Foto by tgw, "Bad Day for a Drive," New York City, 2010
Bobby Thomson--Bobby was born in Scotland. His greatest moment came in the Polo Grounds against the Brooklyn Dodgers for the 1951 National League Championship after being down to Brooklyn by 13 games. And Bobby came to the plate and hit "The shot heard 'round the world" against Ralph Branca to win the pennant for the Giants. Bobby hit 31 home runs in 1951 and drove in 109 runs. "The Staten Island Scot" is dead at 87.
And we lost James J(ackass). Kilpatrick, Praise the Lawdy Lawd--anybody remember this old Conservative asshole? He wrote "From the Conservative Point of View" a nationwide column that ran in all the nation's rightwing-leaning newspapers back in the late '40s and all during the 50s and 60s. He was an Oklahoman originally. He became a died-in-the-wool Conservative racist first-class--the kind of White man you don't wanna be seen with if you have half-a-brain. He wrote that he thought Knee-grows weren't equal with Whites and that Segregation was good and the States had the right to overturn Federal mandates against Segregation--in fact, according to this true-blue Conservative asshole, if a State wanted to vote slavery back into existence it had a right to. James J. Kilpatrick types are still thick in our media, in our Congress, and in our lives. Asshole. We're glad your old shriveled ass is finally on its way to Hell in a hand basket. Still this old prick got to live 89 years.
Still Using a Toshiba 4.0
The idea in jazz--the blues idiom, as Albert Murray puts it--was "laying back"--think about it. You lay back to rest. You lay back to avoid being hit by a passing cab. You lay back for sex--and I'm talking either sex here--I love my women on top and they seem to too...
Ah, what a lovely phrase whether I used it right or not...seem to too...come on, Lil Wayne, wouldn't that make a heavy rap thang?...
I was lookin' for your moola, moola, baby,
little shaved down everywhere,baby, baby,
and because of that, of that, of that, oooh, oooh, baby,
My stiff direction, yeah, direction, is pointed straight like an erection
'Tween those archangel-winged shaved-down legs you got in open arms...and, I said,
I found you moola, moola, yah-yah-yass-yass, moola, baby,
and by now I know...I know, I know...I want it all,
and you seem to too...oooh, ooooh, ooooh....
c2010 Crossed X Over Wolf's Head
Sorry, Lil Wayne, I know I'm not coming from any street but used-to-be street...I live eleven floors up in a fading-from-memory building on a corner of fast-changing Broadway, once the Great White(Man's) Way, now just a cosy little pissant walkway with big gouged-out max-tacky green-painted areas with chairs and tables for tourists and winos and scavengers to take a break on or scan the crowds for a make...so I live in a building full of memories nobody cares to remember anymore.
My building still has mailbox slots like hotels have. The postman delivers our mail in big mailsacks and we have a dude who sorts that mail and puts it into the proper mailboxes. Since this guy knows I've lived in the building forever, he's always stopping me and asking me about names of tenants he can't find on this computer list of who is in what apartments and what names they get mail under. This time he stopped me and asked me if I knew a Billy H. Waters. He handed me a business-type envelope addressed to this name. "Sure, I knew this guy. Billy Waters...'Flood Waters' we called him 'cause he whined like a baby so much." "I don't want his history, is he still around 'fore I send this back to the post office?" Billy Waters had been a doorman in the building 30 years ago. I had just moved in the place when Billy had a massive brain hemorrhage--down in the lobby one hot afternoon. They hauled him off in an ambulance and he was never heard from again, everyone in the building coming to the agreement old Billy Waters was a goner. So 30 years after Billy disappeared from here, someone is still looking for him. A collection agency probably. Yeah, one of those 2nd-story Mafia-like operations who buy old supposedly noncollectable debts for pennies on the dollar from maybe old Billy's health insurance company or his credit card company--who knows. The only people still interested in this obscure doorman from the past were the people he owed money.
That American truism is never obsolete. And that was the most bothersome thing that hassled me all of my life, dodging those to whom I owed a debt. One reason my parents and I had rifts. The main reason I had problems with my rich brother. Absolutely the reason my second marriage failed--my wife felt I owed her a debt. She felt since she had a good job and was having to support me, I owed her big time in terms of getting myself a good job that paid at least as much as her job paid (I was trying to be a writer doing freelance editing on the side for around $7,000-a-year; she was a high-class executive recruitment agency executive nailing down $42,000-a-year). This was a debt I could not repay, so she divorced my worthless ass and went on her solo way to a local fame (in New Mexico) and a worldly fortune (in the millions when she died). My way of earning a living was becoming obsolete the minute I went out looking for my first job--I applied for a job interning in a big city city manager's office--I was highly steeped in Urban Planning, but, nope, most of his staff had gone to an Ivy League school but I had gone to...ugh, UNT--"put a C in front of it and you have what it stands for."
I was bent from birth to dabble somehow, someway in the arts. I fortunately grew up in a family of artists--some worthy of the title and some not, but all signifying themselves as artists. For instance, I loved to sit quietly watching my grandmother painting at her easel. I loved the smell of her oil paints and loved watching her use her brushes so delicately and strangely able to bring a living scene out of what started off as smears and gobs of paints. And I loved going through the many art books she had in her library. One big one had all the old masters in full-page lengths and full color--my mother had a framed print of Gainesborough's "Blue Boy," which she treasured and commented upon a lot, hanging in her bedroom and that same "Blue Boy" along with across-the-page "Blue Girl" were the first paintings I flipped this art book open to, a coincidence I thought of as a calling--you see, I was scientifically mystical as a 12-year-old, a significant age of change in my life--instinctual, right, Socrates? I believed that art called you forth same as my peers who became preachers claimed they were called forth by God through his only son Jesus H. Christ to "go forth and preach the Gospel." My Gospel was Art--and then I heard the acoustic piano calling me--then the typewriter. I remember the first electric typewriter I ever saw. Lawsy mercy! I remember the first color teevee I ever saw (in 1948...top that). I remember that as an amazement. Now how silly do electric typewriters look. How silly do touch-tone phones look? How silly does an old analog teevee look? How silly do cassette tapes look?
Cassette tapes? Because I'm listening to a cassette tape of the Charlie Parker All-Stars playing somewhere back 60 years ago in some club with Max Roach kicking the hell out of the drive, "cookin'" as we once said. There are no musicians listed on the cassette jacket...yeah, that's right, the cassette jacket--it lists the tunes, but that's it. There's a photo of Bird & Diz on the cover but this ain't Dizzy on this trumpet--it's probably Kenny Dorham maybe--I like "probably" "maybe" thinking.
I was looking at a Village Voice t'other day and there was a whole-page record store ad offering the latest VINYL and at the bottom of the page the latest turntables. You see the thing is vinyl's my generation's gift to newcomers and youth...a petroleum product...so OIL makes our recordings possible and vinyl it turns out is the best way to store sounds--PRAISE OIL, which though it's becoming obsolete, we continue to worship it as if it were divine in a salvation sense. As it becomes rarer, it seems to be becoming the Christian God's newest-born only son...God sperming into the womb of the deepest pool of holy oil whose legs are open to his mighty thrust. Whooops, God's penis just hit a gusher--HOLY JESUS's brother, God's cum is OIL.
I'm drifting off my rail...jazz taught me to GROW OLD GRACEFULLY. Jazzmen blew their blues away, though many of them no matter how innovative and virtuosic they played couldn't shake the grip of that which causes the blues: oppression and depression. Jazzmen were laid back when they played. Some jazzmen laid back by stooping forward--coolin' out forward. The pianist slouch. While Dizzy after playing with a snake charmer had his trumpet redesigned so the bell pointed toward the sky. "Groovin' High," Dizzy called his method of "blowin' the blues away." ("Somewhere there's music/How high the moon.") Trumpet players like Miles Davis, however, turned their bells at an angle toward the stage floor...or Sonny Rollins turning the bell of his horn against back walls of stages or toward the civilization-escaping (as in a toilet flushing) East River from off the Williamsburg Bridge.
And you laid back fingerpopping when you were digging jazz...West Coast Jazz or East Coast Jazz...free-form jazz...modern jazz...progressive jazz...cool or funk...you laid back to play it and dig it. And laid back meant "being cool," though all jazz people weren't necessarily into Cool Jazz--like Miles caught onto when he experienced the West Coast with Max Roach and met Gerry Mulligan and those cats--Shorty Rogers, Bud Cooper, Bud Shank--White boys who had learned their jazz off 78 rpm records in the L.A. area and then in U.S. Army bands during WWII--Be-bop was too HOT for these guys--the spinning out of clusters of smokin' notes toward the stratosphere in a kind of perpetual manner was too breathless for them--so they backed Miles into the cool zone with "Birth of the Cool"--and I'll be honest with you, I think Bird was too hot for Miles, too--and I've heard Miles sounding like Dizzy so I know at first he tried to follow--but Miles was, remember, a sloucher, and he had a different approach to being laid back. He was a boxer, remember, and boxers lean forward to fight with their intentions aimed toward the canvas floor of the ring watching the legs, the hips, the waist movements, so Miles blew cool as though undressing Madame Zzaj as she lay back naked under her skin-tight drum head on his leopard-skin carpeted living-room floor.
"Lay back and blow the blues away." And that's all jazz was, a sophisticated funky way to mind-boggle and blow the blues away--as long as a jazz musician was on stage or in a jam playing his horn or ax or box or kit he was safe from the reality of the blues. And because it was Black thought-up music, of course, it was always like a hopeless race horse running to win, certainly strong enough to win, though frustratingly never able to cross a finish line because of the rigged blue nature of the track and track officials. They blew the blues away on stage, in the clubs, on the tours--and when that way became gulped up by history and time and became obsolete, the blues took over the USA. Oppression became reality. Depression became reality.
The great jazz groups had one thing in common: unity; cooperation; a brother-sisterhood beneath the skin color--a relationship that came together over an art--art unifying--division the method the blues and the boogiemen and -women use to keep dissonance, disharmony, decadence, and disillusionment, the official musical art of the upper-underworld, which to my way of eccentric thinking stands for all the arts in the U.S.A. today.
Being laid back means you never want to come out of that style. Like good clothes. Jazz people used to wear the coolest clothes. Where do you think the Beatles got the idea for their cute little suits they wore? Jazz guys called those continental-style suits--super slick styled like a super slick car--like the Cadillac Eldorado. Everything was in the cut. But the clothes had to be laid back cool, too. I once saw a Bobby Hutcherson, the vibraphonist, gig and Bobby was wearing a pair of slacks that were so god-damn cool--I mean I sat there thinking, "Man, those slacks sure do match Bobby's cool playing to perfection. You gotta have the right slacks when you've reached Bobby's level of jazz perfection." The fineness of those threads. Threads. Vines. Obsolete terms now. Squares. Obsolete. Cats. Cookin'. Ridin' on a riff. Obsolete.
You see, growing old gracefully, the laid-back jazz way, means you are cool with change because the music that has called you to it is so ever-changing, so ever-evolving. Though jazz is probably obsolete in the sense young people never listen to it. Still I hear it in today's music, believe it or not. You're saying, "Now where's this weird obsolete-sounding wolfman going? How confusing this man is--though how much sense he makes when he dons his wolf clothing." In the 90s there was a rap group from NYC who used jazz vinyl as their DJ's source of riffs and rhythms...Run DMC paid tribute to Chuck Berry in one of their raps. Respect for the music that got all y'all here. That's what I'm looking for in the music of the NOW.
I see rappers like I once saw young jazz people. Rappers came from jazz. Listen to King Pleasure, Babs Gonzales, Eddie Jefferson, Jon Hendricks, the great versemen, guys who used their voice as instruments whose note sounds were words, putting words in the mouth of improvised jazz--these guys were rapping--but doing it on top of a recognizable melodic line--a classic line--a classic riff--a classic tune--words fitting the message of the tune. Like Eddie Jefferson singing "Billie's Bounce" to Bird's solo on the tune, his tune, or King Pleasure doing his famous "Moody's Mood for Love" to James Moody's solo on his recording of "I'm in the Mood for Love." And those guys old boppers could sing FAST, too--and they could rhyme on a dime.
Down in Port of Spain, Trinidad, once, I attended a calypso contest, a Panorama it was called. All the great Caribbean calypso artists were there--along with a broad span of newcomers, too. The Mighty Sparrow, Lord Kitchener, and the Roaring Lion were there. These great calypso performers were at their peaks--we're talking the 70s--Lord Kitchener at the time the most respected--but one of those guys that day blew me away--at the time the only calypso I knew was "Drinking Rum and Coca-Cola," a hit song put out by the comedian Morey Amsterdam (of the Dick Van Dyke teevee show) in the 1940s, though later he was sued by a Trinidadian calypso artist who said Morey had ripped the tune off him during one the comedian's vacations in Trinidad.
That day in Port of Spain, this one guy came out on stage and he asked the people to shout back at him what they wanted him to sing about. "Take your meat out of the rice, like Dr. Kitch!" "Peace on earth and crooked politicians, man." "What kind'a women do you like, man?" Stuff like that. And then this dude started riffing away on whatever subject he'd taken from the audience--and he sang verse after verse and the rhyming and wit and humor was so catching soon the crowd was wild and waving and swaying as this dude upspun line after line after line of carnivalish rhyme and mind--AND THEN, he suddenly said, "And now for you Spanish-speaking people," and he started singing in Spanish--wildfire Spanish calypso. I was drinking the rum enough to be elevated out of my ignorance of this music and sent way up into the ganga-skies the Mighty Sparrow was soon forcing his storm cloud into, suddenly interrupting this dude--just like the rappers break in on each other's rhyme time, and the Sparrow suddenly blew this guy off the stage and took it over--but this guy, it might have been the Lion--there was a Roaring Tiger, too, was on stage at least 30 minutes doing his thing in English and Spanish before the Sparrow hit the stage with his Big Bamboo show. I returned to my hotel room that night with my head rhyming my feelings. Quick wit. Blacks had to develop this quick wit to survive slavery in both Jamaica and the US. And Blacks are great rhymers. They are great improvisers, which is what all their music is--even the African musics that came with the African Blacks who were "imported" into the Caribbean and the States--the music of the Congo coming into US music in New Orleans on Congo Square, but also in South Carolina--and it was all improvisational music. Music of the moment. In Africa the Master Drummer sets the pace and the drummer proteges start mixing their beats onto the mainline of the Master Drummer and soon the women start chanting and dancing and the dancing arises out of the movement--and that's the key to growing old gracefully--the laid-back way--to keep moving. Never let a movement stop. Never change horses in midstream. The stream. The flow. The rivers all roll toward the mother ocean--the mother ocean who rolls her way around the world according to the whims of her husband the lowly lightless Moon--as the African legend continues to reverberate around the world now. Like I said, I recently heard a group of Russian rappers rapping in Moscow.
So how does an obsolete man keep on keepin' on as time is fastly erasing all remains of what he once thought was infinite in its endurance and evolution. Even my writing style is obsolete, I'm pretty sure. I hate realistic stories. I like rambles through the jungle of so many tales, so many through-the-looking-glass reflections of what I have experienced or what the subliminal man-wolf in me has imagined. Yes, I may be an obsolete artist, but I am a called artist facile enough to bend, to realign my parallel lines to a future way of getting elevated so the view above it all becomes clear and understandable.
Laid back and looking at it through the glass darkly, I know, I'm having trouble writing these days, not a writer's bloc, I don't believe a real writer has any blocs while he's hot. When he's burnt out maybe. I learned from William Saroyan (Who?) how to beat a writer's bloc. You just get up every morning and write even if it's drivel, babble--that way you keep writing--just like a jazzman or -woman keeps blowing their horn or chopping up the opponents in cutting contests with their axes or keepin' the heartbeat rhythm going on their boxes or their kits--you can't stop. You keep moving and going in the direction you were CALLED to go in. I know it's time for me to elevate myself out of the obsolete and get back onto the track with a new way of stating the same ole same ole--the fighting off of oppression and depression. Expression is the answer. It always is. Free expression never gets obsolete, though the Powers that rule us want it to be. Free expression means free verse, free thinking, freedom to move and keep moving. "Keep on truckin'" was the motto in the 70s--now it's "Keep on electrifying." Fuck, Plato, I don't believe in repression.
On my apartment floor today are the remnants of my past. Over one hundred cassette tapes of all the original songs and tunes I wrote from 1983 to 1996. Stacks of professionally produced cassette tapes. Forty-five hours of cassette tapes featuring theryefarmerfromqueens (Bob Guida) and another 45 hours of myself performing with the Rye Farmer and our favorite drummer who was named by his jazz bass-playing father after Tadd Dameron. And there is a huge trunk under a Rhodes electric piano I use as a desk that is filled with cassette tapes of me doing me and me working with a big band and me working with a Long Island blues band and me working with a group called Eric & the Boyz and me working with the Big Rigg Band--and dammit there's another box on which are stacked about 50 books behind this Rhodes piano full of commercially produced cassette tapes. Piled next to these cassette tapes are stacks of CDs. CDs again of me performing me or me performing my own music from 1996 up until today. And aren't CDs becoming things of the past? Who buys CDs anymore except the far-behind, those who live on the fringes of tomorrow still in yesterday? Young people download their fav flavs into their iPods--thousands of tunes for pennies--oh what a racket!
And unfortunately, the unification my jazz-blues-r&b generation sought--a unification away from commericalism, away from the Top 40, out of the bars and nightclubs and into the concert venues--and teaching it in our colleges--and we almost got there, and then guess what? The Beatles came along and now the Fab Four are becoming obsolete. Like how pathetic does Paul McCartney now look and sound?--and he gets all this major laud from our college of musical knowledge--I tried to watch a recent White House tribute to Sir Paul--how disgusting to watch this little amateur-musician fop posing as a serious composer of serious music when this little prick wouldn't have a pot to piss in if it hadn't a been for US Black music and Black musical innovators. Jazz added cellos to its instrumentation back in the 40s--Oscar Pettiford played a jazz cello. Electric guitars were invented by Count Basie's trombonist, Eddie Durham--he put a pick-up on his acoustic guitar and made it sing electric riffs and lines--and then Charlie Christian picked one up and made it sing--and then Oscar Moore--and then Tiny Grimes--and Barney Kessel--and Herbie Ellis--and the electric guitar came on line in all music. And then there was Roland Kirk, a blind jazzman--totally free of mind, and he brought into jazz the stritch and the manzello--two instruments he could play at once--adding a tenor into that mix--three instruments at once, and then add in his invented nose flute--and oh what a wonderful time it was at a Roland Kirk gig--I saw him at the Village Vanguard back in the early 70s. And I could bring in here the wonderful creative one-man-band music of Jerome Cooper, who used to hang down in my old BLOHO neighborhood and show up at loft parties and bars down there all the live-long time.
And in one corner of my apartment is a collection of 80 78 rpm recordings--mostly those of one of my most beloved of jazz characters, the Pres, Lester Young--his Philos, his Aladdins, his Savoys, his Commadores, his Norgrans, his Mercurys, even some Blue Aces. How obsolete are 78s? Back in the 60s and 70s my Lester Young collection would have been worth thousands of dollars. Not today. The market for Lester Young 78s is almost dormant. You can buy a very rare Lester Young Philo today all over for less than 20 bucks.
And, yes, I do have a vinyl collection--45 rpms and LPs--especially my proud collection of 40 (and growing) Charles Ives LPs from the first ones of 1948-50 until the 100-year-anniversary box set came out in the mid-70s. The market for Charles Ives material is up and down these days. Ives is still highly respected on the Internet--a lot of oldtimers still trumpeting Charlie's unique gifts (Ives was polyphonic before Henry Cowell and he was atonal before Arnold Schoenberg and he used doctored pianos before Cowell and Cage) to American music--though I know this young violist who just blew me off when I asked her if she knew Ives's work. "Oh, him...yeah, I've heard of him." What a put down.
So where is classical music today? Obsolete? Yes. It's trying through younger conductors and players to crisp up--to become trendy again--yet, they don't seem to be visionary enough to start promoting contemporary works--like who are the current leading American classical composers? Are there any?
I'm going to put on a Burton Greene CD and disappear until next time.
for The Daily Growler