Just landed in Germany for a trio tour with Eva Klesse and Andreas Lang
Wednesday, January 4th: Fat-Jazz Urban-Exchange, Hamburg Thursday: LOFT Köln Friday: Jazzclub Unterfahrt, München Saturday: Internationales Jazzfestival Münster
Last week in Orvieto was great! Sarah was along for the trip, which was an unusual treat.
With Dianne Reeves, Dan Weiss, and Peter Washington:
I learned a lot from the great Ms. Reeves and her long-term associate Romero Lubambo. Amazing!!!! Thanks also to Peter and Dan for nailing the music.
In addition to arrangements of the Bacharach music sung by Dianne, I wrote a pocket suite for big band, “Fanfare, Fable, and Fugue,” about 9 minutes in length. It’s not too hard and very fun to play. If anyone wants to consider programming it, drop a line and I’ll send the score (and audio when it arrives).
My scribblings from 2022 include these longer, edited essays:
At this point my Substack is doing much better than this WordPress site in terms of views. (According to my stats, the recent Martha Argerich essay was looked at 5000 times on TT and 600 times on DTM.) So, no reason not to flip the emphasis. I’ll make sure the longer, more serious investigations are always archived here at DTM, but Transitional Technology is now the focus. Not everything will be cross-posted, so sign-up here if you don’t want to miss a word (sign up is free).
It’s Beethoven’s birthday, so I thought I should listen a bit to the maestro. Ludwig van is great on his own terms and also as a sensational “gateway composer” for those new to the mysteries of European classical music.
Beethoven was prolific. There are 32 piano sonatas, all in the active repertoire, and all unique.
Haydn and Mozart also wrote dozens of sonatas, but there can be something a shade interchangeable in lesser efforts of those two masters. Even his slighter sonatas, Beethoven stamps each movement with a ruthless individuality. As part of his forthright “I am Beethoven!” style, he can turn corners caustically in a manner that perhaps recalls Thelonious Monk.
Several of the best Beethoven piano sonatas have evocative names: Pathétique, Moonlight, Appassionata, Tempest, Les Adieux. I hadn’t heard the Waldstein in a while, so I looked for a video. To my shock, I found an (audio only) bootleg of Martha Argerich playing the Waldstein in 1970.
In the 1990’s, when I immersed myself in European piano repertoire and performance, I collected the complete Argerich on CD — which wasn’t hard, for almost all of it was on DG and there just weren’t so many issues. However, in the age of plenty, now there are all sorts of previously unobtainable goodies on YouTube. As far as I know, Argerich has never recorded a Beethoven piano sonata for studio release, but there are at least two sonatas from live recitals online, the Waldstein and lo-fi video of Op. 10 no. 3 in D Major in 1977.
Argerich is universally considered to be one of the greatest pianists of all time. It is not just her unbelievable technique, but her gutsy and heartfelt way with a narrative. The performances never sound steely, fussy, or precious. She just goes.
Op. 10 no. 3
Presto. This is “late early” Ludwig van (he was 28), where many of the figurations are not far from a basic Cramer etude. The opening motto is almost foolish, and the fast passages are interrupted by hollow questions. I played this is a kid, and later on I looked for a really satisfactory recording. Of course, everyone I listened to was at least very good, but many seemed a bit too serious. Argerich’s fast tempo and nonchalant attitude is perfect. I actually burst into tears watching this first movement. (True story.)
Largo e mesto. A dark song, with florid passages that prefigure Chopin. Some pianists drag this one out, looking for more and more profundity, but Argerich simply follows the thread. While classical pianists are often praised for having a “delicate touch,” in reality long slow passages of soft sound require a lot of strength.
Menuetto: Allegro. Can you imagine when the only time you heard music was when you heard it performed in person? The smaller dance movements in major sonatas (from before the era of pre-recorded sound) were a way to keep the party going before closing time. Bach, Handel, and Scarlatti wrote their fast melodies for keyboard instruments with one dynamic and one articulation: “on” or “off.” Mozart and Haydn’s early pianos had more range. We don’t really know what Beethoven’s instrument was like, but it certainly didn’t sound like a modern Steinway. I’m sure the composer would be astounded and delighted by the range of color (meaning articulation, dynamics, and pedaling) unselfconsciously lavished this little dance tune (and trio section of forthright arpeggios) by Argerich.
Rondo: Allegro. A question — even a joke question — followed by an Italianate answer, before scurrying hither and thither. I suppose some “experts” might chastise Argerich for playing this “too fast,” but I love it. There’s no way to make this Rondo serious music, so why not delight in pure speed and precise articulation?
Allegro con brio. We are now in the thick of middle Beethoven, maybe my personal favorite era of the composer, where he expanded the language of Western music from top to bottom. The famous opening of the Waldstein may not seem like a big deal to 2022 ears, but at the time it was impossible. (Beethoven was 34.) The alternating of tonic major and tonic minor was also unconventional and — oh yes — the second theme of the C major sonata is in far-flung E major. Let’s go! Argerich is simply burning, of course, the aggressive left hand chords on A major have McCoy Tyner level of intensity. In the development section the sequences of arpeggios lash like a whip.
Introduzione: Adagio molto. In an era when there was no recorded sound, humans of all description tried to play their home piano. There was little hope an amateur practitioner would make it through the outer movements of the Waldstein, but the slow movement, a chromatically rich interlude, could be sight-read by just about anybody — at least until the transition, with all those 32nd notes… (I believe that Beethoven was the first composer to write so many 32nd notes.)
Rondo. Allegretto moderato — Prestissimo. At the time the finale would have been one of the hardest, flashiest piano pieces yet written. There is some debate about the octave glissandos late in the piece. Certainly Beethoven’s instrument had a lighter touch and therefore so they would have been a bit more playable. I saw Peter Serkin execute them perfectly after licking his thumbs first. In the comments on the YouTube, there is discussion about what Argerich does (and in the parallel place in the first Beethoven concerto). Then, there is the pedaling: the composer writes the rondo theme with the tonic and dominant under one pedal. Did he really mean this? How did it sound on Beethoven’s piano? (A related question exists with the famous Moonlight sonata.) Argerich, rarely shy with the pedal to begin with, keeps her foot down more than most. It’s gorgeous. In the interludes between rondo theme statements she absolutely rages and the coda — with its chain of impossible trills — is a burst of fearless sorcery.
Many of the more interesting things I’ve tweeted have ended up here on DTM or on my newsletter Transitional Technology. However, when I downloaded my Twitter archive, which covers more than a decade, I was surprised at how much I’d forgotten. This is the final installment of a four-part series. (Previously: one, two, three.)
Most of my tweets were about music. Taking the tweets out of Twitter and editing them into a highlight reel is bad for the content. Is it worth archiving the tweets in this more permanent form? Perhaps not for others, but it is valuable for myself. While paging through this diary, these are the snippets I don’t want to forget.
According to legend: “You Can Call Me Al” was inspired by Pierre Boulez. Boulez went to a big party at Paul Simon’s house. When he left, said to Simon, “Thank you for the nice party, Al.” Boulez also got the name of Simon’s wife wrong in same conversation, a conversation that concluded with Boulez inviting “Al” to come to Boulez’s place sometime. Simon did not correct Boulez, but instead used it as inspiration for his big hit
A perfect track: Ella Fitzgerald singing “Begin the Beguine”
Warne Marsh sounds better every day
Joe Henderson is great
Ahmad Jamal LIVE AT THE PERSHING is better than ever
Whenever I remind myself to listen to a bunch of classic Sonny Rollins, he always turns out to be even greater than I remember
Duke Ellington and Miles Davis are both underrated
Ndugu Chancler sure sounds good on “Billie Jean”
Played through some Beethoven this morning. What a great composer
Dexter Gordon always sounds good
Listened carefully to Dexter Gordon GO and A SWINGIN’ AFFAIR today. GO I’ve known well for years, but this was my first real engagement with AFFAIR, which is equally great. Same band, Sonny Clark, Butch Warren, Billy Higgins, two days apart. Just the best music
Paul Sanwald reminded me to listen to Dexter Gordon GENERATION again. Dex’s solo on opening “Milestones” with Walton, Buster, Higgins is just too good
Headline I can get behind: “Recently discovered supernova MINGUS could shed light on dark matter”
Dexter Gordon’s performance on Herbie Hancock’s first album, TAKIN’ OFF, is a pretty astonishing masterclass. “Watermelon Man” is the heart of the tenor blues. Unreal
As far as I know, Sonny Rollins’s “The Song is You” with a West Coast band is the fastest tempo on record. Vinnegar and Manne play cut time though. Hampton Hawes gets in there a bit
Once again, considering the astonishing breadth of American music: RIP Jef Lee Johnson and Butch Morris
Lee Konitz always said Roy Eldridge was one of the hottest players and I hear that on “Night and Day” with Art Tatum. Smoking
The John Williams score to CATCH ME IF YOU CAN is idiosyncratic, jazzy chamber music with “classical” alto sax and no drums. What!
Jane Ira Bloom and Fred Hersch had some important years together — just thinking about that a bit — MIGHTY LIGHTS is classic disc, I had the surreal duo AS ONE as well, there’s also two on Columbia. Be good to survey those sometime
some of the best Bill Evans is with Tony Bennett
Just taking a moment to thank all the drummers for putting up with the rest of us
Studying Busoni’s SONATINA SECONDA (one of his best pieces) tonight in anticipation of Marc-André Hamelin tomorrow at 92nd St Y.
I just caught up with Ben Wolfe’s FROM HERE I SEE, a groovy date of modern mainstream. Donald Edwards sounds great!
Just had a rehearsal with Houston Person, who at one point remarked, “Chord changes are overrated.” #MyKindOfRehearsal
My favorite part of CHASIN’ THE TRANE is when Coltrane repeatedly tries to make his first wife play the harp
Bobby Hutcherson TOTAL ECLIPSE: Everyone sounds great but this is truly Chick Corea at his best. “Herzog” must be one of the earliest examples of a modal burner with interjections of mixed meter (that stay during solo). Probably Victor Feldman’s “Joshua” was first?
Charlie Haden told me he thought Cannonball w Bill Evans KNOW WHAT I MEAN? was one of the greatest discs ever recorded. Charlie called it “symphonic”
RIP Junior Mance, one of the greatest Dizzy Gillespie accompanists; also a soulful trio stylist. HAPPY TIME (1962) w. Ron Carter and Mickey Roker is recommended
RIP Sammy Nestico….a classic American musician. *bows head*
Erroll Garner was once a star attraction in popular music, but few modern jazz players sound influenced by him…It was the Garner centennial today, I should have written something. An underrated Garner original from his early days is “Frantonality,” a lazy stride in Ab minor — offhand, the only example I can think of this key from this peer group. Garner’s striking compositional hook at the end of every A section is G triad to Ab minor, an unforgivably parallel progression that makes the song “pop.”
teaching today…topic of uptempo “Just One of These Things” was raised…dialed up Freddie’s version from HUB OF HUBBARD…surely one of the most chaotic tracks on a “straight ahead” record…I love it
The antipodes are Tchaikovsky and Brahms. Tchaikovsky was the better orchestrator and Brahms the better composer — although, of course, they were both great at both disciplines
RIP Martin Boykan, a student of Walter Piston, Aaron Copland, Paul Hindemith and Eduard Steuermann; one of the last masters of lyrical atonal composition in the mid-century American grain. The 2004 Violin Concerto is gorgeous
Dua Lipa is at the Grammys. I really like “Break My Heart,” partly because there’s an actual drummer, Chad Smith from the Red Hot Chili Peppers. I like the video too
Spent a few hours listening to Max Roach/Clifford Brown recordings yesterday. I have always enjoyed them, but this time I was hearing different things: Max’s incredibly swinging ride cymbal beat, Brownie’s phrasing, Land’s purity, R. Powell’s pure goofiness. Great music
The Peter Erskine memoir NO BEETHOVEN has some fabulous things. At one point, Joe Zawinul says, “I have the greatest ears in the history of music, greater than Mozart’s.”
The opening hemiola from Jo Jones’s on Count Basie’s “Panassie Stomp” sounds like Billy Hart
By definition, any album with Philly Joe Jones is uplifted by his contribution, but what Philly Joe adds to MATING CALL with Dameron and Coltrane is really blowing my mind today
Is this Chick Corea or Keith Jarrett ECM piano improvs circa 1972? No, it’s Ned Rorem’s Barcarolles from 1949, played by Timo Andres
Just listened to Charles Lloyd “Forest Flower.” Damn, I never clocked how much McCoy Tyner there still was in Keith Jarrett’s playing at that early moment. He took most of that out of his aesthetic posthaste
For me the movie THE GODFATHER is a bit like Keith Jarrett’s THE KÖLN CONCERT. They are both undeniably great, but their vast influence — including so many bad imitations, a veritable echo chamber of banality — make it a bit challenging to appreciate the original beauty
Whoa. Always more to hear. Currently on 1983 session DREAMS AND STORIES by great guitarist Rodney Jones with notable rhythm section: Kenny Kirkland, Marc Johnson, Jeff Watts. Peak Kirkland action, he and Tain get into it every piano solo
Listening to CITIZEN TAIN (1999)…really great. Wynton’s trumpet solo on the opening “The Impaler” is smoking
I like J MOOD because it is very “pop.” Pretty, unforced, lyrical. Distinctive band language highlighting Tain’s busy drums. Incredible how much Marcus Roberts sounds like Keith Jarrett on the ballads
The Feast of St. Francis of Assisi is a good time to listen to the piano poem by Liszt. Kempff’s record is on the slow side, but is famous for possessing a spiritual quality
Listened again to Alicia de Larrocha playing Granados “Goyescas” — I always liked this piece, but it hit me in another way tonight. What a masterpiece, and de Larrocha really swings. (Also the work is technically impossible, a fact she doesn’t seem to notice)
Just listened to Wayne Shorter on “Gingerbread Boy” again (MILES SMILES) — truly amazing playing, so rooted and so searching at the same time
I practiced one thing in Pat Zimmerli’s music for an hour just now and lo and behold! I still can’t play it
Louis Armstrong really could do it all: “Skokiaan” (1954) has complex and impeccably phrased melodies over a vamp
Don Cherry b-day. A lesser-known track of truly brilliant Cherry is “Wibur’s Red Cross” on Wilbur Ware’s SUPER BASS with C. Jordan + Blackwell. Cherry is really playing something tuned in to the greater rhythms of the universe — yet still inside the rhythm changes form.
Nina Simone’s piano playing is at times amazingly avant-garde, especially when she busts out the counterpoint. Try first session w Jimmy Bond and Tootie Heath
Phil Woods’ story about Zoot Sims: Phil was reading a newspaper headline: TWO KILLED ON INDIANA BRIDGE. Zoot was quiet for a few seconds, then, looking a bit unsettled, responded: “I didn’t even know there WAS a bridge in ‘Indiana’”
Dr. John! Thank you for the music. His appearance on SCTV may be the greatest live “special guest on regular comedy show” piano performance in history.
I’m in the canteen line at Moers. Ahead of me is Anthony Braxton (Jason Moran responded: “waaay ahead of you.”)
I love the 1958 recording of Russell Oberlin singing John Dowland with Joseph Iadone, lute
My first Charles Ives was Marni Nixon (RIP) recital with John McCabe. “General William Booth Enters into Heaven”
Wanda Landowska offers a bit of “improvised” variation in Mozart in K 333. Fun to hear
Stravinsky’s PULCINELLA is a masterclass in what modernist pitches you can get away with when quoting the elders
James Newton told me to check out Márton Illés. fabulous
A lot of my best experiences w rock and pop are in grocery stores. Just noticed hip low piano note in “Another One Bites the Dust”
Listening to Dussek Eb sonata played by Malcolm Bilson. Fantastic music and performance
I’ve only recently heard Horace Parlan’s superb US THREE with George Tucker and Al Harewood. Horace Parlan: A man who transcended obstacles!
Happy birthday Paul Gonsalves. Compare Jacquet to PG in “Robbin’s Nest” (both ’47). Gonsavles featured on extraordinary piece of ’51 bebop, “The Happening,” w. small group directed by Billy Strayhorn
Paul Motian’s sign-off “Drum Music” was notated in 5/4 because of Bill Evans’s sign-off “Five.”
I’d pay real money for a hi-res (frame-worthy) copy of the Ron Carter pic on back of SUPERTRIOS:
Somehow never heard Handel’s keyboard Suite in F major until this morning. What a lovely and idiosyncratic piece
RIP Maurice Hinson, who died last November. Hinson’s various GUIDES to piano repertoire taught me a lot. His was a life dedicated to a good cause
Thanks to Brian Priestley for letting me know about Jim Clarke’s “Fat Fanny Stomp” (1929). Incredible
Chris Potter told me the first time he played the Vanguard it was in 1990 or 1991. It was a celebration for Red Rodney and Dizzy Gillespie and James Moody were in the front row
“Thanks to the Internet there is a wealth of information about me. Some of it is accurate.”– email from George Walker
Ken Schaphorst told me about amazing piece of Ellingtonia: Rex Stewart and His Orchestra, “Menelik (The Lion of Judah)” featuring Sonny Greer
Happy birthday to Paul McCartney, who for all his fame may be underrated as a bassist
Happy birthday to Sting, who for all his fame may be underrated as a bassist
The Keith Richards improvisation in the middle of “Sympathy for the Devil” might be the best-known yet truly underwhelming guitar solo of all time
Charlie Rouse made quite a journey in this music. The records with Monk and Sphere are the most familiar but there’s so much there: Dameron, Julius Watkins, 70s’ electric features, later work with Mal Waldron and Wynton…all praise Charlie Rouse, who ALWAYS sounded great
Interesting that McCoy Tyner, Jimmy Garrison, and Elvin Jones didn’t play (singly or together) at Coltrane’s funeral
According to Wikipedia, the legs on the cover of Sonny Clark’s COOL STRUTTIN’ belonged to Ruth Lion, Alfred’s wife. You learn something new every day…
Stan Getz playing “But Beautiful” on the radio wow
Logged on and saw Amerie was trending, for “1 Thing,” certainly one of the great songs….fans of the beat need to give credit to Zigaboo Modeliste, who turned 71 two days ago: his extraordinary drumming was sampled for the hit
RIP the great musician and teacher Joseph Jarman. He once told my wife Sarah Deming, “You have already defeated all your enemies”
Friendly reminder that the John Lewis blues “Morpheus” for Miles Davis in 1951 is just the damndest thing
In the big box titled, “Things I could NEVER guess in blindfold test,” Joe Zawinul’s romantic piano style (heavy on the trills!) on “A Concerto Retitled,” the final track of oddball 1968 album The Rise and Fall of the Third Stream. It’s based on a concerto by William Walton and arranged by William S. Fischer. (Most of the album is written by African-American composer/saxophonist William S. Fischer, who Zawinul may have seen as his “opposite number.” I don’t know more about this intriguing figure but Fran Gonçalves informs me that Fischer arranged for Jimmy Scott and Roberta Flack.)
syncopated “jazz” in 1925 from William Walton: Portsmouth Point Overture (there’s even a version conducted by the composer)
Never seen this photo of Wilhelm Kempff and Duke Ellington before. Don’t know the photographer or anything else about the context, but what a photo!
OK COMPUTER, HOMOGENIC, and VOODOO…hit records from the ‘95-‘00 era…I sort of have an essay on them percolating…I need to find the right hook though
“Bo Brussels” is an underrated Mark Turner fantasia. With Kurt Rosenwinkel and two drummers, Jorge Rossy and Brian Blade. In the background of the composition is Messiaen’s third mode
I like “Strangers” by the Kinks
truly great jazz: Sonny Rollins and Kenny Dorham playing “Solid” in 1954. Art Blakey! (w no hi-hats)
Just remembered “Music Box Dancer” by Frank Mills. Yeah. The blazing heart of pure naïveté. God and sinners reconciled
Mark Stryker just hipped me to an outstanding “Have You Met Miss Jones” from Chet Baker, George Coleman, and a Detroit rhythm section of Kirk Lightsey, Herman Wright, and Roy Brooks
David Virelles has become the perfect kind of wild-card pianist for diverse situations — reminds me of Geri Allen’s role in the late 80s
tonight listening to Ralph Vaughan Williams, the Piano Concerto, which was reworked into a version for two pianos after performers complained. Striking music, complex rhythms, bitonal. At first blush the version for one pianist seems more instantly charismatic.
Jimmy Garrison #BOTD. The straight-ahead ’61 trio date with Walter Bishop Jr. and G.T. Hogan is nectar for fans of the great (and still underrated) bassist
Listening to Coltrane trio “Satellite” on repeat. Truly a dictionary of sax vocabulary, it’s got both Coltrane changes and a pedal point. Great track
Just noticed for the first time that Charlie Haden goofs the form *badly* about 4:30 minutes into Joe Henderson “Serenity” AN EVENING WITH Al Foster on Red Records. It can happen to us all…
Currently listening for the first time to Reggie Workman’s 1993 album SUMMIT CONFERENCE with Sam Rivers, Julian Priester, Andrew Hill, and Andrew Cyrille. Amazing record, really tuneful and beautiful. I’m schooled
His first solo album was simply called LYLE MAYS (RIP). I hadn’t heard it years… Mmm. Some cheesy things but undeniable brilliance as well. Jarrett’s “folk” language, + fusion, done by someone who was born to live in the studio
Not too long ago I discovered this outstanding early Herbie Hancock blues solo on Joe Henderson’s “Tetragon” with Woody Shaw, Paul Chambers, and Joe Chambers. Piano starts at 3:30. A superb mix of grits ‘n gravy and complex harmony
Steve Gadd is 77 today. I asked Vinnie Sperrazza to name a favorite Gadd track, and he suggested “Chuck E’s in Love” by Rickie Lee Jones (1979, same year as “Aja” with Steely Dan)
I am driving around Duluth listening to the Benny Goodman trios and quartets. Everyone sounds great, but I am going to start calling Teddy Wilson “Saint Teddy Wilson.” He’s just so damn perfect in each and every bar…I like listening to earlier jazz on the streaming services in the automobile. The fidelity isn’t as important and they were trying to make hit records
Illinois Jacquet on bassoon! w. Wynton K, Buster, Oliver Jackson
RIP Olly Wilson. “Voices” is a killer piece, conducted by Ozawa at the 1977 premiere
Dig Ulysses Kay, his “Fantasy Variations” have a classic Americana sound but with a salty edge
(both Olly Wilson and Ulysses Kay are African-American symphonic composers of a certain mid-century vintage)
Art Tatum plays “Song of the Vagabonds.” The beginning is merely pretty, but later on the piano is treated with a purifying fire
RIP Edwin Hawkins. The Chuck Rainey bass performance on the Quincy Jones cover of “Oh Happy Day” is a personal touchstone
Kudos to Han Chen, who played a wonderful “Traced Overhead” by Thomas Adès in front of the composer today at a NEC masterclass
There a few sides of Count Basie and the “All-American Rhythm Section” w. Freddie Green, Walter Page, and Jo Jones from the early days. Sometimes I listen to “How Long Blues,” a “folk” 8-bar blues given the most urbane treatment
Mark Turner told me about a “There Will Never Be Another You” with Donald Byrd, Hank Mobley, Ronnie Ball, Doug Watkins, Kenny Clarke on Savoy, 1956. Good horn solos for students to transcribe. Ball was a Tristano-ite, and his abstract and searching solo is very cool as well. Watkins and Klook are highest level
A somewhat less familiar track, “Decepticon” from Buster Williams in 1989 with Wayne, Herbie, Al Foster, and Shunzo Ohno. Right away it’s cool to hear Wayne and Herbie playing something different from this era that they are not in charge of. Tenor solo is a monster, piano is great too. It’s recorded at Van Gelder’s of all places. Rudy’s thing was variable by this point, but the piano sounds like just the Blue Note Hancock piano of the ’60s! Wild. Yeah cats
Briefly met maestro Ahmad Jamal. I asked him about Vernel Fournier. Jamal praised all the New Orleans drummers, said Fournier was among the greatest. A fan came into club one night just to see if there was one or two drummers playing the “Poinciana” beat! Jamal rather grimly remarked that if Fournier could have trademarked the “Poinciana” beat, Fournier would have become a wealthy man.
RIP Guy Hamilton, best known for directing some of the better James Bond movies.
Hamilton was a jazz fan, went to see Thelonious Monk play in one of Monk’s last LA gigs. The director really liked the look of bassist, Putter Smith. A couple days later Hamilton’s secretary called Putter. Would Putter like to play a villain in new Bond move DIAMONDS ARE FOREVER?
Putter said, yes, of course.
The flamboyantly gay and wisecracking hit man duo Mr. Wint (Bruce Glover) and Mr. Kidd (Putter Smith) has gone on to be a camp classic. Putter dies “flaming.”
Putter Smith’s acting career didn’t really go places but he remained one of LA’s best jazz bassists.
The moral? “Always take the gig with Monk, because Guy Hamilton will see you and give you a part as a gay hitman in a Bond movie.”
(Putter’s older brother Carson Smith is on 50’s jazz records w. Mulligan/Baker etc. Putter called him, “The Paul Chambers of the West Coast.”)
I was followed by Scott Dikkers of immortal JIM’S JOURNAL fame! I love this comic so much; in high school JIM’S JOURNAL was a life-saver.
Two views of John Cage by Scott Dikkers. 1) inadvertent:
Two views of John Cage by Scott Dikkers. 2) intentional:
A bass student asked me to recommend five albums to listen to that he hadn’t heard yet. After some back and forth (of course he’s heard the most famous stuff) this was the final list:
Joe Henderson w Ron Carter, Power to the People Old and New Dreams w Charlie Haden, Playing Wynton Kelly w Paul Chambers, Kelly Blue Lee Konitz w Jimmy Garrison Live at the Half Note Johnny Griffin w Wilbur Ware, Sextet
Interviewer asked for 5 desert island LPs — Impossible, but this was “first thought, best thought”
Miles Davis, KIND OF BLUE John Coltrane, A LOVE SUPREME Thelonious Monk, TRIO (Prestige) Ornette Coleman, SCIENCE FICTION Glenn Gould, PLAYS WILLIAM BYRD AND ORLANDO GIBBONS
Top 10 Stravinsky pieces (in chronological order)
1. The Rite of Spring
2. Les Noces
4. Symphonies of Wind Instruments
6. Oedipus Rex
7. Symphony in Three Movements
8. The Rake’s Progress
10. Requiem Canticles
Top 10 Ligeti pieces (in chronological order)
2. String Quartet No. 2
3. Chamber Concerto
5. Le Grande Macabre
6. Trio for Violin, Horn and Piano
7. Piano Concerto
8. Violin Concerto
9. Sonata for Solo Viola
10. Piano Etudes (complete)
There were three moderately successful attempts to jump on the latest meme bandwagon.
1) Marvel’s Infinity War crossover
2) Four faces of Macron
3) “Girl explaining”
Branford Marsalis said of the last one, “That’s pretty good, bruh.”
Found a journal entry, “My favorite records,” probably from 8th or 9th grade. I didn’t have a CD player yet, these are all LPs.
“Thelonious” is spelled wrong! Dammit. Otherwise, not bad.
I have since written about many of the these albums for DTM.
Definitely my peak Dolphy years. I wore the t-shirt for the picture submitted to DownBeat “Auditions”
I asked Herbie Hancock if he used the metronome. He said, not really, just as a kid when he worked on classical music.
Lee Konitz asked John Coltrane if Coltrane used the metronome. Coltrane said no.
Billy Hart is against the metronome. Definitely. And Milford Graves said the metronome will give you a heart attack.
In a panel I led with Joanne Brackeen, Kenny Barron, and Harold Mabern, I asked if any of them used a metronome. All three said “no.” Barron included the comment, “It’s not how anyone actually plays.”
(BTW, I use the metronome when I practice LOL) There was time when I was pretty addicted to Metronomics by John Nastos. Mainly I’d set the app to play with a click for 8 bars, then *no click* for 8, then the click back in, etc…good stuff! Plenty of time to rush or drag. However, also think the people who have a really great feel in American music are less concerned with rushing or dragging than placing every articulation within a syncopated, clave-based phrase
The late James Primosch: “Loved your panel with Barron, Brackeen & Mabern. Your recommended albums by each of those masters?”
I mean, so many. As a leader, one from each off the top of my head:
Kenny Barron SCRATCH (surprisingly avant garde trio) Joanne Brackeen FI-FI GOES TO HEAVEN (superb quintet writing) Harold Mabern STRAIGHT STREET (rare trio session with Ron and Jack)
Apparently that’s John Harner on high note trumpet. I just LOVE how Stan Kenton cannot play a quarter note triplet accurately even with a full horn section helpfully shading him in the background. Ah, the humanity! What a unique figure
there is only one thing I fault arranger Dave Barduhn for, and that is the ending. Really? An unresolved suspended V chord? For the tear to roll down the cheek — “Don’t bother, they’re here.” — the song *must* end in tonic major!
Every once in a while I remember that Bill Evans made a “mood” album, Plays the Theme from The V.I.P.s and Other Great Songs. Huge production with orchestra, chorus, and tasteless percussion. Bill banging out portentous octaves and big chords, “concerto” style. (sounds kinda like early TBP )
Those were the days:
Spent some time recently with early, Miroslav-era WR, and it’s not really my thing. (It’s never been my thing, the “everyone soloing together” style of SILENT WAY and MOUNTAIN IN THE CLOUDS etc.)
Best tracks for my own taste are on I SING THE BODY ELECTRIC, the “symphonic” Zawinul journeys of “Unknown Soldier” and, especially, “Second Sunday in August,” which has an Ivesian scope
Then, skipping ahead in the timeline, the WR I know best is HEAVY WEATHER, which is damn great. Perhaps the ultimate gateway jazz album. Of course, part of the disc’s charisma is young god Jaco Pastorius, who would eventually almost take over band’s aesthetic. Reducing to stereotype, the music after HEAVY WEATHER was more “fusion-y” than pre-HEAVY W.
What I want to re-listen to today on my pandemic lockdown walk are the four “funky” albums essentially between Miroslav Vitous and Jaco Pastorius: SWEETNIGHTER, MYSTERIOUS TRAVELLER, TALE SPINNIN’, and BLACK MARKET
SWEETNIGHTER begins very strong with “Boogie Woogie Waltz” which must be one of the grooviest 3/4 pieces recorded up until this point. Of course, Zawinul was Viennese, the land of the waltz. I can’t always tell the bassists apart but I think we hear more of Andrew White, who is better known to jazz heads as a tenor saxophonist and the ultimate transcriber of John Coltrane. It’s long but really works, great interlude and the final “trance” melody is unforgettable
Shorter’s “Manolete” is glorious European-styled composition, with the parts de-synchronized just the right amount over throbbing drums. If all of WR sounded like this they would be my favorite band
Zawinul’s “Adios” is a slight mood piece with Muruga’s “roller toy” providing texture
I’m less thrilled by “125th St. Congress” than the similar “Boogie Woogie Waltz.” The 4/4 groove is less distinctive and I could really use some proper soloing. For this I would prefer the Headhunters, where Herbie or Maupin would blow like the proper funky heroes they are
“Will” is one of Vitous’s last compositional credits. It’s nice but not a lot happens. The blend of Vitous’s bass and Shorter’s soprano on a slow melody does help define an era forevermore
The chorale melody of Shorter’s “Non-stop Home” seems to be placed freely against the up-and-down rock drums. Maybe the drums are too “straight” for the effect to work perfectly in this case
MYSTERIOUS TRAVELER Opens with “Nubian Sundance” and some rather egotistical crowd cheers. Of the long jams I prefer “Sundance” to “Congress” but still think “Boogie Woogie waltz” was the best. However some of the compositional details of “Sundance” are intriguing
“American Tango” is co-composed by Miroslav. Enjoyable melody, sounds like a symphony orchestra with Zawinul’s synthesizer. Wish Wayne played a longer solo, it’s beautiful when he does play
The major new voice was bassist Alfonso Johnson, a very funky player. “Cucumber Slumber” is credited to Zawinul and Johnson. Great feel in the rhythm section
However, more to my taste is Shorter’s “Mysterious Traveller,” a major composition. I’m sure a few people have covered this over the years, but I’m surprised it’s not played more often. Is it in A or F sharp? Only Wayne knows….Love Zawinul’s weird grand piano stabs later on in the track
Shorter’s “Blackthorn Rose” is simply the two leaders in convo. They should’ve done a whole album like this. The last time I listened to the Hancock/Shorter duo album 1+1 I found it to be unfocused and boring. Zawinul accompanies Wayne here and it’s beautiful
“Scarlet Woman” is evocative and powerful, one of the best WR tracks
“Jungle Book” is essentially Zawinul as a one-man band. Compare with Keith Jarrett’s “universal folk music” of same era. Zawinul has more Hermeto and Keith has more Joni Mitchell but the underpinning is the same
TALE SPINNIN’ opens with Zawinul’s “the man in the green shirt.” Wow the drumming by Ndugu Leon Chancler is really great!!! This is more like it! Impossible not to dance. Great composition too
Shorter’s “Lusitanos” works but lacks the profound melodic inspiration of some of his other ballads. At one point Zawinul plays some piano pentatonic flurries that are WAY too literal
A few years later they would call the beat on “Between the Thighs“ New Jack Swing. WR had trouble finding the right drummer, but maybe Ndugu should have been on all these records, he’s really special. The composition reminds me that Eddie Harris’s “Freedom Jazz Dance“ is crucial to this whole concept
i’m not sure if all the “ethnic” moments on these records really hold up to scrutiny. However Zawinul’s “Badia” is weird and gorgeous, with an unforgettable hook. A+
Shorter’s “Freezing Fire” is aggressive and creative. I sort of think this is what he was trying to do a lot of the time, and got to it here, partly thanks to the great bassist and drummer. Alfonzo and Ndugu should’ve been on all those later Wayne albums with synthesizers too
The written climax after a B+ synthesizer solo is awesome. Damn this is a good record
Another “duo,” “Five Short Stories,” by Zawinul is ok, but heavy production values obscure the immediacy that made “Blackthorn Rose” a highlight
The title song of BLACK MARKET is another big jam. Feels good and Zawinul is creative in his orchestration
Then Pastorius shows up on “Cannonball” and changes the world. A little bit of soprano sax solo is *very* far back in the mix at first, a nice effect
“Gibraltar” it’s another back beat jam. Nothing wrong with it but for me this record is less inspired in overall feel than TALE SPINNIN’
“Elegant People”… Wow, having Shorter’s full-force harmonic imagination show up after three Zawinul pieces is really kind of shocking. “Elegant People” is kind of like if Wayne wrote Manilow’s “Copacabana”
Dunno about “Three Clowns,” the Lyricon is meh and I don’t like the tick tock drumming
Jaco is loud and strong on his own funky “Barbary Coast.” Great. Love the piano doubling snaky sax lines oh yes, oh yes
Alfonso Johnson gets a proper send off with his odd-meter “Herandnu.” Nice piece and the end of this era: Jaco takes over for good on the next Weather Report masterwork, HEAVY WEATHER
Time for some Tadd Dameron, who is hidden in plain sight. The lockdown has let me dig into a few corners I’ve never explored properly. On my walk around Prospect Park I’ll dictate my listening notes.
The best-known Dameron recordings are probably with Fats Navarro in a small group from the ’40s. The slender collection of 3 CDs above seems to be most of what else issued on LP under his own name in his lifetime
Clifford Brown MEMORIAL is a collection of two dates. The first four tracks are overseas records with Quincy Jones. The rest of the LP is 1953’s A STUDY IN DAMERONIA w Benny Golson, Percy Heath and Philly Joe Jones
“Philly J J” is apparently how the drummer got his nickname. Way up tempo at first before settling into medium up for Clifford. II/V bliss
Perhaps doesn’t feel that different from “Woodyn’t You” or Bud Powell‘s “Oblivion.” But Dameron was all about beauty, trying to make those bop II/V’s as pretty as possible. Long chart with surprises
“Dial B for Beauty” is a walking ballad with Dameron leading the ensemble from the piano
The charts are quite long and non-repetitive. Good blindfold material. I’ve never heard any of this stuff and I didn’t expect it quite to be this impressive somehow. Crazy good
“Theme of No Repeat” is something I’ve heard before but not in this multi-horn arrangement. Attractive “unlikely” changes in head but the solos are on “rhythm.” Clifford takes a typically amazing solo. Tadd also blows at length. I guess Tadd himself didn’t consider himself a major pianist but I like it. Some bop, also some Teddy Wilson, maybe even some Monk. The double time section after the piano solo is almost too hard for the horns
“Chose Now” almost has a “birth of a cool” feel. Gorgeous. More Clifford. Whole date is taking on a “concerto for Clifford” cast
10 out of 10 for Dameron’s spiky comping throughout. Golson’s breathy tenor is already old-school, even though he was a young man
Next up is FOUNTAINBLEU. Title track begins with a “classical” fanfare with John Simmons on bowed bass. As track continues, it is a unusual form, perhaps through-composed. The dynamics are contained, but Shadow Wilson surely has the measure of the little big-band idiom
“Delirium” is faster jazz, rhythm changes, with an unsymmetrical melody and tenor breaks from someone I don’t know, Joe Alexander. Sounds good. Wow, Kenny Dorham sounds really good though. Alexander returns for some nice stuff, but more interesting are the R&B type backgrounds. “The Scene is Clean” is one of Dameron’s greatest compositions. Beautiful horn arrangement and then the pianist solos in a block-chord style
“Flossie Lou” is more mid-tempo goodness. These horn voicings are always perfect. Trombonist Harry Coker sounds good too. There’s an octatonic ending
“Bula-beige” is a blues with a striking unison head. Lots of major sevenths in this blues. Long solos from piano and everyone else. Kind of a “Prestige blowing date” vibe. . But KD doesn’t blow?! That seems wrong. Anyway, the ending is a surprise, the composer produces a bunch of brilliant new material
The last disc here is THE MAGIC TOUCH, with a full band and a collection of all stars kicking off with one of Tadd‘s best tunes, “On A Misty Night.” Wow, great tenor playing. Who is that?! Oh, it’s Johnny Griffin LOL
“Fountainbleu” again, very strong with two flutes as color. Bill Evans decorates the II/Vs underneath. Yeah, Bill
“Just Plain Talkin’” it’s a glorious F Blues. Of course I’m a super fan but Ron Carter instantly takes this to another level. Ron and Philly Joe, not so common but great
“If You Could See Me Now” is Tadds most famous ballad, sung here by Barbara Winfield. Nice. Never heard her but she is good. Beautiful arrangement
“Our Delight” is also more familiar. Some Ducal counterpoint in the trombone— oh, it’s the genuine Duke article Britt Woodman in the section, who also takes a great solo
“Dial B for Beauty” returns in noble form
“Look, Stop, and Listen” is a Philly Joe feature. Wow. One for the PJJ heads for sure: an extraordinary track Later the drummer would do what he could to keep the composer’s name alive with the repertory group Dameronia
The pretty swinger “Bevan’s Birthday” has more rich instrumental colors, my main man Julius Watkins is on French horn, Joe Wilder takes a puckish solo
Vocals return on “You’re a Joy,” which is a real work out in II/Vs. Romantic bop. The Billy Eckstine to Coltrane line. In this era Trane was starting to play Eckstine’s “ I Want to Talk About You“ in the clubs. The original big band chart for Eckstine was arranged by Dameron
The tracks conclude with insanely virtuosic “Swift as the Wind” with some brilliant Clark Terry. So nice to hear some of this music. I’ve heard a lot of jazz but there are so many masterpieces I don’t know…
Keith Jarrett, Gary Peacock, Jack DeJohnette, the early years. Time for a re-listen
STANDARDS VOL. 1 First tune is “Meaning of the Blues.” Miles Davis repertoire but even eighth note feel. Bill Evans harmony. Minor vamp outro is shocking and personal.
“All the Things You Are” virtuoso rhapsody in the tradition of Lennie Tristano and Paul Bley. Last chord is “classical” Ab flat triad
“It Never Entered My Mind” Miles Davis repertoire. Jack’s brushwork notably strong. Atonal cadenza and deceptive cadence to finish
“The Masquerade is Over” is the most straightahead performance, at times Keith is playing somewhere not far from Red Garland in his improvised line. They start with a bridge, a nice touch
“God Bless the Child” Levon Helm and Jack DeJohnette were buddies. Impressed with how loud Jack is in the mix here. I thought I wasn’t gonna like this much but it’s actually objectively killing. Perfect slice of “gateway jazz”
STANDARDS VOL. 2 “So Tender” Second album also starts even eighth. Never liked this Keith original that much, still don’t. What’s he doing playing the Girlfriend chord? Is he Chick Corea? The double time lines on the solo are impressive
“Moon and Sand” Keith was an early advocate of Alec Wilder on record. This must be one of the earliest recordings of this beautiful song. When I was a teenager I always skipped “So Tender” and began the CD here. Gary is up on his chops and sounds great. Incredible how much Jarrett plays during the bass “solos.” It works but I would’ve dialed the piano back in the mix another notch. Another wild “in the ancient heraldic style” outro on “Moon and Sand,” recalling the ending of “Meaning of the Blues.” Eventually this vibe became long “original compositions” in trio live sets
Obscure Jerome Kern masterwork “In Love in Vain” swings out. Fresh. I’ve studied so much bebop at this point that I miss something in Jarrett’s double-time flourishes during “In Love in Vain.” They are awfully literal and scalar
“Never Let Me Go” gorgeous. Jarrett is inside this one
“If I Should Lose You” wow at one point I was really into this, I can almost sing the piano solo. The solo builds and builds even though Keith plays few chords. Mostly a single line (which was often articulated with both hands). Something of the Tristano legacy, but with more drama and infinitely more sophisticated bass and drums
“I Fall in Love Too Easily” intro is classic Jarrett, he’s not playing such unique stuff but his sonority carries the day
STANDARDS LIVE “Stella by Starlight“ Jazz trio in a concert hall. Opening piano intro is long and striking. Starts “normal” Bill Evans but Copland or Shostakovich references creep in. Jarrett talked about “universal folk music.” Very good strut in the “Stella” swing, Keith Gary Jack, all loose, phrases coming out of every corner. Better than on previous studio session. Dark piano chords for the outro but then a triadic cadence
“The Wrong Blues” Alec wilder again; never heard anyone else play this. Great piece with unusual phrase lengths. Conversational trio swing. Impressive bass solos on this set
“Falling in Love with Love” just stunning Jack Dejohnette at this medium tempo. Jarrett’s lines start and stop in unexpected places
“Too young to Go Steady” repertoire from Coltrane. Jack works into a version of the Vernel Fournier beat from Poinciana. Classic track
For the first time I’m noticing how some of Jarrett’s triadic lines sound like Dewey Redman. Or really, the Ornette Coleman tradition but on piano and in jazz standards
“The Way You Look Tonight” when I used to worship this record as a teenager I hadn’t heard any Lennie Tristano yet. Now the Tristano influence is obvious, especially at this tempo. Keith wants to surprise himself in his improvisations
The duration of applause after “The way you look tonight“ is unacceptable
“The Old Country” Nancy Wilson/Cannonball repertoire. Great but Jarrett lines threaten to become too “classical” at times, a Bach etude in the middle of the swing.
STILL LIVE opens with “My Funny Valentine.” Ok this isn’t Red Garland w. Miles LOL. The material seems too banal at first but Jarrett borrows from someone like Samuel Barber (Jarrett performed the Barber piano concerto at the highest level) and develops motifs into a grand statement
“Autumn Leaves” was an important record for Jarrett with Charles Lloyd also featuring Jack DeJohnette. My fav part is the mesmerizing chordal fantasy after the single line stuff
“When I Fall in Love” is hushed and evocative, the first live ballad. Jack picks up sticks for bass solo, an idiosyncratic touch that works
“The Song is You” is a wild ride, the Kern melody exploding out of a classic long KJ vamp is an unforgettable moment. A half-time “breakdown“ in the bass/drums solo is equally memorable. The long outro was quite possibly influential on Mehldau
“Come Rain or Come Shine” yeah! Like “Stella” on previous date, this medium pocket is as swinging as I ever heard this trio. They swing partly because nothing feels gripped very tightly, it could go off the rails any sec (but it doesn’t)
“Late Lament” this Paul Desmond ballad is much more known thanks to Keith. Everyone does this now, but in 1985, the only pianist that would’ve played a rich “classical” intro like this was Keith
Next is a medley exemplifying best and worst of trio. “You and the Night and the Music/Extension/Someday My Prince Will come.” The trio sounds great blowing uptempo, but over the years I’ve come to conclude there’s a slightly hollow sound to Keith’s changes playing at speed. The word “clave” is probably important. Keith’s lines wander and there’s no left hand giving any foundation. Essentially KJ is in a Bud Powell tradition here and, and all the best post-Powell pianists deal with Clave and the left hand. Jarrett means more to me than Chick Corea, but in this idiom Chick has something about rhythmic organization that Keith doesn’t. KJ relies on Tristano/Bley “spontaneity” to carry the day. And it almost does! I never used to hear it this way but now I do
“Extension” is totally spontaneous, a group improvisation and remarkable in every way. In this genre, the trio is now aligned with other ECM stalwarts like Steve Reich and Arvo Part. It’s very fresh and dramatic, but as far as I know this is a peak. Soon the trio concerts would include obligatory long minor vamps of little import, usually dull affairs lacking the inspiration of “Extension”
“Someday my prince will come” is normal and satisfying
“Billie’s Bounce” includes the note in the CD tray, “Not on LP issue,” which certainly places this music in a historical time period. Good vibe, I love the drumming and the drum “solos” w piano injections
Concert ends with the encore of “I Remember Clifford.” Benny Golson was not a composer Jarrett needed to play. There is an inherent bebop gravitas to this work that doesn’t suit the pianist. Jarrett can sprinkle magic fairy dust on Alec wilder or Jerome Kern and create something new. That fairy dust bounces off Benny Golson
All the above music I know very well because I loved it as a teen. STANDARDS LIVE was one of the first CDs I ever got. The final collection here, TRIBUTE, must’ve purchased after I moved to New York. While listening I felt like I hadn’t heard most of the tracks before…
The best cut might be a truly burning “Just in Time.” It’s the only solo from all of these that I felt like I could learn something from transcribing. There’s also more left hand punctuation, as if Jarrett himself might’ve heard something missing on the previous dates
The trio “All the things you are” on TRIBUTE is also exciting, but the intro is sort of conventional. I remember a live version of this song at Carnegie Hall in about ‘93 where a ferocious piano intro made the whole audience stand up and scream afterwards.
Al Foster knows the language backwards and forwards but also has a signature “sound.” In the end this is my favorite kind of musician
I asked Al Foster how much live playing he had done with Barry Harris. He said not much, just a couple of times uptown, but that he played a lot of bebop language specifically for Barry on those gigs. Barry came up to him afterwards, asking for his number, saying, “I didn’t know you could play bebop!” (Probably predates Dexter BITIN’ THE APPLE session.)
Al also mentioned being very inspired by Art Taylor for the tradition, and by Joe Chambers for modernism. Everyone else was copping from the bigger names like Philly Joe, Blakey, Elvin, and Tony…so Al looked at Art Taylor and Joe Chambers. #secrets
When I downloaded my archive, I was surprised at how much I’d forgotten from a decade’s worth of tweeting. (Previous installments here and here.)
Most of my tweets were about music, but there were also a few life stories.
Taking the tweets out of Twitter and editing them into a highlight reel is bad for the content. It would be better to post photos of all the tweets (like the one at the top of this post). But that would take too much work. While paging through this diary, these are simply the snippets I don’t want to forget.
Varied personal tweets from past decade that made me laugh or go “hmm”:
If yr stopping at Hotel Michelangelo in Mestre, the wifi code is easy to remember: 49O36j7ha9KpLZZzpxXDDt4y
In juice shop right now, “Summer of ’69” by Brian Adams is playing. I learned it on piano in 8th grade to impress a girl. Horrible song
At Newark Airport I checked in, tagged my bags, and bought food and coffee with barely any human interaction. It was all machines. We need basic income for all, sooner rather than later. Human workforce is not required
I never got into Scrabble because my mom was too good at it. Playing her was like banging your head against a cement wall
Mayweather/McGregor odds keep “improving.” Damn I might need to place first-ever sports bet. Anybody recommend online bookie for NYers?
Whoa. Almost got sucked into researching whether Earth is flat or not
OMG I’m verified…that means whatever I say goes, right?
It’s very important for artistic geniuses to hold incorrect opinions. Any worthy aesthetic is unruly
In Paris: my cabbie drives like he’s auditioning for a RONIN remake while listening to saxophone-heavy instrumental Afro-pop. It’s awesome
I hope my text messages never come to light
I want to eat something with carob as the main ingredient. (Last time I had carob was probably 1982) [Update: I ate some carob and it was OK]
Saw there was a “what was your best casual NYC celeb sighting” meme going around — FWIW, around 1999 I watched a performance of Schoenberg GURRELIEDER “accompanied” by Susan Sontag and Annie Leibovitz. (I sat next to them and exchanged a few unmemorable words)
Tom Baker and Josef Hofmann have same birthday
Just drove through Woodville, Mississippi, birthplace of Lester Young
I’m not *really* a fan of JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR anymore, but as a teenager it landed reasonably hard. Definitely The Right Honourable Lloyd Webber’s best work
Claressa Shields stayed at our place a few times when training in NYC and it was always my “job” to carry the bags of the GWOAT down to the taxi when she went to the airport. *Put it my official bio!!*
“I can’t tell you what hotel I’m staying in, but there are two trees involved.” — Another related classic Mitch Hedberg quote: “I met a girl who works at the Double Tree front desk, she gave me her phone number. It’s zero.”
Just walked by what used to be Bleecker Bob’s Records. I remember delightedly finding Ornette Coleman’s CRISIS there in ‘92 and paying $20 for the LP, which was a fortune for me at the time (I was living off ramen or a dozen day-old bagels for a dollar)…which leads me to idly considering scarcity and wondering if my relationship to music would be different if it was all a click away like it is in 2021…who knows
In 1992 I wrote an inept paper on the John Corigliano soundtrack to ALTERED STATES for a college course
I was being self-deprecating about some of my more fossilized behaviors and Sam Newsome suggested I was an “Iversaur.” Not bad!
The first flight out is underrated. No crowds at TSA, the plane has been sitting on tarmac gassed up ready to go since last night, the chances of delays are small. Of course, you don’t sleep. But you know what? You’ll sleep when you’re dead
I composed a negative tweet, but my internet was down on an Italian train so I was unable to send it off. After a few hours I was back online and deleted my tweet (rather than post it). I win Twitter for today!
Congrats to my home state, Wisconsin, for going blue in the electoral college. Those denizens can be a misanthropic bunch, and I can be the first to criticize…but for the moment, all is forgiven!
I was a little worried about the ethics of using Uber…but since they sent me an email declaring they are firmly against racism, I guess they are totally cool
Back to school today. Serious respect to all committed teachers: it’s a hard and lonely gig
Yale art professor: “I’m really looking forward to seeing what works the students come up with to counteract or undermine my own narratives.” Just to be reassuringly clear, if you study with me at NEC, I will basicallyignore your undergraduate opinions about jazz
20 years later thread:
My 9/11 memories are banal. The Mark Morris Dance Center had opened the previous night; at the gala I danced with my ultimate crush in the Merce Cunningham company…
I was hungover the next morning. My apartment was lo-fi, almost a tenement, and I left the kitchen window open even though there was no screen. When I woke up, there was ash everywhere, for debris from the first tower’s collapse had blown straight over the East River into Brooklyn…
Since I had neither a TV nor a computer, I couldn’t figure out where all the ash was coming from. People were standing everywhere on rooftops in my neighborhood to look at something but I couldn’t imagine what…
The coffee shop on the corner had a little TV. When I went in, the owner was staring at the set. He handed me a coffee without a word. I gratefully took the cup and turned to look at TV. Just after my first sip, the second tower collapsed…
That’s what I remember best, the warm coffee cup in my hand while watching the second tower fall on that tiny TV.
At MSP, I got a little impatient waiting to board the shuttle headed north because a dude took a long time looking for keys his wife had left on previous van. Dude turned out to be ex-mayor of Duluth.
Speaking of: My father’s father was the mayor of Duluth for a few years. He was a minor public official who stepped in and took the post (unelected) when the old mayor died.
Apparently grandad didn’t like the job because his home phone was listed and people would call at all hours demanding action about minor problems.
3 AM: phone rings: “A cow is loose on county road 19! Help us Mr. Iverson!”
Attendees at grandad’s funeral in Duluth in 1974 included Hubert Humphrey and Walter Mondale. The legend goes that the Mondales and the Iversons were related going back to a small town in Norway, maybe Mondale was my grandpa’s distant cousin. My dad’s earnest advice, which I abide by to this day: “Always vote Democratic, and never vote Republican.”
Don’t tell me there wasn’t a Minnesota Democratic machine!
There were two notable changes in tone in my decade-long twitter archive. The first was when the platform went from 140 to 280 characters. The second was when I stopped drunk-tweeting. (I was never too bad, but if you know, you know, and I know. The worst of those are now permanently deleted LOL)
Last night Rob Schwimmer and I went to see a discussion with celebrated British espionage authors Charles Cumming and Mick Herron at Mysterious Bookshop.
I adore Herron and shamelessly seized my chance for a photo.
Both authors were charismatic, witty, and generous in conversation. They spoke of the long shadow of John Le Carré and discussed the realities of writing spy fiction set in the current day.
I had carefully prepared a question. In Dolphin Junction, Herron takes quite a bit of time to make fun of the phrase “A shot rang out.” Was there was a further story there? Yes, it was a reference to Kingley Amis, who had joked, “If a novel doesn’t begin with ‘A shot rang out,’ I don’t want to read it.”
Cumming has broken through to a larger American audience with his new series beginning with the straightforwardly engaging BOX 88. To my delight, Cumming got the legendary owner of the Mysterious Bookshop, Otto Penzler, to spontaneously recite the opening sentence of James Crumley’s The Last Good Kiss from memory:
“When I finally caught up with Abraham Trahearne, he was drinking beer with an alcoholic bulldog named Fireball Roberts in a ramshackle joint just outside of Sonoma, California, drinking the heart right out of a fine spring afternoon.”
Herron responded by recalling the first sentences of a book I didn’t know, Uncivil Seasons by Michael Malone:
“Two things don’t happen very often in Hillston, North Carolina. We don’t get much snow and hardly ever murder each other.”
The moderator, Tom Wickersham, chimed in with praise for the Harpur & Iles series by Bill James. Herron said he loved those books as well, and agreed with Wickersham that Harpur & Iles share something with Herron’s own Slough House crew. H’mm! I’ve added Malone and James to the TBR pile.
(Sadly Malone passed away just this past August. Although born in 1929, James is still with us, and published the 35th installment of the Harpur & Iles series at the age of 90. I’ve actually read James’s much earlier excellent book on Anthony Powell, published under his real name James Tucker.)
In the view of a general audience, movies and TV outshine books. Both authors are connected with multi-episode TV projects: Herron with the acclaimed Slow Horses, now going into a second season, and Cumming is scripting an upcoming production of the famous Frederick Forsyth book The Day of the Jackal.
When asked what they snack on during the day while writing, Herron said he liked Kit Kats, while Cumming favored banana chips. I hadn’t tried a Kit Kat in ages, and on the walk home it proved to be just the thing.
Many of the more interesting things I’ve tweeted have ended up here on DTM or on my newsletter Transitional Technology. However, when I downloaded my Twitter archive, I was surprised at how much I’d forgotten.
Most of my tweets were about music, but there were also quick thoughts about crime fiction, movies and TV. It’s all related, for the idea of “genre” is crucial to my aesthetic as a practitioner. (Indeed, I believe that my compositions “Bill Hickman at Home” and “For Ellen Raskin” are the first jazz tributes to these genre icons.)
Taking the tweets out of Twitter and editing them into a highlight reel is bad for the content. It would be better to post photos of all the tweets (like the one at the top of this post) and hyperlink the references from the images. But that would simply take too much work. While paging through this diary, these are simply the snippets I don’t want to forget.
Early on, I tweeted covers of somewhat classic Peter Rabe pulp novels. In the 1950s, Rabe was almost a contender, and had some continued relevance thanks to Donald E. Westlake’s critical overview several decades later (now collected in the posthumous Westlake collection The Getaway Car edited byLevi Stahl). When I write about Hall Overton or Mel Powell on DTM, I am well aware that I am imitating Westlake’s survey of Rabe.
When I visited Westlake’s home, I didn’t see any Rabe on his shelves, but Westlake did have first editions of all of Eric Ambler. While slimming down for the pandemic, I gave away the Hall Overton and Mel Powell, but kept the Thelonious Monk and Bud Powell.
Speaking of Westlake, I tweeted this photo of a choice passage from one of his last, Dirty Money (written as Richard Stark).
A few years ago I settled in for quite a lot of Columbo, tweeting, “I love the endings: When the murderer is brought to heel, the show ends. Nothing further is required.”
It was great fun for a time but at some point it was enough. There was no need to see every single episode; instead I merely took in the dozen-plus classics that turn up on the Columbo internet lists. Death Lends a Hand (starring Robert Culp), By Dawn’s Early Light (Patrick McGoohan) and Any Old Port In a Storm (Donald Pleasence) are my favorites.
My feed offered choice quotes from three other episodes, all with Peter Falk wryly responding to the killer. These are the moments when the screw tightens, and Columbo is transformed from bumbler to nemesis:
Abigail Mitchell: I’m beginning to be very fond of you, Lieutenant. I think you’re a very kind man.
Lt. Columbo: Don’t count on that, Miss Mitchell. Don’t count on it.
Dr. Mark Collier: “Am I to presume that I’m currently your chief suspect?”
Lt. Columbo: “I’m not sure ‘suspect’ is a strong enough word.”
Milo Janus: You know something, Columbo? You’re a devious man.
Lt. Columbo: That’s what they tell me.
I also posted this photo of Gretchen Corbett (from that Milo Janus episode, An Exercise in Fatality). If I’d had it back then, I’d have hung this poster in my high school locker…
When I was barely in the double digits, a few televised crime stories took over my whole inner life. Duel, Steven Spielberg’s first crack at an action film, can still click through my mind one still frame at a time thanks to endless re-runs on Channel 9.
A bit more obscure was the Charles Bronson/Lee Marvin collaboration Death Hunt, whose unimaginative title hides a pretty idiosyncratic film. Quentin Tarantino recently said Death Hunt was a movie that was better than you remember. At one point in my teens I could dream the entirety of Death Hunt during uneasy nocturnal slumbers.
On Twitter I posted about two other shows that made a lasting impact. “Dying Day” was an installment of ITV’s Armchair Thriller starring a young Ian McKellan. One of My Wives is Missing was a made for TV movie with the old hand Jack Klugman. Having finally tracked them down again as an adult — the internet really shines brightest at moments like these — I’m hard pressed to say why they impressed and terrified me so much in the early ’80s, although both have a stylized production with great music and visuals. Both also feature long confidence tricks culminating in shocking twist endings. (Merriam-Webster has selected “gaslighting” as their word of the year, a word tailor-made for “Dying Day” and One of My Wives is Missing.)
My posts about these minor shows drew sympathetic comments of recognition, a tribute to the power of B-level entertainment in an era when there was only four channels. I tweeted about One of My Wives is Missing because Joss Whedon tweeted about it. Probably Whedon admires it for the same reason I do: he saw it on re-run one weekend when he was 11 years old and there was nothing else to watch.
Speaking of Armchair Thriller, the “black nun in a rocking chair” cliffhanger in “Quiet as a Nun” haunted me like a ghost, I was almost physically ill. If you tweet about that little piece of ITV drama, the support group will gather soon enough. Maybe it is the organ music that makes that clip so damn scary.
Other tweets from the past decade…
I should really go 4 walk this morn but I’m halfway through THE SUPERNATURAL ENHANCEMENTS by Edgar Cantero and biting my nails
Janet Malcolm has passed. THE JOURNALIST AND THE MURDER is definitely one of the greatest works I’ve ever read
Just enjoyed THE REVISIONISTS by Thomas Mullen. The modern sci-fi thriller done right: time travel and its discontents
“Like everyone else, including you, I frequently make assumptions on insufficient grounds.” — Archie Goodwin in A RIGHT TO DIE
“Sometimes even the experts had a hard time distinguishing between justified suspicion and paranoid symptoms.” — Ross MacDonald, THE DOOMSTERS
“Did you know Professor Haggerty well?” “Hardly. I did escort her to one or two college functions, as well as the opening concert of the fall season. We discovered a common passion for Hindemith.” — Ross MacDonald, THE CHILL
From THEY DO IT WITH MIRRORS by Agatha Christie:
“It began with a combination of circumstances, but what doesn’t?” – Rex Stout, first line of “The Zero Clue.” (Terry Teachout’s response: “Boy, did he ever know how to push off from the starting line.” Miss you, Terry!)
“Heloise long ago reconciled herself to the idea that all is fair in love and war, which is just another way of saying that nothing in life is ever fair, because life is love and war.” — AND WHEN SHE WAS GOOD by Laura Lippman
“The Virgin’s death is optional, as long as it’s last.” (from CABIN IN THE WOODS)
“Good night! This is where my tax dollars go?” (from THE X-FILES)
The two scenes of Max von Sydow and Robert Redford together in THREE DAYS OF THE CONDOR are two of my favorite things
Just watched TRAINWRECK…totally hilarious and touching movie. Wasn’t hip to Amy Schumer, now a big fan
Watched SAY ANYTHING for the first time last night. Great movie!
This past week I read INTERVIEW WITH THE VAMPIRE by Anne Rice (1976) and watched the movie adaptation (1994) directed by Neil Jordan from script by Rice. Both great!
KLUTE. 70’s Americana is my bread and butter! God bless the music of Michael Small: Modernism made commercial for smart thrillers
Somehow never saw THE LATE SHOW w Art Carney and Lily Tomlin until tonight. Dang I love 70’s movies
DIRTY MARY CRAZY LARRY is on Netflix if you are into that kind of thing
Just pulled THE COLOUR OUT OF SPACE from shelf. What makes Lovecraft great is the depth of his belief…….he sees the unnamable horror in his mind’s eye with acute clarity
Although it is a fairly bad movie overall, Bruno Ganz and Frank Langella have one mesmerizing scene together in UNKNOWN (2011)
“The awful thing about life is this: Everybody has their reasons.” — THE RULES OF THE GAME
“In real life, people don’t have archenemies” — SHERLOCK
Watched RUN LOLA RUN at last. Wow! Loved it. Experimental thrillers that actually work are so my thing
ROMY and MICHELE’S HIGH SCHOOL REUNION is a hell of a movie
Asimov’s centenary…completing the novelette “Nightfall” as a young teen was an unforgettable moment
Watched DRUG WAR directed by Johnnie To: One of the best genre films I’ve seen in a long time. A goddamn serious crime film
Rewatched BLADE RUNNER. A fav acting moment is when Joe Turkel realizes that Hauer has come for him, looks down at floor, and accepts fate
The novelization of ALIEN by Alan Dean Foster is good
The movie DRIVE is in my pantheon. It’s also a comparatively rare instance where a film makes me love certain tracks from pop music: Kavinsky “Nightcall” and College & Electric Youth “A Real Hero”
Great sign off: Malcolm Reynolds in FIREFLY: “See you in the world.”
Mal: It’s my estimation that every man ever got a statue made of him was one kind of sommbitch or another. Ain’t about you, Jayne. It’s about what they need.
Jayne: Don’t make no sense.
Ah, yes, “It’s the Bishop!” The first time I saw that Python skit (starring the late Terry Jones) it drilled straight into my chest and set off a chain reaction of uncontrolled laughter
I just had my mind melted by “Me Ol’ Bamboo”: Dick van Dyke and company in CHITTY CHITTY BANG BANG. The (dance) canon at the beginning!!!
“Understand this, I mean to arrive at the truth. The truth, however ugly in itself, is always curious and beautiful to seekers after it.” Poirot in THE MURDER OF ROGER ACKROYD
MEMENTO Joe Pantoliano is fantastic, what a great performance. Rest of movie is OK; Nolan has flair but I suspect his oeuvre won’t age well
[but then, many years later after above tweet] Watched Nolan’s INCEPTION on the plane home. Maybe my taste is getting worse, but I liked it a lot more this time. Amoral rich-person’s fantasy, perfectly cast. Doesn’t make a lick of sense, but it does what it wants, and what it wants is to be is Nolan’s INCEPTION
“Practically all sentries were less than perfect. It was any army’s most persistent problem. Boredom set in, and attention wandered, and discipline eroded. Military history was littered with catastrophes caused by poor sentry performance.” — Lee Child, WORTH DYING FOR
Newish Target novelization of DW “City of Death” is very good! A high pressure assignment for Mr. Goss but he delivered a fun and convincing take on one of the most popular episodes. A few plot holes were fixed gracefully, a few sentences recalled Douglas Adams. Bravo
RIP to Dave Prowse, the shirtless Minotaur in “The Time Monster” (DOCTOR WHO) and the tough yet amusing bodyguard to Hotblack Desiato in THE HITCHHIKER’S GUIDE TO THE GALAXY [this was a bit of joke, for Prowse was trending because he inhabited the costume of Darth Vader]
In the same awesome music for British serial category: Michael Kamen w Eric Clapton for EDGE OF DARKNESS — Barrington Pheloung for INSPECTOR MORSE — Geoffrey Burgon for TINKER TAILOR SOLDIER SPY
Watched ANGEL HEART (1987). I love the first half, but when the movie goes down to New Orleans false notes begin to intrude. interesting score by Trevor Jones, with a sensational deconstruction of torch song “Girl of My Dreams” or Courtney Pine in full “Brecker w. Ogerman” mode
“I have more than 20 cups a day,” Nyberg said. “To keep my energy up. Actually, maybe just to keep going.”
“Police work wouldn’t be possible without coffee,” Wallender said.
“No work would be possible without coffee.”
They pondered the importance of coffee in silence.
— from the Wallender series by Henning Mankel
Tarantino is 55 today. I remember going to RESERVOIR DOGS in east village w no idea what it was: there was just a cool-looking ad in the Village Voice. One of the significant art experiences of my life
EDGE OF TOMORROW (2014, dir. Doug Liman) is an exemplary movie of its kind
About to watch MY OWN PRIVATE IDAHO (1991, dir. Gus Van Sant) ….Hadn’t seen since theatrical release — was edgy at the time, now seems more like a college theatre workshop. Some (intentionally) hilarious moments. Great score
I’m almost done with a re-read of 9-book series by Len Deighton: Berlin Game, Mexico Set, London Match — Spy Hook, Spy Line, Spy Sinker — Hope, Faith, Charity. How I wish Deighton had ended the series early: the first trilogy is perfect, then there’s an epic decline
We are just two episodes in, but sincere kudos to Ben Frost for his evocative score to DARK
There are some books I just read and re-read. HOPSCOTCH by Brian Garfield is so great every damn time. RIP.
The old BBC serial I, CLAUDIUS is great. Jacobi of course, many other actors, but Sarah and I were perhaps most astounded at Brian Blessed as Augustus, a complex portrayal indeed. Gorgeous theme by Wilfred Josephs
Just finished RECURSION by Blake Crouch; A thrilling modern sci-fi novel that — true the title — keeps folding back on itself
Idly discussing with friends the TV show COMMUNITY, which made me laugh as hard as any show ever has. Some *brilliant* episodes and pitch-perfect cast
The phrase “brave and contradictory rulings” has been wandering through my mind this morning. Looked it up: it’s from THE HONORABLE SCHOOLBOY. Tempted to make it my Twitter bio
About to watch HELL OR HIGH WATER (2016, dir. David Mackenzie) — People like to say, “The don’t make ’em like they used to” but this solid crime flick with a Western tone is straight out of the past. Gorgeous to look at and many fine performances
About to watch TO SIR, WITH LOVE (1967, dir. James Clavell) — This was a great movie. I am floored. I expected it to be mostly of historical interest but wow. Sidney Poitier! What an astonishing performance. The song is also remarkably beautiful
Today I re-read Dashiell Hammett’s RED HARVEST and re-watched Joss Whedon’s BUFFY episode “Once More, With Feeling.” In my personal pantheon, nothing ranks higher than these two
I’ve seen every Hammett adaptation, and MILLER’S CROSSING is one of the best. Probably Coens should have credited Hammett more clearly
Controversial take: I’d surely enjoy the conflicted yet ultimately sadly terrible protagonists of Sopranos and Breaking Bad for the length of a movie or two, but for all those many episodes…nah. Frankly I want clear good guys vs. bad if I’m gonna put in that kind of time. I watch TV to escape
About to watch ROBOCOP (1987, dir. Paul Verhoeven) — just remembered that Miguel Ferrer is in this (“Albert” on TWIN PEAKS), which is truly cause for celebration — I watched ROBOCOP once before about 20 years ago. While the obviously satirical/political parts are brilliant, the many action sequences lack style and emotional complexity. Perhaps part of it is simply a budget issue (although the design team certainly did inspired work). — While many regard ROBOCOP as Verhoeven’s finest hour, I think perhaps TOTAL RECALL is more in balance overall — although the high points of ROBOCOP, especially the television news/ads and malfunctioning ED-209, are still sublime today
About to watch RISKY BUSINESS (1983, dir. Paul Brickman) — I adore this movie’s complete lack of morality. So fresh compared to almost all other “teen” movies. Shame Brickman didn’t do too much else
The (intentionally) godawful theme music of THE LARRY SANDERS SHOW is a snippet of Handel’s Hallelujah chorus leading into a wanking guitar blues. #perfect
Love this scary Junot Díaz story from a decade ago, “Monstro.” Post-Covid it is even more chilling
“Even the most promising clues usually only lead to illness. So many corpses roll away unrevenged.” I’m not really sure how I feel about the lurid fantasia of SEVEN, but upon rewatch I admired how every external shot was in the rain until the final scene
R.I.P. Jean Merrill. THE TOOTHPASTE MILLIONAIRE was my absolute favorite book in 6th grade. I can still recall selected sentences.
RIP E.L. Konigsburg. I read FROM THE MIXED UP FILES OF MRS. BASIL E. FRANKWEILIER thirty or forty times.
RIP Herbert Lom. As a kid, there was nothing greater than when one of the Clouseau movies came on.
[capsule reviews of my recent pop culture intake] PREDESTINATION: Good performances by Ethan Hawke and especially Sarah Snook, and I love time travel paradoxes, but the Heinlein short story “—All You Zombies—” sticks the landing better — CLEAR AND PRESENT DANGER: I liked this! Of course, anything from the Tom Clancy universe is going to be at least a bit jingoistic and banal, but for what it is, a pleasing thriller with some good villains (especially the White House villains) — THE MEG. Nope, not for me, the sets and effects look great but the characters are too trite. I’m not against Jason Statham in the abstract, but I’ve never seen a good movie that stars Statham — GODZILLA (2014). CGI is getting there. Again, I doff my hat to the production team. But honestly I needed more screen time from the title monster and less human backstory…”Let them fight” gave a chill though. — CAPTAIN MARVEL. Brie Larson is refreshing, but “youthful” Samuel Jackson creeped me out. Comic book movies aren’t really for me but at this point I guess they can’t be avoided — (book) WORLD WAR Z. I loved this the first time, second go round was a bit less exciting. H’mm. Still a modern classic but now I see some of the stitching in the seams I guess — THE MIDDLEMAN. Olen Steinhauer can write a damn gripping thriller. Like many, he’s having trouble fully digesting our political moment quickly enough. The Cold War took decades; Deighton and Le Carre had time in a way moderns don’t — CROOKED HOUSE. I’ve been on an Agatha Christie binge, maybe I’ll write an overview for DTM? At any rate, of the dozen I’ve re-read, this is the one, a masterpiece of plotting and style
[I critiqued Statham in above thread, but then] WRATH OF MAN is quite good if you like that sort of thing
Nice to hear about a guitar being destroyed on SNL last night (I’m serious, things are way too squeaky clean in “big entertainment” these days) — .One of my touchstones is HAPPY TO BE HERE, an early humor collection by Garrison Keillor. This book is overall more esoteric and fierce than later Lake Wobegon material (although I love Lake Wobegon too) — 2nd story is from 1977, “Don: The True Story of a Young Person,” where 17-year-old Don, lead singer of Trash, becomes famous for *eating a live chicken* on stage. GREAT story that simultaneously honors and critiques punk modalities like “destroying a guitar” —- I first read “Don: The True Story of a Young Person” when I was about 17 myself, it made a life-long impression
Note to self: Fredric Brown, Frédéric Chopin, Frederic Rzewski
I took the night off and read ATLANTA DEATHWATCH by Ralph Dennis. Total fun! I’d say the book is somewhere between John D. MacDonald and Robert B. Parker. But unlike Travis McGee or Spenser, Hardman knows he’s a low level sinner first and foremost. I like that — I woke up thinking that there’s also an older echo found in the book. Depression-era gangsters and down and out families: W. R. Burnett, Edward Anderson, Paul Cain. Dennis is nowhere near as slick as MacDonald or Parker. I like that too
My general take on action movies is predictable. THE BOURNE IDENTITY (2002) is a fav, partly because the creative team re-imagined the politics of the source material (Originally Ludlum saw the CIA as total good guys). On repeat viewings Damon remains mysterious and charismatic.
In THE ENEMY OF THE STATE (1998) you get to have your cake and eat it too: enjoy all the high tech fun and critique it at the same time. This is Tony Scott at his best, it all comes together for him here. Will Smith does the “confused man trapped in a strange maze” perfectly.
THE FUGITIVE (1993) is sort of the template for many movies since. For what it is, reasonably perfect. The acting performances still mattered in those days, with H. Ford and T.L. Jones as perfect antipodes.
And then there is THE MATRIX (1999). Brilliant plot, but abandoning the laws of physics reduces the bandwidth for the actors; almost into merely props. Most 21st action movies are pretty interchangeable. It’s THE MATRIX’s fault, but that doesn’t mean it’s not great. It is great.
Offhand, I can’t think of another action movie that I’ve seen that is quite at the level of these four. Maybe 1993-2002 was the peak: quite flashy but not yet a constant blare of CGI?