Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Absent Friends

Jim Carroll, People Who Died.
John Martyn, Over The Hill.
Jim Dickinson and the New Beale Street Sheiks, You'll Do It All the Time.
Eddie Bo, Check Your Bucket.
The Seeds, Pushin' Too Hard.
Buck Griffin, Bawlin' and Squallin'.
The Ronettes, Baby, I Love You.
Billy Lee Riley, Red Hot.
The Cramps, Human Fly.
Hank Locklin, Please Help Me I'm Falling.
Blossom Dearie, Tea For Two.
Les Paul and Mary Ford, In The Good Old Summertime.
The Stooges, Not Right.
Pylon, Crazy.
Jack Rose, White Mule.
The Alan Parsons Project, Time.
Wilco, When You Wake Up Feeling Old.
Vic Chesnutt, New Town.
Maryanne Amacher, The Music Rooms.
The Revolutionary Ensemble, New York.
George Russell, Concerto For Billy The Kid.
Peter and Gordon, Nobody I Know.
Willy DeVille, Just To Walk That Little Girl Home.
Paul Revere and the Raiders, Him or Me (What's It Gonna Be).
Carl Perkins, Glad All Over.
The Delfonics, (Didn't I) Blow Your Mind This Time.
The Three Degrees, Collage.
Louisa Mark, Keep It Like It Is.
Michael Jackson, Ain't No Sunshine.

Jim Carroll, 1949-2009. On Catholic Boy.

John Martyn, 1948-2009. On Solid Air.

Jim Dickinson, 1941-2009. World boogie came for him at last. "You'll Do It All the Time," from 1964, is on It Came From Memphis Vol. 2.

Eddie Bo, 1930-2009. What if James Brown had come from New Orleans? "Check Your Bucket," from 1970, is on New Orleans Funk.

Sky Saxon, 1937-2009. "Pushin' Too Hard" is on The Seeds.

Buck Griffin, 1923-2009. A weathervane who turned in any direction he could: country, rockabilly, blues. "Ballin' and Squallin'," from 1955, is on Let's Elope Baby.

Estelle Bennett
, the forgotten Ronette (1941-2009), and a bard of postwar teenage America, Ellie Greenwich (1940-2009). Greenwich co-wrote "Baby I Love You" and Bennett helped bring it to life; on Wall of Sound.

Billy Lee Riley, 1933-2009. "Red Hot," from 1957, is the title of the best Riley compilation.

Lux Interior, 1946-2009. He is survived by the Rev. Tom Frost. The Cramps' "Human Fly" is on Off The Bone.

Blossom Dearie
, 1924-2009. Quintessence of charm. Her "Tea for Two," from 1958, is on Once Upon a Summertime.

Hank Locklin
, 1918-2009. On RCA Country Legends.

Guitar men: Les Paul, 1915-2009 (on Best of the Capitol Masters), Ron Asheton (1948-2009), on The Stooges; Pylon's Randy Bewley, 1955-2009 (their 1981 single "Crazy" is collected on Chomp) and Jack Rose, 1971-2009, on Red Horse, White Mule.

Eric Woolfson, 1945-2009, singer/lyricist for The Alan Parsons Project. "Time" is on Best Of.

Jay Bennett, 1963-2009. On Wilco's 1999 Summerteeth.

Vic Chesnutt, 1964-2009. "New Town" is on 1996's (out of print) About To Choke.

Maryanne Amacher, 1938-2009.

Sirone (Norris Jones), 1940-2009. Bassist and co-founder of The Revolutionary Ensemble, later a member of James Blood Ulmer's Phalanx. On the magnificent 1975 LP The People's Republic, which has never been released on CD.

George Russell, 1923-2009. His "Concerto For Billy The Kid," from 1956, is one of the first spotlights for Bill Evans. On Complete Bluebird Recordings.

Gordon Waller, 1945-2009. Peter and Gordon's 1964 "Nobody I Know" (a Lennon/McCartney discard) is on Ultimate Peter and Gordon.

Drake Levin, 1946-2009. Guitarist for Paul Revere and the Raiders. On Greatest Hits.

Willy DeVille, 1950-2009. On his best record, 1980's Le Chat Bleu.

Aaron Schroeder, 1926-2009. Songwriter ("It's Now or Never," "I Got Stung," the Scooby-Doo theme), producer (Gene Pitney), talent spotter (Jimi Hendrix), magus (The Banana Splits). In 1957 he co-wrote "Glad All Over" for Carl Perkins (with Sid Tepper and Roy Bennett): it should've been a hit. On Sun Singles.

Randy Cain
, 1945-2009. Singer and co-founder of The Delfonics. "Didn't I Blow Your Mind" is on La-La Means I Love You.

Louisa Mark, 1960-2009. The belle of lovers' rock. "Keep It Like It Is," from 1977, is on Breakout.

Fayette Pinkney, 1948-2009. Original member of The Three Degrees, Prince Charles' favorite band. "Collage" is on 1970's Maybe.

Michael Jackson
, 1958-2009. A line that Chrissie Hynde wrote at the peak of Jackson's fame serves as his epitaph: "the wretched life of a lonely heart." On 1971's Got To Be There, collected on Music & Me.

Ave atque vale: Alicia de Laroccha, J.G. Ballard, Patrick McGoohan, John Updike, Barry Letts, Robin Wood, Elisabeth Söderström, John Hughes, Millvina Dean (the last survivor of the Titanic), Taylor Mitchell, Allen Klein, Wayman Tisdale (baller, bassist), Dame Paddy Ridsdale (the original Miss Moneypenny), Mary Travers, Philip Jose Farmer, Andrew Wyeth, Lucy Vodden, Irving Penn, Mr. Percival, Brittany Murphy (the latest incarnation of Mary C. Brown), Jody Powell, Captain Lou Albano, Sen. Ted Kennedy, Mark "Bird" Fidrych, Dick Katz and Larry Knechtel, master session man (The Doors, The Beach Boys), whose piano on "Bridge Over Troubled Water" was the compass for Garfunkel's flight.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

My life as a mistaken Jew is the final installment of Boogie Woogie Flu's Hanukkah series. With a preface by John Berryman (thanks, JB!)

Merry Christmas and happy (belated) Hanukkah!

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

New People, 1924

Eddie Hunter and Alex Rogers with Luckey Roberts, I'm Done.
Clarence M. Jones, Hula Lou.
Jimmy Blythe, Chicago Stomp.
Old Southern Jug Band, Hatchet-Head Blues.
The Mound City Blue Blowers, Red Hot!
Blossom Seeley with the Georgians, Lazy.
Viola McCoy with Fletcher Henderson's Jazz Five, I Ain't Gonna Marry, Ain't Gonna Settle Down.
Rosa Henderson & the Choo Choo Jazzers, Hard Hearted Hannah.
Gertrude "Ma" Rainey, Lucky Rock Blues.
Elkins-Payne Jubilee Singers, Ezekiel Saw De Wheel.
Vernon Dalhart, The Prisoner's Song.
The Wolverines (with Bix Beiderbecke), Riverboat Shuffle.
Jo Trent (with Duke Ellington), Deacon Jazz.
Francis Poulenc, Les Biches: Rag-Mazurka.
Jacques Ibert, Escales: Tunis-Nefta (modéré très rythmé).
Vincent Rose and His Orchestra, Helen Gone.
Wendell Hall, Comfortin' Gal.
Clarence Williams' Blue Five (with Louis Armstrong), Everybody Loves My Baby.

We're pioneers--new people--you can trust us.

Banner at a Soviet Young Pioneer camp, USSR, shown in Vertov's Kino-Eye, 1924.

VanDer Zee, "Marcus Garvey in a Regalia."

Two jokers and a piano player:

Eddie Hunter and Alex Rogers were singers, hustlers, stage pros: Rogers was an old collaborator of Bert Williams (he had written the lyrics of "Nobody" and other Williams standards) while the younger Hunter first drew notice for starring in and writing the libretto of How Come? (which got poor reviews, with critics claiming it baldly ripped off Sissle and Blake's Shuffle Along revue). Still, it was enough notoriety for Victor Records to offer Hunter (whose press agents were calling him "the colored Jimmy Barton") a contract, and late in 1923 he brought in Rogers and the pianist Luckey Roberts to cut four sides.

One of them was "I'm Done," a track some writers have called dated and corny (to the point where it's even been wrongly listed as a 1919 record in some references). Balls to that: "I'm Done" is prime American comic patter with modernity in the precision of its timing, in the way the actors bounce off each other, echo and undercut each other's words and slide into a common groove, with Roberts' stride piano dancing in the background. (Roberts, who held onto his copyrights, ran a popular bar and invested in NYC real estate, died a rich man.)

Recorded ca. November 1923 and released as Victor 19247 c/w "Bootleggers Ball." On George Williams and Bessie Brown No. 2.

"Great is Grief, Greater Still is the Heritage": USSR poster commemorating the death of Lenin.

Two lost pianists:

Clarence M. Jones was a Chicago pianist (he accompanied Monette Moore and Laura Smith, among other blues singers), songwriter ("The Dirty Dozen," "Daddy Blues," "Trot Along," "Thanks for the Lobster") and bandleader (he headed the Wonder Orchestra at the Owl Theater, which sounds like something out of a Michael Chabon novel). Thomas Hennessey, in his From Jazz to Swing, claims that Jones and trumpeter Jimmy Wade opened the Chicago Loop district to black musicians. Jones (1889-1949) survives today only in the margins of histories--he remains an unknown influence, a ghost.

Jones' "Hula Lou," a solo piano variation of a then-popular stage novelty, doesn't appear to be as much an improvisation as it is a set piece, but it has a steady bounce to it and shows off Jones' fleet, dashing style. Recorded ca. April 1924 and released as Autograph 492 (later 499) c/w "Maybe (She'll Write Me, She'll Phone Me)"; on Archive of American Popular Music.

The Levys, a Jewish family on the island of Rhodes, 1924 (Rhodes Jewish Museum). Jews had lived on Rhodes since the 2nd Century BC. During World War II, all 2,000 Jews on the island were arrested and deported by the Nazis: most were sent to Auschwitz, and all but 150 were killed. Today about 40 Jews live on Rhodes.

Jimmy Blythe was born in Keene, Kentucky, in 1901 and died of epidemic meningitis thirty years later. He had moved to Chicago as a young man and spent the '20s as an accompanist on blues records (including Blind Blake and "Ma" Rainey), making some jazz tracks with Johnny Dodds and doing the occasional solo turn, though like Clarence Jones he primarily made a living by cutting hundreds of piano rolls for nickelodeons.

Blythe's "Chicago Stomp" shows just how strong a player he was, and makes one regret that the man only cut eight solo sides in his short life--"Stomp" is one of the first (if not the first) recorded examples of pure boogie-woogie piano, dominated by Blythe's rolling left-hand bassline.

Recorded in April 1924 and released as Paramount 12207 c/w "Armour Ave. Struggle"; on Boogie Woogie Blues.

"Miss Mary Bay likes her car because it is easy to park." Washington DC, January 1924 (Shorpy).

Two ramshackle collections:

The Old Southern Jug Band was an alias of Clifford Hayes' Dixieland Jug Blowers, working on another label. Allen Lowe calls the Jug Band's "Hatchet-Head Blues" one of the few surviving recordings of a brass- and string-band hybrid, with a banjo, jug bass and cornet all vying for attention.

"Hatchet-Head Blues" was recorded 24 November 1924 and released as Vocalion 14958 c/w "Blues, Just Blues, That's All"; on Clifford Hayes and the Louisville Jug Bands Vol. 1.

Weston, "Galván Shooting (Manuel Hernández Galván, Mexico)."

The Mound City Blue Blowers were founded by early jazz hipster and former St. Louis bellboy Red McKenzie (he played comb and sang) and included some developing talent, including Frank Trumbauer. Their first 1924 sides, especially "Red Hot!" are pretty fantastic stuff--who knew the kazoo could swing like this?

Recorded 14 March 1924 and released as Brunswick 2602 c/w "San"; on Hot Comb and Tin Can.

Slats the Lion being filmed for his latest MGM logo spot

Four blues stingers (even the icemen leave them alone):

Blossom Seeley was a vamp of early vaudeville--here's one description of a 1911 performance: "[Seeley] danced on the table to show off her shapely legs, and she used the platform to launch a dance craze. As an encore she performed the Texas Tommy, a dance originated by black vaudevillians in San Francisco's Barbary Coast. Theater critics were generally nonplussed by the way she toddled and shook, but Broadway audiences loved it" (Armond Fields and L. Marc Fields). She married a baseball player and later another vaudevillian, and lived long enough to appear on the Ed Sullivan Show.

Her hot version of Irving Berlin's "Lazy" was cut with The Georgians on 27 March 1924 and released as Columbia 114-D c/w "Don't Mind the Rain"; on Georgians 1923-1924.

Progress: six-pack of Coke in milk-carton-shaped paper bag.

Viola McCoy, born in either Mississippi or Memphis ca. 1900, went through names as if they were pairs of shoes--she was born Amanda Brown, and recorded under Daisy Cliff, Bessie Williams, Fannie Johnson and Susan Williams, among others, suggesting that she probably still has some lost records out there. She had a refined contralto that could still deliver the blues. "I Ain't Gonna Marry, Ain't Gonna Settle Down" is a cold-eyed look at monogamy, which McCoy suggests is a lost cause. "It's nice to say that you are man and wife/but it's hard to find a pal who'll stick through life," she says, her eyes on the door.

"I Ain't Gonna Marry" was cut on 11 March 1924 with Fletcher Henderson (who had written the song with Ethel Waters) and released as Brunswick 2591 c/w the wonderfully-titled "If Your Good Man Quits You, Don't Wear No Black." On Viola McCoy Vol. 2.

Steichen, Gloria Swanson.

The outrageous Rosa Henderson cut a song in 1924 entitled (seriously) "Strut Yo' Puddy." From the same session is her version of "Hard Hearted Hannah," in which Henderson sounds like she could give Hannah a run for her money. It was recorded ca. September 1924 with the Choo Choo Jazzers and released as Ajax 17060; on Rosa Henderson Vol. 3.

Gertrude "Ma" Rainey starts the first verse of "Lucky Rock Blues" slowly, as if rousing her self from slumber. "Feelin'...kind of...melancholy," she moans, "made up my mind to go away," her voice more resonant than a saxophone, sinking lower than a trombone. The only one who can keep up with her is Tommy Ladnier, whose sharp 12-bar trumpet solo offers a taste of the New Orleans salvation Rainey is heading off to find.

Recorded March 1924 and released as Paramount 12215 c/w "Those Dogs of Mine"; on Ma Rainey Vol. 1.

Two commercial spiritualists (or professional hillbillies):

The Elkins-Payne Jubilee Singers were among the many black gospel groups who cut records in the '20s, as labels tried to find a commercial successor to the Fisk Jubilee Singers, which had established the "jubilee" style of gospel singing. Elkins-Payne were as much show-biz as they were spiritual: their leader, William C. Elkins, wasn't a minister but a former director of Bert Williams' vaudeville show. In their version of "Ezekiel Saw De Wheel," the lead female singer Eloise Uggams offers struggle and vitality, while the lead male singer (likely Elkins) is tradition and stasis.

Recorded 24 November 1924 and released as Okeh 40250 c/w "You Must Shun Old Satan" (good advice); on Complete Recordings.

DuBois, Mr. and Mrs. Chester Dine Out.

The sure 'nough Southerner talks almost like a Negro, even when he's white. I've broken myself of the habit, more or less, in ordinary conversation but it still comes pretty easily.

Vernon Dalhart.

Vernon Dalhart, born Marion Slaughter in Jefferson, Texas, in 1883, worked as a cattle puncher, studied at the Dallas Conservatory of Music and came to New York City in 1910, where he sang blackface minstrel songs and Puccini. His first recording for Edison was in 1917 and Dalhart soon gained a reputation for being a good dialect man (see above quote), recording everything from Hawaiian novelties to blackface numbers.

In 1924 Dalhart cut "The Prisoner's Song" and "Wreck of the Old 97," which became country music's first million-selling record. However it's barely what we today would consider "country," as Dalhart sings "Prisoner's Song" in a stately, slightly ridiculous tenor with only a trace of an accent. (Ralph Peer, who produced the record, later called him "a professional substitute for a real hillbilly.") Non-Southern audiences needed their first exposure to white rural music (which "Prisoner's Song" was for many) to not be too exotic, and the rich melody underpinned by basic guitar-and-fiddle accompaniment made the dose go down easy. The record's success inspired labels like Victor to head down South in search of new prospects, while Dalhart eventually wound up working as a hotel clerk in his old age.

Recorded 13 July 1924 and released as Victor 19427 c/w "Wreck of the Old 97"; on Country Gold Vol. 2 and 8,000 other compilations.

Davis, Odol.

Two precocious carpet crawlers:

Leon Bismark "Bix" Beiderbecke joined the Hamilton, Ohio-based jazz band The Wolverines (named after the Jelly Roll Morton song they played incessantly) towards the end of 1923, and his first-ever recordings came with the band a few months later when they had relocated to Cincinnati. Beiderbecke, all of 21 years old, was already developing new ways to play the cornet, such as emphasizing the horn's middle range and using subtler phrasing.

In April 1924, a young composer named Hoagy Carmichael invited the band to come to Bloomington, Indiana, as he had written a composition inspired by them and written specifically to showcase his friend Bix: "Riverboat Shuffle." The Wolverines' recording of the song is Beiderbecke's first great record, with a carefully crafted solo in which Bix circles through various melodic motifs and makes a glittering string of blue notes.

Recorded 6 May 1924 and released as Gennett 5454 c/w "Susie (of the Islands)"; on Bix and the Wolverines.

"Deacon Jazz," credited to Jo Trent and the Deacons, is one of the first recordings of a 25-year-old pianist and fledgling bandleader named Edward Kennedy "Duke" Ellington. Ellington had come to New York from Washington DC in 1922 and had spent years scrabbling around for work. By 1924, he had taken over Elmer Snowden's six-man band the Washingtonians and started getting regular gigs, including long engagements at the Kentucky Club.

Ellington and the Washingtonians cut their debut records in November 1924 for the tiny label Blu-Disc, including backing the singer/songwriter Jo Trent on Ellington's own "Deacon Jazz." The track doesn't have the full band, only Ellington, Otto Hardwick on C-melody sax, George Francis on banjo and drummer Sonny Greer, but Ellington's brief piano solo is a cloudburst of a thing, suggesting in miniature the riches to come.

Recorded November 1924 and released as Blu Disc T-1003 c/w "Oh How I Love My Darling"; on Black and White Piano.

Rietveld Schröder House, Utrecht.

Two Frenchmen, one wayward, one stolid:

Francis Poulenc "invents his own folklore," Maurice Ravel once said, while Claude Rostand famously called him "half monk, half delinquent." Poulenc was a member of Les Six and a composer who wrote everything from art songs to ballets to oratorios (but unlike his Six colleague Darius Milhaud, he said he disliked jazz). His Les Biches, a ballet inspired by Watteau paintings of Louis XIV and his various women (sometimes in Louis XIV's deer park, hence Poulenc's title), is set in a modern-day hipster party attended by "twenty charming and flirtatious women" and "three strapping young fellows dressed as oarsmen." Poulenc's score consists in part of snarky rehabilitations of older musical types, such as the mazurka section featured here (meant to accompany a scene in which the oarsmen flirt with and then chase down the party's hostess, who has "yards of pearls and a meaningfully-long cigarette holder").

Premiered on 6 January 1924 by the Ballets Russes at the Theatre de Monte Carlo; this recording is conducted by Yan Pascal Tortelier and performed by the Ulster Orchestra.

Jacques Ibert, perhaps irritated by being left out of "Les Six," later formed a smaller club of composers with Six members Milhaud and Arthur Honegger. Ibert's Escales (Ports of Call), premiered on the same day as Les Biches, offers overseas exotica in place of Poulenc's dinner-party hijinks. "Tunis-Nefta," the second part of the piece, features an oboe imitating Arab music over a driving beat delivered by tympani and strings.

Premiered on 6 January 1924 in Paris; this recording is conducted by Eiji Oue and performed by the Minnesota Orchestra.

Oil drillers, Iran, 1924.

Three last songs, mainly about women:

Vincent Rose, born in Palermo, Italy, in 1880, headed a jazz dance band called the Montmartre Cafe Orchestra (it wasn't inspired by anything in Paris, but was the name of a Hollywood hangout for actors). While he was best known for hits like "Whispering," Rose's "Helen Gone" is a sparkplug of a track--fast, silly, irresistible. Recorded in Oakland on 12 June 1924 and released as Victor 19398; on Archive of American Popular Music.

Wendell Hall's "Comfortin' Gal" isn't the hayseed epic that his "Ain't Gonna Rain No Mo'" was but it still pops, with Hall's ukulele providing rickety support for his gloriously hokey vocal, which ranges from spoken asides to a dash of lunatic humming. Recorded 15 January 1924 and released as Victor 19207 c/w "It Looks Like Rain" (one of Hall's shameless sequels to "It Ain't Gonna Rain No Mo'").

And Clarence Williams' "Everybody Loves My Baby" has Louis Armstrong offering just one of the dozen of brilliant solos he reeled off that year (6 November 1924; OKeh 8181; on Portrait of the Artist).

Friday, October 30, 2009

The Second Line, 1923

Wendell Hall, It Ain't Gonna Rain No Mo'.
Belle Baker with the Virginians, Jubilee Blues.
I.J. Hochman & the Jewish Orchestra, Rusishe Sher (Russian Sher).
Fiddlin' John Carson, The Old Hen Cackled and the Rooster's Gonna Crow.
Piron's New Orleans Orchestra, West Indies Blues.
Darius Milhaud, La Création du Monde: Premier Tableau.
Jesse Crump, Mr. Crump Rag.
Q. Roscoe Snowden, Misery Blues.
Ollie Powers' Harmony Syncopators, Play That Thing.
Thomas Morris Past Jazz Masters, Original Charleston Strut.
The Georgians, Snakes Hips.
Hitch's Happy Harmonists, Cruel Woman.
Charlie Straight's Rendezvous Orchestra, Henpecked Blues.
Jean Sibelius, Symphony No. 6 in D Minor: allegro molto moderato.

Once the band starts, everybody starts swaying from one side of the street to the other, especially those who drop in and follow the ones who have been to the funeral. These people are known as "the second line" and they may be anyone passing along the street who wants to hear the music. The spirit hits them and they follow.

Louis Armstrong, quoted in Ishmael Reed's Mumbo Jumbo.

"It Ain't Gonna Rain No Mo'," Wendell Hall's two-million-seller of 1923, is arguably a rock & roll record, at least in spirit. It's got the whole bag: yodels, howls, whines and sneers, riffs, death, puns, general nonsense, bad attitudes, jokes about animals, jokes about sewers, barefoot girls. Everybody from Bob Dylan on down has stolen from it:

Saw a sign in a hardware store:
Boy wanted, 16 years,"
Now that's too long to wait for a boy,
It brings eyes to my tears

Hall was a red-headed ukulele player from Kansas. He was a song plugger, a vaudeville rambler, a radio man (even got married on the air). "It Ain't Gonna Rain No Mo'" was the first national radio hit, mainly because Hall traveled cross-country in the summer of 1923, playing at over 35 radio stations, touting his record and his sheet music. To plug the latter, Hall, brilliantly and shamelessly, would keep adding verses to the song (reaching 100 at one point) and then reprint the sheet music with his new lines--in this way, he sold over 10 million copies (& many of the verses were wholly plundered from "traditional" folk songs, often by black musicians). He died in 1969, having never come close to that success again. Then again, few could have.

Initially recorded ca. spring 1923; there were several versions cut that year, with varying lyrics, released as Gennett 5271, Edison 51261, and Victor 19171. Hall cut sequel discs in 1924 and 1933. One 1923 cut is in this archive.

Alice Reighly, president of the Anti-Flirt Club, 27 February 1923 (Shorpy). Fourth rule of Anti-Flirt Club: "Don't go out with men you don't know--they may be married, and you may be in for a hair-pulling match."

Bella Becker was born in New York City in 1893: she was singing on the street by the time she was eight and working in a dress factory by age nine (her exact contemporaries were the girls killed in the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire). She escaped to the stage, changed her name to Belle Baker, and became a vaudeville star, to the point where she could call up Irving Berlin and complain that there wasn't "a Belle Baker song" in a new revue (so Berlin drummed up "Blue Skies" for her to debut).

"Jubilee Blues," which Baker cut with the Virginians, is a stage number that swings about as well as the "official" blues being recorded by the likes of Mamie Smith. The Virginians were a spin-off of the Paul Whiteman Orchestra run by Ross Gorman. Recorded 27 August 1923 and released as Victor 19135-B; on Tin Pan Alley Blues.

And I.J. Hochman's Jewish Orchestra offer a version of the "Russian Sher" on disc. A sher is a "scissors dance," basically a type of square dance popular among Eastern European and Russian Jews in the 19th and early 20th Centuries. As with much early klezmer, the melody is carried by fiddle and clarinet, bass by tuba, rhythm by trombones. It's the Yiddish blues, straight from the shetl. This was one of Hochman's rare instrumental cuts--he was mainly an accompanist to singers like Jenny Goldstein. Recorded in December 1922 and released as OKeh 14059 c/w "Kamenetzer Bulgar."(On Klezmer 1910-1942.)

Harold Lloyd, social climber

Fiddlin' is like salvation--free and without price.

Attributed to Fiddlin' John Carson.

Fiddlin' John Carson, born in Fannin County, Georgia, three years after the Civil War ended, was a wildcat fiddler, a one-man song and dance band, a storyteller, a professional hayseed, "a defiler of tradition" (Allen Lowe) who kept 19th Century music alive. He was one of the first professional "hillbilly" musicians to record. A track from his first session, "The Old Hen Cackled and the Rooster's Gonna Crow," is a fine example of his sound--both archaic, with the music broken up by Carson's barn dance calls, and modern (the occasional dissonance when he plays "double stops," holding down two strings at once).

You may recall this story: In 1913, a 14-year-old girl named Mary Phagan was killed at her workplace, an Atlanta pencil factory. Her supervisor, a Northern Jewish man named Leo Frank, was convicted of the murder, mainly due to testimony by janitor Jim Conley (who likely was the real killer--he had been found washing stains off his shirt and he had given a series of contradictory statements). Georgia Gov. John Slaton eventually commuted Frank's death sentence.

So Fiddlin' John Carson wrote "The Ballad of Little Mary Phagan," a story of a poor girl murdered by cruel Leo Frank. He sang it at every Frank-related protest rally in a 30-mile radius of Marietta, which were many. After Frank's sentence was commuted, Carson changed the lyric to suggest that a "New York bank" had paid Gov. Slaton off.

One August day in 1915, an armed mob hauled Frank out of prison, drove him 175 miles to Marietta and lynched him. "For audacity and efficiency, it was unparalleled in southern history," C. Vann Woodward later wrote of the Frank lynching. All the day long, while Frank's corpse hung from an oak tree, Carson stood in front of the Marietta courthouse, playing his "Little Mary Phagan" over and over again, while the assembled crowd "cheered and applauded him lustily," according to a contemporary newspaper account.

Carson cut records throughout the '20s and died a happy old man in 1949.

Recorded in Atlanta ca. 14 June 1923 and released as OKeh 4890 c/w "The Little Old Log Cabin in the Lane."

"Take from the dresser of deal,/Lacking the three glass knobs, that sheet/On which she embroidered fantails once/And spread it so as to cover her face"

Armand Piron was Clarence Williams' business partner and a musician in his own right--a violin player, bandleader, songwriter (he composed "I Wish I Could Shimmy Like My Sister Kate" although Louis Armstrong later complained that he'd been ripped off).

Piron thought "West Indies Blues" by Spencer and Clarence Williams and Edgar Dowell, was a sure-seller, and so recorded three versions of it over a few weeks: this one was cut on 21 December 1923 and released as Columbia 14007-D; on Archive of American Popular Music.

Opening day, Yankees Stadium, April 1923.

The composer Darius Milhaud, visiting the United States for the first time in early 1923, became entranced by jazz, which he heard straight from the source: the Capitol Palace in Harlem, where James P. Johnson, Willie "the Lion" Smith and the young Duke Ellington were playing nightly. (He may have heard Bessie Smith sing as well, as she was in town during his visit and Milhaud describes having heard "a Negress whose grating voice seemed to come from the depths of the centuries.") Milhaud was already convinced that "animated rhythms," in his words, would be the future of music, and in 1919 had composed a ballet about Carnival filled with Brazilian-influenced rhythms.

Now Milhaud tried to incorporate jazz stylings into classical ballet, arranging an orchestra of what he hoped would be 18 soloists, including a double-bass and a brass section of alto saxophone, trombone, trumpet and French horn. La Création du Monde, in which impressionist jazz serves as the soundtrack to the world's formation, had a scenario, by the poet Blaise Cendrars, allegedly derived from African folklore, which means, in part, having dancers depict "trees uprooting themselves and impregnating the ground with their fruit."

Here's the first tableau (there are five in all, along with an overture), "the chaos before creation," which opens with a violin soloing over a throbbing beat that's very reminiscent of Rite of Spring. When clarinet and trumpet slide in soon afterward, it sounds a bit like an early draft of "Rhapsody in Blue."

La Création du Monde debuted in Paris on 25 October 1923 with "African" sets by Léger. This recording is conducted by Kent Nagano and performed by the Orchestre de l'Opera de Lyon.

Warren C. Huddleston interviewed the pianist Jesse Crump in the fall of 1951, when Crump was still making a living playing around the country. At the time he was in Muncie, Indiana, about to head out to San Francisco. Huddleston tracked down Crump at home, and played him some of his oldest records, including the solo track "Mr. Crump Rag." Crump listened, his eyes closed. "That tune goes a long ways back," he said. In 1923, Crump had been playing at the Golden West Cafe in Indianapolis, and soon afterward he'd meet Ida Cox, who he married, and Jelly Roll Morton, who he rivaled.

Crump once mentioned he was billed as "The Man Who Plays With a Thousand Bands," which meant he accompanied a jukebox. Huddleston went out to see Crump play in Muncie that night. What he heard was pure American music:

[Crump] was playing solo piano at a local spot...blues, boogie, hillbilly, bop. All the request stuff. The bar was next to the railroad yards, and Jesse's piano was forced to compete with switch engines and the constant clash of shuttling freight cars.

"Mr. Crump Rag" was cut on 20 July 1923 but was only released at the time by Gennett as a private pressing; on the awkwardly-titled Male Blues of the '20s.

Who was the mysterious Q. Roscoe Snowden? A black pianist who recorded in the early '20s, mainly as an accompanist for blues singers, he made a pair of solo tracks in 1923 that show a well-developed sense of swing.

"Misery Blues" was recorded in New York in October 1923 and released c/w "Deep Sea Blues" as OKeh 8119; on Piano Blues Vol. 4.

Calvin Coolidge meets the press

Testaments of five lost dance bands:

Ollie Powers, a mysterious figure who may have been a drummer in Chicago, formed something of a knock-off version of King Oliver's band in 1923. But for a knock-off, it was made of pretty quality material including the cornetist Tommy Ladnier and the clarnetist Jimmie Noone (and briefly Louis Armstrong, en route to New York).

"Play That Thing," a hot stomping track, was recorded in September 1923 and released as Puritan 11263/Claxtonola 40263 (Puritan was a Paramount subsidiary, Claxtonola a short-lived Iowa City label that mainly reissued Paramount and Gennett discs). On Chicago Rhythm-Apex Blues.

The cornetist Thomas Morris had been playing jazz in New York since the early '10s, and by the mid-'20s was something of a linchpin of the New York scene, playing with Fats Waller and Mamie Smith, among others. Morris' playing is often used as an example of "classic" early jazz trumpet before the emergence of Louis Armstrong. Morris eventually gave up music, first working as a redcap in Grand Central Station and later joining Father Divine's Universal Peace Mission Movement, changing his name to Brother Pierre and considering the aforementioned Father to be the second coming of Christ. When Sidney Bechet saw him on the street, Morris introduced himself as "St. Peter," much to Bechet's amusement.

The sparkling "Original Charleston Strut," which is enough divinity for me, was cut in February 1923 and released as OKeh 8055 c/w "E Flat Blues No. 2"; on Thomas Morris 1923-1927.

The Georgians were another Paul Whiteman Orchestra spin-off, led by the violinist Paul Specht and dominated by the trumpeter Frank Guarente. "Snakes Hips" was recorded 15 March 1923 and released as Columbia A3864 c/w "Farewell Blues"; on Jazz in Britain.

Gance, La Roue.

Hitch's Happy Harmonists, led by Curtis Hitch, were an early jazz territory band, mainly covering southern Indiana: emblematic of the sort of new "white" jazz brewing up in Indiana during the '20s, they played with Hoagy Carmichael (who recorded "Washboard Blues" with them) and fell entirely under the spell of Bix Beiderbecke's Wolverines, to the point where some Harmonists records sound interchangeable with Wolverines ones.

Their "Cruel Woman" was cut in Richmond, Indiana, on 19 September 1923 and released as Gennett 5286 c/w "Home Brew Blues."

And Charlie Straight, a journeyman Midwestern pianist and bandleader, had formed a nine-man outfit in 1923 that seemed dedicated to pushing ragtime conventions into freer jazz forms. Straight's orchestra at this time was Lee Riley (c), Holmes Coltman (tb), Al Kvale (cl,as), Ray Puttnam (cl,ts), Julian Davidson (bjo), George Hookham (bb), Don Morgan (d). The swinging "Henpecked Blues" was recorded in Chicago in June 1923 and released as Paramount 20244; on Chicago Rhythm.

Brancusi, Bird In Space.

As he no doubt would have preferred, Jean Sibelius seems utterly removed from any other musician or composer in this collection. Born in Finland in 1865, he would become both the soul and the embodiment of an independent Finland, to the point where an image of Sibelius' head was printed on the hundred-markka note (before Finland converted to the euro). He began much in the way of other "nationalist" composers of the late 19th Century like Bartok--digging through national myths and folk songs and composing tone poems. By 1910, much of his efforts had turned to writing symphonies, a form he once described as "a confession of faith at different stages of one's life."

The sixth symphony always reminds me of the scent of the first snow.

Jean Sibelius, 1943.

The Sixth Symphony in D Minor is a bit neglected compared with titanic works like Sibelius' Fourth and Fifth, but its wintry beauty is astonishing. Here's the first movement, which begins with oboe and flute quietly responding to a gorgeous phrase on strings (much of the opening is in the Dorian mode, aligning the work with the mode often used by folk musicians and, in the words of Alex Ross, "with antique modes underpinning the harmony, it's as if the composer were trying to flee into a mythic past").

The symphony was debuted in Helsinki on 19 February 1923; this recording was conducted by Herbert von Karajan and the Berliner Philharmoniker.

Next: New People

Lately in Bowieland: karma, curry, pixiephones, Pancho.

Friday, October 16, 2009

A Weary Anniversary

Ronnie Lane, Anniversary.
Count Basie, Jive At Five.
Willie Brown, Future Blues.

They were wheeling wheeling in each other's arms heedless at the far end where they had drawn up one of the white blinds. Above a rather low ceiling five great chandeliers swept one after the other almost to the waxed parquet floor reflecting in their hundred thousand drops the single sparkle of a distant day, again and again red velvet panelled walls, and two girls, minute in purple, dancing multiplied to eternity in these trembling pears of glass.

Henry Green, Loving, 1945.

Today marks the fifth anniversary of Locust St. I don't know who, if anyone, has been reading this thing since 2004 but if so, here's to your perseverance and good taste.

This blog will very likely be over and done a year from now. It's time, you know? A new decade coming. I'm getting older, you're getting older, your children are getting older. But I do hope to wind it down with some measure of grace, or at least a few more good tunes.

It's a wistful day but a fine one. I started this when I was living in New York and was married: now I'm neither. I called it Locust St. because that's what I looked at every morning from my desk, and the name's become, over the years, a symbol of a passed life. So you could say the title grew into itself.

Happy autumn,

Friday, October 02, 2009

The Imperial Roman Jazz, 1923

King Oliver's Creole Jazz Band, Chimes Blues.
King Oliver's Creole Jazz Band, Snake Rag.
Jelly Roll Morton, New Orleans Joys.
Jelly Roll Morton, Wolverine Blues.
Clarence Williams' Blue Five, Kansas City Man Blues.
Mamie Smith and the Harlem Trio, Lady Luck Blues.
James P. Johnson, Scouting Around.
Fletcher Henderson Orchestra, The Dicty Blues.
Bessie Smith, Jail House Blues.
Bessie Smith, Cemetery Blues.
Bennie Moten's Kansas City Orchestra, Elephant's Wobble.
Ada Brown with Bennie Moten's Kansas City Orchestra, Ill Natured Blues.
King Oliver's Creole Jazz Band, Working Man Blues.

When Caesar did the Chicago
He was a graceful child,
Those sacred chickens
Just raised the dickens
The Vestal Virgins went wild.
Whenever the Nervii got nervy
He gave them an awful razz
They shook in their shoes
with the Consular Blues
The Imperial Roman jazz.

F. Scott Fitzgerald, "Porcelain and Pink" (collected in Tales of the Jazz Age, 1923).

The harvest of a dozen days in 1923, year of wonders:

April 5, Richmond, Indiana:

"Chimes Blues," one of the tracks recorded by Joe "King" Oliver's Creole Jazz Band in their initial session, has the band's new trumpeter's debut solo on disc. The track serves as a historical processional: it opens with classic New Orleans polyphony, thins to a string of spotlit players (Johnny Dodds' clarinet, Lil Hardin's piano chimes) and then Louis Armstrong, with his two-chorus self-introduction, brings the future with him.

With Baby Dodds (d), Honore Dutrey on trombone and Bill Johnson on banjo. Released as Gennett 5135 c/w "Froggie Moore"; on Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man.

June 22, Chicago:

Oliver's band both embodied New Orleans (its records are the summation of three decades of New Orleans jazz playing) and looked beyond it. After all, Oliver's group in 1923 was a Chicago dance band. As Allen Lowe wrote, Oliver's band were not traditionalists so much as a pack of dedicated modernists, looking to make commercial records by raiding choice pieces from the past and arranging them in new shapes.

Tracks like "Snake Rag" and "Jazzin' Babies Blues," the former recorded on this date, document the collective Oliver sound at its peak, in which a four-horn ensemble seemed like one hydra-headed player. "Snake Rag" is tight and relentless: listen to the chutes-and-ladders hornplay of Oliver and Armstrong, followed by Dutrey's retorts on trombone.

Released as OKeh 4933 (an earlier version was cut in April for Gennett) c/w "High Society Rag"; on Archive of American Pop.

July 17, Richmond, Ind.:

Ferdinand "Jelly Roll" Morton was born in 1890 but he always claimed he'd arrived a few years before. His rejiggered birthyear (1885, sometimes) was convenient because he then could argue that he had invented jazz by himself, sometime around 1902, when he was actually only about 12.

Whatever age he was, Morton left New Orleans in 1907 and would never come back. He became a pimp, a pool shark, a roving gambler, a whorehouse pianist, a brutal cutting contest pro, a night club impresario, a comedian. He was in Tulsa, Chicago, Los Angeles, Gulfport, Mississippi. He met James P. Johnson in New York, W.C. Handy in Memphis. He asked Handy's group to play a blues, to which Handy replied that "the blues couldn't be played by a band." A proposition Morton would dedicate himself to disproving. Bunk Johnson recalled seeing Morton in Columbus, at the Great Southern Hotel, "playing waltzes and rags for the white people."

And somewhere on the road during these years Morton wrote some of the 20th Century's greatest works for solo piano: "New Orleans Blues (or Joys)," "The Pearls," "King Porter Stomp," "Jelly Roll Blues," "Wolverines."

Morton said he'd always been a jazz player. There was a precise difference: ragtime was a dialect, jazz was a language. No, better still, ragtime was a sect, jazz a religion. Ragtime had its standards and restrictions; jazz had to have nuance and variety, contrast--melodically, rhythmically--and the ability to move, to think with your hands. (Of course, Morton was greatly indebted to ragtime, having sent Scott Joplin compositions for review (possibly "King Porter Stomp"), and works like "Grandpa's Spells" are basically tricked-up rags.)

In 1923, he returned to Chicago and began making records. Among the first were six solo piano tracks, including, on this date, "New Orleans Joys." "Joys" isn't dramatic: there are no pounded chords, no vaults across the keyboard. In true American style, it's built upon ratifying the separation of powers--Morton's right hand plays independent of his left (sometimes in different tempos), so he keeps the beat while simultaneously improvising and developing melodies. Morton becomes a self-contained jazz band of one: playing melodies, advancing harmonies, providing the rhythm.

"New Orleans Joys" was released as Gennett 5486; on 1923/1924.

July 18, Richmond, Ind.:

The next day, Morton recorded "Wolverine Blues." Morton's original title was "Wolverines," and he always resented that a publisher renamed it--"it's not a blues," he said, which is true enough. It's something of a mutated rag, which Morton smooths out to make a canvas for a series of improvisations. The middle section, with its chiming block chords, suspends the piece in midair for the duration of a long held breath.

"Wolverine Blues" was released as Gennett 5289; on 1923-1924.

July 30, New York:

Bechet (rear) with Benny Peyton's Jazz Kings, 1920

In 1918 a conductor named Ernest Ansermet wrote a piece in a Swiss music magazine, Revue Romande, about a musician he had noticed on a recent tour. Ansermet had just conducted the world premiere of Stravinsky's Histoire du Soldat, a piece experimenting with jazz sounds, and here he had found the real thing. "...An extraordinary clarinet virtuoso who is, so it seems, the first of his race to have composed perfectly formed blues on the clarinet. I wish to set down the name of this artist of genius." It was the 20-year-old Sidney Bechet, playing in Europe at the time with the Southern Syncopated Orchestra.

By 1923, Bechet was back in the U.S. (he'd been deported from the U.K. for assault) and had begun replacing his clarinet with the soprano saxophone, which provided a wider, richer tone and greater ease of use. He continued to work in ensembles but he wasn't cut out for the background. Where Louis Armstrong, his only real rival in the early '20s, could still work as part of a machine (as heard in the Oliver band), Bechet could only be singular. He stood out for his piercing tone and his intense vibrato as well as his musical intelligence; his solos were filled with chords built of wide intervals, yet he could loop them together into a single smooth line.

"Wild Cat Blues" and "Kansas City Man Blues," recorded on this date, are Bechet's first extant appearances on record (on soprano sax). Already the band, led by Clarence Williams, seems like the supporting act. With Thomas Morris (co), John Mayfield (tb), Williams (p) and Buddy Christian (d).

Released as OKeh 4925; on Young Sidney Bechet.

August 5, New York:

It looks on paper like the collision of two primal forces: Bechet looking to make his name and Mamie Smith aiming to keep her crown as queen of the blues. It winds up as a workable partnership. Bechet has a less cluttered stage (he's joined by just Clarence Williams on piano and Buddy Christian on banjo), giving him room for a beauty of a solo that opens with a run of long, gorgeous notes. And Smith basks in the glow, draws down her own heat. In the '50s, Bechet recalled this track as being one of his favorite performances.

Released as OKeh 4926-B c/w "Kansas City Man Blues"; on Mamie Smith Vol. 3.

August 8, New York:

Amidst the debuts and revolutions, James P. Johnson quietly kept drafting the basics of jazz piano. By 1923, with tracks like "Scouting Around," he had developed an ebullient style of syncopation, the sound of a happy internal conversation.

Released as OKeh 4937; out of print at the moment.

August 9, New York:

Fletcher Henderson had debuted his new jazz band early in the summer of '23 at New York's Club Alabam, which was in the Nora Bayes Theatre on West 44th St. The Club had been looking for a band to back its new "Negro floor show" and Henderson's group won the audition (Henderson was appointed leader in part because he was a college graduate).

The Henderson Orchestra's debut recording, "The Dicty Blues," was a Henderson original arranged by Don Redman, who plays clarinet. The 18-year old Coleman Hawkins has his inaugural solo on tenor saxophone, one that suggests the makings of a thousand more to come--as Gunther Schuller noted, from the start Hawkins seemed as though he intended to cover the ranges of three saxophones (alto, tenor and baritone) with just a tenor sax. Here, Hawkins pushes the limits of the tenor sax's upper range, as if looking to supplant Redman's clarinet midway through his own song.

With Henderson on piano, Elmer Chambers (tp), Teddy Nixon (tb), Charlie Dixon (banjo) and possibly Billy Fowler (baritone sax). Released as Vocalion B-14654; on A Study in Frustration.

September 21, New York:

Bessie Smith's "Jail House Blues" starts with what seems like a basic opening line:

Thirty days in jail
with my back turned to the wall

She turns it into blues poetry, centering her force upon a few words, each of which she catches, elongates, drags upward or downward (the repeat of "turned to the wall," for instance, Smith uses to fill out the two bars where normally a trumpet or piano would've come in---she stretches the phrase into a long moan).

So it actually should read:

Thirty DAYS
with my BACK
to the
to the

It's only the first verse. With Irving Johns on piano. Released as Columbia 4001; on Complete Recordings.

September 26, New York:

A week later, Smith returned to the studio to cut "Cemetery Blues" and "Graveyard Dream Blues": death dreams, solitary trips to hell, hot graveyard sex.

Jimmy Jones is the pianist. Released as Columbia 13001; on Complete Recordings.

@ late September or early October, St. Louis:

The pianist Bennie Moten may not seem worthy of our pantheon here--his is the most obscure name. But Moten is an underrated bandleader, his group's style emblematic of the emerging Southwestern jazz scene. Much of his band would form the heart of the Count Basie Orchestra in the mid-'30s.

"Elephant's Wobble," one of Moten's first-recorded tracks, is raw and country, chawbacon jazz. There's nothing like the rhythmic sophistication of Oliver's or even Henderson's ensembles here, just a thick, steady stomp and a swaggering three-man horn section playing mainly simple "head" arrangements well (with future Cab Calloway star Lammar Wright on trumpet playing the carnivalesque main theme).

At the same session, Moten's band backed the fine, forgotten blues singer Ada Brown, his band providing a brew of ragtime and blues to match Brown's vocal on "Ill Natured Blues"

With Thamon Hayes (tb), Woody Walder (cl, sax), Sam Tall (banjo), Willie Hall (d). "Elephant's Wobble" (often called "Elephant Wobble", I don't know which is correct) was released as OKeh 8100 (on 1923-1927) and Brown's "Ill Natured Blues" as OKeh 8123 (OKeh Sessions).

October 5, Richmond, Ind.:

"Working Man Blues" partially marks the end of the classic King Oliver lineup. It's one of the last chances for Oliver to outshine his apprentice Armstrong, and as the performance builds to a close, Oliver moves directly up to the microphone and hits, mainly on the second beat, with a flurry of three-note bursts.

In six months' time, Armstrong would leave the group; a few months later, he headed for New York.

Released as Gennett 5275 c/w "Zulu's Ball" (the band also cut a version for OKeh later in October that's almost as good); on The Complete Set.

Top: Marathon dancers, Washington DC, 20 April 1923 (Library of Congress collection).

Sources: Much credit and insight owed to Gunther Schuller's Early Jazz.

Next: The Second Line

Lately in Bowieland: Murder, drugs, dreams, monks, gnomes.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Decade: 2 (2002-2003)

the unknown bomber, Baghdad, 2003

Ivor Cutler, Once a Fortnight.
The Mekons, Thee Olde Trip to Jerusalem.
The New Pornographers, The Laws Have Changed.

Auguries and imprecations: Ivor Cutler, the last eccentric: recorded in 2002, dead in 2006; Mekons on OOOH!, their best LP of the decade, 2002; New Pornographers on 2003's Electric Version ("What you have already lost, consider as totally lost").

Roberto Bolaño, near his death in July 2003

Matthew Shipp, Almighty Fortress Is Our God.
Jason Moran, Planet Rock.
Brad Mehldau Trio, Paranoid Android.

Jazz piano, 21st Century style: Matthew Shipp breaking down Martin Luther on the nearly-out-of-print Songs (recorded 18 November 2001, rel. 2002); Jason Moran speaking to Afrika Bambaataa (recorded 12 April 2002; on Modernistic); Brad Mehldau infatuated with Radiohead, on Largo, 2002.

D'Angelo schools Willis and Bodie

Mr. Lif, Live From the Plantation.
People Under the Stairs, The Dig.
Talib Kweli, Get By.
Scarface, On My Block.
The Blind Boys of Alabama, Way Down In the Hole.

I step into my work place with my work face: Mr. Lif on I Phantom; People Under the Stairs on OST; Talib Kweli on Quality; Scarface on The Fix; and finally, the best version of Tom Waits' "Down In the Hole," The Wire's theme song (soundtrack). All '02.

Jennifer Pastor, Stills from 'The Perfect Ride,' 2003.

Cassandra Wilson, You Gotta Move.
Norah Jones, Seven Years.
Neko Case, I Wish I Was the Moon.
Laura Cantrell, Rain Boy.

Voices: Wilson on Belly of the Sun (2002); Jones, whose backlash seems to be finally over, on her first album; Case's should-be standard is on '02's Blacklisted and Cantrell's version of Bruce Brakefield's "Rain Boy" was recorded at the late John Peel's studio in 2003 and is available on her website.

Christian Holstad, Mount Rushmore, 2003.

Richard Thompson, So Ben Mi Ca Bon Tempo.
Orchestra Baobab, Bul Ma Miin.
The Clientele, The Violet Hour.
Ekkehard Ehlers, Plays John Cassavetes 2.
Tall Dwarfs, Cascade.

Travels, time, stasis: Thompson's version of Orazio Vecchi's "So Ben Mi Ca Bon Tempo," "elliptically smutty" Renaissance pop, is from his 1000 Years of Popular Music; Orchestra Baobob, from Senegal, on 2002's Specialist In All Styles; The Clientele, title track of their fine 2003 LP; Ehlers on Plays, 2002 (fine use of the Beatles' "Good Night"); Dwarfs on The Sky Above, The Mud Below (2003).

Jonathan Monk, Stop Me If You Think You've Heard This One Before, 2003.

The Exploding Hearts, Modern Kicks.
Ted Leo and the Pharmacists, Ballad of the Sin Eater.
Supergrass, Grace.

Rock & roll, straight up: the Exploding Hearts (horribly, 3/4ths of the band was killed in an auto accident in 2003) on Guitar Romantic; Leo's ode to his early band is on 2003's Hearts of Oak; Supergrass is on 2002's Life on Other Planets.

Medasyn with Lady Sovereign, Shystie, Frost P and Zuz Rock, The Battle.
N.E.R.D., Run to The Sun.

War, peace: The world meets one Louise Harman, AKA Lady Sovereign, all of 17 years old ("none of your words can 'urt me fool/none of your comebacks mean fook all!"), on Medasyn's 12" single "The Battle," 2003; N.E.R.D. on 2002's In Search Of.

Michaël Borremans, The German (Part 2), 2002.

Imperial Teen, Ivanka.
Dean and Britta, Night Nurse.
Pinmonkey, Fly.
The Essex Green, The Late Great Cassiopia.

Pop: "Ivanka" leads off Imperial Teen's On; Dean Wareham and Britta Phillips, the handsomest couple in rock music, start their first solo record L'Avventura (2003) with "Night Nurse"; Pinmonkey turns Sugar Ray's "Fly" into the bluegrass tune it apparently was always meant to be, on 2002's Pinmonkey; Essex Green on The Long Goodbye, 2003.

Ginuwine, Hell Yeah.
Drive-By Truckers, Marry Me.
OutKast, The Way You Move.
David Bowie, Baby Loves That Way.
Original Sinners, Whiskey For Supper.

Lust, gluttony, matrimony, general decadence: Ginuwine's 2003 single is on Hits; Drive-By Truckers' "Marry Me" on Decoration Day, 2003; OutKast on Speakerboxxx/Love Below; Bowie recorded this remake of his 1965 mod single for a stillborn, unreleased LP Toy, and eventually released the track on the "Everyone Says 'Hi'" EP in 2002; Exene Cervenka's Original Sinners rip through "Whiskey For Supper" on their first s/t record, 2002.

"MISSION-The primary mission of the Department is to--(A) prevent terrorist attacks within the United States;(B) reduce the vulnerability of the United States to terrorism;(C) minimize the damage, and assist in the recovery, from terrorist attacks that do occur within the United States..."

Guided By Voices, The Best of Jill Hives.
Belle and Sebastian, I'm a Cuckoo.

Realities, rock and roll: "The Best of Jill Hives," the last great Guided by Voices song, sums up the GBV experience: greatest hits for a world that no longer needed them; "I'm a Cuckoo" is, in part, the story of the breakup of Isobel Campbell and Stuart Murdoch, the death of one band (the original Belle and Sebastian) and the start of another one; it's the sad liberation that comes when you realize your old dreams are over and done, and the sense of gratitude you have to the past, regardless of its pain. It was that sort of decade.

On Earthquake Glue and Dear Catastrophe Waitress, both 2003.

Liam Lynch, United States of Whatever.
Charlie Haden, America the Beautiful.

America!!!: Whatever, beautiful.