Wednesday, June 28, 2017

VIDEO: What Miles Davis Taught Herbie Hancock: In Music, as in Life, There Are No Mistakes, Just Chances to Improvise

by Ted Mills, Open Culture: http://www.openculture.com/2016/04/what-miles-davis-taught-herbie-hancock-about-mistakes-and-improvising.html

One of my favorite Brian Eno quotes, or rather one that became an Oblique Strategy, is “Honor Your Mistake as a Hidden Intention.” (Or to be pedantic, the original version was “Honor Thy Error...”).
As a teenager growing up and trying to make art (at that time music and comics) there was no advice more freeing. It was the opposite of what I thought I knew: mistakes were shameful, the sign of an amateur or of the lack of practice. But the more art I made, the more I referenced Eno’s idea, and the more I read and listened, the more I realized it wasn’t just Eno. The Beatles left in an alarm clock meant for the musicians on “A Day in the Life” and the sound of empty booze bottles vibrating on a speaker was left in at the end of “Long Long Long” (along with tons more). The Beastie Boys left in a jumping needle intended for a smooth scratch on “The Sounds of Science.” Radiohead left in Jonny Greenwood’s warm-up chord that became essential to “Creep.” (There’s a whole Reddit thread devoted to these mistakes if you choose to go down the rabbit hole.)
But those examples relate to the recording process of rock music. What about jazz? Surely there’s “wrong” notes when it comes to playing, especially if you’re not the soloist.
In this very short video based around an interview with pianist Herbie Hancock, the master improvisor Miles Davis honored Hancock’s mistake as a hidden intention by playing along with it. It’s both a surprising look into the arcane world of jazz improvisation and a revealing anecdote of Davis, usually known as a difficult collaborator.
“It taught me a very big lesson not only about music,” says Hancock, “but about life.”
h/t Jason W-R

Monday, June 19, 2017

Classic Album Series #19: The Rolling Stones – "Let It Bleed"

Released six months after the death of founding member Brian Jones, Let It Bleed saw The Rolling Stones evolve musically and set the foundation for their next four albums with replacement guitarist Mick Taylor. He only features on two of the songs on Let It Bleed but their sound over the next six years would change drastically compared to what came before and it all started with this legendary album.
Gimme Shelter is the opening song and it can be considered one of the greatest songs of all time without question. Everything about this song is perfect from the delicate opening riff to the roaring backing vocals from Merry Clayton who absolutely nails it. The way the song builds and builds is absolutely exquisite and the song remains to this day their greatest ever album opener. 

A cover of the Robert Johnson song Love In Vain comes next which has echoes of their previous album Beggars Banquet due to the acoustic nature. A lot of artists were covering Robert Johnson songs during this particular period in music history, especially blues/rock bands. It doesn’t quite beat the excellence of Cream’s Crossroads cover but it’s certainly one of the best from this period.

Jagger on lead vocals is excellent as always and Richards delivers a gorgeous slide guitar solo. Mick Taylor makes his first appearance on a Rolling Stones album on the next song, Country Honk, where he plays slide guitar. The band released an electric rock version of the song earlier in 1969 called Honky Tonk Women which is an incredible song, but this country version is how the song was originally written according to Keith Richards.

  1. Gimme Shelter
  2. Love In Vain
  3. Country Honk
  4. Live With Me
  5. Let It Bleed
  6. Midnight Rambler
  7. You Got The Silver
  8. Monkey Man
  9. You Can’t Always Get What You Want
The fourth song is Live With Me, the second and final song on the album to feature Mick Taylor who plays rhythm guitar. This song is definitely more in the Gimme Shelter template that the two previous acoustic tracks, and that’s extremely welcome. Richards lays down some catchy riffs and Wyman on bass shows why he was and is one of the most respected bassists of all time. It’s a great track with Bobby Keys supplying a gorgeous sax solo. 
The title track, Let It Bleed, follows which takes the same acoustic route as two of the previous four songs. It’s a nice song but it’s probably my least favourite on the whole album. 
Midnight Rambler injects the album with another dose of electric blues. This song is my second favorite on the album after Gimme Shelter, but it’s a close one. The song really gives another good indication of where the band would go musically on the next few albums, with thick guitar sounds, wailing harp, driving bass alongside Jagger’s flourishing front man performances all front and centre. It’s superb, especially when you bare in mind that Taylor doesn’t even feature on this song. It does feature Brian Jones on congas though, although his influence on their songs at this point was minimal to none.
Keith Richards sings I Got The Silver, the first time he’d take lead vocals on a Rolling Stones song without help from Jagger. The slide guitar playing on this song is very good, one of the highlights from the whole album without a doubt. And Richards taking lead vocals adds another dimension to the album, something that would continue on future albums the band would release. 
Monkey Man is the second to last song which has a chord progression to die for. The bass and piano intro adds to the overall flavour, before guitar and then drums come in to complete the mixture. This probably isn’t one of the songs that immediately stands out when you think of Let It Bleed but in my opinion it’s definitely one of the best. 
The final song is You Can’t Always Get What You Want which at times you almost forget is on the album, as it’s definitely more well known as a standalone single. But it’s a great song nevertheless and acts as a fantastic album closer. Let It Bleed would be the last album the Rolling Stones released in the 1960’s, and their songs wouldn’t sound this innocent ever again. The addition of a choir adds that innocent feel to the song. The 60’s were ending and the 70’s were about to begin. It’s a great song to listen to when you have that in mind. A perfect ending not only to the album, but to the decade.
Let It Bleed is an excellent album. Even though Mick Taylor only features on two of the nine songs, the new direction the band takes is obvious to hear. Brian Jones was such a huge presence in the band during his tenure so his absence was obviously going to cause the band to go in another direction. That direction included stinging riffs, electric blues solo guitar, wailing harmonica and Jagger stepping up and demanding the attention of everyone in the audiences. It all started with this album.