kamasi washington - heaven and earth

Kamasi Washington: Heaven and Earth (2018)

Day 11 of the #mayvinylchallenge is the Best Total Package, and the fact is that in my relatively brief time collecting vinyl (about three years) I never purchased any box sets. It’s only recently that I started focusing on new vinyl at all; most of my vinyl was purchased used. So I’ll twist this a little bit to talk about the wonder I experienced with Heaven and Earth, the massive multi-record set from jazz saxophonist and composer Kamasi Washington. Beautiful packaging, and a sweet surprise I never would have known about hidden in the seams.

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archie shepp - four for trane

Archie Shepp: Four For Trane (1964)

Much as I enjoy a good cover song, I don’t own a lot of cover albums. Usually it’s a little too much of a good thing, but Day 6 of the #mayvinylchallenge demanded either a cover or a sample, so I dug around until I realized that from a covers perspective jazz really fits the bill: artists are constantly covering each other’s material, re-interpreting, extending and improvising off of melodies and chordal/modal progressions. All of which led me to the work of Archie Shepp, whose debut as a solo leader (he had a few co-lead records with Bill Dixon and Lars Gullin) for Impulse! was his homage to the saxophone king, Four For Trane.

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75 dollar bill - i was real

75 Dollar Bill: I Was Real (2019)

Day 2 of the #mayvinylchallenge is Dynamic Duos, and looking over my options there was never really an option. Much love to Suicide and Big Business and Simon and Garfunkel and my own beloved Darkthrone, but there is something magical that happens whenever I put on I Was Real, the 2019 release from 75 Dollar Bill. It’s one of a handful of albums I get completely lost in, an album where I feel like I’m inside the physical space of the music being created.

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cleveland eaton - plenty good eaton

Cleveland Eaton: Plenty Good Eaton (1975)

I wasn’t familiar with Cleveland Eaton before seeing this reissue from Real Gone Music when I was looking at grabbing the Kool and the Gang vinyl I discussed a few weeks ago. But the description – a blend of Ramsey Lewis’s soul funk and the swing of Count Basie filtered through the fusion that was riding high in the mid 70s – caught me. The fact that Plenty Good Eaton not only was a fun play on words but was originally on the Black Jazz label was another vote of confidence for a blind buy, so I took the dive…I’m here to report I am now the happier for it.

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art blakey and the jazz messengers - caravan

Art Blakey & the Jazz Messengers: Caravan (1962)

Keeping this one brief…not only because it’s late and I’m slightly drunk, but also because often writing about jazz eludes me.  So…in that vein let’s talk about Caravan, which not only is the first album the Art Blakey Jazz Messengers recorded for Riverside Records, but it was the first jazz album I ever bought on vinyl.  Featuring incredible performances from the likes of Freddie Hubbard and Wayne Shorter, not to mention Blakey’s insane drumming prowess, it was an opportunity for me to discover a new voice I didn’t already know, as opposed to picking something up I was already familiar with. Continue reading “Art Blakey & the Jazz Messengers: Caravan (1962)”

allan holdsworth - iou

Allan Holdsworth: i.o.u. (1982)

Guitarists whose playing is truly unique and identifiable are few and far between.  Sure, you can maybe listen to two seconds of a solo and know who’s playing it and what song it’s off of, but what if it were a new song?  Eddie Van Halen?  Sure.  Brian May?  Maybe.  If Hendrix and Stevie Ray Vaughn were alive I’d throw them into the mix.  But one person truly deserving of being in that conversation is the late, great Allan Holdsworth, whose virtuosity on the instrument is matched by his unique way of using harmony to construct massively complex chord structures that delicately balance straight jazz, fusion, and pop.  I.O.U. stands out as a masterpiece that recalls the best of what Holdsworth brought to music, still vibrantly alive almost 40 years after it was recorded. Continue reading “Allan Holdsworth: i.o.u. (1982)”