Category Archives: Jazz

Weekly Dig 3/31-4/6

Django Reinhardt – Sultan of Swing

Sultan of SwingI’m going old school for this dig. Django Reinhardt is a Jazz/Swing guitarist who had his hay day back in the 30’s and 40’s. When he was 18 he was caught in a fire and had severe burns all over his body. That accident paralyzed two of his fingers on his left hand, and forced him to re-learn how to play the guitar after his recovery. The amount of guitar playing he was able to re-learn is downright incredible. With his half of a left hand he still managed to become quite the accomplished musician. Spotify has tons of best of collections of Django and his quintet, and it makes for some great easy listening.  The two most prominent members of the quintet are Django on the guitar, and Stephane Grappelli on the violin, so expect them to take most of the solos. I’ve only been able to listen to a small fraction of what they have on Spotify, it’s a disgustingly large amount of music, but it makes me appreciate Spotify even more. Where else are you going to find an endless collection of old timey jazz music?

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The Pinnacle of Cool

Have you ever found some music that when you listen to it, it’s just cool. So cool in fact that you can’t help but think when you see people with earbuds in that no matter what they are listening to it isn’t anything close to as cool as what you’re jamming out to. I’ve stumbled across a few of these so far and I’ll tell you about them, but I’d also like to hear what cool music you guys listen to. There are a couple of honorable mentions I would like to acknowledge before I get down to business. Mezzanine by Massive Attack provides a lot of coolness in the music scene, but I think it gets edged out by these other records. I think it’s also an obligation to recognize Miles Davis. I mean the guy is the father of cool. I haven’t actually listened to Birth of the Cool, but Kind of Blue is one of my favorite albums. Sketches of Spain is also very good and the bits of Bitches Brew that I’ve heard help justify the title of Father of Cool.

Portishead are up next. They are basically why Massive Attack is out. They did trip-hop better. Maybe that’s a testament to trip-hop as being a whole genre of really cool music. If you’re unfamiliar with the term trip-hop, think of slow, down-tempo  hip-hop with a lot of electronica influence. Dummy is what you want to listen to to feel cool. Beth Gibbons voice is ethereal, and she has fantastic control of it. She just floats over everything else that is being thrown down by drummer and producer Geoff Barrow and Adrian Utley who plays the bass, guitar, and keyboards.

Up next is a different kind of cool. This cool is found in Converge and their album Jane Doe.  Jane Doe is cool like a big truck or a bulldozer is cool. They play a type of metalcore that is on a-whole-nother plane than anyone else. This is a difficult cool to understand because first you have to be able to appreciate converge which took me a while to do. Jacob Bannon screams through the whole album in a way that is totally incomprehensible. Unless you’ve read the lyrics there is no way to tell what he’s screaming. The rest of the band keep pace with Jacob playing hard and playing fast. That’s probably where my analogy breaks down. I can’t think of a big truck or a bulldozer or anything like that that has the power, intensity and speed of Jane Doe. This is very grungy dirty metal and it is truly epic.

Last but not least I need to talk about GZA/Genius. He is one of the founding members of the Wu-Tang Clan, and his essence is pure cool. I went and saw him in concert, and seeing him in person was truly an experience. Seriously though, this guy is one of the pure clean sources of cool left in the world. He radiates cool. As an emcee there is nothing flashy about GZA, but everything about him works together to make something truly unique. He’s pretty laid back in his delivery, but that delivery is so smooth and makes it all look so easy. His lyrics are intelligent and when you add RZA’s production underneath it all you get one of the best rap albums of all times. No one else out of the Wu-Tang Clan has had a better solo album, and no matter what Soulja Boy and 50 Cent have to say GZA the Genius can still make them look like the fools they are. So there it is folks, now, let me know what else is out there that is cool.