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Henry Rollins: Hardcore Nostalgia in Washington D.C.

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Thu, Mar 7, 2013 at 2:30 AM

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[Look for your weekly fix from the one and only Henry Rollins right here on West Coast Sound every Thursday, and come back tomorrow for the awesomely annotated playlist for his Saturday KCRW broadcast.]

It is now March. Begrudgingly, the winter is unlocking its jaws and giving way to the thaw.

Coming through the speakers lately, it's been large and constant doses of John Coltrane. My favorite year of the great man's work is 1965. With the release of A Love Supreme at the end of 1964, Coltrane vacated the more traditional aspects of jazz and struck out on his last and best musical journey. From then to his all-too-soon passing in 1967, it's pure genius.

See also: Henry Rollins Gets a Colonoscopy

1965 stands out because it was to be the end of what is known as the "Classic Quartet": Coltrane, Elvin Jones on drums, pianist McCoy Tyner and Jimmy Garrison on bass. You can hear these formidable musicians pushing themselves to their limits in Coltrane's new vision. The results are some of the best jazz ever recorded.

This band realized more in one minute than some do across two sides of an album. By way of example, I urge you to check out their album Transition. The title track is a tour-de-force of second-by-second discovery and revelation. It is one of the greatest pieces of music I have ever heard.

I put Transition on tonight and was so worked up after it finished that I had to get up and go. All of a sudden everything was moving too slow and I needed movement, so off I went. I am now in a caffeinated and well-lit environment.

Twenty-four hours ago, I was in Washington D.C., at the 9:30 Club, watching one of the mightiest bands anywhere, Trouble Funk.

What brought me to that place is what I want to tell you about. Several months ago, I was contacted by underground art/culture adventurist Roger Gastman, who asked if I was interested in doing the narration on a documentary he was working on with Joseph Pattissal. It's a film called The Legend of Cool "Disco" Dan, about the enigmatic graffiti artist from D.C. I remember his ubiquitous tag very well and gave Roger an enthusiastic affirmative.

Roger and Joseph took it upon themselves to tell Dan's story and, by doing so, created a great picture of Washington, D.C., in the '80s, a time fraught with political scandal, an assassination attempt on the president and the arrival of crack cocaine, which turned street corners into highly valued points of purchase literally worth millions of dollars. This got a lot of young people killed.

At the same time, there were two vibrant, youth-driven music scenes: D.C. hardcore and go-go funk. There wasn't much fan crossover, but the music was great on both sides.

Dan's life has been full of hardship. From a tragic family history to the mental instability that led him into a life of shelters and homelessness, it is a hell of a story. I hope you get a chance to see this film.

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