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 McLaughlin “Now Here This” Interview Part 2 [Listen 28:44] – Sitting in the control room with Teo Macero and John McLaughlin S03 Ep04 (Part 2 of 2)
Special Guest: John McLaughlin: McLaughlin started his career off as a 19 year old trailblazing guitar master, blowing away audiences just as the British blues was exploding on the scene. Bands like Cream and the Yardbirds were just starting to take shape, and guitarists like Jimmy Page, Eric Clapton, Keith Richards, and Jimi Hendrix were just starting out and hoping to cut their teeth. My next guest had a different calling, going on a different tangent and taking his sound away from the blues-rock world of guitar hooks and classic rock solos and instead schooling himself on some of the most beautiful but also technically challenging music styles known in music. He delved into playing styles like flamenco guitar with Al Di Meola and Paco de Lucia; world music with people like Carlos Santana and Trilok Gurtu, and straight ahead jazz with too many jazz legends to mention. John McLaughlin was a major player in helping take jazz on one of most extreme and interesting rides ever with the sub-genre 'jazz fusion.' He is so highly respected that Miles Davis immortalized him in two songs, one of them on his landmark album, Bitches Brew, with the honorarily titled "John McLaughlin." Currently, McLaughlin and his band, The 4th Dimension, have a brand new album out called “Now Here This” an album about which McLaughlin has been quoted as saying “It’s the best thing I ever did, from the beginning until today.” In this podcast we talk about the elder blues statesman Alexis Korner and his effect on the British Blues world, John McLaughlin's days with Ginger Baker and Jack Bruce previous to the formation of their band Cream, we also get into anecdotes with Eric Clapton, Carlos Santana, Jimi Hendrix, the album Emergency!, Tony Williams, Larry Young, Joey DeFrancesco, Elvin Jones, John Mayall and finish off with the story of how Miles Davis came to write the song titled "John McLaughlin."
Going Thru a Miles Davis collection
Getting into Miles Davis' music for the first time can be a daunting undertaking. First off, he released many records, and many of them groundbreaking. He also changed his style quite dramatically at different time periods in his career, so where to start, and what to look for can be a little overwhelming. Of course, there are the albums that must be in the collection which are well known and loved by everyone and need to be there to say that they're into Miles Davis, according to aficionados. Then there are albums that are not necessarily must-haves but come down to being just as good, or very close to just as good, and ones that the neophyte would do better to try after they've gained some familiarity into his music. Of course, it can all come down to a matter of opinion, but take the advice from those who have gone through it and are willing to impart what they've found.
For those who get it in their blood, rich appreciation takes hold, it gets to be a hunger, and later, after having spent hours upon hours savouring every nuance and note, the albums get to be second nature and fans couldn't imagine being without the albums in their collection. For the music fan, it truly becomes a thing of beauty. But for the beginner, all these different albums and musical periods can be hard to sort through. The good news is, that for those starting out, Davis may be the most accessible jazz artist – easier to get into than later period John Coltrane, Eric Dolphy or say Ornette Coleman.
For myself, I have never come across a Miles Davis record that I didn’t like.
Here is a small sample of Davis albums. Though most fans categorize Davis’ collection according to time periods; I personally separate Davis’ playing into tempos to put on according to my mood. I have sorted this list with both categorizations in mind. If you're new to it, try it out; I hope it broadens your horizon.
Generally Davis’ playing during this period tends to be of a quick and agile straight ahead jazz. All of it is pretty accessible and sound like “Jazz” in a traditional sense.
Birth of Cool (Released in 1957) (Tempo : Mid-slow)
This is Miles Davis in a big band setting and is notable for among other things, one being the first time he worked with arranger Gil Evans. Though released in 1957, the recordings themselves actually date from 1949 and 1950. This pivotal album was Miles Davis’ first big change to the jazz world – ushering in the switch from Bebop Jazz, playing with Charlie Parker in these years, to what became to be known as “cool jazz" (in no small part because of this monumental album.) In short, a great album that goes well with any occasion.
'Round About Midnight (Released in 1957) (Tempo: mixed - Slow and Quick tracks)
A phenomenal record. After recording for smaller labels like Prestige, Davis decided to move to Columbia Records to record ‘Round About Midnight (his first album in a long career with the label). Considered his first great quintet, the album has John Coltrane, Red Garland, Paul Chambers and Philly Joe Jones. They really clicked on this album.
Bags Groove (1957) (Tempo: Mid to Quick)
Although this it a lot of people’s favourite record; I personally just put this record on when I feel like changing it up and listen to a Miles Davis record I haven’t heard in a while. The players on this album are an all-star roster playing at their best.
Milestones (1958) (Tempo: Quick)
Another straight ahead jazz style record and one that I reach for more often than any other of this time period; in short one of his best.
Ascenseur Pour L’echafaud (1958) (Tempo: Very slow)
This has to be one of Davis' easiest records to listen to, and one that gets frequent play. While touring Europe, Davis decided to record a soundtrack (Ascenseur Pour L’echafaud) – it doesn’t have any star players on it apart from Davis himself, but it's a great album. It has a cool minimalist quality to it. The only problem with this record is that it’s hard to find. Get it if you see it.
Generally marked by his work with Gil Evans; these are some of his most loved and sought after records.
Kind of Blue (1959) (Tempo: Mid)
Maybe the most loved Jazz record of all time. For me what differentiates this from his other records is the inclusion of Bill Evans. Not to say that Evans was the star, but I just think that he mixed really well with Davis, John Coltrane and the rest of the band.
Sketches of Spain (1960) (Tempo: Low to Mid)
A great collaboration between Gil Evans and Miles Davis that is set to Spanish folk tunes; a much loved Miles Davis record. Although I rarely put it on myself.
At Carnegie Hall (1961) (Tempo: Quick)
Having heard Kind of Blue so often, it took me a while to get into the rendition of “So What” and the other classic tunes that Davis plays with orchestration. If you find you have the same difficulty, my advice is to not give up on it; you will most likely fall in love with it after some time.
This album rings in his second great quintet and consists of Wayne Shorter, Herbie Hancock, Ron Carter and Tony Williams. Each member of this band have gone on to change jazz in their own unique way.
Live at the Plugged Nickel (1965) (Tempo: Quick and Agile)
Recorded at a club called Plugged Nickel in Chicago 1965; this stuff is legendary. I play this a lot.
For some, this was where jazz stopped being jazz and turned into a free-for-all with musicians focused only onto what they were doing individually. I think less people hold this opinion in general these days; that said, this stuff isn't for everyone. Miles Davis was one of the first to plug in and has some of the most extreme examples of "Jazz-Fusion."
In a Silent Way (1969) (Tempo: Ultra slow)
Albums don`t come any better than this one. The first record that John McLaughlin played on – this record is one of the most relaxing and awe-inspiring records in my collection.
Bitches Brew (1970) (Tempo: Slow to Mid)
This is where the rubber hits the road as far as electric instruments and jazz being combined. This is a record that I didn't originally warm up to but is now one of my favorite albums of all time. If I had one complaint it would be that the `Complete Bitches Brew` needs to be easier to find and cost much less on vinyl.
Post Retirement Period
After releasing "On the Corner," Davis called it quits (for five years). After reading his autobiography, I think this wasn't the healthiest move on his part. Luckily, he released some stuff from the vaults during this time period and eventually came out of retirement. Though he didn't bring out any career changing albums, for me, he still brought out some good stuff.
Agharta (1975) (Tempo: Funky/Crazy)
Recorded February 1, 1975 in Japan, Agharta (the afternoon set) was part of a two part live release (the evening set was also released; called Pangaea). Davis has never been more crazy, wild or unapologetically funky than he was here. In fact, he was so wild that critics at the time were accusing him of not acting his age and borrowing too much from Jimi Hendrix, Sly and the Family Stone, and James Brown. What do critics know. On this album, the band is absolutely stellar and the music is totally moving. Although it's definitely not the album to start with. Not for a gentle immersion anyway.
Tutu (1986) (Tempo: Mellow/Smooth with an 80's flair)
Once you get past the dated 80’s drum machines and synthesizers sounds and settle into what's being played, you will realize that this is a great record. No, this is not as good as “In a Silent Way” or “Kind of Blue,” but it's still a great Miles Davis record.
-- Jason Hoffer
Next week: Steve Albini
Plus a bonus interview with Brett Anderson (of the Stripminers and the Donnas)
John McLaughlin “Now Here This” Interview [Listen 23:36] – Being happy and proud of what I do S03 Ep04 (Part 1 of 2)
Special Guests: John McLaughlin: McLaughlin started his career off as a 19 year old trailblazing guitar master, blowing away audiences just as the British blues was exploding on the scene. Bands like Cream and the Yardbirds were just starting to take shape, and guitarists like Jimmy Page, Eric Clapton, Keith Richards, and Jimi Hendrix were just starting out and hoping to cut their teeth. My next guest had a different calling, going on a different tangent and taking his sound away from the blues-rock world of guitar hooks and classic rock solos and instead schooling himself on some of the most beautiful but also technically challenging music styles known to music. He delved into playing styles like: flamenco guitar with Al Di Meola and Paco de Lucia; world music with people like Carlos Santana and Trilok Gurtu, and straight ahead jazz with too many jazz legends to mention. John McLaughlin was a major player in helping take jazz on one of most extreme and fun rides ever with the sub-genre 'jazz fusion." He is so respected that Miles Davis immortalized him in two songs, one of them on his landmark album, Bitches Brew, the honorary titled "John McLaughlin." Currently, McLaughlin and his band, The 4th Dimension have a brand new album out called “Now Here This” - an album about which McLaughlin has been quoted as saying “It’s the best thing I ever did, from the beginning until today.” In this podcast John McLaughlin and I talk about about the atmosphere in the studio while recording the songs: "Echoes From Then," "Take It or Leave It," "Guitar Love," and "Not Here Not There." You can hear the excitement in John McLaughlin’s voice when talking about this new album and the band he has put together.
Jazz guitarists you should know
Besides John McLaughlin, we wanted to showcase some of the other guitar legends in jazz to give you an introduction and give you some pretty pictures to look at. But besides that, look into the music they've done. Give them a listen. These guys are pioneers in the field and have pushed the frontiers of music beyond conception. While we can't cover every guitarist that should be mentioned, which often leads to objections and bitterness from fans, take note of the ones listed here, and wait for the rest to be mentioned in a later episode.
Innovative and constantly pushing the boundaries, he takes a unique approach to his music and believes music is a ways to peace.
Innovative primarily in sound and always challenging himself Metheny has evolved into new forms and a passionate fan-base. I recommend starting off with his album "We Live Here."
One of the first jazz guitarists to use an electric guitar, he influenced many others. Phenomenal skills, he apparently could match Django Reinhardt note for note.
Nicknamed "The Octopus" for his incredibly large hands and clean playing style. He only started playing guitar at age 21, but soon was playing guitar professionally. Known for only playing publicly very rarely.
Said to be the best guitar players Joey DeFancesco played with. Benson was a child prodigy, and can play a multitude of styles. He possesses impeccable technique, and can mimic his heroes perfectly at will.
A jazz guitarist of a different vein, this jazz fusion guitarist is known to have influenced players like: Eddie Van Halen, Joe Satriani, and even Frank Zappa. Like John McLaughlin, Holdsworth played with drumming legend Tony Williams.
Django Reinhardt deserves all the prestige placed on him. After he injured his hand in a fire, he developed a new way of playing to accommodate losing the use of his last two fingers. He's influenced multitudes of guitarists, and cemented his place as one of the greatest.
Considered by many to be the greatest Jazz guitarist of them all. Like Django Reinhardt, he is the high-watermark by which all guitarists are measured.
A sleeping giant of sorts in the guitar world, Joe Pass broke away from drug addiction and prison culture to become one of the most respected guitarists of all time.
Playing with people like Dizzy Gillespie, Bill Evans, Ike Quebec, Sonny Rollins, Jimmy Smith, Paul Chambers, and Stanley Turrentine, Kenny Burrell may have played on more of the best loved jazz albums than anyone else.
One of the world's most admired and respected guitarists living today. His style focuses more on the music rather than showing off guitar chops. He has been able to revitalize the bebop movement and make it current. One of the best for certain, and with a good helping of integrity.
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Johnny Winter Interview [Audio] plus Heinz Rohrer (CEO of Thorens Turntables [Print]) [Listen 26:42] – S02 Ep09 Climbing Up Curtains and Cutting Off Fingers with Johnny Winter
Interview Date: May 4, 2012 @2pm EDT
Special Guest: (Audio) Johnny Winter (Part 1 of 1) - Johnny Winter is one of the biggest names in blues; this Texas born blues guitarist has played with all the greats and was a leader in the 1960's blues revival. He has produced and played on four records for Muddy Waters and one for Sonny Terry (often winning a Grammy). He blew people away with his performance at Woodstock, and has jammed with people like Jimi Hendrix, Michael Bloomfield, Eric Clapton, and Stevie Ray Vaughan. It's been reported that he received the biggest signing contract and advancement ever given to an artist at the time. Winter's impact runs deep. He was gracious enough to give GoingThruVinyl an exclusive interview about his latest release and offer a peek into the history of the blues. http://www.johnnywinter.net/
On May 1, 2012 he released his newest album "Roots" (latest release in seven years), a record that brings together many of the artists and songs that he grew up listening to and admired. Winter and I cover the tracks on "Roots" and talk about the blues men that he has known (both on the album and throughout his career). Winter, known as not being one of the most talkative persons, got pretty animated at points in this interview and revealed some amazing stories and insight into the blues legends from a insider perspective.
Special Guest: (Print) Heinz Rohrer CEO and Owner of Thorens Turntables (Part 1 of 2)- Started in 1883 by Hermann Thorens in Switzerland, the company Thorens and their Phonographs (Turntables) have been innovating and pushing High-end audio into the 21 Century. Recently they have been designing some of the most elegant, beautifully sounding, and desirable record players on the market today. I was lucky enough to land a rare interview with Mr. Rohrer and he was kind enough to answer my questions (Translated into English. His native tongue is Swiss German). http://www.thorens.com/
Thorens Turntable Interview - GoingThruVinyl's conversation with Heinz Rohrer
I have been thinking about turntables and which one I would buy in today’s market for quite some time. The list of excellent turntable manufacturers is long, and the technological breakthroughs and improvements over the past couple of years are nothing short of extraordinary. The advancements in technology, design, quality, and jaw-dropping style that you can get these days from the high-end stereo market compared to ten years ago is greater than imagined. Which brings me to this company and the turntables that impresses me the most these days: the Swiss brand “Thorens” and their new acrylic turntable lines (TD 2015, TD 2035) and the TD 309.
I was lucky enough to get a written interview with the CEO of Thorens, Heinz Rohrer. We talk about what design decisions go into making a Thorens turntable and their long history of their company being a key component in refining the classic record player.
GTV - Thorens’ history goes all the way back to Switzerland in 1883 and its musical roots were planted right from the beginning. The late 19th century was a time when Swiss engineering had established itself as being known for their quality and craftsmanship with precision made objects like watches and clocks. Can you tell me what kind of man Hermann Thorens was, and about how the company came into existence?
Heinz Rohrer - Mr. Thorens was born some 3 or 4 generations before I was born, therefore I did not know him well (joke) and documents from this time are not available anymore in detail. He founded his family business 1883 with the purpose of manufacturing musical boxes and movements. The place he lived with his family and where he founded his company, the region called Jura at the French part of Switzerland is still known as cluster with many watch making and precision engineering companies. No doubt he was known as an excellent entrepreneur running a leading company in the region at that time.
Interview Date: November 23, 2011 @8pm EDT
Special Guest: Syl Johnson (part 3) – This Chicago Blues/Soul man has been making his style of music for 60+ years. Starting off as a Blues man when he was a teenager, Syl Johnson later morphed into making Soul music for Twilight and Hi Records. Born in Mississippi and later moved to Chicago, Syl Johnson is as good as they come. Famous for some of the most touching and soulful music ever; he's the artist behind the songs "Concrete Reservation" and "Is It Because I'm Black." He has been part of the Chicago Blues Scene from the beginning, playing and associating himself with some of the top blues people of all time; people like Magic Sam, Junior Reed, Otis Rush, Muddy Waters, Howlin' Wolf, Billy Boy Arnold, Freddy King, and many more. He is now been re-discovered by the new hip-hop scene with a vengeance and is now one of the most sampled artists of all time. What more needs to be said? He's a man that strikes the hearts of the individuals... In this podcast we talk about his smash hit "Is it Because I'm Black," his collaboration with Melody, the song "Take me to the river," funny stories about Howlin' Wolf and Muddy Waters and much much more.
Respects to Rhythm and Blues
Last week, two titans of the music industry passed away. You may have heard if your ear is to the ground, but if you haven't, I'm speaking of Etta James and Johnny Otis. They will be missed by many, for certain. They were loved.