Tuesday, December 29, 2009
Wednesday, December 23, 2009
Tuesday, December 22, 2009
My rating: 1 of 5 stars
Can you give zero stars? That's what I'd prefer to. I found nothing to like about this book. There's no characterization at all. The minor characters are virtually nonexistent, and the one major character is cardboard. The historical background is shallow; the plot drags, the mountaineering stuff gives no insight. And did nobody tell Jeffrey Archer that "Paths of Glory" has already been used as the title for a great Stanley Kubrick movie, a twentieth century masterpiece?
View all my reviews >>
Sunday, December 13, 2009
Thursday, December 10, 2009
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
A novel about a historical era I not only didn't know about, I didn't know it existed: Latvian revolutionaries/terrorists in London in 1910. The story was interesting -- I wished I had been made to care more about the characters.
View all my reviews >>
Wednesday, December 02, 2009
I posted this response to Branca, which is buried somewhere on page 18 of the responses, but easier to read here.
I don't know that music is over, but the American Century in music -- blues and blues-based music, that is to say jazz, rhythm and blues, rock and roll, even country -- is over. And ... it will be considered one of the great artistic flowerings, like Elizabethan drama, Renaissance painting, baroque music, the Victorian novel. Those all came to an end, and so has the American Century in music.
That doesn't mean music is over. But we may not have the ears to hear the new thing.
Wednesday, October 21, 2009
Wednesday, October 07, 2009
Saturday, October 03, 2009
An entry in the Best American Poetry blog (it's hard to tell by whom, since the blog is not set up as well as it could be) recounts a visit to Opus 40 -- I'm going to guess it's by Dara Wier, since she's their resident guest blogger right now. Entitled "why going to Opus 40 is a wistfully true okay thing to do," it's wistfully poetic and evocative piece.
Unfortunately, Ms. Wier did not inquire as to whether there were any resident poets at Opus 40, but you can't ask for everything.
Friday, September 18, 2009
Tuesday, August 25, 2009
Sunday, August 09, 2009
The Peace Walk gathered at Opus 40 this morning. I wasn't able to take photos -- if anyone has any, I'd love to see them - firstname.lastname@example.org
The 7th Annual Saugerties Art Tour was a success once again. I was much too busy to take photos at the opening reception for the group show Friday night -- the turnout was exponentially larger than any we've ever had. And too busy showing work over the weekend to take photos, but here are a couple of the pieces I had on display.
The Vanaver Caravan's performance on Saturday evening was sublime. I've posted a slide show at the Opus 40 website. Here's one image:
Saturday, August 08, 2009
Walkers will begin gathering at 8 a.m. Saturday at the intersection of routes 375 and 212. The walk kicks off at 9:40 a.m. with a parade of flags through the town to Comeau Field, where the World Peace Prayer Ceremony will be held. After the walk, the Olatunji Drummers and Kodi Drummer's Drums for World Peace will perform at the Wok 'N' Roll Café, 50 Mill Hill Road in Woodstock. And, beginning at 3 p.m., the Bearsville Theater, Route 212 in Bearsville, will host the annual Upstate Reggae Festival.
Events continue at 7 a.m. Sunday with a nondenominational Sunrise Peace Vigil at Opus 40. Also, the Church of the Holy Transfiguration of Christ on the Mount, 125 Mead Mountain Road in Woodstock, hosts music, prayers and celebrations throughout the day.
Monday, August 03, 2009
Tuesday, July 28, 2009
Sunday, July 26, 2009
Tuesday, July 21, 2009
Language Thieves, Situations: a Novel in Verse, and Take Five: Poems
in 5/4 Time. His work has been compared to Terry Gilliam, Byron,
Pushkin and Tom Waits. His songs have been recorded by Orleans, John
Hall and Fred Koller. He has written nonfiction on such diverse subjects
as poetry, music and money, if those subjects are diverse. He is the
author of a dozen or so novels, most recently Nick and Jake, a
lighthearted romp through the McCarthy Era and the CIA’s overthrow of
the Mossadegh government in Iran, which will presented this fall on the
Internet in serialized form, and as a podcast starring Alan Arkin and
45 Broad Street
Middletown, CT 06457
For more information contact:
Friday, July 17, 2009
Tuesday, July 14, 2009
Monday, July 13, 2009
Wednesday, June 24, 2009
J. D. Salinger
Jerry Lee Lewis
All men, which probably says something negative about the way our minds work, but it also says something about the 50s. So who did we miss?
Wednesday, June 17, 2009
Elvis gets 2, or maybe 1, depending on who Caitlin's "ditto" was for, the vote just above hers, or the majority.
One for Patty Smyth, one for Frankie Laine, both of them deserving.
40s on 4*
The Gal From Joe's http://www.lala.com/#search/the%20gal%20from%20joe%27s%20duke%20ellington
50s on 5*
60s on 6
Na Na Hey Hey
70s on 7*
Love Takes Time
80s on 8* Wham!
I'm Your Man
90s on 9*
Not hard to figure out what gets the gate first here. What is hard to figure is why "Beep Beep" would inspire this arty film-student video.
And for me, second out the door isn't hard either, but there are a few George Michael fans here who might disagree with me. I can't see how.
Jane's Addiction did some interesting stuff, and this is representative of it, quirky and ranty but arresting. Although I have to say I think Sergio is better off -- and don't worry, Sergio, there's nothing much good on TV anyway. And I definitely wouldn't have dinner with Jane.
For cultural relevance, you'd have to go with Steam, who became a ballpark staple first for White Sox fans and then for the world. As I understand it, this was cut as a demo with a scratch vocal -- they were planning on coming back and adding real lyrics to it later. But someone recognized its terminal catchiness, and a group was hastily thrown together to tour behind the song.
For musical value, you'd have to go with Ellington, Cootie Williams and Johnny Hodges. Here's another neat version of the song by Nina SImone -- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nwBqW26FBgo
But I'm going with nepotism. Orleans and "Love Takes Time."
What you can learn from Keats, Coleridge and Harold Arlen
Great Beginnings Monday: Lorrie Moore, Mark Strand and Maxine Kumin
Can creative writing be taught?
E this book
Kindle -- what you can and can't do
Private eyes and cliches
Great Beginnings Monday: The Good Soldier
How much control does a writer have?
Thursday, May 21, 2009
Monday, May 18, 2009
Thursday, May 14, 2009
Tuesday, May 12, 2009
This time around:
40s on 4*
Blues in the Night
50s on 5*
Can't Help Falling in Love
60s on 6*
Blood, Sweat & Tears
You Made Me So Very Happy
70s on 7*
Peaceful, Easy Feeling
80s on 8*
90s on 9*
House of Pain
I hate David Clayton-Thomas's voice, and his style, and his songs. One down.
Naked Eyes -- hey, if I were going to vote for an Eagles-sounding group, I'd vote for the Eagles.
House of Pain -- ah, Irish hip-hop. A Big Ten football fight song, for the Wisconsin Badgers, and I still have my Big Ten roots. Lively and angry, always good qualities in a song. And the guys are ugly, which is a nice change of pace from Naked Eyes. I do think that Naked Eyes and House of Pain are both good group names.
Elvis and the Eagles. These are a couple of listenable songs. "Peaceful Easy Feeling" is neither lively nor angry -- in fact, it's peaceful and easy, "Can't Help Falling" is really peaceful and really easy, but it's one of Elvis's better ballads. Written by Hugo and Luigi, perhaps the most soulless bandleaders in America, but it turned out they could write a pretty nice ballad. Also, to my surprise, it turns out they produced the Stylistics, and the Isley Brothers' "Shout." Maybe they weren't quite so soulless. I really like the Eagles, although many have accused them of soullessness too. But if someone asked me to put on Eagles record, this isn't the one I'd choose.
Harold Arlen. Johnny Mercer. Cab Calloway is great even with mediocre material -- how can he not be great with great material? Even without the Nicholas Brothers. "Blues in the Night" gets my vote.
Sunday, May 10, 2009
In Episode XXII of Situations, our story takes a dark turn. Wisdom comes at a steep price, and we say a farewell.
Recently on NY Writing Examiner, tributes to John Cheever, Marilyn French and M.F.K. Fisher, some bloggers who've turned their blogs into books, how to raise the stakes in your fiction, the death of literature (again), and Sit, Click, Drive!
Saturday, May 02, 2009
George does not for a moment question his mandate, but places a beer in front of the old tramp.
Old Bob starts to open up to me and George and Larry the Fluff – I don’t recall all that much of it, but I remember that he was a logger from the Adirondacks – how he had happened through New Paltz, I don’t remember. I drift off at some point, but later in the evening I wander back past the Homestead just as Old Bob is walking out the front door. He gets halfway down the path, suddenly turns stiff as a board, pitches forward flat on his face – directly between Henry Cavanagh and Michael Weissberg, as it happens.
I go over to see if he’s OK, and so does a scruffy young kid. He’s not OK. Between the kid, me, Weissberg and Cavanagh, none of us are really qualified to deal with this situation – too bad someone like Ron Fields isn’t there, but we’re all he has. The kid and I try to help him to his feet, and more or less succeed, but he’s still out of it. What are we going to do next? “Let’s take him back in the Homestead and prop him up in a booth,” the kid suggests.
“We can’t do that…” but I don’t have a better suggestion.
Old Bob stirs into consciousness. “You’d better get me to the police station, boys. I’m an epileptic.”
The obvious answer – but none of us are really police station-oriented enough to think of it. So the kid and, supporting him with his arms around our shoulders, half-walk, half-carry him to the police station. The kid is terrified – he’s a junkie, he informs me later, and he’s terrified that they’ll see the tracks in his arm. But he hangs in there. We get him to the police station, and they’re no better prepared to deal with the situation than we are. Louie Olson is there, I forget who else. So we stay, the kid and I. We lay him down on the floor, and hold him gently so he doesn’t hurt himself when he starts thrashing. He has a can of beer in his pocket, which we remove for the same reason.
And he has plenty of time to thrash. An ambulance is dispatched from Kingston Hospital, but it takes about an hour and a half to get there. I find out later that the first ambulance driver dispatched had a heart attack on the way down, so they had to dispatch a second one to take care of him before dealing with Old Bob.
But finally he’s on the way to the hospital, and the kid and I leave. Louie Olson gives me the warm can of beer, sort of like the state trooper giving Johnny his motorcycle trophy at the end of The Wild One. I drift back down to the Homestead.
It’s after hours, and they’re not serving any more, but they let me in. Fluff is there, and I tell him the story. “And here’s Old Bob’s last beer. I guess I’ll take it home for a souvenir – and someday I’ll bring it back into town and give it to some other old tramp for whom it will have no symbolic meaning.”
There’s a girl there – I don’t remember who, now, but someone who was around town a lot for a short time, and she asks, “Can I have it?”
I think for a moment. It occurs to me that this is exactly what I had planned to do with the beer, just not quite so quickly.
So I give her Old Bob’s last beer, and call it a night.
Thursday, April 30, 2009
About 5 years earlier, living briefly in NYC, I had known a young man named Vinnie, very troubled, from a conservative Irish Catholic family, no longer sure of very much in his life but still tied closely to that background.
A couple of years later, I ran into a mutual friend. He'd recently seen Vinnie, who had apparently found a substitute for his CYO: "I've found this swell group -- they have dances, and meetings, and the kids are really great -- did you ever hear of a group called 'Progressive Labor'?"
Fast forward again to 1967, and I'm faculty chaperone to a group of New Paltz students going down to the city for a march against the war, culminating in a rally at UN Plaza. The rally was interrupted by a downpour, so we left, and took shelter from the storm under the eave of a building -- a bank, misappropriately enough. Suddenly someone comes dashing across the street and squeezes in beside me under the same eave.
"Hey, how have you been?" "Oh, I've been great -- I've been traveling a lot -- Holland, Germany..."
"That's great, Vinnie."
"You know, there's a real revival of the Nazis over there."
"Is that so?" And it's here that I notice, under Vinnie's raincoat, a brown shirt.
"Yes -- I'm one of them!"
A momentary speechless pause from me.
"Were you at that peace rally just now?"
"Yes, we were, Vinnie."
"I notice you had a lot of Jews at that rally."
Rain coming down even harder.
"Gee, great to see you, Vinnie. Well, it looks like the rain's letting up. We've gotta be going. Come on, everyone!"
What I'm listening to. George Mraz, John Hicks, Idris Muhammad, Eric Alexander, on Lala . Not guys at the top of the jazz hit parade, perhaps, but this is great stuff. Reminds me of the days of the Tin Palace in NYC.
Tuesday, April 28, 2009
These go out to my BOTD posse by email, but feel free to vote here too.
40s on 4*
The Man With the Horn
50s on 5*
60s on 6*
70s on 7*
80s on 8*
Union Of The Snake
90s on 9*
Dave Matthews Band
Ants Marching ('95)
Duran Duran -- they're not bad. They did a James Bond song that some people bizarrely pick as the best Bond song (nothing touches "Goldfinger"). They bear about the same relation to the really significant bands of the 80s that Harry James bears to Benny Goodman, and neither Harry nor Simon are at their zenith here, so let's wrap them up together. Simon is handsomer, but Harry was married to Betty Grable.
The rest are all virtually uneliminatable, so I'll take them in chronological order. I think I'd put "Blue Monday" just a shade below Fats' A+ work, which still makes it better than most anything by most anyone else.
The Temptations were the subjects of probably the best TV movie music biopic ever, and if that sounds like a bar not raised awfully high, I don't mean to damn it with faint praise. It was a terrific flick. And the Temps were always good, and the combination of social commentary and Motown choreography (on red, green and orange platforms) is well-nigh irresistible.
I hadn't heard this Dave Matthews before, and wondered briefly if Dave had done a Sesame Street bit and recorded "The Ants Go Marching Two by Two." But this is great stuff, and not just for dual sentimental reasons -- first, that the DMB shot a video at Opus 40, and second, that the drummer is wearing a Rangers jersey on the night when the Rangers fought gamely but went down to the Washington Caps in game 7 of the opening Stanley Cup series. This is a very tight band, some tight songwriting, and I like the little auctioneer bit he does.
But...John Lennon. His power is undiminished. And the symbolism of Yoko knitting blindfolded...wow...what symbolism! It symbolizes...well, like I said, John's power is undiminished. John for me.
Saturday, April 25, 2009
A Yahoo group has started for reminiscences of those days, and Henry Cavanagh has posted one of his columns for the SUNY New Paltz Oracle, remembering ties and jackets on campus in the early sixties. That reminded me of this story:
It would have been 1965, I guess, the year I arrived. The Jazztet -- Benny Golson, Art Farmer, Curtis Fuller -- were playing on campus in the Old Main auditorium. I went to see them with my friends Dave Roach and Walter Donnaruma, himself a great jazz musician, returned from playing piano in a cantina in Mexico to come back to school. We arrived, presented our tickets, and were turned away by the sorority sisters who were running the concert. You can't go in. What do you mean, we can't go in? We have our tickets -- we paid for them.
You can't go in. You don't pass the dress code test. You're not wearing ties.
We protested. Cajoled. Jazz was our religion then. Threatened. Cajoled some more. Finally they let us in, but only allowed us to sit in the back row.
Wow...I'd forgotten all about this. A couple of days later, I was approached by the Inquiring Photographer for the Oracle, asking me about the incident. I don't remember what I said -- it's probably in the Oracle's files somewhere. I do remember that I was set up. When the issue came out, my response was there, along with the responses of five or six sorority girls who had all been shown mine, and had at me, dripping with sarcasm.
Saturday, April 18, 2009
Saturday, April 11, 2009
This time around:
40s on 4
Teddy Wilson v/Billie Holiday
50s on 5
60s on 6
She's Not There
70s on 7
Could It Be I'm Falling
80s on 8
I've Been In Love Before
90s on 9
Easy to knock the first one out this time. Bobby Rydell, reminding us that the decade that brought us rock and roll also brought us some of the sappiest performers ever. I had actually never heard Bobby Rydell do this song before -- only Dean Martin, and it was bearable when Dino did it, but not by much.
Nirvana, Cutting Crew and the Spinners are all real professionals, even though Nirvana were supposed to be the anti-professionals, and they all made really tight records. Nirvana was the best of the three, but the Spinners had the coolest outfits.
Speaking of cutting crews, could it be possible for anyone to cut the crew of Billie Holiday and Teddy Wilson? The Zombies give them a good fight. They didn't have as many great songs as the Beatles, the Stones, or the Kinks, but the ones they had were marvels -- tight writing, tight harmonies, songs taken in surprising directions that had the inevitability of greatness. And Peter Jones points out that in spite of Teddy, this is not Billie's best take of "My Man." But it's still Billie for me.
Monday, April 06, 2009
Sunday, March 29, 2009
Thursday, March 26, 2009
A few thoughts: Newsweek says
the number of adults reading poetry had continued to decline, bringing poetry's readership to its lowest point in at least 16 years.
Sixteen years isn't a hugely long time. Who was all that popular back in 1993? Someone, I guess. In any case, if these figures are right, they're indicative of a cycle more than anything else.
Newsweek goes on to say:
Sunil Iyengar, the NEA's director of the Office of Research and Analysis, says the agency can't answer with certainty why fewer adults are reading poetry. He and others believed the opposite would be true, largely because of poetry's expansion onto the Internet. "In fact," he says, "part of our surmise as to why fiction reading rates seem to be up might be due to greater opportunities through online reading. But we don't know why with poetry that's not the case."
Here's a thought -- sometimes when figures are counterintuitive, it means they're wrong. And I have a hard time believing these figures, precisely because of online reading. I know that sites like Pedestal and Cortland Review and Poetry Daily and Verse Daily get a lot more hits per day than any print literary review ever has. Why are these not showing up on the NEA's survey? I don't know. I don't create surveys. I know that when Laurie Ylvisaker ran the Woodstock Poetry Festival for three years in the early 2000s, it was one of the town's best tourist attractions. Woodstock filled up, all the major events (Billy Collins, Stephen Dunn, Philip Levine, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, etc.) sold out, and the smaller events did well too.
The article ends by quoting Donald Hall, whose book of elegies for his late wife Jane Kenyon made best-seller lists in 1999 (as did Ted Hughes' Birthday Letters in 2002):
"I'm 80 years old," he says. "[For] 60 years I've been reading about poetry losing its audience."
Tuesday, March 24, 2009
Monday, March 23, 2009
Sunday, March 22, 2009
Wednesday, March 18, 2009
The story of Opus 40 is a metaphor for what we do as
law professors. Just as Harvey Fite used his hands to build
his amazing sculpture rock-by-rock, we work day-by-day,
paper-by-paper, class-by-class, and student-by-student to
shape our legacy—capable, ethical lawyers and a forwardlooking
profession. Although we sometimes forget our
ultimate goals, the days when we remember them are often
Tuesday, March 10, 2009
Monday, March 09, 2009
Friday, March 06, 2009
you'll head for the Wednesday Night Poetry Series
at Molten Java Coffee Roasters,
Greenwood Ave., Bethel CT
"The Tom Waits of contemporary poetry" -- Nancy Willard
7:30 PM -- open mike followed by feature reading
for more info check the Wednesday Poetry Series website
Thursday, March 05, 2009
I had to do two lists, because there are too many songs in my head crowding out almost everything else.
So I'll start with the poems.
Men at forty
learn to close slowly
the doors to rooms they
will not be coming back to.
-- Donald Justice
A terrible beauty is born.
-- W. B. Yeats
[Time] will pardon Paul Claudel
Pardon him for writing well.
-- W. H. Auden
She dwells with beauty, beauty that must die
-- John Keats
as if words were the burden
he’d been bearing, all his life.
-- Donald Finkel
Now you invent the boat of your flesh
-- Mark Strand
'Don't, don't, don't, don't,' she cried.
-- Robert Frost
Owls were bearing the farm away.
-- Dylan Thomas
Goodnight to the old lady whispering "hush."
-- Margaret Wise Brown
Sometimes a man stands up during supper
and walks outdoors, and keeps on walking,
because of a church that stands somewhere in the East.
-- Rainer Maria Rilke
and ten lines from songs
Open up honey, it's your lover boy, me, that's knockin!
--Jerry Lee Lewis
She was with Big Jim, but she was leaning toward the Jack of Hearts.
-- Bob Dylan
Forever for Jennifer Johnson and me.
Sir or Madam, will you read my book?
-- Lennon - McCartney
Old trees just grow stronger,
And old rivers grow wilder ev'ry day.
Yes, it's me, and I'm in love again.
He saw Aunt Mary coming and he ducked back in the alley.
I believe a change is gonna come.
Never hit seventeen when you play against the dealer.
If dogs run free, why not me?
Wednesday, March 04, 2009
rating: 1 of 5 stars
How do books like this get published? It's a clip job, no new material, no original research, and not even a very good clip job.
Jazz in the Movies by David Meeker
rating: 3 of 5 stars
Now, this is some nice research -- if it's not every movie, video or DVD with jazz in it, including a description of the scenes with jazz, the players, the players playing for actors, then it's damn close. It's from da Capo, which never fails to publish the best books on music. The Beatle book was put out by Fireside, which once published my country music book that I put real work into.
View all my reviews.
Jazz on Film: The Complete Story of the Musicians and Music Onscreen by Scott Yanow
rating: 4 of 5 stars
I'm sure the da Capo book is excellent, because it's from da Capo, but this is the one I actually read. So see my other review.
View all my reviews.
Saturday, February 28, 2009
Rhythm allows one, by playing off the possible prose rhythms against the super-imposed verse rhythms, to combine a variety of statements in one order. Its direct effect seems a matter for physiology; in particular, a rhythmic beat taken faster than the pulse seems controllable, exhilarating, and not to demand intimate sympathy; a rhythmic beat almost synchronous with the pulse seems sincere and to demand intimate sympathy; while a rhythmic beat slower than the pulse, like a funeral bell, seems portentous and uncontrollable.
I wonder how this might apply to music. Well, first, I wonder what it means. But I’m taking the pulse to mean the beat that the drummer – or more likely, for a singer, the bass player – lays down, and the rhythmic beat being the beat that the singer creates. And what does it mean to be exhilarating yet controllable, and not demanding of intimate sympathy? That seems a tricky concept – I wonder if Empson knew what it meant.
Frank Sinatra and Billie Holiday famously sang behind the beat, and they did pull the listener in emotionally. Nobody created the illusion of a heart out of control better than Lady did, and Sinatra at his best, before the tough veneer enclosed him completely, projected allowed a glimpse into a core of emotional vulnerability. Rock and roll may be the music of orgiastic hedonism, but there’s more emotional nakedness in jazz.
Chuck Berry sang right on the beat, and he placed his lyrics right on the beat. And who sang ahead of the beat? Peter Jones reminds me that if you listen to Little Richard, you hear the great drummer Earl Palmer actually playing behind the beat, so that Richard is singing ahead of it. That’s part of what gives him that frantic urgency.
Does Little Richard demand less intimate sympathy than Chuck Berry? I wonder…but maybe he does. We don’t ever really care what Richard is singing about. Not even that he still loves Lucille, even though she’s run away and married. Not about the girl who says she loves him but she can’t come in. Not about Uncle John’s predicament at almost being caught by Aunt Mary. But exhilarated? Oh, my, yes.
Friday, February 27, 2009
1 - Go to "wikipedia." Hit “random”
or click http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Special:Random
The first random wikipedia article you get is the name of your band.
2 - Go to "Random quotations"
or click http://www.quotationspage.com/random.php3
The last four or five words of the VERY LAST quote of the page is the title of your first album.
3 - Go to flickr and click on “explore the last seven days”
or click http://www.flickr.com/explore/interesting/7days
Third picture, no matter what it is, will be your album cover.
4 - Use photoshop or similar to put it all together.
Thursday, February 26, 2009
Wednesday, February 25, 2009
The Realist Archive Project is, bit by bit, posting pdfs of every page of every issue of The Realist -- in no particular order, which is a good idea. Anyway, they've posted a couple of my contributions, most recently this one.
Friday, February 20, 2009
Wednesday, February 18, 2009
This is what I need, as it turns out:
Tad needs volume
Tad needs some good real estate professionals
Tad needs Contract or part-time work in the editing and proofreading arenas (how did they know?)
Tad needs help
Tad needs you
Tad needs modernizing
Tad needs and deserves someone wonderful! (Actually, I'm fine in that department)
Tad needs to find a new home which includes workshop, training and storage areas. A major fundraising drive is underway. ... (I like the last part)
Tad needs to do something to take the edge off those bad days.
Tad needs a date with the sweet and innocent Rosalee
Tuesday, February 17, 2009
Sunday, February 08, 2009
This time around:
Cottage for Sale
The Mamas and the Papas
John Paul Young
Love is in the Air
Quad City DJs
C'mon and Ride It
Can a song called "Love is in the Air" possibly be any good? Is John Paul Young gonna make it after all? As it turns out...no. And no, at least not on BOTD.
In the 70s, a school called L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E poetry gained some notoriety in American po-biz circles. It was distinguished by more or less divorcing words from meaning, and frequently divorcing letters from word-making. It had a political base - they were freeing language from the patriarchy and the hegemonistic control of the bourgeoisie, and making it equally available to all social classes, I guess by making it equally incomprehensible to all social classes. If you want to really digress, here's my take on one of the L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E poets. My problem with it, and the question I could never get answered, was how can you tell good L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E poetry from bad? What are the standards? I have sort of the same problem with hip-hop. I kinda like the Quad City DJs, even though they appear to be from Florida and not the Quad Cities I'm familiar with (Davenport, Bettendorf, Moline and Rock Island). But I don't know if they're better or worse than any other rappers, or what standard I should use to measure them.
Then, a closely bunched group.
It's interesting that virtually all the doowop that wasn't made by African-Americans was made by Italian-Americans, and the Mystics were one such aggregation. None of the Italian groups was as good as the great black groups (though they were generally better than non-Italian white groups).The Mystics fit right in that niche, and with "Hushabye" they had the best the Brill Building had to offer, The very best: Doc Pomus and Mort Shuman. And here's a little bit of pop cultural history -- when the original lead singer of the Mystics left in 1960, he was replaced for a while by a non-Italian Brill Building kid named Jerry Landis. Well, Jerry Landis wasn't his real name, so he could have been Italian, but he wasn't, and he soon left the Mystics and returned to his real name: Paul Simon.
I don't have much to say about the B-52s. They were one of those really good groups who never resonated with my inner teenager, or any other inner part of me, for reasons that probably aren't their fault. This is a good song. Good lyrics, good harmonies, good energy. What more do you want?
The Mamas and the Papas had all those things too, and I liked them and was irritated by them in equal measure. They were maybe too quintessentially 60s, especially California 60s, Anyway, check out the video and see if you can explain to me how Denny Doherty keeps his balance.
Billy Eckstine is beloved of jazz fans for hiring Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie, and he had that big, rich voice that wasn't always as effective as you might think. Sometimes too lush, too in love with itself. But on this strange, wonderful song, Mr. B. finds his gifts perfectly suited for the material. "Cottage for Sale" for me.
OK, where would you least like to spend the evening?
(a) Heartbreak Hotel
(b) Hotel California
(c) Rose's Cantina
(d) The Golden Fingerbowl
Heartbreak Hotel would actually probably be bearable, if you could just stay away from that bellhop.
The Hotel California has that No Exit quality that wouldn't really get in the way of having a pleasant evening. It would just be the next morning, when you wanted to leave...
You could have a good time at Rose's, but you'd end up dead. Of course, there'd be that goodbye kiss from Falina.
But heartbreak and a soggy bellhop,,,no exit...a bullet deep in your chest...none of it could come close to the maddening, crashing boredom of constantly running into your Uncle Max and everyone you know.
Saturday, January 31, 2009
I'll be a good source for links about writing. As time goes on, I'll be adding podcasts, video, etc. -- your full service writing source.
Check it out here.
Sent to me by fellow jazz aficionado Larry the Fluff:
From Wynton Marsalis' new book, "Moving To Higher Ground":And a jazz link for a winter day: Jazz on the Tube. You can subscribe to get a new jazz video in your mailbox each day, or you can just browse their collection.
Some time ago, the tenor saxophonist Frank Foster was playing a street concert from the Jazzmobile in Harlem. He called for a blues in B-flat. A young tenor player began to play "out" from the first chorus, playing sounds that had no relationship to the harmonic progression or rhythmic setting.
Foster stopped him.
"What are you doing?"
"Just playing what I feel."
"Well, feel something in B-flat, motherfucker."
Wednesday, January 28, 2009
4 Non Blondes 3
No votes for Santana, after I defected. But I'm not sorry.
On songs recycling through again -- I say let 'em. They're up against different competition, and as Mike says, it would be nice to get a second chance to vote for Santana. And for those of us not so familiar with 4 Non Blondes, we welcomed a second chance to make their acquaintance, even if we mostly didn't vote for them. That's OK, I think they won last time out with the whippersnapper vote. And maybe like Jim Rice, if they come back often enough they'll win everyone over. I think we're doing it again -- I'm fairly certain we had "Linda" before. I think she even got Jon's vote.
40S ON 4
Buddy Clark o/Ray Noble
50S ON 5
The Five Satins
In the Still of the Night
60S ON 6
When A Man Loves A Woman ('66)
70S ON 7
Who Loves You ('75)
80S ON 8
Greg Kihn Band
90S ON 9
Sunny Came Home
Greg Kihn -- not bad, just boring. Not to be confused with Weird Al Yankovic's (I Lost on) Jeopardy -- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K_JIg9NB47M
I never liked the Four Seasons even with their best material, even if they were Jersey Boys (apologies to Jerseyans).
Linda's a lovely tune, but she falls victim to my next axe. Maybe next time. I'll keep waiting...she's still walking.
I love Shawn Colvin. If this were her version of "Viva Las Vegas" (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=208pX4UMWi0 -- it doesn't come on right at the beginning) she'd have me. She and Emmylou are playing UPAC in Kingston in February, but I won't be able to spring the price of a ticket.
Again, a crowded field at the top -- and I'd put Linda and Shawn very near the top. "When a Man Loves a Woman" is one of the most purely romantic songs ever recorded. It would melt the heart of Hard Hearted Hannah. But I gotta go with my first love -- the classic R&B/DooWop era. And there aren't many better songs from that era better than "In the Still of the Night," here presented as by "Fred Parris and the Satins," and sure enough there are only four Satins. I can't figure out what this is from -- a 50s rocksploitation movie, but where's Allen Freed? OK...it's Sweet Beat (1959) -- "An aspiring singer wins a trip to London and is promised a record deal, but when she gets there an underhanded American record producer spirits her off to New York and away from her boyfriend." The rat! But it features the Satins, the Mello Kings, Lee Allen, and Jeri Lee as Herself (stripper).
And a BOTD extra -- if you know the Chuck Miller version of "House of Blue Lights," or the Asleep at the Wheel version, or the George Thorogood version, or the Manhattan Transfer (not so good) check out the original by Ella Mae Morse -- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UO5ysmjLlaw -- which is also the first use I've ever heard of "Homey."
And finally, your BOTD Question of the Week: Which fictional Hot Spot would you rather spend an evening in?
(a) The House of Blue Lights
(b) The House of the Rising Sun
(c) Hernando's Hideaway
(d) I Like it Like That
Monday, January 26, 2009
But it's still a good song, so I'll give it exposure here.
Banks of the Hudson
Wednesday, January 21, 2009
I try make sure, when I'm asked to do something like this, that I actually bring something new to the table, and I guess I succeeded here. A note from Meg Kearney, the wonderful director of the program:
I have NEVER seen students RAVE about a guest's
class as they raved about yours. Not only did the students rave, two of
the students whom I really respect told me (separately), "You have to
have him back." This came from one student, Richard, who just graduated!
He said not only should I have you back, but I should encourage all
students to attend, as the class speaks to all genres, AND that I should
schedule you for earlier in the week so people have time to absorb and
start applying what you taught them while they are still here. Richard
-- who attended virtually every class offered at each residency for the
last two years -- also said that what he learned from you he hadn't
learned from anyone else OR even contemplated before.
Who? How about two inaugural poets -- Richard Wilbur and a rapper?
Tuesday, January 20, 2009
Here's the new batch.
Danny & The Juniors
Rock N Roll Is Here To Stay
Martha and the Vandellas
Dancing in the Streets
Black Magic Woman
Four Non Blondes
We can cheerfully relegate Wayne King, the Waltz King, to the bottom of the heap. I don't really recommend giving this one a listen at all. unless you want to just how bad music by white people can be when they put their minds to it.
After that, it gets harder. Heart's won one ot these before, if I remember right, and this is one of their best. They're young and tough and sexy.
And I was tempted to put them up above Four Non Blondes on the basis of being sexier, but Four Non Blondes are great, and they're grungier, and Linda Perry is some kind of amazing singer, as well as being a superstar producer and songwriter.
In fact, there's no reason for me to put Danny and the Juniors ahead of either of these groups, because they really weren't very good. But they were classics in their own way, so I'm voting them for third place -- it was meant to be that way, though I don't know why. Besides, who can resist this gran video que me da cuenta cuan original se era en aquellos tiempo, es impactante como se paran de sus asientos y chasquean sus dedos al compas de la cancion
Then it gets totally unfair. How am I supposed to choose? Martha and the Vandellas, the toughest, most streetwise Motown group-which I know is a little like saying the most liberal member of the Bush administration, but Martha and the gals really did take it to the streets. Santana - guitarist extraordinaire, evolved spirit. Jelly Roll Morton said that all jazz needs to have a Latin tinge, and Santana brought that Latin tinge brilliantly to 60s rock. I know he was better, but how can I vote against Martha?
I can't. It's Inauguration Day. Time for dancing in the streets. It's Martha.
Saturday, January 17, 2009
These amazing photos were taken by Tim Bookhout of New York Aerial Photography (you can see more of his beautiful work here.
Tim has generously donated these to Opus 40. I'll be posting them on my website, and we hope to have a poster available soon.
Thursday, January 15, 2009
But I went over a Parker discography, and found two more unlikely names.
A surprise, but not really unlikely -- Annie Ross. The Charlie Parker Quartet With Gil Evans Orchestra - 1953 - featured the Dave Lambert singers, including Annie.
And really unlikely -- a session recorded in Montreal in either 1949 or 1953, Paul Bley on piano. It's been released as Charlie Parker -- Montreal 1953, and you can listen to it at Rolling Stone's website, although I may be the first to have actually done so. At any rate, if you see "Average User Rating -- 4 Stars," the average user is me. I was the first one to rate it. He's on three tracks -- "Cool Blues," "Don't Blame Me," and "Wahoo." Does a very nice solo on "Cool Blues."
Curiously, these three tracks are also listed in Bird's discograpjy as appearing on the Jazz Showcase album Bird on the Road, which came out in 1949 -- four years before the actual recording date? That's listed on the discography as CBC-TV Studios, Montreal, Quebec, Canada, February 5, 1953
Seems unlikely. I followed the scent to Paul Bley's website, and found this:
Bley gave violin recitals at age five. By age seven he was studying piano. He went through numerous classical teachers - including one Frenchman that had him play, balancing filled water glasses on the tops of his hands. At age 11 he graduated from the McGill Conservatory - having taken on their musical curriculum in addition to his public school education. Bley, who was known as "Buzzy" in his early adolescence, formed a band and played clubs and summer hotel jobs in the Laurentian Mountains at age 13. Four years later he replaced Oscar Peterson at the Alberta Lounge. Bley founded the Montreal Jazz Workshop and brought Charlie Parker, Sonny Rollins, Brew Moore and Alan Eager to Montreal inorder to perform with them.
And by 1950, Bley had left Montreal. So it seems likely the session was in fact 1949, when Bley was 17. But then again, there's the discography page of Bley's website. It doesn't actually include a discography -- that's a 204-page book, which you have to order -- but the site says it "includes more than 120 recording sessions from 1952 to 1994," which would put us back to 1953, and Bley back to 21.
Wednesday, January 14, 2009
Peter Ind, still alive, still active in jazz, though not as a musician.
As a musician, mostly involved with Lennie Tristano, but in a review of Ind's book on Tristano, John Robert Brown gives us this.
In 1950, on another of his trips, and having already taken lessons with Lennie Tristano, Ind was invited to play the first set with the pianist's sextet at Birdland. New York was so alluring that in 1951 Ind, taking three double basses, went to live there. Soon he was playing alongside Elvin Jones, Duke Jordan and Lennie Tristano, and rehearsing with Gerry Mulligan and Neal Hefti.
Lessons with Tristano are described. The blind pianist had an exceptional ear, a powerful memory and interpersonal directness. His students were required to memorise famous jazz solos, sing them, then write them down. Extensive work on scales and arpeggios was required. There was an emphasis on learning melodies. Tristano comes across as a dominant figure, though paradoxically 'needing' his students, in a psychological sense.
Along with many others in the New York community of the time, Tristano was influenced by the psychologist Wilhelm Reich. Ind spends several pages describing Tristano's respect for Reich's writing, and how Ind would read aloud to Tristano from Reich's books. In 1947, following a series of articles in The New Republic and Harpers, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration began an investigation into Reich's claims, winning an injunction against the promotion of his orgone therapy as a medical treatment. Charged with contempt of court for violating the injunction, Reich conducted his own defence. This involved sending the judge all his books to read! In 1956 Reich was sentenced to two years' imprisonment, and died while serving his sentence. Frustratingly, Ind spends several pages on Reich, but only gives us part of the fascinating and instructive story. I have since discovered (not from Ind's book) that Kate Bush's song Cloudbusting is based on a book by Reich's son, Peter.Ind never met Reich. He met and played with Bird, but Ind, as an immigrant, 'felt wary of becoming too involved with anyone associated with narcotics, knowing that I risked deportation should I find myself so accused.' The bassist also accompanied Billie Holiday, but tells us nothing about the experience. He worked with Buddy Rich. Apart from remarking that Rich was 'the proverbial pain in the arse,' nothing is revealed.
I once interviewed Russian emigre jazz musician Valery Ponomarev about his first trip to NYC. I asked him what surprised him most. He said well, he knew about the jazz greats like Art Blakey and Horace Silver, but he was totally unprepared for the number of incredibly gifted jazz musicians who played in obscurity. So here's to Peter Ind, and all the others we didn't hear of, who made jazz what it is.
I called, and apparently it's not easy to get a referral to the Open Wound Center -- but before I could start the process, I had to give them my insurance info (which Pat has). I told them I'd get it, but my insurance through the college was just about to run out as soon as the Spring semester starts, and then I'd be using Medicare.
"It's too bad you don't have Medicare now, because it's a lot simpler with Medicare."
"I do have Medicare now."
"That won't help."
"Because you already told me you have another plan."
"But I haven't told you who I am. So I could just call back this afternoon, and start over from scratch."
"Well, that would work if you don't get me."
Monday, January 12, 2009
An old polaroid photo, recently discovered, of the great sculptor (and Opus 40 neighbor) Tomas Penning and my mother, Barbara Fite -- Harvey Fite's wife and the creator of the Opus 40 organization.
This time, a higher level of mediocrity at the very least, and for some of us one or another will rise from the pack. One does for me, certainly.
40S ON 4
Larry Clinton v/Peggy Mann
Because Of You
50S ON 5
Gary "U.S." Bonds
Quarter to Three
60S ON 6
Ooh Poo Pah Doo ('60)
70S ON 7
Van McCoy & The Soul City Symphony
The Hustle ('75)
80S ON 8
Daryl Hall & John Oates
Out of Touch
90S ON 9
I don’t remember Larry Clinton or Peggy Mann – Larry apparently a Tommy Dorsey alum who had a moderately successful band of his own, and Peggy had a nice smile and could sing standing still. Or so I gather from this video – not of “Because of You.” because I couldn’t find that one, but a song that’ll give you sense of the Clinton/Mann sound. “Because of You” is s good song, no “Body and Soul,” but it did lend itself to a tour de force performance by Sammy Davis Jr. -- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KCQc-naGb3E
Then what? I never loved Hall and Oates, but they were professional, as was Gary US Bonds – I remember liking this song better than I liked it playing it back/ Of this mid-level grouping, I almost like “The Hustle” best – at least it has that appalling but curiously appealing dancing-by-the-numbers video.
The Gin Blossoms had a good beat; you could dance to them. I’ll give them an 84.
New Orleans went through some doldrums years in the 60s and 70s, when jazz had left, and great rock and roll on Specialty and Imperial had passed its prime. Bumps Blackwell, Specialty’s chief producer-talent scout, left the label to go with Sam Cooke, and he had been replaced by Sonny Bono, which should tell you all you need to know. Imperial had shifted its focus from New Orleans and Fats Domino to Hollywood and Ricky Nelson. A lot of great musicians left New Orleans for LA, basically not to return until Jazzfest revived its great musical tradition. But some awfully good records still got made in Cosimo Matassa’s recording studio, often with Allen Toussaint producing, and “Ooh Poo Pa Doo” was one of them. My pick for this round.