Monthly Archives: July 2011

A 300 Year-Old Interpretation

Jeff Buckley is one of those artists who, because of his untimely death, left a million what if’s floating around. The canonization of such artists helps magnify and mystify even their smallest efforts. Sure, it’s terrifying to think that Clifford Brown was only 25 when he died, or that Kurt Cobain was able to have such a huge effect on an entire generation without living past 27, but it is only because they’re gone that we’re able to wonder (or care). If Radiohead died in a plane crash after OK Computer, their legacy would of course be much different.

However I really can’t hep myself with the ‘what if’ with Jeff Buckley. The only full record he left with us is amazingly daring, well-rounded and accessible. I have ventured little outside this official collection of songs because most of what remains are either demos or incomplete recordings, and they were never given the go-ahead by Buckley himself to be released, so I think it’s unfair to associate these tracks with him.

But recently, I was reading up on the history of Henry Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas and I noticed that particularly popular rendition of the most famous movement, “When I am Laid In Earth” was that of Jeff Buckley. Now, I’m having a hard time thinking of even a single other pop/rock artist of the last 20 years who has even attempted an opera cover, let alone successfully, or of one from the 17th century. It’s a perfect example of how fearless Buckley really was, as well as a great sign of his abilities and (lost) potential.


Strange Occurrences ~~ Flea Meets Chet Baker


Influence In Strange Places…

I feel like a lot of artists these days are looking to music from the 80’s for inspiration. This seems strange to me. Not because there wasn’t good music in the 80’s, but because despite this it is still considered a ‘lost decade’ for music. Take any decent sample of generic Americans and ask them which decade had the best music, the 70’s, 80’s or 90’s, and I’d wager a large sum that the 80’s would consistently be chosen last.

But recently I’ve heard more and more about artists looking to groups from the 80’s for inspiration. In some cases, I can’t discern the influence in the final product, but in others it’s almost painfully obvious.

This track, for example, most likely could have come out in 1987 and no one would have known the difference:

The album is still great though, check it out…


My other blog…

I’ve been slow on here, and it’s mainly because I’m working on an album. I thought it would be a nice idea to document the process, so i’ve been doing that over at savagemusic.tumblr.com

The fact that the name is the same was an attempt at making it sort of a ‘sister site’, but I realize now it’s causing some confusion. Regardless, I will be updating here, perhaps a little less, but also updating over there. So if you’re interested, take a look!


Unlearning the Learned and Thoughts on Exercises…

Watching this video interview with Michael Wolff, I was struck by a story he told about Cannonball Adderley:

He said “You know you’re so lucky you’re not hung up with the bebop style.” He said “Quincy Jones and I are trying to get that last food out of Birdland. He said “Bebop is hanging me up. I wanna soar with my music and i’m stuck with this saxophone style.” And he was really frustrated. So I was coming from a post-bop thing. I came up more with Bitches Brew and Headhunters and, you know, the straight ahead stuff would have been more like A.R.C. by Chick and Now He Sings, Now He Sobs and that kind of stuff, you know, more free. And Keith Jarrett and all that.

Bird is (perhaps incorrectly) famous for saying something along the lines of “First you have to learn the music, then you have to forget it”. This could mean a lot of different things. In relation to what Cannonball is saying, I think it means that to fully master the music you play, it has to be natural and inherent in you. This is, in one way, a asset, but as Cannonball illustrates above, it can also be a burden. Some artists were able to get past this, Miles, Coltrane, Herbie, by relentlessly pushing themselves into new areas, but it seems that it was harder for others.

What makes Wolff different, it seems, is that he wasn’t brought up in the same “tradition”. To him, coming out of Keith and Chick makes him more flexible. But aren’t Keith and Chick themselves just extensions of the same “tradition” that Cannonball is? How can this extra degree of separation make such a difference?

Another interesting quote from this brief interview shed some light on how Cannonball viewed certain aspects of Coltrane’s legacy:

So Cannon was trying to get free and I was so impressed. When I first joined the band I said “Well, Cannon”, you know I had been in New York, scuffling to learn Moment’s Notice and Giant Steps and all the things everybody was learning at the jam sessions and I said “Cannon, can we play Moment’s Notice or Giant Steps?” And he said “No. We don’t play exercises on our bandstand. Why don’t you write me some music…John Coltrane was my favorite saxophonist, but those were exercises for him.”

It’s nice to hear, even third hand, that even Coltrane himself (as well as his contemporaries) viewed songs like “Moment’s Notice” and “Giant Steps” as ‘exercises’. This is exactly what a lot of young musicians today don’t realize. If more young musicians approached these songs the way Coltrane himself clearly approached them, perhaps it would alter the trajectory of much of their music in a positive way. I’ve opined on this before…