What I Am Listening To, February 2020

This month I am doing my best to not go crazy during the 3rd UK lockdown by enjoying some good music.

My firs choice is the excellent No Plan EP by David Bowie.

This EP consists of tracks that were recorded during the making of his final album and masterpiece Blackstar. These tracks did not make the album with the exception of Lazarus. All the tracks here are excellent my favorite being No Plan. What I love about this song is the enigmatic lyrics that hint and Bowie’s death (the video also hints that we are receiving a transmission from beyond the grave). the solo by Donny McCaslin at the end of the song is very tasteful and understated.

Next is one of my new favorite bands Karnivool and their album Sound Awake. Although they are new to me Karnivool have been active for many years and have built a strong following under the radar. They join the growing list of interesting acts I have discovered coming out of Australia in recent years.

This album is aggressive and subtle at the same time. All of the songs are carefully structured and crafted something that is occasionally missing from heavier music. Whilst Karinvool have clearly been influenced by other bands they have found a distinctive sound of their own which is not derivative. Despite having been around since the 90s I had not heard of them until a couple of years ago via the buzz that was generate online about the amazing bass tones John Stockman and producer Forrester Savell achieved on the song Goliath. The mixing on the whole album is a wonderfully clear, you can really here a lot of detail even during heavier moments.

On the opposite end of the musical spectrum I have been enjoying listening to the Keith Jarret Trio and their album Setting Standards. This trio became famous for taking old standards and taking a new and interpreting them in a free and unconventional way. I must confess that at times I am not totally sure what is going on, even on tunes I have actually played many times and know well. There is a certain austerity to the aesthetic of the piano trio that has always been attractive to me. Of the three CDs of this album my favorite is the 3rd CD which contains a series of freely improvised pieces. The musical telepathy that occurs between the trio is magical. Whatever may be said about Jarrett scathing opinions about other styles of music or his cranky outbursts on stage the music is beautiful. There have often been a element of snobbery in Jazz towards other styles and towards the audience that I find distasteful. This is partly I think due to the intellectual nature of the music, it takes considerable intellectual effort to master. People who posses such faculties and are willing to put the effort in may sometimes feel this puts them above others. This is true in a technical sense, but art is not the product of mere facility it is so much more than that. The beautiful can be simple too.

I have also been enjoying this strange take on a song by Duke Ellington with by Japanese musicians:

In addition, I have been re listening to the excellent Gary Willis album Larger Than Life.

I have write about this album previously but had a hard time understanding it the first time around. The second listening has proved very beneficial and I have been able to appreciated the supreme artistry on this recording. My current favorite tracks are the beautiful ballad Say It Ain’t So and the weird Alien Head explodes. I really enjoyed the strange sonic palette that is used on that track and the whole album. Larger Than Life definitely has a strong Jazz aesthetic but it is by no means conventional. I really admire Garry Willis for putting out something so bizarre. It should also be mentioned that the band on this album are really strong . I will certainly be checking out more Garry Willis in the future.

If you have any suggestions as to what I should be listening to please feel free to reach out to me on the Contact Page.

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