As Long as There’s Music (Twitter Files 4)

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.


quick tweets:

Almost 10 minutes of Mary Lou Williams on Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood (1973)

classic record: Shura Cherkassky plays Richard Rodney Bennett (RIP) piano studies

there’s something really correct about Manfred Eicher’s question, “Who’s Jamey Aebersold?”

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.

Marc-André Hamelin slices and dices Mendelssohn in 2010 bootleg.

(Marc-André Hamelin visits a TBP gig at the Jazz Standard. “I play piano, but God is in the house”)

“All the Things You Are” anagrams as “Reheating a Holy Lust”

Tentacle Monroe; Create Melt Noon; Calmer Tone Note; Romance Let Note; Oracle Omen Tent; Locate Term Neon; Nectar Lemon Toe; Ornette Coleman

Birthday of Richard Davis….So many great Richard Davis records…tempted to just name just four collaborators instead: Elvin Jones, Mel Lewis, Andrew Hill, Eric Dolphy

Had side of LP on repeat yesterday: Cziffra plays Chopin (4 Impromptus, 2 Chopin-Liszt). Great music, astonishing piano playing.

I wouldn’t argue that Liszt’s “Rhapsodie Espagnole” is a good piece, exactly, but I would argue  Cziffra playing it is authentic sublime

Marcelle Meyer playing Rameau in 1953 is favorite morning music

RIP Noel Harrison. The vocal performance of “The Windmills of Your Mind” on the soundtrack to THOMAS CROWN AFFAIR is just my kind of thing

From the American Clave series, a seriously swinging “Obatalá” led by Milton Cardona

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

Genius elderly composer Per Nørgaard plays two of his beautiful piano pieces in amateur video 

Q: Which bebop pianist (played with Bird) was born in Duluth? A: Sadik Hakim. Fascinating interview from Anthony Flood.

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

A Bill Evans solo I never knew before, “Bye-Bye Blackbird” with Miles and Coltrane at Cafe Bohemia in ’58. Evans heard this later in 70’s and said: “I can’t find myself playing like this, in this groove, with this kind of structure and feeling, anyplace else…” 

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

Nice find! A very young Jim Keltner large and in charge on studio date with Cal Tjader playing Bacharach “Moneypenny”

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…

Oliver Lake said, “Happy Birthday Lockjaw” and linked to this burning video of Eddie Lockjaw Davis playing “Take the A Train” in 1985 in Copenhagen

This made my day: the slow movement of Bach’s Italian Concerto played on the carillon by Richard de Waardt

Yelena Bekman-Shcherbina plays Scriabin’s Waltz opus 38. I don’t know what’s better, the piece or the playing

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

James P. Johnson plays the hell out of “Maple Leaf Rag”

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

3. Pulcinella

4. Symphonies of Wind Instruments

5. Octet

6. Oedipus Rex

7. Symphony in Three Movements 

8. The Rake’s Progress

9. Agon

10. Requiem Canticles


Top 10 Ligeti pieces (in chronological order)

1. Requiem

2. String Quartet No. 2 

3. Chamber Concerto

4. Melodien 

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)


Wow. This is spectacular. The pianist is doing their very best Ethan Iverson impression!

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!

(related:)

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…

(Buddy Rich’s first band, 1946, plays “Just You, Just Me” with superb Tadd Dameron arrangement)


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

This Time It’s Personal (Twitter Files 3)

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 basically ignore 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.


Grandpa thread:

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!


(In conclusion)

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)

Xmas Comes Early at Mysterious Bookshop

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.


Brand new New Yorker profile of Mick Herron by Jill Lepore.

Thoughtful NPR piece on Charles Cumming by Madhulika Sikka

Also at the Mysterious event was Jeff Quest, who runs the Herron-centric podcast Barbican Station. (Jeff also interviewed me about Rex Stout for Like the Wolfe.)

Brave and Contradictory Rulings (Twitter Files 2)

More from the past….the Twitter past. (See previous installment.)

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 by Levi 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.

Westlake considered KILL THE BOSS GOOD-BY one of Rabe’s best
even more to my taste is MURDER ME FOR NICKELS, which has a comic touch

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.

(From FIREFLY)

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 

It’s 5:30 AM and I’m watching a compilation of Tom Selleck looking straight at the camera 

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

John le Carré would have been 90 today. His greatest work remains his novel TINKER, TAILOR, SOLDIER, SPY. The BBC television adaption is equally great; just rewatched the astounding quiet opening sequence 

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

Thanks to my buddy Anna Wayland I watched the first episode of JOHNNY STACCATO last night. Much camp value and a lot of famous musicians on the set

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

from the reissue of ATLANTA DEATHWATCH


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?

Upcoming gigs

December 15: trio with Chris Finet and Arthur Vint at The Nash in Phoenix

December 16 and 17: trio with Colin McIlrath and Arthur Vint at the Century Room in Tucson

December 20: opening set (before jam session) with Diego Voglino and Joe Martin at Bar Bayeux, Brooklyn


UMBRIA JAZZ (Winter session at Orvieto)

A few years ago I premiered Bud Powell in the 21st Century with the Umbria Jazz Orchestra — the follow up is:

DIANNE REEVES SINGS BURT BACHARACH

arranged and conducted by Ethan Iverson

featuring Romero Lubambo, Peter Washington, Dan Weiss

The big show with Dianne is on December 28, 30, and 31. Happy New Year!

I also play a trio set with Peter Washington and Dan Weiss on January 1.

Is Jazz Improvised? and, What About McCoy, Herbie, Keith, and Chick? (Twitter Files 1)

I have been on twitter a bit over a decade.

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.


In recent years my follower count has swelled and there has been more interaction, prompting the occasional multi-tweet rant. Two recent threads are presented here, now lightly edited.

One of the “joys” of Twitter is a basic agreement that everyone is working fast within strict confines. Accuracy and good grammar go out the window, and a certain amount of overreach is acceptable (if not even encouraged).

I’ve seen wonderful Tweeters simply unable to write breezy and readable Substacks. By the same token, taking the tweets out of Twitter and editing them into prose is bad for the content.

It is what it is.


Thread 1:

The more I learn about the tradition, the more I think jazz is NOT improvisation. It’s a repertoire, including what gets played in the solos. Billy Hart calls it “America’s Classical Music” for many reasons.

[In response to Jacob Garchik’s comment about Coltrane’s marvelous opening line on “Limehouse Blues”] Yes! It’s precisely worked out, and I suspect Coltrane told Wynton Kelly, “Hey, don’t comp for my first 8 bars.” In general, the faster the lines, the less improvised they are. That’s why Coltrane practiced so furiously all the time, he was working out his ever expanding repertoire.

True bebop (Bird and Bud) or anyone else authentic in the style sound a certain way because of just how much they aren’t improvising each phrase. The melody, harmony, and rhythm have to land just so.

Of all the greats of his era, Monk might improvise the least. Each phrase is carved in immutable granite, just so. Perfection. As far as I know he never played a wrong note.

Of course Monk mixes it up, he mixes it up constantly, but I’d be surprised if you could find many truly unique phrases during any given Monk solo. My guess is that almost every lovely, perfect phrase exists somewhere else on another Monk record.

Every single 12-bar blues Monk wrote is in B-flat. (This clarity of intent recalls Jimmy Yancey, who ended every blues in E-flat, regardless of key of the piece.) Also, Monk plays similar (and gorgeous) B-flat riffs on every blues. Makes total sense. A practical signature.

Some of my thinking on the topic of improvisation is informed by teaching jazz in recent years. In general, there is simply too much improvisation at the student level. Enough already. Learn the repertoire. My manifesto!

The Tristano school likes to bang the “pure improvisation” drum. However, a big space of “improvisation” in modern jazz is interaction. Paradoxically, the three greatest Tristano school players sound best with a fairly placid rhythm section — just one flaw of their whole “pure improvisation” rap. (To be clear, I love Tristano, Konitz, and Marsh.)

The great Sonny Rollins….Obviously, a thematic improviser of the highest order. But his work also always has fast and essentially un-improvised bebop lines woven into the texture. Those moments of pure bop are just as important as the spontaneous melodies. Both Rollins and Sonny Stitt each take a chorus on “Sonny Side of the Street” with Dizzy Gillespie. Rollins is motivic, Stitt is mostly thrashing through the bop repertoire. Both great. Rollins is obviously improvising more…yet Rollins also needs a few bop phrases for finished statement.

Pure improvised melody with no bop repertoire is valid. My man is Paul Bley (Rollins dug him too). But Bley also sacrifices swing and clarity by taking such risks. It’s great! But it ain’t true bop, let alone “better.” In the classroom I like to make these distinctions clear.

[In response to Todd Bashore’s comment about Gary Bartz.] Bartz says he is a composer, not an improviser, and Billy Hart says this is America’s Classical Music. Why? It’s one way of protecting black music writ large. Jazz education frequently starts in the most Caucasian parts of America with kind of a casual attitude: “Here’s a chart on ‘So What.’ Any of the white notes are ok for the first 16 bars. Play what you feel!”

Treating the jazz greats as composers with specific languages enforces some kind of helpful gatekeeping. It’s fun to play jazz, of course, but it’s not only fun.


Thread 2:

I grew up with the big four: McCoy Tyner, Herbie Hancock, Keith Jarrett, and Chick Corea. There are many other pianists who are just as great but somehow those were the four, at least for my generation.

Needless to say — but I should say it anyway, especially on Twitter — all four are AWESOME. Getting into the weeds and discussing who I love best and why is an exercise in personal taste. A pointless and highfalutin dinner party game. Still can be fun!

The four divide in to two twos: McCoy and Herbie are greater than Keith and Chick. It’s totally obvious, in terms of true command of the true jazz language.

Between McCoy and Herbie, I give it to McCoy. Something about the big four is simply about burning jazz at a quick tempo over interactive bass and drums. There’s no comparison: McCoy all day long. Also, McCoy is the founding father. None of the other three exist without McCoy.

Between Keith and Chick, I give it to Keith. At times he channels something so spontaneous yet also truthful. He’s a huge virtuoso but always puts the music first. Plus, Keith is the most “two-handed” of the four, he actually might sound better without bass and drums.

Chick is a better jazz player than Keith, he knows a lot more about bebop and latin music than Keith. However, Chick’s spontaneous blowing thing can be kinda frantic and one-dimensional. Chick also made an appalling number of terrible, even unlistenable, LPs.

On the plus side, Chick can sit in with anybody and take it to a whole ‘nother level. Herbie can do that too. But when recently listening to Joe Henderson and McBride records from the 90s, I actually thought Chick’s guest appearances were more awesome than Herbie’s.

Don’t leave out quantity, though. In terms of a track record in the studio, Herbie has the fewest duds (and of course many are masterpieces). Almost every Herbie record as a leader (or even as sideman) does what it is supposed to do. This is not true of the other three — by a long shot.

What about the blues? McCoy is the most relaxed blues pianist. It goes from Jimmy Yancey to Monk to McCoy, just back porch casual goodness, strumming a guitar. Herbie is more like Oscar Peterson, a blues thing that (while great) is more studied and notey.

Chick’s blues thing is metallic and abstract, Keith’s blues thing is gospel. Both those approaches are also very cool…but neither have that extra level of unforced blues truth that McCoy has.

McCoy has one final advantage: He was not just John Coltrane’s pianist: Coltrane’s music would be unthinkable without McCoy’s contribution. In the end I regard John Coltrane as the greatest musician. So, another reason to make McCoy the supreme god of the four gods.

Roger Dickerson, New Orleans Concerto

The composer Roger Donald Dickerson was born in 1934. His works list is substantial but little of his music has been recorded for commercial release. As far as I know, there are just two early works to be heard on the streaming services, both programmed on somewhat obscure collections of all-African-American composers.

Just yesterday I discovered New Orleans Concerto (1976), which is on You Tube.

WOW!

The description says:

3 movements
Leon Bates, piano
New Orleans Philharmonic Orchestra / Werner Torkanowski
Live première performance

Bates is an interesting pianist; not only is he black concert virtuoso, but when he was younger, he was a committed bodybuilder. Not too many of those around.

The live recording of the premiere of New Orleans Concerto is not ideal sonically. However the performance seems excellent and the piece is incredible! The piano writing is full of blues material (it begins right away with tremolo figuration from James Booker or Professor Longhair) but the general context is post-Bartók dissonance and drive. Finally!

In the middle movement there is a haunting wordless vocal for mezzo-soprano or soprano, conjuring the blues in another dimension. The finale is boogie-woogie gone surreal, the kind of thing Louis Andriessen tried to write over and over again, but better.

Bates, Torkanowski and the New Orleans Philharmonic Orchestra deliver a fierce performance. In fact, the limited recording technology distorts in a few places: they were literally raising the roof in NOLA that night.

New Orleans Concerto is the piece I’ve waiting for. I’m so glad this exists. American music!! In the current climate, where black composers are actively being sought to be given commissions, there’s room to hope that this work could be revived on the concert stage and recorded in high fidelity. What are we waiting for?


Previously on DTM: In the overview, I wrote: “A lesser-known piece that may deserve repertory status is played by Karen Walwyn, the Piano Sonatina (1956) by Roger Dickerson.  Dickerson (who is lifelong friends with Ellis Marsalis) composed a graceful and detailed piano piece that manages the considerable feat of sounding like exactly what it is: A fully notated sonata from New Orleans.”

Dickerson was only 22 at the time he finished the Sonatina; the only other piece of his on the commercial streaming services is the Essay for Band (1958) from on the collection Out of the Depths. Like the Sonatina, the charming and energetic Essay is very well done, but both pieces are essentially conservative. There was room to wonder what the young composer might get up to a bit later. Now that I have heard New Orleans Concerto, I’m even more anxious to explore the rest of Dickerson’s mature music…

George Russell’s First Three Records as a Leader

George Russell was an architect of the music, a key associate of Dizzy Gillespie and Miles Davis, and the author of the technical treatise The Lydian Chromatic Concept of Tonal Organization. Early Russell compositions (“Cubano Be, Cubano Bop”) and arrangements (“Relaxin’ at Camarillo”) from the bebop era retain their power to shock and amaze.

Russell played piano and drums but rarely featured his own capabilities as a soloist. In the liner notes of his first album, Russell talks about the rise of the “jazz writers” in the late ’40s and early ’50s, and quotes Gunther Schuller: “We must begin to think of form as a verb rather than as a noun.” Along with Schuller, Gil Evans, Charles Mingus, Dave Brubeck, Lennie Tristano, John Lewis, and many others of lesser fame of that era, Russell was frankly seeking to inject more European techniques into bop.


The Jazz Workshop

Recorded late 1956. The core musicians of the Smalltet are Art Farmer, Hal McKusick, Barry Galbraith, and Bill Evans. A rotating cast of bass and drums includes Milt Hinton, Teddy Kotick, Joe Harris, Osie Johnson, and Paul Motian, who with some exceptions are usually playing reasonably straight swinging time underneath busy counterpoint and fast-moving changes.

Russell gives a lot of written notes to his front line. Farmer, McKusick, Galbraith, and Evans are looking at charts that are not far from European chamber music. One of the delights of The Jazz Workshop is simply the flawless execution of the parts, which are not easy to begin with, but also need to swing. After dispatching the written material, Farmer, McKusick, Galbraith, and Evans then take great solos, often short in duration, but still full of proper jazz talk. Incredible band.

“Ye Hypocrite, Ye Beelzebub” A bit of spiritual in 6/4 foreshadows Charles Mingus’s “Better Git It in Your Soul” from a few years later. The solos are in 4/4. Some of my favorite Bill Evans is as a bebop x-factor within a larger ensemble, as on John Lewis’s Odds Against Tomorrow, Tadd Dameron’s The Magic Touch, and Russell’s The Jazz Workshop.

“Jack’s Blues” Third Stream melancholy. Everyone is reading a thick part, including Evans. There are tempo changes and unusual effects, somewhere between Thelonious Monk and Russell’s teacher Stefan Wolpe. Russell’s liner notes are technical; in this case he writes that the “thematic development is based on the interval of the major second.” Yeah, but who was Jack?

“Livingstone I Presume” The piano has a crunchy motif reminiscent of Béla Bartók. Joe Harris plays a surprising 6/8 drum rhythm (called “jungle” in the notes); with the wild alto line it sounds like 2022 music from somebody like Steve Lehman. The blowing reverts to 4/4, but there are always stops, starts, and counterpoint.

“Ezz-Thetic” One of Russell’s best known compositions, a Tristano-ish line on “Love for Sale,” also recorded earlier by Lee Konitz with Miles Davis and later by Grant Green with Joe Henderson, McCoy Tyner, and Elvin Jones. The relationship between Billy Bauer with Tristano and Galbraith with Russell is obvious. As with Tristano’s composed lines, one can hear the effort required to bring “atonal” notes and phrases into the bop language. Gorgeous. McKusick sounds great, somewhere in the Konitz/Desmond soundscape but totally fluid and with some surprising note choices.

“Night Sound” A kind of blues piece with fully written out rhythm section parts and endlessly turning horn phrases. Evocative and smoky noir verging on atonality. Maybe my favorite track on this album. Unique music. Milt Hinton buffs will enjoy hearing the legendary bassist play such a long and complicated part perfectly; he also bows the final note. Right on, Milt.

“Round Johnny Rondo” Gotta say, I’d never guess that this is Paul Motian swinging out on this track like he’s Philly Joe Jones or Art Blakey. It shows how much Paul worked at becoming an idiosyncratic voice. The contrapuntal melody is ridiculous, and Art Farmer takes a particularly fine solo.

“Fellow Delegates” The longest track on the LP features Osie Johnson on wood drums and Russell himself on chromatic drums tuned to a “blues scale.” McKusick is on flute and Farmer is on muted trumpet. H’mm! Assemble, delegates: the workshop is in session.

“Witch Hunt” As with “Round Johnny Rondo,” the drummer is a surprise: I’d never guess this conventional and well-done latin beat was from the young Paul Motian. The theme is another charismatic contrapuntal maze, while the chords for the solos are again on the busy side. If I have a criticism of this wonderful music, it is that the solo sections can feel a little blocky and relentless in their harmonic motion, “Giant Steps” but without Coltrane’s inevitable logic. It’s hip as hell but just a shade constricting for improvised creativity. Russell himself would help inspire the modal movement, and eventually would adopt more open and modal structures himself. Something like “Witch Hunt” shows the road that was not taken — a road not taken for a reason.

“The Sad Sergeant” Russell writes, “The military and the blues theme is maintained throughout the composition.” It is so cute and adorable to hear Bill fucking Evans playing these complicated written parts.

“Knights of the Steamtable” Dedicated to Russell’s local musician’s union. Have I read of a jazz cat dedicating a tune to the union before? According the notes, Farmer is playing polytonally in his solo, but it doesn’t scan as that “out” to my ears. Beautiful trumpet.

“Ballad of Hix Blewitt” The notes say, “This composition is dedicated to the memory of a friend who possessed a legendary quality…I felt that he was a combination of the West, the blues, and good Dixie humor.” The piece begins as the least “jazzy” on the date, the drums lay out as flute, guitar, and piano intertwine. Hell of a blindfold test. The Brooklyn jazz kids are trying to compose music like this in 2022. The bitonal bluesy piano is awesome (probably all written out?) and the comic “Dixie” touch is silly indeed.

“Concerto for Billy the Kid” The Jazz Workshop would have been one of the earliest LPs where Bill Evans got a chance to make an impact with jazz listeners. The burning piano cadenzas over II/Vs (based on “I’ll Remember April” in F) show how well Evans understood Bud Powell and Lennie Tristano.

1956 is right around a turning point for recorded sound. Things were improving fast, and there’s something about the instruments in the room for The Jazz Workshop which is just perfect. In the notes, Russell compliments engineer Ray Hall.


New York, N.Y.

The next disc is a concept album celebrating the Big Apple in 1959. The instrumentation is for full big band, and the featured soloists include Jon Hendricks, who sings/speaks introductions to every piece, called “narration” on the LP jacket. Hendricks’s poetic/amusing contribution is a highlight of the disc. It really does feel like midcentury New York City…

“Manhattan” (Lorenz Hart, Richard Rodgers) Hendricks enthuses over Charli Persip’s solid beat. When the tune comes in, the writing in the horns is quite dense and contrapuntal. Unlike the previous album, the tracks are quite long, and the soloists have more room to build a statement. The Bob Brookmeyer (then Brookmeyer/Frank Rehak), Bill Evans, and John Coltrane improvisations all begin duo with Milt Hinton. It’s quite a journey with these major voices interacting with Russell’s complex backgrounds featuring a wall of brass, fleet saxophones, tuba and guitar. The original Rodgers and Hart ditty is left far behind. Art Farmer plays well too, while Coltrane offers some shapes over a vamp near the end. A modernist piano cadenza (is Evans reading these outlandish chords from paper?) leads into

“Big City Blues” The tempo slows as Hendricks’s beat poetry takes a rueful turn. The syncopated bass line is long and written out, I can’t think of any other jazz from this era where the bassist would have to read quite like this. Kudos to Milt Hilton! There’s about six minutes of obscure modernist blues before Benny Golson seizes the day for some superlative breathy tenor. Art Farmer and Bill Evans also shine in solo statements. The horn writing is quite challenging and complex. Impressive music.

Manhattan: “Rico” In the previous decade, Russell had been there for the latin jazz innovations of Dizzy Gillespie, even writing a key work for the movement, “Cubano Be, Cubano Bop.” For the current offering, Hendricks talks about the price of plane ticket from Puerto Rico to New York over multiple drummers including the bongos of Al Epstein, Russell’s own chromatic drums, and the conventional but convincing kit of Don Lamond. As the piece proceeds, a kind of suite of different moods emerges, with fine solos from Bob Brookmeyer, Bill Evans, Phil Woods, and Art Farmer.

East Side Medley: “Autumn in New York”/”How About You?” (Vernon Duke, Ira Gershwin)/(Ralph Freed, Burton Lane) Hendricks explains that some New York denizens like to stay inside. Evans plays solo for time, really abstract and beautiful, setting up a poetic solo piano chorus of “Autumn in New York.” Hinton and Persip ease in — too bad there isn’t a record of this Evans trio! After horn commentary featuring those mysterious Russell lines, the tempo picks up and the piano trio offers “How About You,” which then moves into the horns and points exploratory.

“A Helluva Town” In the liner notes, Russell tells Burt Korall that he quit playing serious drums because of the great Max Roach. Roach shows up to give New York N.Y. its big finish on “A Helluva Town.” The drum solos are naturally spectacular (and seem to be connected to the opening Hendricks rave about the tempo of the city) but it’s not just Roach, there’s a splendid focus to this chart overall. Love those fast and wild Russell lines in the band.

While New York, N.Y. is an undeniable achievement, I rank it just behind The Jazz Workshop. Paradoxically, the many horns seem diminish the forward motion found on the first LP. When it is just McKusick playing one of Russell’s thorny lines, the lone musician has all the room to phrase it just so. When McKusick is joined by four other saxes, it all becomes a bit more fussy. There are other factors: The sonics aren’t sorted quite as well on the first LP (Bill Evans and Milt Hinton playing duo have more presence than the full band shout) and there are some awkward edits.

On the final track, Max Roach puts the horns in their place and the music drives forward. Offhand I can’t think of Max with a big band featured like this somewhere else, so New York, N.Y. still gets 11/10.


Jazz in the Space Age

(Full disclosure: This week, David Virelles and I will be playing Jazz in the Space Age with Pedro Guedes leading the Orquestra Jazz de Matosinhos for concerts in Porto and Madrid.)

The general aesthetic style of The Jazz Workshop and New York, N.Y. is similar. It’s all advanced music but the harmonic and rhythmic ideas are not far removed from common practice.

Things take a turn for the abstract in Jazz for the Space Age in 1960. In the notes, Russell suggests jazz will have a “pan-rhythmic and pan-tonal future,” and the far-out cover art is of a piece with other Eisenhower-to-Kennedy era modernist pop such as the Norge ball.

The nascent jazz education movement is also a visible new element. Three of the horn soloists, Al Kiger, Dave Young, and David Baker, were imported from the Indianapolis/Indiana University scene, and all three would appear within the same year as the front line of the important George Russell Sextet. Russell met Kiger and Baker when teaching at the legendary Lenox Jazz Workshop in Massachusetts, the same summer when Ornette Coleman was a student. Baker, a founding father of jazz education as we know it, would establish his beachhead at IU-Bloomington later in the 1960s. There’s quite a lot about Russell and this era in Monika Herzig’s valuable biography, David Baker: A Legacy in Music.

Bill Evans gets the credit on the cover and in the liners, but Paul Bley is right in the mix on all three “Chromatic Universes.” Again, there is a Lenox connection: Bley arrived just in time at the workshop, driving from California, to join in on the last tune and make an impression. In his autobiography Stopping Time, Bley claimed he got a few years worth of work in New York from sitting in on one tune at Lenox. Bley’s extended comment on Jazz in the Space Age is amusing, although it must be said that Bley also liked to tell a tall tale.

…there was a phone call from George Russell inviting me to be part of a project for Decca records. It was a piece for two pianos and orchestra, which involved a lot of written music. There was one condition. A large orchestral score went with the gig, and if I’d come over he’d give me the score. I’d have thirty days to practice it and return it to his apartment, at which time I would play the score. If I made a single mistake, the assignment would be given to another pianist.

I took the score home and went into the music room and Carla put trays of food under the door for the next thirty days. When I went back to his apartment there was no question of whether I would make a mistake. I hadn’t just learned it, I was that music. I played the score without the slightest hesitation and went to the record date for Decca Records. Bill Evans was on piano A and I was on piano B.

….By the time of the George Russell session, he [Bill Evans] was everybody’s favorite pianist, and rightly so. Riverside Records had even called one of his albums Everybody Digs Bill Evans.

The piece called for a lot of improvising by the two pianists, in three of four lengthy non-orchestral sections, accompanied by George playing strung beads pulled over the surface of small drums, and a rhythm section playing odd meters….We started with the rhythm section playing this very off rhythm. This was my universe — rhythm sections that played wrong, no harmony or melody given. This was the atmosphere that I normally breathed, and what flashed through my mind was, now, am I going to make it easy for Bill, or am I going to make it hard for Bill?

Because everybody loved Bill Evans. He already owned 99 percent of the jazz piano business. And I was hoping to get a corner on some part of the one percent that was left. So I threw the kitchen sink at him in the first phase — and I was appalled to hear him throw it right back at me. The was good and bad news.

The whole date went like that. No matter what I did, Bill was right there tossing it back — leading, following, doing everything George could have hoped for. After the first take, as the rhythm section faded out, George rushed up and kissed us on both cheeks and said no one had ever played his music properly before. The rest of the date went fine. The orchestral music was read correctly, there were three or four more long two-piano-with-rhythm sections, and we all left in a blaze of glory.

“Chromatic Universe, Part 1” Several pieces on the disc share the same moody introductory celeste chord accompanied by Russell on rustling chromatic drums. A fierce odd-meter vamp is established from Milt Hinton and Don Lamond, and we are off into a signature sound of the album, Evans and Bley playing together as one.

“Dimensions” Starts as a beautiful blues ballad with Dave Young in the lead, who has a lovely tone on tenor. The tempo picks up and now we are in the spacey up-tempo jazz that was Russell’s favored flavor: Kansas City swing but with Bartók in the bass line. Charli Persip is particularly fine on this track.

More than on New York, N.Y., the long compositions on Jazz in the Space Age have the through-line of inevitability. Evans takes a long ocatonic solo, one can hear him wrestling the very non-bop harmonic progression into something more like Bud. Trumpeter Al Kiger plays a good solo, as does Dave Young. (The students are working out, although I wish Hal McKusick, present in the horn section on all three albums, had gotten one more airy alto solo on a Russell record, considering how good he sounds on The Jazz Workshop.) The pianists don’t comp behind the horn solos, rather it’s all Hinton and Persip, with varied Russell horn backgrounds protruding at the right time.

“Chromatic Universe, Part 2” The three “Chromatic Universes” aren’t that different, the vamp is the same, but there are more horns with each reprise.

“The Lydiot” momentarily features another bass and drums vamp which is almost as challenging as the vamp of “Chromatic Universe.” I’d be curious to learn how hard it was for Milt Hinton and Don Lamond to play these odd meter vamps….maybe they had to practice, or maybe they could read it down.

In 1960, writing in 5/2 for forces wasn’t a viable option, so Russell writes 4/4 horn melodies against the vamp. In “The Lydiot” this technique is particularly successful, the horns build up a quite a bit of steam, somewhere between Charles Ives and Charles Mingus.

This is the first solo from David Baker on record, who trades off with Frank Rehak.

“Waltz from Outer Space” The melodic material is even more attractive than usual, bluesy yet atonal double time passages, call and response in the trumpets and saxes. Most of the piano blowing on the disc is linear, but for a moment Evans stops and plays some lovely locked hand modal chords, similar to his famous improvisation on “So What.”

“Chromatic Universe, Part 3” More of the chaos. The space ship recedes into the distance…

The three expanded band pieces on Jazz in the Space Age, “Dimensions,” “The Lydiot,” and “Waltz from Outer Space,” are really their own thing and seem to bring the Russell aesthetic to its fullest expression so far. The “Chromatic Universes” have Bill Evans and Paul Bley sounding like one wild four-handed pianist. All in all, a fitting capstone to Russell’s early large ensemble period.


(Bonus track no. 1)

Three standalone features for Evans, Eric Dolphy, and Shelia Jordan are in my personal pantheon.

“All About Rosie” A magnificent three-part work that opens the Gunther Schuller-conceived Modern Jazz Concert: Six Compositions Commissioned by the 1957 Brandeis University Festival of the Arts. The first two movements are contrapuntal and bluesy, classic Russell, and then Bill Evans lets fly in the third movement.

“Round Midnight” and “You Are My Sunshine” are two arrangements I’ve known since my teenage acquisition of the two-fer Outer Thoughts, a compilation of the Riverside LPs Ezz-Thetic and The Outer View. All the music from the Russell sextet is interesting, but these showcases for Dolphy and Jordan are truly special. Re-listening now I’m noticing how much piano Russell is playing in support of his ensemble. Sounds good, George!


(Bonus track no. 2)

Bill Evans and George Russell collaborated on a later occasion, Living Time from 1972. While credited as an Evans album, this ambitious and frankly quite messy project is obviously Russell’s baby just as much as Jazz in the Space Age. Every piece is simply called an “Event” (“Event I,” “Event II” and so forth) and most of the record is heavy on vamps, rock beats, drones, and exotic instrumentation.

The large ensemble has some extraordinary names (Joe Henderson, Sam Rivers, Ron Carter, and Tony Williams for starters) but there are hardly any conventional jazz solos, even for the star pianist. (JoHen peeks out of the texture a bit on “Event V.”)

For that matter, there is not much conventional composition, either. In the notes, Orrin Keepnews explains that Russell is using “cycles,” which suggests that Russell was not armed with all that much music paper in the studio, but instead came up with many of the repetitive textures and riffs on the spot. Russell is quoted as saying, “It’s as if I were creating an improvised sculpture.”

In the realm of total speculation: Evans is reading a sophisticated vamp on almost every “Event.” Perhaps Russell brought in those reasonably detailed piano vamps and orchestrated them in the studio with the help of Carl Atkins, credited as Russell’s assistant in large print and photographed with Russell and Evans’s manager Helen Keane. (“Carl! Give the saxophones the middle line while I find the right mute for the trumpets.”)

Of course, this loose way of working is very 1972. One of Russell’s few peers, Gil Evans, went on a similar path, writing fewer pages for the full band around this time and later.

Maybe I’m mellowing with age, but I like Living Time a lot more than I used to. Formerly I considered the whole LP essentially a write-off, but now I can appreciate how Evans and Russell are dancing with the zeitgeist. Jazz in the Space Age is indisputably the greater album, but Living Time can also claim a proper place in the library of cool weird music.

Number One

Brand new essay: All-Star Television: Charles Mingus, Cecil Taylor, Ralph Ellison, and Martin Williams

This article was truly a blast to write and was commissioned for issue 13.1 of the Journal of Jazz Studies. Thanks to Sean Lorre and Lawrence Davies for their thoughtful editing; I also got good feedback from Loren Schoenberg and Lewis Porter. 

Brad Linde found the amazing 1965 video, and on the Mingus centennial I sent it along to Brian Krock for uploading to his YouTube channel. 

The program has some of the most remarkable jazz on video I’ve ever seen, and the commentary is almost as fascinating. As I write in my essay: 

The thread of Ellison’s commentary would be picked up by future African American writers and musicians. Albert Murray, Stanley Crouch, and Wynton Marsalis all regarded Ellison as a touchstone, and Ellison’s determination to define jazz, especially to define it in terms of a “Negro American” aesthetic, foreshadows Murray’s book-length manifesto Stompin’ theBlues and the “jazz wars” of the 1980s and ‘90s, of which Crouch and Marsalis were regular combatants.9 The first time I looked at Jazz: The Experimenters, I was a bit surprised to see Ellison in the “Stanley Crouch role.” This comment may paint me as naive, but I believe many of my peers also think of Crouch, Wynton, Ken Burns’s Jazz, and so forth as a phenomenon of the Jazz at Lincoln Center era. It is edifying to see Ellison take this side of the discourse decades earlier.