Hemphill, Josquin, and others

Audio has surfaced of Julius Hemphill being interviewed by Terry Gross in 1976.

As I listened I made a few quick notes:

…Hemphill talking about the great American artists on the juke box in Fort Worth in 1948: Duke Ellington, Billie Holiday, Charlie Parker; also T-Bone Walker, Sister Rosetta Tharpe, Al Hibbler….Agrees with interviewer that he shares a “Texas” ethos with Ornette Coleman…Billy May arrangements require a certain consistent sax thing that Hemphill has never tried 😆…Hemphill worked in blues bands. Bobby Bland and Lloyd Price played the blues first and made top-20 records second. The blues is infinitely flexible….On the AACM: Hemphill praises the title and the concept. BAG came out of AACM. “Most people who chose a creative path don’t get to pick and choose” gigs and events. Banding together is a way forward…He moved to NYC from St. Louis to “find a broader base for development.” Not enough going on in St. Louis, which he describes as “landlocked”…Interviewer asks about Hemphill’s multimedia activities. He says he’s learned a lot from poets, dancers, writers, and others. “Greatest kind of experience”…”you might not know the historical material” of the other arts but “still the connections” are right there. Says they made a film in St. Louis — or rather that they got it all together with costumes and mixed-media, movie didn’t get made, but that experience led to May ’75 Edison theatre in St. Louis: THE COON TOWN BICENTENNIAL MEMORIAL SERVICE with Fontella Bass, dancer, and others. Musicians on stage, from roadhouse blues to Sunday morning church radio to avant. The musicians also took up a collection from the audience. Hemphill credits Baikida Carroll with composition and direction…Recent mixed media piece in NYC was Mother’s Day, VOODOO DONE IT. (or maybe HOO DOO DONE IT.) “A man is unable to participate in a funeral service thanks to red tape.” Staged in Harlem….Hemphill says Lester Bowie’s FAST LAST was where he met Michael Cuscuna, which led to THE HARD BLUES on Arista (which is one of the pegs of this interview). Hemphill breaks down a question about producers in a frank way. This bit about producers is really good IMO…interviewer asks about fusion — Hemphill says it has always been hard to record creative music, and that he thinks it is actually getting easier…Part of HARD BLUES is from DOGON A.D. session, Hemphill has brought a copy of DOGON to play on the radio. Band for Foxhole in upcoming Philly gig is Phillip Wilson, Abdul Wadud, Olu Dara….”A.D.” from “Dogon A.D.” means “Adaptive Dance.” Hemphill was inspired by African dance when composing.

Alex Ross (DTM interview) has outdone himself with a penetrating essay on Josquin Desprez, which in the print issue of the New Yorker goes under the thrilling title “Opus One.” There is also a helpful listening guide. Amazing! It is really and truly wonderful that Alex has a brightly lit platform where he can get this deep.

(Always remember to click on the worthy arts articles, it is only way to ensure they will continue to appear in commercial spaces…)

Barney McCall has issued a Dewey Redman recording along with substantial comments about Maestro Redman.

I should have written something for the Erroll Garner centenary last week. At some point I will weigh in properly, but for now: “Frantonality” is an underrated Garner original from his early days, a lazy stride in Ab minor, the only example I can think of this key from this peer group. Garner’s compositional hook at the end of every A section is G triad to Ab minor, an unforgivably parallel progression that makes the song “pop.” Of course, the pianism is otherworldly throughout, but that was business as usual for Garner. It is the original composition that is particularly notable in “Frantonality.”

Rob Schwimmer turned me on to something quite extraordinary I’d never heard before: Yelena Bekman-Shcherbina playing Scriabin’s Waltz op. 38. The music is already unique, but then the pianism makes it something even more rarified.

As many people know, the old BBC serial I, Claudius is great! Gorgeous theme by Wilfred Josephs…Derek Jacobi is the star, and he’s wonderful, but Sarah and I were perhaps most astounded by Brian Blessed as Augustus, a complex portrayal indeed.

Spent the last few days reading contemporary crime fiction….

I can’t recommend James Ellroy’s latest, Widespread Panic, unless you are perhaps new to the Demon Dog. For me it was a retread of familiar ground without fresh inspiration. My fav Ellroy remains L.A. Confidential and American Tabloid.

The Last Flight by Julie Clark is well done and memorable, it had some of Thomas Perry’s cat-and-mouse but with a 2020 twist.

John Sandford is surely one of the few big bestsellers whose work has steadily gotten better over the years. His “new” character Virgil Flowers is more durable than Lucas Davenport. Bloody Genius is satisfying entry in the long-running series.

I rank Michael Connelly a notch below Sandford but read him when I find him. For what it is, The Reversal is good: the unsentimental lawyer Mickey Haller may have been the best thing to happen to scenery-chewing detective Harry Bosch.

One by One by Ruth Ware is a classy and contemporary take on the old-school claustrophobic whodunnit. Fabulous….although the closing climatic action scene felt tacked on, a typical problem in a modern thriller — a flaw that occurs in Bloody Genius and The Reversal as well.

The Chalk Man by C. J. Tudor went down easy, in fact I stayed up late to finish. A genuinely exciting page-turner! While not a supernatural tale, it is nonetheless is indebted to Stephen King’s It, to the point where King’s blurb “…if you like my stuff, you’ll like this,” feels like a barb. It’s no problem, for The Chalk Man is Tudor’s first book and everyone uses models. Tudor brings the threads together beautifully at the end, and I haven’t stopped thinking of the final pages.