Herbie Hancock – River: The Joni Letters, Reviewed

 Herbie Hancock

River: The Joni Letters

Verve B0009791-02

Produced and arranged by Larry Klein and Herbie Hancock (Piano), with Wayne Shorter (Soprano and Tenor Saxophone), Dave Holland (Bass), Vinnie Colaiuta (Drums), Lionel Loueke (Guitar)

Herbie Hancock continues with the tradition of classic collaborations that he orchestrated with Possibilities (2005) and Gershwin’s World (1998). This time out Herbie’s effort is titled River: The Joni Letters. River is a choreographed tribute to Joni Mitchell’s songs as letters of rich jazz visual montages.

River: The Joni Letters is ten smartly chosen tracks, six vocal tracks with stellar vocalists and four instrumental interludes. Interspersing instrumentals with the six main vocal tracks is a stroke of genius. It’s like eating your way through to the rich layers of creamy filling found in a multilayered cake. The first two instrumentals are “Both Sides Now” and “Sweet Bird”; done as new improvisations. We are also treated to two classic jazz numbers, “Solitude” (Edgar De Lange-Duke Ellington-Irving Mills) and “Nefertiti” Miles Davis (Wayne Shorter).

“Nefertiti”is written and performed by premier saxophonist Wayne Shorter. Shorter’s saxophone accents takes the recording to a higher plane. When I was researching the significance of including the composition “Nefertiti”, I learned it was originally performed by the second and last Miles Davis Quintet. “Nefertiti” had a significant influence on Joni Mitchell’s Hejira album which clearly established her jazz singer\songwriter potential. Therein lies the intersection point.

Norah Jones opens the River recording with the tune, “Court and Sparkriding in on the wings of Herbie Hancock’s piano accompaniment. Norah Jones is ideally suited to begin this musical journey with her present state leadership role in contemporary jazz. Ms. Jones swirls soft, eloquent vocals like clouds in a scenic painting as Herbie’s playing moves her along the sky. The duo is sweetly accented by Wayne Shorter’s signature phrasing on tenor saxophone. His saxophone ignites the spark for Norah and Herbie’s whimsical jazzy courtship.

Tina Turner greets us with her sultry voice accenting the song “Edith and the Kingpin”, from Joni Mitchell’s The Hissing of Summer Lawns. The listener is immediately drawn into a cinematic tale of romantic intrigue. One can visualize the coat draped over the shoulders of the big man as he enters the club. Immediately we intermingle with this underworld societies’ captivation with a powerful man and his women. Tina’s warm and soothing sisterly vocals narrate the sensual dance as it weaves the story in front of our very eyes.

One by one they bring

His renegade stories to her

His crimes and his glories to her

In challenge they look on

Women he has taken grow old too soon

He tilts their tired faces

Gently to the spoon

“River” the title track is performed by Corrine Bailey Rae as her voice possesses the sound of soft snow falling outside your window. One would swear that Corrine Bailey Rae and the musicians playing along have done this song many evenings together in a posh nightclub for regular clientele. They fit together harmoniously with a relaxed, familiar sound.

Joni Mitchell, appears next as if on cue, with the saga, “Tea Leaf Prophecy” from Chalk Mark in a Rainstorm. Here we have a song about the World War II era replete with the self-reflective consciousness of a woman who states repeatedly, “she says she’s leaving but she don’t go”. How many of us in this life have made that same claim about wanting to escape from our own meager existences?

Bossa Nova starlet Luciana Souza performs “Amelia” a song about Amelia Earhart. Her vocal stylizing is hip, which embellishes this song with a warmth, color and ambience. http://jonimitchell.com/musician/song.cfm?id=Amelia

Leonard Cohen folk music, poet laureate, (I’m reading his book of poems and essays, Book of Longing right now) ends the recording with his reading of “The Jungle Line”. His gravely narrative voice resonates throughout this song in a unique bohemia like poetic reading. I find it very appropriate that Herbie Hancock and Leonard Cohen chose this song about Henri Rousseau, the French painter. http://jonimitchell.com/research/g_entry.cfm?id=35

Joni Mitchell is a painter first, a musician second. Her rich tapestries of artistic song enrapture us completely as Herbie Hancock accents Joni’s jazz letters perfectly.

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Acid-Folk Music Scene – Devendra Banhart

Sometimes you turn over a rock in the back yard and discover a gemstone you’ve been hoping to find to illuminate your senses.  The discovery becomes a prism that takes you on a journey of thought, wonderment and mirth. The prism refracts and reveals the acid-folk music universe where Devendra Banhart is standing at it’s center. Devendra Banhart is a psych folk cultural icon, a natural mystic who is shaping, defining and adding art/dimension/intrigue to an unfolding multi-layered music genre.

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

I know I’m late to the party here but there’s still a slice of cake to indulge upon. I first discovered Devendra Banhart as a new folk artist featured in the Vanity Fair, November 2007, Folk Music Explosion portfolio.

http://www.vanityfair.com/culture/features/video/2007/folkportfolio_video200711

Next thing I know I start seeing more references about him on the front cover of music magazines. Uncut Magazine features Devendra Banhart personal compilation of artists he likes, which was stuck as a CD sampler to the front cover titled, Love Above All, 11 tracks Inside the Mind of the Acid-Folk King. The CD is extremely listenable (unlike other samplers which are disjointed) abundant in vivid, colorful, influences that yield to discovery and personal enjoyment. The artists include Papercuts singing Unavailable, Kyle Tomzo’s Bicycle and Hecuba’s Peace and Money. Several of the artists featured on this CD sampler don’t have record contracts. Several are from Gnomonsong Recordings, an adventurous, fun, how it used to be way back when in San Francisco psychedlic days, record label.

Devendra Banhart is featured on the cover of Harp Magazine this month. He’s hit the trifecta in magazines appearances folks. You should definitely check him and this music idiom out for your listening pleasure. Acid-folk music is a tribute to and a furtherance of such 60’s artists as Pentangle, The Incredible String Band and the mystic flower child Donovan.

As I learn about this subculture music and art scene, I’ll try to write additional updates here.

Help the People of Burma — Post this Meme on Your Blog!

Note: This is a new kind of online protest that uses blogs to spread a petition globally. To participate, just add your blog by following the instructions in this blog post.

This not an issue of partisan politics, this is an issue of basic human rights and democracy. Please help to prevent a human tragedy in Burma by adding your blog and asking others to do the same.

By passing this meme on through the blogosphere hopefully we can generate more awareness and avert a serious tragedy. As concerned world-citizens this something we bloggers can do to help.

How to participate:

1. Copy this entire post to your blog, including this special number: 1081081081234

2. After a few days, you can search Google for the number 1081081081234 to find all blogs that are participating in this protest and petition. Note: Google indexes blogs at different rates, so it could take longer for your blog to show up in the results. Also note — if you want an accurate count of the number of blogs that joined this petition, make sure you scroll to the bottom of the Google results and click to view results that were omitted because they were similar.

3. If you know how to add tags to your blog posts, add the Technorati tag 1081081081234 to your post as well. This will make your post findable sooner in Technorati.

THE SITUATION IN BURMA AND WHY IT MATTERS TO ALL OF US

There is no press freedom in Burma and the government has started turning off the Internet and other means of communication, so it is difficult to get news out. Individuals on the ground have been sending their day-by-day reports to the BBC, and they are heartbreaking. I encourage you to read these accounts to see for yourself what is really going on in Burma. Please include this link in your own blog post.

The situation in Burma is increasingly dangerous. Hundreds of thousands of unarmed peaceful protesters, including monks and nuns, are risking their lives to march for democracy against an unpopular but well-armed military dictatorship that will stop at nothing to continue its repressive rule. While the generals in power and their families are literally dripping in gold and diamonds, the people of Burma are impoverished, deprived of basic human rights, cut off from the rest of the world, and increasingly under threat of violence.

This week the people of Burma have risen up collectively in the largest public demonstrations against the ruling Junta in decades. It’s an amazing show of bravery, decency, and democracy in action. But although these protests are peaceful, the military rulers are starting to crack down with violence. Already there have been at least several reported deaths, and hundreds of critical injuries from soldiers beating unarmed civilians to the point of death.

The actual fatalities and injuries are probably far worse, but the only news we have is coming from individuals who are sneaking reports past the authorities. Unfortunately it looks like a large-scale blood-bath may ensue — and the victims will be mostly women, children, the elderly and unarmed monks and nuns.

Contrary to what the Burmese, Chinese and Russian governments have stated, this is not merely a local internal political issue, it is an issue of global importance and it affects the global community. As concerned citizens, we cannot allow any government anywhere in the world to use its military to attack and kill peacefully demonstrating, unarmed citizens.

In this modern day and age violence against unarmed civilians is unacceptable and if it is allowed to happen, without serious consequences for the perpetrators, it creates a precedent for it to happen again somewhere else. If we want a more peaceful world, it is up to each of us to make a personal stand on these fundamental issues whenever they arise.

Please join me in calling on the Burmese government to negotiate peacefully with its citizens, and on China to intervene to prevent further violence. And please help to raise awareness of the developing situation in Burma so that hopefully we can avert a large-scale human disaster there.

Sam Beam – Iron & Wine

I discovered Sam Beam just yesterday on the corner edge of my radar screen. I saw his picture on the cover of Paste Magazine’s October issue. I thought I’d share his art and music with you. You know as much as I do about him now.

http://www.pastemagazine.com/action/article/5121/feature/music/iron_wine

He’s quite soulful and eclectic. His looks are deceptive, but his music will find that place in you that has been like a sweet tooth in search of a chocolate bar. So peel back the candy wrapper, take a bite and give him a listen.

Iron & Wine ~ Home

 

sheperdsdog The Shepherd’s Dog – Iron and Wine Reviewed

Jazz as a Wonderful Spiritual Virus

Carlos Santana always speaks with respect and admiration about how we can lovingly spread peace to each other through music in the form of a spiritual virus. He should know for Carlos is truly one of the great healing musicians in our time.

I was browsing Carlos’s What’s On Carlos’s Mind? web page on the Official Carlos Santana Web Site where I noticed Carlos has been listening to Kenny Garrett a lot lately. I recalled I had seen Kenny Garrett play at the Santana All That I Am CD launch party at the Hammerstein Ballroom.(You can watch that Webcast from 11/1/2005 here, Rhapsody Santana All That I Am Webcast  or listen to the track here, Evil Ways/A Love Supreme). When Carlos introduced Kenny Garrett, he said triumphantly “Also joining us the real Kenny G, Mr. Kenny Garrett”. Kenny G. played a knock you out and then some version of John Coltrane’s A Love Supreme as he improvised masterfully on the alto saxophone for us live.

Well I must tell you, Mr. Kenny Garrett spreads a great spiritual virus with his recording Beyond The Wall. I picked this CD up yesterday and have been playing it non-stop ever since. The tracks are each a brilliant awakening. You are taken on a spiritual journey beyond the great wall of China, directly into a culture that Kenny leads you to .

 

wall

 

Check out Kenny Garrett’s Beyond The Wall you won’t be disappointed!