Darktown Strutters’ Ball

IDarktown Strutters' Ball‘m sure the title isn’t politically correct, but in 1917, no one seemed to notice. It is claimed that this was the first jazz tune recorded, on this date in that year. The song is 86 this year; I’m half that. It’s still a favorite. It was the first song I learned on the banjo; not a 5-string bluegrass affair, but an old 4-string tenor banjo, designed for playing with a jazz band. I’m still looking for the band, but when I find ‘em, I’ve got the banjo.

Written by Shelton Brooks, the complete sheet music of the original release is available online at the University of Colorado’s Digital Sheet Music Collection. Alan Lomax recorded Jelly Roll Morton playing this along with a couple dozen other tunes in 1938 in a classic collection of original jazz.

Hundredth Note

It’s been 300 days since I posted “Overture” and gave my obsession a voice.

Isaac Asimov, author of nearly 400 books, used his 100th as a retrospective of his impressive accomplishment; few authors ever reach their centennial publication. Asimov’s “Opus 100″ is essentially his personal musings on those of his writings he was particularly fond of (or particularly embarrassed about.) I’m just cocky enough to take a page from his book.

Welcome to “Hundredth Note.” And, no, I don’t know what kind of time signature that would require.

My server logs show 8,346 visitors of whom 1,140 seem to be semi-regulars. Haven’t received a single response to my invitation at the end of Still Haven’t Found What You’re Looking For?. Come on; tell me who and where you are. I promise, I don’t bite, I don’t spam. Just curious who y’all are.Some hopes have yet to achieve fruition. We haven’t seen an official album from “Walkingbirds” or my good friend Shirley Kaiser; both are kept busy with their web design businesses and real life. Both are still eagerly anticipated. Haven’t received my copy of King L’s “Great Day for Gravity” but at least the new vendor had it in stock, and claims to have shipped it. No decisions on ‘Paris or Alaska‘; no ears nibbled; no links fixed. Still haven’t gone to see Wally’s Swing World again, and some of you still haven’t found what you’re looking for. Twice.

Random thoughts on reviews I hope you didn’t miss:

  • My favorite: Scheherazade—Still the best combination of pop/rock and classical music ever accomplished; still thrilling, musically and lyrically. If I could witness only one live musical event for the rest of my life, without hesitation I would choose Renaissance performing “Scheherazade.”
  • The David Gray collection—”See the Sun Spreading Wings of Gold“, “Putting Flesh on the Bones of My Dreams“, and “Falling Free“. David’s music, lyrics, and performing inspire me.
  • I took more than one trip during the past 300 days, most to visit friends and scenery in Arizona. One of those trips, along with things happening in my own life, gave rise to “While I’m Far From Home“, whose first paragraph feels more real every day.
  • It was touching that the first serious attempt I’ve made at writing about my father’s death solicited the first response I’ve gotten from the artist in question.
  • Twas fun to be mentioned in Mike Nesmith’s official newsletter after my review of “Laugh Kills Lonesome.”
  • Some geeky statistics: though a hundred entries in three hundred days is an average of one post every three days, eleven times I’ve gone more than a week without posting; the longest was 13 days. I’m working on that. 60% of the time I posted in less than three days, but those slack times bring down the average.

  • Desafinado” was one of the songs which drove my need to write about the music that inspires me. I failed utterly to put into words the delirious joy I feel every single time I hear this unique song. As Shirley wrote once, “How can one fully describe the fragrance of a fresh rose with the early morning dew on a fresh Spring morning? Words can only do so much…” Please, find Desafinado, get your favorite cold beverage, mentally put yourself on a sunny Brazilian beach, and experience one of the seminal moments in modern music.
  • On the other hand, Enya’s “Na Laetha Geal M’

My Lover’s Gone

If the only track you’ve heard from Dido’s “No Angel” is the ubiquitous “Thankyou” (spelt just like that) it would be easy to assume that this is just another fluffy collection of love songs.

Nothing could be further from the truth.Tip to Those Who Suspect Their Relationship May be in Trouble:

If your significant other is playing “No Angel” often, singing along with vigor, this may not be a good sign.

The bulk of “No Angel” is, instead, a trove of odes to the bitterness and anguish of love lost; lost through attrition, lost through apathy, lost through anger, lost through rivalry and conflict. While there is, in fact, more than one love song on the album, that group is the minority.

Dido's 'No Angel'Dido was christened Florian Cloud De Bounevialle Armstrong, and nicknamed after a mythological woman whose loss of two loves drove her to suicide. The simpler nickname is apropos of the album’s lyrical content.

Unconventional and interesting percussion seems to play a large part in the ambience of many of the tracks. A largely acoustic feel pervades the arrangements, with piano, guitar, and the occasional flute or organ to add highlights and flavor.

  • Here With Me—Despite the heavy drums, it’s the quiet piano at the beginning which sets the tone for the album’s opener. A ‘widow’s walk’ song; waiting for a lover who will never return.
     I can't hide I won't go I won't sleep I can't breathe Until you're resting here with me I won't leave I can't hide I cannot be Until you're resting here with me
  • Hunter—The message is no secret:
     I want to be a hunter again want to see the world alone again to take a chance on life again so let me go.

    For some reason, this is the melody that comes to my head when I’m humming the album; complex, but catchy; rising and falling like the roller coaster ride of some relationships.

  • Don’t Think of Me—Acrimony set to music. The music is, to be honest, forgettable; the lyrics are not. Essentially, “I hope you’re happy with your new lover; your best friend sure seems to be . . . ” It’s not easy to avoid the demon of vindictiveness.
  • My Lover’s Gone—One of those glorious pairings of deeply moving poetry and emotionally inspiring music. At first, slow and quiet; strings, echoey harmonies; then, some very Celtic drumming in two rhythyms simultaneously, but still, the slow and quiet feeling.
     My lover's gone I know that kiss will be my last No more his song The tune upon his lips has passed I sing alone

    Soulsick, embracing the wrenching pain of despair.

  • All You Want—”I like to watch you sleep at night, to hear you breath by my side.” The tender lyrics are a deception. You could have had it all, right here with me, but if you think she’s what you want, I hope you find it there with her. Delicate verses alternate with a powerful, angry chorus. Although the final verse offers best wishes for their happiness, it sounds sarcastic, not sincere.
  • Thankyou—The primary exception to the compilation’s dark and brooding feel, the album’s biggest hit is a warm tribute to the way true love takes the sting out of life’s little aggravations.
  • Honestly OK—But she’s not; she’s in the depths of despair, in so much pain—”I’m so lonely I don’t even want to be with myself anymore.” Ambient sounds fill the background, but the vocals lay, cold and bare, against insistent, almost relentless drumming. “I just want to feel safe in my own skin.” I know the feeling.
  • Slide—A counterpoint to “Honestly OK”, an attempt to believe that the pain will pass; there is a light at the end of the tunnel, even if it’s around a corner.
     It's all right to make mistakes, you're only human Inside, everybody's hiding something
  • Isobel—Lyrically, about the disappearance of a friend who could no longer face the pain of life. “Oh Isobel, I hope you’re well, and what you’ve done is right . . . ” A slow march, almost a dirge.
  • I’m No Angel—A plea for forgiveness; an admission of her imperfection, as if admission were required; an acknowledgment of her own part in the distance between them, but without apology.
  • My Life—Same message as the title track, but even slower and more anguished.
  • Take My Hand—One of the exceptions to the acoustic feel of the album, it’s also unique in its percussion. A fast beat and undisguised electronic drums and cymbals give the album’s final cut an almost disco feel; not as driving, not as harsh, but certainly wanting to be danceable. The ever-present piano and acoustic guitar stand out starkly against the digital backdrop of the rhythym section. The words are strangely ambiguous. At the same time, a plea for trust and a warning of unfaithfulness:
     Take my hand, and if I'm lying to you I'll always be alone
    
     If I'm lying to you
    
     Take your time, if I'm lying to you I know you'll find that you believe me

While I don’t mind simple lyrics if the accompanying music is fun enough, I prefer depth and insight. “No Angel” has them in spades.