Read  Umberto Pasti (trans. Alstair McEwen), The Age of Flowers (2003, Pushkin Modern). Somewhat overwrought Italian novel set in contemporary Tangiers, in an atmosphere of Islamic reaction to the ways and influence of European nazrani (here, a general term for foreigners, though I gather that the word has narrower meanings). The political/cultural shift is mere background for the protagonist’s descent into near-madness (and night gardening) in the face of his wife’s breast cancer and infidelity, and the attempts of various locals and expats to capitalize on his instability. A great deal of botanical detail and hallucinatory sex, inc. memories of incest; much effort seems to have been expended in describing the physical world as unpleasantly as possible. An influence I thought I detected on some decadent party scenes seemed unlikely until passing dialogue gave the game away: “…straight out of Firbank.” More structure to all this than I’m indicating, but, honestly, a slog.
Read  L.P. Hartley, The Shrimp and the Anenome (1944; I’m reading the NYRB edition). First third of Hartley’s reputation-making trilogy, centering on the roots of what we would now call the co-dependent relationship between too-obedient-for-his-own-good Eustace and his older sister Hilda, whom both consider his moral compass. Technically indebted to What Maisie Knew, with the machinations of class and income constantly refracted through the limited but growing comprehension of the viewpoint characters. Also excellent on the obscure significance of private games to the young, as when Eustace names the chips in the bathtub after various world capitals, which meet their destructions as the water rises. Some tonier children’s reaction to the news that Eustace has suddenly been left a fortune sufficient for both his education and a private income thereafter is a bit too blatant to be entirely believable; otherwise, pitch-perfect. Bourgeois fiction doesn’t get much better than this.
Heard  Oliver Lake and Reggie Nicholson, 10/10, at The Community Church of New York, in what I gather is the New York chapter of the AACM’s monthly concert series. Lake (technically an AACM fellow-traveler, having come up through St. Louis’s similarly minded Black Artists Group) played one interrupted trio piece (“Spring-Ing”), switching between alto and tenor several times. Guitarist Michael Gregory picked out a spot somewhere in the Sharrock/Ulmer continuum and stayed there; very little of what he played sounded like “jazz guitar,” but I tended to prefer him in interplay w/ Lake than in his solo turns; drummer Pheeroan Aklaff kinda stole the set with a couple of busy, well-sustained grooves that Lake often responded to by playing as if to a slower on that the rest of us couldn’t hear. Most striking ensemble section was a kind of chunky, stuttering funk, with a lot of staccato reed-popping and Aklaff shouting (I think) “Jack,” and then “Jack…find yourself” every eighth beat or so. Nicholson, who’s drummed at some point with most of the better-known AACM leaders, played five fairly modest originals as a duo with pianist Sharp Radway (huge guy), a name previously unknown to me. Interesting player: for all the liberty that the drum/piano format allows, Sharp was disciplined and fairly “inside” harmonically; between the frequent use of octaves and his way of accenting single-note lines, he could as well have been playing salsa much of the time. Nicholson himself was a touch subdued; not at all an indulgent drum-fest.
Church acoustics for both sets a bit of a drag; also unsure sure why the woman on emcee duty called out the personnel of both groups as though she were calling out the card for a middleweight bout.
If the above concert leaned toward the jazz-identified end of the AACM spectrum, at least half of what went down at the Kitchen  the next night was way over toward the new music/contemporary classical pole that gets this bunch in trouble with everyone from Baraka to Crouch. This and a Thurs. program I couldn’t attend were both curated by (the great) George Lewis in connection with A Power Greater Than Itself, his weighty new history of the organization (extended review forthcoming). First half, all performed by members of Brooklyn collective Wet Ink: an flute/cello/percussion trio by Nicole Mitchell, not as compelling as her own playing later in the evening; an extremely abstract quartet (I could see the graphic notation on the piano from my seat) by Leo Wadada Smith), and, the highlight by some distance, Lewis’s own Hello Mary Lou, for a nonet w/ no repeated instruments, plus percussion (vibes and a few pitched drums, mostly) and the composer’s live electronic treatments. The piece went along in a wooshy, sliding-panels-of-sound manner for a while, de-emphasizing individual instrumental voices, before suddenly waking up into a much more articulated section that tended to pit the three string players against the backline of horns and reeds; very insistent, even Rite of Spring-esque in parts, with what I’m guessing would be some very clustery chords on paper distributed over a very broad timbral range. It wouldn’t be sonically inaccurate to compare Lewis’s treatments of the live sound to dub, but it’s probably misleading nonetheless. Beyond the title, no discernible reference to Ricky Nelson: the piece was apparently inspired by Mary Lou an accompanying 1989 video by the late Kate Craig, which didn’t do anything for me at all.
After intermission, back to jazz-inflected territory with Ritual and Rebellion, a new suite-like piece co-composed/fronted by Mitchell, on various flutes, and “saxophonist, composer, and conceptualist” (according to the program note) Matana Roberts, previously only a name to me, on alto. Though this was presented as an uninterrupted suite, you could pretty easily hear how it would be broken into tracks, some fairly “out,” some quite evidently notated, moreso toward the end. I don’t really know how to talk about improv flute, though I was impressed by Mitchell’s use of extended techniques one doesn’t really associate with the instrument. I was quite taken with Roberts’s playing, which seemed representative of a turn of mind: she has a biting, non-lyrical tone, and, although she certainly gets around the instrument, doesn’t seem overly concerned with impressive technical embellishment. The two other players were less well-integrated (though necessary to the more “written” sections): drummer Chad Taylor, familiar to post-rockers via Thrill Jockey releases with Chicago Underground Duo/Trio was fine but underused, and pianist Craig Taborn was idiomatically “out” without giving the impression of actual exploration.
Especially disappointed to have missed a panel on Lewis’s book earlier in the day, but I was selling my car in Hackensack.
Watched  The Amazing Mr. X (1948, Bernard Vorhaus). Narratively cheesy but visually atmospheric* thriller with horror elements involving a con-man/medium, a bilkable widow, her even more credulous sister, and a dead husband who isn’t, actually. Somewhere in the vicinity of The Seventh Victim, or, oh, a Whistler episode adapted by Maya Deren, whom lead Lynn Bari somewhat resembles. The transparency of the double-exposure effects in the séance sequence fails to blunt their effectiveness; also, some enjoyable business with an ex-magician detective who idly executes a continuous cigar production. At once highly generic and uncanny, partly on account of that parallel-universe feeling that adheres to movies with less-than-familiar casts (Bari, who rarely broke through the B-barrier in a decades long career; Cathy O’Donnell in a step down from They Live By Night; career “exotic” Turhan Bey, who showed up on Babylon 5 in the ‘90s; erstwhile Dragnet regular Virgina Gregg). I guess this showed up on a local PBS affiliate because it’s out of copyright; the whole film is free for download.
*Wrote that before learning that it was shot by John Alton, which explains a lot.