Getting Off On Judith Owen

05.25.2004 | David L. Steinhardt | Music | 1 Comment
"I've always said happiness is a passing fancy, but misery is something you can really build a life on."

Francis Davis and Permanent Revolution

04.20.2004 | Tim Marchman | Music | 6 Comments
Mr. Davis' politics demand a kind of aesthetic Manicheism depressingly common in critics of his generation. A good leftist, he identifies experimentalism with progressivism, and traditionalism with conservatism. If he removed the politics from his judgment and trusted more to the substantial strengths of his perceptions, he would allow that the neoconservatism of Jazz at Lincoln Center has nothing to do with, and does not imply, that of the Project for the New American Century.

Why American Idol Is Good (Yes, Good) For America

04.5.2004 | Jonathan Leaf | Music | 6 Comments
American Idol has made stars of a cocktail waitress from Arlington, Texas (Kelly Clarkson), a married plumber (Nilson), a wedding singer (Justin Guarini) and a college student (Clay Aiken). The only thing these people had in common was a genuine and recognizable ability to sing. Personally, I think they use too much vibrato and are schmaltzy. But that they all have good voices no one could argue.

A Ship Passed in the Night

03.2.2004 | Tim Marchman | Music
The prestige and glamour of the Blue Note label seem nearly perverse given the weak foundation of their reputation, which rests more on the names of the men who recorded for them than on the work they did. Aside from Bud Powell, Thelonious Monk and Wayne Shorter it is difficult to think of anyone of real substance who did anything like their best work for Blue Note. Its success has far more to do with the moody photographs associated with its attractive dust jackets and the clear sound its engineers were known for than for the music they recorded. Most of the label's releases in its classic period were uninspired and indistinguishable hard-bop drivel -- wallpaper music, really.

Joe Henry Goes Sorrow Slumming

11.25.2003 | Harry Siegel | Music
“When I wrote this song I worried it might be too political for my taste. But my wife assured me my songs are so obtuse, no one has any idea what I’m talking about anyway.”

Too Many Solos

06.4.2003 | Tim Marchman | Music
Go into any club where jazz is played and you'll likely find yourself surrounded by people who are nostalgic for something they've never known. They applaud after every solo, and how a group reacts to such a crowd tells a lot about them. Some get discouraged and lock themselves into head-solos-head, letting even the drummer take his chorus every song of every set; some batter out purposefully clattering notes, sneering that no one notices; some do what they wish and just play, somewhat deadened. None of them, no matter what they do, can much affect their situation. They've been turned into living museum exhibitions, like the women who churn butter in preservationist towns in central Pennsylvania.

Desert Island Music From a Cut-Off Cuban Tradition

04.15.2003 | Harry Siegel | Music
Before Mr. Cooder came looking, pianist Ruben Gonzalez no longer even had an instrument, singer Ibrahim Ferrer was shining shoes to make a living, and many of the rest of the assembled musicians were in similar straits. All of them were largely forgotten.

Hip Hop Comes of Age

12.4.2002 | Tim Marchman | Music
It may still be necessary to state this plainly: hip hop is the musical heir to jazz. It is not as urbane and sophisticated as jazz; it does not need to be, anymore than jazz needs to be as rustic and austere as the country blues it is heir to.

Siegel on Jazz Men Jimmy Scott and Miles Davis

11.6.2002 | Harry Siegel | Music
Scott’s unique sound results from what he calls “the condition”, a genetic disorder that prevented both his sexual organs and his voice from developing into those of an adult man. He also was stuck at 4”11’ until age 34, when he unexpectedly sprouted to 5”6’. He’s been married four times and, now in his late 70s, is considering a fifth union.

Coltrane's Inturned Magic Square

10.29.2002 | Harry Siegel | Music
“I used to go into the woodshed and just stay in there all day and practice and that was all there was to it. I didn’t have to worry about making a good record because that wasn’t important.”

Harry Smith - The Collector as Creator

09.3.2002 | Harry Siegel | Music
“Gaudy Woman Lures Child From Playfellows; Stabs Him As Victim Dictates Message To Parents”

Jazz's First Pin-Up Boy

05.15.2002 | Harry Siegel | Music
Miles Davis thought, and rightly so, that Chet Baker has stolen a lot from him, but not done much with it.

The Dissonant Life and Times of Charles Mingus

05.6.2002 | Harry Siegel | Music
In response to Tim Leary’s acid gospel, the bassist replied, “You’ve got nothing for Harlem… for the workers, the people who go to their jobs, the people who get up at six.”

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