May 30, 2010

Sun Ra Sunday

I’m taking a break for the holiday weekend -- and so should you. Instead of reading my rambling drivel, have a listen to the man himself in this brief interview from WTZA-TV 62 which was aired to promote the Arkestra’s appearance at The Getaway in Saugerties, New York on June 13, 1986. Note that the death of Bennie Goodman, “The King of Swing,” is announced right after Ra’s segment.

May 29, 2010

Playlist Week of 5-29-10

* Vivaldi: Late Violin Concertos, RV177, etc. (VBO/Marcon/Carmignola) (Sony Classical CD)
* Vivaldi: Late Violin Concertos, RV386, etc. (VBO/Marcon/Carmignola) (Sony Classical CD)
* Duke Ellington: Ellington Uptown (Columbia LP)
* Herbie Nichols: The Complete Blue Note Recordings (d.2) (Blue Note 3CD)
* Horace Silver Quintet: Song for My Father (Blue Note LP)
* Freddie Redd Quartet: Music from the Connection (Blue Note LP)
* Eric Dolphy: Out to Lunch (Blue Note/Music Matters 2-45RPM)
* Jackie McLean: Destination Out! (Blue Note LP)
* Bobby Hutcherson: Patterns (Blue Note LP)
* Bobby Hutcherson: Components (Blue Note LP)
* Sun Ra: Unknown venue, Berkeley, Ca circa.1972 (SBD CDR)
* Sun Ra: Astro Black (Impulse! LP>CDR)
* Ornette Coleman: Virgin Beauty (Columbia/Portrait LP)
* Anthony Braxton Small Ensemble: Wesleyan University 4-23-10 (AUD CDR)
* Anthony Braxton Large Ensemble: Wesleyan University 4-29-10 (AUD 2CDR)
* Mahavishnu Orchestra: Century Theatre, Buffalo, NY 1-27-73 (Pre-FM 2CDR)
* Kip Hanrahan: Desire Develops an Edge (American Clavé 2LP)
* Bob Marley & The Wailers: The Complete Wailers 1967-1972 Pt.II (d.3) (JAD 3CD)
* The Mothers of Invention: The Grand Wazoo (Bizarre/Reprise LP)
* Pink Floyd: The Dark Side of the Moon (Capitol/EMI SACD)
* Grateful Dead: Boston Garden, Boston, MA 9-24-93 (SBD 3CDR)
* Grateful Dead: Boston Garden, Boston, MA 9-25-93 (SBD 3CDR)
* Grateful Dead: Boston Garden, Boston, MA 9-29-93 (SBD 3CDR)
* Grateful Dead: Boston Garden, Boston, MA 9-30-93 (SBD 3CDR)
* Love: Forever Changes (Elektra/Rhino CD)
* The Feelies: Crazy Rhythms (Stiff LP)
* The Flaming Lips, et al.: The Dark Side of the Moon (Warner Bros. CD)
* Robert Pollard: We All Got Out of the Army (GBV, Inc. CD)
* Tortoise: Beacons of Ancestorship (Thrill Jockey LP)


The idea of The Flaming Lips remaking Pink Floyd’s iconic Dark Side of the Moon seems preposterous at first. But then again, when I saw the Lips for the very first time back in 1986 at Molly’s in Allston, Massachusetts, they earnestly plowed through The Who’s Tommy in the middle of their set. Further, various oddball covers litter their discography, including a note-perfect rendition of Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody” (which can be found on the At War With the Mystics 5.1 CD/DVD-A). So, the idea is not so far-fetched after all. And if you are at all familiar with this classic album and are a fan of The Flaming Lips, then their take on it will certainly be of interest. Assisted by Star Death and White Dwarfs, Henry Rollins (who handles the speaking parts), and Peaches (who provides a disturbingly uncanny impersonation of Clare Torry’s orgasmic wail on “The Great Gig in the Sky”), the approach is surprisingly sincere and un-ironic. Fortunately, they do not attempt an exact recreation the album and instead re-imagine it in a post-punk style while still evincing a genuine love for the original. But it seems to me a similar affection for The Dark Side of the Moon is necessary to really appreciate this, to get the joke as it were. While it has been a lot of fun for me to listen to, your mileage may vary considerably.

May 23, 2010

Sun Ra Sunday

Sun Ra: Intergalactic Research (The Lost Reels Collection, Vol.2) (Transparency CD)

By the spring of 1972, the Arkestra’s living situation was becoming increasingly precarious. Sun Ra had returned to the University of California in Berkeley hoping to teach another class in black aesthetics but soon quit after not being paid (Szwed p.330). He claimed the university targeted him due to the controversial subject matter of his lectures, but for whatever reason, his academic career (such as it was) was now over (Id.). Moreover, the Black Panthers evicted the Arkestra out of their house in Oakland due to “ideological” differences” (Id.) -- likely regarding the Panthers’ recent rhetorical turn toward violent revolution. As Sun Ra predicted, this move would doom the Panthers as a legitimate political party or progressive social movement. As Sonny later acidly remarked: “we got kicked out by Eldgridge Cleaver or somebody” (Id.). And so with little paying work and no place to live, the decision was made to leave California in May, 1972 and move back to Marshall Allen’s house on Morton Street in Philadelphia -- this time for good.

Naturally, some band members took off immediately for points elsewhere but, as usual, the core musicians hung in and slowly made their way with Sonny across the country, hustling gigs as they could. Sadly, very little documentary evidence exists of this period. However, a thirty-two minute concert fragment from an unknown venue was issued as part of Transparency’s Lost Reels Collection, Vol.2 and it just might be possible this was recorded in the spring of 1972, prior to the band’s arrival back east. On the other hand, the presence of Pat Patrick on baritone sax and electric bass is suspicious for a later date (he does not appear on the soundtrack or in the film, Space Is the Place). So who knows when exactly this was recorded? In any event, I’m sticking it here for the time being.

While all too brief, it is a remarkably good sounding tape, recorded in mono with on-stage microphones or, perhaps, from the soundboard. It is also a fantastic performance, starting out with a surprisingly subdued MiniMoog solo, full of gentle, swooshing noises and lazy portamentos. This serves as a prelude to an outrageous rendition of “Outer Space” with Sun Ra cueing thunderous space chords to punctuate his mad-scientist-style organ solo before giving way to a powerful tenor sax blowout by John Gilmore. Yes, it’s another incredible Gilmore solo! This leads into a conducted improvisation which begins with some noodling electric bass over a smattering of percussion; but as things start to heat up, Kwami Hadi comes in with some high-register trumpet acrobatics, his rich tone full-bodied and warm. Suddenly, Ra cues the ensemble in an energetic group improvisation which is abruptly silenced by a gigantic blast of organ, the piece ending with some quietly hissing chords. Interesting! Finally, a rare performance of “Intergalactic Research” concludes the tape with its long, loping jam built upon an endlessly repeating two-note figure which is passed around the Arkestra in various instrumental combinations. (Interestingly, Ra is heard on acoustic piano on this track.) Eloe Omoe takes a snaky bass clarinet solo, but he’s off mic and hard to hear but Hadi provides another virtuoso turn on trumpet. After fifteen minutes of groovy vamping, the ensemble returns with the theme only to have the tape fade out. Argh! Too bad the rest of this concert (whenever it was recorded) was not preserved!

It wasn’t all bad news for the Arkestra: producer Ed Michel had recently offered Sun Ra and Alton Abraham a potentially lucrative contract with ABC/Impulse! to reissue most of the Saturn LPs and to go into the studio to make a bunch of new albums (Id. p.333). According to Ra, the label promised "to spend almost a million dollars in publicity" (Id.). ABC/Impulse! was, of course, the home of John Coltrane’s late recordings, which had spawned “The New Thing” and a stream of semi-popular albums by such Coltrane acolytes as Pharoah Sanders and Archie Shepp. At the time, it probably seemed like Sun Ra would fit right in. Ultimately, the deal didn’t quite turn out as well Sonny had hoped; but for a brief while, Sun Ra records were widely available in stores and helped take the band to the next level. The Arkestra would make its first recording for the label, the classic Astro Black, while in Chicago on May 7, 1972 (Campbell & Trent p.185).

May 22, 2010

Playlist Week of 5-22-10

* Rebel: Violin Sonatas (Manze/Egarr/ter Linden) (Harmonia Mundi CD)
* J.S. Bach: 7 Harpsichord Concertos (AAM/Manze/Egarr) (Harmonia Mundi 2CD)
* J.S. Bach: Musikalische Opfer (Maroney, et al.) (Harmonia Mundi CD)
* Satie: L’œuvre pour piano (Ciccolini) (d.1) (EMI Classics 5CD)
* Duke Ellington and Johnny Hodges: Side By Side (Verve/Classic LP)
* Duke Ellington: Blues in Orbit (Columbia/Classic LP)
* Duke Ellington: Jazz Party in Stereo (Columbia/Classic LP)
* Sun Ra: Soundtrack to the Film Space Is the Place (Evidence CD)
* Sun Ra: ESP Radio Tribute (d.2) (selections) (FM 5CDR)
* Sun Ra: Unknown venue, Berkeley, CA circa. 1972 (AUD/boot CDR)
* Sun Ra: Unknown venue, circa. 1972 (SBD?/boot 2CDR)
* Cliff Jordan & John Gilmore: Blowin’ In from Chicago (Blue Note LP)
* Baby Face Willette: Stop and Listen (Blue Note LP)
* Charles Mingus: Tijuana Moods (RCA/Classic LP)
* Charles Mingus: Mingus Ah Um (Columbia/Classic LP)
* The Crusaders: Free As the Wind (ABC/Blue Thumb LP)
* Marvin Gaye: What’s Going On (Motown/MFSL SACD)
* Marvin Gaye: Let’s Get It On (Motown/MFSL SACD)
* Bootsy’s New Rubber Band: Blasters of the Universe (d.1) (Ryko 2CD)
* The Beatles: Rubber Soul (2009 mono remaster) (Apple/EMI CD)
* Grateful Dead: Steppin’ Out With the Grateful Dead: England ’72 (d.1-2) (GD/Arista 4CD)
* Grateful Dead: Capital Center, Landover, MD 7-29-74 (SBD 3CDR)
* Grateful Dead: Dick’s Picks, Vol.31 (8-74) (d.1-3) (GDM 4CD)
* Grateful Dead: Nassau Coliseum, Uniondale, LI, NY 11/1/79 (d.2-3) (SBD 3CDR)
* Grateful Dead: RFK Stadium, Washington, DC 6-24-95 (AUD 3CDR)
* Yes: The Yes Album (Atlantic/MFSL CD)
* Yes: Fragile (Atlantic/MFSL CD)
* King Crimson: The Nightwatch: Amsterdam Concertgebouw 11-23-73 (DGM 2CD)
* Jeff Beck: Truth (mono) (Epic/Sundazed LP)
* Jeff Beck: Beck-Ola (Epic/Sundazed LP) iridescent
* Jeff Beck: Blow By Blow (Epic LP)
* Jeff Beck: Wired (Epic LP)
* Jeff Beck with The Jan Hammer Group: Live (Epic LP)
* Eric Clapton: Slowhand (RSO LP)
* Chicago: III (Columbia 2LP)
* Chicago: V (Columbia LP)
* Chicago: VI (Columbia LP)
* Chicago: VII (Columbia 2LP)
* Chicago: VIII (Columbia LP)
* Chicago: X (Columbia LP)
* The Doobie Brothers: The Best of the Doobies (Warner Bros. LP)
* Steely Dan: Aja (ABC/Cisco LP)
* Rickie Lee Jones: Rickie Lee Jones (Warner Bros./Rhino LP)
* Mudcrutch: Mudcrutch (Warner Bros./Reprise 2LP)
* U2: The Unforgettable Fire (Deluxe Edition) (Island/Universal 2CD)
* U2: The Joshua Tree (Deluxe Edition) (Island/Universal 2CD)
* ABC: The Lexicon of Love (Mercury LP)
* The Pixies: Surfer Rosa (4AD/MFSL SACD)
* The Pixies: Doolittle (4AD/MFSL SACD)
* Yo La Tengo: Popular Songs (Matador CD)
* The Flaming Lips, et al.: The Dark Side of the Moon (Warner Bros. CD)
* Robert Pollard: Elephant Jokes (GBV, Inc. CD)
* Robert Pollard: We All Got Out of the Army (GBV, Inc. CD)
* Boston Spaceships: Zero to 99 (GBV, Inc. CD)


I so enjoyed Rhino’s vinyl reissues of Chicago Transit Authority and Chicago II that I decided to poke around the local record stores and see if I could find the rest of their 1970s albums on LP. It was not very difficult. Of course, Chicago sold a bajillion albums in their day and these records are common as dirt and, therefore, quite cheap -- so long as you’re willing to forego such niceties as near-mint jackets, posters, etc. Fortunately, the vinyl was in decent condition, if extremely dirty. However, my patented deep cleaning process brought them back to life and, gosh, it was like visiting with old friends whom I hadn’t heard from in many, many years -- decades even.

Embarrassingly enough, 1974’s Chicago VII is still my favorite. I played it to death as a kid. Believe it or not, I had it on 8Track! I absolutely loved this stuff. You see, I was a total band geek who took classical piano lessons and hung around trombone players and trumpeters. It seemed to us that Chicago had it all: sophisticated composition, big-band chops and great pop songs everybody seemed to love. Perfection! I remember in the eighth grade a group of us hacked our way through an arrangement of “Saturday In the Park” imagining we sounded pretty good (even though we didn’t). I loved Chicago VII because it marked a return to the sprawling double-album format of their first two records, opening with thirty minutes of audacious jazz-rock fusion but also featuring such radio hits as the Philly-soul infused “I’ve Been Searchin’ So Long” and the lush, dreamy, “Wishing You Were Here.” Moreover, Terry Kath plays typically brilliant guitar throughout and closes side three with two excellent songs, “Song of the Evergreens” and “Byblos.” How could I have ever turned my back on this beautiful music?

Here’s how: I went away to college and was exposed to free jazz and punk rock and Chicago, who, after the tragic death of Terry Kath, became self-parodying purveyors of bland top-40 cheese, was suddenly totally uncool. Their albums were some of the first to be sold off in the name of urban hipsterism -- and also because of a lack of money and space in which to house my growing record collection. That’s OK. I certainly experienced a lot of different music over the years and if it required rejecting one thing to take on another, then so it goes, I guess. But as I get older, I no longer feel the need for such snobbery and exclusion and hearing this music again for the first time after all these years has made me very happy. So am I just another middle-aged loser, vainly reclaiming the ephemera of my lost youth? A look at this week’s extended playlist suggests the answer is, perhaps, yes. Yet listening to these albums again feels like more than just a nostalgia trip -- it is simply good music! What more needs to be said? Nothing.

May 21, 2010

Common Birds at the Feeder: American Crow

Crow01, originally uploaded by Rodger Coleman.

We see a lot of American Crows at the suet feeder, but they are extremely skittish birds and therefore hard to photograph. Big, heavy and slow, a crow will usually take off at the first glint of the camera! I got lucky today although the light was poor. The truth is, this crow tolerated my camera out of necessity: it's spring and the birds are not only feeding themselves, but bringing home the bacon to their little ones back at the nest (note this one's beak is jam-packed full of yummy suet). The crows are magnificent birds, with their imposing size, iridescent black feathers, wise eyes and soulful caw. Amazingly, crows will engage Red-tailed hawks in death-defying dogfights to protect their broods. Beautiful, noble birds.

May 16, 2010

Sun Ra Sunday

Sun Ra & His Intergalactic Solar Arkestra:
Soundtrack to the Film Space is the Place (Evidence CD)

In early 1972, the Arkestra entered a real recording studio for the first time since their relocation to California in order to record the soundtrack and to be filmed for inclusion in the movie, Space Is the Place. The name of the studio is unknown and, in any case, it is long gone by now; but according to producer Jim Newman, it was “on Connecticut Avenue at the foot of Potero Hill in San Francisco” and the crew was borrowed from the legendary Different Fur Trading Company (Campbell & Trent, p.185). While an accompanying album to be released on Blue Thumb is alluded to in the movie, most of the music recorded at these sessions was finally issued for the first time by Evidence in 1993. The material was heavily edited for the film and mostly drawn from the working repertoire of the period, including such live stalwarts as “Watusa,” “Satellites Are Spinning,” “Outer Spaceways Incorporated,” “We Travel the Spaceways,” “Love in Outer Space,” and, of course, “Space Is the Place.” While the performances are rather abbreviated on the CD, the sound quality is excellent and, despite the fact that John Gilmore is heard primarily on drums rather than saxophone, there are several interesting bits of music which make this well worth hearing.

For example: “Under Different Stars” is an intense conducted improvisation featuring trumpeters Kwame Hadi and Wayne Harris bathed in thick reverb while Sonny makes burbling noises on electronic keyboards. And while “Discipline 33” is mis-titled according to Ben Opie (Id.), it is definitely from the Discipline series of compositions with its intricately interweaving horn riffs and Hadi again turns in a tasteful solo; sadly, it fades out too soon never to be played again. “The Overseer” is another free-jazz freakout, tautly reined in by Ra’s orchestral organ sprays while “Mysterious Crystal” evokes the futuristic exotica of Strange Strings, featuring a typically brilliant oboe solo by Marshall Allen. Finally, Sun Ra takes a thoughtful MiniMoog solo on “Cosmic Forces” and launches into some portentous declamations on “I Am the Alter-Destiny” and “I Am the Brother of the Wind,” the latter allowing Eloe Omoe to shine on raspy bass clarinet while the ensemble rages in the background.

According to Campbell & Trent, edited versions of “We’re Living in the Space Age” and the “Unknown Factor” were used in the film but not included on the Evidence CD (Id). Furthermore, the wonderfully atonal piano solo from the hilarious strip club scene is also absent. It seems likely all this music was recorded at a later date as work continued on the film well into 1974, but these have not turned up to date. Additionally, the 2001 ESP Radio Tribute broadcast included extended versions of “Outer Spaceways Incorporated” and “We’ll Wait for You,” which segues into “Strange Worlds” and ends with another spaced-out synthesizer solo. Unfortunately, these tracks are in mono and suffer from slightly degraded sound quality. Even so, completists will want to search them out.

Space Is the Place may have been something of a cinematic failure, but the soundtrack CD is enormously satisfying and makes for an excellent overview of the Arkestra’s music during this period. For casual and fanatical Sun Ra fans alike, it is absolutely essential.

May 15, 2010

Playlist Week of 5-10-10 through 5-15-10

* J.S. Bach: Violin Sonatas (Manze/Egarr/ter Linden) (d.1) (Harmonia Mundi 2CD)
* J.S. Bach: The Works for Lute (Kirchhoff) (d2.) (Sony Classical 2CD)
* Thelonious Monk with John Coltrane: The Complete Riverside Recordings (Riverside 2CD)
* Thelonious Monk Quartet with John Coltrane: At Carnegie Hall (Blue Note CD)
* Dexter Gordon: Go (Blue Note LP)
* Sonny Clark: Cool Struttin’ (Blue Note/Classic LP)
* Hank Mobley: Soul Station (Blue Note LP)
* Hank Mobley: A Slice of the Top (Blue Note LP)
* John Coltrane Quartet: Ballads (Impulse! CD)
* Roscoe Mitchell Quartet: Chiostro di Villa d’Este, Tivoli, Rome 6-28-09 (FM CDR)
* Henry Threadgill’s Zooid: Auditorium Parco della Musica, Rome 5-04-10 (FM 2CDR)
* Anthony Braxton 12+1tet: 9 Compositions (Iridium) 2006 (d.4) (Firehouse 12 9CD+DVD)
* Matthew Shipp Trio: Saint’Anna Arresi, Cagliari, Italy 9-02-09 (FM CDR)
* John Abercrombie Quartet: Wait Till You See Her (ECM CD)
* Nicky Skopelitis: Ekstasis (Island/Axiom CD)
* The Beatles: A Hard Day’s Night (2009 mono remaster) (Apple/EMI CD)
* The Beatles: Beatles for Sale (2009 stereo remaster) (Apple/EMI CD)
* The Beatles: Help! (2009 mono remaster) (Apple/EMI CD)
* Mothers of Invention: Weasels Ripped My Flesh (Bizarre/Reprise LP)
* The Band: Music from Big Pink (Capitol/MFSL SACD)
* Grateful Dead: Steppin’ Out With the Grateful Dead: England ’72 (d.4) (GD/Arista 4CD)
* Grateful Dead: Coliseum, Hampton, VA 5-01-81 (SBD 3CDR)
* Van Morrison: Beautiful Vision (Warner Bros. CD)
* Can: Future Days (Spoon SACD)
* Robert Pollard w/Doug Gillard: Speak Kindly of Your Volunteer Fire Department (FCS LP)
* Buckethead: Population Override (Ion CD)
* Animal Collective: Merriweather Post Pavilion (Domino CD)


Lizzy recently remarked on her blog that, of all the different kinds of music we listen to, she feels most at home when we’re listening to jazz -- “especially Coltrane, Mingus, Hutcherson, Hill, that warm beautiful music.” I guess I always knew she liked this stuff, but didn’t quite realize the deep emotional response she experienced. After the crazy flooding, our whirlwind travels, and the general angst of these past weeks, I made an effort to put on some “warm, beautiful” jazz in the evenings. Lord knows, I have a lot of it in the collection! It was fun to pull out some stuff I rarely listen to, like Dexter Gordon, Hank Mobley, and especially Thelonious Monk’s legendary recordings with John Coltrane. I used to be a snob about “straight-ahead” jazz, dismissing it as hopelessly old fashioned while ostentatiously announcing my elitist preference for the more difficult and abstract modernist avant garde that followed in its wake. But there is undeniably an embracing feeling of warmth and comfort that comes with snapping your fingers to an effortless swing groove and marveling at the endless melodic inventiveness of the great improvisers. Being a snob is so narrow-minded and unnecessarily limiting! My life is greatly improved by being open-minded and receptive to all things beautiful in this world. Of course, I do love the “weird” stuff as well -- but knowledge of jazz’s rich history can provide context and meaning to what might at first seem austere and forbidding music. For instance, the Roscoe Mitchell Quartet radio broadcast from last June in Rome features a long, complex composition that weaves written-out sections with free improvisation which will require further close listens to fully comprehend; but when they end the set with a joyful rendition of the brightly swinging “Along Came Jazz,” the whole thing intuitively makes sense as the one informs the other. This is a remarkable performance by true master musicians which deserves wide release. At the improbable age 69, Mitchell sounds better than ever on various saxophones and flute. I’m looking forward to pulling out some more great jazz records (old and new) in the coming weeks.


Charles Wheelan, Naked Economics: Undressing the Dismal Science (Norton 2002, 2010)

I picked this up at the airport on the way out to Kansas City, intrigued by the title and its promise to make a dry-as-dust subject “witty and entertaining.” Amazingly enough, NPR commentator Charles Wheelan has succeeded in writing a very readable book (with nary a graph or mathematical equation in sight) while cogently explaining such esoteric topics as the Federal Reserve, the alchemy of monetary policy, the complexity of securitization, and (in this fully revised and updated edition) the root causes of the current, ongoing financial crisis. Refreshingly, Wheelan is not a doctrinaire “free market” ideologue, despite his University of Chicago pedigree. In fact, he goes to great lengths to demonstrate the absolute necessity of (uncorrupt) government, (competent) regulatory schemes, (broadly beneficial) public works, and sensible (if not steeply progressive) taxation. However, he does say some things that strike me as downright silly: For example, he repeatedly insists that high rates of taxation cause people to work fewer hours and, conversely, low taxation causes people to work more. In the abstract, this might make some sense regarding how people respond to economic incentives. But in the world I live in, people work as hard as they can (if they can find a job) simply because they have to in order to survive (and perhaps afford a few luxuries) -- regardless of any incremental changes in the tax code. Furthermore, he makes a disturbingly plausible argument that third-world sweat shops are ultimately a good thing for the workers who toil in them because increasing trade will (eventually) raise their standard of living. This may be the case, but there is a moral dimension that is profoundly troubling. The truth is that while economics is “a way of viewing the world,” it is impoverished as philosophy and unproven as science. It is a truism that money cannot buy happiness and the reasons why this is so cannot be answered by economics alone. Nevertheless, a basic understanding of economic principles is essential for an informed citizenry and, as an introductory text, Naked Economics is most highly recommended.

May 10, 2010

Playlist Week of 5-03-10 through 5-10-10

* J.S. Bach: The Works for Lute (Kirchhoff) (d.1) (Sony Classical 2CD)
* Vivaldi: Cello Sonatas (ter Linden/Mortensen) (d.1) (Brilliant Classics 2CD)
* Herbie Nichols: The Complete Blue Note Recordings (d.1) (Blue Note 3CD)
* Grant Green: Idle Moments (Blue Note CD)
* Sam Rivers: The Complete Blue Note Sam Rivers Sessions (Blue Note/Mosaic 5LP)
* Herbie Hancock: Man-Child (Columbia/MFSL CD)
* The Brothers Johnson: Look Out for #1 (A&M CD)
* The Beatles: Please Please Me (2009 mono remaster) (Apple/EMI CD)
* The Beatles: With the Beatles (2009 mono remaster) (Apple/EMI CD)
* Bob Dylan: Love and Theft (Columbia SACD)
* Jerry Garcia Band: Lunt-Fontanne Theatre, NYC 10-31-87 (d.1-2,4) (Pure Jerry 4CD)
* Van Morrison: Veedon Fleece (Polydor CD)
* Van Morrison: Common One (Warner Bros. CD)
* Van Morrison: Inarticulate Speech of the Heart (Warner Bros. CD)
* Rickie Lee Jones: Pirates (Warner Bros./MFSL SACD)
* BR5-49: Live from Robert’s (Arista CDEP)
* BR5-49: BR5-49 (Arista CD)
* Beck: Sea Change (Geffen/MFSL CD)
* Boston Spaceships: Brown Submarine (GBV, Inc. CD)


It’s a short playlist this week -- not only because of last weekend’s flooding, but also because we made a quick to a trip to Kansas City to see my mom for Mother’s Day. Every time we go out there we try to get to the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, which houses one of the country’s great collections (photograph). This time we took my sister and slowly made our way chronologically through the museum and it was interesting to stop and look closely at works I normally would zip right past (e.g. most anything pre-20th Century). Molly has recently developed an interest in art and we thought it would be useful to make a historical survey so as to see the development of art practice through the ages and (perhaps) provide her with some context for some of the weirdo abstract art that we love so much. I don’t know how successful we were on that front, but it was a lot of fun! There are more photos from the museum on my Flickr photostream, if you’re interested.

May 5, 2010

Videos from the Flood

As promised, here are a few videos of the flooding here in Kingston Springs. The first one is from Saturday, May 1, 2010 and shows the bridge at the bottom of our road. The river is already extremely high, but the bridge is traversable and you can see that the old trestle and railroad bridges are still intact:

This one shows the water overflowing the bridge on Sunday, May 2. Note that the left side of the old trestle bridge has been wiped out completely. The violence of the raging river is awe inspiring. No wonder the road was ripped apart:

Finally, the most horrifying video of all: a big beautiful house on East Kingston Springs Road being picked up off its foundations and floating away. This one is painful for me to watch, but it really captures the unprecedented destruction of this storm:

Now playing: Bob Dylan,"High Water (for Charley Patton)."

May 4, 2010

Flood Damage

DSC_8456, originally uploaded by Rodger Coleman.

None of the photographs I took yesterday really capture the devastation of the flood waters. I was pretty much totally freaked out when I saw for myself what nature hath wrought. This is the our road at the bottom of the hill, just before it crosses the Harpeth River. The water lifted up pieces of asphalt and tossed them around like children's toys. They eventually closed the bridge to pedestrians and it will be a long, long time before the road opens again. There are more photos on my Flickr photostream, if you're interested. There's lots of video footage on YouTube which I will post tomorrow. We are lucky to live at the top of the hill and our house suffered no water damage whatsoever. But many people were not so fortunate. Six (6!) houses in Kingston Springs were lifted off their foundations and floated away. Just incredible. My prayers are with all my neighbors who were hardest hit by this 500-year flood. Let's hope it's another 500 years before anything like this happens again

Playlist Week of 5-01-10

* Buxtehude: Sonatas, Op.1 (Holloway/Mortensen/ter Linden) (Naxos CD)
* Buxtehude: Sonatas, Op.2 (Holloway/Mortensen/ter Linden) (Naxos CD)
* J.S. Bach: Sonatas & Partitas for Solo Violin (Holloway) (ECM 2CD)
* J.S. Bach: The Works for Lute (Kirchhof) (Sony Classical 2CD)
* J.S. Bach: Die Kunst der Fuge (Maroney) (Harmonia Mundi 2CD)
* Leo Brouwer: Rara (Deutsche Gramophone CD)
* Duke Ellington & Johnny Hodges: Back to Back (Verve/Classic LP)
* John Coltrane: Fearless Leader (d.3) (Prestige 6CD)
* Grant Green: Green Street (Blue Note CD)
* Bobby Hutcherson: “Mellow Vibes” (Blue Note mix CDR)
* Sun Ra: Soundtrack to the Film Space Is the Place (Evidence CD)
* Eric Dolphy: Iron Man (Fuel 2000 CD)
* Eric Dolphy: Conversations (Fuel 2000 CD)
* Cecil Taylor: Student Studies (Fuel 2000 CD)
* Anthony Braxton 12+1tet: 9 Compositions (Iridium) 2006 (d.3) (Firehouse 12 9CD+DVD)
* Bob Marley & The Wailers: The Complete Wailers 1967-1972 Part II (d.2) (JAD 3CD)
* Santana: Abraxas (Columbia/Legacy CD)
* Santana: Santana (III) (Columbia/Legacy CD)
* The Mothers of Invention: Just Another Band from L.A. (Bizarre/Reprise LP)
* Grateful Dead: Coliseum, Hampton, VA 10-8-89 (SBD 3CDR)
* Grateful Dead: Nightfall of Diamonds: Meadowlands Arena 10-16-89 (GD/Rhino 2CD)
* King Crimson: Ladies of the Road (d.1) (GDM 2CD)
* Joni Mitchell: Hejira (Asylum LP)
* Van Morrison: Hard Nose the Highway (Polydor CD)
* Can: Tago Mago (Spoon SACD)
* Can: Ege Bamyasi (Spoon SACD)
* Swell Maps: In ‘Jane from Occupied Europe’ (Rough Trade/Monster 2LP)
* Yo La Tengo: Painful (Matador CD)
* Yo La Tengo: “Shaker” (Matador CDEP)
* Yo La Tengo: “From a Motel 6” (Matador CDEP)
* Palace Music: Guarapero: Lost Blues 2 (Drag City 2LP
* The Orb: Live 93 (Island 2CD)
* Buckethead: Giant Robot (Sony/CyberOctave CD)
* Royal Trux: Twin Infinitives (Drag City 2LP)
* Robert Pollard: We All Got Out of the Army (GBV, Inc. LP)
* Circus Devils: Mother Skinny (Happy Jack Rock Records LP)


The Seventies gets a bad rap, music-wise, what with all the twee, post-hippie singer-songwriters, pompous prog-rock pretenders, simple-minded punk rockers, and, of course, disco. This is unfair and I am fan of a lot of that stuff. But there were also a lot of semi-obscure bands working during the period who created unclassifiable music that was enormously influential and still sounds as fresh and invigorating today as it did back then.

The German band, Can, was formed by former associates of Karlheinz Stockhausen Holger Czukay and Irmin Schmidt in 1968 who sought to combine the formalized experimentalism of the classical avant-garde with the excitement of nascent rock music. Songs were built out of free improvisations which were radically edited and recombined, making for a very different kind of “psychedelic” music. Their 1971 album, Tago Mago, is their magnum opus: a sprawling double-album of hypnotic grooves, abrasive noise, and layered instrumental textures. The follow-up, 1972’s Ege Bamyasi, is smoother and more streamlined, but still utterly compelling. What is interesting to me listening to Can’s music is how all of the instruments and vocals assume equal proportions, with no one aspect being intentionally foregrounded, while traditional song-structure is disposed of in favor of a free-floating, collagist approach. While many bands were duly influenced by Can, none sound quite like them.

Around this time, the brothers Epic Soundtracks (Kevin Paul Godfrey) and Nikki Sudden (Adrian Nicholas Godfrey) were listening to Can’s records as well as those by the glam-rocker T.Rex, and began making crude home recordings in Birmingham, England. It wasn’t until the punk explosion of 1977 that they were able to enter a recording studio to make their first singles, which are in the slash-and-burn style of the day (“Let’s Build a Car” being a classic example). By the time of their second full-length album, Jane from Occupied Europe, the band had synthesized their disparate influences into a unique fusion of Can’s quasi-ambient experimentalism and hard rock’s strutting (but deeply insecure) machismo. Shortly thereafter, the band broke up, leaving behind a handful of records which paved the way for the art-damaged post-punk scene of the Eighties and Nineties. Like the Velvet Underground before them, not many people bought these records at the time, but everyone who did started a band.

One can easily hear the influence of Can on the Swell Maps, and in turn the influence both of them had on bands like The Fall, Sonic Youth, Pavement, and a host of others. When going back to the source, the crackle of inspiration leaps from the speakers, sounding timeless and eternally rewarding. It makes me want to go down to my studio and bang around just for the thrill of it. Maybe I’ll do that!



As you may or may not know, Nashville experienced a 500-year flood this weekend. Just as I was going to post this, the power went out, which didn’t come back on until last night. Tonight, we finally have internet access. Was finally able to get off the hill this morning and go to work, where the Cumberland River reeks of gasoline, diesel fuel and fertilizer. It was a long, arduous weekend and it is still difficult. Almost didn’t get home tonight due to more road closures and bridge failures. There are some not so great photographs on my Flickr stream and will post about it all maybe tomorrow. The theme song these days is Van Morrison’s “You Don’t Pull No Punches, But You Don’t Push the River” from Veedon Fleece. We listen to it over and over. More later.