Tag Archives: Duke Ellington

Princeton Record Exchange!!!

So, I was invited along on a trip this past Memorial Day weekend to the incomparable Princeton Record Exchange, 20 South Tulane Street, Princeton, NJ 08542, http://www.prex.com. what can I say? HOLY CRAP!!! This place offers a mind-boggling amount of material of all genres, rarities, classics, out of print, brand new and flat-out-unheard-of. Those in the know (everybody but me apparently) will not be surprised by my reaction because I do not doubt that any music obsessive whom has set foot in that joint for the first time (after the first hour) recognized the enormity of the collection and more importantly the WORLD OF MUSIC (echo, echo, echo). wow. Now I must explain that it’s not as though this is a huge space…it’s not. But there is a huge collection crammed into a medium-sized space. My friend/producer, James, thankfully drew a rough map of the layout of the joint despite his wife and his sisters’ jests over a pre-spree lunch. The minute I saw the layout of the place I began sorting through the ever-present list in my head of new releases, old releases, genres I’m interested in and have been accruing over the course of however long it has been since I last went to a record store….CD shop? Media outlet? Hell I still call ’em record stores…that’s what I’m there for, regardless the format (CD’s are cheapest) I still call ’em record stores. New releases are easiest, if they don’t have what you’re looking for some other place will but the Princeton Record Exchange has everything…it’s just a matter of the hunt.
Once I enter the place with a triumphant cry of “records” in my best metal falsetto my focus narrows onto the immediate list but the peepers are quickly enticed by various sundry goods which have been lying dormant in my consciousness. James played Virgil, occasionally dropping wisdom on me like, “they have baskets”. Turns out I needed a basket. The 2 hours we spent there felt like 5 minutes. You have to narrow your focus for what you want to hear and yet open your mind enough to allow for other possibilities to drift in. Prior to the trip James received an email from the store alerting him of three very large jazz collections coming into the store from I think North Carolina? Philadelphia? Jersey? I forget where they came from but those jazz shelves were bursting with goodness, not to mention the stacks BENEATH the shelves!!! A cornucopia of great jazz listens. I love Duke Ellington and I cannot recommend highly enough his live concert at The Whitney! Loose performances of such beautiful compositions, Duke was a class act but quick with a joke too! James/Virgil may have directed me to that one. It helps to have someone super-knowledgeable about music in general and many specific genres as well to guide you through the stacks and shelves! Be not tempted by CDs you’re pretty sure will only get a cursory curious listen, go for the gold! Play the long game! What music will you turn to again and again? It doesn’t always work out this way….as with any journey nothing ventured, nothing gained. I did not properly prepare for this trip i.e. go through my collection and find the CDs I no longer need, listen to and or want (next time) to trade in. But that’s an excellent aspect of the store, the exchange. James got over 80 dollars for the CDs he brought in….takes some of the sting out of the bill on the way out.
Suffice it to say it was an intense, excellent visit. I highly recommend The Princeton Record Exchange. Princeton is a lovely berg and The Bent Spoon has some of the best innovative ice cream flavors ever! I had 3 scoops (hey they’re small!) strawberry/marscapone, banana/butter pecan, and chocoltae/habanero!!!! yummmm
Now when you get home with your loot and you’re deciding which album to spin first you must employ the same tactic that you used in the store. In other words, employ your instinct and intuition. It was a full, fun day, had dinner, now home and winding down….feels like jazz to me….not the Cannonball Adderly/John Coltrane that might have too much pepper….Duke Ellington at The Whitney did the trick!
Til the next time dear readers, enjoy your listens!!!

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Elder Statesmen

This has been an excellent month of music for me, performance-wise (thanks Bowery Electric (Christina LaRocca), No Malice Palace (Kipp Elbaum)) and show-wise. I saw three different performances, Hugh Masakela, Wynton Marsalis and his band performing Duke Ellington, and Iggy Pop and the Stooges. What, if anything, do these different types of music and performances have in common? A lot.

Hugh Masakela is a 74 year old trumpeter from South Africa. He was playing with an arrangement of electric guitar, bass, percussion, drums, and piano. The show was at the historic Tarrytown Music Hall. A real theatre space, the sound was great. He is an excellent showman, he genuinely wanted to communicate with the entire audience whether through a story he told of his upbringing or through his dancing or singing or playing. The things he did with his voice were as effective as sounds found in nature, his trills and high pitched wails were very moving. He roused the audience calling upon our basic humanity, to look to ourselves, the nature of modern life, what were we ever hiding from? It’s hard to articulate how he did this… he was not preachy, he was telling his story. He had a great time up there and wanted us to do the same. We did.

Wynton Marsalis guided us through various Duke Ellington tunes with the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra sometimes with personal accompanying stories, sometimes with the facts of the recordings. I love Ellington but had never heard these songs performed live. It was wild. Very loud at times, like a rock show…..but with brass. The arrangement was piano, drums, clarinets, saxophones, trumpets, guitar, banjo, and slide trombones. Wynton was humble, always deferring to the material and its composer. He let the flow of solos and tempo of the whole evening unfold organically.

Iggy and The Stooges played a free show at Le Poisson Rouge yesterday at 5PM, NPR streamed the show live. Electric anticipation in the room before they hit the stage. Guitar, bass, drums, saxophone and 64 year old Iggy. He shimmied shirtless and shaked like a man possessed. He had some go-to gestures and dance moves, this was theatre of his own devising fine-tuned throughout 40 years or so. He played to every corner of the room. At times he’d make a face or stick his tongue out despite the heavy material, a reminder that we’re in it for kicks. During one talking moment he likened our times to the Vietnam era. He handed his microphone off a couple of times to audience members encouraging them to partake of the performance, say whatever! Yell your name! And he was always supportive. He had as many as could fit up onstage with him for the last song. Whether folks are staid or depressed or too cool nowadays to shake it I don’t know but in the face of this mans antics everybody moved.

Two of the the most important common things I came away with from these shows is that setting the historical context for what you’re sharing is crucial to the telling of your story also if the performer commits totally to what he or she is doing and enjoys it, we will too. All three of these performances were transcendent for me in that they were rich, expressive, accepting, questioning, challenging and ultimately cathartic. On top of it all, totally professional which some may scoff at as just a technicality but we couldn’t get to the meat unless it had some bones supporting it.

Go see live music, support your scene and have a great week humans!! -p