Mike Cina mix
Mike Cina - Spirit Edit Jazz Mix
In this 4th installment of grain edit mixtapes, we caught up with design nut and all-around awesome guy Mike Cina. When Mike isn’t manning the helm at YouWorkForThem he’s digging through your grand pa’s record collection. Today we’re excited to present an exclusive jazz mix he created for grain edit readers.
Before we get to the mix, I had a chance to pick Mike’s brain on record collecting, typography and album cover art.
When did you start collecting records?
I started ‘collecting’ in high-school, 1986, but I started shopping for records when I was 7. My father used to take me out once a month or so to hit up some record stores. Like most kids, I wanted to be like him, so I would buy records but I was into disco and pop. He was into deep heavy rock (Electric Prunes, Blue Cheer, Black Sabbath) so whenever I would play my stuff, he would exit stage left.
In high school I started actually getting a collection together. I probably had 800 or so records back then. Anything from Acid House to Metal. In the mid 90’s I only was buying CD’s. Finally in the late 90’s I realized that CD’s were a waste and started upgrading all my CD’s to vinyl. Never regretted that move.
Can you tell us a little about the albums you selected for the mix and why you chose them?
I chose a wide range of music but the common thread are jazz musicians that had spiritual ties. In the 60’s and 70’s you had a lot of small independent labels (Saturn, Nimbus, Black Jazz, Strata East, Tribe, etc) that put out amazing work. Ideas were everywhere and people were exploring new territories. There were a lot of musicians also deep into religion and they made jazz music based off of their relationship with God. John Coltrane pretty much launched this movement, being an extremely spiritual person. I can’t quite explain it, but the music has a different feeling and sound. This mix takes a journey into what people now call “Spiritual Jazz.”
For some people Jazz can be hard to understand or appreciate, what is it that resonates with you?
The first time I “heard” jazz was when I was in college and a friend dropped Herbie Hancock “Headhunters” at my house one night. It really resonated with me, especially the track Chameleon! When the transition in the middle of the song happens you just get all warm and a light turned on in my brain. I was playing house music out at the time and they would sample jazz a lot, so I knew your basic jazz and soul hooks. The next lp I bought was Coltrane’s “Interstellar Space” and that did not resonate with me at all. After that was Dolphy’s “Out to Lunch” and that was a little better. I kept trying different ‘classics’ until I got to Coltrane’s”Love Supreme” and then things clicked a little more. I think the more you listen to jazz, your ear sharpens and you can hear more things. Doors start to open, you can start to hear emotions, personalities, ideas and conversations with the band members. Raw feelings. The best jazz to me is music that is caught up in a struggle of emotions.
Do you see any connections between typography and jazz?
If you look at anything from the constructivist workings, avant garde typography, down to the Reid Miles covers, or even Niklaus Troxler posters… you can see how words and jazz mix. There is a rhythm in how people speak and can relate to music as well. So if you take how people talk, you can express that visually with the letters. Or even capture the mood or emotion of the players, much like Reid Miles did. I don’t think he captured the music, but more the feeling and personalities of the players. There are a lot of new books coming out about album cover art, so I think that is a testimony that music does inspire design.
What are your thoughts on the downloadable music culture and its
effect on album cover design?
Where do you begin? The music industry does not care about making good music. When they changed from vinyl to tapes to CD’s, they fully knew it was not as dynamic but very portable. Ever since then, they have pushed a more disposable format. Nothing can replace the size, feel and emotion that you can get from a beautiful lp cover. To be honest, I don’t even care what most albums look like anymore if it is digital. They could have any image because I can’t see the cover unless I choose to look at it or add it in iTunes. With an album, you have to look at it. You have to put money and effort into making an LP. It is just the perfect size and shape to get enough detail and do a dynamic layout.
Every collector has that prized find. What record is that for you?
I have found some nice stuff. These are not the most rare but finding a white label of Skull Snaps, Tom Scott’s “Honeysuckle Breeze” was nice. My favorite stuff to find is private-press jazz and boogie. To answer your question, my prized lp is Oriental Jazz by Lloyd Miller. It is one of those lp’s that just resonates with me.
Do you have any other record digging stories you can share with us?
I have been in more than a couple odd situations where I felt like I could have been abducted extremely easily. The classic one was where we are in Ohio and are calling record stores. This guy answers and said he closed his shop but is willing to let us peek around for a bit of what stock he has. We drive up to the address and we are in a bad side of town. When we park I am thinking my car is going to get stolen. I see these guys walking down the street and tell my friend to watch out as he is opening the door and he practically hits these guys with my car door. They murmur something to him and we see this guy opening these big wooden panels on a shop. When we walk in, there are records all over the place and nothing is priced. We sort through it all and found some nice Blue Notes. When we are done, he says yeah your car is still there (he was watching it) want to see more records? So we say yep. We go around this bulletproof glass barrier into another room that looks like a bomb went off in it. Records were everywhere, we were walking on records to get to the main part of the room. We spent a good hour or two there, pulling some nice jazz and Soul. So when we are done, he says there are some lps in the basement. Well we go downstairs and the air is thicker than I have ever breathed. Damp as anything with a mold and mildew stench. My friend and I have our arm over our mouth so we can breathe and the owner doesn’t go down. It’s basically something straight out of Pulp Fiction and the word “gimp” comes in my head immediately.
So we are down there and there is one green bulb on and you can barely see. We said we had enough and he said well there is another basement down from here with more records. We reluctantly say okay and we go
down further and I can’t even breathe and my friend murmers lets get the hell out of here’ and he goes upstairs. I did see a audiofile Herbie Hancock “Maiden Voyage” so I run over and grab it and go upstairs. I was really thinking NOBODY would have found us if something happened, being probably 30 or more feet underground. The only reason I went down is because the owner was a really nice guy.
So he said he had yet another warehouse with some as well so we go there too and had crates and of crates of jazz. I was just spent so really didn’t look as sharp as I should have. It was just a great time but took up a half of a day. I think I got 70 something records there. Checking out closed warehouses full of lps are ALMOST always a treat.
Reid miles/ Blue Note is often mentioned when the subject of cover
art is brought up. What other jazz labels do you feel we’re/are
consistently producing solid cover art?
ECM is probably my favorite overall from front-to-back cover. I used to see them all the time for 50 cents and passed on them until I thought that I should just buy them all for the covers. Well, I started really getting into the releases that came out before 1980 and started collecting them. I have their first hundred-and-something releases (ECM1001-ECM1120) or something. Blue Note is essential, Strata-East, Tribe, Impulse is okay (their spine is the best ever though). Factory Records and 4AD is pretty amazing but not jazz.
……and now the Spirit Edit Mix!
Here’s the track listing:
1. Marion Brown - Bismillahi
2. John Coltrane - The Sun
3. Adele Sebastian - Desert Fairy Princess
4. The Clifford Jordan Quartet - John Coltrane
5. Lloyd Miller - Gol-E-Gandom
6. Pharoah Sanders - Love is Everywhere
7. Hino and Garper - Red Eye Special
8. Carlos Garnett - Mother of the Future
9. Doug Carn - God is One
10. Heikki Sarmanto - Duke and Trane
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