Advertising for Yourself
I can't lollygag...my drive to live won't let me...I'm listening to a Herbie Hancock CD recorded in 1994 when there were still LPs, now they call it vinyl...And Herbie's advertising his independence on this "album"--his independence from Blue Note Records and Miles Davis...Track 4 is called "The Melody"...I listen long and hard and, yes, I hear a tiny melody sneaking among the wires, and pops, slaps, monotonous bangs, laid on a large bed of looped repetitious sequencer slides, dives, and spins out into a universe of the latest in recording studio innovations, equalized pieces of electronically driven oscillations and sawtoothed menaces...the melody? Yeah, I hear it, but it's so weak, as if calling for help from back in the early 1960s...and Herbie tries to legitimize the new independent Herbie by overlaying some acoustic piano lines, old Herbie Blue Note Records lines, while all around him go off the electronic barrage of programed bombs, beat, and punctuations, bass slimes...and then suddenly Herbie is alone, playing alone, showing off alone...and the sound engineer fades him out...and then there is nothing but Herbie advertising that he's left the mainstream, he's left the jazz avant garde and has come up with HIS OWN music...and this is about when old Wynton Marsalis, the Big Daddy of Mainstream Jazz of his own election, started badmouthing Herbie, saying he'd drifted from the fold and had given in to popularization and commercialization and Herbie said, "Hell yeah, I have. I'm making millions off my 'so-called' jazz"--the track I'm listening to now could just as well be Bob James or Grover Washington, Jr.--"Come on, Herbie," I'm growling, "come on back, you overtalented, too-smart motherfucker." That's why being a genius when you're young is devastating. What the hell do you do when you're an old-fuck genius and everybody then thinks your innovations are ridiculous--teeter-tottering like your old bones, like your old brain, even though you were a genius when you were young...yet, I recall Beethoven wrote some of his most out-there music--my Beethoven favs of all time the late string quartets--after he was blind and deaf--and the music in those quartets is the real genius of Beethoven--and all a genius is is one who is forced by his or her genes into whatever it is they have a bent towards whether its playing a musical instrument, playing tennis or golf, or being made to act in front of full-length mirrors by nest-egg-seeking moms, or writing advanced poems in schoolkid notebooks, or writing at stories--stories that leap off the page, that jump off the ends of the lines into some new world order of genius...for every genius there are a million and a half dumbasses...pipe layers...shit house cleaners...but there is even genius in them, too...like would I know how to professionally clean a shit house no matter how filthy its proprietor left it? Hell no. I hate cleaning products--their petroleum odors--their ammonia fumes--their chemical mixtures--they make me gag...I'd rather be filthy, live like a negligent cat, satisfied sitting secure in my back-to-nature odors, my natural wild-animal odors! Let yourself go! Use only your tongue to clean yourself. Go on, you can do it...you're born to be able to tongue-and-spittle clean your body all over, every distant crack, every hidden hole, every dangling sexual organ...yeah, civilization, that man-invented form of life, made a tongue bath disgusting to the gods! The gods invented bathrooms...bathrooms with running water...and flushing shit and piss holes. Do Christians ever imagine their precious perfect Jesus going to the bathroom! Where were the bathrooms located in Jesus's day? "Would'st Thou piss on yon fig tree, Lawdy Lawd?" "The cursed fig tree? You damn right, and in my Dad's holy name I do hereby piss like a Trojan on this here worthless piece of shit fig tree...." "You say you have to shit, my Lawdy Lawd and Massuh? Here, I have brought my wiping hand for you to use when you're finished." "Are you cookin' the Last Supper?" "Yes, Lawdy Lawd and Massuh." "Holy shit, no wonder I've got the shits these days." "But I thought you were perfect, Lawdy Lawd!" "You been listening to my trick-bagging dad again, bragging down at the Temple, right?...did he mention he ain't my real dad?" "Old Crazy Joe the Carpenter ain't your real dad?...but then, I must confess, yeah, Lawdy Lawd, I always had trouble imagining that old fart of a joker mounting your holy virgin mother, Mary...." "Mary, that whore, she's not my mother." "Not Mary Magdalene, my Lawdy Lawd, I was talkin' 'bout you're pure sweet holy brickhouse mamma." "Sorry, Judas, but I got my lusting mind hooked hard on that god-damn Magdalene bitch...what a piece of desert-babe ass." My pardons to Joshua ben Josef, wherever he may be or not be. I am cursed and on my way to Hell.
Herbie Hancock's 1994 innovationally independent Herbie music may come off well as the bed music to a mary-gee-juan-O high. Now Herbie's using a Moog or something, making it sound like a musical saw. There's a chick down in the subway system here in New York City who plays an electric saw--it's horrible, but then who has the balls to tell the ballsy babe the truth, so instead they give her upwards of $100 a morning to keep sawing away on that god-damn yowling banshee-sounding saw--HOLY SHIT, I holler at myself, I gotta lug my guitar and pig amp down into that subway and sing 'em some Herbie hip-hop raggedy rag funky feet hot soul slump...and this Herbie Hancock album is the one that has "Rubber Soul" on it and I recognize it, Track 10, the minute I hear the blues in it...yes, there's blues in it and Wallace Roney's imitating Miles in it, too...and there's that crescendo that is natural to natural jazz, and "Rubber Soul" goes back to them thar days of yesterday when Herbie was Miles's little piano-playing dick boy, Miles loving his children, his genius children, check 'em out: Red Garland, Paul Chambers, Philly Joe Jones, Jimmy Cobb, Hank Mobley, John Coltrane, Wayne Shorter, Tony Williams, Ron Carter, Kenny Garrett, Winetone Kelly, Bill Evans, Dave Holland, so many I can't name 'em all--still to this day in New York City if you can prove you played on a Miles Davis album or used to tour with Miles you can get a gig and a record contract (like Mike Stern who's currently getting gigs based on a brief time he was with Miles)...there are many more, most of them gone...real gone...and when it used to be real gone it was real and stayed in your mind...
HERBIE YOU ARE BORING ME! It ain't jazz, Herbie. "I don't call it jazz, Wolfie." Sorry. He's right, it ceased being jazz back around 1977--when Miles issued that wonderful album In a Silent Way..."Shhh...Peaceful"--and that may have been Miles's adieu to mainstream jazz...though before Miles died Gil Evans (real name Green) talked him into redoing Birth of the Cool at Montreux--and though in mind-blowing pain and disability, Miles came alive and got healed for the hour or so it took to play the score, and Miles played muted and it was Miles, it was blues, it was jazz, it was Miles playing Miles and then he took the mute out and that satin sound came back to us--for just that hour--and then Miles "passed away" as we polite folks say.
The greatest jazz album ever made in my book? No doubt about it, Jaki Byard's 2-volume set called "Jaki Byard Quartet Live at Lennie's on the Turnpike," a club that was on the Mass Turnpike near Brookline, Mass. That's the pure jazz album for me. I put that 1st volume on, that tune "Twelve"--hey, it's 12 minutes long--man, and that thing gives me the groove that allows me to walk on water it's such pure American-style improvisation--Jaki Byard my modern Bach. This one composition leaves Herbie Hancock's music of his independence spinning like an empty beer can flung from a speeding car's window onto the middle of a superhighway! Jaki transcended all music--he wrapped all musical forms up in his Steinway 12-footers--he poured forth musics that were in Blind Tom's improvised lines, that were in Scott Joplin's ragtimes and quadrilles, plus he could shift gears and jump into Art Tatum, or switch into Willie "The Lion" Smith, or go Gunther Schuller on you if he so chose--and Jaki had the music of his Africa running through his veins--Jaki Byard, a genius, and like most geniuses, he died before he was finished...worn out from gigging, he was sleeping across his bed in his apartment bedroom--and the next morning his daughter found him--dead in his bed, a single bullet right through his head. They never solved Jaki's murder. Just like Jaki didn't get to solve the musical problems he was constantly working out in his head. All hail, Jaki Byard.
Here it is, the greatest anything album ever made! My opinion. You're welcome to your own, but I've probably heard more jazz than you'll...but there I go, like Herbie, advertising for myself; Norman Mailer said you had to do it if you were a serious artist...
Jaki Byard at work, his pleasure, his domain, his music....
for The Daily Growler