Celebrating ESP-DISK’ : 50 Years of Unimaginable Sounds – Imagined

This piece was originally published August 26th, 2013.

Sun Ra 1 IconIn 1963 a record label began on the 12th floor of 156 Fifth Avenue in New York City by releasing its first LP.

Bernard Stollman, a 34 year old jazz fan with a law background, had been working with some rhythm and blues and jazz musicians, helping them with copyright and contract issues.

 

Bernard Stollman and one of his early ESP logos.

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Stollman had also learned the “International Auxiliary Language,” Esperanto and recorded an album of songs and poetry all spoken in Esperanto, which he had hoped would further promote the language.

Titled, Ni Kantu en Esperanto, Stollman decided to self-release his album on a record label that was named after the language itself, ESP-DISK’.

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Yazoo Records delivers us THE STUFF THAT DREAMS ARE MADE OF

This post was originally published April 22nd, 2013.

Robert Crumb Blues Icon TemplateWhen I think of the most obsessively fanatical collectors that populate our planet, I have to give the prize to record collectors. 

Even well beyond folks that seek out rare comic books, watches, autographs or toys, it is the passion of music enthusiasts seeking out that rare vinyl LP, forgotten release, or long thought lost recording.

This obsession can turn many an individual into a deviously sneaky, frothing at the mouth, crazed vinyl addict.

 

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As evidenced by this past weekend’s annual holiday for the record collecting fan, Record Store Day, turnouts around the world were huge, as independent music shops celebrated what has become their biggest retail day of the year.

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Folks swarmed shops everywhere in an attempt to purchase the many exclusive limited edition vinyl titles that record labels the world over released on this special day.

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Music fans are still crazy for vinyl, and the demand for LP’s and singles is increasing by the year.

Some things never change.

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THE UNDERGROUND X-RAY RECORDS OF THE SOVIET UNION

This piece was originally published March 25th, 2013.

Soviet X Ray Records IconIt’s easy to take entertainment for granted.

In our present day we have the ability to purchase and enjoy so many recreational items: play a video game, listen to whatever it is we want, watch whatever we want, and, though there are still many folks out there who wish they could control our choices, read any books we can find.

Folks happily embrace the technology that has made obtaining our selections quick, simple and affordable, and we think nothing now of versions that exist only on the ether, or rather—on a cloud.

Still others, myself included, like to seek out older formats and what some will call obsolete mediums.

Some of these formats such as the vinyl LP have actually increased in their yearly sales and there are constantly new purveyors now marketing records, both for new album releases and reissuing older releases.

The annual April celebration event for small independent record shops around the world, Record Store Day, has increased popularity and made it a huge success. For many of these brick and mortar stores and the independent record labels that send exclusive items for sale on that day, it is their best retail day of the year.

Long thought dead formats such as 78 r.p.m. records, 8-track tapes, cassettes, VHS tapes and laser discs, still have numerous aficionados and collectors that will readily discuss at great length their obsessions and collections. In fact, there are even record labels, bands and filmmakers that choose to only release their output on some of these “antique” formats.

It wasn’t always this easy though…

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Bryan Ferry’s THE JAZZ AGE: A Masterpiece In Mono

This piece was originally published February 25th, 2013.

The 1920’s was a time not that unlike the 1960’s in that it was a period when new fashions, new music and new freedoms were celebrated with a youthful exuberance that sought to shake off those of the older established mainstream.

It was a time of partying and cheering for the end of the previous dark period of World War I, a time where women’s suffrage was peaking and was subsequently celebrated with the rise of the independently-minded, adventurously daring Flappers.

Most notably, it was a glorious time for a musical genre called Jazz that had seen its birth in the African American communities of New Orleans, and was now seen as the dance band choice of the young and young-minded everywhere.


Image of Bryan Ferry Orchestra


With radio broadcasts playing a large part in spreading the zest of Jazz, as well as folks flocking to dance-halls to see the bands themselves, Jazz became the rebellious music.

Bryan Ferry is no stranger to rebellion. Beginning as a part-time art teacher, his band Roxy Music released their stunningly original self-titled debut album in 1972.

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BEWARE OF MR. BAKER: GINGER BAKER VS. HIMSELF

This piece was originally published February 11th, 2013.

Even when I thought I knew just about everything creative, compulsive and crazed when it came to tales of the man and his music, I saw this film and realized my knowledge was only a small part of a wilder story.

  Beware of Mr. Baker is a documentary on the life of the legendary British rock drummer with a mane of flame and the eyes of a madman, Ginger Baker.

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“Of Sounds And Something Else”: Remembering Music Producer TOM WILSON

This piece was originally published September 10th, 2012.

Tom Wilson Post Icon TemplateSeptember 6th marked the anniversary of the death in 1978 of one of music’s great producers of the 1950’s and 1960’s, Tom Wilson.

Although his name is not as familiar as that of say, Phil Spector, Brian Wilson or George Martin, his achievements and influence are profoundly important.

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Record producer and DJ Tom Wilson stands outside ABC Studios, in New York City,
promoting his radio show “The Music Factory” — June 21, 1967. Photo: GETTY IMAGES

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Kelan Phil Cohran & The Hypnotic Brass Ensemble

This pice was originally published July 16th, 2012.

KelanKelan Phil Cohran is a jazz musician currently in his mid eighties.

Born in Oxford, Mississippi he grew up in St. Louis, Missouri where, in the early fifties, he played trumpet with the U.S. Navy band and a few other bands.

Migrating to Chicago, a turning point came in 1959 when he joined the inimitable Sun Ra Arkestra.

Cohran was introduced to Sun Ra by his friend, Ra’s tenor sax player and constant member John Gilmore. With Sun Ra, Cohran was playing trumpet, cornet and at times zithers plus another instrument of his own inventionThe Frankiephone.

 



Essentially an electric kalimba, on the Sun Ra albums that he appears on: Interstellar Low Ways, Fate In A Pleasant Mood, Angels and Demons At Play and We Travel The Spaceways, Cohran’s Frankiphone was called theSpace Harp. Cohran and his kalimba was also a big influence on a young Maurice White, who formed Earth Wind and Fire in Chicago, 1969.

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The Budos Band: Dance Music For The Next Doomsday

This piece was originally published May 23rd, 2011.

Snake Girl Post IconIn his 2005 film Broken Flowers, Director Jim Jarmusch once again made an intriguing, talked about, little gem of an art house film.

This independent film, starring Bill Murray as an aged Don Juan who visits his many past relationships in search of the sender of a mysterious letter from a purported offspring, was critically praised and did decent international business.

Like almost all of Jarmusch’s films, it then became another part of his ongoing filmography that continues to grow a large cult following which will be studied, collected and revered.


What made one of the biggest impressions on myself and many viewers of this particular film however, was the film’s soundtrack music. Jarmusch used as the bulk of the film’s soundtrack, the then little known music of Ethiopian Jazz composer Mulatu Astatke.

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JAMES BROWN: HEP JAZZ CAT??

This piece was originally published March 1st, 2011.

James Brown Post IconJames Brown has been known by more nicknames than any other musical legend in history…

An incomplete list would include, “The Godfather Of Soul,” “Soul Brother Number One,” “The Minister Of Funk,” “Mr. Please Please Please Please Her,” “The Boss,” “The Hardest Working Man In Show Business,” “The King Of Funk,” “The King Of Soul,” “Sex Machine,” “Minister Of The New New Super Heavy Funk,” and “Mr. Dynamite.”

However there are a few nicknames that he will probably never be known for, like “Mr. Jazzman,” “The Swinging Hepcat,” or “The Emperor Of Jazz.”



Jazz might not be a musical genre that immediately comes to mind when thinking about J.B. but, like so many things that this talent of super human proportions was able to pull out of his musical bag of tricks, James Brown had a definite Jazz side that easily stands proudly alongside the rest of his brilliant oeuvre.

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Forgotten TV: JOHNNY STACCATO’S Cool Jazz Noir

This piece was originally published June 29th, 2009

1947 Philco IconFor one season, from 1959 through 1960 on NBC, one of the cooler television series of the era (and there were quite a few) aired.

That show was Johnny Staccato.

Johnny Staccato starred none other than the prolific actor, screen writer, and director John Cassavetes who could play cool because he was actually…

pretty freakin’ cool.

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