I am writing to thank all who subscribed to The Honest Broker during the first 24 hours. The support and encouragement are deeply gratifying. Many of you reached out to me personally—more than I can respond to individually. Please know that I am genuinely humbled and appreciative of this response, and take my relationship with each reader very seriously.
I’ll be back soon with more in-depth writing—but in the meantime, here are 15 interesting links. (Yes, there’s more than just longform essays on the agenda here.)
Feel free to pass the news on to friends who might be interested in joining us.
(1) An anonymous guitarist—using the name “The Six Million Dollar Guitar”—has released a 70-minute track, claiming that it includes every known blues lick, and asks to be included in Guinness World Records. (Full disclosure: I didn’t count all the licks.)
The artist bio is a little different from the usual guitar hero fare: “I am bionic. I have superhuman guitar playing abilities, and my mantra is better songs, stronger grooves, faster solos. Since my arms are powered with a Duracell nuclear battery, I am able to play and improvise for over two hours at a time, beating all previous records set by non bionic humans.”
(2) Here’s a new “survey of every jazz and jazz-adjacent recording André Previn ever made.” Matthew Guerrieri published this on the web a few days ago—and I’ve seen people get PhDs for less work. Hat tip to Ethan Iverson for calling my attention to this.
(3) A Harvard professor has identified that the worst year to be alive was 536 AD. A volcanic eruption blocked the sun for months, temperatures collapsed, and famine ensued. The Roman politician Cassiodorus exclaimed, "We marvel to see no shadows of our bodies at noon."
(4) Here’s an obituary for the influential saxophonist Sonny Simmons. I used to see Simmons playing on the streets of San Francisco—passersby were sadly oblivious to the renown of the musician performing for free in their midst. Soon after, he mounted an extraordinary comeback, recording for Quincy Jones’s Qwest Records. What a joy to see an audience revival happen while an artist is still alive!
(5) TV and cultural history are disfigured by an antiquated music licensing system. There are many classic TV shows you will never see for just one reason—the people who made them didn’t anticipate the music licensing complexities of the digital age. Sometimes old shows reappear, but scenes are altered in clumsy ways to eliminate the problematic music. Rules could change to solve this impasses—but I wouldn’t hold my breath.
(6) When Sony AI software in a Tokyo research lab wrote a new Beatles’ song it sounded like this:
(7) But Kentaro Kondo, a huge Paul McCartney fan living in Tokyo, has done a much better job of emulating the Beatles than Sony AI. Check out his recent EP Begin.
(8) Is this the worst album of the year? Or a joke? Or an experimental effort? Or does it really matter? Track 7 lasts only 93 seconds—see if you can survive it.
(9) Haruki Murakami—noted novelist, perennial candidate for the Nobel Prize in Literature, and jazz fan—has launched a t-shirt collection. It looks like there’s a Blue Note record on one of them.
(10) Decades have passed, but I still lament the death of guitarist Lenny Breau (1941-1984)—who brought modern harmonic concepts (Herbie Hancock, McCoy Tyner, etc.) to the six-strings. It’s sad how little his work is known outside a clique of devoted fans (most of them guitarists themselves). Here’s a new transcription of Breau playing “A Taste of Honey.”
I always considered this a cheesy EZ listening tune, but Breau makes it sound noir and jazzy in a melancholy way.
(11) A publisher has collaborated with writer to release a “Non-Fungible Token Author Trading Card.” Bids have reached 5.90 Ethereum (or about $13,000). Can we do this for musicians?
(12) Non-fungible really deserves to be the word of the year. It wasn’t always like this.
(13) Here’s a new reissue of music recorded in Turkey in 1906. Check out the first track to discover that unusual meters were around in popular music long before we were born.
(14) Because of the pandemic, we’ve learned that the sheet music to Billy Joel’s “Piano Man” has been riddled with mistakes for decades. It’s sad and it’s sweet, but you knew it complete…only if you learned it directly off the recording.
(15) If you’re trendy, you need to know that goat towers have been making a comeback. These first appeared in the 19th century, and are now showing up in more and more places, especially at wineries. It’s "an idea whose time has come," announces Modern Farmer magazine (always a good source for future-oriented pop culture).