players at play

By Robbie on July 11, 2009

I downloaded the latest work by Mr. Elvis Costello last week and had a listen on my way from New York to New England. In the way we coldly diagnose annoyances which are close in on our senses yet impersonal, I soon stopped listening and started mentally auditioning explanations of the record's overall weakness. One that hit me a little more forcefully than the rest was: "The musicians are having a good time."

It's just a guess of course. But it sounds to me as though these players (I didn't find out who they were) convened, chatted amicably, sat in a circle, played through the songs once or twice before activation of the machine ear, cut, and then went out for a hot meal. If I'm reading right, the organizing principle, such as it was, was: Relax, unify, and no hot licks -- an after-hours mood.

The principle seems faultless (also, incidentally, humane), and the players are predictably outstanding (though they're keeping it so basic that you might not always know). So how could it fail? Thinking back on some of my own failed efforts to get solid group performances on tape or hard drive, I believe the laissez-faire approach with musicians was occasionally culpable. I have taken the coward's way, erasing performances or starting from scratch with different hires, always loath to say to someone I admire: No, not that way; send your imagination and your hands to another quadrant; block that impulse. The reasons besides cowardice for not saying this, the practical reasons, are several. Biological creatures have very limited directability (they play and imagine the way they play and imagine). Impulse has a sacred and official alliance with musical creation. The physical and mental conditions most conducive to performance are, presumably, stress-free.

What about this presumption, though? I learned what I took to be a fundamental insight at a show 23 years ago, when my bandleader brought me to the brink of a heart-palpitating, sputtering rage moments before downbeat, and I proceeded to play the guitar, during our first set, like Clarence Fucking White. All right, that's an exaggeration, but: better than I had before or have since. Maybe. Anyway, after the incident, I thought across the years of all the captives of bandleaders reputed to be tough or disagreeable -- Raymond Scott, Benny Goodman, Bill Monroe, Miles Davis, Tommy Dorsey, on and on. You hear a good deal of testimony to the effect that the musicians who worked for these men achieved things they never could have, or indeed did, in more felicitous zones.

There's a happy class of recording musician these days that is allowed and encouraged to show up, relax, do the magic thing, collect triple scale, and go home. Good for them. Good also, for the young amateur, who has easier access to an essential urgency that is irrelevant or counter to a professional, master-class mentality. Music's not just a good time, and somebody, at least somebody at the top, needs some negativity.

Tags : None

9 comments

  1. avatar murph Posted about 16 hours later

    I can't remember the song on Dancemania, but in the very beginning of the recording, you hear an annoyed Tito Puente yelling at one of his sax players; "C'mon, don't ask questions! The light is on. I told you what to do"

  2. avatar Nick Barber Posted about 17 hours later

    It reminds me of the Boozoo Chavis track where he's not in time but the band are - at the start, he berates them and says that the song will be wrong if they don't follow him, so they'd better damn follow him - "Do what I do!!"

  3. avatar Dan Holway Posted 1 day later

    Ever hear the recordings of Buddy Rich flipping out on his band on their tour bus? http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tCF9wgMU7es (Caution: packed with angry, foul language!)

  4. avatar Aaron Posted 1 day later

    Musicians on the record are: T-Bone Burnett, Mike Compton, Dennis Crouch, Jerry Douglas, Stuart Duncan, Jim Lauderdale, and Emmylou Harris.

  5. avatar frank Posted 1 day later

    ...not to mention James "I got you" Brown doling out fines for less than stellar (and JB dictated) musical performances. But what do we _really_ know of the conditions, the emotion on an album like Kind of Blue?

    Step out of the way. You can only impose - at best- a small hint of your vision. The "limited directability" factor.

    Is it more true to say that it is our/your/my ego that compels us to hard stamp our vision on a piece of music. And of course when we do, and the result is good, we whole heartedly pat our selves on the back.

    Who wants to play with a jerk off?

  6. avatar Tara Posted 1 day later

    Maybe we are all basically lazy and a good hot poker to the ass is the alchemy we need. I don't feel like I really know somebody until I've made the person angry. Plus, the fire of it all turns me on. The refining power of the heat.... is so hot! (Hi Anselmo!)

  7. avatar Tom Posted 6 days later

    I had listened to this disc 3 times prior to your post. For whatever reason, I thought it was just the easiest listening thing Sir E had done in a very long time. I would never say it's my favorite recording of his, but it ranks near the top of the list of discs that just flow into the aural openeings and disseminate through the body exuding warm fuzzies. Ewwwww...

  8. avatar coach outlet Posted over 4 years later

    I've never even hooked up with anybody I've worked on a <a href="http://www.coachoutlet-sale.com/" title="coach outlet">coach outlet</a> with." But what about after a movie wrapped? She laughs. This plush leather wallet is roomy and unzips to reveal a plethora of pockets for cards, change, and <a href="http://www.coach-factory-outlet-online.com/" title="coach factory outlet">coach factory outlet online</a>. Of course, the real siren song is the elegant color combo. This <a href="http://www.coachfactoryoutlets2014.com/" title="coach factory">coach factory</a> has two large compartments bags to separate your clean and dirty laundry, so you don't have to worry about the <a href="http://www.coachoutlet-buy.com/" title="coach outlet">coach outlet</a> accidentally dropping the floral <a href="http://www.coachstoreonline.com/" title="coach store">coach outlet store online</a> purse cut panties your mom got you for <a href="http://www.coachfactoryoutletspurse.com/" title="coach factory">coach factory outlet</a> floor for everyone to see (and judge).The <a href="http://www.coachfactoryoutletorg.com/" title="coach factory">coach factory outlet</a> ($41) lets the rest of the world know that you won't be entertaining any nonsense. LUSH, the high-street beauty firm that prides itself on using natural and ethical ingredients, is willing to dull some of its shine over concerns about the use of child labor in <a href="http://www.coachfactoryoutlet-handbags.com/" title="www.coachfactory.com/store">coach factory outlet</a>, where 60 percent of the <a href="http://www.michaelkorsoutletmkstore.com/" title="michael kors outlet">michael kors outlet online</a> is mined, according to the <a href="http://www.michaelkorsoutletonlinemk.com/" title="michael kors outlet online">michael kors outlet online</a>. Use this money-saving offer to build up that spring <a href="http://www.pradaoutlet-store.com/" title="prada outlet">prada outlet</a> lineup in the closet with dress, casual and even <a href="http://www.michaelkors.name/" title="michael kors">michael kors</a> styles for the entire family.We have seen celebrities, popstars, bands, and even rappers donate cash or organize a fundraiser for <a href="http://www.michael-kors-outlet-store.com/" title="michael kors outlet">michael kors outlet store</a>. The only way to actually look good during this time is to stock up on tops, sweaters and <a href="http://www.michaelkors-bedford.com/" title="michaelkors">michael kors outlet</a> that you can mix and match and layer up during the season-s most spastic days.The pretty porcine muppet made her small-screen debut in 1974 on the Herb Alpert and the marc jacobs show:Like, <a href="http://www.fitflopsflipflops.com/" title="flip flops">fitflops</a>. We know the week leading up to the big day will be a total whirlwind of activity and last minute touches. The <a href="http://www.fitflopflip-flop.com/" title="flip flops">fitflop</a>, with its heavy, chevron treads, are incredible in slick fitflop (and, as we-ve found out in Eugene this winter, snow). So you may play a good hand and win just 20% of the time. This got me thinking: how often should we be -folding- in life?

  9. avatar guoguo Posted over 5 years later

    http://www.coachoutletstoreinuk.com Coach Outlet Online
    http://www.coachfactoryoutletanus.com Coach Outlet
    http://www.coachoutletonlineunsius.com Coach Factory Outlet
    http://www.coachoutletonlinetur.com Coach Outlet Online
    http://www.coachfactoryoutletnbsa.com Coach Factory Outlet
    http://www.coachfactoryoutletuisa.com Coach Outlet Store Online
    http://www.coachoutletstorenie.com Coach Outlet Store Online
    http://www.coachfactorystoreuin.com Coach Factory Outlet
    http://www.coachfactoryoutletreba.com Coach Outlet
    http://www.coachfactoryoutletonlinesius.com Coach Handbags Outlet
    http://www.coachoutletonlinetnse.com Coach Outlet
    http://www.coachoutletnoia.com Coach Outlet
    http://www.chaneloutletinaus.com Chanel Outlet Online
    http://www.louisvuittonoutletina.com Louis Vuitton
    http://www.louisvuittonoutletine.com Louis Vuitton Outlet
    http://www.guccibeltsoutletbcus.com Gucci Belts
    http://www.guccibelststco.com Gucci Belt
    http://www.louisvuittonoutletsnib.com Louis Vuitton Outlet
    http://www.oakleysunglassescnc.name Oakley Sunglasses Outlet
    http://www.louisvuittonoutletmoba.com Louis Vuitton Outlet
    http://www.oakleyssunglassesmobo.com Oakley Sunglasses Outlet
    http://www.oakleysunglassesmaba.com Oakley Sunglasses
    http://www.oakleysunglassinsc.com Oakley Sunglasses
    http://www.louisvuittonoutletinca.com Louis Vuitton Outlet
    http://www.louisvuittonoutletpft.com Louis Vuitton Outlet
    http://www.louisvuittonoutletcoms.com Louis Vuitton Outlet
    http://www.louisvuittonoutletcsc.com Louis Vuitton Handbags
    http://www.louisvuittonoutletsnib.com Louis Vuitton Outlet Online
    http://www.louisvuitton-bagsonlinee.net Louis Vuitton Handbags
    http://www.louisvuittonoutletori.com Louis Vuitton
    http://www.louisvuittonoutlettca.com Louis Vuitton Handbags
    http://www.louisvuittonoutletincn.com Louis Vuitton Outlet Online
    http://www.chaneloutletmodi.com Chanel Outlet
    http://www.chaneloutletmodo.com Chanel Outlet
    http://www.chaneloutletinaus.net Chanel Outlet
    http://www.chaneloutletinfr.com Chanel
    http://www.oakleysunglassesmodo.com Oakley Sunglasses
    http://www.okelysuglassesmodo.net Oakley Sunglasses Outlet
    http://www.oakelysunglassesmod.net Oakley Sunglasses
    http://www.oakleyoutletshop.us.com Oakley Sunglasses
    http://www.oakleyoutletonline.us.com Oakley Sunglasses Outlet
    http://www.oakleysunglassesviews.com Oakley Sunglasses Outlet
    http://www.raybanshop.name Ray Ban
    http://www.raybansunglassesshop.name Ray Ban Sunglasses
    http://www.raybansunglassesmodo.net Ray Ban Sunglasses Outlet
    http://www.coachoutletonlineptn.com Coach Outlet
    http://www.coachoutletstoreinuk.com Coach Outlet Online
    http://www.coachfactoryoutletanus.com Coach Outlet
    http://www.coachoutletonlineunsius.com Coach Factory Outlet
    http://www.coachoutletonlinetur.com Coach Outlet Online
    http://www.coachfactoryoutletnbsa.com Coach Outlet Store
    http://www.coachfactoryoutletuisa.com Coach Outlet Store Online
    http://www.coachoutletstorenie.com Coach Outlet
    http://www.coachfactorystoreuin.com Coach Factory Online
    http://www.coachfactoryoutletreba.com Coach Factory Outlet
    http://www.coachfactoryoutletonlinesius.com Coach Factory Outlet
    http://www.coachoutletonlinetnse.com Coach Outlet
    http://www.coachoutletnoia.com Coach Outlet Store Online
    http://www.chaneloutletinaus.com Chanel Outlet Online
    http://www.louisvuittonoutletina.com Louis Vuitton Outlet
    http://www.louisvuittonoutletine.com Louis Vuitton Handbags
    http://www.guccibeltsoutletbcus.com Gucci Belt
    http://www.guccibelststco.com Gucci Belts
    http://www.louisvuittonoutletsnib.com Louis Vuitton Outlet Online
    http://www.oakleysunglassescnc.name Oakley Sunglasses Outlet
    http://www.louisvuittonoutletmoba.com Louis Vuitton Outlet Online
    http://www.oakleyssunglassesmobo.com Oakley Sunglasses Outlet
    http://www.oakleysunglassesmaba.com Cheap Oakley Sunglasses
    http://www.oakleysunglassinsc.com Oakley Sunglasses
    http://www.louisvuittonoutletinca.com Louis Vuitton Outlet
    http://www.louisvuittonoutletpft.com Louis Vuitton Outlet
    http://www.louisvuittonoutletcoms.com Louis Vuitton Outlet
    http://www.louisvuittonoutletcsc.com Louis Vuitton Handbags
    http://www.louisvuittonoutletsnib.com Louis Vuitton Outlet Online
    http://www.louisvuitton-bagsonlinee.net Louis Vuitton Handbags
    http://www.louisvuittonoutletori.com Louis Vuitton
    http://www.louisvuittonoutlettca.com Louis Vuitton Handbags
    http://www.louisvuittonoutletincn.com Louis Vuitton Outlet Online
    http://www.chaneloutletmodi.com Chanel Outlet
    http://www.chaneloutletmodo.com Chanel Outlet
    http://www.chaneloutletinaus.net Chanel Outlet
    http://www.chaneloutletinfr.com Chanel
    http://www.oakleysunglassesmodo.com Oakley Sunglasses
    http://www.okelysuglassesmodo.net Oakley Sunglasses Outlet
    http://www.oakelysunglassesmod.net Oakley Sunglasses
    http://www.oakleyoutletshop.us.com Oakley Sunglasses
    http://www.oakleyoutletonline.us.com Oakley Sunglasses Outlet
    http://www.oakleysunglassesviews.com Oakley Sunglasses Outlet
    http://www.raybanshop.name Ray Ban
    http://www.raybansunglassesshop.name Ray Ban Sunglasses
    http://www.raybansunglassesmodo.net Ray Ban Sunglasses Outlet
    http://www.coachoutletonlineptn.com Coach Outlet
    http://www.coachoutletstoreinuk.com Coach Factory Outlet
    http://www.coachfactoryoutletanus.com Coach Factory Outlet
    http://www.coachoutletonlineunsius.com Coach Outlet
    http://www.coachoutletonlinetur.com Coach Online Outlet
    http://www.coachfactoryoutletnbsa.com Coach Factory Outlet
    http://www.coachfactoryoutletuisa.com Coach Outlet Store
    http://www.coachoutletstorenie.com Coach Outlet Store
    http://www.coachfactorystoreuin.com Coach Outlet Online
    http://www.coachfactoryoutletreba.com Coach Factory Outlet
    http://www.coachfactoryoutletonlinesius.com Coach Factory Online
    http://www.coachoutletonlinetnse.com Coach Factory Outlet
    http://www.coachoutletnoia.com Coach Outlet Store Online
    http://www.chaneloutletinaus.com Chanel Handbags
    http://www.louisvuittonoutletina.com Louis Vuitton Outlet Online
    http://www.louisvuittonoutletine.com Louis Vuitton Outlet
    http://www.guccibeltsoutletbcus.com Louis Vuitton Belt
    http://www.guccibelststco.com Hermes Belt
    http://www.louisvuittonoutletsnib.com Louis Vuitton Outlet
    http://www.oakleysunglassescnc.name Oakley Sunglasses Outlet
    http://www.louisvuittonoutletmoba.com Louis Vuitton Outlet
    http://www.oakleyssunglassesmobo.com Oakley Sunglasses Outlet
    http://www.oakleysunglassesmaba.com Oakley Sunglasses
    http://www.oakleysunglassinsc.com Oakley Sunglasses
    http://www.louisvuittonoutletinca.com Louis Vuitton Purses
    http://www.louisvuittonoutletpft.com Louis Vuitton Purses
    http://www.louisvuittonoutletcoms.com Louis Vuitton Outlet
    http://www.louisvuittonoutletcsc.com Louis Vuitton Handbags
    http://www.louisvuittonoutletsnib.com Louis Vuitton Outlet Online
    http://www.louisvuitton-bagsonlinee.net Louis Vuitton Purses
    http://www.louisvuittonoutletori.com Louis Vuitton Handbag
    http://www.louisvuittonoutlettca.com www.louisvuitton.com
    http://www.louisvuittonoutletincn.com Cheap Louis Vuitton
    http://www.chaneloutletmodi.com Chanel Purses
    http://www.chaneloutletmodo.com Chanel Purses
    http://www.chaneloutletinaus.net Chanel Outlet Online
    http://www.chaneloutletinfr.com Chanel Handbags
    http://www.oakleysunglassesmodo.com Cheap Oakley Sunglasses
    http://www.okelysuglassesmodo.net Oakley Sunglasses Wholesale
    http://www.oakelysunglassesmod.net Oakley Sunglasses
    http://www.oakleyoutletshop.us.com Oakley Sunglasses Outlet
    http://www.oakleyoutletonline.us.com Oakley Sunglases Wholesale
    http://www.oakleysunglassesviews.com Oakley Sunglasses Outlet
    http://www.raybanshop.name Cheap Ray Ban Sunglasses
    http://www.raybansunglassesshop.name Ray Ban Sunglasses
    http://www.raybansunglassesmodo.net Ray Ban Sunglasses Outlet
    http://www.coachoutletonlineptn.com Coach Outlet