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February 15, 2008

mosaic Duke Ellington: 1936-40 Small Group Sessions and Witherspoon-McShann Goin' to Kansas City Blues

Posted by dogpossum on February 15, 2008 12:23 PM in the category digging and djing and music

...and the last of my Big Binge CDs arrived today, along with a lovely needlepoint pack. It was just like christmas.
Let's start with the needlepoint. I bought it from this slightly dodgy looking site. I've recently gotten returned to needlepoint, c/o a christmas present Margarate Preseton job, and have gotten a bit obsessive about it. Had to have another to do, though I've managed to sate some of that obsession with a nice blue patchworked crocheted blanket for The Squeeze - I can't bear large crochet projects in summer, but the smaller squares are easier - remind me to post pics of my fabulous red flowered job. Note the price - $55 for printed canvas + all wool. That's not bad at all. And it's an Australian company, so there's less postage to pay.

1011.jpg Jimmy Witherspoon with Jay McShann Goin' to Kansas City Blues from Mosaic. I'm a big fan of Jay McShann, and while I don't like Witherspoon's politics, he can sing like a mofo. I'm still keen on that big, fat 50s sound. This one has lovely quality recording, and the band is so freakin' good (Emmett Berry, J. C. Higginbotham, Hilton Jefferson, Seldon Powell, Al Sears, Kenny Burrell, Gene Ramey and Mousey Alexander). Some of it veers off into post-swing (this is a 1957 recording after all).
Most of my Jay McShann is earlier - nice, dirty Kansas City stuff. Though I do have this album Hootie!, a live job by his trio in... damnit, I haven't entered the date! [EDIT: just checked it - it's 1997] And the CD is far away... Anyhow, that's a great album, but it's supergroove. Lots of long, tinkly songs with tinkly piano, often at supersonic speeds. Not really the best dancing (except for the odd blues track), but really good listening music. I really like McShann's piano style - it's so different to people like Basie and Ellington and Junior Mance and Oscar Peterson.
So, anyhow, this new CD is really fun. Lots of great, upenergy songs. As I said, though, it's a bit post-swing, in that it stops swinging quite so much. The slower ones are better, but the uptempo ones are kind of staccato or abrupt. Don't swing so much. What this means for dancers is that it feels like you're rushing from beat to beat, and that songs feel faster generally. This can be good for lifting the energy in the room every now and then (especially if it's a more recent recording), but ultimately, it does bad things to your lindy hop. We need that gushy, delayed timing to really make us swing, to keep us hanging back and soaking every last moment out of each beat.

235.jpg My other lovely present is Duke Ellington: 1936-40 Small Group Sessions, another Mosaic set I've had my eye on for ages. Cost a freakin' bomb, but oh-baby, I have a serious thing for Ellington that's just not going away. I have quite a few Ellington CDs and collections, but I couldn't resist some lovely Mosaic remastering goodness (that's what makes these expensive things worth it - good remastering, not to mention fab liner notes and packaging and great service).
This is completely different stuff to the Witherspoon CD - 20-odd years earlier, different approach to the rhythm section, very different approach to composition/arrangement. Really, this is a nice comparison between classic 30s swinging jazz and the 'next generation'. While I adore the Witherspoon/McShann CD, this is where my heart truly lies. I love Ellington for the complexity and sophistication of the arrangements and plain old management of the band. Each musician has a very particular job, and they do it just wonderfully. I also prefer this bouncy old school sound - makes me want to lindy hop. None of that shuffle-rhythm going on in the drum kit area. Nice shouty choruses at the end of songs. Yes, please.

I also like these big 'complete, collected works' sets because they include multiple takes of the one song. This means you get to hear the band make minute variations in the way they play, and you really begin to understand how the band work together as a team, and how a slightly shorter solo can change the whole song. I also like hearing the people in the studio talking - it's like we're just that little bit closer to a world that feels imaginary, most of the time. They way they talk, the things they talk about - are all so far away from us. But when you hear them swearing about fucked up takes or laughing at jokes, it becomes a bit more real.

So, sitting up in bed looking through all these goodies this morning (it was an early delivery), it felt like my birthday. And it was lovely.
Now I just have to score a few more DJing gigs to cover these extravagances.

Posted by dogpossum on February 15, 2008 12:23 PM in the category digging and djing and music