Sunday, June 29, 2014

Mebop (cont.)

Had a great crowd—and a tremendous response—at the House of Blues on Sunset Boulevard. I was in the super-swank Foundation Room, with Matt Yeakley on guitar and Bill Markus on bass, and we did ourselves some serious swinging. Here's a video (very much bootleg) of my take on Thelonious Monk's "Ba-lue Bolivar Blues"—which I've retitled "Poppa's Resolution"—followed by my lyrics.


The clouds rollin’ in, the tide’s rollin’ out
But Poppa been standin’ still
You know you can’t win, you know it’s a rout
If you don’t climb up that hill
I’m through playin’ games, I’m taking down names
I’m stakin’ my claims, James

The wind’s comin’ up, the shit’s goin’ down
But Poppa been cool as ice
If you don’t stand up, can’t make it your town
Ain’t nobody tell you twice
I’m ending the wait, it’s never too late
I’m filling my plate, Nate

The band’s playin’ on, the crowd’s getting’ off
But Poppa been sailin’ through
You can’t throw no shade, got no right to scoff
If you ain’t done somethin’ new
I’m fillin’ my tank, I’m pullin’ my rank
I’m betting the bank, Frank
I'm hoping to bring the show to a New York venue next. In the meantime, I'm working on new material—writing lyrics to additional bebop classics by composers I haven't yet taken on—and with a little luck I'll be able to keep doing this for some time to come. Meantime, I am havin' me some righteous good times.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Mebop

As some of you know, I've got an alternate career as a vocalist; and in my new show, I've finally managed to integrate my musical and literary pursuits. "Mebop" is a collection of classic bebop tunes by composers like Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, Charles Mingus, Miles Davis, Thelonious Monk, and John Coltrane—most of which have never had lyrics written for them. 

Until now.

I debuted the material last month in Chicago. Here's a clip, of Sonny Rollins's "Oleo"—which I've retitled, "That's Miles."


And for the record, here are my lyrics:
Eyes like fire, mind like sky
Miles
That's the passion of improbable play
Toss a curve, drop a sigh
Then a jubilant swoon
Oh yeah, that's Miles
The shorthand of God

Fleet of feed, deft of hand
Miles
That's the algebra of mojo and mood
First is last, last is vast
From a trickster a prince
Oh yeah, that's Miles to me

There isn't any reason
The laws of physics shouldn't apply
Logic's out of season
No one can cop it, don't even try

Swift as wind, deep as wells
Miles
That's the lexicon of legerdemain
Burns that chill, won'ts that will
Every paradox squared
Oh yeah, that's Miles to me
I'll be doing the show again this weekend—with a smaller ensemble (just bass and guitar)—at House of Blues in West Hollywood. If you're in the neighborhood, swing on by. (And I do mean swing).
 



Saturday, January 11, 2014

A fifties phantasmagoria


The 1950s was really the last time this country had an überculture. Exhausted by the hardships and uncertainties of World War II, the nation relaxed into a decade of well-earned prosperity and a retreat from nagging issues of identity and destiny. From port to starboard, from stem to stern, the great yacht America was a tight ship indeed, run on a few simple rules, chief among them being: don’t rock the boat. Conformity was a kind of civic religion. The idea being, if there was only one template for a successful life (well, actually, two—the ladies needed their own), then we wouldn’t ever have to bother with those messy notions that landed Europe in so much trouble and then sucked us into the vortex, now, would we?


Never mind that an insurrection was already under way, nurtured into being by the first really distinctive teenage culture in American history, a generation that had already decided conformity wasn’t cool—a generation that had in fact invented the whole concept of cool—and that was thriving beneath the bleachers of the American pep rally, reading Beat poetry, experimenting with free love, and smoking loco weed. 


This would of course explode in the sixties, in ways we’re still striving to understand. But even with as much disagreement as there is today about how we live and why, there also seems to be a paradoxical fascination with the fifties; not so much a nostalgia for it—no one but the most ramrod Republicans wants to go back there—but a kind of stunned appreciation for the mere fact of it. Looking back at the decade for our vantage point is like watching archival footage of a circus performer who balanced a dozen spinning plates for ten whole years. 


Of course, being the subversive lot that we are, our favorite way of looking back on the fifties is to impose on it the disorder it so feared—to take the entire carefully sorted spice cabinet and dump it all into a blender, and whizz. The strangeness of this most homogeneous, yet most segregated—this most self-assured, yet most anxious—this most chaste, yet most salacious decade in our history, is only really apparent when you blur the lines it drew for itself, and see the pigments bleed into one another. 


All of which is a long prelude to my saying that this month I discovered the wonderfully witty and incisive work of the graphic artist Nadine Boughton—who melds illustrations from fifties men's and women's magazines into incongruous, yet gorgeous tableaus—as well as the jaw-dropping new kaleidoscope video by Bonobo. All of which I am moved to share. Enjoy.


(One final thought: I can speak with authority on the fifties, because…I was there. Just barely, it’s true; but long enough to know from bitter experience that this is no exaggeration.)

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Fifty years



I was six years old on November 22, 1963. I’m older now than John F. Kennedy was on that day, but it remains, in many ways, the fulcrum on which my life pivots.

It’s hard for younger people to understand—awkward, out of balance, that my life should be bisected so unevenly: half a dozen years for Act I, half a century and counting for Act II. But my generation understands.

So, I imagine, would those who were children on June 28, 1914, when another public figure, riding in an open car with his wife, was shot by an assassin. For those children, the world before Archduke Franz Ferdinand was slain was one thing. The world that came after, another one entirely.

And so it is with us.

I can’t be objective about JFK, either as a man or a public figure. I’ve tried. I’ve studied his life and presidency; he seems to me to have been an ambitious, rather callow young man to whom high office added stature and gravitas. He rose to the demands of the job. But this is not an uncommon phenomenon. It is, among others, Lincoln’s story, too, and Churchill’s.

And anyway, that’s not what sears him into my DNA…what has left him indelibly etched on our culture. What he represented—especially as the first of a generation of leaders for whom the Second World War was history, not biography—was the triumph of order, of chronology…of a narrative of progress and achievement. His death—a random, senseless, meaningless act—not only ended that narrative; it rewound and erased it. What followed was cynicism, and anxiety, and uncertainty.

On November 21, 1963, I spent my last day in a different world. Since November 23, 1963, I’ve lived in this one.

But I still remember. And if I live long enough for my aged mind to fragment and fall apart, that will be the last bit to cohere.


Monday, November 4, 2013

Hommages à Alfred


My last two novels, The Sugarman Bootlegs and Baby, have been rebranded as part of "Hommages à Alfred," which I describe thusly: 

Hommages à Alfred is a series of novels inspired by the films of Alfred Hitchcock, incorporating mystery, menace, murder, and mordant wit.

A third entry, Vamoose, will be published in 2014.

This is my tip of the hat to a towering figure in my cultural and creative development...a genius whose utterly singular aesthetic continues to exert a deliciously unhealthy influence over my own.

Both The Sugarman Bootlegs and Baby's new editions are available as trade paperbacks and as ebooks for Kindle and Nook. And the ebook versions are just $2.99.





Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Avery Overman's Adventures In Underbed

After my mom died in 2009, I—being a writer—decided to take solace in writing. I gave myself over to my pen; just got out of the way, and let whatever wanted to happen, happen.

And what happened surprised me: a very short novella directly inspired by the iconic tales from my youth—Peter Pan, Alice's Adventures In Wonderland, The Wizard of Oz—but shot through with the urgency of a mother's love.


An even more unexpected consequence was that it ended up being a hymn to fatherhood as well; not to mention a kind of valedictory love letter to the vast landscape of juvenile genre fiction that I was, belatedly, leaving behind me.

In short, a very strange little piece of fiction. I was advised that it was basically unsaleable. But it means a lot to me, so I've made it available as an unofficial Kindle single for just 99¢.

If you check it out, let me know what you think. I'd love to know your reactions.




Friday, December 14, 2012

Newtown, Connecticut

Possibly it's time for responsible gun owners to consider that the ability to fire six bullets per second is less precious—even as a principle, even as an expression of a basic right—than the welfare of our communities. Would a ban on assault rifles (like the .223 carried by the Newtown shooter) really harm the republic more than the loss of so much human potential? How, exactly?
 
I'm a fierce defender of the Bill of Rights. But when the gun lobby invokes the Second Amendment, citing the wisdom of 18th century landowners who were writing of muskets and militias, to justify 21st century military-grade ordnance in the hands of private citizens—that, to me, is a principle that has been pushed into decadence. It's less about freedom than fetishism.
 

 
At some point, ideology has to give way to humanity.

For God's sake, let it be now.