Amoeblog

I REMEMBER JOHN ABERCROMBIE, 1944-2017

Posted by Rick Frystak, September 4, 2017 02:12pm | Post a Comment


-photo Doug Proper

by Rick Frystak

Guitarist John Laird Abercrombie passed away of heart failure last week at the age of 72, too young an age for an artist who had so many more years of creativity left. John was one of my all-time favorite guitarists, one of only a handful of unique, tasteful ''jazz-rock'' guitarists who managed to create his own style and mature with it for all the years that he was active and making records.

John's playing had a swing, a lilt, perhaps a swaying effect that was captivating and had me eagerly anticipating his notes to see where he would go with a tune or a solo. His songs were quite often effectively moody and dark which I loved, but alternately funky, and always a good melody but left room for discovery. When he really let go, as he soon highlighted on his early solo records and the Billy Cobham big band records he could bring the house down. But when he turned inward, it was like telling a secret or a heartbreaking whisper. And his compositional directions were such an amalgamation of the old standard beauty and a new, ear-bending edginess.

I first heard John on the small, independent Oblivion label album, Friends, featuring Marc Cohen playing a searing electric alto sax, inspiring John to higher highs of energy I'd rarely heard outside of heavy rock, the whole group developing music that would be years ahead of it's time. Then came his first of a 43-year ECM Records relationship, the immortal, iconic Timeless, with Jack DeJohnette  and Jan Hammer (fresh out of Mahavishnu Orchestra and Billy Cobham's fantastic Spectrum album),which took the heaviness and beauty and made some of the most intense trio jazz since Tony Williams' Lifetime. He excelled in the trio format, and in his group with Peter Erskine and Marc Johnson they swung hard, burned.  He released his last ECM record this year, Up And Coming, which would be, as the press kit notes, his first album played without a pick, just using his fingers. This sound seems more buttery and lyrical, perhaps like a fine scotch,  the tempering of John's later-career approach and character.

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GOODBYE, ALLAN HOLDSWORTH. Remembering A Guitarist Like No Other.

Posted by Rick Frystak, April 20, 2017 05:48pm | Post a Comment

by Rick Frystak

On April 15, 2017, I was very saddened to be told that guitarist / violinist / composer Allan Holdsworth had passed away, leaving behind a legacy of recordings and for me, countless live performances I witnessed that will live forever in my soul. Along with being shocked, I just did not believe my brother's text that this news had happened. Fake? It was then that I was pointed to Facebook, where Allan's daughter had quietly and thoughtfully revealed her father's death.

The timing of his passing was, and is absolutely spooky. 2 weeks previously we had  seen Allan perform a celebratory gig to mark the release of a project in which I had participated in the production, and my brother Peter had provided photographs for: a huge, 12-CD box set of almost all of his albums,The Man Who Changed Guitar Forever. and a 2-CD set, Eidolon, of his ''best'' songs selected by Allan himself. I was grievously perplexed. I have to remind myself now that Allan had to be happy to see that the CD projects were on the store shelves. Dan Perloff, producer of the CDs for Manifesto Records, has said that the box set is already sold out. 

I first heard Allan while he was a member of the group Tempest., and their album Tempest. We knew immediately that this man was no ordinary guitarist. 

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An Other 'Best Music of 2016' List

Posted by Rick Frystak, December 31, 2016 01:45pm | Post a Comment

 


by Rick Frystak


Here in The Choice Bin, the wealth of superior new music that I get to be exposed to is just staggering.
The wealth of music around this whole planet is astounding, limited only by one's desires, with each new release or deep-dug reissue a shiny object for us to be drawn to. Walk into an Amoeba, an indie record store or check into some genre-specific internet radio and real college radio and you'll know what I mean. And this year was no exception for those who actively seek out new and old sounds and enjoy doing so.

As a youth I was glued to my AM and then FM radio, listening to Rock, Soul, Jazz and 20th Century Classical revelation. Some hosts would even compare hi-fi gear live on the air, using the latest LP cuts. We waited impatiently for stuff we'd heard to arrive at the 3 or 4 record stores in the vicinity. Then I rode to the record shop and bought my favorites, back then in mono for $1 cheaper, and later driving into Westwood for some small-label LP or expensive import that was a must-have. 

With the passing of many of our heroes so devastating, each moment of immersing oneself in their language and legacy is a precious one. And of course, there are the highly talented younger artists that bring a fresh, but well-informed element to their work and sometimes usher in new eras. Compelling, unfamiliar music seems to be discovered by me daily. Then to hear someone say, ''...nothing's happening musically now'', just sounds goofy. 

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Vintage, Original Rolling Stones 'Licks' Memorabilia & More on Sale at Amoeba + Chat With Designer Craig Braun

Posted by Rick Frystak, December 8, 2016 11:06am | Post a Comment
Rolling Stones Licks belt buckle
Exquisite, Original, Vintage 1971 Licks Silver/Enamel Belt and Buckle
Available in sizes X-Small, Small, Medium, Large, X-Large
 
The record business is home to many people who are a kind of hero to me, often behind the scenes in unspoken nine-to-fives. I have my heroes of album cover design: Tadanori Yokoo, Reid Miles, Jim Flora, Dirk Rudolph, and Barbara Worjisch to name a few.

Add to this list a Mr. Craig Braun, a quintessential ''Man Behind the Curtain," a luminary of mostly-unsung parts of the music establishment of the 1960s and '70s. And even more paramount than Craig's resume and bone-deep knowledge of the record business is that he's a refreshingly witty, wonderful human being with umpteen stories to tell.

Exotic Ten-Inch LPs of Eastern Europe (...and a few others)

Posted by Rick Frystak, May 23, 2016 01:34am | Post a Comment

Through the years of collecting and working with vinyl, I've always been enchanted with attractive, forward-thinking album artwork and design. I can still say that to this day I will still buy a record because of its stunning artwork, without regard for the content. These records are wonderfully tactile, touchable things with graphic design that stands out, screams out to be held and admired, displayed or even framed, in addition to being nurtured in one's carefully curated collection.

In 2012, Amoeba bought a record collection in New York (it's here) that contained some absolute gems of 1950's record cover design on 10-inch Long Play (LP) discs.. I stashed some of the most interesting designs as I went through the collection for us to peruse here. Conceived shortly after the 7-inch Extra Play (EP) era, these covers virtually attack one's visual senses, created in such a way by these labels as to literally command a person to pick the thing up! Imagine a record store back then displaying these gems next to a rather austere Perry Como record!  

Never have I encountered more captivating packaging than these 10-inch "Long Players" from eastern Europe, mostly on the Supraphon (Czech) or Melodiya (Russia) labels. The paper quality feels absolutely sublime on the fingers, and some of these covers are actually stitched together! Just holding these records sends me back in time to my Czech brothers-in-music! These are true mid-century iconic designs.

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