Sunday, June 19, 2011

Sound Off


Ornette Coleman was the subject of a JazzWax piece several days ago. Ornette's debut album, Something Else!!!, was reissued recently, and Marc Myers noted in passing that Cannonball Adderley's LP of approximately the same title (Somethin' Else, with Miles Davis guesting) had appeared at approximately the same time in 1958.

A whole scene popped immediately into my head, but when I tried to pass it on as a comment, Marc's recalcitrant server chewed it up and spit it out into space, or some sort of cloud of dissed-information. (Even the a.i.'s are critics these days!) I started to write it again, then realized--waste not, want not--that I should post it right here instead.

The encounter is imaginary and never happened... unless it did, of course. Some might think it should have.

* * * * *
Cannonball and Miles were playing a one-night gig in St. Louis, rehearsing some tunes for Adderley's upcoming album. Late in the evening, a slight, dark-skinned young man shuffled up to the bandstand carrying a small plastic saxophone and asked if he could sit in.

Cannon looked him up and down, saw new threads on a country boy, wrinkled like he'd just stepped down off the bus. The big man smiled. "That accent says Texas. And Blues maybe. Why, sure," checking Miles. "Ease on up here."

The trumpeter was remembering his first trip to the Apple, searching for Bird for days, finally sitting in... Miles just shrugged, called for "Autumn Leaves" in a slightly ascerbic key and, a few bars in, pointed at the newcomer: "Go."

Swirling leaves vanished, the song consumed by bleating goats, snakecharmers' pipes, staggering leaps and fits, plastic gold and deep African blues. Cannon listened to the kid's caterwauling for a few minutes, then stopped the tune. "Coal Man," he said, "you are somethin'."

"Somethin' else," rasped Miles. The two looked at each other. Adderley said, "Sounds like an album title to me."

Miles frowned at the plastic sax held in the young man's long fingers. "You got a lonely future right now. Get a real sax. Learn the changes." He half-turned, paused, laughing in that croaky way, "Better yet, find some Texas woman take you in."

Cannonball laughed then, too, and the dual leaders walked away.

The young saxophonist looked down at his odd sax and his scuffed shoes. He smiled just a bit and said nothing, keeping his own counsel as usual. He was already feeling the solitude... the aloneness... in his chest, and hearing some ornate harmolodic wails in his head.

He walked out of the club, straight to a nearby corner. Under a flickering streetlamp he began to blow. Cries and whispers...

He could almost see the sad lady, could almost see her face.

8 comments:

Alan Kurtz said...

A lovely piece of writing, Ed. Thanks for sharing it. Especially appropriate, too, on this Father's Day, since Ornette is one of the few major jazzmen to sire a noteworthy musician in his own right: son Denardo. (Offhand, I can't think of any others; but I'm sure you'll come up with a list.)

You may, however, be mistaken in attributing your rejected JazzWax comment to "Marc's recalcitrant server." I've submitted several carefully crafted comments at JazzWax that were posted only to be soon deleted. I believe they were deliberately expunged by Mr. Myers because my comments were less than laudatory.

Marc is a music booster, not a critic, and he don't allow no nay-sayin' on his site. If your fantasy of Cannon and Coleman could've been construed as the least bit negative (such as, e.g., Miles's contemptuous dismissal of Ornette), then it likely fell victim not to indiscriminate spam filters but to the discriminating Mr. Myers and that quick trigger-finger on his well-worn delete button.

I Witness said...

Other sons of some note: Ravi Coltrane, Joshua Redman, T.J. Monk, and I could toss in boys-into-men from the Zydeco Music dynasties, the Cheniers, Ardoins, Delafoses, Broussards, et al.

Regarding Alan's complaint, I can say that Marc has always treated me fairly and tried to find, or assign techs to find, my half-dozen previous comments that disappeared. Some were located in Spam files, others just vanished. He says he does not censor or delete and I take him at his word; negative comments do show up, some even written by me. But I do also believe there are erratic glitches in his response system.

Alan Kurtz said...

Okay, you've thrown down the gauntlet. "Negative comments do show up," you assert about JazzWax, "some even written by me." Never one to sidestep a thrown gauntlet, I Googled your comments, finding 178 posted at JazzWax all time. Narrowing it down, I looked at this year's 28 to date. That was not a chore, since your comments are often insightful, uncommonly witty and artfully crafted.

Maybe it's semantics, Ed, but I couldn't find anything negative. To the contrary, your comments are mostly so flattering it almost seems like you're sucking up to Marc Myers, although I can't imagine what's in that for you.

The closest you come to negativity is what I would call mild-mannered, good-natured teasing, such as the following.

EL: "Some cherce Myersisms this time … but 'extroverted introverts'? Naah."

EL: "Gee, Officer Myers, admire you—and we do. But seriously, folks, blaming the Beatles for society's slide into couthlessness? Kinda like breakin' butterflies on that torture wheel."

EL: "Calling Carl Perkins a slicker who went city slips the facts…."

EL: "Gary Giddins and Mosaic Records folk certainly don't agree with you, Marc [about Bing Crosby]."

EL: "There's a confusing sentence in your WSJ preview when you mention guests involved, the sentence stating something like 'the blues harp player Charlie Musselwhite who also plays blues harp.' Could just be a careless proofreader…."

AK: Note how in these latter two comments you let Myers off the hook. It's not that you, Ed Leimbacher, disagree with him about Bing; rather it's Giddins and Mosaic. And far be it from Marc to be held responsible for bad writing in a Wall Street Journal piece bearing his name; it must've been a careless proofreader.

Only once, in a rare exception, were you uncharacteristically heated. "Damn it," you wrote, "there is a huge qualitative difference between the silly, middle-class white kids' revolution (revolting, yes) espoused by the Slick Airplane, and the social-justice revolution chanted by Scott-Heron." The problem is this makes no sense. At first I thought your Slick Airplane reference might relate to Marc's interview last April with Grace Slick. But that article never mentions Gil Scott-Heron. So what on earth were you damning here, Ed?

In any case, after being publicly embarrassed by my preceding post on this thread, Marc Myers has belatedly restored my JazzWax comment deleted by him a month ago. To appreciate why I call him a booster, not a critic, please read that article and my comment (for as long as it stands). Enough said.

I Witness said...

Hmmm... what shall I address here? Am I hoist with my own petard, or just petard out from Internet bickering? Do I contradict myself? Very well, then I contradict myself. (After all, I embrace multitudes in my spare time.)

Really, Alan, as generous as your earlier remarks were, I do still wish we were discussing my imagined scene rather than another case of "gotcha"--this time the dilloes and peccadilloes of Myers--which is something I am usually averse to (and dangling prep be damned).

You say I fail to criticize Myers. Didn't occur to me that I should. I read people's blogs for insights, wit, history, some political opinion, some personal reminiscence (any revelations not too sleazy or shabby, please), mentions of unknown (to me, anyway) books or music to investigate, and the like. I don't go looking for mistakes, which might enable me to come off smarter than the blogger. Sometimes I ignore errors, sometimes I send a private email pointing out a glitch, and sometimes I just correct in public.

But, see, I was not claiming to be tough on Marc; I do try to avoid insulting the host where possible. A light chiding is often enough. So I try to tweak gently; you might even have noticed that in both private emails and public responses to the comments you make, which are "occasionally" public challenges or gauntlets thrown down.

I meant I have sometimes focussed instead on the pretensions or foolishness, historical errors or outright mistakes, made by or pertaining to the subjects under discussion. (Thus my vehemence regarding Slick phoneyness vs.--me blithely referring back to the previous day's JazzWax post--the justified bitterness and controlled anger of Scott-Heron.

Why should a bit of witty mockery or quiet correction not be considered as valid a path to understanding as public chastisement? What other than personal satisfaction did you gain by, if it happened as you believe, embarrassing or angering Myers and getting yourself banned? Did I truly abdicate my right to speak and render my comments completely irrelevant by being careful or polite? (I think the jury's still out.)

Me ould sainted Da used to remind me when I was mouthing off--and it seems to have stuck with me for good or ill, even as I confuse the images in my memory--"You catch more bears with honey than you do with vinegar." (Or was that bees you catch? Or flies maybe? Or, I don't know, miscreant blogmeisters--if, heaven forfend, there be such.)

Alan Kurtz said...

Ed, like you, I use Google's Blogger as a platform. I therefore know that it's not mandatory for I Witness to display reader comments. As blog operator, you do so as a matter of choice. But once you decide to accept and display comments, you also implicitly invite them.

In that event, policing becomes your prerogative. You can restrict comments to members only, registered users, or visitors with Google accounts, or allow them from anyone. Besides these technical back-end controls, you can enforce additional front-end oversight by establishing a formal policy and requiring adherence.

As far as I can see, I Witness has no stated guidelines regulating comments. Instead, you rely on unstated etiquette. "Really, Alan, as generous as your earlier remarks were," you write, "I do still wish we were discussing my imagined scene rather than another case of 'gotcha' … which is something I am usually averse to (and dangling prep be damned)."

Yet in your post "Sound Off," upon which we are commenting, you wrote of more than an imagined scene. In your second paragraph you describe a comment submitted to JazzWax, only to have "Marc's recalcitrant server chew it up and spit it out into space, or some sort of cloud of dissed-information. (Even the a.i.'s are critics these days!)"

To which I responded with an alternative theory as to why your submission went missing. My comment was not off topic, Ed. You're the one who brought up rejected JazzWax submissions.

Nevertheless you insinuate that I have gone astray by commenting further on this matter. You'd rather discuss your imagined scene. Somewhat testily you demand, "What other than personal satisfaction did you gain by, if it happened as you believe, embarrassing or angering Myers and getting yourself banned?"

Once again you've let Marc off the hook. He didn't ban me, in your view; I got myself banned. In other words, I got what I deserved for being outspoken. Right, Ed?

I wonder if you, as a blog operator, can appreciate how frustratingly difficult it is for a visitor to navigate your unstated etiquette. You may think it's all a matter of common sense or simple politeness. But since not everyone shares your value system, it might be a good idea to rethink your approach to visitor comments. At minimum, you ought to be explicit as to what's acceptable here. That would save my time and yours.

I Witness said...

Alan, I consider you a sharply brilliant critic and a powerful, carefully and pointedly phrasing, stylish and yet controlled writer--maybe the best at work today, and I've admired your incisive mind ever since we locked horns as editor-you and writer-me in your amazing heyday and my brief time at Jazz.com. I've also always dreaded arguments with you because I'm not as smart as you are and certainly not as willing to do battle.

So what I intended as careful comments once again have failed in their intent and left you angrier than before. You make valid points regarding my phrasing and my ineffective dodging of unpleasantness. Yes, of course it was Marc's choice, his act, to censor or ban you. But what if it really was faulty machinery/programming at work on your writings, my comments, and those of others. I routinely have computer delays and irritating pauses/glitches that have just about convinced me to visit his site less frequently, but the trouble may simply be with MY old computer not being fast enough, or lacking sufficient storage to handle sites that have so many video links.

I use only photos, as you've no doubt observed, to avoid that--and I've never had cause before now to issue comment guidelines. This is my blog's first controversy, I think, in the four or five years I've tried writing.

But beyond Marc Myers, do you think of yourself as a battler for Internet freedom? Do you seek an end to censorship? Guarantees that one's submitted remarks are to be held inviolable? (Please take my word: I am not being sarcastic, am only looking for definitions or at least defining attitudes/positions.

I did not mean to sound testy anywhere; I wanted only to register my discomfort with having a discussion (now argument, it seems) about Myers at my blog rather than his. But, yes, I did introduce the subject of the vanishing comments, so the door stood open. However, you appear to find it irrelevant or, worse, contemptible that I tried to couch the subject in a humorous, maybe puzzled light rather than make an accusation.

I always imagine you as streetwise, with a rapier wit and a proclivity for getting riled in print. I seem to have done that, or caused that here, however unintentionally. I value your critiques and I always look forward to your commentary wherever it appears--even now when I feel cut off at the knees.

I don't believe in censorship, but I do value sense and relevance and suitability of place. I remember you objected when I refused to post a stranger's comment that I considered not relevant to I Witness, better suited somewhere else--even when I assured you that I had gotten in touch with the writer and explained my reasons, and heard him accept my decision and willingly absolve me of some definition of censoring him.

Alan, you are just basically tougher than I, more certain in your beliefs/opinions. Yes, I prefer communication to ex-communication. I hope you continue to read and opine, here, there, and everywhere. (But particularly here.)

Alan Kurtz said...

You're right, of course. My problems with censorship go beyond Marc Myers, and even beyond the other jazz blogs/websites where I am blacklisted (Brilliant Corners, Stomp Off, ChrisKelsey.com). I do indeed think of myself as a battler for Internet freedom. So thanks for at least publishing my comments in this, your blog's first controversy. You've already proved yourself a more courageous gatekeeper than Messrs. Rich, Provizer, Albertson and Kelsey. Kudos!

I Witness said...

Okay. I have no case to rest, but I will now rest, just in case...