Amoeblog

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.

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(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.

The Employee Interview XXI: Scott Walker

Posted by Miss Ess, November 4, 2008 05:52pm | Post a Comment
Scott Walker
Years of Employment: "Since the turn of the century."
Jazz floor dude


Miss Ess: What initially got you into jazz?

SW: A horrible answer: I donthelonious monk't remember. Most probably, like many people, it was a mid-era Miles Davis [record]. Pinpointing which one, twenty something years down the road, I would only be guessing.

ME: What album do you consider to be the pinnacle of the form?

SW: To me, there are different forms: Free/Avant, Bop, Trad, so I am tempted to answer one example for each, but won't at risk of boring/alienating readers. I would say an early [Thelonious] Monk recording: one of the late 40s sessions.

ME: What present-day jazz artists do you enjoy?

SW: Seeing Marilyn Crispell last week was pretty heavy: solo piano. I like solo piano stuff a lot, it's kind of like listening to a demo of a song -- it's distilled down to an essence, whether it's Fats Waller, Monk, or Sun Ra. It's hard, because like blues, jazz is so much about re-releases and focusing on history, standards, and regurgitation.

Is there a jazz record you love that crept up on you-- maybe one you didn't love it at first but grew to adore?

I didn't like electric Miles Davis when I first heard it. It was probably parallel to when people first hear electric Dylan: "Is he really serious/allowed to do this?" Now I listen to the electric stuff more often than the acoustic.

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Happy Missouri Day! - Yup, It's aready been a yurr since the last'n

Posted by Eric Brightwell, October 15, 2008 12:42am | Post a Comment
MISSOURI DAY

The 3rd Wednesday of the October, this year the 15th.

Map of Missouri
Pendersleigh & Sons' Official Map of Missouri


In my experience, when you'ins tell people you’re from Missouri, most people reply self-satisfiedly with "don't you mean Missouruh?" or, alternately, "where is Missouri? I don’t think I’ve ever been there."

Whether Missouri is Lower Midwestern or Upper Southern (or the Border South or, the Upland South, or less commonly today, the Yeoman South) is a somewhat common debate amongst Missourians... at least on the internet.

In my experience, Missouri's Midwestern neighbors, centered along the Great Lakes, (haters) tend to disparage Mighty Mo as a hick state whurr test scores are low, the accent is ugly and you'ins can buy fireworks, liquor and ammo... all in the same place.

Missouri's neighbors in the Deep South (also haters) usually don't consider it to be Southern because Missouri didn't side with the South in the Civil War (well, that's complicated-- thurr were 30,000 gray and 109,000 blue) and because South Coasters love to equate the entire South with just the Deep South aka the Lower South aka the Plantation South.

As far as Southern credentials go, Mark Twain, Langston Hughes, Thomas Hart Benton all seem fairly Southern, do they not? On the other hand, natives like T.S. Elliot, William Burroughs and Maya Angelou don’t so much, huh? Cultural cringe I reckon, plays a part in this confusion, as do geographical overlap and historical shifts.

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