Recently by Tom Moon
There's never been a character quite like Clarence Clemons, the E Street Band saxophonist who died Saturday after complications from a stroke. An imposing figure of basketball height and linebacker torso, the the Big Man served Bruce Springsteen as conscience and commentator, a "Voice of God" and a sly operator from the deep backstreets, a wise soul whose intimidating presence became central not merely to individual songs but Springsteen's overriding myth of young souls desperate to escape dead-end circumstances.
In a crowd of people slowly ambling out of the Tower Theater in Upper Darby, Pa., after Neil Young's solo show Sunday, a young man ahead of me turned to his friend and said, "My wife just texted....she says they killed bin Laden. The U.S. military." Many of us nearby reached reflexively for phones, wanting some sort of "official" confirmation right then, with the colossal guitar-chord fantasias of "Cortez the Killer" (!) and "Cinnamon Girl" still ringing in our ears.
It was an interesting juxtaposition. First there was electric jubilation at the news that the long international hunt for the terrorist mastermind had ended. But right behind it was a kind of awed respect for the military's discipline and obsessive attention to detail that was necessary to sustain the mission through years of errant leads and fruitless chases down blind alleys. In a way, those in Young's audience might have been a bit more attuned to this aspect: We'd just encountered, at hair-raisingly close range, some fruits of the guitarist's obsessive career-long quest for absolute (though crucially not "pure") guitar tone.
"What's it like to be reviewed, after slinging so many opinions yourself?"
I've been getting that question a lot lately. Since the January release of a CD of my original music, Into the Ojala, I've had occasion to see arts journalism from a slightly different perspective - as a subject.
The topic was critics. It was the end of a long rehearsal, and the drummer who is key to the sound and spirit of Moon Hotel Lounge Project talked about reading a review of a recording he'd done and being completely bewildered -- by the ideas, by the language, by the absence of a cogent argument, all of it. "Nowadays, from reading blogs we sorta expect that the descriptions will be weird and tortured," he lamented, "but this was another level. None of us could comprehend what the dude was getting at. He could have been reviewing spaghetti for all we knew."
Ever since August, when I began to seriously consider sharing some of my original music, I've been thinking of Gene Foreman, longtime managing editor of the Philadelphia Inquirer.
A crazy thing happened as I read Peter's post entitled One Across The Bow from July 23. First I found myself nodding my head, which is unlikely enough given my general crankiness. Then I found my thinking going down darker and ever more dystopian avenues. Generally dour thoughts I've been avoiding, or ignoring. Peter, this missive pulled together a bunch of ideas and questions that have been rattling around in my fevered head for weeks. Not just about the broke-down state of this particular jalopy, but also the enterprise of arts journalism itself. That string of zeroes you mentioned has plenty to tell us. About how, leaving the problems of NAJP aside for a moment, there's likely not much of a market for these wares. Maybe, just maybe, it's Game Over and we're simply slow to face reality?
I know, it's too much to ask: Could we please, pretty please, have an "American Idol" judge who knows what he/she is hearing? Doesn't matter if said person is a celebrity or not -- just possesses a bit more of an aesthetic than the last two judges....
In the words of one potential candidate: "Dream On."
The jury is still out on John Legend, the R&B singer and keyboardist who has put out three hit albums, won a bunch of Grammy Awards and still somehow has yet to fully "arrive." In this climate, it's easy to doubt his long-term prospects: Nice voice and what else? Fast rise and then what? Some schmaltz, a scattered few smartly turned singles, and then....
Friday night at World Café Live in Philadelphia, Legend suggested that he's ready to move beyond the couch where romantic crooners earn their keep.
So I don't watch American Idol start to finish. My wife and daughter follow the show, and our family joke is that I always wander through at the worst possible times, when the singers are particularly adrift and earnestly butchering whatever song.
Last night, though, something different happened. I turned up just as Crystal Bowersox was beginning "Summer Wind." It was "Sinatra" night, with Harry Connick Jr. leading the remaining five singers through the great one's songbook. There was reason to be worried, as Sinatra's art is about subtlety and Idol is decidedly lacking in that department.
These days, the unveiling of any new music by Wayne Shorter, the saxophonist and composer, qualifies as an event. Shorter's work represents a creative pinnacle of jazz composition, and his influence in this realm approaches the saturation point: Virtually everyone aspiring to write for small jazz ensemble has been influenced by him.
But it's been awhile. And so when Shorter and his working group - pianist Danilo Perez, bassist John Pattitucci, drummer Brian Blade - entered the Philadelphia Museum of Art's acoustically rascally Great Stair Hall Friday evening, they were greeted with a sense of anxious, almost nervous, anticipation. Where is the great man's head at right now?