Bruce Langhorne, “Mr. Tambourine Man” and Legendary Folk Guitarist

From Peter Fonda’s The Hired Hand (1971) – Watch on YouTube

Name a folk great. Dylan? Baez? Havens? Odetta? Bruce Langhorne played with them all. He is particularly remembered for his work with Dylan, who was inspired to write “Mr. Tambourine Man” after seeing Langhorne come into the studio with a large Turkish tambourine.

Langhorne was crucial to the sound that launched Dylan’s career. Playing his 1920 Martin guitar through a Fender Reverb amp with the aid of a pickup – and emulating the Roebuck “Pop” Staples tremolo style – he built a bridge between folk and rock. He had a unique style, influenced in part by the loss of two fingers and most of a thumb due to a childhood accident.*

In addition to his session work, Langhorne composed scores for films, including Peter Fonda’s 1971 The Hired Hand. A moving video of Peter Fonda visiting the ailing Langhorne late last year is on YouTube.

Here are 5 songs (plus “Mr. Tambourine Man”) featuring the acoustic and electric guitar work of Bruce Langhorne:

Carolyn Hester “I’ll Fly Away” (with Bob Dylan on harmonica)

Odetta “Anthem of the Rainbows”

Joan Baez “Farewell Angelina”

Tom Rush “You Can’t Tell A Book By The Cover”

Richard and Mimi Fariña “Reno, Nevada”

Bruce Langhorne, May 11, 1938-April 14, 2017

“Mr. Tambourine Man” on Spotify

*LGMR recently profiled jazz pianist Horace Parlan, another musician who turned a disability into distinctive sound.

Follow the LGMR Folk 2017 playlist here.

 

 

Misha Mengelberg, Jazz Pianist and Co-Founder of ICP Orchestra

Jazz in Haarlem (1960) – Watch on YouTube

Misha Mengelberg was an avant-garde jazz pianist whose influences included Thelonious Monk and Herbie Nichols. He recorded his own interpretations of both artists, but was also a prolific composer on his own. Along with Willem Breuker (reeds) and Han Bennink (drums), Mengelberg started the ICP (Instant Composers Pool) Orchestra in the 1960s. Performers would come and go from that group, but Mengelberg and Bennink were often at the core.

Born in Ukraine, Mengelberg spent most of his life in the Netherlands, where he attended the Royal Conservatory in The Hague. In the early 1960s, his trio (with Bennink) backed Johnny Griffin, Eric Dolphy and Cecil Taylor and performed at the 1966 Newport Jazz Festival.

To hear how Mengelberg and the ICP Orchestra interpreted Monk, here are a few takes of  “Four In One,” including one by Monk himself.

Thelonious Monk (Genius of Modern Music: Vol. 2 (Rudy Van Gelder Edition))

Misha Mengelberg Quartet (Four In One)

ICP Orchestra (Herbie Nichols/Thelonious Monk)

“If Thelonious Monk had been born 20 years later in Europe, he may indeed have been Misha Mengelberg.” – Thom Jurek, All Music Guide to Jazz

Misha Mengelberg, June 5, 1935-March 3, 2017

“Hypochristmutreefuzz” on Spotify

David Axelrod, Blending Jazz, Soul, William Blake & Hip-Hop

“The Edge” Live at Royal Festival Hall–Watch on YouTube

David Axelrod (April 17, 1931-February 5, 2017) was a composer/arranger/producer who came out of the LA jazz scene in the late 50s. He was a prolific producer in the 60s. Among his notable projects were a Lou Rawls cover of the Buffalo Springfield’s “For What It’s Worth” and an album with Man from U.N.C.L.E. star David McCallum. (The above live performance features the title track from that album.)

Axelrod began putting out albums under his own name in the late 60s, beginning with Song of Innocence, an album inspired by the poems of William Blake.* The album featured notable LA-based musicans, such as Carol Kaye, the bassist you may remember from the documentary The Wrecking Crew. Kaye was among a group of super talented session musicians (Leon Russell, Glen Campbell, Hal Blaine, etc.) who were behind the sounds of our favorite hits. Were it not for Kaye, we wouldn’t have the memorable opening to “The Beat Goes On” or the sophisticated bass lines in The Beach Boys “Good Vibrations.”

Axelrod’s albums have become a go-to resource for an impressive lineup of hip-hop artists in search of samples. Lauryn Hill, Dr. Dre, De La Soul and Mos Def (Yasiin Bey) are among the artists who have sampled Axelrod. In the above video, Axelrod expresses his conflicted views of this aspect of his career: he hates sampling for putting musicians out of work, but is grateful for how it’s personally benefited him.

*Not to be confused with U2’s Songs of Innocence, which was forced on millions by the band and Apple.

“Holy Thursday” on Spotify

Karel Husa, Emigre Czech Composer

“Music for Prague 1968″–Watch on YouTube

Karl Husa was a Czech composer and conductor who emigrated to the United States in the 1950s. He is perhaps best known for “Music for Prague 1968,” a composition that he was inspired to write after he heard news of the Soviet invasion of his home country.

As explained on the LA Philharmonic website, the piece employs a 15th century Czech song, “Ye Warriors of God and His Law,” and uses the symbolism of various instruments throughout. The sound of bells, both as a sign of victory and distress, appear as a major theme in the piece. (Prague is known as the “City of A Hundred Spires.”) A piccolo solo represents a bird, itself a symbol for the liberty that has been so fleeting in Prague history.

“Music for Prague 1968” was originally scored for concert band and later transcribed for full orchestra.

Husa (August 7, 1921-December 14, 2016) was on the faculty of Cornell for nearly 40 years. He received a Pulitzer Prize for Music in 1969 for his “String Quartet No. 3.”

“String Quartet No. 3: Allegro Moderato” on Spotify

 

Pauline Oliveros, Composer Who Promoted “Deep Listening”

“The Difference Between Hearing and Listening” at TEDxIndianapolis–Watch on YouTube

I was in the shower this morning and took some time to take in the sounds: the hum of the water in the pipe, the spray of the showerhead and percussive clap of droplets hitting the tile floor.

I suppose I was practicing a form of “deep listening,” the practice and philosophy developed by sonic experimentalist Pauline Oliveros over the course of her long musical career.

As a child in Houston, Oliveros (May 30, 1932-November 24, 2016) was keenly aware of the sound of her surroundings: crickets, frogs, mocking birds. When she headed to San Francisco in 1952 to study music, she took this attentiveness with her and applied it to the emerging art of electronic music.

Her breakthrough piece was “Bye Bye Butterfly,” a composition built off of a recorded sample of Verdi’s Madame Butterfly and modified dramatically through the use of oscillators, tape delays and other effects. In an excellent post on frieze.com, critic and journalist Geeta Dayal quotes Oliveros as saying the piece “bids farewell  not only to the music of the 19th century but also to the system of polite morality of that age and to its attendant oppression of the female sex.”

Oliveros’s ideas on deep listening formed the basis of a book, Deep Listening: A Composer’s Sound Practice,  and a band, The Deep Listening Band, which she formed with Stuart Dempster and Panaiotis after they recorded in an underground cistern in Washington state.

“Bye Bye Butterfly” on Spotify

Fran Pérez “Narf,” Galician Guitarist, Composer and Vocalist

“A Flor de Pel”–Watch on YouTube

Fran Pérez, who performed as Narf, was a guitarist from Galicia, the autonomous region of Spain. He composed over 30 soundtracks for theater productions in Galicia and Portugal, as well as for the animated children’s film, The Labyrinth of Dreams.

He performed with both electric and acoustic guitars at festivals around the world. In the past year, he toured in the U.S., performing with the Galician singer Uxía at venues such as the Old Town School of Folk Music in Chicago and the Museum of International Folk Art in Santa Fe. The duo paid tribute to their roots by performing Galician classics and adaptations of “alalás,” the oldest know form of Galician music.

Pérez (1968-November 15, 2016) was a musician of the world, incorporating styles he picked up from performing with artists from Angola, Mozambique, Portugal, Brazil, Argentina and Guinea-Bissau.

“Sempre En Galiza/Galician Lullaby” on Spotify

Rod Temperton, Keyboardist for Heatwave, “Thriller” Songwriter

“Always and Forever”–Watch on YouTube

Who’d of thunk that a lad from Lincolnshire would grow up to be a disco/funk/soul/R&B hitmaker, catch the attention of Quincy Jones and end up writing the title track for the best-selling album of all time?

But that was Rod Temperton (October 9, 1949-September/October 2016). A keyboardist for the disco and funk band Heatwave, Temperton was tapped by Quincy Jones to contribute song ideas for Michael Jackson’s debut solo LP for Epic. The resulting “Rock With You” hit No. 1, and Jones called on Temperton for Jackson’s next album, Thriller. Temperton not only wrote the title song, but he also thought up the Vincent Price narration.

In addition to Jackson, Temperton penned songs for George Benson, Donna Summer, The Brothers Johnson and Manhattan Transfer. He received an Oscar nomination for his contributions to the soundtrack of The Color Purple. 

“Boogie Nights” on Spotify

Irving Fields, Pianist Who Recorded Hit Album “Bagels and Bongos”

“Miami Beach Rhumba”–Video on YouTube

Irving Fields made a career out of mashing up musical styles, often by taking Eastern European sounds and putting them to a Latin beat. His hit 1959 album Bagels and Bongos sold two million copies and spawned a series of followups: Bikinis and Bongos, Champagne and Bongos, Pizza and Bongos and More Bagels and Bongos.

As a pianist with the Irving Fields Trio, he performed at many of the hot nightclubs of midcentury Manhattan–Copacabana, the Latin Quarter and Mermaid Room. Just months ago, he could still be heard performing at Nino’s Tuscany Steakhouse. He was 100 at the time.

Fields (August 4, 1915-August 20, 2016) had a humorous side to him (as if his “…and Bongos” albums aren’t proof enough). He composed and recorded “The YouTube Dot Com Theme Song,” which has been viewed over 800,000 times.

“Mazeltov Merengue” on Spotify

McNeil Robinson, Organist, Composer and Teacher

McNeil Robinson Plays Dupré at St. Mary the Virgin

For many years, my mother was a church organist and choral director, having begun her professional career as a teenager in Pittsburgh. Sometimes after school, I would accompany her to an empty church and watch her practice. For someone who was not particularly coordinated, she had amazing dexterity when it came to navigating three keyboards (manuals), a multitude of stops and foot pedals below. It’s amazing how athletic you have to be to play a pipe organ.

Organists and carillon ringers may be unique in that they cannot bring their instruments home to practice. Practice and performance happen in a particular place, on an instrument usually of someone else’s choosing. The organ often eclipses the organist: on the website for the NPR program “Pipedreams” is a listing and photo gallery of the organs and places that have been featured on the show.

McNeil Robinson (March 16, 1943-May 9, 2015) was familiar with a number of Manhattan organs throughout the course of his distinguished career: at St. Mary the Virgin (1932 Aeoolian-Skinner), Park Avenue Christian Church (1946 Casavante Frères), Holy Trinity Catholic Church (1927 Estey), and for nearly 50 years at the Park Avenue Synagogue (1926 Casavante Frères).

In Memory of McNeil Robinson–Park Avenue Synagogue

Robinson studied at Julliard in New York and at the University of Salamanca in Spain. For nearly two decades, he was the chair of the organ department at the Manhattan School of Music. His students have won more international awards than those of any other teacher.

The Park Avenue Synagogue website cites Robinson’s many commissions, including from the Archbishop of Canterbury, the San Francisco Symphony, and the American Guild of Organists.

McNeil Robinson Improvisation, Part 1

McNeil Robinson Improvisation, Part 2

Bob Belden, Jazz Saxophonist, Arranger and Diplomat

“New Song No. 2,” with Animation at the Jazz Standard

Music and musicians have often played a role in soothing relationships between nations. Louis Armstrong penetrated the Iron Curtain at a concert in East Berlin in 1965. Recently, the Minnesota Orchestra contributed to the thawing of relations between the US and Cuba through a series of concerts and workshops in Havana.

Perhaps less known is a concert that took place this year, when New York saxophonist Bob Belden performed with his group Animation in Tehran, the first US group to do so since 1979.

As testimony to the diplomatic power of music, Belden (October 31, 1956-May 20, 2015) told The New York Times: “Everybody is nice to us here…a guy comes up to me, an Iranian, asks me where I’m from. I say,  ‘America!’ He says, ‘I love you!’ I tell him I’m a jazz musician. He says, ‘I love jazz!'”

Recording of “Black Dahlia” by the Bob Belden Orchestra

In addition to Animation, Belden was known as a prodigious arranger, often reinterpreting rock and jazz classics in new ways. He was well-known for an album of Sting’s music. He brought together Indian musicians to do a new take on the music of Miles Davis, using sitar and tabla. The album was nominated for a GRAMMY in 2009 for Best Contemporary Jazz Album.

“All Blues” on “Miles from India”