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Highly Opinionated

HIGHLY OPINIONATED

Sing a Mean Tune, Kid: Chicago for people who hate Chicago

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When people rebuff my attempts to share my love of jazz-pop-rock group Chicago with them, I understand their qualms. Really, I do. Few bands went from being quite so inventive to quite so predictable in the long, tough slog between 1968 and 1984. (The political parallels alone are terrifyingly relevant: many of the exact same people who were in SDS went on to become Yuppies by the midpoint of the Reagan years, but I digress.) So, I understand when people tell me why they don't like Chicago. I might disagree, but I do understand. These are good folk ...

HIGHLY OPINIONATED

Sacred Cows, Led Zeppelin and Does the Song Remain the Same?

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"Sacred cows make the tastiest cheeseburgers" -- after Abbie Hoffman (1936-1989) I have always said of popular culture, that like a McDonald's cheeseburger, it is to be consumed but never considered. Much of music is nothing more than a reflection of popular culture and certainly falls beneath that grand proclamation. A good deal of hip hop and all of dubstep, electro house, post-hardcore and what passes for R&B today will not be remembered, much less heard regularly, in fifty years. While popular culture may become “classic" culture, it does not do so wholesale. ...

HIGHLY OPINIONATED

Roswell Rudd: The Musical Magus Turns 75

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"Years ago it would have seemed an impossible dream to get to record with this musical magus, but here we are... and what a thrill!" class="f-right s-img">--Charlie Kohlhase, From liner notes to Eventuality: The Charlie Kohlhase Quintet Plays the Music of Roswell Rudd (Nada, 2001)

I see him suddenly as if in a dream. His eyes are somewhat cynical, questioning and beautiful. Wrinkles of laughter pucker up at the edges, and he reminds me of my father. His smile disappears as the mouthpiece of his gleaming trombone meets his lips. Then, all I can see is ...

HIGHLY OPINIONATED

Free Jazz: The Jazz Revolution of the '60s

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[Editor's note: Revised and expanded here, this piece originated as an oral essay for an installment of the Cosmoetica Omniversica internet radio series on the arts and sciences. The series was hosted by Dan Schneider and Art Durkee.] More or less officially unveiled with the first New York appearance of the Ornette Coleman Quartet at the Five Spot Café in the fall of 1959, free jazz (or new black music, space music, new thing, anti-jazz or abstract jazz as it would variously be labeled), gave new dimension to the perennial “where's the melody?" complaint against jazz.

HIGHLY OPINIONATED

Tcha Limberger: Gypsy In The Footsteps Of Bela Bartok

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The hair of the bow gently caresses the string, catching an “A" high on the upper register. Then, in a series of sweeping glissandos, it descends the diatonic scale in a minor mode. I am caught in its downdraft like a bird on a rapidly cooling thermal, falling... falling through air thick with saddening notes. The violin is never alone. It is pursued and coaxed ever onward by the dense clusters of notes played by the bracs of Olah Norbert, the second violin of Ruszo Istvan, the glorious moaning of Szegfu Karoly's cello and the low, weeping counter-melody of Csikos ...

HIGHLY OPINIONATED

Don Cherry: From Out of the Shadows

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It was cool in Bombay that July in 1985, or was it 1986? Somehow the year does not seem to matter quite as much as it did when the phenomenon first occurred. The other details, of course, I remember clear as day. Association PC were tearing it up on stage at the fabled arena of the historic (for India at that time) Jazz Yatra an international jazz festival hosted by Jazz India since 1978. The Max Mueller Bhavan was responsible in no small measure for bringing the large ensemble down to Bombay and I recall a distinct thrill when listening ...

HIGHLY OPINIONATED

Why George Russell Will Always Live in Time

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A measure of just how underrated a musician he was in his lifetime is reflected in the fact that even three days after he passed on most of the major publications had not even reported his death, much less celebrated his life in the glowing terms that he so richly deserved. Perhaps this was because oddly enough he may have spent a lifetime mostly in the quietude of musical intellectualism rather than in its practice. That is, after all how most may ultimately remember George Russell, born June 23, 1923--died July 27, 2009. He did author the most important work ...

HIGHLY OPINIONATED

Toronto Jazz '09 Festival Journal: 'Round About Midday to 'Round About Midnight

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T.D. Canada Trust Toronto Jazz Festival Toronto, Ontario, Canada June 26-July 5, 2009

To begin at the beginning: close encounters in a war against the abolition of free will by methodical conditioning and the servitude made acceptable by regular doses of chemically-induced progress and happiness from: canned food, vitamins, and the business side of music and writing (including appropriate shelving and categorization such as: “File under jazz“). Jazz media is dying--who's next? (June 22) I await my media accreditation for ...

HIGHLY OPINIONATED

Denny Zeitlin's Inhabiting a Parallel Universe

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The artist is alone. Not woefully or desperately alone, but more like willfully alone and enraptured... He empties his head of thought to make way for the flow of air. And in the air, notes of varying pitch and character. They bring their sound alone... then sometimes strung together like necklaces of varying beads--whole ones, halves and quarters... eights... sixteenths... a myriad... The artist feels good to be alone, emptied of all thought now he is prepared for the waves of sound. He sits down at the piano and gives them voice. Denny Zeitlin is playing... deconstructing... exhilarating.

HIGHLY OPINIONATED

Duke Ellington: Symphony of the Body and Soul

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A study in sepia It was the package that arrived, which prompted me to open an album of memories in the first place. Looking at the photograph, I recall some--not all--of the many details of the evening it was taken. The boy in the photograph is I, and I am in a black mood. Suddenly my memory stirs vigorously, and it is then that I to go back to a dusky evening in 1963. My father who is on my left has his hand on my head and is ruffling my hair. On my right is my father's ...

HIGHLY OPINIONATED

Don Pullen: Ode to the Life Lived

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He is being carried on wings, a Black Icarus, further up, higher than the sun, so the wings will not fail this time. They carry him and the fingers of his left--and all those mad block chords from God knows where--and his right hand--running along the ebony and ivory keys drawing clusters of notes in elliptical swirls they call jazz, from knuckles and fingers into the rarefied atmosphere, where he hooks up for a gig in the sky. Mingus is there and Dannie Richmond, George Adams. He may just as well start the set with "Song from the ...

HIGHLY OPINIONATED

Toronto Jazz Festival 2008

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I will never forget my excitement--years ago--at learning that it would be possible for my family to live in Toronto again. I had been researching a book on Charles Mingus and often listened to one of my favorite vinyl records--The World's Greatest Concert--Jazz at Massey Hall. Not only was it a gem because of the dream band, Charlie Parker on alto, Dizzy Gillespie on trumpet, Bud Powell on piano, Max Roach on drums and, of course, the man I came to admire in an unabashed way--Charles Mingus on bass... But the historic concert and recording took place at a venue ...

HIGHLY OPINIONATED

Unpacking My Bird... A Discovery Most Joyful!

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It is about thirty short strides, from my office in the cellar of my home, to a storeroom, where I keep the boxes-full of CDs that have remained unpacked since I have moved into this town home. But today will be different. I have something more to look forward to. Something I have waited a long time for. So I have decided to descend to the storeroom to re-evaluate an important part of my collection. Now I will make the short journey to unpack that box from my CD library. Yes indeed and I am filled with ...

HIGHLY OPINIONATED

Jane Bunnett: The Spirit's Dancing in the Flesh!

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"The ant's a centaur in his dragon's world.Pull down thy vanity, it is not manMade courage, or made order, or made grace,          Pull down thy vanity, I say pull down.Learn of the green world what can be thy placeIn scaled invention or true artistry,Pull down thy vanity,          Paquin, pull down!The green casque has outdone your elegance."          From “Canto LXXXI," in The Cantos of Ezra Pound “I see ...



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