josh blog

Ordinary language is all right.

One could divide humanity into two classes:
those who master a metaphor, and those who hold by a formula.
Those with a bent for both are too few, they do not comprise a class.

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5 Mar '02 12:30:32 AM

One thing that became clear to me just a couple of listens in is that the comparisons between Brad Mehldau and Keith Jarrett, or to a lesser extent Brad Mehldau and Bill Evans, are mostly daft. I can only imagine that they arise out of a general inattention to what's going on in the various pianists' music. It's hard to even adumbrate the differences, but I think they're pretty apparent. For instance, and just offhand: Mehldau's sense of structure seems to be a lot more expansive than Evans', which means that when he stretches out the music is more peripatetic, and it goes more different places while on those walks. Jarrett has a similar expansiveness but I always get more of an impression of linearity from him, because even when he ends up wandering long distances he does so more smoothly, so that it's hard to notice along the way that he's going to end up somewhere very different. Jarrett's rhythm section seems to chug more, and they seem more like they're all working toward a common goal or something. With LaFaro's prominence in Evans' group, it feels more like distinct voices with distinct goals. In Mehldau's group, something else is going on: though Mehldau is often the primary focus (Grenadier rarely takes center stage as often as LaFaro), a significant part of the interest in what he's doing comes from the way he's often set against the rhythm section - the way that Grenadier and Rossy chop up the time in different and perhaps conflicting ways.

I often get the sense, listening to Mehldau, as if he's going to break into some well-known song at any given moment, but that he holds back and doesn't complete his launch. This isn't just due to his covers, which I've never heard any of the originals of, to my knowledge, at least on Progression. There's a similarity there, I think, to Monk, only with Monk my impression is that he's constantly going to break into some other Monk song, which is a very different experience from breaking into someone else's song. There's more recognition involved, in Mehldau's case, and that makes it more exciting somehow. For Monk it also involves recognition, I suppose, but it's recognition of a less differentiated familiarity, a vague Monkness.

I haven't written anything yet about Mehldau's liner notes, but of course I must.

3 Mar '02 07:24:18 AM

I submit that if you "didn't really notice" the bass and piano in as fantastic a piano trio as Brad Mehldau's, then you don't know how to listen to piano trios.

2 Mar '02 09:40:27 AM

"Pinky Ring" came on the tape I made for him and my roommate told me that his girlfriend automatically had the "this is gangster rap" response to it. My other roommate has made similar remarks (upon hearing Mystikal). Correctness of assessment aside (yes, whatever it means for them to be "gangster", in some sense they are - but?), I wonder if this is a general sort of tendency that people who are unfamiliar with rap have. Is it spurred by hearing something specific? (Murph tried to convince his girlfriend that the presence of horns in "Pinky Ring" meant it wasn't gangsta rap, uh oh heh heh.) "Motherfucker" a lot, or references to guns and violence in the lyrics? And what significance does the fact that this response exists, have?

(Similarity to different response, "rap is crap, ha ha ha" - power of naming, etc. etc.)

2 Mar '02 08:59:36 AM

My apologies for the brief downtime today. The PHP software which runs this page was upgraded, and a minor problem resulted.

What I have listened to mostly during the past week: Steve Reich's Music for 18 Musicians when I go to bed, and the Blue Note reissue of guitarist Grant Green's Am I Blue when at home in my room and awake.

One aspect of the record that sticks out for me is the Hammond organ. I've heard Hammond organ before, of course, but never in a setting like this, and never one where they played so much with the overdrive setting (which is I think what he's doing here, but I don't really know) - so the playing has a lot more texture than I'm used to. The unfortunate thing is that a lot of that texture makes me think of an organist playing "Baby Elephant Walk" in an ice arena. It's hard to shake. Especially at the end of "For All We Know", where the organist is most prominent, sort of in some big end-of-song spectacularities.

At other times, though, when it's more subtle, the organ makes for an interesting backing for the other instruments. Its voicings are distinctive, compared to say a bass together with piano, or even a horn section playing long notes behind an improviser (the latter of which sort of occurs on the record, for a point of comparison, because Johnny Coles is on trumpet and Joe Henderson on tenor). In a moment of confusion I even thought there was a bassist on the record, because of the way the organist's left hand line had a sort of relaxed, sonorous feel to it, like the sound was underneath everything else as I expected. (Somehow the idea of it coming out of the organ's amp just like the right hand line eliminates the possibility that the same sort of thing would happen, sonically, but that's just my dumb bias.)

Green has an album where I think he does a version of "Tumbling Tumbleweeds" which I of course must have (cf. The Big Lebowski.).

26 Feb '02 07:28:10 AM

This afternoon I did a little music writing, but not any I can share since I shipped it off in a letter. It feels kind of special for that, though. Nice to write, too - just a blank piece of paper, noting down my impressions, bright blue ink.

25 Feb '02 05:56:51 PM

Does Flavor Flav keep rhyming "bass" with "face" ("bass for your face, London!") just because they rhyme? Because, well, the face... why is the bass for your face instead of something else?

25 Feb '02 05:55:00 PM

On a poorly stocked jukebox last night, I chose:

The Commodores - "Brick House", B.B. King - "How Blues Can You Get", Peggy Lee - "Fever", House of Pain - "Jump Around", Smashing Pumpkins - "Silverfuck".

But it didn't play the Commodores and instead of "Silverfuck" (oh excuse me "Silverf*ck", it was the censored liner notes version) I got "Spaceboy". Doh.

25 Feb '02 05:52:43 PM

It Takes a Nation of Millions is really pretty tuneful.

25 Feb '02 07:48:31 AM

And what this means, I guess I should say, is that if I want to be better acquainted with some of the classical music I've been listening to I should listen to it less like I usually do and more like this: play one composition, listen carefully while not doing anything else, stop and give time to think, or maybe repeat. This annoys me because it's in accord with the stereotype that one has to listen a privileged way to classical music in order to really get it. But given the time I spend and the things I discuss below, I don't really think I'm conceding much (who am I fighting anyway?). And when I think about it, I listen to a lot of things where I may have some memory of their feel, or where that might feel very familiar once I listen, but which are hard to remember in their own ways because they're de-centered, less developmental, or whatever. A similar injunction to listen more carefully to those might apply if I wanted the same things out of them.