We began tonight’s show with a bit of Dave Brubeck. Dave passed away this past week at the age of 91, a day before his 92nd birthday. Brubeck made no concessions to age, and performed as recently as Father’s Day, 2011. His achievements are numerous. His rhythmic complexity was groundbreaking, as was his use of unusual time signatures and arrangements, but this should be no surprise when one considers that he studied with the great composer (and subject of a fair amount of this show’s broadcasts) Darius Milhaud. We could talk about his achievements all night, but I figure it is better to celebrate him through his music. So we heard a portion of his classic Time Out album (it was intended to play the entire album, but some album skips prevented that): Blue Rondo A La Turk, Strange Meadow Lark, and Take Five. (We also heard portions of Three to Get Ready and Kathy’s Waltz.)
Frederic Chopin wrote the third movement (known popularly as the “Marche funèbre” “Funeral March”) of his Piano Sonata No. 2 in B flat minor, Op. 35 in 1837. He had nothing else to go with it, but in the following two years he felt so haunted by the elegiac music that he had written that he ended up writing material to add to it. The resulting grouping of movement was thought by many critics of the day to be somewhat disjointed (noted critic and composer Robert Schumann famously suggested that Chopin “simply bound together four of his most unruly children”), but the great music has withstood the test of time. The aforementioned Third movement has found its way into popular culture, having been played at a number of state funerals, including John F. Kennedy’s and Leonid Brezhnev. Tonight’s recording is a 2005 set by Nelson Freire.
The contrasts between Dave Brubeck, Frederic Chopin and Johnny Cash are pretty significant, both in terms of style and technique. But there is a great beauty in Cash’s music, starting with that beautiful bass-baritone voice. His music was so intensely focused, a feeling that was intensified by the arrangements performed by the Tennessee Two (at times during his early days, I’ve felt that his intensity bore a striking similarity to that of punk rock). He defied the limits of genre, yet he helped make rock and roll what it eventually came to be. So since it has been a while since I’ve done a good Johnny Cash set, it is about time I did one, focusing primarily on his Sun Records output. We heard Hey Porter, Cry Cry Cry, I Walk The Line, Get Rhythm, Big River, Guess Things Happen That Way, Five Feet High and Rising, I Still Miss Someone, and Ring of Fire.
Paul Simon’s 1986 Graceland album stirred some controversy in its day, given that he went to South Africa to record with South African musicians, breaking a cultural boycott then in place to protest apartheid. Of course, the reality is that the album did quite a bit to bring worldwide awareness to the quality of South African music, with Ladysmith Black Mambazo in particular making quite a splash in the United States (including a rather striking performance here in Carbondale). So it is nice to hear a few of these great songs: I Know What I Know (a song written primarily by, and featuring, General M.D. Shirinda and the Gaza Sisters), Diamonds on the Soles of Her Shoes (a collaboration between Simon and Joseph Shabalala of Ladysmith Black Mambazo), and You Can Call Me Al (which, contrary to the video, does not involve Chevy Chase at all).
We closed out tonight’s set with some music from Underoath that I’ve been trying to program into the show for a few weeks now: My Deteriorating Incline and In Completion (both from 2010’s Disambiguation), Emergency Broadcast: The End is Near (from 2008’s Lost in the Sound of Separation), and finishing the show with Illuminator, also from Disambiguation.