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June Christy: Ballads for Night People

Following the success of her signature recording Something Cool, originally recorded in 1953 as a ten inch and supplemented in ’55 with additional tracks for LP release, June Christy cut a number of long-playing albums with a loosely-based concept. The LP was still in its infancy, and many singers and musicians were experimenting with the form, creating new and interesting settings for the songs they performed and allowing the listener a more atmospheric listening experience.

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Old Wine in New Bottles

Esbjorn Svensson Trio: Leukocyte (2008)

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Medeski Martin & Wood: Radiolarians (I–III) (2008/2009)

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by Marshall Bowden

Reinvention is the name of the game in music, at least in popular forms of music since the 1960s. Beginning with the innovations of The Beatles it became largely undesirable, if not impossible, for a pop or rock band to merely stake out a territory and continue to occupy it in perpetuity. There are exceptions—the Doors, metal bands like Black Sabbath and AC/DC, The Ramones—but overall failure to innovate generally leads to critical, and eventually popular, demise. That has been less true of jazz musicians until quite recently. True, major innovators like Charlie Parker and John Coltrane made it very difficult for new jazz musicians not to take their work as a starting point, but overall the idea of jazz musician as journeyman has provided for many lengthy careers playing in much the same style.

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Stan Getz: Captain Marvel

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By the time Stan Getz recorded the album Captain Marvel with Chick Corea, Stanley Clarke, Tony Williams, and Airto Moreira, he had been in the music business for nearly thirty years. Getz began his career during the big band era, and cut his teeth with bandleaders as diverse as Stan Kenton, Benny Goodman, and Woody Herman. A leader of swinging small groups throughout the ‘50s, Getz spent some time in Europe following a career disruption caused by long-standing drug problems.

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Luciana Souza: The Book of Longing

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Read Luciana Souza: The New Bossa Nova

by Marshall Bowden

Luciana Souza is a singer who takes more than a passing interest in the words that she is singing. Previous projects have revolved around poetry and literature: The Poems of Elizabeth Bishop and Other Songs (2000) and Neruda (2004) were based, respectively, on the work of Elizabeth Bishop, an American poet who lived in Brazil for nearly two decades and Chilean poet Pablo Neruda.

Souza’s newest album, The Book of Longing takes its title from Leonard Cohen’s 2006 collection of poetry. She sets the titular poem to music in a track called “The Book.” She adapts Cohen’s tribute to departed singer Carl Anderson, “Nightingale” as “Night Song.” She also takes on Edna St. Vincent Millay’s “Alms”, a sweet melancholy poem about the seasons of love, Emily Dikinson’s “We Grow Accustomed to the Dark,” and Rosetti’s “Remember.” And there are four of Luciana’s own lyrics set to music that is conceived and arranged by her.

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“Ode to Billie Joe” & “Clothesline Saga”

New Directions in Music Song Remains the Same Series

by Marshall Bowden

Released in the summer of 1967, “Ode to Billie Joe” demonstrates how a good story can become more real than our own lives.

There was plenty going on that summer: the Monterey Pop Festival, Elvis married Priscilla, Richard Speck was executed, race riots raged across the country, the Vietnam War continued. The Doors released their debut album, Hendrix released Are You Experienced. Oh, and the Beatles dropped an album called Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Heart Club Band. No one expected “Ode to Billie Joe,” the debut single by newcomer Bobbie Gentry, to make much of a splash.

But for a time, all America became obsessed by the question of what happened on Choctaw Ridge that caused Billie Joe McAllister to commit suicide by jumping off the bridge. Like Who Shot J.R.?,  “Ode” became one of those cultural memes that spread like wildfire. Everyone wanted to know what the narrator and Billie Joe tossed off that same bridge:  your third period teacher, Dad’s barber Luke, Grandma, the cop directing traffic. Maybe even Bob Dylan.

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