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This is a part of a series on music that has influenced contributors to Music is Good.

I truly believe that music discovery is a life long process and one that should cross all genre barriers.  It is absolutely dumbfounding to me whenever I hear someone claim that “there isn’t any good music these days” or that a particular genre (usually hip hop or country) “is all crap”.  I certainly realize, mostly because my wife loves to remind me, I’m not a ‘normal’ person when it comes to music, but it seems elementary to me that if anyone explores a genre a bit they will find something that speaks to them.  Below are the 10 albums (in my personal chronological order) that have had the biggest impact on my life, and led me down my musical paths.

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27

Dec

2011

Lama – “Oneiros”

By Dave Sumner. Posted in Experimental, Jazz, Reviews | No Comments »

Don’t believe the opening notes of Lama‘s Oneiros… they’re a lie and they’ll steer you the wrong way.  The pronounced bounce and charge of trumpet and bass is like a doorway into a confused Ringling Bros. tent.  It’s the opening statement to both song and album.  It says, hey, this is what it’s all about.  But it’s a lie.  Because after the first 30 seconds, the carnival packs up and leaves town, and all that remains are long beautiful trumpet calls, low and serene, over a sea of electronics and gentle rhythms.  It’s a dramatic moment on a dramatic album.

Alguidar by lamatrio

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This is part of a series on music that has influenced contributors to Music is Good.

I was a bona-fide “grown-up” before I realized there were all kinds of good music hidden away in a vast array of genres I never took the time to investigate. I suppose I am not unique. During our teen years, while some adventurous listeners may follow the beat of their own individual drum, most of us at this stage of life are typically influenced by what the airwaves are playing from the latest top-40 charts. None of the music from that early part of my life was, however, what I would call influential in defining my lasting musical preferences. It was only much later that some albums  began to seep into my ears and, in hindsight, I see how they proved to be landmark albums for me – albums which encouraged me to branch out into other genres, and once on that unbeaten path, find all those undiscovered treasures that awaited me. Here’s the ones that did it for me:

Fisherman's BluesI received this CD as a gift from a friend many years ago and, while I had vaguely heard of The Waterboys, I was not at all familiar with their music. From the moment I popped this CD into my player and heard those riotously glorious fiddle notes that open the first song, “Fisherman’s Blues,” I was hooked. This was a sound very different from anything I had been musically exposed to previously. It was my springboard to the discovery of a whole new world of folk-rock with touches of traditional-sounding material by performers outside the U.S., which in turn, led me to more traditional folk tunes recorded by the likes of Fairport Convention, Richard Thompson, Steeleye Span, etc. Fisherman’s Blues is still a CD I play often.

Amazing Things

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This is the first article in a series where Music is Good contributors discuss the albums that have most influenced them musically. They will include some favourites that they play regularly now, but other choices will be music that they rarely listen to anymore, but had a major influence on their musical development at the time.
My selection begins with the Beatles:

The Beatles inevitably had a major influence upon me musically as I was teenager in their early days. For me this is a turning point album moving from the early fairly straight forward recordings that could be replicated on stage to the later studio based albums like Sgt Pepper. To some extent it reflects my growing up as a person alongside the Beatles ‘growing up’ musically. It is still an album I play regularly with many standout tracks for me such as “Dr Robert” and “Got to Get You Into My Life”.

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12

Dec

2011

Bill Frisell – “858 Quartet”

By Dave Sumner. Posted in Jazz | No Comments »

Crossposted from http://www.birdistheworm.com/.

The last time Bill Frisell recorded an album with the 858 ensemble, things were a bit noisier.  The 2002 recording Richter 858 had Frisell substituting jet engines for amps, and let the compositions not so much speak for themselves as growl and roar.  Sign of Life shows that there was a heartbeat just behind all the fury and fuel of Richter 858.

Different sound; same ensemble.  Bill brings his incomparable voice on guitar, and long-time collaborators Jenny Scheinman on violin, Hank Roberts on cello, and Eyvind Kang on viola.

As with any inventive musician, Frisell’s sound has evolved over the years.  His current phase is often referred to as Americana Jazz, a blending of jazz aspirations and conventions within a folk framework.  Sign of Life fits snugly into that label, comparable to other recent releases like the excellent Disfarmer, the perfectly acceptable Beautiful Dreamer, and the under-the-radar All Hat.  It’s an album of languid back porch tunes, of foreboding compositions echoing over desolate Appalachian trails, of lush stringed instruments that is alternatingly soothing, threatening, and transcendent.

858 Quartet

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In which we learn about Storms/Nocturnes, Toadswart d’Amplestone, and Bea.

 

STORMS / NOCTURNES – VIA

Names have power.  It gets to where it’s difficult to distinguish whether the name is derived from identity or if identity is formed from the name.  Storms/Nocturnes, the ensemble name taken by the trio of Geoffrey Keezer (piano), Tim Garland (reeds), and Joe Locke (vibes) illustrates that fuzziness of origin.  They have created an album awash in dreamy melodies and rhythms like the fall of rain. 

Places have power, too.  They have their own identity, which can alter our perceptions just as we affect them by our presence.  The album VIA is a recognition of that geographical interaction.  Within the liner notes of the album are photos and reminiscences by the artists of places that each tune drew inspiration from.  It is a guided tour of the album’s music, just as the music colors the perception of each location’s photo.  It creates an odd circle of interpretation, but it’s a logical approach to such an unconventional album.

A trio of piano, vibes, and reeds isn’t the typical jazz line-up and the compositions themselves don’t evoke daydreams of 1940s Minton’s Playhouse, and yet the end result is an album of sublime jazz music.  Seven years since their last album, the trio’s ears show no rust to the receptiveness of one another’s sound.  Locke’s vibes light the path with bright runs, while Garland’s sax soars overhead and bass clarinet burrows beneath Garland’s fluttering piano.  A beautiful album by jazz vets at the top of their game.  Released in 2011 on the Origin/OA2 label.

*****

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5

Dec

2011

The Musical Christmas Rescue Mission

By David Smith. Posted in Classical, Folk, Jazz | 5 Comments »

Bruce Cockburn - Christmas

Canadian singer-songwriter Bruce Cockburn comments in the liner notes to his 1993 album Christmas about the realization that numbingly familiar seasonal standards “are still songs, written by songwriters, with lyrics that often make sense and are beautiful.” He refers to his own creative process of retrieval in terms of discovering that “a little nudge in one direction or another would help to revive their ‘songness’.” The notion of reviving their “songness” stuck with me, and he’s clearly not the only artist who has felt this while listening to Christmas music. The combination of curiosity, lament, and hope that is implied in his comments strikes a chord with me at this time of year. It may well be some defect in me, but the fact is I struggle to appreciate Christmas music. Much, perhaps most of it evokes for me neither warm nostalgia nor childlike faith, but something more akin to the taste of plastic. To my ear, a lot of what I hear at Christmas is testimony to the tragic fact that it is possible to take a memorable and enduring tune, combine it with a lyric deserving of profound meditation (no, I’m not thinking of Rudolph here), and through a potent witches’ brew of forced jollity, mall marketing, kitchsy, schmaltzy arrangements, and sheer over-exposure kill it deader than the slow-moving squirrels whose remains I occasionally pass on my walk to work. For Christmas music to work, it has to contain a hint of resurrection. Here are a few recordings that I think meet the mark – not new releases, but rather musical friends old and new that continue to make Christmas musical.

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