Ahmad Jamal At The Pershing: Perfection in 1959

Ahmad Jamal, doing what he did.

A quick note: some of you may have read this story already, in print or online; aggregating my work at one site can lead to this sort of thing. Apologies to those of you for whom this is not new.

On the night of January 16, 1958, at the Pershing Lounge in Chicago, Ahmad Jamal sat down to play piano.  He was joined, as he had been on many nights previous, by Israel Crosby on bass and Vernell Fournier on drums. The three were artists in residence at the Pershing, and had been playing together for months.

On that Thursday night, though, Jamal’s performance would change a few things. It would change how people thought about jazz. It would change the way musicians approached their craft. And it would change how I thought about my father, albeit after he died, by becoming part of a gift he gave me.

It was a gift we never talked about, one he gave unknowingly, one I did not realize the value of while he was alive. But it was a gift all the same as I’ll explain in a moment. For now though, all you need to know is that January 16 was the night that Ahmad Jamal’s performance of “Poinciana” was recorded.

The song had been a standard in Jamal’s repertoire for long before the recording was made, and as I have no friends that were regulars at the Pershing in the late 50s I have no way of knowing if that particular night’s rendition was in some way different from those that came before or those to follow.

But that’s irrelevant; the fact that it was recorded and released on vinyl made that night’s performance incredibly important. Because that’s what would allow it to reach well beyond the confines of the Pershing, and last far longer than the few minutes it took to play. Continue reading

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Ty Segall Releases New Vinyl on Record Store Day: “Ty Rex” T. Rex Covers

Ty Segall Ty Rex
Click for full cover w track listing

If you’ve read Bone in the Fan or The Meatist with any regularity, you know I’m a Ty Segall fan. I caught his live show in Austin during SXSW 2010, and, despite the fact that both Death and alt-press liplock recipients Surfer Blood were playing at the same venue, Segall’s set was by far the best of the night, and one of my favorite shows of the entire week.

The thing is, and perhaps this is a function of me being a bitter old man born in the 60s, an awful lot of bands I hear these days, particularly those that might be loosely termed “punk rock,” strike me as a bunch of pathetic, derivative poseurs that wouldn’t have lasted though one set in NYC or DC pre-’85. Sorry, Attack Attack!. Continue reading

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I’d Rather Smoke Pot In A Malibu Than Huff Aerosol In A Matrix

Or: the decline of civilization (this time it’s real)

Complaints about “young people today” probably go back to the Australopithecus complaining about “those damn kids, what with their evolving, and their using tools to do things, and that whole standing erect thing…”  For the most part, these sorts of comments seem to come from a generation that either secretly wishes they could go and hang out with those damn kids, or simply want to piss and moan about how the whole country, hell the whole world, is just going right down the shitter.

Not in this case.

On my way home tonight I pulled up next to a car filled with kids listening to the kind of horribly unoriginal formulaic music that actually makes me miss Scott Muni.  And I thought: “holy shit, that looks like a fucking awful place to be trapped for 30 seconds, much less an entire evening.”

And something clicked for me.  It may have been the contrast between what they were listening to and the Houses of the Holy cd that I was listening to, but a gear turned, a switch flipped, and I realized something really surprising: for the first time ever, the current generation of young people (I’m referring to kids aged, say, 16 to 25 years old), is actually getting less cool than the last one.

Really.  Consider which of the following scenarios is more appealing:

A) Smoking pot while hanging out in a beach parking lot at midnight and listening to a Led Zeppelin cassette blaring from poorly mounted 6×9 speakers that were stolen from Caldor’s and installed in the back of a 1975 Chevy Malibu while you discuss the relative merits of the latest Clash album with a bunch of chicks that aren’t wearing bras and love to make out, or…

B) Huffing Dust-Off in the Office Max parking lot crammed into a lowered Honda Civic with boy-racer bodywork, fake neon mounted under the dash, and over-sized faux chrome tailpipes that sound like a someone in gastric distress is farting into a plastic bottle while Lady Gaga or Taylor Swift is excreted from a bass-heavy stereo system and the two chicks crammed in the back seat try to shout over it to discuss the relative merits of the most recent book in the Twilight series.

So cool.  Rides like a sofa on wheels, has room for six, can keep a bong on the floor for months without spilling.
So cool. Rides like a sofa on wheels, seats six in comfort, can be driven around with a bong on the floor for months without a single spill. Attracts cool chicks by the dozens due to its awesomeness.
So fucking stupid.  Rides like a go kart, bottoms out pulling into, well, any driveway anywhere, almost as effective at attracting cool chicks as lighting your farts.
So fucking stupid. Rides like a matchbox car, seats 3 1/2 in misery, and bottoms out pulling into any driveway anywhere, making it tough to drink Red Bull without spilling it on your Abercrombie t-shirt. Attracts cool chicks about as well as lighting your farts.

I rest my case.

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Original Dr. No Trailer – When Bond Was Extra Bond-ey

Dr. No poster
Click to embiggen

I know most people name “Goldfinger” as the best Bond picture, but I have a major soft spot in my heart for “Dr. No.”

It’s grittier and less gimicky than any 007 film that followed, Connery was just a ridiculous badass, and it has that great Ursula Andress beach scene.

“Honey Ryder: Looking for shells?”

“Bond: No. I’m just looking.”

And trailer voice-over copy that reads “licensed to kill whom he pleases, where he pleases, when he pleases” is really rare these days… Check out the original trailer, if it’s not enough to prompt you to guy buy a copy, I don’t know what is:

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SXSW Flashback: Noah Engh and Ty Segall

Ty Segall in Austin - 2012 SXSW

It happens every spring as SXSW approaches: I start thinking “how can I get sent to Texas to cover the music?”

I made it in 2010, covering for New Times (and myself as well), missed 2011, and likely will miss 2012 – it’s tough to get media outlets to do anything other than the bare minimum these days.

But I was looking through some photos from 2010 and came across two of my favorite moments from 2010 : Ty Segall’s indoor set at the Mohawk (which blew away media darlings Surfer Blood, who were playing outside at the same time), and the unexpected Noah Engh set at Manic Fest Destiny.

I’d expected neither; I hadn’t really paid attention to the Mohawk lineup (except I knew I had to see Surfer Blood per a New Times request, and I personally wanted to see Death play), and Noah Engh wasn’t even on the list of performers that day.

But those are really really the best parts of SXSW: the stuff that happens BETWEEN the stuff people go for. With SXSW becoming almost a parody of itself (and doing some sleazy shit with performers), it’s people like Segall and Engh that still make me long to cover it. See for yourself, with this short clip, badly shot, of Noah Engh making Austin worthwhile:

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Scott Sharp and ESM Racing Article On Newstands

I’m extremely happy to say that my article on Scott Sharp’s ESM Racing team is on news stands now, complete with wonderful photos by Robert Holland.

For those of you that don’t live in South Florida but are interested in reading it, there’s a digital version of the article available here (I’d suggest using the zoom tool by clicking on the page).

It’s not often that one gets to hang out with a good bunch of people in the pits at Daytona, watching them race Ferraris. But I did, and I want to thank Scott, Yoyo, Cosmo, Ed and Derek for their time, the access, and the great conversation.

A quick story: Scott Sharp gave me a ride (in a hopped-up golf cart, not, sadly, a Ferrari) from the transporter to the pits for night practice. As he went wide around one corner I leaned over and told him he’d completely missed the apex. His response:

“Yeah man, by a mile. I totally blew that one.”

Like I said: a good bunch of guys.

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New Year’s Anti-Resolutions

Bradford SchmidtI was recently digging through some my  columns for Florida Weekly and landed on this one from December of 2010. It amused me; hope it amuses you. And yes, I’m aware that it’s not timely.


I dislike most mainstream comics. I find humor that’s very broad, obvious and hacky to be irritating, not funny. To rank anywhere higher than the level of what I associate with eighth grade, comics need to be smart and original, not derivative.

Guys like Doug Stanhope, Colin Quinn, Marc Maron,  Dave Attell – and Bruce, Carlin, Pryor, Hicks, Kinison, and Michael O’Donoghue (one of my favorite satirists ever) before them, don’t (or didn’t) rely on bad pop culture references to get a laugh: they go much deeper and smarter.

Recently I was watching an episode of “Louie” (staring another smart and hilarious comic, Louis CK) , which generally consists of 22 minutes of smart and highly uncomfortable comedy that CK has clearly mined from deep within his not-insubstantial insecurities, and CK made this simple and profound statement to a stand-up audience:

“Finally I have the body that I want – and that’s a thing people really covet it’s hard thing to achieve, and I did. And I’m going to tell you how to have exactly the body that you want: you just have to want… a shitty body. That’s all it is. You have to want your own shitty, ugly, disgusting body.”

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Moog Animoog: Coolest iPad App Ever (99 cents for ltd time)

Moog Animoog for iPadI don’t have an iPad. I don’t have any intention of buying an iPad either. Hell, I don’t even wish for one. I mean, if one appeared at my front door I might play with it, but then I’d probably sell it.

Or that’s the way I’ve felt until today, when I found out that Moog released a synth for iPad called Animoog.

I hit the Moog site and listened to some samples, and it’s just incredibly cool. For musicians, or wannabe-musicians that have dropped the cash on an iPad, it’s a no brainer.

Normally priced at $29.99, it’s available for a limited time (for 30 days, but I think that started a while ago) for $.99. Yeah, 99 cents.

Go buy it, play with it, and make me regret my aversion to iProducts.

Sound samples and more information here on the Moog site or just dig it right here (I want one so bad…):

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One More Reason to Love Eclectic Method: Zombies

I’ve written about them before, and as long as they keep doing stuff like this I’ll write about them again. Or at least I’ll put up a sentence or two with an embed.

Tell me you can watch this without loving this:

I know –  you cant, right? Hell, I even dig the page on their site on which they embedded it.

Oh, and they’ve given me one more reason to be pissed I moved out of New York: they’re playing in Brooklyn  on November 11 at the Brookly Electronic Music Festival. Awesome –  panelle specials AND Eclectic Method, all jammed into one fine borough.

More live dates here.

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Penguin Prison Seeks Bitch, Eyes ‘Occupy Wall Street’

Penquin Prison
The Penguin Prison Dude

It takes a lot to drag me out of my stupor to write these days, but a press release I just got from Penguin Prison’s publicist did it. If you don’t know Penguin Prison, it’s a retro synth-pop band (person?) headed by a dude named Chris Glover that has a mediocre retro synth-pop song out called “Don’t Fuck With My Money.”

I guess the song never broke big enough, so tomorrow (that’d be Saturday) Glover will try to leverage the Occupy Wall Street  protest by filming the song’s official video in Liberty Plaza.

From the press release:

“See you tomorrow and remember to SPEAK LOUD AND CLEAR TO WALL STREET!

‘DON’T FUCK WITH OUR MONEY!'”

(emphasis theirs, except they spelled “fuck” with a couple of asterisks because they may be rebels, but they don’t want to offend anyone). Continue reading

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