John McLaughlin “Now Here This” Interview Part 2 [Listen 28:44] – Sitting in the control room with Teo Macero and John McLaughlin S03 Ep04 (Part 2 of 2)
Special Guest: John McLaughlin: McLaughlin started his career off as a 19 year old trailblazing guitar master, blowing away audiences just as the British blues was exploding on the scene. Bands like Cream and the Yardbirds were just starting to take shape, and guitarists like Jimmy Page, Eric Clapton, Keith Richards, and Jimi Hendrix were just starting out and hoping to cut their teeth. My next guest had a different calling, going on a different tangent and taking his sound away from the blues-rock world of guitar hooks and classic rock solos and instead schooling himself on some of the most beautiful but also technically challenging music styles known in music. He delved into playing styles like flamenco guitar with Al Di Meola and Paco de Lucia; world music with people like Carlos Santana and Trilok Gurtu, and straight ahead jazz with too many jazz legends to mention. John McLaughlin was a major player in helping take jazz on one of most extreme and interesting rides ever with the sub-genre 'jazz fusion.' He is so highly respected that Miles Davis immortalized him in two songs, one of them on his landmark album, Bitches Brew, with the honorarily titled "John McLaughlin." Currently, McLaughlin and his band, The 4th Dimension, have a brand new album out called “Now Here This” an album about which McLaughlin has been quoted as saying “It’s the best thing I ever did, from the beginning until today.” In this podcast we talk about the elder blues statesman Alexis Korner and his effect on the British Blues world, John McLaughlin's days with Ginger Baker and Jack Bruce previous to the formation of their band Cream, we also get into anecdotes with Eric Clapton, Carlos Santana, Jimi Hendrix, the album Emergency!, Tony Williams, Larry Young, Joey DeFrancesco, Elvin Jones, John Mayall and finish off with the story of how Miles Davis came to write the song titled "John McLaughlin."
Going Thru a Miles Davis collection
Getting into Miles Davis' music for the first time can be a daunting undertaking. First off, he released many records, and many of them groundbreaking. He also changed his style quite dramatically at different time periods in his career, so where to start, and what to look for can be a little overwhelming. Of course, there are the albums that must be in the collection which are well known and loved by everyone and need to be there to say that they're into Miles Davis, according to aficionados. Then there are albums that are not necessarily must-haves but come down to being just as good, or very close to just as good, and ones that the neophyte would do better to try after they've gained some familiarity into his music. Of course, it can all come down to a matter of opinion, but take the advice from those who have gone through it and are willing to impart what they've found.
For those who get it in their blood, rich appreciation takes hold, it gets to be a hunger, and later, after having spent hours upon hours savouring every nuance and note, the albums get to be second nature and fans couldn't imagine being without the albums in their collection. For the music fan, it truly becomes a thing of beauty. But for the beginner, all these different albums and musical periods can be hard to sort through. The good news is, that for those starting out, Davis may be the most accessible jazz artist – easier to get into than later period John Coltrane, Eric Dolphy or say Ornette Coleman.
For myself, I have never come across a Miles Davis record that I didn’t like.
Here is a small sample of Davis albums. Though most fans categorize Davis’ collection according to time periods; I personally separate Davis’ playing into tempos to put on according to my mood. I have sorted this list with both categorizations in mind. If you're new to it, try it out; I hope it broadens your horizon.
Generally Davis’ playing during this period tends to be of a quick and agile straight ahead jazz. All of it is pretty accessible and sound like “Jazz” in a traditional sense.
Birth of Cool (Released in 1957) (Tempo : Mid-slow)
This is Miles Davis in a big band setting and is notable for among other things, one being the first time he worked with arranger Gil Evans. Though released in 1957, the recordings themselves actually date from 1949 and 1950. This pivotal album was Miles Davis’ first big change to the jazz world – ushering in the switch from Bebop Jazz, playing with Charlie Parker in these years, to what became to be known as “cool jazz" (in no small part because of this monumental album.) In short, a great album that goes well with any occasion.
'Round About Midnight (Released in 1957) (Tempo: mixed - Slow and Quick tracks)
A phenomenal record. After recording for smaller labels like Prestige, Davis decided to move to Columbia Records to record ‘Round About Midnight (his first album in a long career with the label). Considered his first great quintet, the album has John Coltrane, Red Garland, Paul Chambers and Philly Joe Jones. They really clicked on this album.
Bags Groove (1957) (Tempo: Mid to Quick)
Although this it a lot of people’s favourite record; I personally just put this record on when I feel like changing it up and listen to a Miles Davis record I haven’t heard in a while. The players on this album are an all-star roster playing at their best.
Milestones (1958) (Tempo: Quick)
Another straight ahead jazz style record and one that I reach for more often than any other of this time period; in short one of his best.
Ascenseur Pour L’echafaud (1958) (Tempo: Very slow)
This has to be one of Davis' easiest records to listen to, and one that gets frequent play. While touring Europe, Davis decided to record a soundtrack (Ascenseur Pour L’echafaud) – it doesn’t have any star players on it apart from Davis himself, but it's a great album. It has a cool minimalist quality to it. The only problem with this record is that it’s hard to find. Get it if you see it.
Generally marked by his work with Gil Evans; these are some of his most loved and sought after records.
Kind of Blue (1959) (Tempo: Mid)
Maybe the most loved Jazz record of all time. For me what differentiates this from his other records is the inclusion of Bill Evans. Not to say that Evans was the star, but I just think that he mixed really well with Davis, John Coltrane and the rest of the band.
Sketches of Spain (1960) (Tempo: Low to Mid)
A great collaboration between Gil Evans and Miles Davis that is set to Spanish folk tunes; a much loved Miles Davis record. Although I rarely put it on myself.
At Carnegie Hall (1961) (Tempo: Quick)
Having heard Kind of Blue so often, it took me a while to get into the rendition of “So What” and the other classic tunes that Davis plays with orchestration. If you find you have the same difficulty, my advice is to not give up on it; you will most likely fall in love with it after some time.
This album rings in his second great quintet and consists of Wayne Shorter, Herbie Hancock, Ron Carter and Tony Williams. Each member of this band have gone on to change jazz in their own unique way.
Live at the Plugged Nickel (1965) (Tempo: Quick and Agile)
Recorded at a club called Plugged Nickel in Chicago 1965; this stuff is legendary. I play this a lot.
For some, this was where jazz stopped being jazz and turned into a free-for-all with musicians focused only onto what they were doing individually. I think less people hold this opinion in general these days; that said, this stuff isn't for everyone. Miles Davis was one of the first to plug in and has some of the most extreme examples of "Jazz-Fusion."
In a Silent Way (1969) (Tempo: Ultra slow)
Albums don`t come any better than this one. The first record that John McLaughlin played on – this record is one of the most relaxing and awe-inspiring records in my collection.
Bitches Brew (1970) (Tempo: Slow to Mid)
This is where the rubber hits the road as far as electric instruments and jazz being combined. This is a record that I didn't originally warm up to but is now one of my favorite albums of all time. If I had one complaint it would be that the `Complete Bitches Brew` needs to be easier to find and cost much less on vinyl.
Post Retirement Period
After releasing "On the Corner," Davis called it quits (for five years). After reading his autobiography, I think this wasn't the healthiest move on his part. Luckily, he released some stuff from the vaults during this time period and eventually came out of retirement. Though he didn't bring out any career changing albums, for me, he still brought out some good stuff.
Agharta (1975) (Tempo: Funky/Crazy)
Recorded February 1, 1975 in Japan, Agharta (the afternoon set) was part of a two part live release (the evening set was also released; called Pangaea). Davis has never been more crazy, wild or unapologetically funky than he was here. In fact, he was so wild that critics at the time were accusing him of not acting his age and borrowing too much from Jimi Hendrix, Sly and the Family Stone, and James Brown. What do critics know. On this album, the band is absolutely stellar and the music is totally moving. Although it's definitely not the album to start with. Not for a gentle immersion anyway.
Tutu (1986) (Tempo: Mellow/Smooth with an 80's flair)
Once you get past the dated 80’s drum machines and synthesizers sounds and settle into what's being played, you will realize that this is a great record. No, this is not as good as “In a Silent Way” or “Kind of Blue,” but it's still a great Miles Davis record.
-- Jason Hoffer
Next week: Steve Albini
Plus a bonus interview with Brett Anderson (of the Stripminers and the Donnas)
John McLaughlin “Now Here This” Interview [Listen 23:36] – Being happy and proud of what I do S03 Ep04 (Part 1 of 2)
Special Guests: John McLaughlin: McLaughlin started his career off as a 19 year old trailblazing guitar master, blowing away audiences just as the British blues was exploding on the scene. Bands like Cream and the Yardbirds were just starting to take shape, and guitarists like Jimmy Page, Eric Clapton, Keith Richards, and Jimi Hendrix were just starting out and hoping to cut their teeth. My next guest had a different calling, going on a different tangent and taking his sound away from the blues-rock world of guitar hooks and classic rock solos and instead schooling himself on some of the most beautiful but also technically challenging music styles known to music. He delved into playing styles like: flamenco guitar with Al Di Meola and Paco de Lucia; world music with people like Carlos Santana and Trilok Gurtu, and straight ahead jazz with too many jazz legends to mention. John McLaughlin was a major player in helping take jazz on one of most extreme and fun rides ever with the sub-genre 'jazz fusion." He is so respected that Miles Davis immortalized him in two songs, one of them on his landmark album, Bitches Brew, the honorary titled "John McLaughlin." Currently, McLaughlin and his band, The 4th Dimension have a brand new album out called “Now Here This” - an album about which McLaughlin has been quoted as saying “It’s the best thing I ever did, from the beginning until today.” In this podcast John McLaughlin and I talk about about the atmosphere in the studio while recording the songs: "Echoes From Then," "Take It or Leave It," "Guitar Love," and "Not Here Not There." You can hear the excitement in John McLaughlin’s voice when talking about this new album and the band he has put together.
Jazz guitarists you should know
Besides John McLaughlin, we wanted to showcase some of the other guitar legends in jazz to give you an introduction and give you some pretty pictures to look at. But besides that, look into the music they've done. Give them a listen. These guys are pioneers in the field and have pushed the frontiers of music beyond conception. While we can't cover every guitarist that should be mentioned, which often leads to objections and bitterness from fans, take note of the ones listed here, and wait for the rest to be mentioned in a later episode.
Innovative and constantly pushing the boundaries, he takes a unique approach to his music and believes music is a ways to peace.
Innovative primarily in sound and always challenging himself Metheny has evolved into new forms and a passionate fan-base. I recommend starting off with his album "We Live Here."
One of the first jazz guitarists to use an electric guitar, he influenced many others. Phenomenal skills, he apparently could match Django Reinhardt note for note.
Nicknamed "The Octopus" for his incredibly large hands and clean playing style. He only started playing guitar at age 21, but soon was playing guitar professionally. Known for only playing publicly very rarely.
Said to be the best guitar players Joey DeFancesco played with. Benson was a child prodigy, and can play a multitude of styles. He possesses impeccable technique, and can mimic his heroes perfectly at will.
A jazz guitarist of a different vein, this jazz fusion guitarist is known to have influenced players like: Eddie Van Halen, Joe Satriani, and even Frank Zappa. Like John McLaughlin, Holdsworth played with drumming legend Tony Williams.
Django Reinhardt deserves all the prestige placed on him. After he injured his hand in a fire, he developed a new way of playing to accommodate losing the use of his last two fingers. He's influenced multitudes of guitarists, and cemented his place as one of the greatest.
Considered by many to be the greatest Jazz guitarist of them all. Like Django Reinhardt, he is the high-watermark by which all guitarists are measured.
A sleeping giant of sorts in the guitar world, Joe Pass broke away from drug addiction and prison culture to become one of the most respected guitarists of all time.
Playing with people like Dizzy Gillespie, Bill Evans, Ike Quebec, Sonny Rollins, Jimmy Smith, Paul Chambers, and Stanley Turrentine, Kenny Burrell may have played on more of the best loved jazz albums than anyone else.
One of the world's most admired and respected guitarists living today. His style focuses more on the music rather than showing off guitar chops. He has been able to revitalize the bebop movement and make it current. One of the best for certain, and with a good helping of integrity.
Get your Going Thru Vinyl T-shirt. Just $15 Bucks!!!
(hurry while supplies last)
Ernie Isley of the Isley Brothers Interview – Fighting the Power with Ernie Isley (Part 3 of 3) [Listen 23:10 min] S02 Ep15
Interview Date: August 13, 2012 @10 am EDT
Special Guest: Ernie Isley (of the Isley Brothers) - is a key member in one of the most famous soul/funk/R&R bands of all time. Ernie Isley was a crucial component in the band at a historic and transitional time in music; they changed the sound of the band's early music with songs like “This Old Heart of Mine” and “Shout” and advanced into their later funk driven sound with songs like "Fight the Power Pts. 1 & 2," "Harvest for the World," "Voyage to Atlantis," and “That Lady.” Ernie Isley helped make the Isley brothers one of the few groups that have charted in five consecutive decades. In this podcast we talk about the Isley Brothers' famous and loved albums, 3 + 3, Stevie Wonder’s album "Innervisions" and it’s connection with 3 + 3, “The Heat Is On,” “Fight the Power,” and Ernie’s amazing guitar playing. He tells us about his new album that he is working on, parting thoughts on Jimi Hendrix, the song Shout and we get to the heart of what makes the Isley Brothers one of the most important bands in music history.
Questions No One Thought to Ask Ernie Isley
What all the praise and everything else that depicts Jimi Hendrix as a rock god fail to show, is what a hard time Jimi had of making it. Then, and even into the days of The Jimi Hendrix Experience, people thought he was too weird, or too flamboyant to handle. And while he was undeniably good, he often got criticism that he played too loud, or was put down for the way he dressed, or didn't play the right style. Though, a lot of this criticism came from people who were jealous and didn't want to be outshined on stage. It led to difficulties working with his idols. Besides Little Richard's refusal to share the spotlight, he was a taskmaster and Jimi found it to be too confining working with Little Richard.
Times were often pretty bad in the early days. When Jimi went to audition for the Isleys, they had to buy him a couple strings for his guitar. He was fortunate to have a guitar; in those days, he barely had any money and his guitars were always in and out of the pawn shops.
It was the Isley Brothers that gave him a stable platform, although, sometimes even amongst those groups they travelled with he was a hard sell. At one point, while on the road for an Isley Brothers tour, the alto sax player was driving and couldn't take Jimi fantasizing and going on about dragon shaped guitars that spewed fire, the sax player said that the cat was freaking him out, pulled over, and had Jimi take over the wheel. It probably wasn't the wisest move, because although it stopped Jimi from talking, Jimi needed glasses but refused to wear them. Twenty minutes later, they hit a deer that ended up coming through the windshield. No one was hurt (besides the deer, of course) but someone with better eyesight might have avoided the collision. (Perhaps you squares should just build a little more tolerance for the freaks, or maybe just don't hand them the keys.)
Etta James knew them in Harlem when Jimi was touring with the Isley Brothers; she loved the Isley Brothers, but talked disparagingly of Jimi. She said he looked like a roadie playing the R&B circuit.
He heard criticism all the time, which, no doubt led him to head to England. But not everything was on the blame of others, he had little regard for holding to a contract, and didn't always show up for gigs. The Isley Brothers went to bat for Jimi on more than one occasion and opened more doors for him, and perhaps gave him his most stable surroundings in that era when they took him in to their home. They bought Jimi the Fender Duo-Sonic to tour with which they later let him keep when they parted.
It was only around this time when Ernie was getting into music, and a little later, the Isley Brothers took the younger ones into the mix. But these times when Jimi spent at the Isley household were truly monumental and had a tremendous impact. Growing up in the Isley household with Hendrix in the mix, something had to have rubbed off. He was paying attention, and the speed which Ernie took to music, and was in on the hit recordings is truly astonishing, even taking into consideration the musically talented environment he was raised.
Ask Ernie Isley, he's got some stories to tell, and the way he puts it, you needed to be beside him, sitting silently, hearing him play unamplified to really get it.
Ernie Isley of the Isley Brothers Interview – Holding onto the bass for dear life with Ernie Isley (Part 2 of 3) [Listen 34:30 min] S02 Ep15
Interview Date: August 13, 2012 @10 am EDT
Special Guest: Ernie Isley (of the Isley Brothers) - is a key member in one of the most famous soul/funk/R&R bands of all time. Ernie Isley was a crucial component in the band at a historic and transitional time in music; they changed the sound of the band's early music with songs like “This Old Heart of Mine” and “Shout” and advanced into their later funk driven sound with songs like "Fight the Power Pts. 1 & 2," "Harvest for the World," "Voyage to Atlantis," and “That Lady.” Ernie Isley helped make the Isley brothers one of the few groups that have charted in five consecutive decades. In this podcast we talk about why Jimi Hendrix had difficulty catching in America, the first time Ernie was in the studio to record "It's your thing," the 3 + 3 recording sessions, and the Beatles inspiration and introduction in America.
Attention Everyone: This is a Snobbery!
In these days of music snobs and jokes like “I'm into bands that haven't even formed yet.” As great as some artists are lauded now and pasted on the front cover of magazines and whose image sell millions of t-shirts, some never got the popularity nor the due respect simply because they were too advanced for the population or market to accept. All this despite skill, mettle, integrity, or whatever you wish to say that separates a band from the crowd but also separates them so far for them to fail to realize success. Ironically, while recognition is the measure and aim (often) of budding artists pushing their craft to new levels hoping to make it big, the market and larger population tends to be pretty conservative.
But this is the market. And there's more than one side. The Delfonics probably wouldn't have such a cult following if it weren't so cool to be into the band before they broke, or never broke but should have. If every band that finally made it had a nickel from everyone who said they were into them before they got popular, well, let's just say that there would be a lot more money to go around to feed the starving artists, perhaps to the ends of time.
This is the priceless and intangible commodity; the je nes sais quoi of music appreciation. Lest not we forget Hammond's Folley: Bob Dylan. Hammond's Folley was the moniker given to Dylan because Columbia Records' A&R man John Hammond signed Dylan, and produced his album which sold poorly at first and Hammond's bosses found such disfavour with Dylan they dubbed him “Hammond's Folley.” In fact, the Columbia Record execs didn't authorize his signing. It was Hammond's persistence and rebellious nature to go ahead and sign him despite his superiors objections. Obviously, he had an ear more advanced than the execs; Dylan's success and Hammond's reputation more than show for it.
There are scores of bands that influenced others and helped launch them into stardom but never got to reap the same degree of success. Jimi Hendrix credited the Isley Brothers because reporters fascinated by his sound wanted to know how he developed and would ask him directly what bands he was into and influenced by. Often, Hendrix would only mention the Isley Brothers.
Also, unfortunately, as time wears on influences get forgotten and stories get simplified. As Ernie Isley describes in the interview, finding McCartney in his audience, they happened to have a great meeting, and the two gushed on each other great respect. And while the same three names of Elvis, Carl Perkins, and Chuck Berry get mentioned as the influences of the Beatles, McCartney told Isley that the Beatles would never have gotten out of Liverpool had it not been for the Isley Brothers, and he got up on stage and said so to give them homage.
It's a mercurial nature of where a sound takes hold. Place and time are never consistent. Hendrix said that he really learned to play while he was in Memphis because the audiences were so hard and everybody there played guitar, but Memphis got to be limiting pretty quickly in terms of sound; that plus the race issue made it difficult to gain success there. In the U.S. in '63 only the major metropolitan areas were where mixed race bands were accepted; elsewhere, they were often shut down or forced out. Countless stories could be told. During this time, and the influx of the British Invasion, Hendrix was told that he just wouldn't sell in America. This is how Jimi was spirited away to the U.K.
But I'm not talking about the race issue here, it's the general acceptance issue-if their music was appreciated. The same goes for fine art and literature. Artists sometimes never get the recognition they deserve until they're dead.
And still, musicians get passed over because they were too advanced. All this considering the valuable commodity and bragging rights of being into the band that hasn't broke yet, but on the verge. Unfortunately, some remain on the verge and only make it to a revered cult following; such has been said of Sun Ra and Frank Zappa.
But what makes the long hours of research so rewarding is honing that appreciation to be able to flesh out the bands that had that sound, or skill, or philosophy, or audacity to push music in another direction but just weren't pushed, promoted, discovered, or simply just weren't accepted in their time and passed over. It's not just collecting, it's honing an appreciation and relishing the reward. It brings a higher level of integrity to music snob.
We thought we'd pay a little respect to some of the artists who didn't get their due in their day.
Considered by most as only a joke at first. I bet you own a t-shirt with their name on it.
P.S. Dylan releases his new album, "Tempest" around the second week of September