Too Cool For Spotify

Spotify is a great tool, but it’s not perfect.  It has a lot of songs, but it doesn’t have ALL the songs, which is a problem.  Here’s a playlist composed entirely of songs that you can’t find on Spotify.

O Holy Night – Tipitina’s Foundation

Just because it was recently Christmas, here’s an old favorite covered by a New Orleans brass band including Troy Andrews aka Trombone Shorty.  This song was featured on Aaron Sorkin’s short-lived Studio 60, and was featured in the Christmas episode in a very moving finale.

Wicked Games – Coeur de Pirate

You’ve heard The Weeknd, but until you’ve heard ‘Wicked Games’ covered by the Canadian and mostly French singing Béatrice Martin with a simple piano accompaniment, you haven’t heard Shakespeare the way it was meant to be done.

Another Reflection – Nujabes

It’s hard to know what to say about this one, other than you can sit there and groove to it.  That, and I wish youtube had better sound quality.  Also, this is how much I care about lyrics: not at all.  I mean if they’re exceptional then it’s a bonus, but I straight up cannot make out the words to this song, and it doesn’t matter at all.

Crystal Blue Persuasion – Morcheeba

This is an old song covered with a generous helping of cheese.  I find something very sensual in the vocals.  I might prefer it to the original.  Hands up if you first heard the original on Breaking Bad; one, two, everybody under 50?  That’s what I thought.

Wicked Little Town – The Breeders

First of all, this is from Hedwig and the Angry Inch, and if you haven’t seen it, you should do so immediately.  It’s an amazing movie built around some amazing music.  This particular song is from a tribute album where various artists – Ben Folds, the Polyphonic Spree, the Pixies – covered songs from the movie.  ‘Wicked Little Town’ is fine as a standalone, but do yourself a favor and check out the film as well.

Happy Song – Victor Wooten

This song is ‘as advertised;’ it’s super happy.  There was a time in my life when I was so psyched with Wooten that I may have OD’ed and now it’s a well I almost never go back to, but once in a while…

These Days – The Tallest Man on Earth

Here’s a special one.  Tallest Man is great, and I’m happy to see he’s finally getting some recognition.  This is him covering Jackson Browne’s “These Days” (for some reason the video link says it’s a Nico cover; that’s completely wrong).  What makes the video special is the location; the Music Inn in New York.  It’s him wandering around the music store and basically fucking around and creating a beautiful song.

The Tom and Jerry Show – Hiromi

Hiromi is probably my favorite contemporary musician.  Why?  Briefly, she has incredible chops and plays with unbridled joy.  Here’s a song that demonstrates both, though it’s more of a show piece than a compositional masterwork, of which she has several.  The amazing thing about this song is you truly don’t grasp how hard it is to make what she does look easy.  That is, until you start looking at some of the attempted covers:

Here’s one

Here’s another

What’s striking is that these are pretty competent musicians; just to get to that level to play that speed with that accuracy you have to be pretty good.  I could probably practice that song for 6 months and not get to that level.  But you can tell, right away, that they’re playing with about 5% of Hiromi’s flair and fluidity.  She’s got the incredible chops, but she’s also got incredible musicianship, creativity, and feel.  That’s a scary combination.

Reptilia – The Punch Brothers

These guys play very technically good bluegrass, but they’re creative about it too.  Known as much for their interesting covers as for their more traditional fare, this one hangs out on the far side of that dichotomy.  “Reptilia,” of course, being a Strokes song, and if you’re familiar with the original, it’s hard to imagine it being driven by mandolin, fiddle, and banjo.  Nevertheless, this works like gangbusters, capturing much of the dark urgency of the original and imbuing it with a bluegrass flair.

Latin Lover – Mi Ami

So I’m pretty comfortable with extreme hyperbole, which means if I said this was the best song of 2010, no one would care.  That doesn’t make it not true, however.  This song just bites its fangs into your neck until you get on board with the sickness.  It might seem like your standard dance-punk extendo-blast, but just feel yourself get swept up in the noise, how the guitar seamlessly morphs into a series of staccato laser blasts, the banshee wail of a voice inciting you to, basically, riot.  This song is categorized on Allmusic as “Post Punk/Noise” and the album is called Steal Your Face.  Have I sufficiently hyped it?

Piesta 8 – Keith Jarrett

Just for kicks, here’s one of my favorite songs of all time.  This is one of three songs that tops 100 plays on my iTunes library.  It’s one of the most beautiful solo piano pieces I’ve ever heard.  Check that, one of the most beautiful, period.  And it was improvised.  Chew on that for a minute.  This track is a part of the Radiance album, a totally improvised concert Jarrett played in Osaka in 2005.


Jazz for Readin’/Teachin’/Intellectualizin’

As a genre, jazz can often prove a difficult backdrop for other activities. By its very nature, it demands attention – syncopation and swung notes; improvisation; nuanced harmonies; technical phrases, solos. These qualities can make it a distracting medium should you find yourself simultaneously trying to be somewhat productive. As an elementary teacher, I had a few different classroom playlists that I created to both expose the kids to good music and to maintain a desired ambiance conducive to reading or independent work. I found that compiling jazz tunes to fit the bill (especially for immature jazz ears) was a difficult, but rewarding task. For today’s post, I’ve recycled some of the same material, with updates to include some recent finds. So here you go: a jazz playlist that is full of goodies, but optimally chilled for silent reading time, studying, or hammocking.


Blue in Green – Miles Davis

This song (off the timeless Kind of Blue record) really needs no introduction. It is one of my all-time favorites. I once heard a jazz expert (I believe that was his title) give a brief lecture on the album, and he described the timeless feel of this song as having a ‘heroin pulse’. Here’s a review found on by Thomas Ward:

“Blue in Green” is arguably the most beautiful piece of music on Kind of Blue. The ensemble playing reaches new levels of subtlety and transcendence, and the work benefits greatly from the introduction of pianist Bill Evans, one of Miles Davis’ greatest collaborators. Indeed, his piano part is magnificent, and his solo is a masterpiece of his unrivaled lyricism. The tempo of the tune is audaciously slow, and it’s easy for the listener to think that it will fall apart at any moment. It doesn’t,  however, due to the genius of the ensemble. “Blue in Green” is also a greatly important piece; it shows that the values of “cool jazz” can have huge artistic value – it’s not just laid-back music for the sake of it, it’s music of extraordinary depth of feeling.

Starmaker – Roy Hargrove

This album, Earfood, is one of my favorite jazz albums of all time. If you don’t know Roy Hargrove, get familiar. He’s one of the most talented trumpet/bandleaders out there right now. Unfortunately I understand he’s got an issue with heroin as well, which can (negatively) impact his live performances. This highly sensual song exemplifies everything I like about his playing: tasteful, lyrical phrases teased out with impeccable tone.

Toy – Cannonball Adderley & Bill Evans

This is the first of three songs on this playlist from the exceptional record, Know What I Mean. I like Cannonball’s style for its expression. He sounds like he’s talking! He’s especially playful on this one, appropriate given the title of this Cliff Jordan cover.

Waltz for Debby – Cannonball Adderley & Bill Evans

Now that the pasta is boiling, or your projects are otherwise on auto-pilot, the music relaxes a bit. Ha, just wanted to make sure you were paying attention – that bit comes from my last post. You can hear Bill Evans’ flourishes a bit more on this tune than the last. Very pretty song.

Julia – Medeski, Martin, Scofield, & Wood

An incredibly beautiful Beatles cover. Deeply emotional and rich. The subtle changes made by John Medeski on the chords played are brilliant. This may be my favorite song of all time.

Take Five – Dave Brubeck Quartet

After Dave’s recent passing, I had to include this timeless gem.

My Funny Valentine – Miles Davis Quintet

Frequently covered, but this is my favorite version. I love the piano intro.

Behind Closed Doors – John Scofield

Again, Scofield’s tone is sensational. I was previously unaware that this was a classic country cover. Worth a listen to compare: Charlie Rich – Behind Closed Doors. His ability to mold a country song in such a way makes me think it was his idea to do the cover of Julia (above).

Nancy (With the Laughing Face) – Cannonball Adderley & Bill Evans

Originally a Sinatra recording, this song makes me feel like I’m walking through an art museum. ‘Cause I would walk around about that that fast, without any urgency.

Be Good (Lion’s Song) – Gregory Porter

I tried to make the playlist strictly instrumental, but I couldn’t resist this one. Indy got a sneak peek at this one and said it reminded him of a modern Nat King Cole. I see the similarity, though I think Porter’s got more of a sensual, smooth sound. If you like him, I also recommend this tune about asking for a girl’s hand: Gregory Porter – Real Good Hands

The Stroke – The RH Factor

Roy Hargrove’s group from the early 2000’s. This song has an incredible intimacy.

Naima – John Coltrane

Coltrane’s wife inspired this ballad, which serves as a stark contrast to the more upbeat songs on the Giant Steps album.

Peace Piece – Bill Evans

You can tell that I like Bill Evans. Heard this on the radio on MLK day, on a jazz program dedicated to playing songs that reminded the DJ of Dr. King. The octave and fifth intervals that pervade remind me of Debussy. A truly peaceful tune to conclude the set. I hope you enjoyed!