Wednesday, February 28, 2007

What happens if you play this dream backwards?

Last night I dreamt I saw LED ZEPPELIN in concert.
Of course, it was a dream, so I never actually SAW the mighty ZEP up on stage: I woke up just as I was preparing to take my seat in the arena.
So, I guess I should clarify: Last night I dreamt I STOOD IN LINE to see LED ZEPPELIN in concert.
It all seemed so realistic. I was really looking forward to seeing Jimmy Page.
Actually, in hindsight, there were several, little inconsistencies that should have told me I was dreaming:
1) I was in my late teens, but Led Zeppelin were at their peak -- somewhere around the fourth album I would guess. However, the untitled "ZOSO" album came out in 1971, when I was 5 years old.
2) Instead of tickets, we had little white cards that would be scanned before entering the arena. I'm pretty sure those weren't an option in 1971.
3) Someone -- ushers? -- had placed little blocks of chocolate on our seats. I didn't eat my little block of chocolate. I held it in my hand and looked at it, just before I went to sit down.
That's when I woke up.
I'll listen to my Led Zeppelin playlist on my iPod today. Maybe that will help me figure out this dream.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Booker T. in the earliest days of "Soulsville"

I have really enjoyed reading Peter Guralnick's "Sweet Soul Music," which details the history of Southern Soul music.
I have reached 1959-60 in the narrative.
Jim Stewart and his sister, Estelle Axton, have formed the embryonic Stax Records and local musicians are beginning to congregate at the label's headquarters, the old Capitol Theater at 926 East McLemore in Memphis.
Among the young musicians making that scene are STEVE CROPPER, an engineering student at Memphis State who played in high-school band the Royal Spades with DONALD "DUCK" DUNN and Estelle's son, Packy Axton.
Meanwhile,14-year-old BOOKER T. JONES (pictured), son of a high school math teacher, is sneaking into
Clifford Miller's Flamingo Room to accompany Willie Mitchell's band. Mitchell's drummer, AL JACKSON JR., is the son of a local band leader.
The scene is just coalescing, but it's exciting to think that the four highlighted individuals will eventually form BOOKER T. & THE MGs.

Monday, February 26, 2007

"You're like a leaf that the wind blows from one gutter to another"

It was a long day at work -- I keep writing about the nasty weather we have been having -- so when I came home I wanted to relax. Relax and let someone else do the thinking for me.
That's where Daniel Mainwaring comes into the picture.
I watched Jacques Tourneur's "Out of the Past" on DVD tonight. I absolutely adore Tourneur, and his direction of this fabulous film displays the talents he picked up while helming classics such as "Cat People."
Robert Mitchum is also superb as "Jeff Bailey."
However, I think "Out of the Past" actually has something going for it that is even greater than Mitchum's acting and Tourneur's direction.
That's where Daniel Mainwaring comes into the picture.
I would nominate "Out of the Past" as the best-written film I have ever seen.
Great lines abound, so much so that repeated viewings are necessary just to catch them all.
"I never saw her in the daytime. We seemed to live by night. What was left of the day went away like a pack of cigarettes you smoked. I didn't know where she lived. I never followed her. All I ever had to go on was a place and time to see her again. I don't know what we were waiting for. Maybe we thought the world would end."
Daniel Mainwaring was born in Oakland, Calif. and wrote for a newspaper.
That's where our similarities end.
Mainwaring left our shared birthplace and wrote for the San Francisco Chronicle. Then he started writing novels and screenplays.
His novel "Build My Gallows High" became the colossal film noir "Out of the Past." Mainwaring also wrote the screenplay for the original version of "Invasion of the Body Snatchers."
Mainwaring, who died 30 years ago, drank a little too much and got caught up in the blacklist. Not everything he wrote became a bona fide classic, either.
That doesn't matter.
"Out of the Past" boasts classic lines such as this exchange at the roulette wheel...
Jeff Bailey: "That's not the way to win."
Kathie Moffat: "Is there a way to win?"
Jeff Bailey: "There's a way to lose more slowly."
Where does crackling wit come from?
That's where Daniel Mainwaring comes into the picture.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

50 Years Ago Today? That'll Be The Day

They recorded it initially on July 22, 1956, but BUDDY HOLLY AND THE CRICKETS didn't like their original version of "THAT'LL BE THE DAY," a song inspired by John Ford's film "The Searchers" and a catchphrase used in the film by John Wayne.
So, the band and producer Norman Petty convened in Clovis, N.M. to record the definitive version of what would become a No. 1 single on Feb. 25, 1957.
I'm listening to some Holly tunes to celebrate while waiting for our OSCAR PARTY to begin in about two hours.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

The Bollywood Blizzard

This morning's National Weather Service forecast told me all I needed to know about the day ahead.
That meant I would have an additional story to write, on top of covering a diabetes center open house.
I had to work on a weather story, as freezing rain, sleet and eventually THUNDER SNOW (intense snow squalls punctuated by thunder and lightning) moved into the area.
Well, I thought, I am going to be busy. I might as well try to enjoy myself.
A compilation CD of BOLLYWOOD film hits of the 1960s and 70s provided an enjoyable soundtrack to a day memorable for its dreadful weather.
I chose Bollywood music for today because it seemed the exact opposite of the weather conditions. It was bright, sunny and warm.
Kishore Kumar's "C.A.T. ... Cat Mane Billi," from 1958 had me singing along -- as best as I could, considering it was sung in Hindi.
Lata Mangeshkar's "Mere Ghar Aayi Ek" (1976) had me smiling, as did her sister Asha Bhosle's "Yeh Mera Dil Yaarka Diwane" (1978).
The winds continue to howl, the snow (mixed with sleet) continues to fall and we've even seen a couple lightning strikes during the past half hour.
I don't care, though. I've got my Bollywood to keep me warm.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Movies and music and Fridays and questions

ROUTE 1 staff are gearing up for the OSCARS and an OSCAR PARTY...
The starlets! The red carpet interviews! The films you've never heard about! The rambling acceptance speeches! And the obligatory movie-themed FRIDAY QUESTION:
"What song do you most associate with a movie?"
Jill H. -- "Take My Breath Away" from "Top Gun."
Mike D. --
Vangelis' theme from "Chariots of Fire" not only reminds me of that Oscar-winning movie, but also the slow-mo running scene that was recreated in "National Lampoon's Family Vacation."

Rob K. -- "The Magnificent Seven"
from "The Magnificent Seven." They are both magnificent in their own sweet western way. Some believe the movie was the shoe-horn cinema event that segued into the 60s and 70s genre "Spaghetti Western" craze.
Mike M. -- "Do Not Forsake Me: The Ballad of High Noon" in "High Noon" (1952), sung by Tex Ritter. Also, "He Needs Me" in "Popeye" (1980) and "Punch-Drunk Love" (2002), both versions sung by Shelley Duvall.
Annika H. -- "Can You Feel The Love Tonight" from "The Lion King."
Dave B. -- "Don't You (Forget About Me)"... Simple Minds... "The Breakfast Club."
Tom J. -- "Purple Rain."
Kerstin H. -- "Sweet Home Alabama" from "Sweet Home Alabama."
Bob H. -- John Williams' music from "Star Wars" -- but wait, that's not really a song. Hmmm... I guess "Rain Drops Keep Falling on My Head" -- is that really the name? Or wait, I got it: "Moon River" from "Breakfast at Tiffany's" -- no, no: "Moonglow" from "Picnic," that's it for sure!"
Brian C. -- "The Entertainer" by Scott Joplin, the theme song for the Oscar-winning movie "The Sting" (1973).
Diane H. -- Can anyone hear "Old-Time Rock n Roll" (a song I haaaaate by the way) without thinking of "Risky Business" and Tom Cruise in those big shades?
Mary N.-P. -- "Baby Elephant Walk" from the 1962 movie "Hatari."
Erik H. -- As soon as I heard "Jaan Pehechaan Ho" over the opening credits of "Ghost World," I knew two things for sure:
1) I was going to love Terry Zwigoff's 2002 film (well, I honestly had a good feeling I would like it *BEFORE* I heard the music, as I was quite familiar with the graphic novels of Daniel Clowes).
2) I just had to delve into the wonderful world of Bollywood soundtrack music, including the classic songs of the GREAT Mohammed Rafi.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

"Can I get a WITNESS?!?!"

I'm reading Peter Guralnick's "Sweet Soul Music," a history of the musical genre that blended R&B with gospel with electrifying effect, and singing along to one of my favorite songs.
John Ellison was one of the few non-blood relatives in the Soul Brothers Six, but don't hold that against him. Ellison wrote the song that gave them fleeting fame, but more lasting fame for others.
Ellison wrote "Some Kind of Wonderful," which the Soul Brothers Six took all the way to No. 91 on the pop charts in 1967. Is there such a thing as a "one almost-hit wonder?"
Fantastic Johnny C. took the song to No. 87 a year later, then Grand Funk Railroad scored a massive, top-three hit with the tune in 1973.
That's the version most people know.
I ADORE the original by Soul Brothers Six.
To me, it's one of the best examples of soul music's blending of rhythm & blues with gospel. I love the call-and-response elements.
Soul Brothers Six, I'll be your witness. I'll testify to the greatness of this song!

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Can you trust GERALD?

I have been listening to so much Phoenix, Ariz. soul music that I find myself immersed in nostalgia.
I went to high school in Phoenix (Central Bobcats -- woo hoo!), and my sister and I visited my dad in the Valley of the Sun for years after our parents' divorce (during one memorably sweltering occasion, we attempted to play tennis at Encanto Park when the temperature approached 115 degrees).
This morning, my nostalgia prompted me to listen online to "News 92.3 KTAR," the top news-and-talk radio station in Phoenix.
In between weather reports that made me envious ("looking for a high of 72 today") and traffic reports that did not ("avoid the 202-Red Mountain Freeway"), I was shocked to hear a voice from the past.

"Gerald" was the ultimate villain every kid LOVED TO HATE on "The Wallace and Ladmo Show." Surely one of the pillars of television history, "The Wallace and Ladmo Show" aired on KPHO-TV from 1954-89, making it one of the longest-running children's television programs.
My sister and I watched it during our summer visits with my dad. It mixed cartoons with live action skits, including skits featuring the many characters of actor PAT McMAHON.
Gerald was the villainous foil for Wallace and Ladmo, the genial hosts of the show. Gerald always tried to ruin the happiness of the other characters on the show (although he always failed). Gerald's snotty, snobby and generally bad behavior caused the kids in the studio audience to boo with gusto. My sister and I booed as well, sitting in front of the television in my dad's apartment.
Imagine my surprise, then, to hear Pat McMahon deliver a radio commentary on KTAR this morning. He discussed his childhood and how "Lent police" were always around to ensure he upheld his promise to give something up until Easter.
McMahon is actually one of the talk-show hosts on KTAR. He helms the 1-4 p.m. shift on the station.
That fact made me wonder: How many listeners equate McMahon with his villainous Gerald character? Do people call up just to boo?
I am afraid I might call just to boo. I still hate Gerald!

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Move over Dyke & the Blazers!

I seem to have many "hometowns." Today, we'll consider the hometown where I attended high school, Phoenix, Ariz.
A community that gives the world Alice Cooper, Marty Robbins, Jodie Foster's Army and the Tubes, among others, Phoenix is not well known for its soul scene.
The best-known of the Valley of the Sun's soulsters, Dyke & The Blazers, great as they were, weren't even from Arizona. They were famously stranded in Phoenix during a tour with the O'Jays, and the Blazers, the originators of "Funky Broadway," decided they might as well make the best of a bad situation and settle down.
What is not generally known is that Phoenix had its own, home-grown soul scene, led by bands such as the Soulsations (pictured), Soul Patrol, Lon Rogers and Michael Liggins.
I listened to these bands and more while on the treadmill just now, thanks to the "Eccentric Soul: Mighty Mike Lenaburg" compilation from Numero Group records.
Lenaburg was a British-born transplant to the Valley who went to West Phoenix High School on Thomas Road (I went to relatively nearby Phoenix Central, along with the sons and daughters of every doctor and lawyer in town).
Lenaburg dreamed of creating a Phoenix soul scene to match any in the country, but limited funds and relatively poor distribution meant the songs he produced never reached his intended, national audience.
Until now.
If you love soul music (that happens to provide an excellent soundtrack to a 30-mile spell on a treadmill), I IMPLORE YOU to purchase "Eccentric Soul: Mighty Mike Lenaburg."
You will be glad you did, and Lenaburg's dream of a nationally known Phoenix soul scene will come THIS MUCH closer to reality.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Gospel's loss was everybody's gain

Author Peter Guralnick ("Sweet Soul Music") uses this analogy to describe Sam Cooke's 1957 decision to sing secular songs:
"Imagine Elvis Presley abdicating his throne or the Beatles finding Jesus at the height of their popularity."
In short, Cooke's decision to leave gospel stardom with the Soul Stirrers was nothing short of cataclysmic.
I thought about Cooke's defection tonight, listening to songs such as "Win Your Love for Me" and "Chain Gang" as I drove to pick up Kerstin from her dance class.
Cooke's decision -- which effectively created soul music as we know it by melding gospel and R&B -- had to be so difficult to make.
Gospel singers were considered to be sharing a gift from God, and were expected to experience the highest of honors in singing the praises of the Lord.
To sing about the flesh or dancing or parties, that was almost unthinkable.
Cooke's influential action paved the way for other church-trained singers to produce "popular" music, and more importantly, created some of the most beautiful music the world has ever known -- a sound that defies differences in generations.
I realized Cooke's power to transcend all ages en route home from the dance studio: Kerstin and I sang along -- word for word -- to "Wonderful World." It was one of those rare moments when father and daughter could rejoice in loving the same, classic music.
Surely, that's the sort of thing God really intended for Sam Cooke.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Whole lotta soul... in Columbus?

In his excellent book, "Sweet Soul Music," author Peter Guralnick defines Southern soul by differentiating it from its better-groomed, better-choreographed Motown cousin:
"It was a musical mode in which the band might be out of tune, the drummer out of time, the singer off-key, and yet the message could still come across -- since underlying feeling was all."
I have spent the past several days listening to a wonderful compilation that proves the power of music with feeling -- no matter the circumstance of its creation.
"Eccentric Soul: The Capsoul Label" chronicles the brief and not very successful musical career of fledgling producer/singer Bill Moss. Moss later gained local fame as a fiery school board member and political activist in Columbus, Ohio. In the early 1970s, however, he attempted to put his Midwestern hometown on the musical map.
Operating on a shoestring and never able to claim anything more than a modest regional hit, Moss nevertheless recorded "lost classic" songs such as "You Can't Blame Me" by Johnson, Hawkins, Tatum & Durr, "Who Knows" by Marion Black, "Row My Boat" by the Four Mints and "Hot Grits!!!" by Elijah & The Ebonites.
Don't worry.
Until recently, I have never heard any of these 30-some-year-old singles, either.
It's a funny thing, though -- their quality is such that I have been singing along after only a couple times listening.
One of the most fascinating things about independent soul music like Capsoul's releases is that there were THOUSANDS such great tunes in HUNDREDS of towns around the country in the 1960s and 70s. They were often lost in the shuffle because of the enormous success of Motown and Stax, but they were out there, made by musicians who poured their feelings into the songs.
Uncovering them is like finding gems in cave. I love it.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

I laughed... I cried... I...

... enjoyed myself more than I thought I would.
Kerstin and I have a father-daughter weekend (Jill and Annika are out of town), and Kerstin REALLY WANTED to see Gabor Csupo's "Bridge to Terabithia."
She had read the book in school and watched a 1985 TV-movie version.
Today, she wanted to see it on the BIG SCREEN.
I had never heard of the film, the book or any of the actors (except for Zooey Deschanel, whose dad Caleb was the cinematographer on "The Natural," "The Black Stallion" and other films that look just great).
So, my expectations were somewhat low compared to Kerstin's.
I was wrong, she was right.
"Bridge to Terabithia" is a good film. Josh Hutcherson and AnnaSophia Robb portray a couple of imagination-fueled school kids who escape from their pressures (including bullying and out-of-touch parents) by creating a world of their own.
There won't be any spoilers here, but suffice to say, the film extends along the whole range of emotions.
This is Csupo's first major feature film as a director, although you probably all know his work... as an animator/producer.
"The Rugrats!" "The Wild Thornberrys!"
I should have known this film would be good: Anybody who can cast Flea out of the Red Hot Chili Peppers as a feral child is A-OK.

Friday, February 16, 2007

Birda-birda-birda-birda Bwrang-Bwraaaannng!

Hold your hands out!
ROUTE 1 readers chime in with their answers to the following FRIDAY QUESTION:
"What is the best song to 'air guitar' to?"
Inger H. -- My favorite song to air guitar to right now would have to be UK band
Kasabian's "Last Trip (In flight)". They rock!
Kerstin H. -- "Livin' After Midnight" by Judas Priest.
Dave B. -- "Still Rock in America," Night Ranger. I was part of an air band that won an air-guitar contest with this song. We freakin' rocked.
Rob K. -- "Don't Let Her Go," by REO Speedwagon. The solo, I believe by Gary Richrath, is absolutely classic.
Annika H. -- "Livin' After Midnight" by Judas Priest.
Ellen B. -- "Shook Me All Night Long" by AC/DC!
Mike D. -- Boston, Bon Jovi and Loverboy all provide plenty of songs to jam along with. And the dual guitar finale of the Eagles' "Hotel California" is always a favorite. But on the drive home earlier this week, I had to use my steering wheel to accompany Gary Richrath on his screamin' guitar work on REO Speedwagon's "Roll with the Changes," one of the liveliest rock songs ever.
Shannon H. -- "November Rain."
Erik H. -- I am one of those habitual air guitarists, I am afraid, strumming along to everyone from Steve Cropper (Booker T & The MGs) to John McLaughlin (The Mahavishnu Orchestra) to Johnny Marr (The Smiths).
This week, though, I strummed along with Dave Murray's great solo on "Flight of Icarus" by Iron Maiden. Duuuude!

Thursday, February 15, 2007

In honor of my dad...

... I'm listening to a little Herbie Mann.
My dad GEORGE HOGSTROM would have been 80 years old today. Before he passed away in 1992, my dad shared with me his love of reading, the SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS and jazz -- although, it took me some time before I realized I also loved that third passion.
I remember my dad loved a variety of jazz artists, but in particular he worshiped Stan Kenton, Oscar Peterson and Herbie Mann.
I honored my dad by listening to Mann's 1957 album "Yardbird Suite" on my iPod today.
Mann was a true wonder on the flute -- a relatively rare instrument in jazz. His improvisations really seem to sing. On "Yardbird Suite," he teams with Phil Woods on alto sax, Joe Puma on guitar and Eddie Costa on vibes. The whole album has that peppy, "tinkling" sound that I have always associated with the COOLEST 1950s jazz.
It sounds like the type of music that would belong in a swingin' bachelor pad.
It's an inherently happy sound, even on a sad day like today.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Rockin' on a "Low Trac" day

I will be driving Jill's car around town today -- it travels better in the snow.
Several things drive me batty about this car, however, including the "Low Trac" warning.
Every time the car hits a slippery spot, a light cautions that the car is experiencing low traction.
I suppose this feature would be helpful in black-ice conditions.
However, in a constant snowstorm, the "Low Trac" seems to serve no other purpose than to MOCK ME.
"Low traction you say? No Sh!t, Sherlock! You think I can't figure that out for myself?! Why don't you just caution me about the low visibilities and rapidly diminishing temperatures, too!?!?"
I actually think I might be making a bit too much out of this whole "Low Trac" thing, so today, when the "Low Trac" light comes on (and the way the wind is whipping around today's snow, the light surely will come on -- repeatedly), I am going to attempt to ignore it.
When the light comes on, I am going to turn up IRON MAIDEN REALLY LOUD.
It might not be the Zen-like approach, but I think it will work.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Forget about the hair!

Forget about the towering afros. It would be a musical tragedy if the BROTHERS JOHNSON were only known for big hair.
It would also be a great disservice if people only looked back on their career as the launching pad of producer QUINCY JONES, later to break all records with Michael Jackson's "Thriller."
No, George "Lightnin' Licks" Johnson and his brother Louis "Thunder Thumbs" Johnson should be remembered for some FABULOUSLY FUNKY SONGS.
I have been listening to the Brothers Johnson "Greatest Hits" CD for the past couple days.
There are some great hits:
"Ain't We Funkin' Now" and "Stomp" are real, head-shaking (or is that hip-shaking?) funk workouts. Great songs for walking on the treadmill or even shoveling snow.
"I'll Be Good to You" is effortlessly catchy. Of course, it helped immeasurably to have Jones producing.
Then, there is the curious case of "Strawberry Letter 23."
I absolutely ADORE the Shuggie Otis original of "Strawberry Letter 23." I can list it in my Top-25 ALL-TIME favorite songs without hesitation.
The Brothers Johnson, of course, hit No. 5 on the pop charts with their cover of "Strawberry Letter 23" in 1977.
It's the first version of the song I heard, probably as a kid listening to KFRC in the San Francisco suburbs.
The brothers do a fine job with the song, thanks to help like the BRILLIANT GUITAR SOLO by LEE RITENOUR.
I still like Shuggie's version better, but their "Strawberry Letter 23" is a reason why I hope the Brothers Johnson are remembered for much more than big hair.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Wrestling later, first... history

I'm accompanying my father-in-law to a University of Iowa wrestling match this afternoon. The 12-4 Hawkeyes host the 3-6 Michigan State Spartans.
Before leaving for that encounter, I am listening live online to Radio 5 Live Sports Extra as Ireland host France in a truly historic rugby union match... at Croke Park.
For decades, Dublin's Croke Park has been home to the Gaelic Athletic Association, a source of nationalist pride for Ireland.
It has always played host to sports such as Gaelic football and hurling -- NEVER to "British" sports such as rugby or association football. Until today.
The park itself is named after a 19th-century nationalist bishop and one of the stands is named for a Tipperary footballer shot dead on the pitch by British Black and Tans during Ireland's war of independence in 1920. Bitter politics and history swirl with sports when considering Croke Park's legacy.
So, the vote to rescind the ban on foreign sports at Croke during the reconstruction of Dublin's Lansdowne Road, the home of rugby union, is truly historic and possibly a sign of changing times -- a choice to forget politics and hatred for an afternoon of sports.
Ireland trail, 11-13, at halftime. The Irish try came from San Diego-born Munster star Ronan O'Gara. On the radio, the cheers were deafening -- the commentators had to yell to be heard. The, the crowd became utterly silent for the (failed, unfortunately) conversion try.
The second-half is about to kick off.
History in the making... at Croke Park!
Ireland fell just short in their quest to defeat France in their Croke Park debut. O'Gara scored all of the Irish points, with his try and four penalties. Then Vincent Clerc broke Irish hearts with a late try. France won, 20-17.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Spinners taking me through a tough Saturday

I don't mean to complain, but while the rest of you are enjoying your Saturday, I will be writing a pair of stories at the newspaper.
A bit of "spot news" this week put me behind in my regular work, so in addition to covering an auto show today, I have to finish a story about increased numbers of cases of influenza.
There! That's the last time I will complain about it.
Because I am groovin' today to what might be the greatest SOUL group of the 1970s.
The Spinners struggled on Motown for years before breaking free and joining forces with Jamaican-born Thom Bell, one of the leading lights of "Philly Soul."
After producing the Delfonics and the Stylistics, Bell turned his attention to The Spinners, led by vocalist Phillippe Wynne.
What followed is a collection of the best-arranged pop-soul songs in history, in my opinion.
Horn riffs mirror string riffs on "I'll Be Around," Wynne doles out words in intricate measures in "One of a Kind (Love Affair)" and Bell reduces the music to piano and subtle drum tapping on most of the wonderful "Sadie."
I listen to these songs today and I am able to mouth the words almost perfectly, even though I haven't heard some of them for years. That might be because they were on 1970s Top 40 radio (KFRC SAN FRANCISCO!) ALL THE TIME back when I was a kid -- or it might be because they are simply perfect pop creations.
I tend to believe the latter.

Friday, February 09, 2007

Baby, it *IS* c-c-c-cold outside!

For some of us, the weather outside *IS* frightful -- minus-4 currently in Dubuque at this hour.
Those conditions prompted ROUTE 1 to pose the following FRIDAY QUESTION:
"You're sitting by the fire, warm inside while it is freezing outside. What music do you want to hear?"
Gary D. -- Anything by The Rolling Stones. You can't go wrong with them.
Ellen B. -- A little Neil Diamond.
Lisa Y. -- Norah Jones.
Mary N.-P. -- Why, "Hunka, hunka burning love" by Elvis Presley would war just about anyone up.
Rick T. -- Nice, slow 50s and 60s music. A little rhythm & blues and a little rock n roll.
Steve M. -- My new Jean Luc Ponty CD -- nice, violin jazz fusion sounds that I loved in college in the 70s.
Mike M. -- Johann Sebastian Bach's "Toccata and Fugue in D Minor," while laughing maniacally.
Erik H. -- Duke Ellington (piano), Rex Stewart (cornet) and Lawrence Brown (trombone) take three languid, relaxing solos during Ellington's 1940 tone poem "Dusk." I heard it while my teeth were ch-ch-ch-chattering in the car this week, and I thought that it would sound much more soothing while sitting by a warm fireplace.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Malachi Lewis, Simi Fili, Drew Davis...

I know... It's crazy to think about college football on Feb. 8.
I can't help myself!
My BELOVED OREGON DUCKS have signed what might be their BEST RECRUITING CLASS in history!
After gaining commitments from players such as Malachi Lewis (linebacker, Oxnard, Calif.), Simi Fili (defensive tackle, Salt Lake City), Drew Davis (wide receiver, Denver), Todd Doxey (safety, San Diego) and Anthony Gildon (cornerback, Westlake Village, Calif.), Oregon's recruiting efforts have been ranked as high as EIGHTH in the nation. gave the Ducks that high ranking. thought the Ducks did well, too, ranking Oregon 11th in the nation.
After a disappointing season (four straight losses to end the campaign, including a 38-8 bowl loss to BYU), the Ducks needed all the recruiting help they could get on National Signing Day.
Hopefully, some of these players live up to their billing.
Oh yeah... one of Oregon's recruits, linebacker John Laidet, comes from little Bonanza, Ore. (population: 415). The Ducks historically have some small-town local boys on the roster. It's one of the reasons the team is so BELOVED.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Jazz that makes you MOVE and MOVE and MOVE

I just listened to some DUKE ELLINGTON tunes from the 1930s while working up a sweat on the treadmill.
Actually, during the slower songs I tried to think of all the sources I should try to call for the two stories I need to write for the newspaper today.
Then, a TRAIN WHISTLE blew, 1933's "DAYBREAK EXPRESS" barreled out of the iPod, and I had to increase the treadmill speed to keep up.
"Daybreak Express" features solos by saxophonist Johnny Hodges and trumpeters Freddie Jenkins and Cootie Williams, but this great rollicking song is really an ensemble piece for the ages.
Ellington composed and arranged the song to fantastically mimic the sounds of a locomotive from chugging beginning, through breakneck full speed to sighing conclusion.
Trains whisked Ellington and his orchestra from gig to gig during his tours in the 1930s. They also served another purpose, because of the sickening racism of the times. When the orchestra toured the South in the 1930s, Ellington and his band were forced to sleep in private rail cars because they were barred from hotels.
Here's a thought for BLACK HISTORY MONTH: Ellington's wonderful music has survived, the stupid racist divide he endured has faded. ELLINGTON WINS!

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

A happier story with a musical genius

I have reached the year 1968 in James Gavin's "Deep in a Dream: The Long Night of Chet Baker," and the tale of the former "golden boy" trumpeter seems hopelessly bleak.
Baker is back in Los Angeles after a prison term in Italy and is reduced to breaking into second-story windows to hunt for drug money.
I wanted something a bit cheerier to think about while walking on the treadmill just now, so I listened to some early DUKE ELLINGTON on the iPod.
People call Ellington a musical genius all the time, and he routinely broke the so-called musical rules to make great music. In "Mood Indigo," for example, Ellington famously assigned the trombone the high notes and the clarinet the low to create the sound he was seeking.
Ellington also had the genius quality of selecting and surrounding himself with the best-possible collaborators (rather like Orson Welles in film).
In "Black and Tan Fantasie," Ellington orchestra member Bubber Miley steals the show with possibly the greatest plunger-mute trumpet solo ever recorded. It sounds like singing.
It is an incredible sound in a remarkable song, and listening to it gave me respite from increasingly harrowing story of Chet Baker. Notice how I didn't mention how Miley met his own, self-destructive demise thanks to substance abuse?
Jazz seems like the music most drenched in tragedy.

Monday, February 05, 2007

Swingin' in the C-C-C-C-O-L-D

Days off are wonderful, and so is the 1946 version of "Sweet Lorraine" by the Metronome All Stars.
I ran an errand this morning but didn't mind, even though the National Weather Service says "DANGEROUS WIND CHILLS WILL CONTINUE THROUGH THE EVENING."
The temperature was minus-7 when I started the car and set off, but a ABSOLUTELY SWINGIN' FRANK SINATRA TUNE kept me smiling, even as my old car bitched me out.
"Sweet Lorraine" proves that HISTORY'S GREATEST VOCALIST could handle JAZZ with the same ease he handled other songs.
Sinatra sang a chorus-and-a-half and the other All Stars soloed for four bars or more.

Consider the line-up on this stunning track:
Charlie Shavers -- trumpet.
Lawrence Brown -- trombone.
Johnny Hodges -- alto sax.
Coleman Hawkins -- tenor sax.
Harry Carney -- baritone sax.
Nat King Cole -- piano (he popularized "Sweet Lorraine," and is the master, of course).
Bob Ahern -- guitar.
Eddie Safranski -- bass.
Buddy Rich -- drums.
As I drove, the FROZEN people in their nearby cars were probably wondering why I couldn't stop smiling. I had a song to keep me warm.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Motown's pianist remembered

Joe Hunter (pictured at top) passed away during the past week, age 79.
Motown fans know Hunter as the pianist and band leader of the Funk Brothers from 1959 to 1964.
The Funk Brothers were the acclaimed studio band at Motown, and Hunter played on early classics such as "Shop Around" by The Miracles, "Do You Love Me" by The Contours and "(Love is Like a) Heatwave" by Martha and the Vandellas.
Yes, the vocals were great. However, would we have all danced without the music?
I listened to some early Motown today, in honor of the pianist on those immortal songs.

Saturday, February 03, 2007

A little skin, a lot of jazz

Perhaps I have been terribly wrong, but I have often associated Playboy magazine with jazz and Scotch.
I guess you can chalk one up for Hugh Hefner and his marketing genius, selling mild titillation as sophistication.

I think it must be the festivals and polls that made me associate the men's magazine with jazz.
As for the Scotch, well, it seems to go well with jazz.
I sipped Scotch, listened to loads of jazz and thought about the early days of Playboy magazine today.
Hef still lived in Chicago back then, soon-to-be-famous authors were penning short stories and Leonard Feather's landmark "The Encyclopedia of Jazz" featured in a photo of Gloria Walker, Miss June 1956 (pictured above, with chess pieces).
The 1950s' era Playboy seems so tame today, when the average prime-time drama shows about as much skin as a centerfold did back then. Still, it must have seemed searingly cutting edge at the time. Like jazz, I guess you could say.
Oddly enough, when I subscribed to Playboy I never really thought about jazz and never touched Scotch. That was back in college. My subscription was a gift from my mom (no lie) and, to prove the GEEK in me is never far from the surface, I really did read the articles.
Most of the time.

Friday, February 02, 2007

Hometown heroes

Punxsutawney Phil just predicted an early spring. That makes him a hero in my book.
ROUTE 1 readers chime in this week with some "hometown heroes" by answering the following FRIDAY QUESTION:
"Who is the best musician from your hometown?"
Laura C. -- Sad to say, although my hometown has spawned great acting talent (Meryl
Streep, Roger Bart) and a host of notable politicians (Millicent Fenwick, JFK Jr.), the only musician from Bernardsville, N.J., to achieve fame was J. Giles. What -- you don't remember the J. Giles Band?? Freeze Frame? Centerfold? Actually, that's probably a good thing.
Roseanne H. -- It has to be The Captain & Tennille.
Rick T. -- Johnny Piper! Local musician, and the BEST entertainer in Dubuque, Iowa. No one is even a close second.
Lisa Y. -- Alli Rogers. She'll be back from Nashville to Cedar Falls for a concert on March 3.
Mike D. -- One of Dubuque's most naturally talented musicians is Mark Loeffelholz, currently playing and singing with the duet Julien's Bluff. Mark plays guitar, bass and piano and has written several original songs. He has played in area bands for more than 20 years and is the nephew of another legendary Iowa musician, the late Dick Buscher, who is a member of the Iowa Rock 'n' Roll Music Association's Hall of Fame.

Clint A. -- Both of my parents are from the great brew city of Milwaukee and I spent most of my youth there, so I am going to call it home. The Grandfathers of Folk-Punk. Rock's dadaist improvisers. Calcified fossils of teen angst. American roots minimalists. The sonic personification of anxiety. Blues cubists. Spokesmen for misfits. These phrases enter one's mind when thinking of Brian Ritchie, Victor DeLorenzo and Gordon Gano, otherwise known as the Violent Femmes. This was solidified for me while seeing the Femmes headline the Green Man Festival at Spirit Mountain in Duluth two summers ago. Hearing "Blister in the Sun," "Gone Daddy Gone" and "Country Death Song" echoing over Duluth and Lake Superior in the warm summer air was a wicked awesome moment in Duluth. It took me back to my high school days when me and my friends would sneak out to a show at Shank Hall or Eagles Ballroom in Milwaukee. That night, I felt like I had to sneak into my house in order to not wake up the 'rents.
Annika H. -- Matt Kittle. He is awesome. I like when he sings "Wheels on the Bus."
Mike M. -- From Savanna, Ill., probably Wayne King, a.k.a. "The Waltz King," a big band leader from the 1920s to 1980s.
Erik H. -- I attended elementary and junior high school in Concord, Calif., the birthplace of Dave Brubeck.
In 1996, Brubeck remarked on the "serendipitous combination of a 'catchy' melody, an insistent rhythm and the general musical climate of the times" that helped make the "Time Out" album and the "Take Five" single a best-selling popular jazz classic for the ages:
"Creating a 'hit' out of the odd-meter experiments of 'Time Out' was the farthest from any of our minds in 1959, when Paul Desmond, Joe Morello, Eugene Wright and I went into the studio to record."
That might be my favorite kind of "hit," the one you didn't mean to happen.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Singing along to the "boiled owl"

I have been enjoying James Gavin's "Deep in a Dream: The Long Night of Chet Baker," an autobiography of the troubled, trumpet-playing 1950s icon.
Besides William Claxton's memorable photos, Baker might be best known today for his singing.
Off-key but with feeling, Baker's crooning style is not for everyone.
I fall into the "love him" camp along the love-him-or-hate divide.
I have been singing along to Baker songs for days.
Mimi Clar, writing in a Metronome review in the 1950s, clearly falls into the "hate him" camp:
"Criticizing Baker's 'singing' is as unfair a game as commenting on a 4-month-old baby's lack of coordination because he can't walk. How can one speak critically of an anemic voice which sounds like a boiled owl trying for out-of-reach high notes?"