Before Midnight and Beyond
“Whether or not you find your own way, you're bound to find some way. If you happen to find my way, please return it, as it was lost years ago. I imagine by now it's quite rusty.”― Norton Juster
In 2004 (5? 6?), Amy Tobin and I were hatching an idea to transform the all-night holiday of Shavuot into a culture/arts festival. Movies. Music. Poetry. Performing Arts. Conversation…all around the themes of the holiday…all night long. We called it “Dawn." While talking to my friend John Schott about it, he surprised me by saying that he had been working on an all-night composition for Shavuot, taking Thelonious Monk’s ‘Round Midnight and stretching it out to eight hours in length, improvising off of the notes as they played out during the evening. It was a mediation, a meditation on ancient stories and world history and music theory and so much more. In a way, when first hearing about it, it felt like it was his Ulysses.
I met John during the modern golden age of jazz in San Francisco in the 1990s. Back in those days, before the internet overwhelmed the town, the exciting sound of jazz came out of many of the crevices and corners of the city. As an A&R person for Warner Bros. Records, and a huge jazz fan, I was enthralled with the scene, eventually signing one of its favorite suns, TJ Kirk. The fez wearing quartet played the music of Thelonious Monk (T), James Brown (J) and Roland Kirk (Kirk)…and they were all stellar musicians: Charlie Hunter (on 8-string bass), Scott Amendola (on traps), Will Bernard (on guitar)…and John Schott (on guitar).
I kept in touch with most of the band after our work together was done, which led to the conversation with John. Obviously, I was excited to work with John on his ‘Round Midnight piece and it debuted on Shavuot during our Dawn Festival 15 years ago. John created an amazing space in which to perform the piece, loading the room with pillows and interesting books to read and a large poster that mapped out what he was playing along with commentary from sources like The Torah and Dave Chappelle and Monk himself. Almost every time we produced a DAWN all-night fest since then, John has been performing his solo epic piece.
After last year, which in my mind was his greatest performance to date, John came to me with the idea of performing the piece with an orchestra…eight hours, playing off the cues from the slowed-down ‘Round Midnight, exploring life’s big questions. And over the course of the last ten months, he has put together quite a band, including vocalists, three bass players, a koto player, saxophones, strings, and of course, John Schott’s great guitar playing and commentary, as he sits right in the eye of the storm. All the while the pages of the score he has created around ‘Round Midnight, including quotes, cues and other flourishes, will be broadcast on the wall for the orchestra to interpret. It is so exciting.
This Saturday, starting at 9:30 pm PST, the ‘Round Midnight orchestra will begin an eight-hour journey, creating something that I feel is one of the most important pieces of music of our time. For those in the Bay Area, come down to Light Rail Studios and witness the event live (I have a few extra tickets if you are interested in going). For those far away, it will be broadcast with a stellar 5-camera shoot all night until the dawn (find out more about it on the Reboot website). Who knows when this opportunity will happened again…an 8-hour orchestral meditation based on one of the greatest compositions of the 20th century.
Aquarium Drunkard dug up this beauty…it is an astonishing, beautiful performance with Sanders and Paul Asrlanian on harmonium. Sanders has continually pushed the boundaries of his craft. There is no jazz musician from his era that continues to grow and experiment.
Damn, it is a good time to travel to Wessex—to see four museums each focus on an aspect of the favorite son Thomas Hardy. I am such a huge Thomas Hardy fan (whose birthday is today) and can only hope there is an overview book done of all the shows…
As you can imagine, The Library Of Congress oversees a plethora of archives. These kind of articles it publishes shines light on some that might go unnoticed or unknown. Both of these archives are just sensational.
“Black Venus at Fotografiska, New York is an exhibition that surveys the legacy of Black women in visual culture – from fetishized, colonial-era caricatures, to the present-day reclamation of the rich complexity of Black womanhood by 19 artists (of numerous nationalities and with birth years spanning 1942 to 1997). This exhibition is a celebration of Black beauty, an investigation into the many faces of Black femininity and the shaping of Black women in the public conscious – then and now.”
Boyle definitely has an interesting reason for wanting Rotten to hate his series. I have yet to see it, but I have heard from some old punk rockers that it is good…
The West Wind
By: John Masefield
It's a warm wind, the west wind, full of birds' cries;
I never hear the west wind but tears are in my eyes.
For it comes from the west lands, the old brown hills.
And April's in the west wind, and daffodils.
It's a fine land, the west land, for hearts as tired as mine,
Apple orchards blossom there, and the air's like wine.
There is cool green grass there, where men may lie at rest,
And the thrushes are in song there, fluting from the nest.
"Will ye not come home, brother? Ye have been long away,
It's April, and blossom time, and white is the May;
And bright is the sun brother, and warm is the rain,—
Will ye not come home, brother, home to us again?
"The young corn is green, brother, where the rabbits run.
It's blue sky, and white clouds, and warm rain and sun.
It's song to a man's soul, brother, fire to a man's brain,
To hear the wild bees and see the merry spring again.
"Larks are singing in the west, brother, above the green wheat,
So will ye not come home, brother, and rest your tired feet?
I've a balm for bruised hearts, brother, sleep for aching eyes,"
Says the warm wind, the west wind, full of birds' cries.
It's the white road westwards is the road I must tread
To the green grass, the cool grass, and rest for heart and head,
To the violets, and the warm hearts, and the thrushes' song,
In the fine land, the west land, the land where I belong.
****This newsletter is dedicated to the memory of David Weinshanker, who loved this poem. The Western Wind was read aloud as his ashes were scattered into the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Marblehead, Mass. ASsJohn Masefield wrote in a poem that was found after he had passed:
Let no religious rite be done or read
In any place for me when I am dead,
But burn my body into ash, and scatter
The ash in secret into running water,
Or on the windy down, and let none see;
And then thank God that there's an end of me.
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