To honor the final year of my thirties as well as the recent publication of my constraint-based Faulkner-inspired memoir, AS I STAND LIVING, which chronicles the year I became a father, I’m going to begin a new series here at Entropy where I document my various sources of media input each week: art, literature, music, movies, television, and so on. New updates will appear every Monday until I turn forty (March 19, 2018).
I’m not sure what form these entries will take over time: maybe lists, maybe narratives, maybe videos? For now, I’ll begin like this…
Spent my birthday in Ojai with Caitlin and Jasper. Such a beautiful getaway. Nestled in the mountains about an hour and a half away. On the drive up we listened to the Thelonious Monk Quartet play Monk’s Dream (1963, first album with Columbia Records). We’ve played it on repeat in the family car for a couple weeks now. Jasper, our three year old son, and I have discussed the various players and their performances, and he’s fallen asleep to it a number of times. I like to roll the windows down and crank it. Such amazing beauty. My only gripe, in all candidness, goes to Teo Macero, the producer, because of the way he mixed Charlie Rouse’s tenor sax: whether intentional or not, it’s way too fucking loud! Monk gets drowned out—but maybe that’s supposed to represent the “dreamy” bit? Gag me with a spoon. Okay, if I get all totally generous about it, maybe we have a stereo rather than a mono version of it and that’s what accounts for the unevenness of each instruments’ volume levels. Because in all fairness, Macero’s an absolute legend. He produced my favorite Miles Davis album (Sketches of Spain), not to mention a bunch of other Miles Davis albums, Dave Brubeck Quartet’s Time Out, Charlie Mingus’s Mingus Ah Um, and the soundtrack to Quentin Tarantino and Tony Scott’s True Romance, to name but a few of his massive albums. So yeah I’m disappointed in the mix on Monk’s Dream, but Macero’s still one of my favorite producers of all time.
While in Ojai, I dug through a wall of absolutely uninteresting records in a thrift store. I found one gem but I left it behind because I’m an absolute fool. At the time I could only see it for its kitsch factor. In retrospect, I regret not buying it. Here’s a photo of it:
To contextualize, I grew up in Cheyenne, Wyoming, the home of Frontier Days, The Daddy of ’em All, the world’s greatest rodeo. So, so many memories, from parades to pancake breakfasts to native american dances to cowboys getting thrown off bulls to clowns baiting bulls to riding the zipper and walking the fairgrounds and other carnival rides and funnel cakes and concerts and square dancing. I really should’ve bought that record. I’m considering calling the shop and asking them to ship it to me.
We also went down to Ventura where we played at the beach, even though the temperature hovered around sixty and I felt frozen but Jasper kept running into the ocean and back to the shore as the tide rolled in, and I spent an hour at Salzer’s Records looking for free jazz. What a killer shop! I told Caitlin I’d put it as my third favorite in the local area behind Atomic in Burbank and Amoeba in Hollywood. I spent about thirty bucks and picked up:
Chick Corea, Piano Improvisations Vol. 2 (ECM, 1972)
Pleased to add this volume to its companion in my collection. The first volume knocks me out every time. I’ve spun this volume twice now and it’s dynamite. As a father, “Song for Thad” really gets me because it’s dedicated to his son. I imagine Corea hunched over his piano in that recording studio in Oslo, Norway, in April of 1971, conjuring his son in his mind and playing a tune just for him.
Charlie Haden, The Golden Number (A&M Horizon,1977)
Charlie Haden, Closeness (A&M Horizon, 1976)
Both Haden albums are duets where he plays his bass with all sorts of free jazz stylists from Don Cherry to Alice Coltrane to Ornette Coleman to Archie Shepp to many more. From the liner notes I learned that Haden lived in Ornette Coleman’s basement for a time.
Cecil Taylor, In Transition (Blue Note re-issue,1975)
The Cecil Taylor double LP consists of his two early out of print recordings Jazz Advance and Love for Sale. You get some standards from greats like Cole Porter, Duke Ellington, and Thelonious Monk, alongside some wild original compositions. Even with those standards, though, he makes them his own with his perpetually surprising attack.
At present I’m collecting and trying to learn as much as possible about free jazz as a genre. To that end I’m reading a couple of books on Anthony Braxton — and I have his Composition Notes on order from inter-library loan, Ted Gioia’s History of Jazz (1997), Geoff Dyer’s But Beautiful: A Book About Jazz (1991), and this sweet book my father-in-law, Larry, gave me for Christmas called Pressed for All Time: Producing the Great Jazz Albums from Louis Armstrong and Billie Holiday to Miles Davis and Diana Krall by Michael Jarrett.
We also went to Santa Barbara—on the drive over we switched from Monk’s Dream to Monk’s Blues (1968, last album with Columbia Records), one of the first jazz albums I fell in love with back in high school (circa 1993). Teo Macero also produced it. No complaints. We rented bicycles at the beach at the same time as Josh Holloway and his family. I didn’t notice him, Caitlin did. When I told my brother he asked if I got any Colony spoilers. Sadly, I did not. I did, however, visit Warbler Records, which is a nice little spot. I picked up a handful of avant garde LPs there for between $2-$4 apiece. Laurie Anderson’s Home of the Brave notwithstanding, I’d never heard any of these albums before:
Laurie Anderson, Mister Heartbreak (Warner Brothers, 1984)
Laurie Anderson, Home of the Brave (Warner Brothers, 1986)
Afro Blues Quintet Plus One, New Directions (Mira Records,1966)
Elliott Carter, Sonata for Flute, Cello & Harpsichord (Nonesuch,1969)
George Crumb, Madrigals (Turnabout Vox Contemporary Composers,1973)
William Shuman, Symphony No.7 // Ned Rorem, Third Symphony
(Turnabout Vox Contemporary Composers, 1971)
Guther Schuller, Symphony Quartet for Doublebasses (Turnabout Vox Contemporary Composers)
I’m realizing the posts in this series could go very very very long.
I’ve only just begun to touch on my sources of input from this past week.
For instance, I watched the Lakers lose to the Cavs 120 to 125 on my birthday. Then on Tuesday I watched the Lakers lose to the Clippers 109-133. Then Friday they won against the T-wolves, but I watched the UCLA vs. Kentucky game instead. Earlier Friday, I watched Shaq’s speech at the unveiling of his giant statue at the Staples Center and I noticed he didn’t thank Phil Jackson as he went down his list of people, and then after he finished and went to hug everyone on stage with him (including Kobe) he only shook Phil’s hand in a very formal way. Felt super tense.
Also, I haven’t mentioned any of the other books (beyond the jazz ones) I’ve looked at over the past week. e.e.cummings’s i: six nonlectures, Frank O’hara’s Jackson Pollock, and Camille Roy’s The Rosy Medallions. Got all three at Bart’s Books, a beautiful outdoor bookstore in Ojai, for about ten bucks.
And TV…OMG, RuPaul’s Drag Race is back!!! After the first episode, I love: Sasha, Nina, Aja, Jaymes, and Valentina. We’re also watching season two of The Great British Baking Show. It always gets me at the end of each episode when one of the bakers gets eliminated the whole cast hugs them. It’s such an uplifting reality show.
Will stop here, even though a ton more media crossed my sensors this past week. Thinking I’ll take a different approach for next week. Learning as we go. One week closer to forty.