Tag Archives: Miles Davis

Before You Die for Dummies

27 Mar


While the underlying conceit of this book and the whole bucket list genre and current cultural preoccupation creeps me out(perhaps its the latest iteration of books with the subtext,”….for Dummies”)— 1001 WALKS YOU MUST TAKE BEFORE YOU DIE (Universe/Rizzoli may be special case. As I have recently discovered walking to be a multi faceted pleasure — fearing an adult onset condition known as sitting-around-all-day {SAAD).I discovered bipedal locomotion a reasonable way to get the heart pumping without having to resort to a membership in one of those ubiquitous temples of narcissism. And best of all, is the opportunity to rediscover the wonders of this world, the only world we have and will have.

1000 Walksis a substantial volume (as in thick) and as the publisher notes, a wide-ranging compendium including, “country hikes, heritage trails, coastal strolls, mountain paths, and city walks from around the globe.”

Did I mention the pretty pictures?

Cool, Ya Dig.

16 Sep
The Cool School by Glenn O 'Brien

The Cool School by Glenn O’ Brien

As attribution is a fetish (or a strong habit)of mine I feel compelled to credit Martin Amis with the astute observation that one of the few bits of vernacular that resists obsolescence is the word/notion “cool” It was operative 50 or 60 years ago when the Prince of Coolness, Miles Davis, began making music and remains functional to this day. There are,I suppose, some deep philological explorations to be made to unpack this happenstance —the more riveting focus, though is on the nature of the things, people and concepts that fall under the rubric, cool.

Now comes a Library of America volume, edited by a man of many seasons, the inestimable Glenn O’Brien,The Cool School Writings from America’s Hip Underground(LOA) which anthologizes a wide array of texts from hipsters the likes of Miles Davis, Henry Miller, Neal Cassady, Jack Kerouac, Lester Young, Norman Mailer, Frank O’Hara, Amiri Baraka, Lenny Bruce, Rudolph Wurlizter, Nick Tosches, George Carlin and,oh yeah, Glenn O’Brien.(see the complete list here).

Here’s O’Brien’s view:

In a away this volume is a compendium of orphans.

Its not really an anthology as a much as a sampler. A few tasty morsels from the bebop scene, some ancient history of the pre-wiggers, the Beats both beatific and and some downtrodden. some gonzo and gonzoesque journalism, even a bit of punk picaresque. Its really a louche amuse bouche and a possible textbook for Outlier Lit 101

My guiding principle in selecting was filtered randomness> My only agenda was to provide a primer and inspiration for future thought crime and written rebellion.This volume is by no means definitive in terms of the writers selected or example chosen.It could have been entirely composed of different authors except for a few prime mover usual suspects…What is collected here is just a little taste to whet cool appetites

This disclaimer aside, as cultural surveys go, Glenn O’Brien has assembled a vivid picture of what was happening in America on the fringes the main stream and beneath the surfaces of normalcy.Academics might quibble about various omissions or inclusions but O’Brien has that intangible grasp of the cool to have collected snapshots of roiling cultural climate of the 20th century.

Of course being cool , you will already sense that.

Currently reading The Tilted World by Beth Ann Fennelly and Tom Franklin (Wm Morrow)


13 Nov

Miles Davis (purloined from the internet)

The inextinguishable ardor of fans that propels the career of pop music’s relics—packed stadium, world tours, films, biographies and illustrated coffee table behemoths — that’s all business as usual. What is responsible for that ardor—well that’s an age old conundrum? Thus we have Rolling Stones 50, ” curated, introduced and narrated by the band themselves… the only officially authorized book to celebrate this milestone. With privileged access to a wealth of unseen and rare material, it is packed with superb reportage photography, contact sheets, negative strips, outtakes and so much more, from every period in the band’s history.” Alright then.

Rolling Stones 50

The thing about rock n roll stardom and celebrity is that there very few musicians of whom you can say that they are unique or even particularly original. The word ‘icon’ is loosely bandied about which seems a flawed perception from the get go—after all pop music is nothing if it is not derivative. Ask me to measure the iconic stature of Mick Jaeger or Keith Richard versus Miles Davis and, well, its mangos and bananas. Which brings me to a wonderful new volume, Miles Davis: The Complete Illustrated History(Voyageur Press) with contributions from Sonny Rollins, Bill Cosby, Herbie Hancock, Ron Carter, Clark Terry, Lenny White, Greg Tate, George Wein, Gerald Early,and Dave Liebman. For the small but dedicated Miles Davis audience this book is a mesmerizing retrospective of a spectacular musician and modern American music that he helped shape.

Miles Davis: The Complete Illustrated History

There have been rumors for sometime of a Miles Davis biopic spearheaded by the very talented Don Cheadle

I’ve loved him since fifth grade, when I started playing saxophone and my parents had his Porgy and Bess album. Very young I was just taken with the music. I was a student of it very early, and that’s just sort of never waned. A lot of people think they know a lot about Miles but they only know the name and the image, the iconography. You say: “Miles Davis” to most people and they go: “Yeah, jazz! He played sax or he played something, right?” They don’t really know, and that’s fine. I wanted to make a movie for the people who didn’t know about Miles Davis, so they could just enjoy the movie and the music.

I can hardly wait…

Currently reading The Bird Saviors by William Cobb (Unbridled)

Miscellaneous Miscellany

8 Jun

Though engaging in a life of retail commerce and high finance is not my idea of a life well-lived, like any other aspect of human endeavors it does produce some narratives that can rise above the merely interesting. And some writers are even able to fabricate a decent book out of recent real life stories. Michael Lewis has done a fine job in a number of books, not the least of which is his latest opus The Big Short (Norton). and by the way, his ostensibly about baseball book Moneyball is being made into a movies. And currently there are James B. Stewart’s Tangled Webs: How False Statements are Undermining America: From Martha Stewart to Bernie Madoff (Penguin Press) and Gretchen Morgenson and Joshua Rosner’s Reckless Endangerment: How Outsized Ambition, Greed, and Corruption Led to Economic Armageddon(Henry Holt/Times Books)keeping our latest economic travails painfully fresh.

And then there are movies focusing on the world of big money—some even made from books—the first of which was the quite serviceable Barbarians at the Gates. The Coen Brothers The Hudsucker Proxy was a business satire which I mention here because I will not pass on a chance to mention the Coen Brothers. Which brings me to the latest HBO offering, Too Big To Fail taken from Andrew Ross Sorkin’s Too Big to Fail: The Inside Story of How Wall Street and Washington Fought to Save the Financial System—and Themselves (Viking). Of course there is no mystery about what happened but there is something about seeing the various players in America’s financial debacle played by decent actors. And oddly its hard to muster up the appropriate disdain toward Paul Giametti as Bernake or William Hurt as Treasury Secretary Paulson, though James Wood as Lehmann Brother’s CEO Fuld oozes enough hatefulness and mendacity to go around (By the way the film is well directed by Curtis Hansen (LA Confidential). IF you want to grasp a good sense of America’s travail Oscar winner Inside Job and Company Men do a fine job of distillation—the former factually and the latter providing the emotional coloration.

As much as I find Rupert Murdoch a dark and corrupting influence on the American media culture, I have been pleased to see that The Wall Street Journal has lively book coverage as exemplified by an article on “super-agent” Andrew “The Jackal” Wylie

You might want to have a look at my recent chat with British writer Philip Kerr creator of, among other things, eight Bernie Gunther novels.

Awards shows are a fact of modern cultural and commercial life. Most of them are dismissible. But I have found a small warm place in my cold cold heart for the Moby Book Trailer Awards Some of which you can see here

The Nation had a substantial piece on Janet Malcolm’s Iphigenia in Forest Hills Anatomy of a Murder Trial (Yale University Press) which quoted an interview I did with Renata Adler. Dare I say it is well worth looking at?

Words Without Borders published a wonderful story by Brazilian Lucia Bettencourt entitled Borges”s Secretary.

Lawrence Block is an award winning crime writer who has written over 50 books amongst which is his Matthew Scudder series. A Drop of the Hard Stuff (Mullholland Books) is the latest. I an aversion to series and the few Scudder novels that I have sampled are validation of my reasons. In the case of the latest opus I find the relentless recitation of Twelve Steps principles and processes totally uninteresting and as Scudder is an alcoholic ex NYC police we are bludgeoned into insensibility with his “facing his demons”.

Kind of Blue (Oceanview)on the other hand is a fresh story by ex LA Times reporter Miles Corwin. If you are wondering if the title derives from one of the greatest jazz recordings ever—yes, indeed. Ash Levine, a former major crimes detective in Los Angeles P.D., who has lost faith in his former department and colleagues and relies on the 1959 Miles Davis album for some regular mental health repair. Corwin creates an interesting crime and a plausible back stage look at police department operations and processes.I doubt Corwin will decline the temptation to make Asher Levine a series—which may work out as long as he doesn’t start naming the stories after jazz classics

And finally,for now, sabermetrician Bill James, known for introducing subtle statistical analysis to baseball is a fan of true crime stories and claims to have read thousands of these tabloid crimes. Popular Crime Reflections on the Celebration of Violence (Scribner) is a book about crime stories idiosyncratic an d thankfully devoid of sociological jargon. James includes a kind of true crime’s greatest hits from the 1799 murder of Elma Sands, axewoman Lizzie Borden to the Lindbergh baby kidnapping, the Black Dahlia to JonBenet’s murder the Zodiac Killer, the JFK assassination, Sam Sheppard,to the O. J. Simpson murders. And he employs a story behind the story approach that goes a recitation of each crime’s details.