May 17, 2009
1973 | Columbia Records
Many great players have successfully crossed genres, widening the appeal of jazz to a larger and less assuming audience. And funk and R&B were fused with bebop and hard bop long before many assume. This week, I want to pay homage to the album, and the artist, I believe to be the most influential in terms of the electro-funk-jazz movement – Herbie Hancock’s Head Hunters.
Head Hunters was released in 1973 on Columbia Records. Though this was not the first time Hancock experimented outside of the bop box, it was the first time the music world, and more specifically pop, recognized jazz in any major way. Hancock incorporated synthesizers neatly into jazz, never sacrificing melody or harmony.
More on The Masterful Mr. Hancock
May 7, 2009
Together Through Life
2009 | Columbia Records
Together Through Life is Bob Dylan’s thirty-third studio album. It’s got ten songs on it and its two most defining elements are David Hidalgo’s (Los Lobos) accordion and Dylan’s incredibly raw, increasingly desertine voice. Hidalgo’s accordion contributions are also remarkable, effortlessly maintaining that impossibly fine line that the greatest accompanists walk – his playing is assured enough to own the material entirely, yet humble and refined enough to relegate itself to simple rhythmic or chordal flourishes. Together Through Life sounds often like the best southwestern barroom blues band album you’ve ever stumbled upon, and often like some archaic or forgotten American standard. All in all, it is very good.
But it’s an interesting album to qualify, insofar as it’s difficult to qualify anything Dylan does. I think that World Gone Wrong is an incredible album – perfect even – but I’d never argue that it’s as perfect as Blood on the Tracks or Nashville Skyline. It’s hard for me to enjoy listening to the swamp dirge Oh Mercy, but I can appreciate that “Most of the Time,” on its own, is enough to firmly establish it the best collection of Dylan originals of the 1980s. So it’s, as always, a matter of context: a bad Dylan record (Under the Red Sky and Dylan notwithstanding) is generally still a better record than anybody else is capable of putting out. How, then, should Together Through Life be considered? On its own merits? In relation to Dylan’s truly remarkable decade-long ‘comeback?’ To “Things Have Changed,” “Across the Green Mountain,” Time Out of Mind, Love and Theft, Modern Times?
More on Bob Dylan | Together Through Life
March 8, 2009
Kind of Blue
1959 | Columbia Records
Fifty years ago, Miles Davis did more than leave a footprint in jazz history – he left an untouchable legacy. It was the recording sessions for Kind of Blue that carved his initials into the jazz tree of life.
It’s the album that everyone has heard at some point, whether they’ve realized it or not. And chances are, if you own only one jazz album, this is it. Kind of Blue is touted as jazz’s bestseller and went quadruple platinum last fall.
Kind of Blue is the product of two recording sessions, the first on March 2, 1959, at Columbia Records’ 30th Street studio in New York City. The session wasn’t greatly planned in any way. The only thing that was premeditated was who was going to perform: Cannonball Elderly, Bill Evans, Jimmy Cobb, Paul Chambers, Wynton Kelly, and last but certainly not least, John Coltrane. A studio crammed with that amount of talent was bound to produce an influential recording.
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