Staff Picks: Music

A Rainy Day Playlist

Oh rainy day, what should I play? If you’re anything like me and you appreciate the ocassional dark skies and leisurely fall of rain, your playlist is probably a reflective collection of moody and somewhat somber tunes. On days like today, Classical, Film Scores and Jazz reign (pun intended).

How about a little music from the film Magnolia’s soundtrack:



Keeping with film scores, nobody does gloomy and melodic better than Philip Glass:

 

Often lumped in with the French Impressionism of Maurice Ravel and Claude Debussy, Erik Satie's hauntingly simple music evokes nostalgia and memory:

 

In her heyday, Billie Holiday's singular style was unmatched in expressing the depth of human emotion:

Two titans of modern music, Aaron Copland and Benny Goodman:

And lastly, the beauty and simplicity of The Beatitudes as performed by The Kronos Quartet and featured in the film The Great Beauty:

 

Music

Piano Works Satie
10127208

Liked That, Try This (No. 1)

Looking for artists similar to those you already know about and enjoy? Well, we’ll try to make suggestions that expand your musical listening experience by connecting like-sounding artists together.

• Liked Jackson Browne, try Dawes 
• Liked The Avett Brothers, try The Felice Brothers
• Liked Neko Case, try Laura Marling
• Liked Miles Davis, try Chet Baker
• Liked MGMT, try The Flaming Lips
• Liked The Cocteau Twins, try Beach House
• Liked New Order, try The Knife
• Liked Bob Marley, try Peter Tosh
• Liked Billie Holiday, try Diane Krall
• Liked The White Stripes, try Wanda Jackson 
• Liked Wilco, try Fleet Foxes
• Liked Pink, try Robyn
• Liked Bon Iver, try Elliott Smith
• Liked Mumford and Sons, try The Head and the Heart
• Liked Frank Sinatra, try Kurt Elling

Music

the head and the heart
10478449

The Only Jazz Compilation You'll Need

The 8-disc compilation The 100 Best Jazz Tunes of the 1950’s is an absolutely fantastic introduction to the music of jazz for both the well-versed aficionado as well as the eager novice seeking to expand their listening library (see: My co-worker Kevin King's previous post). This was a great decade for jazz development, ushering in various stylistic trends including Bop, Post-Bop, Cool and the first signals of what one might refer to as Free Jazz. It’s a who’s who of legendary musicians from Jazz's heyday, many of whom are featured playing their signature tunes. Included are Charlie Parker, Miles Davis, Sarah Vaughan, Django Reinhardt, Sonny Rollins, John Coltrane, Billie Holiday, Nina Simone, Art Blakey & the Jazz Messengers, Charles Mingus, and many more. If you just wanted to add a little bit of Jazz to your iTunes library, this is the one title to start with.

Music

The 100 Best Jazz Tunes of the 1950's
10480929

Taking Time Out in 2014 for Jazz

One of my personal goals for 2014 was to try and find a way into jazz music. It has always been a genre of music I’ve had difficulty understanding, so I wanted to discover if I could learn to appreciate it. Another reason is that my 13 year old daughter, Abigail, is a HUGE fan of Miles Davis so I wanted to share something with her on the car rides to her various extra-curricular activities. On a whim, I checked out Time Out by The Dave Brubeck Quartet which has become the first course in my jazz education. My instructor was Abigail who pointed out how the timing of each song was different. We continued to discuss the unique blend of cool and West Coast jazz that Brubeck made popular. I then had to research the story behind Time Out and discovered that the time signatures Brubeck used were very unusual and groundbreaking at the time. He was inspired by Turkish street musicians while touring Eurasia for the US State Department. I was amazed at the story behind the origins of the record as well as how my daughter was able to pick up on the innovative style of The Dave Brubeck Quartet. I am truly excited to enter 2014 looking forward to learning from a 13 year old jazz head. Maybe she will teach her old punk rock dad how to love the music that truly symbolizes the American spirit. If not I cannot find my way past Brubeck and Davis, I at least get to spend some time with my daughter. Whatever the result, I win.

Music

Time Out
10728717

Jonathan Butler has a great sound!

Butler is a native of Cape Town, South Africa. He started singing on the streets of Athlone for food and began touring when he was 7 years old. It’s hard to peg him because he has so many great sounds. He’s a singer, song writer and guitar player and he’s been described as a rhythm and blues, jazz and worship performer. He would probably approve of those tags because he does all of them well but I think his heart is in his gospel music. He's good! His cool jazz blends well into a gospel. And as far as rhythm and blues is concerned, I had to look the definition up and make sure I knew what rhythm and blues was. Under R&B, I saw words like urban, soul, gospel and others that would classify Butler as a contemporary R&B artist. Well, one thing is for sure, he's definitely got rhythm and he knows his blues. Still, I think Jonathan Butler would like to be best known for his uplifting, spiritual sound, which he is highly respected for.

 KPL has several of his CDs. Some of his titles are Jonathan Butler, Surrender, The Source, Do you love me? He’s on a jazz CD called Summer Horns with Dave Koz and friends. Watch for his new CD Grace and Mercy. I'm sure it, too, will have a great sound.

Music

Jonathan Butler
10131934

Happy Birthday iTunes Store!

In 2001 the way the world listens to music changed when Apple introduced the iPod. Two years later, the iTunes Store opened for business offering owners of iPods a virtual place to purchase music. Over the past ten years billions of songs have been downloaded to the many Apple iOS devices. Some would argue that iTunes has destroyed the idea of a “traditional” album, but others claim that more people listen to different music because it is easier to access music. No matter how you feel, it is hard to deny that iTunes is the “King of all Media Delivery Systems.”

I was curious to find out what the most played song was in the iTunes libraries of the staff at KPL. The answers not only provided me with insight on the listening habits of staff, but also inspired me to seek out the stuff in the library.

The most played song in my iTunes library is Matthew Sweet’s “I’ve Been Waiting” from his 1991 album, Girlfriend. When I think about why this particular song is on top of the list, I recall the summer when both my daughters requested to listen to it multiple times. They liked to roll down the windows and sing along to infectious tune. My guess is the top tracks from other staff have a similar story.

“Too Late” by Shoes, Karl Knack, Audio Visual
“Fluorescent Adolescent” by Arctic Monkeys, Anne Herrington, Law Library
“Plasticities” by Andrew Bird, Susan Lindemann, Facilities Management
“Teenage Riot” by Sonic Youth, Michael Cockrell, Adult Services
“Feels Like Home” by Edwina Hayes, Jill Lansky, Teen Services
“Gobbledigook” by Sigur Ros, Rick Hale, Patron Services
“Baby Girl” by Sugarland, Andrea Vernola, Youth Services
“Dirty Little Secret” by All-American Rejects, Wendy Hand, IT
“Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough” by Michael Jackson, Angela Fortin, Oshtemo
“Myth” by Beach House, Ryan Gage, Audio Visual

Music

Girlfriend
10137992

Big Bad Voodoo Daddy

As I was reviewing the lineup for the summer concert series at Frederik Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park in Grand Rapids, I came across a few artists/groups unknown to me. Having now spent a considerable amount of time researching those, I have a new favorite, Big Bad Voodoo Daddy, and I can’t wait to go see them in August.

Among other performers coming to Meijer Gardens that are of particular interest to me: Michael Franti and Spearhead, Steve Martin and the Steep Canyon Rangers, The John Butler Trio, Grizzly Bear, David Byrne & St. Vincent, Pink Martini and Sheryl Crow

Music

Rattle Them Bones
10739644

More Than Just an Actor

The singer Emmy Rossum is known mostly for her various television (Shameless) and film performances (The Phantom of the Opera) but she also has the trained pipes of an accomplished singer. We’re not talking about the sort of actress, who uses their fame to influence the music industry to play along with their middling vocal talents (see: Scarlett Johansson). Rossum can truly bring the noise as she clearly shows in her new album Sentimental Journey, a collection of old timey jazz standards (Autumn Leaves, Nobody Knows You When You’re Down and Out) and retro-swinging country (Things, Pretty Paper). The album is on order so keep an eye out for it. It will be here soon. Listen to some of her renditions here.

Music

Sentimental Journey
10023259

Roxy Music Meets 1920s Jazz

I’m usually not a fan of musicians rearranging and rerecording their own music from an earlier period. Songs or albums tend to speak to a certain time or place in an artist’s life and in our cultural milieu (even the songs and albums that are timeless), and revisiting songs years later—in a studio, not in a live setting—can come off as tired and hackneyed.  Yet when I heard that Bryan Ferry reinterpreted a handful of Roxy Music classics as instrumental jazz songs, I was first intrigued and then surprisingly delighted.  The songs on the Brian Ferry Orchestra’s The Jazz Age sound like authentic 1920s compositions, made by musicians who clearly admire and understand the jazz music of that time period.  The songs sound so radically different, I had to listen to the album a few times before I recognized some of my beloved Roxy Music favorites.  The album is fun and enthusiastic, and although it doesn’t replace the original Roxy Music songs, it’s a pleasure to hear.

While we don’t have The Jazz Age in our CD collection, it is available through Freegal.  Freegal is a downloadable music service that allows resident borrowers to download three songs a week with their library card.  Check out The Jazz Age and then see what else Freegal has to offer!

For comparison, here's a video of Roxy Music performing "Do the Strand" on the BBC in 1973:

And here is a one-minute snippet of the same song from The Jazz Age:

Book

The Jazz Age by the Bryan Ferry Orchestra
ferry-orchestra-jazz-age-cover-160
/music/freegal/

Bargains from the Basement: Dead Bees on a Cake

“If you go out searching for jewels and treasures elsewhere, you're liable to miss the acres of riches that lie beneath your feet.”—Bryan Cohen

Today’s buried treasure from the Friends Bookstore is a tasty musical offering by David Sylvian, Dead Bees on a Cake, released in 1999. If you’re not already familiar with Sylvian’s work, give his material a listen. Who to compare him to? His voice draws an obvious similarity to Bryan Ferry, but musically, Sylvian is more muted and much more diverse; closer say to a Peter Gabriel or a Daniel Lanois—dark, mysterious at times, but rich and deeply moving.

Sylvian is an excellent songwriter who typically surrounds himself with contemporary musical heavyweights. Bees, however, follows a series of more upbeat “prog-ish” collaborations with Robert Fripp, so a musical departure seems somewhat inevitable. Bees has a slightly more jazzy, worldbeat feel than its predecessors—very much in the same vein as the later period recordings by Talk Talk. Guest musicians, though few this time, include jazz guitarist Bill Frisell, composer and pianist Ryuichi Sakamoto, and a brief appearance by Steve Tibbetts. Sylvian’s discography calls this release “openly celebratory in nature… documenting an eventful and transformative period in his life.”

Thanks once again, Friends – a good find, indeed!


friends-logo-50.jpg

Consider this little series my own version of “Flea Market Finds,” an ongoing report of the latest bargains unearthed in the lower level of Central Library. What a treasure we have (quite literally) in the Friends Bookstore. When you can grab high quality books, music, and movies for little more than pocket change, life is good. And all the proceeds go to a great cause, too. So shop often; you never know what you’ll find. And stay tuned… I’ll let you know what I find!

Book

Dead Bees on a Cake by David Sylvian
dead-bees-on-a-cake-160
/friends/bookstore/

Featuring Norah Jones

I have always been a big Norah Jones fan.  She is one of the few artists to have passed a tough test in my household:  I can play Come away with me in my alarm clock every morning to wake me up and I still enjoy the CD.  There are not many CDs that stand up to this test.  So you can understand my pleasure when I discovered a Norah Jones CD that I hadn't heard before in the KPL collection.  It's called Featuring and is a CD of duets and collaborations between Jones and a wide variety of singers and musical groups.  And when I say "variety", I mean it!  This CD is so neat in that it showcases how versatile Jones is with her distinctive and soulful voice pairing her with artists and groups such as Willie Nelson, Ray Charles, the Foo Fighters, and Ryan Adams.

The CD starts strong with a track from The Little Willies.  Jones and friends formed The Little Willies in 2003 and came out with their second album For the Good Times in 2012.  (You can also find them on another excellent CD in the library's collection:  Putumayo presents Americana.  It's bound to put you in a good mood!)  I was unfamiliar with Sasha Dobson prior to this CD, but her duet, Bull Rider, is fantastic!  I have requested her CD through MeLCat and look forward to become more acquainted with her music.  Halfway through the CD, Jones and friends adopt a totally different style in Take Off Your Cool with Outkast, Life is Better with Q-Tip, and Soon the New Day with Talib Kweli.  A few songs later, there is a duet with Ray Charles…need I say more?  Who doesn't like Ray Charles??  But then, in my humble opinion, the CD reaches its pinnacle with track 15:  Creepin' In with Dolly Parton.  I love Dolly.  Always have and always will.  This song makes me want to dance and sing over and over again as I play it on repeat.

Basically, what I hope this blog conveys, is that this compilation of songs is wonderful.  Each and every song is as delightful as it is different.  I highly recommend this CD for your listening pleasure.

Music

Featuring
10451402

Bargains from the Basement: Ragtime

When They All Played Ragtime: The True Story of an American Music was first published in 1950, it quickly became heralded as “the bible of ragtime” for its (then) insightful examination of an overlooked and all-but-forgotten American art form. While the book’s inevitable flaws have been the subject of controversy for decades since, authors Rudi Blesh and Harriet Janis succeeded in creating a groundbreaking initial study of the origins of ragtime music. The scholarly work of writers like Edward A. Berlin and others have since attempted to correct many of the inaccuracies and set straight the resulting misconceptions, yet They All Played… remains a vital resource for information about what Blesh calls “the first genuinely American music [and] in reality a milestone in musical history.” Thanks to the Friends, I was able to add a nice clean copy of the updated and expanded 1966 third edition to my own reference library.


friends-logo-50.jpg

Consider this little series my own version of “Flea Market Finds,” an ongoing report of the latest bargains unearthed in the lower level of Central Library. What a treasure we have (quite literally) in the Friends Bookstore. When you can grab high quality books, music, and movies for little more than pocket change, life is good. And all the proceeds go to a great cause, too. So shop often; you never know what you’ll find. And stay tuned… I’ll let you know what I find!

Book

They All Played Ragtime
they-all-played-ragtime-160
/friends/bookstore/

Bargains from the Basement: Part 6

While the evolution of popular music is (and has been) a continual process, several distinct time periods stand out as important milestones; the ragtime era and the advent of early jazz, for example. Gunther Schuller’s monumental studies of the development of jazz are regarded as masterworks. The first volume, Early Jazz, was first published in 1968 and was heralded by The New York Times as “definitive.... A remarkable book by any standard... unparalleled in the literature of jazz.”

My Friends Find this week was volume two of Schuller’s remarkable journey, The Swing Era: The Development of Jazz 1930-1945, an era that I admittedly know relatively little about (though I’m most anxious to learn). Written two decades after the first volume, The Swing Era explores the lives and musical significance of the many great bandleaders of the time; Duke Ellington, Benny Goodman, Count Basie, and the great soloists; Art Tatum, Coleman Hawkins, Lester Young. This was a fantastic find that I can’t wait to read. 


friends-logo-50.jpg

Consider this little series my own version of “Flea Market Finds,” an ongoing report of the latest bargains unearthed in the lower level of Central Library. What a treasure we have (quite literally) in the Friends Bookstore. When you can grab high quality books, music, and movies for little more than pocket change, life is good. And all the proceeds go to a great cause, too. So shop often; you never know what you’ll find. And stay tuned… I’ll let you know what I find!

Book

Winter Wonderland
9780195071405
/friends/bookstore/

Bargains from the Basement: Part 5

I have this weird passion for obscure, offbeat Christmas recordings. Bing Crosby and Paul McCartney are all well and good, but how about Jimi Hendrix playing “Little Drummer Boy?” Well, at least you’re on the right track. Or how about Robert Fripp doing “Silent Night” ala Frippertronics (yes, I mean the old school red flexi disc)? You’re getting there. Or… how about The Residents’ original “Santa Dog” single?? Now, that’s what I’m talkin’ about. The weirder, the better.

But truth be known, the lighter new agey type of ambient instrumental holiday stuff… you know, solo guitar, solo piano, acoustic ensembles… is one of my many guilty pleasures (don’t tell anybody, ok?). I have lots, but there’s always room for more. So that’s where this week’s Friends Finds come in. Of just that sort, I managed to grab a fresh copy of Ottmar Liebert’s Poet & Angels (1990) on Higher Octave. And what would the acoustic holidays be without the stuff on Windham Hill(?), so I snagged a couple of seasonal samplers that I didn’t have… A Winter Solstice Reunion (1998) with all the label regulars… Will Ackerman, Darol Anger, Liz Story, etc.; and Winter Wonderland (1999), a more mainstream but still likeable compilation with David Arkenstone, Alex de Grassi, Tuck & Patti, and others. At a buck apiece, I couldn’t go wrong.

And just to satisfy my need for “the road less traveled,” I also grabbed a copy of the Roches’ We Three Kings (1994) on Rykodisc. (Actually, it’s not weird at all… the Roche sisters are amazing.) And the best part is, there are plenty more where those came from (in fact, there’s a whole cart full!). So stock up, the holidays are coming!


friends-logo-50.jpg

Consider this little series my own version of “Flea Market Finds,” an ongoing report of the latest bargains unearthed in the lower level of Central Library. What a treasure we have (quite literally) in the Friends Bookstore. When you can grab high quality books, music, and movies for little more than pocket change, life is good. And all the proceeds go to a great cause, too. So shop often; you never know what you’ll find. And stay tuned… I’ll let you know what I find!

Book

Winter Wonderland
winter-wonderland-cover-160
/friends/bookstore/

A Good Place to Start is with Beginners

I just love the sedate, retro vibe of the soundtrack to the oddball film Beginners; the Mike Mills directed roman a clef about his relationship with his widowed father. Old blues and jazz from the 1920’s (Jelly Roll Morton, Bessie Smith, Hoagy Carmichael, and Josephine Baker) are prominently featured as well as a French horn driven suite by J.S. Bach. Interfiled between the throwback gems are several touching, original scores by Dave Palmer and Roger Niell. The back and forth tone of the film, from light hearted to melancholic, are sensibly reflected in this quirky collection. Oh, and by the way, check out the movie. It appears on our Best of 2011 list.

Movie

Beginners [sound recording] : the original motion picture soundtrack
WEM002331C

The Soundtrack to a Season

Having grown up listening to the famous crooners of the nineteen fifties and sixties (Nat King Cole, Gene Autry, Bing Crosby, Johnny Mathis e.g.) attach their signature voices to well known holiday tunes, I struggle to embrace contemporary musicians and their slickly produced and artificial versions with much enthusiasm. But my favorite album to listen to while wrapping presents and clogging my arteries with holiday cookies is Vince Guaraldi’s timeless classic--A Charlie Brown Christmas, which was released in 1965.

Music

A Charlie Brown Christmas [sound recording]
UMM300668C

Viva Cuba Libre!

When the summer comes around and the weather turns hot, it just feels right to listen to music from a sultry part of the world. For me the music of Cuba just sounds perfect on a hot and humid summer day, and I can be instantly transported to Havana where the sweltering heat is perfectly normal; but really, I just love it any time of year and KPL has a great selection of Cuban music to choose from. If you are new to the music of Cuba or a fan wishing to expand your knowledge, KPL is sure to have something that will interest you. A great place to start is with The Rough Guide to the Music of Cuba which offers a good sampling of the various flavors of Cuban music. For many, myself included, their first real exposure to the rich history of Cuban music came in 1997 from Ry Cooder and the Buena Vista Social Club and it remains one of my favorites and a fantastic collection of musicians and tunes. Check out the group live at Carnegie Hall! A Buena Vista Social Club member and one of the giants of Cuban music is Ibrahim Ferrer and KPL has a good selection of his recordings that any fan of Cuban music should check out. Another standout of the KPL collection is the album Afrocubism that highlights the African influences on the music. Explore Cuban music even further with Cuban Counterpoint: history of the son montuno or Machito & his Afro Cuban Orchestra  and discover even more with a music search for word or phrase = Cuba.

Music

Buena Vista Social Club at Carnegie Hall
WEM987317C

NCIS: The Official TV Soundtrack

I've discovered some of my favorite music and artists from watching television.  When songs play in the background or at the start or end of a show, I often search for the lyrics online to find the name of the song and the performing artist.  This has served me well.  House and Fringe (as well as various commercials) have provided insight  to artists and performers such as Massive Attack, Damien Rice, Editors, Langhorne Slim, and Ryan Adams.

When watching a recent episode of NCIS, Cote de Pablo's character, Ziva David, was singing  Temptation--a Tom Waits creation.  So, in true form, I went online to search for it to see where I could find a version of her singing it (beautiful rendition!).  And, that is when I found that NCIS has two soundtracks available.  I was able to easily check these two CDs out through our MeL interlibrary loan system. 

While I recognized artists such as Jakob Dylan, Otis Redding, Bob Dylan, Keaton Simmons, Sheryl Crow and Norah Jones, I was able to add artists such as Oasis, Blue October, and Sharon Little to my list of new folks to investigate.

Music

NCIS: The Official TV Soundtrack
RMM155474C
http://elibrary.mel.org/record=b17320063~S15

The Revolution Will Not Be Televised

If you lived in Kalamazoo during the 1970s and listened to WIDR (WMU campus radio) you undoubtedly heard a lot of Gil Scott-Heron – like others I’m sure, that was my first exposure to this highly influential musician and poet. Scott-Heron is often described as “the godfather of rap” for his sharply pointed spoken word infused jazz and soul. In his 1970 single “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised,” his deep soulful voice—accompanied only by a steady drum beat—brought life the hot-button issue of racial inequality; not as a radical street preacher but as an articulate street-smart professor (he held a master’s degree in creative writing). His words were riveting and immediate. “The revolution will not be brought to you by Xerox in four parts without commercial interruptions. The revolution will not give you sex appeal. The revolution will not make you look five pounds thinner, because the revolution will not be televised, Brother.”

He collaborated with many of the jazz heavyweights of his time – Brian Jackson, Ron Carter, Hubert Laws to name a few and his influence is acknowledged by a generation of artists, from Kanye West and Public Enemy to Eminem. His work touched on a variety of social and political issues, including addiction (“The Bottle” - 1974), slavery (“Rivers of My Fathers” - 1973) and racial oppression (“Johannesburg” - 1976). In 1979, he joined other high profile artists in Musicians United for Safe Energy (MUSE) and contributed “We Almost Lost Detroit,” a poignant reminder of a close-by nuclear near-disaster in 1972.

In 2010, Scott-Heron released his fifteenth studio album, I’m New Here, to great critical acclaim. A track called “Where Did The Night Go” is highlighted here. Gil Scott-Heron passed away last Friday in New York after a brief illness. He was 62.

Book

Gil Scott-Heron
gil-scott-heron-160
http://www.catalog.kpl.gov/uhtbin/cgisirsi/x/0/0/5?searchdata1=gil+scott-heron&library=BRANCHES&language=ANY&format=ANY&item_type=ANY&location=ANY&match_on=KEYWORD&item_1cat=ANY&item_2cat=ANY&sort_by=-PBYR

Phoebe Snow 1952-2011

It’s amazing how some artists are able to reveal their true selves on stage, while others simply go through the motions.

Back about 1978 or so, Phoebe Snow performed at WMU’s East Ballroom (today’s Bernhard Center) in what appeared to be another case of a big time star giving an obligatory concert in a smallish market. She was singing, but that was about it. It was clear that she just wasn’t feeling it.

Phoebe’s career was still riding high at that point... she had a HUGE hit with Poetry Man in 1974 and a cover story in Rolling Stone magazine a year later. I assumed that she could probably care less about Kalamazoo… get in, get through it, and get back to the real world on the East Coast.

After plodding through a couple of songs, Phoebe stopped and apologized to the audience for her lack of enthusiasm. It seems her best friend was in the hospital back East at that very moment having a baby. Phoebe admitted that her body was on stage in Kalamazoo but her mind was clearly with her friend far away. Well, at least she was being honest. The show continued.

During the middle of the very next song, a stage hand came out and whispered something in her ear. Phoebe stopped the song immediately and jumped and screamed, “It’s a girl!”

With that, the veil was lifted and a very different Ms. Snow took the stage. Expressive, exuberant, entertaining; the mundane became magnificent! I had yet to see (and have seldom since seen) a performer so genuinely reveal her true “self” to an audience.

I will always remember that show… and appreciate how Phoebe allowed a small audience in Kalamazoo to be part of a very special moment in her life. And that, I guess, created a very special moment in ours.

Phoebe Snow passed away Tuesday in Edison, New Jersey, due to complications caused by a brain hemorrhage she suffered a year ago. She was 60.

Book

Phoebe Snow
phoebe-snow-160
http://www.phoebesnow.com/

Archaeology - Digging Local Music

Kalamazoo’s local music scene these days is diverse and richly vibrant. One look at the Gazette’s Ticket supplement and you’ll find everything from talented local amateurs to nationally known superstars performing in dozens of different venues across the area, even Kalamazoo Public Library!

But has Kalamazoo always had this kind of passion for music? You might be surprised!

If you’re like me, you wonder what popular entertainment sounded like in Kalamazoo a century or even a century-and-a-half ago. What instruments were being played? What music was being played? Who was playing it, and where?

Admittedly, there isn’t a CD called “Early Kalamazoo Music” (yet!), but All About Kalamazoo History, KPL’s aptly titled collection of Local History essays, has a wealth of information on that very topic. Check the newly created Music category, and you’ll find articles about everything from Kalamazoo’s very first band (formed in 1837 shortly after Kalamazoo—then Bronson Village—was established) right through the Ragtime Era at the end of the nineteenth century and into the Jazz Age of the early 1920s. There’s information about Kalamazoo’s leading music organizations, the early dance bands, the musical leaders, and some of the local performers who “made it big.” Learn about the early efforts to establish the Kalamazoo Symphony Orchestra, and discover the various local businesses that grew up around the music industry. There’s even an article about “That Gal from Kalamazoo.”

So dig in, you’ll never know what you might find.

Book

Kalamazoo Ragtime Music
kalamazoo-original-ragtime-cakewalk-160
/local-history/music/

End of Year Remembrance

The music world lost some of its most talented and accomplished musicians this year. Here is a short list of several artists whose works can be found and enjoyed here at the library.

Alex Chilton (Big Star

Solomon Burke

Mark Linkous (Sparklehorse

Ari Up (The Slits) 

Lena Horne

Gregory Isaacs

Pete Quaife (The Kinks

Doug Fieger (The Knack) 

Teddy Pendergrass

Guru (Gangstarr)

Teena Marie

Captain Beefheart

Music

Keep an eye on the sky
WEM985875C 

The Sound

I've listened to Miles Davis, Gil Evans, Chet Baker and others associated with cool jazz for some time now but I've only recently taken to the lyric warmth and catchy melodies of Stan Getz, aka The Sound. Getz was a prominent tenor saxophonist during the fifties and sixties. In addition to his accomplished recordings, he is credited, along with his one-time collaborater Joao Gilberto, for helping to turn American audiences on to  Brazillian bossa nova in the early sixties. The library owns several of Getz's albums. Check him out.

Music

Getz/Gilberto [sound recording] : featuring Antonio Carlos Jobim
UMM141422C

A Fresh Sound from Israel

I recently discovered the Israeli pianist and composer Anat Fort and found that I have a great affinity for her and her trio’s hybrid sound that deftly weaves together both the rhythms and instrumentation of jazz with the plaintive austerity and minimalist ambiance of music akin to classical works or even touches of New Age. Her eclectic influences span from John Coltrane, Keith Jarrett, and Elvis Costello to piano master Bill Evans. This collision of influences and styles works in fresh and innovative ways through her newest album And If. The attentive listener will appreciate the ways in which Fort merges the beautiful with the bleak, gentle melodies with avant garde timing, and romantic touches with flashes of emotional exuberance.

Music

And if [sound recording]
UMM332161C

Jazz in the Box

This month’s jazz display (see it at Central) only scratches the surface of KPL’s vast collection of jazz materials – not just the music, but writings and film on the subject as well. Navigating over a hundred years of jazz history is a challenge for all but the most dedicated jazz musicologists. Thankfully, for those of us who are novices, KPL owns a substantial number of CD box sets, which provide succinct overviews of jazz in all its variations, including:

The Smithsonian Collection of Classic Jazz: one of the best aural introductions to American jazz in the 20th century, this set opens with the birth of jazz, by way of Scott Joplin's ragtime piano, moves into the hot jazz best exemplified by Louis Armstrong’s ‘20’s sides, then sails through swing, bop, cool jazz, and the avant-garde. While it stops short of exploring jazz during, and beyond, the fusion period pioneered by Miles Davis in the early ‘70’s, it's a great spot to get acquainted with seminal jazz pieces and performers before that time.

Big Band Renaissance: a sequel to the Smithsonian’s earlier Big Band Jazz set (also available at KPL), this set takes listeners past “the big band era” by focusing on post-WWII jazz combo configurations. Classic big band auteurs such as Duke Ellington and Benny Goodman still figure, but the set’s scope is greatly broadened by the inclusion of bands led by Sun Ra and Henry Mancini.

The Erteguns’ New York: Atlantic Records founders Ahmet and Nesuhi Ertegun were avid jazz afficianados (younger brother Nesuhi oversaw the label’s earliest jazz signings, including John Coltrane, Ornette Coleman, and the Modern Jazz Quartet). This set of '50's cabaret jazz numbers showcases vocalists such as Bobby Short, Chris Connor, and Carmen McRae, who wowed audiences at the cozier NYC clubs the brothers favored after hours.

Progressions: 100 Years of Jazz Guitar: the influence of jazz on the guitar (and vice-versa) gets its due with this set that generously makes room for artists such as Chet Atkins, Jimi Hendrix, and Carlos Santana, nestled side by side with jazz guitar greats such as Eddie Condon, Wes Montgomery, and Bill Frisell.

The Savoy Story: storied as much for its gospel recordings as for its jazz releases, Newark, N.J.-based Savoy Records was influential in the popularization of bebop music in the late ‘40’s and early ‘50’s. Charlie Parker, Charles Mingus, and Errol Garner were just a few of the great musicians who cemented their reputations during their time at the label – all are featured, alongside other legends, on this set that focuses on Savoy’s early jazz output.

This is just a small sampling of the jazz music KPL has to offer – check out our display this month, and our AV collection at any time, to dig even deeper.

Music

Savoy Story Jazz
UMM744623C

Radio Jazz Man

Bob Parlocha was born to have a radio show. Richly textured and oozing with experience and knowledge, Parlocha’s voice is as smooth as the jazz singers and musicians he features on his radio show. Regrettably, I seldom listen to his fantastic playlists, mostly because he hits the airwaves at 10pm, nevertheless, I rarely ever steer away once I’ve tuned in. Parlocha’s program is well balanced in that it draws attention to both the seminal musicians from the past (Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Gil Evans, Stan Getz) as much as it highlights current artists and their new releases. If you can stay up later than I can and you love jazz, be sure to check out Nocturnal Transmissions. Don’t forget to drop by the library to browse our large collection of jazz compact discs.

Music

Orchestrion [sound recording]
WEM984736C

The incredible music of Hiromi

I am always surprised when I “discover” a new, at least to me, musical artist whose talent is so great and whose music is so amazing that they beg to have the word genius attached to their work, yet I have been completely unaware of their music until that point. I suppose it should not be so shocking given the time I have available to devote to searching out great music and the vast number of artists out there in the world working in a wide range of genre’s that I have interest in. But with very little effort, I consistently find new and shockingly great artists to check out. I believe this to be a very positive result of the increasing interconnectedness of the world. I also believe that these discoveries have been helped along and often facilitated by the KPL music collection's fantastic breadth and depth. Listening to Michigan Radio on Sunday evening I had such an experience when I first heard the music of Japanese jazz composer and pianist Hiromi Uehara. Not only a virtuosic technical player, Hiromi’s passionate and genre bending style is truly unique as witnessed in the video below. 

Music

Beyond Standard
UMM368622C