Falling behind again. . .
Andrew Bird — Anonanimal / See the Enemy single (2009)
'Anonanimal' on Noble Beast proper, has long been one of my favorite sleeper Andrew Bird songs. It's buried way too deep in the album's running order for anyone, other than the devoted, to really see it's brilliance. So, gathering up the stray Andrew Bird stuff at my availability, I jumped on this 45 quickly. And. . . it's okay. The re-recording of the a-side doesn't differ much from the album version and 'See the Enemy' is kind of like a dub version of the song. After this year's 'Crown Salesman / So Much Wine' single was such a nice addition to his current repertoire, my hopes were higher. Still, good song and good mixtape fodder.
William Ackerman — Past Light (1983)
Will settles into a more stock, stereotypical Windham Hill sound on this album (his fifth overall). Is it cheesy? Yeah, a little bit. There's no swingin', post-bluegrass pickin' to be found and there's only one song where Will is playing unaccompanied. The opener 'Visiting' is pretty darn cheesy, if you ask me. But the very next tune 'Garden' is a collaborative effort between Will and the Kronos Quartet and it's actually up there with Will's best tunes. The one solo tune 'Pacific II' is a sparse number and also definitely a highlight. But then, immediately following, you get 'Synopsis,' which features Mark Isham playing one of the worst synthesizer tones I've ever heard. So, yeah. It's up and down. Side two is mostly a wash, drowning in cheese, but the trio performance of 'Threes' with Michael Manring and Michael Hedges is worthwhile (as is the other Michael Hedges appearance on the brief closer 'Night Slip'). The good stuff is reminiscent of Will's best past work. The rest is pretty boring.
William Ackerman — Conferring With the Moon (1986)
No more or less "stock" in its overall sound, but there's a slight change for the more sparse here that I really dig. Thematically, it reminds me a lot of the Cocteau's Victorialand (coincidentally released the same year) in that it's polishing and stripping back of the essence of Will's main idea with his music. It's calm and mostly just meditates on themes, but there's something to the tunes this time out that tells me that there was something important happening behind the music that inspired its creation. An astute awareness of sparseness and a grasp on the importance of space is fully realized here. A listen to Will's solo performance of the title track (which closes out the album) and I'm pretty much sold (a more arranged quartet version opens the album). 'Improv 2' (sparse twelve string loveliness) and 'Singing Crocodile' (awesomely reminiscent of Archer Prewitt's 'The Bay') are definitely in the top tier of Will's compositions. 'Lago de Montañas (Mountain Lake)' finds Will playing the charango like the boss that he is, while 'The Last Day at the Beach' is a study in odd, well thought-out chord progressions. He should have been doing duets with Vini Reilly at this point. Probably his calmest album, but also easily his strongest outside of his first three.
William Ackerman — Imaginary Roads (1988)
And while Will's last album of the 80's isn't amazing, it's got a very nice "soundtracky" quality that, despite some cheesy flourishes in the production, makes for a pretty decent album. I do kind of get the feeling that Will is playing to his audience here, but the actual themes of the tunes are darn nice. 'A Region of Clouds' (one of two solo pieces) is so reminiscent of the Durutti Column, I really don't have any other choice but to love it. There are some intrusive synth moments, but for the most part, this is just a really nice, warm album where I don't feel like the classification of "background music" is a bad thing at all. Closer listens may reveal the flaws, but there's only a few. Will's liner note that begins with the sentence "I drink beer." is completely hilarious and worthwhile, as well.
Joe Pass — Virtuoso #2 (1976)
A solo jazz guitar album. I was mainly on the hunt for this one because album opener 'Giant Steps' has been written into the sample bible by this point. The whole rendition of the tune is good, but that ten or so seconds of looped up goodness is just pure bliss. The rest of the album definitely lives up to its namesake, as Joe gets more out of those six strings than seems imaginable. Considering he plays the head, comps along for himself and takes solos, all without overdubs, it's pretty technically impressive stuff. His tone is warm and lovely throughout and the selection of tunes is pure class. He does go off fairly often, making this more of a dedicated music nerd piece overall. Though not without its across the board excellent moments, it will take a concerted effort to get the most out of it.
Keith Jarrett — Solo Concerts (1973)
This beautiful three record box set on the ECM label is a testament to Keith Jarrett's unwavering creativity. While he may be too intellectual sometimes, the simple idea of him sitting down to just play what he's feeling at that particular moment, in front of a crowd of onlookers, was completely radical and brave at the time. It's hard to think that Keith had so many ideas just flowing out his brain, but here it all is. He will create these themes and just build on them, throwing in little flourishes and nuances. I mean, really, there's six sides of vinyl here to be explored. Hard to sum it up quickly here, but I'll just say that he convincingly plays pretty much every established piano style. Music to get lost in. There's over two hours of it here, after all. And I've seen him in person myself. He can hold a packed hall completely captive just on the anticipation of what he will play next.
Cal Tjader — Soul Sauce (1964)
More Tjader to re-add to my library. Cal's getting deep into a rhythmic Latin vibe here. The title track nearly invents salsa music before your very ears, while the follow up tune is an irreproachably strong rendition of 'Afro Blue.' So, yeah. As usual, Cal's out to prove he can play just as authentically as anybody. The ballads kick butt and take names here. 'Somewhere in the Night' (spotify link) and 'Leyte' (also spotify; also a sample favorite) are so good, it'll completely blow your mind how I could have ever given this album up in the first place. Through and through, Tjader in the 60's was just about as consistent as they come. Is this his best one? Well, I'll just have to reacquire the rest of them to properly decide. But it's in the running, that's for sure.