Inhuman Swill : Music : Page 16

October's CD mix of the month

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September's CD mix of the month

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August's CD mix of the month

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CD mix of the month reunion

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March's CD mix of the month

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[from Missionary Man, a memoir still in progress]

I had a very stupid argument once with my girlfriend Bertha, back when we were still living together. (Actually we had a lot of very stupid arguments, but I only plan to consider one here.) This was 1995, and we were at a small club in Seattle waiting for Barenaked Ladies to take the stage. We had both enjoyed the opening band, an act which managed the impressive feat of playing tunes in tricky time signatures without ever alienating the audience.

"How would you count that last song they did?" Bertha asked me. She had taken a class in music theory in college, coming away with just enough knowledge to make her a danger to herself and those around her. "It didn't sound like you could count it like a normal song."

This was her way of asking the number of beats per measure. "It was in five," I said.

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All that Ken Burns

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I don't know if any of you watched Jazz, or if you decided to boycott PBS for the duration of January. I've been prowling around for alternate points of view, and I found some interesting ones at www.birdlives.com. This is a site run by a former colleague of mine who also happens to be a jazz journalist of two or three decades' standing. He calls himself the Pariah when writing and editing Bird Lives, because his opinions have done some damage to his connections in the jazz world.

Anyway, there's an article on Bird Lives right now that provides a nice antidote to all things Jazz: "J'Accuse Burns and Marsalis" by Michael Zilber. Give it a look, if jazz interests you at all, or if you happened to have swallowed the documentary. Zilber is articulate, even if he hasn't yet learned how to set his words down on paper to best effect. (He could use some editing too, Mr. Pariah, if you happen to be reading.)

But still, Zilber's drift comes across pretty well, and I recommend his article. But if you can't be bothered, attend to this snippet of email from my friend Andrew, who runs www.jazzhouston.com and played jazz piano for a living for nine years:

The sentiments reflected in [Zilber's] article summarize my take on the series and reflects the views of many on my site too. Most jazz musicians recognize JAZZ as a well-orchestrated Wynton Marsalis puppet show. He was scorned by his hero Miles Davis in the mid-80's and has since turned his back on him, along with the whole post-60's jazz movement. Is it any coincidence that the show reflects Miles in a poor light, dismisses music made after 1959 and lionizes Louis Armstrong to the point of the absurd? And isn't it interesting that Wynton was virtually the only musician interviewed? Too bad, JAZZ is going to be regarded as fact by most long after its opponents are dead. Oh well, at least the music speaks for itself.
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Babe the blue OX

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For you BOX fans out there, I just got a very nice email from Rose Thomson, who tells me that they'll be playing February 17th at Mercury Lounge. Appropriately, one can get there by taking the F train to Second Avenue.

Of course, just my luck, I'm scheduled to be in Arizona for a friend's wedding reception that day. I missed the last Babe show, January 18th at the Knitting Factory, because I was in Los Angeles. I wonder if I can convince them to abandon this strategy of only scheduling shows when I'm out of town?

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Sweeping the clouds away

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By the way, for all you closet Sesame Street fans out there, I thought I'd point out that we have at long last made your favorite old songs from the show available on our Web site. Just try Sesame Street Radio if you really want to annoy everyone near your cubicle.

Alternately, you can call my office and I will put you on hold. Then you'll hear the same thing.

(For the record, we launched a cosmetically altered version of the site last week. It's very cool—if you have Flash, a powerful machine, and a fast connection. Try it.)

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I'm not sure why I'm thinking about this today. Maybe because she was the first friend I ever took with me to Sesame Street. (You've heard about the latest trip if you read Eleanor's journal, though I may eventually have more to say about it myself.)

I met her two years ago, more or less. "Oh, come on," said Rob, dragging me to another bar in the Village at one in the morning. "Just one more drink." Rob would soon be moving to Seattle, so I agreed.

If it weren't for Rob, I never would have started talking to the two German women sitting near our table. With the notable exception of Laura, who I would meet two months later, I don't pick up women in bars. But somehow she and I started talking, and before you know it she was invited to Rob's going-away party, and her suspicious, ill-tempered friend was dragging her out of the bar, and she was throwing a "Help me" look back at me over her shoulder.

Miracle of miracles, she showed up at the going-away party a couple of days later. Rob was handing a journal around the table, asking his friends to write something in it. My new German friend spent a long time over her entry. Rob showed me later what she had written. It was all very dark and poetic, and one line of it stuck in my head: "I'm a fountain of blood in the shape of a girl." This disturbed me quite a bit, but it also attracted me—the way some people are attracted to knives, I'm sure.

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