[pause]

IMG_0254

(from W Skyline Parkway in Duluth; click to enlarge)

DTM and my twitter feed is going on a little hiatus; back around June 10, when The Bad Plus Joshua Redman begins a major tour in support of our record on Nonesuch. First hit at the Highline Ballroom; complete tour dates at thebadplus.com

The only other performance I'm doing in NYC in near future is part of Albert "Tootie" Heath's birthday week at Dizzy's Club on Friday June 5. Tootie is 80 on May 31!

More about that and perhaps a few other personal bangles and beads in my newsletter Floyd Camembert Reports. Sign up if you want gig and masterclass notifications directly in your email inbox. The next missive will go out this week. 

---

Attribution can be a tricky thing in jazz. One doesn't offhand think of McCoy Tyner as unrecognized, but as far as I know, no jazz critic gave Tyner credit for inventing a language of jazz at the time. To this day, John Coltrane gets all (or at least most) of the credit. 

No reason to take anything away from Mr. Coltrane, of course. Still, when Coltrane got his major new label and contract for Impulse!, conceived of doing a big project with horns and vamps, called it Africa/Brass and hired Eric Dolphy to write the arrangements...

...Coltrane told Dolphy to simply orchestrate Tyner's chords. Dolphy and Tyner sat at the piano together, and Tyner gave Dolphy the information.

Tyner was not credited for the harmonies on the album jacket: he was just listed in the band as pianist, with his name misspelled as McCoy Turner. 

(This double gaffe has since been rectified in more recent reissues.)

---

Africa/Brass lurks in the background of any sort of large group Afrocentric jazz featuring modal chords and vamps. The latest take is getting a lot of attention: Kamasi Washington's The Epic.

Indeed, the very first thing we hear at the top of the first tune, "Change of the Guard," is essentially a McCoy Tyner quote. This pianist also gets the first solo. It's burning in full post-McCoy style. Nice work.

Who is the pianist?

Talk about attribution problems! I've seen a lot of press about The Epic, but the other musicians's names are not usually mentioned.

When I bought the album on iTunes, there was no digital booklet. No personnel given. 

Who's the piano player? Nothing on Amazon. Nothing on NPR First Listen. Nothing on Stereogum or Popmatters. (These are the first links that come up on Google.)

I guess according to the label Brainfeeder site, the keyboard player is Brandon Coleman and the pianist is Cameron Graves. Well, Mr. Graves (I hope I have the right name) nice long first solo on the album!

A trumpeter solos next. Good solo. I haven't been able to find out who it is, though.

---

I can understand the appeal of The Epic, there's something that makes it a real "mood" album. Fans and critics are comparing it to hip-hop because of Washington's illustrious associates, but what makes The Epic connected to the current moment isn't the style, which is actually retro (compare, say, Tyner, Pharoah Sanders, Billy Harper or Gary Bartz records from the early 70's), but the production. The tones, the evenness of the tunes, the attitude.

It's quite raw too, which I really appreciate. "Raw" is not at all what I associate with LA jazz normally. Let's hope this marks the beginning of a serious coup from our West Coast brethren. We need the incursion.

---

The last album from LA I bought from iTunes was the Whiplash soundtrack. (I hated the music but needed it for the blog.) That did have a digital booklet, but there was no personnel either, probably because the production team wanted to give the impression that Miles Teller was actually playing drums in the movie. (He's not.)

I'm sure Washington's team does not want to be associated with the terrible music of Whiplash in any way. Turn up the light on Kamasi's sidemen. There's enough love to go around.

---

Washington and crew may be thinking, "Let's make Kamasi a star first, we can credit everybody else later."

It's never too soon to address a band mentality, because the industry is most interested in stars, even in jazz.

A recent review of The Bad Plus really brings this point home.

It is churlish to complain about praise, but instead of being happy with Tom Moon's assessment of The Bad Plus Joshua Redman at NPR's First Listen, I'm embarrassed.  TBP has fought for fifteen years to be seen as a band of equals. That's what makes TBP work. On this specific project, to cite one relevant piece of information, for Reid Anderson's "As This Moment Slips Away," Dave King's "Beauty Has It Hard," and for that matter for Josh's "Friend or Foe," I play a chart written by the composer with hardly any personal variation. 

Anyway, I see a couple of fans have already offered some intelligent corrections about the article in the comments, which is only correct.

 ---

Moving on: The other CD I've been listening to a lot recently couldn't be more different: Miranda Cuckson's Melting the Darkness. You can read Cuckson's liner notes here, she does a much better job of explaining this music than I could. The one thing I might add is that the emphasis on microtonality gives this ultramodern aesthetic something of a profound lament. I never thought of Iannis Xenakis as a bluesman before, but try the first track, "Mikka S." 

Cuckson has Lutoslawski, Schnittke, and Bartók in the can for ECM with Blair McMillen, a wonderful pianist still a bit underrepresented on record. When that lands I'm going to do something about it for DTM. 

While I'm waiting, I'm planning to see Cuckson perform George Walker's Violin Sonata No. 2 on June 3 with Thomas Sauer. Sauer is to be commended for placing Walker in context with Beethoven for the The Beethoven Institute at Mannes. Both programs look great

(DTM: Interview with George Walker.)

---

On DTM since the new year:

Interview no. 2 with Ron Carter

Stravinsky's Rake at Met

Interview with Nicholas Payton

Warne Marsh solo

"Bye-ya" and "Yancey Stomp" transcribed

Genre Work Struggles Towards Illumination

Lawrence Block's The Crimes of Our Lives (in related missives, overview of Thomas Perry for The Life Sentence)

James Bond April Fools' Joke

Huston's Skinner, trucks for crowd control, armament ads

Sviatoslav Richter at 100

The Drum Thing, or, A Brief History of Whiplash, or, "I'm Generalizing Here"

Guest Post by Mark Stryker: "Traps, the Drum Wonder"

A close listen to Clark Terry and Thelonious Monk In Orbit

McCoy Tyner on "Bessie's Blues" transcribed + Thomas Adés

Books about Carl Van Vechten and Joe Wilder

Introduction to Rational Funk

RIP Frankie Dunlop and John Ore

05/20/2015

 

The Face of the Bass

New DTM: Word Association with Ron Carter.

I'm currently going to school playing with Ron at Mezzrow. Last night I greatly satisfied my inner fanboy by taking a photo of Ron with Lawrence Block. (Ron is actually a crime fiction fan and was impressed that Larry came out the last time we played at Mezzrow. "Next time I want to meet him!" Ron told me.)

IMG_0231

The duo gig continues tonight and tomorrow. There might be a few seats left for the second sets; also squeezing into the lounge area for either set may be possible. (Mezzrow.com)

05/15/2015

 

Recent Passings

RIP Ruth Rendell. In her honor, I re-read the classic A Judgement in Stone. Such a terrific book, with suspense that mounts unbearably in unexpected ways. 

There's a 2003 interview with Rendell which sheds light on several interesting details about Stone. The discussion of humor is a surprise, for there's nothing in the thriller which doesn't scan as "creepy" much more than "funny." (At least it seems that way to this American; perhaps if I were British I'd get the jokes.)

Not too long ago I looked at her first, From Doon with Death, and was reminded of how great she was from the very beginning. 

Distinguished colleagues Val McDermid and Peter Robinson offer excellent tributes.

---

RIP Jerome Cooper. I listened to some Revolutionary Ensemble this afternoon and was struck by just how fabulous his drums sounded. The other big thing is how swinging Cooper is when confidently delivering the free jazz burn.

The Revolutionary Ensemble was truly composition-oriented. On "Chinese Rock" Cooper plays the melody, then improvises on the theme in precise fashion, then evolves into a fucked-up backbeat. There's no doubt that the legacy of Leroy Jenkins is up for serious re-evaluation. Fascinating music. 

---

RIP Bernard Stollman. Of course, ESP was the label for the New Black Music in the 60's. I've seen several valuable obits; Richard Williams's tribute  gives an especially good sense of that label's perennial charisma.

05/11/2015

 

All and Sundry

Happy 70th Birthday Keith Jarrett!

I briefly auditioned the "new" release of Jarrett's live traversal of the Samuel Barber Piano Concerto from 1985. Wow! To me this is obviously now the best classical record in his discography. He's really got enough fire and brimstone technique to deliver this neo-romantic concerto in the grand manner. 

The Bartók Concerto No. 3 is good too, but not as immediately overwhelming. 

Among the other Jarrett classical discs that are worth collecting include a Lou Harrison Piano Concerto that is not just an excellent performance, but also simply an important 20th-century concerto that wouldn't exist without Jarrett's involvement. 

Many admire the Shostakovich Preludes and Fugues. KJ plays the brisk movements wonderfully but honestly I don't appreciate that cycle so much to begin with. Arvo Pärt's Fratres was singled out to me in conversation with Manfred Eicher as being especially valuable.

At any rate, the brilliance of the Barber brings home that Jarrett does really have a significant legacy as a classical pianist, especially in 20th Century repertoire.

---

Jarrett's legacy as an improvising pianist is even more important. Right now I'm listening to Life Between the Exit Signs, his first record and a rather astonishingly advanced and committed manifesto overall.

Not everything Jarrett has tried has worked. The worst Keith is still probably Restoration Ruin, although the "recent" No End is now also worthy contender. Those aren't really jazz albums; from his jazz discography I reject the horrible Gary Burton and Keith Jarrett (except the avant piano solo on "Fortune Smiles") and frankly he's not too swinging with Blakey on Buttercorn Lady either. Still, underestimate Mr. Jarrett at your peril. On YouTube, a bootleg of young KJ essaying "Liza" has to heard to be believed.

---

I've interviewed him twice: For the BBC, which is here on DTM, and for DownBeat.

---

Speaking of ECM, I'm just back from a brilliant concert by David Torn, who has a new record out and a major American tour. David's like Keith in some ways, a real improvisor, he starts from nothing and just goes. There was some exceptionally lovely touches of blues guitar tonight as well.

---

Lotta gigs on! Tomorrow (Saturday) there's not just the Rake I wrote about earlier this week but the estimable Stephen Hough playing Chopin (four Ballades, yum yum) and Debussy at Carnegie. Or go further uptown to the Apollo and catch what Jason Moran and Marc Cary are up to with "Harlem Lights/U Street Nights."

Sunday Darcy James Argue brings his big band Secret Society to the Bell House in Brooklyn. Kind of a must see gig for DJA supporters!  Hard to believe Secret Society is ten years old. Kudos to Darcy for winning some major awards recently; check his site for more

Brad is at the Vanguard; Guillermo gets in next week. Nate Chinen has many more listings. Always go out.

---

Matthew Guerrieri writes the most interesting and far-ranging articles: Try the recent epic, Plug and Play.

Megan Abbott and Laura Lippman discuss true crime. 

More soon...

05/08/2015

 

Once a Rake, Always a Rake

Imaginary Rake

Two nights ago Sarah and I went to the Met, where we got rather VIP treatment thanks to Jason Haaheim and Rob Knopper, two of the Met Opera Orchestra percussionists. 

Previously Jason and Rob interviewed me for Met Opera Orchestra blog about TBP playing The Rite of Spring, so it was only appropriate for us all to convene for a viewing of Stravinsky’s The Rake’s Progress.

There is one more performance of this production on Saturday. Highly recommended.

—-

The Rake is Stravinsky’s final word on 20th-century neo-classicism, a style which he not only more or less invented but also took to its greatest height. For his only evening-length opera, Stravinsky found an ideal librettist in W.H. Auden, a poet who shared the composer’s love of reinventing the past. Their inspiration was a famous series of images by William Hogarth, and each scene can be viewed as a kind of tableaux, with even less narrative storytelling than in conventional opera.

Earlier compact Stravinskyian fusions of drama, song, and music in Les Noces and Oedipus Rex are undoubtedly more instantly gripping, perhaps because they are less obviously based in pastiche. Still, the Rake really works, especially when seen in the proper high-quality production featured at the Met. (I had seen a concert staging years ago which didn’t leave much of an impression.)

One of my recent obsessions is the meta horror masterpiece Cabin in the Woods. On YouTube, GoodBadFlicks amazes with “Every Reference in Cabin in the Woods.” 

Before the opera I told Sarah that, "The Rake's Progress is Cabin in the Woods."

Perhaps that's not an ideal comparison, but at any rate The Rake’s Progress deserves a through unpacking in the style of GoodBadFlicks. One can tell that Igor had tremendous fun engaging with and dismantling the whole opera playbook. Some borrowings are totally obvious: Monteverdi overtures, Handel continuo, Mozart counterpoint, Bellini melody. Past the surface, I suspect that there is hardly a note in The Rake that doesn’t exist without a direct antecedent somewhere. 

It still all sounds just like Stravinsky, of course. His plunderings are not insincere, although naturally they are frequently sardonic. (I like to imagine some early conductor's face when he realizes he has to cue a harpsichord continuo in a work of Grand Opera.) In the end, though, the effect is heartfelt. Indeed, the most amusing ironies offset the generally downbeat emotions to the furtherance of both. 

Not long ago I attended Bartók’s Bluebeard’s Castle at the Met. This was a monochromatic nightmare, with the only relief being a stage set that seemed lifted out of a classic Hitchcock movie. At some point there was no way to feel worse, so the result became a bit tiresome.

In the Rake, after so much bright chatter, the concluding lost arias in the insane asylum had  bizarre gravitas, a feeling that somehow carried over into the coda, where the cast cheekily breaks the fourth wall and offers up an unconvincing moral. I felt sadder at the end of the Rake then at the end of Bluebeard. If you aren’t crying at the end of an opera, they are doing it wrong.

---

I don’t want to embarrass myself by attempting to review opera singers, but an obvious standout in this production is Stephanie Blythe as the outsize and hilarious Baba the Turk. Gerald Finley's menacing Shadow was also fabulous. James Levine is one of the most celebrated opera conductors, and the sounds from the pit were at times truly exquisite.

---

Afterwards, Jason and Rob took us around the building. We only saw a fraction of the small city, which is six floors and on the busiest days employ 4000 people. 

IMG_0190

 (Jason, Sarah, and Rob at the poker game in the musician's quarters, which has been ongoing for nearly a century)

Continue reading "Once a Rake, Always a Rake"

05/06/2015

 

The Last Echo of Jazz in the Hip-Hop Age

Sarah Deming brilliantly reviews the Floyd Mayweather win: "Those of us who wallow daily in boxing’s grime understand that Mayweather does not make art for the masses. "

05/04/2015

 

The Penchant and the Style and the Swagger

New DTM page: Interview with Nicholas Payton.

Thanks to Kevin Sun for transcribing the interview. Kevin has been putting serious work into his blog, with transcriptions going up almost daily. At this point A Horizontal Search is really one of the best jazz resources on the internet.

Thanks also to Noah Baerman, who is mentioned in the Payton interview. I met Noah at a gig in Hartford recently, where he gave me a mix CD of James Williams. I have never really dug into Williams's music before, so getting a "best of" collection curated by an informed listener was a real gift. Baerman's mix emphasized the gospel side of James Williams, and all at once I understood the late pianist much better. 

Noah also has a valuable blog finally just added to the DTM roll.

---

Unfortunately, it's also time to link to another important Ta-Nehisi Coates essay, "Nonviolence as Compliance," about the rioting in Baltimore last night. 

04/28/2015

 

MMDG at BAM

Just back from the dance. Wonderful as always, I especially enjoyed the  mysterious new piece Whelm set to Debussy.

TBP plays Rite of Spring for Mark Morris's Spring, Spring, Spring performed by the Mark Morris Dance Group at the Brooklyn Academy of Music tomorrow, Saturday, and Sunday matinee. The other two dances are also really great: Crosswalk is a story ballet of sorts, and Jenn and Spencer is an intense duet to amazing Henry Cowell music. 

Nice preview in NY Times by Marina Harss, I'm quoted a little bit.

---

My newsletter Floyd Camembert Reports is talkier and more personal than DTM. DTM really feels like a magazine these days, so, the end of the year, I hope to have all personal business (gigs, workshops, anecdotes) just delivered to the inboxes of the interested. Sign up if you want that kind of spam.

True story from last newsletter:

During the 90’s I worked frequently as a dance class accompanist. Eventually I ended up trying out for Mark Morris. Mark is easy to play class for: he’s very energetic and fun, and all of the Morris dancers have good rhythm. 

Eventually Mark asked me to be the rehearsal pianist for a full Morris production of Rameau’s Plateé. I’d never done anything like that but how hard could it be? Just read a few bars of baroque music over and over at a time, right?

At the first rehearsal, nothing much happened except Mark playing everybody the complete opera on the stereo. It was nice music, and I followed along with the score, relieved that it wasn’t going to be too hard. 

To my surprise, when I checked something against the piano, the record’s A was more like an A flat on the piano. I had heard that baroque performance used a lower tuning than modern A=440, but this was my first time encountering it in a professional situation. 

At the end, I went up to ask Mark about the discrepancy between piano and the recording. He was changing, and I accidentally caught him right in between dance clothes and street clothes. Indeed, he was entirely naked when he got interested in my question, stopped doing anything else, and offered a learned and extended disquisition on 440, 415, and the varieties of contemporary interpretation of baroque pitch. 

I listened carefully, and at the end said, “You know, Mark, I’ve never discussed intonation with a naked man before.” 

Mark gave me a wicked grin and replied, “Stick around, baby!”

Which I did: Not long after the premiere of Plateé, I became Mark’s music director for over five years.

04/22/2015

 

The Life Sentence + Threepenny Review

A new e-magazine for crime fiction fans is now live: The Life Sentence

I have contributed a long essay on one of my very favorite living thriller writers, "The Professional (Thomas Perry 101)." It starts out as a review of the latest, A String of Beads, before extending into an overview of the complete Perry. 

Also recommended is the review of the reissue of GBH by Brian Greene. I'm a big Ted Lewis fan but haven't been able to run down a copy of GBH yet: How terrific it is coming back into print.

My excellent editor of the Perry overview is Lisa Levy, and she interviews not just the well-established and brilliant Laura Lippman but also newer voice Bill Loehfelm

I was very impressed with Loehfelm's latest, Doing The Devil's Work, a police procedural set in New Orleans. The female cop is believable and the political intrigue owes something to The Wire. For a time, all crime fiction was post-Tarantino. Now much of it is post-Simon. This only makes sense. Kudos to Loehfelm, I'm going to catch up on his earlier books soon.

---

Belatedly, here's a link to my review of Peter Sellars's St. Matthew Passion at the Armory last year. This little bon-bon was part of several pieces on this much-lauded staging commissioned by Wendy Lesser for The Threepenny Review. Also online is Mark Padmore's wonderful contribution. (Of course, Padmore was the star as the Evangelist.)

The Threepenny is a terrific literary mag, definitely check it out if you have a committed interest in the arts. Wendy has great taste in all sorts of fields; try her essay on Isaac Asimov.

04/21/2015

 

Validated

Bill McHenry was the first one to play me this solo years ago. It was a blindfold test, and I hadn't heard much Warne Marsh yet, so I guessed "George Garzone." That's a stupid guess, but there can be something rather post-Coltrane (and therefore Garzone-esque) about later Marsh, simply in terms of notes per square inch.

At any rate it still is a hell of a blindfold test. Hell of a solo, too. With Niels-Henning Ørsted Pedersen, bass and Alan Levitt, drums, from a studio session in Copenhagen unissued until 1997. 

Marsh is getting better known every year, it seems. I wish had been aware of more about him when younger but I just wasn't hip.

If we paged though the jazz journals of the mid-'70s there probably wouldn't be much acknowledgement Marsh's genius. That's understandable, given that Marsh never had a steady good band and seldom made excellent career choices overall. Still, they missed it. We missed it. Listen to this.

  Warne Confirmation 1

 

Warne Confirmation 2

Warne Marsh on Confirmation


04/20/2015

 

Ends in E-flat

In the wake of my humorous "solution" to the key of "Bye-Ya," Twitter kept going with a certain amount of debate about whether "Bye-Ya" is in A-flat or E-Flat.

I admire the Monk Fake Book edited by Steve Cardenas and Don Sickler very much. There's still no substitute for going back to the record, but for a quick fix, Cardenas has your back. Every editorial decision was considered.

In the book "Bye-ya" is in four flats. I emailed Steve about it, and he replied, 

This comes up every once in a while, among some the things Sickler and I debated over. There was no Monk chart on this one. It's a true anomaly, I've never felt settled on what key this was and ultimately came to the conclusion that it resides in both keys. Sounds like the key of Ab up to the E7, then somehow resolves to Eb. It's one of the things I love about this tune. Seems it can be convincingly argued one way or the other. When we were working on the book, Sickler was convinced it was in Ab, so that's where it went. Maybe putting it in C was the way to go, use accidentals and let eveyone else decide. Without a chart, the tune sounds the same no matter what key one thinks it's in, so for me, I'm not invested in trying to nail down one key. Sort like trying to decide what key "Giant Steps" is in, but in this case, we're not dealing with such disparate keys, which I think adds so much fuel to the debate as with the keys being so close, it's easy to think it must be one or the other. I say both. Wonder if Monk ever wrote a chart out or if he thought there was a definitive key? Unanswerable unfortunately. "Giant Steps," 3 key centers. "Bye-Ya," 2? No? Yes....

I posted some of this response to Twitter, which provoked a whole new slew of comments about the key of "Giant Steps." Some very high level cats were involved: Look at the threads of Josh Redman, Steve Coleman, Vijay Iyer, Darcy James Argue, and Miles Okazaki for more.

---

For both "Bye-Ya" and "Giant Steps" I don't have an inflexible opinion. In the case of "Bye-ya" I always thought E-flat before, but now I love the possibilities of A-Flat.

As far as "Giant Steps" goes, it seems to me that while E-flat has the strongest case in the abstract, B is also a worthy contender. When it comes around to the top I feel a good strong tonic downbeat. In the case of playing it through the keys, in my mind I'm like, "Ok, start with B," not, "Start with E-flat."

At any rate, "Steps" is arguably more of a study than a finished piece. Coltrane was working out his material. My own sardonic tweets were: "In my view it was hipper when Trane put all those sequences over D minor. Therefore, my answer to 'what key is Giant Steps in?' is: D minor."

I'm joking but I also think it's important to remember that Trane didn't stay with "Giant Steps," that he searched for a more folkloric-sounding and harder swinging music that could use the same information.

---

"Bye-Ya" remains a bit more intriguing for me, partly simply because I'm wondering about how I've possibly misunderstood it for about 25 years. The confusing tonality (the parameters of which are clearly outlined by Cardenas above) shows how advanced Monk really was.

Going through the fake book I noted some other unusual uses of key in Monk's music. 

"Introspection" seems like "Bye-ya,"  the final cadences are so strong it invalidates previous movement. Therefore, both D and D-flat.

And similarly "Played Twice," which is mostly C but ends firmly D. Again, kind of like "Bye-Ya" in a way, except nobody would argue that "Played Twice" is in D (I hope). 

While I always think of "Coming on the Hudson" as in F, there's not one F chord in the song!

A section of "Criss Cross" is in what key? G minor? -- but it still sounds like B-flat, even before bridge and no B-flat chords? 

"Monk's Mood" and "Pannonica" are firmly in C, but both only end in D-flat.

"Ruby My Dear" is one of the hardest to parse. Roland Hanna talked about mediant movement...I'll call E-flat, but really that's just the first phrase.

What key is "Epistrophy" in? One could argue for D-flat, but...

---

Not satisfied, I decided to transcribe the piano part of the first recording of "Bye-Ya." This is from Trio on Prestige, which has always been one of my favorite records. The piano is out of tune, the bassist is barely competent (apparently Gary Mapp was mostly a policeman) and on "Bye-Ya" the unnamed amateur clavé player clashes cruelly with Art Blakey's wonderful beat.

It all adds up to local music. Kind of like the cats on the corner making up a song, except of course one of the cats was Thelonious Monk.

Cardenas also reminded me of how the piece was titled, at least according to Robin D.G. Kelley's biography.

Thelonious also dusted off his composition "Playhouse," another danceable upbeat tune but with an even stronger Latin flavor. Weinstock wanted to call it "Go." Hearing the Latin/Caribbean influence, he asked George Rivera, Prestige's accountant who was in the studio that day, for the Spanish translation. Somehow "Vaya" became "Bye-Ya." 

H'mm. The song is misspelled, maybe even mis-titled. Seems totally appropriate!

  Bye-ya 1

Bye-Ya 2

It's funny how strong E-flat comes across considering how little Monk plays that chord! I wrote it four flats for convenience but am in no way married to that key signature.

Part of it is Mapp, who often is playing in E-Flat, like in bars two and four. I don't know for sure, but I have a feeling Mapp just didn't really know the tune. Throughout his whole career, Monk seemed to have a carefree attitude to his bassist's notes in general. (Al McKibbon seems as lost on early Blue Notes as on the final Black Lion trios.) If Monk taught by rote, which I believe he did, I feel bad for those in the studio trying to learn this music and nail it without a chart or much guidance. 

Mapp's beat is fine, but some of his notes are truly incorrect. At the end, he tags "D-flat, D, E-flat" twice when Monk just plays D-flat. Paradoxically, Monk's concluding D-flat argues strongly for E-flat being the key. He ended on the flat VII a lot ("Nice Work if You Can Get It," "In Walked Bud") but ending on IV would be really weird. 

---

Part of the problem with all of this is that classic jazz does not submit smoothly to European-style harmonic analysis. Not to say that Monk's pitches don't "work" according to Old World harmonic rules: On the contrary, they usually do. Still, another mysterious part of his music is the blues, black music, and all that stuff comes from a different perspective entirely. 

Both Monk and Claude Debussy featured the whole tone scale, but the emotions each conjure with that whole tone scale couldn't be more different.

---

Ending in E-flat was the true specialty of one of Monk's influences, bluesman Jimmy Yancey. Yancey would always play a certain tag in E-flat no matter what the key. As far as I know, he recorded in C, F, B-flat, E-flat, and A-flat. But the ending is always E-flat.

This isn't to suggest that Monk's E-flat cadence at the ends of the A sections to "Bye-Ya" and Yancey's abrupt tag in E-flat are structurally the same. They aren't!

But nevertheless Monk and Yancey are in the same family: Afro-American, resolute, unexplainable. Both made sure to never record a single track that didn't have personal and inimitable calligraphy.

---

The most shocking Yancey tag is probably at the end of 1939's "Yancey Stomp." If there is a piece in C major, it is "Yancey Stomp."

I didn't include the Mp3 of "Bye-Ya" here, because I know all DTM readers have Prestige Trio on their computers already. (Right?) But I'll give you "Yancey Stomp," which is comparatively obscure.

The complete Yancey on Document is a valuable purchase; for the less committed, any Yancey anthology will probably do. 

He recorded only after his prime and never quit his job as groundkeeper at Comiskey Park where his team was the White Sox. Yancey died in 1951: I wonder what he would make of his immortal music still flourishing years later, transcribed and studied all over the world?

  Yancey 1

Yancey 2

Yancey 3

Yancey Stomp (1939)

 

04/14/2015

 

Quick Reminder...

...sign up for Floyd Camembert Reports for info about gigs and workshops. Next edition will include true story of my first time working for Mark Morris. (Warning: contains male nudity.)

04/07/2015

 

Genre Work Struggles Toward Illumination

I've kept thumbing through Barry Malzberg's Breakfast in the Ruins since yesterday's post. One of the most impressive essays is about a book that has since vanished, A Gypsy Good Time by Gustav Hasford.

Hasford was a Vietnam vet who wrote the story Full Metal Jacket was based on, but for Gypsy Good Time he decided to try his hand at a P.I. novel. 

Malzberg is horrified at the results. I don't know the book, but I do know James Crumley's work, and for me Malzberg nails all the wrongheaded "literary" books written in the style of Hammett and Chandler:

...It was never the incoherence, but the promise of order which was the focusing matter of the P.I. novel, the indication that there was someone deep of soul, moving towards the center who would pound some meaning from all this. The writers, the great ones and the hacks alike, failed again and again in a thousand places in millions of words but still at the dead-center there was that sense of striving, of struggle, of the arc toward the light of knowledge. It is this which chased Hammett and Chandler and when they could no longer see the light perhaps then it was why they gave up, but is not this with chases Hasford (or, I think, Crumley); for them it is the darkness and the dank corridors which the genre as inviting. But those quarters were exit ramps and cul-de-sacs and taking them caused Hammett and Chandler to give it up; A Gypsy Good Time for all of its skill (because of all of its skill) simply is not the way to go. Back then, back towards the ascendant light. If the genre cannot struggle toward illumination, then it is not a symptom, it is the disease.

---

I like that a lot, the idea the genre work struggles toward illumination. 

---

There's turmoil at the moment in the SF world due to a really strange ballot at the Hugos this year. Read Charlie Jane Anders for more.

Also, read Anders's charming SF story "As Good as New," which takes a familiar trope out for a new dance. Genre work struggles toward illumination.

---

My re-up of DTM's April Fools' Joke about James Bond created a predictable amount of confusion. Anyway, one of the upshots was Kevin Sun sending me a massive collection of essays about all the Bond movies by Film Crit Hulk Smash, "Hulk Vs. James Bond: Staring Into the Id of a Boner Incarnate."

Hulk reminds me of Philip Sandifer, who I link to about Doctor Who. Hulk's all-caps style is a bit much; referring to yourself in third person is not my favorite, either. Still, it's fair to say I devoured these essays. Great points throughout.  

Like Sandifer, Hulk does a very through examination of politics. It's mostly pretty bad in Bond, of course. Interesting to think about the "roles" played by Bond girls. (I mean, not that interesting, but interesting enough when Hulk is decoding it.)

And also, sadly, in the same way I've looked at way too much Who because of Sandifer: Thanks to Hulk, I looked at a bit of On Her Majesty's Secret Service last night, and confirmed it just isn't for me. 

---

Hulk and Sandifer are into comics. Charlie Jane Anders is into comics. Hell, even Ta-Nehisi Coates is into comics. 

Everything is comics now.

---

I'm usually sort of sad that everything is comics now, but maybe the upside is simply this: politics. When the narrative is so light on verbiage, each move has impact. It can be addressed in an obvious way. There's less official social scaffolding you need to hang a narrative on. It's easier to be inclusive.

Ta-Nehisi Coates: "The Broad, Inclusive Canvas of Comics."

---

Circling back to a genre I actually have expertise in, recently I started re-reading all the Inspector Morse books by Colin Dexter in order. The first chapter of Last Bus to Woodstock is simply marvelous, establishing time and place and literary excellence. However, the book's plot is politically problematic. Dexter is just gaga over high school girls and their sex life. At one point one character says to another, "Can a young girl be raped?" 

It's pretty awful, and then the second Morse Last Seen Wearing has more or less the same plot! I'll keep reading the series, I adore Dexter's voice, but I'll have my eye on this topic now.

As far as I can remember, I haven't really read Dexter since getting online. Kudos to writers like Anders, Coates, Hulk, and Sandifer for teaching me how to look at my entertainment more seriously. 

04/05/2015

 

Subdominant

Many of the most interesting musical tweets come from Miles Okazaki. Today he hit this one:

After You've Gone, Remember, Just Friends, Stardust...(start 04/04 with IV)

This means on April 4, you should play tunes that begin on the four chord, the subdominant change.

Jacob Garchik then suggested a whole lot more including "Bye-Ya" by Thelonious Monk.

The first chord of "Bye-Ya" is D-Flat but isn't the tune in E-flat?

WAIT.

Holy moly, the whole tune of "Bye-Ya," the bridge and everything, is in A-Flat! It's just that final cadence of the A sections that makes it E-flat. Garchik is the man!

For fun, here's my quick rather unswinging version of "Bye-Ya" with the final cadence in the right key at last. Happy April 4!

Bye-ya finishes Ab (wrong) 

04/04/2015

 

The Crimes of Our Lives

Lawrence Block has just collected his non-fiction writings about his milieu in a hefty anthology, The Crimes of Our Lives

As any DTM reader might guess, this is a soft lob. I adore crime fiction to the extent that I'm kind of an amateur historian; Block is one of the greatest living practitioners and a keen observer of his peers. 

I've gotten to know Larry and Lynne a bit (DTM blindfold test here). Between that friendship, my library, and a certain amount of perpetual internet stalkage, I had seen probably 70% of Crimes of Our Lives already. But how wonderful to have it in one place with a firm editorial hand. And there's no doubt that pieces I had previously read went down just as smoothly the second or third time.

One of the highlights was new to me: A multi-part overview of Block's earliest days as a grunt at the Scott Meredith Literary Agency.  This collection of reminiscences should be looked at by anyone trying to write fiction.

Among the gems I'd seen before is a profound (this is not too strong a word) analysis of Robert B. Parker. Block's critiques of Mickey Spillane and old pal Donald E. Westlake are similarly valuable. Other authors discussed include expected names like Hammett, Chandler, Ed McBain, Charles Willeford, plus a few others that aren't so familiar such as bank robber-turned author Al Nussbaum and the entirely forgotten pulpsmith Henry Kane.

You'll have to read that one yourself to know why Kane warrants a chapter. I'll give you a teaser, though: It involves a rather graphic suggestion about the sex life of an extremely famous actress.

Oh, I see it's online at Mulholland Books, so check it out. If you are fan of this sort of stuff, I guarantee you won't be able to stop from ordering the whole collection The Crimes of Our Lives.

---

In the aforementioned chapters on the Scott Meredith agency, Block praises fellow Meredith jarhead Barry Malzberg and notes that his memoir "Tripping with the Alchemist" covers similar ground. I located that essay in the Malzberg anthology Breakfast in the Ruins

The book is a good read overall. Science fiction is not my bag in the same way that crime fiction is but there a lot of juicy stuff here even for a civilian. The long comparison of Isaac Asimov to Leonard Bernstein is brilliant.

Malzberg's style occasionally can be rather overwrought and self-involved for my taste; on the other hand, that passionate reach may just come with the genre.

---

In these two anthologies, both Block and Malzberg write about Fredric Brown. Naturally enough, Block covers the crime Brown and Malzberg the science fiction Brown.

In either genre, Brown was at his best when writing fantastical ideas with a hard-boiled edge.

However, it was working within a genre that unlocked his genius. Not too long ago I finally got a gander at his rare "serious" novel The Office. Wow, was that a boring read.

---

Genre is almost always crucial. The older I get the more I appreciate that a picture fits in a frame. 

---

Podcasts are now a medium with a multitude of genres! Even Fredric Brown didn't see that coming. 

On the last TBP tour I skeptically listened to most of Serial

Essential reading for fans of Serial: The Journalist and the Murderer by Janet Malcolm.

Also valuable: Laura Lippman's take. Lippman's a pro. She was a Baltimore reporter who saw the crimes firsthand, then changed jobs to become one of our best crime fiction authors. I highly recommend her latest novel, Hush Hush

To add one more thing about Serial not covered by Malcolm or Lippman: Serial's genre is ostensibly true crime, but actually the affect is more like "transformational memoir." The big recent success that comes to mind is Eat, Pray, Love: One Woman's Search for Everything Across Italy, India and Indonesia by Elizabeth Gilbert.

So, my theorem is: True crime + Eat, Pray, Love + podcast = Serial.

04/04/2015