BALOONS ~ The New Yorker

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Photograph by Larry Sultan

 Thomas McGuane reads

Ten years before Joan Krebs left her , Roger, and moved back to Cincinnati, I spotted the two of them dining alone by the bricked-up fireplace in the Old Eagle Grill. She was a devoted daughter, her father a sportsman with well-bred dogs, who arrived once a year to peer at Roger and inspect the marriage. Roger always saluted his father-in-law’s departure with the words “Good riddance.” In those days, Joan stirred up our town with her air of dangerous glamour and the sense that her marriage to Roger couldn’t possibly last. There was nothing wrong with Roger, but talking to him was laborious. As the founder of the once famous Nomad Agency, he sold high-end recreational properties to members of his far-flung society, and he had taken on the language of his clients. After he described a drought-stricken, abandoned part of the state as a “tightly held neighborhood,” he came to be known as Tightly Held Krebs, or T.H. In the areas of Montana that were subject to his creative hyperbole, people bought god-awful properties, believing that they were an acquired taste. Renowned for his many closings, Roger was on the road a lot; this worked perfectly for Joan and me.

Joan made it clear, at the beginning of our affair, that this was not her first rodeo. She added, “I never do it to get anywhere.” That was all the justification we needed. I thought of Benjamin Franklin’s obscure dictum about “using venery,” and was reassured that our girl Joan was more ethical than that early American icon. I wouldn’t say I envied Roger, and I may even have enjoyed the limitations. I had all the advantages without the cares. The little I knew of their love life was a glancing mention of Roger’s vocalizations and importuning. Joan said she felt as if she were being regaled by him. I regret that I fell in love with her and, worse, never got over it.

When I stopped at their table at the Eagle, Roger rose to his feet, pressed his napkin to his chest, and gave me a hearty welcome. Hearty by Roger’s somewhat dainty standards, that is. I hugged Joan when she stood, running the tip of my forefinger up the small of her back and feeling her shiver. She rewarded me with a twinkle. The three of us sat, and they beamed at me with intense curiosity. There were several ways of viewing Roger; the nicest one credited him with enthusiasm and bonhomie, and this really was more helpful than, say, applying the standards used in one of Hemingway’s café scenes, where the queries were all about who was or wasn’t a phony. When Joan, Roger, and I sat down together, we were, strictly speaking, three phonies. There were a good many non-phonies scattered around the dining room. They looked rather dull.

Thomas McGuane on writing from dreams.

“You’ve come at the right time to settle a gentle dispute,” Roger sang. “Joan says that I alone approve of the fellow in the subway who shot the muggers. Please take my side! Mugging should be risky, as risky as speeding or mountain climbing.”

“Four boys were shot,” Joan said, leaning on her elbows and seizing her head. I glanced her way, and she held my gaze, her imperturbable face breaking slowly into a smile. No chance Roger would note any of this midway through his mugging aria.

“Risk!” he went on. “Look at all the deaths on K2. When you set out to rob, beat, or knife people, you should share in the peril. I want muggers to know that it’s a dangerous sport. Every game has rules. My hat’s off to the stouthearted fellow who filled them with lead. He could have been stabbed or something. Knives! They had knives!”

Quite inadvertently, as my hand rested in my lap, my fingers touched Joan’s. I let them intertwine. Roger noticed after all. “A little wine?” he asked. “Some candles?” Good one, but even this didn’t stop him. He looked up in thought. “In school, we had to write an essay on one of Dante’s circles of Hell,” he said. “We could pick whichever circle we wanted. I picked the Sea of Excrement.” He smiled. “I’m a realist, you see.”

Joan and Roger once came to my parents’ house for a visit. My father can be formal with new people, and they seemed wildly animated. Dad was charming and cordial, but, when they left, he said, “I wouldn’t piss on him if he was on fire. And I wouldn’t trust the wife farther than I could throw her.”

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ED WARD, ROCK CRITIC AND HISTORIAN, DEAD AT 72

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May 5, 2021

ANDREW LIMBONG

Ed Ward, photographed in the Rolling Stone office in December, 1970 in San Francisco.Robert Altman/Getty Images

Ed Ward, an incisive former critic and editor for Rolling Stone and longtime contributor to WHYY’s Fresh Air, died this week in his home in Austin, Texas. He was 72 years old. 

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The Furniture Company That Sang The Blues

Ward was known for the historical precision of his work — who was playing what, who was friends with whom, what they were imbibing. In a piece on the label Paramount Records, Ward described the legendary Charlie Patton on Fresh Air in 2015 as “… a towering figure who was looked up to by most of the other Mississippi bluesmen … Once his records began to sell, Patton would load up a car with his friends, his girlfriends, his ex-girlfriends and some whiskey and head to Grafton, Wis., to record. One of those friends was [the also-now-legendary blues player and singer] Son House.” The details, both incidental and integral, were typical of Ward’s work.

Born in 1948, one can find Ward’s byline across all of the early rock magazines — principally CrawdaddyCreem and Rolling Stone, the latter where he worked for a time as the reviews editor. He eventually moved to Austin, Texas — a city he became a relentless booster for.

In 2016, Ward published The History of Rock And Roll, Volume 1 – its sequel followed in 2019; both remain rigorous books that fastidiously surveyed the genre’s formative history from 1920 to 1977.

In its first volume, Ward was committed to preserving the work of acts integral to rock’s development, despite not having reached the heights of an Elvis or Ray Charles – the types of figures who would only be appreciated long after they were gone.https://www.youtube.com/embed/qaz4Ziw_CfQ?rel=0

Chapter one of Ed Ward’s The History of Rock And Roll, Volume 1 opens with a mention of Mamie Smith’s “Crazy Blues.”YouTube

Ward told various interviewers a third volume would have traced the history up until the 2000s Napster era, though it was never finished.

In a 2016 interview with Creative Loafing Tampa Bay, Ward was asked if he had any regrets about his career or life. He replied, after a life spent tracing the past: “A little late for that, don’t you think?”

FOUNDING MOTHERS’ OF NPR RECOUNT TRAILBLAZING EARLY DAYS OF PUBLIC RADIO

By Victoria Macchi | National Archives Newsrefer to captionEnlarge

Clockwise from top left: Susan Stamberg, Nina Totenberg, Linda Wertheimer, and Lisa Napoli discuss the early days of National Public Radio in a National Archives online program on April 13, 2021.

WASHINGTON, April 16, 2021 — Their voices became familiar to the public throughout decades of news, on commutes and in crises, an “old girls’ network” in the nascent days of public radio: Susan Stamberg, Linda Wertheimer, Nina Totenberg, and Cokie Roberts.

This week, in conversation with journalist and author Lisa Napoli, three broadcasting legends candidly recounted the beginning of what would become the standard-setting National Public Radio, the challenges of trailblazing as women in a misogyny-driven 1970s work environment, and the legacy of friend and colleague Roberts, who died in September 2019.

“I, from the very beginning—I think everyone felt this way—had big ambitions for the idea that we could create [NPR] in very difficult circumstances,” Stamberg said during a National Archives panel discussion for Napoli’s book, Susan, Linda, Nina, and Cokie: The Extraordinary Story of the Founding Mothers of NPR.

“It was desperate, it was thrilling, it was hilarious, it was horrible. It was everything. But it had a future, and we knew it,” she added.

Their careers followed the trajectory of public radio, flourishing as NPR grew and its programs reached areas around the country with limited news access.

“The accessibility of actually reliable information was scarce in many communities, so if there was a place where you could just turn on the radio and find it out, it was a big deal,” Totenberg said.

The camaraderie and mutual help and respect sculpted their decades on air, and bolstered their resolve in the face of sexism in the workplace.

“I think one of the things that is hard to believe for young women today is how really awful it was,” said Wertheimer, before describing “the single stupidest thing that ever happened to me”: evading a handsy senator in his Congressional office.

View the hour-long conversation on the National Archives YouTube channel (the ladies panel starts at 16.13 minutes on the recording) to hear more about the journalists’ efforts to establish themselves and NPR as news powerhouses. 

RUBÉN BLADES, A SALSA LEGEND, SWINGS IN A DIFFERENT DIRECTION: JAZZ ~ NYT

“Salswing!,” his new project with the Panamanian big band leader Roberto Delgado, celebrates the connections between Afro-Cuban music and jazz.

Rubén Blades’s “Salswing!” project traces its roots to a November 2014 performance with Wynton Marsalis’s Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra. Credit…Chase Hall for The New York Times

By Ed MoralesApril 27, 2021

Leer en español

Rubén Blades is a renowned vocalist, one of the emblematic singer-songwriters of 1970s salsaBut he’s not always recognized for his achievements in other disciplines: He’s also a Broadway and Hollywood actor, a composer, a Harvard Law School master’s graduate and a one-time candidate for president of his native Panama. And don’t ever say he can’t sing a swing tune like Frank Sinatra or Tony Bennett.

“We’re still segregated in many ways when it comes to music,” Blades, 72, said in a video conversation from his home in Manhattan. Outside of a few more wisps of gray in his beard, he hasn’t changed much, dressed in his typical all-black with an omnipresent porkpie hat. “People think, if you’re a salsero that’s what you’re going to do in your life. It’s like you’re a horse, racing with blinders on — I don’t wear those things. For me, music is subversive, because art is subversive. You change things.”

Blades’s ambitious new project with the Panamanian big band leader Roberto Delgado celebrates the fruits of evolution and cultural blending: the connections between Afro-Cuban music and jazz. It has arrived over the course of April in three different packages: “Salswing!,” an 11-track album that freely mixes salsa classics like “Paula C.” and “Tambó” with jazz standards like “Pennies From Heaven” and “The Way You Look Tonight”; and “Salsa Plus!” and “Swing!,” which emphasize the tracks from those genres.

Jazz has been flowing through Blades’s work for longer than many listeners realize. “Pedro Navaja,” arguably salsa’s most popular song, is best remembered as an unusually long piece that was initially frowned upon by the radio industry. According to Blades, a trio of heavyweight radio D.J.s told him that “Siembra,” the 1978 album it appears on, which he recorded with the trombonist and arranger Willie Colón, would ruin Colón’s career. The song was actually derived from “Mack the Knife” from Bertolt Brecht and Kurt Weill’s “The Threepenny Opera.” Blades had been smitten by the Bronx-born Bobby Darin’s hit rendition while growing up in Panama.

“I heard that version in 1959 — I really liked the feel of it, the attitude, the insolence,” Blades said.

Blades’s wife, Luba Mason, a similarly eclectic jazz singer he met when they both appeared in Paul Simon’s short-lived musical “The Capeman,” credits Blades’s mother, Anoland Díaz, with his passion for show music. “She loved the theater, playing the piano and singing,” she said. “I was a classical pianist for 13 years and when he heard that I think it sparked memories of her.”SIGN UP FOR THE LOUDER NEWSLETTER: Stay on top of the latest in pop and jazz with reviews, interviews, podcasts and more from The New York Times music critics.Sign Up

While Blades’s interest in recording in English goes back to “Nothing but the Truth” from 1988, which featured collaborations with Elvis Costello, Lou Reed and Sting, the “Salswing!” project had its roots in a performance he did in November 2014 with Wynton Marsalis’s Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra.

“I’d always been drilling Wynton with Afro-Caribbean music and he started loving it more and more,” said Carlos Henriquez, the bassist and musical director of the orchestra’s cultural exchange with the Cuban Institute of Music in 2010. “So I told him, look, we could do this whole thing with Latin and swing, and the vocalist we should work with is Rubén Blades.”

“We’re still segregated in many ways when it comes to music,” Blades said.
“We’re still segregated in many ways when it comes to music,” Blades said.Credit…Chase Hall for The New York Times

For the 2014 show, which featured Blades singing Gershwin’s “They Can’t Take That Away From Me” alongside the Héctor Lavoe standard Blades wrote, “El Cantante,” he began to use the term “mixtura,” Spanish for mixture, as a kind of branding for Latino hybridity. Blades’s sense of mixture is emblematic of how many artists and intellectuals have viewed Latin American culture as a whole — a layered conglomeration of racial and cultural influences, an identity defined by difference. He sees himself as a kind of creolized vessel of voices from Panama, Havana and New York (both uptown and downtown).

“The connection between jazz and Afro-Cuban music is very well documented,” said Blades, whose grandfather was born in Louisiana and moved to Havana to fight in the Cuban War of Independence from Spain. The interchange of musical knowledge between New Orleans and Havana was crucial to the development of jazz and Afro-Cuban music. New Orleans — which is also Marsalis’s hometown — was “a melting pot of Cuban, French, Haitian, African-American, even Mexican musical influences,” said Henríquez. The ragtime jazz pianist and arranger Jelly Roll Morton famously asserted in an Alan Lomax field recording that he often played with a “Spanish tinge,” that was actually an incorporation of a Cuban rhythm called the habanera.

Musicians from Latin America have also played a key role in the development of jazz through the decades: The Harlem Hellfighters, a World War I infantry unit that doubled as a jazz-oriented Army band, was made up of about a third of Afro-Puerto Ricans. Mario Bauzá, a transplanted Afro-Cuban, worked with Chick Webb, Cab Calloway and Dizzy Gillespie. And the avant-garde saxophonist Eric Dolphy was a Panamanian immigrant. “Luis Russell, a Panamanian pianist, was with Louis Armstrong for years,” Blades also pointed out.

Increasingly it’s become clear that a dominant strand of mixtura is Blackness. Afro-Puerto Rican figures have been central in Blades’s career, and to salsa. Blades has spoken of the singer Cheo Feliciano as his primary influence. He’s praised Tito Curet Alonso as the genre’s master songwriter. And on “Salswing!,” he’s included a high-energy remake of Pete “El Conde” Rodríguez’s “Tambó,” a paean to African drumming.

“The understanding of the African drum is what enables you to play both styles,” said Henríquez.

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On “Salswing!,” Blades creatively navigates the intersection between the waning days of extravagant, high-modern big band jazz and recession-era, stripped-down salsa. He sticks to his trademark staccato sonero style on the salsa remakes “Contrabando” and “Tambó,” but on the bolero “Ya No me Duele,” some of the higher-register, Ella Fitzgerald-ish scatting he uses on “The Way You Look Tonight” and “Pennies From Heaven” seeps in.

The album also includes elegantly arranged swing standards like “Paula C.,” a post-breakup chronicle about one of Blades’s first mature romances. He wrote it soon after he arrived in New York in the mid-70s, when he was working in the mailroom for Fania Records — known as the Motown of salsa — and subletting an apartment from Leon Gast, who directed the classic salsa documentary “Our Latin Thing.”

“It was a very inspiring time, in terms of creativity,” Blades recalled, citing the city’s thriving jazz and salsa scenes. “Everybody was at their best at that time, downtown punk rock was exploding, and you could still go to Tad’s Steaks and get for $1.99 a steak with a potato and corn on the cob.”

While the material on “Salswing!” is very much a retrospective, Blades is still quite engaged with the present and busily pursuing projects with singers he admires. He just finished a track with the revered Cuban vocalist Omara Portuondo, the effervescent Mexican singer Natalia Lafourcade and the Argentine folk-rocker León Gieco. And following a prepandemic concert in Puerto Rico, he even had a chance to elevator pitch one of the biggest stars of global pop: Bad Bunny.

“We played three and a half hours and he showed up with his mother and his father,” Blades said. “He was so super respectful, not only to me, but his parents. And then I asked him, in front of his dad, ‘Listen, I have a mortgage to pay, why don’t we do something?’ And everybody laughed.”

“He thought I was kidding,” he added, “but I wasn’t.”

How late night saw the Chauvin verdict … NYT

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Seth Meyers: Chauvin Verdict Confirms ‘What We Saw With Our Own Eyes’

“As we’ve explained on this show many times before, the culture and system of policing in this country must be dismantled and reformed,” Meyers said on Wednesday.

Seth Meyers said Tuesday’s verdict in the Derek Chauvin trial was “at the very least a relief to have what we saw with our own eyes confirmed by a court of law, even if it’s still a sorrow moment for grief and mourning.”
Seth Meyers said Tuesday’s verdict in the Derek Chauvin trial was “at the very least a relief to have what we saw with our own eyes confirmed by a court of law, even if it’s still a sorrow moment for grief and mourning.”Credit…NBC

By Trish BendixApril 22, 2021, 2:40 a.m. ET

On Wednesday, as Derek Chauvin’s conviction in the killing of George Floyd continued to reverberate around the country, Seth Meyers said it was “at the very least a relief to have what we saw with our own eyes confirmed by a court of law, even if it’s still a sorrow moment for grief and mourning, because this one verdict alone does not mean justice is done.”

“True justice would mean George Floyd would still be alive today. True justice would mean Black people no longer having to live in fear of being killed by police. But there was at least accountability, which is hopefully a comfort to George Floyd’s family, and all those mourning his death, and a first step toward true justice and the reform we so desperately need, because it is undeniably the case that this is not the end of the story. As we’ve explained on this show many times before, the culture and system of policing in this country must be dismantled and reformed.” — SETH MEYERS

Samantha Bee and Stephen Colbert also described Chauvin’s conviction on all charges as just a step in the right direction on a long path to righting generations of injustice.

“While yesterday’s guilty verdicts are a step toward justice, they don’t change the fact that a man was murdered and Black people are still being killed by police. We have a long way to go to make this a country that, I don’t know, actually treats everybody like human [expletive] beings?” — SAMANTHA BEE

“Americans are still emotionally processing yesterday’s verdict by a Minnesota jury that found Derek Chauvin guilty on three counts in the murder of George Floyd. It brings up a lot of complex feelings, because no jury verdict can bring George Floyd back, but the news of this accountability was celebrated across the nation, in Minnesota, New York and across the street from the White House, in Black Lives Matter Plaza, where people were dancing and crying with relief. What a difference 11 months make: Last time they were crying from tear gas and rubber bullets.” — STEPHEN COLBERT

“Now, the problem of police violence against people of color is still far from solved. While this is a welcome verdict, it’s like wiping up a spill on the Titanic: Good job, now let’s focus on the water pooling around our ankles.” — STEPHEN COLBERT

“Yeah, it should not take nine minutes of damning video to get some accountability. There’s a reason the Pledge of Allegiance doesn’t say, ‘With liberty and justice for all who are being filmed on an iPhone. Otherwise, sucks to be you!’” — STEPHEN COLBERT

“We can see the injustice with our own eyes, but there’s a whole industry of people, from police unions, to private prisons, to cable pundits, whose very lucrative job is to try to convince us that what we can see and hear with our own eyes and ears is not real. In fact, it’s worth going back and reading the initial police description of Floyd’s murder before the video came out to see just how deeply detached from reality it was. Here’s the official headline: ‘Man dies after medical incident during police interaction.’ It’s shocking. It’s hard to fathom. It’s like writing a book report about ‘Lord of the Flies’ called, ‘Kids successfully cooperate during tropical vacation, remain lifelong friends.’” — SETH MEYERS

“Many Americans on Twitter, on various platforms, have spoken passionately, powerfully, about the verdicts and their significance yesterday, but none spoke less eloquently than Tucker Carlson of Fox News.” — JIMMY KIMMEL

“After former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin was found guilty yesterday, Fox News host Tucker Carlson claimed the jury was intimidated into the guilty verdict by the protests and the Black Lives Matter movement, which is frustrating for Carlson, because he put a lot of work into intimidating that jury.” — SETH MEYERS

The New York Rock and Soul Revue: Live at the Beacon ~ A GREAT disk i’ve been listening to lately

This was a side project headed by Donald Fagen while Steely Dan were on a bit of a sabbatical in 1991. Stars such as Donald Fagen, Boz Scaggs, Phoebe Snow and Micheal McDonald got together to perform a series of shows backed by an outstanding 16 person backing band.

The shows were properly recorded and the “best”, according to someone, is here. Certainly the tracks here impress and would be highly recommended to Steely Dan fans as three of the tracks are Dan and one Fagen, played subtly differently and in magnificent sound quality.

Phoebe Snow gets a bit overwrought in a couple of places. Otherwise the rest of the singers, superb voices, perform splendid versions of well known songs.

Overall think smooth jazz rock and soul in the vein of Steely Dan and Micheal McDonald recorded superbly well and performed by masters of their respective crafts and you are close to what this album sounds like.

The New York Rock and Soul Revue: Live at the Beacon is a live album which documented the New York Rock and Soul Revue. It was recorded on March 1 and 2, 1991 at the Beacon Theater in New York City, a favorite venue of organizer Donald Fagen. The performances featured Fagen and included Phoebe SnowMichael McDonaldBoz ScaggsEddie BrigatiDavid Brigati and Charles Brown. Selections on the album included a number of songs which were originally written and recorded by members of the revue, as well as other songs. The album was released by Giant Records.

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LISTEN ~ New York Rock & Soul Revue (featuring Michael McDonald) “Minute By Minute” ~~

Avlon compares Tucker Carlson’s comments to George Wallace ~ CNN

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CNN’s John Avlon looks at Fox News’ Tucker Carlson and his defense of the ‘great replacement’ theory. Where did the racist theory start and what does it have to do with the Capitol riot?

Gospel Singer Elizabeth King Hits A Musical Milestone At 77

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At the age of 77, Memphis sacred soul singer Elizabeth King is releasing her first full-length album, Living in the Last Days. She talks about it with NPR’s Debbie Elliott.

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Does Jim Jorden know how unlikeable he is?

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(CNN)Republican Rep. Jim Jordan and the nation’s top infectious disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci got into a heated exchange Thursday over the country’s Covid-19 mitigation measures, which ended with Democratic Rep. Maxine Waters telling Jordan to “shut your mouth.”

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Gabo, The Creation of Gabriel Garcia Marquez

If you are a Marquez fan you have to see his life story. You can find it on Amazon Prime.

rŌbert

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‘Gabo, The Magic of Reality’ is a story about the incredible power of human imagination, which follows the interwoven threads of Gabriel García Márquez’s life and work – “Gabo” to all of Latin America – with the narrative tension of an investigation.