Meet C. Michael Bailey
I joined All About Jazz in: 1997
What made you decide to contribute to All About Jazz? In 1997, the Internet was such a new place. I saw a fledgling request from one Michael Ricci asking for jazz articles for his new website, All About Jazz. I had already been doing a bit of music writing for several years without an acceptable outlet and I hoped that All About Jazz would prove to be such. I put together and submitted my first review Art Pepper: San Francisco Samba (Contemporary, 1997)and 15-year later, I am penning this current note. All about Jazz turned out to be a very accommodating writing outlet from the very beginning and has only improved (by a matter of light-years, if that is even possible) since that time.
How do you contribute to All About Jazz? My job description is "senior contributor." That could just as well be writing "utility infielder." I have written a broad variety of articles that include reviews (CDs, books, DVDs, concerts), feature articles, musician bios, label bios, interviews and editorial pieces. The managing staff at All About Jazz somehow concluded that I was some type of expert on jazz vocals to which I have given much attention. To be fair, jazz vocals are often neglected by the media.
I have gratefully been allowed to stray far from jazz ( Johnny Cash: American VI: Ain't No Grave (American Recordings, 2010), Best Live Rock Recordings, Publisher Ricci and Editor Kelman have always indulged me.
What is your musical background? I am a self-taught guitarist with an interest in slide guitar. For having played 45 years, I should play better. While in graduate school at Ole Miss, I avoided my scholarly pursuits in chemistry for those offered by the Mississippi Delta and 80 years of its fractured social, political and musical history. There is no other place on earth like it. One becomes part of a place when one finally takes it for granted.
What was the first record you bought that you would still listen to today? Joe Cocker With A Little Help From My Friends (A&M Records, 1969). I purchased this LP for $2.69 at Osco Drug in the Little Rock Mall. Joe Cocker represents the true importance of the British Invasion, which re-introduced America to the best of Her own Music (blues, rhythm and blues, soul, country) after having transformed it uniquely, lacking the prejudice that existed (and still exists) stateside.
My previous exposure to popular music was from neighbors and what my parents (a generation older than those of my peers) thought was popular. This included Elvis Presley, The Beach Boys, The Beatles, Joe South, Tommy Roe, The Archies, The Cowsills and The Monkees (of course). It was not until I listened to music with an older cousin and my girlfriend's older brother, that I heard someone called The Rolling Stones and Allman Brothers Band. I was also fortunate enough to have experienced Astral Weeks, Led Zeppelin II, American Woman, Green River, Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs, Dark Side of the Moon and Machine Head right out of the shrink wrap.
What type of jazz do you enjoy listening to the most? I prefer acoustic jazz, organically rendered. My favorite period in jazz is when ensembles slimmed down to quartets and quintets after the twilight of the the big bands between 1945 and 1965...be bop, hard bop, post bop, from Charlie Parker to Miles Davis' second great quintet.
Aside from jazz, what styles of music do you enjoy? Really any blues-based music. I favor what is called "Classic Rock," though this term has been so thoroughly prostituted by what passes for radio today (shamelessly catering to Baby Boomers, playing a constant rotation of the same five songs, at least one of which is by Led Zeppelin). In the early 1980s, I grew bored with rock and moved onto jazz and "classical music" which I pursued together roughly at the same time. Both genre provided and continue to provide infinitely deep wells of music to which to listen and explore.
What are you listening to right now? I am currently listening to the Mannheim Kurpfalz Chamber Orchestra, Jiri Malat, Conductor Mannheimer Schule, Volumes 1-5 (Arte Nova Classics, 1998). This collection samples the work of composers from the so-called "Mannheim School" that existed in Mannheim Germany during the late 18th- and early 19th-Centuries (Did you ever wonder where holiday-synth band Mannheim Steamroller got its name?). Members of the School included: Johann Stamitz, Franz Xaver Richter, Carl Stamitz, Franz Ignaz Beck, Ignaz Fränzl and Christian Cannabich. The set focuses on the clarinet music of the School, all of the composers represented being peers of Mozart and Beethoven. The compositions by these lesser composers illustrate the wealth of classical clarinet music. This collection will appeal to anyone who admires Mozart's sublime clarinet music: Clarinet Concerto in A Major, K. 622 (1791) and the Clarinet Quintet in A Major, K. 581 (1789).
Which five recent releases would you recommend to readers who share your musical taste? I get to cheat here, because I will slip re-issues beneath the burning limbo pole of "recent releases." As I know no shame I will also combine series into a single designation.
Miles Davis Live In Europe, 1967: The Bootleg Series, Volume 1 (Sony Legacy, 2011) and Live In Europe, 1969: The Bootleg Series, Volume 2 (Sony Legacy, 2013). These are important releases revealing trail- blazing Davis on the hinges of change in jazz that he almost single-handedly catalyzed. Like The Complete Live at the Plugged Nickel 1965 (Columbia Legacy, 1995), these recordings find Davis moving from his '50s-era book of standards to his late '60s and beyond original material.
The Grateful DeadEurope '72: The Complete Recordings (Grateful Dead, 2011). Yes, the whole damn thing, all 70+ CDs! Because of a sprawling and ill-behaved discography, the Grateful Dead proves a daunting band to approach. When asked by the GD novice where they should start, I always direct them to the original Europe '72 (Warner Brothers, 1972). It does not boast the best from a terminal Ron "Pigpen" McKernan, but he does hang in there while the rest of the band burns with an intensity not seen since.
Duane AllmanSkydog: The Duane Allman Retrospective (Rounder Records, 2013). Another embarrassment of riches. Skydog eclipses Duane Allman: An Anthology (Mercury, 1972) and Duane Allman: An Anthology, Volume II (Mercury, 1975) with almost twice the music previously assembled. This retrospective serves to remind us both of the talent Allman possessed as well as the talent he recorded with. This collection is a survey of Southern rhythm and blues and soul in the '60s and '70s.
Mark Winkler The Laura Nyro Project (Cafe Pacific Records, 2013). Vocalist/Lyricist Mark Winkler has been approaching this project for twenty years. Singer/songwriter Laura Nyro broke molds and stretched boundaries with her own brand of Brill-Building brilliance that produced "Stone Cold Picnic" and "And When I Die." Winkler takes Nyro's art one step further, honoring her properly while putting a serious jazz spin on the festivities.
Orchestre Revolutionnaire et Romantique, John Eliot GardinerLive at Carnegie HallBeethoven Symphonies 7 & 5 (Soli Deo Gloria, 2013). For the longest time, the finest recorded performance of Beethoven's Fifth and Seventh Symphonies has been Carlos Kleiber's 1974 Deutsche Grammophon account with the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra. To be sure, this is a fine recording, though near 40-years old. John Eliot Gardiner and his Orchestre Revolutionnaire et Romantique take Kleiber on with a live recording no less. This Beethoven breathes deep.
What inspired you to write about jazz? Necessity. I originally wanted to write about popular music, specifically that of the 1960s and '70s, but Robert Christgau, Paul Nelson, Nick Touches, Ben Fong- Torres and Dave Marsh beat me to the punch and I felt I had little to add (I have since reconsidered). I had begun studying jazz and classical musics in the early 1980s after growing bored with popular music and by 1997, I was ready to write about the genres. Jazz is very close to my beloved blues and other primary American musics, the improvisatory zeal of its interpreters being contagious in both the visceral and intellectual senses.
What do you like to do in your free time? Any hobbies? When not listening to and writing about music and not plying my day job trade as a clinical data analyst, I read everything in sight. Reading is a fading art drowning in a sea of Ritalin failure promoted by our post-modern media, including the Internet. Reading requires time and attention, both increasingly under attack today.
What role does jazz music play in your life? In Art, jazz, and to some extent opera, represent an evolutionary node where many elements come together, creating something that is at once old and new, dynamic and static, large and encompassing and small and intimate. Jazz reminds me of the creative reality experienced in the past and the possibilities to be made and experienced in the future.
How does writing about jazz contribute to the music itself? It provides a living introduction and account. Before seriously listening to jazz or classical music, I went to the library and read all I could find: criticism, history, biography, everything that addressed the music and its evolution and the musicians and composers who create it.
What do you like most about All About Jazz? Its ecumenicism. All About Jazz, while in a jazz orbit, does not hesitate to veer, often very far, from that orbit to show the connections between all art.
What positives have come from your association with All About Jazz? It has made me a better listener and writer. I listen to music today that I would have never considered (and, thus, would have been less for) in the past. It has changed my philosophy of music writing from one of criticism to one of audience education. Through All About Jazz I have been exposed to an international group of writers and musicians who have enriched me and my life.
C. Michael Bailey at All About Jazz.