Originally published on Sun January 12, 2014 11:27 pm
These days, album-length covers collections tend to be minor footnotes in a musician's catalog, ranked somewhere just above live albums, holiday recordings and those greatest-hits packages that tack on one or two new songs. After all, covers albums at least seem as if they should be easy to assemble, in large part because they remove the artistic and logistical hurdle of writing songs. And, for their part, listeners tend to process them by way of comparison rather than raw appreciation.
Ryan Bingham pulls out a rope, lights up a cigarette and lassos a metal bull in his backyard. His house is nestled in a canyon that overlooks the Santa Monica Mountain Range. Out here you'd never know you were just up the road from Los Angeles. Bingham says he feels right at home.
"Takes you back to the source of it every now and then," he says.
2013 has ended on a decidedly happy note for one homeless man in Oakland, California. Marcus Malone was a conga player for Carlos Santana in the late '60s. He landed in legal trouble and disappeared from the music scene. Then a TV reporter doing a story on illegal dumping met Malone rummaging through trash. Santana saw the report and earlier this month, the two former band mates were reunited.
Marcus Roberts was a very young, very gifted pianist back in 1985, when Wynton Marsalis tapped him to join his band.
Six years later, Roberts went off to lead his own combo — and to write both jazz and classical music. And he taught. And he toured. And he recorded.
In fact, Marcus Roberts just released three new albums. One of them is a 12-part jazz suite. The other two take him back to the beginning: They're his first collaborations with Wynton Marsalis in 20 years.