My most recent Nation column is: "Why Nobody Seems to Mind that Bill O'Reilly Is a Total Fraud.
Today’s list (Note: This is the last of the lists I made for the end of the year and never posted. I can’t tell you how it saddens me that I will have to deal with Jon Stewart’s departure, which, as you can see from below, I was already dreading because I am the kind of person who is always aware of what can go wrong. Anyway, if you’ve got any suggestions for future lists, please send them in, thanks.)
TV Series I Watch: (My personal Emmys/Golden Globes of 2014)
Genuinely great shows:
Genuinely great, but you have to watch them on Netflix:
Near great shows that I am not ashamed at all to be watching:
Homeland (only season 4)
House of Lies
Really good but not anywhere near great, but still not shameful:
House of Cards
The Good Wife
Downton Abbey (despite its horrific politics)
Really really guilty pleasures:
Shows I eliminated from the above category this season:
Shows everybody likes but me
Orange is the New Black
An Honorable Woman
That John Oliver thing on HBO
Shows I just don’t get at all:
Game of Thrones
Sons of Anarchy
Shows I think people are really silly for thinking that they are good:
New shows from this year that I thought were worth watching:
Shows you should really try and watch even though they are gone and not on Netflix:
Prisoners of War (The Israeli Homeland)
BeTipul (The Israeli In Treatment)
Shows I hate-watched for a while but was pleased to see were (finally) cancelled so I wouldn’t be tempted anymore:
Shows I worry about what my life will be like when they finally end:
The Daily Show with Jon Stewart
Shows upon which I will check back in say, 6 months, when they figure out how to fix them:
The Nightly Show
Person I miss the most on TV when I see what’s out there:
Show I’m hoping will make me forget even Johnny:
1) Herb Alpert at the Café Carlyle
I caught the opening night of Herb Alpert’s March 10-21 stand at the Café Carlyle where he was joined by his wife of forty or so years, the vocalist Lani Hall, and a fine three piece band that has been accompanying them for the past eight years. In a two-week run of shows, Alpert, who will turn 80 this year, is one of the most fortunate musicians alive, having not only had a sixty year career, but also having had the good sense to cofound A&M Records—the A is for “Alpert”—and has become unimaginably rich as well. (He does do a great deal of philanthropy.) And he’s still playing pretty well, and even put a new album up on the jazz charts last year called In The Mood and won his ninth Grammy. The year before that President Obama gave him the National Medal of Arts. He’s also a pretty serious painter and sculptor and is having a show right now with Richard Mayhew, Harmonic Rhythms, at my friend’s ACA Gallery right now.
Tuesday’s show was a pretty relaxed affair. There was a TJB medley and Alpert made the crowd sing along with “This Guy’s In Love” because his voice is not really up to it anymore. His meandering on the trumpet was lovely on mostly Great American Songbook classics and he took requests and questions from the crowd in good humor. Ms. Hall, whom Alpert met when he was producing Sergio Mendes and Brazil ‘66, has a great voice, but you have to like songs sung the way Barbra Streisand belts them out when she’s belting to concur with her interpretations of say, “Up on the Roof.”
I’m looking forward to Debbie Harry’s upcoming run at the Carlyle in the next few weeks.
2) Led Zeppelin “Physical Grafitti” re-release
I’ve been enjoying the Led Zeppelin re-releases for the past year—more so than any time during the 40 years I’ve been listening to the band, but the one for which I’ve been most looking forward, “Physical Graffiti,” the band’s masterpiece (and counterpart to the Stones’ “Exile on Main Street,” is finally here.
Remastered album on two discs, plus a third disc of unreleased companion audio, Jimmy Page has been doing a meticulous job of remastering these albums (and Rhino, nice packaging) so you should get it if you were thinking about getting it, even for a moment. The third disc demonstrates, once again, that these guys did not waste much in the studio. The pickings are smart—different versions of my favorite songs are here—including rough mixes of "In My Time Of Dying" and "Houses Of The Holy," as well as an early mix of "Trampled Under Foot" called "Brandy & Coke." There are also alternative mixes of "Boogie With Stu" and "Driving Through Kashmir," and a rough orchestra mix of the band's eight minute opus "Kashmir." Finally, there’s a song called "Everybody Makes It Through," which is "In The Light" with different lyrics.
3) The John Coltrane Quintet featuring Eric Dolphy: "All Of You: The Last Tour 1960”
So we’ve got a sequel to the excellent Miles Davis and John Coltrane "All Of You: The Last Tour 1960,” a four-cd of mostly new recordings that was released last year to the great pleasure of so many of us. It’s another four cd set, this one of the John Coltrane Quintet featuring Eric Dolphy and recorded a year later. It’s called “So Many Things: European Tour 1961.”
McCoy Tyner, bassist Reggie Workman and drummer Elvin Jones were just getting started with Trane but would stick around to form the backbone of the band.
It’s not as great as the Miles set, and not only because there’s no Miles. (That was the last tour to include Trane on it, so it’s really a find, to say nothing of the more than decent audio.) This being Coltrane, and having Dolphy on it, implies, correctly, that it will be quite a bit more “out there” than anything Miles was doing at the time. The rest of the band, pianist McCoy Tyner, bassist Reggie Workman and drummer Elvin Jones had recently joined Coltrane, though they would form the backbone of his accompanists from that point on. The song selection does not vary much—we get “Naima” and “Impressions,” along with Coltrane’s only recording of Victor Young's theme “Delilah” and a soaring “My Favourite Things” taped in Stockholm. It’s an inexpensive package and it comes with a booklet. This release features photographs, concert memorabilia and press clippings, and comes complete with an extensive booklet essay by British saxophonist and writer Simon Spillett.
4) Rendez-Vous with French Cinema
The annual “Rendez-Vous with French Cinema” is going on now for its 20th anniversary in conjunction with the Film Society at Lincoln Center. Check out the schedule.
This year's Cinema, my handy press guide notes, includes a host of special events including free talks with Mélanie Laurent, Nathalie Baye, and Guillaume Canet in the Film Center Amphitheater; a Closing Night live musical performance by composers LoW Entertainment; a pop-up Galerie Cinema by Anne-Dominique Toussant at the Cultural Services of the French Embassy; a retrospective of films by the director of Opening Night film 3 Hearts, Benoît Jacquot: Leading Ladies at the French Institute Alliance Française (FIAF); and an exhibitition of giant Polaroid portraits of French film luminaries by Myrna Suarez and the 20×24 Project in the Furman Gallery. I saw a bunch of them at press previews. My favorite was 3 Hearts, though I also really liked “In the Name of My Daughter,” both of which feature the apparently ageless Ms. Deneuve, but my tastes may not be your tastes so take a look.
Read Next: Eric Alterman on 2014's best music, concerts and the year of the box set