Albums of the Decade – Thelonious Monk with John Coltrane, Live at Carnegie Hall

May 28, 2009
Thelonious Monk Quartet with John Coltrane at ...
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Started in March, my Albums of the Decade series was based on there being 10 months left in the 10th year of the decade.

What’s your favourite album of the last 10 years? (2000-2009)?

Each month I look at an album that, for me, has been a musical highlight of the last 10 years. See the other entries here and here.

OK, so I’m taking some liberties here – this record was actually taped in 1957. Why it’s an album of the decade we’ll get to in a moment. First, a little about the authors and what they mean to me.

John Coltrane is still the pre-eminent tenor sax player – he’s influenced countless musicians, inspired generations and his peers and was incredibly prolific – recording over 50 albums in his lifetime. Had I to chose “Best Albums Ever”, John’s “A Love Supreme” would be in my top 3, if not number 1.

People thought Thelonious Monk was crazy. He played the piano like he was dying while wearing boxing gloves. His improvisational style was angular to the extreme, intrusive to the ears to contemporary listeners – but playing with soloists at Minton’s Playhouse year-upon-year in the 40s (as the house pianist) gave birth to what became known as bebop.

So why is this record an “Album of the Decade”?

Well, for one, no one knew this recording existed until 2005. It was stored at the Library of Congress until someone accidentally tripped over it going through the stacks. Seriously.

Secondly, for all of their prolificacy, the collaboration of these two giants of jazz was disturbingly under-documented. Only two other recordings of their performing together exist – one was some collaborations for Riverside and the other was an amateur recording made at The Five Spot, where Coltrane & Monk had spent many months playing together. Sadly, the latter recordings are the quality-equivalent of recording a concert with your mobile phone – that is to say, disappointing.

And thirdly, but most importantly, just LISTEN to the damn thing… (spotify link: )

Every note, every sound, every flurry is caught in absolute clarity. No nuance is left out, not a brush stroke missed. The musicians themselves, coming off 4 months of nightly performances together, sound almost telepathic in their ability to anticipate each other – communication and conversation, the things that make jazz great to me – are profoundly on display in this record.

Wikipedia tells me that Newsweek called this record the “musical equivalent of the discovery of a new Mount Everest”. That about sums it up…

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Deerhoof – Exclusive Live Session for The Bay

May 4, 2009
Deerhoof in 2004.
Image via Wikipedia

Just a quick post to celebrate Deerhoof’s imminent arrival in Ireland this July – by sharing more Deerhoof!

Penny’s good friends The Bay Bridged have a live set they recently recorded at New, Improved Recording Studios in San Francisco including an exclusive cover (“Let’s Dance the Jet”) for the session. Also, check out the interview with drummer extraordinaire Greg Saunier as part of the post. Have a listen below to whet your appetite for their Irish shows:

New, Improved, LIVE presents Deerhoof

Deerhoof play Ireland:

Friday July 10th
Whelan’s, Dublin
Doors 7.30pm
Venue: 25 Wexford Street, Dublin 2, Ireland, +350-1-4780766,

Tickets: €17 + bf from, City Discs, Sound Cellar & Ticketmaster outlets nationwide (

Saturday July 11th
Roisin Dubh, Galway
Doors 8pm
Venue: Dominick Street, Galway, Ireland +350-91-586540,

Tickets: €15 + bf from Zhivago Music,

Sunday July 12th
The Pavilion, Cork
Doors 9pm
Venue: Carey’s Lane, Cork (off Patrick Street), +350-21-4276230

Tickets: €17 + bf from, Plug’d Records

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Infinity & Kopek Business

May 1, 2009

Just thought I’d repost a Seth Godin article here as it’s particularly relevant to recent discussions both here and abroad about niche music, filters and success levels –

“Infinity–they keep making more of it

If you had a little business in a little town, there was a natural limit to your growth. You hit a limit on strangers (no people left to pitch), some became friends, some became customers and you then went delivered as much as you could to this core audience. Every day wasn’t spent trying to get bigger.

There’s no limit now. No limit to how many clicks, readers, followers and friends you can acquire.

I don’t think this new mindset is better. It shortchanges the customers you have now (screw them, if they can’t take a joke, we’ll just replace them!) and worse, it means you’re never done. Instead of getting better, you focus obsessively on getting bigger.

You’re at a conference, talking to someone who matters to you. Over their shoulder, you see a new, bigger, better networking possibility. So you scamper away. It’s about getting bigger.

Compared to what? You’re never going to be the biggest, so it seems like being better is a reasonable alternative.

The problem with getting bigger is that getting bigger costs you. Not just in time and money, but in focus and standards and principles. Moving your way to the biggest part of the curve means appealing to an ever broader audience, becoming (by definition) more average.

More, more, more is rarely the mantra of a successful person.

There are certainly some businesses and some projects that don’t work unless they’re huge, but in your case, I’m not sure that’s true. Big enough is big enough, biggest isn’t necessary.”

The original is here and if you’re not already “following” the non-twittering Seth Godin, you should be.

Special thanks to Krzysztof for the term “kopek business” or “penny-business” i.e. business that earns pennies, rather than pounds. Ironically, the name of my currently successful company was dervied from a reluctant understanding that we’d be dealing, or disributing, pennies from day one. Have a read of Krzysztof’s related post over at The Cynical Musician. Some great points.