Monday, August 31, 2009

Back To The Sandbox, 1966

Here's one of the great songs Brian Wilson and Van Dyke Parks wrote in the sandbox (yes, there was a piano in the sandbox) in 1966. Brian, Van Dyke - I look forward to hearing you guys perform in the San Francisco Bay Area again sometime!

Friday, August 28, 2009

In The Rear View Mirror by Paul F. Etcheverry

With apologies, I leave the playgrounds of music and movies. I'll return to the sandbox - like the great Brian Wilson in 1966 - pronto.

Eulogies for Senator Edward Kennedy continue to pour in and literally thousands are paying their respects at the Kennedy Library as I write this. Not only is there the sense, with the recent deaths of the Senator from Massachusetts and his sister, formidable activist Eunice Kennedy Shriver, of the end of an era in our shared history. There's a gnawing feeling that a certain style and approach in American politics, one in which you can battle opposing forces toe-to-toe without demonizing and dehumanizing them, is vanishing.

Senator Kennedy and Rep. Jack Kemp, both recently passed, as well as 2009 Medal Of Honor recipients (Kemp posthumously) this year, represented the two opposite sides of this coin. Both were lightning rods who followed their own paths, assertively partisan yet capable of listening to and at times even finding common ground with political foes. They found the most unlikely collaborators in public service and ruffled feathers in both parties along the way.

The concept that legislators can disagree vehemently on how to solve the problems of the day while
working together on policy initatives, not only maintaining a civil relationship but actually (shudder) becoming friends - something Ted Kennedy was particularly and singularly adept at - is rapidly becoming a quaint anachronism.

Much to our country's detriment, the status quo now, not just in campaigning, but in governing (as well as in the often brain-dead national discourse), is to not just destroy your opponent but leave scorched earth and a pile of smoking ashes behind.

And we wonder why social and political problems get worse and nothing gets done.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Happy Centenary To The Incomparable Prez

To celebrate the centenary of the inspired, fabulous and ever-soulful Lester Willis Young (1909-1959), here he is, the one and only "Prez", playing "Pennies From Heaven" with Hank Jones (piano), Ray Brown (bass), Bill Harris (trombone) and Buddy Rich (drums).

Following this is one of the greatest films ever made about jazz, Jammin' The Blues (1944), stylishly directed by Life Magazine photographer Gjon Mili.

It is my hope that Lester found some peace in the hereafter that he largely did not enjoy in his time on this planet.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Some Stevie Wonder For A Sunday

Continuing the Steve Wonder thread, we'll start with a genuinely moving clip from a somber occasion, the Michael Jackson memorial service. Something I would have loved to have seen that didn't happen (thanks, the many conspiracy theories about Michael's death being a grand hoax notwithstanding, to The King Of Pop's abuse of some awfully heavy-duty prescription drugs): a CD of splendid songs and performances from Michael and Stevie hanging out in the studio informally, having fun, singing each other's tunes, contributing creative arrangements, making music for the pure joy of it.

And, on a lighter note. . . I have sought out clips of Stevie playing live during his inspired early to mid-1970's stretch that produced the great albums Talking Book, Innervisions and Fulfillingness' First Finale. Found one of him performing "Superstition" in 1973, unfortunately sans Jeff Beck's brilliant guitar work but wonderful nonetheless.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

The Realistic Orchestra

The Realistic Orchestra will be part of the 40-piece ensemble that will play at Yoshi's San Francisco from Thursday through Sunday. Here are more music clips by this Jazz Mafia mainstay, carrying on the Gil Evans-Miles Davis flame while adding original spins to the mix.

This first composition reminds me of Wayne Shorter's late 60's and early 70's compositions. Nice mysterioso feel and top-notch brass n' reed arrangements here. The second clip, featuring the vocal stylings of Chris McGhee, is from one of the band's annual Stevie Wonder tributes. Since Stevie started writing bonafide jazz chord changes from about the age of eleven, it's a good fit. Enjoy!

Sunday, August 16, 2009

San Francisco Jazz: August 2009

Ralph Carney's Serious Jass Project, live at the Riptide

For today's entry, I will single out two of my current favorite bands in the San Francisco Bay Area.
Ralph Carney's Serious Jass Project (A.K.A. The Cottontails) has a new CD,
available via Ralph brings the same blend of fun and stellar musicianship with humor to small group swing-to-bop-jump music that he has to his extremely wide-ranging other projects (including creative accompaniment for silent movies he did with another S.F. Bay Area luminary, Beth Custer, at several shows I produced). There's also some of the fire and intensity you got back in the days when mighty players like Louis Armstrong, Coleman Hawkins, Lester Young and Ben Webster roamed the earth. Buy this recording!

The Realistic Orchestra's recent tribute to the music of Michael Jackson sold out the expansive confines of Yoshi's in San Francisco. Here's just a bit of the excitement from that concert on August 5, 2009.

I sincerely hope the entire set of fresh takes on MJ classics will be issued on DVD or CD sometime. Perhaps we will be seeing more streaming video soon on the Jazz Mafia website. It's a fitting tribute, as well as fantastic music.

Friday, August 14, 2009

The World Is Dyslexic

I have at least one reason for a fair amount of the conflict, strife and senseless violence around the globe, including a fair amount of current putrid horseshit (and I mean that with sincere apologies to all the nice horsies out there). It all starts innocently enough, with this incredibly irritating TV commercial:

Now a certain number of folks just watched that ad and concluded "that's the most IRRITATING thing I've ever seen, but I can't stop thinking of the jingle, and want to buy this product - and I don't even have a dog! Dammit, I'm telling all my friends with Schnauzers NOT to buy Ken'l Ration, EVER!"

Everyone else just saw "My GOD'S better than your GOD!" The world is dyslexic.

No doubt this commercial got translated into hundreds of languages and made it to the far corners of the globe. This concept. . . "My GOD'S better than your GOD!" drives everybody from the suicide bombers to the settlement movement to hysterical nut-jobs in the United States

Please, ladies and gentlemen, go with the rational-thinking first reaction. . . yes, that means don't buy that, ever!

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

The Moth Who Came To Dinner

Don't have much to say at the moment, so I'll post a classic Looney Tunes cartoon. Tex Avery, Frank Tashlin, Bob Clampett, Chuck Jones and Friz Freleng all made some pretty amazing contributions to the black and white Looney Tunes series. Here's a particularly fun one directed by Bob Clampett. Love the theme song, hilarious voice work by Mel Blanc and Sara Berner, and the cheerfully wacky spirit of the animation.

To appreciate the many original touches in Eatin' On The Cuff, check out John Kricfalusi's shot-by-shot breakdown.