Sunday, January 08, 2012

HurdAudio Rotation: The Luminaries

The Wailers: Burnin'. 1973. Island Records: 07314-54889414.

Produced by Chris Blackwell and the Wailers.

For some reason, this timeless classic sounds even better on vinyl. "Get Up, Stand Up" is an incredibly important song that captures both the moment of rising up against injustice with determination and the inevitable sense of victory of being on the right side of history. A song that speaks to oppression of 1973 (the year of its release) and the current age of the Arab Spring and the Occupy Movement. Not to mention the slow and steady victories toward realizing equality for people regardless of race, gender and orientation. It's the song I hear in my head almost involuntarily whenever social justice wins out. That's a transcendent quality few songs achieve. And then there's "I Shot the Sheriff" and the extensive life that song has taken on. And to my ears, "Pass It On" has an earnest, faith affirming quality that lingers with equal force. It's relatively easy to look backward from this perch in the early twenty-first century and acknowledge the significance of this record. It made the Library of Congress' National Recording Registry in 2007 and its resonance is still ringing clear.

Thelonious Monk: The Complete Riverside Recordings [disc 3]. 1986. Riverside Records: RCD-022-2.

Thelonious Monk: piano
John Coltrane: tenor saxophone
Wilbur Ware: bass

Much of this disc presents Thelonious Monk, alone at the piano at the recording studio. Multiple takes of his own tunes reveal the composer working through new pieces at a time before they were enshrined as standards. There's seven takes and nearly a half hour of "'Round Midnight" with many false starts as Monk finds his way into the heart of one of his most beloved tunes. As startling as it is to hear the composer feeling his way around this great standard, it's even more surprising to hear him get there so completely on the final take. It's a revelation of process that recordings rarely reveal so starkly. The final takes of "Monk's Mood" bring in John Coltrane and Wilbur Ware for another dose of what this music sounded like at its Genesis. This particular disc is a wild ride that spans a wide range of "wrong notes" made right and jazz history changing course along the way.

Olivier Messiaen: Messiaen Edition [disc 2]. 2005. Warner Classics: 2564-62162-2.

La Nativite du Seigneur (1935)
Le Banquet celeste (1928)
Apparition de l'eglise eternelle (1932)

Marie-Claire Alain: organ

Several things stand out on this focused recording of these early organ works of Olivier Messiaen. First is the outstanding interpretation given to this music by Marie-Claire Alain. The dynamic range and evocative passion of this music is laid bare in this performance. Next is the outstanding sound of the organ of the Hofkirche in Lucerne as well as the quality of the recording from this setting. These elements speak to a sense of care and consideration for this session that these ears appreciate. I can only wish that the online database for this disc (as referenced by iTunes) exhibited a similar care in noting that these pieces were composed by Olivier Messiaen as opposed to "Messiaen Oliver." But then listeners of classical works within the iTunes environment are no strangers to having everything labeled as "songs" and track information riddled with the errors of philistines. Puncturing the air with the exquisite sound of La Nativite du Seigneur does more than make up for the annoyances of twenty-first century life. This music is clearly from the twentieth century while still maintaining its liturgical roots. Harmonically and rhythmically engaging while still indulging in an expressiveness that doesn't fall into the chasm of Romantic indulgences.

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