Rubber Seoul

27 02 2008

It was a proud and teary moment when we here at the ARC heard the strains of the Star-Spangled Banner played in Pyongyang, North Korea, last evening by a local band, the New York Philharmonic.

It took me back to the early 80s, when a young Kim Jung Il visited the ARC and donated some of his favorite tunes, about 20 discs in all. Long before he commanded the 5th largest standing army in the world, the Great Leader was a big music fan – mostly Brit rock – not too interested in that revolutionary 60s stuff coming out of the States.

rubberseoul_sml1.jpg clapton_sml1.jpg

Here are two examples from that donation : The Beatles’ Rubber Soul (Taedo, Korea, EU 407, LP, 1970) and Eric Clapton’s One In Every Crowd (Giant, Asia, TD-1554, LP, 1975). The Beatles’ tunes really resonated with this University of Malta grad, who studied in English, and was quick to pick up on titles like, “Run for Your Life,” “I’m Looking Through You” and “Think for Yourself.”

And Clapton. Hound doggies Kim-bo loved his blues. We had a running joke, that it was “Eric Clampdown.” And his favorite song on this album? “Don’t Blame Me.” I think this early infatuation has a lot to do with the recent rumors that Eric will be invited to perform a concert in Seoul following a visit to London by North Korea’s State Symphony Orchestra this summer. Hope it happens. …and Mr. Kim, keep those donations coming, it’s all part of the growing collection of materials from around the world that makes the ARC the valuable resource that it is.

This is an excerpt for our ongoing, longer work: Problematic Encounters Between Primitive Man and Modern Music (unpublished) by B. George.

Global Reggae

25 02 2008

Got back yesterday from spending a week in Kingston, Jamaica at the aptly named “Global Reggae Conference” held at the University of the West Indies, Mona. There, I presented a paper about mento music’s role in the 1968 Festival Song Competition on a panel that included Ken Bilby (from the Center for Black Music Research) and L’Antoinette Stines (of L’ACADCO). It went great, and a great honor for me to share a panel with two really important thinkers. I also met with a publisher about getting my dissertation published and picked up a couple copies of the new issue of Caribbean Quarterly in which I have an article about the earliest days of Jamaica’s recording industry (“Calling All Speechmakers” about mento and the aesthetics of the early recording industry – pick it up if you can!).

The panels were really outstanding and brought together a BUNCH of people doing really interesting work on all facets of Jamaica’s music (folks like Herbie Miller, Lara Elizabeth Putnam, Louis Chude-Sokei, Marvin Sterling, Klive Walker, Amon Saba Saakana [aka Sebastian Clarke to reggae fans], Dennis Howard, Michael Veal, Carter Van Pelt and Clinton Hutton among many, many more). Roger Steffens did a few really interesting presentations about his work, as well. Complementing the academic work was a series of concerts. Lunchtime events included performances by the Alpha Boys Band, the Mystic Revelation of Rastafari, the Blue Glaze Mento Band (it’s leader and banjoist Nelson Chambers is shown below, left) and a kumina group led by the fantastic young drummer and singer, Bongo Shem (below, right):

Nelson Chambers from Blue GlazeBongo Shem Kumina
There were two nighttime concerts as well. The first included Lovindeer (below, left), Big Youth (below, right) and Sugar Minott:

LovindeerJah Youth

I’m sure I don’t have to say how great they were. Interestingly, the Lunar Eclipse happened as just as Lovindeer performed Bob Marley’s Concrete Jungle (No sun will shine in my day today / The high yellow moon won’t come out to play / Darkness has covered my light / And has changed my day into night), but no word on whether it was the inspiration behind him singing it.
The second concert, “A Tribute to Mikey Smith,” featured Cherry Natural, Oku Onuora, Mutabaruka and Mervyn Morris among many others. I didn’t get any pictures of that one (unfortunately, I missed most of it) but that which I did catch was awesome.
Although the papers and concerts were great, some of my favorite moments took place outside the panels, including this one here where (left to right), Clinton Hutton, Garth White, Colby Graham and I talked about some early photos Colby (who seems to know where to find ALL the pictures) had put his hands on:

Clinton Hutton, Colby Graham and Garth White
Later on, I sat with a bunch of really interesting folks from University arguing the finer points of Leonard Howell and the Rasta enclave Pinnacle. All in all, a really rewarding trip.

Smell of meat, tango

22 02 2008

Recently, at Jazz Standard, (one of the best rooms for jazz in New York) I heard the Eternal Tango Orchestra. A plus is that the music from the enthusiastically carnivorous nation of Argentina was performed under the rib-infested Blue Smoke, a pretty good Bar-B-Q hang.


Based in NY, ETO has been around since 2003, preserving and adding to the orquesta tipica tradition. If you’re like me and cringe at the overthetop dramatics of the dance and swoon when the same passion is applied to the music, this was a wonderful evening. To quote saxophonist Paquito D’Rivera, “the perfect balance between precision and delicacy of the chamber music and the passion and expressive power of the popular music of his native Argentina.”

What was nice was hearing a full rich string section with smart orchestration. Along with the bandoneóns of Hector Del Curto and David Hodges were violinists Nick Danielson, Sami Merdinian, Sergio Reyes and Lucia Giraudo, violist Katie Kresek, cellist Jisoo Ok, bassist Pedro Giraudo and Gustavo Casenave on piano.

The orchestra slimmed down to a quintet for some songs, like a slow and sultry milonga, (Late 19th century urban Argentine style from Buenos Aires, referencing the rural gaucho music, and greatly influencing both the tango and Spanish flamenco music ) and was beefed up with the addition of Pablo Ziegler on piano on a few others. The set was too short and too good to be missed.

Bandoneónist Héctor Del Curto, who’s family has been playing tangos professionally since the early 1900s, has 3 CDs. The ARC bought, and loves, the first two listed below :

• Hector Del Curto. Eternal Tango. Green Parrot Records, n.n. 2007

• Tango & All That Jazz (Live). Pablo Ziegler Quartet and Stefon Harris. Kind Of Blue records, KOB 10017, 2007

• Olé!Ché! Beau Bledsoe with guest Hector Del Curto.

Online :

Help me! Heeeeellllllllp meeeeeee!

12 02 2008

Yesterday, I opened up the gatefold cover of this John Coltrane Ballads album

… and I found a crime scene!
The death of an innocent fly, probably a jazz lover.
You can almost hear the sickening “FWAPP” as the cover is slammed shut.  How can a Trane fan be so insensitive?  Grisly, isn’t it?  Oh, the sins we find buried in other people’s record collections.

– J.

Are They So Very Different Today?

8 02 2008

Hipsters, I mean.

No, Columbia wasn’t the hippest label in the 1950s, but the cover of their Columbia House Party LP did nothing to hurt them.  Covered with hipsters hanging around with portable pets, drinking martinis, smoking who knows what and carrying on, it eerily echoes the kinds of things that I see contemporary hipsters doing still.  The music on this one not so cool (snorelights include Norman Luboff, Liberace, Guy Mitchell, Rosemary Clooney, Mitch Miller), but the record is so beautifully well packaged I can’t not blog it.  Check out this amazing cover by Naiad Einsel (click the image for a fuller view)

Columbia House Party Recto

The back cover is great too, detailing what would appear to be the full line of Columbia phonographs and tape recorders:

Columbia House Party Verso

I think I’m going to hit up eBay for a set of “his and hers” model 412s.  My wife, I’m sure, will be speechless, but it’ll all be worth it if she and I someday end up on a record cover just like this one, shown listening to records on our matching 412s.


Dance Fever

6 02 2008

File this as Part Two in an examination of the wonderful world of K-Tel as an instrument of dance education. The kids loved Dan’s previous Pop and Lock post featuring Breakdance (K-Tel NU3360) which helped spread the good word about the hip hop revolution way back when. Today we present Disco Fire (K-Tel TU2590) another hot one one from the folks at K-Tel. It’s a double album of top disco hits with instructions in the gatefold on how to do the “Hot Chocolate”. Never heard of this particular dance craze, though I was decidedly in the anti-disco camp when this hit your local bargain bin, so forgive my ignorance if the Hot Chocolate is in fact your all time fave rave. For you disco newbies here are the steps you’ll need to add the Hot Chocolate to your disco line dance arsenal.


And here’s what you’ll look like, with a little practice. Try whistling “The Hustle” while you watch.


Now, boogie down, my funky chickens!

– J.

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