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BFT 151 Answers


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Full reveal coming this weekend, let's get the unclaimed Bonus Points out of the way now.

  • Star Trek Connection - That's Avery Brooks singing on "Come Back To The Rage", from Anthony Davis' Tania. Capt. Benjamin Cisco as Cinque.
  • From Bird To Carol Burnett In 4 Easy Steps - Bird to: 1) Ross Russell/Dial Records -> 2) John Cage -> 3) I've Got A Secret/Gary Moore -> 4) Carol Burnett. Voila!
  • Same Lick, Same Instrument - Altoist on "Signing Off" quotes one full lick - covering two bars, actually -  from John Handy's solo on "Wednesday Night Prayer Meeting". It's not accidental, it's what happens when you learn a solo as a youngster and never really let it go. Everybody does it, too. Some more often than others, but everybody does it.






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Thanks to anybody who listened, and more thanks to everybody who listened and responded. Most thanks to those who listened, responded, and had actual, specific thoughts, pro or con.

Here are the answers, as well as the not-quite-fully-formed "narrative" behind the overall presentation.

TRACK ONE - "Signing Off" by Johnny Otis feat. Dorothy Morrison, from Back To Jazz (Jazz World)

God does this sound like the end of...something. Had enough, tired of it, signing off. For the purpose of this story, let's say it's the end of a normal day for somebody who is out in a world they really don't like but have to live in. 5:00, quitting time, y'all can have it. Snooorrrrrrre...taking a nap...

TRACK TWO - "Wednesday Night Prayer Meeting (Part One), by The String Bass Of Charles Mingus with Accompaniment (Atlantic 45)

And yeah, it's Wednesday night now, time for our tired-of-it person to go to church, the one place where they can feel free to be their natural self as they feel it.

I love how the alto lick from the first tune is so laconically played there and then is heard here with that fire burning. The mask is off, free at last!

However, it's a hard life, one does get tired, and one can certainly be excused for falling asleep in church, even at the Wednesday night prayer meeting.

And when you sleep, you dream...

TRACK THREE - "Ikef" from Of Visions and Truth: A Song Cycle by Olly Wilson, from Recorded Music of the African Diaspora. Kirk Wilson conducting New Black Music Repertory Ensemble, Donnie Ray Albert, Tenor. Text by Henry Dumas (Albany)


It's been decades since a piece of music has so discombobulated me as immediately and for as long as this one and another piece of the song cycle "If We Must Die" did. But the more it fell into place, the more it became apparent that this was very, very much African-American music to the core. The vocabulary, the accents, and especially the underlying pulse of the whole thing, "white" music does not come out this way, it just doesn't.

Now, what happens in terms of fragmentation, orchestration, tonality, all the "obvious" elements of casual music listening, well, it breaks everything up more than a little bit. And the vocals are definitely more rooted in the tradition of the Spiritual than they are Gospel. But nevertheless, once you isolate the elements, their sources are obvious, and when you start reconstructing them as a listener, it all comes back together as yet another form of Great Black Music. It could be compared to "It Was A Very Good Year", except it only goes up to 18, getting high, and ending in images of spinning, exploding visions of 3, after which, it ends. and what does that say as a possible commentary on Young Black Lives, then and now?

And yeah, it also sounds like a dream where you see everything you know broken up all to hell, everything floating and flying around, where is the reality here?

But as with most dreams, the longer you dream it, the more it comes into focus...

TRACK FOUR - "Call Me Super Bad (Cornelius Rework)" from James Brown Utlimate Remixes (Universal Japan)

Talk about deconstructing something and then putting it back together in  a way that is at once totally familiar and totally new...what this shares with the previous cut is how all these things, seemingly unrelated (but not) keep in focus by pivoting/rotating around a central pulse and keep looping back on one another. I've heard James Brown sampled and/ore remixed to death, and this is one of the very few that don't just re-contextualize the original, they re-imagine it completely. There's a couple of things on that same album that do the same thing, but this is the most radical. It's paced to produce a maximum slow burn, and that is what it does before ending as it (almost) began, an unexpectedly quiet, isolated Rhodes note.

The dream has gained focus and gathered confidence, it is gaining its own steam and is ready to roll, onward!

TRACK FIVE - "Soanta V" by John Cage, from Sonatas & Interludes for Prepared Piano, Maro Ajemian, piano (CRI American Masters reissue of the original 1951 Dial Records issue)

Visionary in both concept and performance, played faster here than most later performances. Slowing it down really brings out the funk in it and makes it sound like some kind of lost ancestor to Sextant-era Herbie Hancock. Here it is more like a march to victory or something, a dream line dance heading to dream glory, a place where all is melody, all is pulse, all is true.

And as with any good dream, it does, it goes there...

TRACK SIX - "Allegro comodo" , Movement One of Piano Trio, Op. 5 by Mel Powell. From Contemporary Piano Trios, performed by The Francesco Trio (Music & Arts)

Mel Powell had one helluva musical journey. He got deeply into serial music, then electronic music, and none of it is trifling or cheap. It's not all "perfect", but never is any of it cheap or common.  His career change was obviously one of a deep-rooted sincerity, and he did right by himself. This is an early (1957) work of his, and boy, is it delightful. Pretty much ALL melody, themes endlessly and masterfully spun around inside and outside up and around themselves, if you get lost, wait a second or two, it comes back around quick enough. and the more you listen, the less likely you are to get lost. Truly glorious. And The Francesco Trio plays with SOOOOO much pocket,, yes, pocket!

But this is a dream, remember, and in a dream, glory soon turns to...something else...

TRACK SEVEN - "Lonesome Road" from The Winds Of Destiny (American Songbook IV), Songs of Strife, Love, Mystery, and Exulation A Cylce Of American Civil War Songs, Folk Songs, and Spirituals. From Complete Crumb Edition Vol. 13. Barbara Ann Martin, Soprano, James Freeman, Conductor (Bridge)

...ghosts, abandonment, a deep sadness, melancholia, looking down a very lonesome road indeed...

...and be careful heading down that lonesome road, because, you never know who will pop up and start trying to getcha...

TRACK EIGHT -- "Learning Through Adversity and Defeat" by Napoleon Hill (Napoleon Hill Productions 45)

Yeah...so just who IS this guy? https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Napoleon_Hill

His son Blair was born without a trace of ears, yet he consulted with Presidents Of the United States. What kind of a combination wise-man-demon was he? And good LORD does he bring a lot of noise with his noise, what's that all about, is that a warning or an incentive to listen that much closer to him as he gives us the Secrets To Success? And all that extraneous nosie...isn't that the same nosie we were hearing in church, and even during the day? Is this guy as real as that? Or is none of that real after all,? Is this dream real? Or not?

Or is it really that complicated?

Maybe he's just a...

TRACK NINE - "Jackass" from Animal, Vegetable Mineral by Stephen Mackey. From Concertos For Saxophone Quartet, PRISM Quartet, Boston Modern Orchestra Project, Gil Rose, conductor (innova).

Heeeeee-HAW. heeee-HAW. and so forth. I love this piece, the way it always comes back to the goddam donkey hee-HAW, always, sometimes more than one at once, but always that hee-HAW, sometimes he dares to fly, but much sooner than later, always heeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee-HAW.

So yeah, that weird salesman guy was a jackass. But this is still a dream, and dreams are always about our self, so...who are we....

TRACK TEN - "There Never Was A Revolution", "Choose", and the beginning of "Tastes The Same" from Tania by Anthony Davis (Koch)

An opera about the Patty Hearst kidnapping, with a libretto and (as detailed in the liners), a multi-media staging. It's gonna take years before anybody sorts this all out, if they ever do, but this extract here shows the music to be as seamless as it the verbal and (assumed) visual to be unusual, and with "known jazz names" like J.D. Parran & Gerry Hemmingway (and all-around badass Bert(ram) Turetzky) in the band, the stop-start, odd-metered music flows freely, and the Mingus/Ellington -ish orchestrations give the vocals a solid foundation on which to soar. The end of "Choose" with the voices going all at once brings to mind the final bit of "Mercy Mercy Me" as well as things like Andrew Hill's Lift Every Voice, Black Voices, obviously "classically trained" but not equally obviously "Black" - and also equally obviously not "White". The timbre, the vibrato. Avery Brooks, Thomas Young in the mix as well as Cythia Aaronson-Davis. Charles Stepney is not far removed from this either, listen deeper to some of those Rotary Connection things.

Lines are getting blurred out the ass here, and perhaps that's what happens when lines begin to dissolve. Perhaps the lines are the dream. Either way, the lines are there until they're not. And then where are you?

The lines are definitely dissolving in the dream, it goes from questioning if there ever was a revolution, and if so, geez, sorry about that, didn't mean to make a scene,  to a rather forceful call to "Come back to the rage" and taking inventory of "this is all I am", choose dammit, CHOOSE! It's getting kinda, uh, fire-y up in this dream...not sure if this is where I wanted to end up, jeez, all I wanted to do was go to church and take a nap...not.....ALL THIS!


Time to wake up!

TRACK ELEVEN"Wednesday Night Prayer Meeting (Part Two), by The String Bass Of Charles Mingus with Accompaniment (Atlantic 45)

Oh, ok, never mind, it was all a dream...all the different ways a life and its musics could easily go, fuck that, that's too complicated, scary, even off-putting. Let's just stay home, let's just RE-joy-ce, let's all get saved (but never spent) - hallelujah.


C'mon church, let's go...

...let's go bowling. Right?

TRACK TWELVE - "strIKE!" aka ""Let The Word Go Forth" by Hank Levine from Sing Along With JFK (Reprise)

So, all this noise, is it scratches on the vinyl, is it just the sounds of crashing bowling pins, just what is it we're using to block out the endless droning of a once-meaningful language turned trite, trivial, and predictable? And why is it that no matter how loud the bowling alley gets (and at one point it gets VIOLENTLY loud), the mundanity of the droning keeps on, you can't kill it, you can't stop it, you can't get it out of there, it just keeps on going.

And maybe it keeps on going only because we keep listening to it, even though all the noise is suggesting that perhaps...that's enough of that for now.

After all, life is just a bowl. Flush it every once in a while.

Hey you - OUTTA THE WAY.

Yeah, me.

Signing off?

Signed out.




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That is a really interesting Mel Powell track, considering how he recorded some very swinging small group jazz sides for Vanguard just a few years before that recording. Has any swing era jazz musician ever had such range in his musical universe?

That Anthony Davis track is very interesting too. He seemed like he would become so prominent in the late 1970s and early 1980s, and I was not familiar with this 1992 recording.

Thanks for the Hank Levine cut. I was not aware of that recording.

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Just to be clear, the Mel Powell piece was composed in 1957. The recording heard here is from 1993. Powell does not play on it That's the Francesco Trio . It's David Abel on violin, Bonnie Hampton on cello, & Nathan Schwartz on piano. However, it's my understanding that Powell did work with the trio as they prepared their interpretations, at some level.

This trio made two recordings on New World, both of which contain some pretty interesting music, as well as some less interesting music. But if you like this type of thing and find either or both at a carpe diem price, then by all means, do!



It was on the second disc that I first heard Olly Wilson, and...one thing led to another. Not only does Powell have another piece on Vol. 2, he also did the cover painting.

Anthony Davis has kept a low profile over the years, but has remained active as composer, and performer. I suppose it's safe to say that the "gigging musician" model is no longer his, no doubt by choice, but he can still be heard, and is on the new Wadada Leo Smith Cuneiform album, America's National Parks.

The Hank Levine thing I bought just on a whim, but it turned out to have several moments of interest, like taking Nixon's 1962 "farewell" speech from the Californian gubanortial election and recasting it as a Vegas comedian's lounge act, complete with a laugh track.. I very recently came across a follow-up to this one Hank Levine album, but they wanted 7-8 bucks for it, and I don't know if there's that much comedy dollars in a sequel to this one. But I really like this Ike thing, that cut has summed up any number of days in my life over the last year or two...can't stop the drone, can't stop the pin noise, neither quite blocks the other out...

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