Tuesday, July 17, 2007

See More Glass!

Thoroughly enjoyed the Phillip Glass/Leonard Cohen collaboration, "Book of Longing" up at Rose Hall last Saturday night, big thanks to Judith Mallin for the ticket--Judith is a neighbor and a new friend of mine who has one of the biggest and best archives in the world in her West Village loft devoted to surrealist art, she is delightful company and together we made a visit to the Nassau County Museum of Modern Art last Friday to check out their excellent "Surrealism" show curated by Constance Schwartz, which I urge you to see (if only for the late 30's--early 40's heirophantic/voluptuous drawings of Jackson Pollock--rendered not at all in his signature splatter style, which came later...also some beautiful paintings by Roberto Matta, father of my Parisian musican friend Ramuntcho Matta...also some exqusite Ernst, Man Ray, Dorothea Tanning, and De Chirico (my fave rave)--still, best of show--and not pictured unfortunately in the catalog--an actual jacket handmade by Eleanor Roosevelt--yes, that Eleanor Roosevelt--replete with appliqued demons and devils festooning the front and back that were also caricatures of 30's politicos/ "great men of history"-- I recognized Mussollini on there--with quasi-religious mottos embroidered on the back of the jacket which commented sardonically on this witches brew/rogues gallery of world-historical gargoyles dear Quentin Roosevelt--Teddy's son-- had designed, and that Eleanor had actually put her hand to realizing/conjured up)...

I first encountered Phillip at a recording session in Soho for his first CBS Masterworks album "Glassworks" some time ago in the early 80's, after he'd been brought to Masterworks by their then visionary vice-president Christine Reed and my friend the producer/composer Richard Einhorn...this was after his triumphant collaboration with Robert Wilson, "Einstein On The Beach", whose spacy sci-fi finale remains my favorite music of his...it was very impressive to see the transparent technique of his ensemble at work in the studio (an ensemble whose membership at that time included another Greenwich Street irregular, the composer/multi-instrumentalist Jon Gibson, who was there at Rose Hall in the audience on Saturday night along with his live-in gal pal, my friend the choreographer Nina Winthrop)--and I became, and remained, a fan (also met James Truman at the "Glassworks" recording session--Greene Street Studios I believe-- for the first time, who was writing about Phillip for The Face)--I recall attending the premiere of Phillip's opera "Satyagraha" at the SUNY Buffalo Art-Park a few years later, conducted by Christopher Keene, and also loving his hyperkinetic score for the very trippy Godfrey Reggio cinematic opus "Koyaanasquatsi"...outside of hearing an occasional film score of his though I hadn't actually attended a concert of Phillip's in many years (was a time he and his ensemble regularly played rock joints in town such as Danceteria)...

thus I am happy to report that this collaboration with Leonard Cohen, another favorite of mine, was on most counts a mesmerizing evening of music, in which various recent poems of Leonard Cohen were set to small ensemble new music arrangements and sung by some very accomplished and emotive classical singers, with occasional taped interjections of the poet himself reading, and also purely instrumental interludes, the best of which were solo turns by Kate St. John on English horn and Eleonore Oppenheim on bowed double bass. The effect, combined with handsome costumes by Kasia Maimone and shimmering faux-primitive drawings by Cohen himself (heavy on feminine deshabille) projected on the wall behind the performers-- spiced with some of Glass' most compellingly introverted/non-generic chamber music in ages--was extremely seductive, as was the pacing of the show, which hurtled along nicely but still maintained an essential gravitas and, dare I say, a certain world-weariness, which appropriately complemented Leonard Cohen's amusing late zen-like apercus (one of the best being "Not a Jew", which in total goes:

Anyone who says
I'm not a Jew
is not a Jew
I'm very sorry
but this decision is
is final

Perfect seque/backtrack to Thursday night 11pm, where I appeared on a panel at Mo Pitkin's club in the East Village on the subject of "Jewish Punk", in the company of my pal Danny Fields, who was as sagacious and side-splitting as he usually is, also "American Hardcore" author and former Seconds Magazine editor Steve Blush; also Russell Wolinsky, formerly of Tish and Snooky's fabulous Sic F*cs (of "Spanish Bar-Mitzvah" fame)...the whole Bookbinder-Rinus was presided over by Steve Beeber, imp- of- the- perverse author behind the seminal tome "The Heebie-Jeebies at CBGB's" (Chicago Review Press), also inda house was lovely Deenah from Secret Salamander, Brice Rosenbloom, a veteran of the nyc booking wars and currently the Mo Pitkins' pickmeister, and a whole lot more folks, got the club to serve us potato latkes with sour cream and apple sauce to keep up the old esprit semitique (they used to feature a heart-attack burger there with a dollop of chopped chicken liver right on top of the juicy patty--but we could only get sliders this time 'o night, zut alors)...

s'okay as I had REALLY chowed down aforehand at the Permanent Mission of the Czech Embassy to the UN up on 83rd and Madison, where I had performed earlier in the evening playing solo acoustic arrangements on my Gibson J-45 and National steel of music by Dvorak, Smetana, and the Plastic People of the Universe--the "Czech classics", in other words, to quote my friend Richard "Faust" Mader--at a party for a departing member of the staff, Janina Hrebickoba, and lots of UN dignitaries abounding, including Andrzej Towpik, the current Polish ambassador to the UN, with whom I had my photo taken along with my old friend Martin Palous, the Czech UN ambassador, who was giving the party--and in fact, was the guy responsible for commissioning my arrangements of this Czech classical music on the occasion of the 14th anniversary of the Velvet Revolution a few years ago when I performed at the Czech Embassy in DC...in attendance Thursday night was the lovely head of the Czech Cultural Office, Monika Koblerova, Martin's wife Pavla, and a bevy of fun and interesting guys and gals...

Heading uptown soon to catch my pal Harry Hamlin, who's is in town with his radiant wife Lisa Rinna (who had a wicked cameo on "Entourage" couple weeks ago), as both of them are starring in the current production of "Chicago" on Broadway (having honed their hoofing skills recently on "Dancing With the Stars")...Harry always was a good singer as well, going back to the Tim 'n Slim days when we were at Yale together (would have made a hell of a Jim Morrison back in the day, pre-Oliver Stone/Val Kilmer)...



ps my pal Howard Thompson, the British A &R legend who ex-pat'ed here in the 80's and signed Alan Vega, Psychedelic Furs, 10,000 Maniacs, Screaming Blue Messiahs, Garbage and so much more great stuff to CBS, Island, Elektra and Almo Sounds over the years, has re-surfaced, and the world is a much better place for it... now living on the far shores of Long Island in bucolic splendor, Howard runs a fascinating 24 hour internet radio site, "Cake Radio", which streams a brilliant 24 hour flow of music from Howard's vast hoard of vinyl and digital goodies--check him out at http://www.live365.com/stations/thespangler (Howard is the silent dj at the controls, under the name The Spangler)...17 years ago this summer I left a cushy day job I'd held down (or rather, was held down) for 13 years to become a full time musician, composer, producer, songwriter, and recording artist, primarilly at the instigation/encouragement of two people--the late avant-cellist/composer Arthur Russell...and Howard T-- and je ne regrette rien. Thank you Howard!


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