We started tonight’s show with some Crosby, Stills, Nash (with the occasional Young). CSN(Y) is one of those groups that is hard for me to resist, with the combination of excellent guitar playing that supports the legendary harmonies. Of course, once one gets beyond all that, one is left with the excellent songwriting, although their work during the ’70s was often a matter of solo writing performed together (one could tell who wrote what songs based on style, subject matter, or who sang lead). We heard Helplessly Hoping, Carry On, Guinnevere, Suite: Judy Blue Eyes, Almost Cut My Hair, and Find the Cost of Freedom.
After CSN, we heard something from a group that has a bit of a connection with CSN, Jefferson Airplane (Paul Kantner was present when Crosby and Stills made their first effort at writing together, and actually received part of the songwriting credit for that first song, Wooden Ships). Their best work displayed the same sort of collective feel that best describes how the band operated. We heard material from two of their earlier albums, Surrealistic Pillow and After Bathing At Baxter’s – My Best Friend, She Has Funny Cars, Plastic Fantastic Lover, The Ballad of You and Me and Pooneil, A Small Package of Value Will Come To You Shortly, Won’t You Try Saturday Afternoon.
After Jefferson Airplane, we turned to some jazz. Dexter Gordon is generally credited with being among the first tenor saxophonists to successfully apply the bebop technique to the tenor sax (he was playing with Charlie Parker in 1945, after leaving Billy Eckstein’s big band). He was one of the more important tenor sax players of the ’50s and ’60s, not so much for the fame and renown of his recordings (which were very good) as for the quality of his sound. From his 1961 album Doin’ Alright, we heard Society Red, with Freddie Hubbard on trumpet, Horace Parlan on piano, George Tucker on bass, and Al Harewood on drums.
After Gordon, we heard another pillar of the tenor sax world, Sonny Rollins. Whereas Gordon was a pioneer during the bebop era (playing with Charlie Parker in ’45), Rollins is generally considered to be a mainstay of the post-bop era. He made some crucial jazz recordings during the mid ’50s, both solo and as sideman with leaders like Thelonious Monk and Miles Davis. He later pioneered the piano-less sax-bass-drums lineup that became a sort of trademark of his. However, the song we heard tonight, Decision, was done with a more traditional quintet lineup (Rollins on tenor sax, Donald Byrd on trumpet, Winton Kelly on piano, Gene Ramey on Bass and Max Roach on drums).
I find Sonic Youth to be among the most interesting bands that I ever play on the show. Of course, when you hear Sonic Youth, you start with their whole wall of sound philosophy. Not the Phil Spector “wall of sound”, but more literal – a wall of feedback that comes in waves. That alone is almost enough to interest me, given my long-standing interest in pure sound as a musical source (that would generally require a long explanation that I won’t get into here). But when you get beyond the feedback, you find that their sound involves quite a bit of delicate guitar-craft. Let’s call it “delicate dischord”. They are well known for their use of alternative tunings, and their tours require the use of numerous specially-prepared guitars. For a person like me who is enamored with the notion of music as a harnessing of sound (my own phrase), Sonic Youth might be considered part of the foundation of my musical theory. We heard Teen Age Riot (from the classic Daydream Nation), Disappearer (from the also-classic Goo), Silver Rocket and The Sprawl (both also from Daydream Nation).
Really, when we think of “delicate dischord”, we realize that we can find the same sort of thing in classical music, whenever you hear a work for the pipe organ. That sort of thing (what we are describing as “delicate dischord”) is quite common in the work of 20th century composers such as John Cage (whom SY has acknowledged as being influential to their music).
We ended the show with a set from U2’s excellent ’83 live EP, Under A Blood Red Sky – Gloria, 11 O’Clock Tick Tock, I Will Follow, and Party Girl.