SECTION TWO

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COLUMN 106, JUNE 1, 2004
(Copyright 2004 The Blacklisted Journalist) 

RETROPOP SCENE:
THE EGG CREAM EVENT


DAVID AMRAM

Dizzy Gillespie was there, talking about how you could see sparks coming from the audience. Harold Conrad, the boxing promoter, was there and Elia Kazan and George Plimpton's wife, Freddie, and Pete Hamill and Igor, who runs the health food shop on Sixth Avenue, where Dave Amram goes down to eat every day.

If you didn't see the sparks you could certainly feel the warmth. This was an event for egg cream New York, for all the surviving West Villagers, for the Dolce Vitalists down at Casey's and the storytellers from the Lion's Head and the Monday night jazzmen at the Vanguard and all the other people, little and big, who have cashed in on the charm and attention that Dave Amram has spent his 40 years squandering.

An event? I once saw Dave try to walk down Broadway, to the subway station. It took him in hour to got from 53rd Street to 52d,bumping into all the people he knew. What more exciting occasion could there be for all those lost legions of closet David Amram freaks than the world premiere of his Triple Concerto for Wind, Brass and Jazz Quintets and Orchestra"

Dave and his quartet played it at Philharmonic Hall yesterday afternoon along with Leopold Stokowski's American Symphony Orchestra as sidemen. You know the way Dave greets you with, "Hey, boobeleh!" This was Dave Amram setting Dave Amram to music. When is someone going to record him?

Dave drew from much of his previous work for this score, transfiguring all his Latin, Classic and even Middle Eastern influences into what ought to be called a Pop Concerto rather than a Triple one.

Dave's jazz is pop jazz, but Dave is still a classical composer and much too straightforward for any gimmickry or he would have been in Hollywood years ago. The only reason Dave ever did movie scores was to finance his serious work. Who takes classical composers seriously these days, anyway?

Jazzmen have wedded their groups to classical ensembles in the past, notably Ornette Coleman and Miles Davis, but Dave's Triple Concerto was commissioned as a symphonic work by the


It took Dave
seven months
to write the piece


Samuel Rubin Foundation and it was presented in that format, right down to its title. As Dave says, "Classical music and jazz aren't dead.  What's dead are the attitudes people used to have toward them."

After the concert you could hear him up in Philharmonic Hall's Green Room telling well-wishers that he hadn't taken a drink in two and a half months because he felt he was in training for this like a boxer for a fight.

"It took me seven months to write the piece," he said.  

He didn't finish it until last Tuesday. Rehearsals began Wednesday morning.

The conductor was Japanese guest maestro Kazuyoshi Aklyama, who led the orchestra with great economy and a welcome lack of choreography. "He doesn't try to make conducting a big ego trip," Dave explained.

As for ego trips, Dave worked hard trying to avoid one of his own. "In the parts I wrote for myself, I didn't try to make myself a big solo vehicle," he said. His parts included the French horn, the piano, the Pakistani flute and the dumbek, all of which are only a portion of Dave's armory of instruments.

There?ll be an instant replay of the Triple Concerto at Philharmonic Hall tomorrow night.

In the Green Room, Dave finished signing his autograph on a program banded to him by a Fire Island friend with whom he goes fishing and then invited me to a party at his apartment in the Village. Above his autograph he drew a picture of a fish.

By the time I got to his   third-floor walkup, there was only room for a couple of more people. Roast beef stew and homemade bread were being served and a copy of New Morning was on the turntable.

"That's why younger people enjoy my music, I don't make it a "you know. . .,?? he said, and he tossed his head. "All the colleges and schools I go to, the kids respond to your attitude."

He took some beef stew and talked about a youth concert he's going to do with the Philadelphia Orchestra and a jazz concert he's going to do for ghetto kids in Philadelphia.

"From the reception I've had with other composers like myself whose influence isn't only Central European but music from the streets," he said, "maybe they'll get an idea to incorporate the music symphonically. Mozart, Beethoven, Bach drew from folk music. Jim Webb, Bob Dylan, Richie Havens---if they were able to write symphonically, that would be fabulous!"

A colleague once told Dave he was climbing the ladder to obscurity. Me, I've been after Dave for 10 years to do a pop symphony. I asked him why he couldn't write Jim Webb, Bob Dylan, and Richie Havens 'symphonically."

"Because I only do my own stuff," he said. "I've stuck to my guns. I'm hold?ing out until the record companies and the orchestras become aware that there's a place for my music. There are too many people who dig what I do to have to sell out. If necessary, I'll go back to work in the Post Office.

"The one thing I want to say about rock that's beautiful is that it opens up everybody's ears and minds to music as a high spiritual calling. People now are tired of cars breaking down and cities breaking down and all things being sold breaking down. They want quality and they want quality in music, too. And people, when they go to concerts, know more than people think they do."  ##


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