* Telemann, et al. (The Age Of Passions): Kirche, Oberried 11-2010 (FM 2CDR)
* John Coltrane: Live Trane: The European Tours (d.2-7) (Pablo 7CD)
* Anthony Braxton: Quartet (London) 1985 (Leo 2CD)
* Anthony Braxton: Quartet (Coventry) 1985 (Leo 2CD)
* Anthony Braxton: Quartet (Birmingham) 1985 (Leo 2D)
* Henry Threadgill & Very Very Circus: Carry The Day (Columbia CD)
* Henry Threadgill: Makin’ A Move (Columbia CD)
* Henry Threadgill & Make A Move: Where’s Your Cup? (Columbia CD)
* David S. Ware: Onecept (AUM Fidelity CD)
* Mark Nauseef/Ikue Mori/Evan Parker/Bill Laswell: Near Nadir (Tzadik CD)
* Herbie Hancock: Sunlight (Columbia/CBS—Japan CD)†/‡
* Stanley Clarke: School Days (Epic/Friday Music LP)
* Lenny White: Presents The Adventures Of Astral Pirates (Elektra LP)
* Pat Metheny Group: Pat Metheny Group (ECM LP)
* Stevie Wonder: Talking Book (Tamla/Motown LP)
* Stevie Wonder: Innervisions (Tamla/Motown LP)
* DJ Shadow: “Midnight In A Perfect World” (MoWax CDEP)
* DJ Shadow: “Stem” (MoWax CDEP)
* DJ Shadow: “High Noon” (MoWax CDEP)
* Grateful Dead: Dick’s Picks Vol.30: Academy of Music, NYC March 1972 (GDP 4+1CD)(‡)
* Grateful Dead: Formerly The Warlocks: Hampton ’89 (d.1-3) (GDP/Rhino 6 CD)†/‡
* Los Super Seven: Los Super Seven (RCA/BMG CD)
* Los Super Seven: Cantos (Columbia/Legacy CD)
* Sonic Youth: Experimental, Jet Set, Trash & No Star (Geffen LP)
* Sonic Youth: “Bull In The Heather” (Geffen CDEP)
* Thurston Moore: Demolished Thoughts (Matador 2LP)
* Boston Spaceships: Let It Beard (GBV, Inc. 2LP)
* Stephen Malkmus & The Jicks: Face The Truth (Matador CD)‡
* Stephen Malkmus & The Jicks: Mirror Traffic (Matador CD)
* Animal Collective: Merriweather Post Pavilion (Domino CD)
Where did the summer go?
Back when I was a kid, the first day of school didn’t come around until after Labor Day. Of course, nowadays, especially down here in Tennessee, school starts in early August, which just seems unfair. The weather is still ungodly hot and, well, it still feels too much like summer to be going to school, dammit! They’re talking about starting in July next year, poor kids. I understand why it’s happening, but it doesn’t seem right to me.
But as the days get shorter and the sun shines more obliquely, softening what light there is, I am always reminded me of how it felt to start a new school year: sad, exciting, scary. Certain music from that time period can reinforce those feelings—for better or worse. Stanley Clarke’s appropriately titled School Days album was a big favorite back in the 1970s, when “fusion” was not yet a dirty word and I listened to it a lot when I was in middle school. Sure, most of it is pretty cheesy, but the eight-minute title track is killer: opening with that signature bass riff and explosive electric guitar wailing from Ray Gomez—but then the dynamics suddenly drop down and Clarke takes a big long solo. Now, bass solos, no matter by whom, rarely work for me, usually sounding leaden and earthbound. But here, Clarke flies, displaying incredible technique and control over the unwieldy, low-impedance Alembic bass, building up to a thunderous climax before the reprise. It’s one of those solos that are ingrained in my brain; I can sing it from memory. It’s that good.
Of course, I long ago sold my original LP in one of my periodic purges of the collection. I could be ruthless. I thought I’d “outgrown” such kid stuff—yet secretly I still kind of missed having it around. I would see copies regularly in the used bins but never bothered to pick it up. Usually, they were in pretty beat-up condition; this was, after all, one of those records people played to death. So when I saw the recent Friday Music reissue on 180-gram vinyl, I went ahead and grabbed it—even though I’ve had a hit-or-miss experience with this label. But when I saw that legendary mastering engineer, Kevin Gray, had a hand in this edition, I figured it had to sound at least OK. Well, let me tell you, it sounds better than OK—it sounds freaking fantastic! Listening to it the first time, I was literally blown out of my chair, like that guy in the old Maxell ads. I felt like I was thirteen again! Compared to most “audiophile” reissues these days, it’s a relative bargain: the deluxe gatefold jacket is very nicely done and the vinyl pressing is heavy, flat and quiet. Truly, this Friday Music reissue of School Days is an impeccable release in every way and if you have fond memories of this fusion classic (and have a turntable), you owe yourself a listen.
Frankly, I’m glad I am no longer in school. Yet there’s still something depressing about autumn: the dying light, the turning leaves, the encroaching darkness with its intimation of winter. It can be a hard time of year. But at the same time, the cooler weather will be invigorating as the lazy, dog-days of summer give way to fall’s activities. We have big plans brewing and I feel that same sense of excitement (tinged with dread) which reminds me of my school days. Listening to records like this is nostalgic, comforting and reassuring—and that title track kicks serious ass. I hope you’re all having a wonderful Labor Day weekend!