Monday, June 23, 2008

Louis headstrong, etc.


As an addendum to the Steely Dan post below, you MUST read this outstanding time capsule from Entertainment Weekly, wherein Donald Fagen returns to "[His] Old School," Bard, and reveals all you ever wanted to know about the Dan's undergraduate origins--yes, that includes Chevy Chase's drumming tenure with an early edition of the band. Someone should write a book about how many bands have been spawned out of a complex love/hate relationship with a college: This reads like Vampire Weekend circa 40 years ago!


Not to be crass, but I can't say I was ever a huge fan of George Carlin, who passed away yesterday. But I am in the process of becoming a huge fan of Louis C.K., who posted a great Carlin tribute on his website today. And if Carlin could seem a little stilted at times, well at least he inspired the efforts of Mr. C.K. (Mr. K? I'm not sure how to render that.)

Laal and I caught LCK at Carolines last night and it was goddamn hysterical. (One thing I'm learning very rapidly is that if you shell out to see a big-name comedian like LCK or Daniel Tosh, who I mentioned in a previous post, you *will* laugh and you *will* enjoy yourself. The latter is not always true for bands, even if you love them. Maybe I just don't know enough about stand-up, but it's hard to imagine seeing a proven name like these guys put on a lackluster live set.) Laal had first turned me onto him a while back with this poetically simple yet hilarious--that's funny I'm saying that b/c LCK spent a sizable chunk of his set last night bitching about how people overuse the world "hilarious," e.g., "Do you know who I saw yesterday? Lisa! It was *hilarious*"--bit on the futility of trying to explain things to kids. And then during last winter's Stay FKD tour Tony had his un-iPod crammed with plenty of LCK.

Anyway, there's absolutely NOTHING avant-garde, "progressive," experimental or anything like that about Louis CK. Seeing him is like seeing a really badass straight-ahead jazz group that completely obeys genre conventions while simultaneously just destroying you with effortless flair. He's from the Regular Guy Bitching school of comedy, namely his act consists of gripes about everyday life--last night he sounded off on how lame and boring white people are, how insipid the conversations he overhears at Starbucks are, how annoying it is to call an American company and reach a Pakistani operator, etc. (My favorite bit: After complaining about how terminally annoying his three-year-old daughter can be, he's like, "Yeah, she can pretty much go fuck herself.")

So these are powerfully mundane topics, but LCK's secret is that he manages to project that *white-hot rage*--entirely irrational but no less overpowering--that all of us feel on a daily basis when we find ourselves in annoying situations. He basically gives voice to that inner scream of anguish we experience when we spill food all over ourselves, or trip on the sidewalk, or suffer any other day-to-day indignity. It's kvetching elevated to genius status, really, because there's you feel a constant empathy. Some guy in the back was screaming, "Tell 'em, Louis!" after every joke, and though he was totally disrupting the show, that pretty much approximated my inner monologue as well.


Lastly, on the Cecil Taylor-and-drummers tip (discussed two posts back), I had a real moment with the Taylor/Max Roach duo disc, "Historic Concerts," the other day (actually the moment was technically with the second disc of the two in the set, each of which features a continuous 40-minute juggernaut). I had never truly connected w/ this release back in the day when I first heard it while researching a story on the 2000 reunion concert at Columbia (reviewed here by Ben Ratliff). But coming back to it, it made so much sense; it may be one of my favorite Cecil discs period. Once Max dispenses with his loopy gongs, vibraslap and g├╝iro, he just starts burning in free time on the kit. For some reason, I had remembered his playing as being so much more straight-ahead, but there are many moments on this disc where if I heard it blind, I'd immediately think of a more bullish, martial Andrew Cyrille. There is one passage of overt swinging near the end and Cecil responds with absolute glee. As for the rest of Taylor's performance, let's just say that people fall over themselves to point out passages where his "tender" side comes out, but I've never heard him play anything even remotely as quietly beautiful as some of the calmer moments on this session. It's straight-up balladic at times, connecting directly with a great Roach quote from the Mandel book:

"I remember that time in his loft on Chambers Street, prior to our first Columbia concert. I said, 'Cecil, we've talked about a lot of things, but is there anything you feel you'd like to hear from me?' And he said, 'Yes, come to think of it. Most people don't know when I'm playing a ballad.' I said, 'Ok, why don't you give me some ideas.' So he went to the piano and played himself, Cecil Taylor. It was beautiful, but it was still Cecil. It was still in that complex range where I could just play out on it, or bash on it, or lay out, or do something very simple. It just *worked*.'"

You'll hear that on this record. (Cough, go here, cough, via Vanish Yourself.)


Unknown said...

i've used the ninja invisibility crouch before.

Jon Abbey said...

"Anyway, there's absolutely NOTHING avant-garde, "progressive," experimental or anything like that about Louis CK."

I can't speak to his standup, but his abruptly terminated, fantastic sitcom Lucky Louie did nothing but push boundaries. highly recommended, it's out on DVD.