Posts Tagged ‘Woody Allen

18
Sep
09

Notes from a Season at the Center of the Universe: Cecil Taylor at The Take 3

(Excerpted and adapted from a work-in-progress, Going Outside: A Memoir of Free Jazz & the ‘60s.)

Originally published on the All About Jazz website.

photo

Robert Levin and Cecil Taylor, June 2015.

In the summer of 1962, Cecil lands a three-month, four-night-a-week gig at The Take 3 coffee house on Bleecker Street. A large, nondescript room with a stage at the back end and several dozen tables of various shapes and sizes, The Take 3 is right next door to the glittering Bitter End where Woody Allen had performed just weeks before. (Allen was second on the bill and I’d thrown him a quick couple of lines in the Village Voice column—something about how this new comic exploited his appearance to good advantage.)

For Cecil, 33 now, The Take 3 experience will be important for the opportunity its extraordinary duration affords him to develop new ideas and achieve deeper levels of interaction with the two musicians he brings with him, Jimmy Lyons, alto saxophone, and Sunny Murray, drums. (The trio will be joined on occasion by either Buell Neidlinger or Henry Grimes on bass, but most of the time there’s no bass player.)

For me, 23, and never happier than when I’m in a jazz club and in the company of musicians I admire, it’s a chance to hang in my element on a semi-regular basis. But it’s something else as well. This is 1962. An increasing number of us live with the conviction that a seismic change in human consciousness is both possible and imminent. We also share a belief that the New Jazz, in its break with established forms and procedures, and with its resurrection of ancient black methodologies, is showing the way. “Man,” the bassist Alan Silva (coming off an hour-long, 13-piece collective improvisation one night at another venue) can say to me, “in ten years we won’t even need traffic lights we’re gonna be so spiritually tuned to one another.”

At The Take 3, I’ll feel myself to be at the very center of the universe.

I mention Cecil’s engagement in the column a few days before he opens and maybe six people a night show up in the first week. The following week, impervious to criticism that I’m functioning as Cecil’s unofficial publicist, I write what amounts to a paean to him. I also discuss a simultaneous Monk date at the Five Spot. (Monk, of course, is one of Cecil’s principle influences.) The Voice titles this column “The Monk and the Taylor” and gives it a banner front page headline. The next night I arrive at The Take 3 and see that the proprietors have hung an enormous sign over the entrance:

“CECIL TAYLOR! ‘STARTS WHERE MONK LEAVES OFF!’—VILLAGE VOICE

Not exactly the way I had put it, but so what? The column and the sign serve their purpose. From this point on the room is sometimes filled to capacity.

Among the musicians who come on a night that I’m there (and who would have come without the hype) are John Coltrane and Eric Dolphy. When the last set ends they sit at a table with Cecil, Anne (my girlfriend then) and me, and a love fest breaks out. John says to Cecil that he’s “awestruck” by him. Eric calls Cecil “the spaceman—the astronaut!” After Cecil tells Eric that Eric is “about to become great,” I raise my hand and say, “So what about me?” Everybody laughs except Eric. I can see him thinking: Wait a minute. Should I know…? Does Bob play an instrument?

John and Cecil had recorded together in 1958 and a word on the album they made, and their musical relationship in general, is in order here. The album, Hard Driving Jazz, was originally a Cecil date and later reissued under Coltrane’s name as Coltrane Time. It was certainly an interesting album but it turned out to be less than terrific.

John Coltrane

John Coltrane

Tom Wilson, an early champion of Cecil’s and the producer of his first record, Jazz Advance, produced this one as well. He also chose the sidemen, all of whom—trumpeter Kenny Dorham, bassist Chuck Israels, drummer Louis Hayes and tenor saxophonist Coltrane—were serious beboppers and, with the exception of Coltrane, very much set in their ways.

Tom believed that he was putting something seminal together, something that would foreshadow where, following Cecil’s lead, bebop might go from here. But surrounding Cecil with a group composed largely of intransigent beboppers was counterproductive to say the least. While Coltrane acquitted himself decently, Dorham (a splendid bebop trumpet player) was incensed by Cecil’s “eccentric” comping and he made no effort to conceal his feelings. For their parts, Israels and Hayes could only struggle with the rhythmic challenges Cecil posed.

But the album would still have failed to predict bebop’s future even if these men had been more flexible. Although it wasn’t entirely clear at the time, Cecil was in the process of creating a discrete system of his own; if anything, he was shedding bebop. (It would be Coltrane who’d deliver bebop to its outer limits.) Given this circumstance, what a Cecil Taylor record needed was musicians inclined and prepared to take his journey with him. Cecil had been opposed to Dorham’s inclusion on the date—he’d wanted Ted Curson, a younger trumpet player who was very much in sync with him. And he hadn’t been so sure about using Coltrane either. That John would be more capable than the others of taking Cecil on wasn’t enough. (Jimmy Lyons, whom he didn’t encounter until 1960, became Cecil’s most congenial supporting player. Jimmy survived for years on odd jobs in order to be available if Cecil had work, and when Jimmy needed a new saxophone Cecil rewarded his loyalty by buying him one. “It had to be a Selmer, so that’s what he got,” Cecil told me. When Jimmy died in 1986, it was months before Cecil could bring himself to go near a piano again.)

Probably the closest thing to a successful number from the Hard Driving Jazz recording sessions, Mel Tormé’s “Christmas Song”— “For the Noël market,” Cecil said—was left out of the album.

By 1962, of course, Coltrane was all but possessed by the Free Jazz players. He was both their patron (he gave them money and employed many of them in his band) and their student. “He loved us,” Archie Shepp would say. But as far as Cecil’s approach was concerned, there was only so much that John could use. “That’s too complicated,” he remarked about it once, and he derived a lot more from Archie, Eric, Ornette Coleman and Albert Ayler, among others.

But Coltrane was always prepared to honor Cecil. I’m thinking of a night at Birdland a year or so later. John is about to go on as Cecil and a small group of us come in. We walk past the bar where Pee Wee Marquette, the club’s midget and famously nasty emcee, is saying to the bartender—and just loud enough for us to hear—“How much more of this ‘Greenwich Village’ jazz am I supposed to take?” John sees Cecil and says something to McCoy Tyner who’s already playing an intro. Tyner abruptly quits the number he’s started and they open the set instead with “Out of This World.”

.

Another musician who comes to The Take 3 doesn’t stay very long.

It’s between sets and the band is backstage when I hear something going on at the door. I turn to look and see Coleman Hawkins standing there. Coleman Hawkins! The “Bean” himself!

I can’t make out what Hawkins is saying, but I hear the girl who collects the admission charge say: “Everybody pays a dollar, Sir.”

I see what’s happening and I want to rise from my chair and drop a dollar onto the girl’s table, but I can’t do anything. I’m frozen. Coleman Hawkins!

And it’s over too fast. Hawkins glares at the girl, then turns and splits.

“Maybe ‘Bean’ didn’t have a bean,” Cecil says when I tell him about it.

.

So what about me?

On the same night as Hawkins’s abortive visit, Cecil and I leave The Take 3 together. In the years ahead I’ll grow up a little and how I relate to Cecil, who I met in 1956 and who quickly assumed the role of an older brother, will change.  But as I’ve made evident elsewhere, in this period of my life I’m not someone you’d describe as perfectly centered and no serious time spent in Cecil’s company can pass for me without a certain issue erupting. I refer to my unrealized and maybe never to be realized, creative writing aspirations and to the envy and resentment that will unfailingly be triggered in me at one point or another.  Cecil is a genuine artist. The real thing. I’m chronically “blocked” and without any clear sense of what I want to say or how to proceed. (If a part of me is counting on osmosis with him, it isn’t working.) In Cecil’s words, spoken without malice—to be straightforward about such matters, at whatever the cost, is central to the stance he’s taken in the world—I’m a “person of artistic persuasion.” It’s a phrase that he’s used more than once and it embarrasses and infuriates me. But anything that makes me too conscious of the contrasts between us can set me off. When that happens my pattern is to become aggrieved and petulant and then, in a paroxysm of indignation and vainglorious self-assertion, to withdraw from him, sometimes for months. In this particular instance, however, a separation at least is forestalled by Cecil in a way I could not have anticipated.

With the completion of an evening’s last set, Cecil’s usually eager to check out what’s going on in clubs that are still open. But on this night, a sultry night in late August, he’s not feeling well and he wants to go home. I need to get home as well—to finish an overdue Blue Note liner. “You’re killing me, Robert,” Frank Wolff had said to me earlier on the phone. “Frank,” I told him, “I’m suicidal myself. This is the fourth Jimmy Smith album you’ve assigned me. Didn’t you get that I had nothing to say about him the first time? Why doesn’t Joe Goldberg have to do these?”

I plan to accompany Cecil as far as Second Avenue.

“What’s the matter with you?” I say once we’re outside. “You don’t have the clap again? I warned you not to sit on public piano stools.”

Cecil, who’s looking a little gray, grimaces. “Ulcer attack,” he says. “I have something to take at the apartment.”

The stomach ulcer has been a persistent concern for Cecil (he’s convinced it will soon become something lethal) and waiting for traffic to pass on the corner of LaGuardia Place, I’m about to ask him if he’s seen his doctor recently when this guy I’d noticed standing outside The Take 3 approaches us. “Excuse me, Mr. Taylor,” he says—and to me, “Excuse me, Sir.” He’s black and around my age.

“Mr. Taylor,” he says, “I just wanted to tell you how amazing I think you are and how much I love your music. No one can play the piano like you do.”

Cecil smiles. “Thank you,” he says.

“I wish I could be a musician,” the guy goes on. “I’ve taken lessons, but I’m no good at it. I just don’t have the aptitude for it, I guess.”

Cecil looks at him and says gently, “Then be a good listener.”

Not a bad answer, I think, and I’m instantly rankled by it.

“What empty shit,” I say after the guy—nodding earnestly, then smiling broadly and vigorously shaking my hand as well as Cecil’s—backs off. “‘Be a good listener.’ Was that the best you could do?”

“I don’t know what you mean,” Cecil says as we resume walking. I see that his countenance has brightened considerably. Cecil responds well to adulation.

“I mean that’s not what he wanted to hear,” I say.

“He seemed satisfied to me, Bob,” Cecil says. “But then you may be right. Since when do I give people what they want to hear?”

“He wanted you to tell him the secret,” I say. “When he digests what you said he’s going to sink into a profound depression.”

Cecil gives me a sidelong glance. “Are you talking about him, Bob? You’re not starting some shit here, are you?”

I ignore this. I’m remembering something I’d all but buried, but which is suddenly of great importance to me, and I say: “Come to think of it, since when do you really give much of anything, even when you say you will?”

Cecil stares at me. He obviously has no idea what I’m talking about.

“Cecil,” I say. “What the fuck happened to ‘Bobt’?”

“What the fuck happened to who?” He says.

“To ‘Bobt’, I say. “ Shit, man. Not ‘who’. What! ‘Bobt’!”

“Bob,” he says laughing at me.  “Listen to you. Are you’re having a fit of some sort? Should I take you to an emergency room?”

“You said you were composing a tune for me and that you were calling it ‘Bobt,’” I say. “That was a year ago. I’ve waited long enough, don’t you think? Where is it? I want it.”

“You want it?” Cecil says.  “Have you collapsed into an infantile state, man? Do I need to remind you of the vicissitudes of the creative process?”

“In other words you never wrote it,” I say.

In other words, please be kind’,” Cecil sings. “ In other words…’”

“You were bullshitting me,” I say. “Will you cut the crap and give me a straight…”

“It was absorbed by something else.” Cecil nods to himself after he hears what he said. He bought a moment with the musical interlude and he’s pleased with the answer he’s come up with.

“‘Absorbed by something else’?” I say. “That’s beautiful. Well you know what, Cecil? I’m going to write a poem for you—a poem I’m going to finish—and I’m going to call it…”

“‘The Magnificent One’?” He says. “‘The Immortal…’?”

“I’m going to call it ‘The Insufferable Self-Centered Prick’,” I say.

“Bob,” he says, his hand on his chest, “Are you saying that I’m self-centered? Me? The amazing Cecil?

“I’ll tell you what I’m saying,” I say. “I don’t need this shit—that’s what I’m saying. The one thing I do get back from knowing and touting the ‘amazing Cecil’ is reflected glory, and it definitely has some practical benefits—I can point to two occasions when it’s actually gotten me laid. [For some reason, Cecil finds this little joke hilarious.] But is it worth the indignities I have to suffer? Will it make me immortal, too? No, you can shove reflected glory, man. I don’t have to settle for it anyway. I’m making some moves. I’m going to be my own Cecil Taylor.”

Cecil feigns a horrified expression “You…you…” he blusters. “You would dare take my name, the name of Cecil?”

I stifle a laugh. “And I’m not exactly beginning at zero either…”

“Listen,” he says, “there’s something I haven’t told…”

“…Maybe it isn’t really ‘writing’,” I continue, “but…”

“…The column?” He says. “You’re talking about the column? I appreciate what you’ve done with it but no, you know it isn’t ‘writing’.

Ready, in the wake of this remark, to take permanent leave of him, to never even listen to a record of his again, I say: “I just conceded as much. But fuck you, Cecil. No one’s ever told me their three-year-old daughter could do it.”

Cecil stops walking and grabs my shoulder. “Robert,” he says, “I haven’t mentioned this.”

What?” I snarl, pushing his hand off me.

“Awhile back,” he says, “that poem you wrote…the one you gave me …”

That poem?” I say. “That poem sucked. It was awful.”

He shakes his head. “Something about that poem…it made me want to write poems myself. I started writing poetry the next day.”

“I didn’t know you were writing poetry,” I say. “How fucking dare you.”

He laughs. “I haven’t been able to stop. Not since I read that poem. No one’s seen any of it yet. I guess I’ll have to show it to you now.”

I take this in. I’m still only a “person of artistic persuasion”—at best I’m destined to be a footnote in his biography. But I’m also something more than Cecil’s flack now. I’ve managed to have an impact in a way that really matters to me. “Bobt”? Who needs “Bobt”? I regard what Cecil’s imparted as a gift beyond measure.

“I’m glad to see that you’re feeling better,” I say a moment later when we arrive at Second Avenue. “So Coleman Hawkins came to check you out. Too bad he didn’t want to pay for the privilege.”

Cecil shrugs. “We could have used his dollar,” he says. Then he says: “I’m thinking about going to Slug’s. Come with me.”

“Sure. Yeah.” I say.

If Frank Wolff dies I’ll find a way to live with the guilt.

.

[Following a trip to Scandinavia in the fall of 1962, Cecil, Sunny and Jimmy played The Take 3 again in 1963. It was during the second engagement that Albert Ayler made an impromptu appearance. Since, at this point in time, I tend to recall both gigs as one, I’m taking the liberty of reporting on the event here.]

On a night I’d have regretted missing, a heavy presence causes me to turn my head in the middle of a set and I see this dude with an odd patch of white on his goatee and wearing a green leather suit. He’s holding a gleaming tenor saxophone. (Sunny will tell me that he polishes it every day.) I know who he is. Sunny and Jimmy had both spoken about Albert Ayler, the “new bitch on tenor” they’d met and played with in Copenhagen on the recent tour. Before they left Denmark, Cecil had invited him to “say hello” when he returned to the States.

But Albert isn’t wasting time with any formalities. The cap is already off his mouthpiece and he’s edging his way between the tables toward the bandstand. Sunny says to Cecil, “Albert’s here,” and though Cecil barely raises his head that’s enough for Albert to mount the stage.

I write this half a century after the fact, but the first sounds Albert makes remain as vivid and immediate to me as if I’d heard them only moments ago.

Albert Ayler

Albert Ayler

It’s his vibrato. The breadth, the amplitude, of his vibrato is astonishing. (It will redefine the scope of the tenor saxophone and Coltrane will admit to having dreams about trying to duplicate it.) If it succeeds in chasing a portion of the room into the street, the rest of us are riveted by it. And we are no less transfixed by what follows. Coming from an obvious rhythm and blues matrix, and reminiscent of the shouters and honkers of the ‘40s and ‘50s, what Albert proceeds to play—with suddenly shifting meters and no regard for tonal centers—isn’t a sequence of notes so much as an amalgam of sounds. Primal sounds. Ecstatic sounds. Achingly mournful sounds. Grotesque and funny sounds.

Albert’s intention, he’ll explain to me, is to reassert black music’s original function, to “conjure up holy spirits.” I can’t vouch for his success in that regard, but I can say that for me what he’s doing is equal in its emotional impact to the first time I heard Cecil.

And Cecil. When Albert begins to play, Cecil laughs and his posture changes noticeably. He’s recalibrating to accommodate Albert. Sunny and Jimmy respond in the same fashion. They embrace Albert and unite with him. Half an hour passes before the number he cut in on is completed.

Of the many gifted musicians who belonged to the New Thing’s second wave, Albert, an astronaut and an archeologist all at once, was the monster. The full range of his unique vision wasn’t revealed the night he sat in with Cecil, of course. But later, in bands of his own and with the pre-Louis Armstrong-through-Ornette Coleman spectrum of material he would utilize, Albert created a fascinating body of innovative work. Many of us took for granted that he’d be the next major force in the music.

In 1964, when I’d be living with “Pretty,” Albert came to the apartment several times to hang out and also to do an interview. The tape of that interview (and a tape of an interview with Betty Carter) was inside the Wollensak case when I was burglarized. I never got the chance to transcribe it.

Albert would die in 1970, apparently by his own hand. A year after that, in the process of moving to the West Village with Carolyn, I discovered a leather tie on the floor of the bedroom closet. It was caked in plaster dust, but I was able to make out the letters “AA” written in ink on the label. My first thought was, how the hell did this get here? Had Albert removed his tie while we talked and forgotten about it? Had “Pretty” found it and, for safekeeping, hung it in the closet where, forgotten by her as well, it had eventually been jostled from its hook? After a moment I realized that the circumstances behind the tie’s appearance in my closet were probably not so innocent—and I could smile about it now. When I met her, “Pretty” had already “balled” every living entry in the Encyclopedia of Jazz and cohabiting with me had in no way discouraged her from moving on to the supplementary volume. Why not Albert?

Speaking of girl singers, I should note that in the course of Cecil’s run a couple of remarkable vocalists, Jeanne Lee and Sheila Jordan, work opposite him from time to time. Another performer who turns up (making his debut, as I remember it) is Tiny Tim. “What the fuck is this?” two people at separate tables exclaim in unison when he launches into “Tiptoe Through the Tulips.”

I should also add that someone who doesn’t show is Ornette. Eventually Ornette and Cecil will be acknowledged as the dual progenitors of the New Music, but they’ve been competing for sole ownership of this distinction from the start and, declarations of mutual respect aside, they aren’t especially supportive of one another. Ornette, who’s the better known of the two, clearly wants to protect his advantage. A few days after the “Monk and Taylor” column I’m walking on 8th Street, head down against a driving rain, when my path is suddenly blocked. I look up and it’s Ornette.

“You must make a lot of money writing for that paper,” he says and brushes past me.

So much for the parties at Ornette’s loft.

(There’d been talk about Ornette and Cecil recording together since the late ‘50s, but nothing ever materialized. Around 2003, preparations for an album by them were actually underway when Ornette decided not to go ahead with the project.)

.

Just days before the gig will come to its conclusion, and determined to savor every last moment, I’m seated at a table right near the stage. The band has been “exchanging energies” for forty minutes. Each time the torrent of sound begins to ebb and you think, that’s it, they’re spent, they can’t possibly have anything left, an apparently tossed-off phrase, a single note, reignites the process and the music builds to even greater levels of intensity than it had reached before. (Buell Neidlinger, who’s here tonight, isn’t going along at this point. He’s stopped playing and he looks to be exhausted—or worse. Eyes closed, his glasses askew, his head is hanging over his bass at an alarmingly strange angle. Has he broken his neck?)

I’m facing straight ahead and totally absorbed in what’s taking place, when Jack Kerouac bounds onto the bandstand in front of me. Appearing to be in a…well…beatified condition, he twice, and very slowly, makes a circle around the entire group. Then he walks between and around each of the individual players. Finally he bends down and slides under the piano where, lying on his back, he folds his arms across his chest. At the end of the piece (some twenty minutes later), he emerges from beneath the piano and extends his hand to Cecil.

“I’m Jack Kerouac,” he says, “and I’m the greatest writer in the world.” A startled Cecil (who at first isn’t sure who this cat is and who’d apparently been unaware of his presence) recovers quickly. Accepting Kerouac’s hand he says: “I’m Cecil Taylor and I’m the greatest pianist in the world.”

Me, I’m thinking, Jesus, this is too much—it’s way past too much. And though it occurs to me to say to them: “I’m Robert Levin and I’m the greatest ‘person of artistic persuasion’ in the world,” that’s just a reflex. I’ve got, right now, no need to say anything—certainly nothing bitter. No. If reflected glory turns out to be the best kind I’ll get I’ll take it. Right now my simple proximity to this is enough to make me feel like I’ll live forever.

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25
Nov
08

When Pacino’s Hot reviews


FROM REVIEWS OF WHEN PACINO’S HOT, I’M HOT

by Bennett Lovett-Graff, New Haven Review

So who the hell is Robert Levin? Well, there’s always the Wikipedia article, where you can learn that he’s a jazz critic, a short story writer, and a writer of music liner notes. He seems to have had his heyday here and there—a critical article in the Village Voice about the 1963 March on Washington that drew a year’s worth of responses; a 2004 recipient of “storySouth Million Writers Award Notable Story.”

That story is the title of a collection of Levin’s writings, When Pacino’s Hot, I’m Hot: A Miscellany of Stories & Commentary. Dare I confess that I read this slim 90-page volume over the course of seven dog walks? (Yes, I can walk and read at the same time; I can also chew gum and type.) Let me add that it was one of my more pleasurable dogwalking experiences, which is otherwise a dreadful bore. The reason is simple: Levin is funny. Leaving aside the eponymous lead short story, itself a ribald tale of mistaken identity and the sexual pleasures that can derive therefrom, the miscellany and commentary are laugh-out-loud grotesques, some weirdly Dickensian in their exaggeration of the mundane, others Jamesian in their syntactically elaborate transformations of the bizarre into the clinical or poetic. Only examples will do. In his screed “Recycle This!” on a recycling notice asking residents “to sort and…rinse [their] garbage before leaving it out,” he writes: “So while I’ll allow that self-immolation would constitute a disproportionate form of protest, I have to say that reacting with less than indignation to so gratuitous an imposition would also be inappropriate.” That’s a fairly ornate response to a recycling notice. Like I said, pure Dickens.

Or consider “Peggie (or Sex with a Very Large Woman),” a story so wonderfully offensive that it would be impossible not to relish the absurd attempt to poeticize the physical challenges set before Levin’s narrator: “…Peggie’s particular body could have served as a Special Forces training ground for the field of hazards and challenges its presented. I’m speaking of the twisting climbs and sudden valleys, the crags, the craters and the amazing plenitude of gullies, ravines and bogs that I was, and on my hands and knees, obliged to negotiate and traverse in my search.” And don’t even ask what he was searching for. You can probably guess.

In some ways, Levin is at his best wringing every drop of qualification from a feeling or thought, an instance of rage or fear, often in one long but densely packed sentence. The bathos of the stories and of some of the miscellany—there are cantankerous whines about cashiers and their stupidity, smoking bans, HMOs, aging, the aforementioned recycling notices—is actually what makes it all worth the reading. Levin, in essence, gets more out of the mundane through an overwrought prose style that is utterly apropos to the sensibility behind it.

But there’s no substitute for the man himself, so let’s conclude with his thoughts on when one of God’s “natural wonders”—in this case a solar eclipse—fails to deliver the goods: “I’ll allow that, however disappointing it may be, it’s ultimately of small consequence when He mounts a shoddy eclipse. But it’s something else again when, for one especially egregious example, He leaves you to blow out all your circuits trying to figure just where a mindless inferno of neuroticism like Mia Farrow fits into the notion that everyone’s here for a reason.” Consider my own circuits blown.

•••
by Darran Anderson, 3AM Magazine

“When Pacino’s Hot, I’m Hot,” an hilarious tale of sexual disaster and delusion.

***
by Nancy Freund, Necessary Fiction

The titular Pacino story is comic genius—satire at its best. Like Swift’s A Modest Proposal, there is no back-peddling or apology—it takes its suggestion to the nth degree and leaves the reader reeling in the joyful discovery of the author’s tongue-in-cheek. Pacino delivers self-deprecation and humor that packs a punch. No wonder that [it] was a storySouth Million Writers Award Notable Story of 2004. In fact, the collection is worth owning just for the joy of reading those first delicious Pacino pages.

This is a story of repeated mistaken identity—sometimes Levin’s character is Dustin Hoffman, sometimes Leonard Cohen, sometimes Al Pacino. The women love him, or the famous man they believe him to be. Sadly, taking the goggle-eyed women home to his place is problematic:

    Now before I go on I should point out that my place isn’t exactly a showplace. It suits my budget, but it’s in an old Lower East Side building where the facilities aren’t in their conventional locations. (We’re talking bathtub in the living room, toilet in the kitchen, that sort of thing.) Plus, I share the joint with several legions of cockroaches, an ever-extending family of rodents and an apparently unprecedented and aerodynamic hybrid of the two. (The biologists who’ve come from everywhere to investigate this phenomenon always leave with very concerned expressions on their faces.)

But the fact remains, a woman wants this fellow’s attention, and he’s learned the hard way that correcting her mistake only leads to heartache, sometimes worse.

    I’ve given the matter a great deal of thought and I’ll explain this just once. The women I attract are not what you’d call off the top shelf. Though they all qualify as women in the technical sense, are all, that is, in possession of the crucial anatomical components (which, more often than not, are in something like a normal configuration), they are not exactly achingly beautiful, beaming with mental health or candidates for a Star Fleet Academy scholarship. In fact, and without exception, they are pretty desperate people, sick puppies and three-legged cat types. Many of them suffer horrendous hygiene problems and are also myopic to the point of posing a serious threat to themselves. They are usually very drunk as well. Given their condition the service I provide them is every bit as valuable as what they do for me.

The story delivers sublime images, dialogue and descriptions, and a charming little love story too.

    A sparrow of a girl, no more than four-foot-ten and alarmingly skinny, Roger had thick black hair that, falling over most of her face, also fell nearly to the floor. The first time I saw her, from the other end of a long and crowded bar, I thought she was a half-opened umbrella standing on its handle.

The Drill Press must be congratulated for creating the vehicle by which to get Levin’s Pacino story on the road. How often does one encounter undiluted intelligent foolishness and tears of laughter?

***

by Rachel Kendall, Sein und Werden

“Stupidity is among the most effective means available to reduce existential terror to a tolerable disquietude.”

Robert Levin’s collection of short stories and commentary had me laughing out loud with its societal quips and lashes. I had published a story of Levin’s previously in Sein und Werden. “Dog Days” is about a man who is caught in flagrante delicto with his girlfriend’s dog. So I kind of knew what to expect with these stories. Yes it’s bawdy. It might be toilet humour. But it’s very intelligent and it spares no one. It takes the piss out of society.

“‘Sylvia,’ Helen said, ‘why are we talking about your ass now? You know your ass isn’t the issue… I told you what it is; it’s your ankles. They’ve started to make me cross. I can’t help it.'”

Mostly it takes the piss out of its own protagonist.

“A subversive I may be, but I’ve never been of the militant variety. When the SDS was blowing up banks in the early ’70s, I was expressing my displeasure with the establishment by intentionally omitting zip codes—that’ll jam their gears!”

I enjoyed the stories. But I loved the essays. Levin has written for Rolling Stone. He’s written for the Village Voice. He knows about music. He’s co-written two books on jazz. He’s also slightly bitter. A little bit twisted. Someone I can relate to. He talks about sex and death, ie, fear of the unknown, fear of dying without having really lived, fear of pain and terror. He has something to say on the subject of non-smokers: “Like you I’m dealing with an out-sized fear of dying,” where the smoker seizes control of his ultimate cut-off point by taking the risk of cancer out of the hands of death and into his own nicotine-stained fingers,

people who recycle:

“These people are coming from the secret hope that if they suck up to nature by not wasting any of it—and get the rest of us to follow suit—nature will return the favor and arrange to perpetuate their existence in some other package once their current status expires.”

and general stupidity…

“Let me hasten to say that I value stupidity as much as the next man. I do. Stupidity is, after all, one of the best solutions we’ve come up with to the problem of being mortal.”

This is a brilliantly entertaining book, which will have you nodding in agreement whilst feeling slightly guilty for laughing so hard. To conclude this short review, I’ll let the author himself say a few words:

“I wish I could make my cat laugh.”

* * *

by Nathan Tyree, Bookmunch

Terrific new collection blazes a trail on to the Bookmunch “must-read” list…

I had not heard of Robert Levin before When Pacino’s Hot, I’m Hot arrived in the mail. I’m not really sure how I had missed him. Much of his work has appeared in publications that I sometimes read, and yet he had slipped completely beneath my radar. That fact is something of a shame.

When Pacino’s Hot, I’m Hot is a slim volume, split about in half. The first forty or so pages are devoted to Levin’s short stories, the second forty or so made up of his commentary. It is the first half of the book that interested me most.

Levin writes rude, bawdy, strange, idiosyncratic tales. His characters are obsessed with sex and with themselves. They tend to be losers and bores (but are never boring). Levin crafts stories often in the first person, with a raw wit and free Id. There is a discomfort (with life, existence, sexuality, the body) that bleeds out of his characters. These are not the strong, sleek, beautiful protagonists that hang about so much of today’s fiction. These characters owe something to Bukowski and Burroughs.

All of the tales that make up this book deserve some level of mention, but a few truly stand out. “Dog Days” is disturbing. “Peggie (or Sex with a Very Large Woman)” is hilarious. I found myself putting the book aside while reading that story, to compose myself and let the laughter trail off so that I could finish reading it. “Spinning the Wheel of the Quivering Meat Conception” has one of the best titles I have seen in years…

The title story is most deserving of discussion. “When Pacino’s Hot, I’m Hot” is a fascinating and nasty tale. It follows an unattractive man. He describes himself thus: “Just under average height, more skinny than slim, and with long, usually unkempt hair hanging over my ears and forehead and down the scruff of my neck, I also have heavily lidded eyes, sunken cheeks and a pallor that’s cadaverous.”

Reading that self description, one may be surprised that our narrator “Gets his pipes cleaned” all the time by a variety of women.

His secret is that a certain type of woman will mistake him for Al Pacino, or Dustin Hoffman, or Bob Dylan, or some other celebrity that doesn’t meet the standard of beauty in the modern world. We are presented with a holy litany of the times he’s been laid due to mistaken identity.

Eventually he falls into a relationship of sorts. He begins living with a girl who has no idea who it is she is sleeping with each night. This girl has the improbable name of Roger (her father had wanted a boy). She is one of the strangest characters I have ever read about. Something in her reminds one of Anthony Burgess’ Enderby. She is flatulent and sort of disgusting in her habits. This girl is a fountain of malapropism, mixed (or twisted) metaphor and strange construction. When excited she is “excruciated”. She wonders why strangers don’t “notarize” her boyfriend (who she initially believes to be Dustin Hoffman) on the street.

The two of them make a strange pair in extremis. It is, in its own way, a sad tale. We know from the start that it can’t end well, and of course it doesn’t. Along the way we are given some of the best characters to appear in a long time.

Any Cop? I’m tempted to call Levin a sick comedian, but how then to account for the pathos and the genuine sadness that permeates these stories? How to account for the fact that I am about to set aside several other books so that I can read this one again?

* * *

by Casey Quinn, Short Story Library

Robert Levin has three things going for him. One, he is extremely intelligent. Two, he has complete control of the English language and makes the most of it. Three, [he] has an unusual sense of humor. The combination of intelligent humor and witty storytelling is effective and the result of it is the collection of short stories and essays entitled, When Pacino’s Hot, I’m Hot.

* * *

by Jim Chaffee, author of Sao Paulo Blues

When Pacino’s Hot, I’m Hot is perceptive commentary on contemporary US society. It is also funny as hell, something that the US would be were it not such an overbearing juggernaut. Clearly juggernaut is what the people of the US want from their government, though they seem unhappy about paying for it either with their taxes or their offspring. How long a society given to such fantasia can continue in its present state is anyone’s guess; certainly its collapse will not be funny in local time. For those living in it now, local time may as well be global time. Interesting time.

Levin’s story is set in the new America where everybody’s somebody. Mundane superheros of the big screen or concert stage, usually as dull-witted as the rest of the class and easily as boring, victims of luck, but everyone wants to be one. Easily fixed, however, by parents bearing geniuses, every one of them, or else austistics if not performing at genius standard. An entire generation so smart and talented they need never work at anything (interesting they are not all natural athletes, but perhaps athletic gifts are rarer than intellectual creativity or musical ability or other such trivialities). Born hucksters, brought up on self-delusion, expect more from them: more tulip mania, juvenile writing, mawkish acting and hideous music among other more serious catastrophes as these born masters take the stage after bypassing the tedium of learning, study, reading and of course, thinking, opting instead for video games and non-stop guitar whining, certainly education enough in the brave new world that the US has become.

Enjoy the ride. Levin has the ability to make such horror both telling and hilarious. That is a rare gift indeed. To cadge an almost forgotten liner note written of Pee Wee Russell’s performance with Thelonious Monk at Newport, When Pacino’s Hot, I’m Hot is a funny snapshot blinking out from the belly of the juggernaut.

***

by Gabriel Ricard, Unlikely Blog

One of the unfortunate things about books written by comedians is that they very rarely offer anything new to the longtime fan. Exceptions to the rule exist, of course. Lewis Black wrote two excellent books consisting of mostly new material. Steve Martin has written a couple of decent novellas. The majority though are just old jokes rehashed into book form. The bits suffer in the medium because the voice and timing are gone. What’s left is just a transcript of barebones comedy, and that’s very rarely funny.

I only mention this because these thoughts occurred to me as I was reading Robert Levin’s stunning collection, When Pacino’s Hot, I’m Hot. Every piece in the book is a wonder of talent, humor and tone flawlessly manipulated to tell the story at hand. It was in the title piece itself that I found myself wishing Robert Levin was a comedian by trade. In that story and others I wanted there to be a way in which I could see Levin perform these stories. That’s how strong the voice is in this book. Most of the pieces in the book, especially the hysterical “Get Your Face out Of My Cigarette” and the dry ingenuity of “Redefining Insurance Fraud” are written in a form that’s somewhere between casual, occasionally strange conversation and pure rant. Some of it is fictional and some of it is taken from Levin’s own opinions and grievances. It doesn’t really matter one way or the other. They’re all a pleasure of some kind. They all come from the mind of a man who shows nothing less than flawless confidence in his style.

Confidence is critical in anything that’s meant to amuse, frighten, inform or some combination of those three. Any comedian or performer worth a damn will put self-belief at the top of the essentials list. That’s why Levin should be out there in the world to bring these pieces to life on stage. He brings that confidence to his work on such an outstanding level. You would almost swear that he sweated these stories and opinions through before the brutal graces of a live audience. The best of When Pacino’s Hot, I’m Hot evokes the spirit and memory of the truly great comedy writers. It’s not surprising that Woody Allen’s name comes up on the back in the book. Levin is probably not Woody’s adopted son, but it wouldn’t be too surprising if Levin has read some or all of Allen’s literary endeavors. The two are by no means identical, but there’s definitely a penchant on Levin’s part for presenting the incongruous as though it’s everyday weather. That doesn’t make the writing dull. It also doesn’t apply to all of them, but the ones that do read like that have clearly taken a page from guys like Allen. Levin goes about the approach in his own way, but the influence is clearly there. Rather than steal from his influences Levin instead uses them to give extra dimension to his own individuality. That’s another mark of a good comedic writer.

When Pacino’s Hot, I’m Hot isn’t all comedy though. Another stand-out write from the book is the last one, a captivating essay on the jazz revolution of the 1960’s. It’s a little different from the rest of the stories, but it’s no less a great piece of writing. The basic talents of Levin remain in place. He knows what he wants to say, he knows how best to say it, and he has nothing but unflinching coolness in his ability to get us interested. “Free Jazz: The Jazz Revolution of The 60’s” proves that Levin is able to apply these skills to any form of writing he chooses. It just happens to be lucky for us that he seems to prefer comedy. We need humorists like him more than ever. He may not be showing up on Letterman anytime soon, but that’s okay. This book and Levin himself as a writer are just perfect the way they are.

***

by Books Are Pretty

“Spinning the Wheel of the Quivering Meat Conception”—great title, by the way—[is] how you write a story. “Spinning” focuses on male anxiety regarding conception, again asking the age-old questions both men and women ask themselves, “Am I ready?” “Is this really what I want?” “Is my sex life going to be ruined?” These questions grow heavier in the nebbish-y Steve’s mind, and at last his nerves are shot, resulting in a total inability to perform. This continues unabated until his wife, Connie, creatively solves the problem by making the night of conception a night to remember by being unspeakably filthy. The yin and yang between the two, her strength when his is lost, his caution when she is reckless, form a perfect circle on which new life can begin.

…”Spinning” made for a good lead-in to Levin’s essays, which made up the second half of the book.

[Levin’s] theories regarding the ways religion and politics are used to ward off the fear of death have a strong ring of originality and genuine passion… “Recycle This!” where he describes his aggravation with recycling and the absurdity of washing one’s garbage, is a must-read. Also essential reading is Levin’s 2003 essay “Redefining Insurance Fraud,” where Levin battles insurance companies.

“…most of the 45 million-plus Americans who go without insurance because they can’t afford the premiums oppose the alternative of a not-for-profit system. It apparently hasn’t occurred to them that there’d be no significant risk to capitalism in this solution. We’ve already got “socialized” institutions in this country—fire departments, for example—that hardly infringe on our freedom to take advantage of one another. A few more would still leave us with plenty of opportunities to exploit our fellow man.

“(And speaking of a not-for-profit health care system, does anyone seriously think that dealing with a government bureaucracy would somehow be more brutal than dealing with Aetna, Prudential, or Oxford?)”

Well, yeah. That’s pretty much it.

When Levin’s Hot, He’s Hot…

***

by Armchair Interviews

This book is a little oddity–half what the writer call “stories” and half what he calls “commentary,” something like essays and editorials.

Most of the stories relate hilarious encounters in sex, from his contention that when some male movie stars are considered “hot,” he is mistaken for them and gets lucky, to things like “Peggie: (or Sex with a Very Large Woman;”) and did we mention impotence and bestiality? (Yup, more sex.)

The commentary essays run the gamut from “Stupidity: Its Uses and Abuses,” quite funny, to a serious and weighty piece on “Free Jazz” and the death of the Sixties. Levin writes in a nervous and chatty style, albeit a very funny one. But underneath his hip humor he has a very dark outlook on life: we’re all going to die, anyway, and culture is our coping mechanism. (Check out “Everything’s All Eight in the Middle East” and “Get Your Face out of My Cigarette!”) My favorites were “Arena” and “Redefining Insurance Fraud,” which are written the way a smart, savvy columnist would write them, to get his point across.

He is the author and coauthor of a couple of serious books: Music & Politics and Giants of Black Music, with numerous published pieces in magazines—from which some of these are drawn.

Armchair Interviews says: Fun and funny read.

* * *

by Ócháni Lele, Majestic/Lit.org

…“All right,” Robert Levin writes, “maybe my book fell a hair or two short of greatness, and for sure, it hadn’t sold very well – even my parents, went my standard joke, waited until it was remaindered to buy their copy. Still, my book had made it onto a library shelf. A library shelf!”

That was the first passage I read in Robert Levin’s collection of stories and essays as I sat there, sipping a diet coke and flipping mindlessly through the pages of this slim volume. The story was titled, “The Author,” and being an author myself, I’d found a point where I could begin connecting with his work. I was hooked. Cautiously, I let myself giggle a little, but soon I was so engrossed in the humor and political incorrectness of the book that I blew soda out of my nose. Seriously!

In the space of 91 pages, Levin examines, dissects, desiccates, and illuminates everything from love, sex, smoking, conception, mistaken identity, art, writing, and politics; and he does it through a bevy of characters conjured from his own life-experience. More important, he does it all with a wry sense of humor and an eloquence of language that can only be described as masterful.

To be honest, Levin hasn’t written a “book” in the classical sense of the word; he’s written a feverishly funny exploration of his own life and social/political views, tying it all together with the title of his opening story, “When Pacino’s Hot, I’m Hot.”

In truth, Pacino has gotten cold in his old age, and I doubt he’ll ever be at the top of his game again, but Levin is hot with his writing. Spend ten bucks on this amazingly humorous read. It will provide you with an enjoyable evening of laughter and wit.

•••

by Midwest Book Review

5 out of 5 stars. About a dozen funny bone poking short stories and commentaries

From pondering about the universe itself to poop jokes—this is the range of humor that author Robert Levin brings in his short story collection, When Pacino’s Hot, I’m Hot: A Miscellany of Stories & Commentary. With about a dozen funny bone poking short stories and commentaries, Levin looks at the world from the way it should be looked at—with an eye that cannot take anything too seriously. When Pacino’s Hot, I’m Hot: A Miscellany of Stories & Commentary, is highly recommended for community library short story collections with a focus on humor and for short story enthusiasts in general.

* * *

by Natalie Wood, Perfectly Write

…All of which brings me to the crazy world of American short story writer and essayist, Robert Levin, whose excruciatingly funny tales and waspish views—interlaced with often unbearably sad meanderings—are as rich, raw, dirty as anything published.

Levin, a jazz journalist, is shackled in a deep, dank, noisome internal cave and diaries his endless struggle for the top with a sort of non-stop yowling reminiscent of a lone wolf baying at the moon. When it is less than first class (some of the essays are imperfect), the stream of consciousness reads less as soliloquy than verbal self-abuse. But at its best, its silvery top notes and sombre cadences reminiscent of the ‘free jazz’ improvisations he holds so dear, this collection of short stories and commentaries—headlined by the laugh-out-loud “When Pacino’s Hot, I’m Hot,” whose anti-hero is a cross between Woody Allen and Stanley Unwin—is music.

* * *

by J. Kaval, Katha Kshetre (India)

…An American would love to read this book. A British may frown upon the content, an Indian may replace it on the shelf after having read a page or two…because the book does not entice his/her curiosity.

We appreciate the book for it’s author’s versatility and verbosity displayed in his rather humorous stories and essays. The language and the style of narrating are superb. The book is a holy handmaid for travelers both in air and on rail.

***

For Levin’s tongue-in-cheek response to a not so favorable review see “To My Fans: The Author Addresses His Base,” which originally appeared on the now defunct Beat website.

To My Fans: The Author Addresses His Base

by Robert Levin

“Puerile, sex-obsessed…at times a misogynist, at times a bestiality apologizer…Levin, a sexagenarian, sounds like a moronic twenty-something who’s had a few too many and is trying to pick up chicks by throwing SAT vocab randomly into his sentences…What kind of people would want to read this?” – Sara Plourde in her review of When Pacino’s Hot, I’m Hot: A Miscellany of Stories & Commentary (The Drill Press), on the GoodReads web site.

I’d like, first of all, to say how moved I am by the vast quantity of mail you’ve sent me expressing your outrage over the not so favorable review I recently received for my collection of fiction and essays, When Pacino’s Hot, I’m Hot. Your rush to console me and to defend the book, which I know that many of you are modeling your lives on (and which is available online from Barnes & Noble for the ridiculously low price of $15), has so warmed my heart as to affect my very chemistry. My breath has never been sweeter.

And it’s not just your loyalty that’s impressed me, but the depth and succinctness of the comments you’ve made. “This REVUE is fukkedup!!,” for example, is a marvel of concision and implicitly speaks of an exceptional literary acumen. (Thank you, “Deek from People’s Creek.” And sure, I’d be happy to take a look at that pamphlet of quatrains you’ve just completed.)

Yes, this review – written, it turns out, by a recently graduated English major! – is an execrable thing. I mean I’ll readily concede that my stuff is susceptible to criticism. I have, indeed, used words William Buckley found it necessary to look up. Plus, I’m not only capable of dangling a participle, and of taking immense pleasure in watching it writhe in terror, I can do it twice in the same sentence. That said, however, the degree to which I’ve been misrepresented in the review is astonishing. Bestiality rescued my sex life. It would never occur to me to apologize for it.

(Okay, I was making a little joke there. Bestiality’s not my bowl of Jack Daniels – no, that one time in college doesn’t count. It doesn’t. And the story, “Dog Days,” which the reviewer is obviously referencing, isn’t really about bestiality, as any discerning reader would recognize. It’s not, let me hasten to add, that I’ve got something against bestiality. Hardly. I agree with our own “NatureBoy in Schenectady” – whose memoir/self-help manual, How To Win Your Girlfriend Back After You’ve Fucked Her Ferret, I very much admire – that speciesism has no place in the twenty-first century. Nice job, NB.)

Outraged, as I say, by this Plourde person’s mindless denigration of my book (not to mention that unforgivable knock on your character and intelligence), a lot of you are calling for retaliation. “#6728351 from San Quentin” suggests that a woman with the temerity to write a book review despite a “glaring lack of reading comprehension skills” may “need some killing.” And his offer to “take care of this matter” for me upon his release is, on its surface, very generous. But you know as well as I do, #6728351, that you’re not getting out. You’re never getting out. We’ve been through this before – once when you learned that the scurvy mattress back I married ran off with another guy and twice after that when you heard that the second and third scurvy mattress backs I married ran off with other guys. Your getting out is a fantasy, man. So I’d appreciate it if you’d refrain from jerking me around.

In any case, and as egregious as the violation is, retaliation could not be farther from my thoughts.

Do I need to point out that the metaphysical meditations included in the book prompted the Jersey City Journal of Philosophic Inquiry to remark, “As opaque and incomprehensible as it gets”? (Which says something good about the depth of my intellection, right?) Would an author of my caliber allow his chain to get yanked by the reflexive reaction of an apparent animal rights freak, who’s evidently coming from that whacko women’s liberation thing as well? (I’m speaking, in the latter case, of the “misogynist” accusation that was presumably sparked by the story, “Sex With A Very Large Woman” – a story in which I was only trying to have some fun.) Yes, it’s certainly true that this tone deaf ignoramus has committed a grave injustice, not just to you and yours truly but also to her readers. From now on these folks will picture a puddle of something green and viscous should they think of When Pacino’s Hot, I’m Hot (which can also be purchased from Amazon.com, where it’s eligible for Super-Saver Shipping). Still – what’s a few missed sales? – there’s no way on earth that I’d stoop to avenge her inane remarks.

For instance: I would never publicly suggest that, projecting her own propensities on to me (propensities she’s clearly riddled with guilt about), it’s Sara Plourde who’s using her writing to “pick up chicks.” (Jesus. You can tell what her obsession is just from the swagger of her syntax, which practically reeks of Old Spice.) Nor would I openly posit the theory that her review is nothing more than a pus discharge; that Sara Plourde, who could stand to lose a few pounds (her prose style also gives this away), saw a resemblance to her own body in that “Large Woman” story and, in a fit of pique that overwhelmed any capacity she might have to be objective, squeezed her lingering adolescent pimples all over her keyboard.

No. As you can see, I’m handling this review with the maturity, grace and dignity that you’d expect from a man of my stature.

Now I know you guys. I know my fans. For my own protection I read the paper that team of psychopathologists did on you last year very carefully. I know that you have as much control over your emotions as I have over my bladder. I know about that very destructive fire several of you set in your anger management class and about that thing in Rochester too. (I also know – I have no idea what it means, but I find it disquieting – that a disproportionate number of you play the tuba.) So I’m fully aware that my taking the high road in this situation is unlikely to dissuade you from doing something weird. Inasmuch as you’re going to do what you’ve got to do, all I’ll ask is that you deny any knowledge of my whereabouts and pay your own attorney’s fees this time. (I’m speaking directly to you here, “HermaphroditeWannaBe.” And by the way, Hermph, congratulations on finally succeeding in going down on yourself. We’re all pulling for you to get out of traction as quickly as possible.)

Let me see now…I wanted to bring up something else while I had everyone together, but I can’t remember what it was. Oh yeah: What the hell happened to the recruitment drive? Did I make a mistake putting “Peckerhead” in charge of the Fan Club? Did the junior high schools finally dry up? Five new fans a month at the measly dues we’re charging is bullshit. Fifty would be more like it. Fifty should be the goal. Get me fifty and you’ll make me even prouder of you than I already am.

 

When Pacino’s Hot, I’m Hot is available from Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble as a paperback and as a Kindle and a NOOK Book.

See also, Against Mental Health: Short Stories (Cyberwit)thumb_1600106808.jpg, available from Amazon.com and which incorporates several stories not included in When Pacino’s Hot, I’m Hot.




Writings & Miscellaneous

Books by Robert Levin

When Pacino’s Hot, I’m Hot
The Drill Press LLC
Reviews

Against Mental Health: Short Stories

Cyberwit

“A writer of talent and intelligence.” — Irving Louis Horowitz

“Distinguished quality…profound emotion.” —Dr. Karunesh Kumar Agrawal

“Some real gold in here.”—B.D. Charles

 

Music & Politics
by John Sinclair and Robert Levin
World Publishing

“Robert Levin’s articles…make up the second half of Music and Politics, and they’re something else again. He’s a quietly briliant writer (not flashy but subtly dazzling) who knows jazz extremely well and who knows how to let us know what he knows. His piece on Sunny Murray says more about the birth of the New Jazz than most writers could say in a volume; the Anthony Braxton interview is one of the freshest, most reassuring articles on the future of music (of the arts in general) that I’ve read; his ‘found critique’ of ‘Space’ by the MJQ, which contrasts Murray’s thoughts on music at the White House with President Nixon’s introduction of the MJQ in that very place, is brilliant; his piece on the unfortunate evolution of Willis Jackson…is a minor masterpiece; and he’s lucid and painful and thoroughly correct when he writes that ‘What is meant by ‘every man has his price’ is that every man has his uncertainty about the validity and sanity of his perception of the truth. To ‘sell out’ is to capitulate to that uncertainty.'”
—Colman Andrews, Creem

giants
Giants of Black Music
Edited by Pauline Rivelli and Robert Levin, with a foreword by Nat Hentoff
Da Capo Press

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