Bassist and composer Jack Bruce recently passed away at age 71, apparently of liver failure (he had had a liver transplant of few years prior). While he started as a journeyman musician in groups like The Graham Bond Organisation, Blues Incorporated, and John Mayall's Bluesbreakers, he is best known for his work with Eric Clapton and Ginger Baker as Cream. Here his electric bass playing took on a bluesy improvisational style that turned Cream's ravaging of blues standards into a kind of electric jazz. His playing went from fearless trebly leads to dark distorted bottom end ambience, all while retaining some semblance of melody and rhythm. After Cream disbanded, a series of fine solo releases (1969's SONGS FOR A TAILER saw him in particularly fine form) showed he hadn't lost his penchant for song forms amidst the improvisation. He continued his low end journey in the rather lackluster West, Bruce, and Laing, while also touching down with jazz giants like Larry Coryell, Carla Bley, Tony Williams, Kip Hanrahan, and John MacLaughlin. He was certainly the very definition of the peripatetic musician. He is now hopefully at peace.
Thursday, October 23, 2014
One of the few politically-oriented groups to put its money were its mouth was, the Pop Group always seemed to be playing live from the brink. Its brand of lashing politico/noise/funk/punk is well represented in a new package called CURIOSITIES, a re-issue of an earlier compilation WE ARE TIME (1980) and a new collection of rarities, CABINET OF CURIOSITIES. Not since The Last Poets exorcised oppression with their first two albums, THE LAST POETS (1970) and THIS IS MADNESS (1971) has a group of musicians shown this kind of anger against complacency.
Thursday, October 16, 2014
A few years back while roaming around the Brooklyn Museum I stumbled upon televisions playing a variety of Andy Warhol "Screen Tests" (1964-1966), those wonderful black and white portraits that showed Warhol's fascination with people, their subtle facial movements, their discomfort with the camera's gaze, and their sometimes anxious presentation of "self". That art is often about time and memory gives these glimpses of individuals added historical and personal resonance. All these short "living portraits" benefit from being shown in slow motion and from the inference of seriality that stems from seeing them en masse. Collectively they run for thirty two hours and form a kind of casual portrait of a particular cultural stew, that of New York in the Sixties in general, and the Silver Factory's inhabitants and visitors in particular. I must say I was stunned by their fluid beauty, quiet intensity, and ultimately Warhol's potency as a portraitist without resorting to idealization, sentimentality, or the tired techniques of traditional portraiture that can easily turn to illustration. Not bad for someone who started life as a commercial illustrator.
Most images in this post-literate IPhone camera world reek of a self-importance that make the recognition of visual poetry or any kind of "art" nearly impossible. It seems inertia and banality are the norm giving way to a sentimentality once only found in greeting cards.
Saturday, October 11, 2014
I'm giving serious consideration to selling a small amount (10) of the gray pins used to patch my vintage EMS Synthi AKS via the Muffwiggler marketplace. Different color pins (red, green, yellow, white, gray) have different resistor values and therefore change that sound when patching, however subtlety. Check Muff in a few days for the entry. *SOLD
Saturday, October 4, 2014
If painting is to be worth anything at all, the artist should be given over to a fundamental skepticism concerning specific meaning, and replace it with something far more fluid and dynamic. While form may be seen as a tyrannical necessity and a sign of closure, the gesture of becoming brings a wholly subjective language to unfamiliar eyes without being mired in certainty. In this way the painter would be wise to seek an ill-fitting tension and live with that discomfort.
Viva may indeed have been the most exotically beautiful and intelligent of the Warhol "Superstars", appearing in such films as NUDE RESTAURANT, BIKE BOY (both 1967), LONESOME COWBOYS (1968) and BLUE MOVIE (1969). It was her peripatetic intelligence, fearlessness on camera and off, and ability to improvise dialogue that made her essential to Warhol's "let's make a movie" modus operandi. That this sweet Catholic girl with ultra-conservative parents could perform intercourse on camera (a first for a "name" actress) while retaining her chatterbox persona (talking to co-star Louis Waldron about the Vietnam War, cooking, and taking a shower) did little to help Warhol avoid obscenity charges. BTW, the movie's punning title and blue tint are the result of a technical error in keeping with Warhol's child-like delight in chance, ineptitude, and calculated dumbness.