Sunday morning: If you want an unexpected yet gratifying listen, try the Violin Concerto no. 2 by Tom Myron, recorded live in 2006 with Elisabeth Adkins and The Eclipse Chamber Orchestra conducted by Sylvia Alimena. The work is unabashedly tonal and accessible, almost cinematic, and touched with a slight Americana accent. The gregarious nature of the musical language almost hides how sophisticated the details are. Myron knows just how to orchestrate for forces, and is absolutely unfashionable in all the right ways. It’s a substantial three movement work; if you have time for only one, try the middle slow movement, which begins with the most astonishing sequence of harmonies.
I grew up with A Prairie Home Companion, where once in a while pianist Butch Thompson would get a chance to let loose with some Scott Joplin or a blues. Currently listening to a really nice and delightfully un-flashy “Jungle Blues” recorded in 1995 on a CD called Lincoln Avenue Blues, an album “dedicated to Jimmy Yancey.” Yeah Butch. Thanks for holding it down.
Last week at the Village Vanguard was wonderful! Thanks to everyone who come out, everyone at the club, and to Ben Street and Nasheet Waits.
July 15 — trio with Butler Knowles and Dorien Dotson at Sharp Nine in Durham, NC
July 27 — Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue at the St. Endellion Festival conducted by Emilie Godden, Cornwall
August 3 — “jazz night” at the St. Endellion Festival, program TBD
August 5 — trio with Conor Chaplin and Martin France at the Vortex, London
August 10 thru 14 — all-Iverson program (Easy Win, Adagio, Dance Sonata) for Dance Heginbotham at Jacob’s Pillow, the Berkshires
August 19 — trio with Larry Grenadier and Kush Abadey at the Jazz Gallery, NYC
September 5 — trio with Larry Grenadier and Nasheet Waits at the Detroit Jazz Festival
If you see me out there, please say hi!
Time to take a break from DTM, Twitter, and FB. I’ll be back sometime in late August. (Probably I will not be able to resist posting photos on Instagram.)
Sign-up for Transitional Technology to be directly informed about my return. Sign-up is free…although sincere thanks to those paying for a subscription. Paid subscriptions help keep fresh DTM content coming after all these years.
New! DTM is easily searchable. The “search box” is located different places on different devices and screens, but the upper right corner is a likely place on a laptop, while the bottom of any given post is likely on mobile. Find the search box and enter your favorite jazz cat. I haven’t written about everybody yet, but I’d be surprised if your favorite wasn’t here somewhere.
Ursula K. Le Guin, The Left Hand of Darkness. Terrific sci-fi novel that digs deep into the topics of love and gender. Le Guin has some amazing passages of descriptive prose:
It had not rained, here on these north-facing slopes. Snow-fields stretched down from the pass into the valleys of moraine. We stowed the wheels, uncapped the sledge-runners, put on our skis, and took off—down, north, onward, into that silent vastness of fire and ice that said in enormous letters of black and white DEATH, DEATH, written right across a continent. The sledge pulled like a feather, and we laughed with joy.
Elmore Leonard, 52 Pick-Up and Swag. Somehow I never explored the two earliest crime novels that the author himself considered canon. They are far more downbeat and esoteric than later Leonard, and must have been a non-ironic influence on Charles Willeford’s Hoke Moseley series. I’m planning to keep reading Leonard in sequence; perhaps more to come from me on this topic. The Library of America edition Four Novels of the 1970s includes an extensive chronology as part of the endnotes.
Sally Rooney, Conversations with Friends. While I rarely look at contemporary literary fiction, my wife encouraged me to read this recent smash hit. Rooney follows the thread just so in an utterly compelling fashion. “My ego had always been an issue. I knew that intellectual attainment was morally neutral at best, but when bad things happened to me I made myself feel better by thinking about how smart I was.” Put it on my tombstone, baby!
I was taught in school that the American experiment was rooted in consensus and compromise. But Internet algorithms have put us at an uncompromising moment of nonconsensual reality. Sometimes it seems the only thing that the left and right can agree on is that compromise is laughably naïve.
“Internet algorithms have put us at an uncompromising moment of nonconsensual reality.” I am online too much, and am about to take a summer break from all that. There is a lot of bad news, but everyone yelling about it online only feeds the machine and makes it worse. That much seems to be certain.
June 19 is a good day to listen to the solo piano suite Juneteenth recorded in 2014 by Stanley Cowell.
The record is hard to find, expensive, and reasonably un-reviewed. Apparently the CD release is a big package with 40 pages of photos and, presumably, liner notes. I’ve ordered a used copy, because my casual listen on the streaming services suggests a masterpiece is hiding in plain sight. (Very important: The pleasant opening track on the album, “We Shall” or “We Shall 2,” is not part of the suite.)
The work is in ten sections and runs half-an-hour. It is not celebratory, nor is it angry. The temperature is mild, resigned, and subtle. Many European composition devices are used; indeed, as far as I can tell, it is almost all fully-notated. One track, “Reality Dreams Echoes,” is a crazy-quilt of Americana themes including “Dixie,” “Swing Slow, Sweet Chariot,” and “By the River,” concluding with “The Star-Spangled Banner.” I don’t think anyone could improvise like this, they would have to work it out:
(The minor-third tremolo over chromatic bass two minutes in is a leitmotif of the suite.)
While there are a few enjoyable stylistic references to gospel and the blues, most of the music is in its own bag. The “Proclamation” theme begins with a rather ragtime-ish slow “E-flat, E, F” before a fanfare in F minor that hurtles through keys with unexpected swing. The most elaborate movement is a pianistically advanced set of variations on “Strange Fruit.”
Very interesting. Again, I have ordered a copy, and plan to write about this significant work more in the future….