Joe's Journal
Wednesday, July 12, 2006
LeRoy Downs - The Jazz Cat  
Last night I had the pleasure of doing an interview with LeRoy Downs, the Jazz Cat.
Mr. Downs is a class act. When he does an interview with an artist, he brings with him his erudition and his great love of music - a helluva combination! His interviews are initially aired on KRML / 1410 AM, and then archived at his own website at This site is full of good information..... articles, videos, and lots of interviews with such great artists as Bobby Hutcherson, Dianne Reeves, Robert Hurst, Jean-Michel Pilc, Christian McBride, etc., conducted by the Jazz Cat himself.

Check it out when you get a chance!

p.s. a big thank you to Gary Hamada, George Fuller and all the folks at KRML for keeping the music in people's ears and hearts.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006
Hard Rain Falling  
I woke this 4th of July morning to the sound of rain. It seemed somehow fitting that this Independence Day wouldn't be, on the NE coast anyway, a day of sunshine and picnics and parades. Perhaps the dark sky was asking us to reflect about what America was, what it has become, and what we (dare we?) imagine it could still be.

I have had some hope of late. People are talking.... my colleagues are writing and playing about the political climate in America (Ben Allison, Uri Caine to mention just two). Charlie Haden, of course, has always been courageously outspoken on the subject. But it is in the pop world where I see / feel some small shift.... and it is thanks to a few people of character and conscience. The other night on VH-1, Eddie Vedder and Pearl Jam appeared on a show called "Story Tellers". Vedder was, as always, outspoken and eloquent, calm yet resolved in his anti-Bush administration stance. In an era when pop stars are trying to turn the song into.... the movie into..... the clothing line into..... the fragrance, Vedder and P/J are using their celebrity to effect change, to wake up the sleeping. They know that no matter how you market it, shit stinks. Millions of young people saw that show. Does it make a difference? I don't know, but I take pride in knowing that many, many of us will "rage against the dying of the light", the strangulation of WE THE PEOPLE.

I recently attended a performance at Madison Square Garden by Bruce Springsteen's "Seeger Sessions" band. Although much of the evening was happy and upbeat, the concert left me moved and shaken, incredibly sad and yet charged with power as I, along with thousands of others in The Garden, sang, "Bring 'em home, bring 'em home, bring 'em home", the chorus to a Pete Seeger Vietnam-era anthem. Another song Bruce pulled out of his bag was "Mrs. McGrath", about a mother who greets her son, fresh home from war, to discover he has lost both his legs to cannonball fire. In prefacing this song, Springsteen stated, "This song was written in the 1860's, but it could have been written yesterday. You're not able to see it on your t.v. and the newspapers aren't talkin' about it, but there are Ms. McGraths all over this country right now." Springsteen has been a strong voice in this country for a long time. With this old music, made new again, Springsteen is doing something very powerful - he is educating while entertaining..... he is using the spotlight to reveal what is hidden in shadow..... what those in power would like very much to keep hidden in shadow. I would venture to guess that many Springsteen fans are apolitical. Some may even be dyed-in-the-wool conservatives. But I'm convinced that even the most right-leaning fan at that concert STOPPED TO THINK about what it is he/she is supporting. Now multiply that by 10,000......

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"Of course the people don't want war. But after all, its the leaders of the country who determine the policy, and its always a simple matter to drag the people along whether its a democracy, a fascist dictatorship, a parliament or a communist dictatorship. Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to do the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism, and exposing the country to greater danger."
- Hermann G�ring (at the Nuremberg Trials)



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