Friday, February 02, 2007


...the one that went "Monday nothing, Tuesday nothing, Wednesday and Thursday nothing..."? Well, that's the way it's been here at ground zero with living in general kinda stuck in neutral and as frigid as the great Western Pennsylvanian outdoors! Yes, believe it or not, but even with my swinging blogger lifestyle I gotta fess up to the fact that hardly anything of ginchy worth's goin' on down here at BLOG TO COMM central, which is a surprise given the expected flashy day-in/out high drama someone would expect outta a jam-packed life such as mine. Well, sometimes that life just gets stuck inna mud with wheels a'spinnin', but that's not gonna stop me from doing another post because even in the midst of a great sense of nada I can find plenty, 'r at least three items to write up and educate you lumpen lumps out there as to the eternal worthiness of such goods. After all, I gotta do something for you unwashed peons just begging to be as suave and sophisticado as I, right?

Weasel Walter Quartet-REVOLT MUSIC CD (ugEXPLODE)

Everybody in on the rockism trip for the past thirtysomething years knows all about the punk/free jazz merger'n how these musics were made for each other, beginning with the original rumblings popping outta "Eight Miles High" this and Velvet Underground that up through the MC5 and FUNHOUSE, Suicide and the entire no wave "movement" even into the world of today if you can believe that. Well, actually anyone who has read and digested R. Meltzer's AESTHETICS OF ROCK (the part where he critiques a letter to DOWN BEAT where some trad jazz guy makes ample comparisons between the new jazz and that noisy uncouth rock music) coulda told you all about it way back in the late-sixties, and I ain't talking cheap trash like Grace Slick calling Coltrane's ASCENSION his "acid trip" or some other comfy bit of ROLLING STONE-dominated "we are all ONE kultur" flower power drivel either! I'm talking the real-hard deal trip that, like I said, lives on even to this day...the one of Dee Pop's free jazz (with some punk thrown in)-curated gigs first at the old CBGB Lounge and now Jimmy's Tavern where the likes of Freedomland and Radio I-Ching could roam hand-in-hand with John Tchicai and Eddie Gale and now comes this freedom-oriented group led by none other'n Weasel Walter, a guy who spent a good portion of the last decade trying to revive the no wave mantra in Chicago and now he's doing the same thing for free jazz. To which I say "more power to him" and he's gonna need it considering that playing the "new thing" commands about as much reward and admiration as being a low-key blogger or for that matter a butt boil biter in these extremely out-of-it times.

In fact, I don't even think that hometown pioneers the AACM would want to have anything to do with this grouping, and not only because most of the guys ('cept for tenor saxist Josh Allen) are white. I dunno if the AACM have any racial constraints on their members but that may be a moot point because the Weasel Walter Quartet sound way too feral even for an organization that would permit such out-there people as Roscoe Mitchell and Joseph Jarman as members. But whaddeva, this is some mighty fine freedom musings courtesy a guy who i didn't think had it in him (at least judging from those letters he wrote to Tim Ellison's MODERN ROCK MAGAZINE back inna nineties), but then again I think I may have been wrong once about something a long time ago.

It's surprising to hear Walter on drums play total Sunny Murray (cum Milford Graves cum Phillip Wilson cum Andrew Cyrille cum Ronald Shannon Jackson cum Beaver Harris cum...). Maybe he went to the same punk rocker reeducation camp as Dee Pop but whatever, the guy sure knows how to play around the beat and the bend for that matter like the best. And the rest of the quartet (featuring at times two guys on upright bass variations, a variety of tenormen and longtime fogey Henry Kaiser on guitar sounding good for a change!) sure know how to refurbish the old Peter Brotzmann hard attack that seemed to herald as much music mode changing city wall shaking as the Fugs and the rest of those counterkultur wags did way back inna late six-ohs! Plenty of snide asides to not only Chicago experimentalism (heard some good lines courtesy Allen that seemed directly lifted from Mitchell's "Chant" on WILDFLOWERS VOL. 5) but to such wonderful avant explosions from Charles Tyler and Arthur Doyle to (naturally) the Ayler root of it all. A surprisingly brilliant slab of post-experimental soundage put forth by a guy who (only a decade back!) I woulda probably considered the biggest non-entity in what passes for underground farts these days. I better watch myself, who knows what I might be saying about Jay Hinman and Dave Lang (not to mention J. Neo Marvin) a decade from now if I'm able to go topsy turvy over the likes of Walter!

Solar-SUNS OF COSMIC CONSCIOUSNESS CD (Aztec, 579 West 215th. Suite 7G, NYC 10034)

Given their appearance at the over-mentioned (by me at least) Dee Pop-run Freestyle Jazz series I was expecting some mindsearing avant blast from this upstart jazz group comin' outta nowhere atcha. Unfortunately Solar, despite the mental images of blindingly free music their name might suggest, tend to tinkle in a more cocktail, mainstream bowtie jazz club fashion with very little of the avant vim and verve that always seemed to draw me towards this kind of music in the first place. Not bad, but Solar are sorta stuck inna mud for most of the disque despite covers of Sun Ra and even Chaz Mingus (with his infamous stab at politicizing the jazz estab. entitled "Remember Rockefeller at Attica"...a nice if pedestrian gesture mind ya, but I'm more apt to remember Mingus, along with Max Roach and Archie Shepp shedding real tears over the death of famed mass murderer Mao Zedung [no sic] at a concert organized by the Italian Communist Party back in '76---hadda throw that in to prove to you myopics that some of these musical "heroes" can be extremely large jerks even though they get away with their stupidity time after time!). Modern avant garde jazz is producing much better stuff you can read about elsewhere on this blog, so look before leaping (towards your wallet to dish out ten smackers for a disque by some act you know little if nothing about).

THE LIFE AND TIMES OF THE SCHMOO by Al Capp (Pocket Books, 1949)

Recently I've been digging through my various boxes of paperbacks mostly consisting of comic strip reprints collected over the past umpteen decades that have been stored in my closet all this time in wait for THE NEXT GREAT MID-LIFE CRISIS TO BEFALL ME, and call me an old soft hokey down-on-the-farm living reincarnation of Andy Devine but it's been a great trip down memory lane thumbing through all of those old DENNIS THE MENACE, MAD and BELIEVE IT OR NOT books thinkin' about how it was stuff like this that helped mold me into the great specimen of manhood that I am today! (I did get a toasty-warm fuzzy feeling re-reading all of those old BELIEVE IT OR NOT paperbacks too, especially reminding myself as to how I used to really like discovering all of those old historical facts about grossout executions [like the time in the Middle Ages when some prisoner volunteered to chop off some condemned man's head after the executioner failed to show up, and it took him thirtysome swings before the head finally came off, or better yet when they'd cut some guy's body up into ten pieces so it could be hung on ten different gallows in ten locations, one near you!] not forgetting the bits on alla those kids in the eighteenth century who wrote ten symphonies by the time they hit six, or were elevated to cardinals at the age of seven and married off to other members of royalty at eight! My sister used to always point stuff like that out to me to prove what a stupid dork I was, as if she wrote any pieces of music herself or made it any bigger in her own life than being a girl scout or reporter for the school paper!!!) But anyway, in the midst of my trawling for Don Martin material and the like I came across this neat little collection of the tres-legendary (and original) "Schmoo" episode of the long-forgotten yet once-infamous LI'L ABNER comic strip from way back during the dawn of the post-World War II/pre-hippie era of high living, and although it's a relatively chopped up and rechanneled for paperback variation of the saga I sure got enough hard-edged entertainment that kept me up a good portion of the night reading this legendary ABNER saga, or maybe it was the two cans of energy drink I had?

Only some real oldsters out there or comic strip historians will remember that in those pre-PEANUTS days LI'L ABNER was perhaps the top publicity-hounding, gimmick-laden and product-churning strip to hit the pages. Maybe that's why ABNER creator, the infamous and controversial Al Capp, after leaving United Features with ABNER in tow back in '64, took sharp aim at his new nemesis in a spoof that for once did not please Charles Schulz one bit! But back in the forties and fifties ABNER was the strip that was getting slapped on the cover of LIFE and written up by the intellectuals in their high-falutin' magazines, while ABNER-related products were comin' atcha left and right to the point where you just couldn't escape the onslaught! Perhaps the first of the big Capp-putsches to hit the stores was that of these very same Schmoos. There were Schmoo items of all sorts from jelly glasses to clocks clogging the shelves at the time, and I'm sure that the kids in school were talking endless schmootalk the same way kids at my lunch table used to gab Flip Wilson and Dean Martin! Well, it sure beat the umpteenth Snoopy doll variations you still see at flea markets nationwide!

If you wanna get philsophical it's not exactly hard to see why the Schmoo would have been such a smasheroo with the Amerigan populace at the time. These mystical creatures (discovered by Abner after he gets tossed on his head into the Valley of the Schmoon by some vengeful Amazon) were the answer to everyone's problems...cute li'l armless creatures who not only made perfect pets, but gladly died so they could be eaten (and they tasted like chicken, catfish, steak etc. depending on how they were cooked) plus they'd lay not only eggs but bottles of whole milk! With schmoos around (and they were all over the place, since when one died two more would pop up) nobody hadda work anymore and from there you can guess just what sorta psycho/political points Capp was making given that the story was bound to twist and turn into one of his typically sarcastic takes on post-World War II living that might seem downright staid in these days of ultra-sophisticado comic stripdom but sure made an impact with more'n a few funny paper browsers back in the day!

Capp naturally shows his old-timey liberal bent (this being well before he not-so-convienently, somewhere in the sixties, turned into what aptly could be called a "neocon") with his depiction of patently heartless Big Businessmen and the local Dogpatch butcher selling rotten meat at atrociously high prices going insane over the prospect of financial ruin thanks to the Schmoo, but Capp was highly contemptable of the "big guys" even during his hippie-bashing days so it's no great shakes. And even a pro-Capitalist like myself can overlook such jibes (considering it part of the terrain more/less) and enjoy this pretty engrossing saga, as good a grabber as any DICK TRACY classic, that not only makes you wanna do a good floor-roll in total comic ecstasy but marvel at the strange plot detours and guffaw-inducing political points Capp is trying to make with this strange morality tale for the middle part of the previous century! And what really is surprising about the Schmoo saga might just be the ending, where an uncharacteristically intelligent and profound Abner tells Daisy Mae, along with the rest of us, that the only real Schmoo we need is the Earth itself, which if used and cultivated properly will fill all of our needs and cure all ills, after which we wouldn't have any use for the armless wonders! Who woulda expected that from the pen of the ever-grouchy Capp some ways it sounds like it coulda come from the lips of some loose-looking late-sixties college radical, one that woulda gone libertarian by the early-seventies that is!

And if you're that anxious after this halfway-there writeup to seek out the original, and UNEXPURGATED saga the Kitchen Sink LI'L ABNER series has not only this one (ferget which vol.), but a whole slew of later-on Schmoo-knockoffs that never went as far, such as the Bald Schmeggle t' boot! Seek 'em all out!

I KNOW YOU WANT MORE so I'll just give you a snappy rundown of some of the things I have been listening to the past few days, complete with pithy comments just like Robert Christgau used to do! HAWKWIND-HALL OF THE MOUNTAIN GRILL CD (EMI) is an old fave I reviewed awhile back. It's amazing how these Ladbrook Grove guys could mix British progressive electronic rock a la a whole slew of bands whose names you do not want me to mention with Velvets/Detroit riffage...and still sound great! THE WEST COAST POP ART EXPERIMENTAL BAND-PART ONE & VOL. 2 CD (Head) doesn't quite hold up as a sixties garage band artyfact as much as the competition. For extremely intoverted moments only...and WILLIAM HOOKER-GREAT SUNSET CD (Warm-o-Brisk)-this guy shoulda popped up in the free jazz post last time, for if any free jazzer went punk it was he! Friend of Sonic Youth, Elliot Sharp and the guys in Borbetomagus, Hooker leads a great quintet on this outing (recorded live at the Knitting Factory though you wouldn't know it) that sounds like the best moments of the post-sixties free scene that seemed to coagulate at the Vision Quest Festival and the (hold onto your britches!) CBGB Lounge/Jimmy's Tavern Freestyle Series. I had an iffy opinion of the guy at one time for reasons I forget (perhaps because noted commie jazz hack the "reverend" John Gensel wrote some brief liners on an early album), but I'll forget this faux pas...for once and seep deep into this forgotten outing that's so good I actually have TWO copies of it in my collection!

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