It’s a somewhat goulish idea: take a recording of a late, great artist, and shore it up with new backing tracks. It’s been done before, with Natalie Cole’s “duet” with her father, and the remaining Beatles backing a newly-discovered John Lennon solo track. And if you wanna look at it from a contemporary perspective, digital “mashups” that overlay, for instance, Nirvana with Destiny’s Child accomplish the same idea with spooky success.
On “Ray Sings, Basie Swings,” the legendary vocalist is paired up via technology to the current and living version of the Count Basie Orchestra, and the result is a brassy, sassy and sometimes strange album from the grave. Continue reading →
Jazz as a genre can span the range from big-band swing, melodic pop standards and mainstream funk-rock , to cool, bop, and way the hell out there.
Branford Marsalis is one musician who not only understands, but also appreciates, the big ol’ umbrella that the word represents. The oldest son in a jazz history-making family, the Brooklyn-born saxophonist has played the pure stuff as well as the pop stuff. He played with Miles, and led the “Tonight Show” band. He performed with his brother, Wynton, and toured with the Grateful Dead.
Despite his dabbling with the “dark side” of pop music, though, no one questions his ability, nor his dedication to, the traditions of jazz. Continue reading →
Happy 5th birthday to the iPod.
I was kind of slow to get on the bandwagon, mostly because it was (and still is, although not as much) so damned expensive to join the iPod club.
But like a lot of people, once I got the thing, I was hooked. It’s a cliche to say it but I’ll say it anyway: it changed the way I listen to music, both because it allows me to shuffle through thousands of songs of all genres throughout an entire century of recorded music, and because I can carry all that tunage wherever I go and have private access to the sound library, and not have to listen to the traffic/street noise/supermarket Muzak/lawn mower/sounds of nature. Continue reading →
Pitchfork has published a rambling list of the “200 Greatest Songs of the 1960s,” beginning with the Kinks’ “Sunny Afternoon” at 200 and ands with the Beach Boys’ “God Only Knows” at #1 (presumably — the final 20 aren’t numbered). It’s an interesting list because it’s in a British publication, and these songs were chosen (and reviewed very earnestly) by young rock critics, most if not all I bet who weren’t even born when the ’60s closed out with Altamont and a few months later, Kent State. Continue reading →
Think â€œukuleleâ€ and youâ€™ll invariably get a quaintly exotic image in your head (and the wrong pronunciation â€“ itâ€™s â€œoo-koo-leh-leh,â€ not â€œyou-koo-leh-lehâ€): warm sun, swaying grass skirts, coconut bras, colorful cocktails with umbrellas, and palm trees and a beach in the background.
Itâ€™s true, the ukulele is a stringed instrument that was born in Hawaiâ€™i (albeit it has its actual origins in a Portuguese instrument that was brought to the islands by 19th century sailors) and given its name, which means â€œjumping fleaâ€ in Hawaiâ€™ian. And itâ€™s also true that the ukulele, which basically looks and acts like a miniaturized, four-string guitar, has helped spread Hawaiâ€™ian music and culture for a century, since Hawaiian music first caught the fancy of mainlanders during a 1915 exposition in San Francisco.
But the cute little uke isnâ€™t just a tool for strumming up tourism to Honolulu. Continue reading →