My last post was about Elton John’s Jewel Box collection due out in two weeks, but this past Friday Joni Mitchell beat him to the market with a 5-disk box set of her own. Joni Mitchell Archives Vol. 1: The Early Years (1963-1967) features her very earliest recordings and wraps up before the release of her first album, 1968’s Song to a Seagull.
Rolling Stone has a nice article on the box set that links to an August 1965 recording of Joni’s first original composition, “Day After Day”. Joni had been singing folk songs in cafes in her native Calgary, and this song, her vocals and guitar playing sound very much born out of that background.
Less than two years later, in March 1967, Joni recorded this performance of “Both Sides Now”. It was not long after Mitchell had written the song and about the same time Judy Collins released her Grammy Award winning version. Witness Mitchell’s rapid evolution as a writer, lyricist, singer, and musician with a unique style as you compare this performance to “Day After Day”.
Apologies to Joni for bringing up Elton John twice in her post, but since announcing his Jewel Box collection, Sir Elton put out a really special recording not included in that set. “Come Down in Time” from Tumbleweed Connection, an album celebrating its 50th anniversary this year, is a personal favorite. This jazz version apparently was recorded before the album version, and it features an extended jazz improvisation.
The documentary Anacostia Delta: The Legacy of DC’s TeleMasters will be released this coming Friday. If you love the electric guitar, get this movie. If you want to see electric guitar played as good as it can be played, get this movie.
Anacostia Delta will clue you in to the careers of the late Danny Gatton, one of his major influences, the late Roy Buchanan, and DC’s rich guitar scene that extends to this very day.
Read my 2013 post on Gatton to see some of his virtuosity. The best there ever was. And enjoy this solo jam pulled from the 1971 documentary Introducing Roy Buchanan, a movie that helped take his career to the next level.
In addition to historical clips, Anacostia Delta is anchored in footage from a 2015 concert at The Birchmere in Alexandria, Virginia (I was there). Here’s a bootleg of a full line up of DC guitar legends playing the jazz standard, “How High the Moon“.
If you want to kick back for awhile and hear more incredible guitar playing, check out this 1993 show featuring Gatton, Albert Lee and Vince Gill. Lee and Gill are two more of the best guitarists ever to walk the planet.
In December 2019 the Herbie Hancock Institute of Jazz held its International Guitar Competition in Washington D.C. The Institute, named for Thelonious Monk until this past year, has held competitions going back to 1987 honoring young singers and musicians. This year’s winner was 30-year old Russian phenom Evgeny Pobozhiy.
A few years ago Evgeny recorded this performance of his composition “the Aether”. Joining him were two fellow Russian jazz artists and Italian bassist Federico Malaman.
In this more recent recording of his composition “Calumet”, Evgeny starts to show off his chops at about 2:00. Later in the track you’ll hear a sax solo by Brandon Fields, a session man who’s played with dozens of stars from Ray Charles to Stanley Clarke to Earth Wind and Fire.
In this video we add another young jazz powerhouse, 24-year old bassist Mohini Dey from Mumbai Oh my goodness. Rolling Stone wrote Mohini up as an artist to watch in 2012 when she was 15.
And check out this amazing duet with the aforementioned Federico Malaman.
My personal style of Netflix binging is working my way through its catalog of music documentaries. Recently I watched 2019’s “Miles Davis: Birth of the Cool”. It’s an interesting trip through the entire arc of his career, and I highly recommend it.
I’m among those who consider Davis’ 1959 Kind of Blue one of the greatest albums ever (Rolling Stone slots it in at #12, two ticks above Abbey Road). Its consistent sales over many decades have also made it the best selling jazz album of all time. In addition to being a defining work for Miles, the group that recorded it included sax players John Coltrane and Cannonball Adderley, pianists Bill Evans and Wynton Kelly, drummer Jimmy Cobb, and bassist Paul Chambers. Davis and Coltrane were the gray hair in the group at age 33.
Here’s the second track from Kind of Blue, and please listen to the rest of the album when you have some time.
A few weeks after the sessions for Kind of Blue ended in April 1959, John Coltrane began to record his masterpiece Giant Steps, drawing on Cobb, Chambers and Kelly to help out. While most of the album features the up tempo compositions Coltrane became known for, “Naima” was a dreamy departure that became a jazz standard.
Just after Cannonball Adderley walked out of the Kind of Blue sessions, he began recording Them Dirty Blues, which featured “Jeannine”.
Over the past few years I’ve come across a few artists that have taken places among my favorites. So this week I’m checking out what’s new with Lake Street Dive, Snarky Puppy and Chris Thile.
In an amazing convergence, Chris Thile performed with Snarky Puppy at a recent live show. Chris jumps in to play jazz mandolin at about 2:30. You’ll hear Snarky Puppy’s band leader Michael League say, “We got six minutes, Chris Thile you got four-and-a-half!”. Suitable homage from one supremely talented musician to another.
Chris also dropped by the Steven Colbert show where he played his Punch Brothers song “My Oh My” with Jon Batiste & Stay Human. You don’t often get to see Stay Human play a full song, so check out their work including Batiste’s fantastic piano accompaniment. You’ll see why Thile exclaims “This band!”.
Lake Street Dive’s members seem to have taken time over the winter for some side projects. Listen to Rachel Price tap into her jazz roots with a 1930’s Gershwin Brothers tune, in a duet with Brooklyn-based guitarist/singer Vilray.
And LSD’s base player, song writer, backing singer and all around super talented Bridget Kearney put out her own album “Won’t Let You Down” a couple of weeks ago. Here’s the video from “Wash Up”.