Monday, May 27, 2013

My Favorite Album - Der Mazur's Contribution

So here we are almost exactly a year after my contribution to Evan's Sight and Sound movie list, and this was far more difficult for me. There are 2 reasons I feel uniquely unqualified to talk about "My Favorite Album." First, although I love to rate, and rant, and criticize artistic endeavors, when it comes to picking favorites, my tastes change and shift too rapidly. My top 5 favorite movies list probably has 20+ films on it, and if you asked me a week from now, it wouldn't be the same 20 movies. Secondly, I love music and revel in my own musical tastes, but by and large I hate albums. For most of my life, albums were formulaic things made by music industry executives. 12 to 15 tracks long; the first track is good but never the best song, or the one with the most radio play; track 4 is the big hit single that's on the radio all the time; track 7 is the single fans like more than track 4, but is less popular in the mainstream; track 10 is something the artist really loves, but it isn't that great; the last track is usually the worst on the album, and everything else is just filler. Sometimes there's a "secret track" but it's always something funny or a demo version, only for the hardcore fans (all track numbers ±1). There are only 3 types of albums I like: 1) the mix-CD - not a best-of album, a mix made by a friend who thought not just about what songs to include, but the order which would elicit the strongest emotional reaction. 2) the concept album - it's like a mix-CD made by the band, less personal, but just as well thought out. 3) the live show recording - some artists are just as good, if not better, heard live. So I'm going to go with Evan's instructions, and choose an album "which means more to [me] than any other in the world."

I developed a love of Count Basie many years after first seeing his cameo in my favorite Western film, Blazing Saddles. I loved the way his orchestra swung hard, but still retained an ease about it. Basie's piano always seemed to twinkle over top the band filling the dead spaces with elaborate riffs, making it seem simple and obvious. While I can't pinpoint exactly when I first started to listen to Frank Sinatra, I shouldn't need to tell anyone why you should listen to Frank Sinatra.

As for the album, it was Sinatra's first live album to be released commercially. It's got most of Sinatra's best songs, a few charming monologues, and Basie's band has a big enough sound to stand up to Sinatra without being overpowered, or overpowering. Highlights include Come Fly with Me, Fly Me to the Moon, amazing instrumental versions of All of Me, and Makin' Whoopee, and Luck Be a Lady (which wasn't on the original LP). If you are a fan of either Sinatra or Basie, the original Ocean's 11, the movie Swingers, cocktail culture, 90s swing revival bands, or AMC's Mad Men, I highly recommend this album.

Around 1999, I bought the CD of Sinatra at the Sands, and thought it was a great album. The music swings in a way that is tight, without sounding overly rehearsed, a difficult accomplishment for a show that ran for 4 months. The It enjoyed a place in my CD wallet when I started driving, I took it with me to DC when I came up for college, as I didn't have an iPod, and often grabbed it and 1 or 2 other discs when I would visit my grandfather, aunt, uncle, and cousins, in Maryland for holidays. Freshman year, I think it was second seder at my aunt and uncle's house, after dinner I put on my headphones and my grandfather asked me what I was listening to. I said, "Sinatra and Count Basie at the Sands" and he told me that was one of my grandmother's favorite albums. He bought it on vinyl for her when it was released in 1966, and somewhere along the years it got lost, or sold, or just plum worn out. He smiled, and his eyes had a far-away look about them. I never knew my grandmother, she died 4 years before I was born. We always lit her yahrtzeit candle, but for whatever reason we didn't talk about her much. We had a few pictures of her from my parents wedding, but I never heard stories about what she was actually like. I didn't know if I had her ears, or her sense of humor, but for the first time in my life I felt a connection to her. My grandfather died a few months later, a couple of weeks before the start of sophomore year. Whenever I want to think of him, I listen to songs off this album, and whenever I listen to songs off this album, I think of him, and smile.

While I think everyone should hear this album, I don't expect it to show up on anyone else's favorites list. I know I wasn't the first to get overly sentimental thinking of an album, and I'm sure I won't be the last… unless I just took the longest to get around to writing my post, in which case, sorry, Evan.

Der Mazur is a saxophonist, encyclopedic pop culture connoisseur, and occasional guest blogger for Atomic Sam who lives in DC. The editor is also truly, truly shocked at seeing Der Mazur vulnerable for the first time in their ten year friendship. He likes it...
Click here for La Cohen's Contribution
Click here for Il Greenwood's Contribution
Click here for Der Thobaben's Contribution
Click here for Doundou Tchil's Contribution
Click here for Eta Boris's Contribution
Click here for HaWinograd's Contribution
Click here for Le Malon's Contribution
Click here for Atomic Sam's Contribution
Click here for La Swaynos's Contribution
Click here for Boulezian's Contribution
Click here for HaZmora's Contribution
Click here for The McBee's Contribution
Click here for Le Drgon's Contribution
Click here for The Brannock's Contribution
Click here for The Danny's Contribution
Click here for The Drioux's contribution
Click here for El Reyes's contribution
Click here for My contribtuion

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