Utopian Turtletop. Monsieur Croche's Bête Noire. Contact: turtletop [at] hotmail [dot] com

Wednesday, July 14, 2004


Is there a hierarchy of sunsets? A hierarchy of landscapes? We think of the glorious and hideous things we humans do as something other than nature, but isn’t that a little haughty of us? Are we not animals too, and hasn’t everything we’ve done been an expression of nature’s power? Sure, we’re alienated, but that’s our problem, that’s just emotion.


On the quality rock station this morning, someone phoned in his top 3 albums -- Dark Side of the Moon, Sgt. Pepper’s, and the Doors’ first album. I can’t really relate, but who am I to say the dude is wrong?


Rhythm and timbre define genre more than anything else. They speak to the listener’s social and private identities. Some sounds just say “home” to some people and “stay the hell away” to others.


A couple years ago I made a list of favorite albums to compare with a friend. Started with Top 100. Then Top 10. I tried to remember my Top 10 tonight, but only remembered 9. I made a new list, about half overlap. The only thing recorded since I turned about 5 years old was an album by a Hungarian Roma band that friends who were living in Hungary bought for me.


Armstrong, Banfa and Jobim and others, Beatles, Beach Boys, Howlin’ Wolf, Ella, Sarah Vaughan with Michel Legrand, Kalyi Jag, Gershwin, and the 10th? Do I have to decide?


Wallace Stevens: “Happens to like is one of the ways things happen to fall.”


I wrote to a friend the other day: “Been on a serious Basie-Pres kick the last week.  Jonesing for that too.  Probably should blog about it. 
“Basie’s style is essence-of-Fats – Waller was his idol (Waller, who was a few months older) – and Basie’s touch & melodic sense are Fatsian, though minimalized.  Early Basie, with the Bennie Moten Orch., is less minimalized – he seriously pared, pared, pared it down.  & it’s gorgeous & inimitable & timeless.

“Timeless, because – Because! – when you listen to Pres with the Basie Orchestra, the soloists all sound like ‘30s or even ‘20s guys, except Lester Young, who sounds ‘50s.  And except Basie, who only sounds Basie.  It took me about 2 decades of listening to Pres to understand how revolutionary he was – his innovations were so deeply assimilated that he just sounded “nice,” “fine,” “pretty” and didn’t register with me.  And then I noticed how beautiful the melodies are, and how light & airy & dancy twisty turny his phrasing.  And then I noticed – he sounds ‘50s!  It’s a whole new Thang with him.  Trumbauer’s lightness inspired his own, but that combined with his phrasing just catapults him over contemporary stylishness. 

“Fats’s piano-isms outshone Basie’s (and just about anybody’s) and his songwriting was topnotch and hugely popular.  His singing was a kick and a half.  But Basie had the Audio-Vision to make a new orchestral SOUND.  Bandleading is a great, delicate, complex art.  Lately I’m digging Basie at least as much as Duke.  If Duke outshines him in sound-color (and just about everybody), Basie outswings.”

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