Nov. 29 marks the return of Record Store Day Black Friday, and for the 12th year, merchants have banded together to coax folks back into their stores to buy actual, physical recordings as opposed to digital music online.
Perhaps not coincidentally, a craze for vinyl records has arisen concurrently with this annual promotion, which now concentrates heavily on limited-edition vinyl reissues and newly discovered tapes. This year, more than 20 Seattle stores are participating, including well-known shops such as Easy Street, Sonic Boom and Silver Platters.
Of special interest for Seattle listeners is the first-time release of an album featuring Johnny Griffin and Eddie “Lockjaw” Davis, “Ow! Live at the Penthouse.” Here are reviews of a few other RSD jazz releases, as well as a rock album that has an indirect Seattle connection — it features Jimi Hendrix’s only known protégé.
“Louis Armstrong and His All-Stars, Live in 1956 (Allentown, PA)” (ORG Music)
The modern American musical era starts with Louis Armstrong, caught live on this never-before-released recording in Allentown, Pennsylvania. Though the Dixie panegyric “When It’s Sleepy Time Down South” is wince-worthy, Armstrong is in fine fettle on both vocals and trumpet, including a bravado “Mahogany Hall Stomp” and a sweet “La Vie En Rose” that reminds you people loved Armstrong because he communicated pure joy. Blues belter Velma Middleton takes an earthy turn on “Big Mama’s Back in Town,” and clarinetist Edmond Hall and trombonist Trummy Young provide vivid solos. But the real highlight here is pianist Billy Kyle, whose splashy solos on “Perdido” and “Tenderly” are worth the price of the album.
Bill Evans, “Live at Art D’Lugoff’s Top of the Gate” (Resonance Records)
Resonance Records originally released this excellent 1968 retrieval on CD in 2012 and is now making it available as a two-LP vinyl set. Though the crowd noise is occasionally distracting, it’s vintage, late-’60s Evans, with the first of two renditions of the ballad “Yesterdays” featuring a solo of absolutely breathtaking flow. The trio swells and contracts like a breathing sea, with bassist Eddie Gomez weaving lines around the leader’s and offering speedy solos of his own on “Emily,” “Autumn Leaves” and “Witchcraft.” The evening ends with a warm and romantic “Here’s That Rainy Day,” perfect for Seattle winter listening.
Cecil Taylor, “Indent” (ORG Music)
Taylor’s percussive, atonal piano isn’t for everyone, but this white color-vinyl pressing of a three-part piece he played in Ohio in 1973 (originally released on his label, Unit Core) proceeds with a pretty straightforward structure of themes and variations. Rumbling low notes and treble reveilles carry on a conversation that sometimes climaxes into the rippling tsunamis Taylor is best known for. The year of this concert, the United States was just a few years removed from the civil rights movement, and nearing the bitter end of the Vietnam War. Taylor’s stream-of-consciousness poems on the back cover, with their references to systemic racism and anti-war sentiments, let you know what was on his mind, and give some insight into his musical process.
Velvert Turner Group, “Velvert Turner Group” (ORG Music)
Velvert Turner met Jimi Hendrix in New York in the late ‘60s and learned how to produce the great Seattle innovator’s guitar distortions as well as how to imitate his vocal style — so convincingly that listeners sometimes mistook him for his mentor. Turner’s only album, made in 1972, has long been out of print, but is now back as a pink vinyl pressing. Though there’s no gainsaying that Turner learned how to play like Hendrix — see “Freedom” — and how to build his own songs with Hendrix’s symbiotic blend of vocal and guitar — see “Talkin’ About My Baby” — the album is mostly a collector’s curiosity.