Um, yeah, so that happened. It's going to be in this week's dead tree edition, too, the one with Star Trek on the cover (cover date May 4). BTW, if you are planning on skipping our CD launch to see the new movie on opening night, you are forgiven.
Also, if you would like an advance listen to Infernal Machines, three tracks from the album are now streaming at the New Amsterdam Records website.
I realize that Newsweek is not a publication that is known for putting the spotlight on indie jazz musicians -- or really, jazz musicians of any stripe. But the writer, Seth Colter Walls, has eclectic tastes and an editor who is, for now at least, willing to let him slip pieces on little-known early Luis Buñuel films and Bernd Alois Zimmerman into a national newsmagazine -- right alongside coverage of Metallica and Prince. The magazine and newspaper industry today finds itself in the same dire straits as the music industry, and when publications are cutting back, arts coverage is usually the first thing to go... so it's nice to see someone out there is still willing to take chances.
Also, Reich always has such refreshingly practical, down-to-earth stuff to say about his music:
"Thankfully, a lot of young musicians have not only played all kinds of my pieces, but have played them well," Reich says. "It's because they heard them when they were younger. This is the case in all music history. Composers have a real difficulty in that first generation when they are writing these works. But the following generations grow up with it as part of the furniture in the room. So eighth blackbird, and many other groups I'm happy to say, can not only play it, but play it convincingly and enjoy themselves."
This is something a lot of people (including yrs trly) have been saying for a while, but of course it is nice to have those sentiments validated. ("Play it convincingly and enjoy themselves" is the iceberg in that graf.)
His writeup reminds me that at some point I really need to post something in-depth about George Russell's incredible legacy. For now, I'll just say that if you haven't heard the Gerry Mulligan Concert Jazz Band's version of "All About Rosie" (and trust me, I know the original has that jaw-dropping Bill Evans solo, but seriously, this is the version you need) I envy you, because you are about to have your mind blown.
Remember, George wrote this in 1957. 1957! Just listen, all right?
As a student, Justin Vernon traveled with the Memorial High School jazz band to New York City in 1999. As a rock star, Vernon will enable the group to return 10 years later.
Vernon, leader of the Eau Claire-based band Bon Iver, will play with Memorial High School Jazz Ensemble I on April 19. Concert proceeds will help the jazz band attend the Essentially Ellington competition in May at the Lincoln Center in New York.
"This is definitely going to boost us in terms of exposure," Memorial band director Bruce Hering said. "It's really going to charge the kids up."
Jazz Ensemble I will back up Vernon on Bon Iver songs. Vernon, who graduated from Memorial in 1999, will write sheet music for the jazz students, Hering said.
"They are just besides themselves," he said. "They think it is the coolest thing. This is a big bonus they didn't see coming."
Vernon will sing jazz standards too. Students will accompany him on all songs, Hering said.
"Justin has stated that his time spent with the Memorial High School Jazz Ensemble taught him how to be in a band - how to play with a group of talented musicians and make it work," said his manager, Kyle Frenette.
Vernon played guitar with the Memorial jazz band. The band qualified for the Essentially Ellington competition for the first time when Vernon was a senior in 1999.
Meanwhile, Joe Phillips has a new, insanely ambitious release out on Innova. Sometimes I think cat-herding 18 musicians is Sisyphean, but Joe's own band is 25-strong. (Gah!) The very un-bigband-y palette includes five singers, seven strings, two vibraphones, two pianos, two guitars, and no drumset. Joe is one of the first composers I met in New York -- in fact, I met him before I even moved here, back when I was Fung Wah-ing my way into town every week for the BMI Jazz Composers Workshop. He is the guy who deserves the credit -- or the blame, I guess -- for convincing me that minimalism didn't suck, and that (post)minimalist-inflected jazz was viable. This new disc, Vipassana is flat-out gorgeous -- just listen to the excerpts here.
Finally, not to be left behind, Jamie Begian returns to the scene with a new bigband record of his own -- coming "sometime in the summer of 2009." Watch this space -- or, you know, this space -- and I'll sound the alarm when it drops. His previous outing, 2003's Trance, is formidable.
-Signed CD/DVD and digital download.
-Come out on tour with me for a few days.
-I write, record and market a 5 song EP about you and your life story.
-Take home any of my drumsets (only one but you can pick which one)
-*Take shrooms and cruise Hollywood in Danny from TOOL's Lamborgini OR we play "quarters" and then hop on the Ouija board for a while.
-If you have a band, I'll join it for a month....play shows, record a CD together, have a swim party, etc.... or none of the above. We could also just sit in yer basement and jam old Van Halen.
If you don't have a band I'll be your personal assistant for a month (4 day work weeks....10 am to 5 pm) and then we take a limo down to Tijuana and I'll show you how it's done (what that means I can't legally get into here, right this minute). If you don't live in LA but are in the USA I will come to you and be your personal assistant/cabana boy for 2 weeks.
-Take a Flying Trapeze lesson together in the San Fernando Valley and then Robin from NIN and his wife make us raw lasagna.
(No takers on that one yet -- act now, there's still time! -- but one teenage fan did spring for the $20,000 mini-golf package.)
My fiscal sponsor, Fractured Atlas, precludes me from offering anything of tangible value in exchange for tax-deductible online contributions -- let alone offers to hook up contributors with illegal substances. But listen, if you want to pop a handful of Demerol and go hang at the Vanguard, have your people talk to my people.
I missed this Alan Moore interview in Wired when it first came out a couple of months ago, but if it's new to you too it's worth a look. It's super-curmudgeonly but very cogent, especially if you choose to pretend (as I do) that his ridiculous affectation about "magic" is all a very knowing put-on.
He also says some things that touch tangentially on everbody's favorite topic, the Complexity Wars. It's probably just a wee bit too simplistic to draw parallels between the relentlessly, reflexively misanthropic "grim-n-gritty" superhero comics that rode on the coattails of Watchmen and relentlessly, reflexively misanthropic "grim-n-girtty" high modernist works like, say, Die Soldaten... simplistic, but fun.
[Especially fun in light of the fact that the villain of Watchmen is a big fan of "avant-garde music in general. Cage, Stockhausen, Pendercki, Andrew Lang, Pierre Henry. Terry Riley is very good." I know, I know, Terry Riley? Maybe In C goes well with the multi-screen viewing?]
What I was getting out of it was this unbridled world of the imagination, and the superhero was a perfect vehicle for that when I was much younger. But looking at the superhero today, it seems to me an awful lot like Watchmen without the irony, that with Watchmen we were talking very much about the potential abuses of this kind of masked vigilante justice and the kind of people that it would in all likelihood attract if these things were taking place in a more realistic world. But that was not meant approvingly.
At the time I thought that a book like Watchmen would perhaps unlock a lot of potential creativity, that perhaps other writers and artists in the industry would see it and would think, "This is great, this shows what comics can do. We can now take our own ideas and thanks to the success of Watchmen we'll have a better chance of editors giving us a shot at them." I was hoping naively for a great rash of individual comic books that were exploring different storytelling ideas and trying to break new ground.
That isn't really what happened. Instead it seemed that the existence of Watchmen had pretty much doomed the mainstream comic industry to about 20 years of very grim and often pretentious stories that seemed to be unable to get around the massive psychological stumbling block that Watchmen had turned out to be, although that had never been my intention with the work.
I think the amount of work we contribute to our enjoyment of any piece of art is a huge component of that enjoyment. I think that we like the pieces that engage us, that enter into a kind of dialog with us, whereas with film you sit there in your seat and it washes over you. It tells you everything, and you really don't need to do a great deal of thinking. There are some films that are very, very good and that can engage the viewer in their narrative, in its mysteries, in its kind of misdirections. You can sometimes get films where a lot of it is happening in your head. Those are probably good films, but they're not made very much anymore.
There seems to be an audience that demands everything be explained to them, that everything be easy. And I don't think that's doing us any good as a culture. The ease with which we can accomplish or conjure any possible imaginable scenario through CGI is almost directly proportionate to how uninterested we're becoming in all of this. I can remember Ray Harryhausen's animated skeletons in Jason and the Argonauts. I can remember Willis O'Brien's King Kong. I can remember being awed at the artistry that had made those things possible. Yes, I knew how it was done. But it looked so wonderful. These days I can see half a million Orcs coming over a hill and I am bored. I am not impressed at all. Because, frankly, I could have gotten someone, a passerby on the street, who could have gotten the same effect if you'd given them half a million dollars to do it. It removes artistry and imagination and places money in the driver's seat, and I think it's a pretty straight equation—that there is an inverse relationship between money and imagination.
If you haven't got any money, you're going to need lots and lots of imagination. Which is why you'll get brilliant movies by people working upon a shoestring, like the early John Waters movies. People are pushed into innovation by the restrictions of their budget.
The Bell House is a very cool somewhat newish music venue owned by the Union Hall/Floyd crew. It's located in the same block of repurposed industrial Brooklyn No Man's Land that also houses IBeam. This was an event for Chris Speed's Skirl Records, with brief sets by four bands, each presenting a different facet of the current scene. No bocce here, but great sound -- a titch louder than your usual jazz hit but enjoyably so -- clear, balanced, exciting.
Briggan Kraus played a fully improvised (or "fully improvised-sounding," at any rate) trio set with Ikue Mori and Jim Black, which tended towards the introspective and textural, with occasional bursts of fractured free-rock energy.
Mary Halvorson and Jessica Pavone's longstanding duo (they actually performed immediately before us on our very first gig, back at CB's almost four years ago now) remains haunting and wonderfully elusive -- too spiky to be new-artsong-pop, and too unabashedly melodic to fit most people's notions of what avant-jazz is supposed to sound like.
Curtis Hasslebring's latest edition of The New Mellow Edwards (this one with Chris Speed, Trevor Dunn, and Ches Smith) brought both whimsy (including a Casio keyboard interlude) and swagger to Hasslebring's ambitious long-form architecture.
The closer was the trio from Andrew D'Angelo's Skadra Degis -- D'Angelo, Trevor Dunn, and Jim Black -- which he has christened "Gay Disco," after that record's closing track. Andrew mentioned they were headed into the studio to record a followup, which is great news. Andrew's playing is as compellingly visceral as ever, and Dunn and Black are the perfect foils for his knotty, tightly-focused tunes.
April 16 is the 50th anniversary of the publication of a little book that is loved and admired throughout American academe. Celebrations, readings, and toasts are being held, and a commemorative edition has been released.
I won't be celebrating.
The Elements of Style does not deserve the enormous esteem in which it is held by American college graduates. Its advice ranges from limp platitudes to inconsistent nonsense. Its enormous influence has not improved American students' grasp of English grammar; it has significantly degraded it.
The authors won't be hurt by these critical remarks. They are long dead. William Strunk was a professor of English at Cornell about a hundred years ago, and E.B. White, later the much-admired author of Charlotte's Web, took English with him in 1919, purchasing as a required text the first edition, which Strunk had published privately. After Strunk's death, White published a New Yorker article reminiscing about him and was asked by Macmillan to revise and expand Elements for commercial publication. It took off like a rocket (in 1959) and has sold millions.
This was most unfortunate for the field of English grammar, because both authors were grammatical incompetents. Strunk had very little analytical understanding of syntax, White even less. Certainly White was a fine writer, but he was not qualified as a grammarian. Despite the post-1957 explosion of theoretical linguistics, Elements settled in as the primary vehicle through which grammar was taught to college students and presented to the general public, and the subject was stuck in the doldrums for the rest of the 20th century.
Scott is a mensch, one of the rare publicists who is both ruthlessly methodical and also (still) in it for the love. He and I shared a celebratory swig of Evan Williams Single Barrel Vintage ('96, IIRC '97) last night after I made the trek out to IC HQ to make the drop.
I'm currently listening to the stream of the inaugural broadcast of Josh Jackson's new show on WBGO, The Checkout. (Do not be deceived by their "On The Air Now" badge, which still says "Jazz Profiles.") The Checkout is devoted to the revolutionary idea that at least some listeners at America's flagship jazz station might possibly be interested in what's happening in jazz today.
As I write this, Josh Jackson is talking to Mark Turner -- and getting some great technical information from him about how his cooperative trio Fly (Tuner, Larry Grenadier, Jeff Ballard) approach interpreting original material. If you are reading this, there's an excellent chance you disdain terrestrial radio, but never fear, there is a podcast (I can't find the iTunes subscription link for the complete show -- it doesn't look like it's up yet -- but here are individual iTunes links for the interviewandnew musicsegments. iTunes show podcast is here).
Also, I am sure you have already subscribed to WBGO's oustanding Live at the Village Vanguard podcast, yes? If not, you need to get on that shit. These (free! downloadable!) live recordings are also produced by Josh Jackson, and include some amazing recent sets by Kurt Rosenwinkel Terence Blanchard, and David Sanchez.
Finally, how insane is it that I did not know about the Brooklyn Jazz Underground podcast? Unfortunately, it hasn't been updated since September 2008, and right now the server keeps timing out on me. But if it ever comes back, It's back! I am looking forward to checking out these interviews with Ted Poor, Dan Pratt, Alan Ferber, Shane Endsley, Alexis Cuarado, and others of equal awesomeness.