Category Archives: Jazz

“We must be concerned not merely about who murdered them, but about the system, the way of life, the philosophy which produced the murderers”

John Coltrane – “Alabama” from Live At Birdland (1963)

In tardy celebration of a real American hero, we offer John Coltrane’s interpretation of Martin Luther King Jr.’s eulogy for the four girls killed in the Birmingham, Alabama 16th Street Church bombing. Learn about the connection between song and speech (and listen to a sample) here.

Chase the Trane

Posted by Glenn


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Filed under 1960s, Instrumental, Jazz

Which colors?

Charles Mingus – “Self-Portrait in Three Colors” from Mingus Ah Um (1959)

“Self-Portrait” is one of the best examples of Mingus’s beautiful polyphonic writing. Sounds like classical music, almost. This track was originally written for John Cassavettes’s first film, Shadows, and is included on Ah Um, one of the essential albums, and a good record for jazz-curious rock fans to pick up.

Buy it here

More Mingus on SWR

Posted by Glenn


Filed under 1950s, Instrumental, Jazz

Friday at the Village Vanguard

Bill Evans – “Solar” from Sunday At the Village Vanguard (1961)

Bill Evans’s four records with the otherworldly Scott LaFaro on bass and Paul Motian on drums–Portrait in Jazz, Explorations, Sunday, and Waltz For Debby–are jazz essentials and contain some of the most beautiful music ever. Known for sensitive interpretations of ballads, the trio could also tear into an uptempo tune, as evidenced by this take of Miles Davis’s “Solar” (pronounced So-LAHR). The group’s telepathic interplay is well-documented, but this track, along with many others on the above-mentioned records, remains surprising on each listen.

There’s a good reissue of the Village Vanguard dates originally presented on Sunday and Waltz.

Buy Bill here


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Filed under 1960s, Instrumental, Jazz

“We played down to earth and together and I think this music has a tremendous amount of life and emotion”

Charles Mingus – “Peggy’s Blue Skylight” from Tonight at Noon (1964)

Originally recorded at the 1961 Oh Yeah! sessions, “Peggy’s Blue Skylight” features Mingus in a rare appearance on piano. I think it’s one of his best mellow bopish compositions (see also: “Reincarnation of a Lovebird”). Check Rahsaan Roland Kirk’s weird tone throughout: he starts on manzello, a modified straight alto saxophone, and switches to tenor after Mingus’s piano solo. The rest of the lineup:

Booker Ervin: tenor saxophone
Jimmy Knepper: trombone
Doug Watkins: bass
Dannie Richmond: drums

Better Git Hit in Yo Soul

In other news: last night, I heard two CCR albums back to back on the bar jukebox. The blog gods may be cursing me. I like Creedence! I swear I do!

Posted by Glenn


Filed under 1960s, Instrumental, Jazz

The madness of crowds

Baker Hunt Sandstrom Williams – “Experiments on Animals in Space” from Extraordinary Popular Delusions (2007)

Kudos to Chicago’s finest improvising ensemble for paying homage to Charles MacKay’s apparently classic text on, as the t-shirt some jackass in your high school biology class wore states, “the power of stupid people in large groups.”

Jim Baker (piano, synths, ARP organ), Steve Hunt (drums), Brian Sandstrom (bass, guitar), and Mars Williams (reeds) play a weekly Tuesday night gig at Chicago’s Hotti Biscotti (3545 W. Fullerton, 3 blocks from my old place) that you must check out if you’re ever in the neighborhood. The music is of the free-jazz energy music ilk–i.e., not for the faint of heart–but unlike most of those experiments, Baker & co. remain interesting after 15 minutes of listening. The group listens to each other and responds and communicates as well as any of the great jazz ensembles. Their new album demonstrates their sympathetic improvising, but to hear them live on a Tuesday night is to know you are in the presence of real power, real art.

There’s an interesting video from the Gear Wire Web site featuring Jim Baker talking gear; also included are a couple nice clips of the group at top form.

Buy the experiment here

Take a look at the book here

Baker Hunt Sandstrom Williams
live every Tuesday, 8:30 pm (it’s free!)
Hotti Biscotti
3545 W. Fullerton Ave.
Chicago IL

Posted by Glenn

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Filed under 2000s, Experimental, Instrumental, Jazz

Bitchin’ Brew

Miles Davis – “Double Image” (1970)
Miles Davis – “Take It or Leave It” (1970)

These two Zawinul-penned tunes were recorded with a similar lineup to that on Bitches Brew, about six months after that record was tracked. These songs were not released until 1998’s The Complete Bitches Brew Sessions, a great compilation of the early fusion Miles recorded in 1969 and early 1970 featuring many beautiful Joe Zawinul compositions.

RIP Joe Zawinul.

I was in a mall department store the other day when a soul singer version of “Mercy, Mercy, Mercy” came on over the intercom. Try to avoid that version.

Buy Zawinul solo here

Buy Weather Report here

Posted by Glenn

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Filed under 1970s, Experimental, Instrumental, Jazz, Rock

Miles Davis – “John McLaughlin” from Bitches Brew (1970)

Mahavishnu Orchestra – “Miles Beyond (Miles Davis)” from Birds of Fire (1973)

I think John McLaughlin is one of the few guitarists who actually deserved two necks on his guitar.

Bend an ear and check it out as Miles and McLaughlin pay homage to one another.

And may Joe Zawinul rest in peace.  Glenn – I think you’re better qualified to post something to honor the man.

Buy the Mahavishnu John McLaughlin here

or Bitches Brew here

Posted by Jordy


Filed under 1970s, Experimental, Jazz, Rock