Dream Pairings

posted by Tom Moon on January 08, 2009 at 7:23 pm
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The other day Adam Herbst from New Jersey posted a comment regarding Van Morrison’s Astral Weeks.

The great Irish singer/songwriter has been back in the spotlight since revisiting his 1968 classic last November at the Hollywood Bowl (a live album is due for release February 10). “I think that Van should record with Charlie Haden – only makes sense as Richard Davis is the best part of Astral Weeks.”

Dunno if Davis is the “best” part of that classic album, but Herbst has an inspired idea. Haden is one of the most adventurous figures in jazz, a hyper-alert accompanist who worked with Ornette Coleman in the ‘60s and since has explored music in a number of smart configurations including his large-ensemble Liberation Music Orchestra and Quartet West. Haden’s intuitive knack for “shaping” a composition on the fly is exactly what Astral Weeks requires – maybe someday that connection will happen.

The note got me thinking: What might be some other “dream” pairings of unlikely talents – a la that tremendous Robert Plant and Allison Krauss collaboration Raising Sand? Below are a few that came to mind. Please feel free to add others!

Rufus Wainwright and Bill Charlap: Standards for Two Pianos and Voice. Wainwright’s Judy Garland project suggested that the singer-songwriter is not only comfortable with standards, but conversant in the nuances of phrasing and timing many modern crooners miss. Pair him with Charlap, a sensitive sideman with a rebel streak, and who knows what might happen, especially on such evergreens as “Everything Happens To Me” and “Like Someone In Love.”

Rickie Lee Jones and Ben Harper: The Music of Sister Rosetta Tharpe. The fiery performer had a gift for making ordinary blues-tinged melodies sound like high church – her gospel turned casual listeners into true believers. Rickie Lee Jones has that same persuasive power, and formidible improvisational skills to boot; it could be thrilling to hear her tackle the Tharpe songbook (“Down By the Riverside,” et al.) with support from the eclectic guitarist Ben Harper and his group.

Youssou N’ Dour: Plays Anything He Wants with the Dave Matthews Band: One of the most intense voices in all of African music, N’Dour is a curious musician, capable of immersing himself within the diverse range of styles favored by the mighty Dave Matthews Band. This collaboration would be riveting even if Matthews and N’Dour were singing nursery rhymes.


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#1 from Adam Herbst, New Jersey - 01/09/2009 4:25

I’d like to hear auteur Stephin Merritt write some material for cabaret chanteuse Julie Wilson.  Merritt’s gimlet-eyed wit would match Wilson’s delivery which has been honed on years of Cole Porter.

#2 from Jerry - 01/10/2009 2:45

Since they recently collaborated on an orchestral project, I’m most anxious to hear what resulted from the teaming of Maria Schneider and Dawn Upshaw - two of the new century’s most rewarding musical innovators.
Also, Larry Campbell has served as string wiz supporting many of the era’s finest, including Bob Dylan, Elvis Costello and Levon Helm, before 2007’s capstone of his work to date - an album with Sister Rosetta Tharpe’s former partner Marie Knight. Maybe a similar pairing with Mavis Staples would similarly cap her already impressive comeback.

#3 from Adam, New Jersey - 01/11/2009 4:31

I like Mavis Staples.  How about Mavis Staples and Mark Ronson.  Could also pair Allen Toussaint with Mark Ronson.

#4 from Neil Bostock - 01/11/2009 7:22

Broadening the conversation slightly, I’m a huge Dylan fan, and if one thing has disappointed me in his career it is that his vocal collaberations have been so few and far between.  His work with Emmylou Harris on Desire is such a perfect match, along with his live cuts with Joan Baez early on, that I’m surprised he hasn’t found other female collaborators over the years.  But that’s Bobby, always confounding expectations.  But I’d love to hear somebody offsetting that grizzled voice the way Amy Helm harmonizes with her dad Levon on Dirt Farmer.

#5 from Jay Fienberg, Seattle, WA - 01/19/2009 12:37

Speaking of pairings and Charlie Haden, in the 1980s, I saw a show with the Liberation Music Orchestra opening for the Minutemen at McCabe’s guitar shop in Santa Monica. After their mutual sets, Charlie Haden and the Minutemen jammed together.

To me, this was better than a dream pairing that I might imagine: it was not only a totally amazing improvisation, but also a great surprise collaboration of performers that, until that night, I had imagined as coming from very different corners of the music world.

Or, put another way, I think the best dream pairings would be ones that are both fantastic and things one would never dream-of!

#6 from John Adcock, Ashtead, United Kingdom - 01/27/2009 6:18

Very much enjoying these discussions to accompany the book - a brilliant way to broaden musical tastes.  Dream pairings?  Well, there are quite a few out there in existence I’d recommend:  Elvis Costello with Anne Sophie von Otter -“For The Stars”; Dylan, Petty, Orbsion, Lynne Harrison - who formed the brilliant Traveling Wilburys; and Yo Yo Ma and Ennio Morricone is also pretty good.

Dream Pairings got me thinking about another potential thread of interest - Cover Versions that are better than the originals.  Top of my list:  “Knocking on Heaven’s Door” performed by Warren Zevon on his final album The Wind.  Sang it like he meant it.

#7 from Neal Allen, Mill Valley, CA - 02/02/2009 4:55

Mick Jagger with Little Feat singing Memo From Turner on the Performance soundtrack ... the right song for him; a tougher sound for them ...

Nick Lowe, Ry Cooder and Jim Keltner ... musicians’ musicians playing their favorite teenage sounds ...

Any time Linda Ronstadt and Emmylou get together ... different ranges, unrivaled clarity in each, complete trust in each other’s skills and beauty ...

Joe Cocker and Leon Russell: two weeks that made each other’s careers ... their bizarro Girl From the North Country was the least of it, but oddly great itself ... mostly it was bringing N.O. gospel to Cocker’s industrial blues ...

And within that album, the two great studio drummers Jim Gordon and Jim Keltner appearing together with Keltner’s rifle snare and Gordon’s mad cymbals atop more drumming muscle than any band without Billy Cobham ever displayed ... 

Madeleine Peyroux and KD Lang ... hard to tell them apart even though MP comes to Patsy Cline as a sidelight ... lots more interesting than Sonny Rollins showing up Coltrane ...

Coltrane’s deeply emotional work with Duke Ellington ...

Jerry Garcia’s restrained underpinnings that centered David Crosby’s musically refreshing first solo album ...

#8 from Thomas Meunier, Austin, TX - 02/21/2009 4:19

A technical-related comment here, Tom:  I read your blog with Google Reader, via the RSS feed.  Your blog entries do not render properly in Google Reader. They all appear mashed together in one continuous line.  Also, the blog title shows up not as “1000 recordings…” but as “BLOG”.  Could you forward this to your technical people?

#9 from McGurky, somewhere - 02/23/2009 2:57

Neko Case and Jack White… Especially live… It would be such an amazing show.

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