Rocket City Ramble

March 29, 2009

Huntsville, Alabama.  Rocket City.  Longtime home to electrical engineers and authentic Space Age bachelors.  A good place to find some thrift store vinyl.


Thanks to Owen, a Huntsville native, TSV was clued-in to an amazing re-cycled building materials and home infrastructure store that also had a small-but-potent stash of used LPs. One wouldn’t at first think he would find thrift store vinyl in such a place; but Owen knew it was there:


Off in a corner, hidden amongst the old electrical parts, garbage disposals, sinks, tubs, doors, window frames, chairs, toasters, flooring materials, and electric ovens inside the above warehouse was a small double-bin table with about 150 vinyl LPs. The gem-to-clinker ratio in these bins was one of the highest in the entire history of TSV’s thrift store record shopping. This was made even more enjoyable because TSV spent the better part of that morning at a place that had a gem-to-clinker ratio of about 1-to-700. More about that, perhaps, in another post.

For now, let’s take a look at some of the cool vinyl finds that TSV scored at the Restore:


Check out this German Decca pressing of one of TSV’s favourite musical Teutons, Werner Mueller. It’s a great-sounding Phase-4 Stereo LP with “20-Kanal-Aufnahme!” It actually sounds like that woman’s hat looks, if you know what we’re is sayin’.

Mueller really kicks out the internationally flavoured jams on this platter, with tunes originating from the countries of Brazil, Hawaii, Germany, and Cuba, amoung others. One even will hear a bit of early 70’s synth on a few tunes! Mueller is unique in the world of easy listening for his pumped up, often experimental, interpretations of songs from the world’s pop music cannon. Excellent German high fidelity sound too. You should hear Mueller’s version of Spanish Flea. WTF! Herb Alpert would blush with jealousy. This ranks up there in TSV’s soon-to-be-published 100 Most Awesomely Excellent Easy Listening LPs list.


The above is a queer gem from the already queer genre of Tuba jazz. The role of the Tuba in marching bands has really distracted most folks from its musical versatility and subtlety. Ray Draper was one of a few Tuba players to dedicate himself to the world of jazz, and this LP is a good primer of what the Tuba can do with an ensemble of hard-boppers. Draper rocketed through the Space Age and eventually blew up like a failed launch; he had a Tuba-sized heroin habit. Yet, while he was around, he created a catalogue of Tuba jazz that remains the high mark for those aspiring to equal any part of his talent and style. This is the LP that you put on for yourself, for individual listening, not for background music.

TSV’s luck just kept getting better with this small record stash at the Restore store. He was stunned to look down and see this two-group jazz LP on the always-interesting Jazztone label:


Jazztone was a small mail-order record club label. Subscribers would be sent a cool jazz LP each month, often with original sessions made for the label. It was only around for 3 years in the U.S., but managed to record some real heavies like Coleman Hawkins, Dizzy Gillespie, and the two awesome bands on this LP featuring the hepcat drummer, Chico Hamilton, the legendary Brasilian guitarist, Laurindo Almeida, and the cool, cool jazz saxophonist, Bud Shank. On this LP, Chico sets the beat for some interesting “chamber jazz.” The latter was made famous by small combos from the 1930s like John Kirby’s sextet. Chamber jazz is usually flavoured with classical music devices, both in its arrangements and its instrumentation. Chico’s quintet featuring cello, flute, clarinet, guitar, bass, and, of course, the leader’s drums, creates some movin’ music that requires one’s attention to really appreciate; as others have observed, this kind of music is for listening, not dancing.


Or, in the case of the awesome movie The Sweet Smell of Success, it’s also for watching as Chico’s quintet play themselves in a great cameo appearance. This is a great youtube of a rare 50’s jazz jam on film. Make sure to listen to the music in the background. Watch Clip.

Side two features another TSV favourite, Brasileiro Laurindo Almeida. This Jazztone session with West Coast sax man Bud Shank represents the very birth of the Bossa Nova wave that would soon swallow up much of popular music. One can hear the ripples of that wave in the samba-inspired guitar of Almeida and the smooth-but-boppin’ sax of Shank. If Gilberto and Getz hadn’t burst upon the seen a few years later, it could easily have been Almeida and Shank to introduce the Bossa Nova in the U.S.; although it would’ve lacked the vocal element.



TSV found this cool clip of Laurindo playing with the MJQ; it’s a lot like the music found on the Jazztone record he found:


Watch Clip

The above is a great youtube, but TSV wants to put a cap in the ass of the elitist Wanker who introduces and postscripts the performance. What a dick!

And that’s just three of about 20 cool LPs TSV snagged in all!