Sunday, July 6, 2008

ghost jazz

Alexander Scriabin - Piano Concerto in F Sharp Minor
After all the grand finger-on-the-button gestures presented by Scriabin in my previous post, this piano concerto, finds our world-crusher in a state of dizzying sentimentality, the piano nearly sighing in the higher registers while occasionally a low note will thud through against orchestration that acts as an overtone, an atmospheric projection of the artist's mild melancholy, perhaps like those mists he wanted to alter the architectural perception of his doomsday concert hall.

I am on a mission to seek out a recording of Mysterium.

Mississippi John Hurt - Today!
I am a huge fan of the archival Avalon Blues recorded back in the 1920's, so much that I needlessly eschew his rediscovery recordings from the 1960s, but Today! has changed my mind. So clear a babble doth issue forth from his brook, the bass strings of his guitar resonating the whole house. I know John Fahey saw Hurt as a fountainhead, but I will conject that old Nick Drake had been listening to some Hurt as he set about creating Pink Moon. Influence apart, though, Mississippi John Hurt remains one of the more listenable old blues artists - I don't ever feel that twinge of "I am enjoying the Blues" pretension when I throw him on.

Sidney Bichet - Jam Session

I am not a huge fan of Sidney Bichet and that early era of New Orleans Jazz, sure I appreciate it but a little goes a long way. I picked this up at the library and it sat on my desk unplayed until I set to clean off the desk, returning it to the library being a procrastination tactic in the cleaning process. I popped it in the car stereo just cuz and wow, what a weird, stunning record.

I'm not familiar with Bichet's recorded output to know if this is the norm, but his clarinet had a haunted echo to it, as if it was emanating from behind a doorway at the far end of a darkened hall, while the hushed band sat i the room with you, trying to play along without letting their presence known. I played around with the fade/tone settings on the car stereo, thinking that maybe something had been set haywire, but no - straight-up old-time ghost jazz.

Maya and I spent the day tooling around New Orleans yesterday, with Sidney's phantom woodwind offering a pleasing counterpoint to the Essence music festival crowds, the ubiquitous backup on the highway, and the essay I have been commissioned to write about Baton Rouge post Katrina, how it became the city it always feared becoming when the population of the city came to the next safe place. I always think of that when I pull off the Tchopatoulas exit and wind up in front of the convention center, the tragic stage where grandmas starved and people begged for help to CNN's cameras. Those same red bricks are still there, the same ones upon which that some girlfriend and I had a big fight two decades ago, the same ones that paved the 1984 World's Fair where I was allowed to roam on my own in New Orleans for the first time. Yesterday, it was filled to the R&B fans in all their finery, elaborate hairdos slowly collapsing in the heat like they have there for 200 years.

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