I wish I had Sam Billen’s knack for self-promotion and his ability to see a project through to completion. It’s not that I don’t write and record a lot of (great) songs, it’s just that I lack some of the traits that might get me noticed. For instance, I know I talk more about about others’ music than I do my own.
Billen is constantly recording, but he can focus on actually finishing an album. Me? I record TONS of songs, but I don’t usually feel they fit together as an album. Billen’s released two albums this year, in addition to a slew of songs on his SoundCloud page. I play one of his newest this week; it’s from a Christmas album he and his friend, Josh Atkinson, released on Wednesday. In the spirit of Christmas cheer, good will and all that junk, they have made the album available for free.
This week, I start discussing free jazz. Like so many other styles I address in these episodes, I know neither one song nor a brief discussion can begin to cover it well. That said, whether you dig this Ornette Coleman song or not (although you probably will), I’d highly recommend tearing through records by some other artists in the genre: John Coltrane, Pharoah Sanders, Alert Ayler and Don Cherry. (The proliferation of MP3 blogs on the internet makes this an incredibly easy task nowadays.) One cannot make generalizations about an entire style with only listening to a song, especially with a style as diverse as free jazz.
- “Sugar” – The People (The Premise is Sound/self-released/2000)
- “Eventually” – Ornette Coleman (The Shape of Jazz to Come/Atlantic/1959)
- “Iced Lightning” – RJD2 (Since We Last Spoke/Definitive Jux/2004)
- “Hark Hark” – Sam Billen and Josh Atkinson (A Word of Encouragement/self-released/2010)