Tenth Week: October 18th – 24th, 2015

One hundred records this week!

It’s tough listening to 10 records a week. At least for me. I’m just not one of these people who always has music on. I’m not sure why. Part of it is practicality, then another is that I just forget. Even when I put a record on, when it’s over I forget that there’s no music on and can go a few hours without listening to anything. This also means that even if I did have music playing all day, I wouldn’t pay good attention to it. The worst problem is that I don’t really have time to go back and listen to records I already listened to in order to really get them. Not to mention listening to records that I like and want to listen to again. So I might take next week off to revisit some of the records I listened to this past 10 weeks. I don’t know. We’ll see. Anyway, this week’s records:

1. Jimmy Giuffre – Free Fall [1963]

This is a cool record that I don’t fully get. It sounds like classical music, which I feel comfortable saying because I saw Giuffre’s music described somewhere as “chamber jazz”, and when I told my brother to listen to it, he said it sounded like Stockhausen, and sent me this piece. It does sound like Stockhausen, so I feel validated saying it sounds like classical music. However, it’s different from Stockhausen in a few ways, one of which is that it’s improvised.

It’s mostly a solo clarinet record, with a few songs having bass and piano. It’s all short pieces, and I really feel like I need to know a lot of music theory to really get it. There are some moments where they get some non-pitch sounds out of their instruments, which hints at other, later free jazz. That’s cool.

2. Jimmy Giuffre 3 – Thesis [1961]

Same deal as Free Fall, very classical-sounding, and requires understanding of music theory to fully get. Or maybe just a lot of listens.

These guys are good at creating a groove even without drums (same instruments as Free Fall).

Carla sounds like Blue Monk! It must be inspired by it, because it’s too similar. It also sounds more jazzy than the first track or anything on Free Fall.

Me Too is another song that sounds like jazz compared to the rest, and as I’m listening to it again I realize that it’s because it’s a blues!

3. Paul Bley – Closer [1965]

Pretty quick record. Piano by Paul Bley, and most compositions were written by Carla Bley. I can’t really tell what’s the composition and what’s the improvisation.

It’s good, but I don’t really understand it. For the most part it just sounds like a bebop or cool jazz, but I think it is a landmark free jazz record.

The bass is really subdued and quiet on this record. All I hear is just a bit of rumbling and that’s great and pushes this record into a different territory than all the other piano-bass-drums jazz records.

4. Can – Delay [1968]

I don’t know very much Krautrock and I really don’t know any of Can’s stuff. I listened to a song here and there, but never a whole record. I just always kept waiting to be in the right mood, because they have long, intricate songs. So I didn’t want to just put it on, or listen to half a song and have to stop. So this, umm, “project”, is perfect for it.

I realized that this record is a compilation of unreleased materials and outtakes after I was halfway through it. I wouldn’t have chosen a compilation to be my introduction to any band, but it’s working so far and I’m really into this record. The only thing I object to is the vocals. I like singers who sound “bad”, but this guy sounds like he’s forcing himself to sound weird, and that feels really unauthentic to me. I could be wrong, though, maybe that’s just how he sings. I also think that if he weren’t so loud in the mix I wouldn’t have minded him so much.

My favorite songs are Butterfly, Thief, and Little Star of Bethlehem. My wife thinks Little Star of Bethlehem is lame, but I really enjoy it, and Froggy is one of our cat’s nicknames. The other songs are good, but not as good.

5. Albert Ayler – Swing Low, Sweet Spiritual [1971]

This record was released posthumously, and I’m not sure I would have listened to it if I knew that were the case. Anyway, it’s good and very different from Ayler’s “hardcore” records.

All the songs are quiet ballads and Ayler’s playing is pretty much straight except for a few instances where he’ll play a couple of squeals. The cool thing is that this straight playing is soft, you know, to fit a quiet, slow song, but at the same time he sounds very strained, like he does on his other records, and that’s a cool contrast. It gives this feeling like any second now he’s going to break and play free, and it’s also just odd to hear a saxophone that has so much energy in it but he’s trying to restrain it. It’s really cool.

This record is probably a good intro to Albert Ayler.

6. Jerry Reed – The Unbelievable Guitar and Voice of Jerry Reed [1966]

I saw this video on Facebook a couple of weeks back:

And I had to listen to more Jerry Reed’s guitar-ing.

This record has good guitar playing, but not in the same way of that clip. It’s a lot of quick pop songs and his guitar playing is great, but it is appropriate to the music, so no crazy breakdowns. The songs are good, but half of them are “baby, I just gotta skip town”, or “just ain’t ready for settling down”, and I wouldn’t mind it so much if the record didn’t revolve so much around his singing.

This record is seriously, depressingly misogynist. On U.S. Male he calls “his woman” his property. Barf.

7. Alice Coltrane – Huntington Ashram Monastery [1969]

Just a trio with Alice Coltrane playing harp and piano and Ron Carter playing bass.

Alice Coltrane’s playing is really on-fleek (look at me!) here. I think some of her other records I listened to focus more on creating “a sound” and being just one big meditative piece, where this record has some of that, but it also focuses more on her playing, and her playing is great! Her solos are really good, especially on IHS. Of course, since it’s drums, bass, and piano, there’s not a lot of room for things to get really crazy, but that’s fine, they get a lot of mileage out of this setup.

8. Can – Future Days [1973]

This record sounds very “soft”, like no one is playing their instruments hard. It’s also a more coherent record than Delay.

Bel Air is great, just everything about it. Then they stop and come in with a new groove that is even better! Then it turns into another song and this one is also great!

I really like how their influences are very obvious, and usually when that’s the case, bands aren’t able to create something that’s really fresh and interesting, but these guys definitely made something new by pushing all their influences through a meat grinder of music. The mix on this record is also really interesting. First, I can hear every little detail (and there are a lot). Then, the drums are featured and are definitely the loudest thing, and everything else just sounds “in the background” – the bass, guitars, synthesizers, they’re all backing up the drums.

9. Jimmy Giuffre – Fusion [1961]

I think this record is my favorite of his so far, and it has the song that introduced me to Giuffre – Cry, Want. This record is a little more energetic than the other two (still just bass, clarinet, and piano, though), and I still don’t totally get everything that’s going on. I mean, I do hear the music and enjoy what I’m hearing, but in terms of music theory, I don’t know what’s up, which I think puts a cap on how much I can enjoy this record.

Cry, Want is my favorite, although I enjoyed In the Mornings Out There a lot also. I listened to Cry, Want two-three times before, but it was through my computer’s speakers, and I wasn’t getting all the detail. Anyway, listening to the record and hearing it through my good speakers, I realized the genius of it. It’s essentially a blues song. The clarinet is just playing a blues riff, but it’s so sparse and embellished on that you don’t really get it. Then the piano and bass come in and they really throw it off. It sounds like they’re not even playing in the same key the clarinet is in! It’s really amazing and it required me to not do anything else and concentrate just on the music to get it. Beautiful.

10. Alice Coltrane – Universal Consciousness [1971]

Maybe my favorite Alice Coltrane record. It feels least restrained. There are violins! Alice Coltrane is playing an organ (a Hammond?), and sometimes a synthesizer. It still has some of the qualities of her other stuff, and the Indian music influences are still there.

Playlist.

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