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Friday, June 20, 2014

Preview - RIP Messrs. Goffin, Hyla and Silver

I'm plotting out some tributes in this week's webcast for the three great yet diverse musicians who died in the last week or so, the quintessential hard-bop pianist Horace Silver, the brilliant popsong lyricist Gerry Goffin, and the under-appreciated, multifaceted composer Lee Hyla.

Doing some research while trying to decide whether to feature Hyla's bass clarinet or violin concerto, I came across this article which certainly shows some similarities between his and the blog's ideals - the melange of influences, the idea that the audience has an active role in the musical experience, and others. A mutual music biz acquaintance actually tried once to get us to meet and talk, thinking we'd get along well, but it didn't really come off.

Anyway, the bass clarinet concerto is a better fit, the violin concerto is too long, but the first ten minutes or so make a distinct section (including an amazing solo cadenza) which could be cleaved off to fit in. Which ever doesn't get played tomorrow will probably show up later.

I don't seem to have much of Goffin or Silver on hand. With Goffin, I think I've held too many songs like the Loco-Motion or Who Put The Bomp (In The Bomp, Bomp, Bomp) against him that I forget lines like "Tonight the light of love is in your eyes, but will you love me tomorrow?" or a elegant, yet cutting lines "Mrs. Gray, she's proud today, all her roses are in bloom; Mr. Green, he's so serene, he's got a TV in every room". (ah, internal rhyme) or just great all around songs like Up on the Roof. The AV Club's obituary links to what it rightly calls "a titanic version" of I Can’t Make It Alone, something I've probably heard before, but didn't really remember, but can't imagine why or how. Of course these lyrics have the great benefit of the music Carole King wrote for them. Porpoise Song probably best fits this show's aesthetic, but it's not the best lyric, and King's music and the production (and if your watching the film Head, the visuals) overwhelm them.

Horace Silver's songs were some of the first jazz songs I learned to play, particularly Song for My Father and the Preacher. (Of course, Steely Dan copped the bass line from Song for My Father for Ricki, Don't Lose That Number). One obit referred to him as a leader in jazz' "back-to-basics" movement, after the rise of overly complex be-bop and the nascent free-jazz (it was he who founded the Jazz Messengers after all) and I think that's a fair assessment of his place on the spectrum, and again, I probably held his basicness against him. But there's no denying the greatness of both his playing and composing. (His tune Peace was the theme song for WGBH's Eric in the Evening, played at the top of the show each night for twenty-five years at least, although played by Tommy Flanagan). Silver also makes an appearance in the film A Great Day in Harlem, which catches up thirty-five years later with the subjects and creators of a famous photograph of dozens of jazz musicians. In his interview, he's shown proudly touting his superior diet regime for keeping him fit after all these years, while scolding some of his colleagues for letting themselves go. He manages to come off as charming rather than chastising, but looking down the list, he may have been the last surviving member of the photo Nope, Benny Golson and Sonny Rollins are the last two (well hopefully some of those kids are, too)

And also, Casey Kasem died this week, key to my love of radio, and by extension songs and records. American Top 40 was kind of an obsession of mine, as anyone who knew me before 1983 or so could tell you (and go "kind of?"). The top 40 was a much more broadminded place back then. Stopping to check out the list of number ones from 1984 maybe "broadminded" isn't quite the right word, (but then again it's the mix of the 40 that had variety), but I, for one can still feel some cheesy affection for some of them. And still Van Halen was at number one for five weeks. And if you want to know what life was like before Autotune, The Reflex by Duran Duran was number one thirty years ago today. The list of number ones from last year consists of songs I could only listen to at gunpoint.)

Oh, right, Casey Kasem. So, in 1970, a square in his late thirties came up with a show that revamped a show from the '40s and '50 (Your Hit Parade, as my father would be the first to tell you) and sold it to the kids and became an institution. And he was Shaggy. Not bad at all.

Keep your feet on the ground and keep reaching for the stars.

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