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

Monday, October 25, 2004


“Beware of respectable people; beware of crooks, but of all crooks beware of the respectable; beware of snobs, and especially middle-class snobs; beware of people who are perfectly grammatical; beware of culture hounds; beware of the people who let their thinking be done for them and don’t know it.” -- Carl Sandburg, from the “Chicago Daily News,” May 30, 1930, quoted in “Selected Poems,” edited by George and Willene Hendrick


Burned a CD at a Starbucks listening station Saturday. 7 songs for $9, plus a dollar a song for any additional. I know you can get ‘em cheaper on the web, but I have dial-up and haven’t taken the plunge.

Selection is fairly broad but not terrifically deep. Still, it was easy to fill a CD with 6 jazz trax & 1 classical piece I wanted. Process was fairly straightforward, and the packaging is nice -- CD & case with track & artist listings & an illustration you pick from a menu. Apparently there have been payment glitches because when the machine wouldn’t accept my credit card (which is in good standing & has posed no problems of late), the store manager gave me the CD for free. Bonus.

Tracks (not in order): Coltrane’s magnificent “Nature Boy”; Miles Davis with his terrific ‘60s quintet doing “Freedom Jazz Dance”; Oliver Nelson’s classic “Stolen Moments”; Pharoah Sanders and Leon Thomas’s oddball free jazz hippie peace religious yodel “Hum Allah Hum Allah Hum Allah” (I’d only ever heard Eugene Chadbourne’s version); a couple lush gorgeous cuts by Michel Legrand with Stephane Grappelli; and Darius Milhaud’s beautiful “La Creation Du Monde” conducted by Michael Tilson Thomas. (Starbucks CD credit says: “La Creation Du Monde” by Michael Tilson Thomas, no mention of Milhaud.)

Milhaud wrote his piece in 1923, and it’s the only jazz-influenced classical piece from that era I’ve ever liked, not counting Gershwin. A quiet non-jazzy opening with a moody mysterious atmosphere. You can hear Satie’s influence in the calm demeanor and mild 20th century dissonance. When the jazzy themes come in, they’re attractive if simple & rhythmically stiff-stilted compared to the real thing. Milhaud gets an engagingly intense & complex polyphony going that’s more like classical than jazz, even though the thematic material is jazzy. I’m grateful he doesn’t go “jarring-for-jarring’s sake,” like many of his contemporaries would have and did.

When I read Fitgerald’s great “The Great Gatsby” 13 or 14 years ago, I was struck by an allusion to Milhaud’s piece. At a big party, the fictional Vladimir Tostoff plays a piece called Jazz History of the World. Fitzgerald’s book came out in 1925, two years after the Milhaud. I remember thinking, if the story took place now (early ‘90s), the party would have a KRS-One style didactic rapper giving a world-historical rap (I was thinking of his terrific rap demonstrating that Moses was a Black man). And Gatsby, instead of being a bootlegger, would be a drug captain. And Wolfshiem, instead of being the man who fixed the 1919 World Series, would be the man who funneled inner city drug profits through the CIA to the Contras. At least in my version.

I like George Antheil, and Frank Martin as jazzy classical guys. Especially Martin's Concerto for Seven Instruments.
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