Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Jeffery's Three-Dot Column...

I'm in a hotel room in Mobile, Alabama, with my iPod going, and I haven't posted for awhile, so this seems like the perfect opportunity to write the blogging equivalent of a three-dot column. For those who don't know what that is, well, see, there used to be these things called newspapers...

Last Saturday, the 4th Ward Afro-Klezmer Ensemble played at a club in East Atlanta. Even with one of the horns missing, the gig showed how far we've come. Most of the tunes which we have played a bunch were precise, but loose. And the rhythm section* both responded to the horns and led them in unexpected directions. We played one tune for the first time ("Silver Wedding"), and it came out like I imagine all of our tunes did the first time we played them - sloppy and awkward. But the rest of the pieces showed where we might be headed...

Before I left Atlanta for my annual trip (or pilgrimage, as my wife accurately calls it) to New Orleans, Karen was in Denver for a few days. The first couple of day that I was a temporary bachelor, I was so busy/tired that I couldn't really take advantage of it. But yesterday, I was rested and she was at work, so I took advantage of the situation, in my own geeky way - I did some things that require attention, solitude, and repose. I have been reading lots of stuff by/about Samuel Johnson lately, but I finally read what is considered his greatest poem, "The Vanity of Human Wishes," which had always put me off by its length. I'm weird, I guess - I liked the bleak descriptions of the human condition, but was let down by Johnson's conclusion, which is basically "Trust in God." Soon I'll devote a post to Johnson, which might be more of a threat than a promise...

I love poetry, but it requires time, attention, and solitude, as does much of the music I like. My prime music-listening time is in the evenings, when my hard-working wife is watching what she herself calls "stupid TV." It relaxes her after a day of hard work, but it drives me crazy, so I listen to music with headphones. Well, some music just can't compete with the TV, even with headphones. But since I was on my own, I listened to Dave Holland's solo bass album Emerald Tears for the first time in years . What a record! Holland has incredible technique, taste, and sense of melody. I still think of Holland as a cutting-edge young bassist, but he's 12 or so years older than me. Time marches on...

I've got a piece of software called TransferMyDVD, which converts DVD content into iPod format. Unfortunately, it doesn't work with copy-protected CDs, which means it doesn't work with 99.9% of commercial CDs. Since I knew I was going to be on the road, I tried it with some DVDs which I thought were old or odd enough to work with it. Sure enough, I was able to load a Lennie Tristano concert DVD, a W.C. Fields collection, and Jivin' In Bebop by Dizzy Gillespie into my iPod. Tonight I watched/listened to the Tristano and the Gillespie. The Tristano was stunning, and makes me think that he's one of the geniuses of jazz. His opening version of the standard "Darn That Dream" is as avant-garde as almost anything I've heard...

The Gillespie movie is something else. We jazz folk think of bebop as art music - the jazz that, for the first time, was not dance or pop music. But this low-budget movie from 1946 or '47 has "Night in Tunisia," "Things to Come," and "Shaw 'Nuff" as background music to comedy and dance skits. Don't get me wrong - the scantily-clad, chunky dancer on "Night in Tunisia" does it for me - I never like the skinny super-model look - but it's funny to see/hear this great art music treated as an aspect of the entertainment business...

The next post will be from the City That Care Forgot, the Birthplace of Jazz..

*You guys are incredible, by the way...

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