Friday, January 27, 2012

This 2CD set is an excellent example of the conceptual compilation. I mean, I'm all for regional, stylistic and genre-based compilations - and the number of the things I currently own is testimony to that - but the conceptual compilation is a different breed, putting together seemingly unrelated artists and songs under a vague umbrella designed and curated by the compiler him/herself. That makes it a tougher proposition, but when it's pulled off successfully, the rewards can be great. Jazz Noire, released on the UK label, Fantastic Voyage, is one such release. Most, if not all of the tracks featured, have been comped multiple times before: I know, because I already have a whole bunch of them on other releases. You've got some hot R & B from Wynonie Harris, Amos Milburn, Johnny Otis, T-Bone Walker, Louis Jordan, Jimmy Witherspoon, Jay McShann; cool jazz/blues from the Nat King Cole Trio (during his pre-MOR R & B period), Charles Brown and Billy Eckstine; cool vocal jazz from Billie Holiday, Julia Lee (the fantastic "Marijuana"), Ella Fitzgerald, Dinah Washington, Sarah Vaughan; and some hot jazz from Charlie Parker, "Baron" Mingus (that's Charles to you, in an early incarnation), Dizzy Gillespie, Lionel Hampton, Thelonious Monk, Illinois Jacquet, Lester Young and more. The mood: downbeat and a little sleazy. Within a different configuration, the sum of the parts, put within a different context, would mean something entirely different. Jazz Noire, divided up other ways, would've made an ace west coast post-war R & b comp, or a snapshot of '40s/'50s jazz from across the US of A. Last time I checked, the likes of Parker, Monk & Dizzy were all New Yorkers. So where do their tracks fit in, given the discs' LA fixation? I guess you have to get in the moment. Both CDs in the set are bookended by the theme music from four bona fide film noir classics, The Killers, Double Indemnity, High Sierra and Cry Of The City, landing one firmly within the head space of where the compilers wish to place you. The packaging is first-rate, a six-panel full-colour digipak comprising images from old dimestore crime paperbacks, with the extensive liner notes by Dave Penny being a sub-Mickey Spillane-style trip through LA's clubs, noting the musicians within the narrative. The point of all this? The art of the mix tape is not lost, nor is the art of the conceptual CD. Jazz Noire is an awesome late-night listen, and if I knew how to play poker and if I had a group of friends who'd care to play the game throughout the evening w/ me, this'd be the soundtrack.

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A bad time for deaths within the global music community these past few weeks. There's been Johnny Otis and Etta James, and just this week there was artist/musician Mike Kelley (from Destroy All Monsters), who tragically killed himself, and, closer to home, there was Brendon Annesley. Brendon was mostly known for his music writing and highly prolific fanzine production: he ripped out an astonishing 33 issues of Negative Guest List in the past four years, as well as producing the HC zine, Dirty Alleys, Dirty Minds, penning for other publications, running the NGL label and playing in various bands. He helped my brother out w/ a few gigs and interviewed him for an issue of NGL, too. He was, from all reports, the epicentre of any music worth hearing which eminated from the city of Brisbane. I only knew him via email and fanzine trading. Last year he sent me a pile of back issues of NGL and I was impressed that folks of his age - he died this week at the age of 22 - were still putting words to print and getting it out there. If anything, his efforts made me feel old, lazy and guilty. His 'zines covered many of the greats I'd written about in a prior life - Pere Ubu, Electric Eels, Thomas Jefferson Slave Apartments, Vertical Slit, SST cronies, '90s rock & roll from the Dog Meat stable, the giants of first-wave HC - as well as contemporary bands I'm too pathetic to listen to. His writing was smart, succinct and obnoxious, and had he stuck around, he could've given the world a whole lot more of his worthy bile. In other words, another one of the good guys has gone, and that's just a damn fucking shame. But you and I, thankfully, are still here. RIP, Mr. Annesley.

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