First, there was Vincent van Gogh. Then came Vincent Price. Following him was Vincent Furnier. And now there’s Vincent Persichetti (1915-1987)–the latest in a long line of distinguished Vincents, each of whom has made a huge impression on the worlds of art, music and film. Just kidding. This here Piano Sonatas 10 and 11 CD is a reissue of an old LP that collects three works for solo piano composed in the 1950s and ’60s, but not recorded until the 1980s. The liner notes describe Persichetti as “one of the major figures of American music of the 20th century.” Really? Before this CD was released, I had never even heard of his name before. No matter, let’s get down to the music.
If you’re a fan of John Coltrane–the not-so-jolly giant of ’60s jazz–you already know that footage of the man in action is more rare than a Kinetoscope film of a pterodactyl crashing a Tupperware party. So, imagine my surprise when a whole DVD’s worth of moving images chasing the Trane winked its way into existence inside that as-yet-unamed reality that we call home. The disc rolls out the red carpet for no less than three performances from small town Europe in the early 1960s.
The first set was filmed on March 28, 1960 in Dusseldorf, West Germany on an off night during a Miles Davis Quintet tour. (Having been Davis’ sideman for years, Coltrane begrudgingly did this one last tour with him as a favor.) With Coltrane at the helm, this set boasts five examples of super-mellow, late-night, smokey supper club ballads occasionally salted with Coltrane’s rapid-fire sheets of sound approach that he had developed in the mid-’50s. Featuring Davis’ rhythm section–Paul Chambers on bass, Jimmy Cobb on drums and Wynton Kelly on piano–the whole lilting thing was filmed for a TV broadcast in stark black-and-white with multiple cameras, which allowed for some pleasantly artistic montages of already nicely composed scenes. Fellow sax man Stan Getz and pianist Oscar Peterson guest on a couple of tracks.
Vast jungles crawling with rare, exotic animals, insects and plants. Pristine beaches and islands supporting fragile, beautiful coral reefs. Traditional kampung thatched roof houses. Sprawling urban centers sprinkled with shiny glass high rises next to run-down alleys sporting a generous helping of dirt and grime. All of these elements and much more make up the Muslim-dominated country of Malaysia, which lies under the stinging equatorial sun, right between Thailand and Singapore.
Tropical Punch Tour: Malaysia Video takes a quick look at the colorful seaside colonial town of Melaka, including flower-festooned trishaws, a musical performance and dance party stirred up by Hiasan Budaya and a sardine-packed night market in Chinatown. Up in the sprawling capital city, Kuala Lumpur, we briefly encounter a plethora of traditional Malaysian dances offered up at various tourist centers, plus stops at the lovely and lush Taman Rama Rama, also known as the Butterfly Park, and the home of some of Earth’s most brightly hued birds at the KL Bird Park.
“Made in Singapore.” Throughout your whole life, you’ve seen those three words stamped on many a product. I’m finally here! But I haven’t seen any smokey factories belching out all of that stuff. Maybe they’re hidden underneath the neatly swept and polished surface. Singapore is a small and tidy island / city / nation that measures only roughly 12 x 24 miles. It’s highly Westernized, ultra-modern, and as far as diners and shoppers are concerned, it can easily compete with any city on the globe.
Tropical Punch Tour: Singapore Video takes a cursory glance at all of the architectural eye candy around town, plus live music performances in the form of a shrill buddhist temple ceremony at Thian Hock Keng, a couple of random street musicians and performers on Cavenagh Bridge, and a chorus of frogs singing their hearts out down inside a sewer in Fort Canning. Background songs courtesy of the Singapore A-Go-Go compilation CD on Sublime Frequencies.
Spanning roughly 150 x 600 miles, Java is one long stringbean of a volcano-spined tropical island. Boasting the highest population of Indonesia, many of whom are Muslim, its largest cities–Jakarta on the West side and Surabaya on the East–are sprawling, polluted, centers of raw, urban chaos. Yogyakarta and Solo in Central Java rival each other as centers of culture, with regular dance and gamelan music performances and tons of other traditional artistic output in the form of carvings, sculpture, painting, and much more. Endless beaches, jungles and mountains also attract their fair share of foreigners.
Tropical Punch Tour: Java Video aims the spotlight on musical and cultural life in and around Yogyakarta. The shenanigans begin with a quick glance at raw street musicians on the main drag in town, Jalon Malioboro. Next up, a few Wayang Kulit shadow puppets float into view, followed by a sprightly gamelan orchestra and Wayang Kulit shadow puppet play at the Sono Budoyo Museum. Next morning, we peel ourselves out of bed for an early morning visit to Borobudur, a giant Buddhist temple that’s bigger than a city block and taller than Godzilla. It was built back in the ninth century, when Buddhism reigned as Java’s primary religion. A violent Wayang Golek wooden puppet play with another chiming gamelan orchestra goes down at the Sultan’s Palace, followed by the super-colorful Ramayana Ballet at Purawisata. The video closes with a visit to the serene Taman Sari water palace, and musical instruments under fiery construction at a gamelan foundry in Bentuyang.