- Measure B Needs
- AVUSD Budget
- Find Margrit
- Old Timers
- Animal Control Officers
- Little Dog
- GJ Discouragements
- Refuse to Recuse
- Yesterday's Catch
- Mighty White
- Evan's Ghost
- Night Golf
THE AGENDA FOR THE MEASURE B OVERSIGHT COMMITTEE MEETING on Wednesday, May 23, includes a discussion of “a Separate Contract and Detailed Scope of Work for [Needs Assessment Consultant] Lee Kemper with Discussion and Possible Action,” and a “Needs Assessment Progress Report.”
SOME KIND OF “NEEDS ASSESSMENT” has obviously begun because earlier this month the Board of Supervisors authorized a $10k add-on to Kemper’s existing contract to begin a Mental Health Needs Assessment, but they also asked the Measure B Oversight Committee to prepare a detailed scope of work which, presumably and confusingly, will include the first $10k.
IN THE PAST, the Measure B committee has had some difficulty coming up with a “scope of work” for Kemper, with only one committee member, Jared Diamond of Willits, coming up with his own list of questions for the consultant at the last meeting, even though the Committee members had been asked to prepare their own at previous meetings. Now we imagine Sheriff Allman at a typical Mendo-easel/whiteboard with a felt-tip pen writing down ideas from his committee followed by a discussion of which ones they want in the “scope of work.”
WE CERTAINLY HOPE it includes an estimate of who is currently not being served because they are not insured, because it is those people who make up the majority of the people the rest of Mendo wants off the street.
AV UNIFIED’S BUDGET WOES reported earlier this year appear to have been resolved (again) by the State’s May Budget Revision. Almost every year, the California Department of Education announces dire edu-budget limitations that echo down to every school district in the state, causing consternation and awkward discussions of what might have to be cut, only to be rescinded in the spring before the school year is out with not much more than a “never mind.” According to a recent informative piece by Willits News reporter Ariel Carmona, the 2018-2019 California Schools budgetary false alarm was yet another false alarm. Governor Brown’s “May Revise” budget is “not skimping on funding K-14 education which the governor said is at an all-time high.” And, “the May Revise bumps the minimum guarantee from Proposition 98 funding for K-14 education to $78.4 billion, with more than $4,600 per child of extra money compared to 2011-12 levels.”
AV UNIFIED’S Average Daily Attendance budget allocation in 2016-2017 (latest available) was about $16.3k per student for 470 students, k-12. In 2011-12 it was $11.3k per student. So by this latest calculation it should be $11.3k plus $4.6k or around $15.7k per student. According to AV Unified they have “about 500 students.” (470 in 2016-17.) 500 students at $16k per student translates to an annual budget of about $8 million per year.
HOWEVER, it is not likely that these rosier budget numbers will reduce the animosity coming from some members of the AV Unified staff towards Superintendent Michelle Hutchins.
MENDO SHERIFF NEEDS PUBLIC’S HELP TO FIND 76-YEAR-OLD WOMAN
We need your help!
The Mendocino County Sheriff's Office and Mendocino County Sheriff's Search & Rescue team is currently conducting a search in the Piercy area for Margit Prichard, a 76 year old white female. Margrit is 5' 1/2" tall, weighs 110 pounds and has gray hair and blue eyes.
She was last seen yesterday around 4:30 pm (May 18, 2018) wearing an unknown color shirt and unknown color capris, in the area of the 1300 block of Pepperwood Springs Road in Piercy.
She may suffer from dementia like symptoms and may be confused. She is very fit and has been known to walk to Benbow.
If you have any information on her whereabouts please contact the Mendocino County Sheriff's Communication Office at (707) 463-4086 right away.
YOU ARE AN OLD TIMER IF YOU…
- Watched stock car races at the Boonville Fairgrounds
- Saw high school football games on the big field behind the Elementary School
- Attended a community dance upstairs in the Farrer Building
- Remember when the Navarro Mill was operating
- Knew Joe Scaramella when he was 5th District Supervisor
- Remember the Ukiah ballpark where Safeway is now
- Remember Slim Pickens calling the Fair rodeo
- Saw the Dimaggio Brothers stopping for lunch at Navarro
- Were here when Jim Jones taught at AV Elementary
- Remember when Officer Ingram was the CHP's man in the Anderson Valley
- Knew the family of Ham Canyon
- Bought bootleg spirits on Signal Ridge
YOU ARE GETTING TO BE AN OLD TIMER IF YOU…
- Remember the Anderson Valley Health Center in the Ricard Building
- Appeared before Judge Mannix in the Mannix Building
- Drank a beer with Swoop at the Boonville Lodge
- Graduated from high school when Mel 'Boom-Boom' Baker was principal/superintendent
- Played softball at the Boonville Fairgrounds
- Laughed at the announcer's hippie jokes at the Fair Rodeo
- Ate at the Navarro Inn at Navarro Beach
- Bought milk from the Goat Lady in Yorkville
- Enjoyed a taco at Leo's in Yorkville
- Bought a drink a the bar in Comptche
- Attended the Albion People's Fair
- Knew anybody from the Moonie Ranch in Boonville
- Bought anything from Mrs. Zanoni at the Navarro Store
- Or the Averys at the Floodgate Store
- Or Cecil Self at Lemons and Anderson Valley Market
- Remember Burl Evans was the CHP's man in Anderson Valley
- Dropped a line in Frank Falleri's catfish pond at Ray's Resort
- Remember Francis Lytle at Anderson Valley High School
- Knew Ted Galletti as 5th District Supervisor
- Saw Dapper Lou Delsol, County Superintendent of Schools
FROM MARSHALL NEWMAN:
- You’re an old-timer if Ray Ingram drove your school bus.
- You’re a REALLY old-timer if you took piano lessons from Goldie Ward near Philo.
- And one for Mendocino County:
- You’re an old-timer is you enjoyed a skyscraper sundae at Rone’s Candy and Ice Cream in Ukiah.
ANGIE HERMAN NOTES: Thank you for printing the below article in your publication on February 10, 2018. I just spoke with George Hodgson, Animal Control officer at Mendocino County and they have been advertising for more officers. Only one person showed up for the interview. The Board of Supervisor's were unaware that the officers are started out at $13.50/hour. The national average according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics is $26/hour. Mendocino County is 25-33% below our neighboring Counties. Thank you, Angie Herman, Willits
* * *
There are an estimated 83,000 domestic animals residing in Mendocino County according to the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) and the Mendocino County Agriculture 2007 Census. With all those animals, come the 87,841 people who own them. Mendocino County is clearly an animal loving community.
The Mendocino County Sheriff’s Department holds the responsibility to keep all those beings in line. Yes – both animals and humans need policing at times. Any animal related issues are handled by Animal Control, a department within the Sheriff’s department.
Despite our strong love of animals, our County does not appear to respect the Animal Control Department commensurate with the level of responsibility they carry. According to Lieutenant Jason Caudillo, Central Operations of the Field Division for the Mendocino County Sheriff’s Department, our Animal Control department is woefully understaffed and grossly underfunded. With just three officers to cover 3,878 square miles, it is the busiest division within the Sheriff’s department – every single day of the year. Mendocino County is not unique in this regard. The National Animal Care and Control Association (NACA) has determined that, nationwide, Animal Control Officers make four (4) times as many public contacts as Deputy Sheriffs and Police Officers do during the same time period.
An animal control officer is a law enforcement officer and this officer must stay informed regarding all animal-related laws and have innate leadership and communication skills. The officer is responsible for animal safety and public safety regarding animals. He/she must respond to calls of stray or dangerous animals and investigate animal cruelty. The officer provides education to the public about laws regarding pet ownership and the proper treatment of animals. It is not uncommon for an Animal Control officer to discover human abuse and neglect while in the field. There is a strong link between animal neglect and abuse and elder abuse, child neglect and domestic violence. According to our County, the officer must do all of this while being paid $13/hour.
The Mendocino County Board of Supervisor’s states their mission is to create and maintain a responsive and responsible government that enhances the quality of life of the people of Mendocino County. The County’s mission is to deliver services that meet: Public safety, health, social, cultural, education, transportation, economic, and environmental needs of our communities”.
Whether the County can maintain a responsive and responsible government with underpaid, understaffed departments is in question. With so few officers, our Animal Control Department is working on a reactive rather than a pro-active level. Animals in dire situations must take a number and wait until there is staff to help them. Sometimes it’s a long wait. In order to cover the animal control needs in our vast County, Caudillo says the department needs double the number of officers we have now. Attracting, hiring and maintaining quality employees can be a challenge. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, an Animal Control Officer’s annual mean wage in the State of California is $23.67/hour. Mendocino County is attempting to attract job applicants who will pass the psychological, medical, and background checks required to become an animal control officer with a wage that is just over minimum wage.
How the animals in our County fare going forward depends on how insistent the public is about animal welfare. With almost one animal for every resident in Mendocino County, the need appears to be great. But for any changes to happen there needs to be a conversation between the residents of Mendocino County and the Board of Supervisors.
LITTLE DOG SAYS, “I’ve noticed a nervous white cat hanging around Skrag lately. Probably wants in on Skrag’s gravy train. I’ll bet Skrag’s been telling his stray friends how easy it was to get these saps to feed him.”
BETSY CAWN NAILS IT.
LAKE AND MENDO SAME-SAME
It should come as no surprise that Grand Jurors are becoming hard to recruit, even as their important work has informed the paying public and “consumers” of government services despite that very government’s dismissive response.
Year after year, our Lake County Supervisors merely answer that they “do not agree” with the GJ’s findings and recommendations, and County Counsel backs them up. During my early years in Lake County (circa late 90s) I met so many disgruntled former GJ members that their discouragement alone enticed me to examine more closely the tedious issues that Grand Jury volunteers provide extensive insights into.
From time to time, a revelation brought into the light of day yields some grudging (usually minor) admission of government inadequacy, and now and then a recommendation becomes the rationale behind policy making and program direction — but not often enough, and not large enough, to inspire and “empower” public scrutiny of the overlords of “our town.”
The ultimate sadness elicited by this civic failure is reflected in our recent County pleas for sales tax increases to backfill shortfalls in fundamental health and safety services — the perennial fodder for electoral campaign “talking points” — that have been long deprived of available funding, since the Board of Supervisors for the last two decades has been “persuaded” by local Chamber of Commerce to use public funds for peddling the charms of old funky resorts, “craft” fairs, and alcohol-fueled “wine adventures,” while keeping entrepreneurial investors at bay.
In Lake County, the Administration is claiming that our already modest public services will be further imperiled if the voters do not elect to further assess themselves for more sales taxes just to maintain the level of service we have now, despite a near doubling of the County’s general fund over the last 18 years. (Obviously, several years of disaster response costs have sucked out any remaining cushion from Kelly Cox’s cleverly husbanded “reserves,” and FEMA is not going to cover for our local neglect of preparedness. However, equally obvious misspending decisions and bad real estate bets cannot be attributed to an “act of God.” (Unless you consider the malformed faculties of our elected officials to be a result of divine intervention.) For elucidation of our County’s misuse of public funds, see the Lake County Grand Jury Report, Fiscal Year 2016-2017, on the subject of real estate and other attractive “loss leaders” such as “Taxpayers Potentially Lose $Millions$ on Real Estate Investments.”
These are the folks who want us to hand them more General Fund revenues, to be “overseen” by a Board of Supervisors-appointed “committee” chosen from their stable of reliable sycophants, equipped with no accountability resources [such as regularly required financial reports and program performance measurements] — because accountability is not the objective of such carefully selected subordinate bodies.
Hopefully the 2017-2018 Lake County Grand Jury will report further on the deplorable status of our hiring ability (traditionally held to 75% of need, keeping the local workforce obiesant and excessively “loyal” to the alleged “leadership” of the widely acknowledged “good old boy” system), marvelously explicated in the 2016-2017 Grand Jury report — “Inadequate Staffing of County Behavioral Health” [starting on page 57: http://www.lakecountyca.gov/Assets/County+Site/Grand+Jury/Final+Reports/2016-2017+Final+Report.pdf?method=1%5D.
Surreal society and poly-sci-fi do not equal governance, the necessity for which is not lost on all those true public servants who make our world reasonably manageable and can be counted on day after day, year after year, to deliver assistance and aid. Ignorant and maleable political leaders are not accountable for their actions, do not have to maintain any kind of record of their correspondence or “negotiations” with “constituents” or agencies, and exhibit consistent compliance with whatever recommendations are made by the unelected “Administration.”
The Public is equally complicit in this psycho-drama, since few are even familiar with the machinery of public services administration and the processes available to individuals are deliberately obfuscative, but few put down their video fidget devices long enough to notice the difference between official rhetoric and real results.
Thanks to all of you who are paying attention, and care enough to reject the false promise of blissful ignorance.
WILL LEE REFUSES TO RECUSE
And Other Reasons Coast Hospital’s CEO’s Got To Go
by Malcolm Macdonald
Will Lee is the current vice mayor of the City of Fort Bragg. He is also the director of medical staff services at Mendocino Coast District Hospital (MCDH). When supporters of that institution's attempt to pass a parcel tax came before the Fort Bragg City Council on May 14th to get said Council's backing for a parcel tax, one would reasonably assume that anyone employed by the hospital would recuse himself from the matter. Councilman Bernie Norvell recused himself from the hospital parcel tax matter because of a financial stake he has in property rented to the hospital. Mayor Lindy Peters was absent, so Mr. Lee stayed on to chair the meeting during the proposal aimed at gaining the city council's formal approval of a resolution in support of Measure C (the $144 per parcel per year tax). Vice Mayor Lee first declared that he had planned to recuse himself until he learned that Mayor Peters would not be attending. Lee went on to say that because Mayor Peters absence and his recusal would leave the body without a quorum, he had changed his mind and refused to recuse himself — wouldn't Johnnie Cochran have loved “Refuse to recuse”? — citing “Title 9, Chapter 2.”
What Will Lee fails to realize is the effect of his own words. He stated that he originally planned to recuse himself. He only changed his mind when the absence of the mayor meant that this proposal, which, again by his own words, was near and dear to him, would not be heard due to an absence of a quorum. Furthermore, Lee stated, or implied (whichever way one wants to quibble) that his “refuse to recuse” decision was necessitated because this was such an important issue. The inherent problem for Lee, and the public, will occur in the future when Mr. Lee decides that an issue isn't important enough for him to invoke his “refuse to recuse” excuse. Of course, there is the obvious, and in this case fairly clear, appearance of a conflict of interest: Mr. Lee is employed by the hospital and getting a city council backing would help lead to financial gain for his employer.
In the last year Will Lee has turned into a disturbing apologist for MCDH. At a November 14, 2017 Board of Directors meeting Lee stated, “The misinformation that's spreading around this town that this hospital is suffering under this administration is just flat wrong. There's no distress in this hospital…”
Contrasted with Lee's description were multiple MCDH employees out on stress leave, stress directly attributable to the behavior of Lee's administrative superiors at the time, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Bob Edwards and (now former) Chief Financial Officer (CFO) Wade Sturgeon. Lee's comments were heard directly before a closed session at which the Board of Directors was evaluating the job performance of Sturgeon, who was gone from the CFO job by night's end.
In contrast to Lee's claims about no distress at MCDH was a November 8, 2017, AVA article authored by Cindy Richards, who had worked under Sturgeon's direction. That piece concluded with these words about the hospital's top two administrators, “These corrupt, contemptuous men are strutting around like saints begging for taxpayer subsidies claiming they’re necessary for the betterment of our community, while harassing, threatening, terminating and covering up unconscionable behavior.”
Which takes us to the case of Hardin vs. Mendocino Coast District Hospital, Bob Edwards, Steve Lund, and Wade Sturgeon. The complaints against the defendants include: 1. Violation of Labor Code Section 98.6 and 1102.5; 2. Violation of California False Claims Act, Government Code Section 12563; 3. Violation of Federal False Claims Act, 31 U.S.C. Section 3730; 4. Violation of U.S. Constitution, First Amendment, 42 U.S.C. Section 1983; 5. Discrimination; 6. Associational Discrimination; 7. Harassment/Hostile Work Environment; 8. Retaliation; 9. Failure to Take All Reasonable Steps Necessary to Prevent Discrimination and Harassment in Violation of the Fair Employment and Housing Act; 10. Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress; 11. Negligent Infliction of Emotional Distress; 12. Negligent Supervision, Hiring and Retention; 13. Defamation and; 14. Labor Code Section 2699, et seq for violations of Labor Code Sections 98.6 and 1102.5.
See the AVA piece of January 10, 2018, for more specific details regarding some of the allegations made by the hospital's former Chief Human Resources Officer (Ellen Hardin). As of this spring, the case is on the docket of federal court judge Jon Tigar in the Northern District of California. It is in a phase called “Private ADR.” Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) is a type of private mediation federal courts use to hold down the number of cases heard before a judge and/or jury. If possible, this pretrial mediation settles cases before they actually reach a courtroom. However, the stakes in Hardin v. Mendocino Coast District Hospital, Bob Edwards, Steve Lund, and Wade Sturgeon are high enough and the charges are so numerous that mediation may not resolve the matter.
Much in this case relates to false claims regarding money. Money is at the core of MCDH's problems, as in the hospital's failure to maintain a coding and billing system that adequately collects legitimate charges. Those failures have amounted to losing out on multiple millions of dollars per year for several years running. Interim CFO John Parigi, who was only on the job from late December, 2017, to late March, 2018, estimated that by the time he got a handle on what had been going on, he located about $1.1 million in these lost billing charges during February and March. Of course, CEO Edwards did not like Parigi showing him up and fired him before Parigi could find more.
Let's move on to those who are vocally supporting the parcel tax and the misleading information they are putting out for public consumption. At that May 14th meeting of the Fort Bragg City Council, John Allison, who has served on both the hospital's finance and planning committees, extolled the quality of care and patient safety at MCDH. Apparently, Mr. Allison didn't bother to read the federal government study that gives patient ratings in eleven different categories. In all eleven categories Howard Hospital, 31.5 miles away in Willits, had a higher rating than MCDH. In all but one of the eleven categories, MCDH scored below the national average.
It's not all that surprising that Mr. Allison stood up shilling for MCDH. He sat by on the finance committee, backing former CFO Wade Sturgeon right up until Sturgeon left the building. Allison, who is a volunteer with the Westport Fire Department, may do good things in that position, but he doesn't attend MCDH Board meetings and perpetually is a figurative excuse maker for the status quo under CEO Edwards' direction.
Dr. Jason Kirkman is a more difficult case. By all accounts he is a respected physician, but he has come out vocally in favor of the parcel tax, citing the decreases in Medi-Cal payments as a reason for the hospital's distress. The truth is that all hospitals are receiving less these days from Medi-Cal. Kirkman makes no mention of the millions lost annually due to a lack in unified electronic record keeping systems. The North Coast Family Health Center (NCFHC) he primarily works at has a different electronic record system than the hospital itself uses. Within the hospital there are two more, distinctly different, electronic record systems. The failure to communicate between these three differing systems is the chief culprit in the loss of very collectible dollars at the hospital. At best, one may presume Kirkman is so nose-down in performing his own job that he's unaware of the rot at the core of MCDH.
However, Dr. Kirkman should have done some proofreading and editing before he wrote a letter to the city council stating that if the parcel tax fails “Affluent retirees might choose not to live in an area that doesn't support the continued strength of its local hospital.” This is a tired piece of fear based propaganda that a physician should know won't play well, particularly to his non-affluent patients, not to mention non-affluent voters.
The hospital will not close because of this parcel tax failing at the ballot box. MCDH is something akin to a drug or gambling addict. It needs to bottom out (it's hard to believe its CEO can go much lower in his administrating, but don't be surprised when he does), fully implement a unified electronic record system, elect Board of Directors who will question this CEO (and the new CFO if need be). As it is we're suffering from a Board of Directors (with the lone exception of Dr. Peter Glusker) without the wherewithal to perform their duty on behalf of the public.
In that regard, on May 18th, Dr. Lucas Campos submitted his formal resignation. He was one-fourth of the problem. Hopefully, there will be at least four candidates out there for the open seats on the MCDH Board who are just out to right the ship and not after the position as an ego boost or to continue the sucking up to an incredibly dysfunctional CEO.
CATCH OF THE DAY, May 19, 2018
WILLY BANIQUED, Turlock/Willits. Disorderly conduct-alcohol, controlled substance, paraphernalia.
JAMES DOZIER, Livermore/Ukiah. Probation revocation.
JIMMIE ISENHART JR., Ukiah. Disorderly conduct-alcohol. (Frequent flyer.)
RONALD LAMBERT, Laytonville. First degree burglary, controlled substance for sale, paraphernalia.
HUGO LOPEZ-MENDEZ, Watsonville/Ukiah. Controlled substance for sale, transportation, sale/transport of “organic drug.”
JODY MCCOY, Covelo. Controlled substance, failure to appear, resisting, probation revocation.
GERALD MILLER, Talmage. Probation revocation.
JONAH OTWELL, Ukiah. Disorderly conduct-alcohol, failure to appear.
TODD THOMSON, Covelo. Disorderly conduct-alcohol.
LUIS VARGAS-AVALOS, Lower Lake/Willits. DUI-drugs & alcohol.
DAVID WATSON-ARREOLA, Talmage. DUI.
THE AVA, WHITE OR WONG
My wife reads the letters you publish with great interest. She especially enjoys the missives of Jerry Philbrick and is relieved he lives in Comptche and not right next door. She hails from New York City and says the mighty AVA is the whitest newspaper she has ever seen. She tells me also the New York Times is the grayest, yellowish paper she has ever seen. Keep on fanning those flames!
STALKED BY BILL EVANS' GHOST
by David Yearsley
Miles Davis’s “Kind of Blue” was released almost 60 years ago on Monday: August 17, 1959. That was ten years after, and ten degrees cooler than, the little big band of Miles’ “Birth of the Cool.” With “Kind of Blue” the baby had grown up: sleeker, more earnest, now distrustful of irony, and also cagier, suspicious without wanting to show anything that might suggest defensiveness. Its icy hauteur sets the standard for art that draws you in by pretending it doesn’t need anyone or anything but itself.
“Kind of Blue” sold like cool-cakes. Its popularity has only increased over the years. Often said to be the best-selling jazz record in history, it attained quadruple platinum status by 2008; some four million copies have been sold in the US.
The recording took place on two days, six weeks apart, in 1959. First came the two three-hour sessions from 2:00 to 5:00 in the afternoon and 7:00 to 10:00 in the evening on March 2, 1959 in the converted church on 30th Street in Manhattan that was the Columbia studio. Union rate was then pegged at $48.50 per session, and since there were two services Davis’ sidemen were entitled to double scale. Davis argued for a bonus of $100 for the first day’s work for his stalwarts, bassist Paul Chambers and saxophonists John Coltrane and Cannonball Adderley.
As Ashley Kahn notes in his excellent “Kind of Blue: the Making of the Miles Davis Masterpiece” (Da Capo, 2000), the initial producer of the session, the producer Irving Townsend, whose voice can be heard on the studio sequences offered on this year’s anniversary re-issues, wrote in an internal Columbia Records memo that Davis would “accept an advance of $10,000 with only a mild oath” after the success of “Birth of the Cool” and the subsequent “Sketches of Spain.” Miles had asked for $15,000. It’s hard to know how much Miles made off the record in total, but it’s a lot.
The newcomer drummer Jimmy Cobb and the pianists Wynton Kelly and Bill Evans had to make do with their union wages. For the April 22 afternoon session that concluded the recording, Davis’s sidemen got $64.67, since the proceedings went overtime by half-an-hour. Miles got double that. An invoice reprinted in Kahn’s book shows that union rules also dictated that Wynton Kelly got paid the same amount for the April 22 date even though he had only played on the first session back in March. By 1959 Kelly was the Davis group’s official pianist, and was surprised on hurrying to the studio by cab for the March date that Miles’ former piano player, Bill Evans, was already sitting at the Steinway. Kelly had been brought in for the only “real” blues number on the recording, “Freddie the Freeloader,” which was done in that first session. Kelly doubtless didn’t stick around for the evening session, but cashed the checks for his non-work on the April date, too.
As his later television commercial appearances for mopeds and the like make clear, Davis was a canny money man and promoter of his own image, one he always sailed close to the cool winds of fashion and favor. Another Townsend memo from April of 1960 relates that “Miles Davis is primarily concerned with the amount of jazz now on jukeboxes in many areas of the country while he is not represented.” Columbia promptly turned out promotional 45s with a tune from Davis’ “Porgy & Bess” paired with one from “Kind of Blue” on the flip side. Many are the fond memories of those who heard this music in diners and bars over the jukebox.
The first pressing of “Kind of Blue,” released into sweltering August, numbered 50,000 with the titles of the A and B sides, “So What” and “All Blues,”mistakenly switched, an error due to the fact that Townsend had handed the project off to Teo Macero, who was ultimately credited as producer.
This anniversary year and the run up to it have brought various commemorations. There’s been a “Kind of Blue” tour by the So What Band of Jimmy Cobb, the last surviving member of the sextet that met in the Columbia studio. The “Kind of Blue” anniversary set collector’s edition appeared late in 2008 from Sony BMG with foldout poster, a blue LP that repeats the arrangement of the original. It’s probably something to frame and hang on the wall. Its color is illustrative of the literal age in which we live, when a blue LP is thought cooler than a black one. I doubt Miles would have approved, though these sales, at one hundred bucks a pop, would doubtless have eased his distemper. The Legacy Edition has been a bestseller — two CDs of the Anniversary and, at a modest $15, is a steal at any price.
Much is now made of the spontaneity of the recording, how all was done in the studio without rehearsal or reflection, how the tunes were new to all and that the entire effort is akin, as Bill Evans put it in his liner notes, to the “Japanese visual art in which the artist is forced to be spontaneous, [and] must paint on a thin stretched parchment with a special brush and black water pan in such a way that an unnatural or interrupted stroke will destroy the line or break through the parchment.” In fact, things were not quite as spur-of-the-moment as all that. “All Blues” had evolved over a six-month period prior to the recording session for “Kind of Blue.” Cobb has since divulged that the band played “So What” on a couple of gigs.
If one listens carefully to the Legacy edition the studio chatter is quite illuminating, though its purpose here seems intended mostly to conjure’ Miles presence by summoning his distinctive voice with its gravelly drawl, that same voice, rutted by all countless intervening cigarettes, that later sold those mopeds and uttered second-rate dialogue on an episode of the television series, Miami Vice, and on other Hollywood forays towards further fame and fortune.
The halting introductions, the searingly efficient swing, the brooding and slightly defiant interiority of “Kind of Blue” seem so poised that one hardly thinks it the product of real musicians — its cool seems almost inhuman. Even the tumultuous and exuberant solos of Coltrane and Adderley strike me as otherworldly. To be confronted with the voices of the creators, especially that of Davis, at work is at first almost shocking. True, his voice had been heard on earlier recordings, as when one of his classic lines “I’m gonna play it first, and tell you what it is later,” introduces “If I Were a Bell,” the opening track of the 1956 Prestige record “Relaxin’.” On that the words and the sense of musicians being eavesdropped upon goes along with an unbuttoned feel reflected in the very title.
But such is the perfect hipness of “Kind of Blue” that Miles’ voice here has a completely different effect, not least because we are so used to hearing the succession of tunes without the presence of the performers as real people reinserted. This humanizing of the sacred text almost seems sacrilege — an iconoclastic breaking of the image.
Still there are interesting things to be heard in these odd inclusions. Over the years, the twelve-bar blues “Freddie the Freeloader” is the track that I’ve listened to ten times for every one of “So What.” The ratio in the blues favor increases for the other tunes. in “Studio Sequence 1” of the Legacy edition, Townsend introduces the take as “no title.” The name would be added later in honor of the Miles groupie Freddie Tolbert, a bartender and street character who moved from Philadelphia to New York to be able to hear all his gigs. Miles’ operating procedure was clearly: “I’m going to play it first, and tell myself what it is later.”
Before the band starts playing a voice asks about whether “to play a B-flat on the end.” This is probably Wynton Kelly inquiring of the bandleader what to do with the final chord of the form, since this blues doesn’t return to its home key as expected for the final two bars. Miles cancels the second and longest false start also included on the Legacy set because Kelly inflects this final A-flat harmony, adding more rather than keeping to the obsession with less that characterizes “Kind of Blue.”
Instead, the last chord sidesteps the home key of B-flat and holds out a tone lower, before finally being pulled up to its proper harmony when the twelve bars start anew. With this single, minimal touch, Davis (if it was indeed his idea) embodies the essence of his cool through harmonic means: not only can he lag behind the beat with graceful reluctance, but hold the posture of resistance across the larger expanses of elapsing time. Those final two measures of apparent disinterest stretch to an eternity before these blues slide back grudgingly upward to their proper position. Kelly’s opening solo snaps things back on course.
Just before starting the tune, Davis has an idea: “Say Wynton, after Cannonball, you play again and then we’ll come in and end it.” In the final take, Kelly does come back in after all the horns have soloed, but he supplies only accompanimental chords so that Paul Chambers’ bass strides to the foreground: here the harmonic and, indeed rhythmic, foundation for the preceding eight minutes of the track emerge in all its easy grandeur. An unmatched improviser of jaunty lines, Kelly also ranks among the greatest blues accompanists, and it seems to have been his intuition to lay back for these final choruses. Chambers was also a great soloist, but he keeps to the business of walking his bass line. Kelly plays just as Davis had directed him, but perhaps not as Davis had expected. Kelly loved most to accompany — to “comp” — and here grants himself the full pleasure. With the ornament stripped away, the foundation presents itself for admiration and cool contemplation, as if to make it still clearer that this is what horn and piano improvisations drew their power from.
Davis’ hiring of Kelly for this blues instead of Evans was a brilliant decision; but equally as vital was the way Davis used his pianist. The sparse horn chords that constitute the “tune” of “Freddie the Freeloader” allow, indeed demand, jaunty intervening commentary. Kelly’s pianistic optimism brightens the somber mood: he is light in the shade here. Given the chic that glints in the shadows of this music, it is hard to believe it was recorded in the middle of the afternoon — proof that the studio and church (in this case one and the same) keep to their own hours.
Davis also gives Kelly the first solo as if to acknowledge that his warmth is crucial to the maintenance of the Davis cool. With an apparent nonchalance that belies the emphatic nature of the gesture, Davis then begins his subsequent solo by taking two quarter notes from Kelly’s last chorus in what amounts to a casual but unmistakable reassertion of his authority.
Another small but striking difference heard on this the first false start is that the blues is introduced by an upbeat comment from Jimmy Cobb’s snare drum that anticipates the rest of the band — both the pulsing progress of the other members of the rhythm section and the monastic solemnity of the horns. Had this version found its way onto the record, instead of the synchronized beginning of the final version, there would have been a tiny, but telling, chink in the hermetic hipness that insulates “Freddie” from the outside world.
Miles calls off the first take of “Freddie” for being too fast. Then Irving Townsend cautions the trumpeter to stay close to the microphone. Davis asks if he can move it. Townsend replies that “It’s against policy to move a microphone” — a joke about the regulations governing a union facility with retrospective resonance given the earnings disparity between Miles and his sidemen.
After two more miscues the fourth take rolls — the only complete one of this tune on this session — into jazz history without edit. Kelly could now go home, and the other pianist, Bill Evans, could get to work.
Given how much money the record made, this seems especially unjust in the case of Evans, whose harmonic sense and aesthetic vision were so crucial to the shape of the album, even though all compositions are credited to Davis, who was never shy or in the least apologetic about appropriating the work of others. How much his creation of the ostinato to the final track on the album, “Flamenco Sketches” is worth is hard to say, as are the tentative musings of Evans and Chambers that serpentine into the arid landscapes of “So What.” I will admit that I’ve never found these melancholy ruminations — Zen by way of Iberia — as appealing as “Freddie the Freeloader” — the coolest thing about this album. Evans’s thing was never my kind of blue, but that unmistakable, searching sound so imbues the overall sense and effect of the album that the disparity between the earnings of Davis and Evans is far bigger even than the numbers of zeroes suggests. The blues have their price, too. The ghost in Evans’ melancholy chords will haunt Davis’s masterpiece recording in eternity.
(David Yearsley teaches at Cornell University. A long-time contributor to the Anderson Valley Advertiser, he is author of Bach and the Meanings of Counterpoint. His CD, “All Your Cares Beguile: Songs and Sonatas from Baroque London,” was released by Musica Omnia. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.)
A priest, a doctor, and an engineer were waiting one morning for a particularly slow group of golfers.
The engineer fumed, "What's with those guys? We must have been waiting for fifteen minutes!"
The doctor chimed in, "I don't know, but I've never seen such inept golf!"
The priest said, "Here comes the greens-keeper. Let's have a word with him." He said, "Hello George, What's wrong with that group ahead of us? They're rather slow, aren't they?"
The greens-keeper replied, "Oh, yes. That's a group of blind firemen. They lost their sight saving our clubhouse from a fire last year, so we always let them play for free anytime!"
The group fell silent for a moment. The priest said, "That's so sad. I think I will say a special prayer for them tonight."
The doctor said, "Good idea. I'm going to contact my ophthalmologist colleague and see if here's anything she can do for them."
The engineer said, "Why can't they play at night?"