Pat Metheny, Unity Band (Nonesuch). Nine new compositions by the master guitarist, all performed by his latest working band, a quartet that features Chris Potter on tenor saxophone. This is the first time that Metheny has recorded as a leader with a saxophonist since 1980, and Potter’s presence is galvanizing. All hands–including Ben Williams on bass and Antonio Sanchez on drums–play with colossal vitality. This one’s a keeper (TT).
Archives for June 10, 2012
“Despite what seems to be an innate preference for more or less literal representation of the visible world, the abstract idea remains to this day both seductive and perennially relevant. Why? Because the best abstract art has the power to cut through the rigid conventions of direct representation and externalize interior essences–to show us things not as they look, but as they are…”
Elijah Wald, The Dozens: A History of Rap’s Mama (Oxford, $24.95). This impeccably researched study of the classic black insult game may be the funniest work of serious scholarship ever published–and the one that will give newspaper reviewers the most trouble, since virtually every paragraph of is studded with obscenities of the highest possible voltage. That said, The Dozens is a superlative piece of work, which won’t surprise anyone who’s read any of Elijah Wald’s earlier books. If I ran the world, I’d give him a MacArthur (TT).
Shining Night: A Portrait of Composer Morten Lauridsen (Song Without Borders). This is the documentary by Michael Stillwater that I wrote about with the utmost enthusiasm earlier this year in The Wall Street Journal. I can’t recommend it strongly enough now that it’s available on home video, both as an introduction to one of this country’s best composers and as a model of how to tell an artist’s story on film (TT).
James Garner and Jon Winokur, The Garner Files: A Memoir (Simon & Schuster, $25.99). Most ghostwritten celebrity autobiographies are a waste of time. Not so The Garner Files, which is unselfconscious, unpretentious, and ungossipy–but frank. If, like David Thomson and me, you esteem the star of Maverick, The Rockford Files, and Support Your Local Sheriff! as one of Hollywood’s outstanding on-camera craftsmen, you’ll gallop through it with delight. I only wish it were twice as long (TT).