Issue 81

Issue 81

Issue 81


Welcome to Copper #81!

This is being written on the first day of Spring. Here in Colorado we view such markers with skepticism, especially when last week saw the massive "bomb cyclone" that hit our area and much of the Midwest, closed down Denver airport, and generally made a mess of things. Remarkably, aside from a few hours of driving snow that made driving difficult, the Boulder area didn't do too badly at all.

Enough with the Farmer's Almanac, Leebs. What's in the issue?

Prof. Larry Schenbeck leads off with a selection of pieces that feature at least one violin up front; Dan Schwartz tells us how an iPad and Qobuz made a recent stay in the ICU less angst-y; Richard Murison writes about Beet....Monty Python?Jay Jay French stirs things up yet again with a thesis on how communal societies make good bands; Roy Hall manages to find upheaval even in peaceful Cabo San LucasAnne E. Johnson does double duty again, and will in every issue from now on. Her new jazz column, Trading Eights, will alternate with Something Old/Something New. Lee Morgan is her first subject, and Off the Charts brings us lesser-known cuts from Jefferson AirplaneWoody Woodward reviews the remarkable music and too-brief life of Sean Costello; and I get all misty-eyed (not really)  about a TV repairman, and explore another initiative designed to help musicians get paid for their work.

The Copper Interview wraps up John Seetoo's talk with June Millington, founding member of the influential group Fanny, guitarist, and producer.

Fred Schwartz takes a look at the debut and subsequent lengthy career of the beloved Van Cliburn.

Copper #81 wraps up with a look at audio evolution from Charles Rodrigues, and a Parting Shot by Assistant Editor Maggie McFalls.  Christian James Hand will return in the next issue.

Thanks as always for reading—and see you with the next issue!

Cheers, Leebs.

Credit? What's Next---Money??

Bill Leebens

Last issue’s Audio Cynic discussed the ongoing battle to gain musicians and composers reasonable payment for the use of the work, primarily by streaming services. For every step forward in that battle—like the Music Modernization Act—there have been countermeasures, foot-dragging and moves geared at outright reversal, like the attempt by Spotify to overturn the financial restructuring measures instituted by the MMA.

One interesting point caught my eye in the midst of the back and forth from the various parties: “With the ink dried on the Music Modernization Act (MMA), the industry is now arguing over an estimated $1.2 billion in unattributed ‘black box’ mechanical royalties being held by the likes of Spotify, Apple Music, and Amazon Music Unlimited.  And that’s just one piece of a gigantic black box whose size is estimated to be in the multi-billions.”

“Unattributed”? What does that mean?

I’ve been peripherally involved in contracts for recording artists, and the experience was enough to make me wonder how anyone ever gets paid. Here’s a hypothetical example: John Meadowlark is the sole composer of a song, both music and lyrics. But John is part of a band, and the band members have agreed to share all publication royalties evenly between them, no matter which individual member 0r group of members wrote any given song. To muddy the waters, the band has an agent whose deal is that he gets 20% of all publication royalties. We’ll leave it at that for simplicity’s sake, although the history and distribution-net, let’s call it, could actually have several additional layers or branches to it.

So, let’s say the band earns $100 from some source or another in payment of publication royalties for the song John wrote. How is that $100 paid out?  Let’s say there are 4 band members; in theory, each member would get $25. But the agent gets 20% of those royalties off the top. So that leaves $80 to be divided amongst the members of the band—meaning each member gets $20.

While that is relatively straightforward, what happens if the band breaks up? Or if the group sells all their copyrights? Or if one of the four cites artistic differences and moves to Moldova? And again, there are any number of possible side deals that could muck up the distributions, or just simply figuring out who is supposed to get paid. These are the unattributed “black box” royalties, and there are a number of groups working on methods to ensure that the right people actually get paid for their work.

One is a group called Royalty Claim, whose website is slightly reminiscent of those ads that ask if banks or the government are holding unclaimed money for you. I wish every artist luck in getting fair payment for their work—and maybe these folks can help.

But groups such as Royalty Claim often have to muddle their way through a morass of incomplete records, contradictory or competing contracts, evidence that is more anecdotal than actual…it’s a mess. What if a system was set up to properly track the involvement of each and every artist, from the first second that tape rolls or a hard drive spins up?

That’s the intent behind an initiative presented recently at SXSW called Creator Credits, backed by heavyweight musicians and major companies involved in music production. The idea is to start tagging a recording with metadata from the very first track laid down, in order to properly credit the participants—and one hopes, eliminate that whole “unattributed royalties” thing. Yes, this is all tied to ProTools, which could limit its acceptance in certain circles—but it’s a start.

One last thought—that quote above that ends, “And that’s just one piece of a gigantic black box whose size is estimated to be in the multi-billions.” I hope they’re keeping tighter controls that are generally imposed upon vast pools of cash—this sounds ripe for pillaging.

Hey, I need to earn that “Cynic” sobriquet every now and then, don’t I?

, backed by heavyweight musicians and major companies involved in music production. The idea is to start tagging a recording with metadata from the very first track laid down, in order to properly credit the participants---and one hopes, eliminate that whole "unattributed royalties" thing. Yes, this is all tied to ProTools, which could limit its acceptance in certain circles---but it's a start. One last thought---that quote above that ends, "And that’s just one piece of a gigantic black box whose size is estimated to be in the multi-billions." I hope they're keeping tighter controls that are generally imposed upon vast pools of cash---this sounds ripe for pillaging. Hey, I need to earn that "Cynic" sobriquet every now and then, don't I?

Paxos, Greece

Paxos, Greece

Paxos, Greece

Maggie McFalls

Violin Plus One

Lawrence Schenbeck

Or two, or six. There’s no end to what you can do, and with whom. Today we check out recent releases that feature at least one violin up front.

Beethoven wrote ten sonatas “for piano and violin.” Never mind that for him the instruments were usually equal partners; this was a traditional 18th-century designation, and publishers hoped they’d sell more copies that way. Only two are frequently performed today: No. 5 in F, “Spring,” and No. 9 in A, “Kreutzer.” They’re quite different from each other. (Indeed, No. 9 is quite different, period—Berlioz called it “outrageously unintelligible.”) Leading younger artists have lately given more attention to the rest: I’ve got a nice set from Alina Ibragimova and Cédric Tiberghien, recorded live at Wigmore Hall. Now Chloë Hanslip and Danny Driver have wrapped up their complete set for Rubicon with vol. 3, Nos. 2, 9, and 10. I’m making it my new reference.

Ibragimova and Tiberghien give fine performances too, but Mr. T.—aided and abetted by the Wigmore engineers—consistently overpowers his colleague. To hear truly equal partners, try Hanslip and Driver. They have carefully worked out common approaches to phrasing and articulation, expressive heat, and balances. Plus, they’re style-conscious! These sonatas were composed throughout Beethoven’s lifetime, so performers should use everything in their toolkit to point up his stylistic evolution. After all, if you’ve gone shopping for the complete violin sonatas, you clearly want to get beyond the Greatest Hits and compare Early (Nos. 1–4) with Late (No. 10). A bit of Sonata No. 2 from Hanslip and Driver shows how skillfully they communicate its Classic roots and the fresh spirit that Beethoven brought to what was still a Hausmusik genre:

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You can hear Hanslip’s HIP touches, e.g., vibrato used sparingly, but also the dynamism of her collaboration with Driver. What really surprised me was just how effectively they approached the deeply Romantic “Kreutzer.” To my ears, these two bring off the drama of its first movement with more insight and panache than certain much more celebrated couples, e.g., Perlman and Ashkenazy. Listen:

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Here’s a 2016 video with some of their “Spring”:


To catch Ibragimova and Tiberghien closer to the top of their game, get their new Hyperion recording of the Franck and Vierne violin sonatas. The big fish here is César Franck’s Sonata, written in 1886 as he continued to flee the confines of French church music, an escape highlighted a few years earlier by his Piano Quintet, discussed here. (Around this time he also wrote a symphonic poem, Psyché, and began sketching his monumental D-minor Symphony.) The Violin Sonata jettisons conventional first-movement “energy” in favor of an altogether dreamier approach:

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Those opening bars contain a motive—an ascending melodic fragment—that helps determine the structure of the whole movement and will be retained in the three movements that follow. Here it is again, familiar yet transformed, at the launch of the finale:

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Violinist Eugène Ysaÿe had commissioned Franck’s sonata; twenty years later he asked Louis Vierne, better known as an organist, for another. Vierne, who as a teenager had won a Conservatoire prize for violin performance, was happy to supply it:

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The album is rounded off with attractive single-movement works by Ysaÿe and Lili Boulanger. Her 1911 Nocturne comes tinged by Impressionism (listen for her quotation of a textbook example). It’s not quite modern, but it isn’t Vierne.

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Speaking of modernists: violinist Jennifer Koh has recorded an entire album of music by Finnish composer Kaija Saariaho (b. 1952). It includes a sonata of sorts, other chamber works, and a sort-of-concerto (for excerpts click on the link above). She begins with Tocar (2010) for violin and piano, an intimate dialogue of which the composer writes:

One of my first ideas for Tocar, about the encounter of two instruments as different as the violin and piano, was the question: how could they touch each other? . . . Both instruments move forward independently but also keep an eye on each other. I imagine a magnetism becoming stronger and stronger—the piano becomes more mobile—which draws the violin texture towards the piano. . . .

The concerto, Graal théâtre (1994), explores a greater gulf, that between creator and performer. It suggests a vast, abstract arena in which those contending forces may yet realize a connection. Paul Griffiths, who has written eloquently about the generative impulses behind this work, summarizes it by saying

On the one side, then, the [Grail] of as-yet-unrealized music, where the action is that of the imagining mind and the traveling pen, moving in a world where instruments and performers are all still in the future; on the other, the théâtre of a concert hall, a show, a virtuoso converting difficulty into astonishment, an audience in attendance and attention.

The version heard on this recording is for violin and chamber orchestra; Gidon Kremer recorded the version for full orchestra with Esa-Pekka Salonen (who perceptively discusses Saariaho’s position in Finland’s creative scene here). I offer these links for further reading because it clearly takes an effort to find your way into her musical universe, which is full of subtle, unusual sounds but devoid of traditional melodies or rhythms. Once you get there, you may want to stay, at least for a while.


Speaking of un-beaten tracks: my favorite Baroque violinist is not who you think. It’s Amandine Beyer, who leads the superlative ensemble Gli Incogniti. They provide more characterful interpretations per square inch of barroco than anyone else I’ve ever heard. You can almost smell their energy.

Gli Incogniti—based in Italy, at least temperamentally—have enlarged their membership slightly, allowing them to give us an album of Haydn concertos including two for violin plus the popular C-major Cello Concerto. In the video below, Beyer explains a bit more about how, as Baroque folk, they maneuvered themselves toward the Classic era. But before you wander into their universe, get a load of the sumptuous sound of Beyer on the C-major Violin Concerto:

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The Cello Concerto is equally delicious. I am tempted to recommend every single one of their other albums. Okay, just two: BWV … or not? The Inauthentic Bach, offers a playful if slightly disjointed romp through works assigned Schmieder numbers in spite of their doubtful provenance. Also, check out Vivaldi: Concerti per due violini, which absolutely crackles with culturally appropriate energy.

Isabelle Faust also crackles on her newest release, Bach Violin Concertos. Faust didn’t start out as a Baroque violinist, but then she made a landmark recording of the solo Sonatas and Partitas. Recently she’s upped her game, deftly adopting gut strings and other HIP contrivances. This double-CD set includes several pleasant surprises. Bach left behind authentic materials for just three violin concertos, BWV 1041–43. But scholars are quite certain that other works began life as violin concertos before Bach revised them. They survive only in those revisions; here Faust reconstructs their original forms. Among the works offered are BWV 1052R, 1056R, and 1060R, which came down to us as harpsichord concertos. Also, Ouverture (Suite) No. 2, known today in its version for flute and strings. Also, two transformed trio sonatas plus various single movements from church cantatas, lifted by The Master himself from instrumental works now lost (one of which, the Third Brandenburg, is definitely not lost!). See David Smith’s worthy review for more details, including his spot-on assessment of Faust’s performances.

I have enough space only to praise Faust’s collaborators, the Akademie für alte Musik Berlin, its director Bernhard Forck (playing secondo as needed), and Xenia Loeffler, whose oboe and recorder solos are a highlight. Professor Peter Wollny contributes indispensable liner notes; if you get the download, make sure you are able to access them.

Two clips: the first is the opening of BWV 1052R, the second a blissful oboe-violin duet from BWV 1060R.

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Oh, and a bonus clip:

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Take a violinist to lunch this week!


Roy Hall

Years ago my daughter, wife, and I took a trip to Cabo San Lucas–a resort town in Mexico, and a tourist’s nightmare. At every turn, hordes of people assault you, vying to sell something. Even the man who led us to the Hertz shuttle bus tried to hard sell me a timeshare in town. Turns out he had no connection to Hertz whatsoever and used the sign as a ruse.

We had come to Cabo for some R&R. We had reservations at the long-gone Twin Dolphins hotel. The Twin Dolphins in the early 2000s was quite a luxurious hotel, which attracted, among others, a Hollywood crowd.

One evening, my wife and daughter having gone to bed, I visited the bar for a drink but quickly fell asleep in my chair. I awoke to find ice cream dripping down my face. On opening my eyes, I saw this attractive blond woman berating the culprit and offering me some tissues to clean up. She was outraged and really scolded the offender, who as a lark had dumped it on me to stop my snoring. I thanked her for her kind deed then retired to my bedroom.

The following evening, after dinner, I pointed out the woman to Rita. She was sitting with some friends and they were playing word games. We often played similar games at home and at one point Rita approached them and described a game we sometimes played. This led to a multi-faceted conversation. We were having a really good time with this smart, eloquent group when eventually politics came up. This trip to Mexico happened shortly after the election of George W. Bush. Laura, the woman who had helped me the previous night, mentioned that she had met Bush. Naturally, I said something about him being a fucking moron. Not the right thing to say; she launched into an aggressive defense of the president. She told us how smart he was and how his ideas were brilliant. When my wife and I defended our position (we did not shirk from this onslaught) she grew more agitated and her rather lengthy tirade ended with:

“America! Love it or leave it.” Unsurprisingly, this concluded what had been a pleasant interchange between strangers.

The next morning, her friends, including one man who turned out to be her brother, individually approached us and apologized for her performance. They said that she really was a very nice person, but passionate about politics. We were not upset by her harangue, as it’s always fun to meet someone with an opposite point of view, but we were bemused by its intensity. We subtly avoided each other for the rest of our stay. Before we left Cabo, I asked one of her friends who she was as she looked vaguely familiar. Her name was Laura Ingraham.

A few years ago (2007), we heard that she was coming to a local book store to promote her book, Power to the People. In her opening remarks she decried President Bush. This surprised me, as she had so vigorously defended him in our first meeting. At question time, I stood up, reminded her that we had met before and that then she had praised Bush, and queried her disdain for him. Before she could answer, the audience started to boo me and shouted me down.

[Well, Roy—apparently she gave the people power! ––Ed.]

Monty Python's 3rd Symphony

Richard Murison

He’s done something no other composer has attempted. He’s placed himself at the center of his work. He gives us a glimpse into his soul. I expect that’s why it’s so … noisy. But it is quite, quite new – the artist as hero. Everything is different from today.

Monty Python was a legendary composer who in many ways set the table for all of Western music for the last two hundred years. Ask virtually anybody who they think the most famous composer of all time was, and the chances are very good that they will immediately say “Monty Python”. Even if, in the same breath, they will tell you that they haven’t actually listened to any of his music. The veneration of Python has become ingrained into our musical culture – and yet very few people can explain any of the ways in which he wrought such profound changes.

Before Monty Python there was Mozart. And before Mozart there was Bach. Using the broadest of brush strokes, you could say that Bach codified the concepts of harmony, chord progressions and cadences, melody and counterpoint, and the fundaments of structure. Mozart took Bach’s rules and showed how they could be expanded and elaborated to produce increasingly more complex and sophisticated works. Above all, Mozart refined and extended the concept of musical structure, enabling us to understand how complex and sophisticated works can not only make sense to audiences, but can positively delight them. Even today, Mozart continues to be held in the highest conceivable esteem by many – I dare even say most – prominent classical musicians.

Monty Python was born a mere 14 years after Mozart, and yet he took Mozart’s musical foundations and built an incredible edifice upon them. Where Mozart established broad rules, Monty Python took great delight in seeing where he could go by bending them, and even by outright breaking them. Python was truly a rock star of his time. Not only did he express his musical independence by writing music that tested the limits of what Mozart prescribed, but he was also a societal free spirit. It is not at all unreasonable to suggest that Monty Python was the David Bowie of his age.

Mozart was actually the first major composer to attempt to create a living for himself as an independent composer, not tied to the patronage of a wealthy individual, but he failed badly in his endeavors, and as a consequence died a pauper at age 35. Monty Python, though, was the first to largely achieve a degree of financial independence. Virtually throughout his career Python more or less wrote what he wanted to write, and for whomever he chose to write it. One consequence was that Monty Python became a firm favorite of the public at large, and when he died his funeral procession attracted a crowd of over 20,000 mourners – approximately 19,995 more than attended Mozart’s interment.

It would be fair to say that Monty Python’s most enduring contribution to music is the establishment of the Symphony as the pre-eminent expression of serious musical thought. Of these symphonies, the 9th is the most famous, and the 5th is not far behind. But it might surprise people to learn that in a recent poll of the world’s most prominent conductors undertaken by the BBC Music Magazine (who have all those guys’ phone numbers in their rolodex, apparently), Monty Python’s 3rd symphony emerged as the one work in the entirety of the symphonic repertoire which is most demanding (and most revealing) of the interpretive skills of a conductor. So I thought it would be interesting to take a closer look at this remarkable work. And not even the whole work – in fact I just want to focus on its truly incredible first movement.

Many musicologists choose to mark the end of the “Classical” era and the beginning of the “Romantic” era with the death of Beethoven in 1827. But others are far more specific, and instead mark the transition point as Monty Python’s 3rd symphony. There are many good reasons to support that argument…not least of which is that Python’s 3rd weighs in at a colossal one hour in length. Even the longest of Mozart’s 40+ symphonies barely tops the half hour mark. The classical music of Bach, Vivaldi, Haydn, and Mozart was polite and refined and oh-so-formal. Even Haydn’s famous “Surprise” symphony barely does anything more alarming than raising an aristocratic eyebrow. Here, for example, are the opening bars of one of the greatest works of the “Classical” period, Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 23, K488:


Orchestra of La Scala, Milan, Carlo Maria Giulini, 1987
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By contrast, Monty Python opens his 3rd symphony with what can only be called a couple of loud staccato orchestral blasts which seem to have absolutely nothing to do with the melodic section they introduce. They seem to say nothing so much as “Wake up!! Pay attention!!”:

Netherlands Symphony Orchestra, Jan Willem de Vriend, 2012
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From its very first bars, Python’s 3rd is thereby marked out as being something quite different from anything that has gone before. Where Mozart tends to convey his emotions and feelings primarily through the use of appropriately expressive melody, Monty Python shows that some emotions and ideas can be better expressed through rhythmic devices. Symphony No 3 sets off along a path of jagged and syncopated rhythms, the likes of which Mozart would never have dreamt. Here we are, barely two minutes into the symphony, and Monty Python is trying to express the sort of ideas that Led Zeppelin or AC/DC might feel at home with:

Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra, Herbert von Karajan, 1976
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It’s not just rhythmic experimentation that Python foisted onto his audience. He was also willing to bend the rules when it came to tonality, harmony, and chromaticism. These new elements come to the fore in what is in my opinion the single most mind-blowing moment in all of Monty Python’s pantheon of musical genius. If the third symphony itself marked the transition from the classical era to the romantic, then surely this brief moment is nothing less than a tantalizing glimpse into the music of the 20th Century which followed a full hundred years later. Here, Python builds up a moment of supreme tension, the harmonies getting progressively darker and discomforting, the rhythms edgier and uncertain, the melodic line becoming wild and almost panicky…and at its very peak he caps it with a truly extraordinary, jarring, discordant bray. Which he resolves, quite remarkably, with an immediate, yet carefully controlled, return to sanity. Not only did this set Monty Python apart as a composer truly distinct from Mozart, it set him apart from everything else you might have heard for another 100 years:


NDR Sinfonieorchester, Günter Wand, 1984
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You can just imagine how this was received in 1805. In fact, you have to imagine it, because it wasn’t noted by anyone. But we can tell that it was not positively received – oh no, not at all – because it was a device Python hurriedly put back into his toolbox, where it stayed for another hundred years. Before you read on, play the Mozart clip again, and then this one.  The two were written a little over 10 years apart, and each was considered ahead of its time. I would humbly advance the argument that it is this bar, of this movement, of this symphony, which marks the formal end of the “Classical” period.

Of course, it would be totally misleading to suggest that Monty Python is all about rhythm and (dis)harmony. There was also plenty of room for melody. But his melodies didn’t really soar like those of the great Romantic composers such as Berlioz, Rachmaninov, or Tchaikovsky. It wasn’t his style. Python’s melodies are generally rustic in their simplicity and somewhat Teutonic in character. But who says a rustic, simple melody – even a Teutonic one – cannot be profound? Monty Python immediately follows the discordant outburst by diving straight into a development section based on a new melody. No less an authority than Leonard Bernstein characterized it as “a song of pain after the Holocaust”:


New York Philharmonic Orchestra, Leonard Bernstein, 1964
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Where Bach and Mozart codified harmonic progressions, cadences, and key changes, Monty Python decided these rules too were there to be broken in the service of creating and resolving musical tension. Take this section here, where he appears to have been tying all his loose ends together preparatory to bring the movement to a grand conclusion. We find ourselves in E-flat major, the very key we need to be in. All we need is a quick recapitulation of the main melody, a bit of a fanfare, some triumphant chords, and we’re done. Perfect, right? No, not for Monty Python. Instead, without warning, he unceremoniously dumps us into the unrelated key of D-flat major…and before we have time to say “uh, what just happened there???”, he immediately jumps straight into yet another unrelated key, C major. It’s almost like he’s playing with us:

The Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie Bremen, Paavo Järvi, 2005
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We have been manhandled into a weird, unrelated key, and are expected to be able find our way home to E-flat again. Never mind, though. Monty Python is more than up to the task. Endings is another of his things.

Monty Python’s climaxes were some of the most satisfying ever written, at least until Mahler came along. Although the first movement of the third symphony has far from the most dramatic ending in Python’s catalogue, the last minute and a half are still a characteristically irresistible progression to the close. And when we get there, it ends in three staccato punctuated E-flat chords…exactly as the movement began:

Orchestre Révolutionnaire et Romantique, Sir John Eliot Gardiner, 1993
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Incidentally, having heard the movement begin and end with those punctuated chords, we can begin to understand their role as the key structural elements of the piece.  When we go back and listen again, we realize that these repeated punctuated figures appear in various forms throughout the entire movement (some of which you’ll have heard in the audio clips above). So, rather than being just a bizarre wake-up call to open the movement, they actually provide an introductory statement of the entire movement’s figurative core. It provides a little lesson on Monty Python in miniature, and can even serve as a cute introduction to a lot of his famous oevre.

—————  coda  —————-

If you’ve made it this far you’ve no doubt cottoned on to the essential conceit of this column. There was no musical titan by the name of Monty Python. I’ve been talking all along about Ludwig van Beethoven. So why the strange bit of Theater Of The Absurd?

I started off writing a piece about Beethoven’s 3rd, and I got part of the way through and thought “Nobody’s going to be reading this”, and I started asking myself why not. One obvious reason is that Beethoven, for better or worse, has name recognition. People who already know Beethoven may be inclined to think “Meh, I don’t need to read that”, and people who recognize the name but don’t listen to Beethoven may be inclined to think “Meh, I don’t need to read that”. Was there enough there to spark the interest of whoever is left? I wasn’t sure.

So, the column somehow ended up as a kind of open-ended exercise in social psychology. I decided it would be interesting to replace “Beethoven” with another name, one with big-league name recognition, but which would produce a jarring disconnect in readers’ minds – hence Monty Python. There is a kind of curious – yes, Pythonesque – aesthetic to a serious article about a person who is clearly Beethoven but is referred to throughout as Monty Python. Is that what grabbed your attention and dragged you this far? I’m wondering how your perception of the column and its subject matter – which in all other regards is an entirely serious treatment of the opening movement of Beethoven’s 3rd symphony – was impacted by this absurd little device?

Finally, I can’t leave you without mentioning a delightful BBC drama “Eroica” from 2003. It attempts a dramatic recreation of the premiere of Beethoven’s 3rd symphony at a private gathering in 1805 Vienna. It is actually very close to an authentic depiction of the event, and does a nice job of establishing the young Beethoven’s rebellious and iconoclastic character, and features a surprisingly stellar cast. The majority of the film comprises a magnificent and illuminating performance of the symphony. It really is very good indeed. The performance concludes with an imagined summary by Joseph Haydn himself (delivered with real gravitas by Frank Finlay), in the quote at the top of this column. Here is the whole film, on YouTube:

June Millington, Part 3

June Millington, Part 3

June Millington, Part 3

John Seetoo

J.S.: At AES NYC recently, Waves Audio had a panel discussion featuring Chris Lord-Alge, Jack Joseph Puig and Tony Maserati. Their overall message to the audience was that they wanted the next generation of engineers to learn from the body of the work they have made available and come back to blow their socks off. As you devote a significant amount of IMA resources to teaching and training, do you have any alumni who have taken your lessons and done you one better?

J.M.: Time will tell, but yes. That is, they’ve pulled alongside for sure. As for a lifetime’s body of work, well that is something I’m looking forward to both seeing and hearing (and certainly hope I will!). I’m super-interested, now that I’m 70 and still going pretty strong. My view has certainly broadened, and I tend to see the arc rather than the arising and constantly-manifesting, and moreover brilliant pieces – which thrill me for sure! I can put bands/artists And the Kids, Who’da Funk It – independent artist Mal Devisa came out of that band – Naia Kete (also in band SayReal), Sonya Kitchell, Kristen Ford, Saera Kohanski (Wishbone Zoe), Jess LaCoy (aka Lioness per her debut CD), and Kalliope Jones firmly in that category. Incidentally, there have been many compositions written and performed at our Rock and Roll Girl’s Camps that go in that category, too. Amazing output, I have to say sometimes I am Blinded by the Light!

June Millington during the re-recording of two Fanny songs at IMA for the documentary Feminist: Stories from Women’s Liberation. Photo by director Jennifer Hall Lee.

June Millington in the IMA barn with her beloved T5. Photo by Per Grandin.


June’s sister, bassist and singer Jean Millington, suffered a stroke in January 2018. With the help of family and friends, she has been recovering, and the recuperation is ongoing — with the goal of getting back to playing bass. A GoFundMe campaign has been established to assist in medical bills and additional modalities of therapy, which are proving to be useful. Anyone who wishes to make a donation can do so here. You can also write to June Millington at junemillington@gmail.com if you’d like to host a benefit for Jean. June is happy to come to your community (previous benefits include Sacramento, Salt Lake City, Pasadena, Berkeley, San Francisco, and Greenfield, MA, with one upcoming in Florida) — all that needs to happen is that her expenses are covered, everything over that goes to Jean.

Photo by Neal Izumi, taken in Honolulu upon getting ready for the release of Ticket to Wonderful.

Jean and June Millington at IMAWest in Bodega, CA in preparation for the release of their album Melting Pot. Photos by Jean’s daughter Marita Madeloni.

Print copies of June Millington’s autobiography, Land of a Thousand Bridges, can be obtained from IMA’s website.

June is also in the process of producing an audiobook edition. Here is an excerpt sample.

In addition, a podcast series with June talking to musician friends about the how, who, where, and why of music will soon be available. Already recorded: Jeff “Skunk” Baxter, cellists Jami Sieber and Rebecca Hartke, and songwriter-artists Erin McKeown and Tret Fure.

Updates about the audiobook and a forthcoming guitar instruction video series from June Millington can be found on the Land of a Thousand Bridges Facebook page.

June Millington with her Les Paul Jr. “TV model” sitting in with Sonya Kitchell. Photo by Ann Hackler.

Other websites include:







[Header pic is by Jean’s daughter Marita Madeloni, taken during the cover/promo shoot for the release of Play Like a Girl.]

Sean Costello

WL Woodward

At times in everyone’s life someone comes along that thoroughly pisses you off.

Think of the night Eric Clapton and Pete Townshend, along with a few other guys like John Lennon, Paul McCartney, Brian Jones, Mick Jagger, and Jeff Beck, saw the Jimi Hendrix Experience at the Bag O’Nails in London, November 1966. I’d give a nut to have seen the looks on those faces. I would. Really.

Then Jimi releases Are You Experienced, Axis Bold As Love, and Electric Ladyland, three of the most iconic records in rock, in the space of a year. Give me a fucking break.

I fell for Jimi just before he died. I still remember being in Moose’s black Galaxy 500 when the news came over the radio. I was 16.

Dear son Dean fell in love with Sean Costello around 2008. Dean wasted no time telling me what we’d been missing. I was driving a truck hauling meat cross-country so I had time to tape shit and listen during all those hours/days/weeks/months/years watching the lines slipping past, wondering what was happening in all those warm house lights I was leaving behind. I had (and still have) one of those little iPods and on it I had a copy of Costello’s first album, Call the Cops. Sean made this album when he was 16 years old. Dig this.


Yeah. 16. Pisses me the FUCK off. How do you get that good at 16? You know how. You start playing in the flippin’ womb. Must’ve been hell on Mom. And what the hell does he know from jelly roll? Sheesh. By the way that’s Paul Linden on that harp man.

At 14 Sean was growing up in Atlanta and the story says he caused a ruckus with his jamming in a Memphis guitar shop and an employee told Sean’s dad about a blues contest put on by the Beale Street Blues Society. Sean entered and won the contest. At 14. I barely remember being 14 except that was the year I learned how to roll a joint and was suspended from school for masturbating in the National Geographic section of the second-floor library.

Relax, I’m kidding. I didn’t roll a joint until I was at least 15.

Kids, this guy’s blues sensibility at 16 years old is just short of genius. When you listen to this next tune think of a kid sixteen years old that you know, maybe yer paper-boy or that runny kid at the 7-11 where you get your morning shot.


On St. Patrick’s Day yesterday, Dean and I were up late. We’d had our fantasy baseball draft, watched the NCAA Men’s Basketball Selection Show kicking off the greatest sports tournament of the year, and over some single malt Irish whiskey ended the evening/morning talking about Sean and the fact I was doing this column.

This was fortunate because Dean is a lover of all things Sean Costello and he had some insights I hadn’t considered. I had covered some tunes above from Call the Cops and my amazement was centered on how young Costello was to have such power on the guitar and the vocals.

Dean pointed out that what set Sean apart from other guitar heroes was continuing improvement on both his vocals and his guitar. I’m going to really piss some people off here but bear with me.

We talked a while trying to come up with another artist whose instrumental prowess matched his or her vocal range and development. I said Bob Dylan just to piss him off and he just smirked. I can’t get over on him anymore. Anyway. Clapton is a great player, but a mediocre vocalist. He can certainly sing but that’s not his forte. BB King might be the best vocalist the Blues ever created but his guitar work, although iconic and a part of his appeal and style, was not virtuosic and didn’t change much over the years. Nat King Cole had the voice of an angel and could play that piano but he gave the piano up to concentrate on singing. Stevie Ray destroyed the guitar but his vocals just supported his playing. Like Hendrix it was all about the guitar.

Jonny Lang and John Mayer are certainly in the conversation being great guitar players and vocalists. But even they’re in the back of the car with the windows rolled up when we look at how good Costello got in his career and how quickly.

In 2005, Sean met Levon Helm and Helm’s band Ollabelle appeared on Costello’s self-titled next album. Levon with The Band was known for eclectic style and song choices with a very wide range of Americana. Sean was impressed with how Helm could switch effortlessly between these styles and kill them. The album Sean Costello definitely showed the result and the evolving elegance of his playing, singing, and song writing.

This next from that album shows how his style was progressing as he experimented with tone and branched from the earlier straight ahead blues. Costello could still blaze when he wanted, but what was emerging was a player whose solos were thought out and played within the need of the song without having to show how good he was anymore. Here is “Father”.


With every album after Call the Cops the song became more and more important.

To show the difference his development made I have two from his last album, 2008’s We Can Get Together. Hal Horowitz critiqued for AllMusic.

“The material is so strong and the ensemble playing of his band so effortless that he doesn’t need to distract attention from the songs with the extended soloing he is capable of. Most importantly, he establishes a greasy groove that weaves through each cut, connecting them even when the styles differ. While Costello is clearly inspired by the blues greats, many of whom he has covered on previous collections, he slants more to ’70s Southern soul, rock, and R&B here, dousing these genres with a bucket load of swamp water and spearheaded by his whiskey-laced vocals. There’s a thick, gooey atmospheric vibe that hangs over the album, gels its contents, and shows Costello to be a terrific singer and songwriter and guitar talent just hitting his peak.”

So, from 2008 “You Told Me a Lie”:


This next is cool, fun, and nasty. Great combination. From Moanin’ for Molasses an R&B number “I Want You So Bad”:


Costello suffered from bipolar disorder and was a serious user. Bad combination. He’d had an early relationship with Susan Tedeschi that was certainly affected and eventually led to a breakup. Sean was so young the heartbreak was almost too much, very close, and there are several songs on his albums that illustrate how hard you can fall and how hard it is to get up. Artistically he kept growing but personally he was mortally wounded.

Two months after the release of We Can Get Together and the day before his 29th birthday Sean was found dead in an Atlanta hotel room with an overdose hovering in the air. This was the day after he told an interviewer he was clean and off the drugs forever. The autopsy revealed a mixture of heroin, ephedrine, and amphetamine. That bipolar shit got real and Sean Costello hit the exit.

But before I leave you I have a last comment. I was thrilled in my discussion with Dean last night that the only player he felt came close to this combination of vocals and instrumental virtuosity was Johnny Winter. Dig this man. Sean Costello and Johnny Winter in the same sentence. Winter was always at the top for me for his guitar playing and that unmistakable singing. So instead of ending with a Sean song, here is Johnny from 1970 Live Johnny Winter And, “It’s My Own Fault”. Rick Derringer on backup guitar.

Hey. It’s my column; I can do whatever the fuck I want.

Put the headphones on for this one mates.


Shiver me timbers.

Ok you’re still here so this is a short vid Remembering Sean Costello. The takeaways are he wasn’t diagnosed with bipolar disorder until after his death, and his parents started a fund for bipolar research.

The Qobuz Diaries

Dan Schwartz

I spent a week, since the last issue, in the hospital. (Don’t ask! I’ll tell soon enough.)

This is the second week in just over a month that I’ve had to while away the time in lockup. Just before the first “visit”, I received a 12.9-inch iPad Pro as a gift. Oh my god — it’s exactly what I thought it was when first released. It’s a TV, among many other things.

That first week, I caught up on all kinds of movies and shows, including the ever-wordy The Newsroom. (I tried to make it through the latest Avengers movie — twice!) Of course, I rarely, if ever, used the iPad’s internal speakers. I had also just bought, via MassDrop, a pair of HIFIMAN HE4XX (400) headphones. I hadn’t heard them before, but I figured they were cheep enough ($170) that if I hated them I could get rid of them.

I love them.

Open-sounding; just snug enough on my numbskull, not too heavy — kind of perfect. They provide a different presentation than any of my other ‘phones — and maybe it’s the “shock” of the new, but they’re currently my “top of the list”.

So I got a bit better, came out of the hospital — and a month later was right back in.


But this time was different — I went in armed with Qobuz. And let me tell you, it WAS different! This time I had much of the music of the world with me.

Yeah, you could get a lot of it some other way, but not sounding like this. I have a Studio subscription, to go along with Roon and a PS DirectStream. But that’s at home.

What struck me as worth commenting on, was that hooked up to the hospital Wi-Fi, with the iPad’s internal DAC and audio, and my HIFIMAN headphones, I found myself very much enjoying music familiar and strange to me. I mean, I know this is not a strange scenario, but think about it — there I am in a hospital bed (in the ICU, even!), anchored by an IV drip, but in my grubby mitts is a device apparently connected to nothing, and in comes all kinds of music — not just of YouTube-video quality, but for real decent 16-bit 44.1k audio, playing into planar magnetic ‘phones. Maybe I’m a cheap date, but I was impressed!

I listened to a lot of ’70s Joni Mitchell, beginning with The Hissing of Summer Lawns. I listened to a lot of Glenn Gould and recent solo disks by my other favorite pianist, Keith Jarrett. I heard Qobuz’s playlist “Traditional Eastern Music”. I heard some Grateful Dead. I spent a lot of time listening to English folk: Martin Carthy, Steeleye Span, Fairport Convention, etc. Nick Drake, too.

By now, many of you know whether it would be worth it for you, but as I anticipate some future hospitalizations to come, I can’t imagine doing without it — at home, I suppose I’d live, though the very idea of real music with real audio-quality coming into my living room on a whim is it’s own kind of kick — but the idea that I can go into a hospital armed with these two seemingly simple devices, an iPad and headphones, and have access to SO MUCH MUSIC makes it all so much more palatable.

To quote one of the Four Yorkshiremen: “Luxury.”

And it really was.

Why Can't America Produce a Great Rock Band? (the answer will surprise you)

Jay Jay French

One afternoon, while I was writing a Beatles article for Goldmine magazine, I started to ponder the issue of the world’s most important and influential rock bands. These are the bands that had the most enormous musical, commercial, and sociological impact on my life, have the greatest ratio of memorable songs per album release, and, I believe, the greatest impact to the worldwide baby boomer, Woodstock generation.

Now, the arrogance in my conclusion is justified (so say I!) because of my age and the real time rock ‘n’ roll  experiences that I lived through and also took part in.

I urge you, however, to get to the end of this essay before you arm yourself behind your keyboard to rail and argue, for or against, my conclusion.

Here goes nothin’…

That afternoon, I started to reflect on the world’s greatest bands and this is what came pouring out of me:

The Beatles (number 1 selling album artist in US history

Led Zeppelin (number 3 selling album artist in US history)

The Rolling Stones

The Who

Pink Floyd

A veritable Mt. Rushmore of Rock.

Each band, in my mind, a perfectly formed and enclosed entity.

Each band very very different.

Each band has had enormous commercial success, world wide recognition, and at least 50 years of impact which led to the influence of thousands of musicians.

But wait…

Why were no American bands on that list?

This didn’t happen by conscious choice. This list also wasn’t created to reflect my current personal taste either. I haven’t deliberately listened to Led Zeppelin in years!

This also didn’t happen because I don’t love American bands.

After all, I have loved, among others, The Byrds, The Doors, Love, The Buffalo Springfield, Moby Grape, The Grateful Dead, Velvet Underground, Creedence Clearwater, Aerosmith, R.E.M., etc.


None of these bands have the longevity, the gravitas, the world wide impact and, most importantly, the influence level of the British bands. Sorry.

This conclusion really started to weigh on me.

C’mon John, there has to be an American band or two that should be on this “Greatest Bands in the World” list of mine.

Isn’t it true, I said to myself, the Eagles (I have most of their albums, know most of their songs—Twisted Sister actually used to perform “Victim of Love”) have the single biggest selling album in the history of US album sales??

The Eagles surely have lasted 45 years, and everyone knows their songs.

I have even seen them on several occasions because friends wanted to go and my suggestion is, even if you love them, is to buy a DVD and watch the show in the comfort of your living room as there is nothing they do live that resembles any kind of human experience…it’s like watching perfect sounding wax figures!

Hell, the reason why they didn’t make this list is that The Eagles (however successful) just never seemed to break through sociologically and never became a “lifestyle”.

They, to me, were the rock equivalent of ABBA!

I L-O-V-E ABBA, but no, ABBA and the Eagles were never great in the way the 5 great British bands were.

If there was a ”Guilty Pleasure” list then they, along with The Four Seasons, among others, would be on it but that is for another article…maybe.

But there are 2 American bands that almost make this list.

Yes. There were two for me:

The Beach Boys and The Band.

Both of these bands, to me, are world class by most measures— but there was a lingering feeling in my gut that they come to this list with asterisks.

The Beach Boys (who single-handedly gave those of us on the East Coast, a fantasy lifestyle image of the California Dream, therefore being sociologically impactful) were primarily a singles band prior to the release of Pet Sounds in 1966. Yes, they had lots of hit singles and dominated early to mid-sixties pop radio and pushed the Beatles to create Sgt. Pepper, but they never really were accepted by the coming FM radio, album-oriented tsunami that came to represent the main source of music accessibility, both here and abroad, to my generation. One also has to acknowledge the singular genius of Brian Wilson, who really deserves to be placed in the US Mt. Rushmore of rock ‘n’ roll.

The Band (for starters, Dylan’s backup band and who established the template for the currently titled “Americana” music genre), whose image looked the part of the ultimate hippie commune (read Woodstock) lifestyle, as much as I think they not only comprise a unit of players so uniquely spectacular that it is just about as perfect a unified multi-player creation as had ever been created, they didn’t sell boatloads of records— but without a doubt, if they didn’t exist then I doubt that the Eagles would have ever happened.

You see, that’s why they have asterisks, as do all the American bands. As great as many of them are/were, they all fell short of the requirements to make the list that I created.

Why? I asked myself. How could this be? I mean, look at what America has produced.

Elvis (2nd biggest selling solo record artist in US history)

Bob Dylan

Chuck Berry

Michael Jackson


Stevie Wonder

Paul Simon

Aretha Franklin

Garth Brooks (The number 1 selling US album solo artist in history) etc.


Wait a minute….these are not bands…these are all individuals.

A veritable Mt. Rushmore of commercial, artistic, and cultural impact.

And then…It hit me that the greatest difference between the US and the UK is a much bigger and broader example of the differences culturally that define the two countries.

The UK is a Socialist based society, America is an Individually focused society.

Think about this for a second.

When America creates certain bands based around individuals, we tend to focus on a single member (going back to the very first rock ‘n’ roll hit) and the bands names reflect it:

Bill Haley & The Comets

The Jimi Hendrix Experience

James Brown & His Famous Flames

Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band

Tom Petty & The HeartBreakers

Bob Seger & The Silver Bullet Band

The J. Geils Band

The Steve Miller Band

Sly & The Family Stone

The Dave Matthews Band

Hootie & the Blowfish

Joan Jett & The Blackhearts

In short, England creates great bands.

The US creates (and focuses on) great individuals.

Are there exceptions??

Of course. That’s what makes this exercise fun.

The UK has some individual based bands like Elvis Costello & The Attractions, and for a time in the early sixties there was a tendency (fad to be exact) to name bands, however short lived, with a singular focus:

Gerry & The Pacemakers

Billy J. Kramer & The Dakotas

Wayne Fontana & The Mindbenders

Freddy & the Dreamers

Dave Clark 5

These examples, however, are very rare.

Also, the UK has produced a handful of solo mega international stars such as:

Elton John

David Bowie

Cat Stevens

Van Morrison


Rod Stewart, Eric Clapton, and Jeff Beck have interwoven their respective careers with involvement in very influential British bands and can therefore not be considered truly solo artists.

In general, however, it seems clear to me that the differences between what the 60-year history of rock ‘n’ roll has created, in terms of the cultural differences of the artists that most of us consider the musical foundation of our lives, is directly reflective of the way the respective societies have evolved.

In conclusion, when musicologists finally look back on the phenomenon of the rock ‘n’ roll era, they will inevitably conclude that the difference between the greatest contributions to the genre between the US and the UK is that:

The US gave us many great individuals, and the UK gave us many great bands.

The communal, i.e. socialist, UK vs. the Individual-based US.

Now, it’s your turn…

Jefferson Airplane

Anne E. Johnson

When Marty Balin turned a San Francisco pizza joint into a music club, he was just hoping to have a place to play folk rock with friends as inspired by the Beatles and Simon & Garfunkel as he was. His club, The Matrix, became the birthplace of his band, Jefferson Airplane, who quickly soared way beyond folk rock and helped invent psychedelic rock.

At its start, Jefferson Airplane differed from the way most of us know them in one significant way: the lead female singer. By the time the band’s debut album, Jefferson Airplane Takes Off, came out on RCA Victor in 1966, singer Signe Anderson was pregnant. She left the band that year, opening up a key spot in the lineup. And original drummer Skip Spence left during the recording process, so some tracks feature a new member, Spencer Dryden.

Before we let the new singer in, here’s an early track featuring Anderson. “Chauffeur Blues” was written in the late 1930s by pioneer blues record producer Lester Melrose (1891-1968). It’s immediately obvious that Airplane is rooted in the blues, largely thanks to Jorma Kaukonen’s aching lead guitar. Anderson’s voice is deep and bluesy, too, with much more jazz-inspired flexibility and use of vibrato than her powerhouse replacement.


Exit Anderson and enter Grace Slick, providing the undeniable sonic “it” factor able to launch Jefferson Airplane into the big time. Slick was already a friend of the band, singing with a group called The Great Society that made the rounds of the San Francisco scene, including Balin’s club. At the urging of Airplane’s bass player, Jack Casady, she stepped in to replace Anderson in 1967.

The first album with Slick was Surrealistic Pillow, and suddenly the band found itself in a whole different league. It was the Summer of Love, and this album contributed greatly to putting the San Francisco Sound on the musical map.

It didn’t hurt that Slick showed up with two major hits at the ready. She’d originally written “Somebody to Love” and the trippy “White Rabbit” for The Great Society; they were Airplane’s first two singles and remain their defining songs even today. (Surprisingly, they’re the band’s only Top 40 singles, although several of their albums charted well.)

“D.C.B.A -25,” by rhythm guitarist Paul Kantner, is a textbook introduction to Slick-era Airplane. Kantner sings co-lead on this song, whose title he has claimed refers to its main guitar chord sequence and a 25 mg micro-dose of LSD. Slick co-leads the vocals in her unique fashion, following slightly behind Kantner and singing harmony at surprising intervals not at all characteristic of the rock or blues traditions.


That same year, the ambitious band also churned out another album, After Bathing at Baxter’s. This one had an experimental structure, presenting the songs in little suites. The album title reportedly is code for taking LSD, a fair warning of the music’s free-floating style. Every band member contributed to the songwriting.

“Rejoyce” is by Slick, the second song in a grouping called “Hymn to an Older Generation.” That’s Slick on piano as she oscillates between ominous and romantic melodic passages. The music takes a breathless tour of five or six distinct genres, held together by Casady’s bass.


Baxter’s was slightly ahead of its time, but the mainstream American music consumer was ready for psychedelia by the time Crown of Creation was released in 1968. The album went to No. 6.

While it’s hard to beat the song “Lather” for poignancy – It’s about an emotionally stunted man turning 30 (a birthday gift to Slick’s then-boyfriend and band drummer Dryden) – “Ice Cream Phoenix” merits special attention for its production and arrangement. All the vocalists in the group sing in harmony throughout, and Kaukonen’s lead guitar acts as a counterbalance, like the other half of a conversation.


It’s hardly surprising that songwriters who had openly celebrated their use of hallucinogens would continue to make the public uncomfortable. The lyrics on Volunteers (1969) were deemed offensive by some for their anti-war and pro-anarchy content, not to mention the swear words. This was 16 years before the RIAA started slapping “Explicit Lyrics” warnings on album covers.

The Volunteers recording sessions at the studio of veteran San Francisco producer Wally Heider were often visited by fellow musicians. Stephen Stills plays Hammond organ on “Turn My Life Down,” and Jerry Garcia provides pedal steel for “The Farm.” And here’s David Crosby, credited with playing “sailboat” in the creaky opening of “Wooden Ships.”


There were plenty of changes afoot during the 1971 recording of Airplane’s sixth studio album, Bark. Founder and singer Marty Balin left, as did drummer Dryden, who’d been in and out for a while. He was permanently replaced by his usual substitute, Joey Covington. The biggest change in the sound of the band was the addition of blues violinist Papa John Creach.

Airplane had always incorporated blues sounds, but under Creach’s influence they jumped in deeper. Check out this instrumental, “Wild Turkey,” credited to Kaukonen and starting off as a guitar solo. At 0:51 Creach picks up the thread with his electric fiddle, and the rosin dust flies.


1972 marked the end of an era as Jefferson Airplane recorded Long John Silver, its last studio album for 17 years. Despite the personal conflicts that marred the sessions, they managed to put out some nice tracks, including the Creach- and Slick-penned “Milk Train.” Creach’s strident violin lines, Kaukonen’s guitar, and Slick’s angry, powerful singing are the perfect blend of fire-producing chemicals.


In 1974, the band split into the blues-heavy Hot Tuna (led by Kaukonen and Casady) and the more rock-committed Jefferson Starship (with Slick and Kantner). Jefferson Starship and its final iteration, Starship, produced a total of 14 albums and had a few huge hits. So there was no pressing need for the original lineup (minus Spencer Dryden) to regroup for the special album Jefferson Airplane in 1989. Unfortunately, it’s as nostalgic and ʼ80s-tinged as you’d expect.

Probably best to stick with the old records instead.

Lee Morgan: Eight Great Tracks

Anne E. Johnson

[FYI: from Columbia University’s Jazz Glossary—yes, there is such a thing: “Also ‘trading fours,’ etc. Soloists taking turns at improvising, playing for eight (or four, etc.) bars at a time.” I’d somehow never heard the term before—so thanks to Anne for educating me, yet again—Ed.]

In the wee hours of a snowy February morning in 1972, Helen Morgan entered Stub’s Saloon in New York City’s East Village and shot her husband dead. She couldn’t take any more of his drug use and infidelity. Sadly for American music, she’d silenced a spectacularly unique jazz mind. Trumpeter Lee Morgan was only 33 years old.

His main legacy in jazz history is as one of the inventors of hard bop. That was a 1950s reaction to cool jazz; hard bop players thought jazz was getting too classical, so they tried to bring the blues, gospel, and other Afro-centric genres back into their music.

Morgan got off to an impressive start. The Philadelphia native was only 17 when Dizzy Gillespie hired him for his bebop big band. At 19, he was invited by John Coltrane to play on the album Blues Train, a gem among Coltrane’s breathtaking output. At 20, Morgan was tapped to join Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers, arguably the nest where hard bop hatched.

Like any truly great jazz music, Morgan’s playing is impossible to put into words. Those who try end up with accidental poetry: Trumpeter Dominick Farinacci has said that Morgan played “in waves over the grooves.” Fair enough.

Here are eight glorious cuts featuring the trumpet of Lee Morgan.

  1. “Along Came Betty”

    Blue Note

    Existing in one form or another under various names since the late 1940’s, the Jazz Messengers were founded by drummer Art Blakey. Their personnel changed frequently, and the ensemble that Morgan was asked to join included saxophonist Benny Golson, pianist Bobby Timmons, and bassist Jymie Merritt. Morgan stayed with the group until 1961.

    Moanin’ was the Messengers’ first release with Blue Note, which would be Morgan’s label for life. Most of the tunes are by Golson, including “Along Came Betty.” From the opening phrase, Morgan establishes himself as a superb ensemble player, working an octave above Golson like they’re part of the same musical being. Morgan’s first solo, at 1:14, has a rhythmic casualness about it that hides its complexity — one of his trademarks.


    1. “Heavy Dipper”

      The Cooker
      Blue Note

      Morgan’s solo album The Cooker was released in 1958. It’s the first record containing tunes by Morgan, who wrote some 200 pieces during his short life.

      “Heavy Dipper” is a Morgan composition that looks both forward and back. The jaunty main theme, especially in the way Philly Joe Jones supports it with hi-hat cymbal, gives the tune an old-fashioned swing flavor. But the seesawing between major and minor and the freedom of the improv tells you it’s bebop. By the time Morgan’s second solo comes around at 5:08, the simple melodic structure has shattered like a champagne bottle against a ship. Jones’ brush patiently strokes that cymbal through the wildness.


      1. “Running Brook”

        Here’s Lee Morgan
        Blue Note

        It’s no surprise that a Wayne Shorter composition found its way onto a Lee Morgan album. In 1959, after Gorson left the Jazz Messengers, Morgan recommended saxophonist Shorter to take Gorson’s place. It was the start of a deep friendship. For a heartbreaking sense of how close Shorter and Morgan were, watch Kasper Collin’s 2017 documentary I Called Him Morgan.

        Shorter does not appear on this album, however. Clifford Jordan plays tenor sax, with Art Blakey himself at the drums. “Running Brook” lets Morgan spin out longer melodic phrases than you often hear in his own compositions. Even in the trumpet solo (2:25), for all its jumping around, Morgan maintains a kind of peace and orderliness that shows another side of him.


        1. “Gary’s Notebook”

          The Sidewinder
          Blue Note

          With his song, “The Sidewinder,” Morgan simultaneously put money in the coffers of struggling Blue Note Records (the single version hit No. 100 on the pop charts!) and established “soul jazz” as a viable subgenre.

          The whole album was written by Morgan, and “Gary’s Notebook” is right up there in quality with the more famous title track. It also has a similarly meandering melodic and harmonic style. As usual Morgan’s ensemble blend, especially with tenor sax player Joe Henderson, is sensitive and expressive. The rest of the band is Barry Harris (piano), Bob Cranshaw (bass), and Billy Higgins (drums).


          1. “Melancholee”

            Search for the New Land
            Blue Note

            The aching “Melancholee” gives us a glimpse into the darkness and sorrow that seems to have haunted Morgan. Blue Note delayed releasing this album until 1966, although it was recorded before The Sidewinder. This was not the stuff of pop charts, but an unapologetic delving into life’s pain. Wayne Shorter plays sax, and that’s Herbie Hancock on wistful piano and Grant Green on guitar (an instrument Morgan didn’t often play with).


            1. “Sonic Boom”

              Sonic Boom
              Blue Note

              It took Blue Note until 1979 to release these tunes, but it was worth the wait. The title track, a Morgan composition, opens atmospherically, propelled by Ron Carter’s bass. Billy Higgins creates an unusual texture with his reverberant bass drum.

              Anyone who still isn’t sure about Morgan’s technical sophistication on the trumpet should listen to the intricate solo starting at 0:57, notable for the way Morgan restricts himself to a low pitch range.


              1. “Ill Wind”

                Blue Note

                American popular song wasn’t really Morgan’s thing, but he made an exception for “Ill Wind” by Harold Arlen (best known for composing The Wizard of Oz). The song had bona fides among African-American jazz musicians: Arlen originally wrote it for a 1934 Cotton Club show, and Sarah Vaughan had recorded it in 1961 (lyrics by Ted Koehler).

                On piano, Herbie Hancock – aided by Jackie McLean’s alto sax and Hank Mobley’s tenor – lays down an off-handed, shuffling mood. Morgan slides right in, proving he can “sing” with the best of them.


                1. “Soulita”

                  Blue Note

                  The pop side of soul music meets bebop in this up-tempo number composed by Morgan. While it doesn’t have the sexy mystery of “The Sidewinder,” one could argue that it’s even more accessible.

                  But that populist style didn’t mean Morgan delivered lesser goods. The interplay of his devilish triplet patterns against Cedar Walton’s laid-back piano chords (starting around 1:30) is enough to warrant our attention. Another interesting element – and evidence of Cal Massey’s skills as an arranger – happens when Walton himself takes a solo, and Morgan and tenor sax player Bennie Maupin offer scattered moments of backup.

                  What's Next?

                  What's Next?

                  What's Next?

                  Charles Rodrigues

                  Van Cliburn

                  Bill Leebens

                  In 1958, the Soviet Union announced its “First International Tchaikovsky Piano Competition”. The idea was to showcase that, in addition to being superior to the west in technology and military capabilities, they were also superior in the arts. The Russians take their music seriously.

                  Think of the time: Nikita Khrushchev is Premier, and it had only been five years since the death of Josef Stalin. The United States had been beaten into space by Russia’s launch of the Sputnik satellite in 1957.

                  Khrushchev had proclaimed, “we will bury you,” in 1956. Tensions were building, leading up to the Berlin Wall, the Bay of Pigs invasion, shoe-banging in the United Nations, and the Cuban Missile Crisis—all set to the backdrop of a nuclear arms race.


                  Van Cliburn was born in Louisiana, but moved to Texas as a child and was always considered a Texan. He began his piano studies with his mother, who had studied under a direct pupil of Franz Liszt. He was studying at Juilliard when he entered the 1958 competition.

                  He was 23 years old, 6 feet, 4 inches tall, and very skinny. Soon after his arrival, the talk at the Moscow competition was, first,“this American is good”. That soon became, “he is very good.” Events converged to create a true history-making event at the piano competition.

                  First and foremost, there was Cliburn’s extraordinary technique: his ability to play the most technically-challenging passages as if they were simple and effortless. His ability to pick his hands up high off the keyboard and come crashing down flawlessly, faster than the eye could see, with speed and agility that were mesmerizing. His superb technical capability was matched by an ability to emphasize the deep emotional nuances buried in the music. All these elements combined to make magic.

                  If that wasn’t enough— Cliburn the human being was so very sincerely, genuinely humble and kind that it was hard not to fall in love with the guy. And that is exactly what the Russians did: they fell in love with Van Cliburn, and Van Cliburn fell in love with them.

                  During his performances, audiences chanted, “first prize, first prize”. He was mobbed everywhere. Women went nuts for him—and so did Nikita Khrushchev.

                  As the popularly-recounted story goes, the judges sought Khrushchev’s approval, afraid to give the first prize to an American. “Is he the best?” Khrushchev asked. “Yes,” the judges replied.

                  “Then give him the prize,” Khrushchev said.

                  After winning the competition he returned home a superstar hero—Elvis and Mickey Mantle, combined. He is on the cover of Time Magazine, with the heading, “The Texan who conquered Russia”, and is given a monumental ticker tape parade in NYC.


                  Cliburn launched a whirlwind concert schedule that continued for decades, and played for every American President and ex-President from Harry Truman to Barack Obama. He was the only recipient of both the American Presidential Medal of Freedom and the Russian Order of Friendship.

                  He passed away in 2013. His recorded legacy continues to inspire, and the Cliburn International Amateur Piano Competition continues to help younger pianists launch their careers.

                  Here is the recording of Van Cliburn playing the signature concerto at the Moscow Competition which fueled my love affair with great classical music.


                  I had the blessing of meeting and briefly speaking with Van Cliburn in 1994. His presence was regal, but without a trace of pretense. He seemed like a monarch who only sought to serve, and do what is good and kind for everyone.

                  He gave me his full and undivided attention while I lectured him about classical music in general and his important role in it specifically. He made me feel as if every word I said about music was a pearl of wisdom for him.

                  Yeah, I guess it was hard to not fall in love with the guy.

                  I sobbed on the ride home,and that bothered me until I realized why: Shaking hands with Van Cliburn was the closest I would ever come to shaking hands with Tchaikovsky or Rachmaninoff, Beethoven or Brahms, Chopin or Liszt.

                  So here is my exclamation point: four minutes of piano, composed by Sergei Rachmaninoff, brought to life by Van Cliburn.


                  “Great classical music is universal and eternal. We are privileged to hear it, to know its value and to reward its worth.” Van Cliburn