My friend Hobie tagged me on the facebook to do one of those album challenges that soar around the internet from time to time.
The rules: share 10 albums that have influenced my musical taste and upbringing. One record per day for the next 10 days. No expectations, no reviews, just the cover art. Every day I am supposed to nominate someone to do the same.
OK, I’ll try to be a good sport and play but let’s get things straight. I’m not very good at following rules and doing as I’m told. To start with, I don’t tag people with these things, so that’s just not happening. As well, I don’t have the patience to stretch something like this out for 10 days, so it’s all happening in a single post. Finally, I think it’s more fun to say a few things about my choices, so I will.
I listen to a lot of different music and various pieces or collections of music have been important to me for all kinds of different reasons. I think if I made this list every day many of the choices would change – so this won’t be any kind of absolute list and it’s not in any order. As soon as I commit the list to this post I will have wished I included many other things instead.
Jimmy Rushing – Mister Five by Five
When I was in my teens my dad had this album. He liked to put it on the console stereo in the living room (the kind that looked like a piece of furniture), pour himself a glass of brandy and listen to it with the volume cranked up high. He listened to it a lot. At one point I was pretty sure I hated it. A few years later, when I moved out on my own, I realized I missed this music. I called him up. Hey Dad, you still got that old Jimmy Rushing record? Mr. Five X Five. Yeah, yeah, that’s the one. Would it be ok if taped it? He was pretty happy I finally came around to his way of thinking about music. One of my fave pieces on the record was a live cut from the Brussels World Fair in 1958, with Mr. Rushing sitting in with Benny Goodman’s band. I checked the YouTube to see if it was there, and it turns out it is, but listed as a Benny Goodman cut, from Benny in Brussels. This just rocks. I hope you enjoy it….
Jimmy Rushing was best known as a singer with Count Basie’s band. They called him Mr. 5X5 because he was a really big guy with a really big voice. Whenever I listen to his music, it brings me back to my youth. I can see my dad in the living room singing along to his fave cuts. My father had a great enthusiasm for music and a love of old jazz. He liked to tell me about the time he saw Wingy Manone play at the Colonial on Yonge St when it was a jazz club instead of a strip joint. He sent a shot of Canadian Club up to the stage for Wingy, who told the band, take it away boys, I got a sponsor, and went and had that drink with my dad.
Cathy Barton and Dave Para – Sweet Journeys
Cathy Barton was an instructor at Midwest Banjo Camp the first time I attended. When I saw and heard her play banjo, I was mesmerized! She played an old Ode bluegrass banjo in clawhammer style, and she was such a fabulous player.
I attended banjo camp 3 times and showed up for every one of Cathy’s workshops. She knew thousands of tunes and her enthusiasm for teaching them was infectious. Many of the tunes I like to play best I learned from Cathy. The last time I was there, I had a chance to go over a few tunes I had previously learned with her in an effort to get them right in my head. The last time I saw her was in the cafeteria at the college. It totally surprised me when she gave me a hug and thanked me for learning all the tunes she taught and carrying on the music.
Sadly, Cathy has passed on. She was my banjo hero to be sure. Here are Cathy and Dave performing one of the tunes from the Sweet Journeys album, Pap and Jenny.
James Cotton Band – 100% Cotton
I was a teenage blues freak. When I was 14 or 15 I went down to the old Ontario Place Forum (remember the revolving stage?) to see the James Cotton Band followed by Muddy Waters. Wow, what a show! James Cotton had one of the hottest blues outfits around in those days.
Bob Dylan – Blood on the Tracks
I didn’t know anything about Bob Dylan when I first heard Blood on the Tracks, aside from being vaguely familiar with a song from the 60s called Like a Rolling Stone. This album totally captured my imagination. There was a sadness about the whole thing I had never heard in music before and the performances to my mind were perfect.
Sun Ra – Second Star to the Right
I grew up listening to my dad’s kind of jazz. Benny Goodman and Kid Ory and Wingy Manone and Count Basie. In the early 80s I visited NYC with friends and we were looking for some entertainment one evening. We saw an ad in the Voice for Sun Ra and his 21st Century Omniverse Arkestra at one of the big clubs in the Village. They were doing a tribute to Duke Ellington and Fletcher Henderson. All I knew about Ra was that he came from Saturn and that was enough to get us to the club.
I didn’t know what to expect, but it can tell you I didn’t expect a 20 piece band. I remember at the end of the show the band forming a conga line, clapping and chanting see you later alligator in a while crocodile. I lucked into seeing what I now know to be one the most fabulous jazz outfits. It was hard to decide which album to feature here. I considered one called Lanquidity but settled for Second Star to the Right, the Arkestra’s tribute to Walt Disney.
Here they are performing Forest of No Return, a performance that influenced a whole series of paintings I did a few years ago.
Nick Lowe – Party of One
My friend Vox introduced me to this album. I knew Nick Lowe’s earlier material from the late 70s. Party of One came out in 1990. He’s continued to make fantastic music and I can say Nick Lowe is one of the few musicians I’ve listened to through much of my adult life.
Here’s Gai-Gin Man
Fernest and the Thunders – Zydeco Thunder
Fernest Arceneaux and his band The Thunders came up to Toronto once – it must have been in the late 80s. I think they played the Horseshoe. I bought this this album from them and had a chance to chat with the guys over a beer between sets. There were a rocking zydeco band. I loved the way Fernest played his button accordion, and I think that show may have been what kindled my interest in button accordion, which I would learn to play years later.
Johnny Cash – American Recordings.
I knew a lot of Johnny Cash music, but when American Recordings came out in 1994 – his 81st record, it stopped me in my tracks.
Ornette Coleman – Body Meta
For a number of years, Sheila and I lived in a little house on Blackthorn Ave in Toronto. There was a 12X12 shed out back which I converted into a painting studio we called the Secret Lab. At that time I discovered some kind of relationship between whatever it was I was trying to accomplish in my paintings with what I heard when I listened to Ornette Coleman, so for quite a long time, I listened to his music, cranked up loud, while I worked in the studio.
Utah Phillips and Ani DiFranco – The Past Didn’t Go Anywhere
I love this unique collaboration between U. Utah Phillips, the Golden Voice of the Great Southwest and Ani DiFranco. It’s as unusual as it is powerful.