Jazz

130: Thelonious Monk, ‘Let’s Call This’ (Monk’s Advice to Lacy)

You talk about a different drummer? Thelonious Monk inhabited a not-so-parallel universe. He played very few notes, and those unpredictable. Metronomes were witnessed imploding in his presence. He pounded the keyboard with extended, flat fingers. He got up in the middle of a song to dance. He wore funny hats. Sometimes he just refused to talk. But he gave soprano saxophonist Steve Lacy some unforgettable advice about how to be a ‘cool’ musician. Or maybe about How To Be. “A genius is the one most like himself,” Monk says. Clearly, Monk was exactly like Monk.

Continue reading...

119: Tom Harrell, ‘Train Shuffle’

Loath as I am to resort to gimmickry, it’s hard to ignore the back-story of trumpeter Tom Harrell’s paranoid schizophrenia. He hears voices, maintains ‘a tenuous contact with reality’, is heavily medicated, and speaks like a zombie who’s just seen a ghost. Until he puts his horn to his lips, when he’s instantly and magically possessed by an utterly coherent aesthetic expressiveness.

Continue reading...

105: The Boswell Sisters, ‘Crazy People’

The Boswell Sisters had 20 hits in the early 1930s, and are arguably THE best vocal jazz group ever. Their 3-part harmonies are tighter than Aunt Bertha’s girdle, and their arrangements are constantly chock full of unexpected shifts in tempo, major/minor mode, key, and tone, flipping cheekily from dead serious to insouciant comic and back. They have a wicked and sometimes rather racy sense of humor. Their vocals are so hot they were often thought to be black. They scat with the best of them, and do knock-out imitations of instruments and nonsense sounds. A pleasure and an education, 80 years on.

Continue reading...

099: Luciana Souza, ‘Baião à Tempo’ (“An Answer to Your Silence”)

I get that not everyone needs to go hacking through impregnable jazz jungles or crawling across atonal minimalist deserts or getting lost in endless Nordic a cappella virgin forests. But believe me, Luciana Souza’s “An Answer to Your Silence” is vocal jazz of singular, innovative genius – groundbreaking, underappreciated, and regretfully unknown. It is THE most interesting CD I’ve heard in the last decade.

Continue reading...