Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Crepuscule With Nellie and two Johns

On November 29, 1957, at Carnegie Hall, a benefit concert was held for the Morningside Community Center in Harlem. Tickets cost $2-4, and on the bill were such names as Billie Holiday, Dizzy Gillespie, Ray Charles, Sonny Rollins, and Chet Baker with Zoot Sims. Also on the bill was Thelonius Monk and his quartet, which featured John Coltrane on saxophone, Ahmed Abdul-Malik on bass and Rossiere "Shadow" Wilson on drums. The tapes of these performances were never released or broadcast at the time, and they were first made available in 2005, I think. I spent this weekend listening to a CD of the Monk/Coltrane performance. What I like about jazz, especially the bebop of the 1950s, is how I can hear that it's a music in transition, a search and a building on top of what's gone before, with players quoting tunes from earlier decades, or throwing in riffs stolen from contemporaries, and trying new ideas that they abandoned or modified later in their careers. It's a nice reminder to me that the creation of art, even the art of highly individual idiosyncratic artists, is still public in a way, part of the endless conversation with all other art. If you know enough about any form of art, you can see how this works, I guess. Mostly this paragraph is a way to mention the Monk/Coltrane recording, which I wanted to do because it's pretty damned great stuff. They were a cooking little quartet. Wilson's drumming is amazing, especially where he puts his kick, rolling the music forward. Or the way Coltrane's "sheets of sound" collapse into snatches of melody and then expand again, arpeggios and scales blurring past. Et cetera. Write your own revue.

The other thing I did this weekend was read more of John Cowper Powys' Weymouth Sands, where the author reveals his familiarity with Rabelais' Gargantua and Pantagruel, and invokes that author's fascination with feces and filth, as well as describing a character as "Panurge-like," down to the tight striped pants. That was fun for me. There is also a lot of Shakespeare running through Weymouth Sands, snatches of "Hamlet" surfacing in the middle of interior dialogues. I'm only about halfway through the novel. I hope I remember to read something by Iris Murdoch after the Powys. I enjoy fiction that turns out to be stuffed with other people's fiction.

Speaking of which, I am making a hopefully final run through revisions to my novel Mona in the Desert. Possibly some people I know well will be reading that MS in July. We'll see. I am also moving slowly forward through the new work, Antosha in Prague. I have some other book-related projects going on as well. Blah blah blah. I am tired and my back aches, because Mighty Reader and I did a lot of physical labor this weekend, including making repairs to our front porch. Sledge hammers, pole jacks and circular saws were involved. Later this week there will be additional scraping and painting. Nevertheless, I have a feeling I'll survive the week.

1 comment:

  1. I do hope you survive the week! And I'm looking forward to July and a certain MS. :)

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