All posts by ajhirsch

Dusty Digs form the Jazz Vault

Tucked away  in the far corner of WOBC’s music library lies the hallowed WOBC Jazz Vault, a sprawling history of 80s bebop revival, commercial blues, Count Basie’s entire career, explicit photos of Herbie Mann, and a few rare gems. The WOBC Jazz Work Group, a spritely group of young Oberlin jazzheads, dove headfirst into the vault to seek out the dustiest of the dusty, the rarest of the rare. Here’s what we came up with:

 

Oliver Nelson, Blues and the Abstract Truth

Released in 1961 on Impulse! records, this record is an absolute classic. Nelson’s lush horn arrangements are in a league of their own on this hard-swinging collection of entirely blues compositions. The lineup on this date is unbeatable: Paul Chambers, bass; Eric Dolphy, sax, flute; Bill Evans, piano; Roy Hanes, drums; Freddie Hubbard, Trumpet; George Barrow, sax.

 

 

 

 

Keith Jarrett, The Koln Concert

It is rare that commercial success aligns itself with the highest artistry, but the recording of Keith Jarrett’s legendary concert of solo improvisations in Koln, Germany is a standout exception. It’s one of the highest-selling jazz records of all time, and for good reason: Jarrett’s uninhibited emotion and limitless outpour of ideas on this record is simply stunning.

 

 

 

 

 

Jimmy Heath, Love and Understanding

Tenor sax man and multi-instrumentalist Jimmy Heath was at the forefront of the movement towards a new funkified spirituality in early 70s jazz. Love and Understanding is a classic example of Heath’s compositional style during this period, not to mention a killer band backing him up: Curtis Fuller, trombone; Bernard Fennell, cello; Stanley Cowell (Oberlin alum), piano; Bob Cranshaw, bass; Billy Higgins, drums.

 

 

 

 

Yusef Lateef, The Diverse Yusef Lateef

Brother Yusef Lateef: woodwind virtuoso, master composer, spiritual guru. This album is a great summary of Lateef’s style: it’s got swing, funk, free improv, and some deep spirituality. Yusef plays a menagerie of  instruments on this date: tenor sax, flute, bamboo flute, Chinese globular flute, Buddhist flute, tamboura, Chinese cymbals, and other percussion instruments. In the depth of his influences and originality, Lateef is virtually unmatched, especially on this Atlantic recording from 1970.

 

 

 

Roland Kirk, Funk Underneath

This is the beloved, playful, seriously swinging sax man Rahsaan Roland Kirk at his best. This record features the  masterful hammond organ playing of Jack McDuff, supported by Art Taylor on drums and Joe Benjamin and bass. Most of the tracks on the record are Kirk originals, showcasing the soulful and bluesy tendencies of both his solos and his compositional style. Recorded in 1961, Funk Underneath is a surprisingly progressive and groove-oriented release from Prestige Records, and a rare pull from the cavernous depths of the vault.

 

 

 

If you’re in the station anytime soon, look in the jazz bin to check out all of the above records and more rare vinyl finds. In this digging session, we only scratched the surface of WOBC’s jazz collection. If you want constant access to all this tasty wax, you should apply for a jazz show in the fall and sign up for the workgroup!

-Adam Hirsch

New Music: Daniel Rossen – Silent Hour/Golden Mile EP

Daniel Rossen, the guitarist/composer of Grizzly Bear and Department of Eagles acclaim, has been relatively inactive in the record world in recent years. Since the release of Grizzly Bear’s electrified masterstroke Veckatimest in 2009, Rossen has released a collection of old Department of Eagles demos and contributed a cover to Crayon Angel, a Judee Sill tribute album. After a three-year drought of new material, Rossen has finally released his long-awaited debut release as a solo artist on Warp Records: Silent Hour/Golden Mile, a five-track EP of all-new Rossen originals.

One of the most refreshing aspects of this release is that Warp gave Rossen free reign over the creation of the music; besides the help of some brass players, a lap-steel guitarist, a drummer on one track, and the masterful mixing of Nicholas Vehrnes at the Rare Book Room in New York, Rossen played almost every role on the record: composer, producer, performer, and engineer. The result is a personal, intimate product of Rossen’s solitary creative process.

“Up on High” kicks off the EP in classic Rossen style: soft acoustic guitar and vocals reverberate with huge force, painting a wide-open soundscape filled with fresh air and soothing chords. Other instruments are gradually brought in and out of the mix: tom-toms pound, a bowed upright bass moans, cymbals sizzle and fade away, all suddenly filling up the space and clearing away like waves on a shore. The whole situation seems like an expression of Rossen’s new freedom to create holistically, without any pressure from producers or collaborators; he seems to be talking to himself when sings, “In this big, empty room / Finally feel free / To sing for me”.

Daniel Rossen – “Up On High”

The whole EP really sticks to this idea of the music being a kind of emancipation for Rossen. Compared to the earlier music of Grizzly Bear and Department of Eagles—in which Rossen’s vocals are double-tracked and muddled beneath electronics and his own slippery articulation—Silent Hour/Golden Mile is a crisp, clean statement of his lyrical and musical ideas. The record tables a lot of the more abstract sounds heard on previous Rossen releases and adheres to a stripped-down, acoustic presentation of his songs. You can really hear this restrained economy of ideas on “Saint Nothing”, the fourth track on the EP: the slow, steady pulse of three simple piano chords recalls “Herring Bone” from Department of Eagles’ In Ear Park, while a gorgeous array of french horns, trombones, and trumpets meander softly in the background, confirming and responding to Rossen’s solemn vocals. The music is infinitely spacious and reposed, breathing in the fresh air of the blue desert twilight pictured in the EP’s cover.

Daniel Rossen – “Saint Nothing”

Although Rossen has been hard at work developing his solo material, he is still keeping busy with his other projects. He has commented that some of the music on the EP was originally supposed to be on the new Grizzly Bear record (which is currently in the works), so we may expect the band’s new music to be influenced by Silent Hour/Golden Mile’s stripped-down vibe. The new EP, while showcasing a newfound spaciousness in Rossen’s sound, is also a great example of his development as a producer and engineer. With this release, Rossen is joining the ranks of people like Sufjan Stevens and Chaz Bundick (Toro y Moi), who play the solo musician-as-producer role better than most. With Rossen’s growing versatility as not only a musician but a creator of records, we can only expect his other projects to become more diverse and independent as a result.

-Adam Hirsch

From The Neumann Collection: John Coltrane – A Love Supreme, Original Mono Pressing

The James and Susan Neumann Jazz Collection is the largest privately owned collection of jazz materials in the United States, and possibly the world. James Neumann, proprietor of the collection and an Oberlin Alumnus, decided last year to donate all of the materials to Oberlin. So far, the school has received about 45,000 vinyl LPs along with thousands of jazz periodicals and collectibles, which does not event amount to half of the entire collection. The recordings will not be available for students for some time, which is why WOBC has decided to give followers a regular taste of the collection’s rare gems. Disclaimer: Information and music posted are sourced from WOBC copies of albums also included in the Neumann Collection.
This week’s dig from the collection is a beauty: an original pressing of John Coltrane’s masterpiece A Love Supreme. This particular vinyl copy of the album is in its original monoaural format, kept in absolutely pristine condition since its pressing in the year of the record’s release, 1965. The amount of A Love Supreme copies of this kind probably amounts to a few thousand—but in terms of copies that are still in perfect condition, there must only be a handful in existence.

A Love Supreme was originally released on Impulse! records in February 1965. The whole record was cut in one session on December 9th, 1964 at the studio of master engineer Rudy Van Gelder in Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey. The personnel on the record consists of Coltrane’s legendary quartet of the early to mid-1960s: McCoy Tyner on Piano, Jimmy Garrison on bass, Elvin Jones on drums. The music is a suite in four parts: I. Acknowledgment; II. Resolution; III. Pursuance; IV. Psalm. Each movement is dedicated to a different aspect of Coltrane’s newfound devotion to God in the 1960s, and his deep spirituality is viscerally apparent in every moment of the record. Musically, each movement is based on a simple modal chord structure, over which Coltrane plays a short theme and then engages in a more or less “free” improvisation with the other members of the group.

The design and layout of this particular printing of the album is unique for Impulse! records. Most Impulse! releases bear a colorful photograph on the cover, the signature black and orange label on the side binding, and a foldout that includes liner notes, additional information, and photos of the featured musicians. The original release of A Love Supreme, however, bears a stunning black-and-white photo of Coltrane’s face in a position of meditative repose, a matching black-and-white side label, and a foldout that is filled up by a hand-drawn image of Coltrane playing his instrument and personal inscription from the saxophonist/composer proclaiming his love for The Almighty.

It’s clear from the design of the whole package that the record label felt this release needed special treatment. Impulse! turned out to be correct in its projection of the album’s importance: it is one of the best-selling jazz records of all time, and is held as a centerpiece of inspiration by countless musicians. It goes whithout saying that Oberlin is extremely privileged to own an original, mint-condition record of this historic album.

-Adam Hirsch

New Music: Toro y Moi – June 2009

Chaz Bundick, or better known as Toro y Moi, came out with a new full-length release last Tuesday called June 2009. Bundick has been making music under the Toro y Moi guise since the same year, releasing a slew of EPs and two full-length records. Upon the release of his first LP Causers of This, critics and bloggers alike roped Chaz’s gazey, laid-back electro sound into the new buzz-word genre “chillwave”, alongside similar artists like Neon Indian and Washed Out. But Bundick has made it clear to us that his music and talent goes a lot deeper than the “chillwave” sound: his second full-length Underneath the Pine is a collection of smart, crisp pop tunes that feature Chaz on a menagerie of live instruments, and his most recent EP Freaking Out is an open love-letter to late-70s disco nostalgia.

With June 2009, Toro shows us even more versatility in his sound. The album is not comprised of new material, but is instead a compilation of older recordings that Bundick made around the time indicated by the title. While still retaining the sound of other Toro y Moi releases, the songs cover a much wider stylistic landscape. The first half of the record is a collection of lo-fi garage-pop tracks that sound as if they’re reaching your ears through the walls of a basement or a broken cassette deck. Chaz’s falsetto vocals meander half-ironically over crunchy guitar hooks, fuzzed-out bass lines, and rumbling drums. There’s no trace of the mesmerizing production quality, precise drum programming, and swirling soundscapes of the past Toro releases in these tracks; the music has been stripped naked and spit out with an honest simplicity.

Half way through the album, the mood changes drastically with the soft, emotive “New Loved Ones”— a rare moment for Chaz on just acoustic guitar and vocals that float upwards with dizzying reverberation. After this brief intermission, the album dives back into Toro’s roots with alternate versions of tracks from Causers of This (including a disorienting, ambient intro to a “Freak Love” remix), some hazy synth-pop cuts that sound like warped 80’s disco records, and a few nods to the West coast beat scene (a la Flying Lotus, Baths, etc).

June 2009 essentially offers a survey of the early years of Chaz Bundick’s recording career while giving us a rare insight into the composer/producer/performer’s musical mind. The release may not form a logically constructed whole as a record, but it can be appreciated as a a sort of road map for Toro y Moi’s sound, and a puzzle of clues to what we can expect from Chaz in the future. If there is one general observation that you can draw out of this disparately-presented record, it is that the music is unmistakably the art of one man with his ears in very different worlds of sound.

Check out “109”, one of the album’s more catchy garage tunes below:

Toro Y Moi – “109”

-Adam Hirsch

NEW MUSIC: Dirty Projectors – “Gun Has No Trigger”

Last week, beloved avant-pop wierdos Dirty Projectors released a new track, “Gun Has No Trigger”, via Soundcloud. This is the first single from the band’s forthcoming full-length record Swing Lo Magellan, due out July 10th on Domino Records. The last time we heard from the band was late 2010, when they released Mount Wittenberg Orca, a 7-track collaboration EP with Bjork. Wittenberg came on the heels of 2009’s acclaimed Bitte Orca, a groovy and wildly successful album that bestowed indie royalty on the previously obscure band of Yale dropouts.

Guitarist/vocalist/producer/jack-of-all-trades Dave Longstreth spearheaded the Dirty Projectors project while he was a college freshman in 2002, and has taken the lead in composing and producing all of the band’s releases since. What is perhaps most distinct about the Dirty Projectors’ music as a whole is that it has constantly evolved, both in concept and sound. From the lo-fi field samples of The Graceful Fallen Mango and the operatic drama of The Getty Address, to the Black Flag-inspired Rise Above and the R&B-infused Bitte Orca, the band is in a continuous state of flux that is still apparent on “Gun Has No Trigger”.

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New Music: Beach House – “Myth”

Baltimore dream-pop duo Beach House has released a new cut entitled “Myth” via their website. Singer/keyboardist Victoria LeGrand and guitarist Alex Scally posted the track last week as a teaser for their forthcoming LP Bloom, to be released May 15th on Sub-pop Records.

If “Myth” is any indication of the sound of the new record, Beach House fans can expect a similar vibe to the group’s last full length, the critically-acclaimed Teen Dream. The song starts out with a nod to the lo-fi drum samples of Beach House’s early work, and then quickly picks up the cathedral-sized, gazey sound of their more recent music when Scally enters with a double-guitar lick moving in a slow, reverb-drenched counterpoint. Steady head-bobbing is unavoidable as bass and drums enter the mix and LeGrand’s soaring vocals fill out the soundscape. If the purpose of Beach House’s sound is to create some sort of dream or myth for the listener, LeGrand’s voice is what keeps you from waking up. The track is a promising taste of progress and high production in the Beach House repertoire, while still retaining a strong sense of the band’s lo-fi, dreamy aesthetic.

Beach House hits the road for a US and international tour in may. You can find the dates via the band’s website, beachhousebaltimore.com.

Beach House – “Myth”

-Adam Hirsch

CarnivOINC Celebrates Improvisation at Oberlin

Last week, the Oberlin Improvisation and Newmusic Collective (affectionately known as OINC) hosted CarnivOINC: a series of lectures, workshops, and concerts on campus, focusing on the art of improvised music. Visiting Professor of Electronic Music Per Bloland, Director of OINC, organized the five-day event, and helped to bring professional improvisers to campus to work and perform with students. These special guests included duo Tim Feeny and Vic Rawlings, duo Mike Strauss and Dana Jessen, duo Mike Bullock and Seth Cluett, and local musician Aaron Dilloway (founding member of the noise group Wolf Eyes).

From Tuesday through Saturday, the visiting improvisers worked in various capacities with Oberlin students, members of OINC, and community members. Public workshop events included an electroacoustic instrumentation and hardware workshop with Vic Rawlings, and a lecture entitled “Rehearsal Techniques of the BSC” given by BSC members Rawlings and Tim Feeny. The visiting professionals also worked privately with OINC members and TIMARA students in rehearsals and workshops throughout the week, showing examples of their work both inside and outside the realm of improvisation.

The first CarnivOINC concert took place Wednesday night in Fairchild chapel. The show began with a set from Feeny and Rawlings, and was followed by a set from the duo with eight members of OINC. Thursday night’s show featured one set from Mike Strauss and Dana Jessen with seven members of OINC, and Friday night’s show featured a set from local ensemble WAM (Women’s Art Music), followed by a set from Mike Bullock and Seth Cluett with seven members of OINC. Saturday night’s concert was the CarnivOINC grand finale, beginning with a set by Aaron Dilloway with nine members of OINC, followed by two sets from Dilloway with the OINCestra, which featured every member of OINC alongside all of the event’s visiting guests.

This legendary event was the first of its kind at Oberlin, and did an extraordinary job of both showcasing and strengthening Oberlin’s improvised music scene. Find more information about CarnivOINC here.

-A Hirsch