Category: Art

The Joy of Abetting Others

As an author and musician, I’m usually concerned about the humble goods I bring to the cultural marketplace. After I’ve written or recorded, doing the best I can to say whatever it is I’m trying to say, my quotidian worries revolve around selling the wares, earning enough money to have the luxury and privilege of...

The Hipness Equation

This past weekend in Los Angeles, where consumers of popular culture and art probably have more choices than any place in the world except New York City, we had a rematch between Genius and More of the Same, and More of the Same won again.  At the Jazz Bakery, Mark Murphy, one of the most...

Ella Fitzgerald: An Appreciation

Last week, the singer Ella Fitzgerald would have been 90. More than a dozen of Los Angeles’s finest musicians and singers, led by the renowned vocalist Barbara Morrison, congregated at the Musician’s Union in Hollywood to honor a woman who has touched and inspired everyone with functional ears. We heterogeneous Americans usually gather in large...

In the Company of Genius?

This past week I’ve had the honor of producing an album for FreeHam Records, the little record company I own. I’ve lived inside the control room of a studio in Hollywood, listening closely to what the musicians are playing and making sure their most stirring creations are captured properly on a computer disk. My job...

Astonishing Talent, Astonishing Anonymity

At the annual International Association of Jazz Educators conference, held this past weekend in New York City, one could wander through acres of hotel ballrooms filled with musicians of all ages, colors, and nationalities. And no matter what room one entered, even those chosen randomly or by mistake, one was confronted with so much talent,...

Robert Rosenblum

On December 6 of last year, the art historian and educator Robert Rosenblum died of cancer in New York City, where he worked and taught. He was 79.  Since our tabloid culture finds no prurient interest in the partners Rosenblum was or was not “hooking up” with, most people outside the art ghetto won’t grasp...

Good Writers

Readers of my books often ask me what I like to read when I’m not writing. And whenever I post a Thought lamenting our aesthetic culture’s descent into exalted mediocrity and irrelevance, the email correspondence usually includes queries like, “Well, if you don’t think Dan Brown is a good writer, who is, smarty pants?”  I...

Poem: Desafinado

Life is a melody played repeatedly By millions and billions of musicians All trying, with various levels of success, to make the song sound right. The normal hallmarks of practice — repetition, interminable repetition — don’t apply here, for there are no second chances, no do-overs at the beginning, no opportunity to return to the...

The Price of Virtuosity

Not long ago we had the pleasure of hearing (and watching) the young soloist Hillary Hahn play the Mendelssohn violin concerto with the Los Angeles Philharmonic, at the Hollywood Bowl. She was sublime. The notoriously difficult music, which is hard even to hum accurately, came through her fingers with supreme grace, as though her body were...

The Problem with Cirque d’Soleil

Montreal’s famed “circus without animals” has delighted audiences around the globe with its amalgam of acrobatics, clowning, original music, and spectacular lighting effects — all without tortured elephants and disgruntled tigers. The company — or, more accurately, the corporation — has as a hand in seemingly every other show in Las Vegas, where its productions...