Archive for June, 2009

Michael Jackson 1958-2009

June 26, 2009


I heard on NPR last night that Michael Jackson had been take to the hospital.  It sounded serious.  It crossed my mind that maybe he died, or would die.  He hadn’t seemed healthy in awhile.

Then, I went to Wayne State University for a free night of entertainment.  Detroit’s having a month long festival, to make up for not having the usual Detroit Festival of the Arts.  They showed the movie A Great Day in Harlem, about the famous 1958 photo of 57 great jazz musicians.

The piano, bass and drums trio, The Bad Plus played.  I’m not very familiar with their music but they were in good form.  They have a sort of “free jazz” edge to what they do.  Anyway, they mentioned Michael Jackson and I’m thinking “He must have died or else is at death’s door.”

They said that musicians will appreciate Michael Jackson for his music, not for strange spectacle of his life as he lived it, the hoopla, the troubles.  I agree with that.

Then, this morning, getting ready for work, I hear that he did die.  Details:  he was broke and in debt and that he was getting ready for a huge comeback tour (did he record any new music?)

Then, a lady from Gary, Indiana remembered him as a small child, one of the neighborhood kids, playing.  She said that he had signed something for her about six years ago, on a visit to Gary.

Then, on the bus to work, we drove by the old Motown building on Grand Boulevard here.  There was a crowd and a memorial, with flowers, a giant teddy bear etc.  There were tv crews too, broadcasting and interviewing.

He may go down as one of the greats.  He’s not as prolific as James Brown or Ray Charles.  He’s not a great songwriter like Smokey Robinson or Stevie Wonder.  Michael Jackson was a talented, sometimes magical performer and singer.  Some of the Jackson 5 material is wonderful. 

Off The Wall is probably my favorite.  Thriller and Dangerous had plenty to like or to love, some fine sounds.  I even liked his 2001 record, Invincible.  There were some weak songs but most of it sounded fine.

Yes it’s all quite sad, but I’ll keep going back to his work.  He was some kind of singer, dancer and musician, with a real “sense of swing.”


Robert Christgau

June 16, 2009


I can name thirty or forty music writers, just of the top of my head.  But Robert Christgau’s an old favorite.  For years, I read his “Consumer Guides” and other writings in CREEM Magazine and then in the Village Voice.  I use his three Volume (1970-1999) books of reviews quite a bit.

I don’t alway agree with him, of course.  Sometimes he loves stuff I don’t like and vice versa.  Yet in many ways, his tastes are similar to my own.  His writing has led me toward a lot of music that I love.

He writes primarily about modern popular music.  Yet he does have reviews on pre-1970 music.  You can look up Chuck Berry, Billie Holiday, Louis Armstrong, Thelonious Monk or Fats Waller and he’ll have a few reviews.

He was enthusiatic about early, “old school” rap and hip hop and still keeps up with that.  Also, he was into “world music” (especially African) when not many people were.

To quote: “The Consumer Guide database has graded 14354 albums from 6149 artists on 2577 labels, with 12393 reviews.”

It’s easy to navigate, with everything listed by surname or band name.

New reviews are posted on MSN and soon enough end up on his own site as well.

old format:

new format:

I like the old format of the MSN page a lot better.   His home page:
A user’s guide:
Further information:

Kind Of Blue

June 12, 2009

actual size FIRST STATE 2007

Actual Sighs (in Blue) at 8 & a half by 11 inches from Sept. 2007 in its final state

I’ve read Ashley Kahn’s Kind of Blue book.  I’ve done other research about this record as well.  Yet I still haven’t heard the Kind of Blue bonus disc (with outtakes and a live version of So What). 

Suffice to say, this lives up to its reputation as a classic, a great record.  I’ve played it hundreds of times.  It’s always good “concentration music” to spin while drawing,  painting or writing.

Miles Davis on trumpet.  John Coltrane on tenor saxophone.  Cannonball Adderly on alto saxophone.  Jimmy Cobb on drums.  Paul Chambers on bass.  Bill Evans on piano.  Then on one cut, Freddie Freeloader, Wynton Kelly on piano.  1959.  Produced by Irving Townsend.  Jimmy Cobb is the only surviving musician from the session.

The drawing is from my “blue series.”  This one’s in color pencils, in a partial state and then “finished.”  Blue, the color of ocean, sky, of certain eyes.  Blue as “in the blues” and blue as certain flames…

Bob Marsh and Jack Wright

June 5, 2009

wright_marshJack Wright and Bob Marsh played here in Detroit last weekend.  It was at the CAID Gallery, behind Wayne State University, not far from my home.  They played two sets, some solo, mostly duets.

It was an excellent show, a lot of fun.  They play in that mode of unrestrained, loose, wild, free-form improvisational music. 

I’d see them play before, years ago.  Separately, I think, in other contexts.  With improvisers, it’s often a good thing to have played together for years.

The CAID’s a good space.  I’m currently in an exhibit there, as well as another exhibit at its sister gallery, The Ladybug.  Unfortunately, there was a small audience, only 10 or twelve people.  About half of these were my cohorts from the Space Band.  Of these, Jim Puntigam is an old friend of Bob’s and has played music with him, in times past.

Jack’s been doing improv music for nearly 40 years.  He’s a multi-instrumentalist whose main ax is the alto saxophone.  He’s also a good visual artist, judging by his painting on their CD cover.  It reminds me of some of my own work (a sort of surreal/abstract expressionist mode).

Bob plays cello and many other instruments.  These include unique instruments that he put together/designed himself.

I hope that they get to play the Detroit area more often.  Further information: