Known Johnson

September 6, 2007

Zoom Essence

Filed under: Music — Tom @ 10:13 pm

Now ripping into Itunes: after I’d bought all of their albums but later realized I don’t like those same albums all that much but instead liked a number of songs spread throughout their career, I created this two-disc self-composed compilation of Barenaked Ladies tunes. (While songs like “Call and Answer” speak to me in special ways, I will never make it through something like “Grade 9” without wincing. Now that I’ve been exposed to the Wiggles, I feel like the Ladies could easily slip into a kids’ music market without much effort with stuff like this. But their serious songs are quite strong, often beautiful and stirring, and that’s exactly what’s on these two discs.) Created before Itunes and the Ipod came into my life and brought such things like “playlists,” I gave in to the need to compile what I liked and simply shed the unwanted discs at Zia – something I very rarely do. Sell, yes, but “steal” certain songs, no – it just feels weird to me. And so these two discs have sat in the section of the Bs for years where all their albums would have been, until tonight when, for whatever reason, I got a conglomeration of hooks from various BNL songs stuck in my head for a short time. So one disc is “Maybe Gordon Should Drive the Pirate Ship” while the other is “Born on a Maroon Stunt Ship.” Whatever – you’re secretly this dorky too, admit it. I’m just not smart enough to keep it to myself.

After we got home from San Diego on Monday I took a few minutes to search Amazon and Half.com for copies of Blue Merle’s album, Burning in the Sun. I liked what I’d heard on the Bull Moose disc and figured there’d be some cheap copies available – the cheaper, the better, so if I don’t like it, it’s no big loss. I opted for a $1.40 copy from a seller right here in AZ that I’ve bought quite a few things from in the past. He’s quick, and this time was no disappointment in that respect. The disc arrived yesterday and I gave it a cursory listen that confirmed what I’d feared. The tasty bluegrass elements found on Bull Moose have been seriously stamped over with more mainstream flavorings, and it’s those elements that I liked the most. This strays much closer to newer Dave Matthews Band and Coldplay than I’d hoped it would. Oh well – it’s not awful, but it’s not great, either, but it might grow on me with time.

I also picked up a disc that my collection has been sorely missing today: the remaster of bass-god Jaco Pastorius’ self-titled solo album. I’ve avoided it for a long time for reasons I’m not entirely sure of anymore. All I know is that his fantastic live album, The Birthday Concert, has provided incredible enjoyment for well over a decade now and what little I’d heard from Jaco Pastorius album didn’t sound appealing. What I liked about TBC was that it melded soul and jazz so well, with a band backing him that was positively on fire for the recording. The studio albums seemed a bit too mannered and strayed far closer to funk than I’d expected. Granted, I heard these was a long time ago too, and have since found a great love for his second solo album, Word of Mouth, plus my horizons have been expanded (and, I hope, continue to expand) to the point that whatever reservation I previously had no longer makes much sense. I now realize it was because some of the material on them was so funky that my white-boy ass couldn’t handle it. I’m no less white now, but somehow this album works for me today. And Jaco is just so damned amazing at being funky that I don’t know how I didn’t appreciate this before.

Because I had a Borders coupon and a $5 Borders Rewards certificate (I never thought I’d use this program but once Amanda started devouring books, it has seen an amazing amount of use) I browsed the jazz section a bit longer, pondering what, if anything, I should pick up. (Yes, I was playing into Borders’ plan – give the people some kind of break and they’ll likely buy more than they were planning – but, seriously, how could I not? The Jaco disc was going to run me $3.99.) I came across the Bs and, specifically, George Benson, who I only know by reputation (lite/smooth-jazz singer who also plays guitar, which is of no interest to me) and by his appearance on Freddie Hubbard’s one-two punch Red Clay and The Straight Life, where he absolutely slays. So I looked through them and found something on CTI, the label where most say he did his best “real jazz” work, Bad Benson. I checked the credits on the back to ensure there were no vocals – safe – and took it to the register.

While there are some “lighter” moments due to the “large ensemble” lead by guitarist Phil Upchurch, Benson’s guitar work is every bit as satisfying as I’d hoped. This, according to some, is the album on which Benson began to turn to the dark side, but I find there’s enough solid, straight-ahead jazz chops going on that I don’t mind its light tendencies. As I’ve found with many jazz albums, it’s not always about enjoying the whole but focusing on things you like in what you’re hearing – time will soften you to the things that you don’t. It’s pretty rare that I’ve actively disliked a jazz album. And so I apply that principle here.

It might take a little longer to love this one, however. Pastorius found its way into my CD player no less than three times today to Benson’s one. That’s the way things be. When I find the right albums, especially jazz-related ones, they seem to have a high-repeatability factor that few other things do. I never know when it’s going to happen, but it sure is fun stumbling upon something that triggers it.

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