Saturday, February 21, 2015

Pheaturing Connie Crothers And Jessica Jones

Hey there, welcome to the Phile on a Saturday. How are you, kids?  Hey, tomorrow night it's the Oscars. Let's gather Sunday and pretend we've viewed non-pornographic films this year.  Well, this is good news I think... Louie the Clown... a life-sized clown doll that went missing from an amusement park in Wichita, Kansas a decade ago was discovered in the home of a convicted sex offender who used to work at the park. There, now you know what your nightmares will be about tonight. I wondered what he clown looked like so I had to find a picture.

Ugh. Send this clown back to Hell where he belongs.  A tanker truck accidentally spilled around 350 gallons of raw sewage onto an I-65 exit ramp in Indiana Thursday night. The liquid slurry of feces and urine quickly froze solid in the sub-zero weather conditions, prompting some genius working at the local newspaper Lafayette Journal & Courier to describe the fallout as a "toxic poopsicle." Ladies and gentlemen, we are no longer accepting applications for this year's Pulitzer Prize for journalism. Better luck next year.  A Michigan pediatrician is so very, very sorry that she will be unable to care for the six week old infant child of a lesbian couple, on account of her crippling homophobia. As she explained in a letter to the parents: "After much prayer following your prenatal (visit), I felt that I would not be able to develop the personal patient doctor relationship that I normally do with my patients." I hope this doctor gets through this difficult time in her life.   According to new data acquired by the New York Times, the average meal at Mexican chain restaurant Chipotle contains approximately 1,070 calories, which is somewhere between two-thirds and half of the recommended calories for one day of eating. It also contains "close to a full day's worth of salt (2,400 milligrams) and 75 percent of a full day's worth of saturated fat." Luckily, most of us only eat there three or four times a week. Myself I think I've eaten at a Chipotle just once last year. I like Tijuana Flats a lot better.  Grizzly bears at Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming are apparently emerging from winter hibernation a month earlier than normal, according to park officials. Assuming they're anything like me when woken up early, visitors to the park should avoid them at all costs, lest they be mauled or forced into a unnecessarily vitriolic argument about why there are still so many dishes in the sink from last night. I hate when you're in the shower and a grizzly bear bursts in and gnaws off your good leg. It's true. Haha.  Okay, I mentioned tomorrow is the Oscars. Well, a street artist trolled all of Hollywood with a coke-snorting Oscar statue. Here is a picture of it...

Whose line is it, anyway? Street artist Plastic Jesus put up this amazing statue criticizing Hollywood drug culture right at the intersection of Hollywood Boulevard and La Brea Avenue in Los Angeles, right at the end of the section of the street that will be cordoned off for the Oscars on Sunday. In light of the sad and untimely death of talented comedian and "Parks and Rec" producer Harris Wittels at 30, who publicly struggled with heroin and fatally relapsed this week, the criticism couldn't be timelier.  Hey, do you kids have Comcast? I don't, which is good considering their ad.

How rude.  With the Fifty Shades of Grey movie out Disney thought it'll be cool to cash in and rerelease some of their animated classics with Fifty Shades scenes thrown in. Why? I have no idea. Take a look though.

I have no idea what movie that is supposed to be from. The Princess and the Frog maybe?  I was flipping over the channels the other day and I stumbled upon the original "Star Trek" series and I spotted something I never spotted before.

Hahaha. I'm so sorry, that's so stupid. Wanna see what else is stupid?

That cracks me up. And now from the home office in Port Jefferson, New York, here is this week's...

Top Phive Sneak Peeks At This Year's Oscar Acceptance Speeches
5. Steve Carrell, Foxcatcher: And finally, to Rainn Wilson, who told me it would be career suicide to leave "The Office": Fuck you! "Backstrom" sucks!
4. Julianne Moore, Still Alice: And thank you for not nominating Matthew McConaughey for Interstellar... I couldn't have made it through another rome of his confusing nonsensical speeches!
3. Reese Witherspoon, Wild: Do you know who I am? DO YOU? Because I will RUIN YOU, you pathetic... oh, sorry! Wrong speech!
2. J.K. Simmons, Whiplash: Thank you for acknowledging my art... this'll really give me leverage when I renegotiate for those Farmer's Insurance commercials I do!
And the number one sneak peek Oscar acceptance speech is...
1. Michael Keaton, Birdman: In Birdman, I played a has-been superhero actor starring in a pretentious production to win back respect... yet everyone gushes that American Sniper was based on a true story!

How come pretty much every movie sounds like a superhero movie? Birdman, Whiplash, Foxcatcher, Nightcrawler... Crazy. Anyway, if you spot the Mindphuck let me know. Okay, so, I have to mention something important that I forgot to last week when the Phile returned after its sort hiatus. I used to have a pheature on the Phile called The Peverett Phile Rock and Roll Hall of Phame where Joe Ramsey, who was a member of unHOF would induct a different band. Well, last year I mentioned that Joe was really sick. Sadly Joe passed at the young age of 58, on December 29th, 2014, after a long brave battle with health problems. Thanks for all that you did, Joe.

Okay, another friend of the Phile is here to talk about something that is on his mind. He is a singer, patriot and renaissance man, and he hasn't been on the Phile in awhile so it's good to have him back. You know what time it is.

How far, the mighty have fallen... As you may have noticed, I don't go in much for following sports. Two reasons... 1. As I have said in the past, I feel the same about sports as I do about porn. Unless I'M the one getting sweaty and exhausted... I don't care to be a spectator. and... 2. When I was young, we had sports heroes like Mohammed Ali, Joe Namath and Willie Mays. They may have drank or caroused a bit... but we didn't hear about massive cover ups of steroid use, animal abuse, knocking out their wives or attempted murder charges. I just can't look at this lot as role models the way I did as a child. These "role models" are payed absurd amounts of money and lavish contracts to act like common thugs. I'm sorry... it's just wrong... and I choose to watch my children and grandchildren play little league over watching pampered, entitled, criminals throwing away their God given talents in favor of being crass villains in numbered jerseys. And that's all I've got to say about that...

It's 11:48 AM, 65°F and Kelly is playing at Universal Studios Orlando tonight but I'm not going. Anyway...

Today's pheatured guests are two jazz musicians who came together to record "Live At the Freight." Please welcome to the Phile... Connie Crothers and Jessica Jones.

Me: Hello, ladies, welcome to the Phile. How are you both? 

Connie: Hi, Jason. Doing very well, thanks... very busy! 

Jessica: Things are sparkling and popping. And glowing and flowing! 

Me: You are both jazz musicians who have separate careers, and now have a new album out together called "Live At the Freight." Have you known each other long? 

Connie: We've known each other for over a decade. Maybe longer, if you count other lives. 

Jessica: Ha, yes, those other lives. It's all been a pleasure. 

Me: This is the first time you two worked together, isn't it? Or at least recorded together? 

Connie: We've performed together before then, but not duo. I was on two tracks on Jessica and Tony's CD, "Nod"... "Bird's Word", my tune, and "Happiness Is", a Joseph Jarman composition. This is the first time Jessica and I performed duo. 

Jessica: I loved working duo with Connie after hearing her in so many contexts. She's got both the power of forcefulness and real sensitivity. You definitely visit places you haven't been before when you play with her. 

Me: Is the Freight The Freight & Salvage in Berkeley? 

Connie: Yes. 

Me: Connie, you recorded there before, right? 

Connie: I'd never been to The Freight and Salvage before, even for coffee (it was a coffee house in its first incarnation). I've been to Berkeley quite a lot. I went to the University there. This was long before The Freight and Salvage was even a thought in someone's mind. I think it might have been there but it was hiding down on San Pablo Ave for the first forty years, not near campus at all. 

Me: I first heard of the Freight when a friend of mine went to see Graham Parker in concert there, and Graham recorded there as well and released a CD. Do you two know who Graham Parker is? 

Connie: I don't know Graham Parker, and I intend to familiarize myself with his music. 

Jessica: I don't know him either, but it must be the new location that he recorded at. The club moved to downtown Berkeley in the two-thousandsies. That's where we played, and the sound of the room and the facilities are amazing... as are the people. 

Me: So, was your CD recorded in front of a live audience? 

Connie: Yes, it was a concert. 

Jessica: Yes, hometown crowd. 

Me: Was that the first show you did together or was it part of a tour? 

Connie: It was the only concert we did. I was visiting family and friends there, not being on tour. It's a little funny that the recording was our first show together, because we have since performed some in New York City and are arranging a spring tour on the West Coast too. 

Me: There's some standards on the CD as well as some improv pieces. Were the improv pieces really improv and done on the fly? 

Connie: One hundred percent spontaneous improvisation, not even a talk-through. 

Jessica: That's how Connie rolls. I can roll with it too. 

Me: One of the pieces is called "Clothespins In a Row." Which one of you two came up with that name? 

Connie: Jessica. She is the one with a fun, quirky sense of humor. Notice, one clothespin. 

Jessica: Okay, that's how I roll I guess. 

Me: Okay, Connie, you play piano, right? How old were you when you started playing? 

Connie: Nine years old. 

Me: Have you always played jazz? Were you into other types of music as well? 

Connie: When I was nine, I began composing. I always felt I would be a composer, create my own music. I played classical music during my childhood, and performed quite a bit. When I went to the University of California at Berkeley, I majored in music, with an emphasis on composition. I couldn't identify with the composition of that particular time, because I felt it was too caught up with procedures, such as serialism, and not enough concerned with feeling and musical beauty. One of my boyfriends had taken me to hear jazz at the Philharmonic. I remember hearing Roy Eldridge and Ella Fitzgerald and the Modern Jazz Quartet. Through a process of logical deduction, I realized that jazz was the other great art music of our time. I couldn't improvise at the time. I studied with an arranger, a radio show host at KPFA, Cous Cousineau, then Lee Konitz, who was temporarily located on the West Coast. Very soon, I left for New York City to study with Lennie Tristano. Everything opened up for me then. Jazz became my life. 

Me: Where are you from, Connie? 

Connie: I'm from the San Francisco Bay area... born in Palo Alto; raised in Redwood City; lived in Woodside, San Jose, Oakland, Berkeley, San Francisco. 

Me: Jessica, where are you from? 

Jessica: Berkeley, from 3 years old. 

Me: Jessica, you play sax. How old were you when you started playing sax and how did you end up picking that instrument? 

Jessica: I was 13. I was really late, for my crowd. The unique and innovative jazz program in the Berkeley schools started when I was 8, and I watched kids around me become these great improvisers. I loved jazz but didn't think I could play it. I was taking classical piano lessons and wanted to play jazz, but someone told me when I was 11 that you can't learn it, you either "got it or you don't". Which, as it turned out, was not all that helpful! A better tidbit of advice might have been, "listen to these recordings, and try playing along". Anyway, I kept listening to jazz and there was always a saxophone, so I figured maybe if I picked up that instrument some jazz might come out. Eventually, it did... LOL. 

Me: Not many women play sax, it's mostly a men's instrument, am I right? Or is that a bad thing to say or think? I've never really been PC. 

Jessica: It's no doubt an accurate observation for your experience. If you wanted to be more PC you could say "mostly men play that instrument, right?" cause that makes the instrument's wishes itself neutral... I mean, mine doesn't mind if I play it. But yes, certainly the current landscape has a majority of men. There are a few caveats to that... of course, things are progressing and there are more young women out there now who are visible and playing. A woman sax player, Melissa Aldana, won the sort of American Idol of jazz... the Thelonious Monk Competition last year. However, I think there's a deeper question involved, and more action required than just waiting for things to change. There are a lot of girls playing brass instruments and saxophone in elementary and early middle school. We lose a lot by high school and beyond. There are definitely some changes that need to happen. It's pretty weird to play and have someone think you are exotic or enticing or radical, or make other kinds of judgements because of the sound you want to happen in your music. You know? There is a lot of importance put on how a woman looks (looks playing an instrument, in this case) that is not put on men. I feel like music is just a sonic thing, and it makes me really uncomfortable when people respond to the visual part. But I'm also kind of über shy at heart. We are each on our path. I like the sound of this hunk of metal. I have fun. 

Me: Jessica, you usually perform with a quartet, right? Who is in the quartet? 

Jessica: Well, my husband Tony Jones on tenor sax, like me, and drummer Kenny Wollesen and currently bassist Stomu Takeishi. We played with these rhythm guys 20 years ago and are happy to be reunited with such great players. We were all shortly out of college when we started together, and now we're... well, now we're not shortly out of college. 

Me: Isn't your husband a sax player as well? 

Jessica: He's my favorite sax player (cue the violins!). 

Me: Is that where you met? 

Jessica: We met in high school jazz band. He was a fierce player then too. 

Me: Jessica, did you know there's a Marvel superhero named Jessica Jones? I gather you didn't. 

Jessica: Haha. Yes, I think we are getting a TV show soon! I know who should be composing the theme song, hint hint... 

Me: Jessica, your band which is the Quartet had a name before which was Rhythm Crush, and it was your husband's name. And now it's The Jessica Jones Quartet. How did you convince him and the others to change the name to your name? 

Jessica: Tony and I started the band, and we both wrote for it but I was doing all the legwork stuff. We just changed the name because I had a lot of students at the time and I thought they'd be more likely to come to shows if they realized I was in it. It's kind of hard to get recognition for a band name starting from scratch. I think the name Rhythm Crush would fit into the scene more now though... everyone seems to be two word names like the Demented Toasters and Mysterious Blubber and such. 

Me: I interviewed different musicians on the Phile who work with their spouses or siblings, and I'm always amazed. How is it working with Tony? 

Jessica: It's great. Music is always there as a central part of our relationship, and we are always sharing our excitement about new songs we've heard and so forth. We practice together once in a while, and I love to perform with Tony because there is so much that doesn't need to be said. Sometimes practicing space within a small NYC living space is difficult with two musicians. By the way, it was Tony who turned me on to Connie! 

Me: I interviewed a lot of jazz musicians who also teach. Do any of you teach on the side or have done? 

Connie: I have been teaching since 1972. I only teach privately... individuals, not classes or groups. I only teach improvisation, all instruments. It is a great way to live, a continuously inspiring experience. I teach a lot of kids. Over and over. It's like groundhog day with the 11-14 year olds, for the last 30 years. I hope to graduate soon. 

Jessica: I truly love to teach though, as Connie says it's really inspiring. Kids especially are so creative. I teach at Brooklyn Friends School, and also for jazz at Lincoln Center with, again, 11-14 year olds. 

Me: Have any of you played at Carnegie Hall? 

Connie: I've done five concerts in Carnegie Recital Hall, now called Weill Hall. 

Jessica: Not yet! 

Me: Okay, Jessica, I have to ask you about your daughter Candace. Talent runs in the blood and she's gorgeous. Do you help her with her career? 

Jessica: Ha! She should help me with my career! She is also an astute business woman and sharp as a tack. What I do though, is pull her back into the jazz family periodically, which I know she appreciates. We sometimes perform as a family, and just did at Dizzy's Club in NYC. She's a great performer and, yes, a startling talent. Again, I'm about the sound.

Me: She's a singer, right? 

Jessica: Yes. 

Me: Do you think she'd like to be interviewed on the Phile sometime? 

Jessica: One never knows. A smart parent does not answer for her offspring! I'll happily connect you two. 

Me: Connie, do you have any talented children and is your husband a musician as well? 

Connie: I am not married. Carol Tristano, like a daughter to me, is a great drummer. She was in my quartet with Lenny Popkin for many years. 

Me: Okay, I have to ask you about The Lennie Tristano Foundation. What is that and who is Lennie? 

Connie: Lennie Tristano, one of the greatest jazz musicians of all time, an incredibly great piano player, an amazing improviser. He was also a great person, a great teacher. When he died, I formed The Lennie Tristano Jazz Foundation with friends... Lenny Popkin, Liz Gorrill, Lynn Anderson and his daughter Carol. At present, the only activity of the Foundation is Jazz Records. One of the concerts I did at Carnegie Recital Hall, "Solo," is on that label. The concert was produced by the Foundation. Jazz Records now produces mostly Lennie's music.

Me: So, with this CD out, will you two be working together again do you think? 

Connie: We have already performed since then, in New York City. We are hoping to organize a tour in California for later on this year. 

Jessica: We're on for the California tour! And throwing stuff out in the universe for future engagements, we'll see what sticks. The world is our oyster. 

Me: Thanks so much for being on the Phile. On the Phile if I remember I ask questions thanks to Tabletopics. Are you ready? I'll ask you both the same question. If you could do something dangerous just once with no risk what would you do? 

Connie: If there is no risk, it isn't dangerous. Being a jazz improviser, I like risk. Since I don't control anything that I play, every note is a risk. I don't guide my improvisation, or know what I am going to play, even a split second before, so I am always going into and through mystery. It is an amazing feeling. Having expressed that, I will try to come up with an answer to your question. I would time-travel to the Northeastern American continent, then called Turtle Island, sometime in the 1300s, before the arrival of the Spaniards. As much as I know about it, I identify strongly with the Algonquian nation as it was then. We European diaspora people would have learned a lot from them, if we'd been intelligent enough to know it at the time we arrived. I guess I'd have to say that this isn't really a dangerous idea. However, it might be highly risky. if I went back there and didn't want to return. 

Jessica: Woah. Connie, always able to twist your head around! I was just going to say skydive, but now that sounds kinda dull. 

Me: Haha. Thanks again, ladies. Plug both of your websites and please come back on the Phile soon. 

Connie:, Thank you, Jason. It was fun! 

Jessica: Thanks, Jason!

That about does it for this entry of the Phile, kids. Thanks to my guests Laird Jim, Connie Crothers and Jessica Jones. The Phile will be back next Sunday with cosplayed and actress Jacqueline Goehner. So, spread the word, not the turd. Don't let snakes and alligators bite you. Bye, love you, bye.

Not if it pleases me. No, you can't stop me, not if it pleases me. - Graham Parker

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