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July 2008 Archives

July 3, 2008

Happy 4th of July Weekend from Cryptogramophone!

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(Downbeast will be going dark for a brief mini-midsummer vacation. But we'll be back before you know it with some cool interviews and other jazz-related ephemera. Enjoy your lazy summer daze!)

July 18, 2008

An Open Invitation from Peter Erskine

Greetings to all of the friends, colleagues and fans (weren't we all?!) of Dave Carpenter, all of who got in touch with me following his untimely death.

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There will be a memorial/tribute in Dave's memory and honor on Sunday afternoon, August 17, at the Jazz Bakery in Culver City. The best guesstimate for the start time is approx 1:30 or 2 pm. Ruth Price and the Jazz Bakery Board of DIrectors have very generously donated the space for us to gather and remember our dear friend. The tribute will most likely last until 5:30 p.m. TIMES TO BE CONFIRMED.

There will be music, photos and videos, snacks and drinks ... and there will be some level of organization, but the extent of that is being discussed ... above all, we want to make sure that we do this in a way that Dave would have approved of ... I'm sure that there will be plenty of good stories, laughs, and ...

There will be tears.

It will be good and important to see as many of you there as possible...I think it will help all of us in the healing department.

But for the moment, back to the planning department!

Any questions, suggestions, offers of help, etc. may be directed to Bob Sheppard and/or Peter & Mutsy Erskine. Feel free to forward this notice to anyone who you think would enjoy celebrating Dave's musical life as we in L.A. knew it ... it might also be good for you to reply and let us know if you're planning on attending.

Please mark your calendars. More definitive info to follow. Thanks, good health and love to all ~

Peter Erskine

July 22, 2008

Tids 'N' Bits

While we're still trying to wrap our heads around Heath Ledger's tremendous, epic, posthumous hijacking of a $200 million summer "comic book movie" (yeah, right. The Dark Knight was like watching two and a half hours of 9/11 footage...utterly brutal), we've got a bit of mopping up to do with some news nuggets that have accrued. Don't let anyone tell you the world of jazz and "out" music is dead and boring: we go away for a two week vacation and so much has happened -- an obscure jazz singer alters the lyrics to the National Anthem and causes a kerfluffle; David Byrne turns the Battery Maritime Building into a enormous musical instrument -- sheesh! So we'll just get right to it:

UNO
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Our axe man in the field Nels Cline, robbed of a chance to play with Tom Verlaine when both of them worked (separately) on the I'm Not There soundtrack, will finally get to mount a stage with one of his heroes when he gets to play a tribute show at the Knitting Factory in New York commemorating the 50th Anniversary of the Fender Jazzmaster, long and unfairly derided as the "gay cousin of the Stratocaster and Telecaster." No more, peeps. No more.

DOS
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Todd Sickafoose's Tiny Resistors is still racking up rave reviews (well, DUH): check out the newest from The New York Times and Pop Matters.

TRES
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Jeff Gauthier's House of Return continues to burn up the charts. Check out Greg Burk's review of the CD release party here and a new CD review from AAJ's Glenn Astarita here.

CUATRO
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Sad news: Pianist Gerald Wiggins passed away on July 13. We have a special guest blogger who will contribute a personal remembrance of the gentleman everyone called "Wig" sometime this week, so stay tuned...

CINCO
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Jeffery "Win" Winston, our friend from the World Stage in Leimert Park let us know of some cool shows coming up this week: on Thursday night, bassist Henry "The Skipper" Franklin will lead his ensemble at the Crowne Plaza LAX Hotel in Westchester. Since The Skip is based in Riverside, it is a rare treat to see this SoCal stalwart in LA environs. (And he still plays like a dream, too.) On Friday, saxman
George Harper and his Quintet (including the genius pianist Nate Morgan) will host a free afternoon of jazz at the Angelus Plaza 4th Floor Auditorium in downtown L.A. The address is 255 S Hill St. For more info, call (213) 623-4352, ext. 308. And if that ain't enuff 4 u, check out the 13th Annual Central Avenue Jazz Festival this weekend. Never a dull moment there! The lineup this year includes Ernie Andrews, Justo Almario, Clora Bryant, Gerald Wilson, Barbara Morrison (Sat.) and Phyllis Battle, Michael Session, Nedra Wheeler, Poncho Sanchez and -- who else? -- Mr. Nate Morgan (Sun.), who will be playing with the formidable woodwindist Jesse Sharps. (And get this, Jesse told me they wold be doing a couple of Bennie Maupin songs. Holla!)

SEIS
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Speaking of Central Avenue, the terrific site for the Indiana Public Radio show "NightLights" ("Where The Birth of the Cool Comes Out of the Past") did a show about the heydeys of L.A.'s own "jazz avenue," which you can access here. But there's more LA-related veins to be mined on this site: Dolphy ’64 and One More You Wrote Through Us: Horace Tapscott.

SIETE
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And, to circle back to The Dark Knight, The New Yorker's Ben Greenman has an interesting post that attempts to, well, "close the circle between Batman and jazz." You heard us, homeskillet. It ain't THAT much of a stetch!

TA-DAHHH! (Now, where did I leave that pencil?)

July 24, 2008

"The Wig"

The following is a personal remembrance of the late great pianist Gerald Wiggins by someone who knew him personally, author/patron Mimi Melnick:

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May 22,1923-July 13, 2008: Rest In Tempo

Like everyone else, I dug Gerry Wiggins--his drive and swing, his melodic inventiveness, his signature block chord choruses, his ear for ballads and blues. But for me, his singular talent lay in the way he backed vocalists. He was an accompanist without peer.

That is how I first saw him, years ago, supporting aspiring vocalists at an audition for a TV show. He was totally sensitive to each performers style and idiosyncrasies, unfazed by any lapses in meter, tempo, key, tone, or phrasing the singers sent his way. He carried the music onward, covering all blunders until singer and song were back on track.

Many years later, after we became friends, I was privileged to have Gerry play a concert in my home. I still treasure the photo of him seated at my piano that hangs in my picture gallery today. He was a frequent guest at my Jazz Salons; on several occasions, when invited, he sat in with the group performing.

Gerry Wiggins was a shining light in our midst, a gift to the jazz community. His passing is an irreparable loss to all who knew and loved him.

--MIMI MELNICK

FYI: A public memorial tribute to Mr. Wiggins is scheduled for 6:30 to 10:30 p.m. July 28 at the Nate Holden Performing Arts Center (4718 W. Washington Blvd., Culver City; 323-964-9768).

July 30, 2008

Tribes

We've got a lot of books in our nightstand queue, but its only on closer examination we realized that there's some sort of motif afoot: A Power Stronger Than Itself: The AACM and American Experimental Music; The San Francisco Tape Music Center: 1960s Counterculture and the Avant-Garde; The Source: The Untold Story of Father Yod, Ya Ho Wa 13, and The Source Family. And it's not even the keyword "1960s" but the idea of musical and social collectives centered around experimental music -- call them "tribes" if you will.

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I actually have an indirect personal connection to the San Francisco Tape Music Center. My lovely betrothed was a film student at the University of Milwaukee in the late 80s/early 90s and was in a class taught by avant-garde filmmaker Robert Nelson, who was one of the SFTMC's collaborators. My dear actually appeared in one of Nelson's class project films, and it was quite an odd experience for her to attend the Nelson retrospective at the American Cinematheque last year and not only see her younger self onscreen but actually be recognized by Mr. Nelson himself, now in his 70s and a virtual hermit living in the the woods of Northern Cali. One of the films screened turned out to be my favorite: "Oh! Dem Watermelons," a trippy screwball meditation on race relations in America that Nelson collaborated with fellow SFTMC freek Steve Reich. I was pleasantly surprised by Nelson's approach: when I heard "1960s experimental filmmaker" I immediately assumed "angry, confrontational, even a bit crude" (like Putney Swope shot on 16mm); but Nelson's films reminded me of the whimsical satire of Richard Lester (especially "The Running, Jumping and Standing Still Film"); ditto for Reich's hypnotic, hilarious score featuring around 200 variations of the word "Watermelons" sung by what sounded like a drunken men's glee club. When we got to talk to the gracious Mr. Nelson over a few beers at Micelli's, he revealed the only music he enjoys listening to are Miles, Monk, Trane and Buhaina. Ahhhhhh...

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The Father Yod collective (OK, it was a cult -- albeit a peaceful and contributive one) poses another interesting realization: even tribes we define as "cults" produce their own indigenous and organically conceived music, and much of it is quite fascinating. On the less sunny end of the spectrum there was the "Irreverend" Jim Jones' People's Temple, who produced original works that borrowed from black gospel and early 70s R&B, reflective of the church's open-door policy of racial inclusion (a good portion of Jones' congregation were African-American), and also a sinister and tragic window into how Jones used inspirational music as just another device to entice and control. Then there were the infamous "Desert Recordings" of the Manson Family (once available on CD from True Classical/Transparency) and the music of failed rock star Manson himself, which start off like folk ditties but end up betraying (surprise!) an earth-shattering rage and a flirtation with annihilation. Then there were the folk songs of "acid fascist" cult leader folkie Mel Lyman, who like Jim Jones encouraged sadomasochism in his followers and whose music sounded like Woody Guthrie writing a mash note to Adolf Hitler. His guitar should have had a sign on it: "This Machine CREATES Fascists."

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If you think this line of reasoning is nuts, just remember the robe-clad "cult rock" of the decidely nondenominational Polyphonic Spree. Whatever one may think about religion or religious indoctrination, whenever people sing to their God -- whether it be the Melanesian choirs featured in the film The Thin Red Line or the vocal chorales of Southern Shape-Note singing as featured in Cold Mountain -- it is always awe-inspiring.

[Damage Assessment from yesterday's 5.8 earthquake: I have no idea, as I am in New Mexico. I hope the fish are OK, though...]

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