Charlie Brown Christmas

Selecting Christmas music in my house is usually the source of some great disgreement. I like all the freaky jazz versions of Christmas tunes, which my wife thinks are way too weird, and the stuff she likes, I think is way too cheesy.

We always end up finally agreeing on the Charlie Brown Christmas soundtrack.

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It has been reissued with 4 alternate takes and groovy new packaging.

George Benson & Al Jarreau – Givin’ It Up

Every so often I’ll get an email from On Target Media Group touting the newest project that they are running PR for. It usually has a link to some streaming files, and an offer to send a review copy if I’d like one. It is usually some sort of smooth jazz release. The first time I responded and told them that I don’t usually listen to or write about much smooth jazz, but if they had anything more adventuresome to send it my way.

I kept getting the emails, but nothing seemed more adventuresome, so I just ignored them. Then I got an email about the new CD by George Benson & Al Jarreau. I had seen some print and TV ads for it, and the concept stirred my curiousity. I had no plans to buy it, but if someone wanted to give me a copy I would certainly check it out.

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Al Jarreau was a big part of my journey into jazz as a teenager. The bass player at our school had older brothers that were into music, and much of their taste affected my early taste. This was the mid-80′s and Jarreau tunes like “Boogie Down” and “Morning” got a lot of play in my car cassette deck. They were catchy and had a groove that made my body want to move. I further explored the Jarreau catalogue and got back to the fine live album “Look to The Rainbow” which I found moving on multiple levels.

My listening moved further away from the mainstream, and Jarreau left my playlists for the most part. I was hoping this new CD would give me a great flash of mid-80′s Jarreau nostalgia, but it hasn’t really. Maybe my ears have just changed too much. Jarreau has always been slick and polished, but there was some fire up under the polish in the old days. This disc feels more calculated than passionate. The Jarreau I knew in my youth wouldn’t have done “Four” as a medium slow swing, it would have been a burner.

It really isn’t fair for me to review this disc, because I am not it’s target audience. The CD is well done. The production and musicianship are all first class. My tastes just don’t line up with the tastes of the producers of this disc. I don’t want to make it sound like the whole disc is bland muzak, it’s not. Only some of it is bland muzak. Some of it is good music.

Free Play

free play cover

Read this book!

The professionalism of technique and the flash of dexterity are more comfortable to be around than raw creative power; hence our society generally rewards virtuoso performers more highly than it rewards original creators.

…if you create your own material your own way, developing artwork that is more and more authentically yours, people will spot it as genuine. In resisting the temptation to accessibility, you are not excluding the public; on the contrary, you are creating a genuine space and inviting people in.

Just a couple of my favorite parts of the book. This should be required reading for anyone who wishes to advance their creativity, in any discipline.

Alex Rawls on definitive

In this week’s Pop Life column, Alex Rawls talks about definitive recordings.

offBeat :: Pop Life

Rob Wagner addressed this subject once when his “Lost Children” album was coming out. He talked about having a hard time getting excited about the CD not because he wasn’t happy with it, but because the recorded versions didn’t represent anything special to him. They weren’t the best versions of those compositions that he had ever performed, only the best of those performed at the session, and when he played those compositions in the future, they would never sound exactly like the album. In short, there wasn’t really anything authoritative about those versions, even though listeners tend to treat recorded versions of songs as THE versions.

This fits in with the Ken Vandermark championed idea that recordings aren’t particularly good ways to experience a band. Hearing improvisers regularly over a period of time is a much better way to understand the essence and progression of a group’s music.

Dave Douglas is using technology to get closer to this ideal.

Just outside

Brian Olewnick has some interesting thoughts about writing about friends and acquaintances.

Just outside

That said….I can’t deny that my perceptions of someone’s music is often biased to one degree or another by either what I think of them personally or, if I don’t actually know them, by what impression their (perceived) personality has made on me. It can work both ways.

Malachai Ritscher

Chicago Reader Blogs: Post No Bills – Malachi Ritscher’s apparent suicide

On Saturday the Sun-Times ran a small item about a man who had set himself on fire during rush hour Friday morning near the Ohio Street exit on the Kennedy. His identity had not been determined at the time, but members of the local jazz and improvised music community now say they are certain it was Malachi Ritscher, a longtime supporter of the scene.

I didn’t know Malachai Ritscher. He ran a site that had listings for all of the happenings in the Chicago jazz/improv scene. It was a service he provided to the community.

Apparently Malachai immolated himself in protest of the direction the United States is taking. Some people might dismiss him as a mad man. Even if he was a mad man, I know many crazy people that do not have the strength of conviction to set themselves on fire to raise awareness of injustice. Regardless of how any of us feel about Malachai’s final act or the ideas that led him to it, I hope his ultimately sincere dedication to his beliefs will lead us all to really think about how we live our lives and uphold our responsibilities as citizens.