musicology #0661

Lishonile – Batsumi



Frequently updating themusicologist would be a ‘walk in the park’ if it wasn’t for the narrative that accompanies each cut. I listen to music every day and am constantly turning up incredible slices of top drawer urbanemusicology. 45 years of listening to superb music counts for something and for me the knowledgehustle is what matters. NOT the medium it is on, it’s rarity, economic value or even the artist(s) involved. To be honest I don’t give a f**k about the category/label … do the combined frequencies and harmonies reach out and touch me or not is my ONLY concern. That said I appreciate that such details are important to some of the Cats out there and if that’s your bag…all power to you.

For the next few weeks I’m going to go small on the narrative and BIG on the music to get themusicologist back into the groove and always follow the Louis Armstrong maxim of playing “the good kind” of music.


musicology #465

2LegendsClash II #1

(Billie Holiday – Things Are Looking Up)

So, the end of another year and on reflection what a year it has turned out to be, (at least for me). This time last year themusicologist was on, (what turned out to be), our final family holiday. Today a year later ‘farce has become history’.. doubt that Baudrillard was thinking in terms of a major relationship disintegrating into nothing when he penned that fragment but nevertheless it springs to mind. No point pretending that at times the pain wasn’t almost unbearable but as I sit here today, (alone), at the start of a new decade I can’t help but look back and say I am glad to be alive. Been a steep old learning curve, (that’s for sure), and although it’s been a white knuckle ride I wouldn’t have it any other way and after all… “Endings are beginnings of beautiful things”

Certainly didn’t want such a deep and profound journey to end the way it has but as I have already mentioned…for me it’s not what happens to us along the way it’s how we respond and I do believe that “every time it rains, it rains…pennies from heaven”.

Which brings me to the first theme of 2010 featuring two of the greatest vocalists to grace the 20th Century..neither should need an introduction but I’m going to drop one anyway.
First up to the microphone stand is perhaps the most influential singer to have ever recorded. A woman whose phrasing changed the face of so called popular music forever..Eleanora Fagan otherwise known as Billie ‘Lady Day’ Holiday who, along with Louis ‘Satchelmouth’ Armstrong, revolutionised the musical landscape. Brother Armstrong rocked the Mic but it was said, and no doubt in my heart it’s true, that when Lady Day first took the stand in a Harlem joint in the early 1930’s penniless and destitute and sung ‘Travelin All Alone’ such was her authenticity that Cats broke down and cried. I first heard Billie, (and that song), sometime in the 70’s, (as a child), and I promise you it shook the ground I stood on and begun a musical love affair that will last forever.  It was the early Billie that I first heard and it’s the early Billie, (up to ’45), I connected to. Why Billie? why now? two words: Authenticity and Inspiration.

Listening to Billie bare her heart and soul provides me the strength to follow mine in the knowledge that to be in love is reason enough to live. Not, I have subsequently learnt, to be loved, (beautiful though this is), rather…to love. A feeling that doesn’t carry the burden of expectation or demand a return. Love is a language and, (as Erich Fromm so eloquently wrote), an Art and one I intend to do my best to continue learning along with the help of those who inspire me to want to.

So with that in mind hold this first cut from a lady who definitely lived and learnt a thing or two about the art while travelin’.

Recorded in New York, (November 1937),  and released on a Brunswick 78. Featuring the combined talents of the majestic Teddy Wilson in complete harmony with luminaries Buck Clayton, Prince Robinson, Vido Musso, Allan Reuss, Walter Page and Cozy Cole.

musicology #278

twolegendsclash #1

(Noble Sissle Orchestra (feat Sidney Bechet) – Dear Old Southland)

As promised a new theme starts today, a ‘Soundclash’ between two of the greatest soloists, innovators, and players of instrument ever recorded. I say recorded because there were others who didn’t record, (Buddy Bolden for instance), or who like Louis Armstrong’s mentor Joe ‘King’ Oliver had health problems that affected the quality of their recorded legacy. Others like Frank Dusen refused to record on the basis that others would be able to hear and imitate their ‘licks’ claiming them as their own. Imitation and competition was fierce as ragtime evolved into ‘Jazz’ and many of the original cats were left behind as the age of recording began to take shape. Not only that but, (as hard as it is for us to imagine today), recording was nothing, (financially), compared to live performance and maybe those players thought that this new fangled technology would never account to much. Youngbloods like Armstrong and Bechet on the other hand were in the right place at the right time and were ‘modernists’ to the core.

First up is Clarinet and Saxophone virtuoso Sidney Bechet, who along with Armstrong took improvisation to a new level. That’s not to say that there weren’t others who were as innovative and talented, Johnny Dodds or ‘Big Eye’ Louis Nelson for example, (who Bechet had lessons with).

Born in 1897 Bechet grew up in New Orlean’s Seventh Ward graduating as a fourteen year old from his brother Leonard’s Silver Leaf band into Bunk Johnson/ Frankie Dusen’s famed rough house ‘Eagle band’ which had previously featured the Legendary Buddy Bolden and later Joe ‘King’ Oliver. This is where the young Bechet’s talent really began to shine and take shape. Obviously no recordings exist from them days so I can’t lay one on you so this 1937 cut featuring brother Bechet on Soprano Sax, (recorded with the Noble Sissle Orchestra in New York), will have to do.

musicology #274

newyearboogie #2

(Johnny Otis Orchestra – Happy New Year Baby)

what can I say about 2008?..pure ‘hill and gully ride’ for me. Learnt a LOT, more than I would have thought possible. Ended on a real high..New Years Eve up on a rooftop in Spain with my son under the stars listening to Sidney Bechet swing out the old year in finest style. I could go on and on about how much this holiday means to me but I’ll just say that last night, especially, was one of the great moments in my life so far, (and there have been a few I am happy to say), that’s TWO top ranking holidays in 2008 that I will cherish for ever, thanks to the Cyprus cats for the previous one and the Fam for this one.. Weather here is glorious, company is first class and the soundtrack has been led by a diet of cuts from the early part of the 20th century most notably from the master, Brother Louis Armstrong while reading a very informative and well written book on his early life in New Orleans.

Today’s cut is courtesy of bandleader Johnny Otis and his Orchestra. Can’t add any more info at the moment like singers, date, label etc so i’ll leave it at that other than to say:


musicology #234

inmodwetrust #1

(Walter Jackson – That’s What Mama Say)

new theme on themusicologist and one that is very much a part of my musical education due to the fact that both my mum and dad were first generation mod/ernists, (1962-1966). the cuts laid down this week were all played in and around London during the above period.

first up is a piece from one of the premier ‘mod’ labels, operating out of ‘Chi’, OKeh. A label that was one of the first to focus on ‘immigrant’ music in the 1920’s recording many of the early Jazz pioneers such as Louis Armstrong, King Oliver, Sidney Bechet and Mamie Smith. After some time spent lost in the musical wilderness the company’s fortunes were reignited by employing Carl Davis in 1962 as head of A&R who had the vision to employ Curtis Mayfield as associate producer in 1963 as well as three of the best arrangers Johnny Pate, Riley Hampton and Gerald Sims who is quoted to have said

“the Chicago sound came from basically one source…Curtis Mayfield”

This one from 1963 is sung by one of themusicologist’s favourite singers, Walter Jackson. Produced by the aforementioned Carl Davis, arranged by Riley Hampton and songwriten by none other than Curtis Mayfield with, (possibly), the Impressions harmonising.