Saturday, December 24, 2011

Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah - etc :)

Hope you all have blessed and happy holidays! I'm in admiration of it's speed, this year. I try to find ways to savor the moments but my body still wants sleeeeep... Last night I discovered a bonus disc to season 5 of the X-Files I'd never watched. That kept me awake til 2am - a rarity these days! But enough of that...

If you ever step outside the realm of jazz into electronic music, allow me to introduce you to what kept me busy in off-hours the last month and a half: an electro-funk version of "Fum Fum Fum". Click the little green guy to play. It's a free download if you dig it - just click that little arrow above the waveform.

If you like your beats a little more downtempo, here's a new video I made for an older recording. These videos are usually a low-tech affair; but good for zoning out to while you listen. "O Little Town of Bethlehem" is a bit more jazzy, with a complete (albeit simple) re-harmonization and lots of major 9 chords.

Another thing that's kept me occupied is the major undertaking of converting a ton-load of my Dad's vinyl muzak albums to digital [a well-meant Christmas present; rife with fond-ish childhood memories of album art and intriguing musical moments, that is nonetheless taking it's toll on my sanity]. Gone are the days of Easy-Listening record sales, cornball album covers with hotties in time-capsule apparel, and boasts on album covers about sound quality and "2 albums on 1" platters, as shown below. (The "hour of music" claim is an outright lie, however lol).

When crate-digging, I'm prone to picking up releases like the one below. I get a kick out of the design, and my Dad gets 40 more minutes of musical ether.. There's a Pink Floyd joke in this one somewhere, but I'm gonna save it for my FB wall. (In Dad's defense, he's also big on big-band, and the older, lighter side of jazz.)

The topic of vibraphonist Jack Brokensha came up in my interview with Sid Blair. One thing led to another and I discovered this Christmas album by his quartet, with Bess Bonnier on piano, Paul Keller on bass and Jim Ryan on drums. At the risk of getting arrested - here is some Detroit jazz holiday music to dig - posted below the artwork. It's out of print, I believe, but I'll also post a link to Amazon for used copies - it makes a nice change in your Christmas music arsenal, including a real nice bass melody from Keller on "Let It Snow..." There is also a Hanukkah track!

And finally - if you are a "Keep Christ in Christmas" kind of person - John Pellegrino and I are the jazz rhythm section on "O Christmas Tree", over at Christmas Music Reborn - a project that features various artists and secular holiday songs with new Christian lyrics by Mike Ronci.

The trio will be back at Jazzland in Jacksonville on the 28th of January - looking forward. In the meantime - Peace, Love & Happy Holidays!! - Kenny

Friday, November 25, 2011

Website Updates

John Pellegrino at the NSBJF 9/24/11

A few of the pages on the website have been spruced up! The Store Page now has audio samples and Itunes links for all the tracks on our albums; the Pictures Page has new photos like the one above, taken at the New Smyrna Beach Jazz Festival by Randy Barber, and the Listen Page has selections from a recent all-Monk set we did in Ormond Beach.

Gloria Mariash has hooked us up with a whole lot of video she shot at recent gigs, we'll pick the best ones and get 'em up soon! - KM

Monday, October 17, 2011

Great new jazz venue in Jacksonville

Kenny MacKenzie Trio at Jazzland, Jacksonville Oct 15 11

We returned to Jacksonville for the first time this year at an exceptional new venue called Jazzland. If you are in Jax, or passing through - I encourage you not to miss checking out a show there. No food license, so eat before or after; but what a classy joint. The lighting is not only perfect but beautiful. The sound is great, with so many different areas to sit and take in the show - from right up front to tucked away in a back corner at the huge bar. With the friendly staff and the warm, attentive audience it didn't take long for us to get comfortable and get inspired to give one of our most creative shows this year.

Below is a video filmed Sept 2nd 2011 at La Crepe in Ormond Beach~ Our entire first set was of music by Monk. What a blast!

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Nonesuch audio & visual bliss...

A fine example of the Nonesuch package back in the day...with the familiar cover designs by William S. Harvey, and this particular artwork by Edward Sorel. I picked this up in the late 80's, special ordered at a mom and pop store. Even then the owner thought I was weird, wanting vinyl...I played the stuffin' out of it in the height of my mania for sacred choral music. It is, alas, unplayable now.

On another blog I recently wrote of how Bach's Magnificat impacted me mightily as a young boy. I hear the opening measures now and I still go "Wow!". Back then it was akin to an out-of-body experience. I hadn't heard anything so powerful and well-crafted before, and it gripped me and shook me. It was, as the above, a Nonesuch cut-out, I picked up for $2.99 most likely.

Nonesuch H-71091 Artwork by Donald Leake

New, beautiful sounds were like giant, floating, cosmic pearls to me as a kid, and the many record bins at Master's (later Modells) in Centereach were my oysters. The most opalescent were the budget-priced cut-outs from Nonesuch; with their brilliantly colored baroque-meets-psychedelia artwork,  exuberant performances of lesser known masterworks, and the fascinating liner notes a boy like me could get lost in for a while.

An equal sonic punch was delivered to me by their release of Bach's Cantata 140 "Wachet Auf..."; it's spiritual value as compelling as it's aural. I remember gazing at the cover intently, while the stately, dotted figures of that grand opening movement announced to me: "Here comes music from another world." I own neither album now, I keep an eye out for a bargain on ebay or Amazon from time to time. No matter, the feelings still reside within me.

Nonesuch H-71132 Artwork by Donald Leake

By now some readers know my devotion to Bach, Vivaldi and even Handel. Tucked back in a curious corner of my mind is an inquisitiveness about and an open ear for Telemann. I'm ever impressed by his super-human output, I mean the man has 600 Ouvertures alone! Almost mocking the 4 similar Suites that Bach left us. Handel 'borrowed' liberally from them, and Bach transcribed 2 of his concertos for keyboard.

In his time, he was first choice before Bach at any gig offering, turning down the job at Leipzig that Bach then held for the rest of his life. Right or wrong, these things I can't overlook - and in the last few weeks, I've given him a lot of spins on the hard-drive turntable. He is his own man, and yet can be overlooked for the more obvious and concentrated powers of his more famous contemporaries - a justification they might have appreciated to see, at least secretly. (Bach and Telemann were friends.)

Well anyway, my thoughts on Telemann brought me to remembering some fine moments I had just a few years ago, listening to the above pictured albums on my little Handy Trax turntable. Today, I listened to the blue one with the moths, and had a grand old time! Got me to thinking about Nonesuch... and my endless musings on marketing, and what makes these covers such a success.

I think there is something to be said for formula, if you've got a good one. Naxos cds follow a very similar pattern; in artwork presentation, making unfamiliar titles available, and in budget price (at least formerly). Even Impulse Records work with one theme for their art, with black and orange and passionate photography. Each one is new yet familiar!

(also a pioneer in world music) is still around, not making budget classical releases, mind you - and under the Warner umbrella. Thanks for shtoppin' by :) - KM

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

A Few New Gigs & CD Sale

We've booked a few special dates for the next 2 months along with our usual first Fridays at the delightful La Crepe en Haut in Ormond Beach.

This Labor Day Scott and I will perform with the St. Augustine Jazz All-Stars with Larry Nader on bass and the astounding Sid Blair on tenor saxophone. That is from 3-5pm at the Plaza de la Constitucion Gazebo. Come early and catch Jazz Piersonified from 1 to 3.

Then on Saturday Sept. 24th we'll be at The Breakers from 11am to 2 pm, starting of the 2nd day of the New Smyrna Beach Jazz Festival - that will be the Scott, John and I lineup. Come down and spend an awesome day of jazz and fun!

In October on Saturday the 22nd we will return to Jacksonville at a new club called Jazzland Cafe. We're playing from 9-12 midnight, and this show will feature our friend Fran Coraggio on bass.

And finally - for the rest of the month of August - our cd "Closer to the Day" is on sale for only $5.55! Lots of uplifting and positive vibes on this one which features the swinging alto of Shenole Latimer - visit here for album details or
click below to get your copy at this special low price!

Thanks for stopping by - hope to see some of you soon! - KM

Friday, July 22, 2011

Name the song and win a cd!

Over on our Facebook page there is a recording of us performing a famous jazz standard. The melody is never played. If you can guess what song it is - leave a comment with the name of any album it can be found on (don't write the song title) and if you're correct you'll win a free copy of our latest cd. Show us your skills!

Monday, July 4, 2011

Shelly Manne, Bill Evans & July 4th

Right now I'm listening to "Empathy" by Shelly Manne/Bill Evans - a July 4th tradition of mine. One year I got wise to pre-planning my holiday, before my road was blocked off by the parade. I went out early to The Wall and picked up the Verve two-fer with "A Simple Matter of Conviction", and got something sweet and awful to drink like pineapple soda.

Right from the playful, funky tri-tones that open up the cd on "The Washington Twist" it became an instant favorite. There truly is an instant and impish 'empathy' on what was basically an impromptu session; taking Evans out of his new 2nd trio for a day of fun. His solo turn on "Danny Boy" is plush and dreamy, Manne's odd and jaunty solo on "Twist" is very memorable, "With a Song in My Heart" gets a nice long drive, topped off by a humorous, lounge-meets-faux-avant-garde ending of exchanges between drummer and pianist.

I hadn't much previous exposure to Evans. (I played a solo transcription of "Peri's Scope" in my senior year at high school for an all-state jazz competition, and afterwards gave a run-through to some of the other oddly-titled originals in the book.) Gordon Jenkins "Goodbye" hit me with a wallop - the bed of poignant emotion the whole track lies in while still swinging amazed me. The 1st album's closer "I Believe in You" also struck me - I loved it's construction - or Evan's deconstruction, the way it seemed to avoid a tonal center, and Evan's obvious joyous freedom throughout.

The 2nd album - "A Simple Matter of Conviction" is also fine - recorded about 4 years later in '66 with a new trio. It was Eddie Gomez's first album with Evans - and there's definitely a nervous energy that collects as you listen. Nonetheless - the titles are all great and swing like crazy - the only song where the tension is unbearable is the opening title track; Evans' left hand is just relentless, an obvious sign of nerves. Not to be missed are his takes on "I'm Gettin' Sentimental Over You", "Melancholy Baby" and "Laura".

The thing that strikes me today, listening 49 years after "Empathy" was made - is it's relevance. If I were to go to a club and hear these performances today, it would feel completely 'right' and current. Evans' biographer Peter Pettinger complains about Rudy van Gelder's dry piano sound, but for me it makes the album; giving it a very personal, intimate touch. Evans at his most jovial! - KM

The back case of my copy - notice the "lifetime guarantee" sticker from The Wall. Every cd came with one, you were to affix it to the case somewhere. That makes 2 of us who, at the time, had no idea the concept of the music store would become antiquated. :)

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Long Island summers and the need for jazz...

I have a habit of remembering mostly the good things from times gone by.  The '90s were sort of a black hole in my life. I lived alone in what would pass more for a shack than a house in Selden, NY. In the summer - wow! would that house get hot. On the worst days I'd head for the beach.

I remember one killer day in July I stopped first at "Record World" and picked up a cassette.  There was almost no jazz in my collection then, but that day I got the bug. The selection in particular was mostly for it's length (the vinyl version is 2 lps), since I could only afford one purchase. A budget release with more bang for the buck was "The Best of Miles Davis" from CBS Special Products; I owned it only for a short time, but it left a permanent mark on me.

What a way to get acquainted: Corcovado, Joshua, Summertime, Seven Steps to Heaven, Basin Street Blues, The Duke, Miles Ahead, The Maids of Cadiz, Someday My Prince Will Come, My Ship, I Thought About You, Will O' The Wisp, My Funny Valentine, Two Bass Hit, 'Round Midnight, Stella by Starlight although I'm not sure the cassette had every track. I remember being impressed by the overall breadth and scope. "Seven Steps to Heaven" was a delight to my sensibilities, I was not expecting the enchanting dirge that is "Basin Street Blues", the harmonies to "Summertime" scintillated, and the delightful creep factor of "Will o' the Wisp" made it an instant favorite. This was also my first introduction to John Coltrane. Outside of a once-through of "My Favorite Things" at a noisy dinner party, I hadn't really heard him before - but I knew what I was experiencing had to be him.

With blaring sun and no breeze, the beach wasn't a relief that day; my drink was hot within no time, so I soon wanted to leave; but I stayed 'til the album was over. Apart from the music, there was nothing real special about the day, but I'll never forget it.

A few summers later, "Record World" became "The Wall". Another facet of the shack in Selden was it's proximity to the Selden Firehouse (slash extravagant ballroom), which meant on patriotic holidays access to and from my house was blocked off due to parades. It became a habit then to run to The Wall and get a new cd an hour or two before the road closures. On one such holiday I grabbed my first digital Miles - the sizzlin' "Miles and Coltrane".

Nothing that bothers the critics about this album, in particular his biographer Jack Chambers, bothers me nearly as much. The frenetic tempos which Chambers seems to think are some sort of nervous mistake on the part of Miles, are indeed half the appeal to me. There's a certain urgency and wildness that is only sealed by Coltrane - who's in the midst of his 'sheets of sound' thing, and new drummer Jimmy Cobb who is the very picture of "on fire". Cannonball is at my favorite point in his career, favorably influenced by Trane. Mile's skills as both a bandleader and music visionary come across loud and clear throughout the concert. It is true - aside from his solo, you cannot hear Paul Chambers' bass. This used to bother me just a little, but the absence of that grounding only makes the faster numbers seem wilder and more 'out there'. In between the uptempo selections are "Bye Bye Blackbird" and "Fran Dance"  - ballads which epitomize cool and showcase Davis' (and Bill Evans') lyricism and panache. 

Following the live set are 2 tracks from the very first recording session of the 'classic quintet' in 1955. Miles' version of  the Jackie McLean composition "Little Melonae" is an exercise in slow-burning restraint, hitting a mood that would not be touched upon again until "Kind of Blue". Of particular interest is Red Garland's weird, macabre and swinging single-handed solo in the lower register of the piano. Overall this track encapsulates and is a harbinger of the marvelous things to come from this group. Lightening the mood for the closer is an uplifting version of "Budo" - everyone sounds happy to be there and happier to be playing.

Columbia has since re-released this album as "Newport 58" adding the verbal introduction and the closing theme to the concert, and omitting the 2 studio tracks. Although re-mastered, reviewers still complain about the absence of bass. I'd recommend instead a used copy of "Miles and Coltrane" - "Melonae" and "Budo" - are essential. And really - who needs another 2 minute version of "The Theme" anyway?

Perhaps by association,  these albums sound and feel like summer to me. (In fact, the Newport concert was recorded on July 4th!) I think, however, that as the more austere music from Mile's later periods remind me more of winter; that where he was 'at' from 1949 to 1961 - all the wonderful moods and style preferences that are a running thread through each session - just align themselves in character to the many thrilling and memorable moods of summer. He'd no doubt scoff at such a summary, but what the heck, I'm a part time romantic. - KM

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

More CD packaging intrigue + Joel Dorn

Now that's an album cover. Back when this first came out - a friend of mine wanted to buy it simply for the humorous photo/title. I didn't want to spoil his fun by telling him I already had it. At the time I was a budding Sonny Stitt fan, teaching myself saxophone by transcribing and playing his solos.

In fact, back then in the late '90s, these releases from 32 Jazz only had some appeal to me. The peculiar packaging, with the chunky black plastic and the paper artwork glued on gave off an air of cheapness. They were, in fact, quite affordable compared to many other jazz releases. Most of the catalog were 70's recordings from people like Stitt, and others who the average Joe wouldn't know much about. (Perhaps one of the biggest boons to posterity were the many Rahsaan Roland Kirk releases they brought back to light.)

Finally, around that time, one had the false impression he/she had all the time in the world to pick these curiosities up and experiment with the non A-listers they seemed to specialize in.

Fairly recently, my mom said in passing she'd like to learn more about jazz. So this past Mother's Day I found myself being thankful for compilations like the one above, which have instant visual/emotional appeal. With that in mind, I just typed "Summer Jazz" into the search box at Amazon and voila. I liked the idea of so many different sax players - since everybody loves saxophone. Poor Mom (who said she enjoyed it - while doing other things...) got a used copy of the long out-of-print cd.

Since I now cannot get enough of either 70's jazz or weirdo media packaging like that of 32 Jazz, I ordered myself a very cheap used copy as well. Aside from the beach chairs, umbrellas and yellow throughout the artwork, the only thing outwardly summer-y is the first track, "Summertime" - done quite distinctly and baroque by the Modern Jazz Quartet. It's summer alright - but a different kind of sizzle - like a dog day in August when it's too hot and humid to do anything. The fine impressionism and ambient mood setting remind me very much of Vivaldi's 2nd movement for the "Spring" concerto, just add 30 degrees.

I was taken quite aback by the rest of the cd and did not expect to be so blown away. I can't stop listening to it. Compiled by label owner Joel Dorn and his son Adam, it is a joyous jazz feast for the ears. Standout tracks include an exuberant, elated and delightfully uptempo "Skylark" by David "Fathead" Newman, (I had caught him live around 2002 at Village Vanguard and dismissed him - this track sets things straight!); Eddie Harris is going for it (and getting it!) on "It Was a Very Good Year", the intensity and energy are very satisfying ; Hank Crawford soars and seduces with "Stardust", complete with luscious strings behind him; and for "Stay With Me" the flute of Yusef Lateef is romantic and lazy like a vacation, in nice contrast to all the horns. Not one performance disappoints - the platter (can I call it that?) is rounded out by Wallace Roney, Red Garland, Sonny Stitt, Eddie "Lockjaw" Davis and Nat Adderley. If you like jazz (and summer, or yellow) you shouldn't pass it up - I've put some convenient buy links at the bottom of this post.

Joel Dorn was a positive force in jazz music and, from interviews I've read - an intuitive and loveable character. (Part of the charm of 32 Jazz cds are his forwards, printed on the inside of the case, behind the insert. Usually a story of remembrance, he caps each one off with "I'll talk to you later. Keep a Light In The Window".)

He began as a radio dj in Philadelphia, pestering and finally convincing Nesuhi Ertegun at Atlantic Records to let him produce. His first album as producer was a peach - Hubert Laws' debut "Laws of Jazz" (fine, catchy material and performances with a young man named "Armando" Corea playing piano). As Dorn's wiki page will tell you, by 1967 he was Ertegun's right hand man; signing and producing artists like Bette Midler and Roberta Flack - who won him 2 grammys - "Killing Me Softly" and "The First Time Ever". Fast forward to 1995 (you really oughta read the wiki page) and he's forming 32 Records, and later M Records and Hyena Records.

He reshaped jazz marketing permanently with his "Jazz For A Rainy Afternoon" series, a best-seller in the history of jazz, and spawning many take-offs from other labels like the successful one above. He died in 2007 at 65 having led a very full and fruitful life - putting forgotten recordings, artists and songs back on the shelves; inspiring others to do the same; and with the "Rainy Day" compilations, making jazz both palatable and desirable to a much larger and younger market - to which I say, Thank you Joel! - KM

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Chinny Chin Chin (live)

One of the radio favorites from the "There You Are" cd. We were playing at La Crepe en Haut in Ormond Beach - where we now play the first Friday of every month. This was a very interesting evening...Scott did not have this date in his book (oops!) so I gave the gig to Marc Koblick on trumpet, who happened to be there. Scott then surprised us by showing up with Gloria his wife, and his drums! - that last set was so nice. I wish our version of Cal Tjader's "Curacao" was recorded, it was entirely groovin'! This one is pretty happenin' as well. Marc is hidden from view in all the footage, but he is most likely playing what he refers to as his "main instrument" - the cabasa! lol

Thanks to Gloria for filming! Hope you enjoy & thanks for stopping by - KM

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Puttin' out records runs in the family...

As far back as the Old Testament, we learn of families or tribes that excelled in one area or another. This tribe were master craftsmen, this tribe fierce warriors, and even this tribe skilled in music. In Western Africa - you are either born a Griot or you do something else (even so, musicians are still of a 'lower' caste). Occasionally, genetics can be a wonderful thing. As evidenced by the above photo, I have the blessed inheritance of handsome looks (and humility?). Music also, seems to be deep in the heart of nearly all my parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles.

The two uncles above, Richard and Caryl Reiff, made the undisputedly wise choice to actually make a living; so they both went into engineering; enrolling at UNM.  The summer of '61 found them working for tuition money, chasing 2 pretty ladies in Roswell NM and impressing them with their formidable guitar skills. A neighbor of the girls got wind of their abilities, and with a connection at a pro studio in Roswell, produced a 45 rpm record of two bright and cheerful originals by "Richard and Caryl" (misspelled on the label).

Without a clue of how to promote or how much it would cost - the well-intentioned 'producer' failed on his end and that was pretty much that. KDEF Albuquerque spun the (Chet Atkins-influenced but still quite original) platter in 1962, and it was used in a commercial for "Doctor Caldwell's Laxative" :)  [although, as happens in music, I'm sure it was more disseminated and appreciated than is apparent, I recently found a blog entry about the disc from a listener/collector in Texas.]

Although becoming Electrical and Civil Engineers respectively, Richard and Caryl never lost their love for music or the desire to make it. In the 70's and 80's Richard assisted the Dean Emeritus of UNM J.D. Robb with programming and recording his compositions and arrangements for synthesizers, as well as a few of his own - on the gear of the day including a 3-bay Moog, an Arp, an EMSA portable and an EMSA sequencer. (for which he was able to double the original 512 event capability!). A few years before Caryl passed away they made one last recording together of Caryl's composition "Chawin Tobacci".

Uncle Richard still plays, records and has been hooking me up with his recent endeavors. He's also in the midst of restoring a 1932 Wicks pipe organ. I can't wait to hear that! In the meanwhile - enjoy "Northern Lights" - Uncle Richard was kind enough to allow a download as well... and in a month or so the web crawlers and bots will find it, and spread it abroad to all the listeners it certainly deserves. - KM
(copyright 1961 Richard and Caryl Reiff - all rights reserved)

Monday, May 16, 2011

What's In a Name

I used to either be cynical or get a smug kick out of marketing ploys used to sell jazz cds - until I tried selling them myself. Not so easy when yours is literally one of a thousand current albums vying for the affections of the 3% of music consumers who buy jazz! Since a record label's main goal is to sell records and turn investment into profit, it's no longer sad and pathetic to me for them to use sappy or cliche word groups that conjure up nostalgia or emotional 'happy places' such as "Rainy Day Jazz" or "Jazz for the Open Road".

Who doesn't love the romantic notion of being housebound in a violent storm with a warm beverage, good book, candles lit and some mellow or sultry jazz on the hi-fi? If I had half a brain for marketing I would have ripped off the cover below and called my latest cd "Summer Storm Jazz" or "Jazz to Snuggle Up By". (Don't be surprised if I actually try this in the future...)

It doesn't seem to matter much what the cd actually contains. For instance - there's only one tune in "Stormy Weekend Jazz" that alludes to it's theme (It's A Rainy Day - Lena Horne). 2 of the 3 discs have their own titles - "Music for Body and Soul" & "Jazz Greats". That is the wonderful thing about jazz - it already evokes it's own mood by name; and you can couple it with nearly any time, season or function and it will 'work' for someone who just happens to be in the jazz mood.

I saw these and other box sets being sold at Staples, and I thought - "Suckers". The price was barely resistible, but I passed on principle. Just a month later I received it anyway, as a present from a very well-meaning relative. Part of me was glad, and I listened to it on, you guessed it, a stormy weekend - hardly a rare occurrence on Long Island. I haven't listened since; but I never forgot that I had it, what the cover looked like, what it was called or the personal mood it evinced from me. Somebody at the Madacy Entertainment Group got a big ol' bonus that Christmas, I'm sure.

We'll get to that "Summer Jazz" one next time - it's got much more than a snazzy cover... - KM

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Underground Composer Meets King of Vanity Press

This is a survivor from my 2nd record collection - one of the 20 or so I grabbed to take with me when I moved to Brooklyn from Selden. Most of the others had water/mildew damage (half of the ones I salvaged had to come sans jackets). This was perhaps the only one I chose not for sentimental or musical reasons, but for it's possible value: on the back is an autograph by the composer.

I picked this up before I was 20, and did not have an ear for modern composition. I was also presumptuous and narrow-minded, and thought this must have belonged to the composer himself (or his most devoted fan)... since there was all this extra typewritten material inside with press reviews of the album. I was not the pointiest sharpie in the pencil cup back then. All I needed to do was read the autograph.

"To Ed Uhlan - maybe he'll publish me some day?! All my best wishes, Richard Yardumian Dec '66"

While perusing through my modest vinyl collection the other day - I thought I'd give Mr. Yardumian another go, since my tastes and understanding have come a ways in the last 10 years. When I absorbed the autograph, and considered the 11 pages of press and analysis, I became a little alarmed. Had I intercepted this attempt by the composer to get his music to the masses? No - the date clears me of that crime. Also, if Yardumian had any knowledge of what type of publisher Uhlan was, then he might have saved  the press material for a better occasion.

Just who was Ed Uhlan? I had to find out! A quick google revealed him to be owner of Exposition Press, one of the 4 largest vanity publishers in the world. (In case you didn't know - vanity publishers print your book at your expense, and in most cases - that's about it. It seems that Uhlan went the extra mile and promoted it, and also printed it up to industry standards, and put effort into the design and craft). For a classical composer with 13 children, this was no contact at all - but more of a stinging letdown.

Nonetheless - the autograph (I still have no concept of it's value - although the album itself is going for a saucy $60 on ebay) introduced me to a couple of intriguing characters in the arts...and in Uhlan's case - a fascinating life story.

He grew up in Hell's Kitchen, the son of Ukrainian immigrants, becoming a bookbinder. His boss and job went under during the Great Depression. An industrious youth, Uhlan took the knowledge he picked up at the publisher's and went to the NYC Public Library. He found 600 poets who had recently been published and got their addresses. He then contacted them asking if they wanted to be a part of an anthology he was publishing. Inclusion meant they had to purchase a copy at $3. For $5.50 they could get 2 copies and their name on the cover in gold. This brilliance and intrepidity paid off - the poets were very happy with the book, and 6 years later Uhlan had 6 companies running. Pretty cool.

Yardumian, a much mellower man of Armenian descent, was fairly popular for a time, and received much support from Eugene Ormandy. He seems to have slipped into relative obscurity, his music being somewhere between Schoenberg, Bloch and Stravinsky - and at times, very unique. Luckily - I have some fine press material to help us out!

"Yardumian uses a 12-tone idiom that he has created for himself. The system permeates all aspects of his music, so that the result is personal, stylistically unified and formally sturdy. Although there are dissonances in the writing, there is a modal base that gives it a sense of tonality and keeps it free from extreme contemporaneity." - New York Times

That is a very astute summation of his sound. I kind of like it, but I can see where others more entrenched in classical aesthetics would not like it's rhapsodic, neo-romantic aspects. Snobs. lol  His music is more often than not God-centered, not always a popular stance in the 20th century highbrow circles. Yardumian later became involved with and composed for a branch of Christianity which adds (and insists upon) a 3rd testament. I doubt this helped him make headway in popularity (even with me). Still, the critics were raving about this particular album. The Music Journal goes as far to say he "may be the new Bach". Wow. Well, that didn't happen (yet, anyway) but it sure looks nice in your press kit!

There are 2 albums available for download at Amazon, most of his vinyl will fetch a fairly steep sum. Here is an excerpt from my copy of the 1st Symphony. According to Yardumian, the work is inspired by Noah and the Flood, and describes "travails experienced by everyone at some time or other" and that the story of the flood is "something in which we are all involved".

As far as the larger-than-life Ed Uhlan goes, there's plenty on the internet about him. Here is an extremely fascinating interview . He's quite a character and it's very fun reading. - KM

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Drugstore Soul-Jazz

Pickwick SPC-3290

(extracted and updated from an older, deleted blog...)

As a youngster with an insatiable appetite for music and usually less than $5 in his pocket - Woolworths, local drugstores and a store called Masters (now Modells) were indispensable and invaluable destinations. I beefed up my classical collection with Masters' sizable selection of Nonesuch cutouts. On rare occasions they'd have a big washing machine box filled with 45's for 10 cents each.

If I had to guess I'd say this one came from Nichol's Drugstore in Selden (now a hero joint). I'm not sure who dropped the $2.99 - my brother, me or my mom. Either way it became 'mine'. (This is not my original copy, tho' - see this post for explanation.)

Pickwick records made their living putting out knock-offs like "Shaft", and by picking up unwanted budget releases/artists from other labels. The silver label usually meant you were in for iffy performances, a low count on actual audio time, poor vinyl quality, an off center pressing etc.; this album being a major exception in the performance department. I had a collection peppered with Pickwick releases. Here's the pickwick wiki (fun to say!) and here's another site about them - although it's been "under construction" for months (or maybe years); there are links to Pickwick subsidiaries which are very interesting reads if you're into such things.

Haha love the movie mockup artwork by Ken Beckles!

After comparing track by track Mr. Hayes' version with Soul Mann and the Brothers - I'm of the opinion that the Pickwick release is rawer (in part due to a slightly pared down instrumentation), looser and funkier.  There is no banter in the title track. Soul Mann is actually Sy Mann*, and "the brothers" were mostly a bunch of white dudes, including Will Lee on bass. The musicianship is outstanding; track lengths and tempos vary from the Bar-Kays performances, always for the better.

I won't often be posting audio files from other artists - but since this is so tasty (and out of print) here's Bumpy's Blues with a sly flugelhorn solo by one of my favs Lew Soloff. Just so nice! - KM

* - the last sentence on the spaceagepop page about only 2 tracks being from Isaac Hayes' soundtrack is untrue - all of the tracks are from the movie. I've notified the editor.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Limited Edition CD being released! Pre-orders only!

There's a new cd coming out! It's a limited edition (pressing of 500) ep with 6 new tracks. It's a fairly long ep, timing in around 37 minutes, and it's packed with awesome performances by lineups from the last 2 albums (including Shenole Latimer) and one new lineup with Nathan Peck and Chris Higginbottom. In addition the tracks are mixed by grammy-nominated engineer Dan Grigsby. I got the masters back today from Chris Bauer in Germany and they sound great! Because it's a limited pressing and most of them are going out to radio stations (no critics this time :p) it's only going to be for sale for a short time, pre-orders only!! Whatever is left over, if any, will be sold at shows. So if you want a copy - as Charlie Parker said - "Now's the Time". $6.99 does it! Thank you for your support! - KM

Saturday, April 2, 2011

The Jazz People of Ormond Beach

I love this new gig at La Crepe en Haut in Ormond Beach. We've been playing there since November, but just took over the 1st Friday spot last month. There's a lot to love - grand piano, plush vibe, friendly staff, delicious food etc. Tina the owner is exceptionally cool and is always going out of her way to make us relaxed and comfortable.

KMT @ La Crepe en Haut 2-18-11 photo by Gloria Mariash

What's really been a blast are the people listening. Ormond Beach seems to have a lot of folks just "passin' through". It was a smaller, intimate crowd last night, but in that select number was a self-taught piano enthusiast from Youngstown OH; a man from Mississipi (forgot the town) who promptly instructed me on where the blues is really from and why, accompanied by his lady friend from Buffalo NY; 2 local psychologists, one who just happens to be a jazz pianist from Philly, and a sweetheart of a guy. I didn't get to everyone, but I'm sure they were interesting.

I tend to give everything of myself on every gig. I'm useless mentally (and otherwise) the day after. I also have mush for brains in between sets. Mixed with my relatively new habit of chatting up the patrons, it makes for some interesting moments. :)

Last night we played some resurrected numbers composed over a decade ago - "Could You Imagine" (formerly called "Nikki", you can hear a recording of it here) and "Moved" - the nascent jazz effort from our  first NYC recording session; (a tune that will appear in a new version on the next release). Both came off without a hitch, thanks to drummer Scott - who drives 90 miles to play this gig, and John on bass - who was nursing a bad cold but played his backside off anyhow.

Scott's wife Gloria shot some good video of us at La Crepe back in February, playing a slinky version of "Chinny Chin Chin". I'll post it soon! Looking forward to the next time. Peace & Love - Kenny

Friday, March 11, 2011

the attraction of oddball cd packaging

As I write this - I'm listening to one of the most annoying cd's ever made. It's an album of bombastic music by Handel, performed by Anthony Newman and the New York Trumpet Ensemble. That is to say, there are 5 trumpets, 2 drummers/timpanists and a pipe organ playing, very loudly. It's called "The Heroick Mr. Handel" and if it sounds like a sonic nightmare to you, it is; although I'm sure there are those that think it's the cat's pajamas, and a handful who include it on their desert island list. That's the nature of music.

There is only one reason I even own this disc: it is an MMG/Vox Prima CD-Wallet. It's all about the packaging. At the relative beginning of the life of cds, the budget classical label began issuing these predecessors to the digipack; handsomely designed cardboard cases that opened up twice into a large parallelogram, not quite the size of a 10" album jacket, where there hid 4 squares of text and pictures; with 2 pockets, one of which held the cd. The cd itself was wrapped in a soft felt envelope.

There was immediately something fantastically alluring and special about these cd-wallets to me. I was working at Record World at the time, and knew every inch of the classical section. Back then I was all about sacred choral music. When I saw blue-ish cardboard in the Schubert section with the words "Mass No. 6 in Eb" my eyes came out of their sockets in the shape of hearts like they do in cartoons. It no longer mattered that that awful Love and Rockets cd was blasting again. (That was then - I'd probably be prone to liking them now). The Mass turned out to be really good, and a love affair was born. I didn't buy any more - that one was special enough.

Over the last few years, however, when it's become clear that cds on smaller labels and in unusual pressings or packaging are about to become things of the past, my fascination with them has escalated. I scored big last year with a 'lot' of cd-wallets on ebay - I payed something like $10 for five of them. The artwork is often exquisite - although the artist is not credited on the jacket. The music is what I've come to expect from Vox, older, modestly good-sounding recordings that tend to be mastered hot, with performances that have a lot of heart. The Handel disc is an exception - it's awfulness was recorded in 1985 specifically for cd-wallet release, and the artwork is ghastly. But it's still in that cool packaging, so I love it.

So I don't really care for or about Beethoven's Creatures of Prometheus. So I didn't need a third version of the Peer Gynt suites. I'm a weirdo and I love having them. Sometimes the little stupid things really do make you a little bit happier.

When I'm not hunting more of these down, I'll be trying to find some of those cds from Joel Dorn's 32 Jazz label. You know, the ones in the funky black plastic and paper jewel cases? - KM

Friday, February 25, 2011

Three Record Collections

I've always had obsessive tendencies when it comes to audio mediums. When very young I collected anything and everything available I could get my little paws on. At around age 10, on one self-realizing day, I tired of the poor quality of both the music I'd amassed and it's physical condition. I marched all items (about 150 albums and 200 singles) a few houses away and threw them down into the storm drain; to the bewilderment of a few neighbors, and the consternation and (understandable) silent anger of my father who'd gone to good lengths to help me collect them. I was making a statement to myself - I wouldn't settle for crap anymore.

About 20 years later I had to abandon my 2nd collection (about 300 albums) when I moved from Selden to Brooklyn. CDs were the new medium of choice, and most of my vinyl (stored in the basement) had fallen victim to moisture and mold damage (along with a Rhodes Mark I). I took a handful of token representatives (including Lene Lovich's "New Toy" and Missing Persons "Give" 12 inch single), and a few I couldn't do without including 3 albums given to me as a birthday gift from a music teacher - music that opened up new worlds to me. Also rescued were a few that couldn't be replaced, like Walter Murphy's "Rhapsody in Blue" - an incredible melding of expert playing, fine arrangements/composing and rampant (charming?) 1970's cheesiness; and "Song of Joy" by Captain and Tennille - an album from which I learned so much about arranging, pop sensibilities and keyboard playing.

You couldn't have told me back then that in 10 more years, cds themselves would be endangered. Record stores like Tower, Virgin and Borders were like fortresses you could always run to any late night you were feeling musically anemic. No more. An obsessive music collector takes no real pleasure in albums and singles which can't be held in the hand or viewed away from a digital screen (although some might be amused or amazed at the structure and sub-structures of the mp3 collection in my desktop). I watch stunned as the price of items I once had all the time in the world to pick up skyrocket to unattainable and unwarranted heights. There's also this feeling of angst in knowing there might soon be a time when physical production will cease entirely. Book lovers I know express similar apprehensions.

There are, for now, up sides. Music that was simply a legend on someone's lips is now available for, pardon the pun, a song. "Out-of-print" could feasibly become an antiquated word, as (what's left of) record companies can rake in the smallest of profits from an obscure low-seller simply by hosting a 100 mb file on Amazon's ginormous servers. Musicians like myself can release online-only material and still get radio play and new online friends and fans.

But, based on personal sentiments, I don't believe collectors will ever be satisfied with anything less than a huge pile of plastic, or cardboard with plastic in it, taking up more room then we have, reminding us of all the hours of pleasure we've taken in - with them or because of them; gazing at the artwork, pouring over the liner notes printed in the tiniest of fonts. I like to consider myself someone with 'forever eyes' - trying to think more of the next world than this, but when it comes to music I'm a ridiculous hoarder - and there always seems to be that "right" album for the "right" moment or mood. My solution and my suggestion to all of this? Keep art alive - buy a new cd, or for some of you - a book. - KM

Saturday, February 19, 2011

new pics and new support page

A bunch of new pictures have been added to the inventively named Pictures page, from our recent gig in Jacksonville's European Street Café Listening Room. Some very nice shots from Killer Photography's Cameron Kline. There's also an abundance of fine looking video from this gig shot by Scott's wife Gloria that needs to be edited - soon! Also up are some studio shots from the album cover session taken by Frank Cooper, including a few not used.

Also up is a new fan support page. We are hopping aboard the fan-funding train in hopes of meeting some objectives: namely professionally remastering the tracks from KMT II and releasing it worldwide, as well as getting some new material recorded with the Florida trio. If you are interested in helping us - please visit the page - there are 4 different ways of support to choose from!

Last night we performed at La Crepe en Haut in Ormond Beach. Scott was late so Marc Koblick joined us on trumpet and flugelhorn (and what he jokingly refers to as his 'main instrument' - the cabasa). In case you didn't know - I'm madly in love with the flugelhorn, so I was in musical hog heaven. When Scott arrived we were a very cool sounding quartet! My night was capped off with a delicious lite salad, and some seriously tasty bread with olive oil. C'est magnifique! Oh and Gloria also shot footage of this gig! Can't wait to show you. Thanks for stopping by! Lord bless - KM

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Music in the dark...

Yet another dark and blurry one - but a nice performance from a fun night at La Crepe en Haut

Fran Coraggio - bass
Scott Mariash - drums

Nov 19, 2010 Ormond Beach, FL