First posted on Mark Is Cranky:
Things I remember about the Mike Douglas show: Shecky Greene, the comedian. I'm not even sure if I thought he was funny. What I do know is that I'd never heard of anybody named 'Shecky'; the Patti Smith appearance. You think there were uncomfortable moments during some of Dick Cavett's rock star interviews? Nothing compared to the bohemian poet goddess vs. the squarest man in America; Anthony Newly singing "Send In The Clowns".
Why I remember this stuff is a mystery. Plenty of television weirdness from the early 70's made itself comfortable inside of my head. For instance, I remember Sam Irvin during the Watergate hearings only because that danged endless panel of jabber got in the way of my daily dose of The Price Is Right.
At this point, an artist such as Bob Stenson might be appalled to have his good name tossed around amid Borscht-Belt comics, snotty punk primadonas and crooners of yore.
Because Stenson's very romantic read of that Sondheim classic serves as a reminder (at least to me, a person somewhat obsessed with divining connections between past and present) that even the most well-worn visitation from the past can color who or what we are now.
Pianist and compost Stenson has quite the musical past to draw upon. Had has played with the likes of Jan Garbarek, Stan Getz, Tomas Stanko, Red Mitchell and Charles Lloyd. His group Rena Rama was one of the first to mix jazz with the folk musics of India and Bulgaria.
Stenson's current release Goodbye finds him drawing from many of his past musical architectures to produce one fine trio outing. To add to the graceful opening "Send In The Clowns", we have the chromaticism of bassist Anders Jormin's "Allegretto Rubato", the moody contrast of "Sudan" (where Stenson and drummer Paul Motian lay back for Jormin's bowed bass motifs) and the Stenson-composed "Queer Street", a sort of piano vs. bass & drums call and response.
The inversion of traditional trio roles is what makes things interesting. Like the afore-mentioned "Sudan", their version of Tony Williams' "There Comes A Time" finds Jormin's bass taking center stage.
Perhaps more surprising is the jazz arrangement of Henry Purcell's "Music For A While". I have to admit that the thought of a walking bassline moving through Purcell's music had never occurred to me before.
There is some traditional trio music on Goodbye including the opening "Send In The Clowns", Paul Motian's low-blues "Jack Of Clubs" and the pretty title track.
Goodbye closes up shop with a run through Ornette Coleman's "Race Face". Very much like a lot of Thelonious Monk's tunes, Coleman has a way of making even the most oddball material seem fun. Here it definitely sounds like a good time was had by all.
I'm not sure what Miles was getting at when he titled that song "Yesternow", but I'd like to appropriate that word as the perfect description for modern music that's been touched by the past and the present...and everything in between.