Thursday, May 05, 2016

Things we like: Herbie Hancock, Tanzer Trauer, "Miles Ahead," Karate

1) Herbie Hancock's Possibilities. This autobiography, co-written with Lisa Dickey, was pubbed in 2014, but I only stumbled on it at the library a couple of weeks ago. It's a worthwhile read. A couple of Herbie's yarns about things he learned from Miles are worth the price of admission all by themselves, but there's more. He's a pretty self-aware and humble cat (I suspect his Buddhist practice helps), and he writes pretty forthrightly about his own weaknesses (including coke and crack use), as well as providing interesting insight into his engineer's (and early adopter's) head and the twists and turns of his ever-more-mainstream career. (He started writing hits early on; "Watermelon Man" paid for the Mwandishi band. Speaking of which, this whets my appetite to read Bob Gluck's You'll Know When You Get There: Herbie Hancock and the Mwandishi Band.) His descriptions of early synth technology prepared me for...

2) Tanzer Trauer, aka "The Artist Formerly Known As Zeitmorder." In other words: Jon Teague of Pinkish Black fame, performing acts of ancestor worship (Cluster and Eno, Jon's Yeti bandmate/mentor Doug Ferguson) on obsolete technology (his battery of modular synths). It went down at the 1912 Club on Hemphill on Earth Day. I remember the first Earth Day, in 1970: I wasn't allowed to bag school the way my best buddy was (he'd also gotten to do it for the Vietnam Moratorium the year before), so I had to wait till after school to go to the church where it was going down in my town, where I watched a kid paint a sign that said "Anti-Pollution Now!" (Years later, another buddy and I would email each other "Anti-Unemployment Now!" when we were both out of work.) But I digress. Hopefully Jon will do more of this when he's not touring.

3) Don Cheadle's Miles Ahead. I was dubious about this based on the car chase scenes and gunplay in the trailer, but I needn't have worried. Caught a Sunday afternoon showing at the Modern Art Museum here (the docent informed us that the noon showing is the one to catch -- half price!) and overall, I'd have to say it's the best flick of its kind (biopic of muso I dig) that I've seen. Sure, it cuts corners the way movies always do, but it felt like all the choices Cheadle made served the story and honored the character. Without shying away from the complexities (e.g., the protagonist's relationships with women), it managed not to make me hate Miles' misogynist guts the way the Quincy Troupe book did. And Miles' music was integrated into the story as well as I've ever seen it done -- you can follow the trajectory of the character's emotions by listening to the soundtrack. At no time did I feel like I, as a viewer, was being manipulated or sold short. And without giving anything away, the ending contained some nice non-plot surprises. If Cheadle doesn't win at least one Oscar for this, to hell with the Academy. Also: The Modern's showing Purple Rain at 10pm on Friday, May 13th.

4) Karate's Some Boots. Jamie Shipman, whom I've netbuds with for years and who plays bass in Heater, whom I need to see, pulled my coat to this, which sounds like a cross between Tame Tame and Quiet and, um, Rory Gallagher...bluesy alt-rock? Geoff Farina was part of Lawnmower, a free-jazz outfit whose Clean Feed album of a few years ago I liked real much. With this trio, Farina writes sharp lyrics and sings 'em in a voice not unlike Donald Fagen's, with occasional nods to Van-Morrison-via-Phil-Lynott in his phrasing. On guitar, he has a beautiful clean Fender tone that's infused with the Otis Rush/early Buddy Guy blues fundamental that I love. When he kicks on the fuzz and wah, it's harmonic-rich heaven, and he's not above fucking things up with the whammy bar (or electronic simulacrum). When he pushes the harmonics past the brink of feedback on "In Hundreds," he even gets into Andy Gill territory. His mates on bass and drums ain't no slouches, either. I've got this in the car and I could be listening to it for awhile. It's thrilling to me that music like this existed in 2002.


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