Jan 292009

Yesterday’s important Polarizing Platters discussion preempted our 18th day of JAMuary. My apologies. As a way of rewarding your patience, I bring you two Latin-tinged jams. The first is from the Latino rocker you’d most expect to celebrate JAMuary, Carlos Santana, from his Welcome album, which my good friend Townsman Hrrundivbakshi turned me onto. The second jam is from Mars Volta guitarist Omar Rodriguez-Lopez‘s solo album, Absence Makes the Heart Grow Fungus. Word is the instrumentals that make up this album were originally intended for use on a Mars Volta record, but I guess they came up with other mind-blowing jams instead. If I knew how to say “Enjoy!” in Spanish I would, so pretend that’s how I leave you as you jam on in a Latin vein.

Santana, “Flame-Sky”

Omar Rodriguez-Lopez, “Tied Prom Digs On the Docks”

Jan 262009

UPDATED. All bets are off. Listen to the full solos in all their jamtastic glory!

Today JAMuary honors the drummers, beginning with an Identify the Drummer game. Following are a dozen roughly 30-second clips of well-known rock (and one soul) drummer…on his own…unencumbered by his bandmates…soloing! See how many drummers you can identify. Following identification of each drummer, we’ll let that drummer cut loose with his full solo. Is there a drummer in the house? This promises to be an All-Star Jam that’s only fitting for this special month-long celebration.

Let’s flip over the rest of the cards…

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Jan 232009

Today’s double-shot jam and tale of uncharacteristic Stones jams and heavenly visions come courtesy of Townsman 2000 Man, Rock Town Hall’s resident Stones expert. I think you’ll dig it. Take it away, 2K!!!

I think everyone here probably understands that I think The Rolling Stones are pretty great. They may not have made their name as a JAMuary kind of band, but they can stretch out a little now and then. Their most famous jam is probably the second half of “Can’t You Hear Me Knocking,” where legend has it that Mick Taylor just never quit playing and a short, to the point rocker turned into a 7-minute song. The Stones also lay claim to being the first rock n’ roll band to break the 10-minute mark with “Going Home,” way back in 1966. Whether or not they were successful with either song is open for debate. I never minded that “Going Home” was so long, but I always kind of wished that “Can’t You Hear Me Knocking” would have wrapped up a lot sooner with the song just kind of falling apart.

Live, The Stones have been a whole ‘nother story. They went from a band that played 20-minute shows on a package tour to being the first band to drag their own sound and light shows across the country to make sure everything came out “just so.” Those shows lasted over an hour and The Stones managed to keep audiences waiting literally for hours for them to finally come out at 1:00 AM to start their show. These shows were more like the shows newer bands in 1969 were playing, and the audiences wanted more than a 20-minute adrenaline rush. They wanted to hear some musicianship. Fortunately The Stones didn’t usually just drag out a 2- or 3-minute idea into 10 minutes of blues noodling. Rather, they wrote some longer songs.

For a Stonesy contribution to the first JAMuary installment, I picked two well-known songs from Let It Bleed as they were played on the 1973 European Tour. These are from a radio broadcast of the Brussels show, and this is probably considered the “best” concert The Stones ever did by a whole lot of their fans. Partly because it sounds like a million bucks and in the day of the vinyl bootleg it was probably the most copied bootleg of any band, and certainly one of the best sounding boot lps ever. At this show “Midnight Rambler” is about twice as long as the original studio version, and “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” is about 5 minutes longer (minus the choir, so they must have found something else to do!).

The Rolling Stones, “Midnight Rambler”

I used to go to a great party in Ohio City every year. Everyone pretty much knew the host, and hardly anyone knew anyone else. There was chicken and ribs and tons of beer, so people got to know each other really well over the years. Inside the house, by the stereo, was a framed sleeve from the Sticky Fingers album with the picture of the band. Stuck into the upper corner was a button the owner bought from a parking lot vendor from Keith’s CNIB benefit concert in Canada. It was a picture of Keith and it said, “Thanks Canada, We Get to Keep Our Keef” underneath Keith’s trashed visage. I wanted that button real bad, and the guy said I could just have it. I told him I’d trade him a tape for it, and I’d have it at the next party. The next time, I brought that cassette, and he didn’t think I’d remember, but he gave me the button. I had the tape cued up at “Midnight Rambler,” and we blasted it on a nice old Marantz stereo. When it was done, he said, “I think I saw god.” I don’t know if you’ll like it that much but most people seem to really enjoy it. Keith and Mick Taylor sound great on it.

NEXT: You get what you need as well as what you want!
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Jan 222009

I’m sure you all know about Fleetwood Mac‘s roots as a blues band, led by the ax-work of the talented, troubled Peter Green. I’ve got a box set of early Fleetwood Mac that is loaded with da blooz, and from what I can tell, it’s actually well done. Bluestoneologists like HVB will sure have a better read on early Mac’s value, but the band could jam. My box set even includes two albums worth of them jamming with Chicago blues greats, but not being the world’s greatest appreciator of Chicago blues, I’ve chosed this long jam for our JAMuary celebration instead. It’s got one of those funny blues song titles that always appeal to me.

Fleetwood Mac, “Rattlesnake Shake”

I hope you dig this, and I hope this jam opens up some discussion on what constitutes a kicking blues jam, what the Brits brought to the blues that may have actually been helpful to keeping the spirit alive, and so forth.

Jan 212009

Back in my younger days, it took me a long time to warm up to more traditional acoustic jazz, even after being hooked on Bitches Brew-era fusion. My problems centered around the ride cymbal-centered drumming common in pre-1969 jazz and the stiff formality of sequential soloing broken by arranged ensemble pieces. Of course these were pinhead impressions based on my very limited exposure to the wide variety of jazz available, but that’s how I saw things.

Pharoah Sanders, “The Creator Has a Master Plan”

Pharoah SandersKarma changed all that. This large ensemble jam based on thematic material from Coltrane’s A Love Supreme, provided the gateway to stronger, more dangerous forms of jazz. It acclimated me to traditional jazz approaches to drumming and its acoustic instrumentation cured me of my adolescent aversion to non-electric jazz. Although featuring some loose arrangement details, such as the flute carrying the basic theme through long sections of Pharoah’s soloing, the epic magnitude of the piece, and the floating nature of the soloist versus the accompaniment, makes it a fine JAMuary candidate. Don’t miss the double double-basses; Lonnie Liston-Smith’s piano; and the thick broth of french horn, flute, and various drummers/percussionists. Finally, Leon Thomas’ vocal is the jazz vocal for folks that don’t like jazz vocals: a jammin’ bit of late-’60s ingenuousness sitting comfortably in the ensemble, extending and, in some sense, rectifying Coltrane’s singing on A Love Supreme.

The album consisted of two pieces, “The Creator Has a Master Plan” and “Colors.” The former, included here, originally spanned a side and a half with a transitional fade to get from side A to side B. When first purchased on CD, I was very disappointed to find that MCA had skipped the expense of revisiting the master tape to restore the continuous take. Fortunately, they corrected this transgression on this subsequent improved quality release.

Jan 202009

They’re only human. Great musicians can fall back on signature sounds, or a motif, as readily as any hack whose run out of ideas while jamming in the basement. As a “now playing” example got me thinking, whether by design or default, Ornette Coleman, on “The Ark,” from from his excellent Town Hall, 1962 can’t help but play the 4-note theme that’s best known from his electric free-jazz breakthrough “Dancing in Your Head.” Go back to the earliest Coleman recordings and you’ll hear him play that 4-or-so-note run. That’s the essence of Ornette Coleman, his Colemanessence, if you will. All the other millions of free notes he and his bandmates have played for the last 50-plus years might be meaningless to all but hardcore jazz explorers like our very own “Boom Boom” Buskirk if not for our ability to trace – and cling onto – the development and recurrence of that 4-note motif.

Then I got to thinking, Pete Townshend was the first rock musician that came to mind who had such a distinctive motif. For him I’d say it’s the suspended fourth he uses with his chords. It’s something he must have picked up from Phil Spector arrangements, which often hinge on the suspended fourth note (eg, “Then He Kissed Me”), and it’s there in early Who songs like “I’m a Boy,” eventually serving as the driving force in the entire Tommy album and, with a twist, Quadrophenia. As much as his windmill power chording, Townshend’s reliance on the suspended fourth chord is his signature sound.

Can you identify signature sounds that best define the works of other musicians? I don’t mean something as broad and obvious and Bo Diddley and his beat but something more subtle that is prevalent and even expected in the sounds this musician creates. Without actual sound samples to post, just point to a part of a well-known song that represents that artist’s signature sound.

np – Ornette Coleman, “The Ark”

Jan 202009

Today’s JAMuary entry comes courtesy of Townsman “Boom Boom” dbuskirk. I’ll let him tell you about it. As a special treat, he’s spread jam on both sides of the toast: JAMuary’s second double shot in as many days! (Don’t get spoiled!)

Don “Sugarcane” Harris, “Where’s My Sunshine”

Don “Sugarcane” Harris has been on my front burner in recent years, particularly the eight records he recorded for the MPS label back in the 1970s. Sugarcane Harris, who died in 1999 at the age of 61, had an odd career trajectory. He started in the 1950s as half of the duo Don & Dewey, who recorded gritty doo-wop styled tunes for the Specialty label. Together they wrote and recorded the garage rock classic “Farmer John” and “Leaving It All Up To You,” which I first knew as the 1974 Donnie & Marie remake. During the ’60s, L.A.- based Don was in bandleader Johnny Otis‘ stable, singing and playing in Otis’ Revue on what became his trademark axe, the electric violin. However Sugarcane is probably best remembered by rock fans when he guested on some of the Zappa‘s post-Mothers records, 1969’s Hots Rats and 1970’s Chunga’s Revenge (that’s his violin solo on “Willie The Pimp”).

Anyway, without the Zappa connection I doubt Sugarcane would have ended up in the Berlin Jazz Festival in 1971, playing a set featuring European prog and jazz musicians, including Soft Machine’s Robert Wyatt on drums, Volker Kriegel on guitar (from vibist Dave Pike’s group), experimentalist Wolfgang Dauner on keyboards, and bassist Neville Whitehead, like Wyatt also out of the Canterbury prog scene.

“Every word of it is true” Sugarcane swears in the introduction of the 12-minute “Where’s My Sunshine,” from Sugarcane’s Got The Blues. Actually there are only seven words in the song (maybe nine if you count “Oh yeah”), but there’s a conviction in everything Sugarcane sings and plays in the song that makes it all seem kinda profound. By dragging this progressive crew back into the blues (and a pretty unusual one too, I’ll leave the more schooled folks here to figure out exactly what time the song is in) Sugarcane stirs this mixture of rock, jazz, soul, and blues into one of those cross-cultural exchanges that gave rock and roll its initial kick.

Then again, for a sizable percentage of rock fans the sound of the electric violin is akin to listening to a cat being skinned, bringing up bad flashbacks of Kansas and Jean Luc Ponty. But for me there is something captivating about this recording, perhaps Sugarcane’s most cohesive, that has made this propulsive track a go-to record when I’m driving by myself. If only Phish sounded more like this.

BONUS JAM! Don & Dewey, “Farmer John”


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