July 16 2014
In an attempt to reconcile for my recent bouts of disappearance I'll let you all in on some personal treasures I unearthed while abroad in Europe, along with another record from the station's vault. Which is where I begin, with The Jim Hall Quartet's All Across The City. The city of reference is, of course, New York City, which is the background of the album cover in which Jim Hall sits, amidst his planted ferns, looking like the synthesis of a poorly aged Tobias Funke and that creepy middle school gym teacher you had forgotten until this moment (sorry). Exactly why the album is called All Across The City, I could not tell you, because by the narrow, un-imaginitive sound of the record it would seem that Mr. Hall rarely got beyond his West Village apartment (you can see the old World Trade Center towers behind, which by my approximation would put him somewhere near the pricey lower west side of Manhattan). Hall, by both look and sound, can easily be imagined as having scored some “dope” only to lock himself in his apartment to furiously record demos for what would eventually be this album; all the while over-thinking the significance of the project and, even worse having imagined himself traversing the entire city with his pedantic sound. No where on this record is there any sort of liveliness, or reflection on New York City in 1989, which according to journalist Jim Dwyer “was a completely schizophrenic, divided city” where crack, sexual assaults and violent crimes were increasing rapidly in some neighborhoods whilst Wall Street boomed and the financial divide widened. Had Hall not had the audacity to call this dull foray All Across The City I may have spared him, but to think that this old, transparent fart felt comfortable appropriating a Thelonious Monk song, while his city unraveled into racially divided chaos (much of which is still greatly apparent today) is something I refuse to swallow. The rest of his catalogue is just as dry, do yourselves a favor and forget his name.
On a brighter note, I spent much of my time in Western Europe scavenging for obscure records in back-alley shops. The best of all were in Amsterdam at Vintage Voudou and Concerto. Vintage Voudou offered up one heck of a bargain, which was a sort of consolation for having to wander throughout the Red Light district looking like a Hawaiian-shirt wearing John, rapping on the wrong doors, many of which were prostitution windows, until I arrived at a creaky greenish gate that led into a tiny courtyard housing Vintage Voudou and the aptly titled Red Light Records. At Vintage Voudou, after sifting through their beautifully curated collection of African, Latin, Calypso, Brazilian and everything outside and in-between I arrived at my pick: Black Children Sledge Funk Group's 1976 gem Love Is Fair. The group consists of the 5 Black brothers from Nigeria (note that their family name is Black, the groups name has nothing to do with their skin color) who were originally involved with the legendary Bob Miga. The album is a beautifully constructed fusion of political questions from a nation recovering from a failed cout d'etat and a playful take on funk.
At Concerto, which most definitely is on the beaten path, I perused for an hour or two before deciding upon Cool Money by Prince Nico Mbarga & Rocafil Jazz International. Yet another record out of Nigeria, this one caught my eye because I've longed for one of Prince Nico's records for quite some time and also because it features Mr. Mbarga in front of a bright yellow Range Rover, adorned in a cape with a look of sheer confidence strewn across his face. Cash Money records circa '99 likely was taking their cues from the Prince all along. Despite the album's subtle religious rhetoric it still manages some of the brightest, dance-able guitar work to come out of the country.
And this yawner if you really must experience it for yourself