Thursday, October 14, 2010

Day 48: Grant Green "Alive!" & Gil Scott-Heron "The Mind of Gil Scott-Heron"

I've managed to hit a vein of CD cases where I'm familiar with the CDs as homeless CDs. Despite knowing that I've seen the homeless CD on numerous occasions, I managed to let myself get excited a few times, like with Duke Ellington's Money Jungle featuring Max Roach and Charles Mingus. Each time I see the case I get a little thrill that is popped as I remind myself that the CD is out there, homeless in one of the bags of homeless CDs that I'll eventually have to go through.

So after sifting through some likewise disappointments (a disc of Marcel Deauchamp, for one. I don't remember what that was about, but I'm sure it was interesting...) two cases with actual CDs have emerged for today's entry.

Grant Green

If there's one thing I don't know that much about (and frankly there are many things, but this is the internet and I have a blogspot account, so I get to talk about them to my audience of zero anyway...) it's jazz guitarists. I can list the handful of top names by rote if someone asks for suggestions.

But these aren't really suggestions because I can't really give you a good quantifiable difference between them for the most part. I know there is a Wes Montgomery and a Grant Green. And I know that I often confuse Grant Green with Basie guitarist Freddie Green.

I've seen Joe Pass in concert. And I think one other guitarist, but I can't really remember who that would be.

And of course there is Django, but even if you don't know jazz you know Django.

Thing is, there is no good reason I should be this ignorant. Sure, I'm not a guitarist and there was a little bit of disdain early on for guitarists when I was young because everyone played guitar. You couldn't throw a rock without hitting one. And thanks to my long hair and beard if someone found out I was a musician they assumed that meant 'guitarist.'

That all aside, I also played with an absolutely remarkable guitarist. If you have ever watched Home Movies, he was as close as you could get to Dwayne without actually being animated. Well, he didn't have his own rock band, though he could have if anyone could keep up with him. But they couldn't. Frustrated at being teased about guitarists not being able to read music he played the Charlie Parker Omnibook cover to cover. That's a book of Charlie Parker transcriptions that saxophonists spend their lives trying to go through. I never made it. I'm convinced that the only reason I can't find information on where he's playing right now is that I can't spell his last name.

I used to hang out and talk jazz with this guy and the piano player and talk jazz more than just about anyone. That means that guitarists had to have come up. At least enough to go to that Joe Pass concert. I just don't.

So I wasn't really expecting hard bop to come up. Again, I feel like it seems like I just label everything hard bop but really--hard bop is just over represented in the collection so far. There is some Latin like in Time To Remember, but then we're back into soulful hard bop with Sookie Sookie, which so far I have to say is awesome.

And now I have two versions of Maiden Voyage on the hard drive. I should start checking the accumulation of standards that's starting to happen on the drive.

Gil Scott-Heron
The Mind of Gil Scott Heron: A Collection of Poetry and Music

This is another inexplicable blind spot. I like beat poetry, I like jazz, it almost seems like a no brainer that I'd be all over Gil Scott-Heron, perennial jazz poet. But alas, I think that this is the first time that I've even sat down to listen to Scott-Heron.

I've certainly meant to listen to him before. In theory I've been all about what he does. But up until this moment, when I sit down to listen to any CD that comes up do I finally actually take a moment to listen to him. I don't really have an excuse as to why I never stopped and listened to him before. I've always known what he was about, though I don't really know that much about him.

Honestly, I didn't even know I had this. I don't remember ever getting a CD by him.

It's a little weird to listen to a contemporary poem addressing Watergate (The H20 Blues). This is a compilation but it does not include the iconic The Revolution Will Not Be Televised, so it's not really a primer.

Ah, when unemployment being at 7% was bad...we'd celebrate that right now...

I think some of what kept me from listening to Scott-Heron was that Slam Poetry wore thin on my really really quick. I was kind of excited that poetry was making a mainstream comeback, that I was going to be able to listen to new work instead of old recordings of Kerouac, Ferlinghetti, Burroughs, and Ginsberg.

But I had let history filter out those poems and proved to not be patient enough to filter the new Slam Poetry. So while I did encounter some that I thought was pretty cool, I found a lot of it, to be frank, fucking annoying. I realize now that a lot of it was people doing their best Scott-Heron, so it's a lot like someone watching Citizen Kane and thinking, "What's so special about this? All of this is trite and cliched." Well, sort of, but when everyone does those low shots or deep focus, they're imitating Welles. The movie was so influential, the techniques so imitated, that the conventions seem trite now but that's only because they were so mind blowing when they happened. Watching Citizen Kane is like looking at a Rosetta Stone for the language of film.

There is a track on here called The Ghetto Code (Dot Dot Dit Dot Dit Dot Dot Dash) which has a highbrow version of observational humor on the alphabet and the calender, but it also contains a reference to the practice of adding '-izzle' and 'sh-' to words as part of The Ghetto Code. Did not know that it was that old. He describes the Panama Canal situation as-

"There's a little bit of Panama over here, then there is some canal, then there's a little bit more Panama over here. But the Panamanians don't control the canal. You could think of it as if Amtrack came through your crib. You would at least want to know the man who was punching the tickets, and have a very tight relationship with him."

 This is a good cross section/time capsule for the political outrage of the time, but mostly now I want to hear Scott-Heron poems on Tea Parties, oil spills, two wars, and the 'Great Recession.' Of course now I'm going to think "Oatmeal Man" every time someone brings up Gerald Ford...which makes me think of Wilford Brimley (who our manager had managed to convince a few people was his uncle in one of the more awesome moments of ridiculousness at the store) or Quakers. He laid out the rational for calling Ford The Oatmeal Man earlier on, I forgot what it was. But, I have liner notes:

Anytime you find someone in the middle
Anytime you find someone who is tepid
Anytime you find someone who is lukewarm
Anytime you find someone
Who has been in Congress for twenty-five years
And no one ever heard of him, you got Oatmeal Man.
Oatmeal Man, straddling uncomfortably
yards and feet of barbed wire
It's hard to live in the middle all the time.
  So that's the story behind that.

There's a lot of those things that I eventually found trite in Slam Poetry, like word plays that were never as clever as the poets thought nor seemed to merit the crowd's reaction. Things like 'Hollyweird,' which was probably a tad more clever at the time but is still kind of 'eh.' I guess it's to counteract the 'normalizing' effect that the media has, but now it just feels like something that would be on an annoying handwritten sign or a Palin tweet.


  1. When someone mentions slam poetry, or somebody comes up on tv and godforbid DOES slam poetry I plug my ears and yell nanananananananana until Rich changes the channel. It's that much of an aversion. It can be dinner-ruining. This is not a dare. haha

  2. I so wanted to respond in slam poetry but I couldn't pull it off.

    It can get pretty annoying when there is too much reliance on wordplay that is not nearly as clever as they think it is, confusing 'loud' with passionate, or just being aspiring rap artists who don't have a beat box.

  3. just exasperated sounding d-bags. the insistence and 'passion' just comes off trite and preachy. never got it. meh.