Friday, October 05, 2007

Talking Music

Brian Morton on his colleague and Penguin Guide to Jazz co-author Richard Cook, who recently died. Morton's heartfelt piece reminds me that a lot of jazz musicians have died this year. Max Roach, Andrew Hill, Alice Coltrane, Art Davis, Paul Rutherford, Joe Zawinal. To name just the few that come immediately to mind. RIP.

In his article, Morton mentions that he wishes he'd been able to talk with Cook about the recently discovered tapes of the Charles Mingus Sextet at Cornell, a set which he says "strikingly repositions Mingus’s discography and completely changes [his] views about that particular group". Marcello Carlin at The Church of Me wrote an excellent post about that very set (link via Destination: OUT). Other notable Church of Me posts from the last couple of months include this one on Ornette Coleman and this one on the recent Cecil Taylor/Anthony Braxton gig that excited much of the online jazz community.

Greg Tate on "Black Jazz in the Digital Age" (link via be.jazz). A snippet:
The problem with most jazz-hiphop hybrids to date is they proceed as if that riddle can be resolved by beats and technology when really the most remarkable, memorable, dramatic musical events in hiphop are the ones which derive from the form's most human elements, its mighty mouthed “pearls and gems of wisdom” dropping MCs and its superhuman beatboxers, like the one and only Rahzel who can somehow make the back of his Afro-Tuvan throat sound like two squabbling turntables and a light saber battle between Darth Vader and Luke Skywalker at the same time. What would happen, I've wondered, if Rahzel was given, say, Trane's Meditations to extrapolate upon or Sun Ra's Atlantis: sounds like we'd never heard in our life, no doubt, at least not from the body of one human being. But in what context today would such an experimental collaborative foray between Black avant-gardes take place—on whose watch and under whose willpower?
Mark Richardson has another of his consistently excellent "Resonant Frequency" columns at Pitchfork, this time on LCD Soundsystem's "All My Friends" and John Cale's cover of it (which I was previously unaware of and now must hear). Richardson is one of my favorite Pitchfork writers, and "All My Friends" is my favorite new song of this year. A good combination.

And, finally, Brandon Soderberg delves into the question of MIA and exploitation and politics, in "Notes on Otherness".

Update: As I was deciding on music to listen to while preparing for a friend's wedding this weekend, my gaze fell on the row of Pere Ubu cds, and I was reminded of Carl Wilson's thoughtful post from earlier this week after he caught Ubu live in Toronto. Frontman David Thomas seemed off, "didn't seem to want to be there", wasn't quite giving the audience the "series of orgasmic experiences" that are his goal. He himself made the latter point, and, Wilson thought, seemed to acknowledge that something was wrong. Others have been saying similar things about other shows. Wilson concludes:
Whether it was an off night or Thomas is having an off year, I trust that this is a transitional point, that he'll rediscover that sense of purpose for which, as he sings in "Dark," he's "agreed to pay the price." But some nights you see how high that price can be - when you come across a man who seemed to be born an immovable force, suddenly seeming eroded, a mountain worn down by rain.
I hope so. As much as I love Pere Ubu, I still have been unable to experience them live.

Speaking of Carl Wilson, in his post immediately preceding the one on Ubu, he announces that he has delivered his book to the people who publish the 33 1/3 series of books about individual classic (or not so classic) albums. These books have been talked about a lot, but very few of them interest me, mainly because I don't particularly care to read about individual albums at length. Oddly, though, Wilson's book does interest me. It's about Céline Dion, a singer that I strongly dislike, and who is generally critically reviled. And yet she's also immensely popular. Why is that? It always seems so easy to simply dismiss the tastes of others. From the Amazon description of Let's Talk About Love: A Journey to the End of Taste: "This book documents Carl Wilson's brave and unprecedented year-long quest to find his inner Céline Dion fan, and explores how we define ourselves in the light of what we call good and bad, what we love and what we hate." "Brave" seems a bit excessive, but maybe not. Anyway, I am fascinated about why we like the things we do, what informs our critical judgments and helps create our desires, not to mention the old questions about authenticity. I am definitely curious about this book. Read an excerpt here.


Dan said...

"But in what context today would such an experimental collaborative foray between Black avant-gardes take place—on whose watch and under whose willpower?" - know you didn't write it, but just in case you're wondering, the two Nephilim Modulation Systems albums for Big Dada ('Woe To Thee O Land Whose King Is A Child' and 'Imperial Letters of Protection') are a good place to start looking.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for this post. I wasn't aware that Richard Cooke had died recently. I've long considered the Penguin Guide to Jazz indispensible to my own listening -- because I can flip through it, feed my curiosities, argue with it, find new perspectives. Morton did a nice job remembering him.