Tuesday, January 28, 2014

San Francisco isn't Bulls country anymore

The magnetic schedule on my refrigerator shows games through the beginning of April, but the SAN FRANCISCO BULLS won't be playing any of them.
The ECHL team announced it was ceasing operations  yesterday.
Coach Pat Curcio said in a statement:
"The team was hoping to secure new ownership, however the terms of an updated deal were unable to be finalized, cancelling the remainder of the season."
The team served as an affiliate of the SAN JOSE SHARKS, which was good, but played home games in the decrepit COW PALACE, which was decidedly bad. The arena is a relic from the 1970s, not a venue for a 21st sports team, and the negative attributes of the Cow Palace certainly contributed to the financial losses that drove the Bulls into extinction.
I watched a game last month, during a regular visit back home. It never dawned on me the team would cease to exist before I got around to visiting the Bay Area again.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Miles Davis overcame limitations to revolutionize jazz

I'm reading RICHARD COOK'S biographical discography (or discographical biography) "IT'S ABOUT THAT TIME: MILES DAVIS ON AND OFF RECORD" again for the first time in several years.
Early in his career, Davis played in the revolutionary BEBOP idiom of JAZZ, but Cook writes that the trumpeter and his sublime, middle-register style never really fit comfortably among his contemporaries.
Cook explains how the rigors of playing bebop delineated jazz players of the late 1940s:
"The musical language and style of bebop was, from the beginning, bitterly demanding on a musician's technique: That was part of its nature, devised by its principal architects -- Dizzy Gillespie, Thelonious Monk, Kenny Clarke -- to keep lesser players in the shadows, and leave the stage to the real champions. When Charlie Parker came along, the idiom gained its most particular voice, a virtuoso whose musical grasp and intensity of delivery personified bop itself. Young musicians such as Davis were dazed and spellbound."
In his book, "KIND OF BLUE: THE MAKINGS OF THE MILES DAVIS MASTERPIECE," ASHLEY KAHN explains how Davis overcame his technical limitations on the trumpet to launch his own particular, influential sound:
"Miles could not launch into the virtuosic high-register fury of a Dizzy Gillespie, but he could plumb the emotional depths of a melody with economy and intensity."
Able to so fully explore melody with emotion, Davis was poised to begin his seemingly continual reinvention of jazz once bebop's initial popularity had waned by the mid-1950s.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Can't seem to quit listening to "Collectors' Items"

I can't seem to quit listening to "COLLECTORS' ITEMS."
The 1956 studio album by MILES DAVIS features music produced at a pair of recording sessions, including one that paired saxophone legends SONNY ROLLINS and CHARLIE PARKER.
The album marks the only occasion Rollins and Parker recorded together and only the second time Bird (playing under the name "Charlie Chan," because of contractual obligations) was recorded playing tenor sax, instead of alto.
Rollins and Parker contribute to two takes of a tune called "The Serpent's Tooth," as well as versions of "Compulsion" and "'Round About Midnight." Along with leader Davis, the pair were joined by pianist Walter Bishop, bassist Percy Heath and drummer Philly Joe Jones, but I always focus on the saxophone playing. It sounds great while driving around in my car.
Critic Scott Yanow calls the music on "Collectors' Items" "classic, if often overlooked."
I imagine it's overlooked because Davis would assemble his classic Quintet -- with John Coltrane -- a couple of years later. That ensemble is considered among the greatest in JAZZ history.
I really enjoy "Collectors' Items." I must. I can't seem to quit listening to it the past couple of days.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

I should have tallied all these murders from the beginning

I'm more than halfway through JIM THOMPSON'S 1958 crime novel "THE GETAWAY" and I am wishing I had tallied the murders from the beginning.
There are so many folks knocked off in this yarn I'm beginning to lose count.
I'm a huge fan of Thompson, the crime fiction master nicknamed "The Dimestore Dostoevsky" for the literary elements he brought to the genre.
Thompson populates his tales with odd plot structures, unreliable narration and themes reminiscent of Greek tragedies.
"The Getaway" fits into that latter category.
Doc McCoy is a veteran crook who is so self-assured that nothing bothers him -- not even the two aspects of his seemingly perfect bank heist that should have served as red flags.
1. Doc's accomplice Rudy the Pieface is an untrustworthy psychopath.
2. Doc's wife Carol doesn't really seem cut out for the criminal's life on the lam -- she was a librarian before she met Doc.
Thompson takes the reader along for the wild ride following the bank robbery -- including the many murders.
I should have kept a tally. I think I am beyond just counting them on the fingers of both hands!

Monday, January 20, 2014

Swept up by the unhinged but holy sounds of Brother Claude Ely

Nothing I had read prepared me for the first time I heard BROTHER CLAUDE ELY.
Reviews of the PENTACOSTAL HOLINESS GOSPEL SINGER'S recordings had described his style as "raw."
More like "feverishly feral." His songs are unhinged.
Infused by THE SPIRIT OF THE LORD and backed by his own acoustic guitar and another's occasional mandolin, Ely produces gospel music as reconstructed by a 1960s garage-rock punk band. His versions of "I'm Crying Holy Unto the Lord," "You've Got to Move," "There's a Leak in this Old Building" and other songs sometimes seem on the verge of falling apart, but Ely always powers his way toward the end.
I listened to "SATAN GET BACK," a collection of his King Records output of the 1950s-60s yesterday in the car.
The collection includes portions of Ely's revivalist sermons between songs, and it's easy to get swept up in his fervor.
I can imagine the power these recordings had on Bible Belt residents of the mid-20th century. In retrospect, I can also imagine the resonance these powerful songs had on the earliest rock-n-rollers.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

The eyes have it, except when they don't

I endured the most comprehensive, invasive EYE EXAMINATION of my life on Friday.
I need a stronger prescription for my reading glasses (damn you, aging process!) and unbeknownst to me, a small hole had appeared near the retina of my right eye (damn you, small hole near the retina of my right eye).
The result meant an examination that went beyond a basic dilation of the pupils to also include much pushing and prodding.
When I arrived home, I couldn't see properly for hours and my eyes were sore.
I couldn't read, it hurt to attempt to watch TV.
I could listen, though, so I grabbed my IPOD.
I don't know what I would have done without that -- even though I couldn't actually read the names of the playlists I was dialing up.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Police pursuit as entertainment in the modern world

There might not be a POLICE PURSUIT every Friday in SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA, but it sure seems like it.
I watched today's edition of cops vs. eluding driver live on KTLA-TV online.
A pickup truck driver led officers down freeways and surface streets from Orange County to the San Fernando Valley, the pursuit both fast and slow, depending upon the amount of degradation caused to the vehicle's tires.
I picked up the televised pursuit in its final half hour and watched its denouement -- the truck doing "donuts" on the freeway, wheel rims smoking since the tires had been shredded away.
It struck me as a thoroughly modern entertainment. Reading about the pursuit later, on LOS ANGELES news websites, I had no sense of the mesmerizing hold the chase held for me as I watched live on television.
Is there something in the modern mind that feeds off such an episode? That certainly seemed the case for me, this morning.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Chronological Chet Baker... is it really so crazy?

The girls offered to get me professional help last night as I struggled to put the songs of my CHET BAKER playlist into chronological order.
Seriously though, do people really want to hear the live version of "Isn't it Romantic" *before* the studio version of "Moonlight Becomes You?"
Now *THAT* would be crazy!

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Jazz for back pain. It really worked!

My back ached and I was beyond tired.
I needed relief last night after a challenging day at work.
I found my relief in JAZZ.
Jazz for me has been unique: The music can float by in the background or I can intensely focus and discover memorable moments.
I did the latter last night, enjoy the piano work of RUSS FREEMAN on the CHET BAKER QUARTET album "JAZZ AT ANN ARBOR."
Critics say the trumpter/leader was at the peak of his powers during this album, recorded at a May gig at a Masonic Temple in Michigan.
That may be.
Last night, I clamped on my noise-reducing headphones and concentrated on Freeman taking the second solos in each of the eight songs.
If I closed my eyes I could almost see his fingers applied to the ivory.
The more I listened, the more complexity emerged.
Amazingly, the more I listened, the less my back ached, too.
It was proof of the power of jazz.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Out of Emergency, a modern India emerges out of chaos

My globe-trotting sister INGER is visiting PUNE, INDIA this week.
I'm vicariously tagging along by reading "INDIA: A WOUNDED CIVILIZATION" by V.S. NAIPAUL.
The Trinidad author writes an Indian visit during THE EMERGENCY, a controversial, 21-month state of emergency prompted by then-Prime Minister INDIRA GANDHI.
Naipaul writes of one of the Emergency's effects: A new view of life within the country emerged among some residents.
Naipaul writes about a view of poverty that had developed during the Independence movement :
"(First Prime Minister Jawaharlal) Nehru had once observed that a danger in India was that poverty might be deified. Ganghianism had had that effect. The Mahatma's simplicity had appeared to make poverty holy, the basis of all truth, and a unique Indian possession."
This view of poverty had stifled individual and societal growth in the country, Naipaul argues.
The Emergency began to shift attitudes away from a comfortable status quo built upon caste and discrimination, cemented by religion and ritual.
Naipaul writes:
"With Independence and growth, chaos and a loss of faith, India was awakening to its distress and the cruelties that had always lain below its apparent stability, its capacity simply for going on. Not everyone now was content simply to have his being. The old equilibrium had gone, and at the moment all was chaos. But out of this chaos, out of the crumbling of the old Hindu system, and the spirit of rejection, India was learning new ways of seeing and feeling."
Naipaul's take on the "growing pains" of the emerging modern India is fascinating, more so perhaps when considering the contemporary India of call centers, smartphones and digital TV channels with wall-to-wall cricket coverage.

Thursday, January 09, 2014

Jimmy Page: The birthday boy and a REALLY LONG song

I marked the 70th birthday of JIMMY PAGE today by listening to "FOR BADGEHOLDERS ONLY," a 1977 live bootleg from LED ZEPPELIN'S final American tour.
I listened in the car, while driving to work and running an errand. The bootleg recording reached the song "NO QUARTER" by the time I had finished running the midday errand.
That would be the final track I heard the remainder of the day. The version of "No Quarter" on "For Badgeholders Only" clocks in at a robust 31 minutes.
"No Quarter" is a track from the 1973 album "HOUSES OF THE HOLY" and primarily serves as a vehicle for the keyboard virtuosity of JOHN PAUL JONES.
During the 1977 tour, Jones added elements of a classical piano concerto into the piece, which helped elongate the song but must have always raised questions at the time, such as: Do we really need a 31-minute, piano-based song in the middle of a Led Zeppelin concert?
As I listened to the recording today, I couldn't help but think that this song serves as an example of the type of excess that infuriated younger musicians enough to spark the PUNK ROCK revolution. You could pack about a dozen punk songs into the "No Quarter" time frame.
So, happy birthday, Jimmy. Today, I heard an inadvertant gift your band gave us: A revolution devoted to brevity.

Monday, January 06, 2014

Homemade band flash cards? Yeah... those are my kids

ANNIKA and KERSTIN recently spent time between DEBATE TOURNAMENT rounds quizzing each other with homemade FLASH CARDS about bands they enjoy.
Two observations immediately sprang to my mind.
How come I never thought of that?
I am so sorry.
I never really thought they were listening to my musical obsessive's ramblings during their impressionable years.

Wednesday, January 01, 2014

Sherlock is back with fun and thrills

It was family television night and we gathered to watch "THE EMPTY HEARSE," episode one of series three of the BBC's "SHERLOCK."
It was funny and thrilling and worth the wait since the 2012 conclusion of the second series.
I won't spoil things, but Sherlock is back and the case is big -- it involves the London Underground.
BENEDICT CUMBERBATCH and MARTIN FREEMAN return in their roles as the detective and his assistant Doctor Watson.
The cast is superb and so is the writing. Particularly, I am a big fan of co-creator MARK GATISS, also known as one-third of THE LEAGUE OF GENTLEMEN.
We really enjoyed Sherlock's return tonight -- it capped a fun start to the new year.