Jun 112015

I just saw that Ornette Coleman has died. I’m not a jazzbo by any means, but he’s one of 3 jazz artists (mid-’60s John Coltrane and Bitches Brew-era Miles Davis) who first opened my thick head to the genre. I still think there’s something special about him, a floating, open quality to his music that goes down easy for me, that doesn’t raise my suspicions over the motives of those jazz chord–playing cats who’d previously failed to move me.

“I don’t want them to follow me,” he explained. “I want them to follow themselves, but to be with me.”

I will likely never understand the theory behind jazz music and Coleman’s harmelodics concept, but it felt like he and his bandmates were playing bits and pieces of nursery songs, devoid of the context of chords. Too much about life is surrounded by context, surrounded by chords. I still find it exciting to hear he and his mates blurt out their little sing-songy melodies. Sometimes they’re in unison, sometimes not. When the music of Ornette really works for me, it just sounds like kids playing on a schoolyard. “Ramblin’,” for instance, is like the sound of kids jumping rope or playing hopscotch.

It wasn’t always jump rope and hopscotch for Coleman. Another favorite is “Sadness,” from the stark Town Hall, 1962 album.

Jun 122014

Philadelphia-born Jamaaladeen Tacuma just celebrated his birthday this week, on June 10. Happy birthday, Jamaaladeen!

I got turned onto Tacuma through his work with Ornette Coleman. The first part of the following clip, from a VH1 show he hosted, in which he and a friend manage to play an amazing jam on 2 of the most hideous instruments imaginable, is entertainment enough. Then there’s a segment during which he simply talks music. On a well-heeled, basic cable TV station. Jazz music. Weird music, even by jazz standards. Remember when cable TV offered those of us who really love music the chance to appreciate music?

There was that show with David Sanborn and his helmet of graying jazz hair—Night Music, I think it was called. Even MTV’s late-night new music show, 120 Minutes, felt like it was programmed for true music lovers. Do we get anything like that now? I haven’t seen it in a year, but that heavy metal talk show is the closest thing I can think of. That and the actually live performances shown on Austin City Limits. Do the music stations feature late-night shows that appeal to a younger generation that truly admires the artistry behind The National or whatever testosterone-free band might bore me to death? Hell, I bet I could get sucked into a nerdy show examining the artistry of The National—not celebrity crap like what it felt like to meet Jason Schwartzman at the VH1 Movies Awards show, or something like that.

Feb 272013

Any time I think of British jazz guitarist John McLaughlin I’m reminded of his skunk-ass playing on Miles DavisA Tribute to Jack Johnson and Bitches Brew and then quickly regret that fact that he not only stayed in the jazz realm but mostly put down his skunky electric guitar for tasteful, seated acoustic performances.

I must say, the person who posted the following clip on YouTube added probably the unintentionally funniest set up I will read all day:

As well as being a great musician Katia is hell of a sexy looking here. If ever I saw two people making love on a stage before…..

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Mar 172012

Sounds of the Hall in roughly 33 1/3 minutes!

In this week’s edition of Saturday Night Shut-In Mr. Moderator reviews some of the underrated strengths of The Attractions and The JBs, our finalists in our long-running tournament to determine—once and for all—rock’s greatest backing band. He also spins some new purchases and wonders what it is that he likes when he likes jazz. Enjoy.

[audio:https://www.rocktownhall.com/blogs/wp-content/uploads/2012/03/RTH-Saturday-Night-Shut-In-71.mp3|titles=RTH Saturday Night Shut-In, episode 71]

[Note: You can add Saturday Night Shut-In episodes to your iTunes by clicking here. The Rock Town Hall feed will enable you to easily download Saturday Night Shut-In episodes to your digital music player.]

Jan 292012

Will Your Mystery Date Be a Dream or a Dud?

The time has come to reveal our first-ever super-deluxe double-your-trouble Mystery Date. Mystery Date #1 brought to mind for many Townspeople Love‘s Forever Changes album, but not executed as well. (To my ears, as someone who thinks that Love album mostly blows, lack of execution was helpful.) Mystery Date #2 drove most Townspeople batty. Too bad dbuskirk hasn’t been around to help explain this part of the big reveal…after the jump!

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Jan 262012

When you have this many people hamming it up and scatting on stage at once, there’s only one question: Who wins?

Is it the Woman Who Twirls across the stage incessantly? (Good god, did that woman ever need more attention from her parents while growing up.)

Is it George Benson, who proves he doesn’t need his guitar to find the melody?

Is it Bill Cosby, who pulls out every move in his book: the happy feet shuffle; the old man, slo-mo extended butt squat dance; the devilishly delighted Jello Pudding face; a bass solo…thankfully stopping just short of pulling out his member when Twirling Woman bends over and places her rump in front of him?

Is it a hard-rockin’ Rosa Parks, I believe, around the 1:15 mark?

Is it the hands-down favorite going into this “ham-off,” Al Jarreau?

Is it Diana Krall, who does everything in her power to resist elbowing Twirling Woman?

Is it Al and Tipper Gore, during the credits, for taking their handclaps to a new level?

I’m sure you’ll find other moments worth reliving. One thing I’d love to know is just how pissed Al Jarreau was when “The Cos” stole the camera’s focus with a comedy ham-jam just as Jarreau was sharpening his white man’s overbite for his turn in the spotlight?

Sep 302011

Here’s a question I’ve been meaning to ask Townspeople, a question that’s likely a bit outside many of our participants’ comfort zone, but I hope you have the stones to answer, even with limited knowledge of the subject matter: What are your three (3) favorite jazz recordings (individual songs, not entire albums)?

Because this topic is outside my comfort zone I’m not going to be a hard ass regarding your definition of the term “jazz.” If you want to suggest a vocal performance of a “standard,” Chuck Mangione’s “Feel So Good,” or some Lydia Lunch “No Wave” track, be my guest.

On the other hand, if you really know your shit and welcome the chance to dig into this topic, I encourage you to specify the recordings you favor, not just throw out any one of an artist’s dozen takes on the same track.

Before I forget, here are my three favorite jazz recordings, in no particular order:

  • John Coltrane, “Olé”
  • Ornette Coleman, “Ramblin'”
  • James Blood Ulmer, “Layout”

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