Saturday, June 26, 2010

Wisdom Begins With the Fear of Fearlessness

Peaking up where we slacked off yesterday: taking either the ↓ or the ↑ route is less than optimal, although with important qualifications.

For example, a complete surrender to ↓ will get the job done, although the same cannot be said of a complete commitment to ↑, since man cannot pull himself up by his own buddhastraps. I mean, he's welcome to try, but just where does he think he's really going? He's going nowhere, but he only discovers that when he gets there. Then he and the roshi presumably have a big belly laugh at the folly of man's delusions.

According to Pieper, the "↑ is all you need" approach -- i.e., the sufficiency of the human will -- falls under the rubric of "pelagianism," which is "characterized by the more or less explicit thesis that man is able by his own human nature to win eternal life and the forgiveness of sins."

And "associated with it is the typically liberal, bourgeois moralism" that is often frankly antagonistic to dogma and various sacramental protocols. It comes down to "I'm good enough, I'm smart enough, and doggone it, I'm saved!" But don't kid yourselves, for that kind of kooky talk is a Neddy no-no.

The converse form of presumption -- and you Protestants will want to discuss this quietly amongst yourselves -- is the idea of "the sole efficacy of God's redemptive and engracing action" and "the absolute certainty of salvation solely by virtue of the merits of Christ." (And please never forget that I'm hardly an authority in these matters, just a guy blogging it up as he goes along. If slide effects occur, consult your local holy man.)

It reminds me of what Dennis Prager often says about so-called liberals who personally lead very conservative lives, and yet, don't have a political philosophy in accordance with that fact. There is a weird disconnect between how they conduct their own lives and what they believe. The people who actually do live out leftist ideas are more or less the dregs of society. They are not following a recipe for personal success, to put it mildly, unless they are already wealthy, or pursuing a line of work in which depravity is a prerequisite, such as politics or the arts.

Just so, I find that most people who believe in the sole efficacy of salvation through Christ rarely behave that way. Rather, they are generally very much interested in ↑ to go along with the ↓, i.e., aspiration + grace.

Again, if they're not, then they tend to be insufferably smug and difficult to be around. Frankly, these are the types of people who give others the Jesus Willies, and rightfully so.

For if one has already achieved salvation -- neener neener neener! -- not only is there no need to aspire, but there is a kind of implicit invitation to moral license, since it's all forgiven in the end. It turns God into a kind co-depenent wife of an alocohlic. Every time she "forgives" her husband, that releases his guilt and sets the stage for the next transgression.

I have definitely noticed this pattern in certain patients from the south, and now that I think about it, you can also see it in that first generation of rock & roll pioneers, who were all from the south and had similar religious roots -- Elvis, Jerry Lee Lewis, Little Richard, Johnny Cash. Each of them at times led lives of utter dissolution, but it tended to be a saw-toothed pattern of indulgence and repent, with no true forward movement. Rather, the repent just creates a clean slate for the next fall.

I remember a story about Johnny Cash, who had invited a couple of members of U2 for dinner. At the table they held hands in a circle while Johnny said a solemn grace. At the end, he pauses and says, "sure do miss the drugs, though, Lord." The film that came out a few years ago is rather misleading, since it implies that his drugging days were over by 1967, but that is not the case.

This type of person may even be happy to concede that he is "the biggest sinner of them all," but mainly as a way to unconsciously explain away the future sins to come. Ironically, it is a form of pride, as if to say, "my sins are bigger than yours, so look how much God has forgiven!" You might say it is a humble lack of humility.

Augustine said that "only to the humble is it given to hope" (in Pieper), so that the presumptuous person cannot even genuinely pray "because he fully anticipates its fulfillment."

Pieper makes the more subtle point that in tipping over into either despair or presumption, one eliminates the dialectical tension, as it were, between divine justice and divine mercy.

But in reality, in hope there should be no separation between divine justice and mercy; rather, we only create it by falling to one side or the other. From our standpoint, justice and mercy may appear to be at odds, but in God they "are actually identical."

One has only to think of one's child to understand this. Discipline is not an end in itself but a kind of mercy, precisely. The child may protest that you lack mercy in not allowing him to eat M&M's and Doritos for breakfast, but the opposite is true. It's nice to have all your teeth.

Remember that wise crack to the effect that wisdom begins with the fear of God. It is this fear that presumption eliminates. Pieper points out that Saint Thomas "lists not only disordered fear but also unnatural fearlessness" as Neddy no-noes to be avoided. Fearlessness is a form of immaturity and self-deception. Again, I have a child who happens to be rather fearless, so in his case, he needs to cultivate some rational fear in order to grow in wisdom.


Blogger Susannah said...

I can only add my thanks that you've expressed this so well, Bob. I can hardly add anything. Regarding justice and mercy being the same, you have perfectly articulated my thoughts that bubbled up while contemplating yesterday's post and comments.

The principle of sowing and reaping also comes to mind. So often we reap the "reward," such as it is, in and of ourselves. I have encountered this quite painfully in my own life. Thank God, he sometimes mitigates the worst of it out of his mercy. But you never do recover the squandered, ruined portions of your life. Time (life), every minute, is incalculably precious. No do-overs. (Sorry, Grant.)

6/26/2010 09:09:00 AM  
Blogger Susannah said...

Meant to add: Parenting is quite enlightening, is it not? LOL!

6/26/2010 09:11:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

It sure is. Makes you appreciate God's predicament.

Also, I am reminded of how in Judaism, there is something to the effect that one cannot really be a true theologian until one has had children. Only then can one begin to comprehend both God's love and also his frustration!

6/26/2010 09:14:00 AM  
Blogger Joan of Argghh! said...

Certain disciplines are like being "hedged with thorns," small barbs of smarting pain to keep up on the path to our deustination. I know people who have thought to insulate themselves from pain, and they are usually surprised to find that their actions may cause pain to others. They become emotionally fearless toward others while being extremely vulnerable to the backlash of such actions or words.

I also have a friend whose son cannot feel physical pain. She lives a very nervous life as her fearless boy grows up without the usual notices of pain that signal the very certain boundaries of life and health.

You may have addressed this before, but I don't get the reflective time I need for commenting here, but the difficulty for me is the rudimentary school of fear being born of pain. . . and the pain that brings gain vs the pain that brings warning, and my natural tendency to wish to avoid either.

Time for me to read Hurnard again, I guess.

6/26/2010 09:21:00 AM  
Blogger Susannah said...

(I should clarify that I'm with Luther on salvation by grace alone. But it's true scripture also says we have to "endure" to the end; it's also abundantly clear we can't possibly be the "wind beneath our own wings.")

6/26/2010 09:24:00 AM  
Blogger Tigtog said...

To Gagdad re:
" I have definitely noticed this pattern in certain patients from the south, and now that I think about it, you can also see it in that first generation of rock & roll pioneers, who were all from the south and had similar religious roots -- Elvis, Jerry Lee Lewis, Little Richard, Johnny Cash. Each of them at times led lives of utter dissolution, but it tended to be a saw-toothed pattern of indulgence and repent, with no true forward movement. Rather, the repent just creates a clean slate for the next fall. "

While I think your generalization fits Johnny Cash and maybe Little Richard, I don't think it fits Elvis and Jerry. I don't recall Elvis as ever being spiritual in a conscious way, rather he was himself throughout time: a very simple man whose base appetites were indulged. He never really changed or grew as a person. He certainly never recognized that he needed or waned redemption. He was a truck driver from Memphis who looked great, sang well and created the archetype of a rock n' roller. Same with Jerry.

I believe what you reference as a southern attribute would more accurately be described as the "Southern Baptist" archetype. The difference between the Southern Baptist archetype and other southern faiths is whether they will talk to you in the ABC (liquor) store. It is a funny dichotomy between Baptists and other protestants in the South. They all take a drink, but only the Baptists feel they have sinned and need to be forgiven. BTW, the Baptist's seem compelled to become the biggest drunks so when they become dry they become the biggest preachers against demon liquor. Don't know what a psychologist calls this behavior, but I recognize it in a whole lotta yankees with Ivy League degrees, only their new faith is "postmodernism" or a oddly a "superior relativism". Either is extremely annoying. This is also true of a lot of coastal Westerners (i.e. CA, WA, and OR).

The one point I would like you to consider regarding the South is that it is the womb or incubator for all things uniquely American. Think music (jazz, blues, C&W, rock n' rol, hill billy, bluegrass), literature, history, and cuisine. The north was, and still is, a highly ghettoized culture. As such, they are heavily focused on material success in order to feel they belong to something (usually an identifiable class). Of the two cultures, I would say the Southern culture has the greatest following due to its innate hopefulness and friendliness - just travel through the midwest and far west and you will find it. BTW, most of northern black culture is nothing more than Southern culture transplanted into a ghetto system (i.e., Irish, Dutch, English, German, Polish, Slavic, et. al.). You will note, that all the ingredients were present in the north to create a delicious stew, but no one was able to break down the self imposed ghetto fences until the 1950s. In the south, all ethnicities become one during the 18th century.

6/26/2010 09:55:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

To the contrary, Elvis was a very spiritual man with a library of heavily highlighted spiritual tomes. Just read the magisterial biography by Guralnick. And Jerry Lee attended the Southwestern Assemblies of God University, and his cousin was none other than Jimmy Swaggart, who was his identical opposite.

6/26/2010 10:01:00 AM  
Blogger Joan of Argghh! said...

All I know is that you can't take just one Baptist fishing with you, because he'll drink all your beer.

6/26/2010 10:22:00 AM  
Blogger ge said...

yup re Elvis'
spiritual interests

Bob it sounds like you may have missed Jimmy's 'fall'-- the prosty & daughter bust? which would also allow for the conversion/repentence of JLL!

6/26/2010 10:30:00 AM  
Blogger ge said...

'southern' song!

6/26/2010 10:41:00 AM  
Blogger Tigtog said...

To Gagdad re: Elvis and Jerry.

I knew the connection between Swaggert and Jerry Lee. Did not know about Elvis' interest though. I grew up with Elvis but kind of lost interest when he was doing Karate chops in his white jumpsuit.

6/26/2010 11:07:00 AM  
Blogger Van said...

"You might say it is a humble lack of humility."

Ohhh... the humble home of the 'willies.

6/26/2010 01:14:00 PM  
Blogger Aloysius said...

Here is something worth chewing on:

Too complicated for words

Read it at face value. I don't mean to imply a criticism of symbols etc..

6/26/2010 03:57:00 PM  
Blogger Jack said...

As a side note: the South is definitely the source of American music, no doubt about that. For many different reasons it has been a potent mix.

But I'd like to defend the North as crucial to the process of creating American music. Jazz started in New Orleans, but grew to be something very different when it was transplanted to New York. It wasn't just the money and opportunities there, for example, can anyone imagine bebop or modal jazz springing up in say, Memphis or Clarksdale?

The Blues was born in Mississippi, but it too was changed by "moving North" to Chicago. Part of that was due to the competitive pressures of "commercialization", but that's not always a bad thing (and jazz and blues were always competitive anyway). The difference between Muddy Waters recorded at Stovall and the Muddy Waters of Chess records is a different situation entirely.

When American music headed West, the Jazz for one cooled down, wasn't so frantic like East Coast Jazz. Speaking from my own experience, moving out West from NYC opened up space in my playing...I think it's a fairly common experience.

6/26/2010 05:20:00 PM  
Blogger Tigtog said...

To Jack

While NY and Chicago discovered these genres, their creation was solely southern. The introduction of this music was through the ghettos of the north. Jazz was the music of whore houses and honky tonks. Note, honkey refers to white guys, normally of Polish extraction. While the north did in fact patronize and thus commercialize the music, it in no way created it. At best northerners brought higher production values to the genre, at worst they deconstructed it, turning it into a museum music (music without life). My point simply is the South represents the cradle of all cultural uniqueness that idistinguishes American culture.

6/26/2010 07:10:00 PM  
Blogger Northern Bandit said...

An interesting example of how Europe isn't always 100% wrong, and America 100% correct as some of the more strident hardcore conservatives seem to believe. In this case Europe not only has developed substantially better oil spill containment than anything the US has, they also have far leas insane environmental laws when it comes to spills.

Part of the problem with assuming the US is always superior in every way is the same when a person assumes it about them self -- it blinds one to flaws and makes it less likely they will be corrected in the future.

Obama of course rejected the very European help that could have made a *vast* difference in the outcome in the Gulf of Mexico. This sort of compounded stupidity in leadership tests the strength of any nation, no matter how strong she has been heretofore.

6/26/2010 07:17:00 PM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Do not concur with Tigtog. I find Dixieland & trad jazz pretty formulaic and dispensable compared with the likes of Bill Evans, Sonny Rollins, Art Pepper, Dexter Gordon, Wayne Shorter, Herbie Hancock, McCoy Tyner, Pharoah Sanders, and so many more...

6/26/2010 07:23:00 PM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

I mean, even Duke Ellington -- whom many consider the greatest composer in jazz history -- was a schooled musician and urban sophisticate.

6/26/2010 07:26:00 PM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Furthermore, jazz went from dance music to listening music after the 1940s, so you've got it backward -- it was a commercial genre until the 1950s, when it was displaced by rock, R & B, doo wop, and other more simple styles.

And to suggest that it was "museum music" is quite wide of the mark, since the artistic pinnacle of jazz was from the late 1950s through the late 1960s. It is true that since then it has often been "museum music," since it ceased developing after about 1970. There are still virtuosos, of course, but nothing really new.

6/26/2010 07:35:00 PM  
Blogger Jack said...

I, too, must strongly disagree with tigtog...

If I were to vastly over-simplify what characterizes American music it would be the characteristic use of "blue notes" i.e. the flatted third used over a major chord, (or if sung even flatter than can be played on fixed pitched instrument --the piano, for example). The same goes for the flatted seventh...which in blues, country, rock, funk etc can be used as the tonic chord (the "home" chord. Which is unheard of in Classical music theory.

This use of blue notes was "discovered" in the South and began its development there. But was brought to different depths of sophistication elsewhere in the country. It's not as if it didn't continue it's own development in the South...but jazz was clearly brought in contact with musical modernism--to create bebop to free jazz, etc-- a contact that would have been far more accessible in the Northern cities, if not downright impossible in the South.

Coltrane may have been born in North Carolina, but he really learned about music theory etc in Philadelphia and then New York. At one crucial point in his development learning from Thelonius Monk--another genius it is difficult to conceive of outside of the NYC "sphere" (Monk was also from North Carolina, but whose family moved to NYC when he was very young)

The list could go on and on. Trying to honestly describe American musical history without the *active* creative contribution of those who learned in and from Northeastern American cities would be impossible.

6/26/2010 07:47:00 PM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

True about Coltrane. He was already about 30 when he played with Monk, and his work up to that time would not be remembered today had his whole musical universe not opened up with those few months spent with him in 1957. Then for the next ten years -- until he died in '67 -- he was like a flaming meteor. But it really was as if the secret architecture of the musical universe were revealed to him that year, and then it was just a matter of perfecting his ability to convey it.....

6/26/2010 07:59:00 PM  
Blogger Jack said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

6/26/2010 08:13:00 PM  
Blogger Jack said...

I believe that Coltrane said that when playing with Monk if one's attention slipped even for a second it was like falling down an empty elevator shaft. This makes it clear that you couldn't just phone it in...Monk and 'Trane talking about music--talk about a fly on the wall moment!

It is fairly safe to say that without that meeting with Monk, Coltrane could have likely remained a promising, but unfocused second-tier player and Sonny Rollins probably would have been *the* guy--instead of Rollins deciding to quit for a few years in response to Coltrane's rapid and seemingly unstoppable musical development.

6/26/2010 08:16:00 PM  
Blogger Dustin said...

Your so right about people in the south. The description and pattern describe exactly an old friend of mine that I knew since I was four. It was only a couple of months ago that we split for good (my choice), and some of his last words were "your not superior to me!, which was kind of unexpected and off topic from what I was expecting.

He kept mentioning to me while he was around about how he needed another "saving," that "it's getting about time." I didn't say much b/c I could see that he was self enclosed, fallen and ignorant. He called me Confucious and boss all the time, but he never would learn. He thought he could do it on his own, and that's why he's inferior in relation to me, just as he made clear in his last words, "you are not superior to me!" It's just a childish pride; and that's why his life will be a process of constant inflation and failure (collapse).

I'm noticing alot of envey from others as I grow, btw. If they notice where I'm at current internally (not all do), they will either look on with an upward arrow (L)(aspiration) as if accompanying me, or they will be the more hostile type who envy me for a quality that they see, but don't know how to get (H).

Lot of the recent post speaking to my life right now. Not gonna say why, but alot of it has to do with me never getting a normal life since I've been vertically oriented (trapped) for about 26 years now. Only now is the world coming into view and leveling out; and it's hard not knowing what's going to happen and all, like females and money...yeah just females and money right now. Never had much of both. More money. Women are like the world to me, and my relation to the world is almost all boundary. Where's the hope??! Not much...Been alot of hopeless lately. Felt myself die again recently and leave behind possibilities forever. Ecstasy fills the gap, but where am I? Feels like being torn apart on the inside over and over again. My worst fear is never being able to get back home again, of being trapped in light and never being able to make it back to the womb/world/female, of being alone. Pretty screwed up. Think alot of people take relationships for granted. Even spiritual people. As for me, I feel like I'm married in essence but torn in two. Been feeling it; and the more I grow the less the world is open to me in that way, so it seems.

Maybe I was born senile and will return to youth? Feeling that way, in a way...

Got off topic. The point was that southern people are screwed up. I agree. Something cookin', though.

6/26/2010 08:25:00 PM  
Blogger Mikal said...

All the talk about the distinctly "Southern" style of Christian religiosity reminds me of a joke:

Q) What are the three biggest differences among Western faiths?


1. Jews don't recognize Jesus as Messiah.

2. Protestants don't recognize the Pope as the head of Christendom.

3. Southern Baptists don't recognize *each other* at the nudie bar!

(Thank you, thank you. Don't forget to tip your waitress!)

6/26/2010 08:28:00 PM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...


I think you'll appreciate these hand written notes of MOnk's instructions.

6/26/2010 08:48:00 PM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

"The inside of the tune is the part that makes the outside sound good."

6/26/2010 08:51:00 PM  
Blogger Jack said...


"A note can be as small as a pin or as big as the world, it all depends on your imagination"

6/26/2010 09:08:00 PM  
Blogger black hole said...


Well, at the risk of being crude, what I think you need is a "ho."

Never mind the relationship. Cut directly to the sex; this will reconnect you to the world.

From there you can work your way back down into the conventional monomagous relationship.

Then after a while you'll probably wish you hadn't.

Peculiar thing about people; we are never quite satisfied with things the way they are.

6/27/2010 01:51:00 AM  
Blogger Tigtog said...

To Gagdad re:

"Do not concur with Tigtog. I find Dixieland & trad jazz pretty formulaic and dispensable compared with the likes of Bill Evans, Sonny Rollins, Art Pepper, Dexter Gordon, Wayne Shorter, Herbie Hancock, McCoy Tyner, Pharoah Sanders, and so many more..."

Jazz, blues, gospel, and rock n' roll all provide a simple construct to free style against. The artist is the focus, not the score. What I said was:

"At best northerners brought higher production values to the genre, at worst they deconstructed it, turning it into a museum music (music without life). My point simply is the South represents the cradle of all cultural uniqueness that idistinguishes American culture."

While I agree with you that the Cool Jazz movement of the 1950s-60s was probably the pinnacle of Jazz, its underpinnings, its origin is southern. Notice that I recognize non-southerners as having added to the genre, I merely point out that Jazz, Rock n' Roll, Gospel, C&W, Soul, Bluegrass,, are distinctive musical genres with their origins in the South. The reason the South imprinted itself so solidly on what is today referred to as American culture is because it was the first region in America to truly become one people. The north remained a fractured ghetto people until the post WWII period.

To cite excellent musicians from the north and west that found freedom in the genre does not alter the providence of the music. Art Pepper was a phenom improv sax player, but the archetype he followed was Louis Armstrong.

My point is simply that the south is the cradle of cultural America. The north represented, and still does represent a fawning, submissive admiration of all things European.

If I am wrong, you should be able to provide an example of "Northern" music that developed regionally and imprinted itself on the American cultural tapestry.

6/27/2010 05:39:00 AM  
Blogger Dianne said...

Just because I now see God the Father/Creator as someone who loves me instead of some kind of vengeful monster, doesn't mean I'm complacent about being responsible for my actions, how I treat others, and how I live my life.

But I certainly understand where you're coming from, in that I've seen lots of people who go to Church every time the doors open, and talk in religious speak and think because of it they're a shoo in to heaven, but then the rest of the week they feel free to hurt other people, lie and cheat.

6/27/2010 06:15:00 AM  
Blogger Dianne said...

If I am wrong, you should be able to provide an example of "Northern" music that developed regionally and imprinted itself on the American cultural tapestry.

Tigtog - you may have them there. ;)

6/27/2010 06:19:00 AM  
Blogger Tigtog said...

To Dianne re:

"Tigtog - you may have them there."

Let's see?

interesting WV: snardso

6/27/2010 06:32:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Sinatra. The Great American Songbook. American musical theatre. Brian Wilson. Bob Dylan.

And for the record, I was not referring to cool jazz but to the whole arc of hard pop, modal, avant garde, and freebop. Cool jazz I can live without.

6/27/2010 07:25:00 AM  
Blogger Dianne said...


6/27/2010 07:43:00 AM  
Blogger Tigtog said...

"Sinatra. The Great American Songbook. American musical theatre. Brian Wilson. Bob Dylan."

I've always thought musical theatre was a European import. At best, its a minstrel show with a script. The American Songbook is pretty much dominated by ballads with either a jazz or blues base. Tin Pan Alley was a commercial enterprise and produced what sold. Brian Wilson, is clearly original and represents the high achievement of Surf music (which is based on 5 bar blues). Bob Dylan, while a great poet, musically is pretty much folk + blues + rock n' roll. Hell, half the time he shows up at the studio with poems and lets the session guys figure out a melody.

"And for the record, I was not referring to cool jazz but to the whole arc of hard pop, modal, avant garde, and freebop. Cool jazz I can live without."

Is Miles not considered cool jazz? He started in swing to bebop but pioneered cool jazz. Hell, he, Brubeck, Pepper, and Hall are some of my favorites. Confused on pedigree. Agree smooth jazz is pedestrian, not so the cool movement. Surprised on your view of cool jazz, although is got its start as a sub-genre in NY it became highly identified with CA. It was the reaction to endless frenetic bebop runs, placing a greater emphasis on feeling rather than dexterity. There was a sparkling intelligence associated with cool jazz.

6/27/2010 08:10:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Our musical differences cannot be reconciled, and it would be fruitless to try.

In response to your question about Miles, he did record some cool jazz in the early 50s, but soon moved on to hard bop by the mid 50s, modal by the late 50s, freebop by the mid 60s, and fusion by the late 60s. I suppose he kept a hand in cool jazz with his few solo recordings backed by orchestra, e.g., Miles Ahead and Sketches of Spain.

6/27/2010 08:51:00 AM  
Blogger Jack said...

Cool Jazz always feels emotionally flat to me. And I've never really been all that impressed with one of the heroes of west coast jazz, Chet Baker. I don't really get why he's in the books as one of the greats.

Modal Jazz--however overdone at this point-- tended towards the cool end of the spectrum, but it still burned with an underlying passion that is missing from most cool jazz I've heard.

6/27/2010 09:02:00 AM  
Blogger Tigtog said...

To Jack re:

"Modal Jazz--however overdone at this point-- tended towards the cool end of the spectrum, but it still burned with an underlying passion that is missing from most cool jazz I've heard."

Its funny. Half the world identifies Miles "Kind Of Blue" as cool jazz, the other half as modal. Modal just means you throw away chord changes to improvise to and move directly to scales. Everything on "Kind of Blue" is constructed with chords. Coltrane in the 60s could be considered pure modal. When I listen to Coltrane, I listen with my head. When I listen to Miles, I listen with my heart. Miles did follow Coltrane down the modal and free form path during the 60s. While interesting, there is little that is memorable.

At some point, more cowbell is not warranted.

6/27/2010 09:19:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Jack -- not sure if that's true, since modal is Coltrane territory (between 59-65), not to mention the searing Jackie McLean (63-67).

When I think of cool I think of Chico Hamilton, Brubeck, Mulligan, Baker, Shelly Manne, Jimmy Giuffre, etc. I certainly don't find anything cool about Art Pepper between 76 and his death. To the contrary, he was on fire. Actually, he did revisit that era in this outstanding box, but Pepper is quite impassioned, as usual.

6/27/2010 09:22:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

And I have to object in the strongest possible terms to Tigtog's statement that Miles recorded nothing memorable after 1960, since I think most fans would agree that his quintet featuring Shorter, Hancock and Tony Williams was his greatest, even better than the Coltrane/Kelly quintet. The In a Silent Way sessions are also fantastic.

6/27/2010 09:28:00 AM  
Blogger Van said...

Jazz wars.


Who needs trolls.

(stuffs another handful of popcorn in mouth)

6/27/2010 09:38:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

I frankly don't see how it would be possible to surpass the pre-fusion Tony Williams. He was a true savant, in that he started with McLean at age 17....

6/27/2010 09:39:00 AM  
Blogger Jack said...

Yes, you are right, I stand corrected...Coltrane did take modal jazz into high flying territory. I admit to confusing Miles Davis style modal for the whole. My bad.

To be honest I haven't ventured to far into cool jazz, for the very reason it always seems kind of detached and flat to me rather than "cool". Whereas Miles Davis modal was cool AND impassioned. Maybe that's a better way of putting it.

I do wholeheartedly agree that Tony Williams' playing with the second quintet was simply breathtaking. Another instance of "how could anyone do that, let alone do it so young??". I think his playing on the tune, "Nefertiti" which is practically an extended drum showcase with the main melody being repeated over and over. Incredible stuff...

6/27/2010 10:14:00 AM  
Blogger Dianne said...

LOL @ Van

GB - I know our musical differences cannot be reconciled - at least in my case. Which is why I generally never participate in comments about music here.

Apparently my tastes are more low-brow and narrow-minded, to which I fully own up. I like 60's through 90's rock-n-roll, blue grass and the old gospel music. I also appreciate piano and the saxophone. But I'm not serious enough about it to catalogue the details. I just enjoy it when I hear it.

I probably would never have listened to anything after the mid-90's except my son FORCED me to. LOL! And I even liked some of it after a while.

However, at the risk of sounding pedestrian, I don't you can argue that music that originated in the South hasn't had more of an impact on American music as a whole than any other, unless you just want to be obstinate. ;)

6/27/2010 10:15:00 AM  
Blogger Tigtog said...

To Gagdad re: Miles in the 60s

While Miles did interesting work during the 60s, the best thing that came out of it was Chick Corea and Joe Zawinul. Sometimes I think Miles tried to hard to always be the iconoclast. During the 80s he just settled down to improvising simple songs with a clean sweet horn. You know, pure round notes played with feeling. He didn't feel compelled to break down some new wall or lead a movement. He just played sweetly.

Not a fan of Herby Hancock, just saying.

6/27/2010 10:15:00 AM  
Blogger Jack said...

Wow...I haven't heard too many people, if any at all, take Miles' playing in the 80's over the incredible stuff he did in the 60's.

Personally I start to lose the thread with Miles after "Bitches Brew"--which isn't really one my favorites anyway. Once his drummers stopped swinging he started to lose me. With the exception of "In a Silent Way" which I really like, sort of "Ambient Jazz". I think he hit his peak--for my taste--around the mid to late Sixties.

6/27/2010 10:22:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Like I said, a savant. His teacher Alan Dawson -- a great drummer in his own right -- said that Williams was already as good as Joe Morello by the time he was like 13, in that he was instantly and effortlessly able to swing in 5/4 time, while Dawson himself struggled a bit to master it!

Re Miles, I think people confuse his quiet technique with the genre of cool jazz, two very different things. As one critic said, he always played as if her were standing on eggshells.

Another point worth mentioning -- I love the ECM sound, and I would estimate that at least a quarter of my jazz holdings are from that distinguished label. They of course feature Euro jazz with classical leanings, but I think that this style is as distant from the southern roots of jazz as the latter was from African slave chants. At some point, a thing becomes "new," not just an extension of the old. Same with Dylan. Yes, he is an extension of Woody Guthrie, but so much more.

6/27/2010 10:26:00 AM  
Blogger Tigtog said...

To Jack re: Bitches Brew

Can you hum or whistle it? Thought not. Hell, Miles couldn't even perform it live. It was a studio experiment. Again, why do we like Miles, because he mastered his horn, made it his own, and could interpret and write music that touched us. When you strip away the wah wahs/feedback and let him blow cleanly, you discover his greatness.

Different strokes and all, I just like a horn to sound like a horn, especially if it sounds like Miles' horn.

Interesting wv: numed

6/27/2010 10:27:00 AM  
Blogger Jack said...

I think few people would ever argue that American music didn't *originate* in the South. That seems beyond dispute. Rather, I take exception that the story ends there and no significant contributions/innovations took place elsewhere in the country--by the very *fact* of moving elsewhere in the country.

6/27/2010 10:27:00 AM  
Blogger Tigtog said...

To Jack re:

" I take exception that the story ends there and no significant contributions/innovations took place elsewhere in the country--by the very *fact* of moving elsewhere in the country."

I never said that the American forms of music were restricted to only southerners (that would be the same a saying no whites should be allowed to play blues or jazz) just that they all originated in the South because the South was the only true melting pot of ethnicities and race in America. Southern culture (music, literature, cuisine, art) are truly syncretism writ large. This didn't happen in the north because they ghettoized themselves. Still do, if you ask me.

6/27/2010 10:32:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...


The post Bitches Brew album Jack Johnson has some good stuff, notably some serious shredding by John McLaughlin. But that was pretty much the end of the line for Miles.

I believe what happened with Miles was that he was always the Coolest Black Guy in America, all through the 1950s to the Summer of Love. Then he saw his label mate at Columbia, Sly Stone, embodying the new cool, not to mention making much more money than him. I think the move to fusion was for monetary considerations and the need to keep his image contemporary, and was very much influenced by Hendrix and Sly.

6/27/2010 10:32:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...


It's a guy thing, like high end audio. Never met the woman yet who cares about her pre-amp or interconnects.

6/27/2010 10:35:00 AM  
Blogger Jack said...

I too love the ECM sound and you are right there isn't always a whole lot of Blues in it. I have one record of Tord Gustavsen ("Being There") and he seems to incorporate more Blues and Gospel feel than most ECM artists.

I think also of Bill Evans. He has a decidedly Euro aspect to his playing (his post-impressionist harmonic sense, in particular). He does have blues and swing aspect but it isn't "heavy" in that sense. Probably a reason he wasn't used on the bluesier "Freddie Freeloader" off of "Kind of Blue". The difference in the feel is significant.

I say that will FULL respect for Evans' genius. Perhaps the most influential jazz pianist...well, ever.

6/27/2010 10:37:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

.... and Tigtog, Chick Corea did not "come out of" Miles. Rather, he was already a highly regarded young player. Miles was like the New York Yankees. Since, unlike most jazz musicians, he was famous enough to have a steady stream of income, he could just pluck the best young talent for his groups.

6/27/2010 10:42:00 AM  
Blogger Dianne said...

Jack, I agree completely.

I did concede that I am narrowminded about new music. Maybe it's because it's my perception that the music industry has turned music into a big commercial.

I don't think at all that it ends there, that there will be no future contributions. It's going to be a LOT harder I think tho, for people with even LOTS of talent, but don't appeal to the latest industry model.

6/27/2010 10:44:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Yes, Evans was a magician. I recently purchased the box sets of his last gig right before he died, and he was still exploring, still creating.... He's a little like Jesus: what jazz piano was leading up to, and that from which it has developed thereafter.

6/27/2010 10:45:00 AM  
Blogger Jack said...

I have only heard "Jack Johnson" once so I can't really say. But at the time it just seemed like a "rock record". Am I missing something?

It seems, given the nature of Jazz that it was going to try and absorb what Rock had to offer...once Rock music had something sophisticated enough to offer a *Jazz* player. That probably did start to happen with the rise of Hendrix, Sly Stone etc. But Miles probably wasn't the guy to do so in the end.

I was listening to Frisell's "Live" with Joey Barron (another great drummer in the Paul Motian-esque mold) and bassist Kermit Driscoll. The "fusion" evidenced here is far more natural, in my book, hardly a "fusion" at all, more a already completed integration. Not that the integration process is a one time thing but it starts to become more of simple fact than a deliberate, perhaps calculated choice to FUSE two disparate elements.

6/27/2010 10:48:00 AM  
Blogger Dianne said...

It's a guy thing, like high end audio. Never met the woman yet who cares about her pre-amp or interconnects.

And I am not the exception. :)

6/27/2010 10:49:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...


Love all of Tord's first three CDs. Also check out Bobo Stenson, John Taylor (with Peter Erskine), Marcin Wasilewski, and Stefano Bollani... and let's not forget Paul Bley....and Michel Petrucciani...

6/27/2010 10:50:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

We really need to have a weekly music thread....

6/27/2010 10:51:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Yes, I suppose Jack Johnson is more rock, with that pounding back beat...

Agree about the possibility of more organic forms of fusion... which reminds me of something Herbie Hancock once said about Stevie Wonder. He said he was the only musician of whom he was aware who could make synthesizers really sound musical and not artificial -- as if they were his "natural" instrument....

Anyway, I think that Eberhard Weber's old albums achieved a synthesis of Euro chamber, jazz, fusion, film and ambient sounds...

6/27/2010 10:57:00 AM  
Blogger Tigtog said...

To Dianne re: :)

Does :) represent a sly smile? At first I thought this was a typo, but now realize you are saying something through symbol.

duh wv: dunm

6/27/2010 10:59:00 AM  
Blogger Jack said...


The music biz is in a funny place. There is a huge shift going on and I'm not sure anyone really knows where it's going to land just yet. On one level--the big labels-- there is the undying pressure to survive by moving into a more extreme commercial focus. There's a lot of "pap" out there, but that's because enough people want pap.

But I have to say we also live in a golden age of music. There is a LOT of great music out there...more than anyone could possibly digest. And so many different ways to access it, often for FREE. Which is great for the music lover, not always so good for the musician. There is just SO much music out there, so much GOOD music (and by definition a lot of mediocre and awful music too) that the challenge is getting what one does to get any attention at all.

wv: barfo. HA!

6/27/2010 11:03:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...


I too listen to all types of music. In fact, I'm not ashamed to admit that just last night I was enjoying the complete singles of Gary Lewis and the Playboys, featuring a young Leon Russell (!) arranging and playing keyboards.

6/27/2010 11:05:00 AM  
Blogger Tigtog said...

To Gagdad re:

".... and Tigtog, Chick Corea did not "come out of" Miles. Rather, he was already a highly regarded young player. Miles was like the New York Yankees. Since, unlike most jazz musicians, he was famous enough to have a steady stream of income, he could just pluck the best young talent for his groups."

Agree Corea was well ranked when he entered Miles' band, but this was true of Herby as well. Being a Maestro sometimes means surrounding yourself with the obvious up and comers. It also helps the up and comers when negotiating a recording deal. When I listen to Corea, I am always reminded of Miles' "Sketches of Spain" album. Too bad the two could not have done a stripped down celebration of Spainish music. I think we both would be talking about it today.

6/27/2010 11:06:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

And this new Paul Revere & the Raiders collection is not to be missed! Some perfect garage rock singles.

6/27/2010 11:10:00 AM  
Blogger Dianne said...

Jack, I think GB's idea of a music related thread is a great idea. You could share some of that with us.

6/27/2010 11:13:00 AM  
Blogger Dianne said...

Tigtog, when I say I am not the exception with a :). I mean I concede with good grace that I don't have that particular interest.

6/27/2010 11:15:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Hell, last night I was actually listening to the Disco Box. In hindsight, one can see that much of it was just a new incarnation of soul, not the bane it is made out to be.

6/27/2010 11:18:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

I mean, Barry White.... he might be the last of the classic soul singers....

6/27/2010 11:19:00 AM  
Blogger Jack said...

I am basically a rock musician coming at fusion/integration from the other side. I play with songwriters primarily in the alt-country, indie-folk, bluesy, rock-ish vein. But I largely listen to and study jazz and offshoots etc (and Arvo Part!) as I feel it has more to teach me as a musician. Though the Blues are the roots (nod to Willie Dixon) Jazz, to me, is the universal American musical language, par excellence.

But I say that acknowledging I grew up with Rock and Pop music and I will always love it!

6/27/2010 11:20:00 AM  
Blogger Tigtog said...

To Gagdad, do you remember the Vanilla Fudge?

6/27/2010 11:22:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Of course. I remember everything from the '60s since I was way too young to take drugs. I can't stand anything I've ever heard by Vanilla Fudge.

6/27/2010 11:24:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

I like how my Rolling Stone record guide describes them: "lugubrious drumming and vocals that define wretched excess."

6/27/2010 11:27:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Then again, if bombast is your thing.... I lump them in with Grand Funk Railroad, Humble Pie, Blue Cheer, and all those other plodding groups of white men doing the heavy-handed blues...

6/27/2010 11:30:00 AM  
Blogger Dianne said...

Never heard of Vanilla Fudge.

6/27/2010 11:32:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Just picture Kiss, minus the subtlety.

6/27/2010 11:34:00 AM  
Blogger Dianne said...

I've heard of Vanilla Ice. I understand one of the black rappers hung him out a window by the ankle, and that was the end of his career.

6/27/2010 11:35:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Can we continue this discussion on today's post? That way others can join in if they like.

6/27/2010 11:36:00 AM  
Blogger Tigtog said...

To Dianne re:"Never heard of Vanilla Fudge."

They were a Southern CA pop bad with a small margin of success. The most notable thing about them for me was they were one of the first "pop" bands to try and go psychedelic. Check out their version of "You Keep Me Hanging On". It is the only memorable thing they ever did, but they did it in around 1965-66, which for the time was pretty prescient.

6/27/2010 11:48:00 AM  
Blogger ge said...

Him or Me (What's It Gonna Be?) = greatness! Terry Melcher producing?
his solo albums are notable
the V Fudge were Long Island though tig!

6/27/2010 12:01:00 PM  

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