Tag Archives: Matthew Herbert Big Band


The word of the day for Monday, January 23rd, 2012 is:


  • The associated or secondary meaning of a word or expression in addition to its explicit or primary meaning
  • The meaning that a word suggests or implies.  A connotation includes the emotions or associations that surround a word (dictionary.reference.com)

Song: Blues Connotation

Artist: Ornette Coleman: The Ornette Coleman Quartet

Album: This is Our Music

Year: 1960-61

Okay, so I’m just putting this out there: I really do not care for jazz. Anyone who knows my musical tastes (particularly MC) will attest to this.  I’ve tried, honest to goodness I’ve tried and occasionally I’ve found stuff that I do enjoy.  Frank Sinatra and the Rat Pack jazz standards, swing, big band, Glenn Miller, Ella/Etta/Billy/Rosemary – But, when it gets experimental, long solos and combos and jams on stage it seriously gets on my nerves, or I start to tune out completely waiting for the song to get to the POINT.  The closest I’ve gotten to liking that kind of thing is listening to MC’s & my friend’s – cousin’s band Media Addicts and there influences range from Miles Davis to Metallica leading to this quote found in a description of them: “What is this . . . is this Jazz?” the other answered “Yes. And I like it.”  Pretty sure those were my sentiments at the first of their shows I attended, only mine was more like, “But, I LIKE this . . .?”

Which is where I stand with this song by Ornette Coleman.  NO WAY I should like this, but I do.  Coleman was basically one of the main innovators of Free Jazz in the 1960’s – a genre of music that, though expressed very differently by different artists, had the same basis – they weren’t satisfied with playing the structured jazz of the 1930’s and 40’s and wanted to challenge, tear apart, and deconstruct jazz, pushing its boundaries.  This almost seems to be a theme so far:

  • Herbert challenging music with non-musical instruments to create important and meaningful sounds which are then mixed into music
  • Art & Language and Red Krayola challenging modernism with conceptual art, going beyond visual art and taking words and music to create a different kind of art altogther

And Zealous Friars, well, those puppies are just happy as clams with their guitars and standard pop format, but that’s cool 🙂  You don’t have to be dissatisfied to make good music, but it does seem to be an important factor in becoming known as an “innovator” “father/mother” of a whole new genre which you can then reject as it seems to confine rather than define your work.

But back to “Blues Connotation.”  Ornette Coleman is known for his distinctive blues-influenced high, crying saxaphone timbre according to my best friend Wikipedia.  You can definitely hear that as you listen to this recording.  But, as far as Blues goes, I’m still not much of an expert except that it’s a melancholy music with a steady groove that is departed from on occasion when the emotion of the lead voice gets to be too much.

“Blues Connotation” doesn’t sound melancholy with it’s driving beat and the bass player happily plucking away in the background, but the saxaphone solo work is intensely emotional, taking on vocal qualities of blues singers.  The 2:18 mark in the music especially has a blues feel with repeated melodic strands: you can almost hear the ragged intake of breath of a singer as they let out that pain in a LOOONG drawn out note  “and I feeeeeeeeel, and I fee-eee-eeee-eeee-eeeeel so sa-aah-aah-aahd”

But does the song have a blues feeling to it because of the music, or because of the title?  By titling the song “blues connotation” even a non-jazz head such as myself will listen for bluesy aspects in the song.  Ornette, you are a sly devil: you gave a piece connotation by saying it has connotation!  I’m sure that really, it probably follows some standard blues chord progressions and other stylistic features akin to blues, but I’d have to work A LOT harder to figure out that stuff, and you know, I’ve gotta get up in the morning . . .

No, I am content with what I have, which is moving to my toes to count the number of jazz songs I can say “But, I LIKE this . . .” about.


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The word of the Day for Friday, January 20th, 2012 is


Definition: verb (according to Websters, Dictionary.com, & Wiktionary) to speak pompously and dogmatically.  To express one’s opinions as if absolutely correct, usually at length.

Definition: noun (” “) To hold a high office in the Roman Catholic church, a pontiff.

Song: “Pontificate”
Artist: Michael Herbert Big Band
Album: There’s Me and There’s You
Year: 2008
So, you may notice I didn’t actually post this on Friday, January 2oth, 2011.  This is because I feel like I’ve stumbled upon a truly great artist and wanted to be able to do justice to his work.  Unfortunately this is very difficult when the song itself is a glacier akin to what the Titanic hit: there’s a LOT more beneath the surface.
So as to not turn into a Wikipedia article (though it’s always been my best friend when starting research) I will try my best to briefly explain the artist and his goals for this song/album.
The Artist: Michael Herbert Big Band
Matthew Herbert has worked under many names including his own, Radio Boy, Wishmountain, Rockit Boy, and Herbert.  His music centers around aleatoric processes – a word I dare anyone to define on the spot.  Basically it means he creates music with items that are not inherently musical, taking chances with the noises created and then mixing them in his own blend of pop/dance/jazz/electronica/house music.  He started by using a bag of chips as a sole “instrument.”  The sounds in this album “There’s Me . . .,” however, have a great deal more weight to them, whether it be recordings of powerful political figures saying “Yes” or the scraping of condoms on the floor of the British Museum.  Most important is that all soundclips are recorded himself, not samples, and all music can be recreated live.
Phew! done with that section.
The Album: There’s Me and There’s You
Okay, so, briefly: this is a big band jazz/electronica/dance album but above all it is a Protest Album.  The songs all focus on an aspect of the abuses of power in the 21st century.  These abuses include dealings with the Iraq War to the media blitz of tabloid crap to avoid reporting the actual news.  Despite the heaviness of the message the music is bright and bold, just like big band jazz should be, with a vocalist, Eska Mtungwazi, to match.
The Song: Pontificate
“Pontificate” specifically deals with the Pope and his involvement, or lack there of, with the AIDS epidemic in Africa.  Herbert counters the Pope’s refusal of condoning condoms or birth control of any kind with the scraping of 70 condoms along the floor of the British Museum and lyrics like “Happy to/attend to/funerals for free” and if “you” (the pope) have it your way “we all will be/in the ground.”
So, Matthew Herbert is applying both the noun Pontiff and the verb To Pontificate in his song.  The Pope being the highest of high in the management of the Roman Catholic Church is the Pontiff: “You have the fancy dress/you wear the gilded crown” and Herbert accuses him of pontificating: “you have the billing space/to amplify your views”
I would like to examine this further but unfortunately I’ve searched for hours for the lyrics to no avail and had to resort to listening to this song so many times I wake up with it in my head and still it’s a bit difficult to make out.  All the more reason to buy the album . . .  (I really would, I’ve enjoyed every song I’ve listened to, but MC will (politely) have my head since we’ve got like, bills and such to pay for first.)
PLEASE GIVE THIS ALBUM A SPIN!  The music is sultry, poetic, has a great groove, flair, a very modern twist on big band, and you can feel good because by listening you’re supporting a musician with a great message.

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