« Sunday Open Mike: Lunatic! | Main | Pardon Our Dust »

Monday, 14 July 2014


We should maybe differentiate between sports-watching and sports-playing. I think we have been mainly talking about watching. To the un-initiated, all sports seem peculiar to some extent. Basketball is inexplicable to me, I do not understand all the running around and ball bouncing. Seems to me that if you earn millions of dollars per year, you should be able to sink 3-pointers from 2 miles away all day long, but that's just me.

But some sports really make themselves hard to love. One thing you can say about soccer (football) is that most of the time, it's over in 2 hours (or so). When the game is over, there's some useful daylight left. Some NFL games extend to 4 long hours, consisting mostly of huddles and beer commercials. Television viewing of golf and baseball could probably be prescribed as sleep medication.

I don't watch much sports on TV sports anymore, but when I did, I found that muting the sound improved all sports. That incessant moronic chatter lowers the IQ of the viewers, I'm sure there's research on that.

...makes me sad, really got into Haden during the Quartet West years...

The story sounds a lot like Lenny Breau's — coming up country and ending up jazz — but without the junk and the early death. I always wonder where Lenny might have gone if he had just been able to find a road, y'know? And I'm sure that fits a lot of photographers as well; there are sure to be masters of eloquence who find they have nothing to say for long stretches of time, and their "small talk" is obviously (to themselves and to everyone else) phoned in. I spent a lot of years in that silence, and put the camera down for more than a decade because of it.

Charlie recorded two recent duets with Keith Jarrett - Jasmine and Last Dance. Last Dance was released a few months ago. The last three tracks: "Where Can I Go Without You," "Every time We Say Goodbye" and "Goodbye"— two of which are alternate versions of takes heard on Jasmine.

You can bet I'll be digging through all of his Quartet West work too. The warmth & tone quality that came out of his bass was always remarkable to me.

In 2008 he revisited his country roots with an album called Rambling Boy, gathering his wife, son and triplet daughters in a new family band. He knew his time was running short.

I grew up in football mad towns in Alabama and Arkansas, following college and pro football incessantly as a kid, was involved in making football video games even at one point. But since moving to New Zealand 9 years ago, I've discovered rugby, and I could now care less about American football. Rugby has everything that game has, plus the uninterrupted flow of "soccer" and the humble grace of athletes who have only recently entered the spoiling effects of high pay. I've found my sports culture (not to mention the rest of New Zealand culture, which to me is one of the kindest, most civilised that I've experienced).

As for photo cultures, I've recently discovered a little genre called something like "storm photography." I've always shunned "sky photos" as schmaltzy, but now that I live on a hilltop that looks across a valley at a rugged mountain range that produces incredible cloud and light formations, I'm having god-experiences (for an atheist!) that fill my soul and have me taking these photos on a regular basis. I've bought long telephoto lenses to do nothing but shoot cloud images. And I detest Mr Steiglitz's Equivalents too! Never too old to adjust your thinking, is it?

Mike, a lovely little article. Thank you.

Nice thoughtful piece, Mike. I love it when you are (almost?) thinking out loud this way. Regarding the old saying you start out with, may I offer the (very) British version I came across a long time ago? 'God gives us our relations - let us thank him we can choose our friends.' (Come to think of it, it could have been Alan Watts who quoted it, tongue in cheek.)


Sad to hear about Charlie Haden but thank you for pointing the way, for me at least, to "Come Sunday" a while back. "Jasmine" with Keith Jarrett is enjoyable as well and the now aptly titled "Last Dance" with Jarrett should be too (though I haven't listened to it yet).


I'm right with you Mike. As I've posted here before, even though I loved the Beatles and all that came after them, Jazz is my musical center - right in the same era as you. Dave Brubeck is who got me started. I was about 5 years old when I heard Time Out for the first time (I was born in 1957). I'm not claiming I understood exactly what he was doing at that age. But I knew it was for me.

Charlie Haden was one of the greats and it's a shame that much of the broader culture doesn't really know him. Looking for another great Haden disc? Try Night and the City, recorded live at Iridium in New York City with Kenny Barron in 1996.

This is a well-written obit on Mr. Haden: http://www.nytimes.com/2014/07/12/arts/music/charlie-haden-influential-jazz-bassist-is-dead-at-76.html?_r=1

This comment, "At the heart of Mr. Haden’s artistic pursuits, even those that drew inspiration from sources far afield, was a conviction in a uniquely American expression. 'The beauty of it is that this music is from the earth of the country,' he said. 'The old hillbilly music, along with gospel and spirituals and blues and jazz,'" pretty much sums up my feelings about American culture.

I, like you, found my "adopted culture" in jazz. Having sat at the feet of many of the greats of the 20th Century in my early 20's. Even so, the Beatles still reign supreme. Their music, their influence and the impact its had on many of the world's cultures far & away out-strips the influence of pretty much every jazz man ever to come along outside of Miles & Coltrane. That's not to say that they were musically better but their music has a degree of sophistication that even my seasoned jazz ears had to work long & hard to grok. Deep in it's simplicity and a hard swinging to boot.

FWIW - Jack Black will be [was] at the funeral most likely, being that he was Charlie's son-in-law. Now that's a bit of a cultural mind bender.

For me, it's mainly cultural; it has little to do with the sport itself. I'll glue myself to the tube or spend an afternoon at a sports bar to watch the Green Bay Packers play American football, but if two other champion-level teams are playing each other, I could care less. When in school decades ago, I had season tickets for University of Wisconsin hockey and spent big money (at the time) to travel to the NCAA championships. But do I watch NHL games? No - I'm simply not interested. I've started to pay casual attention to soccer only because my expat daughter is so enthusiastic about it. On her recent trip to the states, she was dragging me into airport bars to check scores and catch a few plays on TV (there's that adopted culture thing ...).

In the early 60's rock and country surrounded me, then I was off to a military college with a portable record player with fold out speakers. My going away present was a trip to the record store where I could pick out any 3 albums. The first two I don't recall, but just from the Abstract Artwork on the cover alone, I chose the completely unknown to me: Getz/Gilberto. This was not only my introduction to Jazz, but in the few moments of free time before lights out, it often carried me away from my rigid life like a Mozart opera in Shawshank prison.

That is sad news. Haden could convey so much with so few notes, which is an ability few musicians posses.

He was one of the most influential musicians for me as I was growing up as a bass player. Something he said in a talk at some festival I went to as a 15 year old kid stuck more than any of the lessons and master classes I had. Something like he "tells his students to play without amplification so they can feel how their instruments sounds."

For a fine read on the theme of adopted cultures, I highly recommend Alex Kerr's Lost Japan. Kerr moved to Japan full-time in 1977, and originally wrote this book in Japanese for which it was awarded the Shincho Gakugei Literature Prize. The book's stories are told through Kerr's autobiographical lens, used to great effect as someone who is all of: a foreigner, one who gone native, and a great aficionado of his adopted culture.

Charlie Haden -- Just heard Terry Gross (NPR, Fresh Air) say she will broadcast a tribute show to Charley Thursday. As you probably know, Terry's husband (Francis Davis) is a jazz critic.

The thing about Charlie was that for all his work in jazz (and later, Latin music) he never left his native musical culture behind. In his final years nothing seemed to bring him more pleasure than making music with his family, mostly in a bluegrass style very much like that of his childhood.

I knew Charlie was getting on but his death still came as a surprise, I suppose because he seemed so eternally youthful. A true American original.

You know why 20 million American kids play soccer?

So they don't have to watch it!

I just downloaded the Haden/Jones album "Come Sunday"; its a beautiful listen. Burnt a couple of copies and sent them off to friends. Thank you, as always, for your recommendations.

I am afraid I am too easily bored to stick myself into some tiny enclave of the photography world. There are certainly some that I avoid, I probably have only ever taken 2 photographs that fall in the "street" category. If I was trying to earn a living with my camera it would probably make sense to be a specialist, but that is not what I do.
My method of work is to always push for variety. I post about 2 images a week on my 500px page (500px.com/TerryLetton ) and I am constantly working to vary what I present. The same when I go out to shoot, if I am going to a familiar place I will chose a different lens,filter, or something to force me to look at the place differently and hopefully come back with something I haven't done before. So I don't feel unlucky at all not to have a comfortable photographic home.

whatever that's called (Premiere League? Sorry, I'm way out of my element here and won't know many particulars).

Yes... but spelled properly. Premier.

I did not know Charlie Haden had died. Very disturbing. He was an outstanding musician who absorbed multiple musical influences and turned them into the sweetest sounds I've ever heard. If one has not heard his work, I suggest listening to the Quartet West recordings, all of which are transcendental.

Oh! Charlie Haden dead....that is so sad. Only 76, too. Like you, Jazz was my "native" music, for me starting when I was about 11/12 with dixieland, but then springing by 13 into Thelonius and then Hard Bop and Avant Garde. So I knew Haden well from Ornette's band. And, as you said, he did lots with others and stayed "relevant" with the pretty intense changes in the music from the 50's until now. Hate to say this, but Jazz hounds will get it: Along with Buell Neidlinger, the best white jazz bassist and one of the best white jazz musicians ever. Had the pleasure of seeing him play with Ornette at Constitution Hall during the "Song X" tour. Uh, yeah, it was awesome.

Here's one for you, Mike :"Mysteries" , with Charlie Haden, Dewey Redman, Paul Motian, Guilherme Franco, and Keith Jarret. A beautiful album, and in my opinion Jarrett's least annoying and most beautiful. Of course Haden's work is without blemish.

And another one, but this time from Buell: "New York City R&B" with Cecil Taylor (before he went off planet...). Absolutely killer version of "Things Ain't What They Used To Be"---gotta listen to it to the very end, where they drop into the cadential sequence after a journey into orbit---kinda heart stopping. One of those times you wish you had been there in the moment. The rest of the album is also really good, but more interior. If you don't know them, check out Cecil Taylor's other two early albums, Jazz Advance from '56 also with Buell and Steve Lacy, and Coltrane Time---yeah, you read that right. Taylor's playing is like Monk's without a sense of humor.

Thanks for the heads-up about Haden. Good listening to you. Wish our paths had crossed when you were in DC...

"You know why 20 million American kids play soccer?

So they don't have to watch it!"

Nice line. However, over a billion people, on every continent, watched the World Cup Final.

It has to be the biggest sport going, nothing is remotely close.

Jazz is an adopted taste with me. Since I was born and raised in Nashville, it would probably have been easiest to pick up that ball and run with it. But I always appreciated virtuosity, and that inevitably leads to jazz music. Back when I was opening my ears with the Beatles and all that followed, pop music temporarily became more ambitious. If you read about that time, you'll find that Clapton, Hendrix and their peers were playing on mixed bills with jazz greats, and absorbing heavy influences. Before Clapton played "Crossroads" for fifteen minutes, he heard Coltrane jamming like that.

I sort of fell sideways into Jazz, almost by accident. Some band I'd never heard came to town, called the "Mahavishnu Orchestra" ... on a double bill with Marshal Tucker! Not knowing what to expect (sitar?), I marveled as John McLaughlin's double-necked electric guitar pasted my ears back and took me for an unforgettable ride. The band played furiously, with a tightness and daring far beyond any rockers could muster.

So my first live jazz revelation came with a band whose instrumentation and intensity matched, and surpassed, a rock band. Later, fusion went on to gain a bad name with the Wynton & Burns headquarters of the jazz police. But that was the era when jazz artists filled the largest halls and broke through into freeform rock radio. Now... I see that Pat Metheny is playing at the local arts center, with about 1000 seats. That's just sad. When Katie Perry played a TV broacast show at my kid's high school last fall, she had twice that number packed into the gym, plus a nationwide audience. Things are backwards these days (at least in America-- I believe that jazz is far more popular everywhere else).

There are interests I have found at various times in my life where it isn't just the subject itself that makes it such a "fit" for me. Both the era of jazz you mention and my love for historic motor sport have an ambience of sociability surrounding them that is both warm and welcoming. Contrastingly I have found an element of competitive gear acquisition in camera clubs that made me feel uncomfortable and not conducive to the pursuit of a life-long hobby, hence I shy away from them. Maybe I just joined the wrong clubs?

As I type this I'm listening to the late Charlie Haden and Quartet West performing "First Song". Exquisite!

Just ordered a copy of Haden's Silence with Chet Baker. Haunting stuff.
Thanks to John McMillin for the tip, I will check it out. It's nice when artists have the chops to wander around like that. Speaking of people stretching their horizons, Jerry Garcia did a very fine bluegrass album called "Old and In The Way" back in the day.

Don't forget Charlie Haden's political courage; the Liberation Music Orchestra was not just about music. I have just been listening to a BBC interview in which he spoke about being detained by Salazar's police in Portugal in 1971 after playing 'Song for Che' with Ornette Coleman and dedicating it to the liberation movements in the Portuguese colonies in Africa.
As it happens, I started listening to jazz when the black South African student in the room next to mine at college turned his radio up. After graduating, he went back to South Africa and was said to have committed suicide in the police HQ in Johannesburg in 1976.
Thank you Charlie. Thank you Wellington.

I just realised that I too have an adopted culture.

I didn't move to London till I was approaching middle age. Not the normal age for some to be dazzled by the bright lights of the city. In fact I was generally wary of the place, having grown up in various countries before my family moved to rural England in my mid-teens. Small, I thought, was beautiful.

Then I spent a few years dating a London lass and frequent visits to the smoke nibbled away at my apprehension. When a job offer materialised, I moved here in 1997. Now you could not remove me with dynamite.

I have never felt so completely comfortable and engaged with my surroundings and the people I meet.

Possibly this is because many made the same conscious choice to come here, from other parts of the UK as well as just about anywhere else in the world. We all start out with one thing in common, we are all Londoners by choice.

Turns out that's a very good starting point for everything else.

Good luck with your move.

Charlie Haden Quartet West - First Song.....Live version on YT. Wow! I thought I could actually hear that Upright Bass singing.,,,best jazz piano I have ever heard, and the Sax swept me up and took me along for a ride like the ride we could take way back in the olden days before the crushing crowds...with just enough percussion to tie it all together. 'Nuff said.

I read somewhere recently that Americans like games with great drama and great reversals, where the situation can change instantly -- a lost football game changed by a Hail Mary pass, some guy hitting five three-pointers in a row, a grand slam homer, an eagle in golf. Perhaps that explains why hockey is a kind of also-ran sport in most places in the US, because it's (ahem) the American sport most like soccer. But, I totally agree with you. Having to choose between a colonoscopy and a soccer match, I might well choose the former, because it might do me some good downstream, which soccer won't.

However, I also agree with you that soccer is a cultural choice, and it's just not my culture; it may be for younger people. (But I kind of doubt it -- I suspect the reason that you hear so much about "soccer moms" is that they are the kind of affluent, attentive mothers who don't want their kids to play football or baseball because of the lurking brain-injury threat. In other words, soccer is the best option.)

Another of my cultural problems is jazz -- it's just not mine. But I read the long Charlie Haden obit in the Wall Street Journal (or maybe the Times) and he sounded like one of those musical prodigies like Mozart who was just born to the sound, and he could hear it even when other people couldn't. I will say that back in my college days I had a roommate who worshipped Charlie Mingus, and after say, sixteen hours of Charlie Mingus on a turntable I was not allowed to touch, from speakers I was not allowed to look at, I was ready to chew off my leg at ankle simply to escape. I'll take Ray Wylie anyway..."Up against the wall, redneck mothers, mothers who have raised their sons so well, he's 34 and drinking in a honky tonk, just kickin' hippies' ass and raising hell..." I mean, you can't beat that.

Saddened and distressed to learn here of Charlie Haden's passing. Mainstream news seems to miss the really important stuff. (Hah!)
One of my favorite musicians and probably my favorite bassist. I adore the work of Quartet West and share Haden's enthusiasm for the period that much of their work reflects. But 76 is just too young to go off to that big jam session in the sky!

And, fwiw, I've always thought that there was more than a passing resemblance between Haden and Garrison Keillor. Don't know if he was ever a musical guest on PHC, but, if not, he should have been!

The comments to this entry are closed.