Best of 2017: A Toe in the Water

One of my biggest problems is not stepping on records and CDs when I wake up. They consume my house and my office, and before my very tolerant wife decides to go back to Philip Glass, I thought I could try and make these stacks of wax more urgent.

I have a weird and wonderful collection of LPs, the vast majority being Canadian jazz records and Irish traditional music. It’s shocking that some of this music hasn’t been re-released. In 2018, after Santa brings me a little bit of gear, I will be dipping my toe in the water of podcasting. In carefully crafted segments, I will profile some my favourite selections and where possible, interview some of the people that made it. It won’t be a podcast I start without a defined end point. Think “Here Are All The Rob McConnell Records In Order” or “Here Is Every Moe Koffman Record I Own.””

I know what you’re thinking. Is there enough bandwidth in the world to handle the demand for this?

We will find out together.

In the meantime, between now the end of the year I wanted to show off some of the gems I picked up this year. Paul Cram made a certified nuclear hit in 1987 with Beyond Benghazi featuring the late and very great Julius Hemphill. Frankly, this particular cast of characters can only make interesting music. Please listen to the whole record below. For now, I will wax on about one cut only. TURN IT UP!

“Have A Heart” is a circus that runs away with itself. If it’s possible to shred and comp at the same time, John Gzowski does it. Rich Underhill gerrymanders the bari into a term that is all too brief. The firm of Wynston and Young hold down an odd polka-meets-samba vibe. Nic Gotham  and Tom Walsh sweat out the off beats, making of the most compelling sounds on this particular cut. Preliminary treks on the information super highway bear little fruit on violinist Taras Chornowol but if you scroll down to page 5 of that 1980 Canadian Ukrainian Student Magazine there’s an article that shows what a force Taras was at a young age. I hear anecdotally from Tom and James just what a ridiculous photographic memory Hemphill had and how he ate these charts for breakfast. Like all the best music, this record and these people resist all easy classification. As is his way, Cram brought the right people together at the right time. (Full disclosure, for what it is worth, I got to play with Paul in a retrospective of his life and music some years back). The open ears of all these cats remains a constant inspiration.