Also -- more to the point -- I was hypomanic when I started this; the entries grow briefer and the writing more workmanlike as I gradually returned to normal.
Also I'm a terrible writer and I shouldn't quit my day job.
Plato - Apology: Just started this one. Only read a couple of pages and it's harder than Xenophon, which is to be expected. It seems an appropriate and not uncomfortable step up from the Anabasis. Section numbering in Plato's works is really ####ing stupid: where a more sensible scribe would refer to the beginning of this work something like "Apology 1.1", the numbers actually refer to the page numbers and divisions of a specific codex containing all/most of Plato's works, so instead the Apology begins at section "17a1".
Hans ěrberg - Fabulae Syrae: A lot of short little stories from Greek and Roman mythology, keyed to the chapters of ěrberg's Familia Romana, so that a set of five or six stories is prescribed to be read with chapter 29, the next set meant to be read with chapter 30, et cetera. I didn't know this. Obviously they're pretty easy.
Ornette Coleman - The Shape of Jazz To Come: As I said earlier, I was expecting something more of a freakout than what would become par for the course. Then again this is avant-garde -- a usually-abused label -- in its true sense; this anticipates a lot of what actually was to come. The first two tracks are the best -- the bassist has awfully fleet fingers on "Eventually" --but it's hard to pick favorites here. The formula gets a little strained towards the end but if I started a listen with the second side I would probably think the opposite. The trumpet solo is especially good on "Congeniality" (unfortunately the reprise clobbers you over the head with the little melodic-thing). The heads don't have *nothing* to do with the solos; they often give contours and motives to the solos, at least at first.
Johnny Hodges/Rex Stewart - Things Ain't What They Used To Be: Filed under Ellington. This disc features small bands, one under Hodges and the other, Stewart; except for the sax and trumpet players the musicians are the same (with Ellington on piano). Hodges' side is the big-bandier ("Good Queen Bess" could pass for Fletcher Henderson, band size notwithstanding) Hodges overemotes at times (I'm looking at you, "Passion Flower" -- playing louder and higher doesn't = emotion. FWIW, in "Day Dream", the other ballad on the disc, he gets it right) but all told his half of the disc is solid. Stewart's side features Ben Webster. I had heard the name but never the artist; he seems to combine Coleman Hawkins' rounded sonority and Lester Young's slithery richness. There's a track subtitled "The Lion of Judah" whose intro and coda have Stewart trying to sound like a lion but ending up sounding like fart noises (I had no idea the Ethiopia thing went back that far). Recommended disc, though I like this kind of music so YMMV. For sure, though --sixteen tracks of this is a lot more manageable than a compilation of forty or fifty.
Red Garland - Red Garland's Piano: Curiously starts with a ten-minute blues jam before moving on to seven standards. All this is played very well by a piano trio (Garland was never this good with Miles Davis) and is enjoyable. Nothing profound here, but if you're looking for satisfying light listening that may make it into your favorites you could do a lot worse than this.
Dizzy Gillespie (with Charlie Parker) - Live 1945 at the Town Hall: Surprisingly good sound considering its age and considering that it was recorded without magnetic tape. The band all play well, and there's a great version of "Salt Peanuts" with Max Roach on the drums (he's replaced immediately after with Sid Catlett for the last track as a guest artist; Don Byas plays the first solo on the album, filling in for a late Charlie Parker, who mounts the stage to audible applause; the sound, however, takes a minute to get up to speed so Byas' solo is almost inaudible). There are only five full tracks, and "Hot House" is really just a vehicle for a long Catlett drum solo. Excellent liners -- box-set worthy, in fact. The photos show the men behind the personnel listings -- man, did they wear loose-fitting suits in the '40s! -- and they sometimes make you wonder about their careers. Curly Russell was everywhere up into the '50s then dropped off the face of the earth, yet he was so young then. Even if not for the music itself I'd recommend this album for the documentary value.
Andrew Hill - Point of Departure: I'm surprised that such a good album can come from what proved to be such a minor figure. Eric Dolphy was really on in 1964, wasn't he? On my computer I still have his Iron Man that Pugeye shot me like two years ago ("Iron Man, Iron Man/Does whatever an iron can/Gets real hot, makes things flat/Eating iron shavings for a snack") which I'll certainly be looking into. As for Hill himself, all I have of him is Bobby Hutcherson's Dialogue, if I'm not mistaken. On this album I often tune out for some reason during his solos, but he has impressively long-breathed and supple lines, never losing musical interest, when I'm paying attention. "Spectrum", with its chaconne-like constant shiftings and alterations, is the highlight, but I do dig every track.
Freddie Hubbard - Red Clay: I don't like it as much as his '60s albums; still a solid fusion album that retains a lot of bebop elements. The first side is hard to follow up -- both tracks are stupendous -- and the second doesn't quite live up to it. (In particular the slow-fast dynamics in "Suite Sioux" strike me as just a little gimmicky. Berlioz' Symphonie fantastique is a cheesy work by anyone's standards yet it, too, manages to be good, though.) Joe Henderson's albums as leader I've found, in general, underwhelming, but man! is he on here (and on Point of Departure, and he plays on the next one as well).
Freddie Hubbard - Straight Life: The liner notes are white on yellow. Though this is the follow-up to Red Clay it's completely different -- two long grooves with soloing, and a third track shoehorned in which doesn't quite fit in with the jam-session aesthetic but which is nice in its own way. The second track ("Mr. Clean") is the b###hes Brewsier of the two and, although that album is one of my least-favorite Miles, I like it better than the first, plus that shoehorned-in track ("Here's That Rainy Day") is a nice chilled-out ballad that, even though it sounds nothing like the rest of the album, solidifies the second side as the better one.
J.J. Johnson/Kai Winding - Jay and Kai: These two did a few albums together. Both play trombone; I was worried that I wouldn't be able to tell between them but one spin and that fear proved groundless: each has such a distinct tone and style that it's hard not to distinguish the two, even on a mono recording. Winding has the purer, more ringing tone and prefers held notes where Johnson is busier and marble-mouthed, and is at his best with ballads and more melodic fast songs. On several tracks the soloist hands off the material to the other seamlessly in mid-solo -- they play great together. The material is mostly short fare with one stylistic sore thumb of Charles Mingus' "Reflections" -- he plays on this disc -- which sounds nothing like the rest of the album. The disc sounds terrific and nothing like what you'd fear from the numerous misspellings and mistaken composer listings on the back cover.
J.J. Johnson - The Eminent Jay Jay Johnson, Vol. 1: These two discs chronicle three early '50s sessions -- each sounding quite distinct -- with this first volume being the first of them. It features three-fourths of the Modern Jazz Quartet (no Milt Jackson) as well as Clifford Brown and Jimmy Heath. Four soloists is an awful lot of cooks in the four-minute kitchen but it all works out. "Turnpike" starts out an lot like "Salt Peanuts".
J.J. Johnson - The Eminent Jay Jay Johnson, Vol. 2: The other two sessions. The third was included on the CD of Blue Trombone in its entirety as bonus tracks, meaning I'm left with the six tracks from the first session and the six tracks from the second to show for buying the two CDs (there are also alternate takes but is ur a fag). The third session might be the best of the three, though that could be from familiarity. The second is pretty good in itself. Johnson does ballads and melodies well, and the session is full of great tunes, plus there are congas in the fast songs.
Roland Kirk - We Free Kings: For 25 years or more Ian Anderson has done the exact same stage banter -- when I saw him in 2002 it was basically just the same as on Bursting Out on the older songs -- and he copped to being influenced by Rahsaan Roland Kirk on the flute. Certainly there's a lot to go on: Kirk's breathy vocalizations and trills and flourishes can be heard in Tull, and this is the first album I've heard him play the instrument on. In general it's good music; he does a good job, for the most part, of not treating his instruments as merely coloration. Rather, he changes up his moods and styles based on what fits the particular instrument, and he rarely sounds homogenous. The manzello can be piercingly shrill even when you have the volume set to a comfortable level. The title track is a fun novelty but I can't imagine it will wear well with repeat listens. I'll have to give Rip, Rig & Panic (which is superior to this) another listen, and to give Beautiful Edith a listen at all.
Thelonious Monk - Genius of Modern Music, Vol. 1: As with the J.J. Johnson a compilation of three sessions, with varying personnel. The second, and most substantial, section is a piano trio; it is the least-enjoyable part of the disc and, while it has some fine music, the bonus tracks are placed right next to the album cuts, and the tracks at times ("Ruby My Dear" in particular) lose something abbreviated (to pre-LP lengths) and stripped down to a piano trio. Other times ("Well You Needn't") work very well, on the other hand. I was already familiar with most of the material and what I didn't know was easy to pick up. Monk isn't consumed by his eccentricies, but I much prefer the Riverside albums myself. The third session may be the best of the three, and the first is also worthy. I had never heard of the musicians on this disc other than Idrees Suleiman (first session) and Art Blakey (who plays on every track). All told a worthwhile disc.
Bud Powell - The Incredible Bud Powell, Vol. 2: Very different from Vol. 1; one almost wonders what they're supposed to have in common. Several years separate the two albums -- surely he was recording between the first volume and this -- and this one is more of a true album: one session (9 tracks) with the same personnel (a piano trio); also there are only a couple of Powell originals here. All that aside the music is mostly fantastic. At first I knew only "Autumn in New York" and "Polka Dots and Moonbeams" (one of my favorites on The Incredible Jazz Guitar of Wes Montgomery) but the others grow on you quickly except for "Sure Thing" (it's not). The melody to "Collard Greens and Black-Eyed Peas" suggests the "Blister in the Sun" riff! -- look it up if you happen to be reading this far down. "Glass Enclosures" wears heavy classical influences and either quotes a tune from a piece I can't quite place, or is so typical of classical that it just seems it.
Max Roach - Drums Unlimited: Here's a reversal for you. First time through all I really liked were the first and third drum solos and "St. Louis Blues" (the album starts exactly like like Flowers of Romance) for some reason I found the first ensemble number overlong and uninteresting. But second time through I did find it interesting, and very enjoyable. The drum-solo tracks seemed to make more sense -- display pieces for rhythm, virtuosity, and melody, respectively -- and all that remained was "In the Red", which actually *is* overlong and, if you're not deeply into the music, uninteresting. Listening to it solo by solo over the dirge-like background it can be hypnotic and affecting but most of the time it's a tedious anticlimax, especially after the highlight "For Big Sid". Maybe that makes me a shallow listener but so be it. All in all it's a good disc. It's a sonic departure from the other Roach albums I've heard: very cleanly produced and at times sounding hard-panned: in "Nommo", with the bass and piano in the left channel, the drums in the right (the parts obviously weren't all recorded separately so this is probably an illusion, but it shows the immaculate production job).
Sonny Rollins - Volume One: So called only because this one and Volume Two were the first and second dates respectively for Blue Note; there's no connection between the two so it would be futile to compare them. This is a perfectly satisfying album but not one you'll probably want to return to much except for the sappy ballad "How Are Things in Glocca Morra" in which Sonny kills it (I'm finding I have a thing for sappy ballads). Sonny Rollins and Donald Byrd are very good together: I had known Byrd only from The Jazz Messengers, and perhaps some others that I don't remember because I didn't recognize the name, and from that album wanted to hear more from him. Well this is more from him, and I'm really going to want to here more now. Very flowing and supple and laid-back in tone, which works well with Rollins' sound.
Lester Young/Teddy Wilson - Pres and Teddy: Hmm, going by their birth dates everyone on this album was in their mid-40s at the time of recording, and the music can be pretty old-fashioned. I don't think this would have been aimed at the "modern jazz" listener. It is, however, richly melodic and pleasing to the ear and, even if it takes no risks, has much fine music, though I don't see myself returning to this well too often.
If you've gotten this far down, enjoy one of my favorite songs in seventh grade: