There was fast food like Catalonian baguette pizza with chorizo. Tapas like flash fried baby squid or crispy potatoes with olive oil mayo and tomato sauce. And then of course there was that robber baron Rupert Murdoch and his damnable tabloid The Sun which every morning has a halfnaked twentysomething smiling at you from page two! Danni, 23, from Coventry was my personal favorite. Yes, Europe does have its advantages!
And then there was the music, right, right, the music. A mini-theme of the 41st installment of the Barcelona Jazz Festival was the 50th anniversary of Kind of Blue. The idea, and it was an admirable one, was to turn three groups of musicians loose on Miles masterwork and then sit back and enjoy the contrasting approaches. Now that I’m back in the States and have had a few days to contemplate what I saw, it all sort of comes under the heading of: “The Mysterious Ways in Which a Musician’s Mind Works(?).” Or “Mamas Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up To Be Drummers.”
During my Barcelona sojourn, I made a trip to the leading high end gear store in that beautiful city, Casa Werner, which is downtown, on the Ronda Sant Pere. Open since 1933, this former music store which began selling Victrolas along with 78’s, before moving entirely from content to gear, has been in the same family now for about a decade.
Back at the Barcelona Jazz Festival, after many espressos, a hunk of Cod, potatoes with olive oil mayo and tomato sauce, grilled mushrooms, and some of the best cookies I’ve ever had (thumb sized sugar cookies with chocolate centers), I made the trip to several record stores including Jazz Messengers, which has perhaps the finest collection of live jazz CDs and some LPs, in the world. If you’re feeling strong, pay down a credit card and then check out their website, www.jazzmessengers.com. They ship to the States, I checked. I picked up a CD of Clifford Brown’s final concert in Norfolk, Virginia, which was recorded in 1956, the week before his tragic death at age 26 on the Pennsylvania Turnpike. The tenor player on the date was Sonny Rollins. Max Roach, Brownie’s friend and constant musical companion was on drums. It’s a legendary concert that has never been available in the US and needless to say I am thrilled to finally have a copy.
Transatlantic flights wipe me out. Chalk it up to being an old man I guess. But after a connection through a dark deserted Heathrow, I arrived in Barcelona for the 41st Barcelona Jazz Festival and within a couple of days, semi-disaster had struck. Not to me mind you but to American jazz saxophonist Joe Lovano who fell, not once but twice and broke an arm and a shoulder. He had to cancel his show here in Barcelona, his European tour and then had surgery with the chief orthopedic surgeon of Barcelona’s much beloved soccer team, FCBarcelona, presiding. I saw Lovano this morning as he was leaving for a flight home. He had both arms strapped up in this elastic, soft cast contraption but was in good spirits and ready to head back to NYC. He says he’ll be able to play again in about 15 days, but he’ll have to lay off performing until after the first of the year. No word yet however on what caused his tumble, which is the bigger question.
Even better than the STAX museum in Memphis however, is the Country Music Hall of Fame in Nashville. I had friends in Nashville give me the whole rap about… “You don’t have to even know the music to love the museum”…to which I rolled my eyes, but it’s actually true. The CMH integrates music so beautifully in the museum. It could be an utter disaster in there musically, with listening stations bleeding into each other until it’s just a cacophony of noise. But through the intelligent uses of curled Nautilus shell shaped listening booths that control the sound yet still allow the listener to hear what they’ve chosen, the CMH is a model of keeping the music nearby yet allowing folks to look at cases of artifacts and talk among themselves without being blown out by music playing.
Still on the road in Memphis. At the center of any music trip to Memphis is the odd but very telling juxtaposition of Graceland and the relatively new Stax museum. Elvis was always very up front about where his influences came fromblack blues and R&B, along with gospel music, both white and black, and Tin Pan Alley’ most of which is honored in the Stax museum. And for the record let me say that I will never understand how Memphis, THE big city for all the delta blues pioneers, not to mention the town’s subsequent musical history, B.B. King, Elvis, Alex Chilton, Ardent Studios, etc. took their eye off the ball and lost the Rock Hall (Rock and Roll Hall of Fame) to the mistake by the lake. Such a pity. It would have given this town a triple threat of music tourism. Whoever was Mayor then, not to mention the city council, the local state legislators and oh yes, the fine guntotin’, God Afearin’ folks of the Tennessee delegation to Congress ought to be beaten.