Signing Off

November 15, 2006

but only for a little while, hopefully no more than two weeks though it may be longer. It’ll depend on how fast Verizon reconnects my DSL service.

Moving to a beautiful new townhouse with the fam and all the serious work begins tomorrow.

We’ve rented a Penske truck and our new home is only 5 minutes away from where we’ve been living so we should have most of the move done by the end of the day, at least all the big stuff. We’ll be going back and forth the rest of this week with the remainder of our belongings.

We should be finished by Sunday so that we can then settle in somewhat into our new home and prepare for the holidays.

On a different note, i’ve been listening to alot of Phil Ochs lately. I’m a big fan and with all the bad news out of Iraq and with the terrible political climate in the US, i’ve been listening to his words and his voice like I haven’t in quite a while. A little comfort in these troubled times.

Like alot of other great artists he left us way too soon. I wonder what he’d say about this tormented world we continue to live in.

When I’m Gone

There’s no place in this world where I’ll belong when I’m gone
And I won’t know the right from the wrong when I’m gone
And you won’t find me singin’ on this song when I’m gone
So I guess I’ll have to do it while I’m here

And I won’t feel the flowing of the time when I’m gone
All the pleasures of love will not be mine when I’m gone
My pen won’t pour out a lyric line when I’m gone
So I guess I’ll have to do it while I’m here

And I won’t breathe the bracing air when I’m gone
And I can’t even worry ’bout my cares when I’m gone
Won’t be asked to do my share when I’m gone
So I guess I’ll have to do it while I’m here

And I won’t be running from the rain when I’m gone
And I can’t even suffer from the pain when I’m gone
Can’t say who’s to praise and who’s to blame when I’m gone
So I guess I’ll have to do it while I’m here

Won’t see the golden of the sun when I’m gone
And the evenings and the mornings will be one when I’m gone
Can’t be singing louder than the guns when I’m gone
So I guess I’ll have to do it while I’m here

All my days won’t be dances of delight when I’m gone
And the sands will be shifting from my sight when I’m gone
Can’t add my name into the fight while I’m gone
So I guess I’ll have to do it while I’m here

And I won’t be laughing at the lies when I’m gone
And I can’t question how or when or why when I’m gone
Can’t live proud enough to die when I’m gone
So I guess I’ll have to do it while I’m here

Cartoon of the Day

November 15, 2006

9/11 Documentary

November 14, 2006

Loose Change now in its 2nd edition.

Five years later, and still alot of unanswered questions.

The documentary

The official website

Coltrane’s Legacy

November 12, 2006

The Relevance Of John Coltrane Today

Coltrane’s music gets better and better over time. He played so well, so passionately, so sincerely, so perfectly.

It’s more than the normal nostalgia any individual feels for what influenced him or her at a certain crucial stage and in my case witnessed live during the 1960s. Trane’s music is eternal and for the ages. Appreciation of what he did will grow as time goes on, as it does for Duke and Monk and others who were so advanced for their time, for all time.

But why should listeners and musicians, for whom Coltrane is just another legend who has passed on, listen to him in more than a casual way?

It is precisely for the honesty and sincerity which Coltrane exuded at all stages of his brief career- these qualities are more important than ever as time goes on. We live in an age of fast communication and overload.

It gets harder to discern the real from pretense. With Coltrane, no one can walk away without getting the point. It may not be easy, especially at the beginning, to get past the intensity of his statement, but the well runs deep and can be drawn upon forever.

More specifically for musicians who are players, the sound of Trane’s horn along with his execution of ideas, feeling of the blues and harmonic depth are models of what we aspire towards.

Can there be any greater praise?

Another legacy for Coltrane is as an iconic figure for those who would honor the tradition of black creative genius in America. While this assessment is based upon Coltrane’s musical achievements, those who see his significance in this light regard him as a black champion of freedom and justice.

Finally, for still others there is Coltrane the spirit-filled man who, through both his art and his life, found a way to wed compassion and religious expression to the pursuit of truth and wisdom. This is Coltrane the prophet, who appeals to the spirit, leading himself and his listeners towards worshipful appreciation of life and creation, and compassion towards humanity.

His music calls for love, peace, and even serenity, while at the same time fully acknowledging the need to truthfully confront the terrible and the potentially devastating.

Coltrane’s place as an innovator in jazz is secure, as there are now several generations of jazz musicians who have taken up aspects of his personal idiom as standard material to be absorbed by all improvisers.

Some of these innovations are harmonic, including extensions upon the discoveries in diatonic harmony that the beboppers offered as well as the introduction of Indian and African melodic materials in jazz practice. His tritonic harmonic substitutions are also standard fare for jazz musicians, as is the more general abstraction of harmonic motion in major or minor thirds (rather than fourths or fifths), which he also explored during the same period.

The harmonic sequences that Coltrane utilized to reharmonize standard jazz progressions in songs like “Giant Steps,” “Countdown,” “26-2,” “But Not For Me,” and “Body and Soul” have become known as “Coltrane changes.”

The compositional techniques utilized in his later periods are equally influential. The introduction of playing in a single mode for long, indeterminate periods is another compositional practice that was widely accepted in jazz due to Coltrane’s example.

The abolition of harmonic cycles helped to open the door to Coltrane’s introduction of long enduring evocations of timelessness, and hence spirituality, that are influenced by the music of various African and Indian cultures through such practices as rhythmic chanting or the playing of ragas. Even more fundamental are the expanded timbral qualities and extended range of Coltrane’s saxophone playing.

Another way to view Coltrane as an innovator is through a consideration of him as a performer. Bootleg videos of Coltrane’s 1965 tour and photographs of him from this time on reveal a bodily involvement that was quite unrestrained compared to the videos and photographs of his earlier years. As his performance practices evolved, Coltrane became less restricted by “correct” posture and instrumental technique, just as he became less bound to the conventions of harmony or of sound production.

This unself-conscious absorption in Coltrane’s late performance style is part of a virtuosic jazz act that in Coltrane’s social moment signified a transcendent process and an exalted state of concentration. It also implies that nothing is held back, that the musician is completely available to his muse, and hence to his audience. Coltrane’s musical innovations combined his harmonic and melodic discoveries with the quartet’s rhythmic innovations.

The idea that the performing musician is a conduit brings the notion of spiritual involvement to the fore. First, the preparation for the transcendent performance relies upon inspiration and genius as much as the products of the titanic composer.

Second, the performer must have a degree of humility to be able to be so transparent about his/her struggles with the form and the message of their art.

Of course, this kind of generosity with the spirit has always been recognized as a hallmark of African American performance style, and is often what is referred to as “soul.” What makes Coltrane so compelling as a performer is that he was not only one of the most soulful players, but also one of the most virtuosic, technically and harmonically, and one of the most conceptually visionary as well.

Cornel West suggests that the “professionalization of the scientific endeavor” results in the modern evasion of the dark side of humanity. The resultant idolatry of technique that West identifies in the public notion of the scientific has found its way into the realm of art. A school of jazz criticism has flourished since Coltrane’s time, and especially in the last two decades, that values perfect execution over risk-taking, that idealizes the hip or the clever idea over and above the notion of feeling the spirit through art. Coltrane’s example stands out as one of the more comprehensive rejoinders to this point of view.

It’s what sympathetic listeners claim is in Coltrane’s music: terrifying beauty, redemptive spirituality, earnest goodness, and courage.

These perceived qualities in Coltrane’s work are what fuel his legacy as a cultural prophet. While the writers of the Black Arts movement, like Amiri Baraka and Henry Dumas, saw Coltrane as a black avenger who murdered white forms musically, and white oppression symbolically, others understand him as the bearer of the message, the songs that uplift souls.

As a religious expression, his message is, of course, decidedly non-sectarian, as the sacred rituals take place in that most secular of places, the jazz club. In a sense, the ritualistic nature of his mature stages and the willingness to be explicitly spiritual in non-consecrated spaces evoke the sacred worldview of traditional societies rather than the compartmentalized modern world.

However, Coltrane’s music and understanding are modern, and his spiritual message was non-religious in the sense of expressing no single dogma. He was ecumenical in his studies of both religion and music. He was known to travel with the sacred books of various world religions, and was an avid student of the world’s folk musics. Indeed, his incorporation of Indian, South American, and African musical elements into jazz in some ways was a prototype of what we today call world music.

Because of certain events in Coltrane’s personal life, and certainly the music he created through his personal muse, we know that Coltrane was well aware of what Cornel West refers to as the “dark side of modernity.” This underside of modernity is, of course, experienced by all of humanity, but in a particular fashion by black folk in America.

Blacks have paid a disproportionate cost for so much of the spoils of the nation without being fully included in the benefits and advantages of our aspirations towards democracy or modern enlightenment. African American culture therefore necessarily remains in tension with the nation’s view of itself as innocent and as somehow being outside of the responsibility of history.

In a nation that is so identified with modernity, progress, and near invincibility, there is a push for perpetual celebration. West argues that often modernity’s celebration gives way to an evasion of the fundamental problems of human existence, of “death, disease, dread, and despair.”

It is the confrontation with these ever present conditions, along with the acceptance of the challenges and techniques of modernity, that has allowed the jazz/blues aesthetic to escape the sentimentality of much of American culture.

Coltrane’s music was ultimately a meditation upon the joy and beauty that is possible in human life through knowledge and understanding of reality and devotion to goodness. His deep awareness of death and disappointment tempered his celebration through music, and retained the character of struggle that is necessary to gain real understanding of the fundamental conditions of human existence.

Jazz has always been associated with such celebration and with the spirit of modernity. Albert Murray’s insight into the blues (which for him includes jazz as a refined expression of the blues) also associates the music with a celebration. In this case, it is a celebration of victory in the heroic battle between the individual and the cosmos. Murray also emphasizes the more mundane impulses such as the desire to play or compete with oneself that informs the music as well.

Coltrane’s music embodied these principles in such a way as to stand against the idolatry of technique that has been the potential danger of jazz ever since it became primarily a listener’s music rather than a dance music in the 1940s. Coltrane certainly embraced technical superiority and a particular methodical, scientific approach to his musical explorations. Yet, he always retained in his music a connection to black vernacular traditions, traditions in which the emotional and the spiritual were categories at least as important as the intellectual.

The revolutionary potential that is at the heart of the jazz/blues aesthetic is of course there; it is at least latent. However, Coltrane was not interested in revolution per se. He was methodical and comprehensive in his search and experiments, arriving at his mature voice after a long apprenticeship with several of the music’s greatest practitioners.

In a 1963 interview he remarked: “I’m kind of—actually, I’m groping, I’m trying to find my way. I can only try to work out of what I’ve been in…. Work my way forward, so I just try to set one stone upon another as I go.”

The quest for freedom was in Coltrane’s music all along, particularly from 1957 onward. The revolutionary zeal that characterized the music of his later years was the fruit of an evolutionary process that had unfolded more or less continuously for at least a full decade. In part, it is this coupling of such a remarkable respect for tradition with the far-reaching implications of his most radical music that makes him such an authoritative figure. Wedding these two extremes brings to the fore the notion of freedom, as opposed to unrestrained license.

The seemingly relentless exuberance that some criticize as self-indulgence was always tempered by the extraordinary levels of preparation as well as a willingness to experiment and take chances.

Coltrane’s reverence for truth required that technical restraints be placed upon his art at all times. These restraints, inasmuch as they reflect or seek truth, place the music in service of a higher good. It is intended to render the artistic creation more true to life, and to give its impact greater strength.

At the heart of Coltrane’s spirituality is the search for something he had never heard before, but believed he would recognize if he could only play it. Nevertheless, his goal proved unattainable. Whereas Early asks rhetorically whether the search for more freedom was a search for its own sake, Coltrane’s search for change becomes the journey towards an asymptotic ideal. The American emphasis on improvisation and contingency is thus recognizable in Coltrane’s artistry as a composer and performer.

Coltrane’s quest for the truth engendered huge risks that he met with courage and humility as well as with mastery of his chosen idiom. When he advised aspiring musicians to improve themselves first as persons, he drew a connection between jazz and the moral life. Certainly, for many musicians and African Americanists, Coltrane as prophet is one legitimate way of understanding his ultimate significance.

Any student of art can appreciate in Coltrane’s music the effort to wed the Dionysian passion with Apollonian control and form. Perhaps his most lasting legacy will be the example of the spirit-filled life combined with the intellectual rigor that Nietzsche called for in The Birth of Tragedy. Coltrane’s contribution to American civilization is clear, but his significance extends farther.

His music represents a compelling example of how artists wrestle with the complexity and profundity of human life.

– Various Sources

Coltrane Time

November 11, 2006

Here it is

Coltrane Live

All the greatness

In all its glory

Chasin’ the Trane

November 11, 2006

“There is never any end. There are always new sounds to imagine; new feelings to get at. And always, there is the need to keep purifying these feelings and sounds so that we can really see what we’ve discovered in its pure state. So that we can see more and more clearly what we are. In that way, we can give to those who listen the essence, the best of what we are. But to do that at each stage, we have to keep on cleaning the mirror”

Trane In Flight

November 10, 2006

“My music is the spiritual expression of what I am – my faith, my knowledge, my being. When you begin to see the possibilities of music, you desire to do something really good for people. I think music can make the world better. A musical language transcends words. I want to speak to their souls”

Coltrane 101: A Love Supreme

November 10, 2006

A Love Supreme has always been John Coltrane’s most popular album, occupying a special place in listener’s hearts since the day it was released.

A Love Supreme was the culmination of a period of restlessness and searching for Coltrane, both in his personal and professional lives. Following his release from the Miles Davis Quintet in 1956, Coltrane experienced a period of depression, followed by what he called “a spiritual awakening”.

Following intense meditation and prayer, Coltrane gave up drinking, smoking, and his destructive drug habit.

During the seven year period from 1957 to 1964, Coltrane began to become interested in nonwestern music and philosophy. He explored West African music as well as the music of India. Though he had considered himself a Christian all his life, he began to read books about Hinduism, Islam, science, astrology, yoga, and African history.

He began to have dreams in which he believed that God revealed various musical works and concepts to him. In the winter of 1964, A Love Supreme was revealed to Coltrane, in its entirety, through such a dream. He and his quartet recorded the work in December of 1964 in the same order that the tracks are programmed on the recording.

Perhaps the most fully realized work of art dedicated to God since Michaelangelo painted the Sistine Chapel.

In the liner notes, Coltrane dedicates the record to God as his “humble offering.” But Trane was not alone in his dedication. His classic quartet–made up of Elvin Jones, McCoy Tyner, and Jimmy Garrison–merge to form one transcendent entity, pushing beyond all limits to approach the divine.

This recording represents the single greatest achievement of an artist who left the world with an extensive discography full of magnificence.

The spiritual intensity of A Love Supreme leaves one profoundly moved and quietly ecstatic.

An album to be heard nightly, before bed, like a prayer.

Coltrane 101: The 1960’s Revolution

November 10, 2006

Arguably Coltrane’s finest all around album, this recording has brilliant versions of “Afro Blue” and “I Want to Talk About You”. The second half of the latter features Coltrane on unaccompanied tenor tearing into the piece but never losing sight of the fact that it is a beautiful ballad. The remainder of this album is at the same high level.

Coltrane’s music had always been explorative, now he was taking his solos one step beyond into passionate atonality, usually over explosive vamps. Most of this album is uncompromisingly intense.

This set of duets by Coltrane and drummer Rashied Ali are full of fire, emotion, and constant abstract invention. Coltrane alternates quiet moments with sections of great intensity, showing off his phenomenal technique and his ability to improvise without the need for chordal instruments.

At this point in time Coltrane was using very short repetitive themes as jumping off points for explosive improvisations, often centered around one chord and a very specific spiritual mood. Even in the most intense sections there is a logic and thoughtfulness about Coltrane’s playing.

Impressions is a collection of memorable performances from a 1961 Village Vanguard concert and studio recordings.

This album was unusual as Coltrane and his quartet were joined by a medium sized backup group. Africa is quite memorable and marked a change of pace for Coltrane.

The album features Coltrane in two different settings with his classic quartet and adds another sax, bass, and drummer on the second half of the album. Chanting and colorful percussion make this a unique recording.

Ascension throws most rules out right out the window with complete freedom from the groove and strikingly abrasive sheets of horn interplay. The group is both relentless and soulful simultaneously.

Five diverse but consistently intense movements creating powerful, dense, and emotional music. The passionate performance don’t ramble on too long and the screams and screeches fit logically into the spiritual themes.

A major set of “new music” from Coltrane. One of several “lost” sessions restored. Coltrane is as powerful as usual, showing no compromise in his intense flights, and indulging in sound explorations that are as free as any he had ever done.

Coltrane 101: Echoes Of A Giant

November 10, 2006

The album is packed solid with sonic evidence of Coltrane’s innate leadership abilities. He not only addresses the tunes at hand, but also simultaneously reinvents himself as a multifaceted interpretor of both hard bop as well as sensitive balladry, touching upon all forms in between. The triple horn arrangements incorporate an additional sonic density that remains a trademark unique to the album.

Blue Train is not only among the most important and influential albums of Coltrane’s career but of Jazz music as well.

History will enshrine this album as a watershed the likes of which may never truly be appreciated. Giant Steps bore the double-edged sword of furthering the cause of the music as well as delivering it to an increasingly mainstream audience. At the heart of these recordings is the laser-beam focus of Coltrane’s tenor solos. The arrangements would create a place for the solo to become infinitely more compelling. This would culminate in a frenetic performance style that was called “sheets of sound”. Line upon line of highly cerebral improvisation snake between the melody and the solos, practically fusing the two.

Coltrane Jazz was a good consolidation of his gains as he prepared to launch into his peak years of the 1960’s.

This landmark recording was made in less than 3 days. The unforced, practically casual soloing styles of the assembled quartet allow for tastefully executed passages. The ultimate listenability resides in the group’s capacity to not be overwhelmed by the soloist. The title track was a huge hit and the album was a big seller.

The complicated rhythm patterns and diverse sonic textures on Ole are evidence that Coltrane was once again charting his own course. Ole sports some amazing double-bass interaction. Coltrane’s combo stretches out with inspired improvisations.