Archive for April, 2008

The Importance of Big Band Zappa

Frank Zappa’s The Grand Wazoo

With all the legal wrangling going on between The Trust and The Arf Society (and legal bullying with just about every other cover/tribute band and various weblogs), it’s important to review exactly, and objectively, what’s at stake in these proceedings. Primarily, the freedom to play and experience Frank Zappa’s music live (as it should be experienced). Really, imagine a world in which only one performer is allowed to perform, say, the works of Igor Stravinsky? Or Eric Dolphy? Or Frank Zappa (or only one website being the sole source of FZ information)?

Personally, I think Ed Palermo’s Big Band does an excellent job performing “The Grand Wazoo” live at the Iridium Jazz Club.

Ike Willistrat

Ike Willis is putting his Fender Stratocaster on sale. The Strat has Ike’s signature on it and will cost you $420.00 USD (plus shipping).

Includes strap, extra set of Fender Bullet Strings (signed by Ike) and Fender Gig Bag!

I hope all is well with Ike…

Sugar Cane’s Got The Blues — I Don’t!!!

The two CDs I ordered from the German label, Promising Music, on April 20th, arrived this afternoon. Talk about speedy delivery. I was expecting 4 to 6 weeks. I was pleasantly surprised to say the least.

To start, everything they say about their reissues is correct: the CD packaging does resemble the gatefold albums of the era, right down to the grooves in the CD, and the vinyl record sleeve itself. Even the liner notes have been recreated and translated from the original German into English for us uni-lingual folks. In the final analysis, though, it’s not what they look like that matters, but how they sound.

Promising Music explains their re-mastering philosophy as such:

Restauration of the basic material as close to the original as possible. We give the integrity of the original sound top priority. By that we rather turn down an extreme reduction of tape noises (e.g. we feel, in case of doubt, leftovers of tape hiss less disturbing than a limitation of the sound transparency), and we edit the acoustic patterns carefully on the basis of original aesthetics (i.e. no “pseudo stereo” sound, no artificial reverbs, no additional compression, no superimposed “modern” sound scapes).

We remastered the original MPS master tapes digitally on a 24bit/88,2kHz level. By this we feel to reach, in comparison to a sampling rate of 96kHz, a more transparent and smooth sound, as the down sampling to the regular 44,1kHz Compact Disc standard runs much more plain and straight.

By this we produce pristine, true-to-original listening pleasure of these precious recordings at highest possible quality — not high tech sterility.

While neither are vinyl records, I use the same test with these CDs as I do with all the vinyl records I purchase: do they possess a deep, warm enveloping sound as opposed to a sound which is harder and more artificial?

Both CDs are excellent remasterings of these early MPS titles. While, admittedly, this was my first listen to Don ‘Sugarcane’ HarrisSugar Cane’s Got the Blues, the electrifying performances recorded at Berlin’s Philharmonic Hall from November, 1971, were rendered richly and vibrantly. I have heard digital copies of vinyl rips of George Duke’s Faces In Reflection, though, and this CD blows those mp3s out of the water. It’s like listening to a brand new album (which it is, in many respects). A joy in any language.

Useful Hint Of The Day

KUR reader Mark H. writes in:

Just a little suggestion a friend of mine made about GZ and the ZFT… he says we should cease refering to her as GZ or Gail Zappa and in a petty manner that she deserves she becomes simply “Sloatman”. Try it, it feels good and adds a nice level of disassociation to Frank Zappa. I’m finding I am enjoying his music again… bad taste removed from mouth.

Sloatman. Sloat…man… I’m off to listen to Roxy & Elsewhere!

It’s Alive!

As if there were not enough chattering going on in the comments of this weblog, I’ve decided to open up KUR’s mailing list.

If you remember, I originally conceived this list as a one off “announcement only” thingamabob, just so I could notify you guys ‘n gals when the new version of KUR would become available. Meaning: you couldn’t post, you were a passive reader. You poor thing you.

Well… all that just changed. Sign up here, and start posting! Bring on the links, the insightful observations and the superfluous banter.

Members only I’m afraid.. :)

Care to sign up? Try this convenient little form:

Your email:

Two Minutes and 42 Seconds

Hey, Mr. Musician, don’t waste our time! The scientific reasult is: 2.42!

Just look at what clocks in between two and a half and three minutes: “Mr. Tambourine Man,” “We Got the Beat,” “Boys Don’t Cry,” “Hot Fun in the Summertime,” “Good Times Bad Times,” “I Would Die 4 U,” “Paranoid,” “Blowin’ in the Wind,” “Debaser,” “God Only Knows,” and “Fall on Me.” These are not only stone-cold classics but they also encapsulate all that is great about the band without wasting your goddamn time.

I started wondering, does FZ have a song this long (I mean short)… Oh yes! Sofa #2!

Up, Up & Away En Sus Beautiful Balloons

File under Stranger Than Fiction:

A Brazilian priest is missing after he drifted out to sea while trying to set a record for a flight using helium-filled party balloons, authorities said on Tuesday.

Balloon Priest

De Carli, who flew around 55 miles (90 kilometers) before losing contact, had wanted to draw attention to the work of his parish in Paranagua, which targets mostly truck drivers who transport goods to and from the port.

Umm… bananas!

More hereVia Dr Sharl — who else?

Mux Delixe

Though I haven’t had time to play around with it, Muxtape looks to be loads of fun. I’ll just let the tag line do the talking. Muxtape is:

a simple way to create and share mp3 mixtapes

Have any of you created muxtapes you wish to share? If so feel free to put a link in the comments — after you’re done gazing in awe at my incredibly clever title for this post, of course.

City Of Tiny Bikes

Critical Mass, 2008, Budapest

“Critical Mass” – 80.000 (!!!) bicyclist on the streets on the Day Of Earth, Budapest (yeah, I was there, too!); arieal photos by Jason Hawkes, National Geographic. More pics and a small video here, and see also the photographer’s website here.

MPS is Most Promising Sound

The last time I entered an independent music store and asked if they had anything by George Duke in stock, the response I received was a very long, dull, blank stare followed by: “George who?” The same goes for the many of the Zappa alumni from the early to mid-70s. It’s as though they’ve been completely forgotten by the present music store owners and their databases. One cannot completely fault them, though, as much of the music from that period is out-of-print, or has never been issued on CD.

Luckily, a small German label, Promising Music, has gained access to a range of more than 400 titles of the MPS catalogue (which is owned by Universal Classics & Jazz, a division of Universal Music GmbH, Berlin/Germany). They have reissued Don ‘Sugarcane’ Harris‘s classic Sugar Cane’s Got The Blues and George Duke’s Faces In Reflection, (both of which I have already gleefully ordered) with intentions of reissuing other Duke classics such as ‘I Love the Blues, She Heard My Cry’, ‘Feel’, and ‘Liberated Fantasies’.

All promising music releases are as close to the vinyl original as a CD format can be.

  • All discs have black vinyl design (with a groove!)
  • All CDs are packaged in downsize replicas of original LP, incl inner sleeves
  • All CDs feature an extra booklet with legible reprints of liner notes and all original informations, as well as additional retrospective comments
  • The subtle re-mastering is trying to get as close as possible to the warmth of the vinyl originals

Until the CDs arrive, in particular the Sugarcane reissue, I can satisfy myself listening to the five RealAudio excerpts of Don ‘Sugarcane’ Harris available for free download here.