Helloooo friends! Hope you all had a wonderful weekend. And if you’re experiencing some cold, snowy, sleety winter weather where you are, please stay warm and dry if you can. We should all probably get our shoveling muscles limber. Except me, of course, because I pay the neighborhood kids to do it
Let’s have a Music Monday, shall we? Saturday, December 7th, marked nine years that my father passed away, so I’d like to honor him with a video I was excited to discover on YouTube. It’s a rare television appearance of the great trumpet player Clifford Brown on the Soupy Sales show. Brown was a huge favorite of my Dad’s, who most of you are aware was himself a trumpeter. Clifford, known affectionately as “Brownie”, was a gifted musician who died tragically as a passenger in a car accident in 1956 at the young age of 25. In his brief career he had already earned the respect of older, seasoned jazz musicians who recognized his incredible talent. One of the things which distinguished Clifford Brown from many of his bebop jazz world contemporaries was his “clean” lifestyle. He never used drugs, rarely drank alcohol, and was a devoted family man. The great saxophonist Sonny Rollins said of Clifford, “He showed me that it was possible to live a good, clean life and still be a good jazz musician”. Given so many associations of music legends with drug abuse – Jimi Hendrix, Charlie Parker, etc – Clifford Brown’s regular “good guy” conduct is a refreshing departure from the stereotype of the reckless, drug-using tortured soul. A short interview with Clifford takes place at the end of this video, and you can see that he is sweet, soft-spoken, without an ounce of bravado. I wish my father were alive to watch this, as I know he would enjoy it very much. Miss you Dad. RIP
I’ll post again in a couple of days and then, on Sunday, the Museworthy Art Show!
Hey gang! One of my busiest modeling weeks thus far has begun with one day down, four more to go. I worked over in Jersey City today, which went well. A little ride on the PATH train never hurt anybody. Now I’m comfortable at home with feet up, sweatpants on, and a freshly poured glass of wine next to me, posting on my little blog before Game 5 of the World Series starts.
I hope to post again before the weekend, but can’t guarantee. Something tells me you’ll all survive just fine if I don’t. The muse will return. Never fear! For now, here’s a little old school 70s rock and roll for Music Monday to get our toes tapping. From 1971 this is The Faces, with a really young Rod Stewart, doing their song “Bad ‘N’ Ruin” on a BBC television show. I have no idea what’s going on with Ronnie Wood and his toilet seat guitar. Is that thing even plugged in? Whatever, this is fun stuff. Enjoy everyone, and rock the week!
Have I ever mentioned how much I adore my brother and love hanging out with him? Yes, I believe I have Last week Chris and I attended the NY Philharmonic concert at Avery Fisher Hall. The evening’s program was Beethoven’s sublime and transcendent Ninth Symphony. The moment conductor Alan Gilbert strode onto the stage and took his place at the podium you could feel the anticipation filling the air of the sold out hall. New York City native and child of the Philharmonic, Alan Gilbert conducted the hour long Ninth Symphony from memory, with no score in front of him. That’s not uncommon among conductors these days but still it was fabulous to watch.
Chris and I before the concert, outside an illuminated Lincoln Center:
My brother and I share the widely held view that Beethoven’s Ninth (and last) symphony is as close to the musical pinnacle of Western Civilization as it gets. In other words, it is sacred. And scared things often run the risk of being desecrated by the more prosaic arena of popular culture. Case in point: the background of my Twitter page is the Mona Lisa blowing bubblegum. Sorry Leonardo! I’m guilty as charged
When Beethoven is involved, however, I become a bit protective. For me he’s the untouchable exception, as I am in reverent awe of the man and his music. My protective instincts kick into even higher gear when a Beethoven work is co-opted for undignified purposes. The Ninth Symphony, intended by Beethoven as a paean to humanity and universal love, provides the musical backdrop for the 1988 smash hit action movie “Die Hard”. It also figures prominently in the violent futuristic dystopia of Stanley Kubrick’s “A Clockwork Orange”, in which the music is contrasted with disturbing images of Nazis. Loudmouthed TV personality Keith Olbermann used the first few bars of the symphony’s 2nd movement as the opening theme for his now defunct MSNBC program. And since we apparently can’t leave Beethoven’s unparalleled genius alone there’s now ” an app for that”. Yes, a Ninth Symphony iPhone app! Okay, so the app doesn’t really bother me and actually seems pretty cool, but Bruce Willis fighting terrorists to “Ode to Joy” is tacky. That’s some degrading bullshit.
I wonder what Beethoven, or any of the giants of artistic creation, would think of their works being treated in such ways. Mona Lisa parodies depicting her as a biker chick, Beethoven symphonies in action movie soundtracks, Vermeer’s Girl With a Pearl Earring taking a “selfie”. Heck maybe the artists wouldn’t be offended much at all. Or maybe they would find such things travesties. We’ll never know.
To conclude this Music Monday, Here are The Beatles performing – what else? - Roll Over Beethoven. Kisses for John xxx
A little Music Monday as a send off for my mother as she embarks on a late summer sojourn in France. She is leaving tomorrow for painting and touring in Provence and Paris. To say she’s excited would be a huge understatement! Mom will be traveling with a group of women and I wish her an absolutely wonderful, inspirational, and magnificent time. I also worry about her safety because I’m such a doting daughter. But as long as she stays in touch regularly with her special phone – text, Mom, TEXT! – everything should be okay
In this video we have gorgeous paintings by the French artist Camille Pissarro, both rural and city scenes, accompanied by Chopin’s Mazurka Op. 59 in A minor performed by Michel Block. Lovely.
Not many people can work references to Beethoven, Aristophanes, the World War I Armistice, conflict in Northern Ireland, Christianity, the prophet Isaiah, Goethe’s “Faust”, King David, and Vietnamese refugees into a mere six minutes of extemporaneous, unscripted monologue. But the great Leonard Bernstein was such a person. Composer, educator, philanthropist, the Massachusetts native and Harvard graduate possessed throughout his life an earnest and attentive disposition to the world around him. In our Music Monday video, Mr. Bernstein shares his thoughtful ruminations after having conducted a recording of Beethoven’s glorious, sublime Ninth Symphony. The starting point for his reflections is Friedrich Schiller’s 1785 poem “Ode to Joy”, the work that inspired Beethoven to compose the Ninth. The relevant themes of love, brotherhood, peace and joy weave their way through Bernstein’s free associations of dates, quotes, and historic events. This was filmed sometime in the late 70s or early 80s I believe. Take it away maestro!
To my fellow east coasters, I hope you’re handling this oppressive heat wave with more dignity than I am. Sure, I’ll admit that I’m walking around the house in a somewhat “indecent” manner, i.e. underwear. And that I cut up half a watermelon and ate it all by myself. I’m also giving my outdoor cats cold bottled “artesian” water stored in the fridge instead of plain old water from the garden hose, because I’m an unapologetic cat-pamperer. And I myself am drinking quite a bit of Mike’s Hard Lemonade, a beverage that one can too easily forget contains alcohol. One minute you’re innocently trying to quench your thirst, and the next you’re feeling an inebriated buzz in the middle of the afternoon and lying around like a useless lump. To paraphrase Dean Wormer from Animal House, “sweaty, drunk, and lethargic is no way to go through life, son”.
Extreme heat, humidity, and horrible air quality don’t lend themselves to refined behavior. Hot, gross weather makes you feel, well, hot and gross. Even while sitting in church yesterday, I used the paper service program to fan myself as we read from the Book of Common Prayer. So I should try to comport myself with more grace and sophistication, like the lovely woman in this 1912 John William Waterhouse painting Sweet Summer. But look, even she’s doing the partially nude routine. Can you blame her? Go topless girl, it’s hot!
I was going to post “Heat Wave” by Martha and the Vandelas for Music Monday, but I thought that was too obvious and predictable. Instead, let’s enjoy someone I consider one of the greatest female vocalists of all time. This is the superb Ella Fitzgerald performing George Gershwin’s “Summertime” from the American opera Porgy and Bess. Stay cool, friends!
When your grandfather was a musician, and your mother is a singer and your father is a composer, the odds are pretty good that you’ll be blessed with innate musical ability. These familial gifts were on full display last week at the end of year Talent Show held by my niece Olivia’s 5th grade class. After about 30 minutes of ten year-olds dancing, singing, in some cases hitting off-key notes, getting rattled by nerves, and having to deal with technical microphone issues (bless their hearts, all of those lovely children) our girl came out and absolutely nailed it. I was there, the proud auntie sitting in the audience with eyes tearing up. Yes I cried, I admit it
Filmed on iPhone by her Dad, my brother Chris, this is Olivia Hajian taking the stage at P.S. !66, performing the song “Beautiful” by Christina Aguilera, with composure, sensitivity, and the voice of an angel. Our Music Monday:
It seems that the planets and stars have not yet properly aligned for my psyche to heal. Because that’s what it will take apparently – a cosmic shift of some sort. Until that happens, I’ll just have to go on as the confused and dispirited weeper I’ve become
I’d still like to share a Music Monday with all of you, a superb one at that. This is the John Coltrane Quintet in 1961, performing his famously revered rendition of the Rodgers and Hammerstein song “My Favorite Things”. The other musicians in Trane’s group are McCoy Tyner on piano, Reggie Workman on bass, Elvin Jones on drums, and the marvelous Eric Dolphy on flute. Part frenetic, part hypnotic, both melodic and rhythmic, alternating between intimate and “out there”, this is memorable jazz genius stuff. Be well friends. I’ll see you soon.
Since the previous post generated thoughtful feedback about coping with news of our troubled world, the time seems right to share a video that I’ve kept bookmarked for a while. Trinity Grace Church brings us two figurative artists, Joshua LaRock and Michael Klein, who discuss their chosen roles in the art community, the responsibility they feel to celebrate beauty, grace, and humanity, and push back against some of the unfortunate effects brought on by postmodernism. Though the men espouse a Christian worldview, I think the video can be easily appreciated by anyone who is spiritual, artistic, or simply disillusioned with current societal trends and demoralizing cultural attitudes and longs for richer expressions of the soul among the arts. I was profoundly moved by the sentiments communicated so eloquently by these artists, set to scenes of them painting from a lovely life model. I think many of my readers, regardless of orientation, will take away something of value from this video. Cultural renewal is possible. We can choose to reaffirm life’s glory, mend brokenness, and resurrect positive ideals. Hope you enjoy
It’s very fitting that today’s Music Monday comes to us from my friend Karla who lives in Boston and survived last week’s tense turmoil in characteristic tough-as-nails Bostonian fashion. It’s also fitting that this inspiring video is about defying adversity, in this case through resourcefulness, creativity, and the musical dreams of impoverished children who live in a Paraguayan slum. That slum, Cateura, sits atop a landfill. Thanks to the enterprising efforts of one musician and one trash collector, “The Recycled Orchestra” was born. Its members consist of the beautiful, extraordinary children of the village playing instruments made entirely of recycled garbage from the landfill: “ violins and cellos from oil drums, flutes from water pipes and spoons, guitars from packing crates.”.
The Landfill Harmonic is an ambitious project that will involve a film documentary, concert tour, and instrument drive among other things. To read more about this marvelous endeavor please visit the Landfill Harmonic Movie website. Great stuff there about the people involved and their biographies, photos of the instruments, fundraising goals, and updates. Landfill Harmonic can also be found on Facebook and Twitter. And thank you Karla!
Hey gang! A few months ago we dove into the world of flash mobs and now we’re going to do it again. Some of you have seen this already I’m sure as it’s been around the Internet for several days. A flash mob infiltrated a shopping mall in Breda, the Netherlands, and enthralled passersby with a theatrical recreation of Rembrandt’s famous 1642 painting The Night Watch. The event was held to commemorate the return of the painting to the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam’s world renowned art museum which has been undergoing renovations for ten years. The museum is back and the magnificent Night Watch is back with it. Actors in 17th century costume storm the mall by marching in on foot, on horseback, swinging on ropes, and conclude by posing in a perfect tableau of the painting’s scene replete with a giant frame. This is terrific rousing fun. I love these guys! Honestly, I think Rembrandt would love it too. And it’s glorious to see the Dutch celebrating with such pride and spirit one of their greatest native sons.
Rembrandt’s The Night Watch is noteworthy for its light and shadows, composition, and immense size (11 ft x 14 ft). Like many famous works of art, it has been subjected to acts of vandalism over the years; twice slashed with a knife, once sprayed with acid. The next time someone tries to harm the painting, I suspect the fabulous flash mob will storm in out of nowhere and deal with the bum.
I can’t allow a Music Monday to pass without honoring the legendary music producer Phil Ramone, who died Saturday at New York Presbyterian Hospital after suffering an aortic aneurysm. He was 79 years old. As anyone in the industry will tell you, Phil Ramone left a tremendous legacy in pop music recordings. A prolific visionary, Ramone went from child prodigy to Julliard student to Brill Building songwriter to groundbreaking producer. He had a monumental music career in every way, and his list of credits and accomplishments is simply astonishing.
Phil Ramone’s philosophy about music producing was to allow the artist’s voice/sound to always remain the primary focus. He felt that the producer’s role was to draw out and capture the authentic artist while keeping intrusions to a minimum. Ramone’s approach was in stark contrast to, say, the Phil Spector style in which the producer’s imprint is prominent throughout the record. Phil Ramone’s musical instincts were impeccable. His belief in pure, unadulterated sound, freshness, and artistic integrity were admirable. And the trust and respect with which he treated musicians made him a beloved figure in the industry, both personally and professionally. My sister-in-law Gayle was a close acquaintance of Phil Ramone. At our family Easter dinner she attested, like everyone who knew him, that Phil Ramone was indeed a very warm, kind, self-effacing gentleman.
One of the finest examples of Phil Ramone’s genius can be heard in this track. The song is Billy Joel’s “Just the Way You Are” for which Phil Ramone earned one of his many Grammy Awards as a producer. This was the well-deserved Record of the Year in 1979. Phil Ramone, RIP. You will be sorely missed. Thanks for the music.
“There aren’t enough words to express how heavy my heart is with the news of the passing of my dear friend and brother Phil Ramone. Phil was a collaborator in the studio and a friend in life for more than 50 years. Today we lost one of the true musicians, innovators and geniuses of the record industry, His immense talents were only surpassed by the gigantic size of his heart.” — Quincy Jones
“thou bleeding piece of earth” . . . “the ruins of the noblest man” . . . ”over thy wounds now do I prophesy” . . . “carrion men groaning for burial”
I would never suggest that we have no outstanding actors working today. We certainly do. The incredible Daniel Day-Lewis comes to mind. But the above phrases from William Shakespeare’s play “Julius Caesar” require a performance that communicates fury, intensity, and revenge, by someone who oozes magnetism and charisma, an actor who consistently nails it no matter what the role. In 1953 that actor was the one and only Marlon Brando.
Today is the Ides of March . . . beware! For this notorious day on the Roman calendar which marks the assassination of Julius Caesar, this is Brando as Mark Antony delivering the “Dogs of War” monologue, moments after Caesar was killed by conspirators. He is smoldering and ferocious, and gorgeous to boot
For a slideshow of political assassinations throughout history check out this page from TIME.
Hello friends. I just sat through a torturously long Oscars telecast – four hours of my life that I’ll never get back – and must get to bed for a long day of art modeling. But I’d like to present this Music Monday before I hit the sack. A couple of weeks ago, the jazz community lost one of their greats, trumpet player Donald Byrd. Trumpet players will always hod a special place in my heart because of my father. And Donald Byrd had some things in common with another man in my life who is very dear to me, my brother Chris. Both earned degrees from the Manhattan School of Music and both have been passionate advocates of music education, as was my father.
The photograph in this video was taken by William Claxton, who shot some of the most iconic jazz pictures of all time. It’s Donald Byrd playing his horn on the A Train in New York City. The music is “Portrait of Jennie” and was recorded at the Half Note Club, a jazz venue that was located on Hudson Street in the 50s and 60s. This is superb trumpet playing so please listen and enjoy. It can only improve your day. See you all soon
Sunday night, as the Super Bowl played out on the TV with the sound on mute, my sweetheart and I entertained ourselves with some online trivia. We did history, movies, and sports and earned pretty respectable scores. When we got to music, we narrowed the field to 70s rock exclusively. I should mention that playing 70s rock trivia with my honey is like playing quantum physics trivia with Steven Hawking. You will be shellacked. Then, after trivia, my man had the idea to administer a “Name That Tune” test for me, in which he played the opening bars of songs from his iTunes library for me to identify. I was up to the challenge, or so I thought.
In one of my all-time favorite movies, Diner, the Eddie character, played by Steve Guttenberg, subjects his fiancee Elyse to a football test which consists of 140 questions on the history of the Baltimore Colts. Elyse’s passing or failing the quiz would decide whether the marriage was to take place. It’s funny as hell. Luckily, no such high stakes exist between me and my darling. However, at one point I found myself stammering for the song name and band of what turned out to be a very well-known 70s rock anthem. I knew it. I was sure I knew it! I had heard it a hundred times! But inexplicably I drew a blank. Don’t you hate it when that happens? Dammit.
So between my being stumped by a beloved rock classic, and getting the Allman Brothers and the Doobie Brothers mixed up, and performing a truly horrifying solo dance in the middle of the room to “Disco Inferno”, my girlfriend status is on thin ice, folks. Thin. Ice.
Of course I jest My girlfriend status is just fine. But I did fail to identify the song and the band. So I will present it now for Music Monday and hopefully redeem myself, alleviate my profound shame, and rebuild my classic rock cred. This is Grand Funk Railroad and “I’m Your Captain”. Rock on, peace out, and I’ll catch you all later.