Nov 12, 2012
When Michael Chabon’s novel Telegraph Avenue was published, I knew that there would be a podcast in it for us all. The novel, set in 2004, has at its center the relationship between Archy Stallings and Nat Jaffe. Archy is black, Nat is white and Jewish and the pair have been the proprietors of Brokeland Records, a used record store located in North Oakland, on Telegraph Avenue. The plot is not nearly as important as their conversations about jazz, and in particular, the type of soul-jazz made popular in the Sixties and Seventies. Check out Chabon’s piece in Rolling Stone about the music that he – and his characters – listened to, including:
A lot of fantastic organ music -- I have an organ player in the book, so I needed to really get into that. Charles Earland, Johnny "Hammond" Smith, Charles Kynard, Reuben Wilson, Leon Spencer … there were just so many great organ players. They had musicians that associated with them like Melvin Sparks, the guitarist who died last year. Idris Muhammad, the drummer. Grant Green, who started as more of a straight-ahead jazz guitarist in the '70s, made a lot of good jazz-funk records. Then people like Deodato, who's kind of forgotten now, but he made some really cool records. He was a really gifted composer and arranger in addition to being a pretty good keyboard player. Donald Byrd also started out very associated with jazz and emerged in the '70s with these great jazz funk records. There's so much great stuff.
I came up with the idea for a Podcast featuring the music of Telegraph Avenue, and it was made much easier by Slate, the online magazine, when Forrest Wickman posted a list (with a Spotify playlist to listen to them) to all the songs cited in the book, with the appropriate page noted. Check that out here.
Intent on avoiding Andy Gibb recordings (see Page 7 of the novel), Podcast 312 gives you on a mixtape of a tour of the jazz selections from the record collections of Chabon’s characters Archy Stallings and Nat Jaffe, including:
Donald Byrd – “The Dude” from Electric Byrd. See Page 3 of the novel. A 1970 Blue Note release, this proto-fusion album features, among others, Byrd on trumpet; Frank Foster, Lew Tabakin, Jerry Dodgion and Pepper Adams on sax; Duke Pearson on keyboards; Ron Carter on bass and Mickey Roker and Airto on drums and percussion.
Miles Davis – “One And One (unedited master, recorded June 6, 1972)” from The Complete On the Corner Sessions. See Page 9 of the novel. One of the worst selling album of Miles Davis’ career and perhaps the most critically lambasted, the album has gone on to be seen as a mostly successful attempt to merge funk and soul, the electric jazz of Bitches Brew, and the musical theories of European art music composers like Paul Buckmaster and Karl Stockhausen.
John Coltrane – “Vigil” from Kulu Se Mama. See Page 9 of the novel. Recorded in Los Angeles in 1965, but not released by Impulse! for another two years, this track features one of the last recordings of the “classic quartet” of Coltrane (sax), Elvin Jones (drums), Jimmy Garrison (bass) and McCoy Tyner (piano).
Miles Davis – Title track from In a Silent Way. See Page 9 of the novel. Recorded in a marathon session in New York on February 18, 1969, the album formally announced Miles’ electric period. The title tune, written by keyboardist Joe Zawinul, appeared as part of the second side-long piece of music. No less a figure than rock critic Lester Bangs called it “part of a transcendental new music which flushes categories away and, while using musical devices from all styles and cultures, is defined mainly by its deep emotion and unaffected originality".
Booker T and the M.G.'s – Title track from Melting Pot. One of the jazziest albums from the Kings of Stax funk was also the last to include the group's classic lineup of Booker T. Jones (keyboards), Steve Cropper (guitar), Donald “Duck”Dunn (bass), and Al Jackson, Jr. (drums).