The King of Rock

There is none higher

If you read my essay on the Weekly Arts page in last week's issue, then you know I have grown weary of contemporary jazz and all its pretensions/ limitations/stalemations (and, yeah, I just made that word up, but it's a good one). However, one guy who always manages to perk up my fatigued old sound receptacles is trumpeter/composer Terrence Blanchard.

Rather than releasing annual albums and flashing chops just like switchblades (thanks, Boss) as so many of his fellow so-called "Young Lions" (whose leonine leanings are often rather cub-like) do, Blanchard has largely set his sights on scoring films. To that end, his success has been singular. His work on such Spike Lee Joints as Do the Right Thing, Mo' Better Blues and Malcolm X has been career-defining; Blanchard plays notes like figures on a chessboard to set moods, yet his soundtracks also stand alone as pure music on its own terms. Less noted, but no less significant, was his score for the film Backbeat, wherein Mr. B forever linked the Bo Diddley pulse of rock & roll with the modal jazz of Miles/Coltrane—jazz snobs, please take note. Blanchard rarely releases albums under his own name, but when he does (such as last year's Wandering Moon, his first in five years), the cinematic instinct he brings to soundtrack work is well in evidence. A master musician needn't show you his slickest licks like a child playing show-and-tell, or wear his influences on his sleeve like a smear of oily snot. Blanchard does neither, and if his name isn't as familiar as Messrs. Wynton, Roy and Joshua, I'm here to tell you he makes much purtier—and ultimately more important—music. Check out blushin' Blanchard Monday night at the Coach House.

Prior to my current state of intolerant geezerhood, I had an early and brief flirtation with rap music—this was in the prehistoric days before it was known as hip-hop or bling-bling or unlistenable, valueless, canine excrement. I loved Grandmaster Flash for bringing the first real taste of undiluted ghetto rage to the airwaves. I loved the much-maligned Fat Boys for being highly entertaining, highly rhythmic clowns in the tradition of Dusty Fletcher. I loved Tone Loc for being funky like George Clinton in a barbecue-stained T-shirt. And I loved Run-DMC for being the first effective bridge between rock and R&B since the days of Sly & the Family Stone—at a mid-'80s time when, as many forget, the radio was more segregated than any other era since the 1950s. I played their King of Rock LP incessantly during the summer of 1985 for many amazed white people, who turned to a Jew for exposure to the Black Experience. Once Run-DMC walked this way with Steve Tyler the following year and confirmed my ethnomusicological theory, I immediately lost interest—point proved, time to move on to people who actually sing for a living. But outside the undeniable innovations of Dre and Snoop, no one, to my mind, has advanced or improved upon the bleed-your-ears formula advanced by Run-DMC lo those many years ago. While I find it depressing that the guys are now considered "old school" (and I bet they find it even more depressing), they can take solace in the fact that they remain the template for hip-hop, which is even more dead-end-stagnant than jazz, despite the gleeful American consumerism that would have you believe otherwise. Check out the Stetson-and-Adidas boys Wednesday night at the House of Blues.

The Go-Go's perform Sunday afternoon at Verizon Wireless Amphitheater with a whole shitload of bands —including the Wallflowers, Billy Idol, Counting Crows, Uncle Kracker and Third Eye Blind—under the banner of Star 98.7's Fan Nation. While I will hardly be the first to point this out, I feel compelled to join the chorus of mockery nonetheless: there is something exquisitely pathetic about a group of saggy-faced, fortysomething women endeavoring to perpetuate a career forged more than 20 years ago on being perky, jiggling, fresh-faced, new-wave cheerleader types. Nobody wants to bone you anymore, ladies.

Also playing the Cash-in-on-Your-Sorry-Past sweepstakes this week is Gary Numan, who wore a lot of mascara and had a really, really stoopid synth-pop hit called "Cars" way back in 1979 (although I hear he's still really big in Micronesia or someplace). Aside from Numan's obvious musical uselessness, please be advised that this dried-up puddle of tinkle has transformed into a right-wing zealot on the order of Bob Dornan before you decide to shell out any money to fill his greedy pockets when he plays Monday night at the House of Blues.

Lastly, and perhaps most horrifyingly, something called The Jerry Garcia Band appears Friday night at the Galaxy Concert Theatre. Uhhhh . . . Am I the only person to notice that Jerry Garcia died a long time ago? Allow me to suggest a name change: the Guys Who Used to Play With Jerry Garcia But Haven't Been Able to Get a Decent Gig Since He Croaked and So Continue to Shamelessly Exploit His Name Band. Faaaar out, maaan!

Terrence Blanchard plays at the Coach House, 33157 Camino Capistrano, San Juan Capistrano, (949) 496-8930. Mon., 8 p.m. $17.50. All ages; Run-DMC performs at the House of Blues, 1530 S. Disneyland Dr., Anaheim, (714) 778-2583. Wed., 7 p.m. $25. All ages; STAR 98.7 Fan Nation at Verizon Wireless Amphitheater, 8808 Irvine Center Dr., Irvine, (949) 855-8095. Sun., 1 p.m. $28.50-$53.50. All ages; Gary Numan plays at the House of Blues, Anaheim. Mon., 8 p.m. $20-$40. All ages; the Jerry Garcia Band performs at the Galaxy Concert Theatre, 3503 S. Harbor Blvd., Santa Ana, (714) 957-0600. Fri., 8 p.m. $15.

 
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