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On Listening To Warne

Posted: Thu Jan 25, 2007 1:30 pm
by Marv Friedenn
Margaret loves Gilbert and Sullivan and Leonard Cohen. When I ask her why she doesn't also love Warne Marsh, she sings TUMteeTUMteeTUM by way of response, then leaves to answer the phone.

Margaret's laconic reply is a confession of exasperation more than a putdown. It applies not only to Warne's music but, I venture to say, to all jazz. Play Louis Armstrong, Charlie Parker and Warne Marsh a hundred years from now to the members of an audience new to jazz and I wager that the common feature that jumps out at them will be the unremitting, RINGaROUNDtheROSy, gently rocking trochaic accentuation that seems to be a universal characteristic of jazz. So much so that John Philip Sousa predicted in the 1920s that jazz will endure so long as people listen with their feet instead of their brains.

Sousa's remark prompts a confession on my part that when I listen to Warne, quite subliminally, to be sure, yet undeniably present in my mind's eye, a dancer silently taps out Warne's notes until, the notes falling faster than living feet can follow, the dancer accelerates into an animated cartoon dancer to keep up. So that without intending to contradict Sousa (nor to underrate the cogency of Margaret's observation), I nevertheless must insist that when I listen to Warne my brain dances.

On the other hand, when I listen to Glenn Gould play The Goldberg Variations, which I occasionally do in conjunction with listening to Warne (who probably owes as much to Bach--as extruded through Lennie Tristano--as to Lester Young), the dancer disappears along with the jazz accentuation. No image replaces it. Instead I sense an ideal of perfectibility. A cold marmoreal hand reaches out of the heavens and, touching my forehead, freezes me with admiration. I'm permitted to feel the brisk joy or tender sorrow of the music but only on condition that I feel them perfectly like a sensitive statue cleansed of human dross. Glenn wants me to ascend to the heavens as Bach has ascended, but I resist being pulled up by the ears.

If Glenn is an ivory icon cool to the touch, Warne is a brass buddha to warm one's hands. After a charge of statutory rape against him was dismissed, upon leaving the courtroom Warne remarked to a friend, "Had I known she was a statue I never would have fucked her."


Posted: Fri Feb 02, 2007 8:30 am
by Marv Friedenn
The young woman had slept with several musicians. That's why the charge against Warne was dismissed. I regret, however, having given the impression that she deserved wit instead of sympathy.

Posted: Sat Jun 09, 2007 9:23 am
by Marv Friedenn
I finally got Warne's "joke." By punning "statutory" and "statue" (both words have the same Latin root which means to stand firm), Warne implies that he is acquitted of having raped the law more than the girl, since it's the law that determines consent (according to age), not the girl. Therefore, since, for the purpose of rendering justice, the girl has been dehumanized into a creature of the law, Warne imagines that the law has reified the girl into a statue made in the image of the law. And so it is this statue, this creature of the law, it turns out that Warne had sex with.

I'm delighted to illustrate verbally for non-musicians like myself the kind of high-level musical wit Warne typically expresses.