Saturday, September 29, 2012

Stone Soul

Aspiring jazz musicians may know Mongo Santamaria as the pen behind "Afro Blue", perhaps the simplest and most inviting of all the standards in the songbook. Honestly, I didn't know much more than that either before I came across his Stone Soul (Columbia) while digging through some records at K Starke after work yesterday. This is kind of a cross-over album of sorts, with percussionist Santamaria assembling a soul band to reinterpret some pop songs of the day, including "Son of a Preacher Man" and "Stoned Soul Picnic" (what up Laura Nyro).

The look of this album is deceiving: the close-up of a plate of black-eyed peas, corn bread, and chicken on the cover is reminiscent of some of the cheekier Blue Note album designs from the lake 60s. But this is no jazz album. The horn players attack in an R&B style, to such an extent that some of the extended solos can be frustratingly monotonous. Clearly the highlight, then, is Santamaria's percussion teamed up with Bernard Purdie on drums (if you don't know Purdie's catalog, correct that). But it takes these guys the entire length of the album to finally let loose and show some fire on what is clearly the best track, the Temptations' "Cloud Nine". See for yourself.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

"Secret Heart" / "Face Like Summer"

It's such a treat every now and then to hear a song that you can definitively say is beautiful. When I think about the songs I've thought this way about over the years, it almost always comes back to the song's melody. Some melodic tunes are great because they are sparse (a recent one I listened to again is Dylan's early version of "Tomorrow is a Long Time"). But the ones that really stick with me are the ones that have a perfect arrangement to highlight the delivery of the song.

Two songs I heard last week that I just can't get enough of right now are Ron Sexsmith's "Secret Heart" and "Face Like Summer" by Gorky's Zygotic Mynci. (I thank Michael Bochner and my brother Evan for the tips on these.)

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Wayne Shorter Remixed

Got the chance to see Wayne Shorter and his quartet at the Detroit Jazz Festival over Labor Day. He's played with the group for over the last decade. These guys are crazy, especially Brian Blade on drums (someone who I'd wanted to see live for years).

Soon after the set, it was recommended I check out Native Dancer, an album of Shorter's from 1974 in collaboration with Milton Nascimento. I immediately fell in love with the first cut:

I immediately got the idea that I'd try to take the 5/4 vocal and sax melody and rearrange it into 4/4. I did it. Not sure to what extent I was successful. Here it is.

Then I was looking up some info for this blogpost and I saw that Earth, Wind, and Fire covered "Ponta de Areia" in 1977. Check this out!