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January 27, 1980 - Image 11

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Publication:
The Michigan Daily, 1980-01-27
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0

Page 8-Sunday, January 27, 1980-The Michigan Daily

S

bley

(Continued from Page 3)
An aesthetic success in which
musicians like Charlie Haden, Gato
Barbieri, and Don Cherry shared some
of their brightest moments, it was
financially doomed and disbanded at
the turn of the last decade.
Bley's first solo record project (on
JCOA's label) took the earlier group's
ambitiousness to a new extreme.
Escalator on the Hill not only includes
Cherry and Barbieri but rockers Jack
Bruce, John McLaughlin and Linda
Ronstadt. Linda Ronstadt! Who cares if
the album is basically unlistenable (due
mostly to Paul Haines' awful lyrics) -
any artist with enough nerve to bring
such supposedly incompatible perfor-
mers together is worth watching. At
least one of these cuts is noteworthy;
"Jack's Traveling Band" is a raw
precursor of the punk rock movement
five years later.
After this critically proclaimed ven-
ture, Bley formed her own Watt Recor-
ds label with Mantler. They have
released a steady stream of albums un-
der each of their names, pairing a suc-
cession of eccentric English art rockers
with respected jazz players of varying
backgrounls. The consummation of her
rock infatuation should have occurred
funny
. (Continued from Page 5)
gation of New Comedy was forgone,
and no major disappointment. It is
discouraging, though, to consider the
ways that even the hippest arms of the
media will automatically shut off cer-
tain performers. Buried under a layer
of rank cynicism in the movie The Can-
didate was the reasonably intelligent
point that even the most sidcere (if
slightly softheaded) politicians can't
really maintain touch with a mass
following-can't accomplish their goals
on any meaningful scale-unless they
play politics.
But what is a comic to do if, like
Richard Pryor, his entire performer's
instinct plays in searing opposition to
the politics of celebrity? Pryor's
television special and short-lived series
were blotchy downers, and they were
painful to watch, because you could see
that no matter how much he resented
the TV censors, he still wanted to "use
the medium," to tune in to the largest
audience possible. In this summer's
Richard Pryor-Live in Concert, when
Pryor made whitey jokes, he didn't talk
about "us" and "them"; he said "we"
and "you," never denying the distance
and hostility between blacks and
warhol.
(Continued from Page 6)
leads us to believe Warhol, if only in un-
seen privacy, is scratching his head and
pondering the biggest problem he has
probably yet faces: what the hell to do
next? After Warhol we'll never be able

in the ill-fated Jack Bruce-Carla Bley
band formed with Mick Taylor after he
left the Stones in 1974, but once again
the group disbanded before recording a
note. Bley has been uncharac-
teristically reticent concerning this
band, allowing only that the details are
too "horrible" to see the light of day. -
After this abortive attempt at poten-
tial mass acceptance, Bley turned to
the music underground with renewed
vengeance. She and Mantler formed the
New Music Distribution Service, the
first distributorship to attempt
releasing truly diverse music to an un-
suspecting public. "We don't listen to
any of it," says Bley. "If it's new we
distribute it without passing
judgement. We don't want others to be
passed over the way we were." NMDS
is now preparing a new updated
catalogue with hundreds of unheralded
new artists.
On their own Watt releases Mantler
and Bley remained adventurous
throughout the seventies, with results
ranging from the sublime to the
ridiculous. At one extreme is Mantler's
adaptation of the Harold Pinter play
Silence, featuring arcane art rockers
Robert Wyatt and Kevin Coyne in a
project that was doomed to pretension:
whites, but never pretending that the
two will ever stop mingling. That's why
Pryor is our most humanistic and
perhaps our greatest comedian: He has
more anger than anybody, but also a
vision that can cut through to all the
rainbows on the other side of his rage.
Instead of bemoaning Pryor's
relatively cultish status, I suppose I
should be glad he's around in the first
place. I cringe at the idea of labeling
him a "serious" comic. Fact is, unlike
Martin, Belushi, et. al., Pryor's is
comedy with a vision-life through the
funny lens. That makes him more of a
moral comedian than Woody Allen,
whose self-conscious "concerns" are
always distinct from the source of
humor in his jokes; with Pryor, the joke
and the emotion, be it rage, -joy, or
whatever, are one. Perhaps the Steve
Martin alternative-humor whose
lack of responsibility and point-of-view
is 'its essence-has outlived its
usefulness. Undiluted zaniness wears
this as a doily after awhile, and by now
most of us have probably o.d.'d on it.
Something tell me, though, that we
aren't so jaded that we're not ready for
something else. After all, 'tis better to
have laughed and lost ...
to treasure art as we once did. But
that's only half a promise: after
destruction must arise something new.
And with Warhol, there's a possibility
of fulfillment that more than justifies
the longest of waits under the most
discouraging of circumstances.

Mantler should have known better. The
other extreme is Bley's Dinner Music,
which brings the ultimate studio hack
band, Stuff, into a spontaneous musical
situation in which they are forced to
prove their overinflated reputation.
And they do; spurred by Bley's
arrangement and Roswell Rudd's
careening trombone, Dinner Music is a
well-honed, humorous yet dramatic
work that is both an eloquent sum-
mation of seventies mainstream jazz
and a brilliant parody of it.
Currently Bley is pushing in a direc-
tion where no big band has tread
before. "The most avant garde, in-
teresting music in the world right now
is punk rock," she says. Although
Bley's definition of punk is a lot further
out there (Pere Ubu as opposed to the
Ramones) than most people's, she's
totally committed to integrating it with
her vision of jazz. After a brief,
anonymous stint with an actual punk
band known as the Burning Sensation,
she returned to jazz with a decidedly
warped perspective. "I'm coming back
to my big band with everything I've
learned from working in the new wave
and I'm still learning from listening to
punk groups," she said at the time.
What could Bley possibly learn from
listening to bands like Ubu and the
Feelies? For one thing, that fundamen-
tally serious musical experiments don't
have to be unapproachable. They can
even be danceable. "The way I sang
things on Escalator on the Hill sounded
like I was on a couch dying of tuber-
culosis" she has said before. "Now, you
don't have to go to our music - it's
going to come to you.
A fusion of two seemingly divergent
musical forms requires something
beyond musical expertise and ex-
perience. Bley's ability as a leader has
been well proven over the years, but the
new Carla Bley Band cooks not only
with authority but with an authenticity
that's absent from their previous effor-
ts and "fusion" music in general. Carla
Bley understands that attitude, not
pyrotechnics, is the heart of rock and
roll. And attitude is one thing she has
plenty of.
She has embraced the new wave of

rock and roll with a messianic fervor.
As she says,. "From now on, I write
nothing but songs with lyrics." And
while the unselfconscious humor of
pieces like "Boo to You Too" isn't exac-
tly profound, it's a vast improvement
from pretentious dribble like
Escalator. Pairing D. Sharpe's Rich-
man-like vocals on "Mineralist" with a
well executed "satire" of minimalist
composer Phillip Glass is more than a
sophisticated joke; it's a musical
statement of policy.
Like many new wave rockers and
virtually all avant garde jazz artists,
Bley's work, even when aesthetically
.successful, has met with something less
than commercial success. That Bley's
purposefully erratic career has per-
sisted at all is largely due toy her
organizational ability and continuing
interest in the business end of making
music. As the corporate giants expand
their monopoly on American musical
tastes, Bley's extra-curricular activity
becomes increasingly more
significant: without NMDS, some wor-
thwhile (and a lot of potential) talent
would remain unheard.
Bley's own position is as precarious
as any other Do It Yourselfer's. Her
record company, and distribution ser-
vice manage to break even, but the
Carla Bley Band has been a consistent
money loser. The logistics are simple
enough - a big band is a costly
operation, and a musically controver-
sial one is a gamble the music industry
isn't ready to take.
So consider yourself lucky if you saw
the Carla Bley Band at the Power Cen-
ter two weeks ago; it was the only show
salvaged from a tour cancelled for
strictly financial reasons. Don't worry
about what a group that plays that well
unrehearsed would sound like afforded
the luxury of financial support.
Because Carla Bley certainly isn't
going to give up - rather she seems
anxious to confront mass tastes as they
slowly catch up to her. Punk jazz could
well be the dance music of the eighties
- a lot more unlikely things have hap-
pened. Who would have predicted the
eventual success of Patti Smith and
Talking Heads way back in 1975?

1

u ndag

115

chocolate

(Continuea trom Page ?)
1 t. paprika
1T. salt
4 t. thyme
1/8 t. ground all spice E
1/8 t. nutmeg
2 T. vinegar
6 oz. tomato paste

6 cups water
1 oz. bittersweet chocolate, grated
1 T. cumin
1 t. oregano
1it. basil
% t. ground, mixed pickling spices
1 bay leaf
" t.fenogreek
In a large, heavy bottomed pot, saute
onions and garlic until golden. Add the
beef, cooking until brown. Add rest of
igredients. Cook three hours. Serves
four very generously. May be frozen.

u n d ayg
Co-edtor

inside:

Elisa Isaacson

RJ Smith

Comedy today.
Ha ha.

Warhol,
in the 70s

A bittersweet ron
with chocolate

Cover photo by Maureen O'Malley

Lyfnda Falevsky, 1474 .

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'Supplement to The MkbJcj Pb D~ily - -'A - - " . ay J-nar 2, 9~

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