I can never really get my head around the Lawrence Welk show. Welk, himself, seems clearly unironic, and I’m pretty sure that most people who watch it, or at least who watched it at the time, liked it without irony; but I really wonder about the musicians, singers, dancers and so on. Could they possibly have been THAT wholesome? I always envision them going off stage, doing acid and having mad sex while LW’s handlers kept him in the dark. With that in mind, get a load of this:

How can this be? Sure, LW probably believed this was just a “modern spiritual”; but what about Gayle and Dale? what about the accordionist introducing the number?? Madness this way lies, I guess, but I can’t help reading more and more into the little details the more I watch it. How can the announcer’s little cough at the beginning NOT be a winking reference to smoking dope? How can he not be signaling to an in-group when he turns his head and touches his tie before the camera cuts over to the singers? How can Gayle and Dale’s little winking looks at each other not come from knowing that as soon as they cut to commercial the two of them will be one toke over the line; and perhaps in flagrante delicto as well, maybe WITH the announcer. And yet, and yet…


Did Will.I.Am read (and hate) Maureen Dowd’s post (linked here)? Did Obama? Did Scarlett Johansson and Herbie Hancock and Kareem Abdul Jabbar and John Legend and the lot of them?

Perhaps not, but this is a nice response to the notion of Obama-as-Smooth-Jazz-Modernity. It is certainly smooth, and like Hancock’s Joni Mitchell tribute (I wrote about it here) it has its jazzy-qualities; but this is a far hipper, somewhat younger Obama-music connection. And one that, like Smooth Jazz, has racialized overtones for some audiences, but that can be read as (and is explicitly) multi-racial.

And it is gorgeous.  I love the multi-voiced quality, the overlapping sounds of men and women’s registers.  As I love it in Leonard Cohen’s work and Helena Noguera’s.

Smart politics, smart music, well done.

Monk on the Air

I’ll be the guest on WILL (Illinois Public Radio), on the AM 580 morning show “Focus 580” with David Inge tomorrow at the 10:00 hour, chatting about my book, Thelonious Monk, and jazz history. For those of you not in the WILL listening area who want to check it out, it’s podcast here: http://www.will.uiuc.edu/am/focus/default.htm Not sure if it comes through live streaming there or just after the show airs.

Here’s a permalink:

http://willmedia.will.uiuc.edu/ramgen/archives/focus080125a.rm or

Lacy in Action

Since a lot of people haven’t heard Steve Lacy, here’s a youtube video of the Steve Lacy 4 (Steve Potts on alto and Jean-Jacques Avenel on bass; I think it’s John Betsch on drums). Two things about Lacy that this really brings out nicely: first, I think his is the best sound on soprano sax in all of jazz, and second I think he plays remarkably un-cliched solos. The sax sound thing is a sax-player-geek thing, but so be it. As a player (of minimal skill), I listen to the sound of the horn as much as the content of the melodies, etc. Lacy’s sound is really distinctive and I think it’s eminently listenable.

Also a nice example of Lacy’s writing, the tune, “Prospectus,” is sweet and shows his interest in counterpoint.

Steve Lacy

steve-lacy.jpgI was listening to a recording of Steve Lacy and Roswell Rudd playing “Monk’s Dream” (on their 2000 release of the same name) this afternoon, and thinking about how much I like Lacy’s approach to music and to the soprano sax in particular. But I wonder a little whether I mostly like to listen to him because he was one of the most awesome people in jazz I’ve ever met. He was a beatnik from the old school, and without question one of the coolest people I’ve ever met. Generous, kind, worldly and urbane, happy to be interviewed, though I think he must have said many of the things he said to me over and over. I remember thinking, that is what I want to be like when I grow up.

Perhaps the thing that impressed me most at the time is that his way of playing and his way of conversing were so similar. It’s hard to find a way to explain to students, without looking utterly irresponsible, but I’m pretty sure that’s why I like him so much.

Charlie Haden, Part 3

Just found this in an interview with Charlie Haden from downbeat’s website. He and the interviewer are talking about bassists he learned from, and when they get to Wilbur Ware (who played, among others, with Monk) the interviewer says what a great soloist he was. Haden says:

You forget sometimes that you are playing music, not just playing jazz. It’s good sometimes to remind people of the musicality of the moment by going to just one note and letting them hear it.

Nice, on the power of genre.


I love Philly, as anyone who knows me can attest; and this is one of the reasons why:

(For those who didn’t catch it at the beginning, that’s Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter.)

Thanks to Charles for bringing this to my attention.

Compare with MC Rove at the president’s press dinner last year. Also makes me wonder: what is it about “Rapper’s Delight” that makes it THE thing for non-rappers to perform (or emulate)? Is it just it’s position as an iconic first rap to be nationally prominent? Or is that there’s something about the rhythm that is easy to accomplish? Or perhaps that it’s just such fun to say “Hip hop, hippy hippy hop”?