Room Full of Mirrors

My day was so fraught with unexpected urgencies and aberrant activity that I barely squeezed in a record (I am such a hopeless nerd that “listen to one complete record actively” is one of the three items on my “Habit List” app. And that was done while driving from place to place; fortunately, it’s in the cab of my truck where I most completely commune, and sometimes merge, with the music.

I’ve been on a Hendrix kick lately–his work as much as anybody’s blooms perennially, in different formations and colors as I become an older listener–and I was thinking about my young friend and fellow Jimi fanatic Donnie Harden Jr., who’d been asking about the Rainbow Bridge soundtrack. His queries were to no avail because I hadn’t listened to it in awhile, so I’d brought it out to “The Lab” so I could really focus on it.

It may be crazy to say, but Hendrix is slightly underrated. 48 years in the rear view, he might as well be 48 years beyond. “Room Full of Mirrors” is, for me, the highlight of of Rainbow Bridge. The virtual meteor shower of streaking, sliding guitar lines with which he adorns this song is visceral, a shock to the synapses; I found myself wondering, “Who today can deliver such adornments?” The lyrics, too, confirm that Hendrix was a terrific personal songwriter…though in this case they seem to portend his fate.

On one side of “Room Full of Mirrors” is the slow-building, insinuating, stinging instrumental “Pali Gap” (a bit of a deep cut). On the other, is the all-Jimi studio version of “The Star Spangled Banner,” so stately, so magisterial it’s almost reverent, and thus funny (where–at least I feel this way–his Woodstock version was frequently terrifying). Almost.

The whole record’s pretty good, but its middle, its guts, is truly mesmerizing.

Noise. (April 5th, 2018, Columbia, MO)

For whatever reason (possibly that I’ve been deeply dosed in pop over the last few days), I felt I was obligated to blissfully defile my ears with weird and / or ugly noise.

The Jimi Hendrix Experience: Are You Experienced?–Weird? Ugly? I know–NOT. But I think it’s easy to forget how it might have hit folks at the time. Jimi was a genius at wrestling chaos into flow, but I got this out strictly for the explosions, feedback, and riffs that stalk your inner peace.

Pere Ubu: Datapanik in The Year Zero–Disc 1 (1975-1977)–Weird? Ugly? I know–YES! A thousand times (and ways) YES! A drunken-sounding, wheezing, groveling, murmuring, whispering, squealing, desperate, eloquently incoherent singer, tortured by a stabbing, drilling, whirring, grinding guitarist, tracked under the street by a bass threatening to break through the pavement, driven on by a drummer here-again-and-gone and a synthesizer player revving and veering in and out of the mess. What’s not to be disturbed by?

Brian Eno: Another Green World–One of the most perfectly titled albums ever. The noise here is strictly weird–never ugly, only galaxies away. And very lovely. It was always, with Miles’ In a Silent Way¬†and Robert Ashley’s Private Parts, one of my favorite Nyquil companions when I was a bachelor and sick as a dog. It’s plenty wonderful when you’re well. I love how Eno’s voice is just another synthesizer.

Maybe I was recovering from all of the pop, most of which I admittedly love. Or maybe I was receiving signals from the near-future: one of the noisiest, most unique and inventive, bravest musicians ever passed from this plane at 89. So long, unclassifiable genius. We will not see your like again.

Short-shrift Division:

Tucked away down here, under all the noise, a confession: I think Chloe x Halle’s The Kids Are Alright might be the best r & b, the best pure pop album of the year. I can’t get enough of it: great singing, surprising arrangements, inspiring content.

Report from the Road (March 9th, 2018, Monett, Missouri)

Some musical musings from the road:

Jimi Hendrix: Both Sides of the Sky–Despite a blazing “Hear My Train a-Comin'” and an interesting “Cherokee Mist,” this is flat-out barrel-scraping. Stephen Stills, anyone? I didn’t think so.

Hamad Kalkaba and the Golden Sounds–I can’t get enough of these rough and ready tracks from mid-Seventies Cameroon. Aside from the rhythmic propulsion, which one might expect…oh the horns ‘n’ guitars! And I love Analog Africa’s album cover.

Etta Jones: Lonely and Blue–Have you met Miss Jones? If you love Dinah Washington (and why shouldn’t you), you must make her acquaintance. She lacks Dinah’s power, humor, and intensity, but like Washington she can sing the blues. Also, Etta’s edges are mellower, which can make this particular album addictive.

Gang Starr: Daily Operation–I always found Guru and Premier’s enterprise underrated (at least here in the Midwest), and here in 2018 I find it has aged very, very well. A uniquely perpetual flow (delivered with equally unique warmth) atop expert beats and jazz-tinged samples and instrumentation.

The Kinks: Face to Face–Hey, if you just know the hits, Something Else, and Village Green, you might be missing their most underrated album. Quirky, funny, rowdy, thieving, eccentric, gender-ambiguous (in a moment), very English: all the things they were, entertainingly performed, in one place. Ok, maybe no power chording. Thank you, Kenny Wright, for enthusing about it all those years ago.

‚ÄúI‚Äôm in a Time Zone!‚ÄĚ (January 31st, 2018, Columbia, Missouri)

‘Twas a busy day tutoring students, observing student teachers, and socializing with friends, but I did slip in some tunage. I was in Nicole’s car, for which I’ve prepared not one but TWO eight-gig mp3 players (I’m a sick man). Her old standby is packed with New Orleans and Memphis music, plus the purt-near complete recordings of Dead Moon and Pierced Arrows; the other I rotate new acquisitions in and out of to try to keep her up to date, and it happened to be plugged into the system yesterday. I rather casually whipped through the playlists and landed first on a neat compilation of recordings made for the Celluloid label. The highlights:

Lightnin’ Rod’s (really, Last Poet Jalal Nuriddin’s) jive tribute to the wiles of Miss “Doriella du Fontaine.” His rap is strong, but there’s somebody baaaaad compin’ and fillin’ on guitar…

A classic team-up of two individualists who’ve had sone questionable moments lately but were apocalyptically on-point on “World Destruction,” under the guise of Time Zone. Afrika Bambaataa: “Who wants to be a president or a king?” John Lydon: “Me!”

A stone jam by Material, featuring honorary Rolling Stone Bernard Fowler on vocals and another baaaad man riffin’ on guitar. Funny how all three of these recordings mask a legend or two!

I also squeezed in this terrific recent release from Analog Africa, with sharp guitar, great percussion and powerful vocals–one of my favorite records of 2017.

I achieved my goal: to write about what I listened to every day in January, and thereby get my writing in better shape. I hope that, at times, I’ve been interesting, pleasurable, and–especially–useful to read. I’m going to shoot for keeping it up until December 31.

Thanks for visiting!

Good to My Ear- and Eyehole Since Last I Posted: Part 3, The Heard.

Finally, the actual music. ¬†And, by the way, just to be clear: not surprisingly, I have many music nerd friends, but I have many more friends who are simply overwhelmed by the amount of music that is available to them, compared to the relative slim pickin’s of their teens. I suppose this is a statement of purpose for this blog (you can exhale now), but since my range of musical interest is pretty broad, since I am damned social and have a pretty decent Innertube reach, and since I am very obviously not an intellectual, bent on hardcore critical analysis, but rather…a musical proselytizer, I am a decent option for those overwhelmed masses. And if not, well, at least I am entertaining myself and keeping a record of what was keeping me sane when. Also, not all of the releases below are new–I don’t understand how anyone can devote themselves exclusively to new music, with as rich a history as we’ve got, but, again, the digital flood threatens to carry away some grand old slabs, and I will make it a point to alert you to some of them, too.

Since what’s ahead is a slew, I am gonna try to do these piquantly in no more than three sentences….

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Serengeti: Kenny Dennis III (Joyful Noise)

I suspect with this particular persona of David Cohn (one he’s been exceptionally devoted to of late) that you’re either a fan or you’re not. I am, all the way, but after the opener, and just like last time, I’d like a little more rappin’ (and beats, too) and a little less talkin’. Then along comes Track 15: “Get Back to Rap.” Time: 0:26. After two plays, ‘Geti’s way with a story arc starts to get to you, and you start to realize you have to hear this as something other than rap.

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Archie Shepp and the Attica Blues Orchestra: I Hear the Sound (Archie Ball)

Shepp’s exploring something here that hasn’t been mined enough–and he helped start it back in the volcanic ’60s. There’s very, very nice singing (including some rough vocalizing from Shepp), wise words, powerful large-ensemble playing, strings, and, of course, some free outbursts¬†in just the right places, at just the right duration–and the kicker is the blend is very well-balanced and makes one hell of a statement, to me: keep hoeing this row. I wager it’ll age better than Shepp’s original Attica Blues, and there is plenty of room for more practitioners. By the way, it’s live, and that will stun you, because it’s studio sharp. It is also wonderfully rhapsodic, and, as your mind drifts back to the original Attica Blues release and its turbulent social context, you may find yourself in winding and interesting thoughts about what’s happened in between, and just what this records says about it. Note: some southern college marching band needs to learn “Mama Too Tight.”

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Marvin Gaye: Here, My Dear (Hip-O Select)

I¬†bought this as a cut-out in the Eighties, then rebought it as a specialty reissue with a bonus disc of remixes, and I don’t know why, because both times it underwhelmed me. It’s Marvin relatively near the tragic end, wrasslin’ with divorce and debt, and opting to turn that into a concept album. The cover art seemed to be the best thing about it–biggest problem, I thought, was…it¬†was¬†musically boring. As so often happens, though, I brought it out to the truck (small cab, good stereo, just enough drive time to really concentrate), turned it up to about 7, and the vocals, lyrics, and nakedness wrassle the music (which is extremely well-played, it’s just not too varied melodically) into submission. Recommended to Kanye in about a year.

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Bob Dylan and The Band: The Basement Tapes–Complete (Columbia)

Many folks have been waiting a long time for this, and, by God, they did it right with the big box (in my humble opinion, they flubbed the budget version). Trouble is, to quote half a Marvin Gaye title from Here, My Dear, “it’s gonna cost you.” You’re gonna hear that it’s like a Van Gogh sketchbook (correct: and I must emphasize, with the pieces that got finished¬†often bowling you over, in very noticeably improved sound). You’re gonna hear that Disc 6 is rough and a waste (incorrect: the whole disc is¬†quite funny, moving, and listenable–250% better than Having Fun on Stage with Elvis Presley–and a few individual recordings are eternal). You’re gonna hear that the Americana genre was born here (correct, but don’t blame them, please, any more than you’d blame Gram Parsons or Ronnie Van Zant). I’m telling you now, and I hope you hear it, that if you can afford it and you’re a Dylanophile, do not think twice–it’s all right. Bonus: you don’t have to get rid of the ’75 Columbia release, as it has The Band tracks (not here–they weren’t “from the basement,” really), compressed sound that has its own virtues when compared to the opened-out quality here, and, in the long run, no necessity to be programmed in your CD player or ‘puter. I listened to the six discs consecutively, was ready to grimace, and never did. Notes and pics are cool, too.

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Wadada Leo Smith: The Kabell Years 1971-1979 (Tzadik) and Red Hill (Rarenoise)

Trumpeter Smith’s AACM pedigree and Mississippi roots would seem to have guaranteed he’d have been in my ear 25 years ago, but I first laid ears on him two weeks back. The former two-CD box captures him at what many adepts I know consider his peak, but he was a Pulitzer finalist for the ambitious and stunning multi-disc 10 Freedom Summers in 2012, and jazzbos are touting the latter as one of the best jazz platters of the year. Free is not everyone’s bag, and some would argue he’s not even all that free, but I’ll say this: he sounds to me like what would have happened if Miles had gone off the commercial rails in ’68¬†(don’t get me wrong: I LOVE WHAT HE DID AFTER THAT), ¬†headed to Chicago, and decided to forego coke and groupies. Also, even when his groups are wiggin’ out (primarily on Red Hill, and his new pianist is very familiar with Cecil Taylor), Smith brings a very strong feeling of peace, serenity, and intellectual reflection to the attentive listener. On the strength of these two rekkids, he’s in my Top 10 Free/Experimental Jazz pantheon.

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Jerry Lee Lewis: Rock and Roll Time (Vanguard)

Surely he has no gas left! After two straight pretty dang-good comeback records! Do you know who we are talking about here???? Opens with a conceptually perfect Kristofferson copyright, swings through some Killer meat ‘n’ potatoes, then–whaddya know?–sets Jerry Lee up with a Skynyrd song! It’s about fucking time. I’ve been dreaming for years of a producer ballsy enough to put together a set of songs from the likes of Ely, Gary Stewart, Ronnie Van Zant, Tony Joe White, Bobby Charles–writers tapped into the man’s main stream–and then sell it. This ain’t that, but it is very, very good, in fact, it has a Muscle Shoals vibe. The piano’s a little quieter–he is plagued by arthritis, though not in the fingers–but the voice is still there, and the mind definitely gets it. This makes me so happy I could gulp a handful of Black Mollys and buy a personal jet. Note: Rick Bragg’s new biography/assisted memoir is a perfect contemplative companion.

Last Home

Peter and Caspar Brotzmann: Last Home (Pathological)

Peter, a terrorist on the saxophone whose Machine Gun is probably the most balls-out recording of all-time, I knew about. He can indefatigably unleash torrents, but also shift into a surprisingly affective lyrical mode. Until this recording, I didn’t know much about Brother Caspar, who plays electric guitar. Suffice it to say that he holds his own with a later compatriot of his brother’s: none other than Sonny Sharrock. Maybe my favorite Brotzmann release, and thanks to the great Isaac Davila of Springfield, Missouri, for the loan.

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Jimi Hendrix: Live at the Oakland Coliseum (Dagger)

After reading (many years after its release) and loving Charles Cross’ biography Roomful of Mirrors, I had to have me more Hendrix. And I already have a lot. In a long-ago article, an obscure critic named Robert Christgau mentioned this, from a series of official bootlegs released by the Hendrix estate, as something he liked, but warned about the sound. Dagger didn’t put these in stores; you had to get ’em straight from the site, which it looks like you still can. I took the plunge, and, I have to say, across two discs of a surprisingly professional audience recording, Hendrix and band are¬†on. For a bootleg, it’s a B+/A-, and if you are a diehard, I seriously recommend it. 18 minutes of live “Voodoo Chile”? Say no, I dare ye.

Electric Spank

Funkadelic: The Electric Spanking of War Babies (Warner Brothers)

This early ’80s offering from the mind of Dr. Funkenstein and his crazed collaborators has gotten lost in the shuffle, with ’70s albums like One Nation Under a Groove¬†garnering most of the laurels. I myself, upon first purchasing it when it was released, thought it was a mess, slightly unworthy of its not-exactly-tidy predecessors. After reading George’s purty-good/not-bad memoir, I slapped it on for the first time in years, and came away thinking, “This is consistent“–that is, consistent in the mode of Uncle Jam. So, if you’ve read the memoir, and you’ve never got out of the Seventes with ’em, and you’re in need–here, my dear. Highlights: slogans, as always (“When you/learn to dance/you won’t forget it!”); post-Hendrix guit (not quite enough, but oh well); Sly Stone’s last coherent offering; Pedro Bell’s album art; reggae that works; prescient commentary on “The Greatest Generation.” We love you, George.

Shapiro

Paul Shapiro: Shofarot Verses (Tzadik)

I feel like describing this record the way you would a gourmet meal (OK, maybe the record isn’t that good, but it’s very good): hints of klezmer, overtones¬†of Lee Allen and Earl Bostic, and a backbone (OK, that’s not a gourmet term) of Marc Ribot,¬†2014 instrumentalist of the year, name your category as long as it isn’t classical. Recommended strongly to practicing Jews who may wonder where their cultural influence has gone.

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Natural Child: A bunch of 45 and digital EP tracks that ought to be collected (Infinity Cat, Burger, et al)

If you actually read me, you know (or suspect) I will go to my grave fighting for these Nashville boys, who, without a goddam doubt, have been shortchanged by the “indie” “rock” press. Pitchfuck, you are in the scope; you’ll review Beyonce, and not these guys? But. No matter. I myself confess that if you’ve only bought their albums, you don’t know the half. Their early singles, represented¬†either by (usually digital) EPs or 45s (two split), contain the essence by which you can truly appreciate the later records. “Shame Walkin'” (about a dude that doesn’t want to fuck, but feels he has to), “Nobody Wants to Party with Me” (flipside of the paradigmical rock and roll night), “Mother Nature’s Daughter” (best Neil Young imitation ever–in fact, it ain’t no mere imitation!), ” Dogbite” (perfect song for wanting to get the hell out of wherever you’re stuck), “Gas Station” (a Liquor Store cover that they have to have completely identified with, given their touring ways), “Crack Mountain” (“I just want to smoke crack with my friends!”), “Easy Street” (to quote the New York Dolls: “If I want too many things/Well, I’m a human being!”), “Cougar” (seriously, these guys don’t just want to get laid), “Don’t Wake the Baby” (from the above-pictured 45, the bleariest, most tequila-soaked, but most charming one-night-stand song of all-time), “The Jungle” (a great spontaneous hootenanny): folks, their greatest album isn’t an album. This is a call to collect the singles, then dare Pitchfork, Pop Matters, Expert Witness (yeah, YOU, Christgau) to say no. I am not WRONG. Seen ’em four times in four different cities, listened to everything they’ve ever put out thrice over, I am fifty-fucking-two and have listened to music AVIDLY for forty-two of them. I am not WRONG. You know what you have to do, people.

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Various Artists: The Ann Arbor Blues Festival 1972 (Atlantic)

Hound Dog Taylor, Sun Ra, Otis Rush, Sippie Wallace (abetted by Bonnie Raitt), Junior Walker, Bobby “Blue” Bland, Koko Taylor, Dr. John? In great fidelity? In great form? Wait–Sun Ra’s in there? Yeah. And the pretty-free CJQ. Oh, did I mention…Howlin’ Wolf and Muddy Waters? With John Sinclair as a kind of liner-note MC? I know: where has this record been all your life? Personally, the only other festival I’d rather have been at would be Monterey.

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Billy Bang: Prayer for Peace (TUM)

I miss Billy Bang dearly. One of the greatest jazz violinists of all-time (saying something, because there’s Fiddler Williams, Stephane Grappelli, Ray Nance, Leroy Jenkins, and Bang’s great model, Stuff Smith) not only never made a bad album, but a) could swing a lot of jazz directions, and b) as befitting his being a veteran of the Vietnam War, always had something to say about peace. This fantastic record is not as wide-open as some of his others–the perfect invitation for the hesitant–but it’s deep, and, while Bang’s playing is as moving and richly-toned as usual, miraculously encompassing his scarring and his commitment to transcend it, trumpeter James Zollar almost steals the record from him. Bonus: they cover, and cut, the Buena Vista Social Club.

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Negativland: It’s All in Your Head¬†(Seeland)

Navigate to that label’s website, and you can order this cheap two-CD set, which comes encased in a King James Bible. Disc one’s Christian; disc two’s Muslim, with a slash of Judaism. Both sides are undercut by a voice screaming “There is no God!” and a seeming four-year-old explaining why God doesn’t make sense. Woven throughout are some¬†experts struggling¬†to reconcile religion with science, and other patiently¬†dismissing it. These warriors¬†have been quiet for awhile, and it may come as a surprise to some listeners that it’s a live performance. The title is the concept, and, while it’s not as musical as past releases, in many ways it’s just as liberating. Recommended to Neil DeGrasse Tyson and his army.

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Buck Clayton and Buddy Tate: Buck & Buddy/Blow the Blues (Swingville/Original Jazz Classics)

Basie buddies, veterans of the big band territory wars and numerous harrowing car and bus tours that would have brought today’s players in any genre to their knees, Clayton and Tate, on this terrific two-fer-one, swing in a blue mood. The musical equivalent of your grandfather schooling you on the front porch, just before bedtime. Buck wields trumpet, Buddy a very Texas tenor. You know? If you just don’t get jazz, how about starting here? Nothing to get, everything to feel.

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Trio 3 (with Vijay Iyer): Wiring (Itakt)

The big attraction is three crafty African American veterans–one, Oliver Lake, with a¬†St. Louis Black Artists Group pedigree; one, Reggie Workman, a former Trane sideman; one, Andrew Cyrille, a compatriot of Cecil Taylor and David Murray–and a¬†(relatively) young South Indian, Vijay Iyer, laying into a Trayvon Martin suite.¬†¬†But the record as a whole is my favorite small-combo jazz record of the year. To my mind, this particular gathering is an event, and, in no small way, an elevation of Iyer to the masters’ mantle.

Good to My Ear- and Eyehole Since Last I Posted: Part 2, The Read.

Part of the reason I’ve struggled keeping this blog updated regularly is I am a compulsive reader. If 24 hours pass and I haven’t read a page or two of something other than what I’m teaching my students, The Week,¬†The Columbia Tribune, or liner notes, I feel as if I have committed a venality. I’m such a dork, I have my Goodreads blogroll on the opening page of this site, plus I have challenged myself to read 105 books this year, up four from 2013, and I am at 91 as of today. I have even bet my literacy class a pizza party that, as a class of 15, they cannot outread me by the end of the semester (we are currently tied–you have to remember these are kids who struggle with reading, whom I only see every other day, and who have serious difficulty reading at home). I don’t read music tomes exclusively; in fact, they are usually in the minority–except for recently, which accounts for what follows, although I regret that I haven’t yet cracked the weirdly-authored and -titled Jerry Lee Lewis: My Own Story, by Rick Bragg.

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Todd Snider: I Never Met a Story I Didn’t Like:¬†Mostly True Tall Tales) (Da Capo, 2014)

If your a Snider adept, like me, you might ask yourself, “Do I need to read this?” Answer: unequivocally, yes. Yes, you do get many stories you already know from concerts and records, but you also get the stories behind the stories, which, when they involve Jerry Jeff Walker, John Prine, Kris Kristofferson, Jimmy Buffet, Billy Joe Shaver and a host of less immortal rounders, are a serious trip. You also will get inspired, page by page, to live life while you’re living, even if Snider himself may be dead before he hits 50 (fucker will probably live to 90). If you don’t know the man, you can actually read this, enjoy the hell out of it, and go straight to those records you missed. Note: His compassion for outside-the-law dudes is well-documented, but he’s equally compassionate when it comes to outside-the-law babes. Props, buddy.

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Frank M. Young and David Lasky (illustrations): The Carter Family: Don’t Forget This Song (Abrams Comicarts, 2012)

Things to recommend this GREAT graphic novel: a) the illustrations and text match the deadpan beauty of Carter Family music; b) the chapter titles (Carter Family song titles) wittily match the stories that follow;¬†c) it doesn’t shirk on the black influence on the Carter Thing, and it certainly ain’t romanticized; d) it’s written and illustrated to show how much ASS these Carter women kicked; e) it comes with a CD of rareties; and f) I got it cheap at an Osage Beach outlet store. What else do you want?

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Charles Cross: Room Full of Mirrors: A Biography of Jimi Hendrix (Hyperion, 2006)

A huge fan of Cross’ Cobain bio, Heavier Than Heaven,¬†in which he just puts its head down, does a shitload of research, conducts a million interviews, and undermines miles of bullshit conspiracy theories, I wanted to read this immediately when it came out, but was vexed by middling reviews by folks I trusted. Children, a lesson: fuck reviews. If it’s a subject or writer you dig, go ahead with your bad self. Goosed by my love for the film Jimi: All is By My Side¬†and curious about its degree of factual accuracy, I picked this up eight years after it came out, and within 100 pages quietly paid penance for not trusting my instincts. A Pacific Northwesterner himself, Cross is interested in his subjects beyond their celebrity, and works his ass off to get the story right. Most moving here is the long-time influence of Hendrix’s mother, whose funeral Jimi’s dad forbade him to attend (the bastard) and whose Seattle grave (in the same cemetery as Hendrix and his dad’s elaborate tomb) is still uncommemorated, and the similarities between Hendrix’s and Cobain’s sad goodbyes: they could not exit the grind, and had no one handy who knew how to facilitate it. I was also blown away to learn that, by Cross’ account, Hendrix spent more days hungry than Elvis–and, you know, Elvis had his mom behind him as he penetrated into cultural acclaim. BTW: that movie nobody went to, Jimi: All is By My Side? With a few exceptions, it’s pretty damned factually accurate, and, affectively, as they say, it’s spot-on.

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George Clinton (with Ben Greenman):¬†Brothas Be, Yo Like George, Ain’t That Funkin’ Kinda Hard on You?: A Memoir (Atria, 2014)

If you’re like me, you have got to be saying, “How can this NOT be a thrill-ride?” If Greenman just captured the voice that once uttered, “With the rhythm that makes [us]¬†dance to what we have to live through/You can dance underwater and not get wet, OH!” the plot points would be immaterial. Well, the book’s only boring when, in the latest music memoir fashion, it lapses into attorneys and addiction in its final quarter, but for the other three-fourths, George gives us precious little detail regarding¬†what P-Funk sessions were really like, and, come on, isn’t that what you were hoping for? As far as the voice is concerned, Greenman dries out Uncle Jam’s naturally funky delivery, though it does raise up when barbering and fishing are under discussion. Really, it’s a pretty funny read, but not revelatory–for that, I am afraid you must still go to the much slimmer (159 pages!) but much stankier¬†George Clinton and P-Funk: An Oral History (For the Record), a David Mills-written and Dave Marsh-edited oral history that lets it all hang out. Also: Blipp needs to get its shit figured out–the cover trigger doesn’t deliver 1/20th of what it promises.

Good to My Ear- and Eyehole Since Last I Posted: Part 1, The Seen.

For various reasons–I’m busy, but I am retired, so I don’t know exactly how that’s happening–I haven’t updated the ol’ blog for awhile, but I have so much music-related material under my mind’s belt that it’s about to explode, so time to let it loose, I suppose.

 Jimi: All Is By My Side (written and directed by John Ridley)

This movie opened poorly, and it was already burdened by the Hendrix estate’s refusal to let Ridley use any original music. On top of that, it’s about an icon whose myth and reality (occasionally, on that latter count) are¬†very firmly embedded in the public imagination already, an icon who’s famous for his wildness, though his gentleness of spirit might be his defining artistic spirit, even if you’re thinking about the lines he played. Considering those obstacles, the film is pretty brilliant. It covers the year leading up to Hendrix’s cataclysmic Monterey Pop appearance–the band is striding through the¬†San Francisco airport toward the show in the final scene–when the guitarist’s confidence and fortunes were crucially bolstered by key figures on the sidelines who totally believed in him. The performances are excellent, the story is genuinely moving (and, contrary to reports you may have heard, exceptionally accurate, if Charles Cross’ meticulously researched Room Full of Mirrors¬†is any measure), and the music? I think the news that no Hendrix music would be in the film has scared away potential moviegoers, but I argue that the sound of the Experience (and, in one scene, Cream) that’s concocted by three guys you may know (last names Wachtel, Sklar, and Keltner) is audaciously good, as close as anyone’s going to get to sound of the original trio. I was so impressed I waited for the music credits, and laughed out loud with joy when I saw them. No hagiography, either.

Chucho Valdes and Conrad Herwig’s Latin Side, The Missouri Theater, Columbia, Missouri, October 2

This show represented the 20th anniversary of Jon Poses’ We Always Swing Jazz Series, which has made Columbia one of the best places to be for black classical musical in the Bible Belt. The 73-year-old Valdez, a pianist who can roll Garner, Powell, Taylor, and any Latin ivory-tickler you care to name into a big ball and thrust it at the sun, opened with a magnificently florid, funny, and romantic solo recital, and Oklahoma trombonist Herwig’s unit, which has skillfully Latinized the songbooks of several modern composers over the years, did a wonderful number on some hard bop classics, to name a few, Wayne Shorter’s “Ping Pong,” Horace Silver’s “Peace,” and Joe Henderson’s “Inner Urge.” On sax for the night were Joe Lovano, looking happily hip in brown Chucks and suit and playing with fire and restraint, and Craig Hardy, who played baritone live for the first time in his career as well as other saxes. Mr. Poses has worked his ass off to bring these great sounds to us on a regular basis, and he ought to be proud. I am sure his mother, who was in attendance, feels the same way.

Mr. Dynamite: The Rise of James Brown (directed by Alex Gibney)

A long-time fan of Mr. Gibney, I wasn’t surprised that he nailed this project. Note the title: “rise of.” There is no TMZ-titillatin’ shit-show section; the film is about why Brown is and should be an American cultural god. Besides the wealth of mind-, eye-, and ear-boggling unseen footage, besides the great and surprising insights of Christian McBride on the links between JB’s funk innovations and jazz, besides the hilarious reflections of producer Mick Jagger on the infamous Brown-Stones “battle” on The T.A.M.I Show, the documentary shines most brightly during clips of Brown–reputedly resuscitated immediately after birth by an aunt, forced to live in the woods as a child, abandoned by his mother and violent father as a preteen, employed to tout for a whorehouse when he should have been playing Pee Wee Football, and in and out of reform schools throughout his later teenage years–speaking fiercely, eloquently, with amazing self-possession for black America to various clueless television interviewers during the most volatile time in our recent social history. Extremely, extremely moving–people, that’s all I want in my music intake, whether live, on film, off the page, or spinning out of digitalization.

Barrence Whitfield and The Savages, Off Broadway, St. Louis, Missouri, October 4

Since hearing about Barrence in the mid-Eighties and having snapped up his great hard r&b albums on Mamou and Rounder, I have been wanting to witness the man in the person; there’s really been no one else so intensely honoring the wild and noble tradition of H-Bomb Ferguson and Little Richard, but Missouri isn’t that logical a place for him to shake it. I wouldn’t have thought it likely, but 31 years after first hearing about him, I finally had a chance to see him–with the two Lyres who originally accompanied him flanking him like apostles. The set was fierce, a mix of his very strong recent tracks on Norton, his great originals and excavations from the Eighties, and some surprises, like the Beatle Bob-requested “Have Love, Will Travel.” The little fireplug’s lost nothing in the vocal department, so if he swings your way, don’t miss your chance.