There is a short list of bands that I carry around in my head—bands that are incredible but, sadly, defunct and forgotten without ever getting the recognition I felt they deserved. Until recently, Waxwing were near the top of that list.
In the late '90s and early '00s, Waxwing were a staple in the Seattle music community—they regularly played all-ages shows at the Paradox, the Old Fire House, and various basements. People were drawn to their songs, which carried moments of both subtle, delicate beauty and overwhelming guitar onslaught. While the band was able to develop a cult following—there are more than just a few tattoos of the band's logo out there—Waxwing ultimately took a backseat to its members' other musical careers. Singer Rocky Votolato was, rightfully, finding more and more success as a solo artist; Rocky's guitarist brother, Cody, was part of the Blood Brothers' snotty sonic storm. The band announced their official split in 2005, but their albums One for the Ride and Nobody Can Take What Everybody Owns still stand up today.
But emotional hearts burst open with happiness earlier this year when Waxwing announced that they were reuniting! For those who are just learning about Waxwing, here's a brief history lesson of how four teenagers came and left, like so many bands do, but were ultimately able to cultivate an impression big enough to call for a reunion nearly a decade after their demise.
When asked late in his life how much time he spent on the road, Cedar Walton—who passed away Monday—replied, "We don't ever call it on the road anymore, we call it touring. You know, on the road is a bus and a cheeseburger. Touring is an airplane and room service." After 50-plus years of being a consummate jazz pianist and playing with the heaviest cats imaginable, Mr. Walton certainly deserved the all amenities that came with the stature of being a jazz legend.
Walton's mother was a pianist and imbued young Cedar with a love of music, particularly jazz. She impressed upon him the importance of learning music from the ground up and he would always remember her telling him, "Son, those guys on stage, they don't have music in front of them. But they can read music, so you going to have to shape up." That studying and playing music was to become his lifelong obsession was summed up nicely by Ted Panken when he stated, "Cedar Walton operates intuitively at a level of craft that comes from a life devoted to music with single-minded passion." Intuition, diligence, and immersion in jazz becomes a school of its own with lessons learned over the course of a lifetime spent playing. The music and the attainment of knowledge contained within the music is ceaseless.
After reading several interviews with Walton, it becomes apparent that he was very humble and aware of his place in the continuum of jazz. He handed down his years of experience to the next generation of jazz musicians. In this excellent interview Ethan Iverson tells Walton, "I don’t know if you realize the awe and terror that you strike into the hearts of so many of us younger jazz musicians." Walton, who had similar experiences with many of his heroes when he was a young player, replied, "I keep hearing that. I’m in awe of that! Because I’m extremely fortunate to have been here early enough to meet the likes of Thelonious Monk, Art Blakey, Dizzy Gillespie, and Erroll Garner. Even Miles Davis came around to hear us when we were with the Messengers. They would hand out little bits of wisdom. The strongest in my memory is Thelonious Monk, who talked through his teeth a lot. He’d say, 'Play your own shit.' And that’s what I’m doing. I mean, I think it’s unconscious from his suggestion. Possibly. I’m not a psychologist, but you don’t have to be a rocket scientist to realize the power of suggestion is strong sometimes."
In 2010, after being named a Jazz Master by the NEA, Walton was asked what was most important about providing accompaniment in an ensemble that thrives on improvisation. His reply was succinct and stands as an invaluable lesson for any musician working in any genre “Total listening.”
Cedar Walton, January 17, 1934 - August 19, 2013
While writing my jazz stuff for the next issue of A&P, I came across a file that contained the details of a curious mix I made for a forgotten friend long ago:
1)"Reflections in the Water" 5:14 - Debussy
2)"Beddie-Biey" 4:13 - Steve Arrington
3) "Oh Honey" 5:54 -The Delegation
4)"One Day" 4:50 - RJD2
5)"Fell Apart" 3:14 - Nonce
6)"Provoked" 6:22 - The Baby Namboos
7)"Roy" 3:17 - Alpha
8)"In A Silent Way (Remixed By DJ Cam)" 5:04 - Miles Davis
9)"Part IIc" 6:57 - Keith Jarrett
10) "The Last Time I Saw Richard" - 4:16 Joni Mitchell
11) "Summer In The City" - 4:05 Quincy Jones
12)"Anna" 6:06 - Freundeskreis
13)"Sanctus" 3:06 - Faure
Warp Records has announced plans to reissue on vinyl Boards of Canada's back catalog, including Music Has the Right to Children, Geogaddi, The Campfire Headphase, Twoism, In A Beautiful Place Out In The Country, and Trans Canada Highway. The first three albums come out Oct. 21; the three EPs hit the streets Nov. 18.
Scottish duo Boards of Canada's oneric, pastoral funk—one of the cornerstones of IDM—has been influencing scores of producers since 1995. Their hypnagogic, psilocybin'd emissions will be studied by aspiring electronic musicians and graduate students for centuries to come. Now if only Decibel could book these reclusive geniuses...
Rufus Harley's instrument of choice was the Great Highland Bagpipes. Having been entranced by the Black Watch piping ensemble at President Kennedy's funeral, young Mr. Harley decided to get a set and give them a go. Thus was born the first (perhaps, the only?) jazz bagpiper. In his New York Times obituary it is stated that Harley insisted that the bagpipe had African roots and that his chosen instrument had helped him “discover my identity by making me aware of my cultural heritage.” He had indeed chosen an instrument that dates to the beginning of, and most likely before, recorded history.
Historians have put the origins of reed pipes as coming from Sumeria and Egypt and going forward into these regions; Phrygia, Lydia, Phoenicia, Greece, Rome, and Rome's colonies. By the first century A. D., the use of a bag affixed to reed pipes had replaced the natural bag, the human mouth, and allowed for a greater air reservoir. This enabled a more easily sustained drone and made the bagpipes a legato instrument, without the ability to play louder or softer. The bagpipe scale is different from other instruments and its sound belies its ancient origins.
It's a plaintive sound, it's loud, and it seems somehow timeless. In 1967 a New York Times review of a concert given by Herbie Mann, with Harley by his side, said that the bagpipe’s tones “sounded far more Middle Eastern than Scottish,” and that when combined with the flute, “the two wind instruments blended into an eerily swinging ensemble.” The reviewer probably had no idea how close in scale the Scottish pipes were to its relative the Macedonian bagpipe and its antecedents, yet he guessed correctly at its earlier place and sound in history.
Harley, in a 2006 interview with David Cohen, describes learning the pipes and how he acquired his tartan. "I took them to my music teacher Dennis Sanbole. He told me you can play any instrument once you learn the language. So we got into it and I just kept on studying basic music. I was able to apply the modern culture to the bagpipes. I tried it on the left side and it didn’t work, now I got it on my right side. It worked better for me. One day a Scottish family saw me playing on TV with my pipes mounted on the right side. And my drones hanging all out there. They called me and I went to their house and they said, "Mr. Harley, if you’re gonna play with your pipes on their right you have to change the pipes." So they fixed my pipes for a right handed player. They gave me my Tartan, the McCloud tartan and sent me on my merry way."
Novelty aside, as a piper Harley was reaching far back in time and reintroducing an early reed instrument to the jazz ensemble; he had the saxophone beat by a few thousand years.
Stick around to the end of the segment for a performance:
Inspired largely by De La Soul's 3 Feet High & Rising rather than Bristol's deep Caribbean soundsystem roots, "Dreams & Light" is more sunlit and jazz-induced than what would become the typical trip-hop sound.
But one can't shake the feeling that at the song's heart is a lost, connecting dot between Happy Mondays' epochal 1990 album Pills 'N' Thrills & Bellyaches—"Bob's Yer Uncle"—and both Massive Attack's landmark Blue Lines and Primal Scream's celebratory acid house comedown Screamadelica, all released the same year in 1991.
Trip-hop, in one way or another, was inevitable.
This toasting classic will never not give me pleasure...
Many families have them. Pugilists, presidents, boxers, gangsters, ballplayers, punks, authors, rappers, sultans and emperors alike are often bequeathed those small familiarities we call nicknames. Whether describing a physical trait, a habit or tic, a locale or one's royal aptitude on a particular instrument, jazz and blues musicians have never lacked for nicknames. These simple monikers offered a quick way to remember a person, their personality and appearance and as a result we are left with a colorful and intriguing list of sobriquets.
A sampling: Tiny, Slim, Fats, Pops, King, Duke, Prince, Prez, Smack, Diz, Mezz, Bean, Queen, Big, Little, Stump and Hamtree.
Champion, Skitch, Cannonball, Mr. Cleanhead, Bud, Buddy, Peanuts, Gatemouth, Memphis, Lil, Kansas, Hootie, Red, Snags and Blood.
Slick, Philly, Lucky, Fathead, Illinois, Hi, Dink, Bunk, Jellyroll, Kokomo, Texas, Posey, Lemon, Bags, Softie, Hawk, Ma and Chubby.
Bull Moose, Sonny, Pee Wee, Furry, Spike, Lightnin', Tubby, Rabbit, Big Eyes, Chippie, Fatha, Monk, Skip, Papa and Little Brother.
Big Chief, Brew, Cootie, Lord, Doc, Tampa, Satch, Muggsy, Shorty, Screamin', Howlin', Half Pint, Wild, Yack, Yank, Stovepipe and Stuff.
Kid, Sleepy, River, Mooch, Pinetop, Mississippi, Long, Jabo, Big Foot, Muddy, Corky, Lazy, Skip, Baby, Sweets, Cutty, Sunny and Zutty.
What is your jazz nickname?
"Boodle It" Wiggins:
Tiny Parham and his Musicians:
Craig Mack today:
Craig Mack yesterday:
Bill Harkleroad's Lunar Notes is a short tome recounting his time spent playing guitar in Captain Beefheart's Magic Band. It is a bitter reminiscence of working with one of the most notoriously difficult figures in avant-garde rock. Woefully underpaid and overworked, Harkleroad was tasked, from an early age, to play some of the most out, impossible, and bizarrely memorable guitar parts that have ever occurred in the history of rock music. His tenure was relatively short and yet his contributions to the pantheon of masterful fretwork remain indelible.
Whether Zoot Horn Rollo (Harkleroad's Magic Band moniker) was ever formally presented with the following list of guitar commandments, it is certain that he absorbed the essence contained within, even if purely by osmosis. The list may read as an absurd jumble of disparate advice, but when put into practice, under Beefheartian pressures, the results yield diamonds. So pay close attention, kids, this is important stuff. Dig Hubert Sumlin and remember that your guitar is a divining rod; use it to find spirits in the other world and bring them over.
Captain Beefheart's 10 Commandments of Guitar Playing
1. Listen to the birds.
That's where all the music comes from. Birds know everything about how it should sound and where that sound should come from. And watch hummingbirds. They fly really fast, but a lot of times they aren't going anywhere.
2. Your guitar is not really a guitar. Your guitar is a divining rod.
Use it to find spirits in the other world and bring them over. A guitar is also a fishing rod. If you're good, you'll land a big one.
3. Practice in front of a bush.
Wait until the moon is out, then go outside, eat a multi-grained bread and play your guitar to a bush. If the bush doesn't shake, eat another piece of bread.
4. Walk with the devil.
Old Delta blues players referred to guitar amplifiers as the "devil box." And they were right. You have to be an equal opportunity employer in terms of who you're bringing over from the other side. Electricity attracts devils and demons. Other instruments attract other spirits. An acoustic guitar attracts Casper. A mandolin attracts Wendy. But an electric guitar attracts Beelzebub.
5. If you're guilty of thinking, you're out.
If your brain is part of the process, you're missing it. You should play like a drowning man, struggling to reach shore. If you can trap that feeling, then you have something that is fur bearing.
6. Never point your guitar at anyone.
Your instrument has more clout than lightning. Just hit a big chord then run outside to hear it. But make sure you are not standing in an open field.
7. Always carry a church key.
That's your key-man clause. Like One String Sam. He's one. He was a Detroit street musician who played in the fifties on a homemade instrument. His song "I Need a Hundred Dollars" is warm pie. Another key to the church is Hubert Sumlin, Howlin' Wolf's guitar player. He just stands there like the Statue of Liberty-making you want to look up her dress the whole time to see how he's doing it.
8. Don't wipe the sweat off your instrument.
You need that stink on there. Then you have to get that stink onto your music.
9. Keep your guitar in a dark place.
When you're not playing your guitar, cover it and keep it in a dark place. If you don't play your guitar for more than a day, be sure you put a saucer of water in with it.
10. You gotta have a hood for your engine.
Keep that hat on. A hat is a pressure cooker. If you have a roof on your house, the hot air can't escape. Even a lima bean has to have a piece of wet paper around it to make it grow.
Harkleroad on Beefheart's passing: "Time erased all the injustices and I am left with all the incredible lessons learned."
"It's a pity that the world we live in is such a hopeless case. It's an unfathomable wild, dangerous world, an irrational gamble. I myself prefer to live amongst abstractions that have nothing to do with reality." ~ M.C. Escher
By the end of the 1960s, jazz began to move beyond suit-and-tie formalities and started taking a closer look at the "free love" sect. Young musicians were moving outside the orbit of blues roots, outside of jazz conventions, into even freer realms and uncharted frontiers. Free jazz had been developing since the early '60s and as the decade wore on it began to mutate further and incorporate aspects of spirituality, acid culture, and, among other musical influences, the ancient tradition of Indian ragas. It was abstraction that had everything to do with reality.
That the aggressive malaise of life in the late '60s manifested itself through the art and culture of the time was not surprising and its effects on jazz were no exception. Many seemed to think that free jazz equaled angry jazz, unhinged shrieking produced by madmen, a sort of furious, formless noise perpetrated by the artless. Others, both listeners and musicians alike, found the form to be exalted, a step closer to divinity. Punk-rock icon Henry Rollins explains the latter stance when asked why he became interested in free jazz: "It seemed as punk rock or more punk rock than punk rock, which very often played it safe.... It sounds like truth." This truth is what rings in the ears of those who can step outside of the rational, outside of convention and let this music wash over their souls. It becomes a salve.
Not all was calamity. A freely improvising musician could conjure things of magnificent beauty. If his or her fellow musicians were in sync, the music could often attain a seemingly eternal resonance, as if the sound was ascending directly from the heavens. These players were simply conduits through which the gods whispered into their ears, telling them how to proceed. Improvising is a trait inherent to jazz, although it had always occurred within a given structure, even if the structure was subject to stretching and kneading to fit a particularly inspired improvised solo. More and more of the late-'60s free players began to work with the barest of structures or without any structure at all, letting the music dictate its own directions, improvised playing became an act of divination. Where will we go today, where will it take us?
This passage from Jack London's "The Cruise of the Snark" offers a fitting analogy to those trying to understand what these crazy jazz musicians were attempting:
The acquisition of the knowledge of navigation has a strange effect on the minds of men. The average navigator speaks of navigation with deep respect. To the layman navigation is a deed and awful mystery, which feeling has been generated in him by the deep and awful respect for navigation that the layman has seen displayed by navigators. I have known frank, ingenuous, and modest young men, open as the day, to learn navigation and at once betray secretiveness, reserve, and self-importance as if they had achieved some tremendous intellectual attainment. The average navigator impresses the layman as a priest of some holy rite. With bated breath, the amateur yachtsman navigator invites one in to look at his chronometer. And so it was that our friends suffered such apprehension at our sailing without a navigator.
Enjoy! - The Khan Jamal Creative Arts Ensemble: "Inner Peace"
More proof that nothing in this so fallen world of ours is sacred:
Los Angeles (CNN) — A Flock of Seagulls' friends and fans are watching Craigslist, eBay and pawn shops for band leader Mike Score's stolen amps and instruments.
While the singer's signature floppy hair was lost years ago, Score's keyboards, guitars, drums, mics and clothing disappeared last weekend when a thief took the band's van from in front of a hotel in Downey, California, Score said.
"The van itself was found, but all the gear was taken. The van was empty," he told CNN Wednesday. Investigators are searching for fingerprints and other clues on the vehicle.
Here, have a look at a few photographic treasures from a box that hasn't been opened for about a decade! I fancied myself a photographer in my late teens and early 20s, and I took my camera to just about every show I went to. This weekend, while sorting through an old box, I found these photos of Juno at the Showoff Gallery in Bellingham, Death Cab for Cutie at their We Have the Facts and We're Voting Yes album release show at Sonic Boom Records in Fremont, and Polecat at Bob's Java Jive in Tacoma. All from 2000, I believe.
Forgive me, I don't have a scanner. These pictures of pictures will have to do for now.
Jazz hepcats, fans, and musicians alike have been known to command a parlance all their own. Inscrutable slang terms (to the layman) are bandied about and occasionally work their way into common usage. Squares are left in the dark trying to determine exactly what is meant by such things as, blew their wigs, chirp, gasser, melted out, set of seven brights, mezz or dicty. All of these aforementioned terms are collected in Cab Calloway's Hepster's Dictionary. Cab prefaces his collection by saying “Jive talk is now an everyday part of the English language... it is reasonable to assume that jive will find new avenues in such hitherto remote places as Australia, the South Pacific, North Africa, China, Italy, France, Sicily, and inevitably Germany and wherever our Armed Forces may serve."
What Mr. Calloway may not have known was that many of the "jive" terms he and others were using had already come from such hitherto remote locations and worked their way into American underworld cultures. In Luc Sante's book Low Life, he mentions the use of "flash" language already in place by the mid to late 1800s. He states: "Many flash terms have since entered the language: bender, blarney, blow-out, chum, coppers (for policemen), jimmy (a crowbar), kicking the bucket, lark, pal, swell (as a noun), square, sponge (as a verb), swag, swell-head, spot (as in to notice or recognize)." These terms were undoubtedly malleable, reshaped and reformed to fit the times and circumstances and there can be no question that jive speakers of the jazz age did just that, as well as inventing and introducing new and unique slang.
Antecedents of "jive" can be traced back even further to the publication of James Hardy Vaux's "A New and Comprehensive Vocabulary of the Flash Language" published in 1819. While many of the words are outmoded, just as many remain in use with very close approximations of the original meanings still in tact today. The author had gathered his dictionary of "dissolute and unprincipled" slang while serving time in an Australian prison and his preface to the publication reflects both his disdain for the "jive" and the delight at his deciphering such lenient and insubordinate use of language.
With the utmost deference and respect, I beg leave to submit to your perusal the following sheets. The idea of such a compilation first originated in the suggestion of a friend; and however the theme may be condemned as exceptionable by narrow minds, I feel confident you possess too much liberality of sentiment to reject its writer as utterly depraved, because he has acquired an extensive knowledge on a subject so obviously disgraceful. True it is, that in the course of a chequered and eventful life, I have intermixed with the most dissolute and unprincipled characters, and that a natural quickness of conception, and most retentive memory, have rendered me familiar with their language and system of operations...I trust the vocabulary will afford you some amusement from its novelty; and that from the correctness of its definitions, you may occasionally find it useful....
All of which brings us to Slim Gaillard. A fine multi-instrumentalist, endowed with a keen and ridiculous sense of humor, he stretched hip jazz jargon to the limit and invented his own "flash" language. With the glossy veneer of an über-hip jazzer, Slim delivered classic nuggets such as "Flat Foot Floogie (with a Floy Floy)," "Cement Mixer (Putti Putti)" and "The Groove Juice Special (Opera in Vout)." His brand of Vout was unique and O'reenie with a heavy nod toward Dada, the absurd, MacVouty, O'rissimo-reenie, nonsense and the O'roonie, it still tickles today.
Their song "Don't You" (not "You," mind you) has some legit riffage happening. Seriously. Take away the vocals, put Nat Damm on drums, and have Jon Weisnewski from Sandrider sing less yarly shit, and you'd have a 2013 hit that would make everyone barf all over their flannels with excitement.
Candlebox, for the record, play the Moore on July 20th, for their 20th anniversary. They also have a free in-store performance at Sonic Boom at 1 pm that day, too. Sandrider will be at the Capitol Hill Block Party Sunday, July 28th.
Holy shit, punk rockers! Former Operation Ivy bandmates Tim Armstrong and Jesse Michaels have collaborated on a new song! It's their first time making music together since OpIvy broke up over two decades ago.
The song's called "Living in a Dangerous Land"—it's part of the Tim Timebomb and Friends series. Have a listen if you want to skank it out:
There are some definite OpIvy guitar things happening in there—specifically at 1:13 and 1:35. I was scared to listen at first (what if I hated it!?), but I'm glad I stopped being a baby. It makes my heart really happy to hear them together again.
My intention was to catch clipping.—an trio that lesser writers might call a "noise" rap act, but for me they're so much more because they've found a way to combine my love for electro-acoustic/experimental music with hiphop. For starters, their mixtapes are insane, and they sample people like Ezra Buchla who I wrote about here.
Anyway, thanks to public transit and my childlike naivité with things like bus schedules, we arrived just in time to catch the next act, Sub Pop drunken folk poets The Baptist Generals. It blows my mind they've been gigging live in Texas and all over the world since I was a toddler, but that explains their haunting mature sound. They worked note-for-note perfect through songs from their latest Jackleg Devotional To The Heart.
During the break I cruised down to that other middle stage and happened to catch the last couple songs of the Pissed Jeans show, which ended in a jam sesh/meltdown. The lead singer dismantled the drum kit, and the bass player gave his guitar to a fan who jumped on stage so the stage managers wouldn't push him back in the crowd. It was exactly what you'd expect from a band named Pissed Jeans.
(Triple Door) As a member of Small Faces, British keyboardist Ian McLagan's earned an exalted place in the rock pantheon. His soulful swells, strident vamps, and gorgeous filigrees helped make Small Faces one of the greatest R&B/sike-pop units of the '60s. From that heady high, McLagan went on to play with Faces and Ron Wood, plus on sessions with luminaries like Chuck Berry, the Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan, Frank Black, and Nikki Sudden. He's also been a member of Billy Bragg's band since 1997 and has been leading his own trad blues-rock group in Austin, Texas, Bump Band, since 1977. Expect a combo of Small Faces/Faces tunes plus selections from his solo career; here's hoping he does "Here Comes the Nice."