What's Playing on My Stereo? Week 4
I apologize for neglecting to post anything last week. It was a long work week, and then my weekend seemed to vanish without a trace of inspiration left for writing in any way, shape or form. I have also been working on a new podcast that will hopefully see the light of day within the next couple weeks.
I touched on this a couple weeks ago in the Nothing But Crickets post, but I have to say that the response to this blog has been pitiful lately. I imagine that the only way I can inspire you enough to leave a comment is if I post full albums of new releases (such as a leak of the new Grizzly Bear album two months before it's released). Sure that would be something that's high in demand, but would I feel good about doing that. I realize that the majority of people trolling for music on the blogs are looking for rapidshare links for new albums that they can quickly download and go about their business. Unfortunately, that goes against my beliefs of supporting the music of the artists I respect.
The fate of this blog lies in your hands dear readers. If you want me to continue this little venture here at Eclectic Grooves, let yourselves be heard. I will keep doing this as long as it seems worthwhile, but I will definitely be more motivated to provide you with choice nuggets if you give me a shout. Say anything as long as it's not rude, racist or homphobic. I am interested in hearing your opinions, so speak loud and clear, and don't worry about offending me with your opinions about the music I post here.
With that being said, let's move on to the latest installment of What's Playing on My Stereo? This week I am featuring a wildly imaginative free jazz quintet from the windy city (Chicago) and a prog band from Denmark who like to talk about the joys of a slice of ginger cake while pummeling our senses with wonky time signatures and masterful guitar solos.
From: Simpatico [Atavistic, 1999]
If you are interested in hearing improvisational music and you live in Chicago, the name Vandermark is practically a household word. Over the past decade, Ken Vandermark has lended his improvisational talents to everyone from the punk-jazzers, The Flying Luttenbachers, to the European saxophone master, Peter Brotzman. Vandermark has more than proven that he is a dedicated player who is here to stay.
On the part noir, part free jazz, part be-bop swing sound of Simpatico, Vandermark achieves the impossible feat of blending traditional, straight-ahead jazz with skronky free jazz that doesn't alienate the listener. This is never more evident than on "STHLM", where Vandermark and company start off with a marching band melody that almost winks at the listener, before pulling the rug out from beneath us, revealing a swirling, cacophonous saxophone solo that almost reaches the height of Evan Parker's circular breathing excursions. And this all happens within the first two minutes of the song.
The next song, "Encino," is a noirish ballad that knows how to pull the listener in slowly like a deep kiss. You can definitely imagine this scoring your favorite 30's film-noir of choice with lightly brushed drums and walking bass acting as the footsteps creeping towards you slowly in a dark alley. As the saxophone and trumpet trade off solos, you realize that no one is in a hurry to speed up the tempo until the song literally implodes at about the six minute mark with a flurry of saxophone and trumpet that will make the hair on your neck stand up. This is probably the part in the film where the protagonist is being chased by a detective down a labyrinthine maze of unfamiliar streets in the middle of a dark and hazy night. Beware, this album is incredibly addictive.
For those of you looking for some more music that sounds like this, please check out this link for my Aural Excursions film-noir mix.
If you live in Portland, Ken Vandermark will be playing a gig with Ab Baars at the Community Center on April 4th. It will undoubtedly be a show to put on the not-miss list. Please come out and support this fantastic trailblazing artist.
From: S/T [Polydor\Denmark, 1971]
Blast Furnace were a Danish prog band that slipped through the cracks of fame and fortune, but not because they didn't deserve it. The sound of their self titled album from 1971 is an imaginative mixture of prog, classic rock, jazz and folk. The first time I heard "Ginger Cake", the lyrics seemed a bit half-baked, but there's no getting around it's musical inventiveness. After the first two verses, inspired instrumental passages float effortlessly from flute to organ and finally to an electrifying guitar solo which stops on a dime to revisit the opening verse. I have to admit that there is a slight resemblance to the sound of Jethro Tull, but the vocals are more like a less commanding Jim Morrison.
The next track, "This Time of Year," reminds me of an acoustic classic rock song with a slow building tempo that eventually unfolds into a two-minute blistering guitar solo that never relents until the song fades out. Give yourself a little ginger cake and chase it with some spiced rum. Then, call me in the morning and let me know how you feel.
I hope you enjoyed this installment of What's Playing on My Stereo? Please let me know what you think of the music featured today. See you next time...