We Read Your Mail

I thought I’d take this opportunity to answer some of it. “And? If they weren’t actual letters, would I be able to do this?” (Sorry, Dave.)

Regarding my Post on “Hamilton”, a viewer writes they, too like the album, but…

“I am surprised that you do. It’s very hip hop/Broadway, and I don’t think of you when I think of those musical genres.”

Oh, contrare, kind viewer! Actually, for me, there are only two kinds of music- Good. Bad. And Disco. Ok. three. Only the first matters.

Hip hop and I go way back, actually. I was on Run-DMC when King of Rock came out because I was wearing Adidas sneakers back then and their “My Adidas” caught my ear. I only wore them without laces, like they did, once, though. I got the album and grief from my friends. That reminded me of when I picked up the first Ramones Lp, along with Talking Heads and Television back when they were new to CBGB’s. I got grief from the guys in my band about that, too.

I went on to love what’s now called “Old School.” A Tribe Called Quest is my all-time favorite hip hop group, and one of my favorite groups of any kind, period. Yes, I LOVED their recent reunion appearance on Jimmy Fallon, for the first time in 15 years. Q-Tip’s last album, “The Renaissance,” was one of the best of the year to my ears. I drove to Asbury Park to see Tribe in a small club after “Award Tour” dropped, and I also saw them at The Palladium one New Year’s Eve. This was one of the last incarnations of the Palladium as a club. Leaders Of The New School, featuring Busta Rhymes, opened, then DeLa Soul, and then Tribe played at midnight, With A Band (like on Fallon)! Wow.

Beyond Tribe, I loved P.E. and have/had all their albums, too. I saw Public Enemy at the Apollo Theater in Harlem one July 4th(*- the first concert I ever saw was at the Apollo, believe it or not- JAMES BROWN in 1961!!! That’s a whole nother story.), I was in the balcony with a date. We may have been the only 2 white people there. Great show. Chuck D’s solo album is great, too. There’s not enough Chuck D.

I was also very into Pete Rock & C.L. Smooth (“Mecca & The Soul Brother” is an enduring classic), Arrested Development, The Beastie Boys (I really got into their instrumental album, “The In Sound From Way Out,” as I thought it was great they were an actual band, “too.”), Digable Planets, and of course, I was very into “Acid Jazz,” since many of those artists sampled the Blue Note jazz classics I grew up on, like Guru’s “Jazzmatazz.” It’s a direction I was hoping more jazz artists would get into. Miles Davis actually did on his final album, “Doo-Bop.”

By the time Old School came around I had already been into the late, great Gil Scott-Heron, who’s “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised” I first heard on FM late one night. The fact that he had a great band, led by Brian Jackson, made it easy, but he’s such a terrific writer/poet and vocalist, like many, I liked him immediately. I hear the jazz vocal tradition in him. It’s not all that far from Billie’s “Strange Fruit” to Gil’s “We Almost Lost Detroit,” (how prescient), or “Whitey On The Moon.” He gets a lot of cred as the “godfather” of rap. I don’t know about that, but I do know that he continues to be VERY overlooked, and he’s still ahead of his time. “I’m New Here,” which may or may not be his last album is very overlooked, too, in spite of over a million plays of this on youtube.

As far as Broadway goes, I’m primarily a music guy. I know little about dance, staging and the rest. I come out of Gershwin and Bernstein, who’s shows I got into through my love of classical music. I was immediately taken by Sondheim, who I consider to be a master and a visionary. I’ve heard almost everything he’s done.

One of the great things about Music, and Art for that matter, is that new artists are almost always influenced by what’s come before, and many times those influences manifest themselves in completely unexpected ways- like “Hamilton.” On that count, no less than Sondheim himself says this about Lin-Manuel Miranda and “Hamilton-“

“Lin-Manuel’s use of rap is that he’s got one foot in the past. He knows theatre…Hamilton is a breakthrough, but it doesn’t exactly introduce a new era. Nothing introduces an era. What it does is empower people to think differently. There’s always got to be an innovator, somebody who experiments first with new forms.” 1

For me, it’s always most exciting to see what’s coming next, to see the “breakthroughs.” They are what keep Music and Art new, fresh and exciting.


The crowd at the Richard Rogers Theater for the $10 Hamilton Ticket Raffle- 3 hours before curtain

It’s rare when something new in the Arts receives immediate public acclaim, like “Hamilton” has. (It’s sold out through August, 2016 @1,300 seats per show.) Usually, only other artists appreciate it and it’s left for the public to discover it, or not, over time, if it’s lucky.

I’m looking forward to what’s coming next.

In the meantime…Keep those cards, letters, and CandyGrams, coming…to denizen@nighthawknyc.com

Soundtrack for this post is “Where Did The Night Go,” one of my personal anthems, by said Gil Scott-Heron and appearing on “I’m New Here.”

  1.  http://www.playbill.com/news/article/stephen-sondheim-says-hamilton-is-a-breakthrough-352907