Sunday, March 30, 2008

Full "Birth of Third Stream" Credits


Birth of the Third Stream--has anyone heard this?

Wow, blogging is now a habit. I have a big paper I'm working on, so this is like an excuse to take a break while technically "working." While I've been looking at pop brass ensembles, there are a number of very sophisticated jazz units that are essential brass ensembles. (I'm thinking, among other groups, of Cerebrus.) Kenny Wheeler in particular uses masses of conical sound in his very rich, warm, quartal compositions. He seems to have come out of the British Brass tradition a bit--he has a very dark flugel/trumpet sound, although I don't think I have his "Music for Small and Large Ensembles" on my computer (which means, I don't know where I burned it to!) There is a track "Sea Lady," that while it features an opening sax solo really typifies a rich brass sound.

But I wanted to call your attention to this album, that I've never heard but have wanted to. Perhaps prof. Manning, being from Boston, has a line on it? It's a Gunther Schuller/Miles Davis/Dmitri Mitropolous (whoa!) collaboration entitled "The Birth of the Third Stream" . The music is by Mingus, the great classical jazz pianist John Lewis, trombone virtuoso J. J. Johnson, harmonic theorist George Russell, two tunes by Schuller (one of those "tunes" being a four movement symphony for brass and percussion), and two tunes by Jimmy Giuffre, who wrote for Woody Herman and was a leading arranger of "cool jazz."

Alot of albums like this fill in with anonymous studio players. Let me make some lists. These are just the highlights. Remember, aside from being a know-it-all jazz scholar, Schuller was then (1956) also a know-it-all horn player in the Met. opera orchestra and he brought some friends along for the ride, as well as the top call jazz players.

Rhythm section: pianist Bill Evans, bassists Milt Hinton and Charles Mingus
Tuba: Bill Barber (a top-call east coast studio player)
Trumpets: Joe Alessi (Sr.), Mel Broiles, a young Art Farmer, lead great Bernie Glow, Louis Mucci, and, of course, Miles as featured soloist.
Trombones: J.J. and Kai, Urbie Green, New York Phil great Gordon Pulis
The entire improvising French Horn world of the 1950s turned out (except, curiously, Julius Watkins--what was he doing?) and the highlights are James Buffington, Schuller himself, classical pedagogue Joseph Singer, Ray Alonge, and Arthur Sussman
Baritone horns are performed throughout by: John Swallow and Ronald Ricketts. Don't know who they are, but they have funny names.

I tend to react negatively to many Schuller things (like some of his books) because he can sometimes seem a little too forceful in overstating his role, and in describing things in yes-or-no terms. But like Wynton Marsalis, you may be able to dislike his playing, or his writing, or his speaking but one can't deny or discount that both (or either) have been tireless advocates of musical and historical education, and providing institutional places for the best musicians to convene and perform.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Hugh Masekela

I have mentioned in other posts Hugh Masekela, the South African trumpeter/flugelhornist who was instrumental in developing world music and also a powerful witness for black South Africans during the Apartheid era. "Apartheid" means separateness in Afrikaans, the native South African language, and a policy of segregation between four races was enforced by an oppressive white colonial government. Imagine if the Jim Crow laws were official policy for all of America, from the 1940s and into the 1990s. (It has few if any defenders now, but many governments turned a blind eye due to lucrative products that came out of South Africa.) Many people read the lyrical, moving book "Cry the Beloved Country" in high school or early college. It's a great summer read, by Alan Paton.

Masekela, who went into exile in America in 1960, says in the liner notes to his 1963 album Grrr that in South Africa, jazz and joyful "freedom songs" were forbidden. Playing in clubs, he had to hide and evade authorities who enforced mandatory black curfews. Going out to secret clubs was exhilirating, and also meant alot. Nowadays when we go to the Mill or the Sanctuary (bars in Iowa City that offer live music), we give up TV watching or paper-writing or practice time. Imagine needing to let loose and sing and dance so badly that you would risk sure punishment. Masekela also says that it was such a dramatic experience to be in these clubs, pulsing with life (all of these people, even the musicians, had day jobs as servants) that they would play 8 hours straight with few breaks, until the chops almost fell apart (those are his words).

Hear Masekela talk about music under apartheid here. It's quite dramatic, and he fashioned himself as an eloquent, dignified social critic even through the 90s.

Grrr has the sound of hard-bop in it. Though there is a saxophone, there are seldom any sax solos. A trombone is typically the lead voice with Masekela filling in the harmonies beneath him, which makes for a thicker sound perhaps reminiscent of Art Blakey and gives a funky depth to the voicing. The rhythm resembles a straight-eighth boogaloo (early funk), but with accent patterns that aren't obtrusive but, when you pay attention to them, are very hard to figure out.
A tuba pops in when you least expect it, on a few tunes, casting the music in a New Orleans light. The music is very tertian but has lots of voicings in fourths (you have to hear it to see what I'm saying, and I'll play it for my classmates Wednesday), and the frequent trombone and trumpet solos are very powerful, muscular, and in the pocket. They leave it all out on the tracks. Unfortunately, records from the sessions were not saved so we don't know who the tubist or trombonist are.

Increasingly Masekela turned to funk and "world music" and away from the tight brass band sound. In 1968, he scored a number one mega-hit for his ultra-catchy (some may say annoying song) Grazin' in the Grass. I can't find an online listing of the original, but here's a bad recording of it from 2000. He can still play. The tune starts at about 1:15 in the track. There is a joyful if over-produced album with Herb Alpert and Hugh Masekela from the 1970s that sort of sums up where he went, trying to broaden his audience in order to gain a larger platform for his social critique (also, to make some $!).

Come Swing With Me

Come on, get your mind out of the gutter.

Ever since junior high, I've been a huge Sinatra fan. You won't be surprised to know I got picked on and had frequent nosebleeds.

But enough about my childhood. Sinatra has three style periods: the first came during World War II when he was a matinee idol (swooned over by young "bobby-soxers") and it is generally acknowledged that his voice was purest and smoothest in this period. But he got his start as the featured vocalist first in the big band of legendary soloist and Benny Goodman bandmember Harry James. He really matured, though, working in the late 30s and early 40s with trombonist Tommy Dorsey's band. In fact, Sinatra credits Dorsey with consciously teaching him how to breathe and phrase effortlessly and seamlessly. (Listen on some of Sinatra's classic recordings--you'll be hard pressed to find a section where he interrupts a melody to breathe.)

Then after a few years in the early 50s where his voice suffered and he recorded with barking dogs and other novelties, he joined the roster at Capitol records and made a string of classic "concept albums," each with a theme and an extended mood. He worked with three arrangers, principally: Gordon Jenkins, who typically wrote bitter stark ballad arrangements with strings, Billy May, an ex-trumpet player who wrote hard-swinging, very bright and brassy uptempo charts in addition to more lush and rich ballads with large orchestras, and Nelson Riddle, who mastered the art of the midtempo single as well as turning in some of the saddest ballad arrangements and swinginest burners. Riddle was a trombone player, and so many of the seemingly smooth arrangements have absurdly meaty bass 'bone parts if you know what to listen for. (The Sinatra/Riddle hit masterpiece "I've Got You Under My Skin" has a very notable, powerful trombone soli that leads to the climax.)

In the early 60s, Sinatra founded his own label, Reprise Records. This is just like Herb Alpert's founding of A & M, only Sinatra was already a big star. It allowed him to explore other projects, take total control of revenue, repertoire, and distribution, and finally to sell the label to a conglomerate for bookoo bucks.

He still owed Capitol several albums, and one of his final was a Billy May collaboration called "Come Swing With Me." (Their previous two collaborations, better albums overall, were "Come Fly with Me" and "Come Dance With Me"--btw, a few tracks were "ghost arranged.") It features not one but two all-brass big bands. In place of saxophones, there are french horns. One big band is in each channel and often beat for beat and phrase will alternate from one channel to the next. The guns are blazing, but the group also plays enormously soft and
the horns are effective blazing and also playing very soft lines. My only complaint is that sometime the 'bones are buried in the mix. He sounds hoarse the whole session, probably from singing over 40+ brass musicians!

This is before the age of overdub tricks, and what's amazing is the uniformity of style, where a whole big band matches a whole big band note for note, beat for beat.

At the same time he was working on this, Sinatra was recording a Dorsey tribute, and in two years (1963) he would record "Sinatra and Swingin' Brass." Though it includes saxes, it is indeed brassy, and some might say disgusting. It is arranged by Neil Hefti, a classic Basie arranger, but by then Hefti's day job was writing music for the Batman! series.




My point? The sound of brass was cool, it was swingin', it was the bachelor pad sound. And in walked Herb Alpert, right around this time.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Preview of blogs to come

While in NYC last week for a band trip (to Carnegie Hall! 'twas fun) and managed to bop my head in at a large CD retailer. Between that and a trip to the mall in Iowa last week, I picked up several CDs that will be blogged about in the very near future:
--Grrr, a somewhat rare but very funky album by South African flugel/trumpeter Hugh Masekela (featuring co-lead trombone and some unexpected tuba lines, a 1963 release)
-Chase the Clouds Away by Chuck Mangione; not really a brass ensemble, but a new CD was only--count it, I'm serious--ninety-nine cents at Virgin Megastore in Manhattan
--a (gasp) Chris Botti CD that I'm curious about, that was cheap but not that cheap
--a CD I'm really, really trying to like by the Dirty Dozen Brass Band. I've been incredibly into Motown lately, listening to Stevie Wonder nonstop, and my alltime favorite R & B album (alot of people's favorite) is Marvin Gaye's "What's Going On" album. I enjoy DDBB, but am so far a bit disappointed in the way they strip away the harmonies of the original. Still, very accessible expressive music with a Katrina-donation component to it.

Finally, I'm a big Sinatra fan, and an exploration of my personal music listening device reminded me of two albums that predate Herb Alpert by a couple years, really really swing hard, and are sometimes cheezy and overdone--both featuring Sinatra with nothing but brass and rhythm section (one album, "Come Swing With Me," is crazy hot and features two sax-less big bands blazing away, each with a sizzling french horn section, one in each channel. Sometimes they will alternate by channel each beat. It's very tacky. I'll play it for everyone some day.)

Peace out.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

To tie it all together, Mr. Phil Driscoll

Click on all of these links. Wade your way through the whole videos. You and your soul will thank you.

He's not perfect. (In fact, he just got out of prison a few days ago after a year's sentence for using a ministry as a tax shelter despite an intervention by, surprise, Bill Clinton that tried to keep him out of jail.) A former member of Blood Sweat and Tears and Joe Cocker's band, Phil Driscoll typifies instrumental pop music and middle-aged "contemporary" Christian music. America really is at a crossroads generationally. Crossroads or not, Driscoll (who also served a stint on some drug charges in the 70s) is an inimitable "crossover" figure.

You have to admit, in a certain way, he knows how to play, and he has an attractive voice. He's obviously fried, but he is quite a marketing genius. In fact, given his "prison experience," he's probably a little too good at marketing.

Amazing Grace on the electric flugel
DO NOT MISS THIS RECORDING OF "JOYFUL JOYFUL!" Imagine that Beethoven wrote barqoue music for Maynard Ferguson, except it sounded like Arban, except it was really, really, really, really tacky.

Driscoll is a very genial figure, on TV all the time, who preaches a positive and generally untroubling message. But he is, unfortunately, a very influential figure in the development of the "contemporary church orchestra."


Thinking about ways to make money playing brass instruments, what would we do without churches? I wonder if someone could tally, with any degree of accuracy, the annual brass revenue from Easter, or the average per-service rate. For that matter, how much money is then spent on Brass arrangements purchased from Christian music publishers (like Word or Hope), who now offer web-based widgets to tailor arrangments to available or desired instrumentation?

Some American Christian worship is unchanged from the hymn-heavy days those hokey Nehylbel arrangements or hymnal-sanctioned descant books were published. But churches are branching out. Many, to raise their profile on Easter and Christmas ("Gateway Holidays," I suppose you could say) mount programs rather than worship services, something more performed than worshiped. And those terms are arguable by just about anyone.

Catering to older audien--er, congregations--some mainline churches today are more apt to try to put on a Bach cantata, a classical mass, or some of The Messiah than before. After all, aren't the aging congregants of America's mainline Christian denominations the same demographic who still head rather faithfully to the concert hall, to see regional symphonies and traveling recitalists?

Then again, this weekend I just played a set of services at a small evangelical megachurch. There were elements of heavy characteristic brass writing, but always with an element of guitar or drums happening. The conductor moved to a click track to coordinate with video screens, and rich brass tuttis abruptly moved into funky sixteenth-note subdivisions, Tower-of-Power-lite for amateurs (even though, surprisingly, some of the material reached to the extremes for the horns and trumpets, low for the horns and high for the trumpets). The production value of the whole thing was impeccable, timed (literally, on a crib sheet) to the second and it was interesting to note how authentically the music staff worked to square the seemingly incompatible goals of natural and spontaneous spiritual experience, all while (for the purposes of agreement, technology, and production values) eliminating spontaneous variables in the service. Of course there was the guy with the synthesizer, filling in the added voices. All this evangelical service was missing was a very frazzled, gray-bearded bassist who looks out blankly, gets into it, but--you can tell--he's trying to rock out his demons from those years on the state fair circuit opening up for CCR, before he was saved.

I used to play two Sundays a month at a giant Lutheran church in Wisconsin. We would play brass ensemble arrangements of hymns done by a standard Lutheran publishing house, every once in awhile with a Robert Nagel or Robert King transcription or something along those lines mixed in for a prelude or postlude. Then once every couple months the organist would have me contract a full orchestra for what my wife and I referred to as "The Jesus Disco." Imagine three full services of Lutherans rocking out to what they imagine contemporary music to be (or what they remembered it to be the last time they listened to secular radio in 1978, around the time that Chuck Mangione and the Beegees cornered the top ten--and that's what it sounds like.)

But these Lutherans, those evangelicals don't have to hire brass groups. The publishing companies offer "tracks" where the pros can back up your service for a small fee. Or why not MIDI? So as we all probably go to play what will feel like that nineteenth verse of "Christ the Lord Has Risen Today" next week, maybe we should count our blessings, grin, and bare it. For at least one week a year the world believes that the sensation of vibrating metal filling a room is utterly indispensable, as our teams of red-eyed angels belch, nod off, and empty our spit in front of the hundreds of twice-yearly churchgoers who assume we're there every week.

It is sort of like the olden days, in fact. Kings and cities (Venice, for example) used groups of trumpets and trombones as symbols of wealth. Don't churches really do the same thing? More on that later, maybe.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Do we ignore Chris Botti at our own peril?

Check it out.
My readers, I know, are classical brass musicians. How do we feel about this? The tune is familiar, the melody is (too?) sweet. The production is slick. But his sound... if you were about to get up onstage, and you could sound like yourself, or you could have the tone quality and consistency of Chris Botti, which would you choose? In his solo, he goes "out" a bit, and throughout, with every bend, run, snarl, etc., he has the utmost control and efficiency at his command.

I'd always heard of Chris Botti, seen him in the store, and concluded he wasn't for me, just as, initially, I figured (very, very, very wrongly) that Alison Balsom was just another pretty face. Then on New Year's, my father-in-law's friend put on a Chris Botti DVD, knowing I was a trumpet player. Initially, I just tolerated it politely. But you know what? Maybe we can learn something from playing with a little slick polish every now and again, with absolute control.

I realize I've been very trumpet-centric--I'll broaden out soon, I promise. Maybe I'll dig out some Bill Wautrous stories?

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Just a Closer Walk with total silliness

Okay, about being Icons... Couldn't Mnozil mount a fairly successful American tour if only on the strength of its Youtube clips alone? It seems happily headed for a modest crossover hit somewhere, sometime, soon. Visiting Mnozil's website, I came upon this video of trombonist extrodinaire Wycliffe Gordon sitting in with Mnozil at what appears to be a subway coffee shop or something like that. What's kind of annoying, at first, is that I wanted to hear Wycliffe lay it down, but they were cluttering it up by being just a bit too goofy. Throughout the track though, their desire to get goofy ups the ante and turns in some of the strangest choruses of "Just A Closer Walk." Even a scat-off!

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Live from the Mega-Lo Mart, Part II (The Cult Hero--the icon)

Apologies for that last, bone-dry post on A&M history. Also, a warning: I am sick, so stay away from this post, or you will get a virus. (Just kidding, about the virus part at least... I mean, I am sick, but I was just making a pun on virus and virus--nevermind. My wit went with my health!)

In an earlier post, I cited an interview in which Chuck Mangione (a serious jazz/pop-instrumental artist blessed with a surprise, astronomical hit) expressed no regrets for hitting it big. There are some, you know, who are bitter. I don't know that he is bitter, but think of Bobby McFerrin: is there anyone (there are only a few) who can do more with a human voice than him, who also conducts to great spirit and effect, only to have morons post videos of their boring day at the beach to the tune of his "Don't Worry, Be Happy" only to misidentify him has Bob Marley ?

"Don't Worry, Be Happy"-- like "Feels So Good" or "A Taste of Honey" or "Take Five" or "Bolero"--is iconic, cliche, shorthand. You know, since the late 1980s commentators have written about the affect of having a "24 hour news cycle," where instead of twice per day (when your newspaper or magazines are printed, and at 5:30, when the national news is broadcast) information (sometimes raw data, mixed with opinion) bombards us 24/7, on our computers, in our radio, on our Iphones, blackberries, billboards, in our inboxes, and even in our facebook profiles. The same thing has happened to "art," perhaps. While we, the concertgoing intelligentsia of classical musicians might go see something experimental or buy a full-length CD, the art of the concert and the art of the album are withering. This is the age of the mix-tape, the link, the streaming upload. You must make a quick impression however you can, spread like a virus, and attempt to ride out your wave of fame, hoping that an audience following stays with you.

Frequently, the crossover hit leaves a thin residue of an audience for a recording artist. "Feels So Good" maybe picked up Mangione a few fusion fans who were eager to take the next step beyond Steely Dan, but not ready to go all the way to the Weather Report. But now, Mangione is a kitsch artifact in and of itself, as attested to his genial status as cult hero of the Mega-Lo Mart, an iconic character with his trademark hat and scraggly facial hair, selling all varieties of mundane products.

I first heard Mangione when, when I was in junior high, the high school marching band did a Mangione show. Of course, the director was a child of the 60s/70s, and so this was, you know, contemporary. And the parents seemed to be into it, and you know what? It is pretty good music. It definitely gives one a relaxed sense. (I loathe 70s directors, though, because they also brought us, gasp, the show choir, all because budding choral directors of the period never quite felt at home until they spent that summer with "Up with People."

The one-hit-wonder, by staying in the limelight, has the opportunity to drag a whole world of listeners into a new genre. I still remember, as a very very very young person, hearing a group I now know to be the Tijuana Brass on a commercial for Tide or some household cleaning product in the late 80s (but my youtube search came up for naught). Still, thinking of a recording artist as an image, waiting to strike it big and drag as much success as they can, brings me back again to Alpert. The consummate Artist and Repertory (A & R) man, his music is always one edit short of a commercial. But who knows? Maybe that's why, subconsiously, I play the trumpet.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

A & M and the art of the crossover

I found a very odd, obsessive site about the history of A & M (Alpert and Moss) records, and thought it was interesting to note its bestselling artists of all time, or until the label was sold to the polygram conglomerate in 1989.


1 Herb Alpert & the Tijuana Brass (19) Carpenters (29)
2 Carpenters (15) Herb Alpert & the Tijuana Brass (26)
3 Nazareth (13) Styx (16)
4 Joe Jackson (12) Bryan Adams (15)
Cat Stevens (15)
5 Joan Armadtrading (11)
Quincy Jones (11)
Soundtracks (11)
Cat Stevens (11)
Janet Jackson (14)
Police (14)
6 Baja Marimba Band (10)
Rita Coolidge (10)
Captain & Tennille (12)
38 Special (12)
7 Peter Frampton (9)
Supertramp (9)
Joe Cocker (11)
Sergio Mendes & Brasil '66 (11)
Jeffrey Osborne (11)
8 Joe Cocker (8)
Chuck Mangione (8)
Sergio Mendes & Brasil '66 (8)
Styx (8)
38 Special (8)
Various Artists (8)
Rick Wakeman (8)
Herb Alpert (10)
Rita Coolidge (10)
Supertramp (10)
9 Herb Alpert (7)
Head East (7)
Humble Pie (7)
Sandpipers (7)
Squeeze (7)
Sting (7)
Paul Williams (7)
Pablo Cruise (9)
10 Human League (6)
Joe Jackson (6)
Brothers Johnson (6)
Billy Preston (8)

Notice that many of the artists have crossover world music or lite-jazz appeal, especially Billy Preston, Sting/the Police, Quincy Jones, Mangione, the Baja Marimba band (a bald-faced, stereotyped spinoff of the Tijuana Brass), and wildly successful Brazilian singer Sergio Mendes. Commercial success comes from exhausting a formula, balanced with an eye for "the new thing."

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Guess who united UCLA's music school with 30 million dollars?

A classmate (Art) mentioned a few weeks ago that UCLA was not certified by the National Association of Schools of Music, those infallible g-ds of musical academics. (Granted, the faculty is first rate for the applied faculty, musicology and ethnomusicology alike.) I didn't believe him, but it turns out he was right. It seems to be an outdated way to run a beaureacracy, but there were separate departments for each, and at least for ethno and musicology, it is a very prominent place to get an advanced degree.

This past November, however, the three departments united under a new banner. There's a very brief video about it here.

How did these three departments merge and what did they become? Well, after a 30 Million dollar grant from Herb Alpert (unheard of in a public university, possibly second only overall to Yale's 9-figure grant), these three departments became The UCLA Herb Alpert School of Music.

I don't know that Ray Mase or Rolf Smedvig would have 8-figures to spare.

Monday, March 3, 2008

Live, from the Mega-Lo Mart, the Jazz Messenger (Part One)

There are some very cloying, annoying tracks on Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass's "South of the Border" album, but one track stands out as being innovative, funky, kitschy (of course), but also shockingly effective. (I would play you the Youtube copy, but--tellingly, for Alpert's commercial saavy--it has been removed due to copyright restrictions.)

The track, a cliche of instrumental pop, begins with a high, bright guitar lick on one of the chords' upper extensions, before a gnarly, hyper-rhythmic statement of the theme with the trombone voiced over trumpets in seconds beneath it. The effect is very tight and abrasive, not unlike an Art Blakey front line.

Then comes the bridge. Herb Alpert plays the melody over a soaring wordless choir (far enough back in the mix as to not make me vomit) on, it sounds to me, flugelhorn. The sound is so silky, so covered, the melody so long, the vibrato so natural, that I really begin to understand what a strong player Alpert is, and how he can shift styles--from bullfighter, to goofy faux-Mariachi, to Raphael Mendez, to Al Hirt, to something between Caruso and Harry James--all at a moment's notice.

And that's the point. You only have a moment's notice. (See Alpert's quote on the left side of this page about needing "the hook.")

The beautiful bridge on Girl from Ipanema made me think of, naturally, Chuck Mangione. Chuck Mangione being--should we be surprised?--an A&M recording artist. I'm going to try to see later if Alpert had any role in Chuck Mangione is also among the most unfairly dismissed brass musicians of the past century. While his recordings are dated, isn't/wasn't most jazz/fusion of the 1970s? Do we listen to the Weather Report and think, wow, that could have been written yesterday? No, with the Weather Report we listen through the synths and such to try and appreciate what were some of the most innovative music being written.

Mangione's history also makes him difficult to dismiss. Born and raised in Rochester, NY, Mangione attended hometown Eastman School of Music from 1958 to 1963. Little-known fact: while at Eastman, Mangione wrote an Afro-Cuban tinged composition brass quintet and solo trumpet for some young trumpet whiz-kid who went on to become solo cornet of the President's Own Marine Band and, later, a legendary pedagogue in the Eastern Iowa area.

Strange but true.

Mangione was part of Rochester's jazz scene and sufficiently impressed no less than Dizzy Gillespie, who recommended him for an opening in drummer Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers. As a trumpeter/flugelhornist in this legendary long-running hardbop collective, Mangione was in shockingly good company, occupying a chair that had been held by Clifford Brown, Lee Morgan, Freddie Hubbard, Donald Byrd, the acrobatic Woody Shaw (who also parlayed musical integrity into fusion success through funky records for the CTI label in the 70s), Wynton Marsalis, and Terence Blanchard.

Mangione came back to direct the Eastman Jazz Ensemble from 1968-1972, which is important, because these were formative years of the jazz ensemble as a genre in academia (and in universities, its rise parallelled that of the brass quintet). Can you imagine your jazz director hitting it big, big, bigtime with a number one hit? John Rapson really looks like Mangione, and his melodies sometimes have really strong hooks. Stranger things have happened.

There is a terrific LP with Mangione's band and the Rochester Philharmonic. Yes, it's too earnest by half at times, perhaps, but the melodies are absolutely soaring, and the arrangements are very daring for their times. And you know what? Quite lovely, and so well-played.

Fast-forward, 1977. Contract with A & M records. The Bee-Gees occupy a supermajority of the top ten list, and here comes "Feels So Good," shorn of its long improvisational vamps to fit on a three-minute single, to fill a void and please audiences who want melodies and pretty music. Check out this interview with Mangione about the phenomenon and his recent cult status due to King of the Hill (which will be covered in my next post). His attitude towards success, though, is so healthy and actually refreshing. From that interview:

Question: Is it true that "Feels So Good" put your two daughters through college?
Mangione: Yeah, and then some...[but] I do not mind having written the song at all. I just wish that I had written it in a different key, as the high d is hard to play. I am glad that I wrote something that brought joy to millions of people.

And now the man-on-the-street knows what a flugelhorn is. It's a win-win situation.

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Selling Out

Rather than going to sleep at a decent hour, I decided to investigate the many features offers. In the process, I decided maybe I too could sell out. Don't for a minute, though, expect many posts in the future about anna nicole smith britney spears lindsay lohan mtv obama clinton vice president gore mccain guiliani heath ledger heidi klum sports illustrated and other eminently googleable terms.