Tag Archives: jazz music

Spring into some Musical Reads

As spring and summer make their way into town, one of my favourite parts of this city comes alive: its vibrant music scene. Winnipeg is home to some of the best music festivals in the country, with the Winnipeg Folk Festival and The Winnipeg Jazz Festival, not to mention some of the smaller rural festivals such as Harvest Moon, Rainbow Trout and Real Love.

The library is fortunate enough to house some of the most critically acclaimed books on music and musicians. So before you head out to Birds Hill or Old Market Square this summer, brush up on some music history, read about your favourite artist or listen to a few tunes!

Just Kids by Patti Smith

Just Kids offers a rare glimpse into Patti Smith’s remarkable relationship with photographer Rober Mapplethorpe. Her first book of prose, she describes the epochal days of New York City and The Chelsea Hotel in the late sixties and seventies. A story of youth and friendship, Smith brings the same unique, lyrical quality to Just Kids as she has to the rest of her formidable body of work- from her influential 1975 album Horses to her visual art and poetry.

You can also check out her latest book, M Train

Cash by Johnny Cash

The ‘Man in Black’ writes this critically acclaimed autobiography about the highs and lows, the struggles and hard-won triumphs and the people who shaped him throughout his life.

In his own words, Cash sets the record straight, dispelling a few myths along the way. He describes growing up in Arkansas, his superstardom in Nashville, playing with Elvis, his battles with addiction and his relationship with his wife, June. He reminisces about his life long friends- Willie Nelson, Kris Kristofferson, and Bob Dylan. He talks about his gratitude for life and his thoughts on what the afterlife may bring. Filled with candor, this book shows the wit and the wisdom of a man who truly ‘walked the line’.

How Music Got Free by Stephen Witt

In his first book, Stephen Witt traces the history of digital music piracy. From the German audio engineers who invented the mp3, to a CD manufacturing factory worker who leaked two thousand albums over the course of a decade, to Lil Wayne, these interwoven narratives describe the moment when our lives became intertwined with the internet, and the moment when suddenly all music ever recorded was available for free. Not only a story about the history of digital media piracy, this book also serves as a history of the internet itself and its effect on our lives.

Take Me to the Alley by Gregory Porter

Take Me to the Alley is Gregory Porter’s latest album. Released in May 2016, it earned him a 2017 Grammy Award for Best Jazz Vocal Album. Critics have described it as ‘sweet and serene’, and a harken back to his roots.

Gregory Porter plays this year’s Winnipeg Jazz Festival in June.

Livin’ On a High Note by Mavis Staples

Her latest album, Livin’ on a High Note is the fifteenth studio album by American musician Mavis Staples. Released in February 2016, Rolling Stone placed the album on its 45 Best Albums of 2016 So Far list.

Catch Mavis Staples at this year’s Winnipeg Jazz Festival.

Port of Morrow by The Shins

Port of Morrow, released in 2012, was The Shin’s first studio album in five years. Following some major line up changes in the group, the album is primarily a collaboration between frontman James Mercer and producer Greg Kurstin. Mercer’s lyrics are based on his experience of becoming a father, his family, and his memories of his childhoold in Germany, giving way to its 1970’s German pop influences. The album debuted at number three on the Billboard 200.

The Shins play at the Winnipeg Folk Festival in July.


Nostalgic Contemporary Twists

A few weeks ago, I was washing the evening dishes and listening to Adele’s latest album and I started to wonder how many other recording artists are experimenting with this same nostalgic, jazz-influenced blues, something that’s obviously pop music but with a contemporary twist – somewhere between the Brill Building sound and jazz/blues singers such as Billie Holiday and Nina Simone.   Amy Winehouse and Norah Jones  were obvious candidates, and Madeleine Peyroux has produced five albums well worth listening to.  But who else is out there?

So as soon as I finished the dishes, I wandered over to the computer to browse the library’s website.  After a few clicks here and there I learned that this mix of nostalgia with a contemporary twist is an international phenomenon.  Artists in France and Portugal have been busy mixing Jazz/Blues and popular influences with European  folk traditions.  French singer/songwriter Zaz, who has been called the reincarnation of Edith Piaf , is known for her Romani/Jazz influenced music that topped the charts in France and Europe.  Try to imagine Django Rienhardt mixed with Piaf and then swirled together with a punk attitude. Agnès Jaoui is also interested in a hybrid of Romani and French influences but adds rhythms and sounds from the Americas and Iberian countries that cross the lines between Cabaret, Jazz/Blues, and pop music. My last discovery was Mariza, the most famous Fado singer since Amalia Rodrigues, who mixes Fado and infuses it with all of these elements and influences from Mozambique.

Curiosity and the library’s website led me to number of interesting artists and resources available using my library membership.  Unfortunately my experiments were cut short when my children asked me to turn down the music! Kids these days!!

-Phil B.