January 29, 2010

Something Wonderful: Take Five

Dave Brubeck Quartet, Live in Belgium 1964. Cool, blue, black and white. Jazz doesn't get better than this. It just gets more elaborate.

[HT: Butch Bornt. Clip From Stephen Worth's Excellent YouTube Channel. His "Adventures in Music" series is highly recommended. ]

Posted by Vanderleun at January 29, 2010 9:48 PM
Bookmark and Share



"It is impossible to speak in such a way that you cannot be misunderstood." -- Karl Popper N.B.: Comments are moderated and may not appear immediately. Comments that exceed the obscenity or stupidity limits will be either edited or expunged.

Music becomes more elaborate only as it fails to retain the genius revealed in elegance.

Posted by: james wilson at January 29, 2010 10:58 PM

When you said that, james, Eldar came to mind. The boy genius played Carnegie Hall, but lost me on the way there. Give me the MJQ and Brubeck any day of the week....listening now to Gene Harris and Brother Jack McDuff....righteous good souls all.

Posted by: Jewel at January 30, 2010 1:41 AM

You get so caught up in the loveliness of the improvised melodies and countermelodies that you forget they're riffing on one chord, only.

Posted by: Jewel at January 30, 2010 3:21 AM


One of Brubeck's most famous compositions, "Blue Rondo a la Turk," is melodically identical to a famous Romantic composition -- indeed, the original is the sustaining music to a principal segment of a very famous Disney movie!

-- What Romantic piece am I referring to?
-- Who was the composer?

There will be, of course, no prizes.

Posted by: Francis W. Porretto at January 30, 2010 3:24 AM

Regardless of the reservations of the jazz buffs, it is the best seven or so minutes of aural delight I ever experienced (bar my children's Christmas laughter). I remember when it topped the hit parade over here; I was thirty and it was a very good year; it just brought it all back. Tks G.

Posted by: Frank P at January 30, 2010 6:15 AM

Here's some recent Lileks on the same thing:

"Here’s my theory: every musical genre moves towards complexity, requiring greater skill and talent to compose and perform, reaches an apogee of power, grace, and beauty and then it falls apart. Three guys with a lute and a saxebut morph over time into a Mahlerian symphony; then it’s atonality and serial music and the rest of the unlistenable shrieks of the early 20th century. (Yes, I’m being judgmental, but not one person in a thousand wants to listen to that stuff.)

Jazz: same thing, although here I step into murkier terrain; lots of smart jazz “buffs” who are “in the know” and would love to go back in time so they could sit in dim clubs wearing shades and smoking cigarettes while a talented heroin addict pushes his jagged psyche through a metal instrument, well, they find great aesthetic pleasure in the hard post-swing jazz forms. I don’t. I’ll admit it: part of the pleasure of art, for me, is inseparable from its pursuit of beauty." He posted it back on Jan 25 if anyone wants a look.

Posted by: Cameron Wood at January 30, 2010 7:02 AM

The hubby gave me the sheet music for Vince Guaraldi's "A Charlie Brown Christmas" this year. I have neither the "cool" nor the musical chops to play jazz well, but it is a blast trying!

The experience reminds me of solving mathematical proofs in engineering school and having the sense that my brain was traveling neural pathways previously trod by greater minds than mine. It is a secular communion of sorts - the same experienced in great music.

My theory as to the reason for the degeneration of music (of all genres apart from movie scores), is that the arts have fallen into the toxic embrace of the intellectual left. Marx is the great destroyer. There is no need for excellence when the product you produce is intended only for the consumption of others of the intellectual left (See Thomas Sowell, Intellectuals and Society)

Posted by: Western Chauvinist at January 30, 2010 7:51 AM

I discovered this album when I was a teenager, hidden in among my Dad's collection of vinyl. The beauty and great strength of the melodies were a revelation. All the cool folks seemed to always want to push me towards guys like John Coltrane. I'm no expert, but most Coltrane gives me a headache. I certainly couldn't listen to it here in the early morning after I was sick all night and feel ministered to like I just did with this piece.

Thanks once again!

Posted by: The Count at January 30, 2010 8:09 AM

Interestingly, Brubeck had a serious cervical injury in 1951 that affected his ability to play the kind of lightning fast bebop that was the style of the day, e.g., the Nat King Cole Trio. Thus, he had to develop a more introspective and cerebral style that relied on greater use of chords and playing less single lines. He also realized that he would need a strong solo voice to bring out the music's potential. Enter Paul Desmond, who is one of the most underrated performers in jazz, partly because he seemed to have no need to be in the spotlight. Their styles perfectly complemented one another.

More trivia: Desmond never married or had any children, so he bequeathed the publishing of Take Five to the Red Cross.

Some jazz player are just able to communicate to a wider audience. Another such player was the remarkable 65 lb. Michel Petrucianni. Check it out.

Posted by: Gagdad Bob at January 30, 2010 8:14 AM

Have to go watch Paris Blues now.

Posted by: Andy at January 30, 2010 8:17 AM

Speaking of wonderful somethings and great jazz communicators, how about Bill Evans doing a little spontaneous world music.

Posted by: Gagdad Bob at January 30, 2010 8:32 AM

"Francis W. Porretto at January 30, 2010 3:24 AM"

That would be the last movement of Mozart's Piano Sonata Nr.11, referred to as The Turkish Rondo - "alla Turca."

As an aside, a great story re Paul Desmond concerns his being asked in later life whatever happened to all those young babes he used to squire around. Desmond replied that, you know, all those chicks end up with some cat that owns a factory. "That's the way it always ends - not with a whim, but a banker."

Posted by: Rob De Witt at January 30, 2010 8:33 AM

In addition to Mr. De Witt's comments,above, I was reminded of Thelonious Monk's comment, from the liner notes of the Take Five album...he was given the gift of a fern. His response, "With fronds like these, who needs anemones."

Posted by: George Austin at January 30, 2010 9:07 AM

Desmond was indeed a famous wit. The title of his unpublished memoir is from a question he often heard on the road: How Many of You Are There in the Quartet?

Posted by: Gagdad Bob at January 30, 2010 9:13 AM

Listening to non-musicians give their opinions about music as if they were irrefutable proclamations of truth gives ME a headache.

This is the one topic where everyone is an expert.

Except they ain't.

I play for a living, and that includes jazz. People who think that Take Five embodies the pinnacle of jazz's development are musical simpletons. I'm sorry. There is a reason that serious jazz musicians are in awe of Coltrane. They can hear something you folks cannot. Why not just admit that you love music but are not "experts"? Do really think that you are better qualified to judge Coltrane's music than someone like me who has been studying and practicing the tenor saxophone for 35 years? And it's not about complexity for it's own sake. It takes time and effort to train the ear to hear the sophisticated harmonies that naturally evolved as people internalized and became comfortable with, ie could readily hear, each successive harmonic chapter in jazz's development.

What I hear, and what you hear, are two different things entirely when we listen to Coltrane's famous cadenza in "I Want To Talk About You". I hear the chords he is outlining where as you just hear an unconnected jumble of notes.

It's fine that you like what you like. Hell I can appreciate and enjoy Keith Richards guitar playing. But it becomes offensive when you folks act like your opinions are the last word.

"Music becomes more elaborate only as it fails to retain the genius revealed in elegance."


Music can be both elaborate and elegant.

It can also be neither.

Posted by: Paul at January 30, 2010 9:33 AM

Paul: Thanks for reminding us that we're a bunch of tasteless creeps. I forget that every now and again, and it's good to be plumbed up by an expert.


Posted by: jwm at January 30, 2010 9:45 AM

Here are two great modern sax players who could not possibly sound like they do without drawing on Coltrane's legacy.

I like Paul Desmond. But these guys are at another level and you'd be hard pressed to find a serious jazz musician who wouldn't agree.

Mike Brecker has since passed.


Posted by: Paul at January 30, 2010 9:47 AM

Musicians are often the last to understand the gulf between artistry and mere virtuosity. Which is why there is so much mediocre jazz. I love Coltrane, but he hardly excludes appreciation of Paul Desmond.

Posted by: Gagdad Bob at January 30, 2010 9:53 AM

"Musicians are often the last to understand the gulf between artistry and mere virtuosity. Which is why there is so much mediocre jazz."

Bullshit. We understand both better than you ever will. We live and breath it. You stop by for a visit.

There is a tremendous amount of great jazz now. More than ever. You show how ignorant and out of the loop you are if you suggest it is all or mostly mediocre. There may mediocre smooth jazz for a non discerning public, but if that's all you are aware of that's not my fault.

"I love Coltrane, but he hardly excludes appreciation of Paul Desmond."

Of course not. It's the authoritarian proclamations about how jazz has descended from the sublime elegance of Brubeck into some soulless cacophony of intellectual pretense that chaps my hide.

Posted by: Paul at January 30, 2010 10:10 AM

You object to authoritarian proclamations, eh? Interesting.

Posted by: Gagdad Bob at January 30, 2010 10:23 AM

Paul at January 30, 2010 9:33 AM

Gosh oh golly gee, Your Earness, it's truly a shame none of the rest of us have ever made a living as musicians, or anything...

Jesus, "serious jazz musicians;" are y'all them cats with the little White Man Hater under your lip? You know, the guys with the ironic sunglasses?

What I'd always thought was that glaze of superiority in your eyes musta really been just the gleam of a pilgrim drifting in the awesomeness of all that shit I can't hear. Man, I feel deaf like a motherfucker. You mean to tell me there's actually chords behind that random gibberish that's been going on since Beiderbecke? Whoda thunk it; somebody shoulda hipped that fella Bach to that kinda thinkin. And wasn't them Impressionist fellas startin' to venture out around 9 and 11 and 13 and in there? I guess a tin ear will leave you wondering about all that.

And the tenor sax, well. Here I thought Boots Randolph had pretty much effed the ineffable on that score. And anyway I always thought Ellington had the wrong instrument in mind when he called the Clarinet "an ill woodwind nobody blows good." Just shows to go ya, there's always something new to learn about your inadequacies, even at my age. I guess if I had any self-respect I'd go back and give them folks back their money, but it already paid the rent and all. You know.

While I'm working on it, you might profit from a little stroll over in this neck of the woods:


Posted by: Rob De Witt at January 30, 2010 10:23 AM

Posted by Gagdad Bob at January 30, 2010 10:23 AM

Yo Bob - you might not've known that the original of that bumpersticker was "Question Authority - They Say You're Supposed To"

It got tightened up in the final galley proofs, I guess.

Posted by: Rob De Witt at January 30, 2010 10:28 AM

If only all saxophonists imitated Coltrane, we'd be free of all those unnecessary individualists with their own vision and conception, such as Sonny Rollins, Wayne Shorter, Joe Henderson, Art Pepper, Dexter Gordon, Booker Ervin, and Jackie McLean. Then everyone would sound like Michael Brecker.

Posted by: Gagdad Bob at January 30, 2010 10:39 AM

Paul's music can be appreciated only by like minds because it is indeed sophisticated, intellectual, and sterile.

Music that will move us...banishes all reason and analysis. One must not wish first to understand and then to feel. Art does not tolerate reason--Camus

Posted by: james wilson at January 30, 2010 10:42 AM

So true -- Coltrane would not be Coltrane if not for the divine fire which is precisely the charismatic gift that no amount of practice or technical virtuosity can confer. If it could, then even art would not be art.

Posted by: Gagdad Bob at January 30, 2010 10:53 AM

Jazz nazis. I hate jazz nazis. Well, Francis, I didn't think the song was based upon Rondo a la Turca, having read some of Brubeck's own notes about it...he wishes he would have called it something else. But going solely by the chord changes I would say Ravel's Bolero...would I be too far off? And yo, Jazz Nazi...Paul...I'm a musician, and the people in my family who are also jazz musicians, know BRUBECK, have worked with him, and guess what...ain't no place for snobs. You bring something individual and unique and then you inspire many others. Sometimes you get lots of imitators, and sometimes someone will take what you have and spin something even better with it. Cannonball Adderly ain't no Coltrane, either, but Gawd how I love him. Pure joy to listen to. A lot of the so-called jazz players today don't bring anything at all...you know, people like Charles Johnson....maybe yourself.

Posted by: Jewel at January 30, 2010 10:56 AM

Way to miss the point fellas.

If the Brubeck clip was posted without all the ignorant blather about how he was the shiznit and it's been all downhill from there it would have been fine.

"If only all saxophonists imitated Coltrane, we'd be free of all those unnecessary individualists with their own vision and conception, such as Sonny Rollins, Wayne Shorter, Joe Henderson, Art Pepper, Dexter Gordon, Booker Ervin, and Jackie McLean. Then everyone would sound like Michael Brecker."

I guess you didn't get far enough in the vid I posted to hear Seamus Blake, eh? You think he's a Brecker clone?

Coltrane was the deepest most influential modern jazz musician but I don't know any tenor players who don't listen to and transcribe most of the folks listed. I'm a big Joe Henderson fan myself and have more of his influence in my playing than Trane, but so what? You think everyone sounds like Brecker these days? You think Brecker is a Coltrane clone? You really do have a dumb ear. You don't think in his day a lot of guys tried to sound like Paul Desmond? Charlie Parker? Lester? What do you expect?

There is so much great jazz being played now and all you can do is complain about how mediocre it all is and pine for the good old days.

Nobody hates souless technical music more than I do. But I hear lots of ignoramuses make that claim about great musicians because their ears are just simply to stiff and they just don't get it.

Rob DeWitt:
You're an ass who thinks he's clever. Pathetic.

James Wilson:
You know nothing about my music. You just pull shit out of your ass because you have no compunctions about being dishonest. No one has ever accused me of being sterile. At least no one who has heard me play and therefore would even have the basis for an opinion.

You people are as bad with your snark, invented scenarios, twisted context, etc., as a bunch of liberals talking politics. In other words fundamentally dishonest.

Posted by: Paul at January 30, 2010 11:23 AM

And here I thought jazz was for feeling good. Thanks for squaring me away on that score, Paul. Nothing quite like ruining a good time with the guilty compunction and poor form of a man who saw too much of himself in the criticism.

Posted by: Andy at January 30, 2010 11:30 AM

If your musical expression reflects your verbal expression, you may want to switch genres to punk rock.

Posted by: Gagdad Bob at January 30, 2010 11:31 AM

Perhaps I am reading the snark all wrong, but when we first started posting, we were delighting in the music, and sharing some interesting tidbits about Paul Desmond and Brubeck...who are the topics and somehow it degenerated into a bitchfest. Well, only for a couple of angry people on here. The rest of us are simply enjoying the interplay of the musicians and the music itself.
The bitchfest is almost as enjoyable, though not nearly as sublime as the music.

Posted by: Jewel at January 30, 2010 11:35 AM


I guess you didn't read what I wrote...not really, eh? Know many jazz Nazis who like Keith Richards? I like all kinds of music. I love Junior Walker and King Curtis. And who doesn't like Cannonball? Where do come off making these assumptions? Just because I defend Coltrane?

For what it's worth I am both a sax and guitar player and while I enjoy playing jazz most on tenor, I prefer rock guitar like Jeff Beck, Hendrix, and straight up electric blues like Albert and BB. I love the tone of an electric guitar and a tube amp with gain.`

I've worked with people as disparate as Jack DeJonnette and Levon Helm so I'm as far from a jazz Nazi as you are likely to find.

Posted by: Paul at January 30, 2010 11:36 AM

"If your musical expression reflects your verbal expression, you may want to switch genres to punk rock."

Snark. It's all you got ain't it?

Posted by: at January 30, 2010 11:38 AM

Yes, that, cursing, authoritarianism, and snobbery.

Posted by: Gagdad Bob at January 30, 2010 11:40 AM

Funny. I didn't notice you cursing.

But as for authoritarianism and snobbery,

"Musicians are often the last to understand the gulf between artistry and mere virtuosity", well, yeah.

Posted by: Paul at January 30, 2010 11:47 AM

Yeah, paul, I know plenty of Jazz Nazis who aren't just jazz players. Even jazz lovers love other forms of music, and they can be just as insufferable and intolerant in their opinions about Classical, Rock and whatev. But you are the one who brought up Coltrane in the first place. You rode the topic off the rails. And yes, you can damn well find Jazz Nazis among the glitterati of jazz greats, too. My father once vowed never to work any longer with a number of famous jazz people because of the way they treated him when he was their piano tuner. Not that his treatment was any worse than they treated the rest of their support staff. So, is it possible to just enjoy this music without getting angry about it?

Posted by: Jewel at January 30, 2010 11:56 AM


Ah, the devastating irony of the adolescent. I bleed, I die. Actually, bub, I've been getting paid for making noise in public since the '60s, and I've noticed that laying down honks and squeaks for the enlightened doesn't get you a whole lot of wedding gigs. Keeping the bills paid has occasioned learning a whole helluva lot more than just Bach arias and Bluegrass tunes, too, and however popular my jazz recordings are among the faithful it doesn't do much for the rent situation. It's a bitch having to do material that you consider beneath yourself, but not everybody has the foresight to marry somebody with a good job.

Immature musicians in every genre are convinced that audiences would prefer purism if only they weren't too stupid to get it. There's a connection in there with Democrats too, come to think of it. Turning the conversation over to a discussion of your brilliance was your idea, introduced by that "my Dad's bigger than your Dad" meme vis a vis Coltrane. That kind of profundity is mostly the province of 9-year-olds, and the response from a couple of pros has caused you to stamp your little foot. It hasn't done a lot for your vocabulary, either.

Jewel - I think you may be right about the Ravel quote. I admit I've long been seduced by the Mozart homage in the title, and neglected Francis's stipulation that it was a Romantic allusion - though I'm stumped by the Disney reference. Good listenin', girl.

Posted by: Rob De Witt at January 30, 2010 12:03 PM


I was not the one who brought up Coltrane. Read the thread.

I reacted to the premise that jazz was good then and has gone downhill since. That's all. And the certitude with which that fundamental untruth was proffered.

Since then I'm quite struck by how quickly folks, who have never heard me play and know nothing about me, assume all kinds of absolutely false things about my musicianship, soulfulness or lack thereof, the kinds of music I appreciate, etc. In other words acting like total liberal douchebags on a political thread.

Posted by: Paul at January 30, 2010 12:16 PM

I suspected, and now see, that many of we ignorant amateur posters were in fact professional musicians, but were not bragging about it.
I've not heard a great artist in any of the arts complain about his audience, or lack of it.

Posted by: james wilson at January 30, 2010 12:19 PM

Rob. Bub. I've been playing since the sixties too. For a living.

I can play Giant Steps at tempo in twelve keys as well as Shotgun and Soul Serenade. I play standards as well as tunes like Punjab, Mo Joe, Naima, or I can just build rhythmic motiffs over a James Brown funk groove and never move out of one octave.

I can also play Europa with a Strat and a whammy bar that evokes Jeff Beck and Santana, but not really...I sound like myself...and get the attention of every female in the audience. I can play blues, or AC DC, Sleepwalk or Start Me Up. And I do it well with great tone, touch, and conviction.

I love it all and have spent hours a day for forty five years learning the ins and outs of as much American music as I can.

So take your assumptions about my "purism" or "squeaks and squawks" and shove them, one at a time, right up your ass.

Posted by: Paul at January 30, 2010 12:31 PM

I stand corrected, Paul. The Count was posting his experience with listening to Coltrane. But that was the point....it's HIS experience. No need to defend Coltrane at all, really. Some folks like him, some folks don't. That's just the way things are.

Posted by: Jewel at January 30, 2010 12:37 PM

You tell him, Paul. As Will Rogers said, "When you ain't nothing else, you can claim to be an artist -- and nobody can prove you ain't."

Posted by: Gagdad Bob at January 30, 2010 12:46 PM

Well, Bob, I surely ain't an artist, and I know there are lots of people who can prove that I ain't!

Posted by: Jewel at January 30, 2010 12:49 PM

Well, you're too hip for me, son. I'd come down to your level, but mine's big enough.

Plus your amp'd probably drown me out anyway.

Posted by: Rob De Witt at January 30, 2010 12:56 PM

"Why must thar always be fightin' and killin'? Why cain't thar be peace in the valley?" -- Gabby Hayes

Posted by: vanderleun at January 30, 2010 1:55 PM

Late June, 1914, Vanderleun posts video of the Brubeck Quartet playing "Take Five". The end of Western Civilization insues.

Posted by: charris at January 30, 2010 2:19 PM

Not at all. I love this exchange. Surfaces the lurkers.

Posted by: vanderleun at January 30, 2010 2:38 PM

Well, Paul is both right and wrong.

I have an odd hearing defect -- I can hear dissonances of as little as a couple Hertz, but can't tell you "high" or "low". When I took the sonar test in boot camp, I astonished the Chief who gave it -- I got 100% on whether or not the target was moving, including one he couldn't hear, and exactly chance (20%) on whether it was moving toward or away from the listener.

When I (try to) listen to Coltrane or other modern jazz, or a lot of what passes for reeel gud myewsic these here days, I can hear the expertise; I can hear the talent, the work needed to achieve that effect.

And I don't give a damn.

Remember The Deadly Words for a novelist: "I don't care what happens to these people." If I don't care, there's no reason to read the book. And if I don't care which note comes next, there's no reason to listen to Coltrane.

Which is to say, yes, Paul, you're right. I don't have the expertise necessary to appreciate modern jazz. I don't have the expertise necessary to appreciate most modern art, a lot of which seems to be the triumph of technique over art. Ars gratia artis builds a teenytiny isolated community that congratulates one another for their skill and ability. It's a contradiction, y'know? You keep saying that art speaks to the soul, then you keep building argots that isolate you in self-congratulatory, inbred communities.

Call me a dumbass. You're right, you know. But if art speaks to the soul, dumbass or not shouldn't matter much. You ain't a musician. You're a musical engineer.


Posted by: Ric Locke at January 30, 2010 3:57 PM

Brubeck's "Summer Song" is the "perfect" song. I'd rather listen to Sonny Rollins because he makes me happy; listening to John Coltrane leaves me perplexed and sad. I'd rather hear Gene Harris play the blues, because even his blues make me deliriously happy. Let me listen to Clifford Brown (xfref: happy) instead of Miles Davis (see: brilliant, sad) because I like to be happy. When I am strong enough to bear being sad, I listen to Nina Simone

Posted by: Deborah at January 30, 2010 3:59 PM

Oh man, you're right about that Nina Simone video. Rips your heart out.

Posted by: vanderleun at January 30, 2010 4:37 PM

It's difficult to understand why anyone would want to undermine someone else's pleasure derived from 7:32 minutes of very enjoyable music, simply because he thinks (or knows even) that he can play better or knows more about the idiom; envy perhaps?

I just listened again Gerard, to discover whether the above craic had altered my impression of the sound (or the look of extreme pleasure on Brubeck's face as he watched Desmond play).

Nah...will now retire to blanket fair with the sound still resonating and the pleasure not in the least diminished.

As for the pompous, twisted vitriol - better catharsis here, than in some violent domestic dispute, I guess, though one wonders whether such a resentful s.o.b could maintain any sort of relationship for long; he might have a finely tuned ear, but he sure has a discordant soul.

Posted by: Frank P at January 30, 2010 5:44 PM

I had to listen to the Nina Simone clip again and again. Exquisite.

Posted by: Jewel at January 30, 2010 7:54 PM

Jeez Paul, I post an innocuous little comment in the AM and go out to have a great day at the Huntington Gardens with my wife and kids and you spent it bitching about someone you don't even know on the internet. "Lighten up Francis" as they say; and our Francis here could teach you a thing or two about being serious. Look in the mirror, repent and go out and be a wiener no more.

I prefaced my teensy little comment with "I'm no expert" but maybe that escaped you... why is that? Seriously, you need to rethink your priorities.

Brubeck speaks to me more often than Coltrane. I have to be in a mood for Coltrane. But if you're in it, it's great.

I wish I could have seen Coltrane live. The closest I got was Sonny Rollins in New York in the mid-90's. 45 min "squawking" solos and all that but it was amazing. I don't think hearing a recording of it would have been the same. And my musician friend got more out of it than I did.

That said, this morning as I woke from a horrible night with a head cold, the last thing I wanted to hear was John Coltrane. Brubeck was still beautiful and interesting as ever.

So, I have a little bit of Coltrane, it's just not my go-to music. There's nothing for me to grab on to. I need melody. I'm not embarrassed about that any more than I would be about the failure to get a whole host of things "experts" tell me I should get. But as long as we're playing that game, maybe you should learn to appreciate the simple things again.

But maybe not. I personally think the challenge of the artist is to please an audience in his own unique way. Fail to be unique and you will likely fail to please an audience. But not always. Life's not fair and the Jay Leno types do seem to float to the top sometimes but that's the way it goes. An artist makes a product for sale like anyone else. No one owes anyone a living.

Anyway, you really proved my point about the cool cats liking Coltrane. I'm cool with Brubeck.

Posted by: The Count at January 30, 2010 8:46 PM

Another thing: it amazes and depresses me to think there was recently a world where "Take 5" could be at the top of some pop-culture chart. How far we have fallen. How fragmented.

Posted by: The Count at January 30, 2010 8:49 PM

Wow. Furniture tipped over. Spilled drinks.

And whoever wrote in lipstick on the mirror... I didn't know ladies knew that word!

A long time a go, I read a pretty fair space opera called "The Mote in God's Eye". First contact, Human interstellar empire, monarchy, love, etc...

During a visit to an alien homeworld, the humans are given a tour of a museum. The message of most of the exhibits means nothing to the humans; sculpture, dioramas, and painting... they all seem flat.

Everyone agrees that "art" is probably a different concept between different species.

One of the humans is asked why they would paint landscapes, since the humans have noted that there is not a single drawing or painting that does not center around an alien, or groups of aliens, doing things. What, the aliens ask, would be the message?

"Mountains are pretty."

Now that's art.

Have a fine weekend.

Posted by: TmjUtah at January 30, 2010 9:10 PM

The Count,
My wife and I caught Sonny Rollins last year (or was it the year before?) in Detroit. He was still amazing, at 77 years old, playing with the verve and energy of a thirty year old. He played a good solid ninety minutes and never flagged or used his sidemen to do the musical heavy lifting. He's touring this year. I'm thinking (even at these prices) of seeing him again.

We also saw James Moody a few weeks ago at a small club. While not a GIANT!, he put out some mighty fine music. He's 85, but he hasn't let age slow him down either.

Posted by: Harry at January 31, 2010 5:24 AM

Rollins still practices every day, searching for the lost chord. The Mohammedans almost got him on 9-11, but luckily he escaped with his sax.

Posted by: Gagdad Bob at January 31, 2010 7:25 AM

I played jazz for many years. It was tremendously fun for me to play, but the strange thing is that I didn't actually like listening to most jazz.

Too much of jazz, I later realized was centered around intellectual musical masturbation, which is fine if you like that kind of thing and are on the "in" with what is going on (as Paul so aptly reminds us). But for the rest of us who just want to enjoy the music it's really off putting.

Anyway, let Paul enjoy is intellectual "stimulation" while us mere mortals can continue to chose the music that can actually be enjoyed.

Posted by: pdwalker at January 31, 2010 8:46 AM

Thanks for the link.

Posted by: Harry at January 31, 2010 1:42 PM

As the saying goes, I can't believe I read the whole thing. I'm almost speechless, although I am remembering a favorite aphorism that feels appropriate here:

"Play the music, not the instrument."

Posted by: shoreacres at January 31, 2010 2:45 PM

All I know is, remember the first time you heard Take Five as a kid, and you realized there was a whole new awesome world out there, that you didn't understand yet, but aspired to?

Posted by: Velociman at January 31, 2010 5:31 PM

Have you got a steady boyfriend?
Cause honey I've been watching you
I hear you're mad about Brubeck
I like your eyes, I like him too
He's an artist, a pioneer
We've got to have some music on the new frontier
--Donald Fagen

Posted by: Gagdad Bob at January 31, 2010 8:33 PM

Thanks Deborah for the Nina Simone song, and Gagdad Bob for the Sonny Rollins story. It means more to me than you could know.

Interesting how the least thought out comments can sometime spark a discussion.

Also continually fascinating to me is how much all this stuff is connected- as different as all the people posting here are, we have similar views on life and politics and even perhaps jazz.

Every bit helps. Thanks all.

Posted by: The Count at January 31, 2010 10:05 PM

I'm listening to this again right now. My God, Joe Morello gets more music out of a drum set than some guys can get out of a marimba. This is the first thing everybody I know used for getting into 5/4, and I can never hear it without remembering a favorite musician's joke. Stop me if you've heard this one.

A very drunk comes reeling up to a piano bar, stuffs a fifty into the snifter and blares out "Hey, pal, play Strangers Inna Fuckin' Night."

It's a nice place, and the piano guy's all "I'm always happy to play requests, sir, but how 'bout it on the language?," and segues into the intro. When he hits the quote the drunk leans over and trumpets "Naw, Naw, you're doin' it all wrong. Play Strangers Inna Fuckin' Night, in 5/4 time."

"Sir, it's in 4. Strangers in the night, exchanging glances...."

"I wanna hear it in 5/4 time. Play Strangers Inna Fuckin' Night in 5/4 time. "

Hoping to get rid of this yutz, and eying the fifty, our hero fumbles around with 1-2-3, 1-2 through the intro and brings it around to the head again.

Whereupon the drunk reaches over and grabs his microphone and bawls "Strangers Inna Fuckin' Night..."

Glad to see everybody's still here. Thanks for coming tonight, and if not tonight maybe the next time.

Posted by: Rob De Witt at January 31, 2010 11:06 PM

Husband and I at 6:30 AM, watching - listening :

" Joe Morello is wearing a tie.

The G** dam*** president doesn't wear a tie!"

Posted by: Cathy at February 1, 2010 4:05 AM

Something not mentioned is the quality of the film itself. It's sharp and crisp, and the sound quality is as sharp and crisp, which adds greatly to the satisfaction of the performance.

Posted by: Jewel at February 1, 2010 5:56 AM

One thing that struck me is the tight camera shot that shows the hands of Desmond, Morello, and Wright, with Brubeck's eyes -- and ears -- in the center of it all. It reveals the organicity of real jazz, in which the parts are continuously adapting to each other and to the whole.

I believe Joe Morello was legally blind. Before him, I'm not sure anyone realized that you could not only swing in 5/4 time, but make it seem so effortless.

Which reminds me of an off-topic story of drummer Bill Bruford. Someone asked him why he liked to play with King Crimson. He said it was the only way he could play in 17/16 time and still stay in a decent hotel.

Posted by: Gagdad Bob at February 1, 2010 7:59 AM


Great line from Bill Bruford. I'll take that, and thankya.

In re organicity: I'd say that applies to every kind of unamplified music. Players (and singers) who achieve the balance in their own ears are responding to the sound that's in the air rather than eq-ing the system. Alertness is all in those situations, and something happens that exceeds the sum of its parts. Everybody ends up virtually playing all the instruments at once while maintaining his own line, and magic occurs.

Boundaries get permeable, some kind of soul mitosis occurs, and God makes an unscheduled appearance. Check out some recordings from the astonishing American Bach Soloists, or Bix with Trumbauer, or The Nashville Bluegrass band. Or Doc Watson playing by himself in the early '60s. There's a presence in the room, and everybody treats it real precious, for we may not pass this way again.

Posted by: at February 1, 2010 9:16 AM

Yes, that is why all of the great groups -- prior to digital, 72 track recordings -- had their own unique timbre. This was an argument mad by Levitin in This is Your Brain On Music. For example, like them or not, Led Zeppelin, or the Who, or Creedence, or the Byrds, or the Beach Boys, each had a unique timbre that always sounds like them and no one else. You can recognize it from the first few notes, but can never quantify it, much less reduce it to musical notation. With modern recording techniques, I just don't hear those unique sound-signatures as in the past...

Posted by: Gagdad Bob at February 1, 2010 9:30 AM

Oh hell yes. One of the First Principles that hot sightreaders commonly forget is that there was noise before pencils were invented. Music notation is an admittedly clumsy attempt to describe what you can hear; Errol Garner famously replied to criticism of his reading ability with "They can't hear you read."

Neverthewhich, Verdi and those guys achieved a level of description that amounted to High Art in itself, and painted sound on the page to the point that a rigorous attention to their performance markings obviated all discussion of what they meant. My own view (this should prove popular) is that jazz is the commentary that mature musicians of any age make on known themes. The slavish recreation of somebody else's stuff that surfaced in the latter '50s resulted in dense scores that disallowed any intelligent conversation, and that ain't jazz.

Posted by: Rob De Witt at February 1, 2010 10:27 AM

Yes, but regarding those dense musical transcriptions, it takes a true artist to play the space between the notes, does it not? It reminds me of the Rabbinical idea that the Torah is written with black fire on white fire, but that the oral Torah is white fire on white fire...

Posted by: Gagdad Bob at February 1, 2010 11:13 AM


Aha. Like Dave Gardner used to say, "It's the silence, Beloved." Music starts to happen when you play the rests.

Some 19th century composers displayed that truism eloquently for those who were fortunate enough to get outta the way and let Grace drive the genius of listening through their pitiful frames. Space becomes inexpressibly vast, and time assumes the riverhood that only flows forward.

I'm sure you're right too about the stuff from the '60s that I could never tolerate due to its insistence that I stop listening to the Harmony that's demanded my attention since birth. The distinction seems to lie somewhere in the unexamined gulf between percussionists like Joe Morello and computerized rhythm tracks, but it produces in me a distraction that threatens the still small voice which seems to promise the only hope of finding my way Home.

The writing on your blog, btw, regularly achieves a heaviosity that leaves me gasping. Thanks for the talk.

Posted by: Rob De Witt at February 1, 2010 11:49 AM

For more fun with time, listen to Don Ellis and his orchestra as they perform their piece in the "traditional 19", 33 222 1 222.

Posted by: Harry at February 1, 2010 2:37 PM

happythankyoumoreplease. No wait, that was the last crappy movie I saw at Sundance.

But seriously: happy. thankyou. more please. This is simply divine. And I can stay home to enjoy it.

Once the Grammies honored artists like this who could take you to wonderful places without the benefit of an "ohMiBod". But then, Lady Gaga is ok too.

Posted by: Dewey From Detroit at February 2, 2010 4:10 PM