Sometimes words work

So we watched an inspired, passionate Phil Ranelin set at the Watts Towers Jazz Festival on Sunday; it swept the crowd despite the amateur antics of the sound guy. Wonderful stuff. Pablo Calogero does amazing things on the soprano sax without ever venturing into the overwrought preciousness that afflicts that horn. What a wonderful player. Phil’s trombone playing is like expressionist watercolors, gorgeous and imaginative and just a tad out, and the alto player whose name escapes me was superb as well, just a hint of dry, a fine soloist. Don Littleton was on drums, good as always and smiling as the bassist nailed it over and over…I’m afraid I wasn’t being a journalist–been avoiding it–and got neither his name nor the pianist’s. The soundman somehow lost all power to the PA halfway through the set so the horn players had to really belt there for a stretch, it worked. Eventually the mics came back on (though the soundman didn’t seem to tell the musicians…who had to figure out which were live and which dead all by themselves….)  Then we headed way the hell out to Altadena for a BBQ and ran into Winston Byrd in the local Ralphs. He was shopping, not blowing high notes on the trumpet–that would have woken up the customers–but jazz, apparently, is everywhere. Or jazz musicians are everywhere.

As are words. Kamau Daooud was the emcee, if he read any of his own superb stuff (“each morning i read the newspaper/ and weep into a pot of coffee/ i muffle my whispered screaming/ with the music of the masters/ i find religion there/ rocking in ecstasy/ to the heartbeats of loved ones”) I missed it. (Look for The Language of Saxophones. I treasure my signed copy.) But I did have my mind blown by a poet at Watts, which doesn’t happen often. Continue reading

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