Order is Everything: Coltrane.

A post on semi-accidental compliance.

 

As part of my research on endless lists of 10/20/50/101 essential Jazz records I came across an interesting feature on Revive Music called Order Is Everything.

 

At the time of writing (I’m hoping it’s an on-going project) there were five artists featured, listing ten or so of their key albums, and, crucially the order you should listen to them in. I found this as a handy guide, allowing me to wade into an artist’s portfolio gradually, rather than plunging head first into an out-there avant-garde deep end, liable to shock me into regression.

So, the link was duly bookmarked for future reference.

 

 

I spoke previously about my jazz awakening while, after a few attempts, finally giving ‘Kind Of Blue’ a proper listen.

Well, that awakening jumped up a notch the first time I sat down and listened to Coltrane’s ‘Giant Steps’. That was when I could start to see that I was beginning to ‘get’ jazz.

 

And what do you know? It’s first on the list. What an explosive start to a list!

 

The day I went to visit a guy who was selling a few albums of his, I had ‘Giant Steps’ and ‘My Favourite Things’ in mind. While there we came to a good deal on three Coltrane LPs. Asking for guidance on the third, he suggested ‘Coltrane’s Sound’ to me, so I left with all three tucked under my arm.

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I hadn’t planned on picking up ‘Coltrane’s Sound’; I hadn’t even researched it, but took it purely on recommendation. Upon arriving home, and logging the new arrivals on Discogs, I was pleasantly surprised to see I had numbers 1, 3 and 4 from the list in my possession.

The next logical step, of course was to put things right by picking up a copy of ‘Blue Train’. Not only did I get my sequence back on track, but I now had four wonderful albums that gave a hell of an introduction to the world of John Coltrane.

 

Yes, ‘A Love Supreme’ might top a lot of polls as the best jazz album ever, but lists are lists, and I’m really trusting this one, so I will bide my time until I work down as far as it.

 

In the mean time,  next up is album #5, ‘Duke Ellington & John Coltrane’.

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It must have been faith when I strolled into the local record shop, not really looking for anything, just killing some time. And there it was. A quick look at the sealed album, and it seemed to be a genuine Impulse re-issue, so it came home with me that day.

Further inspection, and it seems a 1997 US Impulse re-issue, still sealed popped up in a little record shop in Ireland.

I’m really loving this album, showing the softer side of Coltrane, and some beautiful playing from Ellington too. The opener, ‘In a Sentimental Mood’ is fabulous, and it continues from there.

 

Will I continue with the list? Possibly not. A Love Supreme is obviously on the radar, but I can see myself going off-track when it comes to further exploration of Coltrane.

Was it worth doing for the first half dozen or so albums? I certainly think so.

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Out and about

A quick round-up.

Isn’t it weird how, no matter how good the summer, we are more drawn to the outdoors in Autumn? Is it the sense that the clock is ticking? Winter is coming? Or is it just me?

 

Last week we had a wonderful hike up around Mahon Falls, in glorious autumnal sunshine.

 

 

I also got to bring my new toy out to the woods – a hammock.

I managed to hang it with relative ease. I got to try a few different configurations, and was able to take note of a few minor alterations – longer straps for one!

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Of course, I don’t fancy giving it an overnight test at this time of the year before DIYing an underquilt (another winter project), but it was certainly comfortable enough that I was ready to doze off as the kids and dog tried to build a shelter near-by.

 

 

 

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Birth of a Jazz bore…

 

In what I guess, in hindsight, was another New Year’s resolution I bought the first of the series of Jazz at 33 1/3 RPM way back in January 2016. The €4.99 introductory offer obviously helped.

That first issue was, of course, Miles Davis’ classic ‘Kind Of Blue’.

Week two, at a slightly more expensive, but still discounted offer, was Coltrane’s ‘Blue Train’. I missed that in the local shop. Week three, now at the full €19.99 was Billie Holiday, which at the time didn’t grab me, so I left it on the shelf.

Obviously the local uptake wasn’t great, and that’s where the series ended in this particular shop.

I took home my copy of ‘Kind Of Blue’, listened to it occasionally (my first time ever hearing it), then it sat on the shelf, not to be touched for more than a year.

It was some time in late 2018 when I pulled it off the shelf again and gave it another go. This time something clicked with me. Maybe it was the mood I was in, but I guess I *really* listened this time. I played it pretty constantly over a period of a week or so, while also googling reviews and articles on the making of the album itself. I think this was the first time I actually read the booklet that came with the album too.

Epiphany is probably a bit over the top, but there was certainly a dawning on me that there was this whole section of music that I, as a music lover, had completely dismissed – not just a niche genre. To me it was almost equal to claiming to love music but having never dipped your toe into something as expansive as Rock, or Soul.

Anyway, back to Google I went.

The Art of Manliness gave a nice overview of the timelines / sub-genres of jazz (AoM is a site and podcast that I often use, and would highly recommend).

I found numerous articles giving the top 10/20/50 Jazz albums of all time ( LA Weekly, for example) and an interesting take from Revive Music called Order is Everything, where they walk you through the order you should purchase albums from a few key players (more on this in another blog post).

And so it began.

I’m still a complete novice, but I’m trying to keep some structure on my listening – progressing through the development of the ’50s and ’60s; exploring deeper into genres I like, but still listening outside these genres too.

So far I think my strategy has worked. I know if I jumped straight in to some ’70s free jazz or something it would put me right off it. I feel I have to build up to that.

I went out the week after my ‘Kind of Blue’  immersion and picked up Billie Holiday’s Strange Fruit, perhaps by way of atonement for leaving her on the shelf earlier. Armstrong, Gillespie, Parker followed. Then ‘Birth of The Cool’, then into the late ’50s, and all that is on offer there.

So far, my only blip was perhaps tackling ‘Out to Lunch’ too early in my journey. But I won’t admit defeat with it yet!

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Forward Planning

 

Time to schedule some upcoming blog posts.

These will include:

 

  • Update on MOSF synth build
  • New project – Modular synth build including Yusynth modules
  • My experiences as a noob listening to Jazz.

 

In the mean time I’ll just stick on ‘Kind Of Blue’ again, while I dust off the soldering iron.

 

 

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Synth DIY build part 2 (brief)

A quick update before a more detailed post coming in the next few days.

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After building, and populating, the front panel for the MFOS SoundLab I started populating the pcb.
Besides a few minor issues (I didn’t have every resistor value needed so had to combine a few) this went smoothly. I was still missing a couple of components, and with the arrival of summer the whole project was put on hold.

I started back in to it a couple of weeks ago, ordered the missing components, wired the panel, and wired the panel to the pcb.

I also built the wall-wart power supply, also from MFOS, which will provide my +/-12Vdc to power the module.

So, as of now this is the status of the project:
All the wiring is complete
After an initial test I’m able to provide power to the module (without it blowing up!)

To do:
A more comprehensive check on the unit. (Ray from MFOS has a very good check list for voltages you can measure across the pcb to ensure no shorts etc.)
Build an enclosure, probably from plywood.
Fit the matched transistors and tempco resistors (waiting on delivery of these).

Then, hopefully start making some noise.

Oh, and upload a more detailed blog post with the build steps and pictures.

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Synth DIY build part 1

This will be the first in a series of posts on my first Synth build.

How many will be in that series? I’m not quite sure yet. I wouldn’t like to put a number on it as I really don’t know how long this is going to take me. My previous DIY builds have been  guitar pedals, but I decided to go big for this project.

I found a world of information and projects on the wonderful Music From Outer Space website.

While some of the smaller projects interested me at first I went “all in” and opted for the Sound Lab MkII build. I ordered the pcb, and the power supply pcb from MFOS, and components from Tayda Electronics. I also signed up to the Irish Synth DIY group, which is full of knowledgeable, friendly folk.

Anyway – so to the project.

I have made a start on the front panel hardware side of things. I decided not to get the front panel available from MFOS, both as a cost saving measure and as I would like to do as much as I can myself.

I knocked up a front panel template design and printed it off. I based my sizings on the large format 5U size, as it will be a stand alone unit, and space isn’t really at a premium.

A bit of skip diving got me a metal sheet that used to be part of a shelving assembly.

I cut it to size, and started cleaning it up with a wire brush. I then glued the paper template to my front panel and drilled out the various holes.

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Cleaning off the paint and rust patches with a wire brush.

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Paper template glued to front panel. I have left space in either end for any extra modules I might add at a later date.

Next step was to remove the paper template. At this stage I realised I was probably a little liberal with the pva glue, so ended up sanding off the template.

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Holes drilled. Paper template sanded off.

Then, with the project pages from the MFOS site printed off I began fitting the pots, 1/4″ jacks and switches.

As my front panel doesn’t match the MFOS one extra care was needed to ensure the correct components went in the correct holes. This will also be the case when it comes to wiring up the panel.

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All hardware installed.

My design for the front panel is a sort of mock-modular, as you can see from the pictures. My original intention was to print this with white text on a black background similar to the classic Moog style. This may change, however, as I kind of k=like the bare metal look. I may keep it pretty lo-fi looking. Another option is to try engraving the panel, but those decisions are well down the line.

Issues so far:

With the front panel a little thinner than it could have been, and a hand drill rather than a press my hole alignment isn’t spot on. But nothing’s way off, so I’ll just call it ‘character’.

Next up is to start on the pcb assembly.

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…But I don’t do New Year’s resolutions.

Oh dear, have I become on of those people?

You know, the ones who make new year’s resolutions.

The ones who panic detox the first few days of January.

The ones who throw a chunk of money at a gym just to use it for the first week, then never go again.

It wasn’t meant to be like this. I started back on the bike with a regular spin in November. I started doing a mid-week run to try and keep things ticking over.

I decided I wanted to do more, but wasn’t going to go into crisis mode over Christmas. No, I would wait until afterwards, then knuckle down, get back on the regular spins (which fell by the wayside over the holidays) and start a workout routine.

Whatever way I squared it with myself, I still ended up walking into a gym in January with a big “RESOLUTION” banner looming over my head.

So, money down, hopefully I will still be getting regular use of it by the time my 3 month membership is up for renewal.

In the meantime, on behalf of all honest, decent, Resolution noobs I would like to apologise in advance to all regular gym-goers for any annoyance we might cause in the next couple of weeks. I’ll hopefully pick up some ettiquite tips from nerdfitness.com, get my head down, and make sure that membership wasn’t wasted.

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