When I was younger, I used to think that I'd live to like in another era, preferably one where the music was more akin to my own tastes. When I really think about it, however, a collector like me can only thrive in the digital era. Rarities are too hard to find otherwise; if there's only a bare handful of copies of a record in existence, the odds of finding it are much smaller. The internet is the great equalizer if you're looking for something obscure, as it's brought together the collectors into one community. Here's a few of my suggestions for getting your musical fix: Linda Perhacs, Charlie Christian, Earl Hines, Tampa Red, and Mississippi Fred McDowell.
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Linda Perhacs

Linda PerhacsMost of my music falls on the older side, but I think that I have fairly broad tastes in music nonetheless. Psychedelia is an area of interest for me because I like the idea of widening one's perception of reality, and I like the sense of something that's otherworldly – especially when it's not too electronic and is more on the acoustic side. This is what drew me to Linda Perhacs. Finding information on her can be difficult because she spent a great deal of time in obscurity. She became known for a single album in 1970, Parallelograms. The album sold poorly and the record label, Kapp, didn't want to promote it, so she returned to work as a dental technician for three decades while her record became a hot collectible item, completely unbeknownst to her. She was recently rediscovered and has two additional albums waiting to be released.
Every article I can find on her compares her to Joni Mitchell, which is beyond the scope of this article. Her style isn't simple so much as stripped down to its most essential pieces. The melodies can be atonal at times, preventing the music from being too atonal, but it's never so out there that it becomes off-putting. "Dolphin," "Parallelogram" and "Moons and Cattails" are my favorite songs of hers. Linda Perhacs - "Dolphin" [audio:/mp3/Linda-Perhacs_Dolphin.mp3|titles=Linda Perhacs - Dolphin] Linda Perhacs - "Moon and Cattails" [audio:/mp3/Linda-Perhacs_Moon-And-Cattails.mp3|titles=Linda Perhacs - Moon and Cattails] Linda Perhacs - "Parallelograms" [audio:/mp3/Linda-Perhacs_Parallelograms.mp3|titles=Linda Perhacs - Parallelograms]  

Charlie Christian (1916 – 1942)

Charlie ChristianCharlie Christian is one of the greatest guitar players jazz has produced, and to say that he is forgotten is in error. He's well-known among jazz aficionados for having played with some of the greatest musicians of his time -- but he's still relatively unknown among the public at large. He died young, from tuberculosis at the age of 25, and he never fronted a large orchestra or well-known group. However, he played a critical role in the development of bebop. Christian grew up in Oklahoma City and made a name for himself as a local talent. He was mentioned to John Hammond, Benny Goodman's record producer and a keen talent scout, who then introduced him to Goodman. Goodman didn't care for Christian at first and tried to throw him off during their first live performance by playing a song, "Rose Room", that he thought Christian wouldn't know. Christian ended up leading the group on a forty minute rendition of the song, earning him a spot in Goodman's orchestra. While in Goodman's group, Christian often led late-night jam sessions at New York clubs. These musicians were interested in expanding jazz's musical boundaries and included Thelonious Monk, Coleman Hawkins, Charlie Parker, Don Byas and others. He died in 1942 but left behind some live recordings that show where he was headed musically. "Rose Room," the song that earned Christian a spot in Goodman's group, is a good song to get an idea of Christian's technique. His stated goal was to play like a tenor saxophonist, and he often played in a style similar to Lester Young. "Flying Home" is another classic of the Goodman sextet and features some of Christian's best work. Finally, if you want to hear what Christian was doing to help develop bebop, listen to "Swing to Bop", where he solos for the first two minutes in a jam session at Minton's in New York. Charlie Christian - "Flying Home" [audio:/mp3/Charlie-Christian_Flying-Home.mp3|titles=Charlie Christian - Flying Home] Charlie Christian - "Swing To Bop" [audio:/mp3/Charlie-Christian_Swing-To-Bop.mp3|titles=Charlie Christian - Swing To Bop]

Dawn of Midi Dysnomia Thirsty Ear Recordings (2013) When the American trio Dawn of Midi released their accomplished 2010 debut album, First, the world had gained another practitioner of minimalist free jazz. Two years in the making, and at a reported cost of thirty thousand dollars, Dysnomia is the follow-up to that promising debut, and builds masterfully on First, delivering an exciting blend of acute syncopation and imaginative instrumental counterpoint.
The first track, "Io", opens with resonating bass which is joined by a building rhythm produced by what might be a piano. Muted and muffled, this part works simultaneously with and against the initial deep bass, which is then underscored by the stabbing rhythm of a rich bass drum. From then on this track and those that follow build into a sparse though satisfyingly complex interaction of the three elements that comprise the classic jazz trio. The interplay of drums, bass and piano that make up Dawn of Midi is clever throughout, but in a way that never allows clarity to be lost. Hypnotic, rotating and tightly controlled, a subtle evolution of sound is the watermark that runs through this album. "Io", "Sinope", "Atlas", "Nix", "Moon", "Ymir", "Ijiraq", "Algol", "Dysnomia": each track merges with the next to make an album that is one complete piece of music.

BRAIDS Flourish//Perish Arbutus Records Montreal-based indie band BRAIDS make music that one rarely encounters: music that is meant to be processed and digested, bit by bit, as opposed to gulped down in one large bite. BRAIDS' 2011 debut Native Speaker was a lush, layered, complex swirl of dreamy melodies, and while their sophomore album Flourish//Perish has a similar feeling, it is a longer record that allows for expansion upon their sound. Aside from the vague comparisons to post-rock/shoegaze/indie pop, it is difficult to put specific genre categorizations on BRAIDS. Each song on Flourish//Perish has its own tone and tenor, making it a bit hard to conceptualize; the overall effect is delicate, intricate, at times jarring, and alternately soothing.

Gunnelpumpers Montana Fix Spiritflake Music, 2013On their fourth LP, free-improvisers Gunnelpumpers conjure the wide open skies and primordial landscapes of the Big Sky State. The incantatory nature of improvised music will not appeal to everybody. It's for a specialized sect, those that like to be surprised. It's the spirit of adventure that sends you off on random and unknown holidays, waiting to see what lies beyond the next corner. Like any other unplanned holiday, Montana Fix has its share of tedium and embarrassing memories. But what's good is golden, and the Chicago five piece transform your home into a sweat lodge with a mixture of Middle Eastern percussion, double bass drones, flutes, shakers and guitar. A free improvisation CD can be a hard sell these days. Only the most hardcore mental voyagers can invest an hour to listen to an album largely devoid of hooks, choruses, lyrics, or any discernible genre. In the liner notes for Montana Fix, Gunnelpumpers cite prog rock, krautrock, world music, jazz, experimental music, as well as traditional and modern classical, as influences. Believing in everything can be the same as standing for nothing, and Gunnelpumpers run the risk of entering bloated pretentious FUSION country. In addition, considering the infrared bison that graces the album cover, the jaded listener may hastily judge this as a post-modern New Age Putumayo reject. Judge this record by its cover, and you will be deprived of its epiphanies.
 

Amassing rare and forgotten music is a peculiar sort of hobby -- one that slowly transforms into an addiction. It's not that I don't love mainstream music. It's just that the thrill of listening to some forgotten gem that everybody else has overlooked is powerful. It also feeds into the collector's impulse I have to overturn every stone to find that song, and my love of complete collections. Not surprisingly, I also like to collect comic books. I guess I'm the type. In any event, here are five lesser-known musicians that I believe everybody should give a listen to, dating as far back as the 1910s and focusing on jazz, folk, and blues.

Don Byas (1912 – 1972)

I discovered Don Byas entirely by accident. I was listening to a Charlie Christian fan recording made in 1941, which was a musician's after-hours gig. There was a tenor saxophone present for some of the songs that sounded so much like Coleman Hawkins that I read the liner notes to see if it was him – only to discover that it wasn't the Hawk, but a guy named Don Byas. I quickly borrowed all the Don Byas CDs I could request and immediately got into him. His playing consistently impressed me, just as it did on that initial Charlie Christian album. Early bebop musicians like Byas were rooted in Swing traditions but wanted to play around with harmonic structure in their songs and experiment, which for me is a "best of both worlds" situation. Don Byas should be on the list of brilliant tenor saxophone players, among Coleman Hawkins, Lester Young and Sonny Rollins. In collaboration with Hawkins, he made what are considered to be the first Bebop recordings in 1944. Yet he is frequently omitted in jazz history courses, in books and in documentaries, meaning that newer fans of jazz might miss him entirely. Part of this is because Byas lived in Europe from 1945 onward and rarely visited the United States, giving him a large European audience but a smaller American fanbase. You might start by checking out the song that got me hooked: "Stardust" with Charlie Christian.
Purchase Don Byas Albums On Amazon ++ LEARN MORE ABOUT DON BYAS Don Byas - "1944 Stomp" [audio:/wp-content/uploads/2013/07/Don-Byas_1944-Stomp.mp3|titles=Don Byas - 1944 Stomp] Don Byas - "Byas A Drink" [audio:/wp-content/uploads/2013/07/Don-Byas_Byas-A-Drink.mp3|titles=Don Byas - Byas A Drink]  

John Lemke - People Do Album ReviewJohn Lemke People Do Denovali Records, 2013The world of Germany-born, Glasgow-based composer and sound designer John Lemke is a rich and varied one. Working in a variety of media, so as to enable him explore his fascination with music and "all things sonic", he has dipped his fingers into a variety of collaborative pies, ranging from live performance and film sound design, to work as a documentary composer for British television broadcasters such as the BBC. An accomplished manipulator of the recorded aural environment, Lemke seeks, in People Do, his debut solo album, to fuse the emotive elements from his film work with a sense of rhythm and space. With a stated aim of marshaling his abstract sonic palette to create a "danceable, electro-acoustic whole", the effect achieved is one of a highly visual journey that inhabits the realm of memory channelled and interpreted through objects and their collected histories. Lemke explains that his first inspiration was found in the "idiosyncratic sound world of his grandmother's piano. With a shimmering past in the silent film era of 1920's Berlin, its very fabric was full of anecdotes."
 

Efterklang's latest album, Piramida, is more than just an exercise in songwriting; it is an attempt to connect the creation of an album with a specific location. The site where the band chose to record is a veritable ghost town, an abandoned coal-mining colony still controlled by the Russian company that left it behind in 1998. Situated between the Arctic Circle and the North Pole, the place is empty, bitter cold, and only reachable by boat. Piramida shares its name with this strange place, and the eerie and wonderful sounds collected there ultimately comprised the album's distinctive structural elements.
"You can for sure say that the context directs the music in a certain direction. Songs written on guitars come out different than songs written on pianos. A ghost town is quiet and a perfect place to make recordings. It is a brilliant setting for recording sound." - Rasmus Stolbreg of Efterklang