Sometimes wandering the streets of New York I hear whining about how “far from nature’ someone is; or how there’s too much concrete; or how the exhaustfilled air is hurting their lungs. Well, boo hoo. If it’s purple mountains majesties you seek, NYC ain’t the place. You come here for the human culture not the natural beautyalthough now that I think of it, there are other, very compelling forms of natural beauty in NYC, if you catch my drift, wink, wink, nod, nod, say no more, but I digress.
On Saturday night, in New York City, upstairs in Manhattan’s 54th Street Yamaha piano studios, which by the way is very close to that other keyboard shrine, Steinway Hall, Stereophile’s own contributing editor Bob Reina and his group, Attention Screen recorded their third live album for Stereophile Records, a label owned and run by editor in chief/sound engineer John Atkinson, our fearless leader. Just so there is no confusion, I mean that last term as an endearing salute rather than in the sense of Rocky & Bullwinkle’s Germanesque dictator of Pottsylvania.
If the cover of the latest issue of Uncut is any indication, “lost” albums never lose their appeal for the musicallyinclined or obsessed. Music fans always want what they don’t have or haven’t heard or hear is hard to get. It’s the allure of the forbidden record. And it’s a chief symptom of the record collecting psychoses.
Never did I think the day would come when I’d be standing in a line at 10:30 am on a chilly April Saturday to get into a record store. A record store mind you that is directly across the street from the now spacious, high-ceilinged NYU offices that were once the Tower Records on Broadway in downtown Manhattan.
So far, other than Steve Zahn who is really annoying as a devilmaycare DJ with goofy eyeglasses, the new HBO series, Treme is pretty great. Lots of flavor. Some hokiness of course, but still fairly believable most of the time. The best scene so far hands down was when Elvis Costello, playing Elvis Costello, comes out of a bar to crawl into his limo and Kermit Ruffins, playing himself, is standing on the sidewalk really huffing on fatty. When Zahn encourages him, through the cloud of smoke, to talk to Costello and maybe land himself an opening slot on an upcoming Costello tour, Kermit demurs and Zahn comes back with a line, and I’m paraphrasing, “So what do you want to do all your life, play music, get high and BBQ in New Orleans?” Kermit laughes and shakes his head in the affirmative. In some ways that’s the story of a lot of NOLA musicians. They can be provincial. And disdainful of success. It can be a town where a sort of collective inertia keeps people from doing anything but hanging out. I know, I’m painting with broad strokes here, but it’s always been a town, heavy with musical talent, much of it unwilling or unable for whatever reason, to leave. And then those who do leave get tarred as traitors or getting too big for their britches. There truly is nowhere like New Orleans, I adore it, but damn, the place is like a parallel dimension sometimes.
London Concertante: Piazzolla and Beyond
Works by Astor Piazzolla, David Gordon, Adam Summerhayes
London Concertante; Adam Summerhayes, dir.
Harmonia Mundi HMU 907491 (CD). 2009. Chris Grist, prod.; Matt Butler, eng. DDD. TT: 52:01
Late on Saturday, the last night of SXSW, I somehow ended up having a pint with a mixed party of American and British band members, only one of whom I knew previously, when suddenly the subject of the British government’s support of the arts came up. Seems these four young lads, and their frontwomanone stunning fulfillment of my perky blonde English chick singer fantasy (oh my)hadn’t used their money to come all the way to Texas. No, the government had picked up the tab. The fact that they were vaguely ashamedbecause being on the dole is unhip and kind of the opposite of DIYtold me it was true.
“Children by the million sing for Alex Chilton when he comes 'round
They sing "I'm in love. What's that song?
I'm in love with that song."
(from “Alex Chilton” by The Replacements)
My five month old cell phone fried itself dead. Traffic in downtown Austin crawled inch by inch. A friend, who called himself a “capitalist,” called long distance to tell me Obama’s health plan was going to bankrupt the country. But all of that paled in comparison to the strange news that on the first night of South By Southwest 2010, the great Alex Chilton had died just before leaving New Orleans to come to Austin to play a Big Star reunion. Or as the more cynical among us had it, another Big Star reunion.