Amoeblog

(In which an angel visits Amoeba Music Hollywood.)

Posted by Job O Brother, July 13, 2009 02:33pm | Post a Comment
jimmy scott
Little Jimmy looking big

Uh, did I mention that, a couple weeks ago, Little Jimmy Scott came into the jazz room at Amoeba Music Hollywood? I used up a whole box of tissue, my mind was so blown – and I’m not easily star-struck. Most of the people I’d like to meet are dead (a quality I admire in a person). Never have I been as giddy and star-struck as I was at meeting Jimmy Scott. I cried. I actually cried! Like I was a seventeen-year-old girl at a Beatles concert in ’64. Okay, I didn’t grab the sides of my face and scream – not externally, anyway.

jazz singer

He was sweet like an angel descending on the city for a day to offer a glimpse of light unsoiled by our planet’s spiritual smog. His voice was unmistakable, his smile generous, and he patiently listened to all our gushing with the grace you’d expect from your favorite Kindergarten teacher. The fact that he was wheelchair-bound only enhanced the sense that he was visiting royalty, forever receiving people at his throne.

Poor health has made his already diminutive body more frail, and the stiffness in his hands made for an other-worldly contrast to his skin, which was soft and warm like a newborn infant.

He was flanked by a small film crew from Germany who were shooting a documentary on the making of his next album which, they reported, would be of the blues genre. They were excited that, in the employees of Amoeba, they finally found some young people who not only knew who Jimmy Scott was, but were fans. One of them bullied my fellow co-worker, Lucas, and I into being interviewed for their documentary, despite my emphatic explanation that I was too shy for interviews and anyway, English was my sixteenth language. (I acquiesced after they called my bluff and offered to allow me to answer questions in my native Ket.)

(Wherein we weigh which warble wears weather well.)

Posted by Job O Brother, June 8, 2009 03:11pm | Post a Comment
rain umbrella

The last few days in LA have been kind of gloomy – gloomy by LA standards anyway. I mean, it’s still no place for Ian Brady and Myra Hindley to stage a killing spree, but the clouds have been thick, grey and low, and wet, cool swirls of breeze pour through my window as I write this.

This is a good thing. This is a great thing! I did not move to LA for the weather. My idea of perfect weather is something akin to a cemetery scene in [insert gothic horror film here].

Recently, I found myself at yet another pool party where Industry types multi-tasked by schmoozing while sunbathing, enjoying tropical cocktails and posing atop Danish-designed chaise lounges as the desert sun baked their copper hides; the air perfumed with herbal ointments, oils and extractions, occasionally flavored with dissipating puffs of cigarette smoke – sex was in the air and everyone was hoping to be noticed by someone they were pretending not to notice – and all I could think was, “I wish it would rain.”

Inspired as I am by the titillating tenebrous of today, what follows is some of the music I save for a rainy day. These ditties are safely tucked in a specific playlist for whenever the Sun’s obscured and the scent of moisture’s all around.

Siouxsie & The Banshees – "Dazzle
"


This song takes me back to the appropriately dark days of the 1980’s. I had just dropped out of high school my sophomore year and the world was a new and wonderful playground of drugs and whimsical fashion choices.

Happy Birthday Cecil Taylor

Posted by Whitmore, March 15, 2009 01:31pm | Post a Comment

Sometime in my mid-teens I started reading about this mad pianist; how his flying elbows and insane musical gyrations splintered keyboards, whose uncompromising musical destination was one part tsunami, one part Armageddon. I was actually warned about Cecil Taylor by a music teacher of mine, "It isn’t really music … it's ugly … beating the hell out of a keyboard isn’t musical.” My classical guitar teacher also went so far as to bring god and the devil into the conversation; you would have thought I was asking for directions to the crossroads. 
 
I eventually made my way over to Platterpuss Records on Hollywood Blvd near Vermont Ave and with some change stolen from my mom’s piggy bank I bought an old used copy of Taylor’s 1966 album Unit Structures. I ran back home and threw the LP on my ridiculously crappy turntable with the flashing color pin-wheels and as predicted … the music scared the holy shit out of me. Except for one thing-- although I understood little of what was going on, I was mesmerized. Later I heard beyond the chaos and ferocity, and began getting clued in to improvisation, tone clusters, polyrhythms and all the other intricacies layered in Cecil Taylor’s music, like spirituality, a sense of history and oddly enough -- and contrary to my teachers' way of thinking -- beauty. A couple of weeks later I traded in a bunch of pop records at Joe’s Records on Hyperion Blvd and bought a used copy of Conquistador. From that point on I had a significantly different take on music. Happy birthday Cecil Taylor!
 
“Practice, to be studious at the instrument, as well as looking at a bridge, or dancing, or writing a poem, or reading, or attempting to make your home more beautiful. What goes into an improvisation is what goes into one's preparation, then allowing the prepared senses to execute at the highest level devoid of psychological or logical interference. You ask, without logic, where does the form come from? It seems something that may be forgotten is that as we begin our day and proceed through it there is a form in existence that we create out of, that the day and night itself is for. And what we choose to vary in the daily routine provides in itself the fresh building blocks to construct a living form which is easily translated into a specific act of making a musical composition.” - Cecil Taylor


Requiem for The Phantom: marking a decade since the passing of the legendary Horace Tapscott

Posted by J. Mark Beaver, February 17, 2009 12:00am | Post a Comment
horace tapscott dark treeI remember lying on a couch in my room in Oakland, sometime in either 1989 or 1990. Afternoon light was pouring in my window and I was in a hypnogogic state, somewhere between waking and dreaming. My mind was occupied with the vision of long and dark brown hands holding what looked to be a piece of blue glass. The agile hands turned the glass over and over again, and with each turning, facets appeared, polished and refracting light. The glass was becoming more and more ornate and I remember thinking that it was "perfecting." Suddenly, I sat bolt upright, realizing that I was having a visual experience of the music I was listening to at the moment: The title track from the recently issued LP by Horace Tapscott, Dark Tree.

Tapscott was working a theme on the piano, turning it over and over, and every time it came around, there was more central avenue sounds jazz in los angelesbeauty in it. And every time it came around, there was less of anything superfluous. The theme, under his long, dark fingers, was "perfecting."

Released again in 2000 by Swiss Hatology label on double limited edition CD with its companion volume, Dark Tree 1 & 2 is a document of what I have come to consider one of the most important jazz quartets of all time. Featuring Tapscott on piano, John Carter on clarinet, Cecil McBee on contrabass and Andrew Cyrille on drums, it is a fleeting glimpse into not only a rare recording by this astounding group, but a rare small group recording for Tapscott, altogether.

Continue reading...

(In which Job reveals holiday party hints.)

Posted by Job O Brother, December 9, 2008 11:25am | Post a Comment
santa
"Ho ho ho! Who needs a pancreas?"

It’s only December 9, and already my body is exhausted from all the sugar and booze it’s ingested. I know, oh my readers, why Santa is a fat man. Santa, in fact, is probably suffering with diabetes. It would explain last year when, as he was trying to stuff the life-sized, life-like Annette Funicello robot I had asked for into my San Francisco 49ers stocking (a last-minute purchase at Target – it was either that or a Hannah Montana stocking that had a glue-gun scar); Santa was working his magic but, in-between “ho ho ho” he was mumbling about polyuria, polydipsia and polyphagia in a manner not so jolly.

That last sentence was epic. Somewhere, the ghost of Proust just got a boner. Can I say boner on the Amoeblog? I’m not well.

My boyfriend, Corey, and I just hosted our annual Christmas party. I was in charge of the food. I went for a “dip” theme. That is, rather than merely offer chips & salsa or chips & guacamole, our dips included:

•    Pumpkin pie & fresh whipped cream dip, served with cinnamon/sugar pita chips
•    NY Cheesecake dip, served with thick graham crackers
•    Chocolate fudge dip, served with fresh & dried fruit
•    Peanut butter / mustard / honey dip, served with pretzels
•    Red wine dip, served with Pfeffernüsse

Our pal Kamran also contributed queso & tortilla chips, because some of the guests were Texan, and I guess their tradition demands queso at every gathering, otherwise they… secede or something.

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