Jazz and Poultry

Friday, March 26, 2010
I'm a Lame Duck New Yorker

In September I will conclude a 26 year stint of living in New York city and move to San Francisco.  I grew up in California in Los Angeles but L.A. and San Fran are very different.  They have about as much in common as New York and Los Angeles do.  So in essence I am not so much as coming home to California as I am moving to a different city.

I have lived in New York longer than I have lived anywhere, and although it took me several years to feel at home here I now identify myself as a New Yorker.  I have paid my dues — been mugged on the subway, endured the stress of searching for apartments, and screamed at random strangers on the street only to end up laughing and hugging.  I have performed at some of the skeeviest dives, as well as some of the most elegant and esteemedvenues.

The next five months I assume the role of a lame duck New Yorker.  It will become a time of lasts.  I noticed the forsythia beginning to bloom all I could think of was this will be the last time I have a New York spring.  (they don’t have seasons out in Cali) Soon I will have my last maddening Memorial Day traffic, my last 4th of July, and my last birthday. 

This year is a milestone too — I am turning 50 in August.  The thought occurred to me today to combine a 50th birthday party with a going away party for all of us.  That was I can avoid the surprise party scenario and spread the pathos around! 

Right now it hasn’t fully hit me yet.  My feelings are an odd combination of melancholy and excitement.  There is something to be said about a new beginning and there are worse places in the world than San Francisco.  It will be difficult as a musician to begin gigging right away, but I am confident that I am too good to remain idle for that long.  Stay tuned.


Posted at 02:34 pm by commish
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Tuesday, March 09, 2010
Giant Steps

Giant Steps is a fascinating album.  It was a breakthrough album for John Coltrane whose frenetic sheets of sound took up residence in its impossibly difficult title track.  The Giant Steps chord changes, which some say are based on the bridge of Rogers and Hart’s Have You Met Miss Jones, would dominate the album, as well as the several dates that would proceed it.  It is remarkable to hear Coltrane cut through those changes as if they were butter, particularly on Countdown, a duet with drummer Arthur Taylor for three-quarters of the track.  

I have always felt that the songs on Giant Steps served as etudes — vehicles for Coltrane’s obsession with these angular chords.  In the subsequent dates, particularly on Coltrane’s Sound (not released at the time) and My Favorite Things, Coltrane was able to discover the soul in these changes.  His playing became more lyrical, and if it can be believed, even more confident.  

These Atlantic dates, recorded in an 18 month period between April of 1959 and October of 1960, were Coltrane’s farewell to playing over standard 32 bar song chord progressions.  Few players before or since could equal his mastery of harmony, as well as his lyricism.  When he found the drummer and pianist that fit his sound it was if his concept and sound came into alignment.  In the later Atlantic dates you can hear him straddling both hard bop and model music.  In the fall of 1961 at the Village Vanguard things would change for everyone

Posted at 10:30 am by commish
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Sunday, January 10, 2010
All the money in the world for national security...

...but a public option is out of the question.  Where are our priorities.  The chances that any of us will die in a terrorist attack is thousands of times more remote than needing chemo therapy.  Yet we continue to shovel money into a security system that is dysfunctional at best. 

The latest over-reaction to the Nigerian terrorist attack has me very concerned.  The fact that we, as passengers will have to sit with hands in lap for the last hour of international flights — in effect infantilizing us – would be  laughable if it was not so infuriating.  A third grader could see through the flawed logic of this inane policy.

The fact that the would-be terrorist made it through several red flags — no luggage/one-way ticket/already on the watch list — leads me to believe that there is more here than meets the eye.  Is it possible that we are in a pre-totalitarianist state?  What disturbs me is the public willingness to accept these rules in the name of safety.  Time and again I have heard the phrase ‘It is a priviledge, not a right, to fly.’   It is a priviledge, in so much as it is a priviledge to buy a candy bar or a television set.  While we have the choice not to fly, there are many situations in which it is not practical to travel by any other method.  

We are sanguine about getting behind the wheel of a car, or being a passenger in that car.  How many of us take the bus or subway?   We trust that drivers and motor men will safely deliver us to our destination.  What if there was an attack on mass transit?  How many of us would accept a twenty-minute wait to enter the Times Square subway station?

Dehumanization is not the answer to attempted terror attacks.  By reacting hysterically we have given a gift to the terrorists.  In reality they do not have to blow up planes to realize their goal.  They have already bred fear and anxiety, and have contributed to the crippling of our economy.

Posted at 01:21 am by commish
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Wednesday, December 30, 2009
Here's how to win the war on terror.

I think we can all agree that we are sick and tired of the war against terror.  The problem is, how do we extricate ourselves from this political quagmire?  Finally there is a solution. 

First Obama must call a press conference and declare Islam the winner in the war on terror while  announcing that we are immediately pulling out of Iraq and Afghanistan.  ”When we first joined battle with you, the terrorists, we had no idea that you were so good at jihading.  Heck of a job out of you guys.  We’re scared.  You win.  goodbye.”

Here now, is the brilliant part.  Unbeknownst to the terrorists Obama will have sent out a mass mailing to every U.S. citizen stating  “Shhhh…. we know that we really won the war on terra — we’re just going to allow the terrorists think they won. ”  Then BOOM!  We begin subsidizing opium farming in the U.S. thus putting the Taliban out of business.   We move into Afghanistan and binc, binc, binc, there’s a direct pipeline straight to France.  Game, set, match.

Posted at 02:10 pm by commish
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Sunday, December 20, 2009
60 votes

Just read an article on the health care bill on  Slate   Barring a desertion by Lieberman, which is not out of the question, the bill will go to a Senate vote next week.  From what I can glean, this watered down bill could potentially do more harm than good.  It certainly seems like a gift to the insurance companies which will have even more business without the competition from a public option.  How does this effect people on the fringes who will have to buy health care or face a tax fine?   Will they opt to pay the fine?  Some people (in the comments section) say that the bill, watered down as it is, will still be a marked improvement over what we have since insurance cos will not be able to drop those with existing coverage, or deny others wilth existing conditions.  
Had an interesting conversation with a bass player friend about it today.  He is an Obama supporter to a fault.  He is extremely progressive, but he sees the political side as well.  He is saying that Obama wanted to get things done incrementally.  He realized a public option was a non-starter and at least wanted to get the trigger in.  He thinks Harry Reid, by forcing a progressive issue caused a backlash on the right.  I think it's reading too much into it to presume to know what Obama thinks, but I do agree that there is a political element here that is driving things.  
If health care passes and things marginally improve is this huge?  Many administrations have tried and failed.  It's sad and disheartening the levels of greed and hatred in this country.  

Posted at 01:24 am by commish
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Tuesday, December 15, 2009
I've Got You Under My Skin


  No video but this is a great example of Sinatra's connection to the beat. One of the all time great Nelson Riddle arrangements. It's all building tension, almost overtly sexual -- he (and the arrangement) tease you throughout the first chorus but you can sense something simmering, until finally in the instrumental, an orgasm of horns, and when he reenters the tension is rebuilt - climax -- break - resolution.

Posted at 12:26 am by commish
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Monday, December 14, 2009
A Republican in sheep's clothing

Speaking of Republicans, did you know that Joe Lieberman's wife works as a lobbyist for medical insurance companies?  WTF?!  Why does Harry Reid and his cohorts put up with him.  They should strip him of his committees before they are not in a position to do so. (appx 1 year from now if math serves)

Posted at 09:12 pm by commish
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Friday, December 11, 2009
Sinatra part 2

The pinnacle (possibly of western civilization) is a record called Only The Lonely.  It was made at the height of his career in the mid 50s and he's at the peak of his talent.   It was the first concept album - it's all ballads, heavily orchestrated around the theme of lost love. He would repeat this formula with less success with Come Fly With Me. Come Dance With Me and others, although that is like saying a BMW is not as good as a Porsche.
   Some words about those that arranged for him. Nelson Riddle, who did Only the Lonely, among many others, was one of the greatest arrangers ever and his sound, combined with Sinatra's basically changed the way that people listened to music, or at least it raised the bar to an extremely high level.  This kind of symbiotic relationship between arrnanger (sometimes composer, as in Jimmy Van Huesen) and vocalist had never existed before and it made the Sinatra lexicon special, separating him from the ancillary big-band singers who were mere components of a larger group with no real power.  I really believe it was an alignment of the stars between singer, arranger/composer, and musicians that made these records so great -- not just Sinatra.

Posted at 09:19 am by commish
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   I enjoyed playing tonight.  Sometimes with a steady, especially one with a singer, I get into ruts, but today everything seemed light and fresh. 
 I wanted to ask  what do you all think of Sinatra?  Most people of our generation only remember him from his tuxedo-wearing, larger than life, arena appearances of his last 2 decades.  The kind they would parody on SNL.  If you listen to the stuff from the 40s, and especially 50s and 60s you hear an original artist whose concept of phrasing is practically unequalled.  The way he sings a ballad -- it's romantic, but more than that there is a kind of vulnerability mixed with raw sexuality.  He makes you believe in the song and he makes you feel for him.  when you think of it there's a kind of genius in that because think of the man -- he was a powerful man who associated with mobsters, liked to drink and carry on and he was not what you think of as a sensitive guy.   Anyhow I'm curious because there is this dichotomy in him that I find fascinating. 

Posted at 01:16 am by commish
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Wednesday, December 09, 2009
My Yankee Bile

   In 2006 the Detroit Tigers won the wildcard and went on to lose to the St Louis Cardinals in the World Series.  This was an incredible turnaround  from 2005 when they finished 72-90.  In 2003 they almost set the record for worst MLB season ever finishing at 43-119.  Part of me pities the Yankee fan who will never know that kind of jubilation.  Their joy is contrived and they will always have rat bastard Giuliani in the front row with his shit-eating grin as God Bless America plays in perpetuity during the joyless 7th inning stretch.

Posted at 11:42 am by commish
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Born in a small coal mining town, I combine the ability to play I Got Rhythm in all 11 and a half keys with my love of washing machines to form a perspective so skewed that my wife insists on seperate seatings at dinner.


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