Jonesing for Joplin

Quincy Jones is a chameleon. His work with others is classic without a sense of his personality over-shadowing theirs. He lets the artist shine & I’ve heard anything he’s been involved with & thought ‘that’s a Quincy Jones production.’ He is not a revolutionary like, say, Phil Spector.

I have a couple of lp to cds of his ‘solo’ work: This Is How I Feel About Jazz, Plays Mancini, Ndeda. The first I found in a remainder bin & it is smooth bop. Ndeda was double set I bought used, that is a compilation of some of his soundtrack music (In The Heat of the Night) & instrumental things like Soul Safari. The Mancini is sweet & they are a perfect match. If nothing else Quincy Jones is a tasteful, elegant producer.

Near Jones is a set of lp to cd transfers of Scott Joplin music performed by Joshua Rifkin, Southland Stingers, Canadian Brass & New England Conservatory Ragtime Ensemble. Joplin almost became a footnote, his music relegated to music scholars until the movie ‘The Sting’ that made his rags universal & they were resurrected by so many ensembles one lost track & sometimes couldn’t tell who was playing which one. I enjoyed them in small doses 🙂 

Most of the recordings are too respectful, treating them like Chopin Etudes, some are jazzier & some are more in the line of sweet polite salon orchestras. So many artists recorded these I’m surprised there isn’t a Tomita version 🙂 Unlike many early 1900 blues performers there are no historic recording sof Joplin actually playing but there are some player piano rolls he made which are fun & can be found on YouTube.

A short story discovered in my archives. It goes back to pre-1995 as the original printout is dot matrix 🙂 I’ve done minimal editing. It is based on a real incident. 

The Allegory of Love

1

“Not again!” I reluctantly pushed Steve’s roaming hand away. “Don’t start something you’re not going to finish.”

He squinted up at me, uncertain & a bit drunk.

I leaned in to speak directly into his ear. “Just because I don’t like being used doesn’t mean ‘stop so soon’.”

“Used?” He took a deep swallow of his beer. “What do you mean?” He stepped back & bumped into a man in leather.

The bar’s music was so loud I couldn’t hear myself. “Call me. I can’t talk here.”

Steve nodded & disappeared into the crowd. 

Thank God I thought, breathing a sigh of relief & dismay. I do like Steve, but too much to continue with pointless flirtation.

I suspected that time a couple of weeks ago was our last encounter. It had been under the same circumstance. Me feeling the lure of the full moon & Steve feeling the lull of enough brew. We’ve had fun many times before & I always look forward to what I called ‘rubbing our two sticks together.’ 

Steve shared an apartment with Ron. When I met them both several years ago at a mutual friend’s birthday party. I was instantly attracted Steve. They were introduced to me as friends not as boyfriends. Ron was a bitch, or so it seemed. Ron & I got into clawing at each other for some reason. Something we’re all too good at, I suppose.

I ran into Steve a few nights later & came on to him like the proverbial ton on brick. It was a meltdown in the sack & has been nearly every time we got our sticks together. Usually at my place but sometimes at his, if Ron wasn’t in. Over the years sex was so good, & Steve comparable enough, I would have set up housekeeping with him, except there was that Ron in the ointment. 

Steve never described them as being lovers, but Ron seemed to run more of Steve’s life than anyone should run anyone’s. But who am I to judge?

I was open with Steve about my affection for him. He wasn’t displeased, but I could sense that emotions frightened him. Staying with Ron seemed to be his way of keeping scary feelings at bay. For lat couple of month I felt their relationship was about to change, but our last encounter made me see things differently.

I’d arrived at the bar later than usual & was making my first foray into the smokey land of men, when Steve reached out of a dark corner. He grabbed me by the belt & pulled me in for one of those long, sloppy kisses that turn me to jelly.

“Good to see ya, Brian.”

“It’s been awhile.” I laughed. I knew he was a bit looped; he usually was to be so bold.

“Watcha’ been up to? The photo biz still keep you in focus?” He teased, running his free hand over my stomach.

“Things are developing well enough. And you? Getting anywhere in men’s wear?”

“Got a promotion.” He said proudly.

“Things must be going well.” I gently bit his ear.

“We’re opening a new branch since I took over.”

“Great! Soon you’ll be Queen of the Reduced to Queers.”

He giggled. “I really like you. You make me laugh.”

“You make me …” I squeezed his bunds.

“Same here.” He returned the squeeze, while draining his beer. “I’ll be right back.”

He darted off for another beer. As I watched him merge into the crowd, I wondered if this was going to lead to one of our meltdowns. Short, stocky & hairy, he was the perfect teddy bear for me to curl around tonight.

Back with a beer, he hugged me affectionately. “You know my little wang goes ‘boink’ whenever I see you.”

“That’s nothing to complain about.”

“How am I in the sack?”

Feeling a little insecure tonight?’I thought, as I replied. “You’re great. I keep coming back, don’t I”

“You treat me so …” he took a swallow of beer.

“Tender?” I offered.

“Yeah! Like you cared.”

“Why shouldn’t I? You deserve it. Just one thing.”

“What?”

“Often we’re too rushed. I want to savour what I enjoy. I hate to eat & run when the food is so good.”

“Thanks.” He pulled me in for another fly-popping kiss. “Let’s go.” He said pulling on his jacket.

“The coast is clear tonight?”

“Ah, who gives a fuck? It’s my home as much as his.”

“You’re sure? You know I …”

“You coming?”

“Sure.” I felt a slight misgiving. “What the hell. We can go to my place, if you’d rather.” I suggested as we walked along. “You really don’t a nose-bleed going that far north.”

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Goldsmith Cats

It’s no secret that I love soundtracks. I have many in my collection, some of movies I have never seen :-). One of the first I bought was as a result of seeing the movie Papillon was by Jerry Goldsmith. I loved that lp & eventually replaced with a downloaded mp3 version. Goldsmith was a prolific soundtrack composer with an amazing grasp of many musical genres.

I also have his earlier work in the music for Our Man Flint and In Like Flint. These were spy parodies (forerunners of Austin Powers) starring James Coburn. The music captures 60s instrumental pop perfectly in that it embraces the sound rather than makes fun of it. Bouncy & sweet I love this type of movie work. Papillon on the other hand is lush, romantic, sweeping & at times meditative. It is one of my all-time favourites.

Another major film composer is Max Steiner – is this collection his King Kong score (rerecorded) & it is amazing, fun & evocative. Here too, is Elmer Bernstein’s score for The Man With The Golden Arm – brassy, jazzy & sometimes romantic. A film about a junkie trumpet player I have never seen. Listening to this I can sense where tension for the next fix is probably happening 🙂  

More modern & even more obscure is Bill Nelson’s music for the silent movie La Belle et la Bete. Nelson is best know as guitarist for BeBop Deluxe. The music here is a mix of sound effects, moody mellotron & percussion. It is excellent mood music & I’m sure works well with the movie – which I have seen but not with Nelson’s music. 

I’ve interspersed these soundtracks with various Scott Joplin rags. Many of which have shown up as  occasional moments in many movies. Finally a non-movie lp: Cats: London Cast highlights. I figured let’s go from film to stage for a break. I have seen a stage production of Cats & enjoyed it as much for the costumes as for the songs. There’s been talk of a film version for decades but I think it’s time as a film property has passed.

Last word: search out Papillon.

Eye Contact

‘Did you hear that?’

‘What?’ Janes was fed up with Frank’s constant questions. ‘What ?’

‘I though …shh…’

They stood in silence for a few moments, their breath visible in the icy air. 

‘I don’t hear anything.’

‘Shh.’ Frank was also impatient. Janes was too fast to move, to jump to conclusions while he was more methodical. Taking time made things more secure.

There was a faint crackle in the air. A small electronic sound, a discharge of static. At the same time both of them saw a thin blue aura at the periphery of their vision.

‘What as that?’ Janes reached to rub his eye. 

Frank stopped him. ‘Don’t.’

‘Don’t what?’ He pushed Frank’s hand away and began to rub his eyebrow. As he did the blue become brighter within his eye and he began to shake.

‘Shit shit shit. Why don’t you listen.’ Frank looked for something to move Janes’ hand away from his face. He knew that to make contact would pull him to the Connection. Once linked neither of them would be functional for the rest of the day.

The wooded area was barren. Tall trees whose nearest branch was several feet towered above them. There was no fallen twigs or even leaves. The broken shale of the ground held no other plant life. He’d need something though. The bark of the trees was thin like onion skin and peeled haphazardly but perhaps he could cut a piece of that if he moved quickly when he pulled.

‘Gr.. gl…’ Janes began to sputter.

‘Save your breath. I know you can hear me. You’ll be fine. In a day or so. Why don’t you listen.’

‘Gl… gr…’ 

‘Yeah I know … radio the captain. When we have a chance. But for now …’ The noon sun sent sparks of light through the leaves of the trees overhead.  ‘We have to keep moving. Follow me and I’ll see what can bed done.’

Frank had an idea. If he could get Janes to the trees and brush him against one, perhaps his hand would come loose. If they broke the Connection now there would be little damage to worry about. Just a fierce headache and the loss of an eyebrow. 

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