Outtakes

“If I never moved to New York I knew I would regret it for the rest of my life…New York is the place where if you have a dream you can make it.”

—Young visual artist on D train talking to a perfect
stranger because in New York he realized he could,
swearing he wasn’t hitting on her

“So you better watch out. I’m the death angel.”

—Young trombonist, later that night,
ranting on the A train platform

“When you get older you can say whatever you want to say.”

Milford Graves after a
duo set with John Zorn at the Met

I’m standing by the bar and someone walks in behind me and says, ‘I’m the greatest poet in the world.’ I turn around to look at him and say, ‘Well I’m the greatest pianist in the world.’ ‘Prove it,’ he says, pointing to the piano.”

—Cecil Taylor describing his
first encounter with Jack Kerouac

Barbara Kruger. Illustration by Megan Piontkowski.

Well, the conversation went on for six more hours, Taylor telling stories that started in the middle and never had endings. Stories about his mother, his aunt, his uncle, his grandmother, his father, and of course other musicians—many times telling the same story over and over again. So I snuck away to nearby Roulette, leaving my wife and friends in his charge, to catch a concert by the Tri-Centric Orchestra, which premiered pieces by Taylor Ho Bynum, Mark Taylor, Anthony Braxton (an amazing piece considering he wrote it in 1973 in his 20s), and Ingrid Laubrock, which, for me, was the standout composition of the night. After talking briefly with Braxton about our old age and how happy he was to be retiring from teaching I worked my way back to the restaurant where Cecil was still holding court and sidled right back into the conversation without missing a beat. It was the third time around—a story about Miles. I then got him to talk about winning the Kyoto Prize and his plans to travel to Japan in November to receive it. He stated that though they insisted on what he should say in his acceptance speech while in a tux, he will have his own special tux designed and say whatever he feels like, including reciting a poem.

Ah, bless the human who still has the guts to be one’s self.

And speaking of awards: What warrants receiving one, and how are folks chosen?

Well, having gotten a few minor awards myself—with, sadly, no money attached—I can honestly say it’s all basically fixed. The committees or individuals get together, come up with lists, concur on who votes for whom based on the premise, “You can have this if I can have that,” or “You can be on this committee but please vote for young people only,” or, “this guy with this many projects,” or “this gal who went to Yale studied with that teacher and married that teacher.” In other words, favoritism, or as Tuli Kupferberg put it, “crony criticism.” And wow, dig this: As if the MacArthur award wasn’t enough at $500,000 it’s now up to $650,000. I wanna be on that winner’s A-list.

Worthy of note among the recipients of this year’s Doris Duke award was the wonderful bassist and composer William Parker. He’s the first major Lower East Side avant-garde African-American “jazz” musician to win it, and well deserved.

Primary Information, founded by James Hoff and Miriam Katzeff in 2006, has been publishing documents and music by emerging, mid-career, and established artists of every ilk from the ’60s to the present.Their mission as a non-profit is to print artist books, artist writings, and out-of-print publications and editions, with an emphasis on the conceptual practices begun in the mid-’60s. Their program involves the publication of lost or unpublished material. Some of these publications take the shape of records or posters, like their first project, a re-issue of Alan Kaprow’s legendary recording, How to Make a Happening. In line with this goal, some of their music/musician-related projects are the first English edition of artist Dan Graham’s rock/music writings, and a reprint of the long-out-of-print artists’ zines Destroy All Monsters and the feminist Disband (1979 – 82), which includes Barbara Kruger, “blurring the line between performance art and live music.” Recent and upcoming projects include Rêve Parisien by Rhys Chatham, a beautiful vinyl gatefold; XXX Macarena with Tony Conrad, Jutta Koether, and John Miller; violinist/“vocalist” C. Spencer Yeh’s first all-vocal recording; and an electronic recording by Matthew Papich. There is also a reprint of the 1976 book G.P.O Versus G.P.O.: A Chronicle of Mail Art on Trial, by Genesis P-Orridge. All are published in limited quantities and tend to sell out quickly, and this list is only the tip of the iceberg.

A new venue to visit is SubCulture. Run by two brothers, this subterranean club on Bleecker and Lafayette has great sound. Great drinks. Great ambience. And, like (Le) Poisson Rouge, an eclectic program ranging from classical to jazz. I’ve caught Matt Shipp, Lee Konitz, and David Murray there so far.

Check out Jake Marmer’s warm, witty, and wise new CD Hermeneutic Stomp (Blue Thread Records, Jewish Currents). It is a perfect companion piece to his first book, Jazz Talmud, which I reviewed sometime last year. It’s a first-rate production, and includes such giants as Greg Wall and Frank London.

We are living in an age where even the freaks are too clean and dare not take something for nothing. Why say that? Oh, no special reason, but here’s one for ya. I recently listened to a duet by an old seasoned veteran and a young veteran who still needs seasoning. The main difference between the two was that one still took himself too seriously and the other was already serious, so there was nothing to take. You figure out which was which.

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