Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Just a few piddlers to keep you well roasted until the weekend blowout (hah!). Not much happening within the BLOG TO COMM sphere right now, but if I do my old blowfish routine by puffing up the following reviews maybe I can fake out a good enough post the same way Eddie Haskell could fake a good book report by reading the dustcover blurb and the first few pages! Who sez LEAVE IT TO BEAVER isn't educational?
The Wailers-TALL COOL ONE CD (Collectables)

Whilst digging deep down into the files yesterday, I (re)discovered this Cee-Dee reissue of the Wailers' 1964 Liberty album TALL COOL ONE that was released on the questionable yet still necessary Collectables label some time in the mid-nineties. Am I correct in stating that this is pretty much the '61-vintage WAILERS AND COMPANY album with a few subtractions and the addition of a newer version of the title track which was released to capitalize on the original single's re-entry into the charts? Who cares since this un's a solid slab even if the newer take on the hit just doesn't have the late-fifties deep in the basement feeling of the original.

The inclusion of the group's valiant '61 local chart topping version of "Louie Louie" is worth the price considering its importance to the local scene as are the hot instrumentals like "Shakedown" and "Mashi", all of which set the stage for a good six or so years of Northwest hard rock dominance before the entire area wafted off into soft rock schlock. The surfing craze cash-ins (complete with faux Beach Boys vocalizing or girl group chatter) ain't as crucial but still make for a wunnerful time especially when stacked up against just about anything to erupt from the speakers these past thirtysome years. A total party record in your boudoir that I'm sure fueled quite a few funtimes in knotty pine basements across the Northwest back in the mid-sixties, and if you don't agree with me may a diseased Jay Hinman spray his regurgitated microbrew all over your Wooden Shjips collection (you can tell I've been watching a whole lotta "Carnac" on youtube)!

Ann Sothern's PRIVATE SECRETARY (under its syndicated title SUSIE) used to run on the short-lived independent station WXTV channel 45 in Youngstown way back in the very early-sixties alongside such crucially obscure faves as RAMAR, CANNONBALL, HAWKEYE and of course whatever episode of THE BIG PICTURE happened to arrive that week. Maybe it's for that reason I take an interest in this particular series considering that during my teenage days the one thing I would have croaked for was to have a living and breathing indie station available in this area, one that I could watch other'n when there was a tornado warning dragging channel 43's signal in all the way from Cleveland, that is.

PRIVATE SECRETARY really is a good, sit down and engross you series starring the surprisingly sexy Sothern doing the ol' smart secretary who actually runs everything routine while working for the International Artists (!) Talent Agency (making me wonder if Lelan Rogers himself wasn't watching this show when that particular label got dreamed up a few years later). Y'know the ol' schtick by heart now, the one where the boss (played by Don Porter), although appearing to be in command, is totally lost w/o Susie kinda like the original setup on THE DORIS DAY SHOW where Doris more or less babysat a pre-disaster McLean Stevenson. One of the best screeds for Women's Lip I could think of, and although I never could stand Day and those freckles splattered all over the place at least SUSIE, and Sothern, have a good swing, sway, style, verve, decent scripts and would've made for fun addictive television viewing had this popped up on the screen during the years where I began to discern that tee-vee was something a lot more'n a babysitter that made noise in the other room while I played with my Dinky!

Lou Rone certainly picked out a good 'un when he decided to hook this 'un up for my X-mas present! And hey, I'd be fibbin' if I said that PRIVATE SECRETARY didn't have everything goin' for it from the hotcha opening theme/graphix to the classic plots not forgetting the surprise guest stars including Frank Nelson, Raymond Bailey (Mr. Drysdale to you) and an early appearance by Richard Deacon without his specs! And, like all of those classic fifties/sixties television series which I thought had a life long after their cancellation dates, SUSIE doesn't get you all filled with anxiety because you KNOW that somebody ain't gonna be mocking your own personal beliefs and slipping in some pro-you-name-it-they-LOVE it! propaganda anywhere inna script. It's just settle back and watch tee-vee and although it doesn't serve any special interest cause (leave that to THIS IS THE LIFE) it sure delivers the goods straight-like!

And to top it off the prints used for this disque are taken from the SUSIE syndication run meaning that when I watch these I can pretend it's 1961 and I'm actually watching this on WXTV albeit without the local commercials but with the sparkling reception that was all but obtainable back then! (In fact when I was watching it on New Year's Day in the afternoon I was pretending it was the seventies and a still-active WXTV was airing it around 1:00 PM which really made me feel all warm and toasty inside!) Making believe like this adds a whole load of time machine-addled fun to the proceedings, that is until you have to shake it into your bean that in reality we're in 2011 and life just didn't have the same zing for us decent people now like it did way back when.

The only beef I have with this disque is that for some reason episode three, "Dollars and Sense", will not play (it's listed on the menu but skips all the way to the final program!). Oh well, considering how SUSIE's in the public domain I'm sure one of the other companies offering this (and at recession prices!) will have that one available somewhere...
Duke Ellington-MONEY JUNGLE CD (Blue Note)

I recently wrote notorious jazz expert Bill Shute to ask if he could direct me to any recordings featuring some of Duke Ellington's more avant garde musical explorations. Heard nary a word from him either because 1) he doesn't know the answer, 2) he never got the email or 3) he got it but couldn't be bothered answering such a stoopid request given his busy schedule. My guess it's choice #3, but anyway I decided to do a little snooping myself and discovered this particular platter recorded in '62 featuring Ellington in a trio setting with bassist Charles Mingus and drummer Max Roach, two guys who had more'n a few toes dangling in the avant garde font and thus would've perhaps been the best choice for Ellington's experimental forays unless someone was lucky enough to get Buell Neidlinger and Sunny Murray who might've been a little too far out even for a man of such expansive jazz realms as Duke.

Don't go expecting Cecil Taylor thrusts or Burton Greene harpsweeps here. Ellington mostly keeps it to an early-sixties hard bop level (with nostalgic trips back to twenties jazz epiphanies) though the waft of new thing can be felt thanks to the wise choice of sidemen. Echoes of the avant can be discerened, or at least "Fleurette Africanine (African Flower)" has the same mysterioso sway that Sun Ra had been lending to his piano playing for quite some time. Yeah I know that Mr. Blount got it from Mr. Ellington but at times I think the cross-breeding can be quite obvious.

'n so what if this ain't that free beyond notes sound that I've enjoyed for the sheer terror of it all? MONEY JUNGLE makes for fine pre-free play, an old hand handling new themes platter that's about as avant as thee major star of the jazz world could get w/o being dragged away in chains. Smart and cool in that fifties fashion the same way that those early George Russell records and Jimmy Giuffre gave way to Ornette and Taylor, and a dang-it good late-night relaxer as well.

Still on the hunt for more in this vein. A future post will undoubtedly go into some detail on the Ellington/Strayhorn duel piano romp "Tonk" which even predates "Lover Man" and those Lennie Tristano sides as far as avantness is concerned, and some of the Ellington orchestral pieces which get into experimental metre and tone and all of those other moozical terms are also due for an soon as Bill responds to my email, that is!


Karate Boogaloo said...

Hey Chris - I dig that Money Jungle album...I never knew about it until a friend gave me a copy a year or two ago. I've never been a huge Ellington fan per se, but I'll check out anything with Mingus & Roach on the bill.

Anonymous said...

OK, you've shamed me into a response.
You asked me about Ellington and the avant-garde. I didn't answer initially because I don't associate him w/ the avant-garde at all. Yes, he was always progressive and innovative, and something like "Reminiscing In Tempo", a 4-part work from the 30's, or Black Brown & Beige from the 40s, or about 100 other things are truly innovative. However, in terms of avant-garde, really, the only thing I would recommend is the solo piano "live at the whitney" cd, recorded in the early 70's a few years before his death. You probably know that Monk considered Ellington his main influence on the piano, and Ellington's elliptical and percussive piano style has been an influence on many in the avant-garde, but I think if you go into his work looking for some hidden avant-garde nugget, you're not really going to find it. Progreesive, yes. Innovative, yes. But he was rarely if ever self-consciously "avant-garde" in the way that, say, Stan Kenton was on occasion. But Kenton was often pretentious, and Ellington rarely was (although I'm not the biggest fan of his later "Sacred Concerts," which are a bit pretentious to me).
I'd be happy to talk about Ellington more if you have any questions, but there's a simple response.
Some of the unreleased material from Duke's "Stockpile" that has come out on the european "storyville" label and on a ten-volume US set in the 1990's would be the closest you might get: his score for the dance piece "The River" and to the play "The Jaywalker" might be of interest..
MONEY JUNGLE would have also been a recommendation of mine. There was a reissue of that in the 90s w/ some interesting alternate takes...hope that's the version you have. It's too bad Ellington did not record w/ someone like, say, Archie Shepp or Bill Dixon or Ken McIntyre or Booker Ervin. I can see that kind of thing working well (as did his album w/ Coltrane...or MONEY JUNGLE), but I can't imagine him working with, say, a Frank Wright or an Albert Ayler or with many of the Euro free-jazz players...

Bill S.

Christopher said...

There's a ref. to some avant garde orchestral works. Anybody out there care to fill me in on those? Also, thanks for the tip off re. the LIVE AT THE WHITNEY and Storyville sets. And too bad he didn't live long enough to perform with Braxton!

Anonymous said...

Chris, if you can tell me which orchestral works have been called "Avant garde," I can give you an assessment of them.
Bill S.

Christopher said...

That's the problem...the piece I read just mentioned that he did some orchestral works with avant garde passages! Nothing much to go by, though I shall add that (for what its worth) WIkipedia under their listing of "avant garde" mention Ellington which I think is where my curiosity got piqued in the first place!'' And (regarding my earlier musing) I could see Ellington and Braxton recording together...after all, Braxton did an album with Dave Brubeck!

Roman said...

i like jazz!