The Brooklyn Rail

NOV 2012

All Issues
NOV 2012 Issue


“No ego. No gender. Just ten minutes to take you through where nobody else has ever been.” — Anthony Perkins in Play It As It Lays

“It’s the microbes that will get us, not the meteors.” — Werner Herzog

Five recent films: Paul Lovelace and Jessica Wolfson’s remarkable Radio Unnameable deals with the histories of the indomitable Bob Fass, WBAI, and America from the late ’50s to the present. Fass’s archives, which include works of the greatest musical figures of that period, need a home. (Anyone out there have any ideas?) Beware of Mr. Baker, as in Ginger Baker, opens at Film Forum this month. Dima Dubson follows Adam Green around for two years in every possible situation with one handheld camera in How to Act Bad. Searching for Sugarman is a saga that has to be seen to be appreciated.

Werner Herzog. Drawing: Megan Piontkowski.

Though Jonathan Demme’s Journeys, a film of Neil Young’s solo concerts in North Ontario, sheds light on Young’s history, Demme’s attempts fall flat—not even the music can save it. What is interesting, however, is that the concert footage was shot in Massey Hall, where Bird, Diz, Mingus, and Bud did their famous 1953 Jazz at Massey Hall concert, part of which was recently reissued on CD.

Four current books: Dave Liebman’s What It Is (the Scarecrow Press) is a 402-page conversation with Lewis Porter that covers everything from the neighborhood where we grew up to all his musical and life challenges. A bold and telling document, Fire and Rain (Da Capo) by David Browne, the author of Goodbye 20th Century: A Biography of Sonic Youth, chronicles four seminal 1970 LPs, Déjà Vu, Let It Be, Bridge Over Troubled Water, and Sweet Baby James, all in their own way turning points leading from one era into another. Carl Watson’s road book Backwards the Drowned Go (Sensitive Skin) takes us on a wild post-Beat journey that is crazy, provocative, daring, dark, ballsy, and downright hilarious. A common thread throughout is Janis Joplin. “I came across Kosmic Blues / Probably one of the few albums / Where a woman is allowed to scream for 40 minutes.” Toward the end of the book, Watson proclaims while listening to “Piece of My Heart” that Joplin’s voice could “split open the dead air of dance halls, exposing the vast chasm and chaos beneath.” At his book party at A Gathering of the Tribes, Watson’s old friend Jake La Botz opened on guitar, singing folk/blues and telling tales about his and Carl’s drug days. Then Watson read from the book. After many beers were downed by all present, Watson ended the evening on banjo and vocals with painter and writer Michael Randall playing some remarkable bottleneck. Randall has a painting show at the Lobby Gallery at the Durst Building, 1155 Avenue of Americas, until November 15.

Road of a Thousand Wonders (Ugly Duckling Presse), by poet and Greetings magazine publisher Jeffrey Joe Nelson with illustrations by the author, is the first comprehensive look at Nelson’s poetry. What we encounter is “the American Spirit…overflowing with…Pomes…the gift of music…Salsa and rock and roll…wine sop and cabaret rhythms,” riffs on Ray Charles, “the sky’s damaged blue light,” and “McCoy Tyner…being too loud at the piano, which is strange for a man who is usually so soft.” This book swings from soft to loud while dancing across every facet of being.

Rarely has there been a more eclectic and singular voice than that of the fearless, independent pianist Matthew Shipp. He plays with bassist Michael Bisio on Floating Ice,the new release from New York’s Relative Pitch label, and with saxophonist John Butcher on At Oto on England’s Fataka label.

I spent my whole life trying to get out of Brooklyn and now everyone is trying to get in, so I totally defend my editor Dave Mandl’s September Rail article “I Was a Brooklyn Townie.” In a discussion with Ron Kolm recently, I kept saying, “Barney did this, Barney did that,” and he kept asking, “Bonny? What about Bonny? Bonny did what?” I repeated, “Bar knee. Bar knee,” accenting the r, and then exclaimed in frustration, “Listen man, listen. That’s my Brooklyn accent. Ain’t it musical?” “Oh yeh,” he murmured, nodding gently as he slowly sipped his “beah.”

I dedicate this to friends and inspirations Tom Bruno, Byard Lancaster, David S. Ware, Borah Bergman, and John Tchicai, also a colleague. All passed on in recent weeks.


The Brooklyn Rail

NOV 2012

All Issues