Wednesday, 23 February 2011

Still Bill

Just finished watching 'Still Bill' (2009), which is a documentary about the singer and songwriter Bill Withers. Here's a wiki link, as if you need to know (HE'S A LEGEND). Refreshingly for a music doc, it shuns a typical trajectory-of-career approach and focuses very much on Bill in his everyday surroundings in the 2000s, following him as he goes about his day-to-day with his family and friends (Withers quit the music industry in 1985 or so).

For someone who was once such a global superstar, Withers is down-to-earth to the point of almost being under the ground. This is so so so so nice to see. The film is littered with his own ponderings and philosophies on life, including (of special interest to me) what it means to be an musician and artist. Most of them are incredibly concise and beautiful, and you'll just want to be giving him a big hug by the end of film. The word heartwarming doesn't do it justice.

There are too many quotes to mention here, but in general it's great how Withers just didn't give a shit about the fame machine. He had great success. The music industry wanted him to replicate that success ad-infinitum (standard practice). He would only do things on his own terms, and when the industry didn't see it that way, he turned his back on it. The way he saw it, he was perfectly happy making airline toilets up until the age of 31 (his pre-fame day job), and he could just as easily go back to that life in West Virginia and do it all over again. 

This, ladies and gentlemen, is someone who has their life philosophy DOWN. Mr Withers, I salute you sir.

Wednesday, 16 February 2011

Slappa-De-Bass... SLAPPA-DE-BASS-MON

Everything about this video is perfection. The beautiful Fender Jazz Bass, the funk, the feel... and best of all, the shorts and knee-high adidas socks. Classic.

Slapping 'De Bass Mon' (OK that's stolen from 'I Love You Man'. Paul Rudd. Genius) is Buddy Hankerson, bassist from Slave and other Late 70s/Early 80s funk outfits

with thanks to Jamie Delaney for the tip-off

Saturday, 12 February 2011

Choral Jazz

Wow, busy times with work (I almost just wrote 'busty times', that would be even better), so I haven't posted anything for a good while. Let me try and make up for it with a few choral-tinged jazz recommendations.

I have LONG been a fan of Max Roach's 'Members Don't Git Weary' album from 1968 (Atlantic Records), bought it on a whim when I was a teenager and have listened to it regularly ever since (SPOTIFY link). It's a a Modal Jazz classic (i.e jazz based around scale modes and not chord progressions).

I always found the title track interesting, with it's soaring lead vocal by Andy Bey (they got quite into singing on jazz tracks in the 60s/70s) and one day after hearing it for the gazillionth time, I decided I needed more of this crazy vocal jazz.

I can't say i've come up with an exhaustive list, but two albums you have to get your hands on (if vocal-jazz sounds like or is your bag) are:

Andrew Hill- Lift Every Voice (Blue Note 1969)

Bobby Hutcherson- Now! (Blue Note 1969)

They're kind of hard to describe, but i'll do my best. In each case the usual small jazz ensembles are augmented by choirs. The voices float in and out, singing motifs and vocal pads in unison or in thick harmony, and will then disappear leaving space for the players to take their solos as usual. Both albums feature an all-star cast of musicians, and by the sounds of it were both produced and engineered by Rudy Van Gelder (GENIUS). Like I say, the music is hard to describe, so get onto spotify and have a listen yourself. It's challenging music but worth it.