Born in Chicago in 1940, Mr. Hancock was a child piano prodigy who performed a Mozart piano concerto with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra at age 11. He began playing jazz in high school, and cultivated a passion for electronics and science, double-majoring in music and electrical engineering in college. Over the course of his five decade career, his music has influenced musicians across genres, including jazz, soul, and electronic. As the UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador, Mr. Hancock will kick off the festivities in Paris on April 27, then flying to New Orleans and New York for events in both cities on April 30.
We're screening a documentary about Mr. Hancock called Herbie Hancock: Possibilities for FREE on Monday, April 30 at Space 15Twenty (across from Amoeba Hollywood). More info.
Etta James "I'd Rather Go Blind" (live 1992)
As part of the ongoing Amoeblog series honoring Women's History Month (Which ends today, March 31st), this blog is the second part of the two celebrating women blues artists. The first, earlier this week, focused on women from the classic blues era (circa 1920s), while this one takes a look/listen at women blues artists spanning the decades since.
Koko Taylor "Blues Never Die" (1975)
Big Mama Thornton "Bumble Bee Blues" (with Muddy Waters Band, 1966)
"When you in trouble blues is a girl's best friend" sings Koko Taylor on her 1975 recording of "Blues Never Die" (audio above). Taylor, like many of the longtime blues women here (including Big Mama Thornton, whose track "Bumble Bee Blues" with Muddy Waters Band is also above) have also been categorized over the years as rhythm and blues, rock & roll, and jazz. The late great Etta James, who we lost just two months ago, is an example of a blues artist who was also classified as jazz, rhythm & blues, rock n roll, and gospel too. A 1992 concert version of her singing "I'd Rather Go Blind" - written by Ellington Jordan and co-credited to Billy Foster but first recorded by Etta James in 1968 - appears above. As we know, the moving song has in the years since become a standard for countless artists to cover.
Female singers have been popular since ancient times. Earlier this year a tomb was discovered in Egypt housing the earthly remains of Nehmes Bastet, a singer who lived and died some 2,900 years ago -- around the time of Carthage's founding and that the Iron Age was making big waves in Central Europe. To date, she's the only known woman buried in the Valley of Kings who wasn't related to the royal families.
Nearly 3,000 years after her death, female singers were still undeniably popular. Although female musicians have long been celebrated in the rest of the world, in the west most were limited to either the piano or harp -- and strictly in a non-professional role -- until the dawn of the 20th Century.
An important development in all-female bands was Lee De Forest's invention of Phonofilms in 1919. Before then, a few early attempts at marrying music to short films were made with Kinetoscopes but were hampered by their short length of 22 seconds. Phonofilms, which were essentially music videos, were longer and often featured female musicians.
Predictably, many of these pioneers were apparently valued more for their looks and/or novelty than their cultural contributions but that, of course, isn't a reflection on their technical or artistic merits. It's just that, as Sherry Tucker's book Swing Shift (one of the few books on the subject) put it, the public "looks first and listens later."
Of course, I didn't love everything that the label released, but I always listened with very open ears. Just the cover art direction alone still fascinates me and is the subject of multiple design books. Manfred has also become the preeminant Classical music producer since I've been a listener, not an easy coup, resulting in a perfect fit with his sound and the composer's vision. It still applies that ECM is a creative energy second to none with no cliches, no boundries, and no borders as to what can be done within it's domain, Year after year, which totals over 40 now, the ECM label has been there for me, re-igniting my passion for music, and with a quality like no other.
Here, fellow travellers, are some of my favorties of this moment's newest CD releases form this wonderful treasure. Click on the titles to see if they are available for purchase at Amoeba.com.
And what's your favorite ECM release?
Song of Songs