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Notes from My Listening Room #28
By Josh Bizar

It's beautiful today in Chicago: Sunny and in the low 60s. As you know, I'm trying hard to appreciate the smaller things and showing gratitude for them when they come my way. And, it's looking as if the whole weekend should be pleasant, so I'm hoping to do a lot of walking around with the dog (and my wife). I will admit the streets in Chicago have been pretty crowded on nice days, so we will continue to do our best to social distance.

For now, I want to wish you all a nice, relaxing, music-filled weekend. I know I could use one. Please stay healthy and safe. As your notes, texts, and phone calls have proven, music is medicine for so many of us. I also want to introduce our first guest writer today, Bill McMartin, head electronics buyer at ABT. The instant I met Bill, I knew there was something special about him. He is a proud veteran with tremendous integrity and a humble, caring soul. Bill is also in really great shape for a man his age (hell, for anyone) – an observation my wife regularly made the last time we were all together at a friend's birthday party. He's also a big lover of vinyl and a fan of Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab, so that's nice, too.

Finally, I want to express my extreme gratitude for all the guest writers who have helped to spread our love of music. None write for a living. They are all just tremendous music lovers, like you. So, thank you very much, every one.

Today's First Special Guest Contribution: Charlie Haden Closeness
By Bill McMartin, Home Audio Buyer/Worshipper at the Church of Johnny Cash/Cool Dad

I've been a big fan of Charlie Haden ever since I heard his work on Ornette Coleman's 1959 album The Shape of Jazz to Come. The combination is perfect: Haden's lush, almost lyrical bass style contrasting but still complementing Coleman's blues-tinged, strident horn playing. Whether Haden is a featured sideman, or leads his own albums, his playing always feels remarkable.

I thought now would be a good time to pull out one of Haden's albums, Closeness, and give it a spin. Coleman guests on the 1976 LP, along with Keith Jarrett, Alice Coltrane, and Paul Motian. The music is delightful. The first track, "Ellen David," with Jarrett on piano (Haden was a member of both Jarrett's trio and the American Quartet for almost a decade, features nimble playing that, akin to the action on "O.C.," with Coleman, amazes – no doubt due to the fact that the pair performed with one another for many years. Still, the inventive solos and intricate interplay sounds anything but familiar or rote.

Side two includes "For Turiya," with Coltrane, whose harp sounds about 10 feet tall on the record. It's hard to believe a duet album can benefit so much from a wide, deep soundstage. And Haden's bass seems to be playing (and hitting) from outside the speakers as the harp washes over the listener. The closing "For a Free Portugal," with Motian (also a member of the aforementioned Jarrett Quartet), employs some Angolan music. Interesting aside: Haden was detained at the airport, jailed, and interrogated in Portugal after performing his "Song for Che" (at the time the country was under fascist rule) and was released only after Coleman and other bandmates complained to the American consulate. Even then, Motian was further questioned by the F.B.I., who also weren't thrilled about Che, after returning to the states.

Closeness was released on A&M's Horizon label. My original pressing still sounds brand new. It is challenging music, and not the kind of LP you'd toss on at a cocktail party (remember those?), but it's definitely worth a listen. If you like what you hear, check out The Shape of Jazz to Come and Haden's masterful duet album with Pat Metheny, Beyond the Missouri Sky (Short Stories).

Second Special Guest Contribution: Collective Soul Collective Soul
By Michael Taylor, VP of Sales at Nordost/Audiophile/Metalhead/Family Man

One of the more enjoyable albums I frequently revisit is Collective Soul's self-titled album, the band's sophomore effort and one also known as the "Blue Album." It's not the best-recorded LP, but it grabs you from a different perspective. If you enjoy alt-rock with strong melodies and a dash of thought provocation, you should check it out.

It's fun to play because of what I think the group is trying to accomplish. For example, the opening "Simple" starts soft for 15-20 seconds, possibly in hope you will crank the volume. If you do, you will soon find it really loud because it's a tease. After rocking out, the band settles back down with a track that makes you think. The third cut, "The World I Know," a hit and featured video back in the day, tells the story of a guy becoming disillusioned with life in New York and contemplating suicide. It's a slower song that lets you really hear the lyrics and feel what the man experiences.

Collective Soul also boasts excellent sequencing. You get used to more uptempo tracks (i.e., "Gel") and then you get hit with "When the Water Falls." The LP stays true to alternative rock but provides more of a roller coaster ride than most in the genre.

May 1, 2020

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