Saturday, April 22, 2017

A Whole Lot of Lambert, Hendricks and Ross (and LH & Bavan): Saturday Music Club

The two versions of the trio that were the greatest US exponents of jazz vocalese...the first episode of the third season of Fargo features their recording of "Moanin'" prominently...the first album stack features that recording, from LH&R's fist CBS LP:

Jumping back a year or so, to their first album:

And a collection that includes the second album, from Pacific Jazz, The Swingers!, and other sessions:

And then their third album, with Joe Williams, Sing Along with Basie:

Live video tracks and fellow travelers:

The second album with CBS: LH&R Sing Ellington (and it continues to include the third CBS album High Flying, which begins with "Come on Home" and ends with "Mr. PC", and a few other tracks--which will follow, though you might have to hit the "Watch on YouTube" button when and if it pops up below):

The post-High Flying tracks are 
"This Here" aka "Dis Hyuh"
"Swingin' Till the Girls Come Home"
"Twist City"
"Just a Little Bit of Twist"
"A Night in Tunisia"
and an alternate take of "A Night in Tunisia"

The Real Ambassadors (with the Brubeck Trio, Carmen McRae and Louis Armstrong):

Ross leaves, and Lambert, Hendricks and Bavan go forward; 
Live At Newport '63:

LH&B's second album, Basin Street East:

And their third and last...they break up, and in 1966, Lambert killed by a truck while fixing someone's tire for them on a roadside:

And a stack of video recordings, led off by a 1975 Soundstage episode featuring Ross and Hendricks:

Friday, April 21, 2017

FFB: 100 Best Books books (and lists and such)

The other day, FFB founder and usual gatherer Patti Abbott was asking her social-media correspondents what she should look into for key works of fantasy fiction, since she felt that she hadn't done enough reading in that area. She received a lot of mostly good suggestions, in the way such things go, and I was reminded of all the works that exist, as books of recommendations and online lists of varying degrees of institutional and demotic weight, that try to scratch the same itch...and the books, certainly, are there to make a few bucks while serving their argumentation and illumination purposes as well.

I'm also surprised, given that I'm a sucker for such volumes, that I've only "formally" addressed two of the (primarily) crime fiction volumes of this sort in FFB entries, H.R. F. Keating's Crime & Mystery: The 100 Best Books and David Morrell and Hank Wagner 's anthology Thrillers: 100 Must Reads, while mentioning others from time to time, such as Anthony Burgess's Ninety-Nine Novels and particularly Stephen Jones and Kim Newman's Horror: 100 Best Books, which, like the Morrell & Wagner is one of those which taps a hundred or so other writers to chose a single volume they'd like to highlight as one of a hundred that deserve inclusion. Sentiment plays a role at times, as does a certain desire on the part of some contributors to challenge the assumptions of the reader (Robert Bloch, for example, cited a now rather obscure book by a now rather overlooked writer, Alexander Laing's 1935 novel The Cadaver of Gideon Wyck; Robert McCammon brings in Walter Van Tilburg Clark's brilliant and harrowing western The Track of the Cat). The Newman and Jones book was eventually followed by Horror: Another 100 Best
Books, which as a second bite is if anything more interesting than the first, as most of the low-hanging classics were already dealt with in the first volume...allowing for the argument, in all senses, to move onto not only those inexcusably missing from the first volume but also more works that are more usually thought of as Not Horror, but fantasy, suspense fiction, science fiction, absurdist fiction and the like to be proposed in the horror context. 

Seemingly, Michael Moorcock and James Cawthorn's Fantasy: The 100 Best Books would be the title we all should collectively have handed to Patti, along with the more narrowly-focused David Pringle volume, Modern Fantasy: The 100 Best Novels. The Moorcock and Cawthorn is a better selection of titles, in part due to the wider range of dates and not restricting itself to novels (though it does overrepresent novels), and including fewer items (while still including some) that are more historically important or interesting (and usually both) than remotely good by any stretch of critical consideration: several relatively minor writers get two selections in the Moorcock/Cawthorn while others are missing altogether, while Pringle, while including such worthies as R. A. Lafferty and William Kotzwinkle (and more Angela Carter than the other guys did), also finds room for the execrable work of  Stephen Donaldson and Robert Heinlein's at best half-assed Glory Road. M&C inexcusably leave out Borges; neither book includes any Italo Calvino or Jane Yolen or...

But since these are all matters of taste, tempered by genuine desire (usually, at very least) to soberly assess the quality of the given work, and none can be considered a True Writ From On High except by the dullest among us (and, yet, sadly, too often they are treated thus, by the most institutional among us), as is clear when one also considers the similarly intended Modern Library rankings, between their editorial panel's choices of the 100 best fiction books  (with mostly selections that are hard to argue with, except in the rankings, and a few that are ludicrous or nearly so) and the popularity poll the Modern Library gathered votes for at the same time (many ludicrous choices, and some merely obviously the result of fannish enthusiasm game-rigging the votes, and a few choices that are notable for being rather better than some on the panel's list).  Flannery O'Connor and Thomas Pynchon made the Vox Pop list, along with trash from Rand, Hubbard and Bach, but didn't make the Expert List, which instead assures us that Winesburg, Ohio (interesting, but more groundbreaking than immortal) and Tropic of Cancer were more worthy than anything by any number of other, better writers, including O'Connor and Pynchon. Larry McCaffery and Radcliffe students were among those who came up with widely-circulated lists in response...McCaffery's was (mostly) better than the Expert list, the Radcliffe list slightly better on women writers but worse overall. 

And, always, this is an ongoing discussion...and all cited are valuable reminders that one needs to know of, at least, all the items in each collection to have a true grounding in each field. For more of today's books, please see Patti Abbott's blog. Next week, I'll be hosting, while Patti and Megan Abbott wonder if they'll be walking away with with odd little Edgar Allan Poe busts, from the Mystery Writers of America annual convention. 

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Overlooked A/V: films, television and much more: new links to the reviews, discussions and more

Go for Sisters
The weekly assembly of links to blogposts, reviews, essays, podcasts and other items of interest about audio/visual work, usually first-rate and deserving of one's attention but sometimes less so and sometimes deserving of obscurity, up to and including opera, stage drama, conventions, museum exhibits, videogames (and boardgames), and more. Thanks to all who have produced the items linked to below! And please let me know if I've missed yours or someone else's.  
Todd Mason, with apologies for a day's delay this week

A. J. Wright: Alabama Jones

Alice Chang: Gravity Rush 2

Anne Billson: Night on the Galactic Railroad

The Big Broadcast: 16 April 2017 archived
  • 7 p.m. Yours Truly, Johnny Dollar
    “The Cui Bono Matter” Part 5 (CBS, Original air date February 17, 1956)(Running time 14:45)
  • 7:15 p.m. Treasury Star Parade
    “An Easter Story” (US Treasury, Original recording date 1942)(Running time 14:31)
  • 7:30 p.m. The Jack Benny Show
    “Walking in the Easter Parade” (CBS, Original air date April 17, 1949)(Running time 26:06)
  • 8:00 p.m. Gunsmoke
    “The Correspondent” (CBS, AFRTS rebroadcast, Original air date November 23, 1958)(Running time 18:28)
  • 8:20 p.m. NBC Live Report
    “FDR Greets Easter Egg Rollers” (NBC, Original broadcast date March 29, 1937)(Running time 6:55)
  • 8:30 p.m. Dragnet 
    Program #60 “The Big Dare” (NBC, Original air date August 3, 1950)(Running time 26:52)
  • 9:00 p.m. The Six Shooter
    “The Crisis at Easter Creek” (NBC, Original air date April 15, 1954)(Running time 29:49)
  • 9:30 p.m. Our Miss Brooks
    “New Egg Dye” (CBS, Original air date April 9, 1950)(Running time 29:36)
  • 10:00 p.m. Marian Anderson Concert
    “Live at the Lincoln Memorial” (Original broadcast date April 9, 1939)(Running time 29:02)
  • 10:30 p.m. Lights Out!
    “The Flame” (CBS, Original air date March 23, 1943)(Running time 23:19)

Graham Chapman
Eric Idle and John Cleese

Emma Thompson's 1988 BBC sketch comedy series Thompson, episode 4

Movie Sign with the Mads: Valley of the Dolls

Natalie Morales and Andrew Bird:

Thompson (BBC 1988) episode 1 part 1

Friday, April 14, 2017

FFS: Small-Town Law Week: Bill Pronzini: "The Hanging Man"; Howard Rigsby: "Dead Man's Story"; James Shaffer, "The Long Arm of the Law"

Howard Rigsby: "Dead Man’s Story", (ss) Argosy Aug 27 1938, as “I’ll Be Glad When You’re Dead”; The Mysterious Traveler Magazine Nov 1951

James Shaffer: "The Long Arm of the Law" [probably] New Western Magazine [v12 #1, August 1946]; Pocket Reader Series [#124, Western Stories, 1950] UK

Bill Pronzini: "The Hanging Man", (ss) Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine Aug 12 1981

Patti Abbott wanted a special emphasis this week on small-town sheriffs and police, which I suspect is going to lean heavily toward Bill Crider fiction, and well it might. I might just add a fourth story to this post of just that sort myself, but until that time, I took a bit of a different tack, and picked out three stories, one I'd loved when I first read it forty years ago, one which I'd not yet read by one of my favorite crime and western fiction writers, and one which was as new to me as its author. And none is precisely about either a sheriff or a police officer, though all of them involve one degree or another of men of those professions; no women in the jobs, since one is a contemporary story (for the time it was written and published) set in Florida in the 1930s, one is a California historical set in the time of the fading of the "traditional" west, in the first decade of the 1900s, and one is apparently set in what was still Wyoming Territory, sometime I'd guess in the 1880s. 

"Dead Man's Story" (apparently Rigsby's preferred title) is an utterly engaging dialect story, told from the point of view of Panama City, Florida-area Game Warden Joe Root, a native of the area and a tough man with a strong sense of duty, who knows and loves his job. In fact, his sense of duty is so strong that when he finds a wealthy tourist from Up North poaching deer out of season, neither bribery nor being shot multiple times will deter him from getting his man, eventually with an assist from another Warden and the County Sheriff of both their acquaintance. It's a borderline horror story that Manly Wade Wellman could've written about as well, but probably not much better, either. Robert Arthur reprinted it in his The Mysterious Traveler Magazine (a literary spin-off from his Mutual Radio anthology series) and later in Alfred Hitchcock Presents: A Month of Mystery (Random House, 1969), which has the slightly macabre distinction in relation to the story of being the last AHP: volume Arthur would edit before his death. I first read it in '76 or '77 in my new copy of the Dell second edition, published in '76 as AHP: Dates with seems a bit odd to be able to page through this paperback, in reasonably good shape, that has traveled with me for forty years. 

James Shaffer was a very prolific writer of western fiction in the 1940s, with a thick population of stories cited in the FictionMags Index from 1942-52, whose work I've not read before, as far as I know (he shouldn't be confused with the author of Shane, Jack Schaeffer).  I know nothing more about him, but he wrote at least this rather clever story, involving one Johnny Mason (not the reason I selected this one, but mildly amusing to me), a somewhat reluctant 27yo retiree from being a range detective for the quasi-private Western Cattlemen's Protective Association's Cheyenne office; he's also an extremely skilled and/or fortunate gambler, who's won enough recently at poker to allow him to put in his notice, but his old boss manages to rope him into taking a new assignment, by letting him know that the game's afoot out along one of the rail lines, where a rancher has died...possibly by accident, at least apparently so...and yet the beneficiary of his sizable insurance policy has refused to accept the check, and two letters had been sent
to the Association's office, apparently written by the decedent: one on the day before his death, asking for assistance with criminal activity against him, and one reversing that request...sent the day after his death. Mason comes to town and investigates, brushing up against the kind of corruption you might expect in a railroad cattle town in the 1880s, with a fixed trial among other adventures awaiting several of the characters, including Mason; Elmore Leonard could've written this one better, and did in various ways (notably in the source story for the television series Justified), but Shaffer's work here is fine and almost completely fair-play detection (he withholds one crucial fact till he's ready to have Mason lay it out). There's a very good chance this one first appeared in the Popular Publications/ Fictioneers pulp New Western for August 1946, but the FMI folks haven't been able to confirm that; the story is in the index by name because of its reprint  in a British magazine that ran various sorts of theme issues, and apparently was no more explicit in citing its source than the book I've read this in, Damon Knight's Westerns of the '40s: Classics from the Great Pulps, published by Bobbs-Merrill in 1977, an anthology comprised of stories Knight remembered fondly from his years of working on Fictioneers pulps as one of the staff editors. 

Bill Pronzini's story is typically understated, and deals (as will surprise none of his readers) with a mysterious murder in a small Northern California town, Tule River, at the turn of the 20th century when the community hasn't yet gained its first automobile. For a police force Tule River has two volunteer sheriff's deputies in Carl Miller and Ed Bozeman, who theoretically work under the anti-professional riding sheriff, a fellow who drops in occasionally from the county seat to have the era-appropriate version of too many donuts at the local eatery. A drifter, who it turns out had been soliciting work around town, is found hanged early one morning. Carl and Ed cautiously put matters together, and find things are a bit more disturbing than they feared. Had Bill Pronzini started his career a decade or so earlier, the Gunsmoke producers, at least for the radio series if not for the tv version as well, would've been wise to have him on staff.  I read this one in the unabridged 1989 Reader's Digest Association reprint of The Arbor House Treasury of Great Western Stories (1982), edited by Pronzini and Martin Harry Greenberg, who was known to insist that his writer co-editors include one of their own works. Unlike most instant remainders, which (as a remainder, rather than though possibly from a library sale) I suspect is how I acquired this one, the RD folks published theirs on acid-free paper...I'm noting how my copy of a more typical instant remainder, published in its only edition, I believe, by Random House subsidiary Gramercy in 1995, John Tuska's fat best-of-the-magazine anthology Star Western, is showing clear signs of not being able to last forty years as anything but a pile of acidic dust.  Ah, the life of to look at everyone else's choices for this week.