Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Refinements on My Mind

Coltrane vs. Refinement
Is where John Coltrane took jazz a level of refinement or reformation? I got this "refinement" shit on my mind the other day and I can't shake it. Who's a refiner and who's a redefiner or a recreationist? Recreation sounds like too much fun but then I read an article where a guy says refinement should lead to things being pleasurable for the participant; like a refinement of your job, for instance; you "fine tune" yourself to the point you become the commander of your job, you become the possessor of the refinement process that makes your job worthy of you and soon you find yourself gaining pleasure from your job. To this guy, refinement gives us more than just ordinary pleasure, it gives us luxurious pleasure. Since we now find our jobs pleasurable after refinement, we apply ourselves more to our jobs, produce more, make more money, and then we enable ourselves to move into the pleasure of these luxuries that only refinement can bring. This guy believes you are pretty damn refined if you're tooling around town in a Beamer sports job. It would naturally add up to me that if you are tooling around town in a Beamer sports job, plush with luxuries, then, too, you probably have a luxurious sex life. You catch? Refinement brings cultivation--or that disgusting word "civilization." Refinement takes the rawness (wildness/savagery/uncleanliness) out of you.

Take the wolf out of me and what have you got? awhimperingpuppydog--I refuse to become refined. Put that little awhimperingpuppydog in a burlap bag and give him quick passage to the Atlantic Ocean via the toilet-flushing East River just down the street from where I'm hacking out these daily blogs, flushing its shit out to sea just behind the Bellevue Hospital Psychiatric Ward. The garbage and the nuts have a lovely caged in balcony hanging over the brown-slimy waters of the old East River, which is directly west and opposite to NOT the West River--no, but the North River, whose name has been refined over the years to the Hudson River--they had to name it that because of the Hudson River Valley--I jest, of course; it's a tribute to old Hank Hudson, one of those snooty old English rascal adventurers those who brought us the British Empire, I say, and the mess we have in the world today. Henry got a river and an automobile named after him.

Hudson automobiles were my brother's favorite cars. My brother lived during those great days when Robert Johnson sang about his Terraplane, a Hudson Motor Company car; and young folks today sing their little asses off about Robert Johnson's Terraplane and they've never even seen one--never been in one--never flown in a Terraplane. I love that art deco name. The Land Plane.
[I don't know if you can find it on his site, but this artist, one of my favs, painted a hell of a Terraplane coming out of a lightning storm created by a radio tower, if my memory serves me correctly. I have a postcard of this painting so I hope Nick still shows it on his site. Even if he doesn't, being acquainted with the goodly talented Nick's site won't do you a bit of harm. Catch the weavings of this super mind--ya can't help but love the guy.


Or here's a shot of a really cool restored (not refined) Terraplane pick-up truck.


A famous plumber back in my hometown drove a Terraplane truck. He was a friend of the family, my brother went with the redheaded daughter--the whole family were redheads and with fiery tempers to boot, and his Terraplane truck was fixed up to look like a fire engine, painted fiery red like their tempers and their hair, with a big gold fire engine bell mounted on the hood that had a pull chain that went through the roof of the truck inside the cab so the old man could whiz down the street in that fire engine Terraplane donging the hell out of that bell. He put a siren on it one time, but the sheriff made him take it off the truck; he said the red-headed plumber with a siren would be impersonating somebody serious.

A refined Terraplane, which is what a rodded up Terraplane is, not a restored one, but a hopped up one, customized, you see, a refinement on what I think was a more refined looking car in its original state than any modernizing that took place 70 years later. I like that restored pick-up truck though.

You might as well have a look at Robert Johnson's original lyrics.

Terraplane Blues

(Robert Johnson)

And I feel so lonesome, you hear me when I moan.
And I feel so lonesome, you hear me when I moan.
Who been drivin' my Terraplane, for you since I been gone?

I said I flash your lights, your horn won't even blow.
(Somebody's been running my batteries down here...)
I even flash my lights, mama---this horn won't even blow.
Got a short in this connection, hoo-well, way down below.

I'm gon' hoist your hood, mama--I'm bound to check your oil.
I'm gon' hoist your hood, mama--I'm bound to check your oil.
I got a woman that I'm lovin'---way down in Arkansas.

Now you know, the coils ain't even buzzin'
Little generator won't get that spark.
All's in a bad condition, you gotta have
These batt'ries charged, I'm cryin'
Please--please don't do me wrong.
Who been drivin' my Terraplane now,
For you since I been gone.

Mr. Highway man, please don't block the road.
Mr. Highway man, please don't block the road.
She's regist'rin' a cold one hundred
and I'm booked and I got to go.

Mmmmm------You hear me weep and moan.
Who been drivin' my Terraplane
For you since I been gone.

I'm 'on' get deep down in this connection
Keep on tanglin' with yo' wires.
I'm 'on' get deep down in this connection
Keep on tanglin' with yo' wires.
And when I mash down on your little starter
Then your spark plug will give me fire.

You've gotta hear it done by Robert himself. That's the only version worth a shit; those covers done by Foghat and some other creepy Long Island band or sucky Brit bands sucked truly all the way; Robert has rolled in his grave to the point he's plum' tuckered out over some white boys missing the whole meaning of his song because goddammit, they ain't never been in a Terraplane. How many of these dudes ever checked the spark on a car? Or used an emergency brake? Or even "flashed" the lights of a car?

I'm currently working on a song called "The Tucker Blues."]

Now back to our story...
Reconstitution sounds too damn concrete to me. Except concrete is a bad example since concrete is an abstract way of mixing sands, clays, gravels, lime, and water.

I deduced when I was a kid that all cement came from Portland, Oregon, a place I visited a lot as a kid since my dad's sister lived there and I liked her husband a hell of a lot, my favorite uncle, who was 6 foot 5 and had a "tool" on him that made a jackass cry with shame--I know because he taught me how to take a leak in a lake once--he whipped his out, said "Follow me," and trotted a few steps into the piddling lapping waves (as if gasping for breath) of that lake and let fly a stream of urine that resembled the water coming out of our garden hose when you'd put the nozzle on it. It even matched the water out of that lake, my hometown's water supply, which during the dry months of summer, July and August, had its water level so reduced the lakebottom weeds would start growing toward the sun and they gave off a rusty color and a rusty taste so that sometimes that lake water was as yellow as piss during those months. I never thought about it like I would think about it now; I mean, we pissed in the lake then went back to the lake cabin and drink water by the gallons we got so thirsty pissing in the lake. Ironic, eh? Drinking mixed pisses; except my mother had a friend whose husband ran the filteration plant for my hometown's water supply and I knew what "filtration" meant because I used to play many hours in the main filteration plant with this man's two sons and once I even made out with his daughter back in the back of the filteration plant on a big pile of sand that was used in the filteration process--a white, clearly refined sand.

Since my dad was a carpenter and used cement in his foundation work, I knew all cement came from Portland, Oregon, because it was all called "Portland" cement. Later I came to find out Portland cement had nothing to do with Portland, Oregon, but to do with Portland stone, which is found in Dorsett in good ole Great Britain. What the originator of the term called "Portland cement" wasn't that at all either but was a form of lime called "Roman cement," a type of cement patented in England earlier than "Portland cement," which ironically ended up getting its standards from Germany, Stern, Germany, to be exact. But, heck, read about it in Wikipedia; they even show you the process step-by-step.


Along Came Betty
I watched Betty Carter singing one night while she was still very much alive, with Norman Simmons on piano--whew, what a night. And Betty took jazz singing to a higher plane of involvement, but she didn't refine it, she reformed it into her way of singing, her phrasing, her passing notes of slip and slide, those risings from depths to those crescendos of flying high home, and I don't mean flying home high by that. Climbing her own ladder. Taking what she had developed and found nuances within it to step on out into her special outerspaces, as far out ["far out" is definitely jazz terminology] as she could dare go before hitting that great wall of Chaos out there and then come crashing back down to earth, exhausted a bit but very pleased and feeling full of luxurious pleasure.

Flights! That's what I'm talking about, not refinement, though I suppose one of the tools one uses to create the vehicles that take us on our flights is refinement. I can see using refinement to mean "a tightening up" of a structure...but, no, that bugs me, too.

Refinement in jazz to me is Dave Brubeck. Reformation is John Coltrane. The differences are obvious. Brubeck played for popularity; stage presence; complicated yet keeping to the blues and therefore just more staging and not really an advancement in a jazz music sense. Dave's taking jazz into other rhythms than the traditional 4/4 is very classical but constraining if it doesn't come naturally like it does in the compositions of Charles Mingus. Refinement meant nothing to an idealist like Mingus. His dreams weren't refined at all; they were raw-up-from-the-ground feelings given height and free flight by the many reformations that naturally evolve out of self experimentation--the daring of Betty Carter to take her phrasings and times and beats into another of her own outerspace (off-the-page) levels.

Refinement can be acted out--look at all the old Hollywood fop actors--but it can never be real. Like all the current male stars in Hoakywood; check 'em out; they all look alike; the pose alike; they are simply refinements of actors like Montgomery Clift, who were refinements in the James Dean image, created by Hollywood spinners and not by old country hick Midwesterner Dean; Dean was a dumbass kid; Hollywood made him James Dean.

By acting according to a taught method, the actor is constantly refining his methods; he's not reforming them; if an actor starts reforming his methods, he loses methods altogether and is left speechless and immobile on stage or in front of a camera.

A jazz musician strives to break out of too much refining. As Burton Greene said in the interview I posted here a few days ago--his spontaneity led him to once bring a garbage can lid into Town Hall in NYC and slam it down on the Town Hall grand piano's insides like it was a cymbol (and it was a symbol, too)--or, like he also confessed to putting golf balls in a piano's guts once. Think how you would perform with golf balls in your guts. I like, too, that Burton gave credit where credit was due about being the first pianist to play the insides of a piano. He gives that credit to Henry Cowell and his Aeolian Harp and Banshee pieces from the golden age of American classical music; and Henry's the first dude I ever heard do it. I learned how to do the "aeolian harp" thing from watching Henry on teevee way back yonder. You hold down the loud pedal and then run your hands over the strings--holding down the loud pedal gives you a definite harp effect when you play the strings either individually plucked or openly strummed. Makes the piano sound like a dulcimer.

Recording engineers started "fine tuning" recording sessions that left sound-engineered recordings so refined they lost their "mistakes," their moments, their thinking--you know as in graphic art so in recording music, mistakes can be "cut" and corrections "pasted" in. See, this all has to do with computerized logic (as found in ProTools, the recording engineers software of refinement).

I found a blogger who relates blogging to what he calls "stepwise refinement." It is interesting to follow the logic of these computer programmers and how they view the process of refinement. Check out William Turkle's relating blogging to computer programming. This guy's pretty smart in thegrowlingwolf's way of thinking, though I admit I resent his knowledge in a unrefined way.


for The Daily Growler

Singing the "Summertime Blues"-- all alone in the svelte offices of The Daily Growler in the heart of downtown Show Low, Arizona. Yep, we're showin' low ourselves.

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