MILES DAVIS (Kind of Blue) – YouTube

I haven’t posted anything to this blog in quite a while. I need to make sure I do so more often.

I played parts of Kind of Blue for my students the other day, and it reinforced for me just how accessible this album is. Personally, I think the accessibility comes from the simplified modal structures of the harmonies – long single-chord phrases with few changes per tune. “So What” is the classic example with just two chord-centers for the entire composition, just a half step from one another. I love the contrast between Davis’s and Coltrane’s solos, Davis working with simple motifs in the pocket while Coltrane takes a motif and bends and twists and extends it as he was wont to do. A beautiful composition, full of ideas but built on such a simple framework. read more

Fela Kuti – J.J.D. (Johnny Just Drop!!) – YouTube

“Johnny Just Drop,” in Nigeria, is a person who visits and/or studies in Europe, drops back into Nigeria, and now promotes European values at the expense of Nigerian values. This reminds me of Fela’s other composition, “Gentleman,” in which he describes a Nigerian who promotes European values to an absurd degree, dressing in a three-piece wool suit and hat in the tropical heat to the point where he smells like piss and faints away. Fela’s lyrics are always a sly take on the absurdities and indignities of post-colonial/neo-colonial life in Africa. read more

George Clinton & The P-Funk All Stars: Tiny Desk Concert : NPR

Source: George Clinton & The P-Funk All Stars: Tiny Desk Concert : NPR

George Clinton

Groovafunkinliciousness. Yaaaas. Check out this episode of NPR’s Tiny Desk Concerts featuring George Clinton and (some of) the P-Funk Allstars. Strip it down to an office-friendly mini-group and it still hits the groove like a funky freight train on it’s way to Saturn. George Clinton is a groove conductor, for sure.

The Richard Davis Trio – Song for Wounded Knee (1973) [vinyl] – YouTube

The first tune is essentially “Blue Monk,” though it feels more like “A Blues for Monk.” This is a great album, featuring Davis with Jack DeJohnette and Joe Beck. Davis’s tone and intonation are spotless, and DeJohnette is at his spare-space best – never overwhelming. Beck is like a blues guitarist on a half-tab of acid, fluidly moving from the B.B. King mode to a shape-shifty jazz-ish thing. I love this album, even when it is straight up free improv. I’ll be listening to this one for a while. read more

a playlist of some of my music

I host a number of recordings on ReverbNation.com in order to share some of what I have composed. In the future I hope to post a lot more, but I have not always been consistent in recording my compositions.

Please note that I barely play the piano. As such, “Livingston at Deception” is a midi rendering using some really nice piano samples. The four-part composition “Mpho” is also a midi rendering using samples, though there is no piano in these pieces. “Mpho” is meant to include improvisation, so the recordings of these pieces are only a rough estimate of what the entire composition should sound like. read more

Grant Green Idle Moments – YouTube

This is how laid back the guitar should feel. Grant Green is an under-sung performer, and this is his most classic album. Everything, no matter the form, comes across as the blues. Beautiful behind-the-beat accompaniment throughout, and really lush and touching compositions.

Musicians: Grant Green (Guitar, Main Performer), Al Harewood (Drums), Bob Cranshaw (Bass), Bobby Hutcherson (Vibraphone), Duke Pearson (Liner Notes, Piano), Joe Henderson (Sax Tenor).

Tracklist: 1. Idle Moments 00:00, 2. Jean De Fleur 15:00, 3. Jean De Fleur (Alternate Version) 21:50, 4. Django 30:01, 5. Django (Alternate Version) 38:47, 6. Nomad 52:01. read more

Fela Kuti – My Lady Frustration


This is the tune that Fela identified as his first truly African composition. While that might be debatable – highlife is African, for sure – it really does represent a change to the Afrobeat style that Fela stuck to for the remainder of his career. This tune has no lyrics, but the same modal structure and bottom-heavy horn section that characterizes his music are definitely in play here. A-fro-BEAT!!

Charles Mingus – The Black Saint and the Sinner Lady (Full Album) – YouTube

This is some deep blues couched in some very sophisticated forms and counterpoint lines. The bari sax, in particular, cries while the low brass moans through their mutes and the rhythm section churns underneath. I would love to see the scores for this album, especially the first tune. I’d like to see how the bitonal moments are scored out. The counterpoint is at times so dense it feels improvised, but several horns playing the same polyphonic lines? Genius, really – Mingus is able to compose lines that sound like improvisation. read more