The Way We Die Now

The ten essays “The Year of Outrage” in Slate are extremely helpful to understanding our current internet culture. 

We’ve had a few jazz pile-ons recently. By Slate standards they were all small potatoes - at least there’s no “Django Gold” or “Sonny Rollins” on the page or in the calendar - but they were certainly there. I participated in one, the stuff about John Halle and Joe Henderson (one and two). I’m telling myself I was mostly interested in decoding jazz history but am going to think about my ethics here a bit more. At any rate I can use the valuable material I dug up during my researches in the future without needing to reference Halle. (Just relistened to the transcription - wow, there are some rookie mistakes: I was really working too fast, transcribing on the train and posting from the dressing room.)

The only general interest pile-on I participated in was the Dr. V magical putter fiasco. When I realized that the whole world had descended on the author, I regretted posting. Enough was enough. DTM isn’t here to police Grantland, anyway.

Generally I hope my topical bits on DTM are reasonably measured. Certainly I have never been mean to anybody on Twitter. But have I always been bland enough about everything? Probably not. Reading this Memeteria piece about about a recent cello concerto reminds me to always act as if an opposing side in a future court case will look over my social media record with an eye to conjuring my doom.


I love the essays, but clicking through Slate’s calendar of outrage at the top of the page is strangely boring. It’s hard for me to feel like much of this really matters.

Jamelle Bouie closes “The Sadness of Liberal Outrage”  with a telling sentence:

If outrage stands in for activism, if we’re focused on the moral temperature of Internet individuals, then we’re distracted from the collective action—and collective institution building—that makes real reform possible.

Back to Sonny Rollins and Django Gold: Of the whole shebang, I was most saddened by Sonny himself making a video to rebut a fictional piece on the New Yorker website. Sonny is bigger than that - unless he submits to social media policing and joins the fray.

I didn’t exactly approve of Gold's topic, but I certainly knew it was satire right away, and even laughed out loud at: “… In walked Bud Powell and Charlie Parker. We must have jammed together for five more hours, right through sunrise. That was the worst day of my life.” 

The troubling thing about Gold's piece is not making fun of jazz or Sonny; I’d hope jazz or Sonny could take it. The troubling thing is that there is so little jazz coverage in the New Yorker any more in general. The only way to combat that problem, of course, is to make jazz music that is exciting and relevant.



Always Go Out

Prompted by Miles Okazaki and myself, Dan Voss graphs "Acknowledgment" in Schenkerian fashion. Heavy stuff.

Also via Twitter, Darcy James Argue pointed the way to a much lesser musical analysis, where Slate "investigates" the mildly complex mixed-meter theme to The Terminator. Frankly I think everyone involved in this essay looks like a bit of an idiot, from the writer to the composer to all those folks making over 200 (mostly) absurd comments. My own contribution to the Twitter discusssion was bringing up the first theme to The Transformers, which is genuinely pretty mysterious. Probably there is some tape-splicing going on? Dan Schmidt suggested that they needed exactly 30 seconds, and cut a finished track down in strange places. (According to Schmidt, a surprising "missing" bar in the theme to Community is because of a post-production edit due to time concerns.)


I really enjoyed Jeff Watts with Azar Lawrence last week, and will definitely try to see his quartet with Ravi Coltrane (who is also playing better than ever these days) at the Vanguard before going off on tour again Thursday.

Also on the dance card is David Virelles at Drom on tomorrow. Haven't heard the latest record yet, but I've heard great things about it.

Sadly I will miss Vijay Iyer's BAM event starting Thursday, which seems like something everyone interested in modern jazz should make an attempt to see. Nate Chinen has the rundown.

My old pals a Klavierhaus have a new space. I haven't been there yet, but would certainly go to Dave Burrell's show on December 22 if I could. (Read "Dave Burrell: A Kinda Dukish Pianist," by Eugene Holley Jr. in this month's Hot House.)

Holiday concerts are generally of minimal interest to DTM. But supposing I had children, I suppose I'd have to take the whole fam to Town Hall on December 19: GOTHAM HOLIDAY SWING featuring VINCE GIORDANO AND THE NIGHTHAWKS: Music from the 1920’s, ’30s, and ‘40s and stories and poems about New York City’s holiday season. GUESTS: Ira Glass / Monica Bill Barnes / Anna Bass / Buster Poindexter / Regina Carter / Pedrito Martinez / Bria Skonberg / Sofia Rei / The Xylopholks / Molly Ryan....

Also very curious about what Seamus Blake and Guillermo Klien are going to get up to at Mezzrow on Sunday 21.

There's so much more going on. Wish I could make it to even 5% of what NYC has to offer.


Willard Jenkins writes of Island Exports and Descendants, an important topic. Most of these players I don't know yet but I've played with and admire bassist Jonathan Michel.

Lara Pellegrinelli covers 80 years of Ellis Marsalis

Of course I always link to Soho: Holy crap, a meditation on In C, Taylor Swift, and much else - including some telling Ellington.


TBP dates (copied from website)

18 Cleveland, OH -- Music Box
19 Milwaukee, WI -- The Jazz Estate
20 Milwaukee, WI -- The Jazz Estate
21 Detroit, MI -- Cliff Bell’s
25 Minneapolis, MN -- Dakota Jazz Club
26 Minneapolis, MN -- Dakota Jazz Club
27 Minneapolis, MN -- Dakota Jazz Club
28 Minneapolis, MN -- Dakota Jazz Club
30 New York, NY -- Village Vanguard
31 New York, NY -- Village Vanguard

January 2015

01 New York, NY -- Village Vanguard
02 New York, NY -- Village Vanguard
03 New York, NY -- Village Vanguard
04 New York, NY -- Village Vanguard
07 St. Louis, MO -- Jazz At The Bistro
08 St. Louis, MO -- Jazz At The Bistro
09 St. Louis, MO -- Jazz At The Bistro
10 St. Louis, MO -- Jazz At The Bistro



Visitation From a Champion

I snapped an iPhone quickie between the ropes as Claressa Shields posed with the regulars at Atlas Cops and Kids today.


Bottom row (Left to Right): Nyisha "Siyah" Goodluck, Coach Sarah Deming, Little Nick Scaturchio, Claressa "T-Rex" Shields, Chris "BHopp" Colbert 

Top Row: Tara Ciccone, Mo, Hamza Alhumaidi, Reshat "The Albanian Bear" Mati, Coach Aureliano Sosa, Richardson "Africa" Hitchins, Bruce "Shu Shu" Carrington, Jr, Akil "That Guy" Auguste, Coach Hilergio "Quiro" Bracero, Derrel "Bro Man" Williams



Moving Target

Andrew Durkin has a relevant book out: Decomposition: A Music Manifesto, which "explodes the age-old concept of musical composition as the work of individual genius, arguing instead that in both its composition and reception music is fundamentally a collaborative enterprise that comes into being only through mediation." (Blurb from Amazon page.)

Durkin covers an exceptionally wide turf; indeed, I can't think of reading a previous book that glosses jazz, classical, and pop in equal measure with equal conviction. I particularly enjoyed the chapter on Conlon Nancarrow and reproducing music machines. 

Decomposition offers much food for thought. Many recent bloggers have guest appearances....


Durkin's book is ahead of the curve, but trying to command it all will become familiar territory. (DTM is in that world, of course.) Matthew Guerrieri looks at it from another angle ("tourism") in his latest smart dispatch from Boston.

I'll be going to see Gabe Kahane's The Ambassador at BAM this week. I've heard great things about it.

An evening of Requiems by the ASO somehow has the full NY premiere of Ligeti's essential work in Latin.

At the Vanguard is Christian McBride with Christian Sands and Ulysses Owens, Jr. I saw them last year and really enjoyed a persuasive argument for core jazz values. This group should stay together a long time.

Azar Lawrence is playing A Love Supreme at Jazz Standard Tuesday and Wednesday with Benito Gonzalez, Reggie Workman, and Jeff Watts. H'mm! Kind of a must-see really.

Nate Chinen is leading a jazz critic roundtable in Harlem; Nate also penned a moving memorial to his father that includes - of all things - a look at the place to hop in Rochester, MN in the early 70's.


John Eligon in NY Times: Police Killings Reveal Chasm Between Races

Jelani Cobb in the New Yorker: No Such Thing as Racial Profiling


Old-school Americana: Revival by Stephen King. His latest just might be the best of his that I've read. Recommended. On the charming dedication page King offers thanks to Bram Stoker, H.P. Lovecraft, Clark Ashton Smith, Donald Wandrei, Fritz Leiber, August Derleth, Shirley Jackson, Robert Bloch, Peter Straub, and Arthur Machen. 

In related news, I also looked at Ring by Koji Suzuki. Very good, although actually I think the American movie The Ring is better, especially since the sex stuff is less convoluted. (Still haven't seen the Japanese movie.)

That's an easy bounce to Under the Skin, the recent movie masterwork with Scarlett Johansson. I haven't been as impressed with something of this nature since the original Let the Right One In.


RIP P.D. James. I never really connected with James, and a lovely memorial note from Ruth Rendell explains why: James was politically conservative. Speaking of Rendell, the first two Wexfords came back into rotation recently and I am very impressed with good she was right from the beginning.


Solipsism section: 

Howard Barnum listens hard to my performance of "It's Easy to Remember."

TBP played a sold-out show at a rock room at the London Jazz Festival recently and provoked an unusual amount of press, including two rather astonishingly negative reviews in The Guardian and The Telegraph. 15 years in, we've still got what it takes to raise a fuss! That's really pretty cool.



Irving Fine at 100

New DTM page: A Fine Centennial. 



Path to Liberation

I don't envy jazz critics making their top ten lists. There are so many worthy records seemingly released every week, not to mention competition from the grave. (If anyone just puts down John Coltrane Offering: Live at Temple University and calls it a day I understand.)

One to consider, if you haven't heard it already, is Sam Newsome's Straight Horn of Africa: Path to Liberation. I know some of these these themes from Sam's solo concerts and it is cool to have them fleshed out into overdubbed fantasias. 

Sam has a very interesting mind. As much as I recommend the CD, I recommend the accompanying essay even more.  It can be purchased for $.99 at the Amazon Kindle store, and you won't spend a dollar a better way today. 

A key sentence explaining Sam's conceit:

I see Adolphe Sax's invention of the saxophone in 1846 as innovation; however, I see the musical vision of Charlie Parker and John Coltrane for the saxophone as liberation.

Sam offers a fascinating take on race and jazz. He's hinted at this topic on his blog before, but he goes all in for this essay. I support his conception 100%. Check it out.

For free, try his latest post on Soprano Sax Talk, his comparison of Steve Lacy and Branford Marsalis on "Who Needs It."


OK, new Star Wars. I give this a big "what-evs," as everyone knows my childhood passion was its then minor UK competitor Doctor Who. However the trailer's release prompted the excavation of Samuel Delany's fascinating review of the original movie in 1977. Delany loves it except for the all-white, all-male future.

Delany 2

I was intrigued that Jar Jar Binks was a race flashpoint in the "prequels," now I'm even more thrilled that so many are watching the franchise to see what happens with the forthcoming trilogy.


The Star Wars stuff ties into something I noticed in my recent perusal of apocalyptic fiction. Pim van Tol gave me Nevil Shute's On the Beach, which somehow I'd never read. It remains intensely moving; however the local politics drove me crazy, especially from a feminist perspective. 

Much better is Max Brooks's recent World War Z. I loved this book! It has nothing to do with the Brad Pitt action movie, but instead is a literary tour de force combining Studs Terkel-style oral history with world geopolitcs in the aftermath of a zombie outbreak. It's not that Brooks is so politically correct - he's a white guy mostly writing about what he knows - but he understands that diverse voices need to be included simply to make the story more interesting. 

World War Z is now part of a quartet of Iverson picks where worldbuilding novelists explain how we live now: the other three are William Gibson Neuromancer, Neal Stephenson Snow Crash, and Ernest Cline Ready Player One.


Two links everyone who reads DTM has surely seen already:

Jacqueline Woodson, "The Pain of the Watermelon Joke."

Frank Rich interviews Chris Rock.



The Weather Outside is Frightful

Turkey Day means William Burroughs

There's not too much to be thankful for according to the news from Ferguson. Except, perhaps, that a discussion is at least happening. At one point there would have been no discussion, it would have simply been business as usual. By that standard, some kind of progress is being made.

I'm about to go pick up Sarah and drive to Jersey; wish us luck in the freezing rain. Sarah's gym is in Flatbush, Brooklyn. Last week another young man she had trained there, Mike Hayden, died by gun violence. This makes two as in as many years; the first was Tray Franklin. Obviously, if this were the rate of gun violence among my peers in Park Slope we'd think we were living in a war zone.

Institutional racism is a very real thing.


Reminder: I'm playing a solo benefit near Philadelphia on Saturday. If the piano can take it I will essay some Bach and Chopin as well as jazz. Maybe I'll even play Irving Fine's "Variations" from Music for Piano. (Stay tuned for DTM's contribution to Fine's 100th birthday next week.)


WHO:  Pianist Ethan Iverson of the jazz trio The Bad Plus

Sarah Deming, Ethan’s wife, will dazzle us with her homemade appetizers and drinks. 

Sarah’s mom, Ruth Z. Deming, MGPGP, runs New Directions (  the premiere support group in the Greater Philadelphia area for people and families affected by bipolar and depression.

WHEN: Saturday, November 29 (of the Thanksgiving weekend) from 2 pm until 4:30 pm.

WHEREThe Willow Grove Bible Church, 200 Everett Ave at Division Ave, Willow Grove, PA 19090.

COST: $20 for general admission. Higher donors will get signed copies of Ethan’s CDs, T-shirts or other products.



Gdańsk for the Memories


(view from inside hotel room)

Continue reading "Gdańsk for the Memories"



Peer Pressure

Just a quick note about some NYC jazz pianists:

I recently hung out with Michael Weiss, who has played with everybody, perhaps most impressively so on the Johnny Griffin to Benny Golson to Charles McPherson axis. Michael is at Smalls Friday and Saturday with David Wong and my main man Tootie Heath. 

Across the street at the same time is Larry Willis and Buster Williams at Mezzrow. If I were in town I'd definitely make a night of it and see both gigs.


In related news, David Hazeltine has just released I Remember Cedar with an authentic Walton rhythm section, David Williams and Joe Farnsworth. This is potentially dangerous territory but I was delighted by what a superior listen it was. Hazeltine doesn't sound like Cedar Walton, but he sure sounds just as authentic as his team, and a playlist of Cedar's best underperformed compositions is a superb idea. 

Related DTM: Interview with David Hazeltine



Drum Music
(Or: Leave a Comment about Paul Motian)


Paul Motian’s melodies for improvisation rarely took more than a page to notate, but that doesn’t mean that his scores weren’t detailed. Motian frequently used phrase marks; sometimes chord symbols. Occasionally there’s something to raise a smile, like the tempo indication “latin” on the lunatic “Mumbo Jumbo.”

Motian always encouraged maximum freedom from his fellow musicians. Every version of his tunes is quite different. To cite an example I know well, “Byablue” was recorded twice by Keith Jarrett, both solo and quartet. While I learned Jarrett’s version as a kid, a glance at the chart handed to me by the composer was a revelation. Now when I play “Byablue,” I base it off of Motian’s handwriting, not Jarrett’s interpretation.

Going to the source gives one more room to make a personal statement. It's also just interesting to discover the composer's original intention, at least when the composer is profound as Paul Motian. “Victoria,” recorded in memoriam by TBP on Made Possible, is much closer to the score than previous versions where the melody and harmony was controlled by Jarrett or Sam Brown.

Cynthia McGuirl, Paul Motian’s niece and heir, has 115 of Motian’s handwritten charts. Those of us that love Paul’s music have been encouraging her to publish the collection. My personal vote would be for a facsimile edition, but that’s not the only option. Typesetting would be OK if a good editor was involved.

Cindy also has Paul’s fascinating unpublished autobiography, his legendary gig book (all the gigs he did, plus what he was paid) and many historical photos. Material from this archive has been showing up on Cindy’s remarkable blog and podcast, Uncle Paul’s Jazz Closet. (I’m particularly taken by the shot of Paul in a sailor suit.)

A few professional publishers have been contacted about making a Motian folio. So far I’ve been surprised at the lack of interest, but I guess music publishers are in the same bind as other vendors: sales of books and music are way down across the board.

Cindy is considering self-publishing a limited edition of her Uncle’s compositions in 4 volumes, ordered by date and albums. She’s hoping that sales of the first volume would pay for the 2nd volume, etc. Cindy gave her permission to post the original lead sheet of "Byablue" as she sees it for the composition book.

Surely all of Motian’s fans and students would love an official Motian book of tunes...? "Byeblue" is here, if you look around on Cindy's blog you'll find "Fiasco" and "Abacus" (very interesting phrase markings on the latter). But of course I'm just one diehard fan, which is why I am opening up the comment section on DTM:

Let Cindy know if this is something that people are interested in.

Also, what would make that edition most compelling? Facsimile? Typeset? Spiral-bound? Flat?

Comments are moderated. If you wish to say something to Cindy or me privately (like: you are a publisher that wants to take on this project!) just begin your comment PRIVATE and I won’t publish, but just forward to Cindy.

I'm on tour in Europe at the moment so it may take a few hours for me to publish your comment. Thanks in advance.


Related DTM:

The Paradox of Continuity.

69 Comments | 11/13/2014


Everything is Politics

[the losing side in re: last Tuesday collates a few recent pop culture observations]

When considering my earliest cinematic experiences, two movies stand out: Ghostbusters and Raiders of the Lost Ark. The boy is father to the man. To this day, I still have a soft spot for "supernatural meets urban landscape" conceits and innovative action movies.

I mentioned Ghostbusters a few years ago as part of a greater unpacking of institutional racism. Now Darcy has just sent me this unsettling new interview with Ernie Hudson. Hudson is careful to not mention race once - he still works, after all - but the takeaway is truly the blues. I can’t ever look at Ghostbusters again.

For some reason Raiders of the Lost Ark just came back around into rotation. This is probably not a news bulletin for most, but, my god, is this movie ever unapologetically racist as well. Indiana Jones lords over South Americans and Egyptians in ludicrous fashion. It’s the American Way at its most fatuous, writ large. I can’t ever look at Raiders of the Lost Ark again, either.

When I mentioned all this Dave King, he suggested that many ‘80s movies will be seen by future generations as akin to the way we see early movies using blackface today. He’s probably right.


Another early love was Doctor Who on television. These days the Doctor is back and bigger than ever, although the show also seems unusually vulnerable to political currents. Various factions watch intently, eager for any political misstep.

I backed Philip Sandifer’s DW reviews on Patreon. Sandifer is the most politically correct essayist I’ve ever seen, which is probably why his comment section is filled with those banging drums for various disenfranchised camps. (A low point were those that somehow saw “Kill the Moon” as a conservative anti-abortion message. As if not wanting to kill off a unique space creature was comparable in any way to the pro-life crew.)

In retrospect, I know that a big part of my boyhood attraction to the Doctor was that he only used violence as a last resort. Often he advocated for the opposing side before calling in the reserves. Perhaps because this hero was comparatively gentle and understanding, the show gained a cult following with those who felt oppressed. The brilliant architect behind the reboot was Russell Davies: Since then, gay camp on Doctor Who is no longer a possible subtext, it’s in plain sight.

It only follows that contemporary activists of all kinds see the new show as a litmus test. For myself, I find Peter Capaldi’s sardonic but humane characterization the most satisfying since the reboot. As for the stories: well, pretty good. Yes, too sentimental and faux-adult for sure. But I appreciate how this season scans as relatively sedate overall. For a while DW was looking like a bad Hollywood action movie most of the time.

I’m probably one of the few fans let down by a possibly racist detail from the last season. In “Mummy on the Orient Express” the horrible jazz is a parody of American black music. The BBC should really do better. Surely a few centuries from now (the time period of “Mummy”) they will.

Sidebar: The one episode of Doctor Who with decent jazz is “Silver Nemesis,” a truly inconsequential Sylvester McCoy tale boasting a bit of Courtney Pine shredding with burning Mark Mondesir on drums. Pine once interviewed me for the BBC, and we spent much of the time talking about Doctor Who.


The irony - at least as I see it, as an admittedly automatically empowered white male - is that Doctor Who lacks something today because it seems like every goddamn thing goes through a focus group first.

After all, if you are going to tell a story, some kind of authorial ruthlessness is required.


The most positive use of my free time recently has been rewatching the lone immortal season of Firefly. Now, this is authorial ruthlessness. Joss Whedon, riding high on Buffy and having learned some tough lessons on Angel, does a postmodern ensemble space opera just as he thinks it should be done. I’m not saying it’s not flawed. It’s television! Of course it’s flawed! But every character is solid, and every plot is inspired. (No wonder it got cancelled?)

For Halloween I went back to another Joss Whedon success, Cabin in the Woods. I’ve praised this movie before on DTM. If you are hesitating because you don’t like horror movies, I understand. But just so you know, Cabin the Woods is much more than a conventional horror movie. Indeed, it gives Richard Jenkins and Bradley Whitford roles that any actor would die for. I admit I have looked at the Cabin in the Woods scenes with Jenkins and Whitford dozens of times.


On Sadifer’s blog I’ve learned about the Bechdel test. (Again, I have a feeling that this is really old news to my younger readers.) I've been having fun seeing what passes the test or not. Of course, few of the crime films I adore pass. Cabin in the Woods does, not least because of the late entry of Sigourney Weaver, who also features in the original comic strip introducing the test.


Weaver's Ripley was a landmark character. Someone else I was thinking about recently is Linda Hamilton. Say what you will about Terminator 2, but Hamilton does absolutely heroic work in moving the battle right to the front door of male gatekeepers everywhere. Whedon's Buffy and Zoë are two of my favorite characters, but Sarah Michelle Gellar and Gina Torres don't radiate the same kind of physical power that Hamilton does. 

On a related note, I'm kind of obsessed with this photo that Vince Keenan put on my Twitter feed via Old Pics Archive. Armenian guerrilla fighters, 1895:

  Female Armenian guerrilla fighters, 1895

Speaking of Armenia, and back to jazz, the next DTM post will be about the scores of Paul Motian.



Though Worlds of Wanwood Leafmeal Lie

Good grief. It's November already.

For those in the Philadephia area, I'm doing a special solo benefit concert for my mother-in-law on the Saturday after Thanksgiving.


WHO:  Pianist Ethan Iverson of the jazz trio The Bad Plus

Sarah Deming, Ethan’s wife, will dazzle us with her homemade appetizers and drinks. 

Sarah’s mom, Ruth Z. Deming, MGPGP, runs New Directions (  the premiere support group in the Greater Philadelphia area for people and families affected by bipolar and depression.

WHEN: Saturday, November 29 (of the Thanksgiving weekend) from 2 pm until 4:30 pm.

WHERE: The Willow Grove Bible Church, 200 Everett Ave at Division Ave, Willow Grove, PA 19090.

COST: $20 for general admission. Higher donors will get signed copies of Ethan’s CDs, T-shirts or other products.


Recent links:

Paul Sanwald offers thoughts on the best Jamey Aebersold playalongs.

Will Robin writes about Irving Fine in the NY Times

Matthew Guerrieri goes all the way in on a new album of Christian Wollf piano music. 

Richard Williams wrote the most interesting obit of Jack Bruce that I've yet seen.

Annegret Fauser discusses politics, Copland, Beyoncé


TBP "Science Fiction" was reviewed in cautiously positive terms by Chris Vitiello and Ben Ratliff.


In Tokyo, I went by another, less celebrated Village Vanguard.




Find Kathrine Adams (Update: She's found!)

The daughter of Abby Adams (wife of Donald E. Westlake) is missing. Facebook page here. Especially those that live in Manhattan, check it out and keep your eyes open.

I know Kathy, she's a lovely person. UPDATE: And she is found! What a relief!



See You In the World [future salutation] (new hello)

New guest DTM pages, in memoriam Kenny Wheeler, collectively called "Three for Wheeler":

Everybody's Song But His Own (by Darcy James Argue)

Time, Marked (by Ingrid Jensen)

Introduction to a Particular Song (by Darcy James Argue)




Another Point of View

The previous post on George Walker is updated by comments from Dr. Walker and Robert Pollock.