A jazz Halloween

Another great Halloween in South Pasadena, hundreds of kids, ran out of candy early. And either I’m getting taller or the trick or treaters are getting shorter. Don’t think under two feet, but close.  Moms are getting slinkier, too, not that I noticed. Boas are still in. I worry about the kids running down the front steps, but it was a stunning mom in six inch heels that nearly toppled over. She caught herself, regained her composure, and it was like nothing ever happened. Slinking and styling on Halloween.

Elliott Caine had picked out some crazy 20th century classical music and New Thangy free jazz vinyl to freak the trick or treaters. It blasts from the living room. Ornette getting weird. Stravinsky way out there. Some of the kids notice. That’s some weird music, Mister. They take their treat and run. Archie Shepp is really getting down now, we’re partying, handing out candy, eating pizza, freaking on some of the crazier costumes–you can always tell when mom or dad is an artist. Their kids look like an installation. Archie is screaming on a big fat tenor, a battery of African drummers generates waves of syncopation, the arrangement lays in horns like Duke Ellington. Swinging, pounding, screaming. Crazy. Trick or Treat. We toss candy in the bags. Thank you! Goblins are very polite these days.

Later, candy gone, we turned out the lights, shut the door and retreated to the inner sanctum. Time to stretch. Fyl flips through a beautiful volume of Herman Leonard, the pictures of long gone jazz players are black & white and ill lit, full of shadows, smoke haunting the frame like ghosts. Miles Davis blowing behind us, cooking, Trane comes in blowing sudden rushes up and down the scale, but Miles owns the session. Elliott stops to listen to a particularly good passage. His fingers work the solo. It’s all about Miles tonight. Fifties Miles, Prestige Miles. No Lee Morgan this year. It’s the Prince of Darkness. Fyl shows us a Herman Leonard photo. Miles with trumpet, glaring. Jazz noir. Day of the Dead. Elliott starts telling us about another old jazz cat who had died, a player, can’t recall the name now, and how his son had just given him the old man’s record collection. Two big boxes full of amazing albums. We’re flipping through them and sampling some on the turntable. All kinds of great 1950’s stuff, a lot of west coast cool, and we’re digging the sounds and the wind is blowing and shivering branches tap the window. Fyl says they’re calling us. Who? The dead. The dead? The dead jazz musicians, she says. All the ones in this book. They want to come in. We laugh when an incredible trombone solo comes out of nowhere. Frank Rosolino, on cue, on Halloween. Properly sensitized, we sit in the dark, listening to the wind and the bones and telling scary Frank Rosolino stories. A jazzman Halloween.

Louis Armstrong and Death itself, "Pennies from Heaven" (1935).

Louis Armstrong and Death itself, “Pennies from Heaven” (1935).


Miles Davis and that bilateral either/or thing


The Ken Price tribute gig last night at LACMA was terrific. Got there towards the end of Brian Swartz’s Chet set. He did that stuff so beautifully. He had a helluva cold, turned out, which made for even more effective vocals…just the right touch of feeble. He used the rhythmic trio of the LA Jazz Quartet..Larry Koonse on guitar, Darek Oles on bass and filling in very ably once again for Mark Ferber was Kendall Kaye on the drums. Koonse has to be the piano player’s nightmare…I mean he does what he does so well you never notice that there’s no piano player. And he’s so much nicer than a piano player. Swartz, though, was the star….I’d never heard him play like that, like Chet Baker, that purer than pure tone, the elongated notes, the light swing like the airiest be bop you ever heard. Those LAJQ guys, man, they know how to lay it on without ever laying it on too much. Continue reading

Henry Rollins

Just got an email from Concord Records about the Claremont Folk Festival. Henry Rollins is one of the headliners. Now I’ve seen Henry Rollins in some unexpected places….in particular a Miles Davis tribute party telling the MTV cameras that he we was SO influenced by Miles’ MUSIC and sounding like a steroidal eruption (the reporters ate it up), but no matter how hard I try I can’t see how he fits in at a folk festival. Maybe he was SO influenced by Pete Seeger’s MUSIC. Maybe he plays the ukulele. Maybe he’s added a twang to his spoken word. Whatever.

Actually I like Henry. He’s done really well and done it all himself. He’s got that great radio show on KCRW, and I like his column in the LA Weekly. I remember him from the Black Flag daze, way back in the last century. He even used to live in Silver Lake, right behind me, he on Maltman, we on Edgecliffe. His solo career was just underway, and he was already a bit of a rock star. We had a nice chat on the sidewalk once which he wouldn’t remember but I do (rock stars never remember). I saw him once coming out of Big Mac’s liquor store on Sunset with a bevy of punk rock babes and was impressed. But I especially remember him at the local market, where I loutishly grabbed tomatoes like they were tennis balls but he gingerly squeezed each, looking for perfection. I felt shame. I saw Glenn Danzig do the same at a different market not long after. Both had a lot of tattoos, I had none. And both knew a lot more about squeezing tomatoes than I did, tho’ now, when I carefully pick through a pile at Super King, I ought to thank Henry at least. Henry, incidentally, was a lot taller than Danzig,  Danzig was more tatted. I was always hoping to run into Lemmy squeezing tomatoes, or all of Metallica or even Pat Boone during his heavy metal stage. Nope. There was Henry and there was Danzig. I’d seen Danzig at Al’s Bar with the Misfits. We talked about that over the tomatoes. I can’t remember what I said to Henry over those tomatoes. Maybe nothing, maybe I was too jarred by the sight of the way gnarly dude from Black Flag who’d smashed that mirror on the cover of Damaged and was here with that very same fist–well, same hand anyway–handling tomatoes like they were baby sparrows, just fragile little things, so easy to bruise.

And now he’s one of the headliners at the Claremont Folk Festival. One never knows, does one.