Wednesday, June 25, 2008

It ain't at Lincoln Center, yo

Fresh on the heels of the latest Shaq-Kobe feud, today (via Alex Ross) we find... a new music rap confrontation, courtesy of Hybrid Groove Project in Baltimore. Not quite as catchy as "Umbrella", but not bad either, and certainly funny if you know the in-jokes. Up here, I don't think Levine or Gil Rose are exactly quaking in their boots.

But why take shots at the new music groups, even in jest, and ignore those most ripe for smackdown, the composers? I've been out of the new music scene as a player for a few years now, but I can't tell you how many times I've wanted to smack a composer around a little bit, even (especially) some of the bigger names, for writing really dumb crap. (I still operate under the illusion that this is a family show, which makes it harder to be all gangsta.) What better venue than rap feuds?

"John Harbison/at it agin/ getting five commisions and then mailin' three in."

"And then there's P Glass/ your time has passed/ twenty years you pull the same three notes out your A&%."

(Just in case anyone wonders why I mostly do text settings of other people's poetry) Someone with more skills than me, please, bring it on!

I thought about including the jazz scene, but everyone's hurting right now, so I'm not sure feuds are the best idea. Plus, we all know what happened when Wynton rapped. (click on "Where Y'all At, if you must...)

Monday, June 23, 2008

RIP George Carlin

To be funny means to watch carefully, and be able to articulate what you see. Carlin is one of the great models here, and so many of his skills are so sorely lacking in todays performers. I really think many musicians, especially improvisers, would be well advised to watch comics more carefully, to see how they time, what works, what doesn't. Painful as it was, watching bad comics on Cruise Ship X was a great teacher for me. Watching Carlin was an even better teacher, and a helluva a lot more fun. My favorite Carlin sketch of all time:

Stevie Wonder @ Comcast Center, Sunday 6/22

First of all, how the hell did this not get any press in Boston? (Okay, there was one puff piece in the Globe) It's Stevie Wonder, dammit, who last year, in the eyes of Boston's senior rock critic, "delivered one of the finest evenings of music this writer has had the pleasure to attend." Who's barely toured since I was ten. Who... anyway, had Darcy not blogged about it (great links here, btw), I would've missed it entirely. Thankfully, we braved the perils of Route 140 (Comcast is the old Great Woods, a nice facility with good sound and only one one lane road in and out. Sigh.) Here are the Globe and (crappy) Herald reviews.

There's not a ton I can add to Darcy's review- the show was only (only!) two hours and change, with any possibility for an encore stuffed by the obligatory guest singing radio contest winner. (who, thankfully, did NOT sing "I Just Called", opting for a somewhat frazzled medley of "Living for the City" and "Superstitious".) Stevie came out and chatted for a few minutes, mostly about the Celtics and their recent success. Stevie is a big Lakers fan, so this was very generous, or maybe just wise. The pacing of the show was also still a little ragged- after blowing the doors off at the beginning of the show, the middle sagged with too many ballads in a row- the bathroom lines suddenly got longer. At the end though, he lit the place on fire at the end with a run of "Superstitious", "Sir Duke", "I Wish" and "Do I Do". (I still can't get past the video for the last one.) And given how tight the band is now, the thought of what they'll sound like on the back end of this tour is pretty mind-blowing. The band, while seemingly bloated at thirteen players, never played like it- the balance, both in volume and density was mostly perfect.

Nitpicking- I could've used even more harmonica, especially after, on "Spain", Stevie blew everyone out of the water with his short harp solo. And I would've loved to see "As" and "Overjoyed" on the menu, but with a catalog as big as his, that's whining. If you can get to it, go now.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Green and white and black all over

If you pay even the least amount of attention to sports this month, you'll know that my beloved Boston Celtics won the NBA Championship for the first time since I was 11. Yesterday I was in the neighborhood, so I walked down to the Public Library to catch the victory parade. And I have to admit, I choked up when the floats with Doc Rivers and Kevin Garnett went by. It had nothing to do with the trophy (I think all the sports trophies are pretty gaudy) or the cheering.

This was the most diverse crowd for just about anything I've seen in Boston for a long time. Young, old, black (much more black than I'm used to), brown, yellow, white. I didn't read any reports of problems in the paper this morning, which matched my experience of a boisterous, but well-behaved crowd. For most cities, this may not seem like a big deal, but this is Boston, and the Celtics.

The last time the Celtics won, in '86, they were the whitest team in the NBA, already the blackest in sports, and there wasn't always that much love for the Celts in the black community here. Back then Bill Russell, the greatest Celtic and possibly the best big man ever, was a pariah in these parts for, among other things, his unflinching criticism of Boston for the way it treated him during and after his distinguished career, because he spoke his mind- and was usually right. (J.A. Adande wrote a good piece about the curious issue of the Cs and race earlier this year) Even in '02, the last time they were competitive, there was some ambivalence in the press and fandom- Paul Pierce was too much of a thug, Antione Walker was greedy and shortsighted on the court, etc. Which often were ways of saying "too black".

Not this time. The only peep you heard was about Jemele Hill, a national columnist for ESPN, writing that rooting for the Celtics was akin to rooting for Hitler, and being suspended for that idiocy. (The column, without that comment, is here) Back at home, though little white girls held up signs asking Rondo to marry them. Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett grinned like little kids, going back and forth with anyone in the crowd who he could here.

As much of a sports nut as I can be, I know they don't matter that much, and a good year for the Cs doesn't mean somehow Boston has put history behind itself. But for that one afternoon, under a shower of green confetti, it was nice to witness the possibility.

Monday, June 02, 2008

'cause I missed you something fierce...

Blogging has been nonexistent lately, since in the past month I've taught my first to extended yoga workshops, hosted Johnny Carcrash (thanks to the folks who came, sound clips to come) and found a new apartment. Along with the usual nonsense. But, with the school year winding down and the summer music scene heating up (well, relatively), I'm hoping to get a little more blogging done.

I realize a lot of these are old news, but while I was out, here's what captured my attention in blogdonia. If you haven't looked, check it:

- Mike McGinnis wants to know about teaching improvised music. I want to write something substantial about this, since it's a question I ponder a lot teaching.
- Ethan Iverson hearts Lennie Tristano. Okay, it's a lot more complicated than that, and a great piece.
- Darcy examines fanservice. I was a comic book geek too at one point, but trying to read Grant Morrison's current epic Final Crisis I get nothing but pissed off at how clueless I am. I can't imagine what it's like for someone who's never read it. Also probably why I never dug Smalls all that much...
- D-Out on Power Tools. The picture made me think of Sean Bell. Damn...

More to come...