Episode 024: Pool Parlor
In which we discuss back alleys, bass and drums, and the Wide World of Sports
Denise and I recently went to dinner at the house of some friends, only to end up in their basement after dinner shooting some 8-ball on their beautiful pool table. Just a wonderful time.
Now, I’m no pool shark and I haven’t played in years, but I did work in nightclubs for the better part of two decades, so the rules say you have to be able to shoot pool at least a little.
Anyway, that evening inspired me to write something about a painting with pool or billiards or [snooker?].
Today’s beat, inspired by Jacob Lawrence’s 1942 painting Pool Parlor, did the trick.
Pool Parlor proves I truly have no idea how these beats will turn out until they are complete.
I went into this one assuming it was going to be a dark, tense, moody composition. Anyone who's ever spent any time in a pool hall knows that generally there’s some stuff going down in pool halls. Arguments, gambling, folks politely escorted out the back door to discuss disputed allegations of cheating…
Yet, the overall vibe of this one ended up being happy. Joyful, even. I think this unexpected outcome is due to a couple of things:
I love pool. Great memories of following the sport as a kid and, of course, playing it over the years.
This painting absolutely reminds me of the nightclubs in which I spent tens of thousands of working hours during my twenties and thirties. Much fun was had.
About the music itself:
Really, the bouncy feel of this one comes down to the melody, which I think has a kind of Prince vibe?
Those background string slices, what key are they even in? They are NOT happy sounding.
That single repeating piano note that happens throughout the beat – that was definitely an accident. It's the very beginning of a much longer sample that I was going to lay down in the background as a bed, but I inadvertently triggered it a couple of times in a row. I thought it sounded cool as more of a rhythmic thing, so I kept it.
A lot of people have told me I mix the drums and bass too loud in these beats. Yes, guilty as charged! I just love the grooves.
My former familiarity with Jacob Lawrence was mainly for his incredible ”Migration Series”. His very specific delineation between different colors and objects is a major influence on my reductions in general.
When I came across this piece, I was blown away. And I was thrilled to work with one of his paintings. I would never dare think I had something to say about his “Migration Series”, but pool halls? I know a little something about pool halls.
The blue, red, and yellow of the pool balls and some of the clothes are really missed in this reduction, but the overall feeling of the painting is a little tense, so I decided to go with just depicting the people and the pool tables. If I was going to start over, I might just make one giant pool table with stripes and solids on it. That would have been cool.
Also, while they didn’t make the cut, the zig-zags of smoke might be my favorite thing in the painting.
When I was around 10 or 12 years old, pool was a big deal in our household. My father used to play with some co-workers each week, and any Saturday it was on ABC’s Wide World of Sports, it was must-see TV.
One time, my father brought me to a local shopping mall to watch an exhibition by Willie Mosconi, one of the greatest pool players that ever lived (who was by then probably 60 years old). It was a fun hour or so, and then we went home. A couple of hours later, my father suddenly called me downstairs, instructing “go get your coat”. We drove to a local dive pool hall and I thought wow, my father was bringing me to shoot pool. But it didn’t seem like we were going to play.
“Just wait,” he said.
Then in walks Willie Mosconi – followed a few minutes later by Alan Hopkins, the then world champion.
I remember the two never said a word to each other. Everybody just stood around table number one and watched. And the money was flying. We watched them play for a couple of hours, and when we finally left, they were just getting started.
It was like being an extra in The Hustler or something. To this day I have no idea how my father knew those two would show up and play for money at a local Pool Parlor.
Until next week, thanks for reading Polyester City. If you have any thoughts, please leave a comment by clicking the link above. If you know anyone who likes Music and Art and Stories [and Willie Mosconi], which is pretty much everyone, please consider sharing by clicking the link below.