Friday, November 04, 2011

An Index To Kiko's House Appreciations

There may have been better slide guitar players technically than DUANE ALLMAN, but none approached his improvisational abilities. And the band he led had no such thing as a creative peak -- they just kept churning out great records and great live performances. (11/20/07)

HOAGIE CARMICHAEL was an unlikely virtuoso because most of his greatest work came not in an artistic center like New York or Paris but on the campus of an Indiana university. Yet he is considered the most talented, sophisticated and deeply jazz-oriented of the many pop music composers in the first half of the 20th century. (12/27/07)

It is no exaggeration to say that JOHN COLTRANE and Miles Davis literally reshaped modern jazz. The ultimate testament to their greatness is that they continue to deeply influence jazz musicians of all ages. (9/23/08)

While BRUCE COCKBURN is best known for his socially conscious songs, he also is a great guitarist. But unless you dwell at the left end of things -- whether it be politics or the FM radio dial -- it is unlikely that you've ever heard of the Canadian singer-songwriter. (10/19/08)

The great American composer AARON COPLAND probably did more than anyone to liberate classical music from its European roots. His embrace of popular music was not unprecedented, but the way that he integrated folk music and jazz into his compositions certainly was. (11/14/07)

Writing about MILES DAVIS is daunting, if not downright intimidating. For one thing, the legendary trumpet player probably has been written about and analyzed more than any musician-composer this side of Beethoven. For another thing, a word like "legendary" does not begin to capture the enormous influence that Miles exerted on jazz. (5/4/09)

It is a hallmark of jazz virtuoso vocalese master and BOB DOROUGH's seven-decade career that many people have heard him but didn't know it. (12/4/08)

I grew up in a house where ELLA FITZGERALD was a favorite, but it took me years to come to understand her genius as an interpreter of the Great American Songbook. Geoffrey Fidelman said it well: "Play an Ella ballad with a cat in the room, and the animal will invariably go up to the speaker, lie down and purr." (4/25/08)

JERRY GARCIA did not seek out fame. A gentle soul who just wanted to play music, fame found him. And despite a long career as an extraordinary guitarist that brought him adulation, gold records and eventually wealth, happiness remained elusive and fame finally killed him. (3/18/09)

Long before MARVIN GAYE was shot dead by his father, he had attained an iconic status. This is because he didn't merely define soul music during a 26-year career but took it into uncharted territory through powerful songs about social, political and sexual issues that have influenced many recording artists in genres as diverse as doo-wop, rhythm and blues and jazz. (1/25/10)

Concert impresario BILL GRAHAM was known for three things: Foul language, picking up trash wherever he encountered it, whether backstage at his own venues or elsewhere, and a deep and abiding love of music -- if not necessarily musicians -- that he parlayed into what is without question the most extraordinary run of concerts in rock 'n' roll history. (1/8/08)

LEARNED HAND is probably the most influential American judge you never heard of. A philosophical pragmatist, his landmark rulings on free speech, tax law and economics are widely considered to be among the formative statements of contract and tort law. (1/27/08)

DUBOSE HAYWARD had an uncanny eye and ear and deep love for black culture and was the all but forgotten librettist for Porgy and Bess, the greatest of American operas. (10/9/09)

Anyone who thinks that Timothy Leary and Ken Kesey introduced LSD to the masses should think again. It was ALBERT "CAPTAIN AL" HUBBARD, a Canadian with an extraordinarily eclectic resume. (10/27/09)

Delta Blues legend ROBERT JOHNSON had an ineffably shadowy life so poorly documented that there are entire books and a movie or two not about his life but about how little is known about it. (7/6/09)

JACK KEROUAC had many of the ingredients that make up the tortured artistic soul. That is obvious from the body of his work, some 25 or so novels and other books in all, but does not explain why his prolific but relatively short life produced so little that arguably is worth reading today. (3/18/09)

More than anyone else, and that includes a lot of awfully good directors, screenwriters and actors, we may have legendary film critic PAULINE KAEL to thank for making American cinema as good as it is. Kael, who reviewed over 5,000 movies, took no prisoners, abided no fools and left no movie that she thought was bad unscathed in her distinctly colloquial and opinionated writing style. (6/15/08)

RON "PIGPEN" McKERNAN had a rough, often off-key voice and was a mediocre piano and organ player, but he packed more soul and attitude into the Grateful Dead than the rest of the band put together. And while he was the roughest-edged player in this eclectic menagerie he was nevertheless the gentle soul who brought the band and their rapt fans back to earth from their cosmic voyage at night's end. (3/8/08)

Being young is to love JONI MITCHELL's music. Growing older is to understand why you do. Mitchell may be the ultimate musical catagory breaker. but what is so extraordinary is that her songs are so powerful that early on musicians were drawn to them before she had even recorded them herself. (6/10/09)

I have no idea of the color of LAURA NYRO's eyes, but she was the first exemplar of blue-eyed soul that I heard and remains one of the finest despite a career largely spend in the shadows by her own choice and that ended prematurely with her death in 1997. (10/18/07)

Our historic memory being what it is, and growing shorter with each succeeding generation, it is easy to forget that there was a woman political trailblazer 60 years before Hillary Clinton. ELEANOR ROOSEVELT was the first First Lady in the modern mold -- a hands-on presidential helpmate and a force in her own right. (11/7/07)

What a shame if TENNESSEE WILLIAMS couldn't write, because I can't think of any man of letters whose family and friends provided so much rich material. This gifted playwright and not bad short story writer drew long and hard from the deep well of tormented and eccentric souls who populated his life and appear in various guises in his best known works. (2/25/08)

It is a challenge to write about MARY WOLLSTONECRAFT, an 18th century English writer and women's rights advocate whose life is overshadowed by her famous daughter: While Wollstonecraft would seem to be a founding feminist, she would not have considered herself such. And while this genius of a woman had great powers of observation, she could be extraordinarily dumb about her relationships with men. (6/1/11)

Historian HOWARD ZINN drew on his deep intellect and senses of morality and modesty to play influential roles in two of the seminal events of my lifetime -- the civil rights movement and opposition to the Vietnam War. That he is viewed with loathing by conservatives comfortable with the hackneyed traditional portrayal of the slave-holding Founding Fathers only further confirms his status as a great scholar.(1/29/10)

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