Sunday, June 16, 2019

Approaching solstice


Here are some things I’ve been looking at lately:

“On a dusty side street not far from the Romeo y Julieta tobacco factory, in a gallery marked only by its open front door, a photo exhibit proposes a different approach, and its impossible gesture of erasure and revelation was one of the defining moments of the 2019 Bienal. No artist’s name was visible, but one of the walls bore a title: Un día feliz (“A Happy Day”). A large dog sits next to a caned rocking chair. Krushchev stands with a dead duck in his hands, another dead duck suspended in mid-air next to him. A baseball flies towards a batter from an empty pitcher’s mound. And in what seems a tacit salute to Antonia Eiriz’s Naturaleza muerta, one of the gallery walls is hung with photos of podiums, decades of podiums, some with gigantic crowds beneath, one bearing the VE RI TAS seal of Harvard University, many with photographers who aim their lenses at a point behind the microphones where no one stands.


Reynier Leyva Novo, the fertile-minded young artist who created the series—other photos in it are displayed at El Apartamento, with his name attached—has digitally altered iconic images by Lee Lockwood, Alberto Korda, and others, to eliminate Fidel Castro, or, you might say, to de-platform him. What’s left is a blank wall cross-hatched with dappled sunlight, an empty field with low mountains in the distance, the open ocean. And also, maybe, air to breathe, space for the imagination, silence to hear yourself think: a future...”  

Esther Allen


Jay-Z


Anna Journey





Friday, June 7, 2019

Brenda Coultas, Basho, Murray Kempton re Duke Ellington

I’m with Brenda Coultas when she writes:

Yo followers
Yo quilters
Yo pushcarts
Yo peddlers
Yo panhandlers
Yo homeboys
Yo in the dress
Yo on the blades
Yo in the squats
Yo in subway
Please join my astral revolution.


Basho: “The journey itself becomes home.” 



By Murray Kempton:

Duke Ellington had been playing the morning show at the old Apollo Theater in the charming but scarcely august company of the Temptations, Pigmeat Markham, and a balloon dancer. He was in the Apollo Star Dressing Room, a premise almost squalid in its modesty.
“Eddie,” another visitor said, “you are the greatest composer of the twentieth century.” Ellington delicately raised an eyebrow, on unspoken behalf of Stravinsky. “And here you are,” she finished, “working the morning show at the Apollo.”
And Ellington replied, “Maely, that is a complaint that I long ago decided had no future.”
Great composer? Forget it. Beside the point. Say only a composer who was one with Bach and Mozart, because none could write without having in mind the particular horn or voice he was writing for. Bach adjusted the aria to the resources of the soprano, and the soprano gave something of herself back to Bach.
Ellington could not have been a composer without his band. One day Cootie Williams idled a phrase and Ellington heard what the horn had found even before the horn did. That phrase became “Concerto for Cootie,” one of sacred music’s grander statements in its original form and later transmuted for secular triumph as “Do Nothing Till You Hear from Me.”
Once he signed on Ben Webster, the tenor saxophonist and the least pleasant of companions for anybody’s road. Webster objected that it would be too much trouble for him to learn the Ellington book. Ellington answered that he didn’t have to; he could just sit in the ensemble and play “I Got Rhythm” until something came to him. Something did. It was “Cottontail.” And it was from just such inspirational occasions that Duke Ellington drew the lesson that there could be no future in complaints about working the morning show at the Apollo. It was a Parnassus next to some of the precincts he endured just to keep the band booked and paid night after night for the sustenance not of his purse but of his soul.