Altamont at 50

A nuanced, intricate look back that I think is quite necessary.  Some thoughts:

If you were stuck in the sticks as I was, it took years to piece together exactly what happened, period. Could not have imagined that I would get to a place where, after I found out they wanted $700 for a ticket to their latest concert, the Rolling Stones were performers I could hardly bear to think about.

The worthy move now is to step away from the monster villains Hell’s Angels, the tainted, tormented, tortuous superstars, the cosmic cultural moment and focus on the key victim. And never again imagine that Meredith Hunter died because he waved a pistol around.

Stuff in the Air That Came Out of Speakers Today #68: Master Musicians of Jajouka

A latter-day release I did not have until recently: The Source (Le Son Du Marquis, “Recorded in 2010”). I pick up whatever I run across by this, uh, “outfit,” because, as much as any performers I know, their works all sound the same but the more you listen the more each has its own language. Obvious this was worked on and worked on, until leader Bachir Attar says, “Let’s go — this is a set.” (And who can resist titles like “Hadra of Sidi Amed Sheik (music for healing sick people on Friday at the tomb of the Saint)”?)

Nearly every time I listen to the Master Jajoukas, I think of the late pioneering music critic and musician Robert Palmer, because the one time I met him, he was sitting next to us at a Jajouka concert in Harvard’s Saunders Theater (incredible acoustics, what a treat). After the show, I introduced myself and tried to ask him about not just Jajouka but his recent Rock & Roll: An Unruly History and even Deep Blues, one of the most profound and enlightening books about the South and that more-defiant-than-sad music from there. He was pretty grunt-and-nod in a sadly too-short exchange, but I now understand he was quite ill by then (did not last all that long after) and wanted to get backstage to talk to the musicians. Sorry, Bob Palmer, that I did not get to tell you how much Insect Trust and Hoboken Saturday Night changed my life.

R.I.P.: Randy Weston

The last time we saw him perform was at the New England Conservatory, the same week as the Marathon Bombings. He stopped in the middle of the show to announce that one of the supreme powers of music was its ability to heal and that he was consciously setting out to do that this night.

He worked magic. We came out of the hall with soaring spirits, an enormous dark weight lifted from us. Randy Weston healed us like no other performer at an essential moment of anguish. Eternal thanks and peace.

Three picks:

This is your prime starting spot. Little Niles, Live at the Five Spot and (esp.) Uhuru Afrika are masterpieces. Uhuru changed my head forever in that I heard jazz as African music like never before.

Maybe no surprise, this is the second stop — which shows you how he got to my first pick. Jazz a La Bohemia and Solo, Duo & Trio feature tremendous lineups and not a weak moment of playing.

This is the less-well-known recommendation that keeps exploding and expanding with that collective soul strength. Will make you spin around the room. Play loud.

I think Tanjah was the album that introduced me to Weston, maybe from a review by Robert Palmer. I don’t know how many of his records I own — many, many, many.