The Air Is Still and the Light Is Cool #15

Randy Weston, Uhuru Afrika (off The Complete Recordings, 1958-1960). Weston has returned to robust, even dominant, percussion sections ever since this album was released 56 years ago. I cannot recommend this collection enough, though Weston remains undiminished. He will always be near my heart because of the solo-piano performance he gave in Boston the night after the marathon bombings. The audience was beyond edgy into half-terrified. With perfect timing Weston gave a brief speech that affirmed music was more potent than fear or even violence and that it could heal better than any medicine. And his rippling lines full of meditation and peace lived up to it.

We went out as renewed as I’ve ever felt.


[But of course the terrible events in Cambridge that night were just unfolding as the concert ended and our guts clenched up all over again as we exited.  Hordes of armored police vans screamed down the road headed for the Mass. Ave. bridge.]

Grandma Bring Him Back

On the radio this morning, heard a band so indebted to Nirvana I immediately had the very specific itch to hear them. So to inaugurate them on the revamped turntable, I pulled out the first piece of music I ever bought by Nirvana: the so-called “Visible Man” 12″ 45 featuring “Sliver” b/w”Dive” and “About a Girl” (live).

I picked it up because it was forcefully recommended by Mr. Joe Levy who, in one of the most astute and prophetic judgements about music I’ve ever heard, informed me it was a knockout signal by a band that was going to be very important. Heard it once and knew he was right. Though it creeped me out for years that the first time I thought Cobain was singing “Die, die, die, die with me/Die, die, die, die with me.”

Dr. Flummoxbollocks: Or How We Learned To Stop Remembering and Botch Sane Discussion of THE BOMB

A must-read about the remarks at Hiroshima and why they were the way they were and why it matters.

All I think needs to be added is that the lapse during and after the Ike Era is that it was almost too terrifying to talk about nukes or even think deeply about them. World War III was very real and seemed so inevitable you had to put it out of your mind or you couldn’t get up in the morning to be a glorious upright American Citizen.

The hardened attitudes described in the article are sadly undeniable now. Using nukes, or at least constantly threatening to use them, is seen as ultimate macho. Fighting to eliminate them for the future of mankind is seen as an invitation to slavery if it wasn’t so obviously impossible anyway. As I’ve said before, the sleepwalking that accompanies these outlooks nowadays assures that sooner or later, one or more ICBMs will go off somewhere on earth. Only then will there be a chance to end our slavery to nuclear weapons.


Explaining Hodor’s Time Paradox

This was an event/mystery that I thought did need some extra explaining.

My belief is that causality loops are forbidden by the nature of the universe in that time only moves in one direction, forward. I reject multiverse explanations because they are inherently untestable — it’s no better than invoking gods. However, I also believe that if some way of traveling into the future is invented, the instant it works, temporal chaos will increase eternally because more and more and more and more people will vault into the future — forever. Plunging further and further ahead trying to escape a time so crammed with hordes and hordes from the past.

Now, because time does move forward, I do not believe such a cataclysm is impossible.

Finally, I nonetheless find the explanation that Hodor becomes Wylis as he dies quite convincing and satisfying.

San Francisco/Berkeley Swag, Pt. Two: Music (Part Two)

Bob Kuban and the In-Men, Look Out for The Cheater (Musicland, 1966 — LP). Looking to support some smaller indies, I was a bit surprised to find no less than three shops in SF, fairly close to one another, who sold nothing but vinyl. This is not good, though it might seem like an encouraging sign. If all three places are going after the same audience, it’s certain that at least a couple of them won’t make it. Again, there’s limitations with selling popular art that’s only backward-facing. Still, I have to say this was a small score. Especially back in the late-’80s/early ’90s when the lurid and caustically ironic story of the lead singer’s murder was fresh news, I would run across the occasional copy of this album (was a hit record, after all, then went right into the forgotten bin), but at horrendous inflated prices. Not worth it considering the music is little more than okay-plus. But for $4? Yeah, I’ll keep this vinyl curio to show folks.

E.T. Mensah and the Tempos, King of Highlife Anthology (RetroAfric, 2015, four discs and 60-page booklet-insert). Though I missed it last year, this goes right to the top of reissues. In practice, it’s the first indelible introduction to Mensah ever issued in the CD years. Even scrounging through African-pop specialty stores back in the day, vinyl by Mensah remained hard to find, which, given his enormous historic importance and influence (and hell, that he inspired RetroAfric in the first place), was downright weird and puzzling. Sound is acres clearer here than I’ve ever heard before. Makes the ties to American big bands clearer and the brilliance of Mensah’s transformation of the styles much more vivid. Includes all the hits and a passel of tracks never reissued on disc before. Wowsers.

Dawn Oberg, Bring (Blossom Theory, 2015) and Rye (Blossom Theory, 2012). Pick by both Bob Xgau and the folks at Green Apple Books and that’s solid endorsement enough for me. In the process of assimilating. Important in this postliterate era that precise and free-flying lyrics persist. More conclusions later (maybe).

Alim Quasimov, Azerbaidjan (Ocara, 1993). Saw this singer about a decade ago in a concert with his daughter also doing vocals. She was fluent and fascinating; Dad was incredible. More proof that gorgeous voices can transcend any limits of language and culture and mode of music. Accompanied by just kamancha, tar, and his own daf, Quasimov delivers a full, quicksilver sound that surges you right along, even through a 44-minute medley. This came out when he was about 35 and at a peak of his powers.

Tabla Beat Science, Live in San Francisco at Stern Grove (Axiom, 2002). Enjoyed the studio release by this outfit a great deal. May not have gotten this because I fell off a mailing list. I probably cut Bill Laswell grooves and remixes too much slack. So shoe me.

Ebo Taylor, Twer Nyame (Mr. Bongo, reissue of 1978 album).

Samba Toure, Gandadiko (Glitter Beat, 2016). More listening needed, but that guitar tone is simply beautiful, with a hypnotic instinct for inserting noise and cries.

Edgard Varese, Ameriques (Deutsche Grammophon, 2001) Chicago Symphony Orch. conducted by Pierre Boulez, recorded 1995. Finally get to simultaneously pay tribute to the late conductor and one of my fave experimenters. More listening needed, but what jumps out is how savvy Boulez is here in refusing to make the compositions seem like REALLY WEIRD SHIT by using a soft touch with the sound effects and jarring turns. Sure it’s avant, but has high-mountain and tropical beauty, not merely smacks and snarls.

Randy Weston, The Complete Recordings, 1958-1960 (Enlightenment, 2016). Gathers six albums, including four I did not have. Just started digging in, but know that Little Niles (1959) is a lyrical masterpiece highlighted by the title track and that Uhuru Afrika (1960) is a breakthrough in re-Africanizing jazz. Come to think of it, very much a parallel evolution following E.T. Mensah.