"You can get anything you want at Alice's Restaurant."
Arlo Guthrie (born 10 July 1947), American folk singer, and the son of Woody Guthrie, most famous for his song the "Alice's Restaurant Massacree." That song was played every Thanksgiving on the rock station WNEW-FM in NYC. Here is the entire version. Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours. Long may you run...
Of all my friends, my mentor and dear friend Michael Butler has led one exceptional and interesting life. To the manor born is only part of his wonderful background. His stories are legendary and many a dinner party I will goad him into sharing some story about life on his farm in Oak Brook, IL or why he decided to produce Hair on Broadway or his glorious polo playing days or his friendship with politicians (The Kennedys) and movie stars (Rock Hudson, Tyrone Power) alike. He's the only individual to appear on Richard Nixon’s Enemies List... twice! Thankfully he's finally sharing his stories with the masses via his new podcast. These are perfect for consumption at any time of the day and worth sharing with your friends and family, too. Subscribe to Michael Butler's Memoirs on iTunes today.
Controversial composer Alfred Schnittke was born November 24, 1934 in the Soviet Union's Volga Republic, an ethnic German enclave. In his mid-thirties he pioneered a broadly eclectic style of composing that drew on many classical styles (even sometimes quoting familiar Beethoven or Bach works, among others) as well as the occasional foray into jazz and pop. By 1972 his experimentalism had earned the disapproval of the Soviet Composers Union (the Soviets also weren't enamored of his occasional expressions of religion, for that matter), but a number of esteemed musicians who had left Russia to live in the West supported his work and brought him an international reputation. His work was basically pessimistic in outlook, but its emotional impact, and the accessibility of some of the styles he drew on, nonetheless seduced many listeners.
The contradictions in Schnittke's style are laid out in his liner notes to the BIS recording of his Symphony No. 3: "I do not know whether or not the symphony will survive as a musical form. I very much hope that it will and I attempt to compose symphonies, although it is clear to me that logically it is pointless. The tensions of this form, which are based upon a tonal perception of space and on dynamic contrast, are paralyzed by the present material-technical point of view. Nevertheless there is hope: in art, the impossible has a chance of success whilst the certain is always deceptive and hopeless." That said, he could easily be considered the last great symphonist. Read more »
There's a personnel change for this jazz supergroup's fourth album: Donald Harrison replaces Craig Handy in the alto sax chair. Nothing against Handy, whose work I have always enjoyed, but that's an upgrade. I look forward to Harrison -- an excellent composer -- having a hand in the writing for the next Cookers album (though, who knows, he may not -- for some reason, this group has never featured even one of trumpet fixture Eddie Henderson's tunes). For the first time, here there are no tunes from non-members; the emphasis on modal post-bop is stronger than ever. Read more »
Dvořák (1841-1904), from Bohemia (at the time, part of the Austro-Hungarian empire, and later in Czechoslovakia) peppered his colorful, amiable music with folk rhythms. The Ninth, subtitled "From the New World" and inspired by and written during his time in the United States, is Dvořák’s most beloved symphony and contains both Bohemian and American influences. Prompted by the current exhibit of the work's original manuscript in New York City at the Bohemian National Hall, I have followed up my review of Jiří Bĕlohlávek's new Dvořák symphony cycle box set on Decca and his concert with the Czech Philharmonic at Carnegie Hall with a trawl through my collection of "New World" recordings, selectively augmented by streaming recordings available on Rdio.com.
There is much debate concerning the materials of the Ninth. The composer himself said that its middle movements were intended to depict scenes from Longfellow's narrative poem The Song of Hiawatha, of which Dvořák was a fan long before he came here to be director of the National Conservatory of Music in 1892-95. It was in New York City, though, that he was introduced to the sound of African-American music, particularly spirituals, which his assistant and protégé, Henry Thacker Burleigh (1866-1949), sang for him (songs Burleigh had learned from his grandfather, an ex-slave). Dvořák also spent the summer of 1893 living in Iowa, where he got to hear Native American music. The overlap between these two styles is the pentatonic scale, which figures in the "New World," though he stressed that he had not quoted any of this material, just embodied its feeling. It has also been said, though not by him, that part of the work's inspiration was probably homesickness for Bohemia. There is no reason why it can't be both, just as the American-inspired aspects of the symphony sit alongside obviously Bohemian elements. Read more »
"There's nothing better than discovering, to your own astonishment, what you're meant to do. It's like falling in love."
Mike Nichols (6 November 1931 - 19 November 2014), German-born, award-winning American film and theater director, producer, actor, and comedian.
One of my favorite Simon & Garfunkel songs -- "America" -- gets a loving homage by one of my favorite Americana acts, the Swedish duo First Aid Kit. This is the title track from their exclusive Record Store Day 10" vinyl EP. This also collects an unreleased tune called "Brother," and acoustic versions of Stay Gold album tracks "My Silver Lining" and "Stay Gold". America will be available on Black Friday, November 28th at participating indie record all over this country.
Since I previewed this Sunday afternoon concert, I'll skip repeating the background information -- except to note that I've since learned this was the group's first NYC appearance in ten years -- and get right to considering the performance itself. To give away the conclusion up front, in my notes, I used the words "perfect" and "wonderful" a lot. Read more »
Czech conductor Jirí Bělohlávek recently won the Antonín Dvořák Prize for his promotion of Czech classical music in general and Dvořák's in particular. At Carnegie Hall on Sunday afternoon, Nov. 16, he will actually receive the award after a concert in which he will lead the Czech Philharmonic and in a program of Janáček's tone poem Taras Bulba, Liszt's Piano Concerto No. 2 with soloist Jean-Yves Thibaudet, and Dvořák's Symphony No. 9, "From the New World." Read more »
Charles Munch was born in Strasbourg in 1891, the son of organist/choral conductor Ernst Münch. It was a musical family; Charles's brothers Fritz and Hans also became conductors. Charles studied violin with Lucien Capet and Carl Flesch and conducting with Wilhelm Furtwängler and Alfred Sendrey. World War I interrupted his musical progress; a sergeant of artillery in the German army, he was gassed at Peronne and wounded at Verdun. After the war ended, he became a French citizen.
Munch first pursued violin professionally; he didn't begin his conducting career until 1932, at age 41. He founded the Orchestra de la Société Philharmonique in 1935 in Paris, was named conductor of the Société des Concerts du Conservatoire de Paris in 1938, and stayed in France during the German occupation of World War II. His conduct during this difficult period included French Resistance activities; he was awarded the French Légoon d'Honneur in 1945. Read more »
"He had a beautiful dish on each arm!" Yeah, Don Van Vliet, bellows like it is! The aggro-avant blues poetry of Captain Beefheart with his signature harmonica wails is an out take from the new Rhino Records box set Sun Zoom Spark: 1970-1972. It collects three of his Warner Brothers albums -- Lick My Decals Off, Baby, The Spotlight Kid, and Clear Spot plus a disc of previously unreleased tracks. Out on Tuesday, November 17th. Order it today!
"We certainly have an unspoken understanding. But a lot of things unsaid as well."
Harry Shearer was recently in town promoting his new brilliantly acted and expertly executed web series -- Nixon's The One! -- about Richard Milhous Nixon. Recently, I had the chance to listen to him wax poetic about Nixon, the production challenges of the show, share clips, and ponder why only Sky TV in UK funded the series. Why no one in the US would distribute it is still mind-boggling. Shearer and his actors memorized the actually transcripts from the actual Nixon White House tapes that had been in storage in the National Archives for over 40 years. He and Nixon historian Stanley Kutler (both credited as the show's writers) poured over hundreds of hours of transcripts before committing the series to film. Thanks to our friends at My Damn Channel, here's the first episode of the six-part series co-created by and starring Mr. Shearer. In this episode, Nixon learns how the taping system works, receives some serious ass-kissing from his lapdog Henry Kissinger, lectures dairy lobbyists on how to sell milk, and orders the tapes destroyed. Not to be missed. Share it with your children. It's the history lesson that keeps on giving!
A rash of some cool new music to share with y'all. First up is the NOLA-based Luke Winslow-King's live take on his bluesy train chugger "Travelin' Myself" from his album Everlasting Arms. Roots-rockin' Americana that is authentic, passionate, poignant, infectious snapshots of life in this big ol' country. One of my favorite albums of the year. Out now on Bloodshot Records. Read more »