I'm taking a month off from DTM and Twitter. Back around Labor Day.
Liaisons: Re-Imagining Sondheim with pianist Anthony De Mare will be coming out on ECM in fall 2015. This IndieGogo page is raising funds for the last recording sessions. My arrangement is of "Send In the Clowns."
Good recent online reading includes:
Kevin Whitehead at his spirited best, "Albert Ayler's Spiritual Unity Turns 50." Wondering Sound is a site I need to pay more attention to; at any rate I'm glad Kevin has a place where he can work so freely.
Jeremy Eichler muses about modernist mechanical music via George Antheil. (Kudos to Boston Globe for running such an interesting think piece.)
Nate Chinen on an important Jimmy Giuffre release. (Kudos to New York Times for running such an interesting think piece.)
In the Paris Review, Sam Stephenson profiles C.O. Simpkins, author of an essential text on John Coltrane.
Sarah Deming's boxing coverage for Stiff Jab continues with "Open Letter to Gennady Golovkin."
In The Believer - not recent, but still just about my favorite essay ever - Paul La Farge suggests we "Destroy All Monsters."
(I never played D&D; the closest I've ever really gotten to any kind of fantasy world was my youthful immersion into Doctor Who. While in no sense a firm fan of the reboot, I admit I will be looking out for Peter Capaldi's debut next month. Wish the music would get less Harry Potter, though.)
Crime fiction critic: Three Graves Full Jamie Mason A terrific debut in the vein of Peter Abrahams. Perhaps A Simple Plan by Scott Smith is also an influence, but Mason is more pleasingly zany. Night Film (Marisha Pessl) Intoxicating metatextual postmordern noir; should have been 100 pages shorter. The Truth About the Harry Quebert Affair (Joël Dicker) A smash hit, but I found it obvious and unengaging. Twin Peaks without any surrealism: who cares? Very French. No Man's Nightingale (Ruth Rendell) Superb. She's still got it. You'd think with Rendell still being around some other popular UK crime writers would feel the heat and up their game more. The Inside Man Jeff Abbott Likeable trash in the post-Bourne techno/spy/secret world power genre. The endless amping up of action feels a little rote: Abbott's characters are good, he should let them be contained in a space where they can actually develop.
Amateur television critic: Sarah and I gulped down True Detective in just three sittings. It's hard to believe TV looks like this now. Just amazing cinematography and editing.
I mentioned Twin Peaks above. True Detective also brings Peaks to mind by use of the dead girl's diary. More tellingly, both shows lose their way immediately after the murderer is revealed. Apparently the show runners have to start desperately throwing in everything but the kitchen sink in an attempt to maintain tension. Fortunately for Detective, they only had one episode to flounder though, instead of half a season like Peaks.
After viewing, I went online to investigate further, where I quickly became bewildered: not just by all the ludicrous and fantastical hypotheses by cult fandom, but by what seemed to be almost the whole culture's relationship to the show. Just one example: In Slate's finale recap (spoilers!), David Haglund says:
The lowpoint of the finale, for me, was when Rust and Marty were looking at Marty’s laptop, going through ... tax records, I think it was? That did not strike me as the tightest bit of writing.
What? For me, putting the clues together was the best part of the finale. Indeed, that's my favorite thing about this show in general: cops using casework to chase down crimes. If you don't like clues, why are you watching a show called True Detective?
The correct antidote to all this novice interpretation is Vince Keenan's superb overview of True Detective in the latest issue of Noir City. (How do you get Noir City? Sign up, donate, and a few hours later a download link is in your inbox. The whole issue is great.)
Amateur movie critic: Sorry, but I thought Frozen was absolute dreck and one of the least feminist things I've ever seen. However, The LEGO Movie was a really nice surprise, a compelling mixture of many of my other favorites: The Matrix, The Princess Bride, Cabin in the Woods, and of course WALL-E.
The song from LEGO Movie is a hit. But there's more to this current earworm than may be obvious on the surface. Looking for answers, I transcribed it.
Lotta fascinating details here. I missed out on some word painting ("stick together" - like LEGOs!) at first. The second voice harmonizes on the bridge with just one note, like a robot that can only speak an Eb.
The main event, though, is the unusual movement towards the end of the bridge and the change of key. Using the terminology of the film, this is very "weird" moment. (Word painting again: we are "working in harmony.")
The composers could have easily straightened this out and made it more of a chain restaurant:
The "weird" section is surely a nod to film's general theme of celebrating wacky individuality.
Unfortunately, I don't think the rest of the tune works so well. Hip-hop depends on swinging rhythm and precise texture, and that section in "Everything is Awesome!!!" shows once again how hard that genre is to appropriate. However, the goth rock Batman song "Untitled Self Portrait" is pretty great.
A few days ago, Aline Rollin (webpage) did some lovely sketches of TBP performing in Souillac. Thanks Aline!
Coming up: In August, The Bad Plus Joshua Redman swings back into action:
07 Rockport, MA -- Shalin Liu Performance Center
08 Great Barrington, MA -- Mahaiwe Performing Arts Center
09 East Hampton, NY -- Guild Hall
29 Detroit, MI -- Detroit Jazz Festival
Josh has been really inspiring to work with. It seems like this grouping (the name, "The Bad Plus Joshua Redman," is official, BTW) will be active quite a bit starting next summer. I still can't get over how he showed up at the first gig a few years ago and played better than me on tunes I'd been working on for a decade.
In other TBP news: Our next record, Inevitable Western, comes out late August. All originals somewhat in the Never Stop and Made Possible tradition - or for that matter, the same tradition we've always been in. TBP music. To me, it seems like we just keep getting better.
The next new non-trio project is also rather exciting: The Bad Plus perform Ornette Coleman’s SCIENCE FICTION with Tim Berne, Ron Miles & Sam Newsome. As with On Sacred Ground, Duke Performances is the commissioner; thanks Aaron Greenwald! Much more about SciFi when DTM returns in September.
Thanks, George W. Harris, for the nice little review of Tootie Heath, Ben Street and me at the Blue Whale recently. It really means a lot to performers when gig is written about on the internet.
The Tootie trio plays the Chicago Jazz Festival on August 31, followed by a few East Coast hits: The Jazz Standard in NYC on Wednesday September 3, Ars Nova in Philly on Thursday 4, and An Die Musik in Baltimore on Saturday 6. We will also be making a follow-up recording to Tootie's Tempo that week.
It's an honor to be associated with Tootie. I couldn't resist taking a candid of him driving me and Ben around in Alberquerque.
At 79, Tootie has done and seen it all. There's absolutely no "Get off my lawn" about him, though. He's really open and nonjudgmental about young people.
Unlike me? Perhaps because I've been playing more standard tunes with Tootie these days, I've been having fun hitting some of the jam sessions after the gigs when touring European festivals...
Get off my lawn! Don't use a fucking iPhone to look up the changes to common-practice repertoire! Get off my lawn! A jam session needs to be interactive and non-digital! Get off my lawn! Learn the tune by ear in a chorus or two, that's the jazz tradition! Get off my lawn! Using the iReal Book dumbs this music down!
I'll be going to Henry Threadgill at the Village Vanguard this week, won't you? Also, I'm going to take a full posse to Pedrito Martinez Group at Celebrate Brooklyn! on Friday. The Tyshawn Sorey residency at the Stone looks compelling, and don't forget Billy Hart, Buster Williams, Billy Childs, and Dave Liebman up at Birdland.
What else is coming up? Harold Mabern and George Cables both have weeks at the Vanguard. (It's been way too long since I've seen the great Victor Lewis play, I'll be laying for him with George for sure.) I really dig Steve Nelson, he's having a birthday gig at Smalls on August 11.
Speaking of birthdays, Pierre Boulez is going to be 90 soon. If you have a taste for unrepentant modernism in uncompromising doses, Taka Kigawa's traversal of the the complete Boulez piano music at LPR on August 24 is a must.
While I'm home during the next few weeks I'm going to spin LPs. A recent discovery is Piano Music of Haydn by Wilhelm Backhaus. I can't say I know Haydn all that well, but these old-school and tremendously virtuosic performances are making me want to learn more. The humorous "Fantasia in C Major" is brand-new to me, I can't believe I haven't heard this major work before. I do know the familiar "F minor Variations" of course but few play it as well as Backhaus. He's occasionally too stiff for me in other repertoire but here his sternness offsets the strange phrases in an enchanting way. A London LP, maybe late 50's? Great record.
Aquiring the Backhaus reminded me to pull out some other LPs of sublime beauty and similar vintage. Also on London, The Artistry of Arturo Benedetti Michelangeli has an astonishing second side, Galuppi and Scarlatti sonatas with absolutely incandescent piano tone. And from the Monitor label, Sviatoslav Richter's epic renditions of Schumann's Humoreske and Franck's Prelude Chorale and Fugue remain the best I've yet heard. Piano the way it was meant to be played.