Tuesday, January 29, 2008

You've Gotta See This

The image here is just one of many amazing photos found at this website. Thanks to Roy Kasten for discovering it and passing it along to us.

The Jazz Tourist Takes Off

by Darren Snow

Since I do a lot of our indie buying and I’m obliged to keep a weekly radio show fresh, I’m in the habit of spending a good deal of time every week listening to tons of stuff I haven’t heard before. Around Thanksgiving, two things happened: The record companies did what they do every year, suspending the flow of new material to concentrate on greatest-hits packages and boxed sets for the holiday market, and I read Richard Cook’s engrossing book about the history of Blue Note records, probably history’s most celebrated jazz label. (That book, by the way, is one of many gracing our shelves upon shelves of jazz tomes we offer for sale at Euclid!) Without much new rock to peruse, I instead investigated a lot of the classic Blue Note titles I’d just read about—borrowing them from the city library and listening to used CDs here at the store (we usually have a pretty fine selection). Of course, I also listened to a lot of classic reissues from the catalogs of Verve, Impulse, Bethlehem, etc…Basically, whatever was lying around. Aside from the half-dozen jazz CDs already in my collection, it was pretty much all new to me.

After auditioning a decent cross-section of bop and post-bop, this is the conclusion I’ve come to: While I loved a lot of what I heard, I ain’t on the jazz party line any more than I’m on the rock party line. Just as I was never impressed by Radiohead’s critical touchstones OK Computer and Kid A, I find I don’t particularly care for some of the jazz classics I’m “supposed to” like. Go figure. I invested in the latest massive edition of the Penguin Guide to Jazz on CD (at around $30, containing an astounding amount of information per penny)—which, in addition to the stuff you’d expect, also covers the Scandinavian jazz scene extensively, and, being written by a couple of Brits, gives a lot more respect to the “trad” scene than I’m used to seeing—and I’m trying to hear at least a sample of every artist in the book. (30-second excerpts on www.allmusic.com are just long enough to give me an idea of whether a particular musician’s style is going to be up my alley or not.)

Some of the four-star records listed in the Guide are given that status somewhat begrudgingly, it seems; the authors’ attitude toward warhorses like Brubeck’s Time Out is basically “This really isn’t too bad for a record that even the peons could understand.” (Hey, if making a Top 40 single out of a jazz instrumental in 5/4 time is just a cheap parlor trick, I sure wish *I* could do it!) Don’t get me wrong; it’s a very, very useful book, and the authors’ penchant for bad jokes keeps them from sounding too pretentious.

It also gave me the crazy notion that I should write about jazz.

Why not? I don’t know a major suspended seventh when I hear one (or even if such a thing exists, honestly), but I can enjoy the hell out of a jazz record as easily as the next guy. I don’t intend to tear down stuff I don’t understand—if a co-worker, for instance, hears hooks in Ornette Coleman’s wildest free jazz (and he does!), I certainly can’t tell him they’re not there! Maybe they’ll hit me someday. For now, I am happy to be in the service of any Joe Sixpack who’s wondering where to go after Kind of Blueand, yes, Time Out. So watch this space for an ongoing journal of jazz pieces, both celebrated and obscure, that reached out and grabbed me by the proverbial lapels for whatever reason. C’mon, it’ll be fun!

(Darren Snow refers above to a radio show; it's called Rocket 88 and it can be heard every Thursday morning from 6 to 8 am on KDHX, FM 88.1 in St. Louis, or streaming across the internet at KDHX.org. He's been sneaking some of that jazz in between his fine rock choices, too.)

Saturday, January 26, 2008

The Life and High Times of Art Pepper

by Joe Schwab

The life of alto saxophonist Art Pepper has been well documented through his book “Straight Life” and subsequent documentary “Notes from a Jazz Survivor”. Neither of these projects could have been possible without the help of Art’s last wife, Laurie Pepper who, even 25 years after his death is devoted to documenting his life and tumultuous lifestyle as well as releasing previously unheard studio and live recordings. Laurie’s latest project is a dramatization of Art’s life through short reenactments. Actors portray Art and the people that passed through his life, all narrated by Art Pepper himself from interviews done for the aforementioned book and documentary. Below are a couple samples, these short videos, with vivid description, document the recording of great LP Art Pepper Meets the Rhythm Section.

If this whets your appetite for hearing this classic album, you can buy it on CD or LP here.

For more information check Laurie’s web site:

Friday, January 25, 2008

Plant and Krauss Live Video

This is very cool, from the first live show of the Robert Plant and Alison Krauss tour. Can't embed the picture right here, but click on this, and you'll see a very happy pair of singers having a great time with the Everly Brothers song, "Gone Gone Gone."

And, if you're one of the few Euclid Records customers who haven't bought their album "Raising Sand" yet, this is the place to get it now.

What's Playing | Hey Willpower - PDA

by Darren Snow

What Will Schwartz did on his synth-pop vacation

The title of the latest Imperial Teen album explains why it was so long in coming: The Hair, the TV, the Baby and the Band. Parenthood, ownership of a salon, composing for television…these things can eat up a lot of your time. Will Schwartz, who sings most of the band’s songs, kept himself busy during the hiatus by hooking up with Tomo from “blippy bleepy” outfit Tussle and whipping up an album’s worth of absurdly catchy and non-ironically poppy dance music. They dubbed the project Hey Willpower, and they had an EP ready for Autumn 2005 release on a small label called Cochon.

Based on a blueprint Will concocted with his friend Amy Linton of the Aisler’s Set, the Dance EP was a pastiche of all the tastiest elements of mainstream chart-pop, twisted just a little by the indie aesthetic of rockers who grew up on Sonic Youth and the Velvet Underground. It was fantastic and fun, and unfortunately it was almost impossible to find in stores. So was the full-length follow-up, PDA, which came out on the Tomlab label in Europe. Before an American deal could be worked out, Imperial Teen had reconvened and recorded the excellent The Hair etc. and began touring to support it.

Of course, it was around this time that the American release of PDA was finally cleared…just when Will was crazy busy with his other band. They’re just now wrapping up touring behind the latest CD, and now Will’s preparing to go out on the road to promote the Hey Willpower disc. Unfortunately, the closest they’re coming to St. Louis is Chicago (Feb. 28 at Sonoteque), but their presentation—complete with their own little dance troupe—should be worth a road trip.

The album, by the way, is worth the two-year wait. It reprises the great tunes from the EP—including the percolating single “Hundredaire”—and adds several more bouncy, sexy confections, including a swell cover version of Architecture in Helsinki’s “Heart It Races.” It’s just the type of hipster-friendly dancefloor fun that made Annie’s “Heartbeat” Pitchfork’s Single of the Year a while back. In fact, Annie collaborated with Hey Willpower on a delightful remake of her own “Chewing Gum,” available for download on the latter’s MySpace page.

Naturally, we’re not shy about the fact that PDA is available at Euclid! Put that in your Blackberry.

Click here to buy it now.

The Greatest Kid-Vid Ever!

by Joe Schwab

I love local origination 60’s teen programs. Loads have been well documented including Teen Town out of Detroit.

The !!! Beat from Nashville

(Sorry, we can't imbed aol.com videos, but it's worth clicking through to see this one.)

Or St. Louis’ own Party Time documented here:

All of them are great, but this might be the Granddaddy of all. It’s not ever a teen show, It’s a pre-teen show from Chicago circa 1966.

The show-Kiddie-a-Go Go

The band-New Colony Six

The sponsor-Michelberry’s Plump and Juicy Franks

The Host-Pandora


Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Some More Links You Can Use

by Steve Pick

It may not hold the influence it used to before they fired Robert Christgau, but the annual Village Voice Pazz and Jop Poll results are in, ready to be argued with. And, as if that wasn't enough, former St. Louisian and current LA Weekly music editor Randall Roberts has an essay on the new Radiohead album, which came in . . . Wait, I'm not telling. Go read it.

What if you were a great music critic, and the radio station that got you through high school finally left the air nearly thirty years later? Here's what David Cantwell has to say about that.

Jazz lovers in St. Louis presumably know that Euclid Records is the best place to find jazz LPs and CDs, but for everything else you need to know, your best one-stop website is St. Louis Jazz Notes, hosted by musician/writer/all-around great guy Dean Minderman. Actually, even if you're hundreds or thousands of miles away from St. Louis, Dean offers information, videos, and links to a whole lot more about the music.

Want to find the most comprehensive list of interesting concerts in the St. Louis area, updated regularly and with links to all the venues in town? Go to Live Music in St. Louis, MO.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Talking 'Bout Them New Releases

Hey, we'd love to hear what you think of the new albums hitting the store today. Do you think Cat Power is at the top of her game? What about this new recording by the Drive-By Truckers, their first after the line-up shuffle? Have you heard this new Fleshtones record yet? You can check out a complete list of new CDs at Euclid Records over at our MySpace blog.

Heck, never mind just the new stuff. What are you listening to, and what should we talk about?

What's Playing | Stephen Stills - Just Roll Tape

by Steve Pick

Maybe you didn't notice this quiet little CD slipping into the store last summer, but it's a joy to hear. Stephen Stills, adrift from Buffalo Springfield yet not teamed with Crosby or Nash, scored some studio time at the end of his girlfriend's recording session. So, presumably with Judy Collins standing by admiring him, Stills put down a bunch of demos of songs, many of which would later turn up on various projects over the next few years.

Stills has never sounded more naked than he does here, and you can focus on both his heartfelt (if ragged - these weren't meant to be released) vocals and his impeccable acoustic guitar playing. Imagine, for example, a version of "Suite: Judy Blue Eyes," performed with the subject of the song right there in front of the singer. (Speaking of that song, as the years go by, it's monumental nature seems more and more self-evident; rock music has rarely ever gotten more simultaneously complex and simple.) Or how about a version of "Change Partners" that sounds quietly hopeful that such a change could improve things?

If you've ever enjoyed Stills in Buffalo Springfield, or with Crosby, Stills, and Nash, or as a solo artist, this CD is an essential look into his songwriting process, and an entirely enjoyable listen on its own merits.

Buy it here at the Euclid Records website.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Some Links Worth Reading

By Steve Pick

I've been reading this guy's great blog for weeks, but I don't know who writes Quiet Bubble. His take on Yuka Honda makes me want to hear her, and I never wanted to do that before.

Maybe you were looking forward to catching Marah, either at the Duck Room here in St. Louis or anywhere else on their tour in support of the excellent new record, "Angels of Destruction," out on Yep Roc. Won't be happening, and Davie Bielenko tells you why, sort of, in this open letter on his band's MySpace page.

The Internet is littered with reviews of Todd Haynes new pseudo-biopic of Bob Dylan, "I'm Not There." This is one of them, far from glowing and yet filled with interesting points.

Just in case you were wondering what the younger set of rock critics were saying en masse this year, the second annual Idolator poll results have been posted.

If you like music, and I'm guessing you do, and you don't read and listen to the music posted on Boogie Woogie Flu, the best damn music blog I know, well, I can't help you further. Especially if you don't go there after I just told you how great it is.

What's Playing | Wynton Kelly & Wes Montgomery - Smokin' at the Half Note

by Steve Pick

Nowadays, you can't be a proper fan of jazz guitar without acknowledging the supremacy of Grant Green's work in the early 1960s. If, however, you were listening to jazz in the early 1960s, you were much more likely to be raving about the great Wes Montgomery.

Listen to this album, and you'll understand why. Montgomery would go on just a year or two after these 1965 live dates to record some lite jazz pablum that helped create a space for the Kenny G's of this world. But, for the first half of the 60s, he was a masterful improviser. Check out what he does with Miles Davis' "No Blues" here, or even more radically, where he takes the ballad "What's New." Montgomery wasn't flashy, looking for the cheap thrills. Instead, he just dug into the chords and melodies on hand, and found new insights into their cores.

And, hey, Wynton Kelly was no slouch, either. This guy may be the single most under-lauded pianist of the post bop era (unless Red Garland beat him on that score, as they were both astounding and are equally rarely mentioned today). Man, it's just light-fingered dancing melodies from start to finish with this guy.

Add in fellow Miles alumni Paul Chambers on bass and Jimmy Cobb on drums, and you've got a damn near perfect record. Heck, apparently Pat Metheny says it is a perfect jazz guitar record, and who am I to argue with him?

Of course, you can buy this album, with bonus cuts, directly from our website or in our store at 601 E. Lockwood in Webster Groves.

Here's a vid of Wes (without Wynton) from 1965.

In Appreciation of Oscar Peterson

In Appreciation of Oscar Peterson

by Joe Schwab

I can't remember not listening to Oscar Peterson. From the crib to today I've never gone more than a week without hearing his music. Growing up, my Mom had over 100 records, 98% of them were by Oscar, the other 2% featured him. O.P. died in his native Canada on Christmas Eve; he was 82 and in poor health. He had suffered a stroke in 1993 which essentially knocked out his left hand; he suffered from arthritis for years as well. Even an 80% Oscar Peterson was better than any other pianist dead or alive, period.

His hero Art Tatum was dazzling and amazingly dexterous, but listen to Tatum's "I Cover the Waterfront" from 1935 and his performance of the same song in 1955 and they're nearly note for note the same arrangement. With all due respect to "The Master" Tatum, his explorations of harmonic inventions and new ways to reinvent classic songs paled in comparison to Peterson who by the 60's always found new and innovative ways to breathe new life into old chestnuts.

So the world is blessed to have had 60 years of Oscar Peterson recordings to sink its collective teeth into. Much of this was due to his mentor, producer, and manager Norman Granz. Nobody was a greater friend to the Jazz musician than Granz who brought Jazz out of the speakeasies and dumpy clubs and into the concert halls to enrich the music and its musicians with the respect it deserved. He made a lot of money for a lot of musicians for nearly 50 years.

That said, Granz' recording methods were not always putting the musician in the best possible recording situation. He would often record marathon session, usually after a grueling concert tour or a long Jazz at The Philharmonic program. Now the typical Jazz musician is not one to rise and shine early in the morning and come out with guns blazing, far from it. A 20 hour weekend session could result in 15-20 new albums to be released over a one year period by Verve or later on Granz' Pablo label.

A particular setting might have been a better recipe for inspiration than others, be it a live venue or a studio. So here I submit my five essential recordings from his catalogue that encompasses over 300 records to his credit. I've done my homework, over 48 years of it. I've heard 'em all and I can tell you, Oscar Peterson never put out a bad record, it's just that some are more inspired than others. Below is what I'll be packing for the desert island.

5- Great Connections

After the departure of Ray Brown from the Trio, a series of replacement bassists were used for nearly 10 years. It wasn't until he was joined by Danish legend Niels-Henning Orsted Pederson that he was able to find the kindred musical compatriot that he lost when Ray came off the road in 1966. Here we find Oscar at his peak. Chops were never at question, nobody ever played faster, but this record goes far deeper into the harmonics and exploration into different types of chording and progressions. For an example, listen to the version of Charlie Chaplin's "Smile", done with all the tenderness of a Bill Evans ballad. Or try the beauty and dexterity that he displays in "Younger Than Springtime" or Ferde Grofe's lightly classical "On The Trail". Add in the dimension of NHOP's beautiful melodic playing as well as his gently swinging time keeping. His playing displayed the swing of Ray Brown mixed with the great invention of Scott LaFaro. It's no wonder NHOP was associated with Oscar until his untimely death in 2005. I would also be remiss not to mention the lovely drumming and brush work from drummer Louis Hayes, a trio holdover after replacing longtime drummer Ed Thigpen in 1967.

4- The London House Sessions

The London House was a tiny but classy club in Chicago's Loop that hosted the finest Jazz of its time. Every spring the Oscar Peterson Trio took up residence for three shows a night over a two week period. In 1962 Verve records brought mobile equipment to record the Trio in what was their home away from home. The London House was so small and intimate that you could actually touch the piano keys from the front table. Good ears can detect the sound of forks and knifes cutting through the filets and chops the club was known for.

These recordings resulted in four fine Verve records - The Sound of The Trio, The Trio, Something Warm and Put On a Happy Face. Here the Trio is relaxed in a familiar setting, a real comfort zone. The great 90's Verve team of Michael Lang, Ben Young, Richard Seidel among others, sifted through tapes to put together a complete set of this engagement and one that rivals the sets put together by Mosaic, Bear Family, Hip-o-Select and Rhino, only you don't have to give up your first born to purchase a copy once it's sold out.

3- Exclusively For My Friends

In the 60's and primarily after the departure of Ray Brown, Oscar began recording at the German villa of Hans Georg Brunner-Schwer. This was Oscar's first introduction to "the Cadillac" of grand pianos, the Bosendorfer which became his "axe" of choice until his last days. The exceptional sound, the fine piano and a select group of friends created a perfect combination for these intimate recordings. Not to mention, this is O.P. at his peak, before arthritis became an issue.

No longer was he recording solely as part of a unit. This setting found him recording solo for the first time as well as a more freewheeling, anything goes trio situation. Some of these sessions were done live before an invited audience and some were not, but both situations were relaxed and no doubt an inspiration to his already creative mind and fingers. This four CD set captures sessions done between 1963 and 1968, though individual CD's and LP's have been released over the years by MPS, Prestige and Verve.

2- At The Stratford Shakespearean Festival

Recorded in 1956 in Ontario, by which time the Trio of O.P., Ray Brown and Herb Ellis had become a well oiled machine. No doubt the number one thing in the lives of these three gentlemen was music and it shows. By this time the Trio had been touring constantly with the Jazz at The Philharmonic troop and rehearsing insistently. I once watched Ray Brown rehearsing his young Trio for over three hours, going over one passage of an arrangement for over one hour. Obviously this was a function of what he had learned from his days with Peterson. The arrangements are tight and they swing so hard it hurts.

What a wonderful surprise it was when the folks at Verve released the CD and included the fabulous mini suite "Daisy's Dream". This beautiful piece of music clocks in at over 13 minutes and obviously could not fit on the original album. It not only typified the diverse talents of each member but proved once again the hard work and hours spent rehearsing by three kindred spirits.

1- Canadiana Suite

The masterpiece. Though known for his flying fingers, here Oscar writes all the compositions, each one representing different areas of his beloved Canada. Blues waltzes and tender ballads are all represented in a stunning form as diverse as the large open lands of the country it depicts. Subtly performed by the classic trio with Brown and Ed Thigpen, this is the record that shows off Oscar's chops, his gift for composition and great harmonic intuition. Hogtown Blues, Wheatland and Place St. Henri became staples of his live shows for years, but all the songs on this record are classics and it will no doubt be the one recording that will be Oscar Peterson's legacy.