Darius Milhaud – Composer and Teacher

dm1   Darius Milhaud was a composer and teacher who fled the Nazis and came to the United States in 1940. Once here, he taught at Mills College in San Francisco. Among his graduate students were Dave Brubeck and Burt Bacharach. Before coming to the US, he had long been an acclaimed composer and musical force of nature. He composed quickly and prolifically.

Le Boeuf Sur Le Toit

 

dmdb2   La Creation Du Monde

As a young man, he acted as secretary to the French ambassador to Brazil and soaked up the popular music there, including that of Ernesto Nazereth and the music surrounding Carnaval. These sounds found their way into many of his compositions, notably Le Boeuf Sur La Toit and his Suadades do Brasil. He also traveled to New York, in the twenties, where he heard jazz in Harlem. This influence can be heard in his La Creation Du Monde.

dm6   He doesn’t smile much in pictures, but he does in his music.

One of three waltzes from Madame Bovary

He was grouped together with Satie and Poulenc as part of Les Six, French composers reacting to the heavy influence of Wagner and Richard Strauss. His music drew on all of these influences and on the rich classical traditions of France. Later, he wrote an autobiography, which sums up his many years of creativity called, My Happy Life. That about says it all. What a lucky guy.

Two selections from my all-time favorite –  Suite Provencale

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Jose Neto – Beneath the Electronics

Jose1   Jose Neto recorded an album in 1987 that, for me, has never gotten old. It’s acoustic guitar and original compositions. I’ve played it a million times. Okay, not a million, but a lot.

With The Trees

jose6.jpg   He’s originally from Brazil and started playing at age four, giving him lots of time to practice. Before this album, Mountains and the Sea, he had played with Henry Belafonte, Paquito D’Rivera, Herbie Mann and Airto Moreira. There’s a great tune on the Airto album, Humble People, called Move It on Up that shows him developing the electric chops that would serve him well in the future. Since all this stuff in the past, he’s played a lot of fusion guitar and toured and collaborated with Steve Winwood, but it’s these old tunes that really get me.

 San Francisco

The music is quiet, melodic, sweet, mysterious. It’s a moment of creation that I’m glad didn’t get away. It’s funny how these things stay with us.

jose3   Aide

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It Really Is Pretty Unusual – Tom Jones and Howlin’ Wolf

The magnificent and commanding voices of Brenda Lee and Tracy Nelson have been featured here before and have been known to drive, not only myself, but also many other listeners wild. There’s a masculine counterpart to this.

tj4   It’s Not Unusual

This morning I woke up with the voice of Tom Jones in my head. His voice is no shrinking violet, if you know what I mean. It’s big. Like theirs, it’s huge. It comes from somewhere around his toes and makes full use of the cavern that is his diaphragm to gather its strength and power and, when he lets it loose, all one can do is stand back and appreciate the joy of singing. I can only imagine how much fun it must be to be able to do that.

tj1   Pretty dreamy.

In my car and in the shower, I have been known to let myself go. For a moment, I have allowed myself a similar sense of freedom and joined in and felt a small part of that joy. At times, in the early morning, I have heard myself hit notes of a frequency that might impress Junior Brown, but it’s only a small act of homage to the truly miraculous.

tj2

A wise man, Jack Lee, in a band named OZ, once said, There are painters and paint makers, everybody does their share. He didn’t feel the need to say, There are singers and everybody else are listeners. Trying is admirable, but it might be better to leave it to the professionals. I don’t know about you, but I can hear the difference.

hw1

Another voice I heard this morning was Howlin’ Wolf’s. I’m sure Tom Jones is a fan and, though both have voices that seem to bust out of the mists of myth, they are quite distinct. One thing that distances them from Brenda Lee and Tracy Nelson, besides their sex, is that instead of being quite small with huge voices, they are huge guys with voices that seem only possible because of, rather than in spite of, their size.

hw6   Smokestack Lightning

Whatever the source and whatever the reason, these voices and their existence in our lives is cause for celebration. It would be too sad to think what I would be missing, without their example to direct me to what’s possible. But I have to warn you, if you see that look in my eye and I begin to open my mouth, stand back and cover your ears. I’m not kidding.

 

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Stan Getz – Cool Forever

getz4   Stan Getz always sounded like a big guy to me. His tenor saxophone sound was huge, round, mellow. He idolized Lester Young and learned the lessons of simplicity and soulfulness from him and stayed with it his whole life.

How Deep Is The Ocean

 

getz5  

O Grande Amor

He played with everyone during the classic period of jazz between the thirties and the eighties. He was Jack Teagarden’s ward when he was in his band, because he was too young to be on his own. He played with Benny Goodman, Woody Herman, and Johnny Smith. He replaced Art Pepper in Stan Kenton’s band. Think about that.

getz2      Eu E VoceHis playing was called, The Sound, because it was so distinctive, romantic, and the essence of cool. It was breathy, direct, and full of endless melodic improvisation. It seems like he was instrumental (!) in bringing Bossa Nova to America because of his recordings with Luis Bonfa, Tom Jobim, and Astrud and Joao Gilberto, but that was just an interlude.

getz1   I’m Old Fashioned

He kept moving on and playing with all kinds of young players coming up. He won a bunch of Grammys and his sound and melodic abilities have kept him popular and influential ever since.

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Instrumental – What you say?

HO2It’s a specialty in Rock and Roll. And a fairly rare one. There’s a tune, but no lyrics. It’s sounds okay. What the hell, roll the tape. Or, the band or the producer or the producer’s wife is adamant. Somehow, it actually gets released.

The Happy Organ – Dave “Baby” Cortez

The reasons are lost in the dim light of the past, but we can speculate. The band had someone’s brother in it. It was a complete accident, not to say, mistake. The tapes got mixed up. The dog ate the playlist.

bookert3   Green Onions – Booker T and the MGs

Or, it just happened to drive everyone crazy. The tune had everything, it had it all – the sound, the intention, the performance, the feel, the hook. It was an act of God. Who knows? And, when it works, it can exist in the ether with the best of them. It needs no clever lyric, no teen angel, no brown sugar, no blue moon. It’s just a bunch of guys playing and rocking out.

huhg2   Grazin’ In The Grass – Hugh Masekela

Of course, there’s a continuum. On one end, there’s The Happy Organ, which, somehow, was a number one hit in 1959, and on the other, something really special like Honky Tonk, Grazing in the Grass, or Embryonic Journey. For every great instrumental, there are fifty or a hundred or a thousand that went nowhere, got on everyone’s nerves, and sunk into oblivion. The Happy Organ? It has something. I mean, it does sound happy and has that guitar break, but Number One?

doggett1  Honky Tonk Pt. 2 – Bill Doggett

In the early days of rock and roll, the electric guitar was so unusual (and you could play it so loud) that there were a bunch of guys twanging it up, instrumentalists all –Duane Eddy (The Big Twanger), Santo and Johnny, Lonnie Mack, Johnny and the Hurricanes, Link Wray, and others. But for the most part, instrumental tunes, or the ones that made the charts, were not that common.

deddy3   Rebel Rouser – Duane Eddy

Sure, people were dancing all the time, but it was only natural that they’d want to sing along. Especially, while listening to the radio in the car, trying to get away from their parents.

A lot of these catchy numbers make you wonder how many times they can repeat the same riff without being embarrassed or when, oh, when, the whole experience will mercifully be over. But some of them – Holy Cow!

champs2Tequila – The Champs

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Tracy Nelson – Deep Are The Roots

tnelson5   On the cover of Tracy Nelson’s first album, she’s posing on a stoop in a leather jacket with a guitar case almost as big as she is. She looks like she’s about sixteen. Over the years, she hasn’t gotten any taller, but she has created a legacy of great music and powerful singing. That’s the thing, her voice in relation to her size is just like that case, it’s huge. And it’s always been huge. You don’t build or train or create a voice like that, you’re born with it. She hits a note and it vibrates physically and emotionally and stops you in your tracks. The only equivalent I can think of is Brenda Lee, another huge voice.

tnelson4   Mother Earth

She went to Chicago for that first album, which, way back then, featured Charlie Musselwhite on harmonica. She went out to San Francisco and formed a great band, Mother Earth, that was R & B, Blues, and Country and ended up in Nashville, at a time when there weren’t many women there who didn’t have hair a couple of feet tall, rather than long and straight.

tnelson1   Down So Low

Over the years, she’s recorded many albums and written and covered many great songs. She wrote the classic, Down So Low, which emerged straight from her old soul and set the standard for everything afterwards. She’s had a ton of great players in her bands, likes dogs and cats, went to Central High School in Madison, and is singing and making great music this very minute. She was in a notable trio with Irma Thomas and Marcia Ball and presently performs with the Blues Broads, driving people crazy wherever they play. She’s also supplying us with a steady stream of old gospel tunes on Facebook.

tnelson3   Wait, Wait, Wait

She’s one of the great ones. Always staying on track, singing her heart out, and making it count. She’s been right there all along.

tnelson2   I Feel So Good

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Jimmy Reed – Classic!

jreed163   Jimmy Reed wrote a lot of songs that are so on the money that it seems like they have been around forever. They’re simple and straightforward and chug along, while he drawls out the vocals and whines on harmonica. They’re blues that are the essence of blues. You can’t miss him.

jreed6   Bright Lights, Big City

VJShame   Shame, Shame, Shame

He’s so relaxed; it’s sometimes hard to understand him. His attitude is a lack of attitude. He’s in the big city, his baby left him, he’s going to get drunk, he’s asking deep questions, he’s in trouble, he loves his woman, he’s hurting, he’s sad, and he’s overjoyed. He’s funny. He’s great radio. He’s out of control, but in the pocket. His Vee Jay records are wonderful, every side. His songs are so simple that anyone can play them and has. And, will.

jreed162   Honest I Do

Babywhat   Baby, What You Want Me To Do

In the beginning, he practiced in the alley. He had personal problems. He drank a bit, as he would say, which allowed his epilepsy to go uncovered for too long. He had 18 Top 20 hits between 1955-1961. He influenced everyone from other blues guys to the Stones, Van Morrison, The Grateful Dead, Stevie Wonder, and Bob Dylan. He’s gone, but he’s always there. Once heard, never forgotten.

jreed164   Going To New York

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