Too High, Can't Come Down
• Jessica Williams is probably my favorite living jazz pianist. So, it's a little weird to discover that you can even get her to play in your house ("sorry, no uprights"). While rock icons regularly sell out arenas, what does that say about the economic health of jazz as an art-form?
Oddly enough, jazz and movies are about the same age. In 1895, when the Lumière brothers were making the very first movies — their minute-long actualités — in France, Scott Joplin had his first two ragtime pieces published as sheet music in Texas, simultaneously sowing the seeds of jazz.
Jessica's playing is cinematic in that you can almost see in its panoramic sweep the entire history of jazz piano from Joplin to the present. 1920's stride, 1930's Teddy Wilson, 1940's bop, 1950's hard bop, 1960's free and post-bop — it's all in there, filtered through her own strong personal style.
• Before there were blogs, before the online film mag down under, cinephiles roaming the web were sure to find themselves sooner or later at the door of Acquarello's vast museum. For his quiet devotion and longtime dedication to international cinema, he's darned difficult to beat. Last week, he commented earthily on the Antonioni segment in the omnibus film Eros: "I was really hoping that Antonioni was turning over a new leaf with this film, but when that Kenny G.-like makeout music played again in the background to the sex scene, it felt more as though he were still stuck in that same randy old man vibe of Beyond the Clouds...". I couldn't agree more.
• My computer, large though it is, contains but one Britney Spears song. But what a little masterwork "Toxic" is — the tightly coiled string sample and hair-raising chord changes, the acoustic rhythm guitar (how wonderfully absurd in the hyper-processed context of the production), and that monster three-note electric guitar line. Especially for about 30 seconds from 0:55 to 1:25, it takes absolute and lethal possession of your brain.