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  • richardmitnick 8:56 pm on January 17, 2010 Permalink | Reply
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    Leonard Cohen anyone? You bet. 

    Leonard Cohen anyone? You bet.

    This post has taken some time to develop. I have been immersing myself in Cohen’s music for about three weeks. Of course, I do not miss Nadia Sirota’s new gig at WQXR’s Q2; Dan Buskirk and Will Constantine spinning Jazz at WPRB; or Marvin Rosen’s “Classical Discoveries” and “Classical Discoveries Goes Avantgarde”, also at WPRB. But, beyond these, it has been pretty much Leonard Cohen steadily.

    The genesis of this post was the NPR presentation of the 2009 Leonard Cohen concert at the Beacon Theater in New York City. Unfortunately, NPR has not renewed the rights to keep the audio of this concert available in their archives.

    As an aside, I believe that NPR is not nearly proactive enough in keeping some archival material available. I wanted to begin listening to the NPR archives of the stellar Marian McPartland “Piano Jazz” series. I found that some of what I most wanted to hear was no longer available. I believe that this is short sighted on the part of NPR.

    But, the text article about Leonard Cohen is still available at NPR and it is worth reading. There is also a very good article about Leonard Cohen in Wikipedia. I am not going to repeat what is there. For anyone seriously interested, I recommend this well constructed biography.

    All I really knew of Leonard Cohen was his song “Suzanne”, on the 1968 album “The Songs of Leonard Cohen”. But listening to the concert on NPR stimulated my interest. Cohen was 74 years old at the time of this concert. His voice, deepened with age, is actually more interesting than what we hear on the early albums, from 1968 through 1979. The early voice is sweet, winsome, and somewhat fragile. There is greater depth beginning with the 1985 album “Various Positions”.

    Also, when one listens down through the early albums, the songs begin to take on a sameness that can get boring. Part of this might be Cohen’s parallel career as a writer of poetry and fiction. Sometimes, a wordsmith can fall in love with his own creations. Often, what works as a poem does not work in a song.

    Somewhere, I cannot any longer find it, Cohen was described as a reaction to the Beatles’ amped up musical productions. I see him as rather a sort of reaction to Bob Dylan. Both Cohen and Dylan are first and foremost lyricists. Where Dylan’s lyrics are topical, political and complex, Cohen’s are personal, deeply emotional and quite simple.

    Cohen is often placed in the genre of folk music. I do not think that this does him justice. I see him as a singer-songwriter, a troubadour. Cohen writes about the whole spectrum of human emotion, love, hate, sadness, loss, depression, the end of life.

    As Cohen recorded more material in his career, more instrumentation replaced the solo performances as I show below my present collection. I think that my collection is close to complete.

    After the NPR concert, my next experience was with the 2008 “Live in London” concert. The video was presented at some point on PBS. I caught a late night repeat by New Jersey Network. Of course, this presentation is not anywhere close to the complete concert. I now own the complete 2’36” concert. The PBS presentation was 1’30”, and some of that was taken up with pitching.

    A second aside: PBS stations are constantly hauling out musical concerts at pledge time. They tell us they are the place for us to come for this music, that they support this music, egad, they are insufferable. They practically never give us a complete concert. They want us to join and give them gobs of money and in return they will send us the CD’s, the DVD, a combo package, whatever. In this case, here is part of what NJN offered: The DVD of the concert for US$70.00. The two-disc CD set for US$90.00. Now, really, what would you want? They both contain the identical 26 songs. More to the point, you can buy the DVD for US$18.93, and the two-disc CD set for US$13.99. You can buy the .mp3 album of both CD’s for US$14.99, so NJN could have bought the materials at Amazon and used them for fulfillment and still turned a tidy profit.

    I do not mean to pick on little NJN. They are just this most recent case and involved in the music and the artist which and who are the subject here. WLIW, and its parent WNET, much larger than NJN, are just as guilty of this, sorry, just my opinion, this scam.

    I heartily recommend the music of Leonard Cohen. And, I recommend all of it. The way I do this is to get the music in .mp3 and put it on my Zune. I chronologize the music by placing the year of issue ahead of the title of the album. Then, I listen down through a cycle on my exercise walks, plane trips, visits to the dentist, wherever. Regarding the “Live in London” concert, I recommend both the DVD and the album in .mp3. The band, shown below, is really worth watching, especially Javier Mas on a series of twelve-string acoustic instruments.

    Here is my collection, complete with personnel:
    1968 The Songs of Leonard Cohen

    Solo performance

    1968 Songs From a Room

    Leonard Cohen, Ron Cornelius guitar, Bubba Fowler bass, banjo, violin, guitar, Charlie Daniels bass, violin, accoustic guitar, Bob Johnston keyboards

    1971 Songs of Love and Hate

    Leonard Cohen (vocals, acoustic guitar);Ron Cornelius (acoustic guitar, electric guitar);Bubba Fowler (acoustic guitar, banjo, bass instrument);Charlie Daniels (acoustic guitar, fiddle, bass instrument);Bob Johnston (piano);Carolyn Hanney, Susan Mussmano (background vocals).

    1973 Live Songs

    Leonard Cohen, Jennifer Warren, Charlie Daniels and unnamed others

    1974 New Skin for the Old Ceremony

    Leonard Cohen (vocals, guitar, harp, Jew’s harp);Leonard Cohen (acoustic guitar);John Lissauer (vocals, woodwinds, keyboards, background vocals);Emily Bindiger, Janis Ian (vocals, background vocals);Erin Dickins, Gail Kantor, Gail Kantor (vocals);Jeff Layton (guitar, banjo, mandolin, trumpet);Ralph Gibson, Ralph Gibson (guitar);Gerald Chamberlain, Gerald Chamberlain (trombone);John Miller , Don Paune bass.

    1977 Death Of A Ladies’ Man

    Leonard Cohen (vocals); Clydie King, Gerald Garrett, Oma Drake, Julia Tillman Waters, Billy Diez, Lorna Willard, Ronee Blakley, Venetta Fields, Bob Dylan, Brenda Bryant (vocals, background vocals); Sneaky Pete Kleinow (guitar, slide guitar); Dan Kessel (guitar, organ, keyboards, synthesizer, background vocals); Phil Spector (guitar, keyboards, background vocals); David Kessel (guitar, background vocals); Art Munson, Art Blaine, David Isaac, Jesse Ed Davis , Ray Pohlman (guitar); Al Perkins (slide guitar); Bobby Bruce (violin, fiddle); Don Menza, Steve Douglas (flute, saxophone, wind); Jay Migliori (saxophone); Conte Candoli (trumpet); Jack Redman, Charles Loper, Jack Redmond (trombone); Don Randi, Michael Lang , Mike Lang, Mike Long, Pete Jolly, Tom Hensley, Barry Goldberg , Bill Mays (keyboards); Devra Robitaille, Bob Robitaille (synthesizer); Terry Gibbs (vibraphone, percussion); Ray Neapolitan (upright bass, electric bass); Hal Blaine, Jim Keltner (drums); Emil Radocchia, Gene Estes, Robert Zimmitti (percussion); Sherlie Matthews, Gerry Garrett, Allen Ginsberg, Oren Waters, Bill Thedford, Julia Tillman (background vocals).

    1979 Recent Songs

    Leonard Cohen (vocals); Julia Tillman Waters, Roger St Kennerly, Jennifer Warnes, Jim Gilstrap, Maxine Willard Waters, Stephanie Spruill (vocals); Ricardo Gonzalez, Everado Sandoval, John Bilezikjian, Mitch Watkins (guitar); Earl Dumler (oboe); Paul Ostermayer (saxophone); Jose Perez, Pablo Sandoval (trumpet); Garth Hudson, John Lissauer, Randy Waldman, Bill Ginn (keyboards); Steve Meador (drums).

    1985 Various Positions

    Leonard Cohen (vocals, guitar); Jennifer Warnes (vocals); Sid McGinnis (guitar); Kenneth Kosek (fiddle); Ron Getman (harmonica, background vocals); John Lissauer (piano, keyboards, background vocals); John Crowder (bass, background vocals); Richard Crooks (drums); Lani Groves, Erin Dickins, Merle Miller, Yvonne Lewis, Anjani Thomas, Crissie Faith (background vocals).

    1988 I’m Your Man

    Leonard Cohen (vocals, arranger, various instruments); Anjani, Jennifer Warnes, Evelyine Hebey, Mayel Assouly, Elisabeth Valletti, Jude Johnstone (vocals); Jean-Philippe Rykiel, Jeff Fisher (arrangers, various instruments); Michel Robidoux (arranger, keyboards, drums); Roscoe Beck (arranger); Bob Stanley (guitar); Sneaky Pete Kleinow (steel guitar); John Bilezikjian (oud); Raffi Hakopian (violin); Richard Baudet (saxophone); Larry Cohen (keyboards); Peter Kisilenko (bass); Vinnie Colaiuta, Tom Brechtlein (drums); Lenny Castro (percussion).

    1992 The Future

    Leonard Cohen (vocals); Dean Parks (guitar, mandolin); Bob Metzger (guitar, bass); Paul Jackson Jr., Dennis Herring (guitar); Bob Furgo (violin); Brandon Fields, Lon Price (tenor saxophone); Greg Smith (baritone saxophone); Lee R. Thronburg (trumpet, trombone); Steve Lindsey (piano, organ, Mellotron, keyboards); Jim Cox, Greg Phillinganes (piano); Randy Kerber (keyboards, synthesizer); Jeff Fisher (keyboards); Bob Glaub, Lee Sklar (bass); James Gadson, Ed Greene, Steve Meador, Vinnie Colaiuta (drums); Lenny Castro (percussion); Bill Ginn, Steve Croes (programming); Anjani Thomas, Tony Warren, Valerie Pinkston-Mayo, LA Mass Choir, Peggy Blue, Edna Wright, Jean Johnson, Jacquelyn Gouche-Farris, David Morgan (background vocals).

    2001 Ten New Songs

    Leonard Cohen (vocals); Sharon Robinson (vocals, keyboards, synthesizer, programming); Bob Metzger (guitar).

    2004 Dear Heather

    Leonard Cohen (vocals, guitar, Jew’s harp); Leonard Cohen (piano); Sharon Robinson (vocals, various instruments); John Crowder (vocals, bass guitar); Raffi Hakopian, Raffi Hakopian (violin); Paul Ostermayer, Paul Ostermayer (flute); Sarah Kramer, Sarah Kramer (trumpet); Roscoe Beck (bass instrument); Stan Sargeant (bass guitar); Johnny Friday, Johnny Friday (drums); Mitch Watkins (vocals, guitar, electric guitar); Ron Getman (vocals, steel guitar); Anjani Thomas (vocals, piano, background vocals); John Bilezikjian (oud); Garth Hudson (accordion); Bob Sheppard (tenor saxophone); Bill Ginn (piano); Richard Crooks (drums).

    2008 Live in London

    Leonard Cohen (vocals, guitar, keyboards); Bob Metzger (guitar, pedal steel guitar); Charley Webb, Charles Webb (guitar, background vocals); Javier Mas (12-string guitar, bandurria, lute, archlute); Javier Más (12-string guitar, bandurria, archlute); Hattie Webb, Hattie Webb (harp, background vocals); Dino Soldo (harmonica, keyboards, wind, background vocals); Neil Larsen (keyboards); Roscoe Beck (upright bass, electric bass, background vocals); Rafael Gayol (drums, percussion); Sharon Robinson (background vocals).

  • richardmitnick 12:16 am on May 31, 2009 Permalink | Reply
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    Clapton And Winwood – Very Serious Music 

    Clapton And Winwood – Very Serious Music

    I have spent the last two days with the music of Eric Clapton and Steve Winwood. These are two very serious guys, two wonderful musicians. WNET, Public Television in New York City (O.K., not Radio, but it is public) aired the Great Performances February 2008 concert of Clapton and Winwood, their first full collaboration in forty years, since their work in the British blues band Blind Faith. Blind Faith apparently had only one album, eponymously named. They did a long series of concerts in Britain, various countries in Europe, and the U.S. Then, Clapton pulled out of the band, essentially ending its run. Clapton had come from the band Cream, Winwood from the band Traffic. Both players had already pulled out of these two bands.

    One gets the impression from their comments that they just could not get along with anyone for too long a time, even each other. Both players and their bands had fastened on to Blues from such American players as Buddy Guy and B.B. King, Freddie King, Albert King, Hubert Sumlin and primarily Robert Johnson as major influences of his guitar playing (so, Wikipedia).

    In spite of the acrimony, according to Steve, Eric had become his “big brother”, and, according to Eric, he (Clapton) really wanted to keep the relationship alive. Eric very much respected Steve’s musicianship. Clapton considered Winwood the single best blues performer in England. Over the years, they did appear, infrequently, together. I guess, not spending too much time together, they got along.

    So, now, forty years later, they organized a concert tour, and what WNET aired was the New York City stop on the tour. I have to say, it was a great concert. While each did a fair amount of his own compositions, they also very purposefully each sang lead on some of the other’s compositions. I recorded a DVD, and then with AVS Video Converter 6 I edited out all of the pitching. So, that was the start of quite a binge.

    I got Eric Clapton’s “Guitar Crossroads 2004” and “Guitar Crossroads 2007” in .mp4. Each is a 2 DVD set. These are celebrations of the Blues. They include many of the best guitarists, young and old, essentially from the Blues tradition, but, in 2004, there was even an Indian duo, probably the result of Eric’s relationship with George Harrison, in who’s memory Eric sings one of George’s compositions in 2007 (sorry about the run-on sentence, I tried to parse it differently and could not get it to work). In the 2007 concert I recognized a player who had been in the “Concert for George” that Eric organized. I did not then know who he was. That concert was comprised of musicians who had strong relationships with George. Well, I learned that it was Albert Lee, who Clapton considers the greatest guitar player he knows (hyperbole?) and to whom Sheryl Crow deeply bowed when she came on the stage.

    In what I call the “Theatrical Version” of the MSG concert, there are interviews interspersed. Eric talks about Steve’s bands The Spencer Davis Group and Traffic. I had none of their music, so I got a nice big bunch of CD’s in .mp3 for each band. I already had the Cream revival concert DVD, which I ripped to .mp4. I also got the DVD in .mp4 of the Blind Faith June 7, 1969 concert in Hyde Park, London. Let me tell you, this is quite a “get”. Last, I got an .mp4 of the “Concert Version” of the MSG 2008 concert, without all of the (invaluable) interruptions.

    Now, you know, this is not stuff about which I usually write. But the Blues is a very important part of the musical heritage of the United States. I was thinking about this, which is dangerous when one is essentially unschooled on a subject, and anyone who wishes can take me to task or correct me: The knowledge and wisdom of BCE Greece came to Europe via the Ancient Middle East. It seems to me that while the Blues rose up out of the African-American experience, and while it was and is prevalent in R&B, Jazz, and Rock, to the greatest extent we had sort of forgotten it was there, especially White Urban America which fastened on The Beatles, the Rolling Stones- not a bad Blues band when they wanted to be a Blues band- Crosby, Stills, Nash, ZZ Top and the like. It seems to me that it took bands like Cream, Traffic and Blind Faith, and players like Eric Clapton and Steve Winwood to bring the Blues back to its rightful presence in our consciousness, and I, for one, and grateful.

    As I said at the beginning, this is very serious music.

    This was a difficult post for me to write.This is not exactly my sandbox. For all errors and poor writing craftsmanship, I do apologize.

  • richardmitnick 12:46 am on May 22, 2009 Permalink | Reply
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    O.K., it is confession time. Last night I sent my 320 gig Passport external hard drive to the dust bin. I tried to copy in a 4 gig video and was out of space. I probably should be embarassed, but, actually, I am quite happy with my collection. I am a collector. Of music in mp3 and video in mp4.

    So, I hotsied myself to Best Buy and picked up a 1TB Western Digital My Book. I fully formatted the disc. No quick formats, please.
    I copied my library, shut down, disconnected both drives, rebooted, cleaned out the libraries in WMP, Winamp and Zune, shut down, reconnected only the new drive, checked the drive letter, re-configured the three players to only monitor the music and video folders on that drive, and re-scanned all three players. The formatting I did overnight, and it took all night. The rest of the work took just a few hours while I was at work, and, actually working while it went on.

    My biggest section is Jazz, 45 gigs, for which I am grateful for the generous help of Steve Rowland. Classical, a meager 16 gigs, but, a very good core collection from Bach through Golijov, and including Partch, Nancarrow, Varese, and Antheil. I have a lot of Jazz concerts recorded in mp3 from WBGO/NPR plus Jazz Profiles available as downloads.My Avantgarde is a highly respectable 20 gigs. But, I include some people there that others might put in Classical, Hovhannes, Schoenberg, John Adams, , and, hey, John Zorn, and Jon Hassel (The afore mentioned Partch, Nancarrow, Varese, and Antheil some might have put in Avantgarde). If you read them in Wikipedia and see from whence they cometh, you might see why I have them in Avantgarde. I have a lot of Zorn. I put Lamont Young there, also. More typical might be David Diamond, Elliot Carter, Henry Brant (nine DVD set from Innova, thank you very much). Stockhausen, Michael Gordon (Trance and Decasia from BOAC in mp3), Milton Babbitt, Boulez (really, I have some Boulez) and Robert Moran.

    In other genres, I have all of Enigma, all of Dead Can Dance (thank you Hearts of Space) , some Electronica where I got help from John Schaefer and Stephen Hill, a whole bunch of New Sounds and Soundcheck programs, all of the American Mavericks audio interviews, plus the interviews by Philip Blackburn for Innova at “Measure for Measure” and “Alive and Composing“. The interviews go on my Zune for my exercise walks, on the plane to California, to the dentist, wherever.

    I have a lot of Rock and a lot of Rock concerts, some ripped from my own DVD’s, some from unnamed sources.

    Videos, egad. Bob Dylan, the Scorsesi “No Direction Home” four hours, the Pennebaker “Don’t Look Back” four hours and the Dylan at Newport 1963-65 Murry Lerner film; all of Ken Burns Jazz series; Bernstein’s Freedom Concert, the PBS version and a European version with no pitching, plus the PBS “Leonard Bernstein-Reaching for the Note”; Rolling Stones “Steel Wheels’ concert; every inch of Traveling Wilburys video I could find; some Peter Gabriel, Genesis, Sting and the Police; Buena Vista Social Club; Calle 54 (all about Latin Jazz); an ELO concert; from PBS a Philip Glass documentary and a Jerome Robbins documentary; Paul Simon a Graceland Concert and a Rhythm of the Saints concert, this last, HBO, Concert in the Park, NYC);an MJQ concert, the Qatsi Trilogy; Cream; a Pink Floyd concert; Weather Report at Monteux 1976; U-2 Rattle & Humm (with the New Voices of Freedom choir on “I still Haven’t Found what I’m Looking For” , and some assorted others. Videos are a mere 84 gigs.

    So, that’s my confession. I am a collector. Who need 80 Jimmy Smith albums? Hey, he’s great. And, I have a Jimmy Smith video with a very young Donald Bailey on drums. Terrific.

  • richardmitnick 1:13 pm on April 10, 2009 Permalink | Reply
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    Drowning in Content? 

    I sometimes feel that I am drowning in content.

    It is not that I am overwhelmed. Rather it is that I never do not feel rushed and harried in the attempt to digest it all.

    There is Theology. That started in about 1980. I began with a single volume, The E.A. Speiser “Genesis” in the Anchor Bible series. When I was studying Theology, I needed to have everything at hand. When one scholar was being contentious about something written by a peer, I needed to have the other’s work so that I could get right to it to see what he or she was writing about. So, I built up my own library, at significant expense. That library covers a complete wall. My booklist runs some 15 pages single spaced in a #10 font.

    There is music. 160 gigs of music. Classical, Rock, Jazz. I have so much music I could never listen to all of it. And, I am still acquiring music, every week if not every day.

    Video. Lots and lots of video. Five videos on Bob Dylan; Jazz concert videos; the Qatsi Trilogy; Rock videos; several on Leonard Bernstein, including two from the 1989 Freedom Concert in East Berlin; two Paul Simon concerts; the Ken Burns “Jazz” series for PBS, which I do not even like. A particular Sarah Brightman video, “Symphony”, made in a spectaular cathedral in Vienna; Michael Cretu’s “Enigma: MCMXC a.D.”; The Traveling Wilburys, about whom I learned from Tom Petty at “The Concert for George”, which followed George Harrison’s “Concert For Bangladesh”. Of these last three I never tire.

    I have a whole bunch of really cool videos that I made from the Nova series on PBS. I have a whole bunch of Charlie Rose pieces. I do, in fact, pull some of these pieces out from time to time and visit them for a second, third, or fourth time.

    Radio Series: Many many downloads of “New Sounds”, “Sound Check” and “Speaking of Faith” programs. All of Philip Blackburn’s interviews of composers and musicians for “Measure for Measure” and “Alive and Composing” from Innova.mu. The whole “American Mavericks” series, thirteen radio episodes and all of the recorded interviews. 70? 75? The MTT files; about 40 “Jazz Profiles” from NPR. Both of Steve Rowland’s radio documentary series, the “Miles Davis Radio Project” and “Tell Me How Long ‘Trane’s Been Gone”, and his documentary “Leonard Bernstein: An American Life”; The WNYC series on John Cage. All of it.

    All of this is saved, copied, or ripped , the music in .mp3, the video in .mp4, It is kept on three massive hard drives. A revolving portion is synced to two 120gig Zunes.

    Text: Kyle Gann’s thirteen essays and all of the text interviews from “American Mavericks”, put into one file and built into a book, complete with a Table of Contents, chapters and pagination; The Frontline productions “From Jesus to Christ” and “Apocalypse”, all of the .html texts saved out from the web sites and built into books, again, with a Table of Contents, chapters, and pagination.

    I have felt that if I wanted to know that content which I valued was available to me, it was in my control. Long after this started, Minnesota Public Radio confirmed my feeling by removing certain music files from the American Mavericks web site. No problem, I had recorded them.

    I want the Robert McNeil production “The Story of English”. I want the American Masters piece on Ahmet Ertegun. I want the piece on Frank Gehry. I have none of them and am constantly looking for them. When is the last time that any of them were aired on any PBS channel? A fellow at WNET told me that they no longer even have the rights to “The Story of English”. I do have the complete Joseph Campbell series “The Power of Myth”.

    You get the idea? Content. Ideas. The precipitate or distillate of those aspects of our culture to which I am especially attuned. In then end, all of this stuff, or some of this stuff, television, music, text, can go missing. So, I feel the need for myself to possess it.

    I see that the Philip Glass is not quite synced properly. So, I think that there are two more shots at WNET and one at WLIW. I will try to get them all and hope to get perfect copy.

    So, what does this have to do with Public Radio? The serious music connection is obvious. It just puts the content available on Public Radio into a context.

  • richardmitnick 6:33 am on March 25, 2009 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , PBS,   

    PBS and DVD’s 

    PBS and DVD’s

    This is a bit off topic, but related to my interest in Classical music.

    Why do PBS and its member stations persist in thinking that any civilized person is going to pay them over US$20.00 at their “store”, or contribute US$100.00 or more, just to get a DVD of a program?

    The right price these days for DVD blank discs is US$0.22 ea. When a program that I want is broadcast, I record it on my DVR (it used to be VHS tape). Then I spin it off to my DVD recorder. So, now I can watch it at the original cost of US$0.22.

    Most recently, I did this with “Leonard Bernstein- Reaching for the Note”, and a wonderful documentary on Jerome Robbins, also on WNET. I have also done this with the WNET re-broadcast of the concert from East Berlin of Leonard Bernstein conducting Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony when the Berlin Wall came down, and Martin Scorsese’s two part documentary on Bob Dylan, “No Direction Home”.

    Beyond that, I take the DVD to my computer and with some really cheap software I convert the DVD files to .mp4. Now, I have achieved portability.

    Last, I put the video on one of my 120 gig Zunes. Now, I can take it on an airplane when I visit California (the only two countries I visit are Los Angeles and San Diego), or I can take it to the dentist.

    Maybe one of these days these people will wake up to the fact that their model is archaic in view of today’s technology.

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