‘Seriously deep’ Eberhard Weber/Colours (Silent Feet, ECM, 1978)

Personnel

Eberhard Weber – bassCharlie Mariano – soprano saxophonefluteRainer Brüninghaus –pianosynthesizerJohn Marshall – drums

It’s interesting to think about that line between the overly sentimental and lacking in heart, the formulaic and manufactured (the kind of over-produced sounds you hear on the radio as if pre-digested) and other kinds of music that mine a similar territory of accessible, not too difficult music, but escape such criticism.

Perhaps it’s always about context and reception, alongside something about the musician/composer that allows this reprieve. This piece of music, chosen for me by YouTube (by the anonymous seer at YouTube, or ‘algorithms’ - according to one person commenting on this phenomenon of modern-day tech-mysticism)

ˈalɡərɪð(ə)m/

noun

plural noun: algorithms

1.    a process or set of rules to be followed in calculations or other problem-solving operations, especially by a computer.

could tick all the boxes for the kind of jazz I like least, but escapes such categorisation because of the skill of the musicians, is that what it is? Or the way it sounds, the beautiful production sound maybe; or the way it makes me think of other favourite musicians from the era, albeit a much quieter version thereof. Or the way the elements are perfectly balanced and the way it returns to the centre; yes, it could be this (but I always say this about music I like). Maybe it's the track title, who knows about such things?

Even if arguably this kind of jazz, the borderline background music you hear being played in a chain hotel bar (all muted and tasteful tones, very 80s lighting) has ushered in a kind of undeniable stasis in the genre and smothered much of the wild individuality and freedom that stamps earlier periods, I like this music. 

According to the very short, dismissive ‘review’ by on Allmusic: 

'In the late '70s and '80s, bassist Eberhard Weber's music epitomized the ECM sound. Emphasizing long tones, contrasting sound with silence (... edit) Weber performs three stretched-out originals including the 17½-minute "Seriously Deep." This music moves slowly and requires a lot of patience by the listener.'

But listen to ex-Soft Machine drummer, John Marshall from 9’20” and the so-natural, but highly complex interaction with Weber, which is so beautiful to hear, as is the contained aggression, for want of a better description, that is conveyed in this music at this point.

And then around 11’30” something remarkable happens; the piece offers up an interlude, a kind of space and introspection. I love this, this section where the instruments communicate with each other: the insistent piano line asking the others to listen (and the other instruments responding with a controlled groove, taunting almost with the rolling drumming so flashy, while remaining under-stated if that’s possible).

This is taken from John Kelman’s interesting look at Weber’s significance, his collaborators and innovations on All About Jazz

As the jazz-rock fusion movement gained ground from its early years in the late 1960s through its glory days in the early-to-mid-1970s—blending the more sophisticated harmonies of jazz with rock music’s rhythmic power and high volume—all too often it was about muscular chops and complex writing for the sake of it. Little attention was paid to nuance and understatement. While guitarist John McLaughlin’s high octane Mahavishnu Orchestra and keyboard player Chick Corea’s guitar-centric incarnation of Return to Forever were tearing up the charts around the word, in Europe a different approach was taking place—something that didn’t fit into the broader definition of fusion but, nevertheless, took advantage of the broader sonic textures afforded by technological innovation. 

Here is his assessment of the Weber record Silent Feet, which starts with an appreciation of the wonderful contribution/foundations provided by the drummer, John Marshall (something that immediately struck me as well):

What Marshall brings to Silent Feet, almost from the start of the opening “Seriously Deep,” is more overt virtuosity, a more direct kind of energy and a considerable change in texture. As opposed to Christensen’s dark, splashy cymbal work, Marshall’s was more delicate; but once the 18-minute track makes its way into Mariano’s first solo of the set, Marshall’s more unbridled power becomes inherently clear (...)

As a soloist, Weber had evolved considerably; while in later years he would turn to greater scripting, here he was on the ascent in his improvisational prowess, a lithe player combining dexterity and lyrical intent with visceral glissandi to make him, to this day, one of the instrument’s great soloists, and one whose electro-bass permitted him a facility not available to the more unwieldy double-bass. He solos for four glorious minutes before turning things over to Mariano who, on soprano, again asserts his position as a player who, recently deceased, was well-known but absolutely not reaching the larger audience he deserved.

Check out this interesting interview with Weber by Kelman, entitled ‘Positive Pragmatism, again from All About Jazz

The best, or most perceptive review of this work comes from the ECM site, by Tyran Grillo,  apparently there are repeated references to the novel Watership Down (“Silent Feet” and “Eyes That Can See In The Dark” both refer to a central creation myth among the story’s protagonists, a herd of rabbits fleeing in exodus from the warren they once called home’ to be found in this music) on the record that also assesses Weber's work with his group, Colours:

“Seriously Deep” throws a light blanket of tender drones and electric piano, quilted with gorgeous solos on soprano sax and bass. Steady rhythms (hereon provided by ex-Soft Machine drummer John Marshall) turn something otherwise mournful into life-affirming joy. The title is not a pretentious statement of the music’s emotional cache, but rather a description of its physical path as it digs toward the center of the earth. The second, and title, track of the album’s modest three is an ironic one, requiring active hands to evoke silent feet. The helix that is Weber and Brüninghaus spirals in place as cymbals connect like base pairs within, thus leading to one of the latter’s most captivating pianistic passages. It is the kind of balanced exuberance that characterizes Pat Metheny at his most potent stretches of imagination. Stellar breath control from Mariano plays beautifully off Weber’s every move, making for one of the finest cuts in the collection.'   

‘Sankara’ JP Manova (19h07, Not on Label/Self-Released, 2015)

[Intro : Sample]
"Les masses populaires en Europe ne sont pas opposées aux masses populaires en Afrique. Mais ceux qui veulent exploiter l’Afrique, ce sont les mêmes qui exploitent l’Europe. Nous avons un ennemi commun."

 ‘The working-class in Europe are not in opposition to the working-class in Africa. Those who want to exploit Africa are the same who exploit Europe. We have a common enemy.'

Thomas Sankara, president Burkina Faso, 1983-1987

In a 2015 interview entitled ‘I met JP Manova, the invisible man of French rap’ - originally in French - by Ramses Kefi the very, very famous French rapper MC Solaar refers to Manova as the ‘Loch Ness Monster’ for his secretive, or publicity-shy ways. (Manova asked the interviewer repeatedly why he wanted to meet him). But despite his low profile, Manova offers a fine continuity with the past and the contemporary hip-hop scene in France. 

This track, ‘Sankara’ is a perfect example of Manova’s skill to present a powerful argument, keeping it cool, while skewering the hypocrisy of Westerners looking at Africa, whatever that means; see, for example these great lines:

À ceux qui pensent l'Afrique comme un clip de Shakira
Où le blanc mène la danse et les nègres suivent le pas

(For those who think Africa is like a clip from Shakira/Where the whites lead the dance and the negroes – or niggers, it’s the same in French - follow the steps)

There is a submerged intensity, or anger in this song and the way the lyrics are delivered, alongside a kind of intimacy where the repeated refrain suggests that if you – we – have these questions, or prejudices we will keep coming back to Thomas Sankara, the great revolutionary leader who promised another way forward in the post-colonial era.

From the Encyclopaedia Britannica entry on Sankara:  

‘Sankara declared the objectives of the “democratic and popular revolution” to be primarily concerned with the tasks of eradicating corruption, fighting environmental degradation, empowering women, and increasing access to education and health care, with the larger goal of liquidating imperial domination. During the course of his presidency, Sankara successfully implemented programs that vastly reduced infant mortality, increased literacy rates and school attendance, and boosted the number of women holding governmental posts. On the environmental front, in the first year of his presidency alone 10 million trees were planted in an effort to combat desertification. On the first anniversary of the coup that had brought him to power, he changed the country’s name from Upper Volta to Burkina Faso, which means roughly “land of upright people” in Mossi and Dyula, the country’s two most widely spoken indigenous languages.’

Here is an interview – in French – with JP Manova around the release of his record where he speaks about the values of hip-hop and gives his thoughts on Trap among other subjects.

Manova grew up in the 18th arrondissement, the area in northern Paris where there are large North African and West African communities, he has described how this experience of not growing up in the banlieues  (the poor, largely immigrant neighbourhoods surrounding central Paris) gave him a particular perspective.

As he told the online magazine Le Bon Son in 2015

‘We’re not in the banlieue, but the edge of it; we’re not in Paris, but on the edge of it. It’s a working-class area … where there are workers, immigrants, but also Sacré Cœur the tourist site the whole world wants to see’ (this is my neighbourhood as well, so I appreciate this description when I’m so far away).

Coda:

‘Eternel été’ Ezechiel Pailhès (Circus Company, 2017)

“Au milieu de l'hiver, j'ai découvert en moi un invincible été.”

Albert Camus

Purposefully slowed down to create a sleepwalking mood, part little girl’s music box with the spinning ballerina, part disco echo, this song traverses the borderline between the overly sweet to create its own musical headspace that is forever holding back.

Linking the consonants so as to create new words, new meanings – the title could suggest a new noun that doesn’t exist in French, the way North Americans add ‘ess’ or ‘ful’ to create new words – the eternalness, perhaps (even if a word already exists for eternity, of course).

Shy, older uncle singing and a rubber-band beat to become a distended hand-clap or basic tambour, this song is lovely in its musical lyricism and ambiguity, making statements with no apparent connection between them, words that I mishear – trop ardent becomes an expression of apology on first hearing, rather than denuded intensity. The centre does not hold.

The corny guitar element at just before two minutes is intentional, but alright because it’s appreciated for what it is; the ironic effect is held within a certain sphere of gentle sincerity.

'You trip me up’ Jesus and Mary Chain (Psychocandy, Blanco y Negro Records, 1985) original/acoustic plus ‘My Girl’ cover & Spacemen 3 'Revolution'

With skin so Scottish pale it reflects the glare, it's hard to imagine the logic behind this video-shoot location on a sunny Portuguese beach other than it was meant to be a joke of some kind; as one person adds below the video, ‘The first time ever the band had seen the sun.’

This mix of a 60s pop-aesthetic and noise became standard the following decade, but when JAMC bubbled up onto the surface it was new, for some time. Check out this typically good feature from The Quietus Brown Acid Black Leather: the story of Jesus and Mary Chain’s Pyschocandy’ by Julian Marszalek, published in 2011.

Despite the overall serious tone of the interview, some of it is very funny. I like, for example, the image of JAMC rehearsing at the local community centre in East Kilbride, where the night before ‘old ladies played bingo’ or this quote from Jim Reid: ‘People would look out of their windows and see these skinny guys with sunglasses on pushing all this fucking stuff down the road. And we’d get there and argue for half an hour and then go home.’

Coda:

Released on Fire Records, 1988

Versions: ‘She’s my witch’ Kip Tyler (Ebb, 1958)

Following the contemporary tic of mentioning who or what brought a listener to a particular piece of music, for many this comes with a nice kind of provenance (to slightly misuse a word) – of that great rangy showman, Lux Interior of The Cramps.  

(Memory of one of my first live music experiences seeing The Cramps do their thing in a long-gone venue; all velvet curtains, with tassels, as Lux rattled and rolled on the stage and Ivy never smiled).

The recording of this track is so modern, so clean. Like this description of Kip Tyler – one of the key members of the 50s Californian rockabilly scene: Kip Tyler (May 31, 1929 - September 23, 1996) was an American rock and roll singer and bongo player.

And then later similarly from wik:

‘Tyler took on the name of Jimmy Daley (the main character of the movie who he provided a voice over for) and formed the band Jimmy Daley And The Ding-A-Lings.’

(The Ding-A-Lings? These guys were doing it deadpan in that era, though, never for a laugh. Such detail always appeals to me, similarly this very serious comment from an appreciation  of the artist:   

There are rumours that Tyler in 1962 recorded the single “Drum Twist 1 & 2” (Torchlight #501) under the name of Kipper & The Exciters but we have been unable to conclusively prove this. Similarly, it remains to be established the “Target Twist/Stompin” released under the name of Kippster was Kip Tyler.

‘There are rumours …’ Sounds like something from The Pixies).

This tune, this paean to a ‘chick with a wicked twitch’ has been covered numerous times, with each rendition tending to stay close to the original – with a few exceptions. My favourites among them, this super-delicate version from the Voodoo Sharks, with the stagey almost-spoken delivery (note the great B&W archival and other footage in the video). 

The most popular in terms of views is by the UK-based psychobilly group, The Radiacs – sped up part, chilled, slow down towards the end, descending .. vocals sound as if they were recorded back in the distance.

Direct quotation: "The term "psychobilly" was first used in the lyrics to the country song "One Piece at a Time", written by Wayne Kemp for Johnny Cash, which was a Top 10 hit in the United States in 1976. The lyrics describe the construction of a "psychobilly Cadillac using stolen auto parts."

But the true keeper for me is by The Fuzztones, a group apparently ‘dismissed by some critics and listeners as a "bar band" or unoriginal, they maintained a strong fan base in New York, in Europe (with their music being played on Hungarian State Radio) … and in Los Angeles.’

It’s really lovely how they slow it down and purposefully under-play it. 

'Miura' Metro Area  (Metro Area, Environ, 2002)

Named as the second best album of the decade by Resident Advisor, while also getting recognition from Fact this release by the Brooklyn-based DJ duo - Morgan Geist and Darshan Jesrani's Metro Area maps out the sinister-sweet territory, perfectly.

Filtering down, distilling the essence of disco, within a strong 80s paradigm; never letting it turn too saccharine (the strings are brief, when they appear) or drowning it in irony. ‘Miura’ maintains a strong sense of itself as a piece of music, while allowing for the echoes.

Not too heavy, not too light - no need to go all-out epic. 

How to sustain that quality of naïveté in music, especially when referencing a style that was so embedded in a particular moment, without making it so self-conscious that it loses that original spark? What you find here is an act of homage via the cleverly constructed shifts, most notably at 2 minutes in. It’s the cutting back to display that demonstrates a kind of musical innocence to me. Darshan Jesrani considered these issues in an interview not so long ago, when asked:  

'Disco music has seen a significant resurgence of late, albeit in the form of edits and hybrid combinations of disco influences and other forms of dance; something that you've been famous for, among other things. What are your thoughts on the genre and its nuance?

I think the renewed interest in disco and the idea of disco represents a desire for something more from a night out and something more from the music that's played at nightclubs. However, I think it's important that people tune in and try to understand the spirit of the music in all its forms, and the social context and values that birthed disco, and the idea of dancing to mixed music in clubs. Too often the form and fashion is co-opted and the heart of the matter is lost. That wouldn't make for any kind of real revival.'

‘The heart of the matter …’  (that this music is one of community, of youth and memory). You could perhaps make a parallel with the early pre-man-in-hat-crooner Daft Punk; their early music had a spirit that was similarly enthusiastic and sweet: all about the influences.    

But it was always much more manufactured, part of a showy performance.

Here's a description of the Metro Area release from AllMusic to close, the record is ‘so rich with immediate pleasures that it would be understandable to take the craft and precision with which they were made for granted. This record is a deceptively intricate maze of tight machine rhythms, tumbling bongos, smacking handclaps, warm keyboard stabs, zapping synths, tickling pianos, lively loops of flute, guitar flicks, and seesawing strings. It's just shy of being an embarrassment of riches.’

Coda:

'Tame' Pixies (Doolittle, 4AD, 1989) & 'Ex-Lion Tamer' Wire (Pink Flag, Harvest, 1977)

Got hips like Cinderella
Must be having a good shame
Talking sweet about nothing
Cookie I think you're

Tame
Tame, tame
Tame

I'm making good friends with you
When you're shaking your good frame
Fall on your face in those bad shoes
Lying there like you're

Tame
Tame, tame
Tame
Tame
Tame, tame
Tame

Tame
Tame, tame
Tame
Tame
Tame
Tame

Taken from the Pixies first-ever (exclamation mark added/optional) live TV performance - they also played 'Monkey gone to heaven'. So nice the way Black Francis does his little dance, kicking his leg almost as he gets into it, and the way Kim Deal provides the high-pitched grace notes, ten seconds after BF starts hyper-ventilating.

Sigmund Freud, Beyond the pleasure principle (first published in 1920). Read the text here.   

There's great danger (danger)
For the loneliest ranger in town
No silver bullets (bullets)
Tonto's split the scene

Next week will solve your problems
But now
Fish fingers all in a line
The milk bottles stand empty
Stay glued to your T.V. set (T.V.)

There's great danger
And most caped crusader of all
No cloak of justice
Robin's quit the scene

Next week will solve your problems
But now
Fish fingers all in a line
The milk bottles stand empty
Stay glued to your T.V. set (T.V.)
(T.V.) stay glued to your T.V. set (T.V.) oh, oh
(T.V.) stay glued to your T.V. set (T.V.) oh, oh
(T.V.) stay glued to your T.V. set (T.V.) oh, oh
(T.V.) stay glued to your T.V. set (T.V.) oh, oh
(T.V.) stay glued to your T.V. set (T.V.) oh, why don't ya, don't ya, don't ya
(T.V.) stay glued to your T.V. set (T.V.)
(T.V.) stay glued to your T.V. set (T.V.) oh, why don't ya, don't ya, don't ya
(T.V.) stay glued to that and your T.V. set (T.V.)

For x-number of years, I misheard the refrain to be 'Tame me' when in fact it's just unexpected London-accented vowels singing the word T.V ... thereby keeping me fresh via imperfection/damaged hearing, maybe or listening via expectation-fulfillment.  

Coda:

Description below YT video: 

'Hey, I'm Jay Fleetwood. I'm 17 and I've been playing drums for 4-5 years. This is my channel of drum covers and other videos. If you like my videos then you can subscribe. Also I'm looking for a band, so if you're interested in the idea and live in the DC/Maryland/Virginia area or somewhere near hit me up. Enjoy!' 

Check out this teen with his alt-90s/80s/70s punk etc obsession, playing the same music I was into as a youngster: kind of lovely to observe, he's super-talented as well (esp. with those Joy Division covers). 

Versions/Live Recordings: 'Sunny' Bobby Hebb (Sunny, Philips, 1966)

Live performance from 1972, with Ron Carter

Written in the 48 hours after a ‘double tragedy’ in 1963 - the assassination of U.S. President John F. Kennedy and the murder of Hebb’s older brother, Harold who was stabbed to death outside a Nashville nightclub’ (source, Wik), ‘Sunny’ is one of those key touchstone tracks whose success has eclipsed all the other work by songwriter, Bobby Hebb.

Hebb claimed that he wrote the song as an expression of a preference for a 'sunny' disposition over a 'lousy' disposition following the murder of his brother and that his goal with the ‘optimistic’ lyrics was to express the idea that one should always ‘look at the bright side’.

All my intentions were to think of happier times and pay tribute to my brother – basically looking for a brighter day – because times were at a low. After I wrote it, I thought ‘Sunny’ just might be a different approach to what Johnny Bragg – from the Prisonaires -was talking about in ‘Just Walkin’ in the Rain.’ 

Though if you listen to the Prisonaires’ track there is little obvious point of connection between the two: ‘Sunny’ appears to be a straight-up love song, while ‘Just Walkin’ is an expression of hopelessness. It was released on Sun Records in 1953, while the group was incarcerated in the Tennessee State Penitentiary in Nashville – here is some info on the group that included one member on a 99-year prison sentence. They were given day release to perform across the state and became famous during their time. 

The dark inspiration for the song’s composition – the two murders – and the reference to the imprisoned singers fascinates me, as it disrupts what would arguably be the most common associations with the song, as a ‘simple’ expression of love and feel-good, light-hearted entertainment, aka Boney M groovin' & movin' in sequins. 

Without wanting to over-state this too much, I like to think that this song holds this complexity and depth – as code – within it; you can feel it in the live version above, with Ron Carter, where there is an element of threat, or menace in the way Hebb enunciates and the music builds. You can sense it in the lyrics too that strike me as surprisingly non-specific for a straightforward love song:

‘Sunny
Thank you for the truth you let me see
Sunny
Thank you for the facts from A to Z
My life was torn like wind-blown sand
And a rock was formed when you held my hand (oh, sunny)
Sunny one so true, I love you.

Sunny
Thank you for the smile upon your face
Hmm, sunny
Thank you, thank you for the gleam that shows its grace
You're my spark of nature's fire
You're my sweet complete desire
Sunny one so true, yes, I love you

‘Thank you for the gleam that shows its grace/You're my spark of nature's fire ..’ aside from being wonderfully poetic it sounds far from human, is Hebb encouraging us to think that he is, in fact, referring to something more abstract, without spelling it out in fixed terms. This notion bewitches me a little; pop transcendence, hidden in plain view.    

The raw intensity of the live acoustic performance is missing in the original recorded version that has a sweet self-exposure and vulnerability, in the way it starts and falls away from time to time. Hebb’s 1966 album is really consistent, with some equally impressive songs; see, for example, I am your man and You Don’t Know What You’ve Got Until You Lose It

Within the year and soon after, well-known artists were releasing their takes, most notably, Marvin Gaye and this superb version from the Stevie Wonder Live record – bassline paradise forming ...

'Sunny baby yeah ...'

Here’s Ella Fitzgerald/Tom Jones with the Welsh crooner tapping out the beat on a rocking chair, and even more surprisingly the film noir icon Robert Mitchum in 1967 offering his rendition as well. Jazz musicians also got involved in the celebration: notably, this classy and restrained Stanley Turrentine 1966 interpretation, but here is my preferred, as always, the passionate Les McCann exorcising spirits: 

Though the two versions that really strike me come from two non-Anglo women, first the Italian Luisa Casali – again from 1966  and this stunning rendition from Mieko "Miko" Hirota who has been called the "Connie Francis of Japan". Really love what she does here, encapsulating the erotics of the unhinged, while sounding completely committed.