Friday, June 26, 2015
"I'm writing about other people's books when I really should be working on my own."
HBO's True Detective made its much-ballyhooed return this week, and sadly, the online kvetching about "the second season slump" has already proliferated like a colony of carpenter ants. Much of the criticism involves TD2 trading the moss-dipped exotica of the Gulf Coast for the overexposed contours of Los Angeles, a city so synonymous with film noir and police procedural that it passed cliche at least 50 years ago. ("We're in familiar territory here," sighed The Guardian after Sunday's premiere.) This has led critics to ooze pulp in calling up the long shadows that TD2 has to walk under: Raymond Chandler, Dashiell Hammett, Walter Mosely, Charles Willeford, James Ellroy and the "sunshine and noir" excavations of Ross MacDonald and Jefferson T. Parker.
But hey, comparisons aside, can you remember the last TV show that turned so many voyeurs into readers? Neither can we. And if TD's smashing debut season sent a million viewers to the bookstore, library or GoodReads -- "I couldn’t get enough from the episodes alone," confessed L.A. Review of Books critic Jacob Mikanowski, "I wanted to linger" -- the second season has prompted obsessives worldwide to reference works and conjure book lists that might have influenced series auteur Nic Pizzolatto. Now the first episode has aired, we have a good glimpse at the trademark visual bravura, allusive dialogue, disturbing industrialized musical score (to match the season's fictional SoCal city of Vinci, based in part on the L.A. industrial no-man's 'burb known as Vernon) and creepy existentialism that we hope will take a more cohesive form over the next eight episodes. Watching (and loving) the premiere, the Beast thought we'd throw out our own mix of tomes. While not exactly beach ready, they should help scratch the itch while you re-thumb your copy of Akashic's Los Angeles Noir anthologies while waiting for Los Angeles Plays Itself to arrive from Amazon. Enjoy!
by Ginger StrandHere's a book that actually might make you lose sleep between obsessing over the meaning of falcon masks and naked multiple-amputee dolls floating in milk. TD2's stunningly gorgeous title sequence -- which we think is superior to last season's (ditto for Leonard Cohen's proto-rap "Nevermind" over last year's creaky murder ballad) -- foreboding shots of winding freeway interchanges, its plot involving a new light-rail line and that exquisitely creepy sequence of a corpse's bizarre winding journey from L.A. to Malibu, the sinister implications of power and corruption are intertwined with the California interstate system. Author Ginger Strand takes on the psychological and social import of America's freeways, which she calls "analogs of cultural psychosis." The book is a strange mix: half history, half lurid true crime. The true crime comes courtesy of the Golden State and a cast of psychopaths who, mostly in the '60s and '70s, used California freeways as picking up and dropping off points for their grisly deeds. Believe us, the twisted garden gnome Erroll Childress has nothing on real-life fiends like Ed Kemper, Randy Kraft and Herbert Mullin. (Kemper and Kraft are particularly disturbing, their M.O.s involving castration, dismemberment, torture and necrophilia.) But it's the winding, ominous, soulless interstate that is the main character for Strand very much in the same way it is for Pizzolatto. (Fun fact: Pizzolatto's first novel was called Galveston, a city located on the south end of the I-45 highway corridor from Houston; dubbed the "Texas Killing Fields," the corridor is a popular body-dumping ground where the serial killer Henry Lee Lucas once roamed.)
by Charles P. HobbsThe key term here is "Hidden History." Hobbs, a librarian with a termite's talent for digging into little-known corners of the city's transportation history yields this fascinating narrative about LA-LA land's obsession with building the better people-mover. There's the triumphs: The Vincent Thomas Bridge; Clarence Belinn's Los Angeles Airways (a fleet of helicopters that shuttled more than two million commuters from LAX to downtown) and Horace Dobbins' elevated California Cycleway in the San Gabriel Valley. There's also the epic fails: The numerous plots to turn the L.A. River into a massive carpool lane; the Simpsons-esque attempt at a propeller-driven monorail; the plans for an elevated people-mover on Bunker Hill, a diamond lane for the Santa Monica Freeway and a commuter rail-line between L.A. and Oxnard. There's tales of private transportation dynasties like The Carsons, The Landliers and the Kadletz Brothers, whose Pink Buses shepherded Orange County teenagers to the beach while soothing them with blasts of '70s rock. Our fave chapter is on an obscure African-American doctor named Thomas D. Matthews, who in the '60s and '70s attempted to start a Blue and White bus line that would serve the residents of Watts, who with the death of the Red Cars had been essentially abandoned in their own neighborhoods and cut off from the rest of the city.
by Thomas PynchonAlready referenced a year ago when Pizzolatto made his famous comment about Season 2 taking on "the secret occult history of the U.S. transportation system," Pynchon's breezy slapstick comedy has sinister underpinnings when the protagonist discovers a bugle-like hieroglyphic that leads to dueling secret underground versions of the U.S. postal service. A harbringer of the deep internet or even deep cable, wethinks.
by Mark Arax & Rick WartzmanTwo reporters resolve themselves to investigate one of the Central Valley's most enigmatic (i.e., "press-shy") power brokers, a rancher named James Griffin Boswell III who controls more terra firma and water rights than any land baron in the West. While there are no grotesque murders, the book seeps into your pores as a treatise on the hidden power, exploitation and human cost behind the Central Valley's multi-billion dollar agribusiness empire. After reading, you may drive up the I-5 past the cabbage and bean fields of the Central Valley and think more of giant shiny skyscrapers or soulless business parks.
by James McMichaelWhaaaaat? A book-length epic poem about real estate in Pasadena? Turns out, Nic Pizzolatto filmed a lot of scenes for TD2 in Pasadena. McMichael's widescreen lens and holistic treatment of the SoCal landscape is the next best thing to Justin Lin's helicopter shots in TD2. You can read an excerpt here.
ed. by Gayle Wattawa
ed. by Stan YogiThese two Literary anthologies of byways and highways that lead to under-represented aspects of the California Dream, in places like Perris, Gilroy, Modesto, Riverside and Fresno. A healthy collection of diverse writers are represented including Raymond Chandler, Mike Davis, Joan Didion, Erle Stanley Gardner, Juan Felipe Herrera, Norman Mailer, Frank Norris, Richard Rodriguez, Gary Snyder, Gary Soto, William Saroyan, Eric Schlosser, John Steinbeck and Susan Straight. Not too shabby.
by Zachary LazarOf course, no noirish autopsy of SoCal can be complete without the cult angle. In TD2, the Malibu New Age retreat led by a remarkably unsentimental guru (David Morse) seems pretty benign -- more akin to Big Sur's Esalen Institute or Malibu's Self-Realization Fellowship. In Sway, author Lazar transports us back to the late 1960s for a terse and trippy novel about lost souls drifting down the West Coast like zombie fugitives stumbling towards the golden light. ("There was nowhere left to go...It was a dead world," one of the protagonists thinks in Rust Cohle tones, "There was no point in pretending it wasn't.") This time, the golden light comes in the shape of an elfin, quasi-hippie con artist named Charles Milles Manson.
by Paul YoungThis will satisfy the salacious and bizarre aspects of your "pulp genre" jones. You want myths, urban legends and tall tales? You got 'em. Author Young (with whom, in full disclosure, the Beast used to work back in the '90s at a magazine called BUZZ) compiles some doozies: The secret Nazi compound in Malibu, the opium dens of Chinatown, the treasure buried in the Watts Towers, the underground tunnels under downtown, the lake 15 miles west of the desert town of Lancaster that allegedly contains a passageway to Hades. There's also plenty of dish for celebrity-dirt wranglers; The UFO that spoke to Dennis Hopper, the porno that Babs Streisand might have done, the penis that Jamie Lee Curtis might be hiding and the the gerbil that Richard Gere...well, let's just stop here.
by Kem NunnYou might get a nosebleed from this one. Nunn's classic mindfuck of a novel begins as a sort of a surfing Bildungsroman and then goes way dark and way, WAY whacked out. Drug-fueled Orgies! Satanic cults! Human sacrifices by the sea! Sort of a mashup of TD1 and TD2 for those who like the setting of the latter but like the secret-cult aspect of the former. (Fun fact: With David "Deadwood" Milch, Nunn was one of the co-creators of the ill-fated HBO drama John from Cincinnati, which attempted to mix mysticism and magical realism with the SoCal surfing culture.)
Saturday, June 13, 2015
Thanks to the graciousness of its editor Drew Tewksbury, the Beast just published our first story for KCET's Artbound on Ornette Coleman's influence on Los Angeles, which of course contains material from our upcoming book, Midnight Pacific Airwaves. You can read it here.
Also, check out our local colleagues' takes on the quiet, genial Texan who shook up the world: Greg Burk and Phil "Brick" Wahl.
Thursday, June 11, 2015
Saturday, June 6, 2015
6/2 Alex Rodriguez Group @ the blue whale (Little Tokyo)....6/4 Yogurt (Playing the Music of Frank Zappa) @ The Baked Potato (Studio City)....6/4 Stefan Kac + Will Wulfeck @ curve line space (Eagle Rock) ....6/5 Anthony Wilson & The Curators @ the blue whale....6/6 Munyungo Jackson's Jungle Music @ the blue whale....6/6 Elliott Caine Quintet @ Lummis Day Festival (Highland Park)....6/7 SMC Jazz Ensemble presents A Tribute to Oliver Nelson @ The Broad Stage (Santa Monica)....6/7 Perry Robinson Ensemble (w/ G.E. Stinson & Alex Cline) + Mezcla Music (w/ Chris Garcia) @ Eagle Rock Center for the Arts....6/8 L.A. Jazz Orchestra w/ Kenny Burrell @ Catalina's (Hollywood)....6/10 Joni Mitchell Tribute (Victoria Williams, Rodrigo Amarante & Devendra Banhart, Kamasi Washington, Mia Doi Todd, The Haden Triplets @ The Fold (Silver Lake)....6/10 THE RETURN OF RESBOX! w/ Twin Braids, Eva Aguila + Thollem Electric @ Steve Allen Theater (Hollywood)....6/11 Tootie Heath 80th Birthday Celebration @ the blue whale....6/11 Steinway by Starlight presents Alan Pasqua Trio @ Cal State-Dominguez Hills....6/11 Jen Oikawa Trio @ curve line space....6/11 Steve Weisberg Orchestra (w/ Benn Clatworthy, Pablo Calogero, Paul Litteral, Stephanie O'Keefe, William Roper, Ken Rosser, Michael-Pierre Vlatkovich, Tracy Wannomae) @ MiMoDa Studio (Mid-City)....6/12 The Jazz Bakery presents the Dafnis Prieto Sextet @ Zipper Hall....6/12 Grex + Vinny Golia Ensemble @ Ham & Eggs Tavern (Downtown)....6/12 Cameron Clayton Sextet @ LACMA (Miracle Mile)....6/12 Double Naught Spy Car @ Viva Cantina (Burbank)....6/12 New West Guitar Group @ the blue whale....6/12 Becca Moore @ The Mint (Mid-City)....6/12 Cornel Fauler Quartet @ The World Stage (Leimert Park)....6/13 Grex w/ Steuart Liebig + Joe Berardi Duo @ Human Resources (Chinatown)....6/13 Bobby West, Steve Smith, Ishamel Hunter, Ricky Washington & Jeff Littleton @ Seabird Jazz Lounge (Long Beach)....6/13 Sinne Eeg @ the blue whale....6/13 Aloe Blacc @ Playboy Jazz Festival (Hollywood)....6/13 Herbie Hancock & Wayne Shorter w/ the Monk Institute Orchestra @ Playboy Jazz Festival....6/13-14 Jeff Lorber Fusion @ The Baked Potato....6/14 Blue Note 75th Anniversary w/ Robert Glasper, Derrick Hodge, Kendrick Scott, Lionel Loueke, Marcus Strickland & Ambrose Akinmusire @ Playboy Jazz Festival....6/14 Brad Dutz 4tet @ Alva's Showroom (San Pedro)....6/16 Sinne Eeg @ The G Spot (Highland Park)....6/16 Patrice Quinn Group @ the blue whale....6/17 Robert Glasper Trio @ The El Rey (Miracle Mile)....6/17 Christian Dubeau, Jordan Hang, Candy Bilyk, Dana Reason, Peter Valsamis & Jeff Schwartz @ MiMoDa Studio....6/18 Dana Reason Trio @ CALB (Long Beach)....6/19 The Gaslamp Killer @ Grand Performances (Downtown)....6/19-20 Partch: LSD/Dementia @ REDCAT (Downtown)....6/19 Otmaro Ruiz Quartet @ LACMA....6/20 Dan Schnelle Group @ the blue whale.... 6/20 The 1st Annual Asian Heritage Jazz Festival @ JACCC (Little Tokyo)....6/20 Wattstax Revisited @ Grand Performances....6/21 The Obihiro Cowboys (w/ Bobby Bradford, William Roper, Michael-Pierre Vlatkovitch & Joseph Mitchell) + Alternate Angels (w/ Dwight Trible, Maia, Shay Lynn + Carlos Nino) @ the blue whale....6/21 Dale Fielder Quartet @ Room 5 (Mid-City)....6/23 Jeff Hamilton Trio @ Bacchus Kitchen (Pasadena)....6/24 Brad Dutz 4tet @ Boston Court (Pasadena)....6/25 Slumgum + Kris Tiner & Beth Schenck @ the blue whale....6/26 Bobby West Trio @ Squashed Grapes (Ventura)....6/26 Mike Watt & the Missingmen @ Cafe NELA (Cypress Park)....JUST ADDED: 6/27 Phil Ranelin, Bobby West, John B. Williams & Don Littleton @ H.O.M.E (Beverly Hills)....JUST ADDED: 6/27 L.A. Still Rules! (w/ IGAF Sequoia, Orphan Goggles, Jack Grisham, Gitane Demone Quartet & Egrets on Ergot) @ Cafe NELA (Cypress Park)....JUST ADDED: 6/27 Brian Carmody Quartet + Mike Scott Quartet @ curve line space....6/27-28 Mark De Clive-Lowe with Strings (featuring Miguel Atwood-Ferguson) @ the blue whale....6/28 Alex Acuna's Seven Bien @ Catalina's
Thursday, April 23, 2015
Soundpapered: The Music of Robert Glasper Translated from Piano To Page
WATCH: New Trailer for Netflix's Nina Simone Documentary
(West Coast Sound)
Los Angeles Jazz with Kamasi Washington
FIRST LISTEN: The Epic by Kamasi Washington + The Next Step
Kamasi Washington Talks The Epic
An Inglewood Saxophonist Might Have Made the Best Jazz Record of the Year
Q&A: Kamasi Washington
(All About Jazz)
Steve Stollman Eulogizes His Brother Bernard
Do We Really Stop Listening to New Music at 33?
(The AV Club)
(Jazz Beyond Jazz)
(The New Yorker)
Flying Lotus: Death Becomes Him
Monday, April 6, 2015
[Photo by Adam Beinash]
Highlights: saxophonist Michael Session's furious skronking; Dwight Trible's bracing vocal swoops on "Mothership"; Jesse Sharps pulling a bamboo flute out of his pants to add a bookending prologue-coda for "As A Child" and "Isle of Celia"; trombonist Phil Ranelin and saxophonist Mercedes Smith joining Jai Jae's drum line on "The Dark Tree" (which earned a Standing O from Tapscott's granddaughter Raisha). The unexpected high point? Right before reading a poetic tribute (which he redubbed "Trevor Ware Standing Out on Crenshaw at 3am in a G-String"), Kamau Daaood sat down at the piano (!!) for a brief solo piece that wowed those who never knew he could play. "Horace was like smoke," Daaood told the crowd before he did this (only the third time in his life that he's played publicly played). "You could walk down the street and poke your head in and he would be playing piano by himself. You walk back down the street a minute later and look in and he's gone. Just like that." Dwight Trible added: "Horace never showed us what he was going through; he was too busy showing us that everything was OK and we were all cool. And he never, never, never, EVER told us what to play."
Go here to watch a 2014 interview with filmmaker/educator Larry Clark, who directed Tapscott and his Pan Afrikan Peoples Arkestra in his 1977 underground-jazz film Passing Through. Go here for NPR jazz critic Kevin Whitehead's review of the reissue of Tapscott's 1969 Flying Dutchman classic The Giant Is Awakened. You can buy the CD here.
Horace Tapscott was a magic wand
A musical Curandero & a harmonic Medicine Man
The Man was a priceless visionary
He had a gift
An intuitive, uncanny gift
That peeled away years of protective excuses
The most powerful creative parts of us
Parts that we were still too afraid to look at
He instinctively knew
How to make us face
The artistic beauty buried deep down inside ourselves
A forbidden creative beauty
He showed us how to grind our anxieties
Into melodic healing tonics
And dance away the demons of poverty
Because of Horace’s belief in us
We drowned our shame & the fear of our own ingenuity
Under an ocean of creativity
He wordlessly encouraged us
To play with a disciplined abandon
The wealth of the jewels hidden inside our Souls
Horace forced us
To fertilize every one of the weeds in our dreams
To build on all the wreckage
Of slavery, of hunger, of racism, of less than
And because of him we bloomed
Horace Tapscott was & is an alchemist
And we are & we always be
His gift to the world
We are Tapscott’s Babies
We are the blood of his dream come true
The living realization of his harmonic vision
We are Avant-Bop in real time
The Children of Horace Tapscott