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March 29, 2010


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Jason M.

What? No Arcade Fire, Glenn? Jeff Wells would NOT be pleased...


Before Rushmore existed, I learned of "Here Comes My Baby" from Yo La Tengo's cover on their Fakebook LP. Which means... uh, nothing, really, except that I guess I have more than one association with that song.

James Keepnews

Always delighted to see some Canterbury leavened with some harmolodics. One of the highlights of Ornette's 80th birthday celebration on WKCR a few weeks ago was mos def their playing of Skies -- I could listen to Ornette's orchestral work exclusively, forever.

You're braver than I when it comes to late-period (read: anything after Fourth) Softs, though there's plenty of not-bad material in there somewhere, usually with John Marshall on drums. It's just a different band without the great Mr. Wyatt, even as Third moved towards fusion and away from inspired, robust-chopped psych pop. I rented the SMOKING Live in Paris 1970 DVD and even as the rest of the group was pushing Robert out the door at that point, his contributions are simply astonishing. Don't want to take anything away from Robert the Red's subsequent agitpop -- or his dreamy post-Marxist works like Shleep -- but I still greatly mourn the loss of the mighty Wyatt in the drum chair.

Such items remind me of a remark made by Mr. Terry Gross, Francis Davis, about one of the recent complete Miles box sets (Cellar Door sessions, mebbe?). He sugtgested that fusion might owe alot more to prog than jazz. He meant it as a diss, but I suspect you and I and all the Bill Laswells we know would embrace it as high praise, indeed.

Tony Dayoub

Nice to know you're also a fan of Clifford Brown. One of my favorite albums I own is CLIFFORD BROWN WITH STRINGS.

Dan Coyle

I watched She's Out of My League last night- actually, I left when they tried to mine comedy out of Jay Baruchel shaving his nads to make it more acceptable for Eve to blow him. Really. Not one, not two, but THREE shots of Baruchel's ass.

Alice Eve is actually very likable, and most of the cast is entirely too undeserving of the shitty material. Baruchel and Geoff Stults excepted.

Noam Sane

I'm completely shuffled now - I can rarely listen to a single CD all the way through. I need the jolt; from the Dirtbomb's "Your Love (Belongs under a Rock)," say, into Lester Young's "All of Me,", then Shostakovich's Waltz #3. And so on. This makes life worth living.


I rarely put my iPod on Shuffle, because as a professional rock hack I use it for a lot of listening-for-money, which means I gotta listen to entire albums, or as much of them as I can stand. I will note, though, that I have three of the above-cited discs in my own 160GB behemoth (34,211 songs at present, and probably would be many more if a bunch of 'em weren't half-hour '70s Miles Davis epics) - the Max Roach/Clifford Brown Quintet, Tony Allen and Einstürzende Neubauten.

Matthew Fisher

The Songbooks sit atop the topmost shelf, for sure. Whenever I listen to "Let's Call The Whole Thing Off," I anticipate the moment when she sings, "vanilla, vanella/chocolate, strawberry." If ever, in a galaxy far, far away, an alien picked up a transmission of the song, it would probably hightail it all the way to Earth in search of a strange and wondrous thing called "strawberry," only to be roused to great vengeance and furious anger upon discovery that the actual fruit doesn't begin to approach the sublimity embodied in Fitzgerald's creation ("straaa-BERRY!"). The alien would then probably decimate the planet (with great vengeance and furious anger). The moral? Well... I think you know what I'm trying to say.

Glenn: Speaking of must-own music, I'd like to know what Louis Armstrong recordings/compilations you think are essential.

Glenn Kenny

I'm flattered you ask, Matthew. The Armstrongs I go back to most frequently are:

"The Complete Hot Five And Hot Seven Recordings," and yes, I think the Columbia version sounds fine; in any case, these sides are where Armstrong pretty much defined popular music;

"New Orleans Night," just a spectacular session from 1957, reuniting him with pianist Earl Hines;

"The Great Summit," with Duke Ellington;

"Plays W.C. Handy," and "Satch Plays Fats," two great tribute albums.

Those should keep you very happy for a good long time.

Pete Apruzzese

For Louis Armstrong - add in "Satchmo Plays King Oliver" (the LP on Audio Fidelity & the Classic Records LP reissue have spectacular sound quality as well). Ditto to Glenn's other Armstrong selections.

Roger Mexico

There is no better place to start than The Complete Hot Five and Hot Seven's. As Gary Giddin's tells, they can suck you in, and before you know it, months, years have gone by and you are still discovering and enjoying just what is going on there:

""West End Blues" is an amazing recording and I guess everybody can remember the first time they heard it. I, when I was 15 I bought a copy ofLouis Armstrong and Earl Hines. And I put it on and the first track was "Basin Street Blues" and I was so astounded by that that I had to take the needle off the record and just kind of get my breath. It took me about 6 months to get through the whole side of the record, you know, memorizing and learning each track before I would go on to the next one. And I've, no doubt in my mind that Armstrong was, you know, just the greatest figure in contemporary music and where could he go beyond that? And then I turned the album over after some six months and the first track is you hear that cadenza bop, bop, bop, boo, dop, boo, dop...... "West End Blues." It was a complete kind of, kind, it confirmed everything that I already believe"

That moment in Basin Street Blues when the trumpet solo takes off, then the band jumps up in enthusiasm, just elevates for maybe 30 seconds and then dips back down into that softer sounds of the finish...wow.

To relate this all to film, well, is there a finer use of music in a film than "West End Blues" in "Killer of Sheep"? Maybe others on that level but better? Probably not.

Just like that famous Dostoyevsky quote: "We all come out from Gogol's 'Overcoat', Miles Davis could say: "You can't play anything on a horn that Louis hasn't played." The "Rosetta Stone of Jazz" indeed.

And it would be highly reccomended to track down a good compilation of King Oliver recordings as well. Of course, Armstrong played with Oliver and those, and the Oliver recordings without Armstrong in the group, are just mindblowing and amazing in themselves.

Paul Johnson

A lot of people stop at early Armstrong, before he became a pop figure, but I adore a lot of his 30s material, and especially if you love his voice (and more than one critic has observed that Armstrong virtually invented American popular singing), the 30s material is almost as important as the hot five and seven's recordings.

Partly for that reason, I recommend Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, a box set which dips into the post-Fives and Sevens period, and also includes some generous selections from his King Oliver days.

If by some miracle you can find a relatively cheap copy, get The Complete Decca Master Takes 1935-39, which I find as funny, surprising, and revelatory as the Hot Five and Seven records.There's a followup compilation covering his work at Decca during the 40s that's almost as strong and equally out of print.

Let me second (or is third or fourth or fifth) the recommendation of those tribute albums to Handy, Waller, and Oliver he did in the fifties. For some reason, the King Oliver one doesn't seem to be in print, but it might be my favorite, particularly for a sublime version of St. James Infirmary found therein.

He collaborated fruitfully with Ella Fitzgerald, and the album Ella & Louis sounds like the happiest music ever recorded.

Finally, two single disc compilations worth owning - the Ken Burns Jazz disc really is perfect. I won't say it boils it down to the essentials, because so much besides is essential, but it does an excellent job of creating a rounded portrait of Armstrong, giving one a sense of Armstrong the innovator and the entertainer, and the ways that persona and its contradictions evolved over the decades. 18 Most Requested Songs does an excellent job demonstrating why Armstrong became such a beloved singer, not just in America, but in the world, where he served as a formidable ambassador of American pop culture.

If by this point you've found that you've become a hopeless fanatic, and if you have any sense you will, take a look at
All of Me: The Complete Discography of Louis Armstrong by Jos Willems, and marvel at the lifetime of work you have to do to begin to catch up with Armstrong.

Bruce Reid

Giddins's film on Armstrong ended (how could it not) with "What a Wonderful World", but it was a lovely, stripped-down arrangement, with only keyboards chiming in steady accompaniment. Could anyone point me to a collection with that version?

Pete Segall

As long as the subject of technological devices has been raised... okay, sorry, that's really tortured. I just have to veer far off-topic and I apologize for it. But I'd like to ask the host and esteemed commentatorship here: We're in the market for a Blu-Ray player - any recommendations? We're pretty staunchly midrange in what we're looking for. Thanks.

Glenn Kenny

Pete, I swear by my PS3 for domestic discs, if that's all you're going for. If foreign region is your thing, the OPPO has been working great for me...up to a point. Drop me an e-mail at glennkenny@mac.com or send me a Facebook message and I'll be happy to go into more detail with you.


All great selections, but the majority don't strike me as motivational in the I-want-to-run-in-place-on-a-machine-for-an-hour type of way. No doubt, they could, however, inspire me to roll a fatty & consume brownies! ;-)

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