The Cool Side of the Pillow brings together singer and sentir player Michy Mano and Oslo DJ Bugge Wesseltoft to create a work of musical fusion that is accomplished, hip, witty, but ultimately less than the sum of its parts. Those partsMoroccan popular styles and Norwegian electronicado not mix as readily as you might suppose.
Start with electronica. Worldly approaches like Wesseltoft's derive texture, variety, even irony from sampling previously recorded performances. The effect is to smooth out differences between, say, a bass line taken from a commercially recorded R&B session from the 1970s and a documentary field recording of a religious ceremony in a remote desert sanctuary. Splicing both samples into the same track treats all of these objets trouvés as equivalent, as sounds on tape. It's disorienting but engaging in a vaguely postmodern way.
The Moroccan music that influences this record is based on performance, not on post-performance collage. Listen to the sentir that ushers in a performance by the Master Musicians of Jajouka: it communicates an attitude and a time signature to the musicians, marking the beat every bit as insistently as Count Basie's piano in the opening measures of "Jumpin' at the Woodside. (Mano introduces "Salla nabi with a mellower sentir prelude.)
Why don't these two styles fit together? Because the Moroccan musical performance that is at the heart of this record is too handmade and live to be flattened into an oversized "sample, while the smooth electronic vibe is too mechanized and monochromatic to hold its own in this setting. Better to (a) have an all-live Moroccan record; or (b) let Wesseltoft do it all himself, choosing any sample he likes.
But either of these solutions is too easy: Mano may be Moroccan by birth and in his musical sensibilities, but he is a Norwegian musician now, and this record is evidence of an attempt to craft an artistic vision in his new home. He and Wesseltoft are to be congratulated for attempting this marriage of styles. Let's hope that they, and other like-minded enthusiasts of mongrel, hybrid aesthetics continue to grapple with the differing world views of Moroccan chaabi and electronica.
In the meantime, we listeners can marvel at the many great moments that pepper this record: Mano's plaintive vocal on "Music is bigger than me ; the juxtaposition of laid-back Franco-Brazilian guitar (if you're familiar with Henri Salvador, you'll know what I mean) and French-language rapping on "Tellement gadjo que je suis gypsy the words are included in the liner notes; and Hassan Shoukat's cool tabla on "Gherbelize it. These joys are no small consolation.
Track Listing: Casatana; Gherbelize it; Tellement gadjo que je suis gypsy; Bangosali; Music is bigger than me; Salla nabi; Shkoun li mesoul; Wa moulana.
I was first exposed to jazz circa 1973, when I met a fellow who ran Kappy's Record Store over near 10th Ave., on 42nd St. in NYC. We really clicked and when I told him I played piano and went to Music & Art HS, and had just started at City College of NY as a music major, he asked if I liked jazz...I said yes but I didn't know much about it, but that I did have sheet music for many popular 1920's through 1940's tunes by noted composers (Porter; Gershwins; Irving Berlin; Rodgers & Hammerstein/Hart; Jerome Kern; Lerner & Loewe; etc.) that my mother had sung beautifully starting in the 1940's including tons of famous show tunes, and I played many of those songs already
I was first exposed to jazz circa 1973, when I met a fellow who ran Kappy's Record Store over near 10th Ave., on 42nd St. in NYC. We really clicked and when I told him I played piano and went to Music & Art HS, and had just started at City College of NY as a music major, he asked if I liked jazz...I said yes but I didn't know much about it, but that I did have sheet music for many popular 1920's through 1940's tunes by noted composers (Porter; Gershwins; Irving Berlin; Rodgers & Hammerstein/Hart; Jerome Kern; Lerner & Loewe; etc.) that my mother had sung beautifully starting in the 1940's including tons of famous show tunes, and I played many of those songs already. SOOOO... he started me off LP's by Oscar Peterson, Art Tatum, Bud Powell, Errol Garner, Bill Evans, Monty Alexander, Charlie Byrd, and Dave Brubeck... does it get any better than that? ...No, it doesn't. I was hooked!!
I met and had a master class with the late music giant John Lewis, leader of the Modern Jazz Quartet! This was at CCNY in 1977. I was blessed! It was an incredible class... how could it have been anything else?!?!
The first jazz record I bought was...I bought numerous records from my friend at the record store, as mentioned above. He introduced me to nothing but music giants/legends! I think The Dave Brubeck Quartet, Greatest Hits, was actually the first one.
My advice to new listeners... study first--understand the rudiments--solfeggio, keys, scales, and basic chords. Read a book or take a class that includes the study of chord progressions, especially in jazz. It should ideally be a piano class so you can play multiple notes together. Have a good EAR or else it's not really worth it in my view...to become a musician, a good EAR for music is about as fundamental as breathing! Learn to read chord charts--i.e., lead sheets - wherein you play various voicings of the chords--major, minor, dominant 7th (alterations of these, you can learn over time - the basic chords are most important for starters), plus the melody, on the piano or keyboard. If you have to read the exact notes, then it's not the same as actually internalizing it & getting it all into your head. If you can do this, I think you're ready not only for listening to jazz, but understanding many concepts of it! Of course...anyone can listen to jazz... but I think it's so good to also have a grasp of it.