More Reports

Peter Pullman's biography Wail: The Life of Bud Powell is out as an e-book from Amazon and Barnes and Noble.  Visit Pullman's website (the chronology is astonishing) and blog to find out more.  There's also a thoughtful note from Peter at the top of my own posts on Bud.

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My masterclass is happening tomorrow and next Tuesday -- this post has details. 

Aaron Diehl gives the class a plug when featured on "Piano Jazz: Rising Stars" hosted by Jon Weber.  I'm finally hearing Weber for the first time:  The back-and-forth on "Allison's Uncle" is really nice.

When Aaron showed up at class a few sessions ago I challenged him to a "Carolina Shout" contest.  He won (again), of course, but I don't mind losing in the slightest. The point is I firmly believe two-fisted piano playing should be part of the future of jazz piano. Enough of our post-Evans and Hancock world!  You gotta try out some stride, at least a little bit.

At the last class I broke out three ragtimes and a boogie woogie; maybe I'll attempt something like that tomorrow, too. Thinking about those languages doesn't prevent me from playing in TBP or with Tim Berne or Billy Hart -- and it doesn't prevent Aaron from playing the wildest version of "Back Home Again in Indiana" I've ever heard (second on the radio program).

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Matthew Guerrieri seems to know something about everything: read him on Whitney Houston and on a  recent improv gig with David G. Haas, Jeff Platz, Scott Getchell, Kit Demos, and Luther Gray.  The latter sounds intriguing; they are all new names to me but I'll keep my ears open.

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Over at Postclassic, there is a valuable article by John Halle called, "Occupy Wall Street, Composers and the Plutocracy: Some Variations on an Ancient Theme." The following guided tour to uptown is simply superb provokes further thought and investigation:

A good place to begin is with the winner of this year’s Alice Ditson Prize for the promotion of American music, the New York Philharmonic. Much of the credit for this programming goes to the recently appointed music director, Alan Gilbert. But the financial wherewithal for these programming decisions is provided by the NY Philhamonic board and its chairman, Gary S. Parr. Mr. Parr is currently CEO of Lazard, his bio on the NY Phil website informs us, in which capacity he “has recently advised on transactions such as the sale of Lehman’s North American investment banking business to Barclay’s; the sale of Bear Stearns to JPMorgan; he served in numerous capacities at Morgan Stanley, including as vice-chairman — Institutional Securities and Investment Banking.”

Accepting a commission from or performance by the New York Phil in no way implies that we are sympathetic with these activities—for example, the “sales” of Lehman and Bear Stearns underwritten by the extortion of hundreds of billions of taxpayer dollars. But it does mean that we have an indirect financial stake in concentrating wealth in the hands of one percenters like Mr. Parr who provide the ultimate financial basis for our work.

The same can be said about our relations with Sanford Weill, the chairman of the board of another pre-eminent uptown musical institution, Carnegie Hall. In this capacity, composers are grateful to Mr. Weill for helping to foot the bill for the impressive range of contemporary music under Carnegie’s auspices. This Mr. Hyde is complemented by the Dr. Jekyll who was the former CEO of Citibank, the company perhaps most responsible for the marketing of subprime loans which were to blow up the economy, immiserating hundreds of millions, while helping itself to hundreds of billions of dollars in bailout funds.

Returning to Lincoln Center, we find ourselves truly in the belly of the beast upon entering the David Koch Theater, named after the notorious sponsor of far right initiatives, and home to the New York City Ballet, a frequent and consistent advocate for American composers. Also in this category is the New York City Opera, whose orchestra is now being subject to a vicious union busting campaign by its director, George Steel, which Mr. Koch and others of his ilk would undoubtedly heartily approve of. A few lateral steps will land us in the Metropolitan Opera, whose $300 million budget is underwritten by a board including billionaire heiresses from the publishing and oil industries, a managing director of Goldman Sachs, and former CEO of Texaco. Among the more problematic features of the Met in recent years has been the Alberto Vilar Grand Tier, the name having been removed following the donor’s conviction on multiple counts of defrauding investors.

Mr. Vilar reminds us that not all of the crimes on which were constructed the great fortunes we benefit from went unprosecuted. Moving a couple of blocks uptown from Lincoln Center provides us with more evidence: Merkin Hall was presided over for many years by Ezra Merkin, the chief marketer of the Bernard Madoff line of investment products, whose once eager purchasers are now required to subsist on Social Security, having lost their life savings to the smooth talking Talmudic scholar, White Shoe lawyer, and music lover. Some of the programs at Merkin have been sponsored by the Milken Center for Jewish Music and here we are submerged in the previous wave of financial crime presided over by the Milken brothers, the notorious junk bond kings.

Major artistic institutions such as these are, of course, well known for their longstanding connections to financial elites, so the above list could be continued almost indefinitely. Given that the latter has become a de facto criminal class, we shouldn’t be surprised that our tour has by now degenerated into a kind of perp walk—albeit perps attired in Brooks Brothers suits with refined musical tastes.

The whole article is fascinating.

UPDATE:  My good friend JM has alerted me to problems with Halle's article.  While I still applaud Halle's concerns in general, I now wish every detail was absolutely accurate.  Getting Jekyll and Hyde reversed is the kind of slip most of us could make; however, the assertion that Ezra Merkin is guilty in the Madoff scandal is unproved -- apparently, some even believe he was a patsy for others.  I'm no expert in anything connected to Madoff...but I don't need any expertise to query why Merkin's Talmudic scholarship is relevant.  I can go along with stereotyping "smooth talking" and "white shoe lawyers" as problems in corporate America, but not Talmudic scholars.

DTM readers may especially react to the following bit:

A generation or more back, classical music had an effective monopoly on elite philanthropy, as can be seen, for example, in the names attached to the major halls for classical music in New York- e.g. Avery Fisher, Morgan, Frick, Carnegie etc. In recent years, elite philanthropy has tended to balance their support in the direction of diversity, with jazz having been a particular beneficiary.

How true!  And with philanthropy comes challenges.  Back on Soho's turf,  one of most riveting things I've read recently is "Clash hastened Opera Boston’s demise" by Geoff Edgers. I don't really have a comparable story to tell here, but most of us have heard of some funny business connected to "who gets the jazz money and why" from time to time.

Who is going to be the next executive director of Jazz at Lincoln Center?  My call to action ("let them know on blogs and in print that it is both their ethical responsibility and in their best interest to program new music") has gone nowhere so far.   In addition to sorting that issue, the incoming leadership has got to improve the NEA awards ceremony, which was the jazz 1% at its most tedious.

02/20/2012

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