Wednesday, May 4, 2022

Mingus on states' rights

In honor of Justice Alito's "opinion." Lyrics here

Friday, April 15, 2022



After the rain

We got a mid-April splash after the driest January-March on record... the plants and lichens at Russian Ridge and Skyline Ridge were reveling in the moisture. The flowers are near their peak... not bad for a dry year. And why had I never noticed the mortar holes at Skyline Ridge? Folks lived in this spectacular place for many generations.

Monday, March 28, 2022

Jazz these days

I do love big-band music from the swing era: Fletcher Henderson, Count Basie, Duke, etc. Post-bebop big bands never did much for me, with the partial exception of some of the more out-there collectives– Sun Ra's Arkestra, or Muhal Richard Abrams. But Maria Schneider's orchestra has gotten a lot of critical attention, and Laura and I went to check them out when they played at Stanford's Bing Concert Hall this weekend.

Schneider's music is pretty high-concept, with lots of complex rhythms and harmonies, and at times it was interesting and exciting to hear, but more often cluttered and over-composed. Certainly she has assembled a fine group of musicians, including Donny McCaslin on tenor sax and Ben Monder on guitar, but they were seldom given an opportunity to really stretch out. A revelation for me was drummer Johnathan Blake, who plays with subtlety and color. Unfortunately, subtlety didn't help overcome the clamorous acoustics of Bing Hall. When alto sax player Dave Pietro finally got the chance to tear into an extended, high-energy solo, he was completely drowned out, especially by eight brass players at high volume. Will Stanford ever get the acoustics right in this place? 

When all is said and done, small-group jazz in an intimate setting is way more my cup of tea. And what could be more intimate than someone's living room? Emmet Cohen is an awesome pianist with a great trio and some very talented friends, who drop by for jam sessions that he kindly shares on YouTube. Check out Marcus Strickland's swinging, modal solo to kick things off, and Christian McBride's extended, virtuosic solo later on. The trio's regular bassist, Russell Hall, is no slouch, but his expressions while listening to McBride are priceless. Drummer Kyle Poole barely seems to be moving his wrists while he propels the music forward. Plenty more where this came from on Emmet's channel.

Tuesday, March 22, 2022

SFJazz Founder / Director Randall Kline stepping down

It's his baby. Has anyone done more to enhance the cultural life of San Francisco over the past 40 years?

I've had my occasional quibble with some of the programming choices – one could imagine them being a little more adventurous – but one cannot argue with his taste overall: the residencies by many of the unquestioned greats, the openness to global sounds, to women, and to sympathetic jazz fellow travelers like Rosanne Cash. The SF Jazz Collective! And a great, big-hearted space for the music... damned if it's not the place I most often find myself wanting to go to in "the City." Three big cheers to you, Randall.

Monday, March 14, 2022

Ron Miles, RIP

NY Times obit. His duet with the also underappreciated drummer Ted Poor starts around 1:20.