Sunday, October 26, 2008

Miles Davis, Relaxin' with the Miles Davis Quintet (Prestige)

On a lark I put this CD into our bedroom alarm clock one evening, under the assumption that waking up to the clock chimes of "If I Were a Bell" would instantly put us into the jazziest of jazz moods, everyday from here to eternity. After about a week I realized several things: 1) Waking up to the same chord progressions day after day, morning after morning, snooze after snooze, turns hellish after about 4 days; 2) after waking up in hell, you will be too tired to remember to take the disc out of said alarm clock; and 3) too much of a good time is not a good time, even if you've got Coltrane on your right channel. Put it this way: How many times do you listen to Sgt. Pepper's and still get anything out of it? The grooves in that record been needled through so many times you can just play it all in your head. So put it back on the shelf, and maybe, just maybe, you'll get "If I Were a Bell" randomized on your iPod, and you'll just catch a glimpse of what it was really all about before it was all about that.

Suggested Wine Pairing: Dude, once in a while, whatever's on the rack that's good, might grab you if your head's in the right place. Joel Gott Cabernet Sauvignon, California, 2004.

Herbie Hancock, Maiden Voyage (Blue Note)

Who came first: Tony Williams, or the Ocean? A deceptive question, but think on it a bit. When the waves crash, do they not sound just like Tony's crash? Who or what is your point of reference? While you ponder, I will tell you a story: Once upon a time I washed up on an Honduran island. I don't remember too much about it, other than it being surrounded by barracudas and sea turtles, and swarming schools of tiny jellyfish. I do recall, however, walking back to my hut late one night after several Honduran beers. Alone on the beach, I dove into the water and the phosphorescent algae trailed my every movement. If you'd never been there you would find such an occurrence utterly fantastic or delusional. But if you have been there you could only recognize me as a realist of the imagination. As for me I saw fairy dust falling off my body with every twitch of my fingers, as if I were living through Disney's Peter Pan. I looked back to the shore and realized I had imagineered the closest replica to the Pirates of the Caribbean ride at Disneyland that could possibly exist -- because, of course, I was in the Caribbean. Or put it this way: I'm not quite sure what's on this record, it could be jazz or it could be John Tesh. All I know is that when I put it on I turn into that crazy dude with the knife in Polanski's Knife in the Water. Because I'm on the water, right there with George Coleman and Ron Carter. And Krzysztof Komeda in absentia.

Now, you may return to your philosophical musings on Tony Williams and the Ocean.

Suggested Wine Pairing: Currents are merely saltwater rivers in the ocean. Should you be fortunate enough to share a casual day yachting over them (at least in your mind), think of our mutual friend Herbie and open a bottle of River Road Merlot, Sonoma County, 2004.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Henry "Red" Allen and His New York Orchestra, 1929-1930 (JSP)

Like my friend Paul used to say back in the 80s, "I ain't no connoisseur cat / What kinda sewer is that?"  You know what else he used to say?  "I didn't come here to fight / Hey, unless if that is white!"  By which Paul meant, beer is for breakfast, but wine is for Sunday.  And every other day of the week, too, I'm guessing, even on the skyway.  So what's the "Red" stand for?  It's the historical juncture, a missing link, the time when a trumpeter could still go abstract from the smoky (and smoking) comfort of the corner joint.  Or rather, when the dude could still play the blues and conceptualize Modigliani, it's all right there.  Henry's in the tradition, no doubt, but he's smoothing it out (with his New York Orchestra) in a way that makes Duke inevitable, and how is it I can't stop hearing Parker and JJ Johnson?  The writing is on the wall, written in grafitti in the back stall, reminding us to Let it Be.  And Stink.   Written in red lipstick.  And Jesus right behind me, never got any smokes.   When I was young.  Before I even knew what an Alex Chilton was.  Paul screaming out drunk as John Berryman from the backrooms of the great Midwest was about all that sustained me.  When I was young.  Henry Red Allen didn't invent America, but he may have made it grow up.  It's still a black-and-white thing.  Read all over.

Suggeste Wine Pairing:  Paul don't drink that expensive Eur-O-Peen swill, and he definitely don't pay more than $10 for the privilege.  Corks are pretty much a drag, too.  Purists don't dig Paul, 'cause Paul's a dirty river (the one that runs through Minneapolis, actually).  Paul robs Peter, to pay Tim.  With the best screw-top bottle of red money can buy, I think:  Wyatt Cabernet Sauvignon 2005, California.