Friday, February 24, 2017

ᐃ b Ỹ է ∑ s__N__b Ø b s ᐁ [UPDATED]

As was revealed by former Pan Afrikan Peoples Arkestra chief-of-staff Jesse Sharps at a PAFF screening last week, Mekala Session, son of Ark saxophonist Michael, had now taken over as concertmaster the Ark. He will lead the band (including dad, Roberto Miranda, Jesse Sharps, Bobby West, Vinny Golia, Steve Smith, Kamau Daaood, Dwight Trible, Maia and Isaac Smith) in a recital to be held Wednesday, March 1 at 8pm at CalArt's Roy O. Disney Concert Hall.

This Saturday from 5-8pm, the Mayme Clayton Library in Culver City will debut the last of three events surrounding their current exhibition entitled Rappin' Black History. The special guest will be Anthony "Father Amde" Hamilton of the Watts Prophets. Doors open at 4pm.

Also coming up at the Clayton on March 26th will be the latest installment of the Double M Jazz Salon. Azar Lawrence and his Quartet (pianist Theo Saunders; bassist Henry Franklin, drummer Tony Austin). The concert starts at 2pm, but make sure you make it an hour earlier for a special live interview with Lawrence courtesy of our friend, jazz historian Jeffrey Winston. Tix are $20.

On Sunday, March 5, at 7:00 p.m., Alex Cline and Will Salmon's Open Gate Theatre celebrates 20 years of its eclectic Sunday evening concerts with the fundraiser IMPROVIGANZA, described as "a select but still ultimately massive array of volunteer musical notables who have both played and listened to much of the music that has been presented at the concert series over its two decades, all of whom will be heard in a variety of contexts and combinations in the course of the evening. Artists other than Alex (drums, percussion) and Will (flute, voice) are planning to contribute to an explosion of spontaneous music-making" are: brass: Dan Clucas, Bobby Bradford, Daniel Rosenboom, Bruce Friedman, William Roper; woodwinds: Vinny Golia, Phillip Greenlief, Alexander Vogel, Eric Barber, Charles Sharp, Emily Hay, Peter Kuhn, Richard Wood, Gavin Templeton; voices: Dwight Trible, Bonnie Barnett, Kaoru Mansour; strings (guitars, basses, pipa): G.E. Stinson, Ross Hammond, Jie Ma, Scott Heustis, Steuart Liebig, Jeff Schwartz, Devin Hoff, Darryl Tewes; keyboards: Wayne Peet; drums/percussion: Garth Powell, Breeze Smith, Brad Dutz, Christopher Garcia, Jonathan Saxon. And there are still some musicians who are attempting to appear but have not been able to commit yet—could be more!" The concert will take place at the Center for the Arts, Eagle Rock,  2225 Colorado Blvd., Eagle Rock (one block west of Eagle Rock Blvd.). Admission is $10. Further information can be obtained by calling (626) 795-4989.

This Saturday at 2pm at the Far East Lounge (​353 E 1st St, Little Tokyo) there will be a concert to remember late composer and community activist Glenn Horiuchi (1955-2000). The brass ensemble Purple Gums, made up of Los Angeles musicians Bobby Bradford (cornet) and William Roper (tuba), and San Francisco-based Francis Wong (saxophone), and other SF guests Lenora Lee (dance) and Melody Takata (dance and taiko), will perform. Admission is free/donation.

Found this sobering but well-written 1993 Washington Post account of The Lonesome Death of a Jazzman. If that doesn't depress you enough, try this recent Salon article on The new, jazzless New York Times.

Superb new article by our blog bud Woody Haut about an obscure writer named
David Goodis and his travails on L.A.'s Central Avenue.

For a more updated take on how L.A. inspires its artists,
read this new piece on trumpeter Terrace Martin's Los Angeles.

Pianist/vocalist/provocateur Diamanda Galas will mount a rare U.S. tour, which will include L.A. 
Soul Amazing, an obscure but essential documentary about L.A.'s underground hip-hop scene has just resurfaced online.

Monday, February 6, 2017


Hi! Our brief preview of the new jazz documentary Horace Tapscott: Musical Griot (it premieres next weekend!) is now up over at the L.A. Weekly. Go here for the trailer. Go here for tickets and more info.

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

be not so fearful

Do not despair -- they love it.
Do not be fearful -- they thrive on it.
Do not hate them -- it will make them stronger.
Do not let protest become violence -- it will make their case for them.

Conserve energy and outrage.
Pick battles carefully and with vetted info.
Collect evidence.
Remember the names. Say the names, over and over.
Pay witness.
Be cool and calm and focused and cautious.
Use ridicule and satire to cut them deep.

"And agitate. Agitate! Agitate! Agitate!"
Frederick Douglass

FROM SUSAN MILLER TWEEDY (FB post, 1/29/17):, Jeff and I went inside the airport and we were trying to go upstairs to the catwalks because I wanted to show him the view from above. We were walking by the area where people are waiting for the transport to leave the international terminal. There was a group of 3 kind of older white people we had to pass. One of the men said right in our faces "I wish I had my shotgun. I'd shoot every one of these people". (meaning the protesters of course) Then he says right to Jeff, "I'd definitely shoot you." Jeff said "Excuse me??? You don't even know me." Guy says "I don't want to know you. I'd shoot you anyway." A few other things were said back and forth that I can't even remember because of the insane adrenaline that was rushing through us. The woman was laughing insanely in my face after I said anything. Jeff decided to go and tell the police what was happening. Several police officers came over. They asked if anyone heard us get threatened and many people raised their hand and many people said "I heard it". And none of them were protesters. They were people of many different colors and nationalities, who had just gotten off an international flight and were willing to stand up to hatred. The volunteer lawyers saw something going on and stood by to see if they were needed. They were awesome and so were the cops. Jeff talked with the police for a long time and decided not to press charges. The police made the guy apologize. Sadly, I highly doubt if the experience will cause that group of people to think any differently at all. So depressing. All of it.

Friday, January 13, 2017

∞∞ B y T e S *n* b O b S ⚄ ⚄ [UPDATED]

all images by ge stinson
the main stem, an original dramatic script focusing on a young jazz saxophonist
who escapes denton, tx for l.a.'s central avenue in the 1940s is now making its way past some pretty big eyes in the movie-making industry, including a prominent showrunner-writer for at least two influential cable dramas of the 00s.

also: there is also word of a new central avenue documentary that has just wrapped production; the soundtrack includes local musicians from horace tapscott's fold, including jesse sharps and bobby west.

bobby bradford, roberto miranda, vinny golia + william roper comprise the silverscreen sextet, who will be playing monday, 1/16 @ the vortex dome. info here

also: bradford + golia will be going to europe at the end of the month.

the beast is working on a preview for the la weekly about horace tapscott: musical griot, a new documentary by l.a. rebellion filmmaker barbara mccullough, who just moved back to socal after six years teaching in savannah, georgia. the film premieres next month 2/12 at the 25th annual pan african film festival. check out the trailer here.

this saturday at the central library's mark taper auditorium will be a screening of jane cantillion's the other side: a queer history's last call, a documentary about the gay history of los angeles from the 1940s and centered around a legendary silverlake piano bar.

aman kufuhamu was one of the most influential underground jazz djs of the 1960s, introducing hungry ears all over the l.a basin to the avant-garde of the radical-chic era. the beast spoke with him recently and he told us he's thinking of bringing back his classic kusc show greg's refresher course for the satellite-radio era. 😃

nels cline and yuka honda have a new new project called "cup"...and they already have a gig.

also: nels is a contributor to the new thurston moore oral discography out in march.

writer/dj michael davis, all-about-town gadfly of l.a.'s new music scene for the last 40
years, now has a website. check out his interviews with with nels cline and jim mcauley here.

jazz violinist michael white, who collaborated with john coltrane, rahsaan roland kirk, pharoah sanders and sun ra among many others, passed away last month. his widow, vocalist leisei chen, has written this moving tribute for the la weekly. there's also a tribute page if you'd like to add any memories or condolences.

kudos to bassist jeff schwartz, who just received new funding for soundwaves, his new music concert series at the santa monica library. the first show is this wednesday 1/18 with flautist emily hay and contrabassist steuart liebig.

also: schwartz also has a killer new cd with ellen burr and andreas centazzo

prolific nyc pianist matthew shipp has been on a roll lately with his facebook takedowns of the current political climate. he waxes further in a new aaj interview.

also: shipp has just announced his retirement from recording (!!!)

breakin' 'n' enterin' an obscure 1983 documentary about the burgeoning west coast hip hop scene (it wound up inspiring the breakin' films) has just resurfaced online.

Saturday, December 31, 2016

The First and Last Death of 2016

HAPPY NEW YEAR, AMERICA AND THE WORLD. In a few hours, 2016 -- which, rightly or wrongly, people started cursing around the time of the death of a musical prodigy from North Minneapolis -- will be no more, and no one the Beast knows has come out unscathed. Yes, the TIME cover below is fake; we all know who's the real POTY as much as we cannot stomach it.

At least with past historical events such as Columbine or 9/11, the ornate grisliness was live and televised (followed by the endless Moebius-strip replays) and could not be avoided. But there was a sort of catharsis there -- there was no Matrix-like veil. We saw the worst we possibly could see and were awash in the direct and decisive complications. On 11/9, the profound sense of switcheroo was so violent that is nearly caused air bubbles in the blood -- if these indeed were the "bubbles" people kept talking about. Only this time, the slowly dawning horror was recorded not in scenes of collapsing buildings or bodies being pulled out of classroom windows but in a decidedly different kind of graphic imagery: cable-news chyrons, virtual-reality pie charts and wonky ballot tallies. It was a slow and stealthy choke for those of us who did not adequately prepare ourselves for the fact that their fellow countrymen could give the collective Republic such a decisive shotgun blast to the face. Not to resort to hyperbole or anything, but this it was cultural, moral and civic suicide on a Biblical level.

America in its immediate aftermath was like someone once described Eastern Europe before 1989: "One giant, dimly lit prison yard." The Beast lives in a Mediterranean climate and even the golden sun looked baleful and sickening. (Shouldn't the weather at least CHANGE to suit the mood?) Of course there was jubilation, but not not the pleasant kind. Quite the opposite, actually.

In the last two months, a deranged and violent kind of retribution has coalesced like an army massing beyond the trees: 1,094 reported incidents of hate crimes and counting. (And this doesn't even include post-holiday mall violence.) Sure, some of them might even be fake but so what? It's their meaning -- that they are even in the air and part of our sloppy under/overground discourse, like the rumors after the Twin Towers fell that all Jewish employees at the WTC had received phone calls warning them to "stay away" that day. It was bunk of course, but the rumor made it into a poem by Amiri Baraka. The poet was heavily condemned for this, but the Beast always felt that his point was this: Such hearsay was part of the paranoid ether of post-9/11, and its very presence -- even if on the fringes -- boded the question: Why is this still here? Why is it even being thought, much less said so flagrantly and cruelly? Of what acrid residue of our collective past was this and why does it keep bubbling to the surface?

And then came Election Day. Now, what was on the fringes has turned jarringly mainstream. Now, to paraphrase Gust Avrakotos in Charlie Wilson's War, "the crazies are rolling into D.C. like it's a fuckin' bathtub drain."

Not soon after the election, the Beast traveled to a family outpost in the middle of Doug Ducey's dog-dick Red State of Arizona -- Maricopa County to be exact, until recently Joe Arpaio's racial-profiling gulag. Our mood was quietly foul, emotions rolling around like ball bearings, wanting to be festive but guardedly so. One had the sense of having tripped on an edge of carpet and tumbled face-first through the looking glass. Five minutes after we crossed the border, we caught sight of a biker in the next lane with 'FUCK ISLAM' emblazoned (oddly, in the old-timey script of a saloon sign) on the back of his leather jacket. We stopped at a Waffle House for lunch and overheard adjacent bloviating from guys in trucker caps about California's new "plastic bag tax" as if that proved all their sneaking suspicions about their neighbor to the west. We rode up the US-101 outside of Phoenix which turns out is festooned with and endless parade of for-profit colleges, all lined up by the interstate like a main drag of used-car lots.

Not helpful. You cannot escape the zeitgeist, and its color is the smeared orange of a smog-choked L.A. sunset in the '70s and it will be on all screens for at least the next four years.

You prayed that there would be some sort of band-aid for all this free-floating bad juju, and there was. Actually, there was a lot of them, and they had been ripped off at once, and someone was not being gentle about it. It was ugly and it was everywhere and it was inescapable. Things were speeding up and slowing down simultaneously. Reality was hyper- and hypo- and post- and meta-. It couldn't get any worse than if the entire nation was a bunch of junkies watching each other nod out. The new regime wasn't in for another two months and the menace was already snuffling its dragon-breath on our doorstep. It was bad but it was going to get much, much worse. The exhaustion of the endless, cancerous campaign made us feel like we had already been through four years of Suck -- but those four years hadn't even started yet. Nope, it quite simply could not get any worse.

And then, like a methhead with an elephant gun, my sister made it worse.

image courtesy of Tsoku Maela

It started around the open kitchen island as the holiday meal was coming together, with me noting the small immigrant communities of Bulgarians and Romanians that had nestled themselves in the Southwest. The retirement community our family matriarch lives in is run and staffed almost entirely by those who fled the insanity of the Ceausescu regime. "They grew up under a Communist dictator and they know about the repression of the Left," Mom explained without elaborating on why they thought of the current president-elect would be any better.

As for the Bulgarians, I had met only one, at a Christmas party in Santa Fe several years ago. My sister introduced us to a friend of her nicknamed Tedi. She was a six-foot tall, vivacious, fiercely smart brunette with a bewitching Eastern European accent and rocking a shimmering long black cocktail dress and hefting a goblet of wine without an ounce of pretension. (Think Charlize Theron mixed with Marion Cotillard -- both in exuberant and unguarded moods.) The Beast doesn't remember how long our conversation lasted, because we walked away from it in a bewildered, head-spinning fog. "I think I have a crush on Tedi," I confessed to my sister, who laughed and touched my shoulder: "Everyone has a crush on Tedi."

More so when we learned about her: associate professor of internal medicine at the UNM School of Medicine; internist at both the UNM Health Sciences Center and the Raymond G. Murphy VA Medical Center in Albuquerque. Tedi began her career at UNM in 2003 as one of the pioneering members of the New Mexico VA Hospitalist Group. According to a local newspaper profile, she "dedicated her professional life to the care and education of our veterans." She was kind and patient with them -- even when they were hostile to her. It must have worked. My sister told me that when Tedi was doing her rounds, they would line up eagerly to see her. Her very presence, just entering a room, was a temporary balm for some truly damaged souls.

But now, just after the ascendancy of a Gangster Capitalist and His Cabinet of 'Orribles, my sister sits at the marble kitchen island amid the smells of roasting turkey and tells me that Tedi did not even made it 48 hours into 2016.

It was early morning on a Saturday in downtown Albuquerque. Tedi was on her way to the medical center. Miles away at a local diner, a 29-year-old waitress showed up for her shift, argued with her manager and abruptly quit. She then proceeded to get into a red Ford Ranger pickup truck and sped off. Sometime after this, she picked up two men. Or maybe the men were already in the truck when she left the diner. Or maybe there was just one man. Nobody really knows. What is known is that minutes later, as Tedi was waiting at a stoplight, the red truck plowed into the back of her Mercedes Sedan at over 70 miles an hour, demolishing its rear-end into a gaping wound.

image courtesy of Jim Thompson

Tedi's neck was broken instantly. But she was not killed outright. In the OR they deployed the countermeasures of trauma. "They had to open up her skull," my sister cried.

Later that day, Tedi died. This literally happened January 2, 2016. She was 51 years old.

But there's more to the story -- disturbing tendrils that don't quite connect.

After the collision, the young waitress emerged alive from the wreckage. Dazed and hysterical, her shirt covered in blood, she ran a couple of blocks to a dialysis center, whose staff immediately called 911. Whomever else was in the truck with her also made it out alive. And ran. They have since fled the state. Witnesses to the crash have also vanished.

The driver's name was released earlier this month. It took almost a year for a grand jury to reach an indictment of vehicular homicide and leaving the scene of an accident. During that time, Tedi's grieving friends were asking questions and not getting much from the local cops -- they wanted to know if the woman was texting, if she was on drugs or intoxicated. "How dare you call me this late?" seethed the press spokesman for the ABQ PD to a retired and respected veteran reporter (remember those?) who had phoned him at his house. Tedi's coworkers were dumbfounded when they were informed that the young woman had not been charged, that she had been released pending trial and -- inexplicably -- had been permitted to keep driving the streets for the next 10 months.

There was the whiff of conspiracy -- although the who/what/why of it all remained maddeningly murky. In the absence of any tangible or logical flow of information from official sources, the grieving inevitably turned to innuendo and rumor. One of Tedi's friends told me that "some sort of high level intervention" occurred in the case, although exactly what this meant they could not elaborate. The accused is from a family without means, but a high-profile defense attorney stepped in to take her case. Whisper, whisper. Tedi's case is being handled by a public prosecutor who has no prior experience in a courtroom. Whisper, whisper.

But the true cause may have been more prosaic. "The Bernalillo County District Attorney's office says missing evidence and court backlog are the reasons why it took nearly a year to indict a woman accused of killing a doctor," KQRE recently reported.

Absorbing all of this in less than ten minutes after we arrived, and already shaky because of the current national mood, the Beast never felt so frozen in the helplessness of fate and utterly indifferent violence. To quote the writer Denis Johnson: "It made God look like a senseless maniac."

It was now open season to be senseless maniacs for God and mortals alike. Usually it's one or the other, not both. Now it's both. The body politic does not fall apart piece by piece; it fails all at once after rotting in plain sight.

But what is the rot here? Someone on the bottom of our socioeconomic ladder wipes out an immigrant doctor beloved by veterans, many of them from the very same rung of that ladder. You know, the same mensches who volunteered as human shields for First American protesters in the brutal North Dakota cold; who have had to clean maggots out of their wounds in shabby VA hospitals; who have landed in homeless shelters as addicts. There is no irony or satire to wring from this. This is America eating itself.

At Tedi's memorial, her shattered husband, also a doctor and professor, told the assembled that when he first spotted Tedi as one of his students, sitting in the lecture hall at the University of Medicine in Sofia, it was "like being hit by an asteroid."

"Every day, I have seen people's lives end, or changed by tragedy in one day," Tedi once told my sister. "That's why you have to make the most of every moment you are alive. You don't know when it will end."

Tedi wasn't supposed to be working at the hospital that day. She had a bag of fresh bagels on the passenger seat next to her. They were for her staff.

When you write for a living (or at least convince yourself that you do) you can't help but court pretension. You can't help but seeing the random occurrences in life as metaphors. It can be dangerous and counterproductive -- you feel battered by hidden meanings with no solutions, you feel oppressed by portents and symbols. But sometimes, even as you know it is just a coincidence, tiny things crystallize, and this sad tale really had it all: the triumphs and tragedies of our immigrant population; war trauma and veterans' rights; the grinding plight of the working poor; alcohol and drug abuse (alleged); institutional neglect and overwhelmed public servants; the dangers of technology and social media, even the whiff of "fake news" when there is no other option, or when governmental bodies build informational firewalls. And sudden violent death with no winners. It was the face of America 3.0, Year Zero.

Tedi's life ended on a street called Constitution.