Fifty years after his death, Ernie Kovacs is de rigueur. Mainstream, even. His angular, imaginative approach to humor was impossible to imitate, but his influence on television-specifically television comedy-is intractable. He's the Thelonious Monk of the small screen. And just trying to play in a Monkish style always points out that Monk is Monk and nobody else is, so it is with TV and Kovacs.The jazz world often assumes that the avant-garde thinks and operates independent from the mainstream. We'd be shocked to find saxophonist Ellery Eskelin on singer Jane Monheit's new disc.But there are other ...read more
Crimejazz!In 1923, Caroll John Daly wrote Knights of the Open Palm. Published June of that same year in the pulp magazine Black Mask, its protagonist was Race Williams, an acerbic private eye. This was the first hardboiled crime story, and it touched off a world of crime fiction. That same year, trumpeter Louis Armstrong recorded for the first time, and that touched off a world as well. There was no connection to speak of, except that each is an important first.The golden age of film noir is basically 1941 (The Maltese Falcon being the first classic) ...read more
Los LobosKiko: 20th Anniversary EditionShout! Factory2012Looking over the punk-era rise of Los Angeles roots rock, reveals an embarrassment of musical riches. The prototypical outfit was The Blasters, a literate working class rockabilly-tinged barband whose songs (written by Dave Alvin) were knowing, compassionate stories of real American life, and they inspired a movement of imitators. Then there was X, fronted by the husband/wife team of John Doe and Exene Cervanka, whose punk aesthetic also drew on a wealth of American roots music, from Woody Guthrie to rockabilly and beyond. It seemed at the ...read more
Music and television have always worked together, and through the history of the medium, apocolypses have happened because the world was tuned in together. Language quickly becomes hyperbole when people recall Elvis Presley or the Beatles on Ed Sullivan, Ricky Nelson's fantastic weekly performances on his parents' show (The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet), any number of jazz artists on the old Steve Allen show, Elvis Costello on Saturday Night Live (although Devo was better), or Michael Jackson moonwalking on the Motown 25 special.Growing up in Philly in the 1970s, big" music televison was (for me) Soul Train, ...read more
It was F. Scott Fitzgerald who wrote, In American life, there are no second acts," which means he clearly was not an Art Pepper fan.Pepper was one of the great alto saxophonist stars of the bop era, famed not only as a Stan Kenton sideman, but also for his own albums as a leader. In 1951, he placed second in the alto saxophone category in Downbeat Magazine's annual poll, losing by fourteen votes to Charlie Parker. Tragically, Pepper's drug habit meant that he spent way too much of the fifties in jail, despite playing some of the best ...read more
Author's note: Michael Ricci has ordained me with the power to come to you once a month and throw a little information your way. A lot of great music falls through the cracks, often enough because the people who make it don't live comfortably in some nice categorical box. If you're someone who prefers music to categorical boxes, this column is dedicated to you.I'm starting things off with a look into a document that embodies the great American pioneering spirit. I hope this sets the tone for a look into some very rewarding music that doesn't get its ...read more
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