Saturday, December 21, 2013

And Then There's Nellie McKay

And how could I forget to mention Nellie McKay's excellent show last week at the Warhol? I was high on that show all weekend. I suppose getting sick erased it from my brain, along with the cool chat that Nellie and I had at the end of the night. (I was the last person in line at the meet and greet table, so I had her and her mother all to myself.)

Well, if you want to know what I thought of the actual show, here's my report.

Incidentally, it was announced at that show, and released earlier in the week in the paper, that Neutral Milk Hotel is coming here in March.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

New article and a big time critic's poll

I was polled as part of the 2013 NPR Music Jazz Critic's Poll. Read about it here.

Also, Blurt posted my article about Dot Wiggin from the Shaggs. Here it is

Beyond that, I was sidelined with the flu, or something like it, earlier this week so there's not much else I have creatively. But this is something to chew on.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Remembering Bobby Jackson

The first year I attended the Detroit Jazz Festival, I really felt like the new kid on the block and tried to get to know as many people as possible. The first morning there, I went on a chartered tour of the Motown Museum, the actual "Home of the Hits" building on West Grand Blvd. One of my fellow travelers was a guy with his wife and young son, who seemed to know a lot about music history, not only at Motown, but with an all-encompassing knowledge. And he wasn't high-and-mighty about it either. He was very enthusiastic about sharing his knowledge with people. That guy's name was Bobby Jackson, and it turns out, he didn't live too far from me. He lived in Cleveland.

Last night I was perusing Facebook and saw a link to a JazzTimes obit on guitarist Jim Hall. When I clicked on that link and started reading it, my eyes caught another link in the corner about "Veteran Jazz Broadcaster Bobby Jackson dies."

No, I thought. It can't be him. That guy is too full of life to die.

And as you can probably guess by now, it was him.

More than the passing of Jim Hall, more than the passing of Pittsburgh trombonist bandleader Jack Purcell, Bobby's death shook me. He was too young. Too influential. 57 is too young to go. His son is now only 10-years old.

That's about all I can say about it. My coping mechanism is to remember the good things about a person and to how many people he touched. So if you haven't seen the article or didn't know who he was until now, please read this. If nothing else, it shows how much he did and how he took that knowledge of music and put it to good use, sharing it with as many people as he could.

Rest in peace, Bobby.

Tuesday, December 03, 2013

CD Review: Mascott - Cost/Amount


Another one that's been sitting around for a couple months, waiting for attention...

In the early days of this blog, I wrote a very effusive post about Mascott's Dreamer's Book album which you can find here. In case you don't follow that link (which you should, as a buildup for what follows), suffice to say I loved that album. Unfortunately I never got around to getting that album's followup, but now there's finally a chance to hear what Mascott (which is essentially Kendall Jane Meade with friends) is up to.

Cost/Amount has just four songs, all of which are much more stripped down sonically than the rich layers of guitars and keyboards that Meade constructed all those years ago. But they also offer perfect examples of pop songs that can be brainy and even fairly accessible at the same time. The title track offers a fresh take on broken relationships, tallying up a series of numbers over a bright, chugging guitar riff: "There's 52 weeks in a year, that's 52 Saturdays/ I've seen 52 sadder ways to spend the night alone," she begins, eventually giving four-figure numbers and a clever, somewhat economic assessment of love before the song ends too soon at just over two minutes.

The sweet "Our Life" is tailor made to be a hit, full of ringing acoustic guitars and high register "ooh"s in the chorus. With its recurring reference to Pink Floyd's most famous album in the chorus, it goes a little deeper to set up the hopeful flip side to the previous song. "By the Book" recalls earlier Mascott recordings, since it's built around an electric piano riff and features Meade singing in a lower register.

Kirsty MacColl wrote "They Don't Know" and Tracey Ullmann had a hit with a version that took inspiration from '60s girl groups, with chiming keyboards and layers of vocal harmonies. Hearing it stripped down to just Meade and a few casually strummed guitar is a bit of a shock on first blush. But it leaves all the important elements intact: the strong melody and the power of love in the face of discouragement. 

All told, Cost/Amount wraps up in less than 12 minutes, which feels far too soon and might be a reason to buy it as a download rather than a physical copy. It needs to be heard, though, and hopefully this is just an appetizer for a longer work that Meade has up her sleeve.