Monday, April 6, 2009

April 2009

The rock n roll lifestyle runs deep. In fact, its madness preceded the rock era altogether, becoming manifest in the earliest of jazz performers. I couldn't sleep last night and found myself watching the first installment of the Ken Burns Jazz documentary at 3 am on PBS. I learned that two of jazz's foremost pioneers, Buddy Bolden and Jelly Roll Morton (New Orleans men, of course), had a penchant for the party. Each became victims of the scene, but not before helping to deliver a new artform.

In turn-of-the-century New Orleans, the red light district known as Storyville doubled at night as the musical arts district. Bolden, a cornetist, and his band were among the first to showcase a new brand of mostly improvised, swinging ragtime to the sweaty throngs that turned out at Storyville's fledgling dance clubs. He was dubbed King Bolden by the district's denizens, and in the King's country the party raged all night, every night. Sadly, after a reign of about seven years, he was driven to insanity by alcohol and was institutionalized for the rest of his life.

Jelly Roll Morton honed his piano craft in the district's brothels, providing a lighthearted soundtrack to all the evening's affairs. According to Jazz, Morton had the best seat in the house as he monitored peepholes into each of the rooms and simultaneously customized his piano's flourishes to every twist and turn of the ladies at work in the bedrooms. This not only earned him great tips from the working girls, but also made him an excellent improviser - improvisation being an absolutely essential element of the jazz ethic that would emerge. Morton fared slightly better in his fate than Bolden. He died in his mid-fifties a few months after being wounded in a knife fight at the D.C. nightclub he was playing.

To imply that the legacy of these men lies in their raucous ways would be an injustice. For they were among the first true crafters of jazz. Bolden invented the "big four" variation on the straight timing of popular marches. The result was a looser realm within which to "jazz up" and personalize traditional melodies. Morton was the first to put jazz tunes to paper and the first to play them in cities outside New Orleans. He and his Red Hot Peppers band played venues in D.C., New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles.

Anyway... there seems to be no shortage of hot jams for the warmer seasons. New releases from Royksopp, Franz Ferdinand, and Peter Bjorn & John are heating up indie airwaves and discos across the world. It's like 2006 all over again, just more dancy. The lines defining the borders of rock, electro, world music, etc. are disintegrating. Really, the world's music scene resembles New Orleans circa 1900; and it sounds great. Here's a dope playlist... Enjoy.

Track List
1) the Beatles - I'm So Tired
2) Peter Bjorn & John - It Don't Move Me
3) Royksopp - Vision One
4) Marlena Shaw - California Soul (Diplo/Mad Decent Remix)
5) Bob Marley - Easy Skanking
6) Dr. Dog - The Ark
7) Dr. Dog - My Old Ways
8) Born Ruffians - In a Mirror
9) Ra Ra Riot - Can You Tell
10) Laughing Light of Plenty - The Rose
11) Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings - How Long... (Ticklah Remix)
12) Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings - My Man is a Mean Man (DJ Spinna Remix)
13) Animal Collective - Bluish
14) NOMO - My Dear
15) Pavement - Embassy Row
16) MSTRKRFT - Vuvuvu
17) TV On The Radio - Love Dog

*April Supplement
Here's a quick jam recently unearthed by my former roomate and beatmaster extraordinaire Leon Marx. We laid this down sometime around '06-'07. Just raw, fun stuff...