Archive for June, 2011

ex.fm contest stuff

A while back, I won a great giveaway from ex.fm. ex.fm is a Google Chrome extension that gives you an iTunes-ish way to listen to music out on the web. It’s a great tool if you frequent music blogs to catch new singles, album leaks, etc. And, of course, it scrobbles.

Anyway, they’ve posted a picture I sent along and I posted a short video showing what I won:

(If you’re on ex.fm, here’s my profile page.)

The Blindfold Test and The Grumpy Miles Davis

In 1964, Downbeat magazine published a blindfold test with jazz legend Miles Davis, testing his ability to pick out fellow musicians based on the way they played. Predictably, Davis did quite well identifying the players, but didn’t hold back choice words that he had about many of them.

On saxophonist Eric Dolphy:

That’s got to be Eric Dolphy – nobody else could sound that bad! The next time I see him I’m going to step on his foot. You print that. I think he’s ridiculous. He’s a sad motherfucker.

On free jazz stalwart, pianist Cecil Taylor:

Downbeat: L.F.: This man said he was influenced by Duke Ellington.

I don’t give a shit! It must be Cecil Taylor. Right? I don’t care who he’s inspired by. That shit ain’t nothing. In the first place he don’t have the – you know, the way you touch a piano. He doesn’t have the touch that would make the sound of whatever he thinks of come off.

On Les McCann and the Jazz Crusaders playing Davis’ own “All Blues”:

What’s that supposed to be? That ain’t nothin’. They don’t know what to do with it – you either play it bluesy or you play on the scale. You don’t just play flat notes. I didn’t write it to play flat notes on – you know, like minor thirds. Either you play a whole chord against it, or else . . . but don’t try to play it like you’d play, ah, Walkin’ the Dog. You know what I mean?

That trombone player – trombone ain’t supposed to sound like that. This is 1964, not 1924. Maybe if the piano player had played it by himself, something would have happened.

While Davis got into some left-field style jazz in the 70s with Bitches Brew and the electric fusion that immediately followed, he never did venture into free jazz territory. In 1964, Ornette Coleman, Cecil Taylor, Archie Shepp, and others were braving this new sound and bringing their own approaches to the chaos, but apparently Davis just wasn’t having it.

In his New Yorker blog post “Miles Davis: Peeking Through the Blindfold,” Richard Brody shares an interesting bit I didn’t realize about Davis’ search for a new saxophonist in the mid-60s:

When Davis was looking for a new saxophonist, [drummer Tony] Williams suggested Dolphy; Davis said no. He recommended Archie Shepp; Davis listened and rejected the notion. When Williams proposed [Sam] Rivers, Davis took him on briefly (and recorded with him in Tokyo).

Honestly, given the free and fiery nature of Rivers’ playing at the time, I’m surprised that Davis didn’t lump him in with the other free jazz reedmen of the time.

There are a couple of other blindfold tests from Downbeat worth reading with John Coltrane and Charles Mingus.

(ETA: There are three other Davis blindfold tests as well one with Thelonious Monk worth checking out.)

Three distinct record shops in the East Village

The other night, after a fine dinner at Quintessence in the East Village, Huyen and I walked around looking for some art galleries. Unfortunately, we had a heck of a time finding any that a.) still existed and b.) were still open at that time of night. However, we did stumble across three very distinct record shops, none of which I’d ever been to before.

Rainbow Records

Rainbow

With records, CDs, and tapes stacked from ceiling to roof making 95% of them inaccessible, this store is “organized” in a hoarder-esque fashion. There’s only a small pathway and in the few minutes I was there, the owner of the store knocked stacks of CDs over three times and had a heck of a time getting a stool back in its place. As messy and crazy as it is, though, you can tell there’s a lot of love there. I felt bad for not buying anything here because stores with such eccentricities are worth supporting, but I couldn’t find anything of interest and what I did see was pretty overpriced (99-cent bin-worthy albums selling for $9). I suspect that among the stacks, there are some gems hiding.

To quote one Yelp reviewer: “One day, someone will read an obituary in the New York Times about finding the owner of this shop buried alive and rotting under a mammoth stack of used CDs.”

Kim’s Video and Music

As we walked by this storefront, Huyen pointed out that the TV out front was showing one of the best movies I’ve seen in recent years, Czech director Jan ┼ávankmajer’s 1988 Alice, a mindbending live action/stop-motion version of Alice in Wonderland. When I inquired about it inside, I found out that it’s now available as an import Blu-Ray. Consider my mind blown. Sadly, they were out of stock, but I did get a chance to browse their amazing collection of import movies and indie music. I walked out with only a $3 bargain DVD (the documentary Friends Forever), showing a lot of restraint.

Tropicalia In Furs

My favorite of the three shops, we stumbled on this one by accident, drawn in by a store window that made it look like a vintage electronics shop. The selection here is very carefully curated, with a super high quality selection of original pressing jazz and funk records (if only they were alphabetized!) and a breathtaking selection of 1960s and 70s 7″s from France, Africa, and India. They didn’t have any Chantal Goya, but I did pick up one ye-ye record, one calypso record, and an hip-hop EP from ’98. Neat, neat shop.

He likes hoagies.

It’s not my first print publication, but it’s mighty close: the February 1988 edition of the Super Saturday Xpress, a photocopied newspaper created for a Saturday morning enrichment class about newspaper production. I was 12, in 7th grade, and my passion for writing about my obsessions was starting to form.

On the front page is my timely take on the Super Bowl that year. In the piece titled, “Super Bowl Disgrace,” I eloquently and impartially declare “This game was the WORST Super Bowl disgrace, except for the 1979 Super Bowl XIII when Pittsburgh beat Dallas.” Also provided is a handy sidebar of the most significant Super Bowl blowouts (nice touch, 12-year-old me!).

In “Scoops About Our Staff,” the paragraph about me helpfully shares, “He likes hoagies.” Indeed!

On the same page is an uncredited contribution that’s clearly mine: a capsule review of L.L. Cool J’s Bigger and Deffer. What exactly the difference was between a check plus and five checks, I’m not sure. And I clearly understood that James Todd Smith was trying to target the lucrative “12-23” age bracket with his release. This may have been my first published music review.

On the last page, I took out an ad (is that ethical?) to sell my homebrew software for the Apple II. Football (surely Tackle Smash Kill!!) is mentioned, as is wrestling, which I’d completely forgotten about. (Note to self: create a Youtube series of run-throughs for games I wrote as a kid.) I even offered readers quite the deal: “A free random number generator to give variety to your programs.”