Sunday, June 29, 2008

Music notes--Tokyo Day Trip EP

I can't remember Pat Metheny ever releasing an EP, and this selection of "bonus" tracks tells me he should do it more often. "Traveling Fast" and "The Night Becomes You" sound like most of the strongest material on Day Trip, itself a fine album, but the other three songs are also very enjoyable. On "Tromso," Metheny plays some engaging lines on the guitar, melding different sounds nicely as he has done on his group recordings (but this is not a PMG throwaway). "Inori" is another slow tune where all of Metheny's bandmates contribute delicious sonic texture. "Back Arm & Backcharge" is the jamminest track here. The groove goes in and out, but is dug in deep. I envy those in Japan who got to see this performed live.

Because some of these tunes are a bit different from the Day Trip sessions, one might be scared away, but you shouldn't be. These aren't experiments gone awry, but an extension of what I hope continues to be a long working trio. The disc alternates between mellow and up tempo songs, but the collection holds together on its own. Here's hoping we see more!

Bookmarks--The Man In My Basement

The Man in My Basement by Walter Mosely is a gratifying stand alone novel by the writer who has given us Easy Rawlins, Fearless Jones, and Socrates Fortlow. Charles Blakey is a depressed, self-destructive black man living in his family house. He’s lost his job and can’t get another. He is about to lose his house. He has lost his girlfriend and before the second chapter is out, he is close to losing one of his best friends. But a stranger comes knocking, one that can make at least his financial life better, simply for allowing him to live in Blakey’s basement.

This tale, of course, is not just about the secrets of the odd white man, who has asked to be jailed on Blakey’s properly. It is about the secrets that drive Charles’ own behavior and about redeeming oneself. The arrangement sets in motion soul searching on the part of one as a result of the soul searching on the part of the other.

The Man In My Basement about the redemption that only comes about when one allows others in. Blakey is the sort of lonely soul many can relate to and his transformation is more than credible. I was interested not only how the ghosts of his past, particularly his uncle, had shaped him, but how Blakey’s ancestors stood with him whether he wanted them there or not. The novel stands up quite well in Mosley’s already substantial canon.

Sunday, June 01, 2008

Bookmarks for May 2008

Time's Arrow by Martin Amis. Of course, a story told backwards is going to be confusing, at least a little, and for awhile I read just wondering if what seemed to be a clever gimmick was going to pay off. I think it does, but I'm not entirely sure. I mean, the story certainly works this way, but I'm not entirely sure of the purpose. I want to say that Amis is trying to get the reader to the genesis (the book travels from the death of the protagonist narrator to his conception) of such evil as the Holocaust, at least the genesis of such thing in the individuals who perpetuate such harm. But the book seems about more than that. The narrator, who tries to separate his bad deeds from himself with a persona (with different names in different locales), is unable to hide his innate selfishness. And that is where the horror seems to lie, since when the beginning of this man is found, we see that his behavior comes from the idea that he is the center of the universe, as most children feel they are. But the character is not a child; sadly, there is a bit of his mindset in all of us. Frightening.

The Time Traveler by Joyce Carol Oates. I can't believe I had lived nearly forty-five years and had not read an entire book by Joyce Carol Oates. I've read a handful of her stories (most notably "Where Are You Going? Where Have You Been?" in college) and essays, but never one of her novels. And oddly, I didn't seek this book out, but I was in the library with my class and just picked it off the shelf. The poems are, mostly, accessible and interesting to read. Nothing stood out to me, but I did find the final section, mostly elegies, good reading.