Wednesday, April 27, 2016


ON DECK FOR NEW MUSIC BOOKS IN MAY: Bruno Ceriotti's exhaustive e-book My Little Red Book: Love Day-By-Day 1945-1971 charts the L.A. cult band's tumultuous rise and fall. Premier punk press PM publishes the second edition of George Hurchalla's Going Underground: American Punk 1979–1989. He's not dead, so you can still read Philip Norman's Paul McCartney: The Life without crying to a Spotify playlist. Rolling Stone editor Mark Binelli reanimates a gonzo R&B singer in his 'What If?' novel Screamin' Jay Hawkins' All-Time Greatest Hits. Caroline Gnagy follows in the footsteps of John and Alan Lomax in Texas Jailhouse Music, a fascinating history of prison bands. David Toop has written some of the most sublime books on the holistic effects of sound and music; now he just may top himself in Into the Maelstrom: Music, Improvisation and the Dream of Freedom Before 1970. In Beethoven for a Later Age, classical violinist Edward Dusinberre interweaves the history and challenges of Beethoven's 16 string quartet compositions (written between 1798 and 1826) with the history of his own Colorado-based Takács Quartet.

Honestly, we're getting kind of tired on books about the "World's Greatest Rock & Roll Band," but Rich Cohen's The Sun & The Moon & The Rolling Stones examines the group through the contradictory lens of journalistic fandom. (Be forewarned: Cohen, along with Mick Jagger, is one of the co-creators of HBO's execrable Vinyl, so bring along a couple grains of salt.) John Troutman excavates an underrated and misunderstood instrument in Kīkā Kila: How the Hawaiian Steel Guitar Changed Modern Music. Ex-Grantland scribe Steven Hyden brings a kind of Monday Night Football blow-by-blow commentary to classic musician rivalries (Biggie vs. Tupac, Stones vs. Beatles) in Your Favorite Band Is Killing Me: What Pop Music Rivalries Reveal About the Meaning of Life. (Read an interview with Hyden here.) Since the turn of the millennium he's been a tireless booster for the West Coast, but in his memoir PorcelainNYC, 1989-1999 technopop auteur Richard "Moby" Hall looks back on his early DJ career in Urinetown. Yale University Press's twin volumes Conversations In Jazz and Music in the Air aim for reappraisal of the pioneering jazz writer Ralph J. Gleason. (Read The New Yorker's take on Gleason here.) Happily, the prolific Ted Gioia, who wrote the introduction to Conversations in Jazz, also has a new book, the accessible primer How to Listen to Jazz. (The Washington Post reviews it here.) Minnesota University Press collects the rare and unpublished essays of jazz and blues critic Albert Murray in Murray Talks Music. (The LA Review of Books reviews it here.) And rounding out the month for you Geminis are two very different titles from Bloomsbury's 33 1/3 series: Jovana Babovic's Sleater-Kinney's Dig Me Out and Rolf Potts' The Geto Boys. Trevor Barre plumbs the early days of the London free-jazz movement in Beyond Jazz: Plink,Plonk and Scratch. Originally published in 1994, Edward Berlin's King of Ragtime: Scott Joplin and His Era gets a reprint from Oxford University Press. In his novel Imagine Me Gone, Adam Haslett novel seamlessly mixes mental illness and music-as-therapy for a memorable coming-of-age tale. (Read an interview with Haslett here.)

Thursday, April 21, 2016

There is a woman who sits
All alone by the pier
Her husband was naughty
And caused his wife so many tears
He died without knowing forgiveness
And now she is sad, so sad
Maybe she'll come 2 the park
And forgive him
And life won't be so bad
In Paisley Park

Monday, April 18, 2016

Eddie Becton Schools A Young 'Un

Eddie Becton (L) with Chet Hanley and Leroy Downs

I was kicking back having a glass of wine and listening to some classic Duke Ellington and reflecting on a discussion with a young cat in my jazz history class years back:

Young 'Un: Eddie B! Hey man, I know you dig jazz, but doesn't it get boring? A lot of it doesn't have lyrics, so it doesn't really tell you anything. Are you STUCK on jazz?

Eddie B: (resisting the urge to plunder the young lad, YET conjuring the spirits/sentiments of Ellington, Louis Armstrong, Charles Mingus, among others) I tell you what. Listen to these cuts. Start out with Ellington's cut, "Gong." Listen to what Duke says throughout, but especially to what he does in the background as much as the foreground. Peep his lines from 2:47 to 3:07. Tell me what you hear.

YU: Damn! They're chillin', but it sounds like they're having a conversation, even though there were no vocals! It's like Duke was responding to whatever they played.

EB: Okay, cool. Now, listen to this cut, "All Blues," by Miles Davis. What do you hear?

YU: It's a different vibe, but it also sounds like they're having a conversation. The band seems to be feeding off each other. I dig how mellow and cool this cut is!

EB: Okay, I dig you. Now,watch this clip from by Funkadelic, "Cosmic Slop" live. What do you see/hear/feel?

YU: Damn! They're killin' it! You see how many people were on stage? Parts of it sound like rock, but it has that funky vibe to it. Everybody is having a conversation and feeding off each other. You could even feel like the people in the audience were probably going off!

EB: (laughing my head off!) Man... okay, okay. Now, listen to this cut by Dr. Yusef Lateef, "Juba Juba." Was there ANY connection between all the cuts?

YU: WOW! That cut is POWERFUL! I heard the literal voices and musical voices. It's like the cut encompassed, in some ways, the history of black music in America. All the cuts sounded good, for different reasons, but I dug them all. If there was anything across all, I guess it was they all seemed to be having a musical conversation, but the Lateef cut was like a summary of them all, if that makes sense.

EB: Exactly! When you understand the culture and the music, you FEEL it, and can relate to the band's conversations amongst itself AND the audience! While each cut you listened to might have had a different vibe, they were ALL talking to you, just using different words. ALL of it felt/sounded good, and for different reasons. It's like spirituals, work songs, blues, jazz, etc., they all speak to you, it's just that they may, in some cases, use different words to tell the same story!

YU: Ahhhhh, I didn't really think about that.

EB: Man, don't you EVER tell me that music with no verbal lyrics is incapable of telling a story! The voice is an instrument as much as a sax, but that doesn't mean they both can't talk and/or tell a story. The history of black music IS the story, man, LISTEN, and if you listened to the music at any period in history, you'll get a sense of what was happenin' at that time!

YU: Thanks, Eddie B!

EB: No problem, and remember this: Life can be much more fuller and wonderful when your ears are bigger than your mouth. Listen, son, listen!

[Eddie Becton is a professor of African-American Studies at Loyola Marymount University and hosts Eddie B's Jazz Journey on KXLU 88.9-FM. The above FB post was reprinted with his permission.]

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Our Cruelest Month (of Links)





25 Songs That Tell Us Where Music is Going