Sunday, October 05, 2008

Some Nice Things I've Been Listening To Lately...

I've been a fan of Charlie Haden since I first heard his Quartet West film noir tributes, "Haunted Heart", "Now Is The Hour" and "Always Say Goodbye" in San Francisco in the mid-nineties. Later, I moved to LA and had the opportunity to meet Haden and his family at a festival of film noir at one of the theaters I worked at. He was there to promote the albums and see a number of the films he loved (he is a huge fan of "The Big Sleep") and was one of the most gracious celebrities I've ever met. I think it was the night I met him that I found out he used to be a part of a family country gospel group, kind of like The Carter Family, before he became one of the premier jazz bassists in the country.

The new CD, called "Rambling Boy" is a tribute by him to the music he grew up performing, done by Haden, his family and friends of theirs.

And when I say family, well, his daughter Petra made one of my favorite cd's a few years back "Petra Haden Sings: The Who Sell Out" and before that she, her sister Rachel, drummer Tony Maxwell and Anna Waronker were in the critically lauded That Dog, as well as recording a great duet album with guitarist Bill Frisell and a gazillion other artists... I guess my point is I've only named a couple of his kids and they (plus his wife) are all incredibly talented. Which you will hear when you purchase said CD.

Worth it if only for guest Rosanne Cash doing "Wildwood Flower", which was a number that her stepmother June used to do with her family The Carter Family... and the circle grows tighter and tighter...

Hey, look, I'm listening to a cd that has one of the Rat Pack performing in it... weird, huh? Oh shut up. Listen, "Boy Meets Girl" is a collection of two recordings Sammy Davis Jr. and Carmen McRae made together for the Decca label ("Boy Meets Girl" with a smaller combo and a recording of "Porgy and Bess" with the two singers, a full orchestra and chorus) toward the beginning of their respective recording careers and while I had heard some of them in a greatest hits tape Universal put out in the late eighties, the actual albums have been out of print until now.

What you get is such a great melding of two voices you wonder why they never recorded again. Both singers have a similar style of enunciation (Sammy's is easily parodied and it's funny to hear him try to rough up his sound when he would do songs like the theme from "Shaft" in the seventies) and both are great bop singers who could also sing with more traditional pop jazz arrangements. Listen to them scat on the Gershwin brothers' classic "Who Cares?" and then knuckle down to the dramatic, and much more formal, recordings of material from George Gershwin's "Porgy And Bess" and you will be blown away at their range.

Yes, there are some of the sillier things Sammy would do during his earlier recordings (silly voices or his impressions of Nat King Cole and Jerry Lewis) in "Boy Meets Girl", but overall, it is a great set that isn't dated at all.

Speaking of dated, The Art of Noise's "The Seduction Of Claude Debussy" from the late nineties sounds a lot like most electronica coming out in the late nineties... except for the appearance of John Hurt, the best sounding actor in London! I love the sound of Hurt's voice when he talks... he has this singularly British booze/cigarettes-soaked voice that has livened up his appearances in everything from "Harry Potter and The Sorcerer's Stone" to "Hellboy" to "Alien" to this terrible Bob Clark/Judd Nelson lawyer vehicle (co-written by David E. Kelley!) "From The Hip" (with Darren McGavin!) that I watched just watched to see Hurt play a villain!

The cd is a great piece of electronica from a partially reunited The Art Of Noise, paying tribute to the composer Claude Debussy that has Hurt narrating and appearances from Rakim, Donna Lewis and Sally Bradshaw. Just listen to the opening narration as one of TAON says "Imagine an actor saying the following..." then Hurt's voice, sounding like he just polished of a double scotch and Cuban cigar saying "Imagine me saying the following...".

This is a great cd for driving through the rain, and if it's not raining, don't worry- there are rainstorm sound effects in various tracks on the disc.

'Cuz it's trippy like that, yo.

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