The Galaxy – The bright side of the Moon

Living Colour in 013, Tilburg (Netherlands)

Living Colour in 013, Tilburg (Netherlands) (Photo credit: Mike Philippens)

We started the evening with some Living Colour.  They were a big inspiration to me back in the day, with their innate musicianship and difficult arrangements.  Their music eventually helped me formulate the musical philosophy that would eventually come to guide The Galaxy.  We heard:

  • Time’s Up (from Time’s Up, 1990)
  • Desperate People (from Vivid, 1988)
  • Information Overload (from Time’s Up, 1990)
  • Cult of Personality (from Vivid, 1988)
Le groupe Pink Floyd interprétant "Dark S...

Pink Floyd at Earl’s Court, 1973. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Given the lunar activity that we’ve been enjoying the last few days, I figured that it might be appropriate, in a dark sort of way, to celebrate the occasion with Pink Floyd’s classic The Dark Side of the Moon, from 1972.  As I see this legendary album as being best heard as a contiguous whole, we heard the entire album, from start to finish:

  • Speak to Me
  • Breathe
  • On The Run
  • The Great Gig in the Sky
  • Money
  • Us and Them
  • Any Colour You Like
  • Brain Damage
  • Eclipse

The next set is comprised of another single album played in its entirety, this time by the great jazz composer and bassist, Charles Mingus.  Mingus wrote and recorded The Black Saint and the Sinner Lady at a crucial time in his musical career.  He had just switched recording labels, from Atlantic to Impulse!, and he was feeling a burst of artistic freedom like nothing he had ever felt previously.  As he himself stated in the album’s liner notes:

I feel no need to explain any further the music herewith other than to say throw all other records of mine away except maybe one other.  In intend to record it all over again on this label the way it was intended to sound.  This is the first time the compaly I have recorded with set out to help me give you, my audience, a clear picture of my musical ideas without that studio rush feeling.  Impulse went to great expense and patience to give me complete freedom…”

The Black Saint and the Sinner Lady

Album cover for The Black Saint and the Sinner Lady (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The result was, for 1963, relatively unprecedented in the jazz world.  By this point we were seeing avant garde excursions coming from players like Ornette Coleman (whom we heard last week) and Eric Dolphy (an occasional Mingus collaborator), and John Coltrane was getting deeper into his compositions.  We also had some rather lovely big band work from established bandleaders like Stan Kenton and Woody Herman.  But Mingus saw a world where elements of the avant garde could intersect with composed and arranged music.  Like Duke Ellington (with whom Mingus had worked, and of whom Mingus was a great admirer), Mingus wanted to write music with an expanded palette of sounds and colors, and with this album he was finally able to achieve just that.  His band consisted of the following:

  • Rolf Ericson, Richard Williams – trumpet
  • Quentin Jackson, trombone
  • Don Butterfield, tuba
  • Jerome Richardson, soprano and baritone saxes, flute
  • Dick Hafer, tenor sax and flute
  • Charlie Mariano, alto sax
  • Jaki Byard, piano
  • Jay Berliner, guitar
  • Mingus, bass, and piano in several places
  • Dannie Richmond, drums

The album, conceived as a single piece and written partially as a ballet, was broken into 4 tracks that actually comprise six different movements:

  • Track A – Solo Dancer, subtitled “Stop! Look! And Listen, Sinner Jim Whitney!”
  • Track B – Duet Solo Dancers, subtitled “Hearts Beat and Shades in Physical Embraces”
  • Track C – Group Dancers, subtitled “(Soul Fusion) Freewoman and Oh, This Freedom’s Slave Cries”
  • Mode D – Trio and Group Dancer, subtitled “Stop! Look! and Sing Songs of Revolutions!”;
  • Mode E – Single Solos and Group Dance, subtitled “Saint and Sinner Join in Merriment on Battle Front”;
  • Mode F – Group and Solo Dance, subtitled “Of Love, Pain and Passioned Revolt, then Farewell, My Beloved, ’til It’s Freedom Day”

Of course, the elaborate titles and subtitles are in keeping with Mingus’ long-established tradition of elaborately detailed song-titles, which he would continue over the following years.  Many critics consider this one of Mingus’ greatest albums, and some mark this as one of the great albums in jazz history.  Yet this also serves as a milepost for the sort of work that Mingus would engage in over the course of the following decade, which in my mind culminates with Let My Children Hear Music, in which Mingus used a big band augmented with a number of interesting instruments (from french horns to full string bass sections).  In those liner notes, Mingus spoke of his desire to “build tall buildings” in jazz.  That construction work actually started here.

For our final recording of the show, we heard a set of three pieces by Frederic Chopin:

  • Etude, Op. 10, No. 10 in A-flat
  • Etude, Op. 10, No. 12 in C-Minor, subtitled “Revolutionary”
  • Mazurka in C., Op. 24, No. 2

These come from a limited edition pressing of some rediscovered live recordings by the legendary Russian pianist Sviatoslav Richter, from his noted and memorable American tour, recorded on December 28, 1960.  As a resident of the Soviet Union, the Soviets had restricted his travel (like they did with many of their artists during the Cold War), and the numbers of his recordings available in the West were limited for the longest time, and those that existed were not always of the greatest quality.  But he was allowed to do a brief American tour in 1960, as part of a cultural exchange, and this culminated in this performance.  At one point there were bits and pieces from this concert that were released by Columbia in Japan, but the circulation was limited in Japan, owing in part to Richter’s own dissatisfaction with the recordings, which were done in mono.  Richter did approve of recordings done at concerts on 12/26 and 12/28, which were released by RCA.  This batch represents a remastering of the RCA recording, with the addition of additional material from that concert that was not originally released.  Unfortunately, it appears that the package is out of print, something I find to be sad, as it is good to remember this great talent.

Check out the live Spintron playlist!