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Archive for the category “Video”

stars and stars

not awake; not conscious.

Cover of "The Last Waltz (Special Edition...

Cover of The Last Waltz (Special Edition)

The Last Waltz played four times at a local theater this past Sunday and Monday. A friend agreed to meet me there for the last showing on Monday evening. After a crazy day, I still left in plenty of time, then ran into some of the worst traffic I’ve ever encountered in Albuquerque. Because I knew I’d be late, I turned on my seldom-used cell phone. Almost immediately, I was notified of a voicemail message, which I assumed was from my friend.

The traffic was too insane for me to try to listen to it, so I continued on to my destination, preoccupied by traffic, being late, and the waiting voicemail message. When I arrived, I found a parking place and listened to the voicemail message, no easy task in complete darkness (my car’s inside light recently stopped working). It was from a friend who is traveling and decided, for unknown reasons, to wish me a Merry Christmas on my cell phone. It’s a fluke that I got it.

By then I was definitely late and also preoccupied with wondering why she had called my cell phone. I got out of the car and started crossing the street. The lighting for the side streets in Nob Hill leaves something to be desired. As I was about to step up onto the curb on the other side of the street, some commotion to my right caught my attention–and the much-higher-than-usual curb caught the toe of my right shoe. Splat! Down I went onto both knees.

[Expletive deleted.] I got up, dusted myself off, and continued to the theater, now preoccupied with visions of being sidelined from walking, dancing around my apartment, and my twice-a-week strength training workouts.

awake; conscious.

As it turned out, we had more than enough time to chat, get tickets, and find seats in the theater. Once the movie started, I was fully engrossed. I’ve seen The Last Waltz half a dozen times, but never in a theater. It was definitely worth the time, the traffic, and even the banged up knees to see it that way!

I wrote about The Band a while ago, but didn’t come across this video of Van Morrison doing Caravan until recently. It’s still my favorite performance, but there are no duds anywhere in this star-studded film. I tried to contain the bouncing around in my seat. I guess the benefit of watching it at home is that no one cares if I get up and dance.

Orion Rising (2)

When I got home afterward and was walking from my garage to my front door, I happened to glance up into the sky. There was Orion rising directly overhead with bright stars and planets studding the sky around it.

I stepped out into the street and just watched it for several minutes, awake and conscious.

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awake!

Being Awake

Being Awake (Photo credit: Celestine Chua

My keyword for winter is awake.

awake: conscious; not asleep

A counter-intuitive choice for the time of year, perhaps. And perhaps it sprang to mind because of this amazingly, awesomely invigorating song that I’ve been addicted to for some time that just forces me to get up and dance whenever I hear it. (There are witnesses.) Turn up the volume to listen.

It’s always such a joy that you wake up in the morning
and there’s work to do.

–Jerome Lawrence, author and playwright

What’s your keyword for winter?

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brilliant!

Mandala #5

It’s been a year since I started this blog, which I’ve been neglecting of late. Still, Happy Anniversary to me.

On the first day of fall last year, I decided to choose a keyword and a theme song for the season. The keyword I chose was velocity and my theme song was Glad Tidings by Van Morrison. The result was kind of amusing, but the idea was a good one.

Yesterday morning, I heard Terry Gross interviewing Elton John on Fresh Air ahead of the release of his latest album, The Diving Board. He talked about his music, his years of drug and alcohol addiction, and his current life, which he described as being brilliant.

Brilliant adj full of light; shining; very bright and radiant

What a wonderful way to describe a life! Who wouldn’t want to have a brilliant life? Or who believes that having a brilliant life is unattainable, too splashy or flashy, or not a serious or respectable enough goal?

I think brilliant is absolutely the best possible kind of life to have. So that’s my keyword for fall. To go along with it, my theme song is Elton John’s version of Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds.

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happy birthday, John Coltrane

Born 87 years ago today; died too young at 40. This is my favorite of his songs–and one of my all-time favorite songs period, Naima, from the album Giant Steps.

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rockstar violinist

English: Violinist Joshua Bell following a per...

Even if you’re not a fan of classical music, you may know about violinist Joshua Bell from the “Stop and Hear the Music” video that’s been circulating around the internet. In January 2007, The Washington Post got Bell to agree to perform what he called “a stunt,” playing incognito in L’Enfant Plaza Station in Washington D.C. for tips, and what the subsequent Post story about it called “an experiment in context, perception and priorities — as well as an unblinking assessment of public taste: In a banal setting at an inconvenient time, would beauty transcend?”

Sadly, it did not.

Three days before, Bell had played at Symphony Hall in Boston, where tickets went for around $100. Shortly after the January gig at L’Enfant Plaza Station–which netted him a little over $30–he appeared at Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts to accept the Avery Fisher Prize for best classical musician in America. You can read the detailed, chatty April 2007 Post article here and watch “Stop and Hear the Music” here.

The number of people who passed by Joshua Bell on their way through L’Enfant Plaza Station that day without stopping (1,070) has now been exceeded by the number of Joshua Bell videos that have been uploaded on You Tube (1,090).

I could listen to him play all day.

Joshua Bell performing Chopin’s Nocturne in C Sharp Minor

Please do yourself a favor and take a few minutes to stop and hear the music.

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5 takes on Take Five

Jazz really is a universal language. If you don’t think that’s true, listen to these renditions of Dave Brubeck’s “Take Five” from around the world–beginning with, of course, the Dave Brubeck Quartet.

Dave Brubeck Quartet (live in Belgium 1964)

Igor Presnyakov (Russia)

Bolyki Brothers (Poland)

Sachal Studios Orchestra (Pakistan)

Diego Figueiredo (Brazil)

intoxication

Liquor Bottles

The bar in the basement of my parents’ house held all sizes and shapes of bottles; big ones in the back and tiny decorative ones along the side; whisky, gin, and vodka—serious stuff—as well as colorful concoctions like sloe gin and blackberry brandy. The men in my family all drank lots of beer, too. At parties and gatherings, it was carried into the house in cases. Nothing exotic there; mostly Stroh’s and Budweiser, if I remember right.

Once I got drunk on vodka and grapefruit juice in the basement of a girlfriend’s house when her parents were away. We spent the evening listening to records and drinking our vodka mixed with too little grapefruit juice out of paper cups. It was briefly exhilarating. Later, when I felt sick and dizzy and out of control, I decided it wasn’t worth it. Subsequently, I remained sober.

When the wind was red, like a summer wine
When the wind was red, like your lips on mine
It caressed my face and it tossed my hair
You were there.

I don’t recall ever seeing a bottle of wine in my parents’ house. John often brought wine, though, bottles of deep red wine made from grapes grown in Italy. He was Italian. The red wine John brought tasted of other, older worlds, of things mysterious and sophisticated and foreign. It also tasted of him and of this reckless, improbable, and hopeless love.

Does anyone even remember that song? I’d never heard it before I met John. I’d never heard of Chris Connor.

When the wind was green, at the start of spring
When the wind was green, like a lving thing
It was on my lips and its kiss was fair
You were there.

He gave me that scratchy old 78, and listening to it puts me right back inside my dark apartment in 1967. It’s 2 or 3 in the morning, after John has gone—after John has come with a bottle of red wine and this old music, and gone. If the few hours with John were the height of my week, the hours following his departure were the depth. I’d always leave his wine glass on the floor or table where he’d left it, at least until the next day. And I’d sit in the dark for a while and look around the apartment and out the window at the night sky in a kind of pained ecstasy or ecstatic pain, if you know what I mean.

Then came the fall and all of love came tumbling,
stumbling down,
Like leaves that lost to frost and found they were
flying, crying, in a brown wind
dying.

My father knew a disc jockey, and he used to bring home dozens of used 45s. I grew up listening to The Mills Brothers, Patti Page, Theresa Brewer, Gogi Grant. The Gandy Dancers’ Ball was one childhood favorite. And I’ve never completely gotten There’s a Pawnshop on a Corner in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania out of my head. My brothers and I always watched the Hit Parade on TV on Saturday night after we took our baths. Snookey, Giselle, Dorothy, and Russell performing the top 10 tunes of the week.

And of course my girlfriends and I were glued to the TV every afternoon for “American Bandstand.” As soon as I had a disposable income of my own, I invested part of it in growing the collection of 45s, favoring Sam Cooke and Connie Francis.

In college, I listened to folk music and tooled around town in my 1966 Candy Apple Red Ford Mustang listening to a guy with a gravelly voice sing about The Eve of Destruction. What the heck did I know? There was other music around—Sinatra, Streisand, Nancy Wilson. A few of my friends listened to jazz and blues, but the music always seemed too ripe for them. Most of them hadn’t even started to live.

John was eight years older. When he played the blues, it sucked me right in. He filled my head with his recollections of sitting in smoke-filled clubs in downtown Detroit listening to all of these musicians. He brought me No Sun in Venice by the Modern Jazz Quartet. It took me 15 years to track down a copy of that album at Tower Records in San Francisco after I looked for it in record stores all over the country.

In turn, I introduced John to Simon and Garfunkel and The Moody Blues. He said 59th Street Bridge Song reminded him of me. “Feelin’ groovy?” Really? Was I like that? Or was that just how he preferred to see me? For that matter, was he the person I thought he was? Who can say?

The two of us spent so little time together, and being with him was so intense, that all the incidental elements—his cigarette smoke, the wine, and most of all the music—fused together. I couldn’t separate those things from him. He left a couple of his albums with me, the one by Chris Connor and another by Billie Holiday. They evoked such bittersweetness for years and years, long after the end of John and me.

But the winter’s come and we both should know
That the wind is white like the swelling snow
And we’ll never see all the wonderful things to be seen
When the wind is green.

I never drank enough of that Italian red wine to get drunk. I got drunk on John and his music instead. It was briefly exhilarating. Later, when I felt sick and dizzy and out of control, I decided it wasn’t worth it. Subsequently, I remained sober.

radio writing: magic carpet ride

The Flying Carpet by Viktor Vasnetsov (1880). ...

Why don’t you come with me, little girl, on a magic carpet ride? Tripping. Of course. Sex and/or drugs—the basic subjects of rock’n’roll.

Close your eyes, girl, the singer croons; look inside, girl. And then I realize this is just as much a song about writing as it is about sex or drugs.

Look around you, he implores. And I think, yes, you have to look around, observe what’s going on, from the minutest flicker of grasshopper wings to the cataclysms of birth and death, war and the striving for peace.

Let the sound take you away…the sound of the world around you, the sound of your own inner voice, and especially the sound of the words on the page. If the sounds don’t take you away, then maybe you have nothing to say.

You don’t know what we can find. You don’t know what we can see. Writing is always a voyage of discovery. You can’t be sure when you set out where you will end up. That’s part of the mystery and the magic of the writing process, the thrill of the “ride.”

Fantasy will set you free. There’s as much truth in fiction as there is in reality, and the truth in fantasy will set you free, but only if you really look and really listen. Then your story will have the power to take its readers on a magic carpet ride.

Magic Carpet Ride (Steppenwolf)

I like to dream, yes, yes
Right between the sound machine
On a cloud of sound I drift in the night
Any place it goes is right
Goes far, flies near
To the stars away from here

Well, you don’t know what
We can find
Why don’t you come with me little girl
On a magic carpet ride

Well, you don’t know what
We can see
Why don’t you tell your dreams to me
Fantasy will set you free

[Chorus]
Close your eyes now
Look inside now
Let the sound
Take you away

Last night I hold Aladdin’s lamp
So I wished that I could stay
Before the thing could answer me
Well, someone came and took the lamp away

I looked
Around
A lousy candle’s all I found

Well, you don’t know what
We can find
Why don’t you come with me little girl
On a magic carpet ride

Well, you don’t know what
We can see
Why don’t you tell your dreams to me
Fantasy will set you free

turn it up!

The Band, Hamburg, May 1971. Left to right: Ri...

The Band, Hamburg, May 1971. Left to right: Rick Danko, Levon Helm and Richard Manuel. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Band was part of the background music of my life for a while, but at the time I couldn’t have distinguished one musician from another. I wasn’t really paying attention until Robbie Robertson released his first solo album, Robbie Robertson, in 1987. Loved it the first time I heard the first track; love it still–especially the mesmerizing “Somewhere Down the Crazy River.”

Much later I came to appreciate Rick Danko. His voice is the one in my head when I think of The Band. Danko recorded this beautiful acoustic version of “When You Awake” in 2009. It seems even more moving and powerful than The Band’s version.

One of the songs Levon Helm is best known for is “The Weight.” There are a lot of versions of this song, but this one from the documentary The Last Waltz is so good.

Van the man

The Last Waltz has been called the best music documentary ever by some critics. I haven’t seen them all, but it’s definitely my favorite. All the music is fantastic, but the performance that tops the rest is Van Morrison doing “Caravan.” It’s worth watching the whole thing just to get to those five or six minutes. It’s too bad there’s no video available, but this audio gives a sense of the electricity in the auditorium. Turn it up! Little bit louder. Radio!

And then, of course, when we did “Caravan,” which was something that we really just wanted to play together, and I wanted to play some guitar on, and we wanted to do that. And we did this. And we had the horn section and the whole thing, and the way the song built and it built and it built. All of a sudden, at the end, when Van starts kicking his leg up in the air, we were like, “What’s happening here? This is the most wonderful out of control I’ve ever seen him.” And it was just magical, you know, just that whole song, and the performance of that. When we were finished playing that song, when I turned around, you know, to the other guys in the band, and I was like, “Okay,” you know? We were just feeling so good at that moment.

— Robbie Robertson, VH-1 interview on the making of The Last Waltz.

Dylan Hears A Who

Open Culture does it again by digging up this “album” of Dr. Seuss stories turned into songs sung by Bob Dylan. It’s not actually Bob Dylan, but it sure sounds like him. If Bob Dylan recorded these songs would you buy them?

Green Eggs and Ham is delightful. An instant classic!

Here’s Oh, the Thinks You Can Think:

And Too Many Daves (no video, but a nice change of pace):

There are a few more from the fake album, Dylan Hears a Who. You can find them on YouTube. I only wish the artist who created them had included my favorite Seuss book, Fox in Socks.

But as a bonus, here’s Jimmy Fallon’s impersonation of Jim Morrison and The Doors performing Reading Rainbow. (Thank you, Donna.)

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