Amoeblog

Miles Davis' Kind Of Blue

Posted by Whitmore, August 17, 2009 11:27pm | Post a Comment

So I use to run this illegal bar, a speakeasy, and the specialty of the house was your traditional Vodka or Gin martini -- straight up, a couple of olives or a tiny pickled onion or a sliver of a lemon peel, no frills but a damn, damn good martini and never, ever a frigging apple pomegranate fusion monstrosity.
 
(H. L. Mencken once said the martini was "the only American invention as perfect as the sonnet," and I’d like to keep it that way. And since I’m on the subject... a martini should be stirred not shaken. Sorry Mr. Bond, but all you are ordering up is some weakass drink, watered down by melting shards of ice. Once and for all, a martini should be stirred, never shaken and served in a painfully cold glass.)
 
Anyway, the best part of the night was always after hours, around 4 or 4:30 in the morning. At that hour it was always quiet, I was relaxed, the patrons were relaxed, folks just sat around -- the trouble of the day or week was behind them, the stress of trying to get laid had more or less strayed, at least momentarily, though sex springs eternal and with the new dawn you knew at least one fresh scheme would soon ascend, prospectively. The soul, body and mind, conceivably worn to the bone, inevitably found a re-energized oomph in a good drunken conversation over one last martini. I loved the pretension almost as much as I loved that time of the day. And the perfect music to play at that hour was always, always Miles DavisKind of Blue.
 
Well, 50 years ago today, August 17, 1959, Kind of Blue was released on Columbia Records, in both mono and stereo, catalogue number CL-1355. The recording sessions took place earlier in the year in New York City, on March 2 and April 22, and featured soon to be legends all: Miles Davis on trumpet, pianists Bill Evans and Wynton Kelly, and John Coltrane and Cannonball Adderley on saxophones, with drummer Jimmy Cobb and bassist Paul Chambers.
 
So cool, so beautiful, so perfect, contemplative, sleek and sophisticated. Kind of Blue soars into uncharted space; five decades ago it stretched the boundaries and the very definition of jazz. Davis’, along with arranger Gil Evans’ modal experimentations abandoned the traditional song concept of chord changes to support a melody in favor of musical scales, re-inventing improvisation and a sound that would dominate the form of jazz for rest of the century. And though exact numbers have never quite been formulated, Kind of Blue has been cited as the best-selling jazz record of all time. On October 7, 2008, it was certified quadruple platinum. But beyond numbers, Kind of Blue is regarded by many critics as the greatest jazz album of all time and Miles Davis's masterpiece.


Ghostbusters at 25

Posted by Whitmore, August 13, 2009 11:23pm | Post a Comment

How the hell can Ghostbusters be 25 years old? I remember the first time I watched it, and I don’t think I was in grammar school ... shit, I’m getting old ...
 
Starting today, in honor of its silver anniversary, YouTube is hosting a weeklong showing of Sony's spooky comedy classic, Ghostbusters, starring Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Harold Ramis, Ernie Hudson, Sigourney Weaver, Rick Moranis, and Annie Potts.
 
The weirdest thing about this whole showing, is that even though the film will be playing for seven days on Youtube, technically it will be not be in your YouTube player. It will instead be deposited by way of Sony's Crackle player, which will then be embedded on Youtube. Sounds like a publicity stunt to me-- somebody’s making some cash off of this unholy union. Oddly enough, I might just be right for a change; rumor has it that Sony is currently developing a Ghostbusters 3 for a 2012 release. Spengler, Stantz, Venkman, and Zeddemore! ... I just hope it's better than the sequel, and I hope to hell all the original actors return. Who are you going to call but the original crew ... in fact I’ll take it a step further, I want Larry King, Joe Franklin and Casey Kasem making cameos again.
 
Ghostbusters on YouTube will appear in a 16x9 aspect ratio at "high quality" resolution (as opposed to YouTube's HD player) and it will feature as many as eight in-stream commercials. Enjoy!

Remembering Lenny Breau

Posted by Whitmore, August 12, 2009 09:56pm | Post a Comment

As far as I am concerned, Lenny Breau is arguably the greatest guitarist that ever strummed a chord on this goddamned sweet earth, and yet outside the guitar playing world his name remains virtually unknown. Several years ago I was gigging in Vancouver B.C., Canada and someone asked me who were my favorite guitarists. I mentioned Lenny Breau. I obviously answered correctly; for the next couple of days I had my pick of booze and food aplenty. Though Breau was born in Auburn, Maine, in 1941, he was raised in Canada. His family settled in Manitoba in 1957 and he always remained very connected to his adopted home country. His parents, Hal "Lone Pine" Breau and Betty Cody, were country & western performers active as both a touring and a recording act from the mid 1940's into the late 1950's. Breau’s first professional gigs were with the family act until he was about 15 or 16, when one night his father slapped him on stage for improvising.
 
Lenny Breau's phenomenal technique was a combination of his close study of his idol Chet Atkins, adapting Atkins' picking style of playing bass lines with a thumb pick and with his other fingers adding melody lines -- he was able to sound like two guitarists playing simultaneously -- and his harmonic sensibilities, predominantly influenced by legendary pianist Bill Evans. Along with significant classical, modal, and flamenco elements, not to mention his extraordinary right hand independence and his unique use of artificial harmonics, no one sounded like Lenny Breau.
 
25 years ago today, Aug. 12, 1984, Lenny Breau was found dead in the rooftop swimming pool of his apartment building in Los Angeles. He was 43 years old. During his lifetime Lenny Breau had a long struggle with drugs, especially with heroin, amphetamines and alcohol, something left over from his days on the Toronto jazz scene, but at the time of his death Breau had reportedly managed to take some control of his addictions. On that Sunday, his wife, Jewel Breau, an occasional singer born Joanne Glasscock, claimed that he had accidentally drowned, but an autopsy determined that he had actually been strangled and then dumped in the pool. The Los Angeles Police Department never had enough evidence to bring charges against her or anyone else, but in a 1999 Canadian documentary, The Genius Of Lenny Breau, directed by Breau’s daughter Emily Hughes, Detective Richard Aldahl states that Jewel Breau was the prime suspect. Jewel Breau, now remarried as Jewel Flowers, was never charged in the homicide because detectives thought that the Los Angeles District Attorney’s office couldn’t build a strong enough case to bring her to trial. Ironically, it was Chet Atkins who introduced Lenny Breau to Jewel. Breau's murder remains unsolved.
 
Lenny Breau was buried in an unmarked grave in Forest Lawn Cemetery in Glendale. Funeral expenses were covered by a memorial benefit at Nashville's Blue Bird Café.



The Second Weekend in August, 1969 ... Part Two

Posted by Whitmore, August 11, 2009 11:05pm | Post a Comment

Some observers see this second weekend in August, the 8th thru the 10th, 1969, as effectively the end of the sixties’ counterculture as seen through rose colored glasses. The Vietnam War (which was never formally declared a war) was grinding on. In 1969 there would be 11,616 US military deaths, the second highest count during the war; almost 22,000 Vietnamese soldiers would be killed that year. This week would see the deaths of 169 US military personnel, over the weekend alone some 84 US soldiers would die. And every night TV newscasts were blanketed with those images. Vietnam is often characterized as the "living-room war" or the "television war." It was the first war to be methodically documented nightly on television, and at a moment when TV was becoming a compelling presence in daily life.
 
Other news that weekend included the discovery of the missing plane, Hawthorne-Nevada Airlines, Flight 708, that crashed just west of Lone Pine on February 18, killing all 35 passengers and crew. It was found on the eastern slope of Mount Whitney at an elevation of approximately 11,770 feet.
 
On August 8, just six days after it was published in the San Francisco Chronicle, the Zodiac Killer’s first unsigned encrypted message was solved by a Salinas, California high school teacher, Donald Harden, and his wife Bettye. The Zodiac Killer was a serial killer who operated in the Bay area in the late 1960’s. His name was coined by a series of taunting letters and cryptograms he sent to police and newspapers until about 1974. The initial 408-symbol cryptogram stated, among other things, that the Zodiac enjoyed "killing people because it is so much fun." Harden was an amateur cryptographer and he reportedly took about 20 hours to break the code. Navy cryptographers had attempted to solve it, but without success. Of course some 40 years later, the identity of the Zodiac Killer still remains unsolved.
 
On the 9th, President Richard Nixon announced the nomination of Helen D. Bentley as a Member of the Federal Maritime Commission. Nixon also addressed the nation about domestic programs and a tax reform bill following its passage by the House of Representatives.
 
That weekend also saw the deaths of Russ Morgan, orchestra leader as well as a long time performer at the Dunes in Las Vegas. Otmar Freiherr von Verschuer, crackpot eugenicist and Nazi physician, died in an automobile accident. Nobel Prize Laureate Cecil Frank Powell died while walking in the foothills of the Alps; he was 66 years of age. A bench with a commemorative plaque can be seen near the site of his death.

On Friday the 8th, Disneyland opened their doors to the new and soon to be classic attraction, the Haunted Mansion. Adorned with wrought iron fencing and surrounded by creepy tombstones, Walt Disney had envisioned the ghoulish Southern-style mansion even before the park opened in the 1954. The Haunted Mansion was originally seen as a walk-through experience, with cast members walking their guests /victims from one scene to the next as the netherworld unfolds. “Welcome fooolish mortals to the Haunted Mansion. I am your host, your ghost host. Ha, ha, ha, ha ...”
 
Meanwhile, in sports, the New York Mets beat the Atlanta Braves behind the eventual 1969 Cy Young winner Tom Seaver. At this point in this, their Cinderella season, the Mets were still in second place, 8 and a half games back. The game on Saturday was 3 hours and 14 minutes long and the Mets won 5 to 3 on 13 hits. Seaver would finish his career with 311 wins, 3,640 strikeouts and a 2.86 era in a 20-year career. In 1992, he was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame by the highest percentage ever (98.8%).
 
As for my LA Dodgers, on Sunday they beat the Chicago Cubs 4 to 2 behind the pitching of Don Sutton winning his 14th game of the year, Pete Mikkelsen got the save. Sutton would also wind up in the Hall of Fame, selected in 1998 with a career won lost mark of 324-256.

The 1969 Pikes Peak Marathon, an annual foot race that begins at the base of Pikes Peak in Manitou Springs, Colorado, and climbs over 7,700 feet to the peak at 14,115 feet, was won by Steve Gachupin, who in his career would win the event 6 times in his 21 tries up the mountain.
 
In professional bike racing news, the World Championship was won by Harm Ottenbros in Zolder, Belgium, edging out the favorite Julien Stevens by just a few centimeters.
 
But of course, the big news, the chilling news that weekend, was the seemingly random and grisly murders in Beverly Hills and the Los Feliz district...
 
On August 9th, a hot, quiet Saturday night -- one of the killers would later comment that you could hear the sound of ice rattling in cocktail shakers up and down the Benedict Canyon -- in a home rented by Roman Polanski and his wife Sharon Tate at 10050 Cielo Drive in Beverly Hills, Wojciech Frykowski, Abigail Folger, Jay Sebring and Steven Parent and a eight and a half months pregnant Tate were murdered in violent blood bath, as bizarre, gruesome and insane slaughter of innocents that might ever occur in any dystopia. Less than two days later another grisly murder occurred in the Los Feliz district -- this time it was supermarket executive Leno LaBianca and his wife Rosemary. Killed in a similarly ghastly manner, this time a fork was used to carve the word WAR on Leno LaBianca’s stomach and left sticking out of his corpse. Authorities would take nearly four months to track down Charles Manson and his Family. And when they were arrested and prosecuted, the world discovered a terrifying mix of a counterculture gone mad and staggering mind-control. Manson, Charles "Tex" Watson, Susan Atkins, and Patricia Krenwinkel's trials ended in 1971; they were all given the death penalty, though later that was over-turned by the state of California, commuting their sentences to life in prison. Another family member, Linda Kasabian, who stood watch at the Tate house, turned states evidence and served no time.
 
Roman Polanski (The Fearless Vampire Killers, Rosemary's Baby, Chinatown, The Pianist), who was out of town, was not Manson’s target. The victims were in the wrong house at the wrong time. Manson, an aspiring singer-songwriter and an occasional friend of Beach Boy Dennis Wilson, chose the Cielo Drive house because he had once tried to get a record deal from a producer who used to live there, Terry Melcher, the son of Doris Day, and Manson knew the layout of the house. Past residents included Cary Grant and his wife Dyan Cannon, Henry Fonda, Mark Lindsay from Paul Revere & the Raiders and Candice Bergen. The final resident of the original Cielo Drive house was Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails, who moved into the house in the early 1990s and built a recording studio there. The studio dubbed Pig, or sometimes Le Pig, was an allusion to the fact that Susan Atkins wrote "Pig" in Tate's blood on the front door of the house during the murders. The Nine Inch Nails ep Broken and their classic 1994 album The Downward Spiral were recorded there, as well as Marilyn Manson's debut album Portrait of an American Family. In December 1993 Reznor moved out of the house, taking with him the original front door, explaining that "there was too much history in that house for me to handle." He insists that he didn’t know about the murders when he bought the house, though I thought there was a law on the books requiring brokers to tell buyers about crimes that may have taken place in a home; the real estate term is ‘stigmatized properties.’ Then again, what do I know? In the late 1990’s the house was demolished and replaced with a new mansion and a new street address of 10066 Cielo Drive.


The Second Weekend in August, 1969 ... Part One

Posted by Whitmore, August 10, 2009 11:38am | Post a Comment
I wonder if anything significant about this past weekend will be remembered in 40 years time, other then Sonia Sotomayor being sworn in as a U.S. Supreme Court Justice and maybe Tiger Woods’ unbelievable play at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational. This weekend back in 1969 is definitely remembered for a variety of odd and groovy and trivial and horrifying reasons.
zager and evans 
In the summer of 1969 I was living carefree at 4200 Franklin Avenue in Los Angeles near Griffith Park, with my parents, grandmother, two sisters, and of course our Siamese cat Pandora and a Great Dane named Dijo who would eventually, later in the year, attack me without provocation. She was a nutty and twisted beast. And typical of August in LA, it was annoyingly hot and smoggy. If you didn’t live here back then you just don’t know smog-- lung scorching air under a sky colored golden toasty brown to the apex. Now that’s pollution! This was also the first summer I really started noticing music. I culled some change from my mom’s purse to buy my first single, which also happened to be #1 on the Billboard charts this weekend in 1969, and would be for six consecutive weeks -- "In the Year 2525 (Exordium and Terminus)" by Zager and Evans. In the UK the #1 song was "Honky Tonk Women" by the Rolling Stones, which has noticeably survived the tastes of time better then “2525.” The #1 album in the US was the self-titled second album by Blood, Sweat & Tears. Earlier in the year in March it was briefly at the top of the charts, but with three successive Top 5 singles, it returned once again to the number one position. In 1970 it would win the Grammy Award for Album of the Year.  
 
Also this weekend 40 years ago, the Beatles posed for one of their most iconic images-- the Abbey Road album cover shot of the George, Paul, Ringo and John at the zebra crossing on Abbey Road. They were mostly done working on their newest album and, having applied the last overdubs that morning to the longest track, "I Want You (She's So Heavy)," photographer Iain Macmillan was given ten minutes to get the cover photo done. At 11:35 am on Friday, August 8, 1969, the image was shot. Of course, when the album was released in September, the cover art only fueled the rumors and speculation that Paul McCartney had indeed died in a car crash in 1966 and all the symbolic references only confirmed the sad fact.

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