Friday Playlist – 10 Pieces of Music I am Thankful For

Miles at Newport 84

Yesterday I talked about how thankful I am for my family and the happy and fortunate life we have, so today as we start to come off of Thanksgiving and into the build-up to Christmas I wanted to use my Friday Playlist to talk about music that makes me thankful. Music is an extremely important part of my life, so it makes sense that when I think of key moments or people there is a musical attachment.

Oh, and I’ve had some folks ask if I did a Turkey Trot yesterday – no, I took yesterday off. If there is something more important than running or music … it is family. All four of us home all day yesterday – it was awesome.

Here goes the list:

The Who: I think I already talked enough about The Who last week … suffice to say they are fundamentally important in the origins of my instrumental music development. Here is a little promo of what I saw in the ‘Kids are Alright’ film that made me switch to bass almost immediately.

Stanley Clarke – My Greatest Hits: there were loads of bassists that impacted me – Jaco, Steve Swallow, Chris Squire, Ron Carter, Jeff Berlin, Jonas Hellborg – but Stanley arrived first and has always had a massive impact on me. There was a long period – from about 1980 to 2010 – where I didn’t much use for his album releases, but his ‘Stanley Clarke Band’ album is just an excellent set of music.

Miles Davis – Bitches Brew: While not the first music of Miles I heard, Bitches Brew fundamentally changed how I viewed and approached music. I never bought into the view of it as Miles ‘selling out’ as this live clip shows. I am also including the original track afterwards, because it is so much different and demonstrates the incredible level of group improv at work.

Richard Wagner – Overture to Rienzi: While I love Beethoven, Shostakovich, and many others … Wagner is my favorite. If you listen to this after listening to Miles, you will be able to hear loads of influence in how Miles formed the thematic developments of Bitches Brew. Listening to the huge box set of Wagner’s orchestral works taught me a lot about texture, color, and the power of operating with a massive palette.

Pat Metheny – First Circle: this composition shows how Metheny and Lyle Mays make intricate rhythms and time signatures sound easy, while combining interesting melodies and harmonic structures with great improvisation, all wrapped up in a very listenable package. Metheny remains one of the few artists I can always put on in my house without complaint.

Steven Reich – Different Trains: I discovered this because of the Kronos Quartet, but the composition is just amazing: it is a great embodiment of ‘minimalism’ with ‘musique concrete’ mixed in. The history behind the piece is also sad yet hopeful, and it showed me how much you can do with such a small tonal palette.

The Bible – Skywriting: This is ‘Our Song’. Lisa had this album (Eureka) on a tape from a friend when living in Boston, and as our relationship developed we shared music and this was one that really spoke to us. I surprised Lisa by importing this through Tower Records on Mass Ave a couple of years later, and this will always mean the world to us.

Harry Connick Jr – We Are In Love: along the same lines, I had gotten Harry Connick’s ‘We Are in Love’ CD, and this became another favorite. We featured both Skywriting and this song at our wedding.

Kraftwerk – The Robots: Aside from Lisa, the most important things in my life are my boys. Both are tremendously musically talented, and we have shared likes and dislikes through the years. I always loved Kraftwerk, and Chris keyed in on electronica and is now totally immersed in EDM and techno and other stuff. His music writing is both catchy and advanced, and I just love what I am hearing. But for me it comes back to this song.

Black Sheep – The Choice is Yours: similarly for Dan, I introduced him to rap music through this song and some Tribe Called Quest, and eventually NWA. The amazing thing was that I heard this song on a jazz show from WHRB (Harvard Univ radio) … it is still a great song. Love the 90s video!

Mary Halvorson Trio Live: it is so easy to get immersed in life that you miss out on new music – and I feel like that happened to me with kids, work, moving to a new state and so on. Then I found ‘The Jazz Session’ with Jason Crane, and through that show discovered a number of great artists. My favorite young composer and artist is Mary Halvorson – though her music is not for everyone. Through that connection I have found dozens of really great albums over the last few years.

Hope everyone is having a great Black Friday!

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