1st Weekly High Fidelity Friday

June 17, 2011

By Alex MacNeil

Hey everybody,

You may be familiar with the Nick Hornby novel High Fidelity or the film or the same name starring John Cusack where the characters are constantly and often pitifully reducing their lives to a series of “top 5 lists”. I am, unfortunately and secretly, the type of music lover and audiophile that obsesses with soundscapes and longs for the music to reflect my environment perfectly.

This particular Friday, my first as a temporary resident of St. John’s, is foggy. Residents of the Avalon Peninsula will not be surprised by this; they are by no means strangers to this type of weather, but potentially to the horizon which is clouded by thick, moist and strangely comforting fog.

This brings me to my first top 5:  Favorite Tracks to listen to on a Foggy Day.

#1- A foggy Day.  Louis Armstrong and Ella Fitzgerald from their album Louis and Ella.

This record is, admittedly, too apt.  I promise that I didn’t post this topic specifically for this tune, but I could not resist the temptation of including it on my list.  On my flight last night I listened to a delightful rendition of the “I got Rhythm” variations for piano and orchestra, and was once again shocked by the breadth of Gershwin’s output.

Of course, this record is a classic for a reason. The combination of the two most recognizable and well known voices together in Jazz is infectious. This record is like candy that doesn’t rot your teeth. The recording quality is warm and there is, like in every recording of Louis Armstrong or Ella Fitzgerald record, an overwhelming sense of joy that is ceaseless in its assault on adversity.

The band doesn’t do too badly either. With the help of Oscar Peterson’s quartet featuring Ray Brown, Buddy Rich and Herb Ellis the record swings ferociously from start to finish. Check this record out if you haven’t heard it, for the many of you who have, treat yourself and put it on  again.

#2 It Never Entered My Mind. Miles Davis Quintet.  Workin’ with the Miles Davis Quintet

This was the first track from the first jazz record I bought. I think its still potentially my favorite. For those of you unfamiliar with Miles Davis on Verve, these records are particularly impressive pieces of work partially because all four records (steamin’, cookin’ , workin’, relaxin’) were recorded in two days (May 11th and the 26th of October, 1956). These records stand as models for the modern blowing record with simple but extremely effective arrangements and probably one of the best overall bands small groups in jazz history.

This record features John Coltrane (Tenor), Red Garland (Piano),  Paul Chambers (Double Bass) and Philly Joe Jones (drums). One of its striking features is the very sensitive touch of Red Garland whose piano solo on this tune is nothing short of perfect.

#3 Rise Again- Ocean Sounds Quartet.  Live at the Ship’s Company Theatre

This is an Atlantic Canadian shout out. Popular and folk music’s use and influence has been a staple of Jazz musicians for about 50 years now but it seems to be a feature that still seems fresh for jazz audiences.  This particular track is a rendition of  Rise Again, potentially the most popular song of one of Cape Breton Island’s finest exports, The Rankin Family.  The interpretation is light, very free, and has an almost Caribbean influence. The whole album also seems to show influence from one of Jazz’s most eclectic groups: Bill Frisell, Joey Baron and Kermit Driscoll.

Paul Tynan, the leader of the group is really an all star in the maritime jazz scene, and is in many ways its strongest supporter. The release of this album, which contains only Maritime music, adds to the substantial proof that you don’t have to be from New York to play great jazz.  The Sutherland brothers and New York City drummer Fred Kennedy join Tynan on the record, breathing life into the loose arrangements. Alan Sutherland’s guitar solo in the opening track speaks Bill Frisell’s Caribbean-esque influence, his tone is reminiscent of Mick Goodrick mixed sometimes with the aggressive attack of John Scofield, but the overall package is more than just imitation. Instead, the sum of its parts creates a unique brand which is championed by a type of legato that is foreign to my ears. It seems effortless, he slides across and switches strings completely undetected, making the phrasing sound very Saxophone-like.

I hope all of you Atlantic Canadian jazz fans get a chance to check out this record, it is definitely worth a listen.

#4 It’s alright with me- Ed Bickert, Mike Murley and Steve Wallace. Live at the Senator

To continue on my Canadian jazz kick, I chose this record which has been a staple on my ipod for the last year. Mike Murley’s tenor saxophone playing is another Atlantic Canadian treasure and his presence at the Wreckhouse Jazz Festival has been warmly welcomed before. He begins the track with a stunning intro that gets a bit dirty and shows off his talent for long phrases that take unexpected and pleasing turns.  The record is particularly interesting to me because of its lack of drummer, I think it makes the record feel very intimate which is why I think it is a prime candidate for this list. Not to mention Ed Bickert’s  ability to play perfectly placed,  sparkling chords that remind the listener of Red Garland or Bill Evans and make you question the notion that ten fingers are better than five.

#5 George Garzone – Lush Life.  Alone

My last pick speaks for itself: Beautiful Ballad played by the best tenor saxophonist in the business. Seriously think tone, as thick as Newfoundland fog. Enjoy, happy listening!

Until next Friday!



One comment

  1. Thanks Alex, I’m Humbled.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: