Category Archives: Live

On John Coltrane and “Burning Out”

Coltrane on soprano sax, Eric Dolphy on bass clarinet.

Coltrane on soprano sax, Eric Dolphy on bass clarinet.

John Coltrane -“India” from The Complete 1961 Village Vanguard Recordings (1997)

John Coltrane – “Jupiter” from Interstellar Space (1972)

I’ve wanted to do a post on John Coltrane for a while now, and given our recent discussions of “Burning out vs. fading away,” I figured now was as good a time as any (Coltrane died at age 40 of liver cancer). I’ll start by talking about Coltrane’s music.

The first track is “India,” recorded in 1961 at New York City’s Village Vanguard jazz club. I love the instrumentation here — Coltrane on soprano sax, Eric Dolphy (another premature death, 1964 at age 36) on bass clarinet, McCoy Tyner on piano, Jimmy Garrison and Reggie Workman on bass, Elvin Jones on drums, Ahmed Abdul-Malik on oud, and Gavin Bushnell on oboe. Now, until hearing Dolphy’s bass clarinet solo here, I thought bass clarinet was the domain of unpopular girls in high school bands, but I now know better. The liner notes to The Complete 1961 Village Vanguard Recordings say that the oud is providing the drone heard throughout the piece, but I don’t know much about the oud, and don’t know how it can create a drone (the liner notes also mention that there is indeed some confusion as to exactly what instrument is being played here). Any string players care to enlighten me? Also I have a hard time telling the soprano sax and oboe apart, but I think the first solo is Coltrane, and the third is Bushnell, but I’m not sure. Both sound equally squeaky to me. They both could be Coltrane. The second solo is the bass clarinet.

This music was revolutionary in 1961, a mere two years after Miles Davis’ Kind of Blue (which featured Coltrane) was released. Compared to this, Kind of Blue, which is a great bop album, sounds relentlessly structured. These Vanguard concerts, recorded over four nights in November of 1961, showed Coltrane already moving away from the hard bop style and into the free jazz exhibited on his later albums.

The second track is “Jupiter,” from Interstellar Space. This is a particularly interesting album, as it consists entirely of duets between Coltrane on tenor sax (and sleigh bells, as heard at the beginning and end of this track) and Rashied Ali on drums. This was the result of one of Coltrane’s final studio sessions, recorded in February 1967 (he died in August of that year). The album was released posthumously. I like this album quite a bit. It is as “free” as Coltrane ever got in his soloing, and yet it is never overwhelming like Ascension (Coltrane’s msot famous and most ambitious free jazz album) can sometimes be with its eleven musicians.

The Coltrane myth, as most every early-death-of-a-musician-myth does, centers on the question of what he would have done had he not died when he did. And the answer, plain and simple,  is that we will never know.

Now, on the question of burning out versus fading away, which Jordy’s recent post raised. I have been thinking about it in terms of why we tend to give artists who die prematurely more notoriety than those whose lives are not cut short. Glenn mentioned in a comment to Jordy’s post that premature death is good for the myth of an artist. I think that is true, but I’d like to take the discussion a bit further. The reason artists (not just musicians) oftentimes get more attention if they die prematurely is due to our society’s attitudes about death. We are afraid of death, in part because it is the great unknown. I think that we look to the work of artists who have died prematurely for insight into the big black hole of death. We think that maybe, because they died “before their time” (whatever that means), their art holds they key to understanding the one thing that no living person can truly understand. Of course, when these artists were alive they were just as clueless as we are, but we listen to their music or study their books or paintings in hopes that they will have some kind of  insight into this whole death thing.

I’m speaking entirely about Western traditions here — I know next to nothing about Eastern traditions regarding these matters. Can anyone out there shed some light on how these things are viewed in the non-Western world?

Buy the Trane

Posted by Adam



Filed under 1960s, Americana, Experimental, Instrumental, Jazz, Live

“Ended with a cry”

Neil Young (w/ the Buffalo Springfield) – “Expecting to Fly” from Buffalo Springfield Again (1967)

The latest Neil Young Archives Performance Series recordings will be released next week as Sugar Mountain – Live at Canterbury House 1968.   These archives releases have been very exciting for me.  I found the Live at Massey Hall 1971 recordings to be a refreshing collection of songs which I had previously known only by their studio versions.

This latest record (streaming in its entirety here) is a similar revelation.  It includes many songs that would appear on his S/T album the following year (“The Loner,” “I’ve Been Waiting for You,” “The Old Laughing Lady,” and the horrible “Last Trip to Tulsa”).  But I particularly enjoy the stripped-down Buffalo Springfield songs like “Broken Arrow,” “Expecting to Fly,” and “Out of My Mind” (possibly the most beautiful song on the album).

It shows what a skillful businessman Neil is that fans are anxiously awaiting his albums 40 years after they were recorded.

Make sure to listen to it at the NPR link above

Order here

Posted by Jordy


Filed under 1960s, Live, Rock

Moses come ridin’ up on a quasar: A Somewhat Brief Primer To ’70s Live Dead

The Grateful Dead – “Greatest Story Ever Told” from Steppin’ Out With The Grateful Dead: England 1972
The Grateful Dead – “Not Fade Away > Playing In The Band” from Dick’s Picks Vol 10: Winterland, 12/29/1977
The Grateful Dead – “Scarlet Begonias > Fire On The Mountain” from Barton Hall, Cornell University, 5/8/1977
The Grateful Dead – “Friend of the Devil” from American Beauty (1972)

A few weeks back, my pal (and excellent poet) Ryland burned me two discs of the very best of the Grateful Dead, live in the ’70s. As my brother says, “It’s good to have a Deadhead friend, to seperate the wheat from the chaff.” Or the leaves from the stems and seeds, as it were. Here are a few excerpts for all SWR-heads.

“Greatest Story” is good-time boogie rock. “Not Fade Away” is a frantic Buddy Holly cover that segues into (the separate mp3) “Playing in the Band,” in this iteration an ambient groove. (A glance at that night’s setlist shows that versions of “Playing” were scattered throughout the set.) “Scarlet > Fire” is (I’m told) the classic version from a classic show. And “Friend of the Devil” for all y’all who don’t like 20 minute noodle-fests. There’s certainly more Dead to be heard (just trying googling, good god), but these tracks represent the pinnacle of what I’ve listened to, so far.

Buy the Dead

Download the Dead

Or check out setlists here

Posted by Glenn


Filed under 1970s, Americana, Folk, Live, Psychedelic, Rock, Space rock

“Did you have a friend on the good Reuben James?”

The Trio in their heyday. Back to front: Dave Guard, Bob Shane, Nick Reynolds

The Kingston Trio – “Sinking of the Reuben James” from Live at the Crazy Horse (1994)

I’m posting this because one of the founding members of The Kingston Trio, Nick Reynolds, has just died.  The Kingston Trio was at the forefront of the 1960’s folk music revival.  Their popularity in the late 1950’s and early 60’s (They had four top 10 albums in 1959 alone.  The Beatles are only other group to have four top ten albums in a single year) paved the way for the likes of Peter, Paul and Mary, The Byrds, and the Beach Boys, not to mention Bob Dylan and his contemporaries.

A live recording of the Kingston Trio captures the between-song jokes and banter that their studio recordings lack.  This particular recording was made in 1992 and lacks the contributions of Dave Guard, another founding member of the Trio, who died in 1991.  But 2/3 of the original Trio, Nick Reynolds and Bob Shane, are present, along with George Grove, who performed with various incarnations of the Trio for over 20 years.

Buy the Trio

Posted by Adam


Filed under 1950s, 1990s, Acoustic, Americana, Folk, Live, Traditional

“Immerse your soul in love”

Radiohead – “Street Spirit (Fade Out)” – Performed live at the All Points West Festival, Jersey City, NJ, August 8, 2008.

Radiohead – “There, There” – Live at All Points West, 8-8-08

Radiohead – “Jigsaw Falling Into Place” – Live at All Points West, 8-8-08

I was lucky enough to see Radiohead live on two consecutive nights this summer at the All Points West Festival in Jersey City, NJ.  The Radioheads sure know how to put on a good show.  All of these tracks come from the Friday night show, on August 8.

The band is very tight and together when they play live, as evidenced by these recordings.  It is difficult to hear the contributions of each individual band member on the albums; seeing them live gives one a new appreciation for the structure of a Radiohead song.  After seeing them live, I’ve discovered some of my favorite parts of certain songs are the background vocals provided by Ed O’Brien (he’s the tall one).  Listen for these especially on “There, There.”  The first comes about 1:57 into the song.  I never paid much attention to these lines before because they just sound like mumbling if you don’t know the actual words being sung (read the lyrics here), but knowing what Ed is actually singing has added a new dimension to this song for me.

“Street Spirit (Fade Out)” is my favorite song from The Bends.  The song sounds completely hopeless until the final lines:  “Immerse your soul in love.”

“Jigsaw Falling Into Place” is a standout track from In Rainbows, the band’s latest effort, which is some of their best work yet.

Buy their albums if for some reason you don’t already have them all

Posted by Adam


Filed under 1990s, 2000s, Live, Rock

“Far as I can see, she loves me”

Captain Beefheart & His Magic Band – “Her Eyes Are A Blue Million Miles (live)” from I’m Going To Do What I’m Going To Do: Live At My Father’s Place 1978

Thanks to the good folks over at The Mixed Tape Film Series, I recently got the chance to watch The Big Lebowski on the big screen-ski. Cheap beer and free pizza at the best theater in town guaranteed a good time for all. As a bonus, I noticed for the first time that this song, one of Beefheart’s best, appears in the movie. (It’s during the part where the Dude mixes a white russian and listens to his answering machine.) Here’s a killer live version.

You’re not dealing with morons here, SWR loves Beefheart

Don Van Vliet: it’s what’s for dinner

Posted by Glenn “not exactly a lightweight”

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Filed under 1970s, Live, Rock

A cappella battle, round 1

Which is the better a cappella group: world-music purveyors Yeasayer, or world-class fuckheads Rage Against The Machine?

You tell me.

Goddamn, do I hate Rage Against The Machine.

Buy Yeasayer (it’s a pretty darn good album)
Buy Rage

Posted by Glenn


Filed under 2000s, Live, Rock, Video