On A California Roll

… buying music, that is. If you’re a compulsive collector for long enough your guessing becomes more educated and when you throw in a bolt of luck — you forget it’s work-related as you ride the wave of joy.

We were in southern CA for nine days. The scoring run began with my second-ever visit to Amoeba Records in Los Angeles. A friend of a friend gave us a back-room tour of the place and talk about collectors’ joys … everybody knows that vinyl has made a huge comeback, but what was news to me is that used books have become a strong feature for the music store — moved more than 8,000 volumes last year. Two most fascinating items I came across — the vinyl edition of Aleister Crowley’s recordings that I had seen only once before (this was taken from waxed cylinders he made — and now the vinyl version is also way out of print):


And several crumbling copies of a 1940s thriller/adventure/detective/crime/babes-in-distress pulp magazine that was half printed pages and half illustrations.It was a thrill just to peruse the things, but they were in terrible shape and not a prime example of the genre …

Then I went on my California roll in the store itself. First couple items were sure things that I had not encountered earlier —

Randy Weston, The Complete Recordings 1955-1957 (Enlightenment, 2016). Yes, he released an amazing six LPs in that time period. I had heard two of them. Includes the first appearance of his wondrous, oft-covered tune dedicated to his son, “Little Niles.”

Ennio Morricone, Cinema Paradiso (Original soundtrack) (DRG, 1989). This came out when I was “between gigs” and so it was not sent to me and then I forgot it existed. Morricone’s first for Giuseppe Tornatore — he would go on to do all the director’s later films.

Then things began to get interesting. Bands I knew in collections that I did not.

Ry-Co Jazz, Bon Voyage!! Rythme-Congolais From Africa Aux Antilles (1963-1977) (Retro-Afric, 2008). I had the first retrospective of Ry-Co Jazz put out by Retro-Afric, but was unaware there had been a followup. The first is a charming delight, but this is a stunner and I’m going to write a little something about it. Because, over the space of four tracks, Ry-Co Jazz invents zouk.

Various, The Very Best of ethiopiques — Cult Hits from the Original Series (Metro, 2011). Now, I knew I had a double-disc collection of Best of Ethiopiques, but it didn’t look anything like this so I took a chance, and sure enough it is an entirely different anthology with quite different picks! Huzzah!

Starting to feel it, I went way out there.

Baba Commandant & the Mandingo Band, Juguya (Sublime Frequencies, 2015). He’s wearing a weird costume, has a weird name and appears on a label that does not usually do African music. Know nothing more than the eight single-word track titles. But I love it! Described as “A sort of punk Faso Dan Fani activist for traditional Mandingo music,” the Malian ngoni player and singer also draws “inspiration from the golden era of Nigerian music. Fela and King Sunny Ade are big influences, as is the legendary Malian Moussa Doumba.” And you can hear all of that. Too much.

And then pure unexpected luck kicked in.

I ran across a disc by Ahmed Malek, Musique Originale du Films (Habibi Funk, 2016). For about 10 years, I had owned a 10-inch EP done by Ahmed Malek (whom I knew nothing about) for a film soundtrack. I thought the cover art was wild and romantic and perfect. Then last year I got the turntable fixed, ran across the 10″, played it and was knocked out. No less than an Algerian Morricone! (Google the record label for a treat. I’m plenty intrigued.)

That was it for Tower. Couple days later, dropped into the store at the LA Phil, expecting to find nothing. Instead my on-a-roll instincts prompted me to pick up

Ben ritmato e deciso (Novi sad, 2010). Feauring Aleksandar Tasic, clarinet and Zoran Krajiosnik, guitar. Offbeat instrument combo. Never heard of either player. But was intrigued by the bold yet brilliant combination of material, from Igor Stravinsky to George Gershwin to Astor Piazzolla. And it’s a delight — though the solo showcases are a shade tedious, the duets throw in as much folk funk and jazz zig-zags as classical readings. Far as I can tell, the only record the two have done.

Several days later, the final music visit was to Atomic Records in beautiful downtown Burbank, where I acquired second-tier albums I did not know existed from artists I like a great deal —

Paul Schutze, Vol. 4, Isabelle Eberhardt: The Oblivion Seeker (original soundtrack) (Tone Casualties, 1997). Schutze’s top three that I know: Apart, Green Evil and Site Anubis.

Pierre Dorge & New Jungle Orchestra, Music From the Danish Jungle (dacapo, 1996). Some of the players, including leader-guitarist Dorge, wear Arkestra-like costumes, so you get the idea. Dorge’s masterpiece: Pierre Dorge & New Jungle Orchestra, S/T (SteepleChase, 1985), which features several African jazzers, starting with John Tchicai.

I will keep and enjoy both of these last two albums, but their lesser status signaled that my luck was starting to run out and I bought no more music in Hollywoodworld.

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