Recently, I was roped into doing one of those Facebook challenges. You know the ones. Modern-day chain letters where someone does something for a certain number of days nominating a different person to do the same every day of the challenge. I normally just ignore them, but this one piqued my interest so I decided to participate this time.
Here's the charge:
I was nominated by David Hale to post 10 albums over the next 10 days that have really had an impact on me. I was asked to post the album cover with no explanation and to nominate a person each day to do the same.
Today I nominate Dave Williams II"
I chose not to perpetuate the chain because I don't like making people feel obligated so, no nominating someone different each day, but the introspective of 10 albums that really had an impact on me was intriguing.
Every morning I listen to music. Sometimes for inspiration. Sometimes for contemplation. Sometimes it's because I've had a song stuck in my head and just have to hear it outloud. Trying to limit my list to 10 albums that have been the most impactful is difficult. Where do I start? How do I start? And without explanation? Just jump in I suppose.
Here is my list and why I picked them.
Pink Floyd - Dark Side Of The Moon
When I was a kid my dad would often pull out his saxophone and play along with records. Some of my earliest memories include him playing along with James Taylor's "How Sweet It Is" and "Fire And Rain" but the recording that stands out the most in my mind is Pink Floyd's "Money" from the album Dark Side Of The Moon. It's funky and driving. There's an aggressiveness that's still accessible. You wouldn't think it's in a difficult time signature because of how catchy the groove is, but it's probably the asymmetrical simple meter of 7/4 that makes it stand out to me. Dad listened to records and was accustomed to starting an album at the beginning and letting it play. Same thing with cassette tapes. When CDs became popular, skipping to your favorite song became so much easier and listening to an album from start to finish slowly turned into a thing of the past. Dark Side Of The Moon is one of those albums I just have to listen to the entire thing from start to finish. It's a complete thought. A full concept from beginning to end. It ebbs and flows. Builds and intensifies then relaxes. It's a journey. Each song seems to connect to the next. Before you know it a half hour has passed. Kinda the whole point of the album. Man's struggle with time and the human condition over a lifetime.
Frank Zappa - Apostrophe
Another album from my childhood. When picking this one, I couldn’t help but begin to wonder what albums my kids would pick. My first 2 so far have been albums from my parent’s collection, which makes sense. We listened to a lot of music and they were always singing. Frank Zappa had some crazy lyrics and very colorful stories that stood out to me as a child. My parents loved to sing refrain from Nanook Rubs It, a song about an eskimo boy that takes up for his favorite baby seal by rubbing a mitten full of the deadly yellow snow into the fur trapper’s beady little eyes. I mean, come on. What kid wouldn’t enjoy a song about husky wee-wee? Needless to say, we listened to this entire album a lot and laughed and laughed. Looking back, I’d say this album taught me the importance of story telling. The older I got, the more I understood what the songs really meant and began to grasp the political message. This was my intro to jazz fusion and comedy rock. The musicianship is unparalleled. Twisted rhythms and exotic scales all hidden behind hilarious stories that don’t always make sense.
Sonny Rollins - Saxophone Colossus
The first jazz album I remember hearing. My dad was a saxophonist and this was in his collection. When I was probably 2 years old I tried to "help" my dad with his record collection. Any responsible collector knew to wipe down the records with a felt to remove the dust. One day I wanted to surprise him by cleaning his Smithsonian Collection of Classic Jazz...all 6 albums both sides. Turns out my dads whet stone he used to sharpen his knives had the same cedar handle as his vinyl felts. I got them good. So, I didn't get to listen to them and started with Sonny Rollins' "Saxophone Colossus". B-side to be precise. Little did I know how influential "Moritat" and "Blue 7" would be on shaping what I hear in my head as the sound a saxophone should make. Those 2 tracks back to back couldn't be more perfect to me. Sonny was doing something that spoke to me. His tone on "Moritat" is so fat and soft. It's possibly the most inviting sound a sax can make to young ears almost like a whisper trying to get your attention without startling you. Sonny is saying, "Psst. Son, listen to this." then proceeds play a textbook example of how to construct a solo from start to finish. Then Blue 7, one of the greatest performances he ever recorded. It's simple, an easy blues groove that sounds like the closing song of a set after you've played all the songs you wanted to and just wanted to stretch out on something that grooves. It was several years, possibly a decade before I flipped the album over and listened to Sonny's most iconic tune and opening cut of the album "St. Thomas". By then I was already hooked on the sax and Sonny had already ingrained his tone and approach on me.
Beck - Mutations
I decided to go with an album I discovered in high school for day 4. Like any other rebellious teenager trying to find themselves and define their tastes, my friends and I gravitated towards the modern music of our time. I almost chose Sea Change, but when thinking about how impactful that album was, I had to go with Mutations. Beck made it on my radar with his 1996 album Odelay. It was all over the radio and wildly popular for an alt-rock album. But when he released Mutations in 1999 there was a sincerity that I think was missing from Odelay. Don't get me wrong, I think Odelay was brilliant. Something about Mutations was different. Almost a nod to the great classic rock songwriters before him. All with a modern Beck twist that could only be found on a Beck album. It's like he combined Dylan and Hank Sr. with angular sci-fi synth. True poetry. This album doesn't make it into my rotation as much as it should these days. For a rather large portion of my adolescence, and well into my young adult life, I probably listened to it in some capacity 2 to 3 times a week.
Bela Fleck & the Flecktones - Live Art
While in high school, I discovered jazz band and the warm embrace of like minded musicians. This was new to me. I didn't necessarily stick out in junior high as different, but finding my people in jazz band was liberating. We quickly bonded over our music collections. My friend Matt Treadway turned me onto Bela Fleck & the Flecktones. He loaned me his 2 disk copy of Live Art. I didn't know what to expect from a banjoist, but we went out to my car and gave it a listen. In true Dave form, I started with disk 2. Matt warned me that the bass was going to be important. I was proud of my car stereo. I installed it myself. Upgraded speaker cable and high end components. The stereo probably doubled the actual value of the car. I might not have had ac or power windows, but my stereo sounded good. It opens with Victor Wooten playing a bass solo unlike anything I'd ever heard before that moment. He accompanied himself with harmonics and percussive plucking. It was so funky and virtuosic and effortless. I was dumbfounded. The rest of the album was so fresh and creative. These recording were hand picked out of hundreds of recordings from live shows over the course of 4 years. It was incredible to me how the energy of a live show could be captured in a recording. This album would set my direction of playing and creating music with energy regardless of the style or tempo. Matt Treadway would continue having incredibly impactful moments in my growth and development as a musician, but I'll save that for Day 8.
Aerosmith - Get A Grip
I mentioned before, I was around for the introduction of CDs. One year for my birthday, my best friend got me 2 CDs. At 11 years old I got the first 2 CDs of my very own; Queen's - Greatest Hits (almost made this list) and Aerosmith's - Get A Grip. For the rest of that year and the next, every single one of Get A Grip's tracks would dominate the radio and MTV. Hit after hit, and I knew every word. I would get so excited every time I would hear the first 3 notes of any of those songs. As an album, again, a fully creative and thought out idea. There are an intro and outro tying everything together with a slew of songs touching on religion, drug abuse, and racism. During this time in my life, I was starting to develop feelings towards girls and the 3 power ballads really touched those emotions.
Oliver Nelson - The Blues and the Abstract Truth
Another album from the collective of musicians I met in jazz band. This one holds a special place in world. On February 23, 2000 I was playing in the All-State High School Jazz band under the direction of Chris Vadala. This day is also the day my wife, Christy, and I started dating. She played bass clarinet and bari sax and we sat next to each other in jazz band. All of this ties together with The Blues and the Abstract Truth, I promise. Chris Vadala played with Oliver Nelson and had us play the tune Stolen Moments. When Christy had introduced me to it earlier that year I was instantly obsessed. Over the course of the next couple years I'd catch a cut from that album while listening to my favorite radio show Jazz with Bob Parlocha that would make me have to go find the album and listen to it again. While looking up the personel (pianist Bill Evans, Paul Chambers on bass and drummer Roy Haynes on bass. Nelson played alto and tenor saxophone and was joined by trumpeter Freddie Hubbard, George Barrow on baritone and Eric Dolphy on flute and alto sax.) I discovered that Oliver Nelson recorded this incredible album at Rudy Van Gelder’s studio in Englewood Cliffs New Jersey on 23 February 1961. What were the odds?!? To say this album was impactful for me is an understatement.
Wes Montgomery - Far Wes
Today we circle back around to that Matt Treadway fellow and his influence on my musical taste. Technically, he was a part of yesterday's post since he was in the All-State Jazz band and he was also in the motel room sitting cross legged on the bed practicing his guitar when Christy and I started dating, but I feel like he's more directly responsible for me finding this album considering he handed it to me personally. Much like with the other album I mentioned from Matt, we went out to my car to listen. The opening track is the title track and is exactly what I've come to think of when someone says "like Wes Montgomery", gentle, laid back, melodic and precise. What really stands out is how well the sax and the guitar blend playing the melody together. Nobody is fighting for the spotlight. They blend so well.
Sonny Stitt - Only the Blues (+Bonus Tracks)
This album opened my eyes to how a recording session went in 1957. This was the first time I'd ever heard false starts or the band fall apart on tracks included on the final release, granted they were bonus tracks. Sonny could lay back hard on a slow blues or fly like Bird on a burning bebop tune. He hired the top players for this date (trumpeter Roy Eldridge, pianist Oscar Peterson, guitarist Herb Ellis, bassist Ray Brown, and drummer Stan Levey) and it showed. This album got stuck in my cd player in the car and I didn't care to fix it. I should mention I had a 6 disk changer in my car, so I wasn't stuck listening to the same 7 songs over and over, but it was in heavy rotation for about 4 years. This album was the first album I learned to sing all the solos note for note, a habit I would continue for music I enjoyed for the rest of my life.
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Dave Williams II