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William C. Altreuter
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Monday, January 31, 2005

To Barry Harris, at the Albright-Knox Art of Jazz program yesterday afternoon. Harris is the sort of musician you drop everything to see when he comes to town-- he's been around forever, so he won't be around for ever; he's played with everyone, so you know he can really play; and he comes to town only rarely-- last time through Buffalo was 1960. Louis Armstrong was on the bill. (He said they played "at the stadium"-- I took this to mean the Rockpile, and I'd love to know more about that show.) He came on stage walking with a cane, and although his playing was muscular, he seemed somewhat distracted and distant. After a couple of numbers he warmed up, though, and as the set progressed he warmed to the crowd. Come to find out he was suffering with a gout attack-- but he pulled himself together marvelously . This was pure bebop piano trio stuff: "Ruby, My Dear", "A Night In Tunisia", some Tadd Dameron, inside the changes with "What A Friend We Have In Jesus". At the end he wanted to sing a song he'd composed on the changes to "Embraceable You". "I usually have an accompanist on piano," he announced. "Is there a piano player in the house?" There was, a woman who introduced herself as Lisa, who demonstrated that she knew her way around the 88s a little herself. She was so good it was comic, with Harris and the other members of the trio openly impressed. At the same time, she seemed quite modest, almost bashful. As it happened, she was sitting directly in front of us-- I watched the guy she was with urge her: "Go on. Go ahead." She played with her back to the audience, obviously enjoying herself, letting herself get into it, then showing off a little, but she very modestly took her seat when the song was over. She didn't give her last name.

Sunday, January 30, 2005

Butter Poached Lobster. This sounds very worth doing. (Via Looka!)

Saturday, January 29, 2005

The file I wanted was in storage in the basement, so I went down to get it. It was dark, so I groped along the wall to find the switch. When I pulled it down, it went "crunch" and the fire alarm started to whoop. After the excitement died down, I figured I was done for the day.

Don't you hate when that happens?


Traffic's music has been following me around since I made fun of Dave Mason a week or so ago, and now I understand why: in today's NYTimes I found Jim Capaldi's obit. Such zeitgeist moments can be a bit unnerving. I had dug out my old Traffic sides last Saturday and surfed around a bit to dig up some information abut the band with a view towards writing a post about the band's unusual jazz-rock fusion. (I'm pretty sure my copy of "Mr. Fantasy" must be somewhere near Botany Bay-- in any event, I couldn't find it.) I heard "John Barleycorn Must Die" on WLIR ("Avant Garde Radio") when it came out, and Traffic became my favorite band on the spot. I couldn't face that album last week-- too played at this point, 35 years on. I have to admit that I'm inclined to side more with Christgau these days ("With Dave Mason gone there's not much electric guitar or songwriting, leaving the chronically indecisive Stev(i)e Winwood to his feckless improvised rock, or is it folksong-based jazz? Not much bass no matter what it is. And Chris Wood blows a lot. C+"). "The Low Spark of High Heeled Boys" just sounds twee these days, but the live "Welcome to the Canteen" looked about right. The histories of the band suggest that Dave Mason's regular departures were occasioned by Winwood's petulance as much as anything else-- the band would show up in the studio, they'd record some songs, the label would pick Mason's song for the single, then Winwood would join Blind Faith or Ginger Baker's Airforce or something until Mason went away. Then Winwood'd re-form Traffic. Mason was on board for "Canteen", which suffers from either terrible acoustics or lousy mastering, but which also rocks along pretty good. Indeed, listening to it, I got the impression of a band that was probably never really well represented by its recorded output. Because one of its principal songwriters and singers was on the outs half the time, Traffic's studio work is often characterized by too-long jams and meanderings. Because the band's guitarist was the songwriter that was on the outs said jams don't have much by way of interesting guitar work. But when you listen to "Canteen" there is some solid playing, some interesting solos, some intelligent ensemble work. Too bad "Canteen" was so obviously a piece of corporate profit-taking: with a little work and a little care it could have been a testament to a band that was really quite a bit better than a lot of outfits working at the time.

All that said, when the band was at its best, I think, was when it was working a straight rock'n'roll groove. The jazzy stylings that it is remembered for today are nothing special. Songs like "Empty Pages" or "Shouldn't Have Took More Than You Gave" really hold up. Winwood is an expressive singer who has almost nothing to say, possessed by a gigantic ego that prevents him from turning his talents towards songs that he might perform well. Christgau again: "What can you expect of a man who could have sung like Ray Charles and chose instead to follow in the voiceprints of Jack Bruce?"

When I first thought about writing something on Traffic I planned on saying something about why it's jazz-rock was different. I think where I was going was to note that they were not working in the electric vein pioneered by Miles Davis, or in the blues/funk mode that Herbie Hancock was exploring, but now, having been over it a bit, I find that describing Traffic as "jazzy" is something of a misnomer. "Jazz influenced instrumentals" is about as far as I can go with them, when Mason is absent, and when Mason is absent seems to be when the band was the least interesting. I'm not sure where that leaves me, but I guess I don't really miss that copy of "Mr. Fantasy" all that much.

Friday, January 28, 2005

Friday posts about the law may turn into a tradition here at "Outside Counsel", The Blawg That's Really About Bob Dylan, Or the Clever Thing My Kid Said, Or Something Else That's Not Law. Today I'd like to talk a little about the Revised Uniform Arbitration Act. The RUAA is presently on the table in the Empire State, and the ramifications of this go well beyond the narrow sort of procedural question you'd think amending Article 75 of the CPLR would have.

I'm still thinking through all of this, and am really thinking aloud here, but one of the things that the RUAA provides for that is not in present New York law is the award of punitive damages in arbitrations. New York is in the minority here-- we don't allow this, and I think it would be a bad idea to introduce this, particularly by way of amendment to our code of civil procedure.

I'm okay with punitive damages as a concept-- sometimes that's what it takes, and in New York at least, punitives are rare enough that I do not see them as the tremendous evil that some do. That said, it seems to me that an award of punitive damages is something that should properly come from a jury, and be subject to judicial and appellate review. Arbitration is a good thing, but the possibility of an arbitrator, or a panel of arbitrators making a punitive damages award gives me the heebe-jeebes. The RUAA tries to address this by allowing for judicial review of punitive damage awards (without the heightened deference that arbitral awards generally receive), but it seems to me that punitives have no place in arbitration at all-- and just saying that a judge can look the award over doesn't make me feel any better about it.

Let's start with the fact that you generally get to arbitration because you were in a contractual relationship with the other party. Equal bargaining power is a bit of a myth, but there was a contract, or else you wouldn't be there. Although I can conceive of abuses in such a relationship that might warrant punitives, I also think that the advantages and benefits of private law solutions to contractual disputes outweigh the slight protection against such abuses that the threat of punitive damages offers. Indeed, I favor arbitration exactly because it is a system that encorages compromise. It accomplishes this by starting out as a compromise-- the parties agree that they will forgo certain rights, like juries, and appellate review, inter alia-- for the sake of simplifying the method for resolving any dispute that might arise between them.

As a colleague observed today, amending New York's arbitration statute amounts to a choice of law question. There really already is a uniform statute-- it's the Federal Arbitration Act. If the parties are arbitrating under New York rules, it is because they have agreed to use New York law. New York is important because it is a commercial center, and it seems to me that there is a value in being careful about how we go about changing the rules by which we do business if we as New Yorkers want to remain a commercial center-- and if we as New York lawyers wish to continue to do remunerative arbitrations.

I understand that the thinking might be different in New Mexico or Mississippi-- chances are that consumer arbitrations and suchlike are a bigger part of the practice in places like that, and in that sort of dispute concerns about unequal bargaining power should not e so lightly tossed off. New York is different. New York is international-- not just New York City-- Buffalo functions that way, too, and should be moving more in that direction. If we are in the minority on the punitive damages question, the reason my be that this is one way in which our state is endeavoring to be more hospitable to business. G-d knows we should have something going for us in that department, and if what we have going is something that makes the Empire State a better place for lawyers, hey, I'm especially down with that. Barring punitive damage awards in arbitration is a fine reason to have contractual provisions calling for New York law to apply-- the resulting legal work is probably not stuff that our colleagues in New Mexico or Mississippi would want to do anyway. At a minimum, I would want to see some sort of empirical evidence about how many, and what sort of arbitrations predominate in our state, so that we could better decide if this is a change that might effect New York's status as a commercial center.

Finally, it seems to me that changes in procedural law are an inappropriate way to effect a change in substantive law, which is what this would be. If the Legislature, in its (I can't believe I'm using this word) wisdom wants to make punitive damages available in an arbitration context it should do it straight up-- pass a bill that says that in arbitration, punitive damages are allowed. The RUAA doesn't really do that-- it sort of slides it in-- and that means that there really isn't the sort of legislative history going to be there that I think should be there for such an important substantive change.

I'm going to keep turning this over in my head, because I think it is important and interesting. I'll be revisiting the question, too, for those same reasons. The intersection of policy and proceedure-- what could be more interesting that that?

Thursday, January 27, 2005

EGA writes:

" I know I say this at the start of every semester, but OH MY GOD I love my classes. Here's the rundown:

Set Theory- how much do I love Jim H-nle? On Monday in class he showed us a system of base 4 notation he'd invented. One is left arm at a 90 degree angle to the body. 2 is left arm above head. Bigger numbers involve the legs and really big numbers involve jumping around. He calls it Semi-four. 'Nuff said.

Chinese- I also utterly love Zhao laoshi, just because she's sweet. Our books still aren't in so I can't peek ahead but I'm predicting wedding bells for Gao Dezhong and Lin Meiying!

Meaning & Truth- taught by a Hampshire professor I like a great deal. He's clear, he's funny, he's interesting, and semantics may be what I've been looking for all along.

Wittgenstein- This is going to be my hardest course, and I'm okay with that. I am prepared to devote fanatical amounts of time to picking apart Ludwig's theories and writings. I'm also going to go to the library and check out one of his biographies, just for fun.

Ah, I tell you- where would you rather be than right here, right now?"

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

First semester freshman year I took a class called "Experimental Literature", taught by the poet in residence, a big bear of a guy named David Kelly. I don't actually remember much about the class, except that it was full of exactly the sort of pretentious English major twits you'd think would take something like that (and although I was certainly one of them, I think I was far from the bull goose pretentious English major twit). I do remember that the book list was long, and that the books were expensive-- and that some of them were pretty terrific. John Cage's "A Year From Monday", was one; something called "Concrete Poetry" which combined minimalist verse with origami, or maybe pop-up books; and an anthology called "The New Journalism" edited by Tom Wolfe. I don't know what became of my copy of this collection, although I suspect that it may now reside in the Antipodes, but it made a big impression on me.

We were talking about journalism in the office the other day and something from Wolfe's introduction came flooding back. Specifically, we were complaining about Mary Kunz, and how she seems to confuse annoying with cute, and how her Tuesday column in particular seems to suffer from a poverty of original thought. That's what happens when they give you a column, I said. You stop going out and reporting, and start scraping around for anything to fill the space. Cute things your kids say, something you saw on tv-- anything. Tom Wolfe said you've got to wear out shoe leather."

That set me off looking for the book, which is, to my astonishment, out of print in the US. A check with Amazon got me a used copy from the UK, which arrived today. What Wolfe actually said is a bit more elaborate:

"In any case, Breslin made a revolutionary discovery. He made the discovery that it was feasible for a columnist to actually leave the building, go outside, and do reporting on his own, genuine legwork. Breslin would go up to the city editor and ask what stories and assignments were coming up, choose one, go out, leave the building, cover the story as a reporter, and write about it in his column....As obvious as this system may sound, it was unheard of among newspaper columnists, whether local or national. If possible, local columnists were even more pathetic. They usually start out full of juice, sounding like terrific boulavardiers and raconteurs, retailing in print all the marvelous mots and anecdotes they have been dribbling away over lunch for the past few years. After eight or ten weeks, however, they start to dry up. You can see the poor bastards floundering and gasping. They're dying of thirst. They're out of material. They start writing about funny things that happened around the house the other day, homey one-liners that the Better Half or the Avon lady got off, or some fascinating book or article that started them thinking, or else something that they saw on the TV."

There is more, but I think you get his point. A question that seems to occur with some regularity about blogs is whether blogs are journalism-- or even some kind of New New Journalism. I would put it to you that the answer to this question is nicely answered by Wolfe-- if it means going out and getting facts, it qualifies; but if it is thumbsucking in public, quit putting on airs. Regrettably, this means that a great deal of professional journalism doesn't qualify, either. Funny how some things you learn stay with you-- I haven't though about Dave Kelly in years, and I'm pretty sure we never got to the Wolfe book in the class, but there it was, right there when I wanted it when I needed it. I can't believe it's not in print-- there is a lot more in there that is useful to know, and I'd like to be able to give it to people.

A's grandmother used to say, "It's the chicken that goes out of the yard that comes back with a full beak. That sums it up pretty nicely.

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

It was a couple of years back when I came across the live recording of "A Love Supreme". The recording wasn't available in the US at the time, and I happened to be reading Lewis Porter's 'Trane biography at the time, so it was a nice confluence of events. The interesting thing about the live version is that it isn't all that different-- sometimes jazz is improvisational, but improvisation isn't what makes "A Love Supreme" jazz. Francis Davis' take on Wynton Marsalis' big band version sounds like exactly what you would be afraid Wynton-- in all good faith-- might come up with: "His problem [is] that spiritual to him mean[s] churchy.... Everything about this new version is misguided.... Unlike in classical music, where a composer's score is regarded as definitive and the goal of interpretation is transparency, jazz takes it for granted that a musician will impose his own sensibility on the material he chooses. This being Wynton, Coltrane winds up sounding like Ellington, right down to the trombone wah-wah. But not even Wynton's crush on Duke explains the twee flutes. "Most of [Coltrane's] innovations were not in what was written, but in how his band played," Stanley Crouch points out in the liner notes. Exactly. So why bother revamping A Love Supreme? Because it's in the syllabus, I guess."

I vacillate, sometimes, about whether "inner life" and "spiritual life" mean the same thing, but when he recorded "A Love Supreme" there was no doubt in Coltrane's mind, and if there is a more personal statement of spiritual life in Twentith Century American music I can't imagine what it could be. In a way I am totally down with Wyton's attempt-- I have no idea what his spiritual life is like, but I respect the fact that his intellectual life compelled him to take something like this on. THere is very little by Wyton Marcalis that I am interested in listening to twice, but think I am starting to understand where he is coming from as an artist.

I want to visit the Freebird Bookstore.


There I was last Sunday, eating breakfast before going out to run, when I realized that I was dressed pretty much like the guy the cat is making fun of. At least I had my hat on right. Posted by Hello

Monday, January 24, 2005

Set some time aside for "How to Kill A Mockingbird" (Via Manhattan Transfer.)

Sunday, January 23, 2005

Ah,is this not happiness?

Sure, "More cowbell". And everybody knows that handclaps make any song better. But in the end, songs that have whistling are the best don't you think? DJ Riko's "Whistler's Delight" is a mash-up of 22 such-- mighty fine, I must say. (Via Boing Boing.)

Saturday, January 22, 2005

"This American Life" last night was about "Plan B". The program started with Ira Glass describing a short story about a man who is laid off from a job he's had for over ten years. His boss tells him, "You'll have to go to Plan B." The guy says, "You don't understand-- this was Plan B". What made it interesting for me was that in a funny way, I'm still on Plan A-- it's just that it looks nothing like what I'd have thought it would. In KRAC Captain Tom Knab's useful phrase, I am closer to 50 than I am to 27. If you'd have asked me, back when I was 14, or 20, or, I don't know, 26, what my life would be like at this point in my life, I'd have said that I would probably be practicing law, and teaching, and that I would be published, and trying to write more. All of which I do. I even get paid for writing now, a recent development, and one that is hilarious to think about in the context of what my 14 or 20 or 26 year old self would have thought. I'm sure that the 14 year old would have believed that I'd still be running, and what do you know, he's made a liar out of the fatter 20 and 26 year old Bills.

Of course, there's no Nobel Prize, no novel. My career as a professional academic is far more rewarding than it is remunerative. The big verdict is still on the horizon, and the chance that I would be regarded as a wunderkid slipped by before I'd even realized it. I'm doing these things in a city far from anywhere I'd have ever guessed I'd live in. At this point I'd say that elective office-- something that the 20 year old would have had as a possibility-- is as likely as becoming a astronaut. In a way I am deep into Plan B-- or Plan C, or F. But in another way, not really-- it just looks different than I thought it would.

Friday, January 21, 2005

Because it is a Friday afternoon, here is a rare, law related post, just to show that I really do practice. The rule in New York is that a party has up to 120 days from the filing of the Note of Issue and Statement of Readiness for Trial to make a motion for summary judgment. (The court can set a shorter date-- minimum 30 days.) The Note of Issue signals that discovery is completed-- you wouldn't usually make such a motion until the close of discovery, since the argument "I need discovery" will almost always prevail. After that, a party that wishes to make a summary judgment motion is out of luck, "except for good cause shown". Bouilland v. Angulo (2004 WL 2941569) contains a handy catalogue of what "good cause" arguments have worked. Good cause has been shown to exist where: (1) relevant discovery requests or depositions were outstanding, for example, depositions of two key fact witnesses,or independent medical examinations of plaintiff; (2) the final deposition transcripts upon which the movant intended to rely had not yet been returned;(3) the movant's attorney was experiencing a family emergency; (4) the court expressly requested that the motion be made at a later date; and (5) the motion was premised on an appellate determination on a potentially determinative issue on a prior appeal that could not have been raised in a timely fashion.

You'd think it would be a fairly simple thing, but it is really not so cut and dried. A complicating consideration is that, although the option of bringing a motion to strike the note of issue when discovery is not complete should obviate the "good cause" requirement, I have never seen such a motion granted during the time that I have been practicing here in the Queen City of the Lakes. The practice in these parts is to keep the case on the calendar, but direct that the discovery sought be completed or exchanged. I guess in such an instance good cause #4 should be part of the court's order. I have yet to see such an order. I suppose it is no big deal, except that this seems like a very rigid system, and I like a little give in my civil proceedure. It is the difference between the CPLR and the Federal Rules-- the one is iron bound, and the other is almost cuddly.

We now return to our usual frivolity.

Thursday, January 20, 2005

I take back what I said about spam-- I wasn't getting any email because of some sort of server problem. It's back, and as Dave Mason said, it's like it never left.

Good food writing accomplishes two things: it makes things sound delicious, and it tells us about our lives. From Saute Wednesday, "What is Real Cooking?".

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

I seem to be getting a lot less spam all of a sudden. It can't be that I'm getting better results with my filters-- some of the accounts I use are not filtered, at least on my end. Could it be that the filters on the server end are catching more? Could it be that the spam model is dying off? Was I getting an unusually high amount because my accounts often start with "alt", and now the spam bots have moved on to the addresses that start with "b"? Whatever, I like this development.

Saturday, January 15, 2005

Continuum puts out something called Thirty-Three and a Third, a series of short books about "critically acclaimed and much-loved albums of the past 40 years". Some of the albums in the series: Beach Boys' Pet Sounds; Beatles' Let It Be; Elvis Costello's Armed Forces; James Brown's Live at the Apollo; Jethro Tull's Aqualung; Ramones' Ramones; Neil Young's Harvest; Replacements' Let It Be; and the Rolling Stones' Exile on Main Street.

Actually, the whole series looks like it might be worth a look, but even better would be to write one. Dylan is conspicious by his absence, as is "Layla". "Another Green World"? "Every Picture Tells A Story"? (Probably no, since Lester Bangs has really done all that can be done with "Maggie May".) "More Songs About Buildings And Food"? "Marquee Moon?" "Easter"? "Flood"? Car Wheels On A Gravel Road"? "Howling Wind"? "Heart Like A wheel?" Somebody should do "Who's Next", but I would respectfully decline as not being qualified. There should be some outright junk, too: "Grand Funk Live!", and Kiss' "Destroyer". (Via Bookslut.)

Friday, January 14, 2005

I was really anxious to have the companion CD to "The Rose and the Briar", so I ordered it that night. Then I finished the book. Then I went back to the Sony Music Store site to see what was up. It reported that my order was "Pending". I used their "Contact us" email form to find out what "Pending" meant. I heard nothing from them, so two days later I repeated this process. The following exchange then occured:

wcalt@xxxxxxxx
01/10/2005 03:33
>To: Smfcustomer>Services/CR/Music-US/SONY@Sony_Music
"Pending"? What does that mean, exactly? I'd like my cd, please. Can you give me some idea of when to expect it?


Smfcustomer_services@sonymusic.com
1/11/2005
>To: wca@xxxxxxx>
>Your order shipped yesterday by Standard mail. You should receive it >shortly.
Thanks

wcalt@xxxxxxx
01/11/2005 02:04
To: SmfcustomerServices/CR/Music-US/SONY@Sony_Musi
That doesn't really answer my question. What was the hold up?

Smfcustomer_services@sonymusic.com
1/11/2005
>To: wca@xxxxxxx>
The hold up was that you placed your order on New Year's Eve. We were closed so that we had the opportunity to observe the holiday. Our office reopened on 1-4-05. Orders only process on business days. Holidays are not business days. That is what the hold up was.
Thanks

wcalt@xxxxxxx
01/11/2005 02:04
To: SmfcustomerServices/CR/Music-US/SONY@Sony_Musi
That's a perfectly reasonable explanation, flawed only by the fact that it took me four emails to you all to get an answer. A pretty pokey performance, I think you'll agree. You make it sound like the Sony music store is a guy in a squeaky swivel chair in a big warehouse with an old Gateway on his desk and a dial-up modem-- but I'll bet you have more going on than that.
The irony here is that I wanted the CD because I'd bought the companion book. Had I walked three blocks from the meatspace bookstore, I could probably have either purchased or ordered the CD, and had it last week. So much for the efficiencies of on-line ordering. Not only would I have had my CD, but I probably would have paid less, and I certainly wouldn't have had to suffer a snarky email about holidays and business days. C'mon Sony Music Store-- what kind of customer experience are you giving out here?

Smfcustomer_services@sonymusic.com
1/11/2005
>To: wca@xxxxxxx>
Sir,
I apologize for the delay in getting your order to your. With all due respect, I am not a guy sitting in a swivel chair, but a girl. And if there was a way that I could have packed and shipped your order myself, I would have done that. Once again, I am really sorry that you had to wait.
Sincerely,
Angela
SMS Customer Service

wcalt@xxxxxxx
01/11/2005 02:04
To: SmfcustomerServices/CR/Music-US/SONY@Sony_Musi
Well, now I feel rude. I didn't mean to call you a guy. Sorry.

Smfcustomer_services@sonymusic.com
1/11/2005
>To: wca@xxxxxxx>
That's okay! Hope you have a good day
Angela

The CD arrived yesterday. Angela, if you are reading this, I recomend it-- highlights include Snakefarm's "Little Maggie" (I want more Snakefarm I think); John Mellencamp's "Wreck Of The Old 97" (no, seriously); and Dolly Parton's "Down From Dover", a song that I'm sure I've heard before, and forgotten. Wow, she is good. "Down From Dover is pure hoke, but it's got a killer hook, and she sings it completly straight, and it really works.

Thursday, January 13, 2005

I loved Michael Chabon's "The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay" and I knew enough about the lives of the artists from comics' "Golden Age" to know that a lot of the background was spot on. The story of Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster-- the creators of Superman-- is an interesting Jewish parellel to the treatment African-American blues and jazz artists received during the same period. I've said for a long time that I would like to read a history of jazz told though the analysis of the record labels' business practices. Gerard Jones' Men Of Tomorrow: Geeks, Gangsters, and the Birth of the Comic Book is that book about comics.

Jones does a particularly good job of bringing all the threads together. The ties between the pulps and comics are pretty well known, but I did not know about the pulps' link with organized crime-- the paper came from Canada, and so did, inter alia, bootleg liquor; both shared distribution channels. The link to porn is also close, and, interestingly, the link to contraception devices. In an information age, perhaps control of the chanels of distribution means more than control of the means of production-- there are a lot of old socialists in this book too. In any event, it is intersting to know about this connection and knowing it gave me a new insight into the Kefauver hearings. (It'd be a better subtitle if they'd included "Gonifs"-- there are plenty of those in the book too.) The book is also good, without being heavy-handed, on the way that the artists upbringings adn social backgrounds colored the charactors they created, and the stories they told. Finally, it does an excellent, even-handed job of laying out the intellectual property aspects of the story. Too often the default is to say that Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster got screwed, but there is more to it than that, and Jones explains both sides.

Best of all, the book is written as well as Chabon's book, and is just about as hard to put down. There is entertaining gossip, and well wrought character development, and more about comics than I ever knew. It is a geeky read, to be sure, but that didn't stop me from reading it on the plane, on the monorail, on the LIRR, standing on line-- just about everywhere I went yesterday. What's not to like about a book where Susan Sontag and Paul Krassner rub elbows with Meyer Lansky, Superman, the Beatles, Margaret Sanger and Frank Sinatra? Great stuff

Stanley Crouch says: "Anyone purporting to be civilized, or who desires to be, should have as many late Ellington recordings as possible in his or her audio collection." Which is fine to say, but good heavens, man, I listen to Duke Ellington pretty regularly, and it is a vast, poorly catalogued body of work. It would be a fine thing to be Stanley Crouch, or Winton Marsalis, I suppose, and be able to devote more time to listening to Duke Ellington, but some of us are just going to have to struggle to be civilized by doing other things.

Tuesday, January 11, 2005


My time in Buffalo post-dated the Bills Rockpile years, but I saw my share of Bisons games there. Tuesday Morning Quarterback pointed me to this excellent, photo-packed site, about a place I'm sure the rest of my KRAC brethren remember from the Electric Companydays. Posted by Hello

Thursday, January 06, 2005

I mentioned Matt Wilson's "Wake Up!" a week or so ago-- we saw Wilson at the Albright-Knox, and thought the world of him. I picked up a couple of sides by the band that we saw, which featured alto sax or bass clarinet(Andrew D'Angelo), tenor or soprano sax (Jeff Lederer), bass (Yosuke Inoue) and Wilson, on drums. I liked both of the sides I bought, but it was the side he cut with his Arts and Crafts Quartet that I'm seeing on the lists, so I picked that up in the post Christmas moratorium period. I am now more intrigued by Wilson than ever-- he put on a great show, and the range that he shows working with these two different groups is really impressive.

Matt Wilson's Arts & Crafts features Terell Stafford on trumpet, Larry Golding on organ and piano, and Dennis Irwin on bass and clarinet (where'd all these clarinet players come from all of a sudden?). It took me a couple of spins to recognize it, but what it sounds kind of like is Tony Williams period Miles Davis. You know what I mean-- kinda trippy organ, trumpet, and solid, swinging drumming. Great stuff, I must say-- sometimes like "Jack Johnson", sometimes like "Filles De Kilimanjaro" or maybe "In A Silent Way" but without Wayne Shorter. It's mighty good.

Wednesday, January 05, 2005

KRAC Captain Tom Knab put me onto Jessica Williams' "Live at Yoshi's" a few months back; my New Year's Resolution is to follow up more aggressively on his recommendations. When you think about it, piano has got to be the axe with the greatest bench strength. You could start talking about great jazz piano players today and still be listing names into next week. You would think, therefore, that there would be a plethora of albums like this: live piano trio improvisation. And yet, the list of really great albums in that vein is surprisingly short: "Sunday at the Village Vangard", "Koln Concert".... You wouldn't think it'd be so hard, but the limits of the definition--live and trio only-- make it a challenge to come up with many. I'd put this one up with Erroll Garner's "Concert by the Sea", an obvious candidate for the list that I left out deliberately so that I could establish how terrific I think "Live at Yoshi's" really is. There is everything here that we find on Garner's disc: fabulous technique, brilliant improvisation, clever quotations, wonderful song selection, wit, verve, you name it. All this, and the advantage of sounding fresh. I've been listening to it for three days now, and kicking myself that I haven't had it longer so that I could have listened to it more before now.

Tuesday, January 04, 2005

Just before Christmas A. was listing to something on CBC in the car when the host mentioned that he had a tattoo of Burl Ives on his arm. It seems that he was very close to Ives-- like a father to him, he said, and when Ives died(in 1995),he got the tat as a memorial. At least, I assume he got it after Ives died-- I can't think of too many things that would be creepier than meeting an old friend and finding a likeness of my face-- the size of a man's fist, he said it was-- on his arm.

I mention it because I just finished John Rockwell's essay on Ives and "The Foggy, Foggy Dew" in Greil Marcus and Sean Wilentz' collection, "The Rose and The Briar: Death Love and Liberty in the American Ballad". You could drive a truck about what I don't know about Ives-- folk song popularizer, kiddie record artist, and the snowman from Rankin-Bass' "Rudolph, the Red Nosed Reindeer" was probably the extent of it (and wouldn't that snowman make a peculiar tattoo, now that I think of it?). Turns out there is a lot mere to Ives, and "The Foggy, Foggy Dew", than I knew-- he named names back in the '50s, for one thing, blowing in Pete Seeger. He spent a night in jail somewhere in Utah because "The Foggy, Foggy Dew" was considered salacious by the Mormons he was performing in front of. Interesting stuff, and the sort of thing I love in collections like this. (Rockwell gives out with the filth, which is tame by any reasonable standard. Apparently the narrator and his girl friend have sex, but "Roll Me Over In The Clover" it ain't.)

One of the treats about this sort of book is that the pieces I don't have any expectations for can turn out to be the essays that I like best. I had high hopes for Sarah Vowell on "The Battle Hymn of the Republic", but it has a somewhat tossed off feel. I am, g-d knows, neither a musicologist nor a folklorist, but I knew the history of that particular song, and it I was disappointed, a little, in her account of it. If I know it, it must be pretty widely known, and she could have spent her time developing something less commonplace. Vowell also has a tendency to be cute for the cheap laugh, and this trait shows up here as well. On the other hand, her conclusion is stunning: "When we sing "The Battle Hymn-- and I say "we" because that is how the song is traditionally performed at public events, as a sing-along in which a group of citizens become a choir- we sing about taking action, about marching on, about doing something. And-- this is the best part about singing "The Battle Hymn"-- you are not standing there alone doing something. You're a part of something. The song starts off with "mine eyes" and "I have seen," and by the end it's "you and me" and "let us die," or "let us live"-- whatever, "us" being the point. We're all in this together. If only for the length of the song."

Wendy Lesser gets a lot right in her piece on "Lilly, Rosemary and The Jack of Hearts," but it is not exemplary Dylanology in the end-- Wendy, if you want to hear the ommitted verse, Joan Baez sings it on "From Every Stage"-- one of only two covers of the somg that I am aware of. It scans, but it doesn't add much.

On the other hand, I had no expections about Luc Sante on "Buddy Bolden's Blues", but it is a hilarious and meticulously reseached historical piece on a song about a fart.

Elsewhere there are discussions about the effect of technology on the folk song tradition, and scholarly inquiries into the historical basis for songs that had become worn smooth like stones and now seem fresh to me again. There are a couple of short stories somewhat in the manner of Lester Bangs' great story about "Maggie May", including one by Joyce Carol Oates that's as good as anything I've read of hers. I'd say that it was parsimonious of W.W. Norton and Sony Music to package book and CD separately, because of course you'd want them both-- there is some overlap inevitable in anyone's music collection, but there are also songs discussed, or versions of songs, that were unfamiliar to me.

Monday, January 03, 2005

After I heard Razom Nas Bahato on Weekend Edition Sunday I immediately downloaded it, and it has been rocking my iPod since. "Понятіям. Ні!" "We aren't goats!" It is thrilling that Ukraine has become a beacon of freedom-- I just wish I didn't feel jealous.

Sunday, January 02, 2005

Via Bluishorange, the 2005 List of Banished Words. I'm going to be Sicilian about "Red State/Blue State"-- even if I don't say it, Im going to remember which ones were Red.

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