Tuesday, November 23, 2010

The Subject Is Jazz: Cool (1958)

1 of 13 thirty-minute episodes broadcast on WNBC television in New York City in 1958 featuring musical director and pianist Billy Taylor. These are slowly re-emerging thanks to YouTube and Billy Taylor himself. There are so many great things about this episode: Taylor, Lee Konitz, Warne Marsh, Don Elliott (on horn AND vibraphone!), discussing the Lennie Tristano influence...the list goes on. Still I have to admit that I keep coming back to it for Mundell Lowe's beautiful understated playing. Once you have digested his playing, check out his D'Angelico complete with DeArmond pick-up and an Ampeg "Fountain of Sound" amp. Did it get any better? Of course I could probably write an entire other column about the suits alone. At any rate, sit back and dig what real "Cool" jazz is all about.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Platform Bed (1949)

Platform Bed (detail)
Design by George Nelson, Herman Miller, 1949
For the Arts & Architecture Magazine Case Study House Program
Sponsored by John Entenza

Spare me but a moment to gloat and pardon the crass exposition of my personal life. The missus and I recently made a big purchase. Having long enjoyed the comfort of a Tempur-Pedic mattress, we had often discussed getting a platform bed to complete the nocturnal picture. After looking into a number of options we kept returning to Modernica's George Nelson Case Study V-Leg Bed. Cost prohibitive, we put it off time and time again. But eventually desire (and a rickety old bed frame) prevailed. So we marched over to our friends and Inside here in San Francisco (who have great taste in music, by the way) and sealed the deal. I like supporting local merchants like Inside when I can (I don't buy new furniture that often) and I want to continue to support the work of Modernica.

Do you know what? We couldn't be happier. It's a beautiful thing and a functional work of art. Plus now we can also look good while we are sleeping!

George Nelson, early-1950s
Shown with his "pretzel chair" design

Nelson should need no introduction to most of you. If so, here is a good place to start. Somewhat controversial, reportedly irascible, Nelson's huge influence upon Modern design is indisputable. The legendary (to us West Coasters at least) Case Study House Program started in 1945 and lasted until 1966. Read the official announcement of the program here. The first houses in the program were completed in 1948. Although not an architect, Nelson's talents were impressed upon early on in the process, much of his best-known Case Study work being completed at the end of the 1940s.

The sum total effect of all of these factors? The Case Study Program, and by extension the furniture Nelson designed for the program, embodied the surge of postwar enthusiasm for modernism in the United States and particularly on the West Coast. Sleek, minimal design suited extremely well to function and utilizing modern manufacturing techniques that were used not to exploit or drive up profit margins but rather to make good design available to everyone. How's that for egalitarianism?

From what I have read, the Modernica Case Study products are very true to the originals unlike some of the competitor's products - not to name names, I will just say that the designs in question are not within my reach. It certainly looks great and seems built very well. On top of it all, it is also a beautiful thing to look at.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Willie Mays (1958)

April 13, 1958
Willie Mays is welcomed by San Francisco
Montgomery Street, Southbound

Monday, November 1, 2010

The Joe Tex Show (1969)

Stockholm, Sweden, 1969

Madrid, Spain (same tour)

2 television programs featuring Joe Tex and his gigging band have been making the rounds on YouTube. Both probably recorded sometime in April 1969 in Stockholm and Madrid, respectively. The first has been uploaded to the site several times before but never in this quality. While the set-list is nearly identical and the sound quality a bit lackluster on the Spanish performance, it's Joe Tex! Of course watching both is worth your time.