Guest Host - 88 Jazz Place Weekend - 7/17

Tomorrow morning I'll be filling in for Gary Ferguson, which means we'll play a full hour of blues in the 10 spot with a bit more funkified feeling as the morning goes along.  We start at 9 am and finish at 1 pm, so please tune in here in South Florida at 88.9 FM or streaming online at the end of the data pipe at www.wdna.org.  Shout at you then.

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Viewer's Notes - Mingus (1968)

In case you didn't know, YouTube has increased (in some cases) the length of videos one can upload, and more and more interesting films are appearing online.  Of particular interest for jazz lovers is Thomas Reichman's Mingus, which runs about an hour and examines the life of the bassist and composer at a somewhat difficult point in his career in the mid-sixties.

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Barcalounge Skipper - 2011 MLB All-Star Game

JT: Drinking beers and plugging movies in center field
I'm going to write about tonight's MLB All-Star Game, live from Arizona, with the first pitch scheduled for 8:00 pm Eastern -- yeah, right..  A few thoughts before that "first pitch" to get things rolling...

Much has been made about the number of All-Stars chosen this year -- 85 total -- with particular venom reserved for players who declined to appear in the game to nurse nagging injuries or, worse yet, simply take a full three days off.  I'm of the view that if you're chosen, you should go, unless you are actually on the disabled list.  If guys need a break -- and there wouldn't be a break without the All-Star Game in the first place, maybe you can make the the break four days instead of three.  Take Monday and Tuesday off,  play the game on Wednesday, and let everybody resume the regular season on Friday.  What about the Home Run Derby, you ask?

My next suggestion is to scale back or get rid of the Home Run Derby.  Yes, everybody loves those dingers, but this glorified batting practice is far too long -- three hours, really -- and pretty dreadful to watch in the first round.  We all felt bad for Rickie Weeks and Matt Kemp.  Or maybe we flipped over to Kill Bill.  By the way, it was interesting to hear ESPN's Nomar Garciaparra (a two-time participant himself) talk about how sore he was the next.  The fatigue factor might not bode well for the AL team, who had three starters (Ortiz, Gonzalez, and winner Cano) go into the final round last night. Both Gonzalez and Cano probably took around 60 home run cuts each.  That's a workout.

Given the potential for a slight American League power outage, I am sure that the National League -- especially the Phillies -- are welcoming the chance to assert their pitching dominance to gain the advantage in the World Series.  With Roy Halliday to start and Cliff Lee in the bullpen, NL manager Bruce Bochy has four or five innings of the game locked up right there, with Tim Lincecum and a host of other studs ready to go.  By the end of the game, I think AL manager Ron Washington will wish he had CC Sabathia, Felix Hernandez, and Justin Verlander throwing.

I would expect a low scoring game for a while, with the NL breaking it open big after the fifth.  I have my bowl of peanuts and a fresh pitcher of iced tea ready to go. Now where'd I put the remote?

Going through the lineups during introductions, it appears that Yankees reliever David Robertson appears to be about 15 years old.  Good for him.  Nice to see THREE members of the Pittsburgh Pirates as All-Stars.  And on and on the pregame goes (The X-Factor?  Really?) culminating with Tim McCarver's awkward reading of the teleprompter.

Top 1st
Halladay is likely to be awesome.  One pitch, one out. Four more pitches, two outs.  Four more, inning's over.  Halladay is keeping the ball down in the strike zone, too.  Will he go two or three innings, is my question. AL 0, NL 0.

Bottom 1st
Weaver is very good, and underexposed, pitching as he does on the West Coast, for the other team in Los Angeles, and for a team that doesn't get much support outside of its limited fan base.  I don't expect at this point the National League hitters will fare much better. Batting second, there's Carlos Beltran -- nice to see him coming back into form, despite the strikeout on a change-up from Weaver.  Weaver is a fine pitcher, but his command looks a little off, evidenced by the walk to Kemp.  I would have liked to have seen Prince Fielder see a few pitches before swinging -- maybe Kemp could have stolen second.  As it turns out, Fielder swung at the first one and flied out.  That's it, Prince; give the Arizona fans another reason to boo. AL 0, NL 0.

Top 2nd
Nice play from Rolen to get the second out of the inning, as Halliday continues to be super-efficient.  A decent at-bat from Adrian Beltre, who saw about six pitches before a respectable fly-out to the opposite field.  That appears to be all we'll see from Halladay, who's making the start on three days rest.  His teammate Cliff Lee will likely take the next two innings. AL 0, NL 0.

Bottom 2nd
Now there's David Robertson in there, as Weaver -- whose knee has been bothering him -- could only go an inning.  No doubt a guy who can warm up quickly. And there's a noisy out, and an out only because of a a great play from Jose Bautista.  And now a single up the middle from Lance Berkman.  At least he won't be running.  After a good at bat from Matt Holliday, he's called out on strikes and Berkman is thrown out.  Yowza.  Looking back, honestly, I might have pinch run for Berkman -- Hunter Pence, anyone? AL 0, NL 0.

Top 3rd
And here's Cliff Lee, who these days is the best pitcher in baseball. Curve is working. Three up, three down.  Lineup changes should start soon, with the AL losing a chess piece by having Robertson pitch the second. AL 0, NL 0.

Bottom 3rd
Seattle rookie Michael Pineda is pitching now -- very good, and very composed for a 22-year-old. Weeks bats for the second time in the game now with two outs.  Time to guess of a pitch and try to jack one out.  Wow --strikeout on a filthy pitch down and away.  Will Washington let the rookie pitch another inning? AL 0, NL 0.

Top 4th
I like the substitutions of Hunter Pence and Justin Upton in outfield.  After one out, Adrian Gonzalez puts one just over the fence in right-center.  That's how good Gonzalez is -- a little mistake from Lee and A-Gon puts a run on the board.  And, with Fielder dropping the pop-up by Bautista, there's another reason for the Arizona fans to boo.  And there are the boos.  With a cheap little flare by Lee's former teammate Hamilton, Bochy goes to Tyler Clippard, the politest-looking man on either team.  Adrian Beltre singles to left, but for some reason Bautista tried to score from second and was thrown out easily.  Feh.  You have to let Clippard get those outs in a situation like this, with big bats up and down the lineup.  AL 1, NL 0.

Boo -- I mean, hooray! (photo from AP)
Bottom 4th
I like CJ Wilson as a left-hander here in the fourth, as well as Youklis at third.  "Infield single" by Beltran.  But, Fox, do we have to have a poolside interview with Justin Timberlake?  Single by Kemp.  Getting interesting here with two on and no outs.  The home run from Prince Fielder should limit the boos from the Arizona crowd for the rest of the night. Needless to say, I was wrong to like Wilson pitching here, as his command is a little off and he's leaving pitches up in the strike zone.  Wilson settles down and finishes the inning with 22 pitches, but the damage is done. NL 3, AL 1.

Top 5th
Votto in at first, with Clayton Kershaw on the mound now, a pitcher that the bottom of the AL order doesn't see much. Not much going on in this inning -- and it's three up three down, with Votto making a nice play at first to close out the inning.  NL 3, AL 1.

Bottom 5th
Migel Cabrera at first, Howie Kendrick an second, Johny Peralta at short, Ellsbury in center, with Walden pitching.  Here's where the lack of real aces for the American League is starting to show.  Tulowitzki singles, Castro is the pinch runner, Castro steals second. Rolen strikes out (again), when a proper ground ball to the right side of the infield would have moved the runner over.  Not a good night for Rolen.  Interesting detail on screen, showing the replay of how Walden sneaks off the rubber and closer to the plate during his delivery.  Castro steals third.  Weeks hits a little grounder back to the pitcher, who throws out Castro at home, with Weeks now at first.  I totally understand Weeks stealing second in this situation.  Can the NL get a balk here, please?  This is the second inning in a row that the AL pitchers have labored, so I would expect (another) error from the AL before the end of the game.  Weeks scores from second on Ethier's single, with Ethier being tagged out between first and second, probably drawing the throw from the cutoff to ensure the run scores.  It took Walden about 20 pitches to finish that inning. NL 4, AL 1.

Top 6th
Brandon Phillips in and second, Castro at short, Pablo Sandoval at third, with the outstanding Jair Jurrjens opening the inning to Ellsbury, who strikes out.  Two more up, two more down.  None of the AL hitters looked comfortable.  Nine outs to go for the American league and they're done.  NL 4, AL 1.

Bottom 6th
Matt Joyce in left, Carlos Quentin in right, Matt Wieters behind the plate, with Chris Perez pitching.  These guys are all good, but very young.  In the field right now, the lack of stature among the AL players is quite apparent.  Kemp flies out, but Joey Votto could be trouble in his first at bat here. Nope, he struck out -- but at least he swung hard.  Yader Molina gets a nice double off his former teammate, much to Perez's amusement.  And a quick fly out by Justin Upton -- patience, Grasshopper! -- ends the inning.  Another run would have been worth working for there.  NL 4, AL 1.

Top 7th
With Jair Jurrjens starting the seventh, I think the game is likely over if he can manage three outs. With Andrew McCutchen in center, the NL defense now is very strong all around.  I like how Fox flashed an on screen ad for Moneyball when Youklis ("The Greek God of Walks") came up.  Youklis delivers a single, and Bochy, taking no chances, brings in Craig Kimbrel.  First pitch, 97 miles per hour, but Kimbrel's command is a little off, and he walks a patient Paul Konerko.  Kendrick did his best to work the count, fouling off a couple of pitches, but he grounds out to end the inning.  Six outs left for the Americans.

Bottom 7th
Michael Cuddyer at first, Michael Young at third, with Brandon League pitching.  Button up your damn shirt, League.  Naturally, he gives up a single to Hunter Pence.  Strikeout by Castro, but speedy Pence goes to third on a passed ball.  League throws very hard -- close to a 100, pitch after pitch.  And Pablo Sandoval goes inside out fora ground rule double down the left-field line, Hunter Pence scoring easily.  Not a bad spot to pinch hit Gaby Sanchez in this spot: Swing away, big guy!  But he flies out. NL 5, AL 1.

Top 8th
Johnny Ventures (1950s pop idol?) is on to pitch in the 8th,   Howie Kendrick and Jocaby Ellsbury make sure they catch their late flights out of town, and Heath Bell does the Fat Man Sprint-and-Slide in from the bullpen. That was not really very cool at all.  Peralta pops out, and Heath Bell gets his 20 seconds on SportCenter. NL 5, AL 1.

Bottom 8th
Ogando is on to pitch for the AL, but the game has the feel of being over.  One out, two outs.  Jay Bruce pinch hits, and Gio Gonzalez comes in to pitch to him.  It's some hot lefty-on-lefty action, people.  Look at us managing the game people! And Bruce strikes out.  Epic.  Half inning to go.  NL 5, AL 1.

"How many outs we need, Skip?"
Top 9th
Some more substitutions have been made, but it's getting late, and from what I can tell another one of those Pirate all-stars, Joel Handrahan, is in to close out the game. Or is he?  My beard is getting itchy, and that usually means something.  Hanrahan strikes out Michael Young, who looks miffed that he whiffed.    Hanrahan is actually throwing about 100 miles an hour at the top end.  They must like him in Pennsylvania with that chin fringe.  But Castro and Bruce collaborate on an error, and puckish Carlos Quentin is on. Here comes the AL.  Will Matt Joyce of the Tampa Bay Not-the-Devil Rays be able to keep things rolling?  Joyce singles to right, and Jay Bruce uncorks a mighty throw home to nobody.  Runners at second and third with two out.  It's time for Bochy to bring on The Beard!  One pitch, fly ball to shallow right.  A few more, and it's a ground out to the shortstop. Final score: National League 5, American League 1.

Looks like the obvious was true here.  The National League's pitching depth was the difference, with Prince Fielder making up for his weak showing in the Home Run Derby by smacking a three-run homer that was the deciding hit in the game.  Didn't go too late for me, and it looks like nobody was seriously hurt.  I learned that I have a lot of movies to go see this summer, but I won't go to Friends with Benefits, no matter how many times JT asks.  Home field advantage for the National League in the World Series; I'll be watching that.

Check out my baseball (and other sports) blog, Barcalounge Skipper.

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Listener's Notes - From the CD Stack

A fine tribute album from the NY Jazz Initiative is at the very top of the CD Stack this week, Mad About Thad, on the Jazzheads label.  Thad Jones -- trumpeter and (with Mel Lewis) bandleader -- was a member of the very same Joneses that included pianist Hank and drummer Elvin.  Try keeping up with those Joneses.  But the NY Jazz Initiative has taken on the project of reviving Thad Jones' compositions and raising his profile through this excellent release, featuring arrangements largely by artistic director and saxophonist Rob Derke.  Virtually every track is interesting, rich, and offering outstanding solos, most notably from David Smith on trumpet and flugelhorn.

Dream Awhile, from Audrey Silver, is a significant collection from a singer with a polished, effortless voice and a distinctive approach to the American Songbook.  A regular performer in many New York clubs, Silver appears on this album with Joe Barbato on piano, Joe Fitzgerald on bass, Anthony Piccoli on drums, with Chris Bergson playing guitar on a few tracks. Infusing each song with great intelligence and a remarkably flexible sense of phrasing and swing, Silver is a singer who deserves broader recognition.  Her version of "Day Dream" is a fully mature exploration of the LaTouche/Ellington/Strayhorn composition.

We have yet another excellent tribute album, this from Jazzheads again featuring the Manhattan School of Music Afro-Cuban Jazz Orchestra under the direction of Bobby Sanabria, Tito Puente Masterworks Live!!!  Very much an ambitious and affectionate homage to Maestro Puente, this recording comes from an energetic concert of November 2008.  To hear all of these Puente compositions revived (and in some cases reconstructed), in fresh arrangements (most of them by Andrew Neely or Danny Rivera), elevated by the eager, daredevil soloing of the MSM players is a great gift.  This album will please fans of both big bands and of Latin jazz to be sure.

We'll move a little outside the pocket (as in straight ahead and in the pocket) with a release from Portuguese drummer  Joao Lencastre Sound It Out.The versatile drummer and composer assembles a steallar ensemble -- which he calls his Communion -- to play several Lencastre compositions and songs from artists as diverse as Coldplay, Daniel Lanois, Joe Zawinul, and Ornette Coleman.    With the potential to be too diffuse, the group stays together due to the solid playing of Jacob Sacks on piano, Thomas Morgan on bass, Phil Grenadier on trumpet, and Andre Matos on guitar.  David Binney and Ben Van Gelder even help out here and there on alto, with the latter saxophonist taking a masterful turn on the album's best track, Ornette Coleman's "Happy House."

Not just of of the pocket, but out of the box altogether is a wild exploratory album from pianist Landon Knoblock and drummer Jason Furman, Gasoline Rainbow.  Knoblock and Furman have been making music for over ten years, starting with their first performance at a North Miami Beach megachurch, but the music on Gasoline Rainbow is far from Sunday morning sunshine.  Challenging, witty, intimidating, richly textured and wide-ranging, the aural landscapes from these two musicians needs a couple of hearings in order to learn the terrain.  After a time, however, you'll find yourself enjoying the angles and dimensions of the title track and tunes like "Katie's Solar Explosion and Cosmic Aftermath."

A familiar figure in the South Florida music scene, tenor Troy Roberts brings a powerful sound and a more powerful musical imagination to his latest project, Nu-Jive.  Featuring a number of tunes that really allow the group -- Roberts with Silvano Monasterios on keyboards, Eric England on bass, and David Chiverton on drums -- to stretch out.  Electric, eclectic, Roberts delivers music that is full of energy and blends soul, funk, R&B, and Latin -- shot through with the ambitious creativity of jazz players.  Among many monster tracks, the most fearsome is "Oscar and the Shoe Box," which confidently clocks in at over ten minutes and features percussion by Jose Gregorio-Hernandez and notable Roberts collaborator Sammy Figueroa

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Undead Notes: Night of the Living Dead (1968)

Writing about the mother of all zombie movies -- the film that changed not just the horror genre but may have helped usher in the original MPAA ratings system -- feels a bit intimidating.  Much has been written about George A. Romero's seminal zombie movie, and in no way can I cover every possible reading of the film or provide a full survey of its history or related trivia.  But, like Ben holed up in that remote Pennsylvania farmhouse, I'm going to do my best to survive!

Night of the Living Dead still has the capacity to shock because it goes into taboo territory, to include story elements or images that for the most part are strictly off-limits.  In this way, NLD reminds me of a much older film, Tod Browning's Freaks, a pre-Code movie (from 1932) that challenges the audience by using many real-life sideshow performers as characters in what is basically a gruesome revenge tragedy.  With NLD, screenwriters John Russo and George Romero plotted a story that moved into territory that violated social values and taboos.  Many people have written about the filmmakers' intention of commenting on the times, but I don't think that's exactly how many zombie films work.  Rather, much of what an effective zombie film does is to show how human nature reveals itself when the social fabric unravels, civilization collapses, and existence is reduced to a kill-or-be-killed scenario. Whatever values and habits survivors hang on to -- or whatever new ones they develop -- unfolds in them.

The primary taboo that zombies violate is the eating of human flesh.  As many will know, one of Romero and Russo's original titles was "Night of the Flesh-Eaters," and, of course, NLD was inspired in part by Richard Matheson's I Am Legend, in which the apocalyptic scourge comes in the form of vampires, blood-suckers existing a degree of magnitude beneath flesh-eaters.  And although one could make much of cannibalism as a commentary on the excesses of consumer capitalism, cannibalism has a much more fundamental history as an idea that Western civilization defines itself in opposition to.  It's not so much that zombies are eating your flesh, it's that, in a sense, they are eating everything we've come to identify ourselves with.  Again and again, zombies are shown as outside (a room, a house, a mall, a wall) and trying to get in. The barbarians are at the gate.

Certainly, 1968 was a year of cultural anxiety in the United States.  Richard Nixon was elected President, in part, by running as the candidate of law and order.  Coming as it did out of this moment of perceived chaos, Night of the Living Dead builds some of its  tensions out of cultural elements.  The media is shown as slow to perceive what's really going on, referring to the growing hoards of cannibalistic ghouls as "mass murderers," still applying the old framework.  The federal government may know what's going on, but they are not going to be forthcoming with the general public.  Local law enforcement is handled for the most part by dangerously cocky rednecks with guns, and they'll happily deal with the walking dead as long as the coffee's hot and the ammo plentiful.

Ont the ground, where the main plot of Night of the Living dead unfolds, matters are far more gruesome.  Opening in a rural cemetery where Johnny (Russell Streiner) and Barbara (Judith O'Dea)  have reluctantly come to visit the grave of their father, Johnny teases her graveyard-fearing sister with the now famous line, "They're coming to get you, Barbara!" Before you know it, Johnny is downed by an indigenous zombie and Barbara runs for for her life, finding refuge in a rural farmhouse. She is soon joined by Ben (Duane Jones), who, seeing that she's in shock, takes it upon himself to secure the house, boarding up the windows and doors and locating a gun.  Although the pairing of a white woman and a black man alone in a house might not seem problematic for younger audiences, at the time, it would certainly have raised some eyebrows.  The fact that Ben is perfectly comfortable taking charge -- asserting himself physically when necessary -- is all the more socially provocative. We're a long way from the island automaton of Carrefour in 1943's I Walked With A Zombie.

After a time, as night falls, Ben discovers that a handful of people have been hiding in the cellar of the farmhouse.  There's a teenage couple, Tom (Wayne Keith) and Judy (Judith Ridley).  More notably, there's a family whose daughter, Karen (Kyra Schon) has been bitten by a zombie, and she's dying despite the care of her weary mother Helen (Marilyn Eastman) and her panicky, overbearing father Harry Cooper (Karl Hardman). Harry would rather everyone stay cooped up down in the cellar, door bolted against the gathering hordes.  As Ben makes clear, once everyone's locked into the basement, there's no way out.  Some of the best moments in the film happen between Ben and Harry, exchanges full of racial subtext, with Karl Harman showing some fine acting chops for imperious douchebaggery in the face of Duane Jones' urgent confidence.

The plot ball rolls along quickly after this point.  After a time, everyone agrees to Ben's plan.  They'll gas up the pickup truck they have at one of the farm's outbuildings and make a run for a nearby refuge. This goes badly. Teenagers are burned alive and then eaten in gory detail; Ben just makes it back to the house, where he and Harry struggle over the only gun, even as the zombies are climbing through the doors and windows.  Harry gets himself shot, but stumbles back to the cellar, where he finds his daughter Karen, now a zombie, ready to eat him. Helen manages to free herself and retreat to the basement as well, but undead Karen stabs her over and over with a trowel, presumably antecedent to making a meal of mommy. Barbara, who had been staying alive to this point, sees her brother Johnny among the invading zombies and is carried off.  Karen, escaping from the cellar, makes a move for Ben, but he slips down into the basement and locks himself in. As a bonus, he gets to shoot the animated corpses of Helen and Dickhead Cooper.  In the morning, the zombies are cleared out by the redneck/NRA hordes, who happen to take out Ben with a head shot.  He could have been a zombie, after all. Game over.

The reversals pile up faster than the motionless bodies of zombies in the last half of the film.  Still concerned about your brother?  You'll be carried off and eaten, and Johnny will nibble on your knees.  Idealistic teenage love?  That'll get you blown up and eaten.  Take a gun away from a black man?  That'll get you shot.  Look after your children?  They'll kill you and eat you.  Stay loyal to your husband?  He'll get you killed and eaten by your own children. Assume the authorities will come to your rescue?  They'll end up assuming you're part of the problem shoot you in the head.  Forget the zombies, it's people who are the problem. Romero and Russo pile up the unthinkables-- murder, cannibalism, miscegenation, patricide, matricide, racial revolt, martial law, even incest -- to the point where viewer's might miss them on a conscious level, but their effects would nevertheless be felt.

Produced in black-and-white in and around Pittsburgh on a very limited budget, using regional actors, and for a grand total of $114,000 (about $750,000 in 2011), Night of the Living Dead should be understood as an independent film in the the purest sense.  In contrast, the year's top-grossing films in similar genres were Rosemary's Baby (which I've never cared for) and Planet of the Apes (which I adore), although both of these deal with themes of paranoia and revolt.  The realism of the film's look -- especially its prominent gore -- combined with its uncompromising presentation of taboo -- provoked a remarkable range of reactions from audiences and critics.  Regardless of critical or public opinion, Night of the Living Dead is the film that spawned most of the zombie movies to follow -- in part, because of its innovation, and perhaps because of its (oops) entry into the public domain. As a true original, it should be mandatory viewing for all zombie fans, if not all students of American cinema.

NOTE: This review is cross-posted at Mort-Vivant, my blog about zombies (and science fiction and comics). These cross-postings will continue until Halloween 2011, when Mort-Vivant finally walks alone!

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Playlist - Jazz Cafe, 7/10

Song, Artist, Album

Everything Happens To Me, Thelonious Monk, Thelonious Alone in San Francisco
Four by Four, Itai Kriss, The Shark
Adam's Apple (Rudy Van Gelder Edition)Footprints, Wayne Shorter, Adam's Apple
Django, Modern Jazz Quartet, Django
Doxy, Shelly Manne, Shelly Manne & His Men, Vol. 4: Swinging Sounds
Manhattan Style, Rufus Reid & Out Front, Hues of a Different Blue
Stan's Blues, Bill Evans Trio featuring Stan Getz, But Beautiful
Theme for Ernie, John Coltrane, Soultrane
Cee Cee Rider, Jimmy Smith, Home Cookin'
Salty Tears, Michael Burks, Iron Man
Howling at the Moon, Kenny Neal, Bayou Blood
Jimmy Witherspoon, Blues in the Night, Blues for Easy Livers
Straighten Up And Fly Right, Nat King Cole Trio,Jumpin' At Capitol
Self Portrait in Three Colors, Charles Mingus, Mingus Ah Um
You Came A Long Way From St. Louis, Abbey Lincoln & Hank Jones, When There Is Love
Bunny, Gerry Mulligan, Gerry Mulligan Meets Johnny Hodges
Skylark, Nnenna Freelon, Nnenna Freelon
Resolution,Kurt Elling, The Man in the Air
Easy Living, Lee Morgan, Expoobident

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