Wildcard - Michael Sarian
As if anyone else hasn’t been listening to this album non-stop, right? I wouldn’t listen to anything else when it came out last December, took a few months off, now it’s back in rotation. When D’Angelo came out with his first two albums, I was a kid in Argentina, so I only heard a few tracks here and there – never got really into him (although I did download Untitled from Napster and listened to that a whole lot). So I wasn’t desperately awaiting this album… but I should have been. It’s incredibly tight and filled with all these nuances and details: like throughout a whole track there’ll be clapping on 2 and 4, but then all of a sudden, just on one bar, for one split second, they won’t clap on 4. That blows my mind – the bass and drums are so together you get into this almost meditative state, and shit like that just snaps you out of it and forces you to pay attention.
Then obviously, once I figured out what D’Angelo was actually saying (thanks to social media and all that), I learned that it’s full of political and social commentary taking it to a whole different level.
Before leaving Argentina for the first time in 2004, I realized that, at 19, I hadn’t really engulfed all that the local rock scene had to offer, so decided to go to as many shows as I could. Among the many, was Luis Alberto Spinetta. I remember being turned off because he yelled at some dude in the audience who was filming him.
Time can change things, and so after 11 years I really don’t care if he chewed some dude out at a show (it didn’t take 11 years, but you get the idea). This guy’s music and voice really defined and changed Argentine music in the past 50 years. I recently took a composition workshop given by Guillermo Klein, and one of the exercises he gave us was writing a melody to a poem that doesn’t rhyme. He then played us Por, by Pescado Rabioso (one of Spinetta’s bands in the 70s), a 1:45min song with Spinetta singing and playing acoustic guitar. The lyrics don’t make sense, but that’s because he apparently took words out of a hat or something, and wrote a melody to those random words. So this is something I’m actually working on: getting sentences/words/poems/lyrics that don’t make sense and writing a melody.
Guillermo has always been one of my favorite composers. I’ve seen him and his band ‘Los Guachos’ countless times. His compositions blur the line between singer-songwriter, jazz, and whatever else you want to call so-called ‘academic music’. Just like with D’Angelo’s tracks, you can get lost in them: the tunes flow, but if you pay attention there are all of these meter changes, metric modulations… moments of brilliance.
I caught a couple of the sets at the Village Vanguard when Guillermo was recording. Some of the guys working at the Vanguard said it was some of the best music they’ve ever heard at the club. Liliana Herrero, an Argentine singer, was with the band for their stay there, and her voice really pierces through your heart. She took it to another level. Guillermo also sings, he always has. It took me a while to really appreciate his singing voice – he’s not your traditional jazz vocalist by a long, very long shot, but you can tell he means what he says, like he’s really telling you something.
There’s nothing like walking around snowy New York City while listening to ‘Eternauta’, the last track.
Truth be told, I only have about 4 albums on my iPhone. Three of which are D’Angelo’s Black Messiah, Guillermo Klein’s Live At The Village Vanguard, and Kenny Warren’s Laila and Smitty. I downloaded the last one shortly after hearing it on his bandcamp page. Much like Klein, I really dig the story telling and the singer-songwriterish vibe of the songs. Plus Kenny’s singing reminds me of a less pop/corny version of Rod Stewart, in a good way (especially on the track Questions).
I know for a fact Kenny is a ridiculous trumpet player, but he doesn’t really showcase it as much in this album, he puts the compositions in the forefront. His playing throughout the album is really melodic, and not a whole lot of extended improvisation. Plus he’s got that whole Americana thing going on, and he blends his horn perfectly with the slide guitar and rest of the band. The combination of this album and Klein’s (and Pescado Rabioso) is really prompting me to write melodies for lyrics.
Plus there’s this line right here from the track Warm My Soul: “And I want you to be who you are when you’re dreaming. Who you are when you’re drinking, but without all the drinking.”
Michael Sarian is a trumpeter and composer whose work has been heard throughout the United States, South America and Europe. Subtitles, his debut recording as a bandleader, is out now on Pulled Pork Records.