The great Canadian jazz pianist Oscar Peterson was, among other things, a musical descendant of 19th century Hungarian virtuoso Franz Liszt. (Peterson’s childhood piano teacher, Paul de Marky, had studied with István Thomán, who in turn had been a pupil of Liszt’s.)
Put that classical heritage together with Peterson’s devotion to his craft (he often practiced 4-6 hours a day), and his jazz influences (notably, the incomparable Art Tatum) and you get something like “Blues Etude”: a breathtakingly delightful blizzard of notes, playful, invigorating and a great way to start the day.
“…songifying the final debate between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump revealed a terrifying space opera about bad hombres and nasty women. So terrifying, in fact, that it ripped open a wormhole to another dimension, and pulled an unsuspecting Weird Al Yankovic in from his home in a parallel universe to moderate the whole thing.“
P. S. It’s one of the minor mysteries of American pop culture to those who grew up in the 1970s surreptitiously listening to the “Dr. Demento Radio Show” late into the night that Weird Al Yankovic is still a public figure making song parodies (as opposed to, you know, playing polka nights at the local Holiday Inn lounge).
The internet did not disappoint after last night’s presidential debate. Within minutes of Donald Trump’s bitter, sullen interjection, “Such a nasty woman“, in reference to his rival, Hillary Clinton, remixes of Janet Jackson’s 1986 hit, “Nasty” started appearing.
And appropriately so. Jackson wrote “Nasty” as a response to being cat-called and harassed by a couple of men while walking down the street in Minneapolis one day. It’s one of the great dis tracks; and now its dismissive lyrics (“Nasty boys don’t mean a thing; Oh, you nasty boys”) and funky, propulsive beat are forever yoked to Donald Trump’s public image.
It’s probably better than he deserves.
This is the song that got James Taylor his first record deal. And you can hear why: nearly 50 years later that chorus has lost none of its power, every note and chord and word in exactly the right relationship to the ones around it, simultaneously thrilling and reassuring to the ear and to the heart.
I feel fine anytime she’s around me now,
She’s around me now almost all the time;
If I’m well you can tell she’s been with me now,
She’s been with me now quite a long, long time and I feel fine.
Recorded in the face of the rising (and racist…and homophobic) “I Hate Disco” movement of the mid/late-1970s, The O’Jays silky smooth, heartfelt, unapologetic and subtle message song—“I love music; any kind of music, just as long as it’s grooving“—still stands today as a beautifully crafted and irresistibly danceable piece of disco-soul.
“Candied yams…black-eyed peas…mashed potatoes…possum in a pot….”
With licks as fat and greasy as a song called “Soul Food” should have, it’s some James Brown to get your Monday started off on the right foot.
Earlier this week, Donald Trump tweeted “It is so nice that the shackles have been taken off me and I can now fight for America the way I want to.”
Funny, Trump doesn’t sound nearly happy enough about being unshackled.
He could take a lesson from Mary Mary:
In the corners of mind
I just can’t seem to find a reason to believe
That I can break free;
Cause you see I have been down for so long,
Feel like the hope is gone,
But as I lift my hands, I understand
That I should praise you through my circumstance.