‘A Tribute To Mose Allison’ Celebrates The Music Of An Exciting Jazz Master

The tribute album features Bonnie Raitt (pictured), Jackson Brown, Taj Mahal, Chrissie Hynde and Elivis Costello, among others.

Marina Chavez/Courtesy of the artist

 

Mose Allison, who died three years ago, influenced artists from The Who to The Rolling Stones to Jimi Hendrix to Bonnie Raitt.

Raitt contributed to a new album, If You’re Going To The City: A Tribute To Mose Allison, which celebrates the late singer and pianist, who famously blended the rough-edged blues of the Mississippi Delta with the 1950s jazz of New York City.

NPR’s Lulu Garcia-Navarro talks to Bonnie Raitt about her friendship with the Mose Allison. They’re also joined by Amy Allison — his daughter, who executive produced the album — about selecting an unexpected list of artists to contribute songs to the album. Listen in the audio player above.

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Leonard Cohen Never Left Earth ~ The Atlantic

Leonard Cohen.
The Canadian singer and writer retains an aura of hallowed spirituality in the public imagination, but he was, first, a man of this worldJESSICA RINALDI / REUTERS
The work unearthed after Leonard Cohen’s death at age 82 in 2016 contemplated the soul, the Holocaust, and hip-hop. “Kanye West Is Not Picasso” went the title of one poem in Cohen’s posthumously released 2018 collection, The Flame. A portion:

Jay-Z is not the Dylan of Anything
I am the Dylan of anything
I am the Kanye West of Kanye West
The Kanye West
Of the great bogus shift of bullshit culture
From one boutique to another

Don’t act so surprised. The Canadian singer and writer retains an aura of hallowed spirituality in the public imagination, but he was, first, a man of this world. Yes, Cohen’s work quoted scripture and contemplated apocalypse; yes, he lived for years in a Zen monastery. And yes, he wrote a song called “Don’t Go Home With Your Hard-On.” The fleeting, contemporary, and crass were all part of the great story that he wanted to tell about permanence and impermanence. In the final lines of the Kanye poem, after his sassy-ironic appropriation of rap swagger, he delivered one of his trademark dark prophecies. “I only come alive after a war,” he wrote. “And we have not had it yet.”

Did Leonard Cohen watch The View? That’s one of the questions I’m left with from Thanks for the Dance, the strong posthumous album assembled by his son, Adam Cohen. On “Moving On,” Leonard bids a tender farewell to a beloved woman (probably his legendary ex Marianne Ihlen). His voice is a moss-encrusted slither, just like it always was late in his life. His melody unfolds with the simple oomph of a folklore. Tender chords twitch and hover from the Spanish guitarist Javier Mas. “I loved your moods,” Cohen sings. “I loved the way they threaten every single day.” Then: “Your beauty ruled me, though I knew / ’Twas more hormonal than the view.”

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The view? Or The View? The lyrics sheet doesn’t capitalize the words, and Cohen may well be referring to his own hormones. But I’m suspicious after encountering so many men of Cohen’s age cohort who use the word hormonal when confronted with women who share opinions for a living. Even if Joy Behar was not on Cohen’s mind, the verse toys with the cliché of an estrogenic vixenand in doing so jolts as crass, specific, and worldly. Listening to the song generally feels like curling into a plush comforter; hearing the potentiallysexist couplet feels like finding a burr.
Cohen famously approached his death with clarity, and Thanks for the Dance honors his late-career habit of seeming to write elegies for himself. In the album’s opener “Happens to the Heart,” the singer tuts at his years of being a “young messiah,” when he was untroubled by the fact of his own mortality. His sarcastic descriptions of the prime of one’s life—“In the prison of the gifted / I was friendly with the guards”—will rattle in the listener’s head the next time they feel things are going the right way. The last line, which circles out mysteriously to both the existential and presently political, is a showcase of Cohen’s great gift for writing kickers. “I fought for something final,” he rasps, “Not the right to disagree.”

That opener makes for one of the fuller songs on the album: Though not quite a “Hallelujah”-level anthem, it’s a complete statement that you can hum along to. Other tracks are just brief poems set to aching mood music, and when the poet is as hypnotizing as this one, that’s hardly a critique. On the minute and 12 seconds of “The Goal,” Cohen simply journals a day in the life of a dying man. “I look at the street / The neighbor returns my smile of defeat,” he sings, and you can hear the smile. The closer, “Listen to the Hummingbird,” was reconstructed from a public reading Cohen gave shortly before his death. It sees Cohen making himself very small by asking the audience to heed not his advice but that of the butterfly who lives only three days.

only three days.

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Such statements of humility fit with the idea of the Kanye poem, an idea that underlies many Cohen songs: proud individuals as but flimsy vessels for larger forces. He played a lot with that notion as he approached death. Thanks for the Dance’s “Puppets” puts it in terms so literal—“German puppets burned the Jews / Jewish puppets did not choose”—as to be unbearable. By contrast, the graphically erotic noir of “The Night of Santiago” telescopes between here-and-now storytelling and something more abstract. At the chilling climax of Cohen’s tale about undressing a “maiden,” he seems to pivot, and says this: “You were born to judge the world / Forgive me but I wasn’t.” Even though Cohen fixated on the flesh, his intended audience and implied subject wasn’t his fellow humans, it turns out. It was, as always, God.
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A Last Dance for Leonard Cohen ~ NYT

The musician and poet released “You Want It Darker” 19 days before his death in 2016. His son, Adam, finished more songs from those sessions for a posthumous album.

Credit…Valentin Flauraud/Reuters

By

The last time Leonard Cohen appeared in public was in mid-October 2016 at a Los Angeles news conference for his 14th studio album, “You Want It Darker,” just a few weeks before his death. Behind him hung a Canadian flag and beside him sat his son, Adam, a musician who had served as producer on the stirring LP. At one point Cohen, stooped and frail but sharp as ever in an impeccably tailored black suit, treated the audience to a recitation from a piece still in progress. He drew a breath, and then in that inimitable baritone, he began:

Listen to the hummingbird
Whose wings you cannot see
Listen to the hummingbird
Don’t listen to me

The audience applauded, and Cohen — who retreated at the height of his fame to live for five years in a Buddhist monastery — demurred with a characteristically self-abnegating joke: “I would say the hummingbird deserves the royalties on that one.” The interviewer asked if the song would appear on his next album. Said the ailing, 82-year-old Cohen, “God willing.”

It seems to have been his will. “Listen to the Hummingbird” is the final track on Cohen’s posthumous new album, “Thanks for the Dance,” which will be released on Friday. The raw audio of that passage from the news conference was tracked down by Adam Cohen and the engineer Michael Chaves, who mixed out the buzzing tone of the room’s halogen lights and composed around it a gentle, unobtrusive piano melody. Adam had already done the same for many of the other vocal takes and half-finished songs his father left behind.

The vocals that make up the other eight songs on “Thanks for the Dance” were all recorded during the “You Want It Darker” sessions, though Adam does not believe they should be considered “discarded songs or B sides.”

Alec Baldwin’s Trump meets Will Ferrell’s Sondland in SNL’s cold open ~ The Washington Post

Lindsey Graham Is a Coward

Trump’s ally in the Senate snubbed a veteran who asked him about the president’s conduct in office

House Republicans spent the week rhetorically hiding from a mountain of evidence that President Trump sought to extort Ukraine into helping him in the 2020 election. Over in the Senate, Lindsay Graham took a slightly different tact: physically hiding from an Iraq War veteran who had concerns about the commander-in-chief.

On Friday morning, Graham was confronted on Capitol Hill by Jeff Key, who engaged the senator about as respectfully as possible. Graham couldn’t handle it. Here’s the exchange:

KEY: “I see how you’re berated in the press and I honestly believe that you believe in our democracy.”

GRAHAM: “I do.”

KEY: “I’m a Marine, I went to Iraq. I believe as I believe that you do that President Trump is not acting in accordance to his oath, the oath that you took and I did to defend the Constitution.”

GRAHAM: [unintelligible stammering]

KEY: “You took an oath.”

GRAHAM: “Yeah I did, I don’t agree with you, I gotta go.”

Graham then abruptly turned his back on Key and disappeared behind a closed door. “Is that it?” Key said as Graham retreated. “That’s it,” the senator said before closing the door behind him.

Like his Republican colleagues, Graham has been unable to address the substance of the impeachment inquiry, instead opting to bash the process and indulge conspiracy theories about Deep State efforts to take down the president.

 

Sadly, his deflection efforts aren’t limited to cable TV hits. On Thursday, Graham, who chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee, launched a probe into Joe Biden’s relationship with Ukraine. The investigation comes a month after he was pressured to begin one by Trump and his allies. He refrained from doing so at the time, he explained to the Washington Post, because didn’t want to “turn the Senate into a circus.”

On A Tom Waits Covers Album, Women Transform A Classic Catalog ~ NPR

Allison Moorer, Phoebe Bridgers and more cover the music of Tom Waits in a new album.  Frazer Harrison/Courtesy of the artist.

 

 

“I think that Tom Waits is an artist who makes art for the sake of making art,” singer Allison Moorer says. To commemorate the esteemed singer-songwriter’s 70th birthday, Moorer — along with a slew of female artists including Aimee Mann, Patty Griffin, Rosanne Cash and Phoebe Bridgers — have released the compilation album Come On Up To The House: Women Sing Waits, produced by Warren Zanes, wherein they cover some of Waits’ canonical songs. Moorer and Zanes joined NPR’s Scott Simon to discuss the album and Tom Waits’ legacy.


Interview Highlights

On their relationship to Tom Waits’ music:

Allison Moorer: I am a major Tom Waits fan. He’s one of the few artists whose entire catalog I have in my iTunes. He’s a go-to for me.

Warren Zanes: Not to plug your station, but [my mother] heard on NPR “The Piano Has Been Drinking,” and she assembled her children around the dining room table and insisted that we hear it. I was a preteen and I felt like I was hearing a song that could have been written on a stone tablet and sung by someone from the Paleolithic Era. It didn’t feel close to me, so the first experience I had of Waits was an attention to the lyrics, and then a kind of unknowability that surrounded him.

The new female-fronted album 'Come Up On to the House: Women Sing Waits.'

Courtesy of the artist.

 

On what women artists bring to Tom Waits’ lyrics:

Moorer: Heart.

Zanes: I think over the years, Waits got more and more involved in the grit and the growl. He went deeper into the back of the cave, and sometimes I think people fail to see the very classic nature of the songs because of that “trash can” aesthetic. We viewed it as “His 70th birthday is coming, and it’s a feast day, and we’re gonna take these songs and we’re gonna give them all the sweetness that we can.” There’s something about the female voice that’s associated with a kind of vulnerability and a kind of emotion that we really wanted to breathe in these songs.

Moorer: I agree with you. I think that the “trash can aesthetic” allows people to miss that and that’s what I’m looking for when I listen to Tom Waits — this classic form. And then I get excited about what he’s gonna do with it.

On Tom Waits writing about people we know:

Moorer: He does seem to draw up marginal characters a lot — people who are either stuck in life or we don’t consider them people that we see. He exposes the everyday.

Zanes: If you’re interested in songwriting and you want to have the widest view of its possibilities: this is a man to study.

Zanes: It’s got that line “Why wasn’t God watching?” And I just think that if you’re a writer and that’s the only line that you write in your entire career, you should be studied in universities.

Late Night Is Tickled by Gordon Sondland’s Impeachment Testimony

Credit…TBS

 

By

Welcome to Best of Late Night, a rundown of the previous night’s highlights that lets you sleep — and lets us get paid to watch comedy. If you’re interested in hearing from The Times regularly about great TV, sign up for our Watching newsletter and get recommendations straight to your inbox.

The impeachment hearing on Wednesday saw Gordon Sondland, Washington’s ambassador to the European Union, describing President Trump’s actions as a quid pro quo involving military aid to Ukraine. As Samantha Bee joked on “Full Frontal,” the ambassador “implicated basically anyone who’s ever set foot in the Trump White House.”

“You know what these hearings could use? A guy who paid a million dollars for his ambassadorship.” — SAMANTHA BEE

“Not only did Sondland leave Trump’s defense in tatters, he also implicated Mick Mulvaney, Mike Pompeo and Mike Pence, and he did it as happily as if he were enjoying his own ‘Eyes Wide Shut’ birthday party.” — SAMANTHA BEE

“If you don’t know, Sondland is a lifelong Republican with no prior political experience who owns a bunch of hotels. Yes. Afterward, Trump said, ‘I hate guys like that.’” — CONAN O’BRIEN

“In order to catch a selfish, idiotic hotel business guy, you have to send a selfish, idiotic hotel business guy.” — SAMANTHA BEE

“He threw everybody under the bus: Mike Pompeo, Mike Pence, Mick Mulvaney, John Bolton, John Bolton’s mustache — even John Bolton’s mustache’s mustache.” — TREVOR NOAH

“This was like the ‘Wizard of Oz’ of impeachment testimony. [imitating Sondland] ‘You were there and you were there and you were there, too, Mike. You were the scarecrow!’” — SETH MEYERS

[imitating Sondland] I’d also like to incriminate my agent — baby doll, I love you! Marcie from wardrobe, everybody at the RNC, Mick Mulvaney — we couldn’t have suppressed Ukraine without you! Oh God, they’re playing me off. I want to thank the whistle-blower, everybody at HBO. Crime is crime is crime is crime. This is for you, mom. We did it! Good night!” — STEPHEN COLBERT

“So many guys went under the bus today, there wasn’t even room for all of them under there. They had to go under in shifts.” — JIMMY KIMMEL

“I mean, it was incredible. If he were a ‘Real Housewife,’ he would have finished by throwing a glass of rose in someone’s face, and just walking off.” — JAMES CORDEN

“Even the White House janitor was like, ‘Am I gonna go to jail?’” — SETH MEYERS

“I’ll tell you something: I don’t think Gordon Sondland’s getting his million dollars back.” — JIMMY KIMMEL

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SNL reimagines the Trump impeachment hearings as a soap opera (feat. Jon Hamm)