2010 has been a hard year on musicians. We have lost quite a few notables this year. It pains me that we have lost yet another this year.
I believe I first became aware of Dr. Billy Taylor when he did a weekly bit on the CBS Sunday morning news show in his role as the self appointed chief educator for jazz. The passing years don't allow me to recall the content of his shows but I know that it was oriented toward teaching us to understand the music. At the time I thought he was just some guy that played piano. It was only as the years and decades passed that I became aware of the high regard in which he was held by musicians who create this music.
As I sit here I cannot think of a single recording released by Dr. Taylor but I know from his stories that he was around as the art form that is jazz was molded into the force it is today. I will be forever grateful to Dr. Taylor for his efforts in helping me, as well as the many others who encountered him, in this our journey to understand this thing they call jazz.
God speed Dr. Taylor, they won't forget your name again, RIP.
New York city Mayor Michael Bloomberg is appealing for the city to remain patient while they attempt to rescue enough of their snow plows from the very snow that they are supposed to clear away in order to attend to the city's snowbound streets. Meanwhile, snow babies are being birthed at home because EMS response time declined from an unbearable 4 hours to a completely useless maybe we'll get to you tomorrow sometime.
And the rest of the nation's air travel system attempts to recover from a complete 24 hour shutdown of all New York area airports . It is expected to take a week or more to return the system to normal.
Meanwhile, Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell is unhappy that the NFL canceled the local soccer match, ostensibly so the fans wouldn't kill themselves or each other driving to a ballgame in what has to be one of the worst blizzards in a generation.
Apparently, canceling the game is a clear indication of the loss of the American pioneer spirit as well as the draining of our vitality as a nation and portends nothing less than the end of western civilization as we know it.
No word yet on Governor Rendell's position on seat belts, water wings, bicycle helmets, training wheels or men who drink their alcohol mixed with ice and soft drinks but we'll keep you updated should he decide to issue forth with a proclamation.
Every year we are bombarded with holiday specials that purport to herald the spirit of the holiday season. And while there is absolutely nothing wrong many of these holiday specials, I call upon the television and pop culture gods to consider adding another program to the existing annual line up.
Programs such as Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer, A Charlie Brown Christmas, A Christmas Story, Its a Wonderful Life, etc., have come to dominate the holidays for most of our generation. But if you have seen these programs once you have seen them a million times too many.
There is, however, an alternative, a movie that has disappeared from the airwaves. While not exactly a holiday special per se, it is set during the holiday season and is a wonderful reminder of what the holidays should really be, your own particular religious or philosophical leanings not withstanding.
I think I have said everything that I want to say about this movie in this post.
So without further ado, courtesy of Youtube poster JTClarion, I present to you J.T. the movie, aka I want me this cat I found.
We would be remiss if we did not note the recent passing of jazz giant Mr. James Moody.
It is no secret that Dizzy Gillespie was a grade A clown and all around general purpose asshole . But Diz did not clown solo, his sometime sidekick and musical collaborator, James Moody, was a talented but lesser known second banana and sometime straight man to Diz's outrageous buffoonery.
Please note Moody's relatively restrained response to Diz's completely straight faced introduction of him as the Brazilian female singer Flora Purim.
Not to be completely outdone, Moody changes the words of the song at 1:50 from "in the mood for love" to the improvised "in the nude for love." As he switches to falsetto for the female part of the vocalese standard Moody's Mood For Love, Moody the straight man becomes Moody the clown as he takes on the extreme affectations of a female performer.
Despite the hollering and yodeling throughout, Moody delivers as fine a rendition of his classic namesake as you are likely to hear.
James Moody, we not only thank you for bringing us a lifetime of joy through your beautiful music but also for having the courage to make us laugh at world that was not always funny.
James Moody RIP March 26, 1925 - December 9th 2010
If our little quibble in Afghanistan has taught us anything its that you should never go to war with people who have nothing left to lose.
War simply plays into the hands of a protectorate. War is their national export. Anything that perpetuates war not only increases the price but also the quantity of their gross domestic exports.
I am not saying that they should, but if South Korea really wanted to get some results they wold lob a few fat ones over the great wall of China marked return to sender. I'll bet you could get them sombitches on the phone then.
And how do you get to be a fat leader in a starving country. What is that all about.
If you want to get North Korea's attention slap an international trade embargo on pork chops. That'll bring those fat motherfuckers to their knees.
I guess America was more interested in getting to Grandmaw's house than getting Grandmaw exempted from airport security screenings.
You know it seemed kind of ironic to me that some Americans wanted to engage in a selfish act of terrorism as a response to America's response to the terrorist threat. An attempt to hold America's holidays hostage for no other reason than you don't want to do what everybody knows must be done is as vile an act as any al Queada ever attempted. If you have ever just barely caught the last flight out of town by the skin of your ass then you will appreciate the stupidity of staging a pointless stunt to slow the system down by even a few seconds.
America is at its best when it gets in line, waits its turn and endures petty and perhaps unnecessary hardships with a spirit of shared suffering and common interest. The answer is not always a protest. Sometimes the best response to a hardship is to turn to the person next to you in line, strike up a conversation and spend an hour making friends with someone, that in all likelihood, you will never see again in life. But as the memory of your minor hardship fades the memory of your new found friendship remains as a souvenir of surviving yet another petty slight.
You don't have to get special treatment to be exceptional.
When did supersonic flight become a constitutionally protected entitlement.
Here's a thought, take a train; there is no security protocol on the Amtrak yet.
Or better yet stay your monkey ass at home; the highways are too crowded anyway.
As I understand it you basically have 3 options: 1. Take a small dose of radiation in the scanner 2. Get felt up by the TSA 3. Or stay the hell out of the airport.
Do you think that Al qaeda will hesitate for a nanosecond to load up a baby's diaper with explosives if they think that might get them past the TSA. So Grandmaw and little Johnny and Jane all get subjected to full security screenings because it makes me feel safer.
There are people trying to kill us. Please quit your whining and just STFU about your personal space.
You know, sometimes it seems as if God purposely puts stumbling blocks in your path just to see if your dumb ass has enough sense to climb up on them to overcome your obstacles.
Yesterday, I was faced with a seemingly insurmountable obstacle. Now I could have just punked out and found a corner and started sobbing. Or, on the other hand, I could start searching for a work around.
And I could have given up when the first 3 solutions didn't pan out.
But the fourth solution not only solved my problem but ultimately proved to be a better course of action than my original plan.
So not only did I accomplish my short term goal, but I improved upon my process going forward.
Like I said, sometimes its just a test to see how your dumb ass will react.
In this world there are no neutral corners. You must pick a team or be targeted by both sides. As the saying goes, the only thing in the middle of the road are yellow streaks and dead possums (or dead armadillos depending on your locale).
It would appear that this little nugget of wisdom has been borne out in abundance
But as we find ourselves confronting the incipient bloom of silly season it might be wise to remember that truth takes no sides.
Remember, people who claim to hear the voice of God are most likely just crazy. And this fact is usually not apparent until God puts them in bed with a dead hooker and calls the cops (or worse yet The National Inquirer).
America suffers under the delusion that somehow we are in control our collective fate. That somehow we will collectively decide where we go and what we become. When in reality, the overwhelming majority of Americans can't even tell you how their televisions work. All they know is that they push the button and magic happens. Woe be unto anyone who is nearby when the magic doesn't happen.
But boy can they watch those televisions. And when they see those televisions display powerful people doing powerful things they begin to have the illusion that somehow they themselves are powerful too. Never mind that the accepted fantasy has simply replaced reality. The guys in the white hats always win, right?
When in reality, the only thing we truly control is the level of our own individual ignorance, and we don't do a very good job of controlling that. And books without lots of pictures are just too hard to read, and boring to boot.
We think that we can get together and fix or manage everything.
Nowhere in the constitution does it make any mention of changing Halloween from Sunday back to Saturday because worshiping the devil on Sunday is just wrong, or something.
So what if the kids have to go to school the next day. Its called a sugar high people. They will be alright.
You don't get to take a vote to move the holiday because it happens to be a little inconvenient this year. I don't care how many of you get together. Neither you nor your community leaders can make an executive decision. Halloween is Halloween, now get in it or get over it.
If the 4th of July falls inconveniently in the middle of the week it doesn't mean there is some executive override that allows us to move the celebration to the 5th of July. We just have to go ahead and fire up the grill on Thursday and try to stay drunk until the weekend gets here.
Come on people this is not complicated. If you find that you prefer to not celebrate Halloween on the designated day, for whatever reason, fine! Keep your grubby ass kids at home. But don't show up on my doorstep in costume a day early (or a day late) looking for handouts unless you want your little ones to receive a lesson in getting cussed out.
In the day and age when a real down brother like Michael Steele can't get no love, why is it that the right of center politerati are falling all over themselves to come to the aid and defense of Juan Williams. You have to admit that it is a bit suspicious to have this kind of overwhelming and nearly unanimous support from the right for someone who worked for an institution that essentially symbolizes all that is unholy in their eyes. Can you say "slightly out of character"?
Never mind the particulars of the issue. What Juan Williams said and or intended to say is not of concern. What worries me is why people who usually take great joy in a public lynching have resorted to group weeping and teeth gnashing over a solitary colored man. Whatever happens, I hope Juan doesn't resort to the Clarence Thomas "punishing a black man for stepping out of line" defense.
Now the right is out to defund public radio, again. But why can't my tax dollars go towards paying the rent for Bert and Ernie and Big Bird. All I know is that I am for anything that provides an alternative to mainstream broadcasting that basically consists of 20 minutes of used car dealer commercials interrupted by the same 10 inane songs/TV programs in heavy rotation such that you kind of look forward to the car dealer commercials. In re: KCSM I hope I have put forth the case for funding public radio even though we are only talking 10 or 15 cents of every dollar coming from the gubamint.
When has the right been able to agree on anything, much less agree to cross that great divide to save one that is ostensibly not their own?
I don't mean to disparage but I just don't get free jazz, virtuosic or not.
When it comes to free jazz I'm kinda like the tea party, I feel like I've been bullshitted and now I am mad as hell and I ain't gonna take it no more. It may be that I simply don't understand free jazz. But here's the problem, nobody can explain it to me in a way that makes any sense to me and I have asked some fairly serious musicians about it.
I sometimes wonder what the free spirit that was Thelonious Monk would think of free jazz. Would he revel in its unobstructed freedoms? Or would he find it just to weird to stroll and dance to?
Now even with my limited understanding of the objectives of free jazz I could hear and understand the occasional flashes of technical mastery of a recent group of practitioners of this stuff. So the musical skill of the players of this form is not at question. How these musicians choose to deploy their gifts is my gripe.
Why must there be a reading of abstract poetry to go along with their abstract music. It makes me feel like I accidentally stumbled into some sort of seance while the head wizard is reading an incantation to turn nonbelievers into toads or something. And here's another clue for you, anybody who brings more than 3 horns to the gig automatically goes on the suspect list unless your last name is Kirk .
Now I enjoy musicians who don't mind taking a song outside to play with it. But when the tune starts out down the block and around the corner and never even comes past the house much less come inside I get a little frustrated. I don't understand how as the listener, I am supposed to participate in this endeavor.
I mean when a song is grooving in 4x4 time I can pat my foot and keep time on my beer bottle at the bar and feel like I am a part of the performance too. But what am I supposed to do when they play free jazz, run calculus problems in my head.
OK fine, maybe it ain't for me and I just shouldn't listen.
But maybe musicians shouldn't be running around collecting $20 cover charges to play it either. If its so artistically specific and esoteric that the heathens can't get to it maybe you should just stay home and play it in the basement so your artistic bona fides don't get questioned by those heathens. But I could be wrong.
Here is some music that I can get to and there seems to be plenty of room to find new material if you know where to look.
Back in the stone age, when I dragged myself up out of the primordial soup that was the pre-high speed connection days of the interenet, one of the first places I found as a reliable source of jazz was KCSM. This station was a beacon of light and hope in an otherwise very dark world.
There were hundreds or even thousands of stations broadcasting on the internet back then. Almost none of them playing real jazz and even fewer broadcasting with a strong reliable broadcast stream. But there was KCSM playing jazz full time 24 hours a day with a strong reliable connection. Even on dial up you could get more jazz than buffering which was, from my perspective, a major advancement.
I have been a KCSM fan since I first found them. When I got my first high speed internet connection I played the station 24 hours a day. I worked listening to jazz, I ate listening to jazz, I watched television listening to jazz, I went to sleep listening to jazz, I woke up listening to jazz. Life was good.
The station has contributed to my growth and development not only in jazz knowledge but also in knowledge of the world around me. Jazz is the text book of choice for me.
As a fitting tribute to the impact KCSM has had on me, the very first entry to the jackedUPjazz blog, even before my own first post, was a link to the KCSM broadcast stream. That link does not work any more but here is an updated link
Well anyway, the fine folks at KCSM are having a pledge drive and deserve your help and support in keeping jazz alive on the airways. I have listened to the station for many years and have found them to be wonderful and passionate stewards of the art of jazz.
Give them a listen and if you are able, drop a little cash on them to help keep the music playing.
Special thanks to the fine folks at Real Jazz on SiriusXM Radio for an above and beyond the call of duty assist in tracking this down.
The song that got me was "La Luna" which Elin composed and sang the hell out of in apparently fluent Portuguese while Luiz Simas paints chords on the piano that are as clear and vibrant as a high def photo. I can't understand what she is saying but I sure as hell know what she means.
Anyhoo, she doesn't have a video soooooo here's another video you can't understand what they are saying but you know what they mean.
You may ask, what is that makes me so optimistic about the internet. Well in the bad old days you went to your local retailer and purchased whatever you needed right there on the spot. And if your local retailer didn't stock what you wanted to buy, well that was just tough noogies.
Oh sure, there would always be this friendly and helpful assistant manager guy and his minion who were always more than willing to go out back and look for whatever your heart desired and special order it if he couldn't find it. But I always imagined that what they were doing out back was falling all over themselves laughing at this dumbass that thinks Walcorp actually gives a shit what his individual needs are because somehow my special orders never actually showed up.
But now with this internet thing I just search for my preferred items and voila, it shows up on my doorstep.
So those special razor blades that are never in stock bingo. That special cologne that the department store refuses to stock, no problem. And my special paper nobody carries anymore, bam 30% cheaper than I used to pay.
I like it! Now or course you have to negotiate the whole shipping and handling charges thing. Shipping costs I understand, but WTF are handling charges.
I'm telling you now, remember you heard it here first, this world wide web thing could be a big honking deal someday.
I am not opposed to helping people. In fact I have spent most of my adult life helping others. And I am training my kids to honor their obligation to reach back and help those who need it. I think the world would be a much better place if everyone did so. But begging in America has taken on a level of arrogance and entitlement that I fear has lead our society to the edge of doom.
I am not talking about the broken souls who need fixing in one way or the other. These sombitches don't seem to have anything wrong with them that 40 hours and a little overtime won't fix. I know it is a tough economy but instead of loitering in front of Micky D's begging for coins why not loiter in front of Home Depot and give the illegals a run for their money.
Anyway, it's been a while since I went to Micky D's for anything but I had occasion to drop in for breakfast recently. Almost instantaneously I recalled why I stopped coming to this particular establishment. Within seconds I am being stalked by numerous BM's. As a general rule I walk with a gait that has a certain purposefulness that usually is enough to ward off all but the most aggressive BM.
And here he comes! "'Cuse me, cuse me brother can I talk to you for a minit."
At this point no response is necessary, but I do give him that hood stare (you know that one of us is fixin to have an asswhuppin look) such that it takes the edge off of his pitch. You can see the look on their faces when they realize "aw shit, I picked the wrong one." But at this point he is already committed and must follow through.
His pitch: he opens his hand to reveal a couple dollar bills and some miscellaneous change. He goes on to explain that he is trying to get enough to have breakfast wherein he lists out the items that he hopes to acquire.
It is at this instant that I begin to fear that America is hopelessly doomed by decadence and entitlement.
I have walked into this establishment with roughly $100 cash in my pocket, another $30 or $40 in cash and coin stuffed into various compartments in my vehicle for parking meters, newspapers, car washes and such, and enough credit card purchasing power in my wallet to fund a brief skirmish with Liechtenstein but I fully intend to eat breakfast on something close to two dollars. Eggmacsomething or the other, a fruit and yogurt parfait and courtesy cup of water, two dollars plus tax. Roughly the amount homeboy has just revealed himself to be in possession of before he approaches me to top off his breakfast wish list. Never mind that I am fully aware that brother man intends to spend my hard earned cash at the liquor store across the street, let's just get past that for now.
I have a job, in fact I have several, but I have absolutely no qualms about workin with the dollar menu. What is it that makes homeboy think it is alright to beg for more than the bare minimum (begging up, so to speak) because the dollar menu is beneath his dignity and ain't what he wants to eat for breakfast. But sir you do realize you are begging. I know that this is America, but very few are able to beg their way to the top. Begging is generally thought of as an entry level activity and that means dollar menu.
Not having your preferred breakfast delicacies is a real bummer. But if it is any consolation this ain't what I want for breakfast either. My personal breakfast of choice might include something like an egg white omelet with grated mozzarella cheese, peppers, onions, a generous sprinkling of salty capers with a side of crispy bacon and a bowl of seasonal fruit and a glass of fresh squeezed orange juice to wash it down.
Sadly, none of that is on the dollar menu. But I am on my way somewhere that might offer us both the opportunity to aspire to that breakfast.
Its called a job. Catch a clue brotha and get one yourself.
One time spouse and collaborator of Max Roach,she was considered a vixen in her film studio days. As she aged her music just seemed to get better as the maturity of a life well lived was reflected in the smokey resonant timbre of her vocals.
One of the things I really wanted to do in this life was to see Abbey Lincoln perform live. That goal came within a hundred miles or so of happening five or ten years ago. But alas, God gives us free will, and sometimes we simply choose wrong.
Actually, I just went to the closest thing to home that I could find. But I never really found home even though I searched long and hard for it. There were times and places that were familiar and comfortable. At the same time those places were unfamiliar and uncomfortable. There was never any place that ever felt like I really truly belonged. I always molded myself into where I found myself. But like Neo and the matrix it felt just a little off kilter, not quite right.
With enough distraction you convince yourself that everything is alright. But it isn't, and deep inside you know it. But what can you do about it. Eventually you stop trying to convince yourself that all is well, but what then. Do you allow yourself to just float away, unbound by the constraints of time or space. Or do you hold to something, anything that is real, as you perceive reality to be. But perhaps that is insanity too. Maybe if I just sit quietly no one will notice and everything will turn out for the best.
The music begins and compels you to chase that song until it drives you nuts, again. If it stops you find yourself spending every waking moment trying to find it. With all of life's doubts the one thing that you are certain of is that the only thing that ever has, or ever will matter is that song.
It taunts you at odd times and places. Sometimes fully orchestrated with complex arrangements. Other times simply bits of harmony and melody. If I dance to its rhythms will it bring me closer to it. Or would everyone else in the room think me crazy. Can they not hear it? Perhaps they hear it too but are also afraid to acknowledge it. Maybe they will join me in dance and song if I could just muster the courage to lead the way to free us all from the constraints of propriety. Or maybe they would just laugh and pity the wretched soul that dances to a song no one else hears.
No, no its better to ignore the music and hope it will leave my being so I can be normal. Just like everybody else. A white picket fence, 2.5 kids and a dog. That's me just a regular person with a regular life that doesn't hear anything that everybody else doesn't hear.
I fancy myself a connoisseur of television commercials.
Mostly it is a bunch of worthless crap that fails to move or entertain the target audience. After spending a kings ransom to produce and broadcast them, you would be surprised at the number of commercials that fail to even mention the product or location.
Black folk are not a monolithic group who are all related and get together every so often to decide on a group course of action. In fact, black folk run the gamut of every stripe and known variety on the planet.
However, there are two, and only two, things upon which all black folk fully agree.