grace… beauty… mystery… life passes by….

Todays post features the work of Performance Artist Yoann Bourgeois.   His work continues to mesmerize me and keep me in thrall.   This video of a work titled Passants (passers) looks at the life cycle and beautifully illustrates the passing of each generation - as one generation is ending another is beginning.   It also visually describes a human life in motion even when it appears to stop.     Music is by Phillip Glass played by Kronos Quartet with its kinetic repetitive motifs is perfect for this performance.  Enjoy the magic, the wonder, the beauty of this performance.   (fyi there is an introduction in french since this live performance was broadcast on French television.)  
The "curtain call" itself is a work of performance art.    Simply amazing!   Enjoy!  
If you liked the video above ... here are a couple more featuring the amazing work of Yoann Bourgeois.

New Years Day

Starting off the new year with a hard truth. "Nothing changes on New Years Day".     As the war in Ukraine, started by that fascist, meglomaniac, power-hungry pig Putin', rages on, this song by U2 from their album WAR seems the most appropriate (sadly).    A child on the album cover stares out and asks, "what are you going to do?"

And as people who make News Years resolutions, resolutely start breaking them immediately....  

A toast:   Here's hoping this new year ends better than it began. 

hump day – time to get the party started

In the past the holidays were typically associated with parties.   Now that lockdowns have been lifted it may be time to party again for the holidays.    Today is Wednesday (hump day) what better way to get through this day than to listen/watch the legendary Dame Shirley Bassey performing Get The Party Started.   
You better get your toe-tapping dancing shoes on.

a child is born

Now for the climax of holiday music. Merry Christmas everyone.
The song today is a recording I was so very happy to find on YouTube. The Messiah by George Frideric Handel. Specifically my favorite part FOR UNTO US A CHILD IS BORN. I’ve heard several versions of the Messiah and they seem sluggish and even dull at times. But this recording by The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and Chorus conducted by Sir Thomas Beecham is bright and energetic. It really embodies the energy and celebration of the Christian season. It is filled with real power. Sir Beecham was not shy in his approach to this master work. In my opinion this really is the penultimate version of the Messiah.

don’t always get back what you give

December 24TH is a song by a unique song stylist, Julia Fordham. Her music typically dances on the line between jazz and pop. It is accompanied by a specific type of mood that can be laid back, accepting, sad or reserved happiness and only occasionally unbounded joy. Since I love moody music it fits right in with my melancholic state of mind.

There is a “hard truth” in this song that is so important – things don’t always turn out the way we planned and you “don’t always get back what you give.” It’s a different way of stating the golden rule of “Do unto other as you want them to do unto you” (not that they will return the favor).

Enjoy this little bit of holiday melancholia.

3 for Surfin’ Saint Nick

Changing things up a .it. The Beach Boys, an American treasure with their sunny California sound and disposition. Their Christmas album is just plain fun. It boasted 5 Beach Boy holiday originals in addition to some fun arrangements of the standards.

Enjoy 3 of the originals LITTLE SAINT NICK, THE MAN WITH ALL THE TOYS and MERRY CHRISTMAS BABY.

Tropical Christmas

So maybe the snow and cold associated, by many, with the Holiday season isn’t your thing. You prefer a more tropical climate.

Well here’s a song for you. Leon Redbone’s version of CHRISTMAS ISLAND from his album of the same title. So whip up a pina colada and stick a sprig of holly in it.

the secret of christmas

THE SECRET OF CHRISTMAS by Ella Fitzgerald is a truly enduring holiday classic. How we get Christmas all wrong. Humans are such fickle creatures.

marshmallow world

I was born at the wrong time. Why? I’ve always loved the las vegas night club scene of the 50s and 60’s. Of course the “Rat Pack” ruled supreme. An early fantasy in my teens was to be a night club singer like Sammy Davis Jr, Dean Martin or Frank Sinatra. But that was the late 70’s and the scene was passing and disco ruled the airwaves. Television was the last stand for many in the Rat Pack, with members appearing or making guest appearance on TV shows, movies etc. Dean Martin even had his on Variety Show. Oh well, dem’s the way the chips fall.

At any rate you can enjoy this duet between Dean Martin and Frank Sinatra from Dean’s television variety show.

time for change

Robbie Williams is a musical artist I’ve enjoyed. He has a unique pop style. This original Christmas song fits right in. I like the sentiment of the title TIME FOR CHANGE. I really wish more people saw that holidays with that potential to make a change, stop the hate, stop the lies and work to bring people together. But sadly that will be a dream unfulfilled.

His Christmas album, THE CHRISTMAS PRESENT was released about 3 years ago (already – how time flies). I really love the duality of the title – THE CHRISTMAS PRESENT can be seen with the word present meaning a “gift” and also contemporary/now.

In the meantime enjoy this delightful video of Robbie and his family. And if you like this video you may also enjoy his video for CAN’T STOP CHRISTMAS.

Hallelujah!

3 sisters, Maggie, Terre & Suzzy Roche – known collectively as The Roches.

This contemporary folk group has wowed audiences for years with their vocal harmonies and unique songs. When you think of Handel’s MESSIAH you may think hundred voice chorus and orchestra. And no doubt you have some favorite recording of the entire piece. But the Hallelujah Chorus is by far one of the most popular and reproduced songs from that master work.

The Roches decided to take a wild leap of faith and record the Hallelujah Chorus not only a Cappella but also as a trio. It is was first released on a more experimental (for them) album KEEP ON DOING (1982). That album was produced by none other than Robert Fripp, of King Crimson fame, who also contributed his unique guitar textures to several tracks. Ironically the song would NOT be reprised on their Christmas album WE THREE KINGS (1990).

The Roches continued to perform until Margaret (Maggie) passed away in 2017.

And in case you think, "there's no way that can be done live".....
Well, prepare to eat your words.... LOL 
(advance apologies for the occasional dropouts the sound)

Christmas Eve (Ukraine)

Savatage was a heavy metal band that recorded an excellent 1995 album, DEAD WINTER DEAD (not exactly a holiday album).
Their popular song was CHRISTMAS EVE (Sarajevo 12/24) which was to be meditation on the plight of the people during the war in Sarajevo. Notable for it’s heavy metal instrumental version of CAROL OF THE BELLS it would soon become enshrined in popular holiday culture when the band changed it’s name to release an entire Christmas album. When Savatage reinvented themselves as The Trans Siberian Orchestra.

Now there is another unwarranted war being inflicted on a people who did not ask and did not deserve it. Let’s use this time to reflect on Ukraine and what the people are going thru this year. May they merge victorious against Putin’s savage, punishing brutalization.

sing a cool yule carol

Today I present another two-fer. This time by, what I can comfortably say is, my favorite male Jazz vocalist of all time – Kurt Elling. The first track is SING A CHRISTMAS CAROL from Kurts holiday album simply titled THE BEAUTIFUL DAY: KURT ELLING SINGS CHRISTMAS. Every track is a winner.

The second selection is Kurst version of the Louis Armstrong classic COOL YULE. Featured on a BLUE NOTE Christmas compilation.

bowie and bing

I remember when this was originally broadcast on US television in 1977. I was 17 years old and Bowie was an idol. Still takes my breath away. David Bowie and Bing Crosby (“the poor relation from America” LOL) since Peace On Earth/Little Drummer Boy

God Rest ye Merry Jazzmen

GOD REST YE MERRY JAZZMEN was the title of a great jazz holiday compilation album featuring the likes of Wynton Marsalis, Mccoy Tyner and others. Released 1981. The first track from the album is Dexter Gordon’s Quartet with their version of HAVE YOURSELF A MERRY LITTLE CHRISTMAS. Enjoy.

father christmas?

I’ve always loved this song by Greg Lake (of Emerson Lake & Palmer). It’s a really pretty song with a pleasing melody. But the lyrics are a challenge. They are delightfully cynical. He starts of with “I believed….” than switches to “they sold me” where he basically talks about being sold a fantasy (at best) and lies (at worst) which he also believed in… and it carries on from there with “the Christmas we get, we deserve.” It doesn’t get much darker than that. So listen closely and enjoy.

Feel free to add your thoughts in the comments section.

Go Tell It…

I don’t listen to a whole lot of gospel music and not a whole lotta blues. But when I do they are usually blended together. One group that has done this masterfully for decades now is Blind Boys Of Alabama. Their original Christmas album is titled GO TELL IT ON THE MOUNTAIN.

On the original recording Tom Waits joins them. For this post I wanted to highlight this group without Tom’s able assist – so enjoy this live studio performance of the title track GO TELL IT ON THE MOUNTAIN.

Yes!

Okay so this isn’t a Yes Christmas but the next best thing. I purchased this original album by Jon Anderson simply because he was the vocalist for one of my favorite progressive bands. This album blew me away. All the songs are great and this one is a perennial holiday favorite. High energy – needs played at full volume. Enjoy HOW IT HITS YOU from Jon’s holiday album 3 SHIPS. A great way to start the weekend.

one christmas morn

Bruce Cockburn is someone who’s career I’ve followed since 1978 when he had a hit single WONDERING WHERE THE LIONS ARE. Hailing from the great north, Canada, Bruce is a national treasure to Canadian songwriters. He is to Canadians what Bob Dylan is to Americans. This song is from his 1993 album simply titled CHRISTMAS. And wonderful folksy EARLY ON ONE CHRISTMAS MORN.

two for one

Well I could post more than one track for each post because there is just so much Holiday/Winter themed music that has inspired me. But I have been limiting myself to one each post. Well today will be an exception. CHILD: MUSIC FOR THE CHRISTMAS SEASON is such a wonderful recording by eclectic pop singer Jane Siberry. Most of it is live but don’t let that put you off because it really highlights her ability to engage an audience.

The first track, BITTER CHRISTMAS always makes me smile. Funny with a lesson.

ARE YOU BURNING LITTLE CANDLE? is one of Janes most popular holiday songs. A true original. It continues to inspire.

Winter Fire & Snow

Well by now you’ve noticed a trend in recent post. My best intention is to post a different “holiday” themed song every day through Christmas.

Today’s selection is WINTER FIRE & SNOW sung by Irish vocal group Anuna. They first came to prominence is a stage production called Riverdance. This song is one of many songs on an album, that I believe is long out-of-print, also titled WINTER FIRE & SNOW.

Christmas Blues

A song to appeal to all adults. Holly Cole and her Trio first crossed my expanding auditory orbit when she released a jazz cover album of Tom Waits songs titled TEMPTATION. From that point on I said, “I need to know more about this amazing song stylist.”

CHRISTMAS BLUES was the title track of her very first recorded release a few years before she decided to cover Tom Waits. Who releases their first album as a Christmas album? LOL . Anyway it has become a standard and was also found on the JAZZ TO THE WORLD album of various jazz performers interpreting some of their favorite holiday songs.

re-inventing the 12 days of xmas

The TWELVE DAYS OF CHRISTMAS has long been a favorite holiday song. I especially love this version. Reinvented by singer Dianne Reeves and French jazz percussionist Mino Cinelu. This version was released in 1995 on the WORLD CHRISTMAS compilation with proceeds benefitting Special Olympics.

holiday music 1

Starting off the Christmas season with a relatively new song.     Wanting To Believe, a reinterpretation of the classic O Holy Night by Brian and his brother Roger Eno.     Wanting to get away from the archaic religiosity of the original and make more applicable to our contemporary world, The Eno brothers have completely redone the lyrics and given this classic melody a new arrangement.   A decisively more ambient arrangement which oddly enough lends to a quiet reverence that the original lyrics suggest.

This song is from a great holiday album by classical label, Deutsch Grammophon, that was released last year titled WINTER TALES.  

***If you are unable to play this video please search YouTube for "Wanting To Believe" by Brian Eno. 

The most fortuitous album in Jazz?

The Year: 1958
The Place: Paris, France
The artist: Miles Davis.
The Film: Ascenseur pour l'échafaud, (English: Elevator To The Gallows) directed by Louis Malle.

Nineteen fifty-eight was a very special year.   
But let's go back. a year earlier.   Miles Davis was at a musical crossroads even contemplating retirement.  He needed something different, something new.   None of the projects his label and management suggested were of interest at the time.  He did settle on  recordings with Gil Evans which would turn into a 5 album collaboration over the next few years.   Albums who's style would also be informed and influenced by the experience Miles would soon gain. 

But let's not get ahead of ourselves.  We're still stuck in 1957 and miles is still "stuck" in his predicament.   In November 1957 He travelled to France at the invitation of film director, Louis Malle, and was asked to compose the soundtrack for the director's first feature length film  Ascenseur pour l'échafaud.   Miles had never recorded a soundtrack before - let alone been asked to compose the score.

Perhaps with nothing to lose or perhaps nothing to be gained,  Miles launched himself forward.  He had an interest in modal jazz and was at the vanguard of that movement which was just being developed in the mid 1950s.  With Miles success, it would be a guaranteed influence on generations to come.  Miles was totally free.   Free from the expectations that had come to fall on him from the jazz world.  Film Director, Louis Malle, has suggested that he and Miles only discussed a few ideas before recording started in December 4, 1957.  Miles was joined by French jazz musicians Barney Wilen, Pierre Michelot, and René Urtreger, and American drummer Kenny Clarke.  Nothing was written down (composed).  Nothing was planned. 

The musicians sat in a darkened studio and watched the film unfold.   With Miles leadership they completely improvised the score to the film based solely on the mood in the film.  A film that would be a star vehicle for the smokey and dreamy Jeanne Moreau.   It is a pure delight to listen to the different takes of the various themes as they each reflect the freedom of complete improvisation with nothing tied to paper.  With no distractions or expectations Miles created a sound that would lead to some of his greatest work in the years to come.   Coloring both his collaborations with Gil Evans but also having a huge influence on his solo recordings starting with MILESTONES (1958) and A KIND OF BLUE (1959) (arguably his greatest solo record).   I'd go so far as to say that these albums would not have existed if it hadn't been for his experience in creating the score for this film. 

I'd strongly encourage you to purchase a copy of the complete recordings of this amazing soundtrack Ascenseur pour l'échafaud. 
Listen to what would be a nursery for the development of a new sound, new approach and new way of thinking about Jazz for generations to come.