I’ve heard a few rock musicians say (intelligent people, mind you, sincere, committed fans and purveyors of only-the-best) that they (cover your eyes)…don’t like the saxophone! What do you mean, I ask them? You don’t like to hear one? The name confuses you?
Well: then they tell me what they mean. Not that I am listening at that point. I’m drifting off. “Moon River” as practiced by a 12 year on a tenor who lives two floors down is playing over and over in my head.
Totally Dublin, can you believe such a thing exists? (Not the “Moon River” bit, the other bit.) I wouldn’t if I hadn’t had encountered it myself. It must be some sort of anti-French bias, no? These anti-reeders seem to be the sorts of people for whom Rock-n-Roll really means “Punk Rock” or new wave, or whatever name they use now, and the older pop that seems acceptable “along them lines”, as the County Commissioner puts in Casino. O.K., they don’t like X-Ray Spex, and Fun House notwithstanding, and they think Beefheart should have mixed himself down a bit: but whether they like Throbbing Gristle or not, they still think the title 20 Jazz Funk Greats was sarcastic?
As they used to say in my country – get with it, people. And Jeez. Speaking of jazz funk greats, then. Let’s talk about an all-round great: the great Eddie Harris. He was famous for playing his horn through some sort of electronic apparatus. So if you are rock music fan who doesn’t like the sound of the….
Enough about them. Back to Eddie Harris. Which do you like better, the slow ones or the fast ones? Or the middle ones? No need to exclude, I say.
And where better to start than Instant Death’s “Instant Death”? The album is from 1971, and though my favorites from it are the last three, the beautiful “Nightcap”, “Superfluous” and “Tampion”, let’s start at the beginning: the end! Instant Death!
Back in time to Plug Me In (1968): I love the (nearly track-long) solo in “It’s Crazy”. I love the whole album. I’m listening to it as I type. And remember, though I haven’t mentioned it yet, that all these albums are available to buy as mp3s on the internet. (I’m trying to avoid typing “iTunes”. Failed.) But what about “Ballad” and “Theme in Search of a T.V. Commercial”? Yes, yes. The whole record.
Speaking of a whole record: Eddie Harris Sings the Blues. If you only listen to one track from this list, have it be “Walk With Me.” Or…”Eddie Harris Sings the Blues”. Mr. Harris sings through his horn, and the strings string along in the background. [Ed: Neither of those songs are on Youtube, so here's another one from the same album. Go buy it if you want to listen to it.]
On third thought, if you really are very busy and you only have time for one, maybe it should be “I Don’t Want Nobody”. From the album I Need Some Money – yes, that’s right -perhaps this is his ultimate singing-through-the-horn-and-the-pedal number. Is he joking, is its supposed to be funny? Yes. But it’s also beautiful and very moving. Just between you and me.
I think I’ve run out of space now, so I’ll just mention two of my other favourite records, Silver Cycles (1968) and Come on Down! (1970). Oh, and of course, there’s The Electrifying Eddie Harris (1967), featuring as it does the “Theme in Search of a Movie”. That tune is an important inspiration, as they say, for my most recent album. Did I mention Eddie Harris was from Chicago? Please do yourself and your neighbours a favour, buy some Eddie Harris records and don’t listen to them on headphones. Play them so everybody can hear. That means you, Siobhán!
Matthew Friedberger is a musician from Chicago, currently living in France. His band The Fiery Furnaces released nine albums between 2003-2009. He has released 12 solo albums since 2006, the latest of which is bound to win our theoretical album title of the year award: Matricidal Sons Of Bitches.
Matricidal Sons Of Bitches is out October 30th on Thrill Jockey.