The Brooklyn Rail

SEPT 2013

All Issues
SEPT 2013 Issue


The crow flies out of its skull

—Janet Hamill

I am recovering from activist withdrawal

—Jokie X. Wilson

I recently wrote that I’d never go to IHOP again. But one night (more like 2 a.m.) after getting back from the Vision Festival, Yuko and I got hungry. The only thing open besides McDonald’s was the IHOP next door. The overpriced burgers sucked, and were served only one way—well done. However, I got a receipt for a free short stack, and I’m sitting here writing this while waiting for it to arrive. I just got done seeing Sing Me the Songs That Say I Love You, the concert film about Kate McGarrigle, someone I never paid much attention to. She sure wrote pretty songs, and I’m sorry she left us so soon, but the film was soppy and over-sentimental. Don’t get me wrong—I totally understand the reasons for Rufus Wainwright crying every time he spoke. Everyone’s singing was generically lovely. The film was produced by Wim Wenders and directed by Lian Lunson, the guy who directed the documentary Leonard Cohen: I’m Your Man. If you’re a fan of Kate, go see it if it’s still around, and bring a hanky.

“...Van Dyke Parks, and ghosts.” Illustration by Megan Piontkowski.

Nicole Peyrafitte’s Bi-Valve: Vulvic Space (Stockport Flats Press),book and CD, in French and English, with paintings by Peyrafitte, goes beyond Gustave Corbet’s “Origin of the World” and into Peyrafitte’s “The Pearl of The Caves.” Though most prefer their cunnilingus behind closed doors, Peyrafitte has dispelled all puritanical notions by bringing the myth out of the bedroom and into the open, revealing the source musically, visually, and verbally. She mixes languages and cultures in a perfect concoction, with longtime collaborator Michael Bisio on bass, giving us a wide range of color and mood centering around the volcanic “expansive motions” of the vulva. We see the sounds. Taste the colors. Hear the entire canvas explode—sound poems and ground poems with the perception of “here and now.Bi-Valve is about receiving, so prepare yourself to enter an ex/centric “vulvic” world. Cross the lake to “The Gallery of Marvels,” with Bisio at the helm always guiding the rudder with his strong comforting pulse. Give yourself up to “the harmony of the vulvic universe.

David Lawton’s sharp blue stream (Three Rooms Press) is tough, tender, and above all giving in its spirit. It’s filled with loving homage from Iggy and the Stooges to the Three Stooges, Charles Bukowski, Sonny Rollins, Alberta Hunter, John Sinclair, Van Dyke Parks, and ghosts. One senses at a glance that Lawton’s poems are lived by their author and that their subjects, including his waitress, are deeply loved and respected. “It’s so easy to fall in love/With the waitress/Especially when she gives you/Good service.”

Jeff Wright’s book of sonnets, Triple Crown (Spuyten Duyvil), replete with Wright’s collages, offers us a panoramic peek into the sometimes-hyper brain of a mad poet. Though the book relies heavily on Wright’s “dialogues” with Emily Brontë, we are given glimpses of “zombie vultures,” “phantom grafters,” and “infinity suckers”—friends and enemies alike. Wright pulls no punches when exposing those he feels have done him wrong. His poems are filled with music as he references folks like Johnny Nash or “Orpheus…his lyre reeling down stars.” And when Wright sings “Come on down to my boat, baby,” you know you are in for a time, good or bad yet always exhilarating.

John Zorn’s 60th birthday sped through summer with concerts at MoMA, (le) Poisson Rouge, the Guggenheim, Alice Tully Hall, and NYU. The celebrations continue through September at Anthology Film Archives, Miller Theater, and the Metropolitan Museum.

I finally got to hear an entire Jim Hall set at the Jazz Standard. It surpassed my dreams and proved to be one of the most mature sets I’ve ever heard both aesthetically and musically. Hall, now in his 80s, seemed to be mostly a down-picker, unlike Derek Bailey, who I always considered an up-picker. Though completely different in their approach, I kept thinking of Bailey with every stroke Hall took, and felt it to be an odd but plausible connection in both timbre and thoughtfulness. In a piece he described as “free” he made his guitar sound like a steel drum. About the piece, he stated, “This doesn’t mean we don’t get paid. It means the form is open as music should be. If we’re not back in three days call the cops.” And though not the kind of “free” I am used to, it was open, melodic, quiet, and well placed. He and his trio breezed through standards and originals, and when he played one original called “Careful” he stated, “I call it that because I’m bound to make mistakes while playing it.” The set ended with Sonny Rollins’s “St. Thomas,” Hall stating that he wasn’t sure if Sonny actually wrote it, and that if Sonny had received an award at the Kennedy Center things must be improving.

Other trio sets that floored me recently were Ingrid Laubrock’s Sleepthief at Spectrum, where she played circular and circuitous breathing on soprano the likes of which I’ve never heard, and the Ches Smith Trio at the Cornelia Street Café with Craig Taborn and Matt Maneri, where the ever-eclectic Smith sounded like a cross between Randy Peterson and Tony Oxley. Whenever Taborn sustained what seemed like endless repetitive phrases, the strength, textures, and colors of sound the others layered on top of them kept me engrossed and enrapt.

One recent evening, after a long day hanging out with the Unbearables, I was tired and just wanted to enjoy some music. The temperature was going on its fifth day of 90-plus. Eyes closed, relaxed, listening to the septet in a packed café cleanly playing well-composed “jazz” tunes I thought, “Why do people listen to this music—any music?” I couldn’t come up with an answer so I just leaned back in my chair and enjoyed. Was it perhaps similar to what Janet Hamill stated in one of her lush poems—“Listen for the oncoming storm and extend an open hand to the peaceful rain”?

The next equally hot afternoon, on the corner of Broadway and Houston, a gorgeous young woman wearing headphones and a big smile declared to the guy next to her as she danced about, “I can’t help it. I just love music.” So that must be the answer I imagined. As Jeff Wright so aptly puts it, “The way out is the way in.”

I dedicate this piece to the late Trayvon Martin. Sadly, once again justice has not been served.

    Editor’s Note: In my last column it was stated that Clark Coolidge was a drummer. He is in fact a poet who plays the drums. His latest recorded effort in this role is a CD to soon be released with Thurston Moore and Anne Waldman.


The Brooklyn Rail

SEPT 2013

All Issues