Never Again Neverland

I watched about an hour of HBO’s “Leaving Neverland” last night. Devastating. Sad. Disgusting.
Depressing beyond measure.
Way, WAY too many very specific details regarding the circumstances of the sexual abuse and the actual acts of abuse for any honest observer to walk away thinking that these victims aren’t telling the truth.
A few other things to remember, particularly for those Michael Jackson superfans who dismiss the accusations out of hand (even to the point of attacking a documentary that they’re unwilling to watch):
1)Jackson spent untold hours, alone and unsupervised, with these (and other) little boys.
2)There are on-camera interviews of Jackson talking about how sleeping in the same bed with others (including little boys who weren’t his children) was “the most loving thing” anyone can do.
3)He paid out tens of millions to settle claims of sexual abuse.
None of these actions are remotely “normal.” Where there’s smoke …
As far as the complaints that Wade Robson and James Safechuck have changed their story several times: Anyone who’s read accounts of young sexual abuse victims realizes that this is not uncommon, thanks to the kind of enduring mental/emotional hold that pedophiles can have over their young victims. While eventually coming to realize that they have been victimized, they also feel oddly protective of their abusers. Not uncommon in spousal abuse situations, either, from what I’ve read.
How could the parents of these boys be so blind as to allow the abuse to occur? No real simple answers, but it’s clear from the documentary that these particular parents were starstruck, and that they believed Jackson’s carefully orchestrated public image — “childlike wonder,” “innocence” — more than they believed what was in front of their own eyes.
Will those who enabled Jackson’s pedophilia by turning a blind eye — His agents, managers, and publicists, family members, Neverland employees — ever be held responsible for their role in the abuse?
The documentary has forever changed the way I will think about the guy and, yes, his music.
Michael Jackson is about as “innocent” as OJ.
I take no pleasure in coming to that conclusion, as I’ve always appreciated him as one of history’s most talented singers, dancers, songwriters, pop-music conceptualists, and entertainers. An amazing stage presence.
And someone who rose above tough circumstances, including a demanding and violent father, to become an amazing artist. Brilliant, but lonely and misunderstood.
All that, and a “smooth criminal,” too. 

No BS! Brass, “Fight Song” & “RVA All Day” (CD review)

(originally published in JazzTimes)

No BS! Brass, “Fight Song: A Tribute to Charles Mingus” & “RVA All Day” (No BS Brass)

Funky brass bands, heavy on the New Orleans street beat with jazz and rock variously interwoven into the mix, have regained a degree of cache, thanks to the likes of Rebirth, the Dirty Dozen and Trombone Shorty.

Now here comes Richmond, Va.’s 11-piece No BS Brass! Stylistically a bit all over the place, the band gives jazz props on Fight Song, turning in pleasant reworkings of Mingus gems. Tuba man Stefan Demetriadis’ solo cadenza opens “Better Git Hit in Your Soul,” which trips into double-time about halfway through, wah-muted lines goose the melody of “Goodbye Porkpie Hat” and “Nostalgia in Times Square” features trombonist Bryan Hooten’s unaccompanied playing as well as Chris Bopst’s spoken-word riffing.

The band, co-founded by trombonist Reggie Pace of Bon Iver, travels further afield on RVA All Day, its punchy, cascading title track a salute to the group’s hometown. This disc, more raucous than the Mingus tribute, dips into hip-hop on “Git It Awn!,” stirs R&B vocals into jazz-rock fusion on “Love Seat” and takes on Michael Jackson with a “Thriller” that moves from brass choir to high-school marching band to big band before it’s all over. Fun ride.