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Caroline Davis

Vincenzo Roggero By

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This is really a retreat back to my youth, as I knew about The Shins but never listened hard enough. Many people will know their music as featured in the movie "Garden State," but I heard about them in the 90s when they were touring with Califone. This is their first album, and I prefer it to most of the others. There's something strangely intriguing about James Mercer's voice for it's deadpan delivery. He can also belt it out, as I've come to know on later records from this band. It's a fun album, and there are all kinds of subtleties like the sound of a cat purring to pop rocks fizzing in mouths to kids laughing—it's all very nostalgic for me. I also hear tons of influence from the Beach Boys and the Beatles, which are also bands I love.

6. Herbie Hancock, Inventions and Dimensions (Blue Note, 1963).

Another album that I've had for a while but I'm really diving into it at the moment. This is Herbie's third album as a leader. I came to know Herbie as a sideman with Miles Davis, but his own albums have been so valuable to my own growth as a musician. I'm pretty sure most of this music is composed in the moment, and it's really cool to hear how he, Paul Chambers, Willie Bobo, and Osvaldo Martinez deal with that process of freely improvising. What a cast of characters, I'm surprised by how fun it is to listen to. I read on the liner notes that one influence for this record was Herbie's recent musical meeting with Eric Dolphy, which was apparently one of his first experiences with "free" music. The whole session was a big experiment, and I'm so glad he made that leap of faith. It inspires me to do the same.

7. J Dilla, The Shining (BBE Records, 2006)

I don't think you can go very far in the world of music without hearing his name. Got this album a while ago, but I'm revisiting it to learn about the samples and production. This album was unfinished when he died, and Karriem Riggins helped to finish and release it in full. All kinds of my favorite collaborators on this one—Common, Dwele, D'Angelo, Madlib, Black Thought and of course Busta Rhymes blasting it from the start. I was inspired to go back after listening to the new compilation (Lost Scrolls) that was released earlier this year. I like trying to find the samples, but mostly I have to ask people who really know what's up or search around. My personal favorites are from The Isley Brothers' Footsteps in the Dark and Dick Hyman's Moog sounds on Alfie. And I love hearing Dilla's calming voice on the last track. His innovations went unsurpassed when he left us, and I still feel that way when listening to these creations.

8. Lee Konitz, Satori (Milestone, 1975)

I literally just started listening to this album, so my thoughts on it are pretty unformed. Lee has been an influence on my playing since the beginning; I learned of him through Miles Davis' Birth of the Cool sessions. I'm slowly making my way through all of Lee's albums, and this one caught my interest since he didn't record much with this outfit, with Martial Solal, Dick Katz, Dave Holland, and Jack DeJohnette. Also how could I deny the cover—he's just looking down passively at his horn on the cover, haha! There's no holding back on this one, they're all just going for it. Lee's playing is wild, and I think it's partly because of the company. He's still very much himself, but these guys are egging him on in the best of ways from the pointed comping to the colorful cymbal crashing. It's a different kind of band than I'm used to hearing accompany Lee—lots of things going on, some have tact, others not. I'll keep listening.

9. Charles Brown, Driftin' Blues (The Best of) (Aladdin, 1992)

Charles Brown has one of the most mellow voices I've ever heard. I think the first time I heard it was while watching the movie "Home Alone" but I didn't realize it was him until later. My boyfriend is always giving me great music to check out, and he gave me this compilation just a couple weeks ago, and it is something I'll cherish for a while, from the romantic lyrics to that perfect guitar sound. This compilation spans a large amount of time from '45 to '56, so there's some discrepancy between tracks, but his sweet voice is a connecting thread. I don't prefer compilations for that reason, but what can you do. I think he also plays piano on all of this music, lots of bluesy and trill-rific offerings there. Also I have heard some of his music sampled by hip-hop producers, so you know he's the real deal. I look forward to hearing more of his music in album form.

10. Ornette Coleman, Complete Live at the Hillcrest Club (Inner City, 1976)

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