Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Brad Mehldau

Because of my interest in this music, The Leopard is sometimes asked who are some of the best artists around these days.

Even though at 41 I wouldn’t call the brilliant musician Brad Mehldau a “young lion”, his experience and pianistic prowess is quite remarkable for his age.

Mehldau has often (unfairly, I think) been compared to Bill Evans and Keith Jarrett, and even though there may be some validity to that as far as primary influences, Mehldau has  a  sound all his own. Drawing from classical , pop and jazz idioms, Mehldau is a trailblazer. He’s played with only the most exemplary of musicians – Joshua Redman, Charles Lloyd, Pat Metheny,  Jon Brion, and many more. He’s also responsible for the recent custom of bringing in more contemporary music to jazz, such as Radiohead and Neil Young with great success.   

Friday, August 10, 2012


In a pivotal scene in the comedy Pineapple Express, James Franco as a fuzzed up marijuana dealer and Seth Rogen as his erstwhile customer meet in a cluttered apartment for a transaction.  In the weed-clouded room, the boys wax poetic about the wonderfulness of chronic while a strange, slithery jazz plays in the background.
I was immediately attracted to the oddly surreal music, and a quick stop on IMDB brought me the desired information: It was the work the brilliant blind composer/musician/inventor Moondog.

Moondog (real name: Louis Thomas Hardin) was the epitome of the outside artist.  He was born in Kansas in 1916 an moved to New York in the 1940s where he became a street musician. He was a fixture on 53rd street and 6th avenue for over 30 years and was well known to the community  for his eccentricities: he sported a flowing white beard and homemade viking outfit complete with a horned helmet. He played his strange music on curious self-invented instruments, but counted among his admirers and friends established musicians like Leonard Bernstein and Philip Glass. 

Even though Moondog’s music is often characterized as avant-garde, it is strangely accessible. Though wholly original, there’s humanism to his style that, even in the soundtrack of a Judd Apatow movie, commands attention.   

Click hear Lament I: Bird’s lament

Monday, August 6, 2012

Gabby & The Gold

The Leopard has had few occasions recently where I have felt incredibly proud in that strange way when you feel good about something that isn't quite personal, actually outside yourself, but just as moving.

I was watching the recent Olympic games, which I never do, and my attention was grabbed by a tiny gymnast with a big talent. After watching competing China and Russian gymnasts - both incredibly skilled & professional, there was something about the cute black girl with the giant grin that set her apart. Her routine had heart, but also precision.

So when this talented young lady from somewhat humble beginnings won the gold, the hairs in the back of my neck sprung up and took notice. Gabby Douglas could not exist in any other place under any other circumstances. I felt proud of her and what she achieved as if she were a sister or a daughter.