Bass On Top: The Genius of Paul Chambers

Mozart and Charlie Parker died young. Paul Chambers died younger. He was thirty-three years old when he succumbed to tuberculosis fifty years ago on January 4th, 1969. Had he not been taken early, Chambers would now be eighty-three, an age achieved only rarely by jazz musicians of his generation, many of whom fell victim, either […]

Foppish Fashions & Sonic Banquets

If ours is not a great age of Tudor, Elizabethan, Protectorate, Restoration, Hanoverian, and ongoing Windsorite dramas on big and small screens alike, it is certainly an abundant one. The sun never sets over this British Empire, streamed by Netflix and the lesser world entertainment powers through ever time of day and every time zone. […]

Bikini by Rita; Voice by Anita

The “R” isn’t working. As the letters blink to life one after the other from top to bottom there’s a pause between the “T” lighting up and then, at last, the “O”: CAST O. Even with the gap, the pink-red neon letters seared against the cloudless blue of a perfect San Francisco afternoon make a […]

To the Master of the Anti-Carol & Holiday Jeer

Against-the-grain singer and piano man Bob Dorough died this past April at the age of 94. His singular approach to song will always be associated for me—and countless others—with the season. So here, just in time for Christmas, is a tribute to the departed bebopper after a long life, richly lived and sung. An armchair […]

Jazz in San Francisco

It used to be that you’d duck out of a smoke-filled jazz show for a much-needed gulp of fresh air. Bebop was breathless in more than one sense: not only fast, but also dangerous to the lungs of the listeners. Not that they cared much, since most of them were smoking, too. Legion are the […]

Bach’s Day & Night

Time is not just relative. It’s political, too. We often measure our lives by presidential terms: the Carter years; Clinton time; Bush I; Bush II? The end of time under Trump? Time can be bent to the will of the majority. This week California voters approved Proposition 7 enabling the state legislature to make Daylight […]

Jazz With Spirit

Jazz is thought of as a secular music, yet at its best the church echoes through it. The give-and-take of jazz is said to have its origins in the improvisational call-and-response of African-American worship, the rich harmonies and spontaneous melody-making, too. Many of the great jazz musicians were products of a religious upbringing that provided […]

Bollocks to Brexit: The Plumber Sings

Lambeth, London — That Frank Sinatra’s recording of “Who Wants to be a Millionaire” and Bobby Darin’s “Splish Splash I was Takin’ a Bath” are both among Charlie Mullins’s declared musical favorites might come as something of surprise—Cole Porter’s ironic exercise in faux-sophistication from the 1958 movie High Society romping with boisterous teen trifle from the […]

Did Bach Lose The Cold War?

Can the credits wreck a film? I’m not talking about choking on a popcorn kernel when you see that the best boy happens to be the same guy who ran off with your wife. The problem can be far more serious than that: after the story has been told in image and sound, some directors […]

Bach At The Beach

Bach never went in the ocean for a refreshing dip. He never even set eyes on the Atlantic. He could have made it to the North Sea at Lübeck during his sojourn there to learn from Dieterich Buxtehude in the winter of 1705-6. But the old city was an island moated by the Trave River […]

Death By iPod

The iPhone has made universal the paradoxical pleasure of listening privately in public. The casual hello and exchange of pleasantries; an alertness to oncoming steps and the ability to wait politely for a person to pass by; an awareness of the sounds of the city or the country: for many these stimuli are now often […]