The Mellow Agility of Clifford Brown

Christopher Carroll

Clifford Brown was only twenty-five years old when he died, but even then was already known as one of the greatest trumpet players in jazz. An undisputed virtuoso, he played with seeming ease in every register of the instrument, spinning out long, intricate solos that often sounded less like improvisations than compositions. Dizzy Gillespie claimed that Brown changed the way that the trumpet was played. Even Philip Larkin, who found listening to bebop comparable to “drinking a quinine martini and having an enema simultaneously,” admired Brown’s “mellow agility.”

Bill Viola’s Martyrs: Sleek, Glamorous, Empty

Simon Willis

Martyrs, a new work by the American video artist Bill Viola, is difficult to take as seriously as it takes itself. It is being shown as a permanent exhibit in St Paul’s Cathedral in London, just a few feet from the high altar, and is designed as a kind of altarpiece. Four plasma screens are arranged in a row on a sleek metal stand by the architect Norman Foster. Each screen shows a silent video, a little over seven minutes long, of a person undergoing a highly aestheticized ordeal involving, respectively, earth, air, fire, and water—all captured with sumptuous visual effects and all withstood in serene and saintly forbearance.

Johnny Cash’s Lost Decade

Andrew Martin

When Johnny Cash died in September 2003, he was in the midst of a career renaissance that had begun nearly a decade earlier, when he recorded a series of albums with the producer Rick Rubin. The extraordinary popularity of those albums helps explain the release of Out Among The Stars, a new album consisting of songs from “lost” recording sessions that took place mostly in 1984. Yet these sessions, in tone and sound, are nearly the opposite of the pared-down records in the earlier series.

Parasites in Eden

Gabriel Winslow-Yost

“I draw a lot of weird doodles on scraps of paper,” says the Canadian cartoonist Jesse Jacobs—true of most cartoonists, no doubt. But few cartoonists’ work is as suffused with the spirit of the doodle as Jacobs’s. The familiar forms are there on almost every page: a profusion of cubes and spheres, wiggly organic textures, vast fields of invented vegetation. They are more elegantly drawn than your average doodles, of course, cleaned-up and colored and carefully arranged, but the doodler’s mix of repetition and improvisation is unmistakable in each of his books.

A Moment for Stockhausen

Tim Page

There are certain composers whose music we can recognize and identify immediately. It is unnecessary to listen to more than a few moments of any mature work by Olivier Messiaen, Elliott Carter, or Philip Glass (to name three dissimilar artists) to realize who was responsible for its creation. But there are others whose music may change radically from piece to piece—or, for that matter, from measure to measure. The German composer Karlheinz Stockhausen falls into this camp.