Here I go getting lost in my Toshiko Akiyoshi-Lou Tabackin Big Band albums again. She was signed to a major label back in the ‘80’s and seemed to release an album a year, at least, gorgeously swinging things, richly orchestrated—a lot of notes, Med Flory told me (or was that Steve Hufstetter?)—and review copies fill the cut out bins. Doubt I spent more than a buck on any of them. They have beautiful cover art too, free of the happy smiling jazz musician photos that were on the cover jackets of even the grumpiest players back then. Anyway, every once in a while I pull one out of the stacks, then another and eventually all of them, one after the other, and they fill the office with very intense orchestral jazz and you know what that means. No ear worms, not yet anyway, this isn’t Duke Ellington. But it’s glorious.
One of my favorite moments was a jazz party at Chuck Manning’s pad and there were all these cool nice people except for one table where I was sitting with Chris Conner, George Herms, Theo Saunders, Chuck and others and it was one of the most gloriously abrasive, insulting, mean spirited, sarcastic and anarchistic few hours I’ve ever spent (and I’ve had more than my share), and just pure jazz. I couldn’t tell you why it was pure jazz, but it was. It was so Beat. Finally, leaving a pile of bottles, butts, roaches and egos in our wake, we repaired to the music room where Chris and Chuck and Theo joined a spontaneous sextet and did amazing things with old melodies and a little Trane. It was gorgeous stuff, pushing and reaching and, once there, reaching even further, ever further. A timeless hour later Chris thrummed the last notes of A Love Supreme into the ether and we all went our different ways, renewed. Gonna miss Chris and his sharp wit and ill considered sarcasm and cigars and that ancient gorgeous bass. I once wrote a beautiful piece on a night where he’d played bass and I copped one of his wisecracks and slipped it into the narrative. You stole my line, he said. Sorry, I said. You stole my line, he said. So I went home and rewrote the line and gave him credit. That’s better, he said. Chris Conner never kissed a jazz critic’s ass in his life. Rest In Peace.
So at movie night last night the host said go ahead Brick, you pick the movie and I instantly picked The Beast of Yucca Flats before anyone could tear the keyboard from my cold dead hands. Alas I was mortified, as it was the edited for incredibly bad television version and the scene where the children feed soda to the pigs was cut, losing all that pathos and and rendering the complex multi dimensional narratives a confusing mess. Not even Tor Johnson’s wailing and stumbling and Russian scientist turned into a psychopathic killer by an unexpected atomic blast shtick could save it. Imagine a Plan 9 without the 9. I say stick to the Criterion edition, where the restored director’s cut shows the children feeding soda to the pigs as well as lots more driving around. There is also audio commentary by Tor Johnson and the pigs, as well as several clips from the original Broadway production of the Beast of Yucca Flats, with James Coco as the Beast.
As soon as that ended, the keyboard still in my colder and even deader hands, I selected Bucket of Blood, perhaps my favorite Roger Corman flick, full of stoned beatniks and uptight narcs and murderous artists (well, one) and bad poets and Paul Horn playing some truly gorgeous tenor sax, much cooler than anything he did inside the Great Pyramid. Indeed all the jazz—these are beatniks, remember—in the flick is cool, with Fred Katz providing his usual amazingly hip jazz score, or maybe his identically hip jazz score, since he handed Corman the same recordings for a couple different flicks, just changing the title on the can, figuring nobody would notice, which they did not. Which just goes to show you can never trust a cello player.
Finally, the evil artist hoisted on his own metaphorical beatnik petard beneath the jagged swell of saxophones and brass, it’s over. I hate when it’s over as I don’t think there’s another film quite like it. I sat back on the couch, they pried the keyboard from my cold dead hands and said I could keep coming to movie night but I couldn’t pick the movies. I said cool, Daddy o.
There was the night about a decade ago that I was hanging out at Hollywood & Highland with a multi-Grammy winning pal and then sharing a table at a jazz dive with three other Grammy winners watching an Oscar winning pal playing some terrific saxophone. At the time, tho’, that didn’t seem anything special. I don’t know if that sort of jazz scene exists anymore, cool digs where Grammy winners and brilliant musicians and stoners and writers and fans and movie stars mix together like it was the most natural thing in the world, and the music cooked and sometimes was so in the pocket that the murmur of voices and laughter subsided completely as a saxophonist reached the essence of a melody and then released it into the ether with a final drawn out breath.
I met Jack Riley a couple times, some cool little chats, once at Charlie O’s, and once after a Jack Sheldon set at the old Catalina’s on Cahuenga. Last time was at Chuck Niles’ funeral. I didn’t know where the men’s room was. He’d asked. Maybe over there, I said. Over there? Yeah, that looks like the kind of spot a men’s room would be. Yeah, it does, he said, and wandered off. Some time later he walked by again. You find the men’s room? Yeah, it was over there, he said. Was it nice? He gave a Mr. Carlin shrug. I’ve seen better, he said.
Never ran into him again.
Great. Put It Where You Want it again. It’s been days now. I deliberately left a big stack of LPs of all kinds right in front of the turntable and what do I do? Just drop the tone arm on the record already on there. You try to take it off again after hearing those first descending chords on that way groovy electric piano. Then in comes the way funky guitar picking out the single noted melody at a mellow strut. This has been in my head since it was a hit on an AM station in funky town Anaheim during Richard Nixon’s first term. I lived in funkier town Brea but the station was in Anaheim. KEZY. They spun the tune on the hour for a week or two and it dug itself in so deep in my brain it even survived all the seizures later. And I’m gonna take it off now? I’m reliving my virgin youth. I was so young I didn’t even know the title was a double entendre. Irony is one of the last things to develop in the human brain, you know. At some point maybe 40 thousand years ago metaphors happened and with them the capacity for irony and Homo sapiens became insufferable. No wonder Neanderthals became extinct. Imagine sharing a cave with us, let alone DNA. That’s some brow ridge you got there honey. You could recite Shakespeare from that thing. Forty millennia later I’m thirteen and digging Put It Where You Want It like a clueless Neanderthal, wiggling my little white butt and humming along. The deejay comes on and says something filthy. I can’t tell. This is how civilization began. Cue the Also Sprach Zarathustra. Or maybe just flip the Crusaders album over to the B side. Or D side. Whatever. It’s a double album, and those were confusing times.
(I don’t remember this but apparently I wrote it in 2017)
The massive, incredibly rare instrument is over 11 feet tall with a range so deep it goes lower than humans can hear.
Octobass Atlas Obscura
Notes not above but below our hearing. Groovy. It won’t make the dogs howl, but it might piss off the pachyderms. Indeed, Jimmy Garrison began A Love Supreme on the octobass and before Trane could blow a single three hour solo a herd of crazed elephants charged into the studio and pulverized Elvin’s kit into something like Rashied Ali. They were trumpeting and roaring and stomping and Ascension was recorded then and there. Remember hearing Jimmy Garrison’s side long bass solo? Of course you don’t, it was on the octobass. He later repeated John Cage’s favorite parts on a jazzed up 4’33. It was the only time in jazz history that the people at the bar shut up during the bass solo. No one could hear a thing from the bass but Moby Dick said he whaled.