Think about it: A rock musician plays a wrong note and, honestly, nobody cares. Jazz is a bit more exacting. But play a wrong note and, well, it happens. But it seems like the classical folks always are perfect and any misstep is disastrous. Especially the folks in the percussion section.
Here is the beginning of ClassicalNet's profile of the composer commonly (though not entirely accurately) known as Maurice Ravel:
Joseph-Maurice Ravel (March 7, 1875 - December 28, 1937). was born in France near the Spanish border, to Swiss and Basque parents. His father's engineering work soon brought the family to Paris, and the young man entered the Paris Conservatory at age 14. He enrolled as a pianist but switched to composition under Gabriel Fauré and André Gedalge. Ravel was less radical a composer than Claude Debussy but rebellious in his own way. Where Debussy could write pieces to please the Conservatory masters and win a Prix de Rome, Ravel refused to be bound by the school's composition rules. His failure to win prizes did not endear him to his masters, even though he wrote successful pieces early on, including his Violin Sonata (1897) and Shéhérazade (1898). Given those successes, his failure to win the Prix de Rome in 1905 led to a public scandal and a change in the Conservatory directorship. (Continue Reading...)
Here is the start of Wikipedia's description of Ravel's signature piece:
Boléro is a one-movement orchestral piece by Maurice Ravel (1875–1937). Originally composed as a ballet commissioned by Russian actress and dancer Ida Rubinstein, the piece, which premiered in 1928, is Ravel's most famous musical composition. Before Boléro, Ravel had composed large scale ballets (such as Daphnis et Chloé, composed for the Ballets Russes 1909–1912), suites for the ballet (such as the second orchestral version of Ma Mère l'Oye, 1912), and one-movement dance pieces (such as La Valse, 1906–1920). Apart from such compositions intended for a staged dance performance, Ravel had demonstrated an interest in composing re-styled dances, from his earliest successes (the 1895 Menuet and the 1899 Pavane) to his more mature works like Le tombeau de Couperin (which takes the format of a dance suite). (Continue Reading...)
The performance by the Munich Philharmonic obvious has an emotional backstory involving the conductor, Sergiu Celibidache who died in 1996.
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Long time Jerry Garcia collaborator David Grisman is a singular talent. Wikipedia does its usual solid job of starting its profile with a nice roundup of Grisman's unique contributions:
David Grisman (born March 23, 1945 in Hackensack, New Jersey) is an American bluegrass/newgrass mandolinist and composer of acoustic music. In the early 1990s, he started the Acoustic Disc record label to help spread acoustic and instrumental music.
Grisman grew up in a Conservative Jewish household in Hackensack, New Jersey. He started his musical career in 1963 as a member of Even Dozen Jug Band. His nickname "Dawg" was affectionately assigned by his close friend Jerry Garcia in 1973 (the two met in 1964 at a Bill Monroe show at Sunset Park in West Grove, Pennsylvania). "Dawg Music" is what he calls his mixture of bluegrass and Django Reinhardt/Stéphane Grappelli-influenced jazz, as highlighted on his album Hot Dawg (recorded Oct. 1978, released 1979). Stephane Grappelli played on a couple of tracks on Hot Dawg and then the 1981 recording Stephane Grappelli and David Grisman Live. It was Grisman's combination of Reinhardt-era Jazz, bluegrass, folk, Old World Mediterranean string band music, as well as modern Jazz fusion that came to embody "Dawg" music. (Continue Reading...)
Anything even remotely connected to the Grateful Dead is well chronicled, perhaps to a fault. The Garcia/Grisman relationship is no exception. Here is the first paragraph of an amazingly detailed recounting of the work the two did together:
Jerry Garcia and David Grisman first met in the parking lot of a bluegrass festival in West Grove, Pennsylvania in 1964. They were both members of Old & In The Way in 1973 and performed together occasionally in other situations. They started performing and recording together in 1990 usually supported in concert by Jim Kerwin (bass) and Joe Craven (violin, percussion). Subsequently they performed live occasionally but recorded many sessions at David Grisman's Dawg Studios (at least 40 sessions according the David Grisman). The majority of their recordings are drawn from those studio sessions. (Continue Reading..)
Grisman is touring. Above is "Shady Grove" performed by the David Grisman Bluegrass Experience. The notes say that the performance is in 2010 and guitarist Beppe Gambetta is sitting in. Below, Grisman joins Garcia for Irving Berlin's "Russian Lullaby." The video quality is pretty bad and it's more Garcia than Grisman. But is an intense performance of one of the truly great songs.
The Ben Webster Foundation deserves credit for not sugar-coating an unpleasant aspect of Webster's personality--and in the first paragraph of its profile, no less:
The nickname "The Brute and the Beautiful" was aptly given to tenor saxophonist Ben Webster. He became famous for his beautiful sound which gave his ballad playing a unique touch of tenderness, while his playing in faster tempos was virile and filled with growl, and when sober he was the kindest and gentlest man, witty and entertaining and the natural center of the gathering, while he was unpredictable and violent when he had consummated too much of alcohol. Despite this Dr. Jekyll-Mr. Hyde-personality he was a much loved musician and recorded a fairly amount of excellent records of which most still are in stock, due to the fact that he is the best selling tenor saxophonist in jazz.(Continue Reading...)
Vaughan didn't take long to rise to the top. By the end of the first paragraph of her Verve profile, Vaughan was playing with Dizzy Gillespie and Charlie Parker:
She was born Sarah Lois Vaughan in Newark, New Jersey, on March 27, 1924. Sarah made music from a very early age, first singing in her church choir, then studying piano, then playing organ in church, then singing around town with Jabbo Smith, a great trumpeter and singer. At eighteen, she won the weekly amateur contest at Harlem’s fabled Apollo, an event that was attended by her future mentor and partner, Billy Eckstine, who was then the star vocalist with piano master Earl "Fatha" Hines. Eckstine recommended her to his boss, and Hines not only hired her as female singer for his big band, he also made her his second pianist. When Eckstine put together his own legendary big band in the mid-Forties, which featured Dizzy Gillespie as musical director and Charlie Parker in the saxophone section, Vaughan came along. (Continue Reading...)
Vaughan (who died in 1990) sings "Misty" above. Webster (1973) plays "Over the Rainbow" below.
About a year ago, I mentioned Noel Coward's "Mad Dogs and Englishmen" in a post. It's a pretty amazing piece of music, which is above. It can be seen as one of the grandfathers -- or perhaps great grandfathers -- of rap and hip-hop.
Coward was unique. This is how John Kenrick opens a section of his site, Musicials 101, that is dedicated to the all-around talent:
Of all the remarkable figures who peopled the 20th Century, none was even remotely comparable to Noel Coward. Born the son of an unsuccessful piano salesman, Coward had no more than a few years of elementary school education. Even so, by early adulthood he was recognized on both sides of the Atlantic as the personification of wit and sophistication. Successful as a composer, lyricist, actor, singer, director, novelist, painter . . . small wonder friends and colleagues called him "The Master." (Continue Reading...)
A well written profiles appears at iMDB:
Noel Coward virtually invented the concept of Englishness for the 20th century. An astounding polymath - dramatist, actor, writer, composer, lyricist, painter, and wit -- he was defined by his Englishness as much as he defined it. He was indeed the first Brit pop star, the first ambassador of "cool Britannia." Even before his 1924 drugs-and-sex scandal of The Vortex, his fans were hanging out of their scarves over the theater balcony, imitating their idol's dress and repeating each "Noelism" with glee. Born in suburban Teddington on 16 December 1899, Coward was on stage by the age of six, and writing his first drama ten years later. A visit to New York in 1921 infused him with the pace of Broadway shows, and he injected its speed into staid British drama and music to create a high-octane rush for the jazz-mad, dance-crazy 1920s. Coward's style was imitated everywhere, as otherwise quite normal Englishmen donned dressing gowns, stuck cigarettes in long holders and called each other "dahling"; his revues propagated the message, with songs sentimental ("A Room With A View," "I'll See You Again") and satirical ("Mad Dogs and Englishmen," "Don't Put Your Daughter On the Stage, Mrs. Worthington"). His between-the-wars celebrity reached a peak in 1930 with "Private Lives," by which time he had become the highest earning author in the western world. With the onset of World War II he redefined the spirit of the country in films such as This Happy Breed (1944), In Which We Serve (1942), Blithe Spirit (1945) and, perhaps most memorably, Brief Encounter (1945). (Continue Reading...)
Below is the happy tale of "Uncle Harry," which offers the same dismissive attitude toward British rectitude as "Mad Dogs and Englishmen."
In The Tin Drum, a masterpiece of Prussian literature about the Nazi era from German author Gunter Grass and an Oscar-winning film, little Oskar Matzerath determines while still in the womb that he'...