Saturday, June 19, 2010
John Blum, An Appreciation. Stanley Jason Zappa.
Attention Attention: I have known and been friends with John for just about 20 years now, so please be cautioned that there is a bias and a partiality that may transgress the high standards of music journalism so righteously upheld both in print and on them interwebs. Those who are offended by “log rolling” (rare those it is in any North American journalism), now is the time to to stop reading and find a site of fitting journalistic integrity. (I like Maangchi.com)
John Blum: A wildly biased, brief, personal appreciation.
John does not eat the flesh of mammals or birds. This has complicated plans to get John to visit me at the feed lot, especially in the fall. I have some theories as to why John doesn't eat the flesh of mammals or birds. It could be that in college, when I met John, when not studying music or practising piano or performing, John spent a considerable amount of time studying a great deal of science. And not just the entry level non-major freshman level classes like “Guess my Gender”, but real live advanced college level biology and chemistry.
I am given to understand one of my other favourite piano players (Lowell Davidson) was no slouch when it came to Science. Not to compare one to the other, but there you go.
John has been playing this music, full tilt, for 20 years—to the year. My first witness of John 'in full flight' came around 1990 at a small restaurant/bar in North Bennington, Vermont called “the Villager” (or “the V” for short.) There John was performing with Marco Eneidi on alto saxophone, Jackson Krall on drums and I think, Xtopher Farris on
bass. Naturally, no effort was made to document these sessions, so you'll just have to take my word for it that the music was unbelievably awesome. What's more, John was playing a Rhodes keyboard. So thoroughly and completely did John play that Rhodes, that when investigating as to the possibility of John playing a “keyboard” (as actual pianos are an endangered species) at a theoretical gig, John asked if me I would like to play the recorder as opposed to the saxophone. Nevertheless, let there be no confusion:there isn't a musician on the face of this earth who can play the Rhodes like John Blum.
John does primary research. Maybe that's the scientist in him. When interested in something, John goes after it in a precise, thorough manner. John lived in Europe for a while, checking out that scene and sound, while others got jobs in children's publishing. I believe John met Antonio Grippi in jolly olde Europe, on one of those trips that
the record companies didn't pay for. I could be wrong about that. In any event, do you all know Antonio Grippi? He plays the Alto Clarinet (and Alto Saxophone) and plays them both quite well. An interesting counterpoint to the other Alto in John's life, Marco Eneidi, with whom John has made countless hours of music. Hands up, who digs Marco Eneidi? (Hands go up EVERYWHERE!)
Which is all to say if and when there is someone musical whom John admires, John makes real, meaningful personal contact as a fellow human, and usually winds up playing with them in some capacity. Like Dennis Charles. John and Dennis Charles made music together, but nowhere near enough. Perhaps there is a larger cosmic reason that Dennis Charles didn't live longer, and a reason why the John Blum Astrogeny quartet (with William Parker on Bass) couldn't have continued and continued and continued. Perhaps that reason is because the John Blum Astrogeny Quartet is an end. The “the head” and “the tune” are given their final treatment. That form is done. The John Blum Astrogeny Quartet closed that party down forever.
John then recorded Who Begat Eye (a solo piano follow up to Naked Mirror) as well as In the Shade of the Sun, a trio with William Parker and Sunny Murray. What's “neat” about both recordings is that they each give a look into how this music evolves. Listening to Who Begat Eye after Naked Mirror, you hear development. Listening to In the
Shade of the Sun, you hear continuity and fluency of music language between Blum, Parker and Murray—Blum and Murray having recorded together on Murray's Les Perles Noires. But you have all those, because you are fans of the music, and support artists like John who is performing at the Vision Festival on Day 6, July 25th at the Loft
Underground (Downstairs theater) at 9:45pm with 20 year musical colleague, Jackson Krall.