R.I.P. Orrin Keepnews

All the facts you need.

Even the most basic jazz library includes records he produced. I find the story of his life particularly romantic and satisfying. A fan can become a writer on his passions and then becomes a producer who preserves his heroes for all time. There are legendary jazz labels from Dial to Blue Note of course, but Keepnews’s warehouse stayed in way better repair than others. And his “real,” straight-down-the-middle production jobs hold up as timeless as any.

I thought his medium as a writer was liner notes (Grammys for liner notes are among the most justifiable of them awards). He knew all the scoop but his analysis was routine, seemed to me. So I don’t have his book.

Which prompts me to reach out to the Miles To Go readers — what was Keepnews’s gripe about jazz criticism? Why did he say it was a failure and a waste?

Anyway, he’s in that cluster of figures who, in my mind, will always be active agents in this world, whether they are here on earth or not — Duke Ellington is another, Ray Charles, Bessie Smith, Muddy Waters, why, Thelonious Monk himself. I’m sure Orrin is in the audience for the Monk session tonight.

Bob Xgau Is Not Gonna Get a Closer Reader Than This One

Agree with him or not, Devin McKinney really digs in. He wrote the best book on the Beatles done by somebody who was not alive when the band existed. And if he’s more than a little Greil-Marcus-camp identified, I’ll settle.

Which is to say, even when I don’t agree with him, I never doubt the fundamental soundness of his perspective, or the integrity of his judgment.


There ya go.

Somber, Sinister Music for a Somber, Sinister Season

End of the five most wretched weeks of winter I’ve ever struggled through. And that includes the ones where we had to dig through the frozen slush to clear the road so we could get hay to the sheep on the ranch and dig through certain snowbanks to make sure none of the sheep were buried in them. That torment didn’t go on and on and on like this has.

Threatens to mellow out a bit, looking at the forecast.

So in honor of that shit, here’s a shadowy twosome soundtrack (in order):

Drkwav, The Purge (Royal Potato Family) (2015)

Michael Stearns/Ron Sunsinger, Sorcerer (Spotted Peccary) (2000)

As to Drkwav:

Sorcerer is nearly a “The Air Is Still and the Light Is Cool” selection. If only for unlikely origins. Two ambient-associated guys offering a tribute to Carlos Castenada? Yikes, right? But this is way more slithering shadows than anything in those increasingly hokey-seeming books. Even the crow-calls jolt you. It has some of the horror of the desert. I credit Stearns living in Tucson land of mind-bending chemicals and tricks of the night and day. Seems like it ends in a sacrifice as much as a revelation.



Happy Spring.


The Greatest Blow To Science I Know

The authoritarian tone and shaky foundation of official food recommendations. And this was presented, over and over, in the most “reform yaself, ya pig” manner imaginable. (It’s a very regrettable impulse in medicine — last year, when I had simple, honest trouble in setting up an appointment for a test I had every intention of taking, I got this letter that said, between the lines, “you’re having trouble going through with this because you don’t care about your health.” Screw you too, administrator.)  Eggs are evil. Salt is made from Satan’s sweat. To hell with the universal chef wisdom that “fat is where the flavor is.” Eat all the carbs you want — they will never make you fat.

This stuff that turns out to be largely crap has peered over my shoulder every meal of my adult life. If there’s a universal source of science skepticism, this would be it.


R.I.P. Tod Dockstader

Somehow, I did not realize he lived just a couple towns over. The Quartermass CD on Starkland in 1992 hit me like a thunderbolt. I was a bit of a tough sell on pure electronics (I know way more now, but am still mighty picky about the style) and the rediscovery of Raymond Scott seemed like mostly hooey to me. So Dockstader was like — yow! The post-rediscovery work never hit me as hard and it’s so sad to think that if the guy had died young he would have thought of himself as a failure. Anyway, even if your not an classical-avant electro person, the page linked above will fill you in and at least Water Music on the Quartermass album gets highest endorsement from me.

The Winged Bull in the British Museum

As I watched in sickened horror as the devils who denounce devil-worshippers destroyed museum pieces in Mosul yesterday, I thought back to the time when I saw the winged-bull in the British Museum. Its power and unsurpassed strangeness were unforgettable. But I most loved a humanist detail — almost two  thousand years ago, soldiers guarding the gates had scratched a form of tic-tac-toe into the stone base of the statue. Protected by sand, it had endured until now. An idle afternoon, stretched into the ages.