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Hey Joe: A Critical Analysis of Covers

Ben Gray
Contributing Writer
bengray417@gmail.com

This one probably doesn’t need much of an introduction. I chose the live version below not just because Jimi Hendrix sounds great on it, but also because of the drummer’s shirt and because some of the shots of the audience are priceless. “Hey Joe” showed up on Hendrix’s 1966 The Jimi Hendrix Experience, though Wikipedia tells us that the song was registered for copyright in 1962 by one Billy Roberts and was recorded over the next few years by lots of rock bands. I think it’s fair to say that in practical terms, “Hey Joe” has become a Hendrix song. (Don’t worry, Billy Roberts - “All Along The Watchtower” was a Bob Dylan song, and Hendrix made it his own.)

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Lonely Woman: A Critical Analysis of Covers

Ben Gray
Contributing Writer
bengray417@gmail.com

Ornette Coleman is a tough one for me: I really like the philosophy behind his music and the freedom he gives his group, but I don’t usually find myself gravitating toward his music. One exception to that is “Lonely Woman,” Coleman’s most-covered tune and one of his most melodic. (Quick aside for the beat-heads back from the Flying Lotus piece: yes, Mumbles flipped “Lonely Woman” for ”Human Language”... in fact, that whole album is an encyclopedia of stuff to check out.) The opening track to Coleman’s 1959 album The Shape of Jazz to Come, the original version of “Lonely Woman” features Coleman on sax along with Don Cherry on cornet, Charlie Haden on bass, and Billy Higgins on drums. This starts with Higgins and Haden opening things up before Coleman and Cherry come in (Coleman panned hard left, Cherry hard right). This is great, the horns not quite in perfect unison to give it just a bit of a sloppy feel. Around 1:10 they play the ascending “Lonely Woman” theme. The opening of this song is great, pretty much completely composed until about 1:45 or so when Coleman takes a sax solo. Higgins and Haden just completely killing it behind Coleman and when Cherry plays his ascending lines behind Coleman around 2:20, it’s chills down the spine. Coleman’s playing in his solo is definitive blues, no need to worry about his theories about harmolodics. That lovely ascending line comes back around 3:45, then Coleman and Cherry trade a couple of phrases. The horns drop out just after 4:30 for Higgins and especially Haden to shine here. They break it down until Haden just plays a single note over the triplet cymbals. This is music that sounds like it’s been plucked out of the air. It’s amazing how much of this song’s melody is composed - just a short sax solo in the middle there, but it’s loose enough that it feels like the whole thing is improvised.

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Drummer Daniel Yount Talks Afrobeat Band Brand New Life

Ben Gray
Contributing Writer
bengray417@gmail.com

The Brand New Life is a six-piece Afrobeat band based out of Greensboro, NC. Following up on the release of their self-titled album in 2010, the band is releasing a new EP, titled The Brand New Life EP, this week. I had a chance to talk with their drummer, Daniel Yount, about their new album, their writing process, and their live shows.

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Butterfly: A Critical Analysis of Covers

Ben Gray
Contributing Writer
bengray417@gmail.com

Herbie Hancock’s mid-1970’s period resulted in a trio of studio masterpieces, Headhunters, Thrust, and Man-Child. Thrust was released in 1974 as a follow-up to the much-admired Headhunters, with Mike Clark on drums instead of Harvey Mason but otherwise the same band. The album is in the same vein as Headhunters and, like Headhunters, consists of four long-ish songs. All four of these tunes stuck around in Herbie’s repertoire, but “Butterfly” has probably gotten the most cover treatment. I’ll look at a few of these different versions in this column.

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Blue Pepper: A Critical Analysis of Covers

Ben Gray
Contributing Writer
bengray417@gmail.com

The Far East Suite, recorded in 1966, is a highlight of the latter part of Duke Ellington’s career, written using the… mid-east… as an inspiration (with the exception of “Ad Lib on Nippon”). I suppose Far East just sounded better. In any case, the album contains many highlights; I won’t get into them here, but will focus on “Blue Pepper (Far East of the Blues),” a song that has been loved (and covered) by many and also criticized for Duke’s use of the straightforward backbeat drum pattern behind his melody. It’s your call I suppose; it works for me.