Universal Remonster 4 (or: To Click or Not to Click)


The year is coming to a bitter end. 2016 was bad, 2017 is going to be much worse. Impossible to imagine how it will all go down. There’s a harrowing Thomas Adès work from 1999, America: A Prophecy, that I’ve never audited properly, partly because I was unwilling to accept such a dark vision of my country. Well, I guess now’s the time to order the study score…

(Update: In response to the above, Alex Ross shared a blurb from his year-end recap in the New Yorker:


We can only hope this time Adès is less prophetic.)

Perhaps a bit selfishly, I worry about high culture. This past year I noticed how much harder it was to pay attention to the more esoteric arts as the relentless political drama unfolded just a tab away.

The papers know we don’t care as much. Ben Ratliff in New York, Mark Stryker in Detroit, Matthew Guerrieri in Boston: Three of my favorite writers no longer have a steady city beat helping drive a narrative that jazz and classical music are part of the conversation.

(There are, of course, many other great critics in all sorts of genres who have lost jobs in recent years as well.)

So. One thing to do is make sure to share stuff you think is at least halfway decent. Keep clicking and sharing. I’m not on Facebook, so I don’t know the protocols there, but I’m surprised when I see so many good musicians on Twitter who never share an article about a musician (or any other kind of relatively obscure but cool artist) unless it concerns themselves.

Trust me, the bosses at every news organization know exactly how many eyes have seen any given dance review or poetry essay. Click! Share! We are all in this together. Click and share even if you don’t read the whole thing or if you disagree with certain aspects of any given article. At the top of the next century we don’t want Star Wars movies and video games to be the only culture left.

New music resource: The Log Journal. This is great! Of special interest to jazz types are the conversations with Vijay Iyer/Wadada Smith (by Tom Moon) and Tim Berne (by Steve Smith). But there’s a lot about recent classical music, too.

Older resource still going: Point of Departure. How thrilling to at last have an interview with Abdul Wadud (by Joel Wanek and Tomeka Reid). PoD’s editor Bill Shoemaker also offers an interesting overview of the Wildflowers series from the 70s.

And, really, I should link to NewMusicBox more often as well. Frank J. Oteri introduces Nicole Mitchell’s Endless Possibilities. Patrick Zimmerli offers an extended look at what makes for lasting organ repertoire.

Ben Ratliff: “Jazz Hate,” a much-needed takedown of La-La Land.

Fred Kaplan reviews “new” Erroll Garner.

Nate Chinen: Listen to Jazz’s Timeless Elders.

George Grella reviews Peter Serkin (damn, wish I could have seen this).

Anthony Tommasini meets Daniil Trifonov.

Will Robin offers a compelling guide to living women opera composers.

Woody Haut looks and listens to the noir jazz world of David Goodis.

In the recent newsletter Floyd Camembert Reports, I tell the story of how I first got to play at the Village Vanguard. Sign up and I’ll send it along…