After School Session (1957) by Chuck Berry

Categories: 1957 and Music.

Though it contains Berry’s patented guitar playing, which cemented the electric guitar in rock music for the rest of the century, and it contains a few of his early classics, it’s easy to view Berry’s debut as the least revolutionary of the debut albums from the first wave of rock and roll stars. Because, though there is plenty of rock and roll here, there’s also a lot of blues. In fact, Berry’s debut is far more rooted in the blues than the debuts of his contemporaries and this gives it a feel of being somewhat more conservative, 60 years later. Read More

Here’s Little Richard (1957)

Categories: 1957 and Music.

Little Richard’s debut makes Elvis’ records of the previous year look tame in comparison. Some of this is me listening to the remaster (I must have not listened to remasters of Elvis) but most of it just comes down to Little Richard himself. Though Elvis was far more adventurous in the music he covered (including multiple styles on his records well before that was a normal thing to do), even the rock and roll songs on those records feel reigned in compared to this stuff. Richard is just wild. Some of that is his singing but a lot of it Read More

Blues Kingpins: Elmore James (2003)

Categories: 1952, 1953, 1954, 1955, 1956, 1957, 1958, 1959, and Music.

This is a compilation of James’ recordings from the 1950s. It presents a relative variety of styles of blues and some of the music features a horn section. Listening to this, it’s easy to understand why James was dubbed “King of the Slide Guitar.” He shows off some pretty impressive traditional guitar playing as well and you can hear the reverberations of his style through so much rock and blues guitar playing since. The energy is also notable, comparable to the rock and roll and R and B of the time, which is a bit of a surprise. Because I Read More

Epitaph by Charles Mingus, conducted by Gunther Schuller, Live at Walt Disney Concert Hall, May 16, 2007

Categories: 1957, 1958, 1959, 1962, 2007, and Music.

What the hell do we do with Epitaph? Epitaph is a “jazz symphony” Mingus assembled in the late ’50s and attempted (and failed) to perform in 1962. I say ‘assembled’ because it contains multiple other Mingus compositions that he recorded individually multiple times (and performed numerous times) and because it contains music inspired by and quoting other composers’ music. And one of the reasons he failed to successfully perform it in 1962 is because the piece is monumental (that’s usually the word used to describe it): 4,235 measures long, which sounds like an awful lot. (I’ve also read somewhere that Read More

The Buddy Holly Collection (1993)

Categories: 1955, 1956, 1957, 1958, 1959, 1993, and Music.

At the time of its release, this was, apparently, the closest thing a to “complete” edition of Holly’s work as existed. (So I have read.) So that alone makes it pretty good. Holly managed to bridge the gap between rock and roll and rockabilly on the one hand and respectable pop music on the other better than perhaps any other performer of his era. He brought a more sensitive side to rock and roll lyrics (befitting his spectacles, I guess) that was hugely influential – his influence on John Lennon in particular is immense – and wrote a number of Read More

Simplicius Simplicissimus (2012) by Karl Amadeus Hartmann, performed by Netherlands Radio Philharmonic, Netherlands Radio Choir, Juliane Banse, Petermarsch, Will Hartmann conducted by Markus Stenz

Categories: 1935, 1957, 2012, and Music.

From the very opening bars it’s clear that this is no ordinary opera. And though that’s true of the most path-breaking and challenging operas of the early 20th century (I am thinking chiefly of Berg’s work), this one is perhaps more shocking given the (seemingly) more traditional stance of the composer. The opera is based on the novel of the same name, which was a reaction to the 30 Years War (and apparently has the same kind of stature in German literature as Tristam Shandy does in English literature, so that’s cool). One of the things that most impresses me Read More

An Affair to Remember (1957, Leo McCarey)

Categories: 1957 and Movies.

This is one of those “classic” bantery Hollywood rom coms with a Cary Grant-type (this time played by Cary Grant, here paired with one of his regular sparring partners, Deborah Kerr). It’s one of those movies where two unbelievably rich and self-assured people throw witticisms at each other (with a little tiny bit of slapstick) and we are supposed to think this is the Height of Comedy, and if we don’t I guess there’s something wrong with us. (At least we’ve mostly lost that generation of film critics who used to insist that there was nothing funnier than Wit and Read More

Birks Works: the Verve Big Band Sessions (1956, 1957, 1993) by Dizzy Gillespie

Categories: 1993 and Music.

I recently listened to this band’s performance at Newport and was underwhelmed. It just goes to show you the power of mood. I guess just wasn’t in the mood and I imagined the Newport show as some kind of semi-modernist response to Ellington’s Newport show of the year before. I think I was over-thinking. Here we get that music plus lots of other music. And in theory I should like the live concert better because, um, you know, it’s jazz. Live jazz is supposed to be better than recorded jazz. And I generally agree with that. But I find myself Read More

Dizzy Gillespie at Newport (1957)

Categories: 1957 and Music.

There is something in me that wants to see this as some kind of newish generation response to Ellington at Newport the year before but I guess that’s me just trying to impose some narrative on this. I wasn’t expecting to like this, as I am not a huge fan of ’50s big band arrangements that aren’t by Mingus (at least so far). But this is great stuff: Gillespie is awesome and his band does an excellent job of amazing you with their playing but also joking around, even though the music is pretty conventional (albeit a lot more Afro-Cuban Read More

Dig It! (1962) by the Red Garland Quintet with John Coltrane

Categories: 1962 and Music.

This is a 1962 rarities album posing as a genuine session, essentially. The recordings were cobbled together from three separate dates in the late ’50s, and those dates were led by different people (not always Garland, as the attribution claims). And it’s hard to get excited about 1957-8 Trane on a 1962 album. He had moved so far forwards by ’62 that he barely sounded like the same person, if he did at all. Hell, Coltrane doesn’t even appear on every track. The music is pretty straight ahead hard bop / bop and it’s more interesting as a historical record, Read More

‘Round About Midnight by Miles Davis (1957, Columbia)

Categories: 1957 and Music.

Convention has it that this is a hard bop landmark, but I still here a fair amount of cool on the record. That’s just nitpicking I guess; but I just find it odd that people discuss this in terms of one genre not the other. In terms of the hard bop, it’s easy to see why, in retrospect, this has become a classic (it wasn’t exactly widely loved at the time of its released). The cool that is on here isn’t exactly mind-blowing, but I guess it’s the idea that even the cool here has more emphasis on rhythm than Read More

Bags’ Groove by Miles Davis (1957)

Categories: 1957 and Music.

This is a little scattershot. It is very high quality cool jazz and bop but it feels a little thrown together. This is, I guess, because Jackson and Monk only appear on one track and Rollins only on the others. It’s a slightly different – but noticeably different – vibe from the two different bands, and though that’s nitpicky of me, I feel like much other music from this period has a higher level of consistency, if only because of more coherence in the recording selection. This is not to say that this music is bad, it is very good Read More

Monk’s Music by Thelonius Monk (Riverside 1957)

Categories: 1957 and Music.

I prefer these larger band recordings to the live Quartet performance at Carnegie Hall, as there’s a little more… variety I guess would be the best way of putting it. Coltrane sounds better here because you can compare him to this contemporaries and listen as he destroys them… not that it was a competition. There is some pretty ridiculous music within, my favourite of which is probably their version of “Well You Needn’t” which blows my mind, especially Monk’s performance. 10/10 Read More

The Complete 1957 Riverside Recordings [Including Monk’s Music] by Thelonius Monk with John Coltrane] (Riverside 2006)

Categories: 1957 and Music.

I prefer these larger band recordings to the live Quartet performance at Carnegie Hall, as there’s a little more… variety I guess would be the best way of putting it. Coltrane sounds better here because you can compare him to this contemporaries and listen as he destroys them… not that it was a competition. There is some pretty ridiculous music within, my favourite of which is probably their version of “Well You Needn’t” which blows my mind, especially Monk’s performance. 10/10 Read More

At Carnegie Hall by the Thelonius Monk Quartet with John Coltrane (2005 release of 1957 concert, Blue Note)

Categories: 1957 and Music.

I would have given my left nut to attend this concert, especially for $2! This is fine stuff though I must say I like their studio performances a wee bit more. It’s great to hear a gig where you can see where Coltrane was headed maybe a little more than when he was working with Davis (that’s no criticism of Davis). It’s a bit of a match made in heaven, whereas when he was with Davis there was a distinct contract in styles (which worked well as well). I guess that’s all I have to say really. 9/10 Read More