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"
Ernie Isley of the Isley Brothers Interview – Holding onto the bass for dear life with Ernie Isley (Part 2 of 3) [Listen 34:30 min] S02 Ep15
Interview Date: August 13, 2012 @10 am EDT
Special Guest: Ernie Isley (of the Isley Brothers) - is a key member in one of the most famous soul/funk/R&R bands of all time. Ernie Isley was a crucial component in the band at a historic and transitional time in music; they changed the sound of the band's early music with songs like “This Old Heart of Mine” and “Shout” and advanced into their later funk driven sound with songs like "Fight the Power Pts. 1 & 2," "Harvest for the World," "Voyage to Atlantis," and “That Lady.” Ernie Isley helped make the Isley brothers one of the few groups that have charted in five consecutive decades. In this podcast we talk about why Jimi Hendrix had difficulty catching in America, the first time Ernie was in the studio to record "It's your thing," the 3 + 3 recording sessions, and the Beatles inspiration and introduction in America.
Attention Everyone: This is a Snobbery!
In these days of music snobs and jokes like “I'm into bands that haven't even formed yet.” As great as some artists are lauded now and pasted on the front cover of magazines and whose image sell millions of t-shirts, some never got the popularity nor the due respect simply because they were too advanced for the population or market to accept. All this despite skill, mettle, integrity, or whatever you wish to say that separates a band from the crowd but also separates them so far for them to fail to realize success. Ironically, while recognition is the measure and aim (often) of budding artists pushing their craft to new levels hoping to make it big, the market and larger population tends to be pretty conservative.
But this is the market. And there's more than one side. The Delfonics probably wouldn't have such a cult following if it weren't so cool to be into the band before they broke, or never broke but should have. If every band that finally made it had a nickel from everyone who said they were into them before they got popular, well, let's just say that there would be a lot more money to go around to feed the starving artists, perhaps to the ends of time.
This is the priceless and intangible commodity; the je nes sais quoi of music appreciation. Lest not we forget Hammond's Folley: Bob Dylan. Hammond's Folley was the moniker given to Dylan because Columbia Records' A&R man John Hammond signed Dylan, and produced his album which sold poorly at first and Hammond's bosses found such disfavour with Dylan they dubbed him “Hammond's Folley.” In fact, the Columbia Record execs didn't authorize his signing. It was Hammond's persistence and rebellious nature to go ahead and sign him despite his superiors objections. Obviously, he had an ear more advanced than the execs; Dylan's success and Hammond's reputation more than show for it.
There are scores of bands that influenced others and helped launch them into stardom but never got to reap the same degree of success. Jimi Hendrix credited the Isley Brothers because reporters fascinated by his sound wanted to know how he developed and would ask him directly what bands he was into and influenced by. Often, Hendrix would only mention the Isley Brothers.
Also, unfortunately, as time wears on influences get forgotten and stories get simplified. As Ernie Isley describes in the interview, finding McCartney in his audience, they happened to have a great meeting, and the two gushed on each other great respect. And while the same three names of Elvis, Carl Perkins, and Chuck Berry get mentioned as the influences of the Beatles, McCartney told Isley that the Beatles would never have gotten out of Liverpool had it not been for the Isley Brothers, and he got up on stage and said so to give them homage.
It's a mercurial nature of where a sound takes hold. Place and time are never consistent. Hendrix said that he really learned to play while he was in Memphis because the audiences were so hard and everybody there played guitar, but Memphis got to be limiting pretty quickly in terms of sound; that plus the race issue made it difficult to gain success there. In the U.S. in '63 only the major metropolitan areas were where mixed race bands were accepted; elsewhere, they were often shut down or forced out. Countless stories could be told. During this time, and the influx of the British Invasion, Hendrix was told that he just wouldn't sell in America. This is how Jimi was spirited away to the U.K.
But I'm not talking about the race issue here, it's the general acceptance issue-if their music was appreciated. The same goes for fine art and literature. Artists sometimes never get the recognition they deserve until they're dead.
And still, musicians get passed over because they were too advanced. All this considering the valuable commodity and bragging rights of being into the band that hasn't broke yet, but on the verge. Unfortunately, some remain on the verge and only make it to a revered cult following; such has been said of Sun Ra and Frank Zappa.
But what makes the long hours of research so rewarding is honing that appreciation to be able to flesh out the bands that had that sound, or skill, or philosophy, or audacity to push music in another direction but just weren't pushed, promoted, discovered, or simply just weren't accepted in their time and passed over. It's not just collecting, it's honing an appreciation and relishing the reward. It brings a higher level of integrity to music snob.
We thought we'd pay a little respect to some of the artists who didn't get their due in their day.
Considered by most as only a joke at first. I bet you own a t-shirt with their name on it.
P.S. Dylan releases his new album, "Tempest" around the second week of September
Interview with Sly Dunbar [Listen 1:04:45 min; Sly= 17:30min and Bonus interview with Jim Wilson= 47:15 min] – Love and Respect for Sly Dunbar
Special Guest: Sly Dunbar (a.k.a. one half of "Sly and Robbie" or also know by some as one half of “the Riddim Twins”) is quite possibly the most important drummer in Jamaican Music History. Lowell Charles Dunbar’s impact on music (not just Reggae but music in general) is immeasurable. It is said that he has over 200 000 recordings behind his belt (not including remixes or Dubs); has had over 100 #1 hits in Jamaica. He is easily one of the most influential drummers of the second half of the Century. In this podcast we talk about the Sly and Robbie’s album” Language Barrier” and “Rhythm Killer”, Chris Blackwell and Compass Point, and Grace Jones.
Please note: there is a bonus forty-five minute long interview with Jim Wilson (Black Dub, The Sparks, Mother Superior, and writer of songs for Henry Rollins, Meatloaf and Alice Cooper!) tacked on the end of the podcast! Also: I will be taking a small break from Sly Dunbar so that I can bring you a Reggae Christmas Special! The next interview with Sly Dunbar will truly be "EPIC" for both Reggae fans and drummer fans alike. Ho Ho Ho!
Clement “Coxsone” Dodd and the Studio One Sessions
GTV - “Did you work with Clement Dodd?”
Sly Dunbar – “No, I didn’t work with him, but I have so much respect for him because I am one of his greatest fans . . . and people like Jackie Mittoo who really inspired me to play. I called him ‘the Martin Luther King of Reggae.’ He laughed, Cox said 'Why?'”
[I said] 'Because you come and do all this; you must have had a dream why you decide to do it.' He had this vision and went for it . . .” Sly Dunbar, GTV interview 2011
Interview Date: August 24, 2011 @7pm EDT
Special Guest: Jimmy Scott (a.k.a. "Little" Jimmy Scott). This week I talk to one of my favourite jazz legends of all time, the great Jimmy Scott. Mr.Scott is famous for among other things, singing the most beautiful ballads in the most hauntingly high unwavering alto voice and for his unique relaxed behind the beat delivery. He is known in jazz circles as having both a tragic and inspirational life and career. In this podcast we talk to Jimmy Scott about Herman Lubinsky, Billie Holiday, Charlie Parker, going into the studio with Ray Charles and even a funny story with Quincy Jones. Once again, I’d like to apologize about the quality of the recording.
Women in Jazz
Jazz is an art form of seminal and innovative concepts. But, like Jimmy Scott, not everybody, or every innovation was able, or sometimes even welcomed
Interview Date: August 24, 2011 @7pm EDT
Special Guest: Jimmy Scott (a.k.a. "Little" Jimmy Scott) the Jazz Legend who sang in the early days for Roost, King and Savoy Records. He is famous for among other things, singing the most beautiful ballads in the most hauntingly high unwavering alto voice and for his unique relaxed behind the beat delivery. He is known in jazz circles as having both a tragic and inspirational life and career. Marvin Gaye once said “his entire career he has long to sing ballads... with the depth of Jimmy Scott” Frankie Valli called him “A towering influence on a whole generation on young singers” and Lou Reed said that “he is the greatest jazz singer in the world.” Jimmy Scott who is known by some as “Little” Jimmy Scott has work with some of the most iconic people in the music industry people like Ray Charles, Quincy Jones, Billy Holiday, Stan Getz and Charlie Parker just to name a few.
Jimmy Scott, Herman Lubinsky and Savoy Records
There are days when I turn on the TV or check the news that I get a sudden gut-wrenching feeling of anger mixed with defeat. Hearing the banks and Wall Street unapologetically exploiting and stealing from the masses I get miffed. Yes, there are days