Monday, July 28, 2008

Abstract Index Playlist - July 23/08

This overlooked jazz curio has been in heavy rotation over the past few weeks. I was fortunate to be able to write about it in the new issue of Exclaim.
Briefly, Jonathan Klein - a 17 year old New Yorker in 1968 - wrote this jazz suite as a framework for the Jewish Sabbath service. Somehow an all star session was convened to record his music - as you can see from the album cover it's quite a lineup, including 2/5 of Miles' second classic quintet. The use of a vocal trio singing in Hebrew creates beautiful consonance with the horn front line.
There were only about 500 copies pressed in its initial 'run'. Jonny Records (aka Jonny Trunk) took its time to clear all the rights, and this represents the de facto release of this highly original music.
It's the kind of disc the "average" jazz fan can get excited about. It's plenty tuneful, but filled with hard hitting, edgy solos, as befits its late 60s post-bop orientation. Maybe I just haven't been listening to late 60s Herbie lately, but he sounds astonishingly fresh on this disc. Considering this was a one-off session for this constructed band, the players really dig into the challenging material. Everyone has their moment of Jewish Mingusness.

Hakimey – Daniel Nebiat (no label)
Never coming back – the final solution (numero)
Iaia – grupo arembepe (soul jazz)
A la cha – bio ritmo (locutor)
Mambo influenciado – hilario duran (alma)
Insane – The Bug/Warrior Queen (Ninja tune)
Refuse resist – vista la vie (f communications)
Feel – dirty bottom (old sofa)
Growth – Tanya tagaq (Jericho beach)
Sh’ma – jonathan klein (jonny)
Sabiduria – orquestra Narvaez (rough guides)
Why did you leave me to cry – heptones (heartbeat)
Rock and come in – barrington levy (greensleeves)
20th century – Claudius linton (sun king)
Unitone skank – dr. alimantado (greensleeves)
Cool and calm – Israel vibration (ras)
Heads of government – mighty diamonds (penthouse)
Brothers on the slide – the dynamics (groove attack)
Wires to riot – burning Babylon (sound shack)

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Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Abstract Index Playlist - July 16/08

Oh Numero Group, why do I ever doubt thee?

I feel bad criticizing them even a little bit. There are certain collections they put together of never-would-have-been R&B that truly are substandard, but through no fault of their efforts. Even among their less-listenable compilations (and we're still talking about a solid B grade), the soul is strong, if irredeemably off key. The label always puts together liner notes which bring forgotten corners of urban music to life. Lately, one reissue seems to be leading to the next. Such is the case with Brotherman, which is linked to their earlier comp of Twinight material.

Chicago vocal quartet The Final Solution (truly terrible name...) are responsible for this would-be soundtrack album. Thing was, the film never got made, and there may not have even been a final script before the group and a few musicians laid these tracks in 1975. As Blaxploitation goes, this is minimal stuff: four part harmonies, guitar, bass and drums. Since most of it remained unmixed until recently, we are treated to a very basic, but busy rhtyhm section which is a more effective backdrop to the exquisite, Temptations style harmonies than a full orchestra might have been.

What sets this release apart is some chang-a-langin' guitar courtesy of Carl Wolfolk. It's a deeply boogie counterpoint to the polish of the vocals and archetypal seventies drum sounds. The guitar plays over everything, and was likely intended as a guide track, but becomes an unusual and almost no wave part of the whole. There are times this music reminded me of Skip And The Exciting Illusions one-step-back from James Blood Ulmer grooves in the 80s, but residing firmly in this most 70s of genre. At least 8 tracks on this disc are superb, the rest... are low-budget but still very listenable.

Once again, Numero, thanks for renewing my faith in record labels.

Sanctification – jonathan klein (trunk)
Mental fitness – eric hove (effendi)
Honey – Move D and Benjamin brunn (smallville)
Transition/toure samar – karl hector & the malcouns (now again)
Vanorapa – chiwoniso (cumbancha)
Burst – Tanya tagaq (Jericho beach)
Angoma franoas – oyikwam internationals (otrabanda)
Loni – papa wemba (sterns)
Brotherman – the final solution (numero)
Bibi – jayme stone/mansa sissoko (no label)
Ghurabaa – andy haas (resonant)
Loco -mofungo (aagoo)
Black midnight – jj jones (numero)
West end 12 – burning Babylon (sound shack)
Hang tough – Neville francis (ida b)
Sons of jah – cocoa tea (minor 7 flat 5)
Highest dub – king tubby/roots radics (greensleeves)
Rent man – black uhuru/jah grundy (heartbeat)
Movements of his majesty – bobby ellis & the professionals (third world)
This is my song to you – keith and tex (makasound)

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Saturday, July 19, 2008

I've Got The Handle

...on Leroy Sibbles. In interview form, anyways. (yeah, he'd definitely beat me in a knife fight, which is what the Heptones song is actually about)

Tune in to the Abstract Index at 7PM this coming Wednesday for an edited version of an interview I did with Leroy Heptones himself for Jamaican Echoes, the CBC documentary which aired at the end of June.

The very affable ex-Torontonian talks about the many phases of his career and work with some of Jamaica and Toronto's best musicians. For those who don't know, he is one of the key architects of reggae in both locales.

I'm airing this to coincide with next weekend's Jamaica Day (actually two days) in Keelesdale Park. CIUT will be broadcasting the Saturday portion of the event, while Leroy's going to be a sure-fire highlight on Sunday.
FWIW, I'll be helping out with the broadcast on Saturday, though Jamaica Day has fewer pauses in its schedule for impromptu vocalizations which drone on for 20 minutes at a time.

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Monday, July 14, 2008

Abstract Index Playlist - July 9/08

Get this disc.


Okina - akana man (vampisoul)
Analengo - kasai allstars (crammed)
Bamaneyake - Daniel stone/mansa sissoko (no label)
M'bemetoma - djelimady tounkara (marabi)
The things were us - open house (no label)
Only - rf (odd shaped case)
Claim to fame - dl incognito (urbnet)
Lesson 2 - steinski (illegal art)
Sonrisos - rebel rhythm (no label)
Where is the love - betty wright (atlantic)
Uthuli kawupheli - mahotella queens (wrasse)
Gabahay - master musicians of jajouka (axiom)
Sky - William parker/hamid drake (aum fidelity)
One, twenty four - triosk (leaf)
Scarlet lake - dixie's death pool (no label)
Sawani - setona (rough guides)
Bikoutsi - sally nyolo (riverboat)
Noahs ark - eek a mouse (greensleeves)
Clash of steel - carlton patterson (hot pot)
People power - organs (musical ambassador)
Haunt you - tarrus riley (vp)
Lankershim dub - the lions (ubiquity)

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Thursday, July 10, 2008

Abstract Index Playlist - July 2/08

I took the Abstract Index on the road for the first time last week. It was a fortuitous combination of circumstances that CIUT happened to be broadcasting Harbourfront’s sole Wednesday event of the summer right after my show. And this was no minor event: it was a wildly energetic show by Seun Kuti and Egypt 80, with kora experimentalist Seckou Keita opening up.

Last week was an all-African show – the first one I’d ever done. It was pretty easy to put together. I wouldn’t go so far as to say I’m a “Specialist in All Styles” – I’d leave that description for the following night’s main stage performers, Orchestra Baobab (have I mentioned that Harbourfront rocks?). Still, there are numerous Afro-Canadian discs to choose from, and any number of ways to chart a course through the continent.

Being an Afrobeat-oriented night, I brought a new double disc collection of Fela’s earliest work, from 1963-69. It’s a solid collection, courtesy of those dynamic Spaniards at Vampisoul. The sound quality is variable, although its harsh, lo-fi funk could appeal to certain audiences, if not the dancefloor. The music itself ranges from forgettable to tantalizing. Fela plays trumpet throughout the two discs, and plays well, soloing concisely in contrast to his sprawling saxophone statements of later years. Much of the material before Tony Allen comes along is derivative highlife and jazz, without originality or much spirit in the playing. Once the Allen starts putting some Nigerian Clyde Stubblefield action into Fela’s light jazz, things start to heat up. By the end of disc 2, where his Koola Lobitos band is recorded live at the then-recently established Afro-spot, all the Afrobeat characteristics are in place.

Overall, this is a disc for Fela-philes (and there are many), but the liner notes are excellent. Often, biographies of Fela focus on his time in the USA in 1969 as a key point in the transformation of Afrobeat from party music to political force. These liners concentrate on his formative years in London starting in the late fifties. In particular, the bio paints a picture of yet another above average musician in London trying to hustle work, and getting down at late night jam sessions at the Flamingo Club (with Ginger Baker, who would be an important part of Fela’s life later on). This freelance musical culture would end up being very useful in synthesizing the ingredients that would become Afrobeat later in the decade.

Podcast (three instances of - yikes! - dead air near the beginning as we were getting our s*** together)

Bougouni sou – lipitone rmx. By jeff sharel (frikyiwa)
Segun adewale – segun adewale (rounder)
Oya – lekun babaola (mr. bongo)
Directions in rhythm – rise ashen (no label)
Bouba – kakande (jumbie)
Ade – xalam (syllart)
Love affair – s-job movement (soundway)
Nyirabisabo – mighty popo (tamba)
The bride – brotherhood of breath (arkana)
Thunder in our hearts – jabula (counterpoint)
Shemegi – adam Solomon and tikisa (no label)
Waka waka – fela ransome kuti (vampisoul)
Fire in soweto – steel an skin (be)
African – H20 feat. Subz (out here)
Fanga dem – manjul feat tiken jah (discograph)
Lalogo – alpha blondy (Putumayo)

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Sunday, July 06, 2008

The Golden Age

It's summertime and I feel like sharing. I also feel like I've taken advantage of the loyal fans who have downloaded podcasts from the increasingly hassle-prone Podomatic site by discontinuing my weekly uploads. The archives are streamable (for a week) here, but I've had a change of heart and wanted to continue offering a few downloads on the Podomatic site on a semi-regular basis. These will consist of archives, or particularly good/special broadcasts.

Up first is one my all time favourite airchecks.

My 'golden age' at CIUT was 1989-93. I was a young man soaking up all kinds of ideas, experimenting in my own way as I went. In 1990, after a backpacking tour of Europe which consisted of a steady diet of jazz festivals, the jazz content in my programming went way up and my appetite for (viewed almost 20 years on) pathethic 'alternative rock' went way down.

This was the era that forged my current musical tastes. I was very much involved with hip hop and funk/acid jazz/rare grooves in Toronto at the time, as well as reggae, and, increasingly, jazz.

It all comes through in this mix, recorded January 19, 1992.

This hour-long session came about at the tail end of one of CIUT's infamous broadcasts from Lionheart Studio (aka Club Mecca). Lionheart was a rehearsal space/boozecan I've written about before, and has resurfaced in the news of late thanks to the recent revival of Live At The BBQ. DB Hawkes & co. put on live reggae, funk and African bands all night long, and it was some of the most vital community radio you'd ever hear.

I was minding the controls at CIUT with my friend Ron, and had been partying heavily all night long. At about a quarter to five, DB phoned up, and told me that the band on stage was playing its last song - could I fill time until 6AM? I didn't have any records with me - it was still mostly about LPs even in the early 90s - but fortunately CIUT's 20,000 strong record library lay just on the other side of the door to the on air booth.

So I quickly scrambled up some vinyl (I think there is only one CD selection in this mix) and started to play. Feeling like I had nothing to lose, flying by the seat of my pants, I decided to record it.

Since the whole night had been pretty dubby, I decided to rig up the reel-to-reel deck in the on-air booth to create a tape delay loop. Although I've done many dub broadcasts, there was always something special about using the open-reel deck - you had to adjust the tape speed by hand, and from 15 IPS to 71/2 IPS with a toggle. Nothing replaces that action, though my relatively new Kaoss pad has similar appeal.

CIUT's on air board at the time had no faders - it was dials and switches, like Treasure Isle in Jamaica - so it was not dub-friendly. The turntables had no pitch control, so either the selections worked in context, or they didn't. Beat mixing was impossible. Such technical conditions forced me to connect musical dots in different ways.

Those were the days. Be warned, there are two heavily distorted sections.

Here's the podcast. Spot the station id's by Alex Acuna and Henry Rollins, and a tape loop from the Master Plan show...

melting pot - booker t and the mgs (stax)
it should have been you - gwen guthrie (island)
365 is my number - king sunny ade (mango)
the poem - bobby konders feat mutabaruka (desire)
make it funky - john lee hooker (ABC)
back side of the moon - the orb (volume)
looking ahead - booker little (charly)
fire stick - i roy (virgin)
so many years - jah wobble's invaders of the heart (restless)
atomic dog - george clinton (emi)
oh what a feeling - gregory isaacs (mango)
mean green - tone loc feat. def jef (island)
jungle - lee scratch perry & dub syndicate (on-u sound)
north south east west - kool and the gang (de-lite)
what'd I say? - ray charles (atlantic)

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Friday, July 04, 2008

More Africa In Us

Afrofest yesterday. Roger Humbert of The Live Music Report sizes up the ever-increasing crowd.

Thanks for the post title, Eccodek... it's true.

My favourite weekend of the year - Afrofest weekend - started yesterday. As an early celebration, I was very pleased to write about the festival's 20th anniversary for Eye Weekly.

As I've said many times before, Music Africa has overcome many, many struggles to succeed as an arts organization. Other arts groups can learn a lot from their story.

Afrofest is on the short list of things that make Toronto special. You'll never encounter another crowd like this anywhere. What makes this festival different from, say, Harbourfront, is that it's a ground-up festival. I love Harbourfront's programming, but it's well-funded with a lot of human resources and strong links to the biggest media in this town. Afrofest has none of these, and as a result a strong community feeling pervades Queens Park every year; it's a sense that everybody there makes the festival better by their mere presence.

It's the only event I've been to which is equally fun for families, couples and singles. Moreover, I always dug the family vibe long before I had a daughter - kids and adults groove to the same music, and usually the kids set the pace for the whole experience by being the first dancers in front of the stage.

P.S. Best food EVER this year. Srsly. Make sure you wash it down with some fiery ginger juice from Amazones.

Once again, I'm looking forward to helping out with CIUT's broadcast today from 1-7PM. Come by and say hello.

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