Miles Davis (Creative Commons photo)
A little while ago, I wondered aloud why RAW never talked about modern classical music. And then I realized I was maybe looking at it wrong -- he listened a lot to the modern art music known as jazz.
Not too long ago I read a pretty long interview of the critic Alex Ross by Ethan Iverson (thank you for directing my attention to it, Eric Wagner) and the whole darn thing is worth reading, but I was particularly struck by one passage,
EI: Well, I don’t need to tell you, Alex, that once you’re out here, you realize how little cultural capital the great classical music and the great jazz music holds. All of us trying to celebrate those more esoteric values — especially in America — must feel like we’re almost helplessly trying not to be overrun by the other stuff that has so much more sway.
AR: Absolutely. If there’s one thing I’ve been trying to do my whole career, it is to push back, as much as I can in my own way, against what feels like this, you know, trash compactor closing in on the people in Star Wars, gradually closing in, the walls getting closer and closer…
This is something I worry about, too. I am usually inviting people on this blog to listen to classical music. Today, I invite you to listen to jazz. I decided to post recommendations of five jazz albums by three RAW fans who have listened to jazz for a long time: Eric Wagner, Steve "Fly" Pratt and myself. I've included links to help you find out more.
Before I post the lists, let me suggest something. When you listen to a jazz album and you like it, maybe pay attention to which player seems especially good. Usually on a jazz album, there is the leader, the guy whose name is listed as the artist. But it's more than likely that the other players on the album are just as good, and perhaps more famous, than the leader, and that can lead you to other recordings. For example, Miles Davis' famous Kind of Blue album features an all-star band, but I noticed I especially liked the piano player. That person turned out to be Bill Evans, and that led me to Evans' most famous album, Sunday at the Village Vanguard, recorded by the Bill Evans Trio.
I can't tell you which specific albums RAW listened to, but in Cosmic Trigger 2 he cites the genius of John Lewis, Miles Davis and Thelonius Monk. (Lewis was in the Modern Jazz Quartet.) Coincidance has haiku about John Coltrane, the Modern Jazz Quartet and Louis Armstrong.
OK, the lists:
Eric Wagner's list
(Eric of course is the author of the newly-revised An Insider's Guide to Robert Anton Wilson. Be sure you buy the new edition, Amazon may try to direct you to the old one.)
John Coltrane (Creative Commons photo)
1. People in Sorrow, Art Ensemble of Chicago, 1969.
2. Crescent, John Coltrane, 1964.
3. Monk's Music, Thelonius Monk, 1957.
4. Beauty is a Rare Thing, Ornette Coleman, 1959-1961.
5. Kind of Blue, Miles Davis, 1959.
Steve Pratt's list
2. Kind of Blue, Miles Davis, 1959.
3. Friday Night at the Village Vanguard, Art Pepper, 1977.