R.I.P.: Robert B. Silvers

The New York Review of Books and the Village Voice were the bookends of my literary fantasies about New York and the East Coast in general, back when I had never been out here. Brainy/wild — lively/civilized … they could make you feel less lonely out in the thickets and ranges. One aspect I most admired about NY Review is that it was thorough.

Rock and Roll Goes Fatherless — R.I.P.: Chuck Berry

Here’s an early mention pointing out an overlooked disc from a box every pop music fan should have.

My three all-time vinyl picks for Chuck B.

Still play him at least two-three times a year. Hasn’t aged a second.

Excellent Jon Pareles obit contains a fundamental insight about Berry: he knew what his audience wanted before they did.

R.I.P.: Skip Williamson

Ace obit that includes lots of information new to me. I knew nothing about his personal life other than his political activism and he fell off my sightlines after the ’80s. His bizarre cause of death could be taken from a comic he drew. Snappy Sammy Smoot was one of the unforgettable clueless characters or Holy Innocent or what have you. His hair trip was a graphic triumph. And the obit ends with a quip from Williamson that is about the most rat-on exhortation from the ’60s demonstrations.

Guess Williamson and Jay Lynch had to leave about the same time so they could start up Celestial Bijou Funnies. Bet it’s better than ever.



R.I.P.: Misha Mengelberg

First a couple of wise men offer their thoughts far better than I could manage off the top of my head:

Kevin Whitehead

and then

Peter Margasak

We saw Misha in various configurations maybe six-seven times over the years. When Boston’s Institute of Contemporary Art was running a series of jazz concerts (sigh — seems like a different world) they featured Mengelberg’s I(nstant) C(omposer) P(ool) Orchestra as often as possible — almost every year.

Two shows elsewhere jump out. The very last time we heard Misha was a show at Harvard University. He aged dramatically after his 1997 heart attack, but at this show, maybe 10 years ago, for the first time he sounded a bit … off-target. We did not know at the time that he was showing signs of  Alzheimer’s.

The most sublime Misha moments were during a duet concert with Ab Baars at the Bimhuis, which we were lucky enough to see on our only visit to Amsterdam. You could tell he was playing for the home crowd. I understood Misha’s language — how he was nonstop entertaining without ever being shallow; how Misha’s profound insight into Thelonious Monk was that he was an incessant and sophisticated wit; and that Misha made free improvisation feel joyous and foxy rather than serious and heroic.

I think I spontaneous pulled my first recommendation from the shelves this afternoon:

ICP Orchestra, Jubilee Varia (hatOLOGY, 1999) — his final release before his coronary.

I will close with the funny he said during one of the ICA concerts that I will never forget:

“We have been doing numbers for every letter of the alphabet in sequence. We are down to the letter “K.” This is ‘Ktable.'”