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Remembering Saxophone Giant King Curtis
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King Curtis

Today, February 7, 2014, would have been the 80th birthday of the late King Curtis, a saxophone master whose sonic wizardry contributed so many facets in the music industry during the late 1950s to the early 1970s. What seemed to be a career that was even going to hit further heights after he become Aretha Franklin’s musical director was cut short by his tragic and senseless murder in 1971.

Born in 1934 and raised in Fort Worth, TX, “King” Curtis Ousley was an early component of rock and roll and the R&B scene, which found its full flower by the mid 1960s. On records like The Coasters’ “Yakety Yak,” Curtis displayed his penchant for playing with a fervor, a zest which instantly got blood circulating in the listener and himself. Raucous yet light in the best possible ways, the solo on the record stands as one of the most recognizable pieces of sax playing of all time and it contained strains of the type of playing King Curtis would utilize on his subsequent recordings and live performances. It also propelled Curtis to the limelight and within the music industry; he played with luminaries like Buddy Holly and recorded his own songs like “Soul Twist” and the emotionally charged “Soul Serenade,” which went on to become a standard and most memorable R&B ballad of the period.

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Remembering The Late Jazz Titan Trumpeter Miles Davis On His Birthday
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Miles Davis

Today is the birthday of the late jazz trumpeter Miles Davis, who almost singlehandedly shaped, changed, influenced, and pioneered much of that genre with expansive and highly memorable musical works that were released (mainly on Columbia Records) during the mid-20th century.

Davis, born May 26, 1926, remains one of the great musicians of the jazz age and American music age. A true original in every sense of the term, Davis wasn’t the first to excel at the trumpet — Louis Armstrong paved the cobblestoned musical roads that hundreds and hundreds of trumpeters in his wake tread upon after him, and people like Dizzy Gillespie and Clark Terry also drafted the blueprints at the jazz architects table — but Davis took all that came before him and he molded and shaped it into a sound that stemmed from him and created scores of albums that challenged basic jazz tenets and set the world on its ear. He (like contemporaries Dave Brubeck, Thelonious Monk, Charles Mingus, and a slight few others) broke it through to the mainstream, and then once the mainstream listened, he socked it in its collective face with an absolutely dazzling array of sounds and musicians who played with him, churning out records at a breathless clip, all with a standard that ran as high as stars in the galaxy. His playing seemed to also rest on that level as well, he almost played hovering over the stage he tread upon, the music seemed to lift one out of the their physical being, it’s raw urgency and soulful complexity even was evident in the most heartfelt soft ballads he manifested, and it could be downright forcefully intimidating and ferocious when he played with the fervor and intensity when he stepped the jazz up a few notches.

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Remembering The Late Jazz Bass Player Jaco Pastorius On The 25th Anniversary Of His Death
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Jaco Pastorius

Today marks the 25th anniversary of the passing of one of jazz music’s brightest lights in its rich history, Jaco Pastorius, who in his short life became as important a figure on his respective instrument, the electric bass guitar, as Charlie Parker had been on his saxophone, Jelly Roll Morton on the piano, Louis Armstrong on the trumpet, and Jimi Hendrix on the electric guitar.

For about ten years on the jazz/fusion scene, Pastorius pioneered sounds and a feverish, almost robotic attack to the instrument, creating sounds and an approach unlike anything heard before it or since. There were legendary figures on the instrument before him, who also became his influences – Paul Chambers, who played with Miles Davis; Charles Mingus; Gary Peacock; Dave Holland; Ron Carter – all masters of the upright bass, and the early figures on electric bass, famed session players like Jerry Jemmott and Tommy Cogbill, Paul McCartney and Donald “Duck” Dunn. But Pastorius took all that he learned, especially playing night after night in cover bands all throughout his home state of Florida growing up as a teen, and he made it original and jaw droppingly astonishing, bringing the bass guitar, usually relegated to the “backbeat” of a musical ensemble, to a lead instrument of sorts.

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$4 MP3 Album Deal: John Coltrane ‘The Ultimate Blue Train’
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John Coltrane Blue Train Cover

Another heavyweight release from the golden era of jazz, Blue Train by saxophone titan John Coltrane, is on sale in MP3 format right now on Amazon for only a mindboggling $3.99! For jazz aficionados, this is the deal of the year, if not the decade.

Blue Train (known here as The Ultimate Blue Train because it spawns some bonus tracks of alternate takes) was originally released in 1957 and while it arguably may not stand as Coltrane’s best album, it is still a watershed musical release for the tenor player.

From its iconic cover, inspired by Coltrane’s affection for Pablo Picasso’s storied artistic “blue period” of his paintings, to the classic title track – which starts off in stutter steps of brass sounds and chugs along to bluesy hard bop – and tracks like “Moment’s Notice,” which has urgency and unabashed classy musical taste via the talents of Coltrane leading the way, and the wonderful rhythm section of Paul Chambers on stand up bass and Philly Joe Jones on drums, the upbeat “Locomotion” and in fact all the rest of the tracks, Blue Train is essential. The record also achieved the rare feat of being certified Gold by the RIAA, as most jazz records never sell into the hundreds of thousands. The fact that this album did says a lot about Coltrane’s desire to standout in an ocean of his amazing jazz peers at the time and of all time. Blue Train remains one of America’s most memorable and important musical releases for all eternity.

Grab the album while it’s on sale through the end of the day. Also, browse all 1,000 albums on sale this month for only $5 each, as well as several albums on sale this week for only $2.99 each.

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$5 MP3 Album Deal: Thelonious Monk Genius Of Modern Music: Vol 1
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The aptly titled Genius Of Modern Music: Vol 1, which showcases the late, eccentric and innovate jazz pianist/composer Thelonious Monk, is on sale for $5.00 in MP3 format on right now at Amazon.

Showcasing his earliest recordings from 1947, Monk had a bright, breezy, yet assured style that he only got stronger with as his career pushed forward in the decades following these recordings, finding its zenith by the 1960s. Jazz aficionados will be impressed by the selection here on this Blue Note recording; what it lacks in sonic polish in terms of sound, it more than makes up for it in its sonic moxie. “Off Minor,” the wonderfully sublime and beautiful “Ruby My Dear,” the great “Well You Needn’t,” “Introspection,” “Nice Work if You Can Get It,” and the jazz standard “Round Midnight” are just a sampling of all the classic tracks included within, many of which later became Monk staples when he became sort of an “elder statesman” of jazz later in his musical life.

Browse all 100 albums on sale this month for only $5 each, as well as several albums on sale this week for only $2.99.

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$1.99 MP3 Album Deal: John Coltrane’s ‘Giant Steps’
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John Coltrane Giant Steps

Giant Steps, one of the all time great jazz records recorded by the heavyweight of the saxophone John Coltrane, is only on sale for an unbelievable $1.99 in MP3 format right now, which has to stand as not only the Deal of the Day, but maybe of the year! This deal is only good for today and tomorrow.

Giant Steps, originally released in 1960 on Atlantic Records, has its place in jazz and music history on the same levels as Miles Davis’ Kind of Blue. It remains a record that gave the cool medium to the masses, much in the way that Miles’ record did (which Coltrane was also a part of). By this release, his 5th album as a leader, Coltrane plays with a surefooted approach on his instrument over arrangements that have almost become standard blueprints for adventurous and complex jazz to the trained ear, and easily accessible and highly listenable to the layman.

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Jazz Geek Picks: 3 Classic Blue Note Albums For $5 Each
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Blue Note Records

Jazz as a whole is still the most misunderstood and easily dismissed of any music in any genre. Most folks patiently let jazz zealots play their endless amounts of records for them (the jazz genre has multitudes upon multitudes of releases) and quickly denounce them as background soundtrack noise, jumbled notes, and arrangements better heard during shopping at convenience stores or waiting to be whisked up in elevators, than to give it the proper attention it deserves. For the most part, it’s one of the few musical genres that is decidedly rooted in American roots, and that’s not a statement of jingoism, simply pride. Jazz divides people like no other. Other than the rare popular jazz release or its usage in another forms of medium, (Miles Davis’ “Kind of Blue,” John Coltrane’s “Giant Steps,” Herbie Hancock’s electronic “Rockit” or hip hop artists that liberally sample jazz sounds for example) ultimately, it seems like either one likes jazz music or they don’t.

To cap, as Frank Zappa so eloquently and hilariously put it as only he could on his 1974 Roxy and Elsewhere album, “Jazz is not dead, it just smells funny.”

As part of Amazon’s monthly $5 MP3 Album Deal for May 2012, there’s a great deal on three classic jazz albums in MP3 format right now for only $5 each, and all are encouraged to check them out before the sales ends.

Moanin’ by Art Blakey & The Jazz Messengers
Somethin’ Else by Cannonball Adderley
Speak No Evil by Wayne Shorter

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