Sunday, April 26, 2009

The Bad Plus in Columbia

The Bad Plus, the jazz trio that doesn't act like a jazz trio, came to Columbia today for three shows. As if I needed more reason to like them, they reportedly drove through the night from Minneapolis to get here for the first set, a matinee.

Much has been said of this band's fondness for playing covers of rock tunes. Some critics have even labeled them camp because of their song selections. But if the definition of a great cover song is to outdo the original, then The Bad Plus have achieved greatness.

Their new release, For All I Care, features Minneapolis-based rock singer Wendy Lewis, whose voice fits nicely with the band. Their version of Nirvana's Lithium makes me respect the original far more than I ever did, and their take on Pink Floyd's Comfortably Numb is both simple and stunning. They performed both of these in their first set today at Murry's in Columbia.

Perhaps their greatest achievement on the new record is taking a song that I never liked--Heart's Barracuda--and making it eminently likable. Not everything, however, works. Maybe their version of the Bee Gee's How Deep Is Your Love will grow on me, but I doubt it.

And while critics can say, "But it's not jazz!" no one can argue the musicianship of the band members. All three regulars--pianist Ethan Iverson, bassist Reid Anderson and drummer David King--showed the room today that they can play with anyone, jazz musician or otherwise. King's drumming was particularly impressive. He worked every inch of the set, finding every sound possible.

It was heartening to see the crowd's respone: an immediate standing ovation with plenty of hoots and hollers. A jazz audience appreciates both technical facility and entertainment, and they got both today.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

So it's been a couple of years since I've written here. Funny how that happens. Anyway, for those who may care, here are the songs I played on KOPN tonight, with a bit of commentary on each.


The Loudhorns/Superbone Meets the Badman/One For Maynard
Nice high-range trumpet on a 2009 release. Great to hear this song again. Also includes a faithful rendition of Birdland. Just watch out for Bohemian Rhapsody.

Pete Malinverni/I Love Paris/Invisible Cities
Striaght-ahead piano work on a fine Cole Porter tune.

Kenny Garrett/Kurita Sensei/Standard of Language
The *real* Kenny G.

Thelonious Monk/Pannonica/Tokyo Concerts
Double album from 1963, featuring many of his best-known songs.

Carmen McRae With George Shearing/Gentleman Friend/Two For The Road
The only uptempo song on the album, Carmen swings and scats like she was born doing it.

Dave Brubeck/Three To Get Ready/Double Live From The Usa & Uk
Classy stuff.

Karrin Allyson/I Found the Turnaround/Footprints
I can't think of a bad thing to say about this woman. On this album she sings new, smart lyrics applied to jazz standards.

Charlie Hunter Trio/Swmba Redux/Copperopolis
Probably not a lot of radio-ready songs here. I actually like Cueball Bobbin' better, but it was too hard rockin' for tonight's show.

Benny Green/Battle Hymn of the Republic/Greens
Swings the hell out of this. I practically wore out the cassette in the early '90s.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Recordings I Love, Part 1

The ultimate in self-indulgence (what else are blogs for?).

In no particular order...

1. Sonny Rollins/St. Thomas/Saxophone Colossus/Prestige
2. McCoy Tyner/The Greeting/The Greeting/Milestone
3. Lee Morgan/Totem Pole/The Sidewinder/Blue Note
4. John Coltrane/Afro-Blue/A John Coltrane Retrospective: The Impulse Years/ Impulse
5. Miles Davis/So What/Kind of Blue/Columbia
6. Ella Fitzgerald/Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered/The Rodgers and Hart Song Book/Verve
7. Neko Case/Star Witness/Fox Confessor Brings the Flood/Mint
8. Richard and Linda Thompson/For Shame of Doing Wrong/Pour Down Like Silver/Island
9. The Replacements/Alex Chilton/Pleased to Meet Me/Sire
10. Kate Bush/Wuthering Heights/The Kick Inside/EMI

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Piano Heaven

I've been feeling theme-y, so last night I played all solo piano on my jazz show ( Given the abundance of top-shelf solo piano recordings, it would be really hard to put together a bad program on this theme, so I take no credit for the way the show sounded. It basically came together on its own.

KOPN Playlist 5-15-07
artist/song/album/record label

1. Fats Waller/Viper's Drag/The Joint is Jumpin'/Bluebird
2. McCoy Tyner/Naima/The Greeting/Milestone
3. Keith Jarrett/Radiance Part VIII/Radiance/ECM
4. Thelonious Monk/Round About Midnight/Monkisms/Piccadilly
5. Oscar Peterson/I Concentrate on You/Oscar Peterson in Russia/Pablo
6. Art Tatum/These Foolish Things/Solo Masterpieces Vol. 8/Pablo
7. Mulgrew Miller/My Man's Gone Now/Work!/Landmark
8. James Williams/New York/Maybeck Recital Hall Series Vol. 42/Concord
9. Marcus Roberts/Black and Tan Fantasy/Alone with Three Giants/Novus
10. Benny Green/Lester Left Town/Naturally/Telarc

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Guitar Heroes of Jazz

The radio station where I volunteer is doing another fund drive, so I decided to put together a little theme for my show last night, in the hope of making the begging a bit more palatable. Below is the playlist for my "Guitar Heroes of Jazz" show. Yes, many greats are missing (e.g., Wes Montgomery, most obviously), but when you only have an hour, you do what you can.

KOPN playlist 5-8-07
artist/song/album/record label

1. Joe Beck/Laura/Tri07/Whaling City Sound
2. Derek Trucks Band/Elvin/Soul Serenade/Columbia
3. Pat Martino/The Phineas Trane/Think Tank/Blue Note
4. John McLaughlin/Afro Blue/After the Rain/Verve
5. Joe Pass & Niels Henning Orsted Pedersen/Yardbird Suite/Chops/Pablo
6. Benny Green (featuring Russell Malone on guitar)/Come On Home/These Are Soulful Days/Blue Note
7. John Scofield/Alfie/En Route/Verve
8. Django Reinhardt/Djangology/Djangology/Bluebird

A couple of notes: The two songs I've heard from that new Joe Beck cd are fabulous. And man, do I need to listen to more Derek Trucks! The only money we received while I was on the air was from a guy who walked into the studio while the Trucks song was playing. He said he was in his car and just had to pull over to make a donation!

Saturday, May 5, 2007

Play It Again, Daddy!

My 2-year-old thinks it's 1984. Ever since I checked out the "Stop Making Sense" soundtrack cd from the public library a few months ago, he's decided his favorite song is "Thank You for Sending Me an Angel." This was not one of the more notable songs from the Talking Heads' extremely entertaining concert film, but somehow it's captured my tyke's imagination.

Only David Byrne, Tina Weymouth, and Chris Frantz perform on this one, although they give off a much larger sound. The tune rollicks along to Frantz's snare drum, with Byrne sounding like a madman, assuring us that (with a little practice) "you can walk, you can talk just like me!" My son dances both with me holding him or by himself, stomping around the living room and jumping in time to the cymbal crashes. He requests it constantly.

I have now heard this song no fewer than 100 times. Fortunately, it's only about two minutes long, so I guess it's only taken up about three hours and change of my life. Actually, watching the little guy dance to it is about as entertaining for me as almost anything he does.

Lately, my son allows us to listen to other songs on the album, and there are many, many fine ones. The Talking Heads were one of the best bands of their time, and that film is really a work of art. I saw it three times when it was released, and still feel mesmerized by the music and staging.

I guess the little acorn doesn't roll far from the big nut, or something like that.

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Radio Radio

For about the past 9 years, I've hosted a jazz show on our community radio station, 89.5 fm KOPN ( It's just a one-hour deal, once a week--Tuesdays, 8-9 p.m. Central, for anyone wishing to check it out on the station's web stream.

For perhaps no one's amusement other than my own, I'll post my show's playlists here from time to time. Feel free to comment on, judge, praise, or ignore my taste in jazz.

KOPN Playlist 5-1-07:
artist/song title/album/record label

1. Paul Desmond/Take Ten/The Best of Paul Desmond/Epic
2. Allen Beeson (local trumpeter)/Oop Scop a Dop/First Time Out/Chase Music Group
3. Bobby McFerrin/Thinkin' About Your Body/Spontaneous Inventions/Blue Note
4. Bob French/Burgundy Street Blues/Marsalis Music Series Honors Bob French/Marsalis Music-Rounder
5. Miles Davis/If I Were a Bell/Relaxin' With the Miles Davis Quintet/Prestige
6. Max Roach Double Quartet/Little Booker/Easy Winners/Soul Note
7. Arturo Sandoval/Sandu/I Remember Clifford/GRP
8. Babel Gilberto/Um Segundo/Momento/Ziriguiboom-Six Degrees