Media:

McConnell, Frank

only to heighten it. Pulling away from the festivities of a Fourth many genres, from folk song to reasonably complicated ma- of July picnic, Charlotte (Congdon has given Gilman's name ...

...By the end of the decade the bass woos, wins, and loses his soprano (the nameless char- the music they forged had become widely accepted and admired acters are identified in the program only by voice or instrument) by white folks-the very people for whom it had not been deand rescues her from hell only to lose her again...
...Bird solos first, eating up the changes like a Pac- Wallace Stevens and damned few others, argues for a certain Man from hell and you wonder if the bastard ever takes a breath...
...heartbeat...
...It ful...
...Well, maybe...
...And that tempo is, like, allegro cubed...
...Now "Bebop" is ing with the dead, she returns him to his music...
...This promise that women would not always be trapped South Carolina, is a moment of high solemnity in the secret, in yellow wallpaper is underlined by the fact that Congdon has psychic history of the republic...
...the double bass is too big to invade the human bass's Thelonious Sphere Monk who played piano...
...The you any two of these, but very, very seldom all three...
...So Orpheus in Love begins...
...Bebop is very fast...
...And, of course, the night Bird died it was Diz who, As I said, it takes less than three minutes to listen to...
...Finally, stand- signed-and had come to be called "Bebop...
...it is very angry, even forty years after it was first was so happy with his audiences...
...Ask any American artist-not just any African-American artist-which is the harder dance to dance...
...But artist this country has produced...
...Among them were John Gillespie who played trumpet, Spring, 1992...
...Like the song says, "Didn't he ramble,/ All around town, / Didn't he ramble, / Till the Butcher cut him down...
...The bassoonists ac- Let me tell you why...
...the last image is of the startled nurse paragraph...
...She feels much pheus was more impressive in performance than Wallpaper, it closer to the women in the wallpaper (the women's chorus), may have been because the professional cast had much more particularly to her other self who often moves in sync with her...
...The second act turns somewhat more serious as tonishingly, all possessed of genius...
...In comic sequences, we meet his father and his first things in common: they were all African-Americans, they were piano teacher, both dead, and his Eurydice, a reluctant student all unknown and very likely to remain so, and they were, asof the viola...
...The cians found themselves gigging together occasionally, running first act is very funny, musically and verbally, but physically into one another socially, and talking a lot about music and the as well...
...Busby's is as exuberant and to the unnamed protagonist of the story) sings, "I'm in a room as light (in all senses of the word) as Lucas's libretto...
...company this contemporary Orpheus as he toss- In the early forties, in New York, a bunch of young musies and turns in his bed trying to fall asleep...
...In the picnic scene, at their fa- will tell you that, in the mid-1940s, he and ther's insistence, they sing a song about a little hen who Charlie Parker virtually reinvented jazz-which is to say, vir"washed up the dishes,/And kept the house clean," a school- tually reinvented American music-which is to say, no kidhouse vision of the role of women...
...No musician since Louis Armstrong complicated...
...Y . I'd bleed to say his work got better and stronger over the years, but it didn't...
...Dameron and that whole largely doomed, blessed battalion (Max, Which is why I watched Amadeus in my personal wake for insh'Allah, being still with us)-what these men were about was Dizzy...
...A new century, a new be- listened to his music, you don't even need to have read this ginning...
...Wrong, Diz: very, very wrong...
...And last year, there cized, and-in very painful truth-the more overwhelmingly were festivals all around the world honoring his seventy-fifth gifted of the two...
...Dizzy on open horn, with that clarion, almost His generosity and sponsorship of other musicians was as baroque-trumpet heartstopping clarity of tone that was his trade- legendary as Miles's inexplicable rages...
...Many of the apparently casual lines that these characters speak have deeper resonance, at least in retrospect...
...And he continued to thrive, with the same energy and intelligence as the music he made, until the beauty of the music and the beauty of the career were virtually one thing: an epiphany, if you wish, of what an American artist can do and be, with enough heart...
...GERALD WEALES her situation (the restraints John and Jennie put on her) or-in the case of the nursemaid, the handymen, the realtor and his MEDIA daughters-to contrast the presumably ordinary world with her distressed one...
...End on the re- a pretty stupid name...
...of his 1980 autobiography, To Be...
...In the last scene, as Charlotte ding, changed the world as we hear it...
...To be great...
...Pulling away from the festivities of a Fourth many genres, from folk song to reasonably complicated maof July picnic, Charlotte (Congdon has given Gilman's name nipulation of his five-note theme...
...And it would be just as fresh and just as joyful, as truly humanizing, as the Diz you could hear from the forties, when he found out who he was and what he could do...
...Still, in both cases, the music and the libretto you call Mozart's music, say, "Doodly-doop...
...And then, with a sigh, "And they always remember the martyr longer...
...And, of course, if you've ever moved Gilman's 1892 story to 1899...
...thing by Gillespie, but my tape of Milos Forman's Amadeus...
...are there, but the force is lost...
...The events Epiphany, January 6, 1993...
...I think it was that good man, Nat Hentoff, who once staring in confusion at the notebook Charlotte left behind...
...At one point three-fourths of a string quartet share Charles Christopher Parker who played alto saxophone, and his bed...
...Because, you see, Dizzy refused to buy into the devil's creating a music that white guys couldn't play, couldn't water fiction that the price of genius is self-immolation-and, my down or nice-nelly or co-opt into the kind of pabulum suitable God, how many American artists altogether have been poifor the junior prom...
...Listen to "Dizzy Atmosphere," recorded in 1945...
...Self-destructive, alcoholic, heroin-addicted, birthday, most of which he was too ill to attend...
...too: in New Orleans, circa 1900, it was simply a local variant It is probably perverse to discuss opera in terms of libretti, on the f-word (the only word in English, by the way-ask any but it is Congdon's fault-that remark about opera's appeal to Chicagoan-that can serve as all eight parts of speech...
...Bird and Diz play the tune in per- Diz did all three, like Louis, like Duke, like Robert Frost and fect unison...
...this stage business may come from director Kirsten ways they could make their music better, make it more their Sanderson for there is no hint of it in the printed text (Bomb, music...
...his renters, keeps saying, "We can do that for you," a line that grates in the memory as soon as we realize that Charlotte is invalided by not being free to do for herself...
...FRANK McCONNELL 18: 12 February 1993 Commonweal...
...Would the playwright...
...But then, "jazz" is a pretty stupid name, plenishing sound of the viola...
...wrote, "Dizzy is a cosmic force": that was not hyperbole...
...Anytime you heard him, with his numerous big bands, or in his pairings with virtually anybody who was anybody in jazz, you'd be hearing-Diz...
...Perera's is an eclectic score, moving through no dammit, it's revelatory-that the American establishment Commonweal 12 February 1993: 17 has systematically invented marketing terms for our greatest ty-four-the same age Mozart died-leaving behind some of cultural achievement that are either trivializing or (all puns in- the most godlike music ever played and, less fortunately, one tended) denigrating...
...greatness and toughness of soul...
...The morning after our annual Twelfth Night party I woke here is something particularly attractive about open- up and after the requisite coffee and cigarettes played, not anying an opera with a trio-a bass and two bassoons...
...and to survive...
...And for all after finishing his gig, drove across town to take charge ofit implies, it's at least as important an event in the growth of the and pay for-the funeral arrangements...
...And if you believe, as I is led out, they sing a secret song, snatches of which they have do, that jazz-not literature, not dance, not drama, but jazzsung before, about a little girl who would not obey, who would is the American Sublime, then I needn't try to convince you only please herself, and who "flew very high, very high, very that the passing of John Birks Gillespie, born 1917 in Cheraw, high...
...If Orwherever I am./I'm in a room wherever I go...
...The triumph of Diz is that of genius, but also of a life well and truly lived...
...it is harmonically very soned by that stupidity...
...The American mechanism of fame will allow will only take two minutes and forty seconds of your time...
...It's significantwork together...
...and maybe sociopathic, he was-is--quite simply the greatest That's all wonderful, and a long way from Cheraw, S.C...
...Partly that is intentional or, as Now you're going to read, or most likely have Congdon suggested in the seminar, a happy accident of having already read, a lot of testimonials to Dizzy that introduced the two little girls...
...And he died in 1955, at thir- what moves me more than the joy of it all, what makes it all terribly important, is that Dizzy managed it without ever once ceasing to be that brilliant, angry, and careful young man who recorded "Dizzy Atmosphere" in 1945...
...to be successrecorded...
...BEBOP TAKES A HARD SHOT In the first scene, the busybody of a realtor, intent on pleasing DIZZY GILLESPIE, R.I.P...
...They had a few territory...
...And the last sentence national soul as, say, The Great Gatsby...
...What Diz, Bird, and Monk- been the bane of Western civilization ever since the dawn of and Bud Powell and Max Roach and Fats Navarro and Tadd the Romantic era-where, of couse, we still live...
...Like Frost, again, he seems to have found his own perfection very early on, and to have decided, quite reasonably, that perfection is the one thing you don't need to mess with...
...In a crucial scene in Clint Eastwood's Bird, Samuel E. Wright as Dizzy says to Forest Whittaker as the ailing Charlie Parker: "I'm a reformer-and you're trying to be a martyr...
...or Not to Bop, is, "When I Bird, of course, was the more talked-about, the more mythi- take my last breath, it'll be a happy one...
...And his loyalties were mark and the despair of everybody who came after, bending notes a thing of beauty: years later, asked about Bird, he could say, at will and in absolute control of the horn and-it's the subtext- in a haunting phrase, "Charlie Parker-the other side of my daring anybody else to play that high, that fast, and that smart...
...The split perspective in the opera means that it never achieves izzy Gillespie died on the Feast of the the intensity of the last horrifying scene in the story...
...more version of the artist-as-doomed-figure mystique that has And that was the point of the music...
...And then Dizzy...
...experience, but the Manhattan School students-particularly The characters-even her husband John and his sister Jennie- Peggy Kriha as Charlotte-served Perera and Congdon and are largely stereotypes, but they are used either to dramatize Gilman extremely well...

Vol. 120 • February 1993 • No. 3


 
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