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May 23, 2011


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Tom Russell

What does it say about me that I clicked on "Morons Getting Paid (Not Much I Hope)" and that I was disappointed that this was the only entry?

Doug Dillaman

I saw Brotzmann a decade or so ago at the Vision Festival, and I have rarely been as intimidated by a musician on stage. It was then I realized those stories about him breaking his rib by playing saxophone might not be hyperbole. (Researching, I see that John Corbett references it in the press notes for THE DRIED-RAT DOG [and what an album that was!], so it probably is true.)

A different Brian

Paging Jonah Weiner. It's Mr. Townshend from 1964 calling...

Hauser Tann

Several points on this weighty issue:

- Above all: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VrdwhXNt4qw
- The word "musicality" should be banned. It does not mean anything. Have we not learned anything from John Cage? Should also be banned: the word "swing", as in, "Today's jazz musicians just don't have the 'swing' of yore."
- The saxophone has a storied history of disreputability. See some fascinating tidbits in this short book review: http://www.fourmilab.ch/documents/reading_list/indices/book_562.html

Here's one quote from that short review (there's even a reference to the use of saxophone in film music, to keep in with this blog's general purview): "Nazi Germany banned the sax as “decadent”; Stalin considered it a “dangerous capitalist instrument” and had saxophonists shot or sent to Siberia; the League of Catholic Decency in the United States objected not to the steamy images on the screen in the 1951 film A Streetcar Named Desire, but rather the sultry saxophone music which accompanied it, and signed off on the scene when it was re-scored for French horn and strings; and in Kansas City, Missouri, it was once against the law to play a saxophone outside a nightclub from ten-thirty at night until six in the morning (which seems awfully early to me to be playing a saxophone unless you've been at it all night)."

Chris O.

It's also sometimes referred to as a "bastard instrument."

Sure, it's "hard." If you're not talking viciousness in and of itself -- I mean, give a four year old a sax and it can sound pretty "vicious." But "impossible?" That's just kinda lazy to say.

James Keepnews

Dear. G-d. In the grand scheme of Gaga's contribution to early 21st socioculture, bringing Clarence Clemons back will be seen as an egregious error. Doubtful Mr. Weiner's piece will ever be subject to similar opprobrium.

Don't let's forget Herr Brötzmann is an honoree at this year's Vision Festival:


That Fuzzy Bastard

And right after Poly Styrene dies, too!



Hauser Tann

Speaking of Lost Highway: has anybody ever heard/seen the opera that was made out of it? (http://www.boosey.com/pages/opera/moredetails.asp?musicid=31012) Is it any good?

Hauser Tann

Someone's been in the house.



Took the words right outta my mouth - doesn't get much more vicious than "Red Bats With Teeth" at the Luna Lounge.

@Hauser - I saw it a few years back at Miller Theater and found it pretty dire indeed, but I may just be uncultured.


Or how about this Colin Stetson guy, whose NEW HISTORY WARFARE - JUDGES, VOL 2. (what a title, I know), is a current front-runner for album of the year for me? This song has plenty of "earnestness" and "delicacy": http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b3Pxh3hXc2A

Hauser Tann

Wow, this sounds great—thanks a lot for the link, Graig!

(Of course, since Colin Stetson appears to be/have been closely associated with Arcade Fire, he's probably artista non grata in the eyes of this blog's peremptory host.)


Stetson opened for Godspeed You! Black Emperor in their Madrid gig back in January. And JUDGES rules.

So... the saxophone is news because it is featured in the latest records of two worthless pop stars (I would argue that the moment a work becomes worthy it stops being 'pop' and becomes something else, but, anyway), so it's been rescued from that boring world of jazz music which no Normal Person would listen or care about, and it has "musicality", which for the writer of the thing I guess it means that selfsame riff that gets used everytime a pop song features a saxophone and which invariably signifies romance or sadness or sentiment or something along those lines.

Good thing, all this reminds me it's been a long while since I listened any John Zorn album. I have a lot of catch-up to do.

Frank McDevitt

I've been trying to dive in to free jazz lately, it's a bit of a blind spot for me. Is Brotzmann a good starting point?

Doug Dillaman

Is drinking from a firehose a good starting point for water?

Personally, I'd recommend Fred Anderson, or David S. Ware Quartet. The latter's DAO is probably my most emotional experience with recorded free jazz. But nothing beats seeing it live. It was an early concert with Rova, Debris, Splatter Trio, and Hank Roberts/Tim Berne that opened my ears to free jazz.

Glenn Kenny

@ Doug Dillman: That's a funny line, with the firehose. Reminds me of once taking my then-future wife to Tonic to see guitarist Alan Licht and drummer Anton Fier improvise with Don Dietrich, the microphone-in-the-bell sax colossus of Borbetomagus, another combo no doubt undreamt of in Jonah Weiner's philosophy. An ill-advised move. She's still kind of traumatized, to the extent that she strongly demurred from attending a Golden Palominos reunion gig with me despite my protestations that it represented an entirely different idea of music, and will go a little quiet around Alan when we encounter him socially, as we do at times.

@ Frank: I'd agree with Doug's recs. Also the song-based punk/jazz group Curlew has some nice stuff. If you want to do the historical long-view route, start with Ornette's "The Shape of Jazz To Come," or whatever album has "Lonely Woman" on it...yup, that's it...move on to Coltrane's "Interstellar Space" (a real beauty that), get a little Pharoah Sanders, Archie Shepp...and if you like that, then you'll be ready for Brotzmann. The European strain of free jazz from the late '60s/early '70s tends to be more overtly brutal and more cerebral than the American, it's an interesting contrast.

Doug Dillaman

Another bridge from Ornette to Brotzmann would be John Zorn's SPY VS. SPY album of Ornette covers. Man, do I need to dig that out, now that I've mentioned it.

Frank McDevitt

@Glenn and Doug: Thanks for the tips! I downloaded "The Shape of Jazz to Come", and I'm enjoying it. It makes a lot more sense to my ears than I thought it would.

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