Larry Kart

Adam Gopnik tackles Ellington and the Beatles

40 posts in this topic

At least that's how it should have gone if the refs/editors had been awake!

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The revelation with which Gopnik leaves us:

"A Beatles-Duke playlist, folded together, has a common quality (which took me by surprise, but shouldn't have) and that is excitement. The most obvious thing is the most easily overlooked, or mis-heard. The drummer drives the band. The performers sound exhilarated by the act of making music. Go from 'Please, Please Me' to 'Take the A Train,' and you hear the shared fervor of musicians not just making a new sound but listening to themselves as they do. It's the sound of self-discovery. That must be why American music became the soundtrack of self-emancipation, East and West alike.... Most people would rather swing than march, and would rather rock than live a regimented life. That was a very big lesson of the sad century just past. It don't mean a thing if it ain't got that swing. It can't.'

Does he ever mention bass? Like, ok, Sonny Greer, underrated (imo), but never more driving than Braud/Taylor-Alvis/Blanton/etc. And Yeah! Yeah! Yeah! I LOVE RINGO, but as comes up in these parts on occasion, Paul's bass playing was every bit as a controlling factor as was Ringo's drumming. You just don't have the type of music under discussion here w/o looking at the bass/drum hookup, acoustically it's fundamental, therefore psychologically it's unavoidable, therefore if it's not there, something's off, be it due to incapacity or perversion/manipulation.

And what about the many people who swing while they march? Where is the realization that marching is yet another form of choreography, to say nothing of it being a major contributing factor to the "essence" of jazz?

Rather "rock" than lead a "regimented life"? Oh good god, save me from those who view these as the choices, although it's probably too late to do anything about that by now.

It don't mean a thing if it ain't got that swing. It can't. Oh, so on the one hand we have the choice of either "rocking" or leading a "regimented life", but here we have the Fascist notion that there is Only One Meaning.

The Bingo Bango Bongo Billy Drum Fetish Fascists are at it again, latching onto only the smallest corner of a grandly endless omniverse and thinking that they've therefore discovered something, therefore they MATTER because they're RIGHT, and by god, they've PROVED it.

Drum Is God, yeah-ok, but who is God's God? BASS, that's who. EVEN WHEN DRUMGOD PLAYS ALONE, THERE WILL ONLY BE ONEGOD IF IT IS IN CONJUNCT WITH BASSGOD, EITHER EXPLICITLY THROUGH SONICS OR IMPLICITLY, FROM WITHIN DRUMGOD'S PLACEMENT OF NOTES. DrumGod gonna bring the attention, the flash, the crackle, but BassGod gonna be there no matter what, because BassGod is where DrumGod lives, and there is only OneGod, On The One And Of The One, so to "pick" "one" and not know the other is what RhythmSatan wants you to do, so Gopnick needs to exorcise himself immediately, if not sooner. His pocket is so full of lent he got his pocket watch on his pants leg, and no way he'll know what time it is with it dangling loose there like that, at the unknowing mercy of an inevitable gravity that can only be as benevolent as you'll let it be, and only then by acknowledging it.

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We should back off the sad "author" and direct real criticism to the publisher. They be the really stupid ones.

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We should back off the sad "author" and direct real criticism to the publisher. They be the really stupid ones.

In the past the editor of The New Yorker, David Remnick, has come fiercely to Gopnik's defense:

Takeaway quote: ""The day any of these people write anything even remotely as fine and intelligent as Adam Gopnik will be a cold day in hell."
As a friend commented: "Are there any grown-ups we can talk to?"

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I read him from time to time because I do get the New Yorker and have for years but these ideas and writing are just plain tortured. Not up to their standards.

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Gopnik does get slightly more nuanced in the latter part of the Ellington portion, but the beginning is pretty idiotic.

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The revelation with which Gopnik leaves us:

"A Beatles-Duke playlist, folded together, has a common quality (which took me by surprise, but shouldn't have) and that is excitement. The most obvious thing is the most easily overlooked, or mis-heard. The drummer drives the band. The performers sound exhilarated by the act of making music. Go from 'Please, Please Me' to 'Take the A Train,' and you hear the shared fervor of musicians not just making a new sound but listening to themselves as they do. It's the sound of self-discovery. That must be why American music became the soundtrack of self-emancipation, East and West alike.... Most people would rather swing than march, and would rather rock than live a regimented life. That was a very big lesson of the sad century just past. It don't mean a thing if it ain't got that swing. It can't.'

BTW, who in the heck ever "overlooked or mis-heard" the fact that the music of Ellington and the Beatles (and that of Basie, and Armstrong, and Parker, and the Stones, and Aretha Franklin, and James Brown et al.) was exciting? Gopnik reminds of the guy in the Mel Brooks-Carl Reiner "2000-Year-Old-Man" routine who wakes up one morning and tells the tribe "Hey -- dere's ladies here."

That would be Bernie who discovered women: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dnLqLHWDg5E

Edited by Mark Stryker

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Finally read Gopnik's thing today. Not the first time he repulsed me with his straw-men style and misreporting of facts. His conclusions are empty nonsensical hackwork that may be intended to make intellectual dilettantes think that Gopnik has smart brains.

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I've just finished the Teachout book. It's the 4th bio of EKE I've read in the last decade and easily the worst. ( I've never read Collier's-- it sounds awful.)

However about the only negative thing Teachout doesn't say about Duke is that he was a mediocre piano player.

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I've just finished the Teachout book. It's the 4th bio of EKE I've read in the last decade and easily the worst. ( I've never read Collier's-- it sounds awful.)

However about the only negative thing Teachout doesn't say about Duke is that he was a mediocre piano player.

Which bio do you recommend?

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I read the first two pages of this article this morning before leaving for work and had the same horrified reaction as everybody else in this thread. This sentence alone...

Ellington was a dance-band impresario who played no better than O.K. piano, got trapped for years playing “jungle music” in gangster night clubs, and at his height produced mostly tinny, brief recordings.

... was enough to send me careening off my mental highway.

The only thing "tinny" are the ninny author's ears. I suspect he hasn't actually listened or had the depth of jazz listening experience to grasp Ellington.

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I've just finished the Teachout book. It's the 4th bio of EKE I've read in the last decade and easily the worst. ( I've never read Collier's-- it sounds awful.)

However about the only negative thing Teachout doesn't say about Duke is that he was a mediocre piano player.

Which bio do you recommend?

John Edward Hasse: "Beyond Category, the Life and Genius of Duke Ellington".

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