Thursday, July 30, 2009
Billy Zane came by the my recording studio (Joey’s Place) yesterday to do some additional voice-over work for the Greek Zombie film “To Kako II”. This is a sequel to the first film (Evil-To Kako) which received critical acclaim globally and has already become a bit of a cult classic. Mind you, these films are the first of their kind from Greece, directed by Yorgos Noussias, who did a fine job not only in the horror aspect, but also with the humorous element inherent to this particular genre.
Somehow Don Byas hasn't ranked high as far as the value of his records are concerned, probably because he isn't thought of as a bebop/post war player like Dexter Gordon per se (even though he helped create the idiom), and also because he didn't record for Blue Note Records (as far as I know). Nevertheless, he was an outstanding tenor player-up there with Lester Young, Coleman Hawkins, Ben Webster, and the like. This David Stone Martin illustration has always been one of my favorites, and this particular piece is not found as frequently as other releases such as the Jazz At The Philharmonic series.
Wednesday, July 29, 2009
To say George Russell was a profound musician and thinker is a great understatement. At the age of twenty six years old he penned the classic “Cubana Be Cubana Bop” for Dizzy Gillespie feauturing Chano Pozo (RCA Victor). Then came Ezzthetic, which was recorded by Miles Davis circa 1953. Russell was a disciple of pianist Lennie Tristano, who’s otherworldly music influenced what would become The Lydian Chromatic Concepts Of Tonal Organization. I was fortunate to have studied this theory with David Wheat (aka Buckwheat) back in 1985. It was a bit too advanced for me at the time, but over the years I have been able to understand and apply more and more of it. The Lydian Concept actually helped open my ears, enabling me to hear and write music in a whole new way. Wheat once told me that he and George Russell were at the bedside of Lennie Tristano (as he lay dying in the hospital), taking dictation and transcribing musical information that had never written in books. Russell’s music had a wonderful magic all it’s own, and one of my favorite of all his work is a big band album entitled New York, New York (1959) featuring Jon Hendricks, Bill Evans, and John Coltrane (among other star solists).
This was released the same year as Coltrane’s Giant Steps and Miles’ Kind Of Blue (in fact, without the influence of Russell, there might’ve never been a Kind Of anything). NYNY should’ve ranked as an equally groundbreaking album, but unfortunately it got buried due to the fact it was released on Decca Records which was not known as a Jazz label. In recent years it has been re-released through the Impulse label.
I owe a huge debt to George Russell for having such a profound influence on my musical studies and some of my more sophisticated compositions. He deserves to be more of a household name like Dizzy, Bird, Monk, Miles, Trane, Russell etc etc etc.
George Russell Obituary
Tuesday, July 28, 2009
Saturday, July 25, 2009
Soul diva Darlene Love was born on July 26, 1938. One of her most noted hits was as lead singer of The Crystals for Phil Spector’s “He’s A Rebel”.
I’ve had the great pleasure of working with Darlene when I was producing music for “Shake, Rattle & Rock”(directed by Allan Arkush). I’ll never forget being in the studio, listening to her warming up with wordless “mmm…mmm…mmms…”. Something about her voice struck me as a thumbprint from my collective childhood memory, then it hit me. I turned and asked if she had recorded the theme song and ending credits from The Jeffersons in the early 70’s. She stopped momentarily, smiling and said, “You’ve got a good ear Joey.”
As a child during the 70’s post hippie era, these were probably the most dorky cars in existence. Since then though, the station wagons of the 50’s & 60’s have actually taken on a whole different quality of appreciation and rarity. Most of them went through the junk yard crunchers, making them more scarce than traditional sedans. I wonder if the AMC Pacer or Gremlin will ever become a sought after vehicle.
Friday, July 24, 2009
Thursday, July 23, 2009
Reserve Radio Vinyl Meltdown Podcast
(scroll down the page for previous Vinyl Meltdown podcasts)
I first discovered the music of Art Blakey & The Jazz Messengers as a freshman in high school. It was the height of corporate arena rock, just before punk rock invaded sunny southern California, and Jazz was at an all time low in popularity. A classmate of mine loaned me his father’s copy of The Big Beat on a label called Blue Note; also John Coltrane’s Giant Steps, and the Charlie Parker Dial Sessions Volume I (essential classics of the genre). My experience with Jazz prior to this had been primarily pre war/ big band era music, especially the Benny Goodman sextet featuring guitar pioneer Charlie Christian.
Post war Jazz & Bebop was a whole new thing to me, and within seconds of dropping the needle on that Blakey vinyl I knew my life had been changed in a big way. The music was soulful, impressionistic, otherworldly, yet somewhat nostalgic at the same time. This was also my introduction to trumpeter Lee Morgan, sax man Wayne Shorter, pianist Bobby Timmons, and bassist Jymie Merritt, who were featured sidemen on this particular record. It wasn’t until several years that I became more informed about The Jazz Messengers’ legacy (remember, this was a couple decades before the internet and google).
As I later found out, several generations of Jazz stars cut their teeth with Art Blakey’s band-Clifford Brown, Lou Donaldson, Horace Silver, Benny Golson, Cedar Walton, Freddie Hubbard, Curtis Fuller, the Mangione Brothers, the Marsalis Bothers, etc-the list goes on & on.
I eventually became of age to get into clubs and finally see Art Blakey perform live, which was like having my arms plugged into a gigantic electrical socket of life energy, leaving the gigs walking on air for days after. Anytime the Messengers played in Los Angeles I made sure to be there, as close to the band stand as I could get;sometimes for several nights in a row. Over the years, I collected as many Blakey recordings as I could get my hands on, yet to this day, my favorite lineup is the 1963/64 Morgan/Shorter/Timmons band, a perfect combination of soul and incredible original compositions. Recordings of note featuring this lineup on the Blue Note label: The Big Beat, Like someone In Love, Meet You At The Jazz Corner Of The World Vol I & II, Night In Tunisia, Witch Doctor.
1. Sakeena’s Vision
2. So Tired
4. The Chess Players
5. Johnny’s Blue
6. The Things I Love
7. High Modes
11. What Know
Tuesday, July 21, 2009
British actor, writer, and author Terence Stamp was born on July 22, 1939.
His career has spanned over four decades and out of hiss body of work I would have to say his portrayal of Toby Dammit is my particular favorite. Directed by Federico Fellini as part of an Edgar Allen Poe trilogy entitled Histoires Extraordinaires (Spirits Of The Dead), this is a very cool cult classic containing two other films directed by Roger Vadim and Louis Malle, starring Brigitte Bardot, Jane Fonda ,Alain Delon, and Peter Fonda.
Once again renaissance man Allen Mezquida (aka Allen Mez) has come through with a brand new piece of Smigly animation entitled The Big Bank,which lampoons life in the era of Big Brother, identity theft, and economic turmoil.
His new site (Smigly.TV) contains the entire cartoon series, including merchandise, marketing blogs and various musings by Smigly on the state of life in the new millennium.
Monday, July 20, 2009
Today marks the 40th anniversary of the Apollo 11 Moonwalk. For those of us who were alive then, it was a “where were you when” moment. I’ll never forget that summer in 1969 when I was five years old. The preceding months were all things “space”- shows, jokes, toys, food (remember Space Food Sticks & Tang?). Finally the great moment was upon us. My parents had a vacation home in a quaint little beach community nearby Huntington Beach. It was a perfect day out, and I was called inside from the beachfront by my father. There in front of the small black & white t.v. screen, our family and friends gathered to see this historical moment in history. As a child, I knew that this was a big deal, yet as the whole thing took place I felt a bit disappointed at how slooooowwww the astronauts moved, at how dark the moon was, and how difficult it was to hear what they were saying to Mission Control. My next “where were you when moment” was some ten years later when John Lennon was shot.
Saturday, July 18, 2009
Some years back, while restoring a 1929 Ford Model A roadster, I was referred to Lucas Engineering (Long Beach, Ca) for a set of newly manufactured tires. As I set foot in the show room, I was taken aback by a 1926 (?) Bugatti Type 40 like the one pictured above (this might actually be the same car). I had never seen one up close and personal, and was completely awed by its incredible design and materials, especially the engine. The owner had kept it in pristine condition and took it out for occasional outings, once racing it against a late model Corvette, keeping right up to speed with it. I’m not sure how many of these were manufactured or have survived over the years, but this is one of my all time favorite racers.
I recently watched Kings Row for the first time while my sister was in town visiting. She had just finished reading the novel (written by Henry Bellamann) and was eager to see if the film was any good. According to Grace Metalious, this novel was a huge influence when she wrote Peyton Place some fifteen years later. The story is a similar tale of small town scandal, and the film was actually better than either of us had anticipated, adhering faithfully to the book (except for a crappy Hollywood ending). This is also considered to be the only good film of Ronald Reagan’s acting career (go figure). The musical score was written by Erich Wofgang Korngold and the main melodic motif sounded almost note for note like the Star Wars theme. I don’t know if this was a subliminal lift (unintended identity theft) from John Williams or not (I’m guessing it’s a coincidence), but I’m not the only person to have noticed. Just recently I found this YouTube vid comparing the two themes. Check it out and see for yourself.
Thursday, July 16, 2009
Actress/Comedienne Phyllis Diller was born on July 17, 1917.
I had the great pleasure of meeting this fabulous legend of comedy a few years ago at a book signing. She was somewhat feeble but still so sharp and full of enthusiasm as she autographed my 45 of “Delicious” (a classic novelty record that was recorded with Jim Backus in 1958). What I really found interesting was that she claimed to have never heard the record after it was manufactured, so I burned a CD with a scan of the Jubilee label pasted on the disc and sent it to her. Two weeks later, I received a special note of thanks and gratitude from Miss Diller that now sits in a scrap book of my Hollywood experiences.
I just watched Possessed (1947) last night, starring Joan Crawford as a deranged woman who is obsessed with Van Heflin. Although the plot is somewhat dated and non believable in the realm of current films, it was nonetheless highly entertaining as a piece of high camp. According to Crawford, Possessed was the most challenging role of her career. Most notable though was the highly nourish cinematography by Joseph A. Valentine and musical score by Franz Waxman (Sunset Blvd,Bride Of Frankenstein, etc).
(by Claudia Luther)
Julius Shulman, whose luminous photographs of homes and buildings brought fame to a number of mid-20th century Modernist architects and made him a household name in the architectural world, died Wednesday night. He was 98.
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Wednesday, July 15, 2009
Some years ago Laurie Pepper (widow of saxophonist Art Pepper) shot some footage here at my studio for her film project Straight Life, starring James Intveld. It was a stranger than fiction moment as I had read the book Straight Life some years before, had mutual friends with Laurie Pepper (but had never met her), and of course had been friends with James Intveld since the early 80’s L.A. Rockabilly scene. I’m not sure if the film was ever completed as it was a major labor of love for all involved, but I have heard that Laurie P. has made the rounds to various Jazz functions/conventions lecturing and showing some of the footage. The book was a phenomenal read by the way.
This is one of my favorite David Stone Martin album covers, depicting men moving a piano into a brothel, aptly titled Cathouse Piano. Meade Lex Lewis was a master of stride, barrelhouse and boogie woogie playing, unfortunately he isn't played too often over the airwaves these days.
Tuesday, July 14, 2009
Country Singer and Grand Ole Opry star Lloyd “Cowboy” Copas was born on July 15, 1913. In 1963 he was tragically killed in the same plane crash that took the lives of Patsy Cline and Hawkshaw Hawkins.