Monday, October 31, 2016

A northern dig

Northern as in up towards the Arctic, not Soul.

So we were more than two weeks into our “trip of a lifetime” to Canada and Alaska, and I had not had a sniff of vinyl apart from this, which we stumbled across in a coffee shop in Canmore, Alberta on our first day

Withdrawal symptoms had set in, so I jumped up and down as if I had just spied a grizzly juggling salmon when I saw this in Ketchikan, Alaska...

Yes, a Sally Army thrift store! – and it had some records!! Two boxes of albums to be precise, which included a fair amount of mid 70s jazz-funk of the smooth variety – George Benson, Quincy Jones, Roy Ayers, that sort of thing- something I wouldn't have expected in deepest Alaska to be honest. Quite a few of the albums I already have in the collection, but I happily picked up three that I didn't for the princely sum of $2. For the record they were Bob James One, Material's Memory Serves (which is very good), and some live jazz in the form of Eastman Jazz Ensemble, Live!

Eastman is a highly regarded School of Music founded in 1921, based in Rochester NY, and still going strong. It offers degrees in many forms of music. In the jazz world Steve Gadd and Chuck Mangione are just two of the more well known names I picked out of their alumni list on Wikipedia.

This album collects some live performances made by college students at the Eastman Theatre during their '75 – '76 season. There are a mix of styles represented, although it is basically a big band. The small group Auricle, a jazz-fusion group who went one to have two releases on Chrysalis, is also featured on one track. It is rather good throughout. I was impressed by fidelity of the sound too, the vinyl is quite heavy. Not bad for 66c!

The track featured here is a Chick Corea composition. The sleeve notes tell us: “This chart is the sort of deft group piece that would seem to defy through its very intimacy any big band treatment. But drummer Ron Wagner turns it into a dynamic vehicle for a band that has the technique and time-sense to handle it. Soloists are graduate student Nelson Hinds on trombone, undergraduates Norman Rax on tenor and Rick Braun on trumpet. John Serry on piano and Ron Wagner on drums.”

Friday, October 21, 2016

It's so good for me

I was going to share a track from one of the albums I picked up in Alaska on my recent holiday but that will have to wait a bit.

Instead as it's Friday it is the return of the Friday Double Header - in which I feature a 45 where one side cannot in truth be posted without the other.

The A side (at least I believe it's the A side) of this 45 has nudged Phyllis Hyman's One Thing On My Mind off the turntable to become my latest earworm, and the other side is mighty fine too.

More and more Gene Chandler 45s are finding their way into the collection, this is the latest. Scary to think this one is more than 50 years old. 53 years old this month to be precise.

JohnnyPate gets the arranger credit on this one, and what an arrangement it is.

And here's the other side, which got the play X from the DJ who received this particular advance copy.

Gene Chandler – From Day To Day 1963

Friday, October 14, 2016

One thing on my mind - reprise

To say the last couple of months have been full on is something of an understatement.

It started with our trip to Canada and Alaska which is now already starting to feel like a distant memory. Mrs Darce and I, together with eight other friends, took in Calgary-Banff-Jasper by road, boarded the Rocky Mountaineer to Vancouver, spent a few days in Victoria, then cruised into Alaska, and finished off in Vancouver. Fantastic scenery, bears, whales, glaciers, and almost uninterrupted sunshine – we were so lucky with that. “Just wow” was an often used expression. A trip of a lifetime... but maybe we will do New Zealand next!

I returned to an intense three weeks at work as a new computer system was implemented. A lost weekend, and plenty of late evenings. Still snagging now.

During the new system shenanigans I managed to get way with Mrs Darce for a day as we celebrated our 30th(!) wedding anniversary. Then, last weekend, we drove our daughter and a car full of her belongings over to Germany.

Stop the world! I want to blog!

While we were in Vancouver I managed to slip away for an hour or two and dip into a couple of record shops – I was lucky that they happened to be only 10 minutes walk from our hotel. Vinyl and Beat Street are both on West Hastings. Vinyl was, frankly, overwhelming. Crammed with record bins crammed with records and seemingly every available floor space also covered in more stacks of records. Much of it was actually filed by genre – and micro genre – but in the end I still didn't really know where to start. It needed more time than I had so I decided to withdraw gracefully. A block up was Beat Street which had a good selection. It was there I found an album in the right condition and price I had been on the look out for a while – Phyllis Hyman's debut album from 1977. I have waxed lyrical about Phyllis before, and have been a fan for many years. I had overlooked her debut album until recently though. It has plenty of strong tracks, One Thing On My Mind is the one that initially drew my attention though, it was written and originally performed by Evie Sands. I featured Evie's version here some time ago... just a minute, when was that? Exactly one year ago to the day! Spooky!

Phyllis' life story is a sad one, she was diagnosed bi-polar, and ultimately took her own life in 1995.

She was a beautiful woman blessed with an equally beautiful voice, in fact I'm sure she would have matured into a superb jazz singer. But you could hear her pain, there was a deep melancholy in her voice I think, and I am often moved to tears when I listen to her. (Looking into her eyes there is a sadness there too isn't there?)

Press repeat!