Monday, August 27, 2007

The Best Hour On Television

In a program that's a throwback to "old school" television journalism, MSNBC's "Countdown" features a nightly blast that's a welcome and nearly unique venture in major commercial television. Keith Olbermann, who came to fame as a long-time sports anchor on ESPN, takes no prisoners in a nightly quest for facts and intelligent commentary, rather than any pseudo or proclaimed "fairness" so pathetically trumpeted across so much of today's news airwaves.

Olbermann has no qualms about pointing fingers at right-wing heroes including Rush Limbaugh, Ann Coulter and especially Fox nemesis Bill O'Reilly. His nightly "Worst Person In The World" section is a visual and aural skewering of the most corrupt and hypocritical in recent news.

His lack of love for Fox News seemingly knows no end, as Olbermann readily points to the fact that founder and head Roger Ailes was a former crony of Richard Nixon's, as he alternates between calling it "Fixed News" and "Fox Noise" on a continuous basis.

My favorite Olbermann story of recent months was his reporting of the White House attempt to downplay (on Fox News) President Bush's usage of the phrase "stay the course" when referring to his Iraq war policy, claiming it was a "great story" and had only been used "eight times". Within a few hours Olbermann's staff found no less than 29 occasions where Bush had offered "stay the course".

Olbermann has also called on Bush and Vice-President Cheney to resign, blasted Rudy Guiliani for claiming only a Republican president (namely him) would prevent terrorist casualties, and set out to prove (and did) whether Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice simply lied when she claimed President Clinton "left no strategy to fight Al-Queda".

What is different about Olbermann are his use of key elements in journalism that have been largely left behind in an era where "fairness" means presenting "both sides of an issue" no matter how absurd or factually unsupported, with research into history and a willingness to point to facts as being just that. Facts.

Olbermann also points to the nightly dose of celebrity news he is made to report as being what it is, as almost not worth hearing in the first place, as compared to other networks spending weeks of airtime devoted to such breathtakingly "relevant" subjects as the death and custody "battle" of Anna-Nicole Smith and child.

We can only hope Olbermann's "Countdown" remains on the air as an alternative to the celebrity-filled gossip and milquetoast reporting otherwise consuming so much of our video bandwidth.

Keep up the good work.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

On The Passing Of Art Davis

I had the pleasure of knowing Dr. Art Davis for more than fifteen years, dating back to a meeting at his long-time gig at the Four Seasons in Newport Beach in the late 1980's. While Art wasn't as well known as some of his contemporaries, he had a unique place in jazz history, playing with many of its greatest legends, including John Coltrane and Bill Evans. In more recent years he settled into a quiet life teaching and playing mostly in Orange County, California, including his most recent stint at the Laguna Niguel Ritz-Carlton.

Though Davis wasn't known well in many contemporary jazz circles, he held a place of considerable esteem among his peers. When I mentioned seeing Davis to sought-after Yellowjackets bassist Jimmy Haslip on a recent Southern California trip, Haslip immediately asked me to get in contact with him to see if he might be interested in additional studio and other work. He was a major fan, as were many others in the know.

Art Davis was posessed of a wealth of musical knowledge, as well as a willingess to allow others into his life, as he did for me. For that, I will be grateful for having made his acquaintance. If there is an afterlife, I'm sure Art has one of the first bass chairs in the Eternal Orchestra Of Jazz.

Art Davis with Elvin Jones, McCoy Tyner, Sonny Fortune and Freddie Hubbard - "Blues Minor"

Deborah Holland - A Huge Talent, Still Largely Undiscovered

Her bio reads that she didn't make the cheerleading squad at 14, and subsequently turned to singing and songwriting. And shortly thereafter was accepted at and attended the prestigious Berklee College Of Music in Boston. And shortly thereafter graduated with honors from Rutgers.

Deborah Holland was a virtual unknown in the music world until 1987, when she was plucked from obscurity to front the first post-Police supergroup featuring Stewart Copeland, Andy Summers and jazz virtuoso bassist Stanley Clarke. Its short life as "Rush Hour" was followed by Summers' departure and a subsequent renaming to "Animal Logic" by Miles Copeland, long-time manager of The Police.

Two CD's and a limited amount of commercial success followed before the band spilt at the end of 1991.

What remains are a collection of intelligent and sophisticated songs rarely heard in the Pop-Rock world, composed and sung almost exclusively by Deborah Holland.

Holland has gone on to make four solo CD's and form a new female supergroup called "The Refugees" with Wendy Waldman and Cindy Bullens, all while finishing a Master's, becoming a professor at Cal State Los Angeles, and raising a family with two boys.

Today Holland's lyrics often reach for satire and humor mixed with a direct insight and candor that's been compared to Christine Lavin and Loudon Wainwright. While many comparable voices have begun to wilt over time, Holland's has only become fuller and richer, combined with a learned control, perfect pitch, and subtleties that make a trained ear smile.

If you have the opportunity to hear Deborah Holland live, make the time to do so. You'll likely be amazed at how such an incredible talent has passed under so many radars for such a long time. And you'll smile that you've experienced one of America's best singer-songwriters.

Animal Logic - Rose Colored Glasses

Deborah Holland's Web Site