The Survivors: Part Eleven

Marty Sammon
Hound Dog Barkin’

My dad brought this home from a business trip to Chicago. Sammon was playing at Buddy Guy’s blues bar; he’s since become part of Buddy Guy’s band. It’s a bonkers thing to say about a self-released album by a guy who I don’t think ever made another, but this might be the best blues piano playing I’ve ever heard. There are elements of the album that don’t hit as hard as the piano soloing, but Sammon is an amazing instrumentalist whose style I could probably pick out of a lineup. Everybody deserves to come in contact with one incredible album that almost nobody knows. This is mine. 
Measure of gratitude: Very high. Thank you. 

Arturo Sandoval
Trumpet Evolution

Sandoval is a musician you get to know when you study the trumpet. He’s a shameless showboat with an impressive high range, and I honestly like that more than I cared to admit at the time. This album finds him doing impressions of other famous trumpeters from Louis Armstrong to Raphael Méndez. I don’t know how he can imitate other people’s tone like that; I always found that with the trumpet you just kind of have to accept the sound you make by default. It’s quite the stunt. But having heard it once I had its number and put it aside. A worthwhile exercise, but that’s all. 
Measure of gratitude: Small. Thank you. 

Carl Saunders
Be Bop Big Band

Another forgotten disc from my trumpeter days. An old teacher sang the praises of this, which was enough to assuage whatever doubts I had because of the graphic-design-is-my-passion album art. It is flawlessly performed big band jazz, but there’s a slick, collegiate quality to this kind of music that I can’t deal with anymore. 
Measure of gratitude: Small. Thank you. 

Arnold Schoenberg
Pierrot Lunaire/Lied der Waldtaube/Erwartung (Pierre Boulez, etc.)

Pierrot and Erwartung are two pieces I absolutely adore, but these recordings really aren’t ideal. Boulez deserves more credit than anybody for bringing the music of the Second Viennese School to people’s ears. But that doesn’t mean his interpretations are always definitive. In particular, he brings in some singers here who just don’t seem invested in the material. Jessye Norman is the exception, but I don’t know that anybody really comes to this for a 12-minute chuck of the Gurrelieder. It is good, though. 
Measure of gratitude: Small. Thank you. 

The Old Prince
Flying Colours

Shad is a good rapper, but I never find myself listening to his albums start to finish. Some great singles here, though. 
Measure of gratitude: Medium. Thank you. 

William Shakespeare
Henry IV, Part One (Arkangel Shakespeare)

I got this for five dollars at the Bard on the Beach gift shop’s end of season sale. Next thing I know, the Arkangel Shakespeare audiobooks are my preferred way to re-read Shakespeare. I’m not an audiobook person in general, but this has Richard Griffiths as Falstaff, for god’s sake. The Macbeth one has David Tennant as the goddamn porter. Richard II has Grand Maester Pycelle and Inspector Lestrade saying Shakespeare at each other, I mean, come on. These plays were written to be heard. This is the one thing in my collection that isn’t music, but actually it is. Play on. 
Measure of gratitude: Very large. Thank you.  

Dmitri Shostakovich
Symphony No. 10 (Berlin Philharmonic, Herbert von Karajan)
The Concerto Album (David Oistrach, Nash Ensemble etc.)

Shostakovich was a crucial step on my road to Mahler. His fifth and tenth symphonies (and to a lesser extent the seventh, which has one good movement) introduced me to that late 19th/early 20th century massive orchestra sound that I still love. These days, I tend to prefer his chamber music, including the piano quintet that is bafflingly included on this collection of concertos. 
Measure of gratitude: Large. Thank you. 

Sigur Rós
Ágætis byrjun

Takk was my entry point with this band, which I love more and listen to less now than I did at the time. I remember buying that disc soon enough after its release that the internet was still debating whether it was up to the standard of the previous two albums. Many years later it’s gratifying to find that this has been cemented as a masterpiece. I loved it from the start. Ágætis byrjun is also great, probably equally great, but Takk is where I live. I seldom listen to Sigur Rós these days. But when I do, after years of listening to Brian Eno and other texture-focussed music, I appreciate it more than ever. 
Measure of gratitude: Large. Thank you. 

Simon Bolivar String Quartet

The SBSQ is made up of young musicians from the similarly named orchestra, and they play these pieces better than almost anybody. I think this disc was my introduction to the Ginastera quartet, which I love. Really nice stuff. 
Measure of gratitude: Large. Thank you. 

The Smashing Pumpkins
Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness

Here’s one that I didn’t encounter young enough. I see why it’s generational, but this is such an archetypal teenage epiphany album that it really can’t work if you hear it for the first time in your late twenties. Alas. 
Measure of gratitude: Small. Thank you. 

Philip Smith
Principal Trumpet, New York Philharmonic

Smith is a wonderful symphonic trumpeter, but there’s no degree of excellence that could inspire me to listen to this solo trumpet rep ever again. 
Measure of gratitude: Small. Thank you. 

Soft Machine
Volumes One and Two

Given my love for pop songwriting, Caravan ought to be my Canterbury band of choice. But they’re not. Soft Machine, their noisier and less disciplined fraternal twin, wins the day largely because of these first two albums. There is a pop sensibility here, the sensibility of Robert Wyatt and on the first album, Kevin Ayers. But that sensibility is frustrated by Mike Ratledge and Hugh Hopper’s exploratory playing and rhapsodic structures. It’s a perfect recipe. Also, every musician in this band is fun to listen to, which you can never take for granted. I’m never embarrassed about the music that I like, but Soft Machine is one of the only prog bands that I think is entirely, objectively not embarrassing at all.  
Measure of gratitude: Very large. Thank you.

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