A Series of Thoughts in no Particular Order

Fuck, it got hot.

There is something about summer suddenly rushing onward, without any consideration for what’s here; summer rushed because it took its sweet time getting here, wending weary ways along April showers, and somehow bypassed Le Sacre du Printemps entirely, much to my disappointment.

My mood tonight is free-jazz, and my heart is pumping sanguine beats.

I thought about Kendrick Lamar today, and my struggle to enjoy his music. It’s not that I hate him, or that I think his music is bad; actually it’s literate, rebellious and super on point. But I just don’t vibe it. And that seems to no longer be good enough. Instead of listening to a record, setting up your particular groove – whether that be a nice vinyl cut, some sweet ass-headphones open back for premium mindfulness music, or just an iPod – there is a growing lack of acceptability of just listening to a piece of music, and having no reason for liking it.

A lot of things I like are for no reason at all, which is the best reason, honestly.

I am Hindu to the bone, but man, Lao-Tzu dropped mad-truths. The universe in its requisite is straight chillin’ in the Taoism…unless you’re all up in the Upanishads, and love yourself some Brahman (not to be confused with Brahma). But Lao-Tzu’s old, accreted and untraceable ideal was the basic idea of balance, harmony, but more importantly the role of dichotomy in reality.

Because, if we’re being honest, up is down, if you look at it the right way.

If there is a reader I don’t know about, I imagine that last sentence was mighty frustratin’, so let me walk you through that particular logical conundrum.

But actually, no. that wasn’t the way
The tao cannot be quantified
And you cannot
Look through some magical
Lens of reality and suddenly
Taste the fruit of enlightenment

That’s just way too much effort, and I’m here to ramble more or less incoherently.

But in Taoism, up and down are not so much two different things, but the same thing expressed in two different ways.

If you’re heading south, you’re technically moving forward, because you are facing forward. And if your orthogonally challenged, like myself, then that means up, because metaphors.

But seriously, you only ever face one direction: the direction you are facing. and the first rule of tautology club is the first rule of tautology club; but that’s just a circular logic.

When you face that direction, that direction is always, incontrovertibly forward. It may not be the forward on the map though. You could be moving toward the southron horizon, moseyin’ along the plains and the planes are flying high above you. And you see blue sky and…wheat fields for days. In this place, forward and backward are irrelevant; only the asphalt truth of the road matters in any meaningful way.

But it’s only determined that you’ve gone backwards after the fact. The truth of it is you were walking in a forward direction – to your perception – and suddenly you realized that the direction reality was pointing was behind you.

Which, if you’re following along (and I don’t sound like a crazy person) is backward. Forward was backward, the whole time.

You took a wrong turn, and ended up on the wrong side of Minos who’s ready to wrap his tail repeatedly around himself to determine which place you gon’ end up at the end of all of this. With the fires licking your ass like some Hieronymous bosch painting.

Ok, that was trying too hard.

But my friend, my companion, the old master. He saw what I illustrated poorly: if you’re on the spectrum of existence, you’re on it. The demarcations, the delineations, the parsing out of passing particles pointing pathways polar opposite of each other are just a singular state of being. The wind knows know limits; it only knows how to blow.

And that, that’s kind of beautiful.

I wish I knew where I was headed with this, but it’s been feeling like work for so long, it’s nice to go forward, and then find myself moving in reverse, down the long forward wheat plain that occupies the space between tomorrow and the landscape of my dreams.


Review: Harmony of Difference EP – Kamasi Washington

Image result for harmony of difference

Kamasi’s really pushing the definition of “EP”, with this one.

Coming from a tradition of Non-Tradition and Rule Breaking, Kamasi Washington’s EP Harmony of Difference is one of my favorite new jazz records in recent memory; the other being Washington’s Opus Epicus the 3 hour odyssey “The Epic” released in 2015.

This record falls into what could be called the sub-genre of Jazz Innovation, which includes the hallowed ranks of Trane, Sanders, and Ayer as the free-jazz Holy Ghost. You’ve likely heard the jokes about these types of record: 20 minute jazz odyssey.

They follow the same series of beats: an introduction of theme via the Bass line, followed by some melodic vamping; sometimes there will be a few short tracks in which themes are explored in a bit more detail. Then, transcendence.

Some of my personal favorites are stuff like the immortal A Love Supreme by Monsieur John Coltrane, Karma by Pharaoh Sanders, Enlightenment by McCoy Tyner, and contrapuntally The All Seeing-Eye, and Spiritual Unity by Wayne Shorter and Albert Ayer.

This record has that same sense of bombastic abandon and push for innovation. It has those tasteful ethereal themes that connect us through the soundwave vibrations of the spiritual instant known as Om. Scattered throughout the 6 tracks, among the sultry bass lines; the shimmering keyboards; the funk grooves; and Washington’s classic playing, there is that sense of increase and tension. That almost sexual ecstasy that comes with communing with the divine from the sound of a reed and enamelled keys on gold.

There is the wonderfully cohesive compositions, at which Washington truly excels. His compositions have enriched everything from Flying Lotus to Kendrick Lamar, and he has a true ear for those classic anti-classic Jazzsterpieces. He has the soaring, and the falling. The moments of diffusion such as the song “perspective”. The arrangements match the tone of the songs subject matter. Desire establishes the theme, while the ensuing tracks veer and shuck and jive into their own thematic territory, culminating in a thirteen minute sublimation “Truth”.

It’s a joy to listen to, I tell you.

This record is not quite what I would call a game-changer, though. This is a record defined by its influences, almost to the point of being slavishly devoted. They’re good influences, and this piece works well as a self-contained suite with rich harmony and melodies. But it is part of a tradition. He doesn’t dramatically push the form. He doesn’t go balls out with his compositional choices. There is a sense of balanced, but it is weirdly dimmed, considering the tradition from which it comes

For every new flourish that is Washington’s own, there are melodies and compositions that feel eminently familiar. There is a sense that he has imbibed his forebears wholeheartedly. And while these compositions have character and flavor all their own, they have a recognizable source. I can’t escape that personally.

But, when I listened to this record for the first time, I was taking a walk on a sunny autumn day, with the leaves falling in the Boston Garden amongst the flowers and beauty. As “Truth” built upon all the previous themes like a modal voltron, I was taken by a moment of serenity; the sea of bodies falling around me in harmonious equidistance. The glass green pond with Swans swimming; the buskers. The taste of my coffee and the just right temperature of the air against the shimmering blue felt just right.

And when it’s that rich, I can’t help but fall into the Harmony life.

The Guard has Changed. Let’s see what Washington’s got next.

On Regrets I

Sunday in the Park with George was written just to make me cry.

I used to be such a perfectionist. What happened? Maybe perfectionism was something that used to matter, but I’m getting ahead of myself.

If you’ve never seen Sunday in the Park with George, then you’re likely in the vast majority since Broadway Musicals, despite their cultural cachet are not exactly what I would call “Mainstream” in the sense that it doesn’t come up in you’re regular conversations about art.

But for me, it’s big. it was the first musical I attempted. Before I listened obsessively to Hamilton it was my initial exposure. It’s a tired troubled masterpiece about perfection, compromise and sacrifice.

But tonight I’m thinking about it, because I’m pondering a question I have to ask myself on a regular basis: Do I have regrets?

I have to ask myself repeatedly because the answer is always, comfortingly, no. I don’t have regrets, mercifully. No matter what dick head thing I do, no matter what stupid thing I say, or embarrassing situation I put myself in. No matter how many times my heart lay cracked on the pavement with fine juttering ink black blood leaking onto the sulfurous grey and my tears were all that availed me grace, I don’t have regrets.

But when the melancholy comes, as it does, and I review my life, I think I want to regret. I want to feel remorse. I want to feel that cool rush of red at choices I could have made. Timing I could have gotten write. The things I should have, could have, or would have done, if I just had been enough. If I had allowed myself to be that kind of imperfect.

But I don’t. It’s so foreign an emotion to me. It’s the little green eyed creature. And it drives so much behavior, motivates so many other actions in so many others, that I always feel isolated.

If I’ve had any success, it is from that lack of regret.

And last night, I was in mourning. I finished a significant milestone of my life, something I never thought I’d  actually do, in truth, and I was at the prudential center mall; a place I’ve walked so many times it’s a muscle memory next to the blues pentatonic. I had put on “Move On” from Sunday in the Park with George, and listened to Bernadette Peters.

My heart was the kind of sore you get when you know you feel one way, and your body and mind don’t agree. The torn I had forgotten I was capable of feeling. It made every desperate air guitar chord one of quiet struggle; and every sung strained vocal line from my globus pharyngis mind something of a shriek; cut off by stress.

When I heard these lyrics, though, I lost it:

Just keep moving on
Anything you do
Let it come from you
Then it will be new
Give us more to see…

Because, for a long time, I’ve felt unoriginal, or irrelevant. I question myself always; I don’t feel safe in certainty. I feel dangerous. But hearing those lines opened something, it brought my irrelevance to a sense of ecstasy. And so I found a nook and cried. Unstoppered by the weight of no regrets.

But it isn’t just the lack of regrets, it’s the sense of loss that comes when you finish things, even if you’ve wanted them done for a long time. You don’t realize how important something becomes to you — how it becomes a fixture of your life — until it says goodbye. Whether that’s amicably, or painfully, or anything in between.

But even that is not the hardest part for me. The hardest part has always been the sullen knowledge that, one day, it will not puncture me with pain; it will not drive a wedge through my heart with sorrow. The knowledge that time will heal that wound, whichever among the innumerable gouges and cuts that sink their way into me I have, it will be just another on a long road.

And it’s  beautiful, at the one, because it reminds me that life moves on, without motivation, and without need. It just is, like a Taoist monk. But at the same time, it makes everything so insignificant. The biggest accomplishment is no more than  grain of sand.  A life is no more than a grain.

So to here Bernadette Peters sing so heartbroken, having lost Georges through errors in judgement, pulling me into a resonant chord that I know too well, and then hearing her speak the few things I recognize in myself that I could call true. To hear the lack of regret. It hurts.

To know that pain comes and goes on a never ending wheel of ache and suck. To know that, however encompassing and painful, time moves on with or without you. It all comes to head in that orchestral dialogue, and Chromalume competence from Patinkin. It’s just such a painful sense of realization.

And when the cut dries, and the heart no longer pours that ichor of sadness. When the happy comes again, you forget the sorrow, and you forget that it hurt. And you’re  happy, so it doesn’t matter. But deep down, you think about the richness of the experience. The fact that such intense relief is to you your existence.

It’s why I, of all people, with my many failings, can never stand to regret the choices I make, even when they’re terrible. They’ve always led to the next moment. And often, when I make it to that one, I’m pretty OK.

And when I think about it that way, it’s easy to move on, even when the tears stream in the moonlight.

Ekphrastic: A Bigger Paper Bag

Father John Misty
possessed by the spirit of Elliott Smith
Preaches like a holiday reverend
Over rhodes piano riffs and Figure 8s
falling sideways like lamniscate jokes
And hamlet references that fly over
The heads of serial killers and tennis players
Watching the footnotes and recording their dreams
While watching nothing happen in real time
And everything else happening
In a short foreign film about a boy
And his balloons

And darkness creeps in around the
Frame of his lilting
While he bareknuckle boxes
his demons
And Pitch shifting chaos
seeps in
Where the bag crumbles
Under dramatic swells

And I watch.