Day’s Plays Guest Post: Chris Ernst

[You can hear Chris’s music here and see his films here.]

Yusef Lateef, Psychicemotus: I was lucky enough to study with Yusef in his jazz improvisation course when I was young, and that experience made a lasting impression on me. Lateef’s body of work is prodigious – the man played flute, percussion, arranger, oboe, tenor saxophone, tambourine, Chinese flutes, bamboo flute, and more – but “Psychicemotus” off his 1965 album of the same name very much reminds me of the vibe you would find in his class improv sessions.

PJ Harvey, Rid of Me: In my humble opinion, the title track – and the entire album – is the quintessential Albini sound working at its best. I love Polly Harvey as a songwriter and performer, and this opening track from her 1993 release of the same name works through Albini’s production to capture a raw, unfiltered document of her early style and sound. Forget compression, the dynamics on this track go from whisper quite to blistering fury, and don’t you dare touch the volume knob.

Sam & Dave, Soul Men: I’ve been thinking about Steve Cropper’s guitar playing recently, in particular the amazing simplicity of his iconic riffs. This 1967 track, that everyone should know, has one of what is perhaps the best examples of Cropper’s genius, with that famous opening guitar line consisting of a simple arrangement of notes. Obviously having Isaac Hayes and David Porter as the songwriters and the backing band being Booker T. & the M.G.’s with the Mar-Keys on horns help make this song sound so good.

Thurn & Taxis, EP2: These guys are friends of mine and former musical collaborators, so I’m biased, but I think this track (and every other track) off their 2019 release EP2 is simply fantastic. The compositions are just tremendous examples of musicianship and arrangement, and “Ipoly” in particular has a terrific, triumphant tonal mood to it that I really enjoy. Roll down all the windows in your car and blast this.

Tony Conrad with Faust, Outside the Dream Syndicate: Tony was another artist I had the amazing fortune of studying under, and his outlook on creative production is a major influence in my own work. The title track from this 1973 collaboration with German rock band Faust is probably the most straightforward and approachable thing Tony ever recorded, but it definitely influenced me in my musical pursuits.

Tortoise, Millions Now Living Will Never Die: The opening track off Tortoise’s 1996 release Millions Now living Will Never Die is the song I still consider as being the high-water mark of 90’s post-rock. The movement and interplay of the different instrumental currents is really masterful, and it creates a rich musical narrative weaving throughout the aural environment. I love the band in general, and I’m a fan of their entire catalog, but this track was lighting in a bottle. Put on some headphones and lie back in a hammock to listen to this one.

Day’s Plays Guest Post: Alex Lacamoire

[You can hear Alex’s work here, here, and here.]

Johnny Pacheco and Celia Cruz, Celia & Johnny: I heard this album for the first time today, not knowing what a breakthrough it was. The grooves are so swinging, and the fiery band sounds so much bigger than it actually is. Queen Celia, y’all. I can’t imagine where we’d be without Johnny Pacheco and Fania Records. The well from which Salsa springs.

Keith Jarrett, Dark Intervals: Keith Jarrett is hands-down my favorite jazz pianist of all time. His sense of melodic line is staggering, and hearing him improvise entire solo piano concerts without a net boggles the mind. This record is a go-to because the compositions are shorter and we therefore get more snapshots to look at. “Americana” is EXQUISITE and it gets me every time.

St. Vincent, St. Vincent: All of Annie Clark’s records are excellent, but I went to this one because “Rattlesnake” is my JAM. This album brought with it a new image to her brand/fashion/performances (a Bowie move), and I always found it compelling and singular. I have mad respect for St. Vincent and her artistry.

Jacob Collier, Djesse Vol. 2: Jacob Collier is the past, present, and future of music all at once. He is an alien with supernatural harmonic powers, whose brain works at a scarily high level of theory — I’ve never seen or heard anything like him. I find this album to be warm and enveloping, with an organic flow to the compositions and arrangements that make for a smooth jump aboard if you pick up the frequency.

Living Colour, Time’s Up: This record was a HUGE influence on me and my buddies when we were growing up. There is a high-wattage charge within all the performances, and I am ALL ABOUT the mix of rock and metal and jazz and punk and funk, the way Living Colour does it. Peerless and fearless, these guys.

Sufjan Stevens, Carrie & Lowell: This album is so haunting, both in its music and its lyrics. You feel the struggle of trying to come to terms with the death of a mother when the relationship was fraught. I find Sufjan’s just-above-a-whisper delivery to be so heartfelt and heartbreaking. Pro Tip: this album pairs perfectly with a quiet rainy day.

Day’s Plays Guest Post: Joan LeMay

[You can see Joan’s work here.]

Bob Wilber, For Saxes Only: One of my favorite things about doing actual physical crate-digging is and always has been the joy of finding records with beautiful or beguiling or goofy covers, titles and premises, buying them blind, then going home to see if what you got was a gem or a dud. I got this gem on the next-to-last record shopping trip my husband and I made before the lockdown, at the great Musique Plastique records in our Portland, OR neighborhood. It’s an instructional jazz record for sax students wherein each arrangement has everything but one sax line. Some of the sheet music is inside. You’re supposed to sit there with your sax and play along! I have no sax, and Musique Plastique’s physical location is now all cleaned out and closed, but I do have this record, and I listen to it a lot.

Adnan Othman, “Bershukor” A Retrospective Of Hits By A Malaysian Pop Yeh Yeh Legend: This is out on the great Sublime Frequencies label, and before I came across it, I had no idea that there was a yeh yeh scene in Malaysia and Singapore in the 60s.  Did you? This is full of jams, and also tons of great photos and notes of Othman that really transport you if you immerse yourself. Adnan Othman was the big dude on the scene, like a flashy Ian Svenonius/Little Richard figure. The 26 jams on this double LP are almost all room-mic’d, and have a lot of live feeling to ’em; it’s very dirty garage sparkle, and it’s a delight.

Natural Beauty, the newest LP from Portland power pop prodigy Mo Troper: Man, I have listened to this record, no joke, nearly every day since it was delivered to our house from the wonderful Portland-based Tender Loving Empire imprint earlier this year. It’s such a smart, smart record that I exclaimed “what the FUCK” about 20 seconds in to the opener, “I Eat“. There are so many brilliant arrangements, so many deft production moves, so many sharp harmonies. It’s Teenage Fanclub-level power pop with a chip on its shoulder; it’s earworms with an Elliott Smith-level attention to detail (a note my husband pointed out that I agree with completely). There are little easter eggs all over this thing, and it just keeps giving and giving. And what a voice! BIG FAN OF MO TROPER. LET’S ALL BE FRIENDS, MO!

Please Advise, the new EP from DC legends Beauty Pill:Always listen to Chad Clark. Always learn from Chad Clark. Chad is a visionary, a luminary, one of our most brilliant and innovative Capital A Artists. Being #blessed with a new Beauty Pill EP in the year of our lord 2020 is a balm. Chad describes this EP as “A document of a time of uncertainty and fragmentation” — he and the band are masters of sonic texture, of lyrical storytelling, of peering into the deep darkness and somehow holding up a match so that you can see it too. What will you do with the match? Just watch, or burn it down, or singe yourself, or use it to light the fire of your own creative desires? Everything BP does is a filmic conversation with its audience, with sick-ass beats and velvety delivery and a hand on the shoulder. If you’re not already a devotee, get on it.

The Music of Trinidad, a Sounds of the World recording from the National Geographic Society: I have had this record since I was a teenager; I think I got it at Sound Exchange in Houston for a dollar (again with the “buying a record for the cover” thing). It’s a beautiful and frustrating listen because it’s presented as a bit of a montage; more of an appetizer platter of different types of traditional, folk and then-contemporary (this came out in the mid-60s) Trinidadian music. Just when you get into something and want to hear an entire record of it, the track is cut short and it’s replaced in a jarring way with another stylistically different track that makes you want to hear an entire record of THAT, and so forth. It’s meant to be a document of a ton of different styles, and there’s a large Houghton Mifflin-style outdated Eurocentric book inside detailing the origin of pan, calypso, etcetera. The thing that’s great about the record is that I always rush to learn and hear more after listening to it; everything on it is absolutely gorgeous and luminous and makes you have saucer-eyes and hungry ears.

KANKYO OGNAKU, Japanese Ambient, Environmental and New Age Music, 1980-1990: This is being played into the ground over here; it is a MUST-HAVE BOX SET. Every weekend morning, especially if it’s a Sunday, throw one of the LPs on, light a candle, make some coffee, read a book or the paper while you’re sitting near a window and a plant, and you’re on the right track. It is a Light In The Attic joint, all architectural soundscapes from various geniuses that squeeze your individual mind grapes differently. I have not had a xanax prescription or taken acid in a very very long time, and this gorgeous set helps do what those things did, and lord knows we all need that right now.

Day’s Plays Guest Post: Stephen Shodin

[You can hear Stephen’s music here and here.]

It’s not revelatory to say that the temptation to retreat into a continual state of abject escapism is very real these days. Ever mindful of the ease with which I can retreat or escape, I’m endeavoring to subvert that urge inter-personally, politically, and emotionally — all with varying degrees of success. Music continues, for me, to act as not an escape, but as a call for something greater within myself and the world which I inhabit. It also serves to challenge my expectations, show me the truth of the souls that share their musical gifts, and reinforce my own need to continue to do the work required to dismantle the unjust and often, false doctrines I was raised with. These albums are recent favorites and perennial stalwarts that are helping to light my way.

As a long-time fan of Steve Albini it’s unsurprising that I would purchase Music from the film Girl on the Third Floor . That said, Albini is only one piece of the ensemble. Alison Chesley (stage name Helen Money, also a founding member of Verbow) has knocked me out each time I have had the good fortune to see her open for Shellac, and her performances and contributions here are incredible. Gaelynn Lea also makes an appearance as vocalist on the LP’s longest and most ambitious track. Her vocals are arresting, contain a purity I lack the vocabulary to describe, and demand repeated listens. And finally there is Tim Midyett of Silkworm, Bottomless Pit, and more recently Mint Mile whose bass, baritone guitar and Vibrachime all act as steady anchors to the moody, spacious and contemplative tunes. I haven’t watched the film yet. I plan to, but I want to live with these tunes for a while longer first.

And speaking of living with tunes, Espiritu Zombi by The Eternals/Espiritu Zombi Group, is a record I was not ready for when my host here, Zach Barocas, gave me a copy. Much like Zach’s insistent beats have propelled me to places I thought I was ill-equipped or unprepared for, this record has, and continues to challenge my preconceptions about what music is and what it does to us. This LP is emotionally heavy, uplifting, and ambitious in ways that I’m still working out four years later. I get stuck in creative ruts just like any person struggling to make art and I return to this record to help me push through, it has yet to fail me. One favorite moment is the chorus of “Blackout!,” “Moved to do the things you do / Like someone’s coming after you / Monsters are cruel / Don’t let them fool… you.” Yes they are, and they are plentiful these days.

Continuing that thread, Hold On To Yourself by Friendship Commanders is an unrelenting and unflinching shot of fury aimed at abusers. In the tune “Among Monsters,” Buick Audra asks if she lives among monsters, shares her feelings of fear, then asks us if we can imagine a world where we feel no pain. These days I find myself asking those same questions more often than I’d like. Knowing I’m not contending with them alone gives me some solace. I love this record for it’s viciousness (Buick’s guitar playing & vocals, and Jerry’s drumming), but especially for its vulnerability. The final track, “July’s Revelations,” is the kind of tune I wish I was brave enough to attempt myself. If that’s not inspiration, I’m not sure what is.

Sing What Scares You by Trophy Wife has been in heavy rotation lately partly because of the message on the lyric sheet insert: Sing what scares you, ok? It’s a message I’m trying to remember for myself. The other reason I am playing this over and over is that Diane Foglizzo and Katy Otto write incredible songs that are equal parts fury and sensitivity. They touch upon themes of autonomy, setting boundaries, love/loss all while serving it up with heavy guitar, raw vocals, and some of my favorite drumming. Years after sharing stages with them, and hearing the tune “Identifiers” several times in those settings, I still get chills when Diane sings: “Take flight from this world / In your skin you’ll be born again.”

Years by Criteria has become a regular staple in my weekly running routine. It’s loud, unapologetically anthemic rock music. It’s the kind of music that can elicit (in a lot of fratty-looking white men especially) fist pumping, singing along (off-key) and a kind of jockishness that on the whole I abhor. That is, if any of those kinds of people will readily tolerate tunes in 6/8 and refrains of “Break away / Before you break me down / Down like an enzyme it won’t be the first time” or “We want world Peace / We want it right away”. It’s funny to me that even when I’m trying to “loosen up” and “just play some feel-good music” while I run, there are still some heavy themes wrapped around kick-ass guitar riffs, killer drums, and catchy vocals. Oh well.

Do I even need to talk about Coriky? I hesitated to include this here, but decided I absolutely should because it’s a record that speaks directly to my quest for reaffirming alliances, shoring up the walls of my psyche, and taking stock of the ways in which I have progressed and the ways in which I have been lulled into complacency. Do I need to tell you how great Amy Farina’s drumming and vocals are? Do I need to tell you that Joe Lally’s bass playing is still phenomenal? Do we really need to hear more about Ian MacKaye’s uncanny ability to write a super catchy chorus? And that it’s a song about a drone pilot? Maybe I don’t need to tell you all those things, but I kinda did anyway, and that’s the game I’m playing with myself lately too. What am I doing? What do I believe in? Where have I fallen short? How can I help? If not now, when?

Day’s Plays Guest Post: Mark Cisneros

[You can hear Mark’s latest music here and here.]

These are some records I’ve been listening pretty heavy to. Truly some of my absolute favorites. Some old and new. They’ve been regular features in my monthly DJ sets and, now due to the pandemic, my livestreamed Blues and the Abstract Truth. Some have been with me for 25 years, and a couple are new releases that I am so excited about and very grateful for. 

Instead of adding my own commentary for each selection, I think it’s best to let them speak for themselves. I’ve included lyrics and text from these incredible documents. They uplift and speak to a greater consciousness than I could ever communicate.

Selection #1: Archie Shepp, Attica Blues (1972): “Attica Blues / Invocation: Attica Blues”

“I got a feeling that something ain’t going right, and I’m worried about the human soul. I got a feeling…”

“If I would have had the chance to make a decision, every man could walk this earth on equal condition. Every child could do more than just dream of a star. All the death and strife would cease, and I would put an end to war.”

“Only when nature doesn’t take it’s natural toll, am I worried for the human soul. Some people think that they are in their rights when on command they take a black man’s life. But let me give a rundown on how I feel… If it ain’t natural, than it ain’t real. I wish I were better.”

Words written by William G. Harris.
Sung by Henry Hull and spoken by William Kunstler.

Selection #2: Max Roach, Members Don’t Git Weary (1968): “Members Don’t Git Weary”

Members, don’t get weary
Members, don’t get weary
Members, don’t get weary
For the work’s ‘mos’done.

O’keep your lamp trimmed and burning
O’keep your lamp trimmed and burning
O’keep your lamp trimmed and burning
For the work’s ‘mos’done.

We’ll go down to the river Jordan
We’ll go down to the river Jordan
We’ll go down to the river Jordan
When our work is done.

We’re going to sit at the welcome table
We’re going to sit at the welcome table
We’re going to sit at the welcome table
When our work is done.

We’re going to feast on the milk and honey
We’re going to feast on the milk and honey
We’re going to feast on the milk and honey
When our work is done.

We’re going to march with the tallest angel
We’re going to march with the tallest angel
We’re going to march with the tallest angel
When our work is done.

Members, don’t get weary
Members, don’t get weary
Members, don’t get weary
For the work’s ‘mos’done. 

Negro Spiritual. Sung by Andy Bey 

Selection #3: Joe Henderson featuring Alice Coltrane, The Elements (1973): “Earth”

the suffocator of the moment now
dreams of tomorrow
where we will find the missing pieces
and on a new journey to wholeness
moving on the wings of the moment now
children of the soil rejoice
yesterday was
tomorrow never is
Time is now
Time is only love

Words written and spoken by Kenneth Nash

Selection #4: Albert Ayler, The Last Album: “Again Comes The Rising of the Sun”

Again comes the rising of the sun
Another day when we’ve begun
The unfinished chores of yesterday
We set about to find our way
We always finish and begin
We go through life until the end
And here are the things we do

We build it up, and tear it down
We start all over, and make it round
We can make it short, make it long
Before we know it, our time is gone
But tomorrow is always another day
Yes we’ll keep going the same old way

But again comes the rising of the sun
Another day when our work has begun
We look for the better things in life
Seeking to find an answer day and night
Always studying and planning to make a profit
And in the end we sometimes wonder if it’s worth it

And here are the things we do
We build it up, and tear it down
We start all over, and make it round
We can make it short, make it long
Before we know it, our time is gone
But tomorrow is always another day
Yes we’ll keep going the same old way

Written and sung by Mary Maria Parks 

Selection #5: Irreversible Entanglements, Who Sent You? (2020): “The Code Noir / Amina” 

“Stay on it.”
“At what point do we stand up? At what point do we stand up? At the breaking point? At the point of no return? At what point? At what point do we pull each other up out of the void… up out of the hell… at one point? At what point do we give a shit – do we stand up and say something? When we go off script… and step out of the daze.  Dumbfounded daze… when we step out of the daze… dumbfounded daze… return back to the now. At what point?”

Words written and spoken by Moor Mother/Camae Ayewa 

Selection #6: Damon Locks’ Black Monument Ensemble, Where Future Unfolds (2019): “Statement of Intent / Black Monument Theme”

“Safety is in question. As the future unfolds in rapid succession. We walk in a rhythmic procession. The morning has transformed. Regression. Built up heights of depression. How can it stand? Declarations, demonstrations. Statement of intent. I will tell you what we want. What is the thing that makes you feel like your heart is growing? We want to see light touching surfaces. We want to see light touching surfaces. We want to see light touching surfaces. So we chose our next move. The time is now, it has always been. Respond anew. Pass the guard and get through. Because somethings never change. Black Monument.”

Words written and spoken by Damon Locks

Day’s Plays Guest Post: Michael Honch

[You can hear Michael’s latest music here]

Music for teleworking during the COVID-19 pandemic

Jim Hall Meets Attila Zoller. Recorded in Studio 1 at NDR Funkhauses, Hannover: Jim Hall (guitar); Attila Zoller (guitar); Red Mitchell (bass); Daniel Humair (drums). This was released on the Guitar Masters: Live in Germany 1973 and 1980 DVD (the later session is an encounter with Zoller and Jimmy Raney). I first heard this recording on an old jazz blog, where someone had separated out the tracks and created their own album cover art. Hall and Zoller are a sublime combination; sometimes I hear them as one brilliant guitar. The highlight of this set is their performance of Zoller’s composition “Extension,” which is best known from Don Friedman’s brilliant album Metamorphosis.

Cannonball Adderley – “The Black Messiah”. Recorded live at The Troubadour in Los Angeles, California in 1971: Cannonball Adderley (alto saxophone); Nat Adderley (cornet); Roy McCurdy (drums); Walter Booker (bass); George Duke (electric piano); Airto Moreira (percussion), and other guests. This is a hot one, recorded at the onset of electric jazz-rock fusion. The Adderleys and Duke are well-matched, and sound like they’re enjoying themselves immensely. I’d put this one right up there with the music Lee Morgan, Donald Byrd, Woody Shaw, and Joe Henderson were making in the wake of Bitches Brew.

Ashanti Afrika Jah (aka Ashanti Afrika-Jah Int Band of Ghana)
1979 Nigerphone / Polygram Records Ltd. Nigeria
. I first heard this band on the Nigeria 70: Lagos Jump, Original Heavyweight Afrobeat, Highlife & Afro-Funk compilation. The two guitars are so tonally different (one sharp and trebly, the other muted and syrupy) and panned apart, with the bass right in between. All three instruments weave separate arpeggiated patterns that vary in length from each other. The harmonized vocals are just lovely, and the drums propel it steadily forward. At times, their music feels like the most direct antecedent to what the Talking Heads were up to in a song like “Crosseyed and Painless,” along with the music of Fela Kuti and Tony Allen, Chief Commander Ebenezer Obey, and King Sunny Ade.

Georgia-Anne Muldrow (as Pattie Blingh and the Akebulan Five) – Sagala (2007). I learned of her through Mos Def. He puts it best: “She’s incredible. She’s like Flack, Nina Simone, Ella, she’s something else. She’s like religion. It’s heavy, vibrational music. I’ve never heard a human being sing like this. Her voice is wildly, finely expressive.” She is brilliant. I need to hear more of her music!

Hu Vibrational – Boonghee Music 1. Percussion masters Adam Rudolph and Hamid Drake have been friends since childhood, playing and recording together since the 70s (the 1978 Mandingo Griot Society is the earliest recording of them together I know of). Their music is such a warm and wonderful expression of their mutual love and respect. I got to see them perform as a duo in a small house party setting, and the Hu Vibrational recordings capture the joy and warmth. If you are feeling out of sorts, this music gets things flowing in the right way.

Kahil El’Zabar’s Ritual Trio w/ Billy Bang Live At The River East Art Center. I was lucky enough to see this group on tour around this time. DC in the summertime, and the venue was hot and crowded: people were out of their seats and dancing, and in the end the band took the show out into the parking lot. I’d long given up on making music myself, but the day after this show I went to the music store and bought a bass. I was (and still am) profoundly moved and inspired by these musicians — especially the late Billy Bang. The songs on this record are tributes to bassist Malachi Favors, who had recently passed away. El’Zabar, Bang, and Favors first recorded together on the first Ritual Trio album from 1987, Another Kind Of Groove, which came out on the German label Sound Aspects. That one is hard to find; if you ever see a copy, let me know — I need one!

Day’s Plays Guest Post: Janet Morgan

[You can hear Janet’s latest music here.]

Misty In Roots: Live at the Counter Eurovision 79. I first heard Misty In Roots on John Peel way way back in the early 80’s. I learned so much from them and saw them uncountable times back in the day. I am on my second copy of this record (it was a vinyl only release) which was sent to me by a friend in London when he heard that I was in need. I listen to this ALL the time. My partner made files for me so that I can hear it on the go. Earth is a great record too.

The Blue Note: Club Culture. Having been deep in punk rock for many many years I found myself, seemingly suddenly, becoming open to different sounds and different ways of making music. Blue Note Club Culture was THAT record for me and to this day I still listen to it regularly.

We Are The World: Clay Stones. I fucking love this record and often times I feel like I am the only one. I want everyone to love it and buy it so that they continue to create. In fact I was just trying to find some more info on them to see what’s up and found a review that said of this record that “it plays like a devilish temper tantrum, where throbbing synths are overlaid with shocks of percussion, and the vocals of Megan Gold morph from possessed baptist minister to voodoo queen”. I mean … YES! Although I believe these words were meant to put potential listeners off.

The Slits: Cut. This record has the energy and confidence that I wish for myself. As a younger person I would describe this as “fuck off music”, which shouldn’t really need an explanation. And, of course, Budgie.

Agnes Obel: Citizen of Glass. Agnes Obel is a Danish singer, songwriter and musician. On this record, she layers her voice so it becomes a choir. She uses instruments such as violin, cello and piano as well as other less obvious keyboards choices like the spinet, celesta and the Trautonium, which is a monophonic electronic musical instrument invented about 1929 – an early synthesizer! This is an eerie and beautiful record.

Wildbirds & Peacedrums: Rhythm. I once read something about this Swedish duo that said something along the lines of “Wildbirds & Peacedrums was born of a desire to break free and play music that captures pure, ecstatic feeling” and this is exactly what I get from their music, especially from their record Rhythm. The seemingly easy musical banter of drums and voice is so thrilling to me.

Day’s Plays Guest Post: Damon Locks

[You can listen to Damon’s latest music here and here.]

Keep your mind free is a phrase that stays ringing in my head. I orchestrated an evening of online performance and an image promoting decarceration with the same phrase. Thinking not only of those late nights when the weight of the new alternate pandemic lockdown dimension we found ourselves in pressed heavy but thinking of the people without my options. My students at Stateville Correctional Center remain in my brain while structuring correspondence classes as creative outlets, as escape, with the theme of liberation in the time of covid-19, inside of prisons, hoping to help them keep their minds free as the virus spreads. I purchased one new album in the first 2 months of the pandemic which served as a beautiful dream state inside a state of shock before the deaths of more Black people caused us to realize we never left our same racist dimension that we have always been in.  Pandemic or no, the time is way overdue for structural change. Here are some records that are relevant to me some right now and some always. Thank you for reading. Love, Damon

Little Dragon’s new record is called, New Me, Same Us. This record just sat on my stereo getting flipped over and over. I am not sure where the magic of this record comes from, it just is. I paid for this record online and biked to the shop and picked it up curbside. It was a thrill to buy a record after a couple months.

Jeff Parker’s Suite For Max Brown is great. A sonic companion to his last record. Jeff’s concert was the last show I saw before the pandemic became the reality. It was a great show and it is a great record.

The Black Fairy is a record I have been looking for for a long time. I bought it a couple months ago after a long irl search. It is the songs from a theater piece done in the early 70s in Chicago about a Black fairy who loses her confidence because a little boy tells her fairies never help Black people and she has no power to make change. This is the story of how she regains herself. 

He’s A Black Man, Volume 1 is one part of a volume of records (a friend has another from the series). It is a series of radio spots illuminating the achievements of Black people. It was made in Chicago and paid for by Sears. It’s amazing.

Sit-In Songs w/ booklet. An instruction guide for sit-ins. See how the notes on the staff are stools? Come on!

Bernice Johnson Reagon is one of my inspirations. She was a member of The Freedom Singers who would perform at SNCC events in the height of the Civil Rights Era. The Freedom Singers set the template for how many singers I wanted in Black Monument. She later formed Sweet Honey In The Rock. This solo record uses the voice and her gospel training to address political issues. It’s a great record, very past, present, and future.

Day’s Plays Guest Post: Jesse Pires

I have spent so much of my life seeking out and enjoying interesting and sometimes challenging music. I’ve found that I practically have a song for every mood and a new favorite record almost monthly. When entering this period of social isolation months ago I was never more grateful for a house full of records. No matter how bleak the outside world feels I can almost always find a record to bring a little bit of joy and plenty of healing. Some recent favorites:

I so dearly miss going to record stores and I hope some of my favorite spots weather this current storm. My last few visits to Philadelphia’s Long in the Tooth and Beautiful World Syndicate turned up a bunch of Elvin Jones records I hadn’t heard before. This still sealed copy of Time Capsule was the first of several discs from Jones’ 70s output that I picked up. Elvin is in fine form but the late Ryo Kawasaki along with Bunky Green are the true stars here. 

I’m never sure how to define “acid folk” but I would certainly offer this Pentangle record as a fine example of the genre. That double bass gets me every time. 

This lovely reissue of McDonald and Giles always brings me joy, a timeless classic if there ever was one.

Some of Don Cherry’s best work is still relatively hard to find on vinyl, though it’s been getting reissued here and there. I’m familiar with the Black Sweat label for some of the more ambient stuff they’ve put out recently so I jumped on this thinking it would be more in the vein of Cherry’s Brown Rice. Instead it’s some of the most ferocious music I’ve heard in a long time. A special record for special occasions.

I hadn’t really paid attention to Bitchin Bajas until they released a record with Will Oldham. I ended up catching them together when they toured which ultimately sold me on their retro synth-y stylings. This is another one that needs to be listened to with great attention.

Jesse Pires, 6/4/20

My Day’s Plays

Yesterday was a scheduled record-reshelving day, meaning there were the twin joys of cleaning up and finding some forgotten treasures among the heavy-rotation titles. It brought some respite from our greater unrest, loss, tragedy, protest, and pandemic, and for those of us who might have some time to spend listening to music, I thought I’d make this post.

The Tony Allen set is a solid survey of his drumming. These sides are mostly background inspiration for me, keep me on track with their deep 4/4 grooves, regardless of the task at hand. I bought this one at Earwax in Williamsburg.

I forgot I had this Hypnotic Brass Ensemble record and have no idea when or where I picked it up. A fascinating group to which I was first introduced by curator and former-record-shopping-companion Jesse Pires via a CD-R many years ago. The CD-R is gone but I’m pleased to report that Mr. Pires is doing well and by all available accounts, so is the HBE, whose rollicking jazz-informed, marching band/funk band hybrid is, indeed, hypnotic.

I’m not sure how to categorize Downtown Castles Can Never Block the Sun. Ben LaMar Gay has a lot on his mind and the lexical command of soul music and collage to render it in music. This is beautiful, intentional stuff, by turns jazzy, noisy, groovy, harmonious, cacophonous.

I know almost nothing about Dudu Pakwana or Diamond Express except that I picked this up a few years ago in Philadelphia at Long in the Tooth and that it is a remarkably energetic set. Most Arista Freedom releases are worth a listen, so when I saw this one, I was intrigued for musical reasons and by the apparently rodent-inflicted destruction of the jacket’s upper left corner. When I inquired about a discount for the missing portion, the clerk replied, “That’s some definite chompage. We can discount for that.”

I’ve been thinking about Alphonse Mouzon since McCoy Tyner’s passing, revisiting Tyner’s quartet with him on drums. I’m not sure The Essence of Mystery is a milestone exactly, but it typifies certain aspirations of its era with cosmological vigor and ample talent. I bought this record while shopping at Reckless Records with musician Wayne Montana.

Another Philly find, I picked up guitarist George Freeman’s Birth Sign at Beautiful World Syndicate because it was a Delmark release and because Kalaparusha Maurice McIntyre was on the session. Unlike McIntyre-led work, however, this record strikes a familiar note of funky, bluesy, guitar-led jazz. A very satisfying album.