Wednesday, October 17, 2007


...but right now I dunno what specifically. But until I remember what it exactly was that music is supposed to do for aging demi-hipsters like myself how about taking a gander at that clock (set at BTC-mean time) I had installed just to the left of this all-important missive o' mine which I gotta humbly say is really boffo, eh? Actually I decided to download the clock for my own benefit as I've been spending way too much time on this very blog (which is one of my faves if I do say so!) and often lose track of the time while re-reading my own way-beyond belief (in a positive, life-affirming sense) words when I should be out scouting the competition. Anyway, who sez that BLOG TO COMM ain't keeping up with the latest in kitchy gadgetry that is available with the mere flick of a mouse (at least after reading alla them heretofores and forwiths you have to agree to)???

The Moby Grape reviews'll hafta wait a bit since I want my opines re. the reish of their first couple to ruminate in the fertile valley of my imagination before committing anything to type, but until then here are a couple of jazzbo records I just got that you might have an interest in wanting to know more about. Maybe not, but if you've tuned into this blog inna first place it's my guess that you too have rather discriminating tastes for a wider array of musical sounds than the usual same old SST appreciations or "hot" amerindie picks to flop! Hey, why else would you rather read me spout off about a vast array of my current and not-so faves/acquisitions ranging from jazz and classical (with even a few folk sidesteps!) along with the rock (& roll) rather than "experiencing" so-and-so bleat on about the usual tired twaddle day in and day out! And even honest-to-gosh I's gotta admit that my general tastes have sprouted to and fro o'er the past quarter-century or so of my listening longevity...of course they ain't as all-encompassing as a Bill Shute's or Brian Doherty's but they're still pretty impressive enough to even knock ME for a loop once in awhile.

Anyhoo the first elpee up on the chopping block today's Jimmy Giuffre's TANGENTS IN JAZZ, the Affinity reissue that came out along with all of those other ones that this Charly offshoot clogged up the market with back in the early-eighties. No classy patented black background/white block lettering cover on this one, but at least Affinity did have the smarts to use the original Capitol snap from '56 complete with that Mary Ellen Bute-ish egg floating around in classic avant garde aplomb. And speaking of the avant garde, you do know that Giuffre was one of the leaders of that movement (not necessarily to be confused with "Third Stream" although I can see how some novices could be stymied) back in the fifties when the only ones who seemed to be tackling something new were Cecil Taylor, Charlie Mingus, Sun Ra and of course George Russell who pretty much helped splat the music into the ether with "A Bird in Igor's Yard" which was so shock of the new that it took a good twenty-five years for Capitol to get the nerve to release the thing! Of course I'm repeating myself, but for first-hand experience please grab hold of a copy of CROSSCURRENTS if only to see where you really come from music-wise!

Don't expect any Roscoe Mitchell-induced epiphanies here since Giuffre's still sorta tip-toeing 'round the white pre-bop West Coast cool while introducing a few nice li'l shards of future shock atonality here and there. And despite its rather "white"-sounding nature even a comparatively bleached person as I has to admit TANGENTS IN JAZZ is more'n just a good idea of where the avant garde was "stationed at" back in the mid-fifties. But still, even I must 'fess up to the fact that TANGENTS isn't necessarily the cathartic crunch I was hoping for. Definitely nothing near the total free chamber jazz that the early-sixties Jimmy Giuffre 3 with Paul Bley and Steve Swallow would alienate Verve records and a lotta confused beatniks with let alone that great side he did with Shorty Rogers on the Shelly Manne-led THE THREE a good year or so before this sesh. (And if that record only got out more the reaction to Ornette five years later might've been a lot more sociable, dontcha think?) But as an archival stepping stone, this one is important. I find the mix of El Lay cool with some safe experimentation on the side a lot more satisfying than much of the then-contempo third stream sounds that Gunther Schuller was promulgating throughout the fifties and early-sixties.

An additional note...the group backing Giuffre on these sides is pretty in-tune with his mid-fifties musical vision. Most notable amongst these sidemen is trumpeter Jack Sheldon, a guy who is probably best known to you not only as the star of that short-lived mid-sixties serio-sitcom RUN BUDDY RUN (the one where an innocent kvetch is onna lam from the mob after overhearing some big league rubout plans in a steam room) but as part of the late-sixties DRAGNET stock company...I mean, who out there could forget the infamous dope-sniffing German Shepherd episode where an ultra-cool Sheldon's taunting the cops and their dog who's on the hunt for a little salami? Sheldon was also the bandleader on THE MERV GRIFFIN SHOW for a long time as well, with Merv usually tossing about a whole lot of jokes (at first rather tame but growing more lurid as time rolled on) about Sheldon's various booze/pooty-related indiscretions which I guess were things "of legend" as they say. Of course Sheldon, if he didn't want to keep his job, could've made great humorous hay over all the things MERV did last night as well!

A rec way more up my alley that I received only recently (though owned via tape thanks to Imants Krumins) is Francois Tusques' INTERCOMMUNAL MUSIC, a release on the infamous Shandar label (also home to Albert Ayler, Sun Ra and Lamonte Young) that for some odd reason I haven't seen reissued in any format even though it seems that the Shandar catalog is up for grabs these days. A shame, since INTERCOMMUNAL MUSIC is whatcha'd call a pretty vital offering in the realms of free jazzdom not only for its great lineup (Sunny Murray and Alan Silva are amongst the players) and gallic stoicism but because the thing is one big screaming blur of hard-edged honk and splatter that, when done in the right frame of addle, can become as pure a force of energy as anything committed to wax if not the pure air. And if that sounds like a load of twaddle you're right, but at least my inept description of the entire late-sixties/early-seventies cusp of fire music sure comes off a lot sweller'n the typical jazzoid sterility used to describe such beyond-words powerplay, and much better'n the hideous Glade air freshener/"Think of flamingos while you're playing" school of jazz nada that is a lot more prevalent than you'll ever admit.

The typically Europeon radical left bent of this 'un was pretty much consigned to the dumpster sometime around the fall of the Berlin Wall (but dontcha worry all you Che wannabes...I hear it's making a comeback! [oh goody!!!]), but even with songs bearing titles that loosely translate into "The Imperialist is a Paper Tiger" and "The Reactionary Forces" who can resist listening to this aural splurge that mostly features Tusques playing high-register piano as his compats create some of the best atonal jazz I've had the pleasure of hearing at least since the Art Ensemble twofer reviewed last month. And not only that, but Tusques even tries to take on Eddie Phillips, Jimmy Page and Fred Frith at their own game with some bowed guitar playing plus (at the beginning of side two, the reactionary forces track I told you about) our leader engages in some bowed saw play while cellist Silva and the two double bassists engage in something that could only be described as an update on the string quartet of yore sorta beamed 200 years into the future without barf bags! And the revolutionary bent continues all along to the final track on the platter "Portrait d'Erika Huggins" which is a tribute to the Black Panther chick pictured in power-fist salute on the back cover who, at the time of this recording, was being hassled to no end by "the pigs" over here in the comparatively backwards U. S. of Whoa. Y'see, Huggins was a pretty big figure in the Panthers power structure at the time, even though her main contribution to the cause was her ability to boil the water used to torture suspected snitch Alex Rackley. Well, at the time I'm sure it seemed like the haute thing to record a song dedicated to Huggins and hey, maybe it is a small step if any above Steve Lacy dedicating one of his albums to the Italian Red Army. And remember, like I said it's all coming back so maybe it's time for you to get a copy of this album to get all radically resensified to, at least until 2010 hits the boards and it all looks rather simpy once again.


Anonymous said...

Man, thank you SO MUCH for making a reference to Jack Sheldon's presence on the Merv Griffin show. I can still remember Merv's jokes about what bed Jack crawled out of
(Jack was kind of a combination Doc Severinson/Tommy Newsome to Merv's Johnny Carson, for those who never saw the show), and as an eight-year old, I wondered why Jack did not have a regular house of his own to sleep at!
If I remember properly, Run Buddy Run was on the same night as the Monkees, at least where I was living, and I remember that was a big tv night for me.
Merv Griffin was one of the greats.
When I went out to LA in the early 80s, I think it was, I made a point of finding the Theatre where the show was taped. No one else could ever pull off Merv's surreal combinations of guests, which Merv made work through the sheer power of his good vibes and show-biz schmoozing (sp?) skills. I always had the greatest respect for him. When Texas was considering legalized gambling about 12 years ago, Merv came down to the San Antonio Riverwalk scouting possible properties for gambling establishments (the ballot measure failed, by the way), and many locals saw Merv, who I'm told was a gracious and kind individual who treated everyone as if he or she was special and unique, from the busboy to the fan.
There is really no one in his class or in his league today.
God bless him!!!

Bill Shute

Anonymous said...

Jack Sheldon is still very much alive and active and plays around Los Angeles all the time, check out