New Listenings

Here’s some great stuff that I’ve heard recently:

This piece just reminded me that no matter how much classical music I listen to, there will always be more to discover that will simply dazzle me. It’s a great big wonderful world out there, and this lusciously moving track carries a feeling that doesn’t soon fade. I need to get more into Dvorak.


A student recommended this one, and it’s great, isn’t it? Lots to pick apart in here.

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Funky Science Fiction!

I recently rewatched one of my favorite movies, Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey.  I intended to read while it played, and just look up when the “best” parts came on, but I was instantly hooked again.  I had to to gaze, amazed, at every second.  Some parts of act III lag a bit, but it’s still a stunning masterpiece.

Anyway, watching that reminded me of Eumir Deodato’s jazz-infused reinterpretation of Straus’s famous theme used in the film.  Deodato took the 1896 piece of music, which Kubrick used in his 1968 movie about 2001, and remixed it in 1972.  So something from the past that was used to represent our future–which is now also in our past–was updated for a modern setting, which itself is now part of our past as well. And I was introduced to this song by my septuagenarian mother.

Talk about time warps!  Man, that just blew my mind.  It’s like watching 2001 or something.


Classic Jazz for a Rainy Monday

There used to be an older black man in my congregation at church, and someone told me that he was a huge jazz fan, and had heard a lot of the classic stuff when it had first come out.  So I asked him one day what he recommended.  He told me about “Yardbird Suite,” as done by Herbie Mann. 

I wasn’t sure about the flute as a jazz instrument, but Mann won me over.  This is beautiful. 

The Best Movie You’ve Never Seen

A project I’m doing this year has required me to watch a lot of old silent movies.  I’ve seen a few Charlie Chaplin movies, as well as two D.W. Griffith epics, and a few others.  They’ve all been worthwhile, but there’s no problem picking the one I’ve most enjoyed.

Buster Keaton’s 1927 film The General is a silent film in black and white, and is one of the funniest, most action-packed movies I’ve ever seen.  I loved every minute of it.  It’s brilliantly fun.

The majority of the film takes place while one train chases another, and then the hunter from the first half becomes the hunted later on.  Buster Keaton performs almost constant slapstick, always with a quiet, deadpan demeanor, and performs more dangerous stunts than I could count.  Since there are no stuntmen or special effects to speak of, I actually had to remind myself that the many stunning visuals in the film were achieved by actually doing them on camera.  Keaton could have died multiple times while pulling off these stunts and jokes.  (Jackie Chan has always said that Buster Keaton was a huge inspiration in his own career.)

This version on YouTube (the movie’s in the public domain) has a jazz soundtrack added, from a German band which apparently often performed along with this film (you know, like The Wizard of Oz and Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon).  It perfectly complements the action.  You’re in for a real treat.

Miles Davis Live!

Sort of.  Though he died a while ago, this year is the 50th anniversary of Kind of Blue, his legendary masterpiece, and one of my favorite albums.  A couple of weeks ago, one of the kids and I went to see some local jazz performers give an all-Miles Davis concert at the amphitheater at Rainbow Library.  We laid out a blanket on the grass, had some snacks, and enjoyed the music.  Of course, it was past bedtime, so he was asleep by the end of the second song.

We only stayed for the first hour, but that half was heavy on Kind of Blue.  They opened with “So What?” and also did “All Blues” and “Blue in Green.”  It was that last one that was my favorite moment of the night, as it differed from the album version with an even softer, shimmering aspect to it, mostly achieved by the drummer using brushes and chimes.  They turned a classic ballad into a mirage having a daydream.  Good jazz music leaves blisters on your imagination.  Here’s a good performance of “Blue in Green;” I liked this one more than most of the full-throttle versions on YouTube which seem to ignore the spirit of the original: