Hear Ye! Hear Ye!

Chick & us

Cultural High Water Mark:
The Return of Return to Forever

Last year Tamra and I had the great good fortune of seeing Chick Corea and Return to Forever perform live at the Gibson Amphitheatre in Los Angeles.

The recordings that were made of that tour are now available, and I just heard the CD and relived the experience.  Man, I’m not exaggerating when I say that it was a freakin’ RELIGIOUS experience.

I know how boring it is to be “explained to” about a concert. I openly resent anyone trying to convey to me why the show I just missed was the greatest thing ever, life-changing, awesome, blah, blah, blah.

The ONLY REASON I am taking the time to write (and hoping you will take the time to read, and then further take the time to LISTEN) is that there IS now an excellent recording, beautifully produced, of a show I feel marks a new high point in the aesthetics in our culture today.

I mean, if you couldn’t pick up a CD to listen to it, I wouldn’t have the effrontery begin to describe it to you just to expose you to my own verbal embroidery.  But you can, and you really oughta.

You know when some artistic collaborations just achieve so much that it makes a new summit to aspire to?  That’s what these guys have done.

I’m not a musician.  I can’t tell you why the show was so transporting and marvelous.  I was just one of several thousand mesmerized audience members, (and when I looked around, a LOT of them looked like musicians to me.)  And believe me, they were MESMERISED.

Not mesmerized like audiences that are being clubbed with monster bass and head splitting volume, holding on to consciousness thru an assault of rhythm and noise.  Mesmerized like a little child watching The Wizard of Oz for the first time.  Admiring, captivated, enraptured, totally absorbed in the fantasy.

These were grownups.  Tired, beaten down grownups from the Valley!  BLISSED OUT.

Crazy, right?

It was jazz, and I guess maybe a lot of people say they don’t care for jazz.  But you couldn’t HELP but enjoy this, even if you can’t stand jazz.  It was so beyond any one style and so embracive of all kinds of music, it was like Jazz 2.0.

This is jazz that Beethoven would love, that Queen Elizabeth would love, that Thomas Jefferson would love, that Edison and Tesla and Carleton Fisk and the Marx Brothers would love.  It was pure creative genius.

I’m so bloody GRATEFUL they did such an excellent job producing the CD so I can remember what the heck the dream was all about.

Okay, I know this much about music: the first CD is electric instruments, the second is ACOUSTIC.

The acoustic set is just phenomenal.  Stanley Clarke made his big upright bass sing like a whale, like a wind going thru a canyon, like a lover’s croon… okay, I didn’t want to try to describe, but you just HAVE to hear it.

Stanley is out of this world, and in a world I want to go live in.

Al Dimeola played guitar.  Okay, this guy is like Shakespeare with the guitar.  He paints like Botticelli and like Rembrandt and like Basquiat with the guitar.  He has no capacity for fatigue.  None of these guys do.  They play a mile a minute for a couple hours, not even panting.  They smile, they groove, they blow.   They break land speed records, and then they break World Harmony records and Universal Elegance records.  Are they even there?  They seem like projections on a piece of lightweight silk with all the substance of a candle flame.

Lenny White is the drummer.  He is a mind reader.  He knows what is going on in every dimension that intersects with the space containing the players onstage, the past, present, over to the left ten miles… and he lays down a multi-colored net that the others dance all over, then scoops up the net catching the whole audience inside, then he breaks the net into pieces, then he builds a series of ladders that go to Mars and back… Sheesh.  Even he doesn’t pant.

Mr. Chick Corea is the fellow who apparently runs the show.  Apparently he is well known to the other musicians.  They seem rather interested in what he is doing onstage.  I felt they must have met one another before the show.  Maybe worked some things out ahead of time.

Chick sits at his piano and creates an entire universe about fifty times bigger than this one made famous by the Hubble telescope, and then takes the whole audience on a fast tour, no seat belts.  He is a God.  He hits ninety seven billion eight hundred and fifty five million notes in perfect sync with the other Gods in the group and never gets one out of place, not ONE.  And each note is a story, and the story gets completed in the mind of each beholder, all mixed up with their past, their experiences and feelings and dreams.

I don’t know what else to say to you, except to beg you to do yourself the supreme favor of accepting the invitation to dive out of this crazy, unkempt, ratty, nasty universe of force and punishment, and dive into the universe of Return to Forever on their new live concert album, available wherever deathless, sublime monuments to the aesthetic potential of the human spirit are sold.

Or go to http://www.return2forever.com/

Published in: on May 15, 2009 at 8:00 am  Comments (2)  

An Appeal to my Fellow Commercial Actors


I’ve been a professional actor now for over 25 years.  During that time I’ve been involved with the making of many hundreds of TV and radio commercials.

Commercials are one of the ways we actors stay alive thru times between other, more artistic projects like plays, films and television shows.  One can make a good living indeed in commercials, although this has become increasingly rare for the “workaday” actor.

For an audition recently I was sent a piece of copy (the text one is to speak in a commercial) that caught my eye.

I don’t audition for absolutely any sort of product under the sun; I have particular prejudices against certain classes of products and services and refuse to support them just for a paycheck.  Most actors have similar scruples.

By accident, I was sent a script for a sleep medication.  I have instructed my agents long ago that I don’t pitch pharmaceuticals in commercials for personal reasons.  So I rarely have actually seen in bold type this sort of narration:

“Sleepwalking, and eating or driving while not fully awake, with amnesia for the event as well as abnormal behaviors have been reported.

In patients with depression, worsening of depression, including risk of suicidal thoughts or actions, may occur.”

Now, I have heard things like this on TV and have guffawed, as perhaps you have, at the juxtaposition of cheery, sunlit scenes of fun and recreation that typically accompany this kind of voiceover.  But I didn’t really credit what revulsion the words inspire on their own without the rosy scenes of harmony filling the screen as eye candy.


So, if I read the above correctly, (which is, after all, my job) what the warnings for this pill infer is that you might, after taking this drug, fall asleep, then get into a car, drive around for an indeterminate amount of time STILL ASLEEP and then awake later with possibly no recollection of what you’d done or where you’d been.

That seems to me to be a pretty good guarantee of homicide.  I know what it is like to drive when drowsy from lack of sleep; I really have no experience at all, thank God, with driving while completely unconscious.  But, I can’t imagine a scarier thought than waking up in my own car and realizing I must have been doing some driving while asleep during the night.

And what about the last bit: “worsening of depression, including risk of suicidal thoughts or actions, may occur.”

Okay, “suicidal actions.”  What are they?  Cutting one’s wrists?  Stepping out in front of a semi?  Walking on a high ledge?  Taking an overdose of the same pills that caused the suicidal feelings in the first place?

The warning goes on to instruct the viewer to contact a doctor immediately if any of these symptoms occur.  That’s nice.  But would there be necessarily time or even the inclination to do so?  If one is feeling and acting suicidal, doesn’t it seem unlikely they would reach for help?  And what if the suicidal actions occur during that time when the guy is unconsciously driving down the highway?

Okay, so all that is very grim, but my argument is really not about the drug companies, who have evidently made peace with their consciences long ago regarding “side effects”.

But what of an actor who would read these lines for money?

Here’s how I look at it.  How comfortable would you feel explaining to a child, say, that medicine they were taking, or that their parents were taking, might possibly cause them to kill themselves?  Or that dad or mom might be driving the family car around while dead asleep, probably not stopping on red and going on green?

It gets clear to me when I look at it from that angle.

Look, I’m no angel.  I’ve done commercials for banks for crying out loud.  (Many of which don’t exist anymore.)

But to claim that a product is a wonderful solution for a common problem, then pleasantly add the caveat that one reason the problem won’t be a bother anymore is because the user will be too dead from the treatment to notice it, is a bit beyond the pale.

So, if you, like me, depend on advertising for some of your income, consider what I’ve tried to convey here.

The world would be a better place if we all treated each other with more kindness.  And telling harmful things thinly disguised as boilerplate “side effects” is no way to express kindness, or earn a living.

Published in: on May 2, 2009 at 5:39 am  Comments (2)