Saturday, April 21, 2018

Just for fun: Arturo Sandoval and Paul the Trombonist - Peanut Vendor (El manisero)

The Cuban-American trumpet virtuoso Arturo Sandoval and Paul the Trombonist give us an entertaining reading of "El Manisero" (The Peanut Vendor). Arturo does a McCartney here, laying down brass, keyboard, percussion, and vocal tracks. It's important to note that Sandoval is no dilettante as a piano player-hear this, por ejemplo (as Arturo would say)-he really can play. If you go back far enough (actually I don't go back THAT far, myself), you may remember Stan Kenton's hit version of The Peanut Vendor.

Friday, April 20, 2018

Tine Thing Helseth-"In the Bleak Midwinter"

Still nearly winter here, so I thought of this.  Heartbreakingly beautiful reading of an old hymn.  Helseth (say it "Tina Ting") is a 30 year old Norwegian who, along with Briton Alison Balsom, is one of the great young trumpeters on the classical scene.

Perfection: Miles Davis-"Seven Steps to Heaven"

Not much needs to be said about this one...although what I will say may be somewhat controversial. This is peak Miles, to me-the 50's-early 60's Miles. This is before the outish Plugged Nickel-period stuff, and well before the electric era (though I do like some of that, especially "Aura" and "In a Silent Way").

This is the "other group" from the "Seven Steps to Heaven" sessions-Herbie Hancock, Ron Carter, and 17-year old (!) Tony Williams piano/bass/drums respectively, rather than Victor Feldman on piano and Frank Butler on drums. George Coleman on tenor sax. Ironically Feldman wrote this tune (Miles is co-credited-you know what that's worth), but isn't on this May 1963 session.

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Raymond Scott-Space Mystery

A fascinating cut from the great innovator in electronic music, Raymond Scott. Space, it seems, is a scary but intriguing place.  You may not have heard of Scott (nee' Harry Warnow), but his music was much imitated for cartoons and much more. Scott's official website.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Dexter Gordon - "Stairway To The Stars"

First cut here on JazzTracks-the great Dexter Gordon with the lovely ballad Stairway to the Stars. I've always thought of Dexter as the Joe DiMaggio of the tenor sax-he makes it all seem so easy. This is from the Our Man in Paris album (1963). This album got a 4 star (maximum) rating from the Penguin Guide to Jazz, and TPGTJ's people call it a "classic". No argument here.

Dexter had moved to Europe, as so many jazz guys ultimately did in the 60's, from Phil Woods to Maynard Ferguson. The Beatles, though they themselves produced good music, wrecked the market for more grown-up, sophisticated pop music and jazz. When Gordon moved back to the US in the 70's (after, somewhat ironically, jazz-rock fusion had revived the market for acoustic jazz) it was a very big deal.

Dexter often said that on ballads a jazz musician should think of the lyrics, not just the melody and the changes. Quite obviously Gordon is well aware of the lyrics of this classic standard, with words by Mitchell Parish.

This track features the great Bud Powell on piano, in his best ballad mode. You tend to think of Bud as the ultimate bebop guy, romping through changes at breakneck speed, but he's in perfect form for the romantic mood here.

Bob Perkins, America's greatest DJ, played this on WRTI yesterday, and I thought it would be a good opener for my re-configured blog.

Monday, April 9, 2018

Thoughts on recent movies seen-one "old", one "new".

Recent movies seen: 1) "East of Eden", 1955. Julie Harris, James Dean, Raymond Massey. 4 stars (out of 5). I've tended to avoid James Dean movies becuse the whole Dean phenomenon is so depressing (including the fact that the car accident that killed him wasn't his fault, despite popular belief), but I've read the book (Steinbeck) so I did want to see the flick. It's a pretty heavy melodrama. You may know it's a modern telling of the Cain and Abel story, but the best scenes in... the movie are those between Cal (Dean) and his mother (Jo Van Fleet), who he'd been told was dead. She's now running a bordello in a nearby town.
She's cold to him at first, but comes to see him as a like-minded rebel against Cal's father and his religious convictions. She eventually develops something close to motherly affection for him. The performance by Van Fleet is in many ways the highlight of the movie, and for once the deserving person actually got the Oscar (Best Supporting Actress). So-what would Dean's career have been like? Would he have been able to graduate to truly adult roles? Paul Newman was at his best when he played punks, such as in Hud and Cool Hand Luke. He was never quite as good again. Maybe the same for Dean. I don't know.

2) "No Country for Old Men", 2007. Tommy Lee Jones, Javier Bardem, Josh Brolin. 4 1/2 stars. This is a Coen Brothers movie-screenplay/directing. Llewelyn Moss (Brolin) is shooting deer in the West Texas bush country. He misses the deer, but stumbles upon what's left of a drug deal gone gruesomely wrong. There are bodies everywhere, one guy barely alive begging for agua, and $1.5 million in cash-which Moss takes. Big mistake. (You need to overlook the fact that whoever killed most everybody left all that money behind).

Anyway, Moss later feels guilty over leaving the guy begging for water, goes back, and his truck gives him away. Javier Bardem is the psychopath who chases Moss and kills people with an ususual method best not detailed. Tommy Lee Jones is one of the old men of the title, those not prepared for a world where dozens are killed over a suitcase full of money. All the performances are fantastic, the dialogue is crisp and often funny, and despite the brutality the movie is, as they say, compulsively watchable.

Monday, March 12, 2018

What friendship is worth-the BBC's "Martin Chuzzlewit"

Just finished watching "Martin Chuzzlewit", the 1994 BBC treatment of the Dickens novel, on DVD. Highly recommended. Paul Scofield stars as Old Martin Chuzzlewit. If you've seen other BBC productions you'll recognize Pete Postlethwaite as Mr. Montague/Mr. Tigg. You might also recognize Graham Stark, who played Clouseau's underling in "A Shot in the Dark".

The story centers on Old Martin Chuzzlewit's vast fortune, his disinherited grandson of the same name, and the conniving attempts of others, including the boundlesly hypocritical Mr. Pecksniff, to win that fortune. Since it's Dickens, most of the characters are either pretty much all good or all bad. Two exceptions are Pecksniff's mostly good daughters Mercy and Charity, who are unwitting victims of their father's plot to get the loot.

Also, since it's Dickens, and since it's the 19th Century, friendship is at least as important a theme as romantic love, and this tale's focus on greed. In fact, friendship among the various male characters is more central to the story than who will marry whom. This was an era when men would write letters to each other and mention their love for each other, and nobody looked askance at it. (Actual homosexuals would've been more discreet-remember what happened to Oscar Wilde).

And so the hero of the story is Tom Pinch, who (spoiler alerts) is loyal to a fault (quite literally) to his friends, but who doesn't get the girl (Mary) he loves in the end-she marries young Martin Chuzzlewit. Who gets most of the money.

Major tear-jerker scene at the end, as Tom's sister comforts him, but he says to her that his getting Mary would have been how things work in books-the "justice", as he puts it, of real life is different.

Thursday, March 8, 2018

Este u oeste?

"Este u oeste"? The first words that popped into my head, as the day began. East or west, in Spanish.

My Spanish skills are not great, but somehow certain thoughts pop into my head, from some place deep in my unconscious, in that language (I had three years of Spanish in school and have tried to maintain my "abilities" to some degree). The thoughts always seem to be especially important. It's a very strange thing. Sometimes it's bits of prayers, sometimes one-word adjectives describing how I feel about myself at a given moment.

Este u oeste. East or west. Opposites. Where will I go? What will become of me? What kind of person am I? As I thought about this earlier I realized these are all Lenten thoughts.

This is a good time for self-reflection. Do not think merely in terms of what you're "giving up" for Lent.

Monday, March 5, 2018

Dumber than thou

If you want to figure out today's political scene, keep it simple and ask yourself: Who's better at the game?

The Democrats, having drifted en masse into Cloud Cuckoo Land, are the Stupid Party now (they claimed the title when they nominated the unelectable Hillary), so Trump's screwups, large and small, don't really hurt him.

It's not Trump as the Globetrotters vs. the Dems as the Washington Generals-more like a AA minor league baseball team vs. a high school team from Alaska. The minor league team may not be the best, but they'll beat the HS team every time.

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Here are some things I really don't like

I don't mean to go all Andy Rooney on my readers (ah, the conceit that I have readers!), but it's a lot easier and more entertaining to write about things you don't like than those you do. (Right, Miriam?). Nobody wants to hear about how pretty the sunrise was, or that great dessert you had at Elaine's. (Elaine's is closed now anyway).

Nope-people want to hear why you hate Trump, or the Democrats, or kids driving around with bass blasters in their cars, or those little nasty yapper dogs, or people using their cell phones on speaker, or Jehovah's Witnesses (just tell them you didn't see the accident, as my late friend Rob used to say), or people who've had too much nip and tuck work, or people smoking pot at SEPTA stops that you're forced to ingest (the smoke, not the people, which would be even worse), or people on paleo diets, or vegans, or male white wine drinkers, or beer snobs (Can you imagine anything dumber to be a snob about? "I drink craft beer". Who cares? Beer ain't exactly upscale).....

No, I don't actually hate these people. I hope I don't literally hate anyone. But most of the people above really, really annoy me. I'm a conservative, so I believe in minimal government, but legislation directed at all of the above would have my full support.

Get cracking, McConnell.

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Chesterton on all-encompassing theology and philosophy

"Men talk of philosophy and theology as if they were something specialistic and arid and academic. But philosophy and theology are not only the only democratic things, they are democratic to the point of being vulgar, to the point, I was going to say, of being rowdy. They alone admit all matters; they alone lie open to all attacks.

"There is no detail from buttons to kangaroos that does not enter into the gay confusion of philosophy. There is no fact of life, from the death of a donkey to the General Post Office, which has not its place to dance and sing in, in the glorious carnival of theology."

'C. F. Watts.'

Apparently this should be GF Watts, a Victorian painter and sculptor, about whom GKC wrote a book published in 1904. This Telegraph piece describes Watts' works as "beautiful paintings that exposed brutal truths about Victorian society". Chesterton certainly wasn't someone with a dewey-eyed view of his era.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

A few thoughts on Charlie Rose

You know, you can't really accuse people like Charlie Rose of hypocrisy. Yes, he mouthed the "pro-woman" platitudes of the Left. But as a progressive he doesn't really believe anything. A thoroughly secularized progressivism inevitably reduces everything to, "Whose opinion is fashionable right now"? . The debased sexual culture Bill Clinton and such helped create was fashionable for a while. Unfortunately for Rose, it's somewhat less so at the moment.

Of course, people need to believe something, so everybody grasps at some motivator, even if it's just empty money- and power- seeking. It's all "eat and drink, for tomorrow we die".

So you can't accuse the Left of hypocrisy. They do stick to their script. A plush Manhattan high-rise is a pretty obvious token of success, whatever the price might've been to get it.

But progressives can, with justification, accuse conservatives of instances of hypocrisy, since we claim loyalty to the eternal verities liberals laugh at. The violations are often glaring.

In any case, I always thought Rose was a pretty engaging guy, though he was an obvious partisan-only conservatives got tough questions. But Charlie wasn't quite as engaging as he thought young women found him.

So-men with power often exploit women. Should they then be deprived of power, or is The Pence Rule a good idea?

Just a blog I like, and some thoughts on Trump

Miriam Sawyer has been blogging for many years. She's one of those very talented people that few have heard of, but whom no one would've heard of before the Internet, and blogging. So that counts for something.

She's written some very engaging stories about her crazy Jewish relatives, is a fine artist, and now offers up trenchant views on a stratified US. Here she noted that favorite hobby of rich lefties-virtue-signaling via Trump-bashing.

My own view on Trump is, I hope, a nuanced one. I take a (or "an", if you're hopelessly pedantic) historical view: Kennedy was a philanderer. LBJ was corrupt to an almost laughable degree. Obama sicced the IRS on his political opponents. Nixon was none too stable mentally. And so on.

Our presidents haven't exactly been a rogues' gallery, but they haven't all been Lincoln, either.

Trump fits right in.

Friday, November 17, 2017

Chesterton on not taking yourself too seriously

SERIOUSNESS is not a virtue. It would be a heresy, but a much more sensible heresy, to say that seriousness is a vice. It is really a natural trend or lapse into taking one's self gravely, because it is the easiest thing to do. It is much easier to write a good Times leading article than a good joke in Punch. For solemnity flows out of men naturally, but laughter is a leap. It is easy to be heavy: hard to be light. Satan fell by the force of gravity.

From "Orthodoxy".

As an aside I used to read Punch, the great British humor magazine which expired a few years ago, when I was in high school. I already loved British sports cars, and was coming to love British writing. Later I got into GK Chesterton, Agatha Christie, CS Lewis, and PG Wodehouse. Thus an Irish Catholic became an Anglophile.

Just for fun: Arturo Sandoval and Paul the Trombonist - Peanut Vendor (El manisero)

The Cuban-American trumpet virtuoso Arturo Sandoval  and Paul the Trombonist give us an entertaining reading of "El Manisero" (Th...