It’s the Great 78 Project. And it’s just what it sounds like. The Internet Archive (in San Francisco, California) is a partner in the quest to transfer 78rpm records for anyone to download for free. OK, my site is about vinyl, but at least these digital files start out that way. Continue reading
It’s hard to not like just about everything I’ve heard by jazz guitarist Wes Montgomery and One Night In Indy (Resonance Records HLP 9018, mono LP) is no exception. This is a 2015 release of a never before heard tape made in 1959 by photojournalist Duncan Schiedt.
I had one reservation about buying this LP new (on sale direct from Resonance)…I didn’t know what it sounded like. Was the original recording done with one crummy mic, too far away from the band? Continue reading
I’ve been to most of the vinyl record stores in the San Francisco Bay Area. Today, I went to Groove Yard and if it wasn’t an hour from my home, I’d go all the time. If you’re looking for the best selection of used vinyl jazz in excellent condition (and very fair prices), it’s Groove Yard. Continue reading
There are cats who can sing and play the Bayou and the blues…and then there is Chicago born & Iowa raised Catfish Keith.
Upon meeting him before a recent show (January 28, 2017) in Lafayette, California, he comes across like a regular guy. Nice, easy going. It’s when he hits the stage that the power of his voice and awe inspiring guitar work power through…like a musical tornado that knocks you on yer ass. And you’re glad to have ignored the storm warning. Continue reading
No, I’d never heard of Sam, either. He’s one of those gems, hiding on an island in the Pacific Ocean. Maui (Hawaii), to be specific. You might think of the local musicians as tourist attractions, but there are plenty of great performers there and Sam is one of them. Continue reading
I’m lucky to live in Silicon Valley, there are several venues that play live jazz pretty often. One of the newest is Cafe Pinkhouse in Saratoga, Calif. The place holds maybe 50-60 people, all facing an oddly shaped stage that sort of measures 25 feet by 10 feet. In fact, the whole room is oddly shaped to begin with. There’s a piano squeezed into the front corner. Continue reading
You don’t know W. Eugene Smith…but he is generally considered to be the greatest American photojournalist. From 1957-1965, he opened his New York city loft to the jazz musicians of the era and shot stills pictures, 40,000 of them!
Plus, he recorded 4000 hours of audio (not all of it is music). It was just released as a documentary movie called The Jazz Loft According To W. Eugene Smith.
Back when I was in photojournalism school in the late 1980s, my instructor at San Jose State University, Jim McNay, had me read a book about Smith. McNay’s contention was that many of our greatest artists are essentially crazy. Smith could certainly be seen in that light. Continue reading
My favorite jazz guitar record might be this relatively obscure LP, Guitar/Guitar (Columbia CS 9130, stereo) by Charlie Byrd and Herb Ellis. It isn’t flashy or fast. No fretboard fireworks. Just two pros, playing together and making great music. I can listen to this quite a bit and not tire of it.
Byrd is not my favorite guitarist. He and Ellis also played together with Barney Kessel on a few LPs on the Concord label in the 1970s. Continue reading
“I only play jazz once a year, and tonight is it!” he said to me. “Tonight” was a concert to raise funds for the Topaz Museum in Delta, Utah. Topaz is the site where Inouye’s father, Takara, was incarcerated during World War II. Long story short is that his efforts to learn more about his father’s journey led him to play before a packed house at the Conservatory of Music in San Francisco on July 10.
The Conservatory of Music…hmm. Doesn’t sound like a jazz club, and that’s because it’s not. It’s where you would hear symphonic music. “Classical music” you might say. But not jazz. Inouye is one of the few musicians who can do both, and both are spectacular. He occupies the first trumpet chair for the San Francisco Symphony and he has been cited as among the world’s best at his craft. Continue reading
As a fan of 1950s American television, I was intrigued by this record, from a show I had never heard of, M Squad (RCA LPM 2062, mono). The cover told me all I needed to know about it, however. A hard boiled Lee Marvin, with pistol in hand, blasting away at some unseen criminal. Marvin, a terrific actor, could play a role like this easily, so I bought the LP and hoped for the best. The music, like Marvin, was excellent.
It reminded me of a more famous TV show from the same time period, Peter Gunn. Dark, smoky jazz, set in a simpler time. There were criminals, sure, but most of them were small time hoods, looking for a quick buck. Continue reading
When I heard from my sister that Paul McCartney was coming to Fresno, California, I thought it must be a mistake. Why would the former Beatle come to a medium sized town, known mostly for agriculture, in the middle of California? It’s not Los Angeles, it’s not San Francisco. It’s not Silicon Valley.
Fortunately, a friend who is a concert promoter got us three tickets, at the face value price of $250. It’s a lot of money, but it would be the first, and very likely last time I would get to see a musician from the world’s most famous rock band play live. We had great seats, about 12 rows back, then 10 rows up the left side.
Might be the best rock concert I’ve ever seen. Mostly because he played so many iconic songs that I never thought I’d hear live by a Beatle. Never thought I’d see any Beatle, ever. Continue reading
Awhile back I was at the radio station KCSM vinyl record swap and came across an oddity. A Hank Mobley LP, Thinking Of Home (Blue Note LT 1045, stereo, 1970) in a hand made cover. Well, hand made is putting it nicely. The original cover must have been lost and someone took a Milt Jackson cover, turned it inside-out and hand wrote the LP title and song list on the ‘new’ outside cover. I had not heard of this LP, but what intrigued me was a note on the cover, “Perfect Blue Note with ears.” Continue reading
Like many of you, I’d heard about masters and mothers, even biscuits. But this video, produced by RCA in 1942, goes into great detail about the entire process, even the shipping of the records after they’ve pressed. I didn’t realize how involved the pressing of LPs really was. And you have to wonder how noxious the chemicals were to the workers, who clearly don’t know or care.
More wonderous is that the process works at all. Who could have come up with such a convoluted process to transfer a signal from a mic, to the final vinyl product? Must have taken much experimentation and error over the years.
OK, it’s a 19 minute vid, but if you’ve got the time, you won’t regret watching this, in standard def. Don’t be put off by the guy in the clown suit… Continue reading
One of the great things about picking up a vinyl record is discovering that a band I thought I knew had more songs worth listening to than I was aware of. Let’s Live For Today (Dunhill DS50020, stereo), has more going for it than just the hit title tune. The Grassroots were a mid to late 60s band that had three or four hits on the AM radio airwaves that I liked back then.
No, these tunes are not ahead of their time. The ‘roots sound is firmly planted in the dirt of 1960s AM pop, and I like it that way. You probably had to be listening to this music at the time to really enjoy it. I doubt anyone under the age of 50 would find it interesting now. But if you’re of the age, there’s more to the Grassroots than their hits. Of the ten tunes (five per side), I found eight to be worthwhile. Continue reading
You can buy records online, or at a local store, or you could try the KCSM Record Swap! KCSM is the College of San Mateo’s 24-7, commercial free jazz FM radio station (91.1) and they might be the last all jazz all the time station in the USA. Saturday they held a record swap on the campus where they broadcast from, which is about 30 minutes south of San Francisco.
This was not a gigantic flea market sized extravaganza. I estimated 19 vendors, each with a table or two, selling mostly jazz vinyl. There were a few selling CDs, another selling old posters. But the emphasis was on j-LPs. Continue reading
Folk music encompasses many a style. If you’re interested in the simple and elegant, Leon Bibb Sings Folk Songs (Vanguard VRS 9041, mono) is a good one. Bibb isn’t a part of the late sixties hippie scene that combined folk with rock. Bibb, guitarist Fred Hellerman and orchestrator Milt Okun provide the deep feelings that folk music is supposed to be about without the backbeat. Continue reading
It’s a bar in Atlantic City, with some dude striding across the keys, playing a joyful kind of piano music that sounds like it could be from a movie made around the turn of the century. Before he plays the next tune, he explains what he’s doing and why. But he doesn’t recite a laundry list of dull names, dates and places, no sir. He’s reciting the living history of early jazz and he would know. He’s one of its masters.
That’s exactly what jazz pianist Willie Smith does, on The Memoirs of Willie The Lion Smith (RCA LSP 6016, stereo). On this two LP set, Willie does as much talking as playing and it’s a rare chance to hear him glibly talk about what we would now call jazz, before it had a name. Continue reading
Charlie Parker. Dizzy Gillespie. Art Blakey. If you’re a fan of bebop jazz, you know those names. I’m way too young to have heard beboppers play live back in the late 40s and into the 50s, but several nights ago, I came awfully close at the Cafe Stritch in San Jose, California.
That’s exactly what drummer Akira Tana’s quintet did for me. Tana’s band freakin’ bbq’d the joint, practically burning it down to the ground. Reminded me of why I listen to jazz in the first place. Continue reading
Always cool to find a local venue to hear live jazz and in this case, it was the Kevan Smedt Quartet at Dio Deka restaurant in Los Gatos, California. Right off, this is a straight jazz band playing standards, led by guitarist Smedt. I love this kind of band. The weather was perfect but the band was playing in front of a loudly flowing water fountain, which is not where they are normally located (they’re inside the restaurant). Nonetheless, they were terrific.
I sat with jazz aficionado & friend Darryl Noda, who pointed out that Smedt, left handed, tends to play the top four strings of his Eastman f-hole archtop guitar. Continue reading
Ah, Japan. Being Japanese, I’m a bit prejudiced…but Japan has the best food in the world, in my opinion. What they also have are unique jazz bars. Places where you go to relax, drink and listen to jazz, often from vinyl records.
That’s what I did on a recent visit to Tokyo, specifically the Shibuya area, where I managed to find JBS (Jazz, Blues, Soul) Jazz Bar, operated by the singular Kobayashi-san (no first name will he reveal). Recently written up in Bon Appetit Magazine, JBS is dark, tiny, narrow and somewhat smoky. A freakin’ great place! Continue reading