Straight Outta Tirana: Hip Hop Shqip, Vol. 5

Hip Hop Shqip Front Cover 
Hip Hop Shqip Back Cover

Albanians took to hip hop early -- by the mid-1990s, the scene was established, and it shows no sign of petering out. Albanian here refers to the language -- the performers could well come from Albania, Kosovo, Montenegro, or from Albanian-speaking expat communities in Europe or the U.S.

I found this album in a small town on the road to Prizren. "Shqip" is the Albanian word for Albanian, and the double-headed eagle appears on the Albanian flag. Here's the album, encoded into .mp3 format.*Enjoy!**

Hip Hop Shqip

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From the Vault of Joy: Art Farmer's 'To Sweden with Love'

  To Sweden with Love

Typepad recently gave me unlimited storage, so I thought I'd put it to good use by introducing a feature which I'll call 'From the Vault of Joy'. I own upwards of 5,000 CDs, which I'm in the process of digitizing. Every once in a while, I run across a relatively obscure acquisition and think to myself: 'More people should hear this.' Thanks to digital technology, now more people can! My plan is to post obscure gems that I've picked up on my wanderings. 

The first Vault of Joy installment is a 1988 Japanese re-issue of a 1964 Atlantic recording of Art Farmer's (d)* 'To Sweden with Love'. Farmer toured Sweden in the late 1950s, and fell in love with Swedish folk songs. Presumably, as a charismatic black American jazz musician touring negro-mad Sweden in 1964, he experienced many other kinds of love as well -- but we'll leave that for another day.** Farmer eventually settled in Vienna, which became his home base until his death in 1999.

Farmer bounced around between various projects in the early '60s, as his early hard-bop style mellowed under the influence of West Coast jazz. Farmer maintained a quartet under his own name in 1963 and '64 which also featured Jim Hall on electric guitar. At that time, Hall's peerless collaborations with Bill Evans and Paul Desmond were making him legendary. for this short record, Farmer and Hall are joined by Steve Swallow on bass, and Pete Laroca on drums. The quartet plays six Swedish folk songs. Farmer opts for the mellower fluegelhorn as opposed to the trumpet, in keeping with the gentle, reserved nature of the melodies. Hall is, as always, staggeringly inventive, without a touch of vulgar showmanship.

33 minutes of West Coast groove with a Nordic accent!

Art Farmer -- To Sweden with Love

* A Japanese firm was the first to re-issue this recording on CD, and that the German Wikipedia entry on Art Farmer is longer and more sophisticated than the English-language one. Not that jazz isn't a universal art form, but it's just embarrassing that Americans aren't out in front on this.
** Not that I blame Farmer for preferring a continent in which his skin color gets him special treatment from women, rather than rednecks and police officers.