We started tonight’s show with some Lefty Frizzell. There is a great deal of pleasure that comes with Lefty’s song-craft. His songs are the sort that are hard to forget, especially when combined with his manner of singing. When he broke onto the country music scene in the early ’50s, he at one point had four singles at the top of the charts, a feat which would not be equalled until the Beatles came along. Not only was his songwriting influential, but his singing style was as well, with John Anderson, Keith Whitley and Randy Travis credited as being among his direct heirs. So we heard a few of those classics: I Love You a Thousand Ways, The Long Black Veil (Lefty was the first to record it, and his recording was a big hit), Don’t Think It Aint Been Fun, Dear (Cuz It Ain’t), Look What Thoughts Will Do, and Give Me More, More, More (of Your Kisses).
We had an interesting anniversary this past week. The Beatles released the White Album on 11/22/1968 – 44 years ago this past week. The White Album marked a bit of transition for the Beatles, both in terms of songcraft (by this time they were writing completely independently of each other) and in terms of recording technology. In fact, I find one of the more interesting aspects of this album to be the clarity of the recording, as this marked the first time they were able to use 8 track recording board, which was quite revolutionary for a rock band of the era. Happily, these recording innovations come through with crystal clarity in the recent remastered version, and the result is a joy to listen to. So I thought I’d play a few cuts off of that masterwork: Back in the U.S.S.R, Dear Prudence, Glass Onion, Yer Blues, While My Guitar Gently Weeps, Happiness is a Warm Gun, Martha My Dear, I’m So Tired, Blackbird, Savoy Truffle, Cry Baby Cry, and Revolution 9.
Robert Schumann‘ doesn’t always get the credit he deserves for his overall contribution to music. He did not achieve widespread fame in his day, although he was a noted music critic in addition to being a great composer. But while he might not have the fame enjoyed by Beethoven and Brahms, he is nevertheless ranked among the most influential composers of the early Romantic Era. Evidence of his compositional skill can be found in his chamber works, such as the Piano Trio in A Minor, nicknamed “Fantasiestücke,” The Fantasiestücke is a set of four movements that he wrote in 1842, a year that he largely devoted to writing chamber music. The music is fairly loosely related thematically, which probably is due to Schumann’s experimentation with musical form, and his drifting away from the sonata format. 1842 was a busy year for Schumann, which some historians believe might have had a long-term effect on Schumann’s mental state, resulting in his 1844 nervous breakdown. Tonight’s recording is a 1996 recording by the Vienna Brahms Trio.
I derive a great deal of pleasure from playing the music of Thelonious Monk. He was one of those musicians who wore his personality on his compositional sleeve. You can immediately tell, from the first ringing notes of whatever song you’re hearing at the moment, that you are listening to Thelonious Monk – there is no mistaking his music for that of anyone else. This is especially true when he is performing his own music (as opposed to the covers of Monk’s compositions as done by notables such as Miles Davis). His piano style simply cannot be imitated – each note has a purpose, an individual statement to be made. He was not what we would call “avant garde”, yet his quirky writing style informs what we would hear from John Coltrane and Ornette Coleman in the years to come. I also find it notable that he provided valuable experience to several young musicians who would go on to do great things, including Sonny Rollins, John Coltrane, and Milt Jackson. We heard several songs from Monk: Bemsha Swing (from a live appearance in Tokyo in ’63), Misterioso (featuring vibes from the great Milt Jackson), Well You Needn’t (another live performance from a ’64 LA club date), and Ruby, My Dear.
We closed out the show with a few cuts from The Cure: Charlotte Sometimes (a single they put out in ’81, which has recently been reissued as part of the Faith remaster), Torture (from Kiss Me Kiss Me Kiss Me), and A Forest (from Seventeen Seconds).