Thursday, July 26, 2007

"Do You Know Who I Am?"

The Wolfman Opens the Paths to Fame
I composed a piece based on a B-flat mixolydian scale I was using as piano practice yesterday morning, taking it from a thin book of scales based on American jazz pianists's styles, one of the many jazz instruction books created in the 60s and 70s by the "late great" jazz piano teacher, John Mehegan, who got into jazz in 1945 as a teaching assistant to Professor Teddy Wilson at the Metropolitan Music School in NYC (read: New York City) and by 1946, John was head of the school's jazz department. John was also the jazz critic for The New York Herald Tribune and recorded with his own trio in the 1950s.

I composed this piece on this B-flat mixolydian scale after listening to the old Charles Mingus Jazz Workshop recording made in the 60s from the Showplace in New York City, the famous recording among jazz aficionados where Mingus insists on no applause between solos, in fact, no applause at all even after the pieces ("To us it's just noise"), no ice-clinking-in-drink-glasses noise and "no ringing the cash register" noise was allowed either. It's an amazing live recording. There is no noise on it--except the noise the musicians make except that's not noise but a part of the experience. One tune on this album, "What Love" (it appears on most albums with a question mark but Mingus didn't put a question mark on it), is a twelve-minute Mingus extravaganza, a melange of staged roles filled amazingly by the superamazing Eric Dolphy, who's off in his own outerspace in his solos, yet sticking to the form (the Mingus root), the form that is embedded in Mingus's huge brow; and there was the brassy, punching trumpet punctuations of Ted Curson ("Mingus was tough; you learned it his way or he fired your ass")--and Dannie Richmond, Dandy Danny, the Mingus drum machine, preset to Mingus butterfly rolls, rim shots, snare beats, and bass bombs and such--and Mingus "ah-um-ing" and "wee-dwee-eeee-ing" behind the horns as he stabs orders at Dandy Danny--and my Holy Nefretiti, you get into Mingus and you get inspired and as a pianist you soon learn he created it all at the piano and there is an album of Mingus playing the piano and I'm lucky enough to have been able to get to witness and actually sit by Mingus one time at the Top of the Gate in NYC in 1969 as he played the piano--he had just suddenly stopped the band in the middle of a tune, told them to take a break, and then walked over to the piano that was sitting by us and started playing the tune on out on the piano. Sitting there a long time playing and then just diddling around, once looking over at me and my wife but not saying anything, just looking at us. What a thrill for a young man who thought he was a jazz pianist but would not have dared pushed that jazz legend off the piano bench, no, rather I watched his hands and fingers--that's what would-be jazz pianists should do, watch these masters's hands and fingerings, even when Mingus was playing the bass a pianist should watch his hands and fingerings there, too. I used to love watching old films of Duke Ellington playing the piano at the Cotton Club back in the jungle-music 30s--wow what showmanship--and that's what it is, folks.

You gotta have it, even when you're composing pieces based on the B-flat mixolydian scale with a Monk-like dominant chord in the bass lines following the B-flat mixolydian chordal scale--and that's really the showmanship brewing up stuff in your creative juices. There must be something next-step in everything we do. Oh, sure, some famous folks get hung on a good-paying step and never need to take a next-step, but those of us who are never satisfied with anything we do no matter how great it is are always waiting to take that next-step--"If I only had my own band."

Showmanship is essential to fame, whatever degree of fame you want, whether it be local bar fame or national big tour fame.

You all who know me know how I feel about all of these poor little Mickey Mouse Club and American Idol creature-singers that are currently hitting the skids, getting famous based on how well they performed at the Mickey Mouse Academy of Robotic Talent, and god-damn, a whole shit pot of our current young F-ed up entertainers were flushed out of that Mickey Mouse Club mill, Britney, Justin, Rickey--all the little stars, J Lo, Christina, all little perfect dancers and singers and group singers and shit, totally not really talented, but cute yes, swell asses and swell looks-- but talented, hell no! I mean come on, most of their performances are lip-sync-ed and their recordings are all Pro-Tooled--"Sing as sharp as you possibly can, Britney, baby, though don't worry about it--I mean, sweetheart, you're flat by nature, but we have this Pro-Tools in here, it cost thousands of dollars, baby, and it'll make you on almost-perfect pitch, so let's go boyz and girlz, let's make a hit recording!"

We old jazz guys saw the highest form of entertainment fame as so commercial as to be already stale the minute it was declared fresh. Going commercial meant you weren't gonna last long.

Mehegan and Mingus taught against commercial fame; eccentric fame, yeah, that's just a part of the way you establish the legendary aspects of your fame as a jazz great--the legendary aspects--like Mingus dumping drinks on people's heads for making too much noise during his solo--or like Miles punching out white dudes at parties who tried to overcompliment him--he called it white patronizing! But, that was just the legends that kept these guys working and making money so they could create their own special brand of entertainment, an entertaining that asked for quiet respect and not dependent on a lot of noise to cover up the lack of talent of most entertainers who make it big enough to draw a huge crowd of screaming minnies and mickeys who are screaming as they're music star heroes half-ass lip-sync to their latest "created" hit song while the band behind them only distinquishes itself with the amount of noise it can generate with all amps on the "10" on the volume knob and the drummer blasting away on 4 sets of drums and a thousand cymbals. I used to laugh my ass off at the Beatles fans--they screamed so loud at their concerts they had no idea whether the Fab Four were coked and heroined out of their skulls or whether they had just returned from buggering an Anglican bishop in one of their choir boy roles--sorry, I have no respect for the Beatles and their Lydian modal Anglican church music. I'd rather be forced to listen to the Rolling Stones than the Beatles and I hate the Rollings Stones, too, don't worry about that. There is not much British that I like. Yes, I've owned Jaguars; that doesn't mean they were great automobiles--they looked good, but god help you when you took 'em in to be repaired. And yes, I've always loved Scottish tweeds, especially the tweeds from the Hebrides--I have Scotch in my genes--and, yes, I love the writings of Somerset Maugham; and, yes, I love Ralph Vaughan-Williams's Antarctica Symphony--whooo, that's a cold beautiful icy mother of a piece of music. It is like standing in the middle of Antarctica and taking deep long breaths of the cold air and listening to long cold sweepings of the monotonal winds whose scales sweep from cold deep bass drones up to high icicle whistlings. Though mostly I don't like anything British.

for The Daily Growler

And How Are Things in Baghdad?

Not so good if you're a kidnapped Filipino. From the Progress

Slave labor used to contruct U.S. Embassy In Baghdad.

During testimony before the House Oversight Committee today, Rory Mayberry, a former subcontract employee of the firm responsible for the construction of the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, said he believes that at least 52 Filipino nationals had been kidnapped to work on the embassy project. He testified:

Mr. Chairman, when the airplane took off and the captain announced that we were heading to Baghdad, all you-know-what broke out on the airplane. The men started shouting, it wasn’t until the security guy working for First Kuwaiti waved an MP5 in the air that the men settled down. They realized that they had no other choice but to go to Baghdad. Let me spell it out clearly: I believe these men were kidnapped by First Kuwaiti to work at the US Embassy… I’ve read the State Department Inspector General’s report on the construction of the embassy. Mr. Chairman, it’s not worth the paper it’s printed on. This is a cover-up and I’m glad that I’ve had the opportunity to set the record straight.

And Finally, The Daily Growler Announces the Death of a Baseball Legend

Umpire who called more than 3,000 baseball games dead at 90

Longtime major league umpire Henry Charles "Shag" Crawford died Wednesday, July 11, at an assisted living facility in a Philadelphia suburb. He was born in Philly in 1916, and served in World War II. Crawford began as a minor league umpire in 1950. He became a National League umpire in 1956, officiating in 3,082 baseball games, including three World Series, three All-Star Games, and two NL Championships. Crawford retired in 1975. During the 1969 World Series, Crawford ejected Baltimore Orioles manager Earl Weaver during an argument in Game 4. Crawford officiated at the first game at Philadelphia's Veterans Stadium, and was a co-founder of the umpire's union. His son Jerry became an umpire in 1976, and another son, Joey, became an NBA official in 1977. Crawford was 90.

Sources: Associated Press,

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