24 May 2011

Help this dude publish an Eric Dolphy graphic novel

Via Peter Hum:
My plan is to self-publish a 74-page book, a sort of interpretive biography. I've been researching Dolphy's life for some time, and I've read everything about him I've been able to get my hands on. I'd like to tell his story the way I see him—a musical prince. I chose to draw the novel in a style reminiscent of the great album covers from 40's and 50's. Artists like David Stone Martin and Ben Shahn were an inspiration.
The artist is Keith H. Brown. You can contribute at Kickstarter. Below is a video describing the project. Needless to say, I love the idea.


Beyond Category

Duke Ellington is 112 today died 37 years ago today.. To celebrate the Duke, I will be very suave all day. Also, below is an excerpt from my favorite Duke biography, John Edward Hasse's Beyond Category: The Life And Genius Of Duke Ellington.
In 1969, Leonard Garment, a former clarinetist with Woody Herman, and then an attorney serving as a key aide to President Nixon, teamed with the Voice of America's Willis Conover and several others to arrange for a special White House celebration of Ellington's seventieth birthday. Ellington was asked to submit a list of fifty people he waned invited. The joint Ellington-White House guest list included, besides the expected politicians, musicians Count Basie, Billy Taylor, Dizzy Gillespie, Benny Goodman, Mahalia Jackson, Richard Rodgers, and Harold Arlen; Ellington friends Arthur Logan and Stanley Dance, critic Leonard Feather, producer George Wein, director Otto Preminger, the Smithsonian Institution's Secretary S. Dillon Ripley, the Voice of America's Willis Conover, and Ebony publisher John Johnson. Ellington's sister, Ruth, and his son, Mercer, and his wife and three children also attended.

In a remark that became often quoted, Ellington said, "There is no place I would rather be tonight except in my mother's arms." Nixon winning declared, "In the royalty of American music, no man swings more or stands higher than the Duke." Ellington kissed Nixon twice on each cheek. "Four kisses?" asked the president. "Why four?" "One for each cheek," Ellington replied. Nixon was momentarily dumbfounded. The climax of the evening came when Nixon presented Ellington with the Presidential Medal of Freedom - the nation's highest civilian honor. The medal was the supreme recognition the US government could offer Ellington, and it must have gone a long way to compensate for the disappointment of the Pulitzer rejection. 
One can only hope to have such wit.

image via Flickr

22 May 2011

Critiquing the Critics

Jazz bloggers like two things: navel gazing and "what does it all mean?" questions. When the two can be combined, hoo boy does the blogosphere erupt in hand-wringing soliloquies (I'm only being slightly facetious here).

Peter Hum:
There needs to be some critical distance when it comes to jazz writing. It's not quite like holding politicians to account, but even if a jazz writer is an unabashed advocate for the music, I think there has to be some sense that the critic likes some discs or musicians more than others and is more than an uncritical booster. Reader will have a better sense of how their tastes line up with a reviewer. And the absolutely gushing reviews have more meaning if there are lukewarm and even negative reviews to offset them. For comparison's sake: what would you think of a film reviewer who only gave out four-star reviews? And yet, you can easily find the equivalent in the jazz Interweb.
Jon Wertheim:
There are so many jazz blogs out there, and too many of them are wary of making any definite pronouncements. In doing so, they cheat us of their true potential. 
Anthony Dean-Harris:
Should we hold back negative criticism because our scene is so small and squabbling would be detrimental to our overall proliferation? This seems to have been the thinking for some time now in a era of logorrheic praise that borders on the fellacious. Yet while the this positivity may have turned jazz press into the Lollipop Guild (yours truly included), it may be time for us to move on to true criticism. Just as we have in the last few years moved from a genre with a very limited internet presence to that of one in which a jazz blog of noodling pontification is a stone’s throw away, maybe we can start making the Wertheim-noted value judgments that every other genre has been making for a while. It may be time to lift that moratorium.
It should be noted that there exists a variance among types of critics, thanks to the democratization of media through the use of the Internet. Writers like Peter Hum and Ben Ratliff, who are paid to write full-time about jazz, should cover a substantial breadth of jazz such that they are bound to write critical reviews in the course of their day-to-day writing duties. I like that I can count on Hum to opine on just about every significant new release.

But people like Patrick Jarenwattananon, Anthony Dean-Harris, Alex Rodriguez, and others whose jazz writing is only a part of what they do cannot so easily cover as many new releases and performances. Is it better for them to simply champion what they really love, and spend less energy on what they do not favor? Surely their readers are smart enough to figure out that they are not obnoxious fanboys, just writers who have chosen to expend their energy on the musicians who get their writerly juices flowing.

I will say, though, that one of the books which most stimulated me in the past few years was Stanley Crouch's anthology Considering Genius, mostly because I found myself disagreeing with him often. As a result, I had to interrogate my own rebuttals to his points, which made my arguments and thoughts about jazz much better articulated and deepened my understanding of why I like certain albums or artists so much. So perhaps a little negativity is in order. At the very least, the negative stuff can often be fun to write, if the writer is really into a takedown piece.

And which writers among us don't like giving a rhetorical smackdown every once in a while?

16 May 2011

Stranger things have happened

On Google's Genius clone:
There are 18(!) songs on this 25 song playlist that are not justifiable. There's electronica, rock, folk,  Victorian era brass band and Coldplay. Yes, that's right, there's Coldplay on a Miles Davis playlist.
The sample mix also contained a George Jones track, which gives me an excuse to post this:

08 May 2011


So, if you guys chip in and buy me this shirt, I'll start blogging again.

I kid, I haven't given up. I'm stretched a bit thin at the moment, but take heart, I will return. Soon...