As songwriters go, Guy Clark has been touched by the muse more than most. Unfortunately, in recent years he's also been visited by illness and heartache. In June 2012, his wife of 40 years, Susanna Clark, who was both a songwriter ("Easy from Now On") and an artist (the cover of Willie Nelson's Stardust), died in Nashville. In the past several years Clark, 72, has battled lymphoma, had his knees replaced, and undergone an arterial replacement in one leg. He was being treated for skin cancer when I visited his home, south of Nashville, in October 2013.
James Booker: Classified: Remixed and Expanded
Rounder 11661-9175-1 (2 LPs). 1983/2013. Scott Billington, John Parsons, prods.; Jay Gallagher, eng.; Jonathan Wyner, transfer eng.; David Farrell, remix. ADA. TT: 68:12
Before anything else, there's his musicality. No one has ever played the piano like James Carroll Booker III. If the piano is New Orleans' preeminent musical instrument, then Booker is its most talented virtuoso. A child prodigy who went on the road as part of Little Richard's band when he was 14, the Ivory Emperor, the Bronze Liberace, Li'l Booker, Little Chopin in Living Color (as he was variously known throughout his life) was breathtakingly gifted.
Damned rock stars! Those useless black voids of overweening ego who spend their days wallowing in unfulfilling, sybaritic cycles of mass adoration, endless wealth, and meaningless sex with hard bodieswhat do they add to the greater good, to the advancement of human understanding, to the furtherance of art? In most cases, the answer is: Nothing. Zip, zilch, zot.
Deadlines and the Dead don't mix. Let me explain . . .
Back when I was a cub reporter, green as ivy, I was, in retrospect, suckered into volunteering to review a Grateful Dead concert. I dutifully drove to the venue for the 8pm show, abstained from intoxicating substances, and was on trackuntil I realized that, after two hours, the band was still on just the third song. Jerry was deep into an epic, 2000-bar solo that was gaining rather than losing momentum. In Deadspeak, it was one of those nights.
This collaboration, an inspired pairing of Costello and ?uestlove, a pair of deep tracks music historians, seemed promising in the extreme. The resulting Wise Up Ghost is just that. Extremely promising, yet not entirely memorable.
The most indelicate, if not gory, term in all of music is the ever-popular "bleeding chunks." The bane of classical audiences cursed with lazy pops conductors, bleeding chunks are movements of worksor even parts of movementsstrung together in that abomination known as a medley. The effect can be, I guess, soothing to those who, for example, know only a little about Mozart. But for anyone well versed in their Wolfy, these programs are jarring, and can produce involuntarily grinding of those cavity-prone back molars.
The worlds of creating and selling music have never been in such a dramatic state of change. While the CD declines, the LP is resurrected. As piracy charges along undiminished, downloads continue to increase in sales. And then there’s streaming….
David Chesky: Jazz in the New Harmonic
David Chesky, piano; Javon Jackson, tenor saxophone; Jeremy Pelt, trumpet; Peter Washington, bass; Billy Drummond, drums
Chesky JD358 (CD). 2013. Norman Chesky, exec prod.; David Chesky, prod.; Nicholas Prout, prod., eng. DDD.? TT: 69:15.
If there's a word that describes the feeling, the vibe present throughout Jazz in the New Harmonic, it's trance. Pianist and session leader David Chesky even uses it without prompting when asked how, among all his music endeavorsan album of difficult nonJoplin-like New York Rags in 2012, a children's ballet later this year, not to mention running Chesky Recordshe found the time or inspiration to make a straight-ahead jazz record.