Eminent Hipsters (Anglais) Broché – 23 octobre 2014
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Descriptions du produit
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 catharsis. The clubs, overwhelmed for the moment by the rock revolution, began to close. The Five Spot, the Half Note and, finally, Slug’s, all gradually vanished. The Village Gate managed to survive only by switching to rock and Latin sounds.
In the eighties, the jazz scene returned, “healthier” than ever. You’d go to hear acts in nifty, wholesome “club environments” and “art spaces.” No smoking, of course, no nodding junkies, no heavy boozing—in fact, no vice of any kind except, perhaps, the criminally high cover and drink charges. The clubs that presented the top mainstream acts all had a suitably mainstream look and were very strict about reservations. One night in the eighties, I took some friends to Michael’s Pub, then home to Woody Allen’s Monday night gigs, to see a piano trio. The atmosphere was tense and the maitre d’ was rude—there was no romance at all.
We split before the set started. Bring back Slug’s!--Ce texte fait référence à l'édition Relié .
Revue de presse
"Fagen, as you might expect, is an elegant and erudite writer." (John Mulvey Uncut)
"If you're a Dan fan you should read this book. If you're not a Dan fan you should read it anyway." (The Afterword)
"Part memoir, part personal dissertation, and it makes for an enjoyable, if brief, read." (Dylan Jones GQ)
"A curious little autobiographical volume by another hero of long ago, Donald Fagen, once and again of Steely Dan." (Spectator)
"Eminent Hipsters is regularly funny and insightful." (Sunderland Echo / Dorset Echo)
"I would like to be given Eminent Hipsters." (Sebastian Faulks Observer)
"An excellent, albeit slim, collection of essays about the Steely Dan singer’s formative teenage influences as "a subterranean in gestation with a real nasty cast of otherness"." (Andy Gill Independent)
"A memoir of inspired essayism and darkly comic recollection which barely touches on Steely Dan yet utterly satisfies." (Mat Snow Mojo)
"This is moaning of the highest order ― jazz moaning, you might call it ― and Fagen keeps it up for 70 brilliant, hilarious pages. For the intelligent, grumpy old music fan, only one of these books needs to be bought as a present this Christmas, and it’s not Morrissey’s." (Markus Berkmann Spectator)
"Eminent Hipsters is regularly funny and insightful…whether you know who Fagen is or not, it’s still worth anyone’s time." (Yorkshire Evening Post)
"The writing is sharp, wry and elegant, without a single wasted word." (Aidan Smith Scotland on Sunday)
"This book is a piece of pure bliss." (Anthony Quinn Guardian)
"An unalloyed joy." (Les Gofton Times Higher Education)
"Constantly surprising, and recalled with great elegance." (Financial Times)
"A terrific and easy read." (Jonathan O'Brien Sunday Business Post)
"Wry, funny and forensically observant." (Saga)
"A terrific music memoir." (Tony Clayton-Lea Irish Times)
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Meilleurs commentaires des clients
Ed MOTTA est heureux...et moi aussi
A emporter sur île déserte.
Commentaires client les plus utiles sur Amazon.com (beta)
But he's got a really interesting harmonic sense and he bring so much more to songwriting than I love you I hate you i want to screw. When he writes about someone other than himself he has good things to say. But he seems to have zero idea how lucky he is. Really, it's like his account of Jean Shepherd: Fagen has curdled in his own gifts. He could go into old ancient with a sense of gratitude, humility and grace, or he could go into it whining that the food the caterers provide is subpar.
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.
"Ike’s concept (really a more raw and countrified version of Ray Charles’s act) was simple: the band plays tight; Tina goes berserk."
In the latter half he documents his descent into "ATD"--or "Active Tour Disorder"--characterized by his increasing surliness and frustrations with life on the road. Some of the other readers may take it too seriously. I'm sure he was surly and impatient. But he's funny as hell in his honest retelling. I laughed a lot, but also thought "Cool" a lot. He is the eminent hipster. I hope for more.
There are revealing glimpses of Charlie Mingus scolding his audiences to observations of male jazz fans dragging their not exactly eager girlfriends to clubs for john Coltrane's declamatory marathon solos.
I don't quite get the portion about sci-fi, general semantics, and Scientology, but it is an interesting read.
The last portion of the book is a curmudgeonly reflection of a 2012 tour with Michael McDonald and Boz Scaggs under the billing "Dukes of September". It rambles like a jazz solo, and it reveals his sardonic humor at it's best. Fagen's writing shows erudition and a broad range of cultural and literary references. While it's not particularly about Steely Dan, it is a tantalizing glimpse into the sensibility that went into it.
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.
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