Monday, January 30, 2012

Favorite Albums: Modern Man by Stanley Clarke

In the 1970’s, as a young aspiring bassist, my hero was Stanley Clarke. This young man sporting an Afro had a flashy, virtuoso style of playing both the upright and electric bass. He was also an accomplished songwriter and he pushed the boundaries of jazz, being one of the pioneers of jazz-rock fusion.

I see parallels in his career and that of Esperanza Spalding in recent years- they both were young African-American musicians in their mid-twenties when the came on the scene, known for being virtuosos on the bass and for their clever, genre-defying song-writing. They have both brought jazz to a wider audience.

All of Stanley Clarke’s 1970’s albums are great, in my view. Probably Journey to Love is his best. But Modern Man is a personal favorite of mine. It combines jazz with rock and funk, and displays Clarke’s funky virtuosity in brilliant form.

The key track on the album is Rock and Roll Jelly, which was performed with guitarist Jeff Beck, an exhilarating jazz-rock fusion song. On it Clarke plays chords and speedy solos on his trade-mark Alembic bass.

This is the kind of album that makes one want to play bass, and be in a band.  It is one of my favorites.

Stanley, now 60, is still the exciting bassist and musician he was back in the 70's. His most recent CD, the Stanley Clarke Band, won a 2011 Grammy for Best Jazz Album. I am sure he will give us much more great music and playing for years to come!

Modern Man Track Listing

All tracks composed by Stanley Clarke, except where noted.
Side one
1."Opening (Statement)" – 4:22
2."He Lives On (Story About the Last Journey of a Warrior)" – 4:24
3."More Hot Fun" – 4:31
4."Slow Dance" – 3:16
5."Interlude: A Serious Occasion" – 0:21
6."Got to Find My Own Place" (Clarke, Michael Garson, Raymond Gomez, Gerry Brown) – 3:17

Side two
1."Dayride" – 4:06
2."Interlude: It's What She Didn't Say" – 1:24
3."Modern Man" – 3:31
4."Interlude: A Relaxed Occasion" – 1:24
5."Rock 'n Roll Jelly" – 5:07
6."Closing (Statement)" – 2:37

The Woman Behind the President

From a friend on Facebook:

One night President Obama and his wife Michelle decided to do something out of routine and go for a casual dinner at a restaurant that wasn't too luxurious. When they were seated, the owner of the restaurant asked the President's secret service if he could please speak to the First Lady in private. They obliged and Michelle had a conversation with the owner. Following this conversation President Obama asked
Michelle, why was he so interested in talking to you. She mentioned that in her teenage years, he had been madly in love with her. President Obama then said, "so if you had married him, you would now be the owner of this lovely restaurant", to which Michelle responded, "no, if I had married him, he would now be the President."

Reflections on Today's Bible Readings on My Birthday

"I cry to God Most High, to God who fulfils his purpose for me." - Psalm 57.2

- from today's Daily Office, an apt birthday prayer to have God's purpose fulfilled for my life. Notice it is GOD who fulfills my purpose. This fits in well with another passage from today's readings:

"Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen." - Hebrews 11.1

I must see the fulfillment of my life. I visualize my life in the future, with all the blessings God has in store for me, with God's purpose for me in mind.

Notice that in today's gospel, Jesus uses the word "see" as a synonym for faith:

"This is indeed the will of my Father, that all who see the Son and believe in him may have eternal life; and I will raise them up on the last day." - John 6.40.

To have faith in the Son of God is to "see" him. St. Peter speaks of how we "do not see him but love him." But we do see Christ with the eyes of faith.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Poetry: Lost in a Beautiful Moment

To play with such joy and freedom
To be lost in a moment
Is a beautiful thing
A woman enlivened by spirit
Giving flower to art
Is wonderful to behold
To share that moment with her
Is healing for the soul

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Sherrilyn Ifill on the Legacy of Dr. King- Scott Walker and his wife look uncomfortable!

This video features a speech that Professor Sherrilyn Ifill delivered on Martin Luther King Day at the Wisconsin state capital in Madison. Professor Ifill gives an eloquent speech, suggesting how Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. would think about some of the issues of racial and economic justice today. Governor Scott Walker and his wife look very uncomfortable. Dr. King of course, died while supporting a sanitation worker's strike, he would have spoke against Walker's attack on unions.   

from the description on Youtube:
"Sherrilyn Ifill, a law professor and a civil rights lawyer speaks to the MLK Day event at the Capitol and shares how the Reverend felt about some issues that we still find ourselves dealing with, like housing discrimination and predatory banking practices, the culture of war and how money and resources spent on war is money and resources not spent helping those in need, but the biggest response of the day was when she brought up the discriminatory voter disenfranchisement law that Walker pushed through."

Thursday, January 12, 2012

The New American Poor- Video with Cornel West, Barbara Ehreneich, and Tavis Smiley

Cornel West, Barbara Ehreneich, and Tavis Smiley appeared on Al Jeezera last night discussing poverty in America. While Corporations enjoy record profits, nearly 1 in 2 Americans are living in or near poverty.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Monk Montgomery- Pioneer Electric Bassist

Monk Montgomery is perhaps the first electric bassist of significance to jazz, introducing the Fender Precision Bass to the genre in 1951. Montgomery also played the double bass. His professional career did not start until after his younger brother Wes, at the age of 30. Montgomery died of cancer in Las Vegas on May 20, 1982.

Back in the 1970's, when I took up bass, I got very  interested in Jazz. I bought every record I could by Jazz bassists, whether electric or upright- Stanley Clarke, Jaco Pastorius, Charles Mingus, Ron Carter, Charlie Haden. But one of the most interesting and enigmatic records I purchased during that time was one by Monk Montgomery called Bass Odyssey. On that record, I heard cool, tasteful bass playing by a master on the Fender Precision Bass. I have always loved Monk Montgomery's playing since then, and I am extremely disappointed at how hard it is to find his records.

This is my tribute to a master. Before there was Larry Graham or Stanley Clarke, there was Monk Montgomery.

- Lance

Monk Montgomery Facebook Page

Description From Wikipedia: Monk Montgomery is perhaps the first electric bassist of significance to jazz, introducing the Fender Precision Bass to the genre in 1951. Montgomery also played the double bass. His professional career did not start until after his younger brother Wes, at the age of 30. From 1951 to 1953 he worked in Lionel Hampton's Orchestra. After that he worked with his brothers and Alonzo Jo...hnson in the Montgomery Johnson Quintet. In 1955 he moved to Seattle to form the Mastersounds from 1957–1960. Later from 1966–1970, he freelanced with Cal Tjader and continued to play where he settled in Las Vegas, Nevada with The Red Norvo Trio. In his final years he was active in the Las Vegas Jazz Society, which he founded. He had also been planning a world jazz festival. Montgomery died of cancer in Las Vegas on May 20, 1982. He had a wife, Amelia, three sons, and four stepchildren.

Biography From the website :

Monk Montgomery

To say that William Howard Montgomery came from a musical family would be an understatement. The man nicknamed "Monk" was the oldest of three musical brothers. All three brothers were big names in the music scene of the late '40s, '50s, and throughout the '60s. Wes, the middle brother, played guitar and started before Monk despite younger. Buddy, the baby of the bunch, became an accomplished pianist and vibraphonist.

Although Monk didn't get his start in music until the age of 26, and didn't start playing bass until 30, he took to it as though he'd been playing since birth. In 1951, the year he first picked up a bass guitar, he played well enough to join Lionel Hampton's Orchestra. Despite starting out playing the double bass, it was the electric bass guitar that brought Monk popularity. He was the first musician to ever take it on tour, playing Fender's Precision bass. During his time with Hampton's jazz big band, 1951-1953, he played with such greats as saxophonist Johnny Griffin, keyboardist Milt Buckner, and vocalist Dinah Washington. He also toured Europe with Hampton's group in 1953.

Shortly after leaving the orchestra, Monk joined both of his brothers, along with Alonzo and Robert Johnson, to form the Montgomery Johnson Quintet. He toured for nearly a decade in support of the various recordings by himself and his siblings; these albums included Almost Forgotten, Groove Yard, and The Montgomery Brothers Plus Five Others. Despite the rising popularity of his brother Wes, it was Monk and Buddy who moved together to Seattle and formed the group, The Mastersounds. The Mastersounds gained some popularity during the late 1950s and recorded ten total albums under three separate labels. Wes rejoined his brothers for one of those albums in 1958.

Monk had some guest spots on various albums in the early '60s before moving where he finally settled down in 1966 in Las Vegas, Nevada. From 1966 to 1970 he would freelance with Cal Tjader as well as play with the Red Norvo Trio, lead sessions for the Chisa, even perform some disc jockey work. The final twelve years of Monk's life may have been his most active. He was extremely busy with the Las Vegas Jazz Society, which he had founded, and had been planning a world jazz festival. It was during this time that he discovered he had bone cancer. Despite the knowledge of his illness, he never slowed down.

Monk passed away after his battle with cancer on May 20, 1982 at the age of 60. It was never his flash or overpowering sound which attracted him to so many bands and projects. It was a basic, soul-wrenching love of music. It seemed that anyone who ever had the opportunity to play with Monk regarded him as underrated and over-talented. Despite starting in music at such a late age, Monk will forever be known as an innovator, a pioneer, and one of the great jazz bassists of all time.

Playing Style There was never anything fancy or complicated about Monk's playing. He was good, he learned fast and he didn't try to show off with a lot of flash and glamour. He just went out, used finger-style techniques that he had learned on the double bass, and made everyone around him sound better. There was never a lot of slap, pop or speed to Monk's playing; it was just a smooth rhythm that he made look so easy, yet very few could ever accomplish.

Monk's biggest claim to fame was that he was the first bassist to ever take the electric on tour. He used one of the first Fender Precisions, which was a 4-string, coupled with a Fender cabinet and head unit.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

In Praise of the Revised Standard Version

In 1946, perhaps the most monumental event in Bible publishing in the 20th century took place- the publishing of the Revised Standard Version (RSV) New Testament. The Complete Bible was released in 1952, and it immediately became the standard for the mainline churches in America. The New Testament was revised in 1971. For me, the RSV is the greatest English translation currently available, combining literal accuracy and literary beauty. The RSV is held in high esteem by nearly all Christians- Anglicans, Catholics, Orthodox, Protestants, liberals and conservatives alike.

In its preface, the RSV is described as “…an authorized revision of the American Standard Version, published in 1901, which was a revision of the King James Version, published in 1611.” The RSV retains much of the familiar phraseology of the King James Version. The title page of the RSV reads: “The Holy Bible: Revised Standard Version containing the Old and New Testaments, translated from the original tongues: being the version set forth A.D. 1611, revised A.D. 1881-1885 and A.D. 1901: compared with the most ancient authorities and revised A.D. 1946-52. — 2nd ed. of New Testament A.D. 1971.”

The RSV was the pew Bible in mainline churches, until 1989 when it’s successor, the New Revised Standard Version (NRSV), was released. Much derided by conservative Christians upon its initial release, the RSV has ironically become the Bible of choice for many theologically conservative Orthodox, Catholics, and Protestants.

The RSV is the most ecumenical Bible since the Reformation. In 1957, an edition of the RSV with the Deuterocanonical/Apocryphal books, requested by the Episcopal Church, was published. In 1966, upon a request from the Catholic Biblical Association of Great Britain, the RSV Catholic edition (RSVCE) was published which interspersed the Deuterocanonical books in the traditional Catholic order in the Old Testament. In 1973, the RSV Common Bible was released. Finally, in 1977, Oxford released an edition with all of the Deuterocanonical/Apocryphal books found in the Greek Septuagint, including 4th Maccabees and Psalm 151, making the RSV more acceptable to Eastern Orthodox Churches.

In 1962, Oxford published the Oxford Annotated Bible, a study Bible featuring the RSV. It was published with the Deuterocanonical/Apocryphal books in 1965, and received an imprimatur from Richard Cardinal Cushing, Archbishop of Boston. In 1977, the New Oxford Annotated Bible (NOAB) RSV was released, which contained the fuller version of the Deuterocanonical/Apocryphal books (see above). The NOAB RSV is still readily available, and has been a staple in Catholic, Protestant, and Orthodox seminaries for decades. It is traditionally the preferred study Bible for scholars. It is the only edition of the ecumenical version of the RSV still available as far as I know.

Although the RSV quickly became the pew and pulpit Bible for mainline churches, it was not initially well liked by fundamentalists and evangelicals. There were many omissions in the RSV text from the King James text which, though supported by textual criticism, was initially off-putting to many conservative Christians.  The story of the woman caught in adultery, traditionally John 8.1-11, was dropped from the text for want of textual support, as was the longer ending of Mark's Gospel (Mark 16.9-20).

But perhaps the biggest objection for conservative Christians at the time the RSV was released was the translation of Isaiah 7.14. In the traditional King James Version, the verse reads: "
Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel."  But in the RSV, the text reads: "Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, a young woman shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Imman'u-el." The word translated young woman in Hebrew is almah which is a young woman of marriageable age, but it is not the specific word for virgin, which is "betulah." It is the Greek Septuagint (which Christian traditions such as Eastern Orthodoxy considers inspired in its own right) that features the word parthenos in Isaiah 7.14, which is definitely the word for virgin. Matthew quotes the Septuagint in Matthew 1.23 to buttress the Virgin Birth. The RSV is translated from the Hebrew, so it seems that young woman is a perfectly acceptable translation for Isaiah 7.14.  If you Google this question on the internet, you will find very passionate and scholarly arguments on both sides about whether almah should be translated "young woman" or "virgin." Not being a scholar of the Biblical languages myself,  I will not pontificate on the issue.  

Initially, evangelicals shunned the RSV. But as time went on they began to appreciate it more. Baptist Bible Scholar Harold Lindsell produced a study Bible called the Harper Study Bible based on the RSV in 1962. Evangelicals began to appreciate the virtues of the RSV, and many began to reconsider it, and gradually accepted it for its scholarship and beauty.

The fact that the RSV has spawned several revisions is a tribute to its greatness.

Originally released in 1965 and 1966, the Revised Standard Version, Catholic Edition (RSVCE) was a great milestone along the way to a common Bible. The RSVCE went out of print after a time, but in the 1990's Ignatius Press and Scepter Publishers began reprinting the RSV Catholic Edition in order to satisfy a demand for a more reliable and dignified Bible translation for Catholics. Conservative and traditional Roman Catholics, who have been greatly disappointed by inclusive language and skeptical commentary notes in the official Catholic New American Bible version, have turned to the RSVCE. In 2006, Ignatius Press also published Revised Standard Version, Second Catholic Edition, which eliminates archaic language ("thees" and "thous") and makes some other changes, such as the use of the word virgin in Isaiah 7.14.
The New Revised Standard Version (NRSV), which was intended to be the RSV for the 21st century, has been greeted with both enthusiasm and hostility. In many ways, it continues many of the virtues of the RSV, being generally a literal and literary translation. But the NRSV has met with some fierce criticism, reminiscent of some of the initial rejection of it parent in 1952. The NRSV makes use of inclusive language, or what some proponents call “gender accurate” language. Although I believe that in most cases the inclusive language is appropriate, it does appear to be ideologically at times, especially where it produces some inelegant and inaccurate translations.

The NRSV nevertheless is the choice of scholars, and is the pew Bible for mainline churches, including the Episcopal Church. It is what we use for our lectionary readings.

The NRSV continues the tradition of the New Oxford Annotated Bible, being available now in the 4th edition of the NOAB.

One Bible scholar I know believes that the NRSV has a much better grasp of the Hebrew than the RSV, and that the NRSV still has many admirable features. But I still prefer the original RSV. 

In 2001, the English Standard Version (ESV) was published. Evangelicals had made a request to the National Council of Churches back in the 1960’s for an Evangelical version of the RSV, but their request was spurned. However, later in the 1990’s, Crossway Books bought the rights to adapt the 1971 RSV text as a basis for a new revision. Because they bought the rights, they do not have to pay royalties to the National Council of Churches. Anglican scholar J.I. Packer led a team of Evangelical scholars in revising the RSV. Although considered a distinct translation, the ESV is actually a very light revision of the RSV, and represented initially only a 6% text change from the 1971 RSV text. The ESV may be seen as a legitimate heir to the RSV tradition, especially now that there is an edition with the Deuterocanonical/Apocryphal books produced. There was a revised of the ESV in 2007. I am not pleased with the way 1 Timothy 3.16 is translated, which I feel downplays the church as a source of truth. I have been tempted to use the ESV more, but I think the fact that there is only one edition available with the Deuterocanonical/Apocryphal books has been a drawback for me.

The RSV Today
Unfortunately, the RSV is becoming increasing difficult to find new copies of the RSV for purchase. Oxford Press and Cambridge Bibles in the US have both recently dropped their text editions of the RSV.  Plume still publishes a paperback edition of the 1952 RSV Bible, available on Amazon for a very affordable price.

Luckily, Oxford still published in both hard cover and leather, the New Oxford Annotated Bible. The Revised Standard Version Catholic edition is still widely available, with Oxford publishing several attractive editions, as well as Ignatius and Scepter.  Used RSV Bibles still appear relatively abundant in used book stores, eBay, and, and sometimes are available for a very small price. Grab one when you find it.

The RSV has gained in stature over the decades and is no doubt the most venerable modern English translation. Many have embraced the RSV because of it accuracy and dignified language. With the onslaught of paraphrases and inclusive language versions, the RSV is now seen for the beautiful, dignified and reliable version it has always been.

I urge you to consider owning and using the RSV if you do not already. It is magnificent translation of the Sacred Scriptures, and a joy to read. The Revised Standard Version is still the choice of scholars, it is reliable and has elegant language. What a Masterpiece it is! I will take it over its offspring, the NRSV and ESV any day of the week. When you read the RSV, you know you are reading the Bible!

Wikipedia Articles on the various editions of the RSV and its revisions:

Purchase the Revised Standard Version:

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Pope St. Leo the Great on Usury and Capitalism

"The money-lender’s trade is always bad....The iniquity of money-lending must absolutely be abjured, and the gain which lacks all humanity must be shunned. A man’s possessions are indeed multiplied by these unrighteous and sorry means, but the mind’s wealth decays because usury of money is the death of the soul. For... he who gets deceitful gain from lending his money on usury is shown to be both an alien from God’s tabernacle and an exile from His holy hill, and in seeking to enrich himself by others’ losses, he deserves to be punished with eternal neediness."

~ Pope St. Leo the Great, (5th C.), On the Fast of the Tenth Month, Sermon 17


"Usury used to be mortal sin as heinous as murder. Now, it's just called 'capitalism.'" - my friend, Aham Svarupa

Much needed guidance from God

O Lord, we beseech thee mercifully to receive the prayers of thy people who call upon thee; and grant that they may both perceive and know what things they ought to do, and also may have grace and power faithfully to fulfill the same; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

- Collect for the First Sunday after Epiphany.


I have found through out my life that I have occasionally made some poor or wrong choices. I can think of at least three or four bad major life decisions, for which another choice probably would have led to a better outcome for me.

I try not to dwell too much from these mistakes or live in the past, but I do want to learn from my mistakes. As I face challenges ahead,  one of my hopes is that I will seek God's guidance and wisdom, and will try to hear what God is saying to me or how God is leading me.

In 12-step recovery programs, the 11th step is: Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.

This is a most wholesome exercise. I pray for other things besides knowledge of God's will, but I think praying for knowledge of God's will in your life is very important. With pressing life choices and decisions, knowing God's will can be the difference between making a good or bad choice.

Notice that in both the Collect above, and in the 11th step, the power to carry out God's will is mentioned. Sometimes, the right choice may require some sacrifice. It may be that we have to do something difficult or hard for us, at least in the short term. We need God's help, the grace and power that come from God, in order to follow through with making the right choice.

Often making the right choice involves letting go, and sacrifice. Letting go of hurts, resentments, wants, desires. Sacrificing instant gratification or momentary pleasure to be able to enjoy long term satisfaction.

I really should use a concrete examples from my life to help flesh this out, but I am frankly embarrassed by some of my poor choices, and also, some have involved relationships with other people. Suffice to say that choices around lovers and mates, and major purchases, require wise decision making.

With relationships, it is important to be honest about who we are or what we want up front. I have felt that I have often cheated myself by downplaying some aspect of my life with someone I was dating. Also, it is better to be honest with people, in any kind of relationship. Sometimes, in an attempt to spare someone's feelings are smooth out a relationship, we are not honest with another person. We do not lay all our cards on the table. It is better though to be honest upfront. Troublesome issues will eventually come to a head.

Some choices may involve making an ethical decision. Making the ethical choice and following through on it is often a more difficult course of action than an easier path that is unethical. However, the more ethical choice, even if more difficult to begin with, yields better results in the end. We often do not want to deal with difficulty or hardship up front.

Some choices we make may not necessarily have an ethical component, but there are consequences nonetheless. It can be hard to make wise decisions. Common sense can help us in some situations, but not all situations have an apparent common sense choice versus a foolish choice. Choosing a life partner, a home, a school, a job, making a financial decision, can all impact our lives greatly. Sometimes, making the wise choice will involve delaying gratification or taking the common sense approach. Other times it is not so clear. Sometimes we are forced to make decisions around these issues at a difficult time.

We can turn to God when our life is hard, or when life confronts us with difficult choices to make.

In order to be able to hear God speaking to us, and to seek God's guidance, we need to be consistent in prayer. We also need to be dedicated to God. St. Paul expresses this idea beautiful in his epistle to the Romans:

Therefore, my brothers, I implore you by God's mercy to offer your very selves to him: a living sacrifice, dedicated and fit for his acceptance, the worship offered by mind and heart. Adapt yourselves no longer to the pattern of this present world, but let your minds be remade and your whole nature thus transformed. Then you will be able to to discern the will of God, and to know what is good, acceptable, and perfect. 

- Romans 12.1-2, New English Bible 

St. Paul teaches us here, that in order to discern God's will and be empowered by divine grace, we must be committed to God. It is a commitment to love and follow God, to pray consistently, and to be willing always to do the right thing. We need to keep a consistent life of prayer and meditation, so that we be able to hear God speak to us, or discern God's will for us.

Life is very difficult, but we may have peace in knowing God.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Endorsement: I am voting for President Obama

I am voting for President Obama. My Ron Paul-supporting friend tells me I will be voting for a "Republican" next fall.

So what is the difference between Obama and a Republican? Besides the fact that he is clearly the only adult in the room, especially when compared to the congress and that insane clown posse that passes as the Republican field, there are several significant differences between President Obama and Republicans:

  • The difference between people with pre-existing conditions dying without health care, and people getting health insurance to help save their lives. 
  • The difference a year of unemployment benefit extensions for the long-term unemployed, and seeing the unemployed lose their benefits
  • The saving of the auto industry, versus allowing it to die and lose millions of jobs
  • The end of don't ask, don't tell, versus continued institutionalized discrimination against gay and lesbians willing to serve their country
  • Two Supreme Court Justices who aren't Nazis. 

In these momentous times, these are not negligible differences for those living on the margins; and of course there are many other accomplishments by President Obama as well.

Look, I would love to brag at the coffee shop or bar how I voted for the Socialist, Green, or a Communist; or that I wrote in Bernie Sanders. But my own ideological purity is not nearly as important to me as voting to help make realistic, attainable change, that will really help people. I am not living in an ivory tower. I have been on unemployment myself, I know what it is like.

Sometimes in history there are big revolutions that changes things quickly. But more often, I believe, huge changes are proceeded by years of incremental, non-sensational changes. Change is often frustratingly incremental.

I would rather see people get health care and their unemployment benefits than please my left-wing friends  with my vote. I don't care about  being cool.

Maybe people are right that both parties are corporatized slaves to the imperialist, capitalist system. However, I am going to vote for the "corporatist" candidate who wants to save lives, not the one who mocks the dying; I am going to vote for the candidate who took decisive action to save the auto industry and millions of jobs along with it, not the ones who were willing to see it die.

If I have a choice between "two corporatist candidates," I am going to vote for the one who is working to help people right now, and who will provide room for progressive changes to unfold.

President Obama has the ship turned in the right direction. President Obama has demonstrated that he has the country's best interest at heart, and his accomplishments, as modest as they might seem to the purists, are significant enough for me to want to stay the course.

"Obama Care"