Top 50 JAzz Blog

Thursday, July 11, 2019

4 Jazz Bad Boys


MILES DAVIS
Troop leader
of the Hip Patrol.
Change, like a tapeworm,
Eating out your gut.


ORNETTE COLEMAN
Ornette, the weird school kid. Intuited calculus. Flunked math.
Sneaked into the Band Room during English and tried to wrestle sounds from oboes and cellos.
Read comic books and slept with his homeroom teacher.
Liked his marching band uniform; lost a different piece of it every week.
Chess club.
Ornette, the weird school kid.
Bad reader. Simian line on his palm.
Juice fasts. Kools.
Brass, bow and reed junkie.
Hears one sound and devises a thousand ways to recreate it.



LESTER BOWIE
Man looks like an Algerian pharmacist:
Lucky Lester mixes the decoction,
Grinds the gris-gris.
And don’t worry about trying to find some damn philosopher’s stone.
Toys with the keys to the recombinant jazz gene lab. Sweeps up after closing and snorts what he finds on the floor.
Virus wrangler, germ dancer, spore fucker.



ARCHIE SHEPP
Hey man, you look like some kind of fucking duck. You hear me? Or some goose. Yea, some shit like that. You didn’t learn from no book. No, no book tell you how to make a face like a damn duck.
You blow that thing loud, right? You make some sounds. You blow tenor.
Allright.
You make some sounds like something inside that horn tryin’ to get out;
Reach up the neck of that horn and grab you by the throat;
squeeze you till you play what IT wants to hear.
Maybe that’s why you make that damn duck face.

Thursday, April 11, 2019

The Happy Place and All That Crap From China


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"The Happy Place" represents the confluence of some of the most debilitated and degraded concepts in America. The Military-Industrial complex ain't got nuthin' on this unholy alliance of Kardashians, corporations, Instagram and New Kids on the Block (Happy Place founder Jared Paul is that group's manager).
This depressing shrine to self-delusional nostalgia, kind of a "Pet Rock" writ large, is also an homage to the concept of waste: a full spectrum of un-recyclable plastic, mylar, etc; what we might call:
ALL THAT CRAP FROM CHINA
[This is a set of lyrics I wrote but have been too lazy to write a tune for. 
If anyone is interested, go for it.] 
VERSE
I WENT INTO THE DOLLAR STORE, TO FIND A B-LIST GIFT;
A WONDROUS PLACE FOR ANYONE, WHOSE CHIEF CRITERIA IS THRIFT.
THEIR STORE IS A CORNUCOPIA, A KNICK-KNACK-PACKED UTOPIA;
NOTHING COULD BE FINER THAN
A VERITABLE NIRVANA, OF USELESS CRAP FROM CHINA.

CHORUS
SMERFS AND NERFS AND PADDED BRAS
AND KNOCKOFF GUCCI LUGGAGE;
PEARLS AND FLAGS THAT YOU CAN FURL AND
EVEN REMNANT RUG-GAGE.

HAWAIAN SHIRTS AND POODLE SKIRTS
AND DIRKS FOR MARTIAL ART-NESS;
GOBS OF THINGS THAT SING AND RING AND
OFTEN GLOW IN DARKNESS.

BRIDGE
IT FILLS OUR HOMES, FROM ATTIC TO BASEMENT,
WHETHER YOU’RE RICH OR POOR.
WHO CAN RESIST THE LURE OF THE CHEAP,
CAUSE MAKING A CHANGE WOULD BE QUITE A LEAP.
AND THAT WOULD BE A BORE.

CHORUS
GOOGLY-EYED DOLLS AND PORCELAIN URNS
AND PLASTIC OF ALL TYPES.
LIKE IVORY TOOTHPICKS, LICORICE STICKS AND
SANITIZED HANDY WIPES.

PENS THAT FLOAT AND BUBBLEHEAD GOATS,
HATS THAT FIT SMALL HEADS.
CHATTERING TEETH, EMBARRASSING BRIEFS AND
LOTS OF TOYS MADE OF LEAD.

TRIO
LET'S STAND AND CHEER FOR A
VELVET VERMEER.
IT’S A VERY GOOD BET
THAT CHINESE SWEAT
PRODUCED THE STUFF YOU WEAR.

THE LANDFILLS ADORE
OUR TRASH GALORE
SO DON’T BE AFRAID JUST TO
THROW IT AWAY;
IT’LL BIODEGRADE SOME DAY.
  
CLOSER
TO YOU IT MAY BE DETRITUS, DREGS, JUNK,
RUBBISH, TRASH OR GUNK, 
BUT BUDDY, TO ME , 
NUTHIN' COULD BE FINA
THAN ALL THAT CRAP FROM CHINA!



Wednesday, April 10, 2019

One Night at the 1369 Jazz Club



On October 3, 1985, I brought my Walkman into the 1369 in Inman Sq., Cambridge and recorded singer/pianist Bob Dorough, trombonist Roswell Rudd (who also sings here), Beaver Harris on drums and another singer and bass player. Their identities are announced at about 55" but I can't decipher them. Maybe someone else can-or knows who they are.

During the course of the evening, unspeakable acts are performed by these musicians.

LISTEN HERE (one hour)

Friday, January 11, 2019

The Racial Politics of “Black Panther”




I'm not much for movies based on comics, but I saw “Black Panther”  because I'm a SAG voter and it's nominated for Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture. Since there is no "best picture" category, per se, this becomes the closest equivalent. (‘Black Panther’’ is also among the five films competing for the Best Adapted Screenplay award by the Writers Guild of America).

The hype around the movie was pretty loud, so while I didn’t look closely at the details, I knew that it had a black director and an almost completely black cast and that it featured a somewhat edenic, technologically advanced African country. Bravo, thought I, maybe the movement to get more minority representation in "big" films was starting to get some momentum. Now that I've seen the film, I'm kind of astonished that the actual somewhat regressive racial attitudes portrayed by the movie did not seem to be the subject of much, if any, public discussion.

I don't want to assume that people know the plot, so here’s a very brief recap (skip the next 3 paragraphs if you know it): 

The hero is T’Challa, son of the king of Wakanda, T'Chaka. T’Chaka was assassinated by Luke Claw, the main bad guy (Caucasian variety).

We learn that King T'Chaka killed his brother N'Jobu, because N'Jobu had transgressed the rules of Wakanda-he'd stolen some of their precious material vibranium, which he wanted to use to create powerful munitions for liberation movements around the world. N'Jobu had a son and after T'Chaka killed N'jobu, he chose to leave the child in the US and not take him back to Wakanda. This child, named N’Jadaka, grows up to be the chief antagonist to our hero T'Challa. We learn that as an adult, N’Jadaka joined the US military and the scores of symmetrically tattooed scars on his body testify to the many kills he racked up. He takes on the name Killmonger.

T'Challa goes on a mission to bring the assassin Luke Claw back to Wakanda, but fails; in part, because of Killmonger's intervention. For reasons of his own, Killmonger wants to kill Claw himself. He does and shows up in Wakanda with Claw’s body in tow and challenges T'Challa to a ritual fight to become the new king. He vanquishes T'Challa, assumes the throne and begins the process of sending powerful vibranium weapons to black liberation struggles around the world. The rest of the film is devoted to T'Challa retaking his throne from Killmonger and returning Wakanda to its pristine, isolated condition.

Let's take a look at how these two main characters are presented. T'Challa is a handsome man of noble bearing. He speaks clearly, as do all the residents of Wakanda, in an English inflected by a generalized African accent. Occasionally, the native Wakandan language is spoken. It may be rooted in an actual African dialect. I don't know, but it sounds convincing.

Killmonger, on the other hand, is inner city all the way. Apparently he's as much a killer in the comics as he is in the movie, but what is not said in the film is that he is not merely cunning, but very intelligent, studying technology at MIT. His hair is in modified dreadlocks and his talk is street. When he speaks the Wakandan language it sounds less “genuine.” He is portrayed as violent, vengeful and hateful, thus rendering his attitude about supporting liberation movements null and void. 

After Killmonger has lost the final battle with T'Challa and is sitting with a knife in his chest, he gives an emotional speech. He talks about the fact that his father had promised to take him to the beautiful Wakanda and of course, that it was never to be. T'Challa says that they can keep him alive if he so chooses (Wakanda has very advanced medicine) and Killmonger says no. He knows that if he is kept alive, he will be kept imprisoned. He chooses to die and pulls the knife out of his body. He asks to be buried in the sea, where his forefathers had leapt to their death from ships rather than being brought as slaves to America. This bloodthirsty character is willing to act on the basis of his knowledge and understanding of the history of his people.

There is also the interesting plot wrinkle that has a white CIA agent, Everett Ross, being taken for medical treatment to Wakanda after saving the life of a Wakandan in the course of a gun battle with Claw. As an ex-pilot, Ross is drafted to shoot down the planes trying to carry the contraband vibranium out of Wakanda in the culminating battle. He succeeds in heroic fashion.

This is all simply muddle-headed. On the one hand, the dire conditions that Africans suffered in America are acknowledged as are, during the course of the film, the subjugations that minority populations endure around the world. At the same time, proponents of anything but continuing the isolation of Wakanda are portrayed as thugs and/or traitors.

The crux of the film is whether Wakanda will export its technology or will remain isolated. The problem is posed in these terms: Either Wakanda retains its idyllic existence or it initiates a worldwide bloodbath. The last scene in the film attempts to ameliorate this dire dichotomy by returning us to the scene of the fratricide that took place at the begininng of the film. There, while young black kids playing basketball look on, T’Challa, who has bought up all the local real estate, brings down a Wakandan aircraft, the first step in bringing a cultural exchange center-part of a worldwide outreach effort.

Granted it is a comic put on film, but a project of this magnitude, calculated to appeal to a worldwide audience, has chosen to represent a political/cultural issue in a fairly retrograde way. Yes, this issue is far from simple: When, if ever, is armed struggle necessary to achieve political liberation? Unfortunately, the film is not prepared to actually address that problem, taking a reductionist, somewhat retrograde approach; one that pits black people against each other, with the “good” people on the side of isolation and the “bad” ones on the side of engagement in the struggle.