My new “Think Again” column is called “Is Contemporary Conservatism Just ‘Payola’?” and it’s here. (Hint: it’s yes….)
A blast from the past: Journalists traveling on National Review cruises and writing articles about the funny people they encounter there have appeared in the past month in New York magazine and a couple of years ago in The New Republic. I did one in 1997, and since David Foster Wallace's famous cruise piece turned out to be largely fictional (according to Jonathan Franzen) I nominate it as the funniest (true) cruise piece, (though others may differ, as they so often do…). It’s called “Heart of Whiteness”—as we went to Alaska—and you can read it here.
Jazz now and then, live and not: The New York Winter Jazz Festival, The David Murray Big Band with Macy Gray at the Irridium; The Clifford Brown & Max Roach Emarcy Albums on Mosaic (vinyl only.)
I caught night one of the New York Winter Jazz Festival last weekend and saw three terrific sets. The first was by Cat Russell, whom I discovered, I imagine along with many others, because of Terry Gross’s enthusiasm for her, and she’s a wonderful throwback to what was, in most respects, a better time. Great voice. Great taste. Real presence. You can read about her here. (I also saw her in the band with Donald Fagen, Boz Scaggs and Michael McDonald, and she really helped make that night, especially the closing vocal on “Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Again)” however it is supposed to be spelled. Next came the Monty Alexander Harlem-Kingston Express who I now see have a live album I have to buy as soon as I finish writing this. Monty’s had a long career, but I just got back from Jamaica, and while there is nothing like Bob Marley, I heard enough Marley while I was there to last a few months at least. Anyway, Monty’s got some Marley, some Harry Belafonte and everything in between. And what a party the band was having onstage, defying category or else defining a new one. That was followed by Don Byron who has also made a living defying category—my favorite set of his was a tribute he did one night to Sly Stone—but Friday night was pretty straight-ahead. (Le) Poisson Rouge was full by this time and it made one, temporarily, optimistic about the future of live jazz, though if you read Ben Ratliff in the Times, you’ll see that it’s a bit easy to fool oneself. For more on Don Byron, go here. (Hey wait a minute, how crazy is this? I want one of these too. Look up Mickey Katz if you’ve never heard of him) some wonderful shows.