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Hash’s Faves: “Deserted Cities of the Heart”

14 May

Wheels_Of_FireThis week’s pick is more goddam hippie music; it’s the song “Deserted Cities of the Heart”performed by Cream, written by Jack Bruce and Pete Brown, from the band’s 1968 album Wheels Of Fire. The basic band of Bruce, Eric Clapton and Ginger Baker were augmented on the studio disc (it was a double album, one disc recorded in the studio and the other live) by producer/multi-instrumentalist Felix Pappalardi. On this particular song Bruce plays bass, acoustic guitar, cello and sings; Clapton plays electric guitar; Baker plays drums and tambourine; and Pappalardi plays the viola.

I’ve been keeping this under my hat for awhile, but for the last year I’ve been rehearsing with a new band (our maiden voyage will be on July 21) called Medicated Goo. It’s led by guitarist/vocalist John Kimsey, and is kind of an offshoot project of his Art Thieves and Twisted Roots Ensemble bands, both of which I’ve been a part of. We’re joined by John’s longtime musical partner-in-crime Dr. Brad Newton on drums; I’m playing bass and a little bit of guitar (!). The band is a cover band, with our repertoire limited (kind of) to the music of Cream, Jimi Hendrix and Traffic, although that allows us a certain amount of leeway (we play a couple of Blind Faith tunes and various other miscellanea). So what I’m trying to say here is that I’ve been immersing myself in the music of Cream.

This is the music that I grew up with, and with rare exceptions I’ve been finding that every song we add to the repertoire, I know in my bones. Maybe I’ve never played it before, on either instrument, but in my head I know how the song goes. But the really cool thing is that now that I’m way older and hopefully have a little more knowledge, I can really appreciate what made this group so special. The particular combination of personalities and musical backgrounds combined perfectly, as far as I’m concerned. In the great John McLaughlin biography Bathed In Lightning there’s talk that he was approached to be part of the band that Bruce and Baker were forming, but for whatever reason he declined. As much as I love McLaughlin, and as intriguing a band that that would have been, it wouldn’t have been the same; John was too much of a jazz player, and would have tipped the scales of the band’s chemistry too far in that direction, I think. Clapton’s background, personality, and his love for the blues helped to ground the band; Clapton himself would never describe himself as a jazz player, but he was sufficiently open-minded to be able to fit in with what the other two guys brought to the table. Baker really was a jazz drummer, while Bruce brought this whole other thing. Besides being a pretty good, and experienced jazz musician, he also had some folky leanings, and had some classical aspirations as well.

This song highlights all of these things; it has a rockin’, bluesy solo by Clapton, and the instrumental interludes sound like a combination of Baker’s jazz background and Bruce’s classicism. I wonder who came up with those bars of 3/4 in the verses, Baker or Bruce? And Jack’s bass playing is just beautiful, driving yet lyrical. The lyrics, by poet Pete Brown, are sufficiently surrealistic to accompany whatever trip you might have been on (I always pictured this song accompanying a painting by de Chirico).

Much like the Beatles, the personalities had quite a lot to do with the band’s creativity. Say what you will about Ringo’s drumming (personally, I think he’s a great drummer), but the Beatles simply would not have been as great with any other drummer. And although they started out as chums, I think that their last few albums, when personalities started to clash, were arguably their finest. And so it was with Cream; Baker and Bruce cordially (and sometimes not-so-cordially) hated each other, and I think that accounts for quite a bit of the fire, and certainly the tension, in their music. Clapton would eventually opt out of the drama, choosing the laid-back vibe of Bonnie and Delaney Bramlett’s band, and a long period of heroin and alcohol addiction. Cream’s career only lasted 2 years, with 4 studio albums, but they helped to change the face of rock music. I’d be willing to bet that quite a few rock musicians of my generation had their eyes and ears opened to the possibilities of jazz by their extended jamming, and for better or for worse the long, extended jam became a staple of rock music; punk and grunge music (again, for better or for worse) arose as a reaction against those excesses.

You can listen to it here:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pL0yTZhuMzE

This post is reprinted from News From The Trenches, a weekly newsletter of commentary from the viewpoint of a working musician published by Chicago bassist Steve Hashimoto. If you’d like to start receiving it, just let him know by emailing him at steven.hashimoto@sbcglobal.net.

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Steve Hashimoto

He Flies: Some Info

3 Apr

We just finished a CD called He Flies, and it’s streaming free at BandCamp:

The CD is also available at CD Baby and digital downloads are available there, too. Digital downloads are also available at Amazon, Google Play, iTunes, and everywhere else you can download music. (At iTunes just get into the store & search for “He Flies by Kent McDaniel.”)

The lyrics to all the songs are up at BandCamp, too.

And here are the people who played on the album:

Alpha

Alpha Stewart plays percussion and/or drum kit on “May You Still Believe,” “He Flies,” and “Big Jim.” He’s who we count on for drums when we play out.

Robert

Robert Marshall plays drums on “Zombies Stink (& Vampires Suck),” “May Third,” & “Your Love Set Me Free.” He also mixed and mastered the album, at The Cave Recording in Evanston, Illinois.

photo

Dorothy McDaniel, plays bass and flute.

andrew mac

Andy MacCrimmon plays drums on “Over Yonder & Round The Bend,” “Cards on the Table,” and “Dance Till Morning Light.”

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Nicki Broeker sings harmony on “Cards on the Table.”

j.t

John Temmerman plays sax and saxello on “May You Still Believe” and “Cards on the Table.”

gus

Gus Friedlander plays banjo on “over Yonder & round the Bend.”

Me

Kent McDaniel is on vocals, acoustic and electric guitar. And wrote the ten originals on the album.

Playlist: Live at Custer Street

3 Apr

Here’s a playlist of the songs we recorded for our Live At Custer Street Album, recorded a few summRecorded at Custer Street Fair in Evanston, Illinoisers ago at Evanston’s Custer Street Fair. Originally we were only recording the songs to use with a video of the show we were making. After we listened to the set, though, we decided we had to do an album with it; it’d come off too nice not to. I’m playing guitar, Dorothy McDaniel’s playing bass, and Vic Varjan’s on drums. Dorothy and I are both singing, but I imagine you’ll be able to hear who is who.

If you really go for any of the tunes, you’re in luck: They’re all available just about anywhere music downloads are sold.

Hash’s Faves: “Tell Me a Bedtime Story

22 Feb

220px-fat_albert_rotundaThis week’s pick is by Herbie Hancock, from his 1969 album Fat Albert Rotunda. It’s the lovely (and difficult tune) “Tell Me A Bedtime Story.” Herbie’s on electric piano, with Joe Henderson on tenor sax and alto flute; Garnett Brown on trombone; Johnny Coles on trumpet and flugelhorn; Buster Williams on bass; Albert “Tootie” Heath on drums and George Devens on percussion. Herbie wrote the tune, and Rudy Van Gelder was the engineer.

At the time of its release, much was made of the fact that Herbie mostly played Fender Rhodes piano on the album, and that he seemed to drawing influences from pop and soul music, but I dunno, it sure sounds like jazz to me. The orchestration is dense, for a small ensemble, but Van Gelder opens up the space and everything sounds light and airy. He had recorded each of these musicians many times, and I’m sure his familiarity with their personal sounds helped him to create that space. (Evidently he also mastered the record, as vinyl copies bear his signature on what record collectors call “the tail-off”.) There’s not much blowing; it’s more of a through-composed chamber piece, but there’s plenty of material to base improvisation on, for the brave or foolhardy (my bands have attempted to play this tune for years).

This album is at the crossroads, historically, of jazz-fusion music. Herbie had played on Miles Davis’ In A Silent Way album earlier in 1969; after this project he’d form his Mwandishi band, a group that has been, to me at least, criminally under-recognized. Mwandishi’s music was funky, with electric bass ostinatos and spacy Fender Rhodes, but on top of the spooky grooves Bennie Maupin, Eddie Henderson and Julian Priester blew with an amazing amount of freedom; this music was much closer to the very early music by Weather Report, and also is related to Miles’ Bitches Brew work. The instrumentation of the Mwandishi band is exactly the same as on this particular cut, but the differences are astonishing. After three albums with Mwandishi, Herbie would form The Headhunters band, which was out-and-out funk.

Fat Albert Rotunda should be recognized as one of the seminal albums of jazz-fusion, pointing the way ahead but still very solidly grounded in the tradition.

You can listen to it here:

 

This post is reprinted from News From The Trenches, a weekly newsletter of commentary from the viewpoint of a working musician published by Chicago bassist Steve Hashimoto. If you’d like to start receiving it, just let him know by emailing him at steven.hashimoto@sbcglobal.net.

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Steve Hashimoto

 

 

“Dance Till Morning Light”

11 Dec

Just finished mixing the song below (“Dance Till Morning Light”). The lyrics are underneath the sound Icon, and a few details about the recording are under them.

DANCE TILL MORNING LIGHT                              

WELL, YOU WALK THROUGH THE NIGHT

YOU FEEL ALLRIGHT

THOUGH NOTHING IS REALLY REAL

YOU GET AROUND YOU’RE GETTING DOWN

YOU’RE SO HIGH YOU HARDLY FEEL

YOU BEEN UP AND DOWN THE STRIP

YOU KNOW THE TRIP

ALL ONE BIG HAPPY CROWD

YEAH YOU’RE LOOKING FOR LOVE

BUT CAN’T TALK ABOVE

THE MUSIC WE PLAY SO LOUD

CHORUS:

SO JUST DANCE, CHILDREN, DANCE                                       

THIS SOFT ELECTRIC NIGHT

DANCE, DANCE TILL MORNING LIGHT

YEAH, YOUR LOCAL ROCK STARS

AND OWNERS OF THE BARS

LOVE TO SEE YOU OUT TONIGHT

GO ON FEED YOUR HEAD, KNOCK YOURSELF DEAD

YOUR MONEY’S GOOD HERE IT’S ALLRIGHT

ACROSS THE ROOM,

THROUGH THE GLOOM

SOMEBODY CATCHES YOUR EYE

SO YOU WALK THAT WAY

WHAT CAN YOU SAY?

YOU’RE BOTH REAL HIGH

CHORUS

I’m playing guitar and singing; my wife, Dorothy plays bass and flute. We recorded those tracks on Garageband and then transferred them to Protools at Evanston’s The Cave Recording, where Andrew MacCrimmon added  drums, recorded by Robert Marshall, who also mixed and mastered the recording.

Should you feel curious how and when I came to write the tune you can click on: https://dumbfoundingstories.com/2014/08/19/dance-till-morning-light/?iframe=true&theme_preview=true. That post contains said info and video of me singing the song accompanied by acoustic guitar.

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“Dance Till Morning Light” is on the album He Flies

Zombies Stink (&Vampires Suck)

17 Nov

OK, I’ll state right now that I’ve enjoyed more than my share of both zombie and vampire tales. Still, I’m gonna go out on a limb and say that I think maybe, just maybe, zombies and vampires have been have been overused for several years now–in books, movies, TV, and comics. One day it occurred to me that both statements in the title up there could be seen as literally and figuratively true. Before you know it, some lyrics poking fun at the zombie/vampire glut had flowed from the old pen. Eventually I got around to putting them to music–a roots rock/rockabilly song emerged–and even more eventually to recording the song. Clicking on the icon below plays the recording of the song, and the lyrics are below the icon.

Zombies Stink and Vampires Suck

Cruisin’ long in my hybrid ride
NPR on the air inside
Terry Gross had an author on
Who had just written The Zombie Dawn
Got news for you hacks out to make a buck
Zombies stink and vampires suck

Zombies stink and vampires suck
I don’t care how you jive and shuck
I bet you actually had enough
Vampires and zombies and all their stuff
It makes no sense, I don’t care what’s been said
That zombies eat brains when they’re all dead.

And what’s so great ‘bout slurping up blood?
Your average vamp’s a stone cold dud
Sleepin’ in coffins don’t look like fun
Or always hidin’ out from the sun
All these sullen, sultry undead
‘bout to drive me outta my head

Zombies shufflin’ on down the street
Are lame and tired and let me repeat
This world needs another vampire tale
Like we need more junk in the mail
If you’re lookin’ for fans you’re flat outta luck
Cause Zombies stink and vampires suck

I played & recorded all the tracks on Garage Band, except for the drums, which Robert Marshall played & recorded at The Cave Recording in Evanston, Illinois, where  he also mixed and mastered the song.

 “Zombies Stink (and Vampires Suck)” is gonna be on the forthcoming album, He Flies. 

Hash’s Faves: “Epitaph”

14 Nov

in-the-court-of-the-crimson-kingThis week’s pick is a dark epic by King Crimson, from the 1968 album In The Court Of The Crimson King; it’s the song ”Epitaph,” written by the whole band, with lyrics by Peter Sinfield. The band was Robert Fripp, guitars; Greg Lake, bass and vocals; Ian McDonald, Mellotron, piano, harpsichord, organ, flutes, clarinet and bass clarinet; and Michael Giles, drums, percussion and tympani.

I’ve always loved this song (and to be honest, the version in this video seems slightly different than the original album version). I’m unsure what the division of labor regarding the composition was, but taking a wild guess, I’d say the Mellotron parts were  McDonald’s and the gorgeous melody Lake’s, since melody never struck me as one of Fripp’s strong suits. So I assume the production is probably mostly Fripp.

In a recent interview in Bass Player magazine, Lake said he’d never played bass before signing on with Crimson, and that Giles yelled at him for a year. I’ve always said (ask my students) that British rhythm sections differed from American ones in that the kick drum and bass aren’t as married together as they were over here. I put that down to two things; the Brits didn’t grow up listening to Motown and Stax/Volt, and many of the English musicians had more of a classical music background, whether from singing in choirs or just the European educational system. So, with Lake also coming from a guitarist’s perspective, he was, I guess, a little busy, and Giles would whack his snare and yell, “Oi, mate, y’hear that? When I’m playing the snare, you don’t play!” I must also assume that Fripp, notoriously opinionated and somewhat of a control freak, had a dog in the fight too. So eventually Lake not only became an economical bassist, but a melodic one (I think his comment was, “McCartney’s the General, ain’t he?”). In his own solo project Lake prefers to play guitar, and when asked what he looks for in a bassist, he said, “Well, me, to be honest.”

For a song to represent my feelings this week, my first choice was The Mothers Of Invention’s “Trouble Every Day,”but I’ve already used that. My second choice was Gil Scott-Heron’s “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised,” but I’ve used that too. Then “Epitaph” came to me in a blinding flash, as if God herself beamed it to my brain. I’ve never thought of this as a political song, or even particularly dystopian, but as I ran the lyrics through my mind,it became obvious no other song would do.

You can listen to it here:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NURDpnR-cEg

This post is reprinted from News From The Trenches, a weekly newsletter of commentary from the viewpoint of a working musician published by Chicago bassist Steve Hashimoto. If you’d like to start receiving it, just let him know by emailing him at steven.hashimoto@sbcglobal.net.

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Steve Hashimoto