Special Guest: Ron Carter (Part 1 of 2) is part of Jazz royalty. Carter is so versatile on the Bass and Cello, in both Jazz and Classical styles that he has been compared to Duke Ellington. He is known for his rich sound, a strong sense of counter-melody, great harmonic knowledge, and an innate ability to catch his audience off-guard without shaking the foundation. He is among the greatest accompanists ever, having played on some of the most important Jazz albums in history and was, along with Herbie Hancock and Tony Williams, a key player in what has been called “possibly the greatest rhythm sections of all time."
In this podcast, Ron Carter and I talk about his latest album, Cocktails at the Cotton Club, working with Eric Dolphy, he catches me off guard with his response to my question about why he chose not to use the electric bass for most of his career, he talks about playing with Thelonius Monk, and we finish off talking about the "Live at the Plugged Nickel" recordings.
The Greatest Recordings Of All Time
When talking about music, or even culture as a whole, the saying “all men/women are created equal” just doesn't hold water. It’s true that Einstein wasn't the only significant scientist, nor that Socrates the only important philosopher, nor was Michelangelo the only renaissance master, but to exclude them from history would be wrong on a cosmic scale. Through my years of reading and studying music, I have come across some albums or recordings that are truly cosmic and stand out from all the other great albums that surround them; albums which are referenced excessively by music critics and talked about endlessly by musicians--recordings where every music critic who knows what they are talking about put the battle ax down and admit that there isn't any arguing.
To clarify, I am going back to the beginning of recorded sound compiling this historic recordings list, and so, when I say "historic" understand that there is also an element of being one of the first on the scene and that scarcity of the recorded sound in the early days of recorded sound does play a factor in deciding its value. I say this more from an observational view point rather than to say that it is was a factor in my choice of albums. But it does go show that a musician's reach and impact is going to be more profound if they are first, as well as just one of a handful of people lucky enough to get recorded. How often I’ve seen it referenced as the greatest by critics, studied by historians, and a little of my own judgment are the main factors in compiling this list. Did I leave a few major historically important recordings out and include some of my particular notion? Yep. Are these the only recordings that matter or the best recordings of all time? Nope. But they are all fantastic, hugely historically significant, and are all definitely worth listening to.
Robert Johnson King of the Delta Blues Singers
If you are of the opinion that rock music was the biggest or most important movement in shaping the musical landscape today then this recording could be seen as the most important recording in recorded history - the impact that these 29 songs that were sung and played by this twenty-seven year old Delta blues singer (just before he died) has had on the musicians after the recording is truly immeasurable, and still continues. Some of the biggest names in music like Muddy Waters, Howlin Wolf, Keith Richards, Jimi Hendrix, Robert Plant, Eric Clapton, Bob Dylan, and millions of others treat these recordings the way Priests and Rabis might study the Bible – listening to every nuance and chord, debating guitar technique and even the position that he sat while recording these historic recordings.
If capturing some of the most incredible music known to man wasn’t enough to grab your attention, then maybe learning that the recordings and the man himself are shrouded mystery and mythology. Whether it be the mysterious way he died (was he poisoned by a jealous husband?) leaving behind a massive hole where he is presumably buried, and even whether or not he made a pact with the devil to play guitar as well as he did are all parts of his mystery. In fact, people literally make pilgrimages to US 61 and US 49 in Clarksdale, Mississippi because of the mythology surrounding the song “Cross Road Blues” that he sung which is supposedly meant as a reference to this Faustian inspired story. The story of how the only known recordings of Robert Johnson came about happened because of H.C. Speir (a talent scout and general store owner) brought Johnson to the first of two recording sessions and Ernie Oertle recorded Robert Johnson in Room 414 of the Gunter Hotel in San Antonio, Texas in 1936. The second recording session took place in 1937 on the third floor of the Vitagraph Building in Dallas Texas and every note has been studied to death.
Other Artists and Historic recordings along the same vain are: Bessie Smith, Charlie Patton, Son House, Lead Belly and Mississippi John Hurt.
Louis Armstrong Hot Five and Hot Seven Recordings
Quite possibly the most important Jazz recording session of all time. This recording session was a game changer, and in many ways helped make Jazz what it is today. Louis Armstrong was born on August 4, 1901 in the birthplace of Jazz--New Orleans. Armstrong started playing the trumpet at an early age playing in marching bands and learned his trade from some of the greats including Sidney Bechet, Freddie Keppard, and King Oliver. Pretty much every note of this 68 song cluster of records from 1926-28 are significant in the Jazz circle; take for example two of the standout tracks that were both recorded on February 26 1926 “Cornet Chop Suey” and “Heebie Jeebie.” Ken Burns in his book Jazz: A history of American music calls “Cornet Chop Suey” “… his [Armstrong's] first virtuoso masterpiece” and “Heebie Jeebie” could very well be the most influential scat recording of all time. Though the story is highly disputed, “Heebie Jeebie” has been called the first improv singing record, which came about from Armstrong’s ability to improvise words to a song that he hadn't memorized after accidentally dropping the music sheet while recording and improvised using scat instead of wasting valuable tape. Other notable songs include “Potato Head Blues,” "West End Blues," "Basin Street Blues", and well as I said all of them . . .
Other Artists and Historic recordings along the same vain are: Duke Ellington’s Okeh Recordings and Jelly Roll Morton Complete recordings.
Charlie Parker Dial Sessions
Recorded between March 28, 1946, and December 17, 1947, these 89 songs are some of the most sublime and historically important Jazz notes ever committed to tape. Part of their significance lies in the fact that they are so raw, have some of Jazz' greatest musicians all at different transitional points in their careers, and maybe most importantly, the songs themselves are multi-dimensional--telling a story within a story. Take the song “Relaxin' at Camarillo” – after spending 10 days in jail and charged with indecent exposure, resisting arrest as well as being suspected of arson. Parker, who after getting clean from heroin, wrote this upbeat and positive song about spending six months in the Camarillo State Hospital. The song beams with positive energy. In contrast, “Lover Man” is a song that may be one of the most heart-wrenching and painfully beautiful song you are likely to hear, but when you find out that Ross Russell (the owner of Dial records) who was recording Parker and seeing Parker at the beginning stages of O.D. right in front of him and not wanting to chance capturing “the last recording of this great” kept the tape rolling and refused to take Parker to the hospital until he finished the song. Parker almost died and was later angry to find out that Russell released the song without Parker's consent. If that weren't enough when you include fact that Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, and Max Roach were all there at the height of their creativity as well as a young Miles Davis that you hear just starting to spread his wings and you have a masterpiece that pretty much trumps all masterpieces.
Other Artists and Historic recordings along the same vein are: Billie Holiday- Lady in Satin, Django Reinhardt and Stéphane Grappelli-Quintette du Hot Club de France, Benny Goodman- Live at Carnegie Hall.
Coming up Part two of the "Greatest Recordings Of All Time"
John Scofield Interview (Part 2 of 2) [Listen 18:00] Having A Jazz Thing To Say With John Scofield S04 Ep09
Special Guest: John Scofield (Part 2 of 2) is one of the most influential Jazz guitarist to come out of the 1970’s. His style of playing combines a distinctive rock oriented jazz sound mixed with elements of fusion, soul, and post-bop creating a sound and tone that is truly unique. If I had to describe the John Scofield sound I would use words like funky, upbeat, fluid, and adventurous. And like with all the greats, the command and facility Scofield (or “Sco” as he is often affectionately called) has with his instrument allows him the ability to make music seem smooth, unforced, and with a heavy dose of some intangible quality that makes it just downright cool.
This week I talk with guitar great John Scofield about recording with Charles Mingus, getting asked to play with Gerry Mulligan, Chet Baker, Ron Carter and others at Carnegie Hall, playing with Miles Davis and much more.
Considering the interest we at the Going Thru Vinyl wbsite have with promoting the musicians who have pushed the frontiers of music beyond their popular and comfortable bounds, and the influence John Scofield has had on the face of the jazz world, below is a short intro and homage to the great jazz guitar players who pushed and progressed the guitar in jazz.
It is largely due to Charlie Christian who brought the guitar out from the accompanying rhythm instrument to an improvisational, harmonic and melodic device. Also one of the first to go electric, not necessarily to go agains the greain, but out of necessity to hear his style of playing. Christian became such a phenomenon that almost all guitarists switched to amplified instruments.
Django Reinhardt. No list of jazz guitar greats is complete without him. The non-formally educated Roma man in Europe made music and developed a style that changed--actually shattered and forged new concepts of jazz, as well as where and how, and who could play jazz. To many, everything was wrong about him, but his energy and creativity, and brilliance commanded anyone in music unable to disregard him.
Once again, we have to pay homage to Les Paul, who innovated and invented techniques for the guitar. Paul was so ahead of his time, even jazz aficionados of the age, people who considered themselves advanced and intelligent, considered his new techniques and manipulation of sound wasn't "music."
Tal Farlow often gets mentioned for the use of his extremely large hands allowing him to play tight clusters of single notes, and too often his description starts and ends there, and perhaps out of spite and jealousy fostered from other guitarists; not enough credit is given to him for the ingenuity and boldness to develop and perform his innovative style. He pushed style further away from the simple rhythmic accompanying instrument, and with a unique style. And clearly, his hands are not inhumanly large, for they're attached to the ends of his wrists like normal.
Wes Montgomery. Aside from his fluid speed and octave technique, he played without a pick, and developed a corn on his thumb that he could employ for a greater degree of control of tone. Said to be the greatest thing to guitar since Charlie Christian, Montgomery essentially influenced everyone who came after him.
Benson was a child prodigy, can play a multitude of styles effortlessly, and mimic his heroes impeccably, but clearly has his own style and brought string bending back to jazz, something at the time had been removed by modern jazz guitarists, all in the search for the common notion of jazz guitar--the clearest line. Besides being virtuostic, in the seventies he was the best selling jazz musician along with Herbie Hancock.
John McLaughlin. The styles that McLaughlin has adopted has taken him around the world and into the most diverse kinds of music; all which he brought back to jazz in a new, enriching, and fascinating manifestation. We've been honored to get a recent interiew with him that you can listen to here: http://goingthruvinyl.com/?artist=John%20McLaughlin
And, of course John Scofield whose complex, contemporary style has influenced several other notable musicians. To hear his interview, and to better understand his style and technique, press play above.
N.B. This is only a short intro and homage, and not meant to infuriate those who have not been mentioned out of brevity. I would like to thank and acknowledge Joachim-Ernst Berendt and Gunther Huesmann for their book, "The Jazz Book: From Ragtime to the 21st Century" which I found an extremely entertaining read and upon which I drew heavily.
Ted Gioia (written) Interview & John Scofield (audio) Interview (Part 1 of 2) [Listen 15:00] Listening And Trying To Figure It Out With John Scofield S04 Ep09
Special Guest: John Scofield (Part 1 of 2) is one of the most influential Jazz guitarist to come out of the 1970’s. His style of playing combines a distinctive rock oriented jazz sound mixed with elements of fusion, soul, and post-bop creating a sound and tone that is truly unique. If I had to describe the John Scofield sound I would use words like funky, upbeat, fluid, and adventurous. And like with all the greats, the command and facility Scofield (or “Sco” as he is often affectionately called) has with his instrument allows him the ability to make music seem smooth, unforced, and with a heavy dose of some intangible quality that makes it just downright cool.
This week I’m interviewing guitar great John Scofield about his fantastic new album Uberjam Deux; he breaks down some of the tracks for us as well as discusses the inception of his amazing guitar tone and technique.
Ted Gioia Interview
Special Guest: Ted Gioia (Part 1 of 1) is a musician, author, jazz critic, and a leading expert on American music. His books include: “The History of Jazz,” “Delta Blues,” “The Jazz Standards,” “West Coast Jazz,” “The Imperfect Art,” “Work Songs,” “Healing Songs,” and “The Birth (and Death) of the Cool.” He is held in high regard by The Washington Post (twenty best books of the year), The New York Times (notable Book of the Year) and The Economist (picked as one of the best books of the year). He is one of the best music writers and historians on the shelf, and we are excited to have a written interview with Ted Gioia.
GTV - Jazz and jazz records are rare for a reason; the earliest jazz records came out before most people could afford records or record players. Even at the height of Bebop, most households would only have a handful of records if they were lucky. How important are records when telling the story of Jazz?
TG - Without recordings, jazz could never have evolved as an art form. The first generation of jazz musicians in New Orleans had little influence beyond the small group of people who saw them perform in person. But with the rise of the record industry, jazz could now be disseminated, studied, and imitated all over the world. After 1923, the history of jazz is well preserved on record and we can follow the milestones in the music’s evolution long after the artists who made that music have passed away.
GTV - One of the fascinating things when reading your book “The History of Jazz” was learning the connection between New Orleans and Chicago. Would you explain for our readers why New Orleans as the birthplace of jazz people like King Oliver, Louis Armstrong, and Sidney Bechet felt the need to go to Chicago?
TG - There are many peculiarities in the history of jazz, but the geography of the music is especially confusing. People are puzzled when I say that many of the most important events in New Orleans jazz took place in Chicago, just as decisive developments in Chicago jazz took place in New York. But the explanation is fairly simple: musicians follow the money. They can’t live on music alone, and need to be in the places where they can earn a living. For this reason, most major musicians in the US gravitated to a few key cities during the course of the 20th century—New York, Chicago, Los Angeles and a few others. So New Orleans may have created jazz, but it was unable to keep it.
GTV -Your books are filled with stories about the interesting lives of culturally important figures – their struggles, accomplishments, short-comings, and what kind of people they really were. Some of my favorite parts was the side stories of people like Mutt Carey, Buddy Petit and Emmett Hardy. Musicians who were said to have been on par with the greats (or better) than some of the people we have come to know like Louis Armstrong and King Oliver. Is the story of history forgetting musicians a common story one and were there any side stories left out of the book that you would like to talk about here?
TG - There are many gaps in our understanding of early jazz. The biggest mystery is Buddy Bolden, the cornetist who is reportedly the “inventor” of jazz, but left behind no recordings. After the early 1920s, almost every musician of note left behind recordings. Yet even here we encounter intriguing jazz players who left behind a very small body of work, either because they died young or other circumstance intervened. Here are a few of these almost-forgotten artists who, under slightly different circumstances, might be far better known today: Dupree Bolton, Tony Fruscella, Fats Navarro, Richard Twardzik, Booker Little, Scott LaFaro, Chick Webb, Kenny Kirkland and Emily Remler.
By the way, we just added another name to this list—the amazing young jazz pianist Austin Peralta, who died last year at the age of 22. I believe that he could have been a major jazz star, but now we will never know what he might have achieved.
GTV - Jazz and blues music have very similar histories in that both originated and developed just after the turn of the 20th Century in poor southern African-American communities. In your opinion, what are some important conditions in the development of a musical or cultural movement?
TG - Jazz and blues spring from very different social circumstances. Jazz arose from the fervor and interplay of a large city—New Orleans—as do most innovative artistic movements. Blues follows a different pattern of dissemination, and arose in more isolated rural areas, especially in Mississippi and Texas. In other words, the blues does not look like an innovation, but more like a preservation of an older cultural tradition, probably African in origin. Most historians of American music take these geographical discrepancies for granted, but I believe it is very revealing that the blues arose in the parts of the United States that were more the most insulated from outside influence. Mississippi, during the period when its first great blues singers emerged, had the lowest per capita penetration of radio, telephone and automobiles of any of the states. Is this coincidence? Definitely not. The kind of urban hustle and bustle that spurred on jazz was not conducive to the blues. As a continuation of a very old tradition it needed to be protected from big city influences.
GTV - I've never collected 78's but many of the historical jazz and blues records of the past are of that speed. Do you mostly collect 78's?
TG - I am not really a record collector, and I have adapted my own listening habits as technology has changed. I listened to albums, when albums were easy to get. When they were replaced by compact disks, I moved on to CDs. Nowadays I listen to most of my music in digital format. As for 78s, I’ve never taken much interest in them—especially since almost all of the important music on 78 rpm records was later released in other formats.
GTV - Which of those formats do you believe was best?
TG - When digital music arrived, I thought it was a great advance. But more recently I have changed my mind. I now believe that analog music sounds better than digital music. I continue to listen to digital music, because it is easier to access. But if the music industry ever shifted back to analog, I would applaud the move.
GTV - Rock ’n’ Roll as an art form came from a combination of Gospel (Sister Rosetta Tharpe and Little Richard), Blues (Arthur Crudup), Country (Gene Vincent), and Jazz (Louis Jordan); Do you have an opinion on what, specifically, was the first Rock and Roll record?
TG - When I was younger, I was told that “Rock Around the Clock” was the first rock song, but clearly there were earlier blues, jazz and R&B albums that anticipated rock-and-roll. Check out, for example, “Rocket 88,” a 1951 track from Ike Turner and Jackie Brenston, or Lloyd Price’s “Lawdy Miss Clawdy” from 1952. But I have a candidate for ‘first rock record’ that almost nobody knows about: Big Joe Williams’s “She Left Me a Mule” recorded for the Trumpet label back in 1951. This track, which clearly sounds like a rock song, deserves to be far better known.
Charlie McCoy Interview (Part 1 of 2) [Listen 26:00] Discovering Unique Talent With Charlie McCoy S04 Ep08
Special Guest: Charlie McCoy (Part 1 of 2) might be one of the most honored and revered guests in my roster. His impact on music (both Country and Rock) is immeasurable. To bringing up the fact that he played on Bob Dylan’s Highway 61, Blonde on Blonde, Nashville Skyline, and John Wesley Harding, Simon and Garfunkel’s “The Boxer,” or Roy Orbison’s “Candy Man” would overlook some of the other amazing achievements of this great musician. It should be noted that he also played with Elvis Presley throughout his career, including his early RCA sessions, and put out 35 great solo albums of his own. He is a Country music legend and has played with Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson, Dolly Parton, George Jones, Flatt and Scruggs, Chet Atkins, Patsy Cline, and Johnny Paycheck. He was in the Nashville’s super group, Area Code 615, as well as being part of the Nashville A-team, he was the musical director for the ground breaking television show Hee Haw for 14 years and was inducted into the Country Hall Of Fame in 2009 with Roy Clark and Barbra Mandrell (and if you had to ask he recorded with them too).
In this podcast Charlie and I talk about his Southern beginnings, getting to Nashville and his barn dance radio days, McCoy's big Grammy winning album, The Real McCoy, his involvement in the songs “He Stopped Loving Her Today” with George Jones, and “Today I Started Loving Her Again” with Merle Haggard and Roy Orbison, we talk about Fred Foster, Sam Philips, Archie Bier, Charlie McCoy's work with Elvis, Ray Price, we get into Hank Williams and much, much more.
The Nashville sound, sometimes called by the ugly portmanteau, Countrypolitan, is the name for the sub-genre of country music that sprang up arguably around 1957. The Nashville sound is believed to be the reaction of country to combat the booming popularity of rock n' roll, ironically, it is argued that the Nashville sound was largely influenced by the one who was bolstering the popularity of rock 'n roll, Elvis Presley, but the Nashville sound was primarily orchestrated by Chet Atkins, Owen Bradley, Bob Ferguson, and Steve Shoals.
Why exactly Nashville became a music centre of the U.S. is still a matter of debate. Besides the people involved, on which there is even greater debate about who held the greatest impact, the location is considered to be a large reason behind the emergence of Nashville as a music centre. Both close enough to New York and the music that came from that way, but also far enough away from New York to not be so greatly influenced by it. And south enough to be rooted to the sounds emerging from the south and the rural areas. Also, a great deal of traffic traveling East and West went through Nashville, making it a harbour for the musical influences the travelers brought with them.
Of, course, this musical crossroads birthed one of the most reputable and revered stages by bringing these influences into the culmination of the Grand Ole Opry. The Grand Ole Opry grew out of the National Barn Dance radio program that showcased old-timey and down-home music. Noted as "the home of American music," The Grand Ole Opry is still a massive draw and is the highlight in many careers of notable country musicians that span several generations now.