Friday, June 13, 2014

R.I.P. Jimmy Scott

Jimmy Scott passed away yesterday, June 12th.

Exclaim has a to the point obituary here.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

John Coltrane on France Musique

This morning, at 11.00 Paris time, France Musique will broadcast a program on John Coltrane and a new book in french dedicated to his music and more in particular focused on My Favourite Things and A Love Supreme.

More info is available here.


Wednesday, April 30, 2014

International Jazz Day

Today, April 30th the globe will celebrate Jazz all over.

There's a special website dedicated for the event here.

Special concerts, lectures, events take place all day.

The United Nations Postal Administration (UNPA) will issue new postage stamps and a souvenir card to celebrate International Jazz Day on 30 April 2014.3 sheets containing 12 stamps each will be sold in New York, Vienne, Genève.

If you happen to live in one these cities and want to send me a cover with one or more of these stamps, please contact me.

And have a nice jazz day!!!

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

John Coltrane : Temple University 1966

The recording made in 1966 of which some parts were circulating amongst collectors will be officially released in September more exactly on September 23rd.

More about this release can be read here.

Can't wait to hear this!!

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Jack Kerouac - The Haunted Life

A lost work of Jack Kerouac, Haunted Life, was found back and is published for the first time.

The Guardian has an extract from the book here.


Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Operation Jericho

Today is the 70th birthday of Operation Jericho, the daring raid by the RAF on the Amiens prison. A short Pathe newsreel from is available here :

More info on the raid itself can be read here, and here and here

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

A Love Supreme: God in the Music of John Coltrane

CBC radio program 'Tapestry' discusses John Coltrane's music.

Here's the description :

"This week on Tapestry, we explore the music and spirituality of the jazz great John Coltrane. To some jazz fans, he was the high priest of the avant-garde movement. And to others, tenor saxophonist John Coltrane was a saint.

For more on the show and our guest...

Winnipeg's Reverend Jamie Howison wrote a book about the music and theology of John Coltrane. It's called God's Mind in that Music: Theological Explorations through the Music of John Coltrane. 

When Rev. Howison puts on a John Coltrane record, he braces for something pretty profound: "It's kind of like eavesdropping on someone praying, frankly." 

The musician Carlos Santana used to have a ritual. He'd play a John Coltrane album at four in the morning, as a kind of meditation. In Santana's words:  "I could hear God's mind in that music ... I heard the Supreme One playing music through John Coltrane's mind."  Carlos Santana wasn't the first to make the connection between theology and saxophone.  Coltrane's music led one reviewer to say "I'm agnostic - and yet, John Coltrane's masterpiece, A Love Supreme, has almost made me see God."

In this episode, Rev. Jamie Howison takes Mary Hynes for a tour through the music and soul of John Coltrane."

The program is available online here.


Saturday, February 8, 2014

Gene Norman GNP Crescendo Records

At Age 60, GNP Crescendo Label Is the Little Indie That Could

by Andrew Barker
Variety, January 8, 2014

In the 60 years since Gene Norman founded record label GNP Crescendo, the pioneering indie imprint has come to encompass so many different styles, genres, artists and revenue streams that current president Neil Norman -- Gene's son -- finds it much easier to describe what the label doesn't offer than what it does.

"My father purposely wanted a label that had a bit of everything," he explains. "We have everything but opera and rap." And it's not hard to imagine they'd make an exception even to that rule if the right artist came along.

Since its founding in 1954, GNP Crescendo has not only survived decades' worth or industry upheaval, but it also has forged a path and established a set of principles that have been followed in some way or another by just about every oddball indie outfit to come. With a catalog that ranges from jazz and surf to vintage Latin dance, garage rock, polka, Cajun (zydeco act Queen Ida won the label its first and only Grammy in 1982), an Orson Welles spoken-word album, "Star Trek" music compilations and all manner of otherwise forgotten soundtracks, browsing through the label's offerings is a reminder that the long-tail sales model is hardly a new one.

Such versatility extends to the career of the younger Norman, who has worn virtually every possible hat during his career in music, which started roughly when he played his first onstage gig at age 12. Since then, he's recorded more than 50 albums for GNP, as well as worked in its mailroom, producing other artists, serving as its A&R, its promotion department, its publicity department, and finally, its label head.

"That's the great thing about being a small independent label," he says. "You get to do everything."

Norman is in the process of editing his second feature documentary, "Pushin' Too Hard," which explores the career of the label's flagship signing, the 1960s garage-psych outfit the Seeds. Gene Norman, now 92, is busy writing his memoir, and one might imagine he has a wealth of stories to tell.

Operating a record label was not Gene Norman's first occupation -- in fact, it was his last. After hitchhiking from New York to L.A. as a youngster, Norman ensconced himself in the local music scene, eventually promoting concerts at the Shrine and the Civic Center, hosting a popular radio show, and opening his own nightclub, the Crescendo, on the Sunset Strip. The Crescendo hosted a wide swath of jazz legends and comedians, ranging from Duke Ellington and Billie Holiday to Lenny Bruce, Bob Newhart and Mort Sahl, with Norman currying favor by often paying acts their weekly asking rate for a single night's engagement.

Norman sold his nightclub in 1963, though the property lost little cachet in the process. Early releases on GNP Crescendo leaned heavily toward jazz, with Norman repurposing old nightclub recordings, but it didn't take long before it began expanding into other niches.

L.A. quartet the Seeds had already been turned down by Columbia, Capitol and Elektra before winding up at Norman's doorstep in the mid-'60s, but under his stewardship the band would manage to notch four singles in the top 100 of the Billboard chart, becoming a steady cult draw for decades following.

"You had to find people when they were just starting, or when they were a little bit down, otherwise the majors would scoop them up," Norman says, summing up the label's A&R strategy. "In the early 1980s, Robin Trower had been dropped from Chrysalis, and suddenly here I was in the studio with him making a record for our label.

"The most important skill is to have ears," Norman says. "There are very few releases on the label that I wouldn't still listen to and enjoy. We just went with what we liked, and if you do that enough, eventually you'll hit one out of the park."

Yet not every success sprang from personal taste. For example, Neil Norman recalls an exec from MCA Canada, who approached his father with a hybrid polka-country- traditional act called the Mom and Dads.

"They were this group from Spokane, Wash., who played very, very square versions of standards. I mean, really square, they made Lawrence Welk look like Pink Floyd," he says. "The guys at MCA Canada said, 'Look, we really don't know what to do with this act, but they've sold 60,000 records for us so far.' My father took them on without even hearing them. When he finally listened to their records, he said, 'Oh my God, what have I done?' But they sold millions for us." The group even landed at No. 4 on the Billboard Country Albums chart in the early 1970s.

Yet it was Neil's personal fandom that inspired one of the label's savviest midlife moves. A lifelong sci-fi freak, Norman founded the group Neil Norman and His Cosmic Orchestra in the 1970s, a costumed outfit that played rock inspired by vintage sci-fi film music. ("It' s a narrow genre, but I'm the king of it," Norman says with a laugh.) The group's original material attracted a modest following, but when they recorded new versions of then commercially unavailable sci-fi film and TV scores ("The Outer Limits," "The Day the Earth Stood Still") , the label suddenly discovered a revenue stream in the making.

Promoting the records at sci-fi conventions, Norman couldn't help but notice that the most enthusiastic responses came from "Star Trek" fans, who had long traded bootlegs of the series' scores and themes. GNP reached out to Paramount, which granted the label a license in perpetuity to music from the existing "Star Trek" series, as well as a first-look at future iterations.

"For Paramount to give us a property like that was a very big deal," Normans says. "We didn't even give them an advance, but we've paid them millions in royalties since then."

The "Star Trek" deal was the beginning of massive catalog business for GNP Crescendo in soundtrack sales, particularly for genre releases that major labels didn't consider worthy. Of course, to collect a wealth of niche properties is one thing, but making sure they sell is quite another, and the label was proactive in hitting marginalized fans where they lived. Norman worked the convention circuit with his sci-fi projects, label employees hawked the surf catalog on beaches at surfing competitions, and countless editions of mail-order catalogs and latenight TV commercials kept the pump primed.

The label was also ahead of its time in aggressively pursuing film licensing and download sales. Music supervisor Carol Sue Baker, principal of Ocean Park Music, has worked with the label since 1988, securing high-reward placement for GNP catalog songs in such pics as "Pulp Fiction," "Almost Famous" and "Godzilla, " though Norman notes that aside from "sudden windfalls" like those, the label has also operated as a sort of de facto production music library for smaller films.

"If you have a film that can't afford a Chuck Berry song, well, we have a lot of songs from that era that sound very similar."

Familiarity with the niche-driven dynamics of the catalog business certainly helped GNP react quickly to the digital shift in the new millennium, with the label setting up a 99 cents-per-track download store years before it became standard operating procedure. That move helped win Gene Norman a trip to Cupertino, Calif., to meet with Steve Jobs prior to the launch of iTunes, and GNP Crescendo was one of the first labels to sign on.

"It was great at the beginning, because so many other labels were still a bit wary," Norman says. "For a while, just about all of the surf music you'd find on the iTunes Store was ours. We put up the first Safaris record (on the service), and all the sudden we'd sell 400 copies of it in a week."

"The great thing about the download market is that there's very few returns," Norman says. "It can be hard enough to get (physical) albums in stores, and then sometimes you'll get half the shipment sent back. Plus, as things like iTunes expanded, you would suddenly get interest in territories that didn't used to be worth bothering with. Central America, Norway, Eastern Europe, New Zealand we get consistent business out of those places now."

With a publishing library of 5,000 songs and a master recordings collection 800 albums strong, Norman says he plans to "continue to nurture the catalog" while expanding further into film. His Seeds documentary is targeting a 2014 launch, and after that, Norman hopes to start producing Roger Corman-style sci-fi projects of his own.

But there's still plenty of life left in the GNP Crescendo vaults.

"Just recently, I found an old concert recording that my father had made at his nightclub," Norman recalls. "It was Miles Davis and John Coltrane -- they were the opening act. This is quite early, back when Miles was still talking to the audience between songs. I sent it over to Sony, and we made the deal over email. It took less than 24 hours: I asked for a big advance, and they said 'yes.' And that was just sitting there, in a box in my dad's garage."

"We may have gotten the crumbs sometimes, but if you collect enough crumbs, you can make a pretty nice cake."

Monday, January 27, 2014

Miles At The Fillmore : The Bootleg Series Vol. 3

Next month the 3rd part in the Bootleg Series of Live recordings by Miles Davis will be issued.

It are recordings from June 1970 at The Fillmore East.

Recordings details are the following :

MILES AT THE FILLMORE – Miles Davis 1970: The Bootleg Series Vol. 3

(Columbia/Legacy 88765 43381 2)

Disc One (Fillmore East, Wednesday, June 17, 1970) – Selections: 1. Introduction by Bill Graham • 2. Directions • 3. The Mask • 4. It’s About That Time • 5. Bitches Brew • 6. The Theme • Bonus tracks (Fillmore West, April 11, 1970): 7. Paraphernalia • 8. Footprints.

Disc Two (Fillmore East, Thursday, June 18, 1970) – Selections: 1. Directions • 2. The Mask • 3. It’s About That Time • 4. Bitches Brew • 5. The Theme • 6. Spanish Key (Encore) • 7. The Theme.

Disc Three (Fillmore East, Friday, June 19, 1970) – Selections: 1. Directions • 2. The Mask • 3. It’s About That Time • 4. I Fall In Love Too Easily • 5. Sanctuary • 6. Bitches Brew • 7. The Theme • Bonus track (Fillmore West, April 11, 1970): 8. Miles Runs The Voodoo Down.

Disc Four (Fillmore East, Saturday, June 20, 1970) – Selections: 1. Directions • 2. The Mask • 3. It’s About That Time • 4. I Fall In Love Too Easily • 5. Sanctuary • 6. Bitches Brew • 7. Willie Nelson • 8. The Theme.

All selections are previously unissued.

Note: All Fillmore East selections originally issued in drastically edited form on the double-LP, Miles Davis: At Fillmore (Columbia 30038, released October 28, 1970).

More info can be obtained at Miles Dvais official website here.