Tuesday, February 06, 2007

shelter, longitude, fantasy

Some days here if you stand just right, against a wall or in an outside alcove, when the sun is shining at the right angle, it's warm, like spring. You suddenly feel like you've traveled hundreds of miles south, or it's 8 weeks from now. The body goes into a strange swoon in moments like these, having been clenched against the cold or artificially warmed for months. Every cell comes alive and the energy of escape, of mad release, of being free, finally, from the limitations of winter cascades like snowmelt.

Maybe it's a moment or two like this that makes me mellow, makes me look back at a winter of carping and criticizing and wonder why I don't post more positive posts. I hear Kenny Davern and Steve Lacy with Swallow and Motian on the radio in the morning and I think "no wonder people think they don't like creative improvised music...this is aimless, wandering trash. Clever, soulless mindfuck music." I hear Branford Marsalis and company from Crazy People Music on the radio this afternoon and think "The Coltrane Quartet on a really bad night. Trane has a canker sore and Elvin's using the wrong sticks. No, it can't be Trane, not when that opportunity to burst through the fog is glaringly missed, not when the piano playing completely lacks direction or spine, not when the whole band falls apart when the tenor takes it too far away. Ah, it's Branford! Now what the fuck was the point of that crap?"

It's hard being me, stuck with my carping negativity every day, day in, day out. There's lame and lazy Freddie Hubbard on the stereo right now. Philly Joe Jones wasting his talents again. A version of Body and Soul that's a total miss. With personnel like Wayne Shorter, Cedar Walton, Reggie Workman and Philly Joe, how can Hubbard fuck up? I don't know, but he manages it.

And what possesses someone like Archie Shepp to record a bunch of duets with Neils Henning Orsted-Pedersen of Charlie Parker tunes? Just play Shepp, Shepp. Goddamn this slack and faltering. Where's The Magic of JuJu Shepp?

I keep thinking of Miles Davis in his last, most famous Blindfold Test with Leonard Feather. Here's his full reaction to the famous trio recording of Duke's Caravan on Duke/Mingus/Roach, Money Jungle:

"What am I supposed to say to that? That's ridiculous. You see the way they can fuck up music? It's a mismatch. They don't complement each other. Max and Mingus can play together, by themselves. Mingus is a hell of a bass player, and Max is a hell of a drummer. But Duke can't play with them, and they can't play with Duke. Now how are you going to give a thing like that stars? Record companies should be kicked in the ass. Somebody should take a picket sign and picket the record company."

This is from the Blindfold Test where he basically hates every single recording and most of the musicians Feather puts on, except The Fifth Dimension's Prologue, The Magic Garden. ("That record is planned, you know. It's like when I do things, it's planned and you lead into other things. It makes sense.") Davis has kind words for The Electric Flag and Stan Getz as well.

I can be just about that ungenerous and irrational. The Davis Blindfold Test was in June, so you can't blame seasonal bitterness for that. But I'll use it as an excuse. Elvin, Elvin, Elvin...who talked you into doing watered down afro-cuban fusion hard bop in 1973? Was it Jan Hammer and his little Moog? Just play Elvin, Elvin.

The strange thing is I like all of these recordings. Not the Branford Marsalis, actually. I can't imagine ever listening to that a second time. But Lacy is a hero of mine. Shepp's duets have a spare, muscular strength and wit. Money Jungle is gorgeous and Miles was wrong, the three of them could play together (although I think Caravan is the weakest cut). Hubbard's sides are great to relax into. Elvin's early '70s recordings are wildly adventurous and take some real risks. And give you a chance to hear Pepper Adams.

I do fantasize about being chill. About enjoying everything. About warming up, thawing out, lightening up. Maybe next month.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

just being chill, an admirable goal, but then where is the spark? Where is the urge to improve? Painfully high standards improve us all.