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"
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.
Interview Date: November 23, 2011 @8pm EDT
Special Guest: Syl Johnson (part 2) – 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 moved to Chicago; Syl Johnson is as good as they come. Famous for some of the most touching and soulful music ever; songs like "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 artist 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 Magic Sam, Wu Tang Clan, How he first starting singing, the story behind twilight and twinight Records and his recent smash hit "Different Strokes" which has been sampled at least 134 times.
Blues Folklore - Getting Your Mojo Workin'
The story of Robert Johnson's deal with the devil is pretty well known, or one of those variations it comes in. Apparently, at first he was only a mediocre musician. He disappeared from town for a while but returned later possessing an absolute mastery over the guitar. Stunned by the remarkable change, people who heard him afterwards assumed he must have made a pact with the devil. Johnson didn't deny it. In his songs, he sings about meeting the devil at the crossroads; (at highways 61 and 49 in Clarksdale, Mississippi (although, there's some debate--there's always some debate)). He lived recklessly, and reveled in the attention of women. He died at the age of 27 most likely a victim of poisoning from a jealous husband, making him one of the first in the 27 club. If you're into the blues, or anybody that was influenced by him like The Rolling
Syl Johnson talks about his good friend Magic Sam [Listen 28:05 S02 Ep01] -Are You There, I’m Still Here Man
Interview Date: November 23, 2011 @8pm EDT
Special Guest: Syl Johnson – 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 moved to Chicago; Syl Johnson is as good as they come. Famous for some of the most touching and soulful music ever; songs like "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 artist of all time. What more needs to be said? He's a man that strikes the hearts of the individuals...
The Re-Resurgence of Blues (on repeat)