Friday, February 17, 2012

This year's Forever

Around the corner from Maya's school next year.

Otis Taylor, Otis Taylor's Contraband
Black Truth Rhythm Band, Ifetayo
Gary Smulyan, Smul's Paradise
Tord Gustavsen Quartet, The Well
Corea, Clarke & White, Forever

I'm letting DownBeat's February editor's picks do some of the driving today. Otis Taylor is the grooviest, weirdest guy in grown-folks soul blues. You really gotta get with this record. Black Rhythm Truth Band is all four of those things coalescing into a fifth radiant orb of music. Lately, my fifty-cent words have been "manifestation" and "coalescing." At least I've been giving "synergy" a rest. I may start swapping out "radiant" in favor of "luminous" even though neither really says the thing I'm trying to say. "Magnetic" is more like it, without the extra-magnetic connotations "magnetic" has. I want to convey feeling affected physically by the presence of another thing, which is what magnetism really is. All light really does is fry you or cast a shadow. But, I like the way "luminous" feels in my mouth, or at least in the mouth of my mind when I type it. I never feel I have the right vocabulary to describe jazz. I think the fact that jazz is a vocabulary might be the issue. Regardless, the Gary Smulyan album says all the things you want a jazz album to say in a way that makes you like them to say them.

The Tord Gustavsen Quintet's album wasn't on the list; it was an ad on the side of the list. It sounds like its coming from down a well - muted, not really happening in the same space you are listening in but connected in an inconvenient way.  Forever won the best jazz instrumental album Grammy. Each year, I always go listen to the jazz Grammy winner. It's the bare minimum we can do for poor old jazz. Here is something I wrote about Herbie Hancock's River: The Joni Letters when it won five years ago. Forever ago. This year's Forever sounds like jazz played with chamber music precision and yet remains still loose enough to still feel like jazz.

If I made a jazz album, like right now instead of doing this or whatever I am really supposed to be doing besides this, I would call it Cheap-O-Mart and have the players' names placed in a sans serif font under the above picture on the cover. The music would be a pale imitation of jazz I like, as that photo is a pale imitation of the bleached-out pictures my friend Frank McMains takes. He did the cover photo for my book, the thing that makes it look like a real book. My photo above looks likes a fair-to-middling photo filter job; his photos look like they are developed on high-thread count linen.

Poetry is not in the details but how the details are presented. The Truth is in that poetry. Maybe it's the same thing. Maybe I don't have the right vocabulary for this either. Or maybe I do. I just got word that a new book contract is in the works, and I wasn't going to say anything until it was signed and everything. I was going to hint at it obliquely, but I'm trying to correct the general/specific conflicts in my writing and say what I'm saying and so on. I'll make a more formal announcement when there is ink on paper.

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