Wednesday, May 30, 2007

A day of music in "Harlem of the West"

I decided to mark my last complete day in San Francisco (for this particular trip) by combining two things I adore -- jazz and the City.
Thanks to the miracle of iPods, here is the soundtrack to a great day:
IKE QUEBEC -- I listened to Ike Quebec's album "Heavy Soul" while walking the Coastal Trail in the Land's End area. It is the part of San Francisco where the land gives way to the seemingly endless waters of the Pacific. I also beat my fist on the U.S.S. San Francisco Memorial. That was my way of thanking the sailors who participated in 1942's naval battle of Guadalcanal.
DAVE BRUBECK -- How appropriate: I listened to one Bay Area legend -- Dave Brubeck's "Time Out" album -- while walking around another -- the ruined Sutro Baths and the Cliff House. The view of Ocean Beach after rounding Point Lobos is spectacular.
CHARLIE PARKER -- I listened to Charlie Parker while riding the No. 38 Geary Bus from the Ocean Beach Safeway to Fillmore Street.
San Francisco's Fillmore District was known as "Harlem of the West" in the 1940s and 50s, when the integrated neighborhood boasted more than two dozen active nightclubs and music joints in a one-square-mile area. "Urban renewal" in the 1960s decimated this historic area. Today I learned that a bank located across Post Street from the Japan Center now stands at the site of Jimbo's Bop City (pictured). Bop City holds a towering place in jazz annals. It was once San Francisco's premier jazz nightspot and is reportedly the only place where a visiting Louis Armstrong listened to a performing Charlie "Bird" Parker. Now, there doesn't seem to be any sign or plaque or anything to mark the location of Bop City on Post between Laguna and Buchanan. It's lost. Gone.
MILES DAVIS -- I listened to "Walkin'" by the Miles Davis All Stars as I rode the No. 2 Clement (my FAVORITE bus route!) back to my sister's neighborhood. It made me smile, much as this entire trip has made me smile. I have been reminded of my roots, about the part of the world that helped make me what I am, and that is surely reason enough to smile.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

"Do you think U.C. gives a sh!t about Stuart Hall's grading system?"

I have decided that the No. 2 Clement is my new favorite MUNI bus route in the city of San Francisco.
Here are just a few of the reasons why:
1) After waiting what seemed like an eternity, I was just about to give up and start walking down Sutter in the Financial District this afternoon when an outbound No. 2 (magically?) appeared.
2) The line passes 700 Sutter, home of Australia Fair, a shop that apparently stocks an ALL-AUSSIE assortment of items. I say "apparently," because I did not have time to hop off the bus. However, from the looks of things, the store is chock full of Australian items. I will definitely stop next time I am in town. They might carry VIOLET CRUMBLE, the greatest candy bar in the history of mankind (No. 2? British MARS BAR).
3) While riding on the No. 2, passengers can occasionally hear Stuart Hall High School (1715 Octavia St.) students b!tching about the grading system at the all-boys college preparatory school.
"An 84 is a C+," one of them said today. "I know they say colleges look at our grade-point averages differently, but do you think U.C. gives a sh!t about Stuart Hall's grading system?"
4) The line passes through Japantown, so many Japanese-American passengers sit and read colorful, Japanese-language newspapers.
5) Genki, purveyors of FINE JAPANESE CANDY are located on the bus route, at 330 Clement St. and a couple blocks down is GREEN APPLE BOOKS (506 Clement), where I purchased a used, hardbound copy of legendary S.F. jazz critic RALPH J. GLEASON's "Celebrating the Duke & Louis, Bessie, Billie, Bird, Carmen, Miles, Dizzy & Other Heroes" for a mere $10. Wow.
See what I mean? The No. 2 Clement is EASILY my favorite bus route in the city of San Francisco.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Did I mention it was "Chef's Hat Day?"

Yesterday's game between the GIANTS and the Rockies started so well (besides receiving Giants' chef's hats -- quite possibly the strangest/lamest fan giveaway in Major League Baseball history).
The Tower of Power horn section performed the National Anthem. Wow! Tower of Power!
Unfortunately, once the umpire yelled "play ball," my sister and I (and 41,706 other people) witnessed one of those Giants games where the hitters do just enough right to keep the team close to their opponents but the pitchers do just enough wrong to ensure the other team the victory -- in this case, 6-4 for the Rockies in 10 innings.
Colorado took a 4-1 lead in the fifth inning, thanks primarily to a two-run triple by Matt Holiday.
San Francisco's recently slumbering offense finally stirred in the bottom of the sixth, and we can thank headline-grabbing Barry Bonds for that.
Rich Aurilia singled with one out in the inning and Bonds followed with a drive that just cleared the right-centerfield fence. It was career home run No. 746 (but who's counting? oh yeah...) and suddenly the Giants were back in the game.
The batters had to overcome a decidedly "off" day from the pitching staff. San Francisco starter Noah Lowry allowed four runs and seven hits in his four-plus innings. Relievers Vinnie Chulk and Russ Ortiz did OK and then...
And then we had reached the 10th inning of a 4-4 ballgame and Giants' relievers Steve Kline and Brad Hennessey combined to allow three hits, a walk and -- crucially -- the two runs Colorado needed to win.
Bay Area native Troy Tulowitzki smacked a run-scoring single to help condemn the Giants, who managed to counter with a sole Bonds walk in the bottom half of the inning.
So... my history of watching the Giants lose in person continues. I have been witnessing Giants games for more than three decades, but I can count the number of times I have actually seen them win on one hand.
It's the hand gripping my Giants' chef's hat.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Four of the best CDs

For some San Francisco visitors, a trip is not complete until they stop in Chinatown.
For music fanatics visiting San Francisco means a required stop at Amoeba Music on Haight Street.
I visited the 24,000-square-foot CD emporium, located in a former bowling alley, yesterday and I managed to limit myself to four CDs.
The four albums are among the best CDs in the whole shop, in my opinion.
They include:
1) "Think!" by Dr. Lonnie Smith. I am listening to this album as I type. Jazz organist Smith is joined on this FUNKY 1986 disc by an accompanying band that includes trumpeter Lee Morgan and tenor saxophonist David "Fathead" Newman. The title track is a cover of the Aretha Franklin number. It is scorching!
2) "Let 'em Roll" by Big John Patton. Another jazz organist, Patton is accompanied by Grant Green (one of my favorite guitarists in any genre) and Bobby Hutcherson on vibes. There is a reason all the hipsters sample jazz organ records for their hip hop concoctions -- the stuff just oozes funk.
3) "Behind the 8 Ball" by Baby-Face Willette. Roosevelt "Baby Face" Willette is one of the mysterious figures of jazz organ. He recorded only four albums in 1961-64 (two are combined here) and then... nothing. He could play, really swing, but something drove him out of the music business and into obscurity.
4) "From Croydon to Cuba: An Anthology" by Kirsty MacColl. One of the great shames of recent years is that one of Britain's greatest-ever singer/songwriters is becoming better known for the circumstances surrounding her death than for the songs she gave music fans in life. MacColl -- whose originals include "They Don't Know," "There's a Guy Works Down the Chip Shop Swears He's Elvis" and "Walking Down Madison" -- was struck and killed by a powerboat while she and her sons were scuba diving in December 2000 in Cozumel, Mexico. The boat belonged to Guillermo Gonzalez Nova -- the owner of Comercial Mexicana -- a "hypermarket" chain akin to Wal-Mart -- and it is suspected by some that his involvement in MacColl's death has consistently hindered proper investigation. Learn more about the investigation at the Justice for Kirsty Web site, located here. I purchased the MacColl three-CD anthology to remind myself and others that we lost a true musical original in December 2000.
I am sure I will be writing more about these CDs in the days and weeks to come!

Friday, May 25, 2007

LIVE from San Francisco -- It's FRIDAY QUESTION time!

Yawn! What day is it?
Is it Friday already? Really?
You lose all track of the calendar when you are on vacation. Besides, I am still tired this morning after our big day in Santa Cruz yesterday (we sat in the FIRST CAR on the Beach Boardwalk's "Giant Dipper" wooden roller coaster... weee!).
But the show must go on, as they say in the business, so here goes...
This week, ROUTE 1 readers considered the following FRIDAY QUESTION:
"Who is your favorite musical artists from the San Francisco Bay Area?"
Mary N.-P. -- OK, I'll admit, since I don't pay attention to where bands and singers actually come from, I had to do some research on this. I found that the following of my favs have Golden Gate roots: the Jefferson Airplane, the Grateful Dead, Big Brother & The Holding Company, Quicksilver Messenger Service and Santana. Am I showing my age here?
Mike D -- Journey.
Rob K. -- I have several, but none are from San Francisco.
Kerstin H. -- The Pointer Sisters.
Scout S. -- If Inger says the Bellyachers and not Firecracker, let her know that I will cut her.
Inger H. -- That's easy! The Bellyach--... I mean, Firecracker!
Erik H. -- I have a different favorite every day, but today my favorite is the Syndicate of Sound. This San Jose band scored one big hit in 1966, "Little Girl," a garage-rock classic that reached No. 8 on the charts. They tried several times to duplicate their success, but their efforts at greater fame were stymied by a short-sighted manager who turned down a support slot on The Beatles' 1966 North American tour. The manager thought the band wouldn't make enough money, and instead shipped them off on a tour with Paul Revere & The Raiders. The band wondered if the manager had ever heard of MASS EXPOSURE, which is sometimes worth more than money.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

A dash of fascism in the home of the tie-dyed, blonde-dreadlocked slacker

The sign reads "S.C. Muni Code: No Skateboarding. No Skate Devices. No Dogs. No Alcohol. No Bicycles on Sidewalks."
The old woman with the badly dyed, magenta hair and the vacant expression probably appreciates the lack of skateboarders in downtown Santa Cruz, Calif.
The absence of dogs is probably a boon for the main in the tattered clothing and the bright red sneakers who never took his eyes off the crack in the sidewalk he was following.
I thought about the S.C. Muni Code -- recited on ubiquitous signs -- as I stood in front of O'Neill Surf Shop in downtown Santa Cruz this morning. The code on the signs seemed rather heavy handed in a place whose laissez faire approach to alternative lifestyles is widely known. Is the code a sign of the times, like the inappropriately massive Borders bookstore anchoring the corner of Pacific and Soquel avenues?
Maybe. Maybe not.
Perhaps I was being too sensitive. Nobody else seemed to mind the code. That's probably the whole point of Santa Cruz.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

The incredible tale of a boy and his brick

At 5:05 a.m. (CDT), I was sitting in Dubuque, Iowa sipping a cup of coffee.
At 4:05 p.m., (PDT), I was standing on the little bit of "Erik Hogstrom" at the Golden Gate Bridge.
My mom purchased a commemorative brick with the words "Erik Hogstrom College Grad 88" during a 1987-88 fund-raising program for the visitors' area at the iconic San Francisco landmark. My brick is one of hundreds at the visitors' area of the Golden Gate Bridge -- one of the most visited tourist attractions in the world.
I stood on my brick shortly after it was placed in the visitors' area sidewalk, then did not see it again for 18 years.
Last year, I twice tried and failed to find my brick.
My wife Jill, our girls Kerstin and Annika, my sister Inger and I scanned brick-upon-brick-upon-brick trying to find "Erik Hogstrom College Grad 88." We stared at names on bricks until we couldn't see straight. I was defeated. I felt terrible that I had traveled 2,000 miles TWICE without finding a simple brick with my name on it.
My family gamely tried to help me find the brick, and they consoled me when we failed. I don't get out to San Francisco often enough. I was afraid I would never find that brick.
Then, earlier this year, we were looking through a photo album back in Iowa when we came upon a key piece of evidence. It was a photo of my brick! Importantly, the photo showed that my brick had a special Golden Gate Bridge logo in addition to the bit about the college grad. During our previous attempts to find the brick, we had avoided the more exclusive area of bricks with the logo, because we (wrongly) assumed my mom had purchased my brick after the initial fund-raising sale.
After my four-plus hour flight back to California today, I needed to stretch my legs.
I set out from my sister's apartment (she was working from home) and started hiking up the Coastal Trail on the west side of the Presidio.
After about 45 minutes, I found myself at the Golden Gate Bridge toll plaza.
After another five minutes -- and armed with that important clue about the bridge logo -- I was standing on my brick.
There were thousands of Japanese tourists milling about, so rather than shriek my head off and dance like nobody was looking, I took turns standing on my brick with one foot, then the other.
I also called home and 11-year-old daughter Kerstin answered.
"Guess what I am standing on right now? My brick!"
As I was excitedly explaining to her how I had found it (complete with hand gestures she would have never seen over the phone), some guy wandered by and interrupted my giddy conversation:
"Hey, are you looking for a certain name? They have a map up there with all of the names."
Guy you are missing the point: I FOUND MY BRICK!
I skipped all the way back down the trail to my sister's apartment, and I am still smiling.
The next time you're at the Golden Gate Bridge visitors' area, look up my brick.
It is three up from a double row of vertical commemorative bricks and three over from the left edge of the walkway. You can't miss it.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Why I am listening to Mahavishnu Orchestra at 5:28 a.m.?

Mahavishnu Orchestra are cool. John McLaughlin plays guitar like a rock god (McLaughlin = jazz/rock god?). I love Mahavishnu Orchestra's "The Inner Mounting Flame" album, I just never expected to hear it much before 6 a.m. today.
Blame the cats.
Our cats Lorelie and Mika woke up my daughter Kerstin at approximately 4:45 a.m. She shooed them away, only for Lorelie to jump on (sleeping) me and inadvertently scratch me on my side.
"Claws beat skin?" You can say that again.
It really doesn't make sense for me to go back to sleep for 45 minutes or so. Besides, tomorrow morning I have to be at the airport at 5:30 a.m. so I can prepare for my flight to the Bay Area. So I might as well remain awake.
Now I am sipping coffee and listening to some marvelous interplay between McLaughlin, violinist Jerry Goodman and drummer Billy Cobham.
"Claws beat skin and Mahavishnu beats sleeping?"
I wouldn't go that far.

Monday, May 21, 2007

It's summer. Wanna know how I know?

It must be summer!
Don't worry about what the calendar says.
I know it is summer.
I just tripped over a bag full of soccer gear that one of the girls left in the middle of the floor. My toe is numb. I hope it isn't broken.
Soccer bags left in the middle of the floor? It must be summer!
I also know it's summer because I have a hankering for some EDDIE HARRIS (pictured).
Early in the 60s, Harris recorded a version of the theme to the film "Exodus" that became a huge hit. Thenceforth, the Chicago-born tenor saxophone player could do no right in the eyes of haughty jazz purists.
So what!
By the end of the 60s, Harris teamed with pianist LES McCANN and the pair produced one of the all-time classic soul-jazz albums, "Swiss Movement."
Recorded live at the Montreaux Jazz Festival, the album provides the perfect soundtrack for a warm, sunny day like today.
I have pushed the soccer bag into a corner (no more tripping!) and I am listening to the Harris original "Cold Duck Time" as I eat breakfast and prepare for work. The song really swings.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

From the dance recital to @lt_h0p

The girls' dance recital concludes today after four performances.
Kerstin dances three numbers, as does Annika.
Kerstin's songs include the "Weird Al" parody "White & Nerdy," his take on Chamillionaire's "Ridin'" that is so terribly catchy (I hate to admit), that I built a (mostly) alternative hip hop iPod playlist around it.
I collected some hip hop tracks we already had on iTunes, such as De La Soul's "Me, Myself and I," 8-Ball's "Stay Fly (edit)" and "Missing Link," the rockin' collaboration between Dinosaur Jr. and Del Tha Funkee Homosapien, and then purchased some additional tracks from the iTunes store.
I got "White & Nerdy" and its inspiration, "Ridin,'" as well as some "jazz-rap" songs.
These included "Check the Rhime" by A Tribe Called Quest, "Rebirth of Slick (Cool Like Dat)" by Digable Planets and "Words I Manifest" by Gang Starr.
Populated by songs such as these, as well as other memorable tracks, including "Allah U Akbar" by Brand Nubian and "Doin' Our Own Dang" by Jungle Brothers, the playlist is insistently catchy.
It's a real joy, and a rather surprising result of attending the girls' dance recital!

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Jose's dog and the boring FA Cup

It's generally a bad sign when the dog of one of the managers provides the most exciting story from an FA Cup Final.
Chelsea just defeated Manchester United, 1-0, in the 126th FA Cup Final and the first to be played at the newly redeveloped Wembley Stadium.
It was a boring match, with the only real excitement coming in the 115th minute (the match went into extra time). That's when Didier Drogba scored for the Blues.
Much more excitement occurred off the pitch earlier this week.
Police went to the home of Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho this week to investigate claims that his dog had been taken into and out of the country in violation of Britain's strict, anti-rabies quarantine rules.
Never one to be quiet, Mourinho verbally sparred with officers, and he was arrested and cautioned.
If only the FA Cup Final had been so memorable.
Now, the girls and I are off to Dubuque's Grand Opera House and the second of their four dance recital performances.
I am attending the matinée performance and Jill will attend the evening show.
Rest assured, the dance recital will also provide more excitement than today's disappointing Cup final.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Cinematic Friday Question

ROUTE 1 readers have answered this week's FRIDAY QUESTION:
"What was the best film you have seen in the past month?"
Bob H. -- The best was "Shirley Valentine," 1989, a bittersweet romantic comedy filmed in the United Kingdom and Greece. But there were three others that were also very good: "The Queen," 2006, a Royal view of Diana's death; "Ike:Count Down to D-day," 2004, a very different take on the invasion; and "Volver," 2006, a Spanish film by Pedro Almodóvar, with Penélope Cruz.
Jim S. -- I finally saw "The Whale Rider" on DVD this weekend. It was a great look at not only a struggling group of people in New Zealand, but at how the past and present can clash. I recommend people see it.
Inger H. -- "Hot Fuzz" was funny, entertaining and very inventive. There is a certain kind of movie that Brits make very well, and this was a perfect example. The fight scene in the model village? Classic! It looked like a Godzilla movie!
Ellen B. -- "A Night at the Museum" with Ben Stiller.
Roseanne H. -- "The Burmese Harp." I can't get it out of my head and am looking forward to seeing it again once it arrives from NetFlix.
Madelin F. -- The best film I watched in the last month was "Disturbia." It was billed as a modern-day "Rear Window." I thought it took a lot of guts for someone to make the comparison. Though there were obvious differences, I have to say "Disturbia" held its own. I thought it was clever how they modernized things by updating technology. The main character, confined to his home by an electronic ankle bracelet, is so typical of today's teens with his laptop, iPod, stereo, television and video games being just another everyday part of the landscape. What sells the movie are the suspenseful moments created by the fact that the kid can't leave his room/yard without serious consequences.
Mike M. -- I recently watched Fritz Lang's "Metropolis" for the first time. This German silent film from 1927 features a female robot which later inspired the design for C-3PO of "Star Wars." My favorite scene is when the hero is symbolically crucified on the hands of a large clock.
Mike D. -- You're assuming I've seen a movie in the past month. I think I've only seen one movie at the theater in the past six months, and that would be "Happy Feet." I didn't really like it, so I guess my answer would be NONE. The best films I've seen in recent YEARS were "Cold Mountain" and "War of the Worlds."
Erik H. -- Kon Ichikawa's "Biruma no Tategoto (The Burmese Harp)" is a war film like no other war film I had ever seen. This 1956 film takes a look at World War II from the Japanese perspective. It also considers the power of music in our lives and the need to perform humane service that goes beyond our duties. It is a powerful, beautiful film.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

One of those neo-poseur types that hangs out in coffee shops

"Slacker" is not for everybody.
Richard Linklater's 1991 feature has no plot, and its transition from vignette to vignette leaves little opportunity for character development.
It seems more like a European film, as the camera focuses on one character, then loses interest and moves on to another.
However, the film is funny and presents its burgeoning collection of Austin, Texas artists and eccentrics with an unbiased eye.
I watched it a couple times recently, after checking out the DVD from the library.
I crack up every time Teresa Taylor (pictured) attempts to sell Madonna's pap smear.
I also enjoyed the "Video Backpacker" scene, when the video-obsessed man says:
"To me, my thing is, a video image is much more powerful and useful than an actual event."
I like "Slacker," although "Dazed and Confused" will probably always remain my favorite Linklater film.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Great Moments in Public Art

Don't ever doubt the power of art.
This year marks the sixth anniversary of one of the greatest episodes in the history of American public art.
Look at the photo. See that "North 5" located on the far left of the sign that says "110 Pasadena?" It is not really supposed to be there. Well, it should be there, but state transportation officials had nothing to do with its installation.
By 2001, Southern California artist Richard Ankrom was tired of getting lost while trying to transition from the northbound 110 Freeway to the northbound 5 Freeway.
The confusing stretch of roadway lacked appropriate signage.
Ankrom could have called Caltrans -- the California Department of Transportation -- to complain, but he is an artist. Why not strike back at the confusion with art?
That is exactly what he did!
Using official sign specifications he had collected from the Internet and other sources, Ankrom MADE HIS OWN MODIFICATION to the overhead sign.
He added the "North" and the "5" shield to help fellow motorists navigate that tricky stretch of Los Angeles freeway. Because he followed the official specifications, the signs look exactly like the "real thing."
Ankrom even disguised himself as a Caltrans worker and performed the modifications in broad daylight.
In fact, word of his attack of art probably wouldn't have surfaced except, being an artist, Ankrom videotaped his escapade and began showing the short film at art galleries.
The insatiable Southern California media had a big story on its hands.
When they found out, officials could have cracked down on Ankrom -- probably for trespassing and possibly for defacing public property -- but they would have faced the wrath of a public that cheered the artist's actions.
Officials wisely left the modifications alone, and drivers on the 110 Freeway had a better sense of where to find the junction with the 5 Freeway.
Actually, a Caltrans official has since said the agency will keep the Ankrom change as it upgrades freeway signs in coming years.

On his Web site, located here, Ankrom defends his sign modification -- "guerrilla public service" he calls it -- as an attempt "to prove the integrity of the arts, its place in culture and why civilization needs it."
Here, here!

Monday, May 14, 2007

"How they dance in the courtyard -- Sweet summer sweat"

"...some dance to remember, some dance to forget..."
And some put The Eagles on their iPod when forecasters are calling for the warmest temperatures of the year today -- 89 degrees is possible in Dubuque. Our previous high for this spring was 85 degrees on April 29.
I read that forecast and immediately thought:
"I need to put The Eagles on my iPod. 'Hotel California' sounds great on a really hot day."
It sure does:
"So I called up the captain, 'Please, bring me my wine!' (He said) 'We haven't had that spirit here since Nineteen sixty-nine"
There has always been something iconic about this song for me, probably because I heard it repeatedly growing up in California. Then, I continued to hear it in high school in Phoenix and in college in Iowa, where the song became a reminder of home, a symbol of the things I had left behind.
And a great song to hear on a hot day.
"But still those voices are callin' from faaaaar awaay, Wake you up in the middle of the night, Just to hear them say, 'Welcome to the Hotel California.'"

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Welcome back down, oh hated Blades

First, as a SHEFFIELD WEDNESDAY supporter, I would like to offer a warm welcome to archrivals SHEFFIELD UNITED as they fall through the Premiership trapdoor and find themselves relegated to the Championship.
The Blades found themselves in that unsavory predicament after losing at home, 2-1, to Wigan on today's final day of the Premier League season.
That result was combined with West Ham's surprise, 1-0 win at Manchester United to condemn Sheffield United to relegation.
Carlos Tevez (pictured) scored the game-winning goal for West Ham right before halftime. I watched the Hammers live on Fox Soccer Channel this morning.
The matter might not be settled, however, Sheffield United might take the matter to the courts. West Ham improperly signed Tevez (and Javier Mascherano, now with Liverpool), and the Blades might sue the Premier League for only fining the Hammers and not docking them the points that could have kept Sheffield United in the league.
As it stands, however, United and Wednesday will battle each other next season the Championship. I can't wait.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Praising graphic design genius REID MILES

Legend has it that the man who gave jazz so much of its visual style wasn't even a fan of the music.
REID MILES reportedly preferred classical music and traded in his sample copies of Blue Note Records releases.
As Blue Notes' in-house designer, Miles created a powerful iconography of block lettering and bold colors to complement the definitive 1950s and 60s jazz record label.
Richard Cook wrote that Miles:
"Made sure that his sleeves were as heavyweight as the music inside."
I adore the work of Miles.
His sleeve for Art Blakey's "Moanin'" album is a particular favorite of mine. A monochrome head shot of Blakey, tinted yellow, dominates the sleeve. Flanking the photo are the block letters:
The decision to break the words into syllables is a Miles trademark.
There were touches like this one on all of Miles' record sleeves.
Felix Cromey wrote:
"Miles made the cover sound like it knew what lay in store for the listener: an abstract design hinting at innovations, cool strides for cool notes, the symbolic implications of typefaces and tones."
My favorite Miles cover is for the eponymous 1957 album "Sonny Clark Trio" (pictured).
The cover does hint at the excitement contained within -- the "cool strides and cool notes" that Cromey noted.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Would Kurt Cobain be singing on "Gilmore Girls?"

Welcome back to the ROUTE 1 FRIDAY QUESTION after a two-week break!
It took some threatening, whining and blatant pleading, but the ROUTE 1 staff did manage to elicit a few responses to the following question --
"What do you think might have happened if your favorite died-before-their-time musician had not died before their time?"
Rick T. -- Elvis would still be the "KING!"
Scout S. -- I think JOHANN SEBASTIAN BACH would have replaced SEBASTIAN BACH in Skid Row.
Mary N.P. -- I think Bob Marley would have continued to make the best music I've ever
heard, but would also have become an uber-social activist, serving as a magnet for a movement to raise the poor of the Americas up. This would be after he matured out of his dope-fueled haze (but would he be able to make the same great music without it?).
Mike D. -- Elvis would have retired from a five-shows-a-week stint at Caesar's Palace and become a spokesman for Krispy Kreme. Thankyouverymuch.
Mike M. -- I was able to find several obituaries for Bob Marley, who died of cancer in 1981 at age 36, in Carnegie-Stout's "ProQuest Historical Newspapers" electronic database. One obit said Marley gave hope to people who had none. Even though Marley claimed that he was not interested in politics, I think he would have inspired political and social change if he had lived longer, and would have made the world a better place, especially for the poor and oppressed. If Bob Marley was alive, I'd hope he would NOT do a Victoria Secrets commercial a la Bob Dylan (see here).
Jim S. -- Jim Morrison and Janis Joplin secretly did survive and bore a child in their later years named Eminem.
Brian C. -- If Buddy Holly had lived, would The Hollies have still called themselves The Hollies?
Erik H. -- Trumpeter Clifford Brown was an original and memorable composer who died in an automobile accident in 1956 at age 25. He avoided drugs and got along well with everyone, despite his blinding talent.
Had he lived, I think he would have rivaled Miles Davis as the leading light of the jazz world.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Honeydripper healing

One of my favorite quotes about jazz comes from hard-bop pianist HORACE SILVER:
"All good music has healing potential."
That statement rings true time and time again. Music can heal in a time of grief. Music can heal a broken heart.
After last night, I am beginning to think music plays a role in physical healing, too.
I felt terrible yesterday.
I could barely sit down. I could barely concentrate. It is a wonder I was able to complete the writing of a story for the newspaper.
I felt awful. Tylenol helped somewhat. A warm bath helped somewhat. Orange juice helped somewhat. Lying down with my head on a pillow helped somewhat.
You know what helped the most?
BROTHER JACK McDUFF'S 1961 album "The Honeydripper," released on Prestige and remastered last year.
I arrived home in a terrible state. I dialed up "Honeydripper" on the iPod and sank into the music.
McDuff was one of the premier jazz organists of his (or any) time. He was joined on "Honeydripper" by the great, underrated guitarist GRANT GREEN (check out his albums some time -- even non-jazz fans will love them) and tenor saxophone player JIMMY FORREST. Along with a relatively unknown drummer named BEN DIXON, these guys produced one of the smoothest soul-jazz recordings of the early 1960s.
I listened to the album with my eyes closed.
That music, more than the Tylenol, warm bath or orange juice, got me back on my feet. I feel 80 percent better today.
Just 80 percent better? Maybe it's time for more McDuff.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Coverage (from afar) of L.A.'s big fire

I think the Internet's greatest attribute is its ability to provide instant access to information. We are enjoying that attribute while following wildfire firefighting efforts.
The girls and I watched live coverage of the Griffith Park fire in Los Angeles last night on the KTLA 5 CW Web site.

Helicopter news crews (a Southern California specialty) tracked air tankers from the California Department of Forestry as they circled the park, preparing for air drops on the fire.
We watched, fascinated, as the planes flew over palm-tree-lined residential streets, the busy 5 Freeway and eventually the iconic Griffith Park Observatory en route to making their firefighting drops.
We went to bed thinking firefighters had gained the upper hand.
This morning we have been listening to live coverage on KNX 1070 online, and we know the fire took the lead overnight.
The fire grew to 600 acres -- making it the worst in 30 years in the area of the park -- and hundreds of residents were evacuated from neighborhoods north of Los Feliz Blvd.
It will be interesting to continue following the firefighting efforts later in the day. Thanks to the Internet.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

My Favorite Coltrane

National notice at age 29, solo career by age 33 and dead by age 40 in 1967.
John Coltrane packed an extraordinary musical legacy into such a short life.
I have been listening to "The Very Best of John Coltrane" while driving around today.
The compilation pulls together songs 'Trane recorded as a leader at Atlantic Records from 1959 to 1961.
I adore his version of "My Favorite Things."
While the later "A Love Supreme" can sometimes seem to me to be other-wordly and beyond human -- like music sent down directly from heaven, "My Favorite Things" seems to me more like a great jazz player stretching the boundaries of a song with a soprano saxophone.
Here is how Coltrane himself described his approach to the song, as quoted by writer Ashley Kahn:
"I try to pick... a song that sounds good and song that might be familiar... and then I try to have parts in the song where we can play solo... in a modal perspective, more or less. So therefore, we end up playing a lot of vamps within a tune."
"My Favorite Things" is my favorite Coltrane, I think, because it seems within the real of human possibility. Not an ordinary human, mind you.

Monday, May 07, 2007

West Coast Blues

It is always hard saying goodbye to my mom.
Distance keeps us apart. She lives in Reno and I live in Dubuque.
I drove my mom down to the Quad City International Airport today for her return trip after a week's visit.
I probably won't see her again until December.
After parting, I got back in the car and pointed it north. I rolled down the windows and turned up "THE INCREDIBLE JAZZ GUITAR OF WES MONTGOMERY." This wonderful, 1960 classic album blared out of my car speakers as mile after mile of boring roadway whizzed past.
Montgomery worked a day job while gigging incessantly as a relative unknown early in his career in Indianapolis. He worked too hard, probably. Eight years after his breakthrough,
"THE INCREDIBLE JAZZ GUITAR OF WES MONTGOMERY," he was dead of a heart attack at age 43.
He made some memorably beautiful music, however. His specialty was playing notes an octave apart at the same time. His compositions include "West Coast Blues."
He also specialized in healing music for lonely drives.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Bird and Diz and the great outdoors

The girls and I -- with second cousin Hannah -- took my mom to the Mines of Spain natural area this afternoon. We hiked throughout the massive nature preserve, spending 2-1/2 hours in the great outdoors.
The birds were in full force, but not just in the trees and skies of the nature preserve.
Prior to our leaving, I reorganized my jazz CD collection and discovered a few I had forgotten about.
"Bird and Diz" was one such "forgotten" CD.
We listened to this 1950 collaboration of Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie as we drove to and from Mines of Spain.
There were six songs on the original 10-inch record -- "Bloomdido," "My Melancholy Baby," "Relaxin' With Lee," "Leap Frog," "An Oscar for Treadwell" and "Mohawk."
All sound great -- particularly while driving around.
Besides the principals, the recording session featured a rhythm session for the ages: bassist Curley Russell, drummer Buddy Rich and pianist Thelonious Monk.
Earlier this morning, we watched live on television as ARSENAL held CHELSEA to a 1-1 draw in the Premiership. The result meant MANCHESTER UNITED clinched their 16th English football title.

Saturday, May 05, 2007

The 30th anniversary celebration

This wasn't your garden-variety birthday party.
There was no cake.
Just some big plastic cups full of QUISP cereal.
There were no presents.
Just several episodes of the original 1966-67 "ULTRAMAN" television series on DVD.
There were not many guests.
Just my family, who didn't even stay around for the second DVD feature: "Daikyoju Gappa (Gappa the Triphibian Monster)."
No, it wasn't a regular birthday party. Today I held my much anticipated (by me only) ERIK IS ELEVEN: 30th ANNIVERSARY CELEBRATION.
Rather than dwell on the fact that I turned 41 this weekend, I decided last year that I would instead celebrate the 30th anniversary of me being 11.

Today felt like a perfect day from 1977:
We watched a bad Japanese monster movie. We gobbled up sugared cereal in the middle of the day and we washed it down with cherry Kool-Aid.
I ate some chocolate and now I am even listening to KISS.
My wife didn't last too long under the onslaught of now-cult Japanese television. She held out for one "ULTRAMAN" episode and then retired upstairs.
My mom, visiting from Reno, just read a book. I don't think she even glanced up when Papa Gappa and Mama Gappa were DESTROYING TOKYO.
I didn't expect Jill and my mom to appreciate the ERIK IS 11 party.
However, I did think the girls would enjoy it.
I was so wrong.
They couldn't even last through two "ULTRAMAN" episodes, and Annika didn't even finish her QUISP.
Oh well. I have thoroughly enjoyed myself. It's not often we can step back in time on a Saturday afternoon.

Friday, May 04, 2007

Closing out my birthday with the Dubs

Baron Davis hobbled around Oracle Arena tonight after injuring his hamstring but still found a way to lead the GOLDEN STATE WARRIORS to a shocking, first-round NBA Playoff upset of the DALLAS MAVERICKS.
"The Dubs" won, 111-86, tonight. I just watched it on TV.
Davis (pictured) scored 20 points while pulling down 10 rebounds.
Stephen Jackson scored 33 points, making a franchise playoff-record seven 3-pointers.
There were other heroes as well for the Warriors, who became the first eight seed to knock off a top-seeded team in a seven-game NBA playoff series.
Matt Barnes (he of the multiple scary tattoos) scored 16 points and grabbed 11 rebounds, Andris Biedrins had 12 points and 12 rebounds and Jason Richardson added 15 points.
The 67-win Mavericks looked awful. Superstar Dirk Nowitzki scored a mere eight points. That won't make gazillionaire owner Mark Cuban happy.
I am happy, though. Watching the Warriors pull off the upset was a fun way to cap my BIRTHDAY.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Happy birthday to Dave Dudley, James Brown, Ben Elton and Sir Henry Cooper

And Happy Birthday to me, too!
The biggest surprise of my birthday has been a visit by my mom from Reno, Nev.
The second biggest surprise of my birthday?
Peter Abbay was also born on MAY 3, 1966.
Abbay is an American actor who plays the unseen "banker" on NBC TV's "Deal or no Deal."
Welsh snooker star Darren Morgan was also born on MAY 3, 1966. He won the 1996 Irish Masters tournament.
Plenty of other notable people share my birthday, if not that magical birth year of 1966 (ENGLAND won the World Cup!).
Musicians born on May 3 include Pete Seeger (1919), John Lewis (1920), Dave "Six Days on the Road" Dudley (1928), James Brown (1933), Frankie Valli (1934) and Dave "Soft Cell" Ball (1959).
Ben Elton shares Dave Ball's birthday -- May 3, 1959. Elton co-wrote "The Young Ones" and several series of "Blackadder." He is one of Britain's funniest people.
Sir Henry Cooper (pictured) is one of Britain's hardest-hitting people. Born May 3, 1934, "Our 'Enry" fought Muhammad Ali twice. In 1963 Cooper knocked then-Cassius Clay down with his celebrated left hook -- a left hook affectionately known as "'Enry's 'Ammer."
I have got several days off work and a lengthy list of ways to celebrate this weekend.
I think I'll celebrate my actual birthday by listening to some of the musicians who share my special day. Let's see... How about... I think I'll open the proceedings with "I Feel Good" by the Godfather of Soul. Yep.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

That sunny day before my birthday

The sun is shining, I am listening to two of the Miles Davis and Gil Evans orchestral collaborations on my iPod and tomorrow is my birthday.
Actually, "Miles Ahead" and "Sketches of Spain" are PERFECT albums, even if it isn't the sunny day before your birthday.
A lot of jazz purists complain the albums aren't REAL jazz. They complain that Evans' arrangements and that Davis is the only soloist and that the band is really an orchestra and that these albums are really classical music and...
... and I say "Who the hell cares?"
The music on "Miles Ahead" and "Sketches of Spain" is so beautiful, it defies any pigeon-holing categorization attempts.
Oh yeah... and it is absolutely essential listening for that sunny day before your birthday.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Music to match mood

I walked after work, feeling exuberant (I work one more day, then I am off for five!) and the music I chose perfectly matched my mood.
I listened to Sly & The Family Stone's "Greatest Hits."
Every song is a classic -- "I Want to Take You Higher," "Dance to the Music," "Everyday People," "Hot Fun in the Summertime," and on and on.
In hindsight, something so great as Sly Stone's prodigious and magnificent 1960s output could probably never last, even if drugs had never gotten in the way.
While it lasted, however, I would rank Stone's compositions alongside any songs by any band. They were simply wonderful.