Monday, January 31, 2011

quite an honor

Today I was awarded a great honor. I was named to the honorary board of directors of the Chet Baker foundation. Included on that are such luminaries as Dave Brubeck, Herbie Hancock, McCoy Tyner.......My musical accomplishments are really quite small compared to these greats. But they are all people who appreciated Chet Baker's, for want of a better term,magic.

Joseph Campbell wrote in his book "Myths to Live By" that the most important conduit for new forces or energies to come into society was the artist. That they were the shamans and alchemists of today. The bringing in of new energies is also what I term magic, as that is what not only maintains such qualities as beauty, true power, purity but also allows in the possibility for change and growth and eventually, transformation.

So in my book Chet Baker was a magician. It was revealed to me recently that my major line is the archetype of the mage. Even though I am a sports fan, my major interest in sports has always been people like Earl Monroe and Joe Montana, who worked a magic in their fields. And I like to see this magic through the body, not just the theoretical side of it. Sacred knowledge embodied. So this is probably why I feel so close to Chet and his music. The other day I went into a Starbucks and ordered a coffee drink for "Jack". It came back to me for "Chet". Cool and somewhat eerie.

For me Baker's music opens up a whole other universe. Lyrical. Free. Beautiful. Expressive. Yet powerful. Some of his soft notes just burn and don't stop. And this extends to his vocals. There are other great artists. Yet for me Chet's
sound and phrasing and use of silence are unique and touch me very deeply. Outside of Ueshiba Osensei's aikido, I don't know if I've ever been so touched by an artist.

And I would like to thank Artt Frank. Without him this honor would not have been possible. Artt has just finished a book about Chet which I hope will be available soon. I was privileged to look at the manuscript while I was in Arizona. And this is being turned into a film. If I were producing the film I would emphasize the aspect of Chet as magician. There is enough magic in his music and life I am sure some of this will come through.

The word universe is translated as "the one song". My current sense is that if the universe is the one song, it is bebop. Bebop has to do with the 2's and 4's and 4's and 8's and 3's and 4's. I thank Artt for awakening me to a ground level sense of this during my visit in December. But this is very close to the numbering Osensei used in his diagrams of aikido. And make no mistake. What Chet Baker played was bebop.

I recently heard this rendition of California Dreaming by Bud Shank. When I heard the trumpet my sense was"Whoever was playing was really influenced by Chet Baker. Or I must have Chet Baker on the brain." I looked and it turned out to be none other than Chet himself. Enjoy!

Saturday, January 15, 2011

The Green Hornet Rides Again-Movie Review

I saw the new Green Hornet film today at a matinee. When I was I was in high school I used to listen to the Green Hornet radio episodes on Sundays when they were broadcast on KCBS radio. They used to do the Shadow, which I thought was better. But I enjoyed the radio episodes. Following the success of Batman ABC brought the concept to television in fall of 1966. Whereas Batman was played camp, the Hornet was a 30 minute action/adventure show that was largely played straight. And who really remembers that Van Williams was the Green Hornet. We all remember the show as basically belonging to Bruce Lee as Kato. The plots were largely unimaginative and the 30 minute time didn't allow for character development. What elevated the show way above the ordinary was watching Bruce Lee doing Kung Fu. Unlike the film there were no special effects added to the fight scenes. But when he moved it was as if there were special effects. It was so above anything else martial art wise that was being shown at the time. So you watched the 30 minute show to see about 60 seconds an episode(usually 2 fight scenes) of Bruce Lee fighting.

Anyway, the movie is a verry updated version of what was initially a very limited concept. But I found the film fun. Not good. Fun. Whereas there was always a real distance between Van Williams and Bruce Lee, this film is basically an action high tech special effects ridden buddy film. So there is much more emphasis on the buddy-buddiness of Britt Reid and Kato in the current film. And the issue of Kato being so much superior in all ways to the Hornet is dealt with, which it never was in the tv show.

Jason Chou does a good job of playing Kato. But it is a bit like Uma Thurman playing Emma Peel in the Avengers movie. Hard to match up to the original even with special effects and an updated concept. Cameron Diaz plays the secretary. And there is a hint of an attraction between her and Kato in the movie. This never would have happened on sixties television. Times have changed.

Those who remember the tv episodes will recognize little bits from some of the episodes. Bulldozers vs the car in a junk yard scene. The Hornet shot and Kato fixing the problem of Britt Reid having a bullet in him by pretending to shoot Reid in public. A lot of Chou's movement is meant to remind one of Lee's movement. He demonstrates an inch punch.Does lots of jump kicks. And moves well. But again hard to top Bruce Lee even with special effects.

So a good popcorn film. Catch a matinee. And the 3D was worth the extra couple of bucks. But my favorite 3D film is still "How to Train Your Dragon". I pulled the following off youtube. It is my favorite Kato kung fu fight with the real Bruce Lee:

Sunday, January 02, 2011

My Arizona Adventure

I spent Tuesday, Wednesday, and part of Thursday of last week(between Christmas and New Year) in the state of Arizona. It was a magical experience with the whole thing like a roller coaster ride. I had a very hectic Tuesday of travel. The actual flights, ie San Francisco to Phoenix, layover, then Phoenix to Tuscon, were uneventful. However, the real adventure started out at the Tuscon airport. Earlier this year I had to renew my California drivers license. I did so at the local DMV. However, I was not given the actual license, just a temporary one. I told them I felt the license would be lost in the mail. So to make a long story short, the license never arrived and I forgot about it. When I went to the car rental place at the airport, I found that I could not be issued a rental. My hard copy had expired. The temporary had also expired. I tried calling the California DMV to get a faxed copy sent, but was unsuccessful. In fact I twice was on hold to talk to a technician and was both times cut off after 30 minutes each times.

The car rental people called the local DMV so I could determine what could be done. It turned out I could apply for an Arizona license. Since my California license had been expired less than a year(my hard copy, the actual license had been over the counter renewed and paid for)I could be issued an Arizona license for $10. With the help of two power beings, don Jesus and don Emilio, I was able to get to the DMV and back to the airport with a license and was in the end issued a rental car.

I was able to stay with 2 old friends, Harv Moscowitz and his wife, Catherine Tornbom. I have known Harv since I first started aikido in 1969. And I remember Catherine from as far back as 1974 when she was training at the Aikido Institute in Oakland under Alan Grow. It was wonderful to see them both. Tuesday and Wednesday evenings produced some interesting conversations. I thank them both for their friendship and hospitality.

Arizona was a welcome 3 day change from the bay area. The landscape was filled with cacti, open spaces, and very beautiful and irregular mountain rock formations. When I go back I would like to visit the Sonoran Desert.

The purpose of my visit was to see Artt Frank. I had talked with him over the phone and via e-mail. But this was the first time I was able to do so face to face. It was truly a mega-event in my life to meet him for the first time as well as his lovely wife Lisa. Artt is one of the few remaining direct links to an era of music termed jazz and in particular bebop. Artt played with Duke Ellington, with Billie Holiday, with Miles Davis and other greats. But mainly Artt is very closely tied to Chet Baker. Artt not only opened his home to me for an afternoon, he shared with me private recordings of himself and Chet. He went over them in great detail with me, highlighting important new directions for me to look at. I have been working on what he passed onto me and have noticed some real changes, from embrouchure to improved co-ordination of lips and fingers. And Artt is such a passionate person around music and jazz history.

I came across this jazz version of "California Dreamin'" on youtube. I heard the trumpet player and thought he must have been strongly influenced by Chet. When I checked to see who it was, it was none other than Chet Baker himself.