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Into the Shoulds - Sondheim and Freud

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Inspired by the stage version of “Into the Woods," this article provides an unusual psychological spin on the 2014 film. Whether or not we agree with him, Freud was a genius. His cosmology is so compelling that it continues to pervade Western culture; nearly a century after he first developed it, his symbolic imagery still adds layers of meaning to literature, drama, and the visual arts. It also enriches musicals, like “Into the Woods."

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Playing it Forward: The Boys at the Blue Note

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It seemed to happen overnight. One minute it was all video games, with the boys totally immersed in furious thumbwork. They'd sit together for hours on end, staring at a busy screen, manipulating cartoon adversaries to kill each other in great bursts of color and noise. There was considerable musical talent among them, and assorted lessons here and there, but no burning interest that any adult could detect. Then suddenly the group shifted, like a flock of birds ...

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The Mingus Excerpt

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“The Mingus Excerpt" shows a sweet side of Charles Mingus that few people saw or could imagine. After all, his nickname was “The Angry Man of Jazz," and most biographical material supports that designation in one way or other. But for all his bluster and bombast, there was also generosity and kindness. This story describes his unlikely friendship with Steve Reichman, a young Jewish kid from the suburbs who eventually committed suicide in Morocco, at the age of ...

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Fred Hersch's "My Coma Dreams" World Premiere

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There's much to say about the extraordinary My Coma Dreams, the new multimedia piece that describes the medically induced coma experienced by pianist/composer Fred Hersch in 2008. But three days after its world premiere at Montclair State University's Kasser Theater, I'm still looking for the right words to describe it. It seems that my usual critic's concerns keep dissolving under the visceral pull of the thing.This 70-minute piece grew out of eight dreams Fred remembers having during that ...

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The Continuing Adventures of the Mad Musician and the Bipolar Genius

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For those interested in the continued rumors about bipolar geniuses and mad musicians, here's the latest installment of my campaign against those popular myths.

This article appeared in the May/June issue of The National Psychologist , the 19 year-old newspaper for independent psychology practitioners that prints what's really going on in the trenches, as opposed to the “party line" of the American Psychological Association. It is reprinted here with their permission.

Great talent always comes at ...

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Gene Lees, 1928-2010: Someone Who Lit Up My Life

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On April 23, 2010 we all lost Gene Lees, the incomparable jazz writer, historian, and lyricist. I also lost an irreplaceable mentor and friend.

Unlike the great pianist Eddie Higgins--who died criminally unsung in 2009--Gene was granted a New York Times obituary. Published on April 27, it was written by Peter Keepnews, who attributes Gene's contentiousness to his strong and thoroughly informed opinions, rather than the inherent pugnaciousness that others have emphasized. While we all had to ...

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The Definitive Monk Bio: So, Was He Crazy, or What?

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Thelonious Monk: The Life and Times of an American Original, by Robin D. G. Kelley, was published in the fall of 2009.

It arrived surrounded by buzz that, since the author had unprecedented access to the Monk family, he could finally answer those lingering questions about his “mental illness"--as in, was Thelonious schizophrenic, bipolar, obsessive-compulsive, or something else?

The book is dense, with 588 pages of meticulous detail. After a few chapters I decided to ...

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Jeff Hamilton: Sound Painter

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If Jeff Hamilton isn't the world's greatest living drummer, he's on the short list for coronation. For the past five years, he's been in Modern Drummer's top five (#1 in 2004 and 2006), and was #4 in the most recent Jazz Times readers' poll. Whether you think such polls reflect true quality or just recent visibility, the undeniable fact is that Hamilton is a reliably creative, classy and swinging drummer whose live shows contain a nearly balletic grace that few ...



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