Monday, September 26, 2022

Mingus in Amsterdam

Charles Mingus/Eric Dolphy Sextet, Complete Live in Amsterdam. 2 CDs. Jazz Collectors. 2022.

ATFW You (Jaki Byard) : Parkeriana : So Long Eric : Orange Was the Color Of Her Dress, Then Blue Silk : Sophisticated Lady (Duke Ellington) : Meditations on Integration : Fables of Faubus

Charles Mingus, bass; Johnny Coles, trumpet; Eric Dolphy, alto saxophone, bass clarinet, flute; Clifford Jordan, tenor saxophone; Jaki Byard, piano; Dannie Richmond, drums. Recorded April 10, 1964, Concertgebouw, Amsterdam, Holland. Total time: 2:01:59.

All compositions by Charles Mingus except as noted.

I long had a standard choice for a musical time machine (with a train ticket): 1928 or so, so that I could hear Louis Armstrong in Chicago or Duke Ellington in New York. At some point I added 1964 (with plane fare), to hear the Charles Mingus Sextet somewhere in Europe.

This two-disc set holds the first recorded performance from the group’s ill-fated 1964 European tour.¹ And one point to get out of the way: this group was never known as the Charles Mingus/Eric Dolphy Sextet. It was the Charles Mingus Sextet, as programs from the tour (April 10–28) attest. But Dolphy’s name sells records too.

This sextet is for many listeners the best group Mingus ever led, with Coles’s understated trumpet, Jordan’s tough tenor; Dolphy’s explosive work on three instruments; Byard’s chameleonic mastery of piano styles; and the always inspiring and challenging Mingus/Richmond partnership. These discs follow the order of the group’s performance in two hour-long sets. It seems that the idea was to establish a claim to musical tradition upfront — Byard’s Art Tatumisms and Fats Wallerisms, Mingus’s solo on an Ellington tune — before moving in new directions.

Three highlights:

“Parkeriana,” which borrows Dizzy Gillespie’s tune “Ow” (which itself borrows “I Got Rhythm” chord changes) as a foundation upon which to collage tunes by or associated with Charlie Parker. When Dolphy solos on “Rhythm” changes (sans piano, bass, and drums) as Coles and Jordan play “A Night in Tunisia,” I imagine what it might have been like to stand on 52nd Street as music poured from the doorways of different clubs.

“Meditations on Integration,” with Dolphy’s bass clarinet suggesting (to my ears, anyway) police dogs and sirens, Jordan’s tenor at the top of its register, and Byard and Mingus in an elegiac duet.

“Fables of Faubus,” with Coles’s strongest statement, sometimes against bass alone, sometimes against the full band; Byard interpolating “Lift Every Voice and Sing”; Jordan honking and wailing and trading fours with Richmond; Mingus playing “When Johnny Comes Home Again” and other bits of Americana; and Dolphy shifting to a minor mode.

The one weakness of this recording: the sound on the first disc. Coles’s solo on “So Long Eric” is barely audible over the other horns, and the contrapuntal lines of “Parkeriana” are sometimes lost. The microphones and levels must have been adjusted for the second set.

The CD has already disappeared from Amazon. (Supply-chain trouble? A licensing dispute?) The music on these discs also appears in Charles Mingus: The Jazz Workshop Concerts 1964–65 (Mosaic, 2012), now out of print.

Related reading
All OCA Mingus posts (Pinboard)

¹ Why ill-fated? A week after this concert, Coles collapsed on stage, was treated for an ulcer, and left the tour. Dolphy, who stayed on in Europe, fell into a diabetic coma and died in Berlin on June 29, 1964. He was just thirty-six.

Tolstoy and Garfunkel

Art Garfunkel, as you may already know, is a prodigious reader. And he likes Tolstoy: “Tolstoy is the king of writing.”

Related reading
All OCA Tolstoy posts (Pinboard)

Sunday, September 25, 2022

“Wilson, That’s All”

[1562 Broadway, New York, New York, c. 1939–1941. From the NYC Municipal Archives Collections. Click for a much larger view.]

I wanted to look around Times Square, so here we are on the east side of Broadway, just a short walk from the TKTS outpost and the annual ball drop. The 1562 address is next to the RKO Palace. I’m posting this photograph for just one reason: Wilson Blended Whiskey. I know that name from Gilbert Sorrentino’s novel Aberration of Starlight (1980):

He saw Gramp drinking whiskey right out of the bottle one day. Wilson’s “That’s All.”
That’s one of six references to Wilson’s in the novel (set in 1939). Gramp (John McGrath) buys two quarts of it a week. Reading the novel in the pre-Internet world, I assumed that Wilson’s was a genuine (bottom-shelf?) brand. Now I discover that the Wilson name was well known, even appearing on matchbooks and nifty little clocks for display in bars. And on the side of the Hunter-Wilson Distilling Co. of Bristol, Pennsylvania, founded by Robert Wilson, one of whose other brands has been resurrected in Kentucky as Highspire Whiskey. There was also a Hunter Blended Whiskey, not resurrected.

Pinocchio was released in February 1940; The Courageous Dr. Christian, in April 1940. Notice The Newsreel Theatre — the all-news station of its time — and the Bond mannequins. And the stack of beverages: whiskey, coffee (Martinson), and milk (Borden).

The big surprise at the bottom of this rabbit hole: “Wilson, That’s All” was the title of a 1912 campaign song for Woodrow Wilson. And the whiskey slogan was its inspiration.

In the pre-Internet world, I don’t know how I would ever have known any of this.

Related reading
More OCA posts with photographs from the NYC Municipal Archives

[Google Maps shows 1562 as an empty storefront in August 2021, surrounded by lots of construction.]

Saturday, September 24, 2022

Today’s Saturday Stumper

Today’s Newsday  Saturday Stumper, by Stella Zawistowski, is a doozy. I missed by two letters, so sure of 13-D, six letters, “Something stretched for workouts” that I flubbed the fairly obvious 32-A, six letters, “What M may stand for.” And also flubbed the more obscure 24-A, three letters, “Sponsor of Md.’s Cryptologic Museum.” But as Scarlett O’Hara said, next Saturday is another day.

Some clue-and-answer pairs of note:

4-A, five letters, “Holes in your head.” A dud clue. The word as applied to human beings is marked obsolete in the OED (most recent citation: 1620). The word is now used (if it is ever used) with reference to hawks. Thus not holes in your head or mine.

[Later: The word does refer to human beings in medical contexts: for instance, “the anterior nares of humans” (2006, in the Corpus of Contemporary American English). But it’s a bit of a reach. Perhaps it’s really the word that’s a dud, not the clue.]

12-A, thirteen letters, “Dance without fancy costumes.” MORP? No, too short. Since I dance only in fancy costumes, I’m unfamiliar with the term.

14-A, fifteen letters, “One in hostile pursuit.” 14-D gave me this one, all of it.

14-D, five letters, “Last words of the Best Song Oscar winner for 1939.” Easy with a little thought.

17-A, four letters, “Sin that sounds like a shortened state.” Clever.

30-A, four letters, “Twister game name.” Yes, but which kind of twist?

35-D, five letters, “_____ pad.” Sounds almost quaint now.

36-D, six letters, “Word from Old English for ‘mission.’” There’s a rabbit hole to go down here, but not today.

37-D, seven letters, “Mag space measures.” That ridiculous word again, which SZ used in a Stumper just last month.

42-A, nine letters, “Competitor carrying a compass.” I was pleased with myself for somehow knowing this one.

45-D, six letters, “I as in ores.” The answer made me think that I must have had something else wrong.

52-A, four letters, “Census Bureau drink category.” Exactly why is the Census Bureau thinking about drink categories?

59-A, thirteen letters, “Throws out a window.” Weirdly timely, given all the Putin associates coming to improbably dead ends.

No spoilers; the answers are in the comments.

Friday, September 23, 2022

How to have a root canal

1. Sit down. Lie back.

2. Wince slightly. Wince again. (Injections.) Await further developments.

3. Listen for recognizable sounds on satellite radio. “Smokestack Lightnin’”! (But not by Howlin’ Wolf.) “Ticket to Ride.”

4. Listen to the drill. Wince slightly and raise your left hand, as instructed, when the drilling becomes painful. It’s gonna have to be a root canal.

5. Enjoy anesthetic applied directly to tooth.

6. Listen to different drills, with different pitches.

7. Feel your mouth crowd with a clamp, a latex shield, a dental dam, and a bite block.

8. Listen to different drills, with different pitches.

9. Realize that the strange-sounding electronica is a mix of satellite radio and the cleaning or drilling one room over.

10. Feel your mouth crowd with X-ray film. Is the bite block also still in there? Who knows. (The dentist knows.) Hold tongs holding film when requested. Surrender tongs when requested.

11. Different drills, different pitches.

12. Wonder about the tiny objects that resemble festive toothpicks. (They’re made of paper, to absorb blood.)

13. Notice the tiny strands of glue headed for your mouth.

14. Continue to lie back.

15. Coronation. (Temporary.)

16. Thank the dentist and dental assistant for their work.

17. Chew on the other side for three weeks while awaiting permanent coronation.

[I was out in under an hour. As the dentist said, he’s been doing this for twenty-two years. And Elaine walked over to drive me home — what a partner.]

NPR pronunciation

It’s easy to tell when NPR has switched from the feed to the local affiliate. From Garner’s Modern English Usage :

In educated speech, the country’s name is pronounced either /i-rahn/ (preferred) or /i-ran/ (more anglicized). Avoid the xenophobic yokel’s pronunciation /I-ran/ or /I-ran/.
Not everyone who says /I-ran/ or /I-ran/ counts as a xenophobic yokel. But who wants to be mistaken for one?

[May the women of Iran succeed in their fight against the official order of things.]

Thursday, September 22, 2022

Roosevelt, Painter, Snyder

Three excerpts from “The Homeless, Tempest-Tossed,” the final episode of The U.S. and the Holocaust. From a 1946 speech by Eleanor Roosevelt:

I have the feeling that we let our consciences realize too late the need of standing up against something that we knew was wrong. We have therefore had to avenge it — but we did nothing to prevent it. I hope that in the future, we are going to remember that there can be no compromise at any point with the things that we know are wrong.
From the historian Nell Irvin Painter:
Americans are now coming to terms with our past. What we have over and over and over again in American history is, on the one hand, this stream of white supremacy and anti-Semitism. It’s a big stream, and it’s always there. And sometimes it bubbles up, and it shocks us, and it gets slapped down. But the stream is always there, and we should not be shocked. We should not think, “This is not America.” It is.
From the historian Timothy Snyder:
This thing that people call white supremacy, that's not some marginal thing. You have to look back and say “How can we change, so that we really can be a republic, or really can be a democracy?” If we're going to be a country in the future, then we have to have a view of our own history which allows us to see what we were. Then we can become something different. And then we have to become something different, if we’re going to make it.

Eva and Miriam

[Click for a larger view.]

It came as a jolt, even if it shouldn’t have, to see our friend Eva Mozes Kor for a split-second in the final episode of Ken Burns’s The U.S. and the Holocaust. Eva and her sister Miriam appear in this footage shot after the liberation of Auschwitz. In the screenshot above, from the brief excerpt that appears in the Burns documentary, Eva and Miriam Mozes (later Miriam Mozes Zeiger) are at the far left, with Eva to the right of her sister. The two survived because they were twins.

Related posts
Eva Kor (1934–2019) : Found in an old pocket notebook

Wednesday, September 21, 2022

PBS, wut?

Tonight’s PBS NewsHour is a repeat, at least at our PBS station, and it began with QEII’s funeral procession. No Biden at the United Nations, no Letitia James at the microphone. Anglophilia gone bonkers?

No, a problem at master control, so they’re airing last week’s programming.


From The New York Times : “Trump Sued for Fraud by New York Attorney General.” Go Letitia James! An excerpt:

Donald J. Trump, his family business and three of his adult children lied to lenders and insurers for more than a decade, fraudulently overvaluing his assets by billions of dollars in a sprawling scheme, according to a lawsuit filed on Wednesday by the New York attorney general, Letitia James, who is seeking to bar the Trumps from ever running a business in the state again.

Ms. James concluded that Mr. Trump and his family business violated several state criminal laws and “plausibly” broke federal criminal laws as well. Her office, which in this case lacks authority to file criminal charges, referred the findings to federal prosecutors in Manhattan; it was not immediately clear whether the U.S. attorney would investigate.

The 220-page lawsuit, filed in New York State Supreme Court, lays out in new and startling detail how, according to Ms. James, Mr. Trump’s annual financial statements were a compendium of lies. The statements, yearly records that include the company’s estimated value of his holdings and debts, wildly inflated the worth of nearly every one of his marquee properties — from Mar-a-Lago in Florida to Trump Tower and 40 Wall Street in Manhattan, according to the lawsuit.
Remember this exchange? (Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Michael Cohen, 2019).