Moptops in the Offing (April 1st, 2018, Columbia, MO)

Midwife

“There’s such a lot of slang in [American] songs, and their diction leaves a lot to be desired!”

So Shelagh Turner prissily scolds, as The Chiffons’ “He’s So Fine” wafts from the family’s car radio; meanwhile, back at Nonnatus House, Trixie, Barbara, and Cynthia are twistin’ and boppin’ along happily as the song beams its aural sunlight there. It’s the winter of ’62 and ’63 on Call the Midwife (Season 7, Episode 1, to be exact), and it’s so cold that great girl group tune is like a space heater.

I love pretty much everything about Call the Midwife: the cast, the unspooling of a particularly interesting time, the eye cast where no show has tread before, the centrality of working class lives, the camaraderie between the nurses, Sister Monica Joan’s savvy lit-quoting–its virtues are abundant. I particularly love the show’s soundtrack, of course, which functions in many ways, one of which is to reveal how the sound of English radio often reflected changes in social mores; up until the last season, we’d heard few people of color, but that’s gradually changing. A new midwife hailing from Jamaica may have an influence on the house tastes, as well.

As far back as Season 5, I’ve been waiting for the inevitable moment when The Beatles will enter the nuns’, nurses’ and other East Enders’ lives and shake it up. As Season 7 opens, the Liverpudlians have hit the charts; however, their first official Record Retailer #1, “From Me to You,” will be springing with Spring on May 2, 1963–four short months away. If The Chiffons are a threat to the very language the characters speak, and tingle-instigators in presently unspeakable places–well, unspeakable in this context, what havoc will The Fab Four wreak?

It’s funny–I just realized I’m behind. We have had to wait for the shows to become free for streaming on PBS, so the reader may know the answer already.

Don’t spoil it for me!

Short-shrift Division:

I am not a religious man, but I’d go so far as to claim my wife and I claim a feeling for the spirit of life. Easter was on Nicole’s mind, Dr. King was on mine (thanks to terrific pieces by in Sunday’s New York Times by Michael Eric Dyson and Wendi C. Thomas), and we chose corresponding music for our meditation.

Various Artists: Jesus Rocked the Jukebox–a grrrrrreat starter for someone interested in ’50s small-group gospel that lit the fuse for the rock and roll explosion and is still extremely exciting.

Aretha’s Gold–You know, she did what she could with her vocal limitations…

Al Green: Call Me–The greatest soul singer of the Seventies greatest album. Straight soul, gospel, country covers, some mild politics, all sung with electrifying delicacy.

The Essential Ann Peebles–Give her some credit: she’s only one of the most exciting singers St. Louis ever produced!

 

 

Free Man and Woman (March 22-23, 2018, Columbia, Missouri)

March 22

Our anniversary celebration continued as we witnessed a dynamic, playful, and moving performance by the great Chicago saxophonist Chico Freeman and his band. Freeman performed at Whitmore Recital Hall at the University of Missouri’s School of Music (where over 20 years ago we’d heard his legendary father Von); with him were Kenny Davis on bass, the impish young drummer Mark Whitfield, Jr., and a pianist whose name escapes me (as it briefly did Freeman) but who played smartly in the absence of Anthony Wonsey, who was snowed in on the east coast. The show was part of Columbia’s “We Always Swing” series, and earlier in the day Freeman had dedicated the series’ jazz lending library, which is named in his father honor. The elder Freeman, unfortunately passed from this plane, was himself a majestic and original saxophonist of great skill and wide influence.

If you’ve not chanced to hear him play, Chico Freeman regularly captures the same moody, searching tone Coltrane gets in songs like “Equinox.” Like any graduate of Chicago’s Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians, he’s a heckuva writer, too, and in the AACM tradition, his set, with the exception of one standard that he took apart Rollins-style and introduced with a magic cadenza, the tunes were either his or other jazz players’. The highlights of the show both tapped into the Coltrane legacy: Freeman’s own “Elvin,” an emotional tribute to that giant of drumming, and a set-closing trip through McCoy Tyner’s “African Village.” The concert was engrossing, and we thank Mr. Jon Poses, the mastermind behind the quarter-century-old series, for working tirelessly to bring jazz geniuses like Freeman to mid-Missouri.

The complete set list (w/links to other performances of the songs by Freeman):

Black Inside

Elvin

Free Man” (written for Freeman by Antonio Farao)

Dark Blue” (for Duke Ellington)

“My One and Only Love” (we think)

“To Hear a Teardrop in the Rain”

Dance of Light for Luani” (for his daughter)

African Village” (McCoy Tyner)

March 23

Morning: I celebrated my liberation unto Spring Break 2018 by giving some blood then stirring up what I had left with some more saxophone music, this time courtesy of the Swedish maniac Mats Gustafsson and the band ZU, whose new record, intriguingly titled How to Raise an Ox, is one of the year’s best jazz records. It is not for the faint of heart.

Afternoon: I sampled, on a Xgauvian tip, the new electronic-y Monk tribute by Tim Conley (aka MAST) called Thelonious Sphere Monk. I’ll give anything Monk-oriented a spin, and I did kinda like this–in the right mood I’ll put it on again–but it did smooth out the inventive angles that are one of the many wonders of Thelonious’ music. In a related development, it also makes these famous compositions ideal for occupying a social background–a place they’ve always stubbornly resisted, in my experience. I dunno. Not giving up on it yet.

Evening: After a few margaritas and tequila shots, Nicole, finally freed herself from the grip of public school teaching, and I drove carefully around our neighborhood YELLING THE ENTIRETY OF THE BEATLES’ CLASSIC ALBUM BEATLES FOR SALE AT THE TOP OF OUR LUNGS! Try it some time–it’s good for the soul!