Music recommendations

Happy 60th recording anniversary to Kind of Blue

This week marks the 60th anniversary of the start of the recording sessions for what ended up becoming the most famous jazz album of all time (and, I would argue, possibly the most important album every recorded):

They came into the session having never rehearsed the music together, with Davis offering only sketched outlines of the changes. As Cobb put it in Ashley Kahn’s very thorough account, Kind Of Blue: The Making of a Miles Davis Masterpiece, “The call I got from Miles for that record was just like any other record. He’d say we’ve got a date, where it is and what time it is — I didn’t know if it was Kind of Blue or Kind of Green at the time, you know?”

I highly recommend Kahn’s book, it’s a fascinating account of those recording sessions. I also enjoyed this video of Ted Gioia — author of the great book How to Listen to Jazz — discussing the significance of the album:

And finally, this was a long time ago, but I was once inspired to link Kind of Blue and design in a post called A story about Miles Davis and the nature of true genius. I’m not sure it holds up, but I certainly enjoyed writing that one. Either way, Ken Norton did a way better job of it in his Kind of Blue infused Mind The Product talk called Please Make Yourself Uncomfortable - What product managers can learn from jazz musicians.

But honestly, the best thing to do on a day like today is to just listen to the damn thing.

“Stay Tuned!” by Dominique Fils-Aimé is out today! One of my absolute favorite jazz/vocal artists. Play this one loud. It’s subtle and sparse and deserves all the attention you’ve got.

So this was an interesting find today. It is, as best I can tell, an original pressing (Discogs release #10900025 if anyone wants to check my work). It’s not a Blakey album I was familiar with, but I had a quick listen and loved it. Hidden gem for sure.

Anyway, the vinyl didn’t look to be in great condition. So I talked them down (a lot), gave it a good wash (3 times), and am now listening through it. Not gonna lie, it’s not the quietest record I own. But I feel like it’s pretty good for something that was made in 1967 and has obviously been played a lot. Pretty sure I can sell it for 3x what I bought it for. But not this time. This is not an easy record to come by. So I’m hanging on for dear life to this piece of history.

This review of Part of the Light by Ray LaMontagne had me falling over myself to find it and click play:

The way I figure it, Ray LaMontagne was dropped on his head sometime last year and woke up days later, thinking it was 1971, he was Pink Floyd, and he had to go into the studio right now and make an album.

(Spoiler: the review is not wrong)

🎵 New release album pick for the week of February 8, 2019

We’re still early in 2019, so it’s been slim pickings so far in terms of new releases. But this week I’ve been really enjoying Already Ready Already by Galactic. The AllMusic review sums it up pretty well:

Galactic juxtapose modern dancefloor and funk rhythms alongside electronic instrumentation in putting across their ass-shaking funk pop & roll.

It’s a short album that, at 24 minutes, feels more like a mixtape than anything else. But the way they mix genres and beats makes it an incredibly fun ride.

Snow music.

🎵 Sting, Mercury Falling

The kind of album that can save a life if you hear it at the right time.

🎵 Nils Frahm, Spaces

Woah. amo by Bring Me The Horizon is such an interesting mix of genres in one album. Definitely worth checking out.

One of my favorite minimalist jazz albums is Nightfall by Till Brönner and Dieter Ilg. It’s a beautiful journey for trumpet and bass, which ends with an absolutely stunning rendition of Ach, bleib mit Deiner Gnade.

I never knew that August and Everything After wasn’t just the name of Counting Crows’ debut album. It was also an unfinished song, and the lyrics of that song is what appears on the cover of the album. Now, 25 years later, they revisited the song, finished it, and recorded it with a live orchestra. And it is really lovely.

This video of Mumford & Sons’ performance of Delta makes me so happy. Great song, and such a joyful concert experience.

🎵 I know this is going to be a controversial opinion. But I’ve given it much thought, and decided unilaterally that Less by Nils Frahm is the most beautiful song in the world.

🎵 I’m really excited about this one. Red Earth & Pouring Rain is one of my favorite albums, so it was awesome to wake up to an email that Bear’s Den is coming out with a new album in April, called So that you might hear me. They also released a couple of new tracks from the album that you can listen to here.

🎵 Happy anniversary to Moanin’, one of the greatest jazz albums of all time:

“This is powerful stuff,” wrote the anonymous reviewer, correctly assessing one of Blakey’s most enduring recordings. “It all swings and it can move.”

🎵 I found a track from the album A New Cycle by the Sepalot Quartet on this week’s State of Jazz playlist on Spotify, and I’m mesmerized by it. It’s such an interesting mashup of hip hop, jazz, and tons of other tangential styles.

🎵 This week’s #ThrowBackThursday playlist on Spotify is such a neat idea. They're all songs from Guitar Hero.

🎵 Today’s work music is the mesmerizing Bay of Rainbows by Jakob Bro. Beautiful stuff.

🎵 Wake-up music for a gloomy Portland Saturday morning.

🎵 It’s always fun digging through Stereophile’s annual list of Records to Die For.

🎵 An exhaustive list of love songs that reflect relationship reality

It feels like most love songs are written by and for 20-year olds who have never experienced anything approaching a long-term commitment to anyone. I don’t mean that in a negative way, it’s just the way it is. But a person’s views of life and love and relationships change a lot when they’ve been in a committed relationship for more than a few years.

So I’ve been thinking about love songs that bring a bit of reality to the whole thing. I’m not talking about break-up songs. I’m talking about songs that reflect sticking with someone through good and bad, and not always enjoying it, but realizing that the hard work is absolutely 100% worth it. So far I’ve found… <checks clipboard>… two songs like that.

The first is Mutemath’s Happy to Oblige:

We may ride upon a sea of highs and lows But by your side, I’m happy to oblige

The other is Jars of Clay’s Love in Hard Times:

It’s when I think to reach across those battle lines Still love in the hard times

I really connect with these songs. They’re beautiful and real and a reflection of a relationship that has “seen some stuff.” I feel like there has to be more though. What are some other songs like this that come to mind for you?

🎵 An Enigma

I recently purchased the vinyl reissues of Enigma I, II, and III. Those three albums were deeply influential to me in my high school and early college years. It’s so wild to listen to them now with fresh ears, on vinyl, in my 40s.

Time is a strange thing, and getting older is a bitch, but the music of my younger years will always bring anchoring and comfort beyond measure.