I’m seeing Archie Shepp tomorrow as part of the PDX Jazz Festival, and I cannot wait. I’m gearing up by listening to this live set, one of two records that came from his 1975 performance at the Montreux Jazz Festival in Switzerland. Not as out-there as Mama Too Tight or The Magic of Ju-Ju, but it’s a pretty hot performance, and one that I imagine closely captures what I’ll be experiencing this weekend. One of the last of the avant-garde/free jazz players–gotta see these legends while we still can.
It’s hard to choose a favorite Ike & Tina record, but this is probably it for me (1971’s ‘Nuff Said also gets a lot of spins around here). The title track alone is worth the price of admission, but then you have killer kuts like “Make Me Over,” “Club Manhattan” and their fiery, difinitive version of “River Deep, Mountain High”–guaranteed to draw some blood, sweat and tears! And Tina Turner is, was, and always will be, the goddamn Queen. Bow down.
FRANKFORT, Kentucky–Colonel Sanders (L-Ky.) has finally announced his running mate for the contentious upcoming 2020 presidential election. In a The Days of Lore exclusive, we’ve discovered that Vincent Furnier (R-Ariz.) accepted the offer several days ago, ending months of speculation.
The fried chicken mogul’s decision to go with the occasionally headless Furnier reflects a strategic move to solidify his message of delivering a more theatrical approach to chicken harvesting, as evidenced by Furnier’s unhinged performance at the Toronto Rock ‘n’ Roll Revival Festival. The theatrical treatment of animals has emerged as a key issue among the colonel’s base.
His more radical constituents have condemned Sanders for using untheatrical slaughterhouse practices, which include birds being scalded to death in the defeathering process. The colonel addressed the claim late last year at a press conference, saying, “Those dirty birds need to ‘Feel the Bern.'”
Tonight I’ll climb up into the booth at the world-famous Ground Kontrol classic arcade for my monthly Black Sunday gig. All metal. All vinyl. From extreme black to bands that just wanna rock and roll all nite, I’ve got you covered. Also, no cover. It’s a holiday tomorrow so come have a drink(s) and play some Ms. Pac-Man. 8 p.m. – 2 minute to midnight.
My 5-year-old and I are coming up with some avant-garde compositions that push all boundaries, and are going to leave critics absolutely speechless. Sort of a blend of John Cage and The Fall meets Glass Houses-era Billy Joel. Wrap your head around it if you can.
What else would I be listening to on this unholiest of days? (I bought this original German Vertigo pressing a decade ago for 10 bucks, for you nerds). Released in the UK on February 13, 1970–Friday the 13th, of course–Black Sabbath’s debut invented an entire genre–guess which one? Fifty years ago. There were a lot of hard rock bands at the time (Sir Lord Baltimore, Coven, Blue Cheer), but no one conjured the bleakness or evil that these four blokes from Birmingham had. Or the riffs. Or that voice. Tony Iommi rightfully gets credit for creating some of the most menacing riffs ever put on tape, but Ozzy Osbourne’s vocals were from another dimension. Add to that a rhythm section of bassist Geezer Butler and drummer Bill Ward, and you have a band that would release six straight untouchable records that can still crush anything that has come since. Heavy metal as we know it started right here. Let us pray. And let us listen to my favorite cut from this slab o’ doom.
I was in the mood for something extra gnarly, and Vastum always delivers the gnarlies with some extra gnar. But even more to the point–this Bay Area four-piece has been the best death metal band going for years. The riffs are righteous, the tempos ooze, and the subject matter is the stuff typically discussed from a therapist’s couch. Patricidal Lust is Vastum’s second album, and it’s one of their best…but who am I kidding, they haven’t put out a bad record (2015’s Hole Below is also a classick). Vastum is coming to Portland March 21, and I shall not miss it.
Let’s move onto something more positive and enlightening to get us through the weekend…like, the antithesis of Rush Limbaugh. I want to talk about Fred Rogers–more specifically the music he helped create for Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, because it’s all I’ve been thinking about lately.
I recently discovered classic episodes were streaming (it’s still on Amazon Prime, FYI), and I thought, “HELLYES,” as one does when discovering Mister Rogers is streaming on Amazon Prime. “I’m going to introduce my kid to Mister Rogers.” But in the back of my mind I thought there was no way a child in the year 2020 would want to hear a dorky middle-aged man talk to them about dealing with emotions and accepting other people through cornball (yet lovely) songs and puppetry (come on…Lady Elaine Fairchilde still freaks me out). Shows how much I know–my 5-year-old loves Mister Rogers. It’s a testament to Rogers, whose genuineness, compassion and kindness are truly something to behold–especially in our current state of affairs (which is the reason I was in tears for probably 90 percent of 2018’s Won’t You Be My Neighbor?).
I love watching the show with my kid. He gets lessons about treating others, and himself, with respect (and I get some good reminders). Plus there’s a bonus: I’ve become absolutely obsessed with the music on the show. Not so much the songs we’ve all heard a million times (although I find myself humming them all. day. long.), but the music in between.
Rogers was a fan of jazz, and a fine pianist himself (he also studied music composition in college). And he was always keen to talk to musicians about their craft, including Wynton Marsalis, Yo-Yo Ma, clarinetist Richard Stoltzman and, of course, my favorite, electronic music weirdo Bruce Haack. But it was Rogers’ musical director of nearly 30 years, pianist Johnny Costa, who delivered the goods day after day. Costa’s fluid playing wasn’t simplified for children’s ears (a condition he gave Rogers, who immediately accepted); it’s emotive and sounds like no one else. As Rogers himself put it, Costa’s playing was “a character of its own.”
It never occurred to me until I revisited the show that the twinkly piano lines that run almost constantly throughout the show were all performed live on set by Costa. And improvised in many instances (even show staples “It’s a Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood” and “It’s Such a Good Feeling” were altered slightly each episode). Which is why I can’t get enough of Costa and his group–rounded out by bassist Carl McVicker Jr. and percussionist Bobby Rawsthorne (who’s also responsible for the vibraphone heard throughout). Much like the show itself, there’s an element of unpredictability that’s exhilarating. Plus there’s some really avant-garde passages that could only come from an improvised setting. Costa is literally playing to every movement of the show–when Rogers heads out to meet people, when the Trolley comes and goes, or even when there’s a knock at the door. It’s fantastic stuff.
When the jazz greats are discussed, you’ll rarely–if ever–hear Costa’s name, partially due to the fact his music is heard almost exclusively by children. Or because it’s become the ubiquitous background noise to Rogers’ soothing voice. Although Costa may not have pushed the genre the same way players like John Coltrane, Ornette Coleman or Albert Ayler did, he’s brilliant in his own right, and his playing is absolutely worthy of discussion.
I’m not one to wish ill on anyone–I’m probably empathetic to a fault. But yesterday when I heard that the racist who for decades has made fun of women, gays, people with chronic diseases, or anyone who doesn’t share his “values,” all the while profiting off baseless fear-mongering that has corroded the brains of thinking Americans, and contributed to the modern age of “alternative facts” and “fake news,” as well as the election of a racist president who routinely attacks legitimate news outlets and who just awarded this same poisonous human the nation’s highest civilian honor, was diagnosed with late-stage lung cancer, my immediate thought was, “Fuck him.”