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Archive for April, 2011

Aja — the Ten Commandments of pop music

Posted by keithosaunders on April 27, 2011

Steely Dan released Aja —  their sixth album —  in 1977.  It was an enormous hit, peaking at #3 in the U.S. charts.  It is a jazz-rock fusion album in the best, and truest sense of the word.  Its rhythms have an R & B, and pop sensibility, but the songs are infused with dense jazz harmony, complete with +9 and -5 chords, ii-V-I progressions, and obscure hipster references.  […died behind the wheel]

I recently heard a radio show in which a pair of music critics debated the viability of Aja.  The anti-Aja guest asserted that the record is sterile, and that its music is akin to 1970s-style easy listening music.  Although I fall firmly on the pro-Aja side of the debate, I can see where this person is coming from.  Aja is a remarkably clean-sounding record.  Donald Fagan and Walter Becker were notorious for their meticulous attention to detail, and by their own admission they were passionate about their love of the studio and its possibilities. 

The anti-Aja guest is a rocker through and through — that is to say someone who does not appreciate jazz.  For me, the idea of pop music that contains sophisticated chords, great grooves, and sardonic lyrics, played by bad-ass jazz and studio musicians, is right in my wheelhouse.  I can easily see how someone could mistake Aja for easy-listening, especially on first listen.

That theory only holds so much water, however.  There are some all-time performances on this date.  Steve Gadd’s drum fills and samba groove on the title track is a jaw-dropping revelation.  Likewise, drummer Bernard Purdie’s “Purdie shuffle” groove on Peg is hall of fame stuff.  Wayne Shorter lays down an interesting solo on Aja, but it is the L.A. tenor man Pete Christlieb, who, to my ears, steals the show.  His solo on Deacon Blues may be the greatest ever sax solo on a pop tune.  

 The list of sidemen on this date reads like the pop music version of a Cecil B. Demille film: 

Tom Scott, Chuck Findley, Lee Ritenour, Larry Carlton, Joe Sample, Don Grolnick, Michael Omartian,Jim Keltner, Rick Marotta, and Michael McDonald, to name a few. 

Becker and Fagan happen to be good musicians themselves.  While Fagan may lack the chops of the aforementioned session men, he has a great time feeling, and he knows how to utilize space.  I watched a clip of a documentary on the making of Aja, in which Fagan discussed the harmony of Josie with fellow pianist, Warren Bernhardt.  You can hear, both in his discourse, as well as his playing, that he is someone who knows what he is doing — he is not simply playing at being a jazz muscian. 

It would be nearly impossible to make a comparable record in today’s era.  Even if there was an artist as innovative as Steely Dan, there isn’t a studio left that would splurge on this array of talent.  And if the record somehow got made, radio, as it exists today, wouldn’t play it. 

Posted in jazz | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments »

Taping’s finest hour

Posted by keithosaunders on April 21, 2011

 This is a great time of year for sports — the baseball season is in full swing and the NBA and NHL playoffs have begun.  The overlap can be overwhelming, but thanks to the miracle of the DVR, taping multiple ongoing events is a reality, making it possible for the sports fan to live the dream.  Of course, even with modern technology all it takes is for one caveman to spoil your evening by divulging the score of a taped event.  There are numerous other pitfalls to avoid as well.  Here then is a recounting of one of my most successful taping days:  This past Sunday, the 17th, in the year of our sports god 2011.

 
I had a gig, but wanted to see game two of Rangers/Captitals, and Knicks/Celtics, as well as catch the end of Rockies/Cubs.  As long as I was already taping the Knicks, I figured I may as well set the DVR to record the second half of the NBA doubleheader, Nuggets/Thunder.  The baseball Giants were playing, but I knew they would be on the TV at the bar I was gigging at, so I opted not to record their game.

When I started the car, I turned on the Giants game on the radio to hear the 9th inning — they were leading the Diamondbaks 5-4 at the time.  The first thing out of Jon Miller’s mouth was,  “It’s over in Colorado….”   Quick as a cat, I whipped my hand to the radio and turned off the volume, avoiding hearing the score.  I then (carefully) changed the station. 
 
As predicted, the Giants game was being shown on the TV at the bar.  It was an extra inning game and I was thinking, “good, let it go 20 innings and they’ll never change it to the Knicks)  BUT…by the first break the game had ended and the Knicks was on one TV, and Sportscenter was on the other.  Fortunately I live in a town where people don’t give a rats ass about any teams other than the locals, so I was in little danger of anyone commenting on the games.  What’s more, this fellow ex-New Yorker sax player came in.  He had also taped the Knicks and he warned me not to tell him anything.  Me, spoil a taped event?!  Did he realize who he was talking to?
 
At one point I accidentally looked at the TV showing Sportscenter  and of course the Rockies/Cubs highlights were on, but miraculously I didn’t see the score.
 
The rest of the night passed without incident and I arrived home to savor my spoils.  I stayed up late watching everything except for the second half of the Denver game, but I finished watching it the following day at lunch without knowing the ending. 

And that’s how you record multiple events.

Posted in sports | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

Mellowing on Melo

Posted by keithosaunders on April 19, 2011

Back in February when the Knicks made the blockbuster deal with Denver, trading half of their squad for Carmelo Anthony, Chauncey Billups, and a cast of thousands, the sports punditry proclaimed, “When you have a chance to obtain someone of that caliber, you must make the move.”  I ask you, what caliber?  Where is the brilliance we were promised; the prodigious scoring, and the seven rebounds per game?

All I see is a player who chucks up threes with reckless abandon.  To be fair, that’s all any Knick, save for Amare Stoudemire, does.  Never mind that there isn’t a team in the history of the NBA that has won a championship by relying on the trey as their main line of attack.  Coach Mike D’antoni is committed to this style of play, and his team has bought into the system.

The Knicks should have won game one of their playoff series with Boston.  They let a 12 point lead evaporate by eschewing penetration while chucking up brick after brick from beyond the arc.

When you have a player with the reputation and the stature of an Anthony, I expect more than just a three-point shooter.  WIth four seconds remaining in the game, with his team down by two, Carmelo’s answer was to fire up yet another desperation three.  You would think, without a clear look at the basket, he would try to get to the line to tie the game and send it into overtime.  Not this player, and not on this team.

Posted in basketball | Tagged: , , , , , , | 5 Comments »

Believe it or not

Posted by keithosaunders on April 16, 2011

Last week my wife and older boy went in Boston on business, and to look at colleges, respectively, leaving  my two younger children and I to fend for ourselves.  The kids had the week off from school for the Easter break and I racked my brain to come up with something fun to do with them.  Finally, after hours of thought, I decided to take them to the Ripley’s Believe it or Not Museum in Fisherman’s Wharf.  Believe it or not, it didn’t suck.  It got us out of the house, and we actually had a few laughs.  Admittedly the museum is a bit of a tourist trap, but it actually does give you something — like a life-sized model of a Hummer built with 38,000 $1.00 lottery tickets — the cost of a real Hummer!  I also got a kick out of the statue of the tallest man ever — 9′ 8″.  It is remarkable to see something like that to scale and not just in a book.
 
At the end of the museum there is a mirror maze, which, of course, you have to pay extra to enter.  We were rewarded with another 15 minutes of unbound fun.  The effect really isn’t bad, considering the entire maze is contained in an area the size of my living room. 
 
Now here’s why you live on the west coast:  We went to one of the most touristy areas of San Francisco.  We had driven into town rather than having rode BART, since it is impossible to park at the train station unless you have arrived by 7 AM.  After twenty minutes of driving, we parked at a meter located directly in front of the museum.  Cost?  $3.00.  We drove home over the Bay Bridge at 3:30PM.  You’d think we would be going right into the teeth of rush hour.  Nope, no traffic.  And get this…the Bay Bridge has 5 lane.  Fa-fucking-ive!!  I love this place!
 

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Tales from bizarro world.

Posted by keithosaunders on April 13, 2011

The baseball season is two weeks old and I’m pondering the ethics involved in editing my season-predicting posts.  There are some happy surprises, however.  Here are a few of them:

Baltimore is 6-3 and sits atop the AL East.  How many chances have we had to say this in the last two decades?  They must be doing it with Geritol, what with newly acquired Vladdy Guerrero, and Derrek Lee.  But what the heck, they have Adam Jones, Nick Markakis, and Mark Reynolds.  There is some pop on this team.  

Texas is on fire at 9-2!  The Rangers are 3rd in runs scored and 1st in slugging.  They received a piece of bad news today, however, learning that they have lost Josh Hamilton for 6-8 weeks.  Good thing he’s not a Met — that would have insured a season-ending injury. 

Cleveland is leading the AL Central with a 6-3 record.  Can they keep up this pace?  No!

On the disappointing side of the ledger we have Tampa and Boston, who are playing .273 and .182 ball respectively.  What the fuck?  Could the red sea part any wider for the Yankees?!  I know it’s early, and for that reason I’ll limit my rant to one more sentence.  If this holds up, at least we’ll get the wild card from a division other than the AL East. 

Or will it be Toronto?  Stay tuned…

Posted in baseball | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 4 Comments »

Wives and lovers

Posted by keithosaunders on April 8, 2011

A few years ago I went into the studio with Bim Strasberg — one of my favorite bassists — to record a few tracks to be used largely for promotion.  We did them in an afternoon, and I was very happy with how they turned out.  It shows you how easy it is to connect with a musician that you are comfortable with, with whom you have played extensively.

Wives and Lovers is a song from the ’60s composed by Burt Bacharach and Hal David.  It contains some of the most politically incorrect lyrics that you are likely to come across.  This song would be ideal for source music in the AMC series, Mad Men.  

Here is a sample:

Hey! Little Girl
Comb your hair, fix your makeup
Soon he will open the door
Don’t think because there’s a ring on your finger
You needn’t try anymore

For wives should always be lovers too
Run to his arms the moment he comes home to you
I’m warning you…

Day after day
There are girls at the office
And men will always be men
Don’t send him off with your hair still in curlers
You may not see him again

And so it goes…lucky for us that we didn’t have a singer on the date, and that our wives don’t know this song.

Posted in jazz | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Keitho presents: Conversations with singers

Posted by keithosaunders on April 6, 2011

Singer:  Is this Keitho, the piano player?

Keitho:  Yes it is…

Singer:  Are you available to do a gig tomorrow night?  I’m not home and don’t have my book in front of me.  I may have already gotten someone, but are you available?

Keitho:  No, I’m not.  I’m already gigging.

Singer:  Darn it!

———————————————

The question is, was she upset because she really wanted me on the gig, or that she missed out on a chance to double-book?  It’s a question worthy of Talmudic scholarship.

Posted in music | Tagged: , , , , | 2 Comments »

My Charlie Brown moment

Posted by keithosaunders on April 4, 2011

When it comes to the little guy dealing with large corporations the deck is stacked.  My recent escapade switching from the DISH network to ATT Uverse has me feeling like a class A sap.  Of course I have no one to blame but myself, but this is a small consolation.

Two months ago I was solicited at my door by a sweet, middle-American-looking woman and her young acolyte, to accept a phone-cable-internet bundle from ATT Uverse.  Since we were in need of a land line here in Albany, California — our cell reception here is terrible — and the DISH Network is an awful satellite provider, I allowed these seemingly benign ladies into my kitchen.  There they remained, for the next hour setting us up with the dream package of phone, cable, and high-speed internet. 

We were concerned about having to pay a penalty to DISH for early cancellation of service.  “Let me call them for you,” our salesman cooed,  “perhaps we can work out an arrangement.” 

She phoned the DISH network, and after a few minutes she informed us that there would indeed be a penalty of $300, but that ATT would send us a coupon for $250 to offset the bulk of the expense.  That’s a cracker jack deal for me —  I signed on the dotted line. 

Our services, after some scheduling snafus, were installed, and then the fun began.  When I phoned the DISH network to cancel our service, they said they had never heard of my friendly neighborhood Uverse rep.  They did, however want their $300, and they would send a box for me to pack the satellite equipment in, for which I would pay for the postage. 

What about the dish on the roof?  “Sir, if you want us to send a technician to disassemble the DISH we will have to charge you for a service call.” 

When I phoned ATT, they too had never heard from my rep. as well as the aforementioned coupon.  I had her name on the invoice, but they were unimpressed and told me in curt tones that there was nothing they could do.

I had fallen for the old bait and switch.  Corporations give us the illusion that we are shrewd consumers for opting for bundled packages when in fact, we, the consumers, are mere dupes in a high-tech shell game.  It would take a doctorate in calculus to decipher and break down these bills.  Who knows how much money we are spending?  All we know is that it’s excessive, and that customer service is limited at best.

I realize that I am the one who is at fault for being so gullible.  I fancy myself a savvy ex-New Yorker — as someone who has been around the block a few times.  Who am I kidding?  I’m just Charlie Brown to their Lucy.

Posted in life | Tagged: , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

Clyde

Posted by keithosaunders on April 3, 2011

I’ve discovered this guy on twitter who calls himself NotWaltFrazier.  Of course his tweets are all rhymes but he’s actually better at it than the real Clyde!  Here are some of his better ones:

 
Just saw the #Lakers#Cavs score! This embarassin’ has little comparison’!
 
Came back from the bathroom to see Mike Breen messin’ with my chair. Not trustin’ his adjustin’!
 
Amar’e and Nor’easter. Partners in creatin’ random punctuatin’!
 
What’s with Portland turnin’ your knee into debris? Playin’ for the Blazers is riskin’ your meniscin’!
 
Carmelo’s lookin yellow with all this talkin’ and balkin’!
 
Got me thinkin’ about Willis in Game 7. His limpin’ was pimpin’!
 
Skippin’ breakfast got me stumblin’ and grumblin’! Appeasin’ with ham ‘n cheesin’!
 
Mike Breen is still mad I re-scheduled his wake-up call for 4am LOL. My prankin’ got him crankin’!
 
 
 
Finally I direct tweeted him this:
 
Keith:  Clyde, your tweets are delightable and recitable!
 
 And he responded
 
notwaltfrazier:  C for grammar, A for glamour!

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