Sunday, October 12, 2014

Heard of Grant Green? No, nor had I until I heard him play. And in case you haven’t yet come across them: Boardwalk Empire and Ray Donovan, the best since The Sopranos

This is where I come clean: I am a bullshitter. There, I’ve said it, though it’s not perhaps as you imagined it to be. To be honest, I’m not much more a bullshitter than the rest of you except out there, that I am, perhaps stupid enough/have the good grace - delete as applicable - to admit it. And here’s how I decided to tell you or - in the speak of our glorious red tops (US: gutter press, but don’t get quite so high and mighty about your imagined elevated description) - come clean.

First off, I like jazz, and as I get older, I like jazz even more. I have not idea why. While I am writing this, jazz has been playing on my laptop and I happened to ask my wife, who was in here in the kitchen washing up, do you like this. She, unequivocally - and, to be honest, few women can be quite as unequivocal as my wife - told me, no. I asked why. She said ‘it all sounds the same’.

Well, no, it doesn’t. But then I like jazz and she doesn’t, and trying to persuade someone that jazz isn’t necessarily just the mish-mash of total bollocks they think it is is rather harder than persuading a five-year-old that garlic isn’t all that bad, come on, it’s OK, just give it a chance (you tiny little bastard). Then there are those jazzers I like.

The great thing about jazz is that, magically and unlike music in other genre, you simply don’t ever come across any jazz musician you’ve never heard of and decide ‘I don’t like him’. Coming across a new musician you’ve never heard of invariably means that the body of stuff you like gets ever larger. Well, at least that’s the case with me.

Because I play - or, better, try to play - guitar, I am attracted to jazz guitarists. And in my iTunes collection I have, in no particularly order, Wes Montgomery, John Scofield, George Benson, Joe Pass, Django Reinhardt, Jim Hall and several others. I am also addicted to looking up on YouTube looking up jazz scales, jazz chords, jazz progression and the rest. As you are. That is how I came across Grant Green.
Mr Green - why not be respectable and give him his title? - was something of a revelation. I had never heard of him before, but why not? There are many people, not jazz musician, you have never heard, but heard of. But given that the field of ‘jazz guitarists’ is pretty small, it was odd that I’d never even heard of Grant Green. Well, who cares? I eventually did, and I bought some of his recordings. And I’m glad I did. His sound is clean and precise. That doesn’t put him in any kind of opposition to, say, Wes Montgomery, but it does help him define his own ground as his own. Here’s a picture of the lad, and for an aspiring jazzer guitarist, I reckon you couldn’t really do much better.

. . .

As I write this I’m listening to a shuffle play of my iTunes music. So one thing follows another. And although I am now listening to Pink, a minute ago - while writing about Grant Green - I was listening to a track Marcus Miller recorded with Miles Davis. It occurred to me to wonder why the Fifties/Sixties jazz apparently inconsequentiality gave way to the funk and dance music more or less linear music on, for example, Marcus Miller’s recordings with Miles Davis. I know that one thing develops from another, but in recent years it seems to me that one simple thing has given way to an even simpler thing. And if that trend continues, that simpler thing will evolve into and even simpler thing. Worried? Well, not me, except that ‘simple’ usually means ‘pretty bloody boring’.

. . .

There are the latter-day soaps and then there are Boardwalk Empire and Ray Donovan. And both leave your other latter-day soaps standing with their dick in
their hands waiting to be told what the starting pistol is going to sound like. OK, so admittedly these things are subjective, but on the other hand there’s your subjective and my subjective, and if your subjective doesn’t rate both series as la creme de la creme, go and join the queue of those waiting to be told what the starting pistol going to sound like. If you think I’m talking crap, take time off to watch both or either - they are streets ahead of a the competition. Try them. Oh, and absolutely no one does thoroughly likeable, totally charming complete and utter cunt as well as Jon Voight as Ray Donovan’s father Mickey (right).

What I like about Ray Donovan, who is nominally a Bostonian who has relocated to Los Angeles, is that his troubles mount and mount and mount and then when you think they cannot mount any further, they mount again. Yet Ray, supposedly an American Mick portrayed by Liev Schreiber, though a more Jewish actor with a Jewish name for an essentially more Jewish character you could not hope to get for live or money, apparently takes it all in his stride. That’s not to say he isn’t terminally fucked off, because, of course, he is. But he doesn’t let it show. The next complete piece of nonsense which comes his way just has to be dealt with. And that’s it.

There is almost the blackest of black humour running through it all, particularly as you get the feeling that at the end of the day Ray would like nothing better but to chill out with a few good friends and possibly take time out to do someone a favour. Yet it life keeps crashing down in on him again and again and again. If I ever got the chance to be cool, I should like to be cool in the way Ray Donovan is cool. But some hope.

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