Music-Folk Scene: Newsnet Scotland’s Greatest Album; Peter Curran – jazz history; Loreena Mckennitt

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This week: choosing Newsnet Scotland’s Greatest Album; Peter Curran – a brief history of jazz; a festive album for this season of good will.

Newsnet Scotland’s Greatest Album
Recently, Scotland’s Greatest Album caused a bit of a buzz, then a bit of a stir as Scots began vehemently disputing the final songs to make the grade. Delightful blogger The Burd and beloved voice of the people Bella Caledonia got jiggy with it and eventually did their own Scotland’s Greatest Album.

So, as a bit of festive fun, Newsnet Scotland is going to produce the real Scotland’s Greatest Album – leave your suggestion (and Youtube link if possible) in the comment thread and we’ll collectively outdo everybody else and produce the actual quintessential Scotland’s Greatest Album.

Any type of music from anytime from any Scottish group or musician (including groups where the predominant influence on the song/album is from a Scot). Get voting and feel free to support someone else’s choice if you agree with it.

To get the ball rolling, as a first suggestion:

Aztec Camera – Roddy Frame singing Oblivious.

 

Peter Curran – A brief history of Jazz
Guest music review from jazz aficionado moridura blog writer, Peter Curran, who knows a thing or two about jazz. Peter has selected a top ten jazz collection to illustrate and give us a brief history of jazz. As Peter says, it’s an impossible task but he’s given it a masterly shot:

One of my jazz top tens (in historical order)…
How to select ten jazz tracks that mean something to me, and give some idea of the chronology and development of jazz? An impossible task – I confess it readily. If I had to select another ten tomorrow, they would be different, yet just as important to me. So this isn’t my top ten, but I couldn’t imagine life without any one of them. And to my own astonishment, I haven’t included a clarinet track per se, if you discount Omer Simeon on ‘Doctor Jazz’…

1) Potato Head Blues – Louis Armstrong
Louis invented jazz trumpet. He invented jazz singing – and indeed all popular singing – together with Bing Crosby and Connie Boswell. He was a trumpet virtuoso and a musical genius. ‘Potato Head Blues’ is representative of his style, taste and virtuosity – his solo, with the famous stop chorus section after the banjo break has been copied note for note by generations of trumpet players, and still leaves me lost in admiration and affection for this wonderful human being.

2) Jelly Roll Morton – Doctor Jazz
Jelly Roll (and the name doesn’t refer to a sweetmeat – don’t ask!) Morton claimed to have invented jazz. Pimp, gambler and musician extraordinaire, he didn’t invent it, but his contribution to the music was utterly unique, and his Red Hot Peppers, none of them big names in their own right, were transformed by his judicious mixture of head arrangements and free improvisation, his controlling musical intelligence.
‘Doctor Jazz’ is one of my all-time feel-good, spirit-lifting performances. Jelly explodes into his vocal chorus, then the long held-note of Omer Simeon leading into the chalumeau (low register) clarinet solo – wonderful stuff!

3) From Monday On – Bix and Bing
Two musical geniuses of the 1920s found themselves in the big commercial orchestra of Paul Whiteman, who billed himself as the King of Jazz, but wasn’t. But he unerringly selected a core of jazz geniuses – Bix Beiderbecke on cornet, an utterly unique player, Bing Crosby on vocals and Frankie Trumbauer on the now-obsolete C Melody sax, to lift his sometimes leaden huge orchestra. This is a little gem, with a beautifully scored trumpet section, Bix’s solo and Bing’s vocal. Bix’s star arced briefly across the jazz sky – he died of acute alcoholism and pneumonia in his very early thirties.

4) Indiana – Lester Young & Count Basie
The tenor sax had been an unwieldy, honking instrument until Coleman Hawkins and Lester Young transformed it into a front line jazz horn, almost the definitive one. Lester Young, an obscure player in an obscure ‘territory’ (regional) band in Kansas City – The Count Basie Band – had a totally different style to the heavy, florid, big-toned sound of Coleman Hawkins, Chu Berry, etc. He was influence by Frankie Trumbauer, and he in turn influenced the players of the bebop era with his light tone and emphasis on the musical ‘line’.

5) Body and Soul – Coleman Hawkins
Coleman Hawkins – The Hawk – was the undisputed king of the tenor sax till Lester Young came along. He improvised this astonishing, ground-breaking solo on the old warhorse ‘Body and Soul’ in a one-take session. It was never expected to be a hit, but it captured the imagination not only of musicians but a large chunk of the population, in its effortless romanticism and impeccable styling.

6) You Go to My Head – Billie Holiday
Billie Holiday is the jazz singer. If you don’t like Billie, you don’t understand jazz, and the problem lies with you and not her. With a limited range (about one and a half octaves) and a light voice, she epitomises jazz singing, floating effortlessly across and over the beat, with an unerring feel for the lyric, which she always imbues with real meaning.

7) Charlie Parker – Parker’s Mood
Charlie Parker – Bird – one of only a tiny handful of true jazz geniuses, ranking jointly with Louis, Billie Holiday and his co-inventor of the new jazz language – bebop in the 1940s, Dizzy Gillespie.
Bird had everything – tone, a dazzling, apparently limitless technique, superb harmonic ear and an unfailing imagination – everything, that is, except the ability to control his alcohol and substance abuse.

Here, he plays the ultimate blues – the absolute essence and core of the blues and the American black experience.

8) A Night in Tunisia – Dizzy Gillespie
Dizzy Gillespie – Parker’s equal in every respect, but also a highly organised and wonderfully humourous man. I had the privilege to meet him in Glasgow and shake his hand in the middle 1980s. He boasted that he was really a Scot, with a name like Gillespie, and I was able to tell him that his clan motto – Touch not the cat without a glove – could be translated loosely as “leave the pussy alone!” He liked that, and gave one of his great, Dizzy laughs …

Here he is, with a group of wonderful musicians, playing – and managing – his own composition – A Night in Tunisia.

9) My Favourite Things – John Coltrane
In the 1950s, when I was gigging on alto sax, the soprano sax was regarded as a relic from the 1920s – a king of joke instrument, played by Charlie Cairoli, a circus clown. Then John Coltrane exploded on to the scene with the soprano, deconstructing, then reconstructing a syrupy tune from ‘The Sound Of Music’. I saw him live in the St. Andrew’s Halls in Glasgow in 1958 playing this tune. Within a day, every Glasgow music shop was inundated with musicians trying to get their hands on a soprano sax. I already had one, and was briefly the hero of the hour, playing in the Olympia Ballroom at East Kilbride.

10) Birdland – Weather Report
In the middle seventies, this album appeared. Jazz was never the same, and bass playing was changed forever as the incredible virtuosity of Jaco Pastorius burst upon the scene. This is my favourite track – an iconic track if ever there was one.

Bonus: An incredible groove from Herbie Hancock

‘Watermelon Man’ (1962)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NrH3YDJci9o

 

Loreena Mckennitt – To Drive the Cold Winter Away (1987)
‘To Drive the Cold Winter Away’ – Loreena McKennitt’s second album – have yourself a traditional 18th and 19th century Christmas. If you’d break from the rush and crush of daily life, then the glow of Loreena Mckennitt’s great hall fire place will warm the chill from weary bones.

Childhood memories of winter season music brought to life – “came from songs and carols recorded in churches or great halls, rich with their own unique ambience and tradition.”

To capture that remembered ambiance, McKennitt kept the arrangements sparse and simple. Real church hall reverberation in real cathedrals and great Halls, not today’s digital ambiance effect added later. She also chose to leave the sounds in the mix of people going about their daily lives at the churches and great halls where the songs were recorded.

Mckennitt’s albums have all recently been digitally remastered adding depth to the ethereal McKennitt’s solstice music, moods and atmospheres of magic comforting the weary traveller through the twinkling frost of the long winter’s night – this album accompanies this weary traveller all year long on through the season of good will to drive the cold winter away.

1) In Praise of Christmas 2) The Seasons 3) The King 4) Banquet Hall 5) Snow 6) Balulalow 7) Let Us The Infant Greet 8) The Wexford Carol 9) The Stockford Carol 10) Let All That Are To Mirth Inclined

Bonus: Loreena Mckennitt from the album, ‘A Midwinter’s Night Dream’ (2008)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=</span>ZdQKhjGE8Xo<span style="font-family: Calibri, sans-serif;">