Hipped to a couple books

(Brick’s Picks, LA Weekly, 2006)

And we’ve been hipped to a couple books that’d make some cool xmas gifts ideas. Bari blowing/beatnik looking/mystery writing Skoot Larson’s The No News is Bad News Blues is a fun read; his trumpet playing, hard drinking, weed smoking, record collecting accidental detective Lars Lyndstrom stumbling into a terrorist plot. Fans of Bill Moody’s Evan Horn books will dig it. Moody’s tighter and leaner, but Larson’s storytelling is like a free ranging live jazz session. And if you know San Pedro (or Oslo) at all you will love the settings. Peter Levinson’s Tommy Dorsey: Livin’ in a Great Big Way is a terrific read. The Big Band Era was a whole ‘nother universe, and don’t fall for the “innocent times” stuff our parents/grandparents dropped on us. These guys lived hard, played hard, worked hard, fought hard and (in Dorsey’s case) died hard. The book bear up the legend: T.D. was not an easy man to know, let alone play for (or worse yet, be married to.) But he sure could play some pretty trombone. Those were amazing times, with the music, the arrangers, the tours, the War, the movie stars, the kids, the dancing, the partying, and the segregation and desperate poverty that so many players, white and black, Irish and Jew, rose from. Levinson’s energetic prose brings the era vividly back to life.

Gravitational waves

The problem with jazz at artwalks is that it is background music. Nice and quiet, subdued, like Kind of Blue without the edges. But it’s jazz, man, jazz isn’t supposed to be nice. It’s not supposed to be pretty. It’s not even supposed to be art. It’s supposed to be jazz. Jazz is jazz. Thank gawd Elliot Caine and his quartet know that. There was some gorgeous art on the walls, fauvist almost, huge vibrating colors, but that was inside, where people sipped wine and murmured. Outside Elliot and band swung their asses off. Kenny Elliot (no relation, really) lit into two extended solos on the traps that were brilliant. He was pushing it. Elliott Caine stepped out front to watch and listen, digging it all. Einstein was right, he laughed, I can feel his gravitational waves washing over me, and then he lit into a solo and was gone, taking his brand new horn places it had never been. Rick Olson was marvelous on his electric keyboard, dancing across the keys on In Walked Bud or flipping a switch and digging deep into Jimmy Smith. Bassman Joe Pernicano, new to me, settled in right down center and by that third set–third sets are the magic sets in jazz–the band was in the zone, in the groove, in the pocket, in that place where jazz critics hurl clichés at the memory trying to nail it and failing. The night was warm, the wine was free, the art was groovy, and the inevitable food truck was out front, selling overpriced (if tasty) fish and chips instead of tacos for a buck. Somehow that seemed so wrong. But still, in this little island of bourgeoisie gentrification on a Highland Park calle tucked into the hills, the jazz was real like real jazz should be. And the people, the hip people, the people with ears open and syncopation in their bones, those people dug it in intense, focused silence, interrupted by hard clapping and yeah baby’s. Ten o’clock and the music had to stop. There was a time when jazz musicians didn’t even get out of bed before ten. Oh well, but we walked down the street to the car, past old Highland Park and nouveaux Highland Park, feeling renewed.

(Elliott has a quintet or sextet at the York on York next Sunday, February 21, no cover, no minimum, no nothing, actually. Jazz is the music of the unemployed. Dig it. Great room, great energy, great suds, great crowd, great tunes. Always highly recommended, this one, as Elliott Caine–who eye doctors all the jazzers, bohos and freaks at his optometrist office next door–never fails to slay at the York.)

Elliott Caine with Highland Park bricks.

Elliott Caine with ancient, but cool, Highland Park bricks.