Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Bill Walton, Music and Basketball

For those who don't know, I am devotee of basketball in addition to my musical pursuits. With the 2014 FIBA World Cup beginning later this summer, it's a perfect time to celebrate basketball and broadcasting great Bill Walton, lover of both sport and music. Here are three memorable and music-related broadcasting moments from Walton:

Boris Diaw and Beethoven

In this 2006 clip, Walton makes reference to Beethoven's Eroica Symphony while praising the virtues of French forward Boris Diaw, then of the Phoenix Suns. (Casual basketball fans will recognize Diaw from his recent resurgence in San Antonio, which included an important role in the 2014 NBA Finals.) I particularly enjoy broadcasting partner Mike Tirico's reaction at 0:34.

Ray Allen, "Lettin' it Flow"

In this 2001 clip, Walton compares shooting guard Ray Allen (then of the Milwaukee Bucks) to "an unbelievable guitar player" after Allen's missed shot at 0:07.

Grateful Dead and the NBA

In this 2011 clip, Walton discusses parallels between rock band Grateful Dead and professional basketball, including "creativity," "teamwork" and "building a dream."

Friday, July 18, 2014

Musicians with homonymic names

Nancy Wilson and Nancy Wilson

Nancy Wilson - "Guess Who I Saw Today" (1960)

The arrangement here works for me: no real solos and clearly defined instrumental roles, including the absence of the piano during the bridge (1:56-2:29). Wilson's performance, particularly the memorable way she sings the cascading titular line at 1:01 and 2:31, is stunning.

Heart - "Stranded" (1990)

Nancy Wilson sings a powerful lead vocal on this track from Heart's Brigade album (produced by Richie Zito, who also produced Cheap Trick's "The Flame" and Bad English's "When I See You Smile"). The chorus features one of the great uses of the I-V-ii-IV pattern, evoking the chorus of Peter Frampton's "Baby, I Love Your Way" (with which "Stranded" shares the key of G major following the half step "pump-up" modulation at 2:55).

Patti Smith and Patty Smyth

Patti Smith - "Free Money" (1975)

From her first album Horses (produced by John Cale of the original Velvet Undergound), this track features Smith's distinctive mix of song and spoken word. I enjoy Smith's vocalizations as well as the arrangement, which features a somewhat gradual buildup of instrumental forces. The accompaniment begins with piano; the bass and drums enter at 0:30 and rhythm guitars at 0:48. A double time feel begins at 1:01, followed by an uneasy, repeating eighth note gesture in the drums beginning at 1:33. Additional vocal tracks enter at 2:24 and a lead guitar comes in at 3:08.

Scandal - "Goodbye To You" (1982)

Featuring lead vocals by Patty Smyth, this song preceded Scandal's bigger 1984 hit "The Warrior." (Both became karaoke staples long ago.) The background vocals on this track are nicely placed in 1:18-1:31 and 2:48-2:56. The decision to elide Smyth's voice with the synth lead beginning at 1:48 provides a smooth transition into the solo section, which ends with what are possibly my favorite two seconds of the song, from 2:19-2:21. 

"Papa" Jo Jones and "Philly" Joe Jones

Jo Jones Trio - "When Your Lover Has Gone" (1958)

Also featuring Ray Bryant (piano) and Tommy Bryant (bass), this track features Jones' uniquely colorful cymbal playing. I especially enjoy Jones' contribution during the last chorus, beginning at 2:32.

Sonny Clark Trio - "I Didn't Know What Time It Was" (1957)

With "Philly" Joe Jones (drums) and Paul Chambers (bass). Jones is in top form here with pianist Sonny Clark and frequent rhythm section mate Paul Chambers. The group's interplay during Chambers' solo (2:31-3:21) is particularly engaging, as Jones and Clark create a subtle interplay within the accompaniment.