Wednesday, December 28, 2011

New Atlantis Recommended by NPR

Staff Picks: The Best Music Books Of 2011
by NPR Staff

Best Music Of 2011
December 28, 2011
How does the saying go? "Writing about music is like dancing about architecture." Overquoted, tossed off and attributed to the likes of Elvis Costello, Steve Martin and Frank Zappa, there might be some truth to those damning words, whose author remains unknown. After all, what makes music so powerful? It's the music, of course, not necessarily words about it.

But sometimes dancing about architecture is the best way to make sense of something that doesn't inherently make sense. Words can provide context and illuminate the unknown, and in 2011, our favorite books about music were mostly revealing biographies and wide-spanning analyses. Chosen by the NPR Music staff (and one of NPR's music librarians), these books are interpretations of a rich history written by the people who made the music and those who it affected.

Honorable Mentions:

New Atlantis: Musicians Battle for the Survival of New Orleans by John Swenson
Keystone Korner: Portrait of Jazz Club by Kathy Sloane
Norman Granz: The Man Who Used Jazz For Justice by Tad Hershorn
I Listen to the Wind That Obliterates My Traces: Music in Vernacular Photographs 1880-1955 by Steve Roden

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Glen David Andrews drops a dime on crime

This extraordinary story is not an exaggeration. New Orleans criminals routinely assassinate witnesses to crimes. The city's musicians have corageously stood up to these criminals and spoken out repeatedly against them. I wrote about this in my book New Atlantis: Musicians Battle for the Survival of New Orleans. Glen David Andrews is one of the central characters in the book. Here's the story from today's New Orleans Times-Picayune:

New Orleans musician saved from robbers by barking dog
Published: Wednesday, December 21, 2011, 9:31 PM
By Naomi Martin The Times-Picayune

Had it not been for the presence of his cousin's pit bull, local musician Glen David Andrews would have been one of the victims robbed at gunpoint outside a Capital One, one of three such armed robberies Monday morning, outside banks in Mid-City, Broadmoor and Gentilly.

View full sizeTimes-Picayune archiveLocal musician Glen David Andrews called 911 when he realized a robbery was in progress. 'I saw them rob hard-working people of everything but they won't get away with this...STAND UP PEOPLE,' he wrote later on his Facebook page.
It was 8:45 a.m. Monday when Andrews, his cousin and Blue, a large and rambunctious pit bull, piled into an SUV to go to the Capital One at Canal Street and South Carrollton Avenue.

Andrews, a trombone player, said he was planning to deposit $3,500 from the weekend's work to divide among his six band members.

Around 8:50 a.m., they pulled up to the bank's entrance on the corner where about six people, some with deposit slips in their hands, were waiting for the bank to open. Andrews said two people in the group were young men -- maybe 20 or 21 -- wearing black hooded sweatshirts, standing apart from each other.

As Andrews got out of the passenger side to join the group, Blue began to bark, loudly and incessantly.

A man, walking up to join the bank customers, joked to Andrews: "Hey man, you can't shut your dog up?"

Suddenly, one of the hooded men turned over his shoulder, looked Andrews in the eye and nodded toward the SUV.

The man's voice was calm: "You better leave right now with that dog. We 'bout to rob the bank."

Andrews turned immediately and got back in the SUV's passenger seat, telling his cousin, whose name is also Glen Andrews and is a musician as well, what he just heard. His cousin drove away, calmly.

"Man, I've lived in the hood all my life. When he told me that, I looked at his outfit and I look at the other guy's outfit, I looked at his gestures and by the grace of God I was able to internalize all that in a second to get out of there," Andrews said Wednesday.

While driving away from the bank, Andrews and his cousin saw the hooded men pull bandanas over their faces and force the crowd into a huddle to rob them at gunpoint. It took only seconds. Andrews dialed 911 from his cell phone.

View full sizeNew Orleans Police DepartmentA sketch of a suspect wanted by New Orleans police for armed robbery in connection with an incident outside the Capital One branch at 4141 Canal St. on Monday.
A detective later told Andrews that one of the robbery victims was an Iraqi war veteran. Andrews' anger boiled as he recalled recent acts of violence in the city including the killing of a toddler in the B.W. Cooper housing complex. First a 2-year-old girl shot to death, then this? he said.

The bank robberies on Monday occurred in the span of about an hour. New Orleans police believe all three incidents are related, said 3rd District Commander Henry Dean, whose territory includes Mid-City and Gentilly. On Wednesday police released a composite sketch of one of the suspects.

Tuesday night, Andrews vented his frustrations on his Facebook page.

"I saw them rob hard-working people of everything but they won't get away with this...STAND UP PEOPLE," he wrote.

As a well-known musician, Andrews wanted to reach a broad audience with his message that speaking up about crime can help authorities quell it.

But, he acknowledged, he now fears being targeted in retaliation for speaking up about what happened.

"There's a good chance I might get killed now walking down the street," Andrews said. Many of his family members warned him against speaking publicly about the incident.

"The right thing to do,'' he said, "might cost me my life."

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Nicholas Peyton on the death of Jazz

This isn't the first time anyone has ever come up with this idea but Peyton does a good job of expressing it. I would take one issue with his many premises, however. Louis Armstrong did not bow and scrape so Miles Davis could turn his back. That's buying into the very mythology Peyton is attacking. Louis Armstrong created American popular music as we know it in all its aspects. If he loved his audience that was show biz just as much as what Lady Gaga does today. Armstrong was in fact a powerful force in the Civil Rights movement who used that power brilliantly and judiciously. Davis, by comparison, sold out, not that I think anything less of him because the music speaks for itself and he was truly great in his own right. I say BY COMPARISON. Armstrong did far more for African Americans than Miles Davis did, not that it's a contest or anything, it just pisses me off to see Armstrong still used as a straw man to illustrate how cool Miles was. You didn't hear that shit from Miles, although he did say a bunch of things to confound people who thought they knew who he was. By the end of his life, when he finally started explaining himself, Miles claimed he wasn't turning his back on his audience anyway. He said he was facing his band members. I will proudly continue to listen to Armstrong, Miles Davis and Nicholas Peyton and I don't care what they call it, it's all cool to me.

On Why Jazz Isn’t Cool Anymore . . . .
Posted on November 27, 2011 by Nicholas Peyton

Jazz died in 1959.

There maybe cool individuals who say they play Jazz, but ain’t shit cool about Jazz as a whole.

Jazz died when cool stopped being hip.

Jazz was a limited idea to begin with.

Jazz is a label that was forced upon the musicians.

The musicians should’ve never accepted that idea.

Jazz ain’t shit.

Jazz is incestuous.

Jazz separated itself from American popular music.

Big mistake.

The music never recovered.

Ornette tried to save Jazz from itself by taking the music back to its New Orleanian roots, but his efforts were too esoteric.

Jazz died in 1959, that’s why Ornette tried to “Free Jazz” in 1960.

Jazz is only cool if you don’t actually play it for a living.

Jazz musicians have accepted the idea that it’s OK to be poor.

John Coltrane is a bad cat, but Jazz stopped being cool in 1959.

The very fact that so many people are holding on to this idea of what Jazz is supposed to be is exactly what makes it not cool.

People are holding on to an idea that died long ago.

Jazz, like the Buddha, is dead.

Let it go, people, let it go.

Paul Whiteman was the King of Jazz and someday all kings must fall.

Jazz ain’t cool, it’s cold, like necrophilia.

Stop fucking the dead and embrace the living.

Jazz worries way too much about itself for it to be cool.

Jazz died in 1959.

The number one Jazz record is Miles Davis’ Kind Of Blue.

Dave Brubeck’s Time Out was released in 1959.

1959 was the coolest year in Jazz.

Jazz is haunted by its own hungry ghosts.

Let it die.

You can be martyrs for an idea that died over a half a century if y’all want.

Jazz has proven itself to be limited, and therefore, not cool.

Lot’s wife turned to a pillar of salt from looking back.

Jazz is dead.

Miles ahead.

Some may say that I’m no longer the same dude who recorded the album with Doc Cheatham.

Correct: I’m not the same dude I was 14 years ago.

Isn’t that the point?

Our whole purpose on this planet is to evolve.

The Golden Age of Jazz is gone.

Let it go.

Too many necrophiliacs in Jazz.

You’re making my case for me.

Some people may say we are defined by our limitations.

I don’t believe in limitations, but yes, if you believe you are limited that will define you.

Definitions are retrospective.

And if you find yourself getting mad, it’s probably because you know Jazz is dead.

Why get upset if what I’m saying doesn’t ring true?

I can’t speak for anyone else, but I don’t play Jazz.

I play Postmodern New Orleans music.

Louis Armstrong and Danny Barker play Traditional New Orleans Music.

Ellis Marsalis and James Black play Modern New Orleans music.

Kidd Jordan and Clyde Kerr play Avant-garde New Orleans music.

Donald Harrison plays Neoclassical New Orleans music.

I play Postmodern New Orleans music.

I am a part of a lineage.

I am a part of a blood line.

My ancestors didn’t play Jazz, they played Traditional, Modern and Avant-garde New Orleans Music.

I don’t play Jazz.

I don’t let others define who I am.

I am a Postmodern New Orleans musician.

I create music for the heart and the head, for the beauty and the booty.

The man who lets others define him is a dead man.

With all due respect to the masters, they were victims of a colonialist mentality.

Blacks have been conditioned for centuries to be grateful for whatever crumbs thrown to them.

As a postmodern musician, it’s my duty to do better than my predecessors.

To question, reexamine and redefine what it is that we do.

They accepted it because they had to.

Because my ancestors opened the door for me, I don’t have to accept it.

Louis bowed and scraped so Miles could turn his back.

It’s called evolution.

It’s the colonialist mentality that glorifies being treated like a slave.

There is nothing romantic about poor, scuffling Jazz musicians.

Fuck that idea.

It’s not cool.

Jazz is a lie.

America is a lie.

Playing Jazz is like running on a treadmill: you may break a sweat, but ultimately you ain’t going nowhere.

Some people may say we are limited.

I say, we are as limited as we think.

I am not limited.

Jazz is a marketing ploy that serves an elite few.

The elite make all the money while they tell the true artists it’s cool to be broke.

Occupy Jazz!

I am not speaking of so-called Jazz’s improvisational aspects.

Improvisation by its very nature can never be passé, but mindsets are invariably deadly.

Not knowing is the most you can ever know.

It’s only when you don’t know that “everything” is possible.

Jazz has nothing to do with music or being cool.

It’s a marketing idea.

A glaring example of what’s wrong with Jazz is how people fight over it.

People are too afraid to let go of a name that is killing the spirit of the music.

Life is bigger than music, unless you love and/or play Jazz.

The art, or lack thereof, is just a reflection.

Miles Davis personified cool and he hated Jazz.

What is Jazz anyway?

Life isn’t linear, it’s concentric.

When you’re truly creating you don’t have time to think about what to call it.

Who thinks of what they’ll name the baby while they’re fucking?

Playing Jazz is like using the rear-view mirror to drive your car on the freeway.

If you think Jazz is a style of music, you’ll never begin to understand.

It’s ultimately on the musicians.

People are fickle and follow the pack.

Not enough artists willing to soldier for their shit.

People follow trends and brands.

So do musicians, sadly.

Jazz is a brand.

Jazz ain’t music, it’s marketing, and bad marketing at that.

It has never been, nor will it ever be, music.

Here lies Jazz (1916 – 1959).

Too many musicians and not enough artists.

I believe music to be more of a medium than a brand.

Silence is music, too.

You can’t practice art.

In order for it to be true, one must live it.

Existence is not contingent upon thought.

It’s where you choose to put silence that makes sound music.

Sound and silence equals music.

Sometimes when I’m soloing, I don’t play shit.

I just move blocks of silence around.

The notes are an afterthought.

Silence is what makes music sexy.

Silence is cool.

- Nicholas Payton