Theo Saunders and George Herms tonite, Friday September 16, at LACMA–6-8 pm FREE.

Theo Saunders and George Herms tonite at LACMA–6-8 pm FREE.

Sitting here listening to Theo Saunders Jassemblage for the umpteenth time, digging how each tune is different tunes pieced together crazy logically illogically into new things, like Nuttiness that is half a dozen Monk tunes in one, or I Steal Good Moments that somehow slides Oliver Nelson’s Stolen Moments inside James Brown’s I Feel Good (or is that vice versa?), or the gorgeous Naimanox or Caramanteca or or more Monk in Rubistrophy–Theo Saunders digs his Monk. Great band on board this CD too–Chuck Manning and Louis Van Taylor on saxes, George Bohannon on the trombone. Love this album. Love it even more as the great George Herms designed the sleeve. Meanwhile, as I listen I’m flipping for the umpteenth time through the gorgeous double volume The River Book, which just gushes with George Herms crazy brilliant art. Madness, this stuff, things he finds and turns into other, cooler things. It incluides a DVD of a show he did at the REDCAT a few years ago that I still have difficulty describing. But why should I? After all, tonite, Friday, September 16 from 6-8 pm George Herms and Theo Saunders and band–including Phil Ranelin and Chuck Manning–will share the stage at LACMA and its free. Free free free. Be there. This has to be one of the jazz and art events of the summer. The year, even. Certainly the now. What a spectacularly groovy and weird and swinging and out way to begin the weekend. Believe you me, this will be something pretty special. And believe you me, be there or be unassembled.

Epileptic eyes

One of my favorite epileptics. The swirls are the auras, and the tree and behind it the steeple seem forward, as if placed in front of a backdrop, because of the flattening effect of temporal lobe seizures. Van Gogh makes no sense at all unless you can look at his paintings with epileptic eyes. If I delay my next dose a couple hours I can sit out on the sundeck and the scenery begins to look like that. It’s gorgeous.

That they don’t teach you in art class.

Starry Night

The Starry Night

Red Carpet


Had pictures taken on the red carpet again last night. That’s Hollywood. You show up to an event as a bum. Well dressed, nice car, but still a bum. You hang around the somebodies and drink expensive free wine poured by a tall gorgeous thing named Melinda. I didn’t ask her name, she offered it. Probably because I was the only one tipping. More beautiful things slip silently around the room, bearing platters of edibles you can’t identify, usually. Never admit it, though. Never a what the hell is that, lady? Just take, eat, and thank her.  Every one around you knows everyone around you except you, it seems, then you know everyone around you too, for a moment, then you move to another part of the room seeking more oxygen and less carbon dioxide and don’t know anyone around you all over again. You watch. The dudes look cool, almost all of them, they got it. And there are far too many gorgeous dames for such a smallish room. Art everywhere, mostly musicians in photos and portraits, and album covers. This Aladdin Sane really stands out, as does Miles Davis in a grey suit, looking bad ass. There’s Hendrix over there. The Beatles. Stones. The sixties seem to dominate everything still, and always will. My time not so much. The seventies were too underground and small. Oh well. Don’t dwell on it, not here. Lay off the moody intellectual crap and get busy schmoozing. Meet new people, find unexpected connections, actually have to hand out business cards, how droll. This is a Miles Davis party, yet another one, he’s a whole party industry, and he’s not even around to stand us up. There’s a book, Miles Davis, the Collected Artwork, lovingly assembled by son Erin Davis and nephew Vincent Wilburn Jr., and it’s a vast thing, a superb coffee table tome so heavy you could kill someone with it, like in a murder mystery. People crowd around the table. It’s a hit and they’re grabbing them at fifty bucks a pop. One guy struggled with three, had he dropped one he would have smashed toes, but he didn’t. Look around again…there’s Summer Watson looking lovely, been ages, big hug. She’s with John Altman who knows everyone in the known hip universe and he did here too, the Miles Davis offspring, Wah Wah Watson, everybody. He offered introductions. I demurred. No Idea why. The crowd grew and grew. I hid in the back room a bit where there was air and remarkable jazz record collection, every time I pulled out an album at random, it was classic. I asked about them. The gallery owner (Sam Milgrom, a cool guy) had run a record store in Chicago and moved out here and opened this place, Mr. Musichead Gallery. They have a nice website, but in real life they’re a great little gallery a couple doors down from the Guitar Center. Rock stars past and present probably wander in here and buy something for the studio wall. I wanted to buy the Miles Davis LP cover. I didn’t (well, couldn’t). Back into the crowd. The deejay had tried valiantly to play acoustic Miles but gave up. I heard Bitches Brew later. Began to recognize people now. They nod, I nod back. Back at the table I flip dreamily through the book again. The art is really striking. The kind of thing a jazz lover buys himself for Christmas. But alas, it’s time to leave. The wine was too fine. And free. Out the door, through, we were ordered onto the red carpet. Smile! We smiled. A half dozen quick snaps. The valet brought round the car, and back we were, bums again.  What an odd world Hollywood is. You can almost get used to it.


What this town needs is more Triforiums. Lots more. With more drunks for the harmonies. Though I don’t know if the Triforium still makes music. I know it’s still there. In World War 2 they would have torn it down and made a couple tanks. Come to think of it, they might have broken up a couple tanks to make the Triforium. Yet it means something, the Triforium does, it symbolizes the interdependence of the three branches of government. That’s what the artist told City Hall. No, I can’t see it either. I just see this big poly-phonoptic thing. That’s what the artist called it, poly-phonoptic. Google never heard of it either. I have no idea what it means. But the Triforium has been poly-phonopticizing downtown Los Angeles since 1975. Is it art yet? Nobody seems to think so, but the damn thing is too expensive to tear down. I mean it’s worthless, but worthless is cheaper than tearing it down, and its negative worth makes it an asset. So it stands and chimes. If it still chimes. I think it does, at least sometimes. It used to chime all the time. Back in the early eighties it certainly did, down there amid the wreckage of the seventies, and I remember stoned and frozen nights walking back from the Brave Dog and the air rang with electro-chimed christmas carols and the keening of winos and I’d stop and listen and it was all so fucked up. Ah, nostalgia.

A bold, confident statement that expresses man's faith in the future or three wishbones in search of a turkey.

At night it lights up.

Allen Ginsberg’s Howl by Allen Ruppersberg

I stood in the room I thought alone reading the phoneticized lines aloud….I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness, starving hysterical naked, dragging themselves through the negro streets at dawn looking for an angry fix….and I realized two small ladies were standing in the corner, staring at me. I continued, louder. Angelheaded hipsters burning for the ancient heavenly connection to the starry dynamo in the machinery of night, who poverty and tatters and hollow-eyed and high sat up smoking in the supernatural darkness…. The ladies fled.

Howl still works, apparently.

Allen Ginsberg's Howl by Allen Ruppersberg.

Allen Ginsberg’s Howl by Allen Ruppersberg at the Skirball Museum.

George Herms

[from a Brick’s Picks in the LA Weekly about 2010]

We don’t know anything about art, really. It’s like classical music or philosophy or poetry or anything really cerebral like that, universes we don’t traipse around much. So we had no idea who George Herms was before we met him. We were occasional drinking buddies at Charlie O’s, always right up front rocking out and applauding too loud and laughing, just really digging the music. He never let on he was famous, like Getty Museum famous. Then one Friday we saw him do his thing at LACMA. There was a band, they took a break, and then there’s George and this huge sphere, an immense hollow iron ball he’d found in the mud somewhere and thought wow, Thelonious Sphere Monk. He finds things that way. And he’s dragging the damn thing around the stage at LACMA, then stops, thinks a minute, and then starts beating on it, making this ethereal music. Freaky. After a while he dragged it off again. For some goddamn reason it was the coolest thing ever, Beat beyond belief, and the band had to blow their asses off afterward to get anywhere near the space he’d taken us.

Well, REDCAT has given him three nights to get to that space again.  He’ll be doing the sphere thing, his legendary spiral staircase thing, he’ll be assembling some sort of mondo clarinet out of throwaways, oddities and detritus. He has two incredible bands to score this madness…Theo Saunders & his Lesstet (including Azar Lawrence, Chuck Manning and Henry Franklin) doing mad things with Monk and Trane and Saunders, and the Bobby Bradford Mo’tet doing “Sideman”, one of our fave tunes ever. Herms calls the thing his Free Jazz Opera, and talks of Horace Tapscott and John Carter and Ornette and, well, get him going he can go on and on. He’s breathed this stuff for fifty years, inhaling jazz and exhaling creativity. This will be a real happening, people, each and every night.

[from a Brick’s Picks in the LA Weekly c. 2009]

Trumpeter Bobby Bradford brings his Mo’tet back to LACMA on Friday. Sure, Bradford has major avant garde credentials; his work with John Carter was way out there. But he is always close to the source, with Satchmo just an arm’s length away, and his band sounds so positively genuine you know that his jazz isn’t something purely cerebral, not just art, but deeper than that, something that really swings. There’s no genre to file the Mo’Tet under; not bop enough for Charlie O’s, but not conceptual enough for the way hip art crowd. But he gets serious players like Chuck Manning, and serious fans, like artist George Herms. If you’ve hung around the coolest joints for the past several decades you know Herms, he’s always totally into it, but this time he ain’t watching the show…he’s part of it. Creating what, we have no idea, but his crazy work—just things he’s found combined with other things he’s found that he somehow turns into cool, new things—somehow matches the whole feeling exactly. It’s a real live happening. Be there.

George Herms2

George Herms and light bulb. (Photo by Wilder Herms)


Greatest review of a hole ever. “Experientially rich, buzzing with energy and entropy, crammed with chaos and contradiction…”

Urs Fischer, the artist, called the hole “You”. A rich guy bought it for a whole lot of money and took it to his estate in Connecticut. Well, not the same hole, he had a hole dug just like it. So he paid a whole lot of money for another hole. I guess you look in it and think how rich you are. I assume the first hole, now that it was sold, was just a hole again and was filled in. Too bad. Imagine how much it would have been worth once the artist dies. They could have buried him in it, crammed in with the chaos and contradiction.

This was before the recession, though. I have no idea what the going rate on a hole is now. Maybe the Chinese are buying them up. Or maybe holes are just holes again. Free fill dirt. I wonder if big rocks are still in. Or did LACMA get the only one?

I think I picked the wrong gig. If I were an artist this blog post would be worth a zillion dollars.