Sunday, November 23, 2008

Whither The (Male) Jazz Singer?

"A Lot Of Livin' To Do" as performed by Sammy Davis Jr. came up today, and it got me wondering: where are the male jazz singers? I could name a dozen living female jazz singers, but the first and only male name that comes to mind is Michael Bublé -- a singer who, like Diana Krall, I have little use for, and thus hesitate to acknowledge as being in the "jazz" camp.

Then again, had I been a little more sentient when he was alive I might have been reluctant toward Sammy, too.

Sammy gets the jazz award in hindsight. The guy had some kind of attitude when it came to music. Where other people might try something, he DID it. In fact he often did something he wasn't asked to do -- like give Nixon a hug -- but even that earns him hindsight kudos. Bang bang, daddy-o.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

The Groove That Saved The Song That Saved My Life

Today's exercise with the randomizer produced two tracks with simple but delightful grooves that generate their own electricity:

"It's A Long Way To The Top (If You Wanna Rock 'n' Roll)" -- AC/DC
"Found A Job" -- Talking Heads

"Long Way" is one of those rock songs that gets me nudging the volume knob a touch higher, to give it "that extra push over the cliff." What's the attraction? Other than bagpipes, nothing more than a stripped-down Chuck Berry groove that just won't quit. It's not just my favorite AC/DC song, it's my favorite AC/DC video as well: Bon the Falstaffian clown is still alive, and the other four are young enough to throw everything they've got into making a "concert" on a flatbed truck look like it's a heap of fun. And did I forget to mention the bagpipes?

The "Long Way" riff is the easiest thing for a first-time guitar-player to learn, which gives it an instant nostalgia factor. The groove the propels Talking Heads' "Found A Job" is similarly straight-forward -- two bar-chords, A7 and D7 -- but physically trickier to master. In fact, the dexterity it requires never really occurred to me until I saw David Byrne strumming it on his Strat in the movie. His strumming wrist is as fluid as the rest of his body, making it all look very easy -- for him. That visual memory of Byrne's rhythmic panache adds to the song's groove. It's also got funny lyrics that seem to have pretty much become the stock and trade of this world-wide web we're on.

The other song courtesy of the randomizer was The Kinks' "Destroyer." Nothing particularly groovy about that tune, but I've always admired the band's audacity, harnessing new lyrics to a former top-ten hit ("All Day And All Of The Night") and nearly getting the same slot 15 years later.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Cycling With A Zombie

The recent snowfall has forced me to move the Jake indoors again. I very much prefer the road to the trainer, but I know from personal experience what a terrible toll salted roads take on a bicycle -- even one with an aluminum frame. The one benefit to indoor pedaling: listening to music and podcasts.

I went with music yesterday, and the randomizer kicked out:

"The Great American Nightmare" -- Rob Zombie
"LA Is Where I Belong" -- Peachfuzz
"Manteca" -- Dizzy Gillespie/Funky Lowlives Remix
"The Man Without Fear" -- Drowning Pool, with Rob Zombie

As my late father-in-law was fond of quoting, "The lines have fallen for me in pleasant places!" I have a rather soft spot in my heart for Mr. Zombie. My first exposure to his vocal stylings was at the closing of Daredevil. I was staring at the screen, trying to put my finger on how a movie could be so true to its source material and yet feel so soulless, when Drowning Pool came on with their cascading guitar riff, stopped, waited for Zombie's shout: "GO!!" I actually laughed and clapped my hands when it was over. Then I got to my feet and bought the soundtrack. Then I bought Past, Present & Future. After years of dismissing Metal as witless and stoopid, I was now thoroughly charmed by its witless stupidity.

This really was the perfect soundtrack for comic books. For the next few years after that moment, whenever I took the girls tobogganing they could be counted on to cheer, "C'MON, C'MON, C'MON -- DAREDEVIL!!" Now they can be counted on to roll their eyes, and request a change to Mama Mia.

Yes, well: two -- or more -- can play at the eye-rolling game.