A Love Supreme in a still, dark room

(Comments from 2010 on a first draft of a Bricks Picks from 2007)

I just found this. It was written in one long take. I just let the thing gush apparently. My wife Fyl had been out of the hospital about six weeks [she’d nearly died of an infection…had died for a few minutes, but pulled through tho’ with severe amnesia] and right about this time she had a heart operation to install a defibrillator because the doctors (and me) were worried the arrhythmia would drop her stone dead. I’d avoided losing my job, barely surviving a big layoff. I was learning how to handle all the finances, and all the other things I had never done in our 28 year marriage.  I had decided to throw Fyl a big birthday party at the end of the month (and big it was, too, old friends by the dozens  just thrilled she was still around and a pile of gifts; she smiled and laughed and said thank you and had no idea who any of them were.)  And the economy had just caved in and the country was in a complete panic. Basically, all was madness. I was utterly exhausted. I even seem to remember briefly quitting the Weekly in there somewhere (my latest editor was fucking with me. He stopped). Writing is always a bitch for me, about this time it was becoming brutal. I hated it. You can see and feel that all here.  That last paragraph was so typo-ridden (Propler weill be praying fr everybody in ;ll the chuched, kankers will tr to keep pour mpney from diappearring, brokers will f;lutter and pamic. Even presidential candidates sat sc=art stuff.  But try this…pull out “A Love Supreme” in a still darj room. Let ijam. Siy tight, pillows hekp. Herbals too. Get all te way throight, ide it with Johgn C(ltrane. How many revolutions and wars, riys and assisinatiuons and recessuions, and disatr4rs has it withiood) that I could barely read it now and it was me that wrote the fucking thing. The final draft must have been cut by half. But reading this now it’s so evocative. What an amazing, terrible time that was.

 Anyway, I cleaned it up some here, mostly for spelling:

Brick’s Picks # 46

Yeah things are rough with the market down and unemployment up and mortgages defaulting and debates boring and what can a jazz fan do? You still need to hear music—and maybe need it more now than ever—but your 401K just took all the jazz cruise money and left you sporting hoover flags and no place to go.  Fear’s not the only thing scaring us, everything is anymore, and man do we all need a good night out to listen to some solid tuneage and just forget the whole bit for a couple hours. But there’s that image that jazz has picked up the last couple decades…that is it an effete entertainment, something expensive to expensive for you, the guy who had to dash in and out of the liquor store to pick up this Weekly without buying anything. It’s not that there aren’t pricey jazz joints and even pricier concerts—there are plenty—but there are even more places that charge no cover (or maybe just a little one), have no minimums, and won’t completely break you. So let’s pick a few for the weekend.

For early starters this Friday afternoon they’re kicking off the Thelonious Monk centennial (a week late and a decade early, as he was born on Oct. 10, 2017) with a whole herd  of master pianists—Geri Allen, Jean Michel Pilc, Frank Kimbrough, Bill Cunliffe are some—at Ernst and Young Plaza at 7th and Figueroa downtown. It runs from noon to three, so head on down there, buy an apple off some sad broker and dig the wide ranging interpretations. Pretty unique event. Then head over to LACMA where beloved local bassist Putter Smith leads his West Coast through some straight ahead. Also free. There’s bar there, too, and eats. And that’s two events right there that won’t cost you that spare dime and it’s not even night time yet.

Now how about the genuine nightspots….real jazz junkies collect at Charlie O’s in the Valley. It’s this town’s straight ahead epicenter, and the crowd is purist, half of them players themselves, the rest jazzophiles. These people demand the real stuff, three sets worth. There’s usually no cover (except on Big Band Mondays) and there’s no minimum, what else you want? This Friday check out saxman Justo Almario, a Colombian whose impassioned sound is shot through with Trane (much like fellow South American Gato Barbieri used to, though Justo can bop with the best, too.) In fact, the great tenor work continues all weekend here….with the mighty Don Menza on Saturday, his is a big, fat powerful tone, the kind that as they said of Dexter Gordon, seems to fill the whole room. And on Sunday it’s Doug Webb, who delivers with a passionate intensity and nods to Trane and Joe Henderson and Hank Mobley and all the rest of those cats. We dig him. Real jazz in a real jazz freak’s club.

It’s a whole other vibe at the Foundry, on Melrose of all places, where Fridays and Saturdays is about kids going nuts, pushing things. It’s always bassist Matt Cory’s trio, and generally the astonishing imagination and sheer ballsiness of Zach Harmon on the traps…on Friday Gary Fukushima is at the upright and—get this—on Saturday it’s  veterans Larry Goldings with the incredibly sympathetic Bob Sheppard on sax…these guys both have such advanced concepts about the things that can be done with a melody, but it never screams or scares people . The crowd is young (with women at a jazz spot!) and there’s no minimum but you cheap jazz nerds ought to buy a drink and a grilled cheese ferchrissakes. Help keep the happenings happening. And you know…talk to the jazz kids here and you’ll discover a whole scene in this town you never even knew existed….names and places new to anyone older than 30, and killer chops. 

A lot of that scene seems to be popping up at Rocco’s latest spot, the Café Metropol. There is a smallish cover here, but the east are great and beers varied and the room has a kind of intimacy that makes it ideal for, like,  dating…the place won’t scare anyone from the office you talked into going out with you.  Sometimes the music might—Rocco likes a lot of fringier stuff, which is fine for a lot of us, but not for many of those that know us. Saturday’s a great bet, though—Nick Mancini is back, and he can charm his way through the most intense arrangements, and man what a vibes player. Another downtown spot on Fridays and Saturdays is the high ceilinged bar at the Biltmore…all that space up there takes from the volume, but bands seem to dig the room and there’s a pretty varied, friendly crowd.  No cover, no minimum. No eats either. Which just lets you save more money…. Anyway, trumpeter Elliott Caine is there on Friday and he’s been on a post-bop tear lately—the Lee Morgan is still there, but Lee wasn’t all cornbread, and Caine and crew seem to head in that Search For a New Land direction too, if you can dig that. (He’s also at the Lighthouse in Hermosa Beach on Thursday…and such a deal that room is. A great—and historic venue, back to what, the 40’s? the 50’s?)

Then there’s good and reasonable restaurants that happen to have good jazz in there on occasion, and if you are into solid fifties hard bop and straight ahead you are in luck. Out in Sierra Madre the very family friendly Café 322 has the splendid Donavan Muradian Quintet. They have that Jazz Messengers thing down (and check out Donavan’s tom work), from Chuck Manning inventive distinctive tenor work (though his primary source, Joe Henderson, never did the obligatory stint in Blakey’s batalion) to Kye Palmer’s dulcet, gorgeous trumpet sound. Their Live at the 322 from a couple years ago was ridiculously solid (check out “Whisper Not”). Great stuff, great pasta, reasonable fare, no cover and just a quick jaunt up the 210.  No city traffic at all. Now more good eats—American heavy—will accompany that other local outfit that has hard bop thing down: The CJS Quntet. Chuck Johnson’s tenor is martini dry and always on the mark, while Houston Texas’s Smitty Smith just oozes blues and Pops. Great pairing. Kirk Silsbee once compared them to the classic Max Roach-Clifford Brown Sextet (which says something about Smitty’s playing, huh?), and this makes this a great if higher calorie follow up to Friday’s dinner with the DMQ.

Of course head west out of Hollywood and things begin to empty the wallet a lot faster. Like up in Brentwood, if you haven’t got the bread you shouldn’t even think about eating at Vibrato. I mean, look at them waitresses….they don’t waste them pushing hamburgers to bums like us. Nope, they are for the power diners. But don’t let all that hot air fool you (and it’s a LOT…you don’t make it big on that end of town, apparently, by being quiet)…it dissipates into boozy, overfed murmur after a couple sets, and enough jazz fans have slipped in by then to transform the place into a serious jazz gig. The bar might be full of rich people crying into their fruity Belgian imported beer because their portfolios have blown all over Wall Street but there’s no minimum so just grab one of the strong drinks and a seat somewhere and dig Chuck Manning again—-he’s there Saturday, and he stretches more here than in the DMQ, and quite beyond the whole Buhaina thing…and if you’re lucky it’s John Campbell on the piano and man does that cat swing in the classic sense. Sometimes for a minute it’s like Bud Powell (let alone Monk) never happened. Which can be very refreshing sometimes. Go listen for yourself.

Oh yeah, we’ve received word of  some Thursday night jazz craziness that’s erupted without warning at TiGeorges Chicken on Glendale Ave (just south  of Temple) in Echo Park. It’s the Haitian place, but no compas on jazz night…instead we have the Tom McNalley Trio with saxist John Gross. Hot damn. So what there’s no beer. Drink enough of their coffee and you be hightailing up Glendale to leap into the Lake. It’s safer in there. Repomen are scared of geese, you can’t hear the news, and no brokers can jump that far from any of those gleaming towers just down Temple.  We’ll survive this, you know. Just hang in there, and let the music purge the shit at least once a week. Go out for a late night listening to some of our exceptional jazz talent. Hang onto every last note till they turn off the lights and clear everyone out. Let those final progressions, the last traces of that the melody that fade to breath out in a pair of suspended notes, tenor chords that dissipate to air, follow you all the way home, bouncing around inside your head. Let it lullaby you to sleep. And do sleep. Hearing good jazz’ll do you more good than you know, and you can always worry about the end times in the morning. People will be praying for everybody in all the churches, bankers will to to keep your money from disappearing, brokers will flutter and panic. Even presidential candidates sit scared stiff.  But try this…pull out A Love Supreme in a still, dark room. Let it jam. Sit tight, pillows help. Herbals too. Get all the way through, ride it with John Coltrane. How many revolutions and wars and riots and assassinations and recessions and disasters has it withstood?

One thought on “A Love Supreme in a still, dark room

  1. Pingback: Nicholas Payton | Brick Wahl

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