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Eminent Hipsters [Format Kindle]

Donald Fagen
5.0 étoiles sur 5  Voir tous les commentaires (1 commentaire client)

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**This excerpt is from an advance uncorrected proof.**

In the Clubs

I started going to jazz clubs in New York when I was twelve or thirteen, first with my older cousins Mike and Jack, and then later on my own. I remember seeing the mighty Count Basie band at a matinee at Bird-land, with the great Sonny Payne on drums. When the whole band pumped out one of those thirteenth chords, you could feel the breeze on your face.

Once upon a time, the jazz club was a mythic place that signi­fied urban romance, free-loving hipsterism and the Dionysian rites of the Exotic Black Man: in short, the dread possibility of ecstasy. As a survivor of many nights in actual jazz clubs, I can testify that the image was only partly correct.

Like most of the finer things in life, jazz is an acquired taste. As a suburban youth, I would often ride the bus up the New Jersey Turnpike through the industrial wasteland that must be crossed before the island of Manhattan is won. The combined sum of several weeks’ allowance would be burning a hole in my pocket. After docking at the dependably sinister Port Authority terminal, I’d take the AA train to Waverly Place in the West Village, which by then had pretty much completed its transformation from bohemia into Bohemia Land. Tourists nursed espressos at the Cafe Wha? and the Cafe Bizarre. At Figaro’s coffee shop on Bleecker and MacDougal, I’d order a burger and listen to my heart pound as I watched the exquisite, joyless waitresses slink around the room in black leotards. An epigraph on the menu read “Where the Beat meet the Elite.”

By the early sixties, jazz, having already been displaced as America’s dance music of choice by rock and roll, was facing another crisis. College kids, after a brief flirtation with bop and cool jazz, had chosen “folk” music as their official enthusiasm. Unlike gnarly post-Parker jazz, guitar-based roots music was totally accessible and irony free, and almost anyone could play it in some form. Moreover, the leftist anthems of the Depression were easily adapted to become the official music of the early civil rights movement. New clubs featuring Dylan, The Tarri­ers, Judy Collins, Richie Havens, and the like were pulling in a huge share of the business. Nevertheless, the Village was still the best place to hear jazz in its last glorious incarnation.

At the Village Vanguard, my distress at being the youngest person in the audience would dissolve as soon as the music started. In the early sixties, gods stood on that tiny stage. A lot of them drank J&B and smoked Luckies, but they were gods just the same. Miles Davis, Sonny Rollins and John Coltrane were still youngish, fearless and working at the summit of their creativity. The proprietor, Max Gordon, once he got to know my face, used to seat me at the banquet next to the drum kit and give me a flat bar Coke. The cover charge was, like, seven bucks.

One of my favorites was bassist/composer Charles Mingus, who’d always bring along his demonic drummer, Dannie Rich­mond. Every time Richmond started banging out that triple time, the vibration of his sizzle cymbal would move my glass toward the edge of the table and I’d have to push it back to the center. I remember Mingus halting a tune in midgallop to lecture us on race, politics, cheating record companies and hypocrisy, both black and white. Watching this tempestuous artist at work, I found the extramusical events just as exciting as the music. I have to admit cringing, though, when Mingus, on one of his rougher nights, started screaming “Uncle Tom!” at old Coleman Hawkins, who was sitting at the bar. Hawk just gave him a world-weary smile and took another swig. Once, when I complimented pia­nist Jaki Byard after a set, he actually sat down at my table and graciously answered some questions about the music.

As the premier club in New York at that time, the Vanguard attracted a crowd that was a mix of serious fans and tourists. Of course there would always be the young preppie in a blazer sit­ting with his date, attractive in a little black dress. Imagine a split-screen: On the left, the kid’s eyes are wide, his face is flushed; he’s transfixed. He can’t believe he’s finally in a real jazz club twelve feet away from the great John Coltrane, who’s blowing up a hurricane.

His date, on the right side of the screen, is in hell. Although she’s heard her boyfriend talk about jazz, this is her first real exposure. She’s been in this tiny, smoky, smelly room for almost an hour now, nursing screwdrivers and being forced to listen to four Negroes create a din that sounds like nothing imagined on God’s earth. She’s got her head in her hands down on the table because it hurts, a real pounder behind the eyes. Most humili­ating is the fact that her boyfriend has forsaken her for a black man who seems to be using his silver horn as a satanic instru­ment of masturbation. The two sides of the screen merge when she finally pulls on her date’s arm and demands to be escorted out. In the clubs, this classic scene can still be glimpsed today, always interesting, always poignant.

Two of the most mind-blowing musicians I got to see at the Vanguard were both patriarchs of early jazz who were still active in the sixties. Earl “Fatha” Hines had been a member of Arm­strong’s original Hot Five and, during the thirties, had been the main attraction at Al Capone’s Grand Terrace Ballroom in Chi­cago. As if that weren’t enough, the band he’d led in the forties, the one that included Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, Gene Ammons and Wardell Gray, was the first big band to feature bebop players and arrangements. Hines’s gold lamé jacket, leg­endary smile and many-ringed fingers had the same effect on me as I’m sure they had on the crowd at the Grand Terrace. And then he began to play. I pretty much knew what to expect: he still played clean and swinging. I suppose it was my romantic imagi­nation, but the music seemed to be enhanced by a sonic glow, an aura earned on its journey across an ocean of time.

The same could be said of the music of Willie “The Lion” Smith. In the twenties and thirties, Willie had been one of the mighty virtuosos who developed Harlem “stride” piano. In the sixties, Willie was still sharp and strong, a past master who seemed to have walked straight from a Depression rent party into the present, complete with cocked derby, milk bottle glasses and clenched cigar. He’d worked up his act into a semi­nar in jazz history, alternating pieces from his repertoire with stories about the musical life of Harlem, the cutting contests, the gangsters and the nuances that defined the styles of his con­temporaries James P. Johnson, Fats Waller, Luckey Roberts and Eubie Blake. He had a special affection for his protégé Duke Ellington, whose works he generously performed.

Claiming that his father was a Jewish gambler, Willie pep­pered his tales with Yiddishisms and made a point of wearing a Jewish star. Though the jive was fascinating, the real fun began when he commenced his abuse of the Steinway, his phe­nomenal left hand pumping like a locomotive as the right fili­greed the melody. After knocking out his version of “Carolina Shout,” Willie’s comment was “Now that’s what you call . . . real good.” But he could be lyrical too, as he was on his own “Echoes of Spring.”

One more thing about the tough, road-hardened African American entertainers from the twenties who had to be heard without the benefit of microphones, men like Willie, Earl Hines, Coleman Hawkins, Ellington’s band: they could play REALLY LOUD!

Bill Evans at the Vanguard was always a gas. Those familiar only with his studio recordings don’t realize what a spry, funky hard-charger he could be on “up” material in a live setting. When he played quirky tunes like “Little Lulu,” he could be funny, too. Of course, even then, he rarely shifted out of that posture you see in photos, doubled over at the waist, head inside the piano as if trying to locate a rattly string. By the late seventies, I noticed that this quintessential modernist had developed an odd, loping shuffle in his right-hand lines, as if he was regressing to an anti­quated rhythmic style dating back to Willie Smith’s day. What was up with that?

Real fans and serious hipsters remember Slug’s Bar on Third Street between avenues B and C. The neighborhood was dicey but the sounds were happening. Some nights, the audience would be just me, eyes darting around nervously, and maybe two heavily medicated patrons nodding at their tables. Cedar Walton, Jackie McLean, Art Farmer and Jimmy Cobb were among the regular performers. In 1972, trumpet star Lee Mor­gan’s girl shot and killed him out front.

Around 1965, the folk/rock club Cafe au Go Go started a Mon­day night jazz policy. These were jam sessions featuring top players who happened to be in town. The one I attended was one of the best all-around nights of jazz I ever saw. The rhythm sec­tion alone—Wynton Kelly on piano, Paul Chambers on bass and Willie Bobo on drums—began the set. The other players—Hank Mobley on tenor, Dave Pike on vibes and Curtis Fuller, I think, on bone—fell by as the night went on. Jamming on standards and blues for over two hours without a break, Mobley and Kelly were monstrous: hard-swinging and composing in the moment. It was the shit and I knew I was lucky to be there.

When the civil rights movement became more militant in the mid-sixties, the music followed suit. In those years, a lot of jazz was motivated by righteous political fury, or directed toward a spiritual ...

Revue de presse

Praise for Eminent Hipsters

“[An] excellent. . . and satisfying memoir.  This is less about Fagen’s career than about his tastes. . .He writes insightfully about music, films, and books. . .with this remorseless, hilarious book, Fagen reveals himself as a first-class grump. . . Eminent Hipsters is also a convincing testimonial to the honing effect of a lifelong devotion to the culture of misfits, weirdos and cranks.”Rolling Stone
“Fagen is utterly charming when he describes other performers. . .he defends TV and film composer Henry Mancini from charges of fuddy-duddyness. . . his essay on Connie Boswell is the kind of top-notch, incisive cultural critique you ain’t gonna get from the likes of Keith Richards.  Just like the lyrics he penned for the Dan, Fagen’s writing here is charged with a zingy, acerbic intelligence.”—Slate.com
“As you would expect from someone who has been one of the most consistently sardonic voices of rock, Fagen can write.”—GQ.com

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Commentaires client les plus utiles
5.0 étoiles sur 5 Maitre Fagen 12 avril 2014
Format:Relié|Achat vérifié
Walter et Donald. Deux ovni du jazz et du rock. Éblouissant de sens musical.
Ed MOTTA est heureux...et moi aussi
A emporter sur île déserte.
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Amazon.com: 3.8 étoiles sur 5  136 commentaires
42 internautes sur 47 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
3.0 étoiles sur 5 Half of a great book 8 novembre 2013
Par S. D. Johnson - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format:CD|Achat vérifié
I bought both the audio book and the hardcover book. I listened to the entire audio book, but have not yet started reading the hardcover, which I expect will be the same content. I want to let it settle a bit before re-exploring the story.

I loved the first half of the book. It describes the musical and other cultural influences on Donald's life. It starts with a detailed accounting of the story of the Boswell Sisters, who predated the similar sound of the Andrews Sisters in the 1930s. The book slowly traverses through his life until it reaches what would have been his senior year at Bard College, when he and Walter were arrested on trumped up drug charges by G. Gordon Liddy before he became known as a felon for Nixon.

At this point the story abruptly skips over decades to morph into the tour diary of the Dukes of September with Michael MacDonald and Boz Scaggs. At first it was rather interesting, but it quickly bogged down. He kind of obsesses about different things and seems somewhat neurotic in his fear of dealing with fans or swimming in the hotel pool.

While I appreciate the baring of the soul, it seemed kind of sad. I would have much preferred a continuation of the story in the same vein (somewhat detached) and hear about the forming of Steely Dan, his experiences in writing and working with Walter Becker, etc. It feels very much like Donald got about half-way through his book before losing motivation and then, to finish it up, they just slapped in the tour diary to fill out the minimum required pages.

I love all the music of Donald Fagen and Walter Becker. I'd love to hear more of their story. Hopefully Walter will continue where Donald left off or maybe Donald will write another book with the second half of the story.
35 internautes sur 39 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
4.0 étoiles sur 5 I want more! 9 novembre 2013
Par Stanley Hoffman - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format:Relié|Achat vérifié
As a huge, obsessive Steely Dan fan, I was so excited to find out Donald Fagan had put out a book of his thoughts in regard to culture. He's neurotic, intellectual, witty and very opinionated. The essays on his musical taste, and influences were a bit over my head because I have no references in regards to jazz. However, I adored his journal from his last tour with the Dukes of September Rhythm Revue. It was so insightful and interesting to hear about his disgust and irritation being on the road, going from gross hotel to grosser hotel, swimming in dirty pools with screaming children, eating bad food, his bouts with insomnia, and his misanthropic attitude towards human beings. His nostalgia for the good old days was moving. If you're looking for a book about Steely Dan's music than this isn't for you. If you're curious about what goes on in a musical genius's mind, than purchase it.
11 internautes sur 12 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 The cranky old hipster delivers 23 avril 2014
Par Jane E. Stoltz - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format:Relié|Achat vérifié
Donald Fagen is one of the preeminent geniuses of modern music. It's so obvious from his solo stuff and his work as part of Steely Dan that the guy is brilliant. So obviously a book by him would be amazing, right?

Well, it is...but it's a bit of a mixed bag. Some chapters are about his childhood...some chapters are music reviews...and a large part of the book is a sort of journal from a tour a couple years ago with Michael McDonald and Boz Scaggs.

It's here that one realizes that the genius also is an unbelievable grouch. He is so neurotic that he elevates complaining about his surroundings and circumstances on the tour to an absolute art form. You shake your head and think you're glad you don't know the guy in person...and then you read a very sweet tribute to his now-deceased stepson and think that there is a tender heart in there somewhere, buried beneath all that hipster cynicism.

I ultimately decided that Fagen is a likable curmudgeon who writes prose as deftly as he writes music. This is a short read, and mostly a fun one...his bitchery is so over-the-top as to make you laugh out loud.
10 internautes sur 11 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
3.0 étoiles sur 5 Interesting but brief glimpse at the cofounder of Steely Dan 22 novembre 2013
Par Leslie - Publié sur Amazon.com
Fagan begins with a little background on his early years growing up in a New Jersey suburb in the 1960s and talks about the jazz singers and songwriters that were an influence on him. He touches on his high school and college years and briefly mentions meeting Walter Becker, his future partner in Steely Dan, while attending Bard College. In the last part of the book he chronicles his recent cross-country tour with Boz Scaggs and Michael McDonald as the Dukes of September, an R&B band.

As a long-time Steely Dan fan I enjoyed learning more about one of my favorite singer/songwriters. But in a way, the book was too short. Perhaps that was deliberate because it only touched on a lot areas of his life and in most instances didn’t go into a lot of detail. While mostly interesting, the material is a little scattered and rambles at times.

I particularly enjoyed the essays about his love of science fiction. (Yes, I did mention he got a bit random at times.) A loner in high school, he would escape into books, specifically science fiction. Many of the authors and novels he mentioned were refuges of my own youth and I enjoyed and easily related to this.

I already knew Fagan didn’t like to go on tour, but the second half of the book, a diary he wrote while on the road with the Dukes, really brings that home. It’s pretty obvious he loathes touring: The hotels, even the swimming pools at the hotels (hmmm), the food, the room service, the venues, even some of the fans. It annoyed him that so many fans wanted to hear only his old hits. This part of the book did get a bit cranky but was written in a humorous, sarcastic manner which gave me a few laughs. He was told by his people that if he wanted first class hotels and happy fans he needed to tour as Steely Dan, not the Dukes as the Dukes were not a big enough draw. After listening to an hour of this I began to wonder why he toured at all. I never did get an answer.

I listened to the audiobook which was read by the author. I have mixed feelings on an author doing the narration. With fiction, very few can carry it off to my satisfaction, but with non-fiction I’m a little more forgiving. Fagan’s narration was wooden at times but listenable, and with memoirs, the author’s reading gives the story a sense of validity. If you’re leaning towards listening, it might be a good idea to hear a sample of the audio first.

This is a nice introduction to Donald Fagan and as a fan I’d like to read more. The writing was good and I look forward to a more detailed future memoir.
7 internautes sur 7 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
4.0 étoiles sur 5 I Hope This is Volume One 15 décembre 2013
Par ForeignFilmFan - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format:Relié|Achat vérifié
The first part of the book contains information about musical influences with some fun stories tossed in. There may be more detailed jazz discussion that some readers want, but that section is worth the price of the book in order not to have missed out on discovering the Boswell Sisters (check them out on You Tube). I don't know why some readers are surprised by or disappointed with the second half. If they've ever read an interview transcript with Donald and Walter, they should be glad they have the opportunity to read actual thoughts shared with the public. For me, the road trip pages were hysterically funny and also worth the price of the book. I'll buy any memoirs Mr. Fagen chooses to write, even if they're complete fiction. Right now, I'm waiting for Mr. Becker's memoir response. Seriously, if you're a fan, this book is great fun!
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