One of all musicians passions is listening to music. After all, we wouldn't have been inspired to play music if we had not heard, or seen, someone do it first. I'm hoping to start a few blog posts about artists and albums worth checking out. Although I am heavily influenced by guitarists, as I am one, there is a multitude of artists out there I am checking out. Hopefully through this Listen Up blog tag I can continually post about who I am listening to at any given time.
My first installment is due largely to my mass uploading of all my CD's onto my iTunes. It's 200+ albums strong right now and I decided I needed to find time each day to simply listen.
The great organist Jimmy Smith has always inspired me. I've loved the sound of the organ since I heard Wes Montgomery with Melvin Rhyne on Wes' recording 'A Dynamic New Sound'. I recently dug into my stash of music and unveiled Jimmy's 'Softly as in a Summer Breeze' album with Kenny Burrell and Philly Joe Jones. It features the aforementioned group on tracks one through four, and then it continues with a changing rhythm section and adds vocalist Bill Henderson. It's a burnin' record! Jimmy Smith plays the daylights out of that organ, and showcases Burrell playing a lot of melodies and great solos. I did not have a bunch of stock in Burrell until I heard this record. He plays so musically and can turn on the scorching at a moments notice. Philly Joe always plays his ass off and this album is no different.
After being led into the world of Kenny Burrell now, thanks to Jimmy Smith, I rediscovered I had the album Kenny Burrell & John Coltrane. Now this is an album! They play unison lines on a 'Freight Trane' and both solo like madmen. It's a little before the full blown "sheets of sound" style Trane went into, but you can sense its inception on a lot of these tracks. It's a fairly bluesy and definitely a listenable jazz album. I know people get caught up on jazz being music for musicians, but this is an album that connects with a wide range of audiences; unlike perhaps some of Trane's later albums.
I've been digging these two albums lately, but I have also put Howard Roberts' albums Good Pickin's and Magic Band II through the ringer as well. Howard is a much loved yet underrated guitarist. It's hard to see this generation behind me coming into place without having dug Howard Roberts. I was fortunate enough to buy a guitar from Gary Brunner at the Arlington Guitar Show about seven years ago. While there Gary parted a lot of great guitar knowledge onto me and gave me a lot to check out. His go-to guitar-guy was Howard Roberts. I wasn't old enough to know anyone in the jazz vein other than Bill Frisell ya'know? So I went out with my newly purchased guitar and found some Howard Roberts to listen to on vinyl. The moment he started playing it was a revelation. He has a clear, concise, but under played tone that really speaks and sometimes growls through a tube amp. He is a beautiful studio player featured on hundreds, if not thousands, of movie scores for years.
My guitar teacher at UCO tells a story about Howard: (all paraphrased from the numerous times I've heard it) "He said Howard was late to a studio recording and it was raining and he didn't have a guitar case. So Howard has a difficult time parking and has to run several blocks with his guitar in the pouring rain. It's hollow and water is sloshing around inside the body and he makes it an hour late to the studio. He apologizes to the director and sets up and nails his part on the first take."
I think that's a true testament to what a great player Howard Roberts was and the impact he left on guitarists to come has been too high to measure. He's not purely a jazz guitarist, but listen to his records, or the two albums mentioned, and you would think there is no possible way he could have time to do other music and play jazz that well too. He is truly an inspiration to me and I do thank Gary Brunner of Van Hoose Vintage for showing me the way to HR.
That should wrap it up for this installment of Listen Up. I will move my focus from guitarists after I relive my love for them a little more this week and try to make this post section a weekly project as the year progresses. Thanks for reading!