Give the Drummer Some's
Favorite Downloads from the MP3 Blogosphere
More than a decade has passed since Ken Burns's Jazz aired on public television, but my loathing for it is still glows like a red-hot ember. The list of the film's transgressions is too lengthy to catalog here, but the one I found most egregious was that Burns, in narrow-minded rush to brand jazz as a uniquely American phenomenon, intentionally ignored all international contributions to the music.
In 2002, I expressed my disgust by producing for WFMU's fundraiser that year Jazz Burns Ken, a compilation of global "jazz"—from its earliest roots in ethnic folk music to current innovations in Europe. I included on that compilation a stunning performance by the Jamaican saxophonist Joe Harriott, who toiled in virtual anonymity in London's jazz scene of the 1950s and '60s. Today's Motherlode presents two must-have selections from Harriott—playing alongside fellow West Indian, trumpeter Shake Keane—that will make abundantly clear the folly of Ken Burns spending 19 hours telling the story of jazz in America with nary a moment to spare for the rest of the planet.
While Ken Burns's film making has always left me cold, he does have a knack for developing narrative through the artful presentation of archival photographs. For my money, the single best moment in Jazz occurred during the first episode—a long, elegant ogling of a breathtaking image—like some jazz-age Pietà—of Frankie Trumbauer cradling his c-melody sax.
Shake Keane Quintet ~ "In My Condition"
(Blog: The Boogieman Will Get Ya!)
Joe Harriott ~ "A Guy Called Joe"
(Blog: Brit Jazz)
Hot Breeze from the Islands
"I don't think that anyone would dispute that a major part of the success of Joe Harriott's experiments in jazz was the interaction between Harriott and Shake Keane. The two men were temperamentally dissimilar but musically they understood each other and worked together to produce exciting and exploratory music. Both Harriott and Keane were from the West Indies, Harriott from Jamaica. As well as being a jazz musician Keane was a literary man - his nickname was Shakespeare, shortened to Shake. When he first arrived in Britain from the West Indies it wasn't to make a career as a musician but rather to work in the BBC World Service where he read poetry and did interviews. Quite rightly his work with Harriott and Michael Garrick is seen as the high points of his career. However, I feel that his solo records are rather unjustly overlooked." (MM, at Night of the Living Vinyl)
Anne Briggs ~ "Classic Anne Briggs"
(Blog: Zero G Sound)
"Briggs herself managed to cut a highly idiosyncratic figure even on the folk scene, something of a haven for oddballs. Others may have spurned commercialism, but only Briggs seemed to have a problem with performing 'inside buildings': 'I used to love busking and impromptu stuff far more. I didn't like being on the stage, I didn't like being looked at, so I'd shut my eyes half the time, trying to shut it out.'" (Interview with Ms. Briggs in The Guardian, by Alexis Petridis )
Baden Powell & Vinícious de Moraes ~ "Os Afros-Sambas"
"Unquestionably one of the greatest and most magical Brazilian albums ever made, this disc mysteriously remained largely out of print for decades.…This collaboration between guitarist Baden Powell and bossa poet Vinícius De Moraes is incandescent and timeless; the music leaps out at you, as vibrant now as it was all those years ago. It's also probably the career highpoint for the female vocal group, Quarteto Em Cy, who later became overly polished and bland, but here sound youthful and even a bit unruly—like a mob of teenage girls dragged in to sing for an after-school choir. The mix of moody, unsettling bossa nova melodies and somewhat abrupt African rhythms was wisely left a bit rough around the edges, and as a result retains an eerie, haunting strength." (Joe Sixpack, at SlipCue.com)
F. Kenya ~ "The Power House"
I Think Akan
"The music of F. Kenya is (in my humble opinion) some of the most stunning Ghanaian highlife ever recorded, music with a unique sound characterized by deep Akan harmonies, sweet organs, and heartbreakingly beautiful vocals. The Power House, released on Essiebons in 1975, is Francis Kenya's first full length record. Like Kenya's other work, these songs are beautifully arranged, with rich musical textures that feature an interplay between interlocking guitar parts and organ lines. In addition, these songs are unique in that they are sung in Nzema (Kenya's own language) rather than the dominant Asante Twi (generally the language of highlife)." (O s i b i s a b a, at Osibisaba)
Various ~ "When Girls Do It"
(Blog: Blue Beat in My Soul)
Do What, Exactly?
"Raw, rollicking, rhythm & blues tunes from the 50s & 60s – loads of electric tunes that became the basis for rockers to come in both attitude and melodies – as you'd probably guess from the crazy cover photos for this great early 70s compilation on the UK's Red Lightnin label! When Girls Do It was originally released in 1971, and features loads of riveting tunes by Junior Wells, Magic Slim, Drifting Charles, Buddy Guy, Jimmy McCracklin, Tender Slim, Sugar Boy Williams and more." (Promo copy, probably lifted from Dusty Groove)
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