#Writing #MusicMonday: Ak-47 Big Band

ca483_02_frontThis album was to have been posted on 25 July 2016.

This album is, potentially, a borderline case. It is released under the tightest Creative Commons license there is, granting you the right only to listen and share. Which is a good thing, because most (perhaps all) of the tracks are covers of well-known jazz and jazz-era songs. Lee Morgan’s “Sidewinder” is here. “As Time Goes By” is here, but in an arrangement so original you might have to listen to it a few times to tease out the melody you’re sure you know.

I have no way to check, so I simply assume that the band paid the (minor) fee required to record covers of copyrighted songs. The fact that the license is restricted to “listen and share” tends to support that view.

But even if they haven’t, jazz history is rife with examples of musicians and composers taking earlier works and creating something wholly new out of them. In a sense, jazz is remixing. And given that all the original songs that I know here are so old that the composers are long in the grave, it’s hard to argue that doing original cover versions in any way hurts the creators, in any event.

That concern out of the way, what we have here is a real, genuine, modern big band sound. Ak-47 Big Band is not as tight, nor as bombastic as U.S. Army Blues, from a few albums ago, but they’re real and they’ve got chops.

This eponymous album is, thus far, the only one the band has put out. And, indeed, it is not even a real album, as bandleader Santiago Kurchan writes:

This is not exactly a record. It’s just a sample of the work we’ve been doing, w[h]ich we are proud of and want to show. It’s not a record because the group formed just a few months ago and a pro[j]ect this big has its own time to develop and to generate a continuity and flow in the music and in the people.

Alas, like many Creative Commons jazz outfits, this appears to be a one-and-done affair. This album was released in 2011, and I find nothing new from them at any of the band’s or the bandleader’s sites or social media profiles.

Perhaps it’s simple economics, that maintaining a regular big band is impossible in today’s long tail economy, especially in the CC portion of it. Perhaps it’s just that nobody has found the right formula to make such a thing economically feasible.

Download Ak-47 Big Band by Ak-47 Big Band free from the Internet Archive.

Creative Commons License
Ak-47 Big Band by Ak-47 Big Band is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

#Writing #MusicMonday: Partly Cloudy by Jazz Alliance

750-partly_cloudy-cd_frontAnd suddenly we’re in the middle of an unplanned jazz streak on Music Mondays. Last week, this week, and next week you get three very different jazz albums.

It’s me. There will be jazz, with occasional other styles thrown in for variety.

Anyway, Jazz Alliance is a quartet (on some songs, they play as a trio). As far as I’ve seen Partly Cloudy is their only album, and it’s a good one. It was recorded live in two cafe concerts, and you can hear the espresso machine, clinking of cups, and a hint of crowd chatter, to give you the full ambiance. Listening to this in preparation for the post, I realized that I hadn’t been to an actual café concert in more than fifteen years. Live music in bars, yes, mostly when I lived in Shanghai, but in a cafe? Not since before I moved to Shanghai, let alone since I came back. And that’s all a long time ago.

So, for me, there was a certain amount of nostalgia in listening to this.

In fact, my only complaint is that it’s far too short. The whole album is only about thirty minutes, and I keep wanting more.

Still, I suppose I should just be grateful there’s this much, since good jazz in the Creative Commons is relatively rare (as compared to, say, techno).

Download Partly Cloudy by Jazz Alliance free from the Internet Archive.

Creative Commons License
Partly Cloudy by Jazz Alliance is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 3.0 International License.

#Writing #MusicMonday: Keep On Groovin’ by Federico Palmolella

CoverFederico Palmolella is another Argentinian jazz man I just recently discovered, and this album is something special.

Here’s why it was made:

Keep on Groovin´ was made in [memory] of Ezequiel Iturrieta, one of my best friends who [passed] away [recently], and was the principal inspiration of it. The meaning of Keep on Groovin´is the friendship, love and respect for all, and a motive for continuing.

It sounds like it should be a somber affair, but it’s not. It’s fairly mellow, but much more upbeat than last week’s share from the Agustin Strizzi Group. Celebratory, even.

And, like last week’s album, it has a distinctively 1970s feel to it.

In fact, it was only listening to this a week ago that I realized something. I am sometimes curious why I am so open to a kind of music that, on the face of it, I should hate. This type of jazz/funk/fusion really runs counter to my tastes in a lot of ways, and the more outre examples of the genre leave me cold. Yet I can listen to Miles Davis’s Bitches Brew with little pain (it is, after all, Miles), and I keep finding albums like this, and last week’s from the Agustin Strizzi Group, that I like in spite of them getting pretty weird for a guy like me.

And the reason, I think, is Sesame Street. I watched it as a little kid in the late ’70s, and they often did little bits with jazz/funk/fusion, such as the following:

So, if you like that, you’ll probably like this.

And again, if you did not care for last week’s album, this one is far less melancholy and more upbeat.

Download Keep On Groovin’ free from the Internet Archive

Creative Commons License
Keep On Groovin’ by Federico Palmolella is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 3.0 Unported License.

#Writing #MusicMonday: Will by Agustin Strizzi Group

Will coverAgustin Strizzi is an Argentinian jazz drummer and composer who, like many jazz men, pursues multiple projects at any given time. I first discovered him through his work in the trio Gepel, shared here almost two years ago.

Will has, for me, a very ’70s feel to it. There’s a lot of jazz flute used in it (a sign of death for many, apparently, though I think it can be done well, as it is here). It detours into tinkering and “off” sounds here and there, which will be off-putting for many listeners, but in my opinion it is kept to a minimum. The musicians explore freely, but don’t actually stray so far away from the central tune that they lose it. Of course, with this sort of thing, that’s totally a subjective call.

It also has a very down feel to it, most clearly expressed in the track “Tristeza (Sadness)”, but not confined to it. There are other colors and moods throughout, but the sadness pervades the project.

Strizzi says of it:

This record [is] about my musical willingness. Searching through my most deeply paths…curiously, where I’m not alone.

It’s a bit weird, experimental and well off the mainstream track. But it’s also very professional and well done.

Download Will free from the Internet Archive.

Creative Commons License
Will by Agustin Strizz Group is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 3.0 Unported License.

#Writing #Music Monday: Oh Holy Night (Volume 1) by Ronny Matthes

Oh Holy Night (Volume 1) CoverI have trimmed both the title and the artist name considerably to keep them intelligible, because the extra was mostly German for “Christmas Music”.

This album is nearly an hour’s worth of quality Christmas tunes, both original and traditional, and while at times it verges upon Mannheim Steamroller cheesiness, it only does that a few times. On the whole, it is entirely pleasing and in the mood of the season.

I don’t know much about Ronny Matthes other than that he’s German, and that he’s put a lot of music out for free, under various names, but, alas, as with this album, he locks it up under restrictive licenses. Still, you can download it and enjoy it entirely for free (or order it through German Amazon, linked on the album page, if you would like to send money his way), and that’s no bad thing.

Download Oh Holy Night (Volume 1) from Jamendo.

Creative Commons License
Oh Holy Night (Volume 1) by Ronny Matthes is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 3.0 International License.

Writing Music Monday: Brésil by Lovely Girls Are Blind

[cover] Lovely Girls Are Blind - BresilThis marks the second appearance around these parts for Lovely Girls Are Blind, the French postrock instrumental group.

Brésil is their most recent release, from 2012, and fits in with the previous WMM featured album Genevilliers very nicely. Lots of soundscape, layered electric guitars, cresting and subsiding over solid drum frameworks.

I don’t really have much to say about it, but do notice how good I think it is: the license is the most restrictive in the Creative Commons, and I am very strongly biased toward Free Culture licenses. Yet here I am, recommending it. If that doesn’t tell you something, then only listening to it will.

Brésil by Lovely Girls Are Blind is free to download from Jamendo.

You can also get it from the band’s own site.

Creative Commons License
Brésil by Lovely Girls Are Blind is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 3.0 Unported License.

Music Monday: Bring Me Down by Fresh Body Shop

[cover] Fresh Body Shop - Bring Me DownFresh Body Shop is a French band that does songs almost exclusively in English. They are incredibly prolific, putting out thirteen full albums or EPs since 2007. Some of their work doesn’t appeal to me, but some is amazing.

And Bring Me Down is the best of the best.

It’s a very odd melange of hard pop, ’90s alternative, and early 80s New Wave (mostly due to the brilliant way most of the tracks incorporate a synthesizer).

If you don’t want to give the whole album a listen, do this: listen to “Wawawawa”, “Spaceship”, and “Mr. Sunday”. If you don’t run away screaming, then download it and listen to the whole thing.

My only problem with Fresh Body Shop is that they choose the most restrictive Creative Commons license available. Their choice, of course, but keeping people from even making Youtube videos? That doesn’t strike me as the smartest way to go, especially when you have such a rich catalog to work through.

That said, it’s totally worth downloading. (And as a guide, none of the tracks in this album are among FBS’s top ten on Jamendo. I happen not to agree with that, but do keep it in mind.)

Bring Me Down by Fresh Body Shop is available for free download via Jamendo.

Alternatively, you can get higher-quality files of the same album from Bandcamp, at the same time giving some well-deserved cash to this French band, but without the Creative Commons license.

Creative Commons License
Bring Me Down by Fresh Body Shop is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 3.0 Unported License.