Haunted for 52 Years by NRBQ

SKF NOTE: How some music sticks with me, even when I’ve not heard it in decades, I find curious.

Two days ago I bought the digital format of NRBQ’s first album. I owned a vinyl copy of the album when it was originally released in 1969. (Full disclosure, I was given a brand new promotional copy of NRBQ by my neighbor, Ed Matthews, who was, if memory serves, head of Artists & Repertoire at CBS records.)

What happened to my copy of NRBQ’s album, I don’t know. But for the last 52 years, in one of those life moments when we sing out loud some song snippet, my snippets were often from NRBQ’s first album recording of Rocket #9 or C’mon If You’re Comin’.

Reading the liner notes included with the digital album, I learn, “[T]his session with Eddie Kramer [was] recorded on 12-track at the Record Plant.” Kramer is a legendary recording engineer.

Also, “All the songs are first takes.” Although NRBQ is a studio album, because of its first take makeup, liner note writer Jay Berman tells us it’s as close as we can get to hearing an NRBQ live set. [T]his band doesn’t repeat itself. They don’t play a song the same way twice,” writes Berman.

My gut tells me the reason I’ve kept singing NRBQ song snippets has something to do with NRBQ’s first takes and improvisation. This album has plenty of original songs, but there are also songs by 1950s rocker Eddie Cochran, and jazz composer Sun Ra.

This new album release is on the Omnivore Records label. The sound is better than ever, although part of me always misses the original sound of music I first loved.

I downloaded this album at about 9:30 at night, laying in bed in a Statesville, NC Red Roof Inn after a long drive from Scranton, PA. I listened for the first time in 52 years to C’mon If You’re Comin’, smiled, and went to sleep.

Can’t wait to put on my earbuds and listen to the whole album.

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Art Blakey & The Jazz Messengers – First Flight to Tokyo: The Lost 1961 Recordings

SKF NOTE: In October this year Impulse is releasing for the first time a live version of “A Love Supreme” from the Coltrane Quartet expanded. And now comes news of a November release for the first time of a 1961 concert of Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers with Lee Morgan and Wayne Shorter. Excellent!


Art Blakey & The Jazz Messengers – First Flight to Tokyo: The Lost 1961 Recordings

First Flight to Tokyo: The Lost 1961 Recordings is a thrilling previously unreleased live recording of Art Blakey & The Jazz Messengers captured at Hibiya Public Hall in Tokyo on January 14, 1961 during the band’s first-ever tour of Japan. The Jazz Messengers were among the first modern jazz groups to tour the country, and adoring Japanese audiences were enthralled by one of the band’s all-time great line-ups featuring the legendary drummer with Lee Morgan on trumpet, Wayne Shorter on tenor saxophone, Bobby Timmons on piano, and Jymie Merritt on bass.

The concert featured soaring performances of well-known jazz staples including Charlie Parker’s “Now’s the Time,” Thelonious Monk’s “Round About Midnight,” and Jazz Messenger hits including “Blues March,” “Dat Dere,” and “Moanin’.”

The deluxe 2-LP vinyl and 2-CD editions both come with elaborate booklets featuring rare photos….

Audio was newly transferred from the original ¼” tape reels….

Full Story

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Yo-Yo Ma – Several Different Ways to Practice

Life’s Work: An Interview with Yo-Yo Ma
by Alison Beard
From the Harvard Business Review Magazine (June 2016)

Q. Did that involve a lot of practice on top of your natural talent?

Yo-Yo Ma. What allowed me to practice very little was great early training. My father gave me an unbelievable grounding. I could read scores without going to the piano. I knew how to dissect problems into smaller and smaller increments, so I could systematically solve most technical ones and worry about other things. You know, there are several different ways to practice.

One is just music going through your head. Another is to problem-solve away from the instrument. A third is to be tactilely engaged in engineering a solution, translating it to physical sound in physical space in the most efficient way, moving your fingers, arms, and body to elicit that which is in your head. That kind of practicing is deeply fulfilling.

It’s not emergency practicing. It’s more like information becomes knowledge becomes love. The final achievement is to say, “I truly love this, and I have enough mastery to be able to share that love with someone else.”

Full interview.

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Newly Released – ‘A Love Supreme’ Live in Seattle

SKF NOTE: Elvin Jones is the sole drummer on this date. Not to look this gift horse in the mouth, but I’m a bit disappointed this date is the Coltrane Quartet expanded.

Keeping an open mind and ears and looking forward to listening. And what the heck is with the “Associated Performer” designation? I’m old enough to remember when we called them “band members.”

Associated Performer, Tenor Saxophone, Percussion: John Coltrane
Associated Performer, Piano: McCoy Tyner
Associated Performer, Upright Bass: Jimmy Garrison
Associated Performer, Drums: Elvin Jones
Associated Performer, Tenor Saxophone, Percussion: Pharoah Sanders
Associated Performer, Alto Saxophone: Carlos Ward
Associated Performer, Upright Bass: Donald Rafael Garrett

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Roy Brooks – Exceptional Drummer

SKF NOTE: August 2021 is a month where I’m finding and buying lots of good music in different styles. From Max Richter’s Exiles, to Lari White’s New Loves, Lee Morgan’s The Complete Live at the Lighthouse, and my latest buy, Roy Brooks’s Understanding.

The only common connection these albums have is I’m familiar with the artists’ work. I like their music.

Roy Brooks was an exceptional drummer. I saw him play up close one night in Charles Mingus’s band at a small Manhattan nightclub. Brooks had a five-piece kit with clear plastic tubing inserted into each drum’s air hole. All the tubes were gathered together at the other end so he could fit them in his mouth. During his solo feature, Roy changed his drums’ pitch by blowing air into them.

What could have been a gimmick wasn’t. Brooks’s drum pitch raising and lowering was very musical. Credit for that musicality was all due Roy Brooks, not the plastic tubing. He also played an exceptional blues solo on his musical saw, tapping the metal blade with a mallet and bending the blade to change its pitch.

The new released Understanding has an ear-catching lineup of musicians: Cecil McBee (bass), Woody Shaw (trumpet), Harold Mabern (piano), and Carlos Garnett (tenor sax). Recorded live in 1970, the sound, by today’s standards, is not good in spots. I’ve not listened yet to the whole album, but I’ve listened enough to know the the date was sometimes recorded too hot. Shaw’s trumpet recording level, for example, distorts.

On the other hand, from what I’ve heard so far, Roy Brooks kills it on this date. So I will give the album a listen, a real listen, and let you know what happens.

It’s funny how my music buying changes. Most often I’ll browse Bandcamp, Apple Tunes, (I’m boycotting Amazon since November), and independent announcements of album releases — and nothing strikes my fancy. Other times I find more albums than I can afford.

And so it goes.

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