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

 

 

Hash’s Faves: “The Road to Ensenada”

12 Feb

road_to_ensenadaThis week’s pick is some country music, goddammit. It’s the gorgeous song “The Road To Ensenada” by Lyle Lovett, from the 1996 album of the same name. I couldn’t find a YouTube video of the album cut, so I don’t really know who those cats are, but they’re playing it really close to the recorded version; the players on the record are Lyle on guitar and vocals, and what’s essentially James Taylor’s studio band of the 90’s — Leland Sklar on bass, Russ Kunkel on drums and shaker, Dean Parks on electric guitar, Luis Conte on percussion and Arnold McCuller, Valerie Carter*8 and Kate Markowitz on background vocals, with ringers Matt Rollings on piano and Don Potter on acoustic guitar.

If one believes internet scuttlebutt, the genesis for this song was a motorcycle accident that landed Lovett in a hospital in Ensenada, Mexico. Evidently, then-wife Julia Roberts wouldn’t come to visit him; if that’s true, then the song’s lyrics take on a poignant meaning. “You ain’t no friend to me” indeed.

Lovett’s got one of the great American voices, and I guess I love that his career has kinda been all over the place. His records have singer/songwriter stuff, Texas swing, jazz, pop balladry, country tear-jerkers and rockfish country. He’s got his Texas bonafides, though, and that means he can pretty much do whatever he wants to, stylistically, at least in my opinion. ‘Cause his music will always be Texas.

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

Hash’s Faves: “I Wish”

10 Dec

i_wishThis week’s pick is Stevie Wonder’s “I Wish.”It was released as a single in 1976, and then included on the album Songs In The Key Of Life in the same year. The musicians are Nathan Watts, bass; Hank Redd, alto saxophone; Raymond Maldonado and Steve Madaio, trumpet; Trevor Laurence, tenor saxophone; trumpet; and Stevie on vocals, Fender Rhodes, ARP 2600 Synthesizer, and drums.

I played my first Christmas music gig of the year Friday and during the course of the job realized that this is really a Christmas song. Since it’s also one of my favorites and a Sueños staple, we played it, and no one objected, so jobbers, here’s your hip Christmas alternative.

The groove on this song is just the stankiest funk imaginable, driven by Watts’ bass line, which is a line that every bassist should know. It’s doubled by Stevie on synth, but he gives Watts the freedom to play some nasty fills on the vamp-out; after one of them Stevie absolutely cackles with glee. As a jobbing aside, here’s a little story from the trenches. This song is in High Society’s book, but it’s always been in the wrong key, I guess because the original key was too high for an earlier version of the band’s vocalists to handle. I hate it, because I only play a 4-string bass, and the bass line is not only impossible to play a half-step lower but it sounds stupid. Anyway, we were playing it one night with a female vocalist who was auditioning for the band. She evidently had a really weird sense of perfect pitch, because she sang it in the original key, completely ignoring us. The rhythm section made the switch somewhere in the first verse (with me thanking the Dark Gods of Jobbing,) but when the horns came in half of them hadn’t gotten the memo, so it was kind of our “Skies Of America” version of the song (look it up).

As another aside, I attended Senn high school on Chicago’s north side; it was one of the first Chicago schools to bus students in from across the city, including many black students from the south and west sides. It made for some bad moments: Senn was notable for riots in the schoolyard and fights in the halls, and the city eventually had to provide police escorts to get the black students to and from the el stop safely (you can read an account of this in the book The Old Neighborhood by Bill Hillmann, a former juvenile delinquent from my ‘hood). Bless her heart, my mother used to drive to school and fill up the car with a bunch of students who I had become friends with and drive them all the way home to the south side, which we were familiar with because when the Japanese first came to Chicago from California, out of the relocation centers, that’s where they settled, and our family dentist still had an office at 63rd and Jeffrey. Anyway, one of the first black kids I met at Senn was a guy named Larry Brown, who always claimed to be Stevie’s cousin. Stevie still hadn’t quite crossed over to massive mainstream popularity yet so most of us north siders didn’t even really know who he was talking about, but I do remember Larry brought a single in and showed us the songwriting credits, which read Stevland Morris, and for some reason that made it believable to all of us. I don’t know why this story has stuck in my brain the last 50 years.

You can listen to it here:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hYKYka-PNt0

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

“May Third”

20 Nov

Just finished a rough mix of the tenth song for my next album; the song’s called “May Third” and I think the album’s going be called He Flies.  I’m posting the song’s mix below this paragraph, and below it the lyrics, and lastly a little info about the tune.

MAY THIRD

Here it is May Third

and yet clouds fill the sky

like they got a two year lease

Springtime, springtime,

I’m walking down the line

Lord knows, it’s clear to me

CHORUS:

There ain’t no cause in hanging round

The nights don’t fly like before in this town

Ain’t no cause in hanging round 

Tom he left month or so ago

Believe he’s surely gone for good

And sister Lou she don’t

treat me like she should

Boy, she really lets you know

CHORUS

Everybody’s scattered, married, or lost their way

I’se told Davy’s selling cars somewhere

A time did come, a time rolled on down the road

All it left was a song

CHORUS

I wrote “May Third” way back in the early 197os, when I lived in Carbondale, but I never recorded it before now. Not sure why not, but things happen for a reason, I guess. I’m happy with the way the recording is turning out. All’s well that ends well. Dorothy McDaniel, my sweet wife, is playing flute, and Robert Marshall is drumming. I’m playing everything else, and most of the tracks were recorded in Garageband, then transferred to Pro Tools at The Cave Recording in Evanston, where Dorothy and Robert added their parts, and Robert mixed and mastered everything. Probably a f ew more tweaks to go on it in the mix.

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Tentative cover for the album

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