Sunday, November 06, 2005

"But I Mean Jazz!"

What is this thing called jazz? Originally a synonym for the old in-and-out (as in Armstrong's "Jazz Me Blues"), it is, in a word, perhaps the most universally appreciated US cultural export (or would that be hip-hop now? Beats me!). I dunno, own music kind of ricochets around the rock/jazz/folk/blues/electronic/classical/world music antipodes; they stock me in both the Rock and World sections of Tower Records here in the city and in the Rock and Jazz sections of Virgin Records Oxford Street in London and so forth but I never thought to narrow-cast my music for marketing efficacy, I just try and do what I like (Cream shoulda attempted "Do Watcha Like" on this here reunion, well it was 2/3 o' Cream recorded it originally in Blind Faith but a great track nevertheless, certainly more exciting than "Tales of Brave Ulysses" which they apparently revved up for their big Madison Square Garden show recently). Yep I do what I do, I do what I can, and where the chips fall I hope to make bonfires of them thank you very much...

Which is just to say that I REALLY enjoyed my recent stint at the Roswell Rudd organized tribute to Steve Lacy here at Merkin Hall in October, in which I got to play with idols of my youth like Roswell and Dave Liebman (saw him open for Beefheart at the Keystone in Berkeley in '77) and contemporary fave Joe Lovano--not to mention longtime Lacy associates Bobby Few, Jean-Jacques Avenel, and John Betsch. This was a bonafide "jazz" gig and as I was kinda the odd man out, maverick that I am ("luck is the lady that he loved the best") slipping and sliding as I do between various genres it was nice to feel so welcomed by both the crowd and the cats, I played my ancien National steel on a solo bottleneck rendition of "Bone" and it felt gooood, the tune is a bit Monkish/Beefheartian which is to say askew blues with lots of angles and brilliant corners so it was catnip to me and I threw a little Meredith Wilson 76 tailgate trombones in there as well as "This Old Man" and with a knick knack paddywhack gave the crowd a smidgeon of "Dem Bones" (unofficial theme from "The Prisoner"), this was in the second half of the concert, first half what a joy it was to join the large ensemble on "Esteem" with ecstatic stratocaster modal strum and more glass-fingered glissing, whole gig was a lovely triumphant evening, coverage of which typically was blacked-out by the local media (Lacy was given France's highest artistic honor, Commandeur de l'Ordre des Arts et des Lettres before he died, and they're out covering Ashanti). We were all asked to give official statements for the program notes on Steve Lacy, here's an except from mine:

"I was first introduced to the world of Steve Lacy through a documentary made by my friend Peter Bull entitled "Lift the Bandstand". Lacy's persona grabbed me right away: terse, astringent, epigrammatic. Just like his soprano sax playing. And man does he swing!

In Steve Lacy's music we have a total melt-down of European, Asian and African influences (a true American). A mediation between head and heart, muscle, bone and grey matter. He wields his horn like an icepick. An elegant assassin."

Thanks to Roswell Rudd and Verna Gillis for inviting me along to pay my respects to this musical genius. Roswell rules--check out his blowing on "Archie Shepp Live in San Francisco", one of the seminal touchstones of my wayward youth (used to love to zoom into various loading docks in Syracuse making after-school deliveries for my old man and cranking "The Wedding" at very high volume). And Verna is a saint of New Music, a mover and shaker who started the wonderful Soundscape club here in the 70's (original forerunner of ye olde Knitting Factory), brought Sunny Ade and his troupe over to play their first concert in NYC in the 80's, etc. etc.--a great lady and a force for good in music.

And-- the first reader who can email me at and correctly identify the provenance of the title of this blog wins a copy of "Diplopia", my first album with lute meister Jozef Van Wissem, who was just in town jamming with me at the Bowery Poetry Club.




Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link