Introduction To Western Philosophy (3): Medieval To Enlightenment




In Part Two of this series I discussed how the study of ancient to modern (Western) philosophy can be a long and challenging endeavour, with potentially hundreds of philosophers and ideas to mentally catalogue and contextualize. This, in general, has followed three lines of thought: metaphysics, epistemology, and axiology. In Part Three I will now outline the important Medieval, Renaissance, and Pre-Modern thinkers, and provide basic notes on their ideas. As I have in the past, I mostly use only the surname of the philosopher, as Baruch Spinoza (also known as Benedict De Spinoza), for example, is commonly referenced in conversation and much writing as just “Spinoza”. SO I have stuck with this convention, for the sake of simplicity.


Plotinus (205 C.E – 270 C.E): Founder of NeoPlatonicism (Plato’s thought turned more mystical): an individual’s soul ascends from physical existence through a (hierarchical) series of spiritual levels until it merges with The One, the metaphysical potentiality behind all things without which no possibilities or actualities can occur (neither material nor the sum of all material). These were discussed in his (six) Enneads, works complied by his student Porphyry. NeoPlatonism was both a rival of, and influence on, Christianity for centuries afterwards.

Iamblichus of Syria (245 – 325): “What can be known depends on the knower’s capacity.” Systematically formalized Neoplatonism, and expanded upon its premises, e.g. one’s Soul is embodied in Matter, and thus Matter is as divine as the Soul, a departure from earlier Neoplatonists (Matter is a lesser concept).

St. Augustine (354 – 430): “God is not the parent of evils.” Latin Philosopher, theologian, “the original city” – the Catholic Church is the ‘City of God.’

Boethius (480 – 525): “God foresees our free thoughts and actions.” Roman philosopher, Christian aristocrat, and music theorist. The Consolations of Philosophy – a conversation between Boethius and Lady Philosophy, who teaches him that virtue is one’s treasure and that fame/fortune are subject to the vicissitudes of life, ergo transientTCoP is the last great work in the manner of Western Classical philosophy.

Pseudo-Dionysus the Aeropagite (c. 480 – c. 545): “God is not being, but more than Being”. Christian theologian/philosopher. Often confused with the Athenian Christian named Dionysus the Aeropagite (converted by the preaching of Apostle Paul).


Often, in both philosophical and Biblical studies, one sees the Areios Pagos or “Areopagus” mentioned in connection to Greek law. The Areios Pagos is a rocky hilltop near the Parthenon in Athens where an ancient high court of appeals was held for both civil and criminal cases. It also functioned as a (pre-Classical) site of meeting for the Athenian council of elders before the fifth century B.C.E. Also referred to as ‘Mars Hill’ by the Romans, the Areopagus is known to Christians for also being the site where Apostle Paul delivered his ‘Unknown God’ sermon to the city elders and some Epicurean and Stoic philosophers (Acts 17:18-33).

While in Athens to perform and attend a conference I had the chance to visit the Areopagus, and take the picture above. The X-ray machines at the Athens and Paris airports must have messed up my film on the way back, because my Acropolis and Areopagus film roll came out messed up – so I had to un-fade/colour correct them as best I could.


The hillside leading up to the Areopagus on the opposite side of the Acropolis has a scattering of soft mossy spots and small trees under which one can stop and meditate, or just relax. Considering the balmy weather, and the beauty of the area (and the structure of Greek language) – it is no wonder that the early Greeks were masters of thought. They had the most pleasant spots to sit and ponder things! Ελλάδα είναι υπέροχη!


Alcuin the Latinist (740 – 804): Church historian/apologist and architect, who brought Latin scholarship and liberal arts education to Charlemagne and the Franks.

Al-Kindî (801 – 873): “Philosophy is compatible with science and Islam. The first Arab peripatetic and the Father of Islamo-Arabic Philosophy. His work would be overshadowed by later interest in Al-Fârâbî.

Al-Fârâbî (872 – 951): Persian philosopher/musician, considered by his peers to be the second ‘Great Teacher’ after Aristotle. Rationalist: pure reason as a source of justification or knowledge is not incompatible with Islam. Negative Theologian (Apophatic theology): “God cannot be known, but he can be known, to a degree, by what he is not”. Though it dealt with Persian music theory and music’s influence on the soul, his Book of Great Music (Kitab al-Musiqa al-Kabir – كتاب الموسيقى الكبير) is often considered a tome on Arab music, as it was written in Arabic.

Avicenna (980 – 1037): (a.k.a Ibn Sînâ) – Persian polymath within the Arabic tradition of philosophy. “The Soul is distinct from the body.” Created the Canon of Medicine – a summary of all medical knowledge of humanity to that point in history.

St. Anselm (1033 – 1109): The Ontological Argument: just by thinking about God we can know he exists, without needing any physical proof in the world. This is because: If the greatest possible being (God) exists in the mind, then it must also exist in reality; if it only exists in the mind, something greater is possible in Reality ergo a being that exists in the mind and reality.

Al-Ghazali (1058 – 1111): Persian poet/mystic. Considered by some to be the single biggest historical detriment to Islamic intellectual progress through his promotion of faith over science. The Incoherence of the Philosophers – the material world is an insufficient explanation for causality, everything ultimately stems from God’s will (Islamic Occasionalism).

Averroes  (1126 – 1198): (a.k.a Ibn Rushd) Spanish Muslim polymath; defended Aristotleian philosophy against al-Ghazali’s influence (philosophy is an affront to Islam, i.e. Averroes claim that there is one truth but two ways (philosophy/religion) to reach it, or that the soul has both an individual and a divine part.

Maimonides (1135 – 1204): Jewish Aristotelian. Guide for the Perplexed: any attribution of human characteristics (anthropomorphism) to God is faulty, and borderline blasphemous. Merkaba Mysticism: the chariot imagery in Exekiel is deeply mystical and profound, and must not be discussed/interpreted/taught by anyone less than rabbis/scholars. GFTP discusses the Merkaba (chariot) and thus some called the GFTP heresy and banned/burned it.

Roger Bacon (1214 – 1294): Doctor Mirabilis, scholasticism – academic thought that defended orthodoxy (Bacon: Franciscan friar). Scholastics trained men to be scholars, doctors, and layers.

William of Ockham (1288 – 1348): scholastic monk. “Ockham’s Razor” (lex parsimoniae) – the statement/idea/thought (amongst many others) that makes the fewest assumptions and offers the simplest explanation of its effects is the one a person should choose. The first “Nominalist” – there are only generalities, no universal types or qualities exist).

Duns Scotus (1265 – 1308): Doctor Subtilis, Catholic theologian, “haecceity” (thisness) – the property in each thing that makes it a specific individual, “formal distinction” – differentiating between different aspects of the same thing.

Thomas Aquinas (1225 – 1274): Doctor Universalis, “The Universe has not always existed.” Aquinas proposed a created universe long before the Big Bang Theory (based on Genesis 1:1): the heaven and the earth being synonymous with the Universe in general. Thomism – truth is true anywhere it is found, the world can be known, God is the First Principle of everything – all that is good is of God. Huge influence on philosophy and Catholicism ever since.

Petrarch (1304 – 1374): Father of Humanism, reaction to Scholasticism. Taught the humanities (grammar, rhetoric, moral philosophy) to the citizenry for their civic virtue. Developed the idea of the ‘Dark Ages’. His revival of Cicero (arguably) began the Renaissance.


Desiderius Erasmus (1466 – 1536): Dutch Renaissance humanist/Catholic priest. “To know nothing is the happiest life.” In Praise of Folly – moral satire (about the complete corruption of the Catholic Church) featuring Folly being praised as a goddess, then Folly herself praising self-deception, madness, and pious Catholic superstitions. Pope Leo X, rather than being outraged, was highly amused by IPoF, as he thought it was a critique of Catholicism under his predecessor Pope Julius II.

But to Eramus there is a kind of folly that is an ideal state for humans, a kind of “benign naivety” in which we are happy and content, unburdened by too much knowledge (in reference to the Biblical passage Ecclesiastes 1:18, “for with much wisdom comes much sorrow: the more knowledge, the more grief.”). Part of Eramus’ reasoning for this also lay in the very idea of reasoning itself, as true belief to him was faith-based. This emphasis on simple, humble faith over the intellectualized (Hellenistic) theological arguments of St. Augustine and Thomas Aquinas was Eramus’ way of resisting what he saw as a corruption of Christianity by Platonic and Aristotelian influences.

Michel De Montaigne (1533- 1592): French Renaissance philosopher and inventor of the essay. In his essay On Solitude, Montaigne lays out his most potent idea: that our personal well being (tranquility) depends on detachment from the opinion of others, which we need to be famous. Thus, we cannot be famous and tranquil. Also if we care too much for the approval of others we will end up imitating whose who are evil or be consumed by our hatred for those same people and lose our ability to think and reason clearly.

Instead, we should behave as if some great and noble being is with us, observing our actions and intentions. By thinking and doing thus, we will be objective, tranquil, rational, and truly free. Having witnessed the insane mob violence of the French religious wars of the late 16th century, Montaigne sought to be the opposite of those around him lost in dogma and lust for glory. Quote: “Many times I have seen (fame and fortune) step out ahead of merit… and often a long way ahead“.

Francis Bacon (1561 – 1626): Father of Empiricism – developed methodologies for scientific inquiry.

Hobbes (1588 – 1679): helped found Modern Political philosophy. Leviathan – what are the appropriate relations between individuals and government (social contract theory)?

Descartes (1596 – 1650): Father of Modern Philosophy, Cartesian Dualism – body/soul separate but connected (by the pineal gland). Morals are a science. “I think, therefore I am”.


Spinoza (1632 – 1677): Rationalist: Truth is intellectual and deductive. Laid the groundwork for the Enlightenment. Opposed and intellectually destroyed medieval philosophy in his Ethics.

Locke (1632 – 1704): Father of Classical Liberalism. His Theory of Mind (philosophy of mental events) established the modern concepts of identity and the Self. The first to define the Self in terms of continuity of consciousness. We are born without innate ideas (tabula rasa) and gain all knowledge through sense experience. Locke also argued vigorously for the separation of church and government in A Letter Concerning Toleration.

Isaac Newton (1643 – 1727): Father of Classical Mechanics (how objects move when acted upon by various forces). Super science/math genius. Newton revolutionized how people understood and saw the world, and inspired humanity to pursue scientific investigation with great passion. After Newton’s death, some began trying to apply such scientific (mechanistic) thought rather rigidly to all forms of human behavior and knowledge, which was not Newton’s intention, giving rise to counter-Enlightenment thinkers and great resistance by the Catholic church.

Leibniz (1646 – 1716): Rationalist. Optimism – our universe is the best possible one potentially created. There is no material world (!), only infinitely diverse subtle substances measured in basic units of perceptual reality (monads).

Berkeley (1685 -1753): “To Be is to be perceived.” Idealism – Reality is fundamentally mental. Immaterialism – tables aren’t real, they just exist in the imagination and can’t exist without perception (“to be is to be perceived”).

Voltaire (1694 – 1778): French writer/philosopher (real name: François-Marie Arouet). Inventor of the conte philosophique, the “philsophical tale”: fiction –  from short stories to long novels – that explores complex philosophical questions; as Voltaire described them, works “that say more than they seem to say”. The central theme of the conte philosophiques is that the constants of human nature are self-deception, the inevitability of the abuses of power, and that superstition and fanaticism eventually join with self-interest and this leads to misery and suffering.

His extensive body of work was so influential he was world renowned, and garnered both extreme praise and intense dislike. Common subjects = civil Liberties advocate, freedom of expression/religion, separation of church/state, hugely influential on the American/French revolution. Voltaire was highly critical of religious dogma: having studied the Bible extensively and finding much error, mythology, chronological inconsistencies that he believed the Bible was a product of humanity. After the Lisbon Earthquake of 1755, Voltaire questioned how the suffering of the Portuguese people could be reconciled with the goodness of God, and why He (being Omnipotent) could not create a world without earthquakes?

He was also critical of the atheism of the his time, as he thought it was dangerous for atheists to believe that ultimately no one judges their actions: bringing about the destruction of ethical philosophy (if a natural law of brotherhood/peace doesn’t exist, then in what will we base our ethics and morals?). “The secret to being boring is to reveal everything…”.

Hume (1711 – 1776): Empiricist (knowledge comes from the senses). Desire governs human behaviour. Psychology is the basis of human nature.

Rousseau (1712 – 1778): Composer, philosopher. Natural Humanism: Mankind is neutral (in a sense morally naïve, knows nothing of good or bad) until societal contact creates in him self-love, which leads to human greed, suffering, war, etc. Thus humans are fundamentally good (free and happy) until society educates them and imposes laws on them. For example, Rousseau argues that man began to be corrupted when the first piece of land was enclosed and considered “property”, and as more and more people had properties there had to be laws regulating ownership and thus structured societies arose; civilizations bringing their inevitable hierarchies (rich and poor). Education plays a part int his and thus Rousseau advocated against intellectual education in favour of an education of the senses (ergo of the heart, and thus he criticized the adverse effects of both religion and atheism).

Denis Diderot (1713 – 1784): a major contributor to the philosophy of Enlightenment thinkers: co-founder, chief editor and major contributor to A Systematic Dictionary of the Sciences, Arts, and Crafts, otherwise known as the Encyclopédie (“Encyclopedia”) published between 1751 and 1772. Diderot, Voltaire and others became known as the philosophes: public intellectuals who gathered in coffee houses and cafes to debate and dispute the Enlightenment ideals of reason, tolerance, and progress, free from the more intellectually stifling actions/beliefs of various universities, monarchies, and/or churches. Diderot was also a major critic of slavery and the purposeful denial of knowledge and understanding to the masses by those with power (kings, priests, noblemen). In the entry for “Encyclopedie” in the actual Encyclopedie itself, he writes: “the general mass of the species is made neither to follow nor to know the march of the human spirit.” Having been denied education and human rights, the people are thus “too idiotic, too beastly, too miserable, and too busy to enlighten itself“, which he wrote in a letter to Sophie Volland (1759). Diderot, though, did not anticipate or live to see the very people he discusses rise up and win their rights back from the monarchy in the bloody French Revolution a few years later in 1789 to 1799.

Charles Batteux (1713 – 1780): French philosopher whose work The Fine Arts Reduced to The Same Principle (Fr: “Les beaux arts réduits à un même principe”formally introduced the world to the idea that works of beauty and taste in writing, music, painting and so on could be categorized as “fine arts”, as they were “assemblages of rules for doing well”. Before Batteux, such arts were generally considered separate subjects, e.g. music was a subject closer to math due to its basis in acoustics and intervallic measurement. Batteux also suggested that the point of the fine arts was to imitate nature, and in the imitation create perfected or ideal examples of nature for aesthetic enjoyment.


Introduction to Western Philosophy (2): Mythology to Hellenism.


In Part One of this series I introduced some terms that will be appearing as we explore the history of Western philosophy. In today’s post (Part Two) we will begin with the Greek myth collectors that got things going, all the way to the Pyrrhonic lifestyle of Roman doctor Sextus Impericus.


Hesiod (cir. 750 B.C.E): collected orally transmitted origin myths into the Theogony. May be connected to Hittite Song of Kumarbi (overthrowing progenitor, castration).

Homer (cir. 750 B.C.E): no one man, but rather amalgam of writers contributing to the legendary epic works The Iliad, and The Odyssey over a long period of time. Thus, Homer is much like the (later) Buddhist saint Bodhidharma; a mythical hagiography around which to organize certain wisdom traditions.


It is important to note that the Greek thinkers before Socrates and Plato could be considered the first “physicists”, as their concern with nature was closer to a “scientific” approach than a theological one. As such, they wanted to know about how grass grows or what things are made of, no matter which god(s) made them.

Thales (624 – 546 B.C.E): all is made of water: water is the fundamental element of nature.

Anaximander (610 – 546 B.C.E): The basis of the Universe is an unlimited, undefined substance without qualities from which opposites come (hot/cold, wet/dry).

Anaximenes (585 – 525 B.C.E): The basis of everything is air.

Pythagoras (570 – 495 B.C.E): “Number is the ruler of Forms and Ideas”. Reality is created out of something non-material and abstract that is the basis for all material (architectonic – having qualities of design and structure). That “something” is numbers/mathematics.

Heraclitus (535 – 475 B.C.E): “Everything is in flux”. The Universe is ruled by an organizing principle (Logos), opposites are ‘One’ and everything is in flux-thus no thing can be known, as it changes before we truly understand it. Logos = root of “-logy” (anthropology, biology).

Parmenides of Elea (530 B.C.E): “All is One”. Eleatic School: (only logical thought leads to knowledge of Being).

Aeschylus (525 – 456 B.C.E): The Oresteia play trilogy, our fate/striving/character shapes our destiny.

Zeno of Elea (490 – 430 B.C.E): reductio ad absurdum, revealed paradoxical arguments in common communication.

Protagoras (490 – 420 B.C.E): “Man is the measure of all things”. “Truth” is our perception/experience, “Virtue” through rhetoric (deceitful sophistry).

Democritus (460 – 370 B.C.E): “Nothing exists except atoms and empty space”. The word atom comes from the Greek word atomon (ἄτομον), something that is uncuttable or can’t be divided. By coincidence, Democrritus thus becomes the first to discuss actual physics long before atomic theory, actual atoms, were proven to exist. Democritus asked: what earlier circumstances caused an event? (no Prime Mover/questions of purpose or reason).

Herodotus (484 – 425 B.C.E): History as descriptive psychology-the relation between/problem of war and virtue.


Socrates (469 – 399 B.C.E): “The unexamined life is not worth living.” Virtue, dialectic – test every assumption for its grounding and implications. The Socratic Method: asking questions of others in order to get them to reveal the truth to themselves; a guided philosophical teaching method. Since we only know of Socrates’ ideas and life through the writings of Plato, it is not 100% certain how much of Socrates is Plato’s transcription or invention. Thus, Plato, Socrates’s student, is the first and foundational philosopher in Western history.

It is also interesting to note that Socrates’ Method actually represents, in one instance, what one might call the Socratic Contradiction. He continuously called into question the wisdom of the leaders of his time, asserting they were not wise for thinking they knew what they were talking about. He then claims to be wiser than they due to his assertion that at least he himself was willing to admit he “knew nothing” for sure. But this is actually a paradox or a contradiction, in that Socrates is making the claim that he knows what “real” knowing is, thus he can recognize what is ignorance in others. Socrates must know the correct/actual standards of truth and knowing to say such a thing, but if he “knows nothing”, he cannot claim he knows the leaders are not wise, i.e. if you don’t know what a dog is you can’t say dog owners know nothing about dogs.

Hippocrates (460 – 370 B.C.E): diseases/cures are natural, and not related to the divine. He also thought that the qualities of the four elements (air, water, earth, fire) are reflected in the bodily fluids. This idea was more fully developed by Roman doctor Galen (see below).

Isocrates (436 – 338 B.C.E): Rhetoricians must have great philosophical/arts knowledge.

Plato (424 – 348 B.C.E): The Father of All Western Philosophy:  Plato took on how we should deal with Life problems: not just the words we use but what lies underneath the words, the nature of ethics: the nature of virtue. We learn the word “virtuous” in myths, but philosophy asks, “what lies at the core of virtue”?

In his landmark work, the Republic, he posits that we should come to our conclusion solely on the basis of arguments and investigation, not tradition or religion, as even the Pre-Socratics were still relatively bound to myth and spiritualism. Thus, Plato is the first truly free inquirer. Perhaps his greatest innovation was Platonism: the idea that the things we perceive in the physical world are types of illusions, each thing  “shadow” of a transcendental Ideal Form of that thing, meaning Ideal Forms were pure versions of things perceived through the intellect, not the senses (e.g. a drawn triangle represents the pure idea/form of the triangle). Ironically, Plato’s break from Pre-Socratic spiritualism (Platonism) would later become spiritualized into Neo Platonism by medieval philosopher Plotinus.

The Republic also dealt with the question of what the true nature of justice is. Plato also believed that we remember knowledge from previous lives (as he argues in Meno), and that poets were imitators of worldly illusions through their craft and thus mislead people with their work.

Diogenes (404 – 323 B.C.E): “Cynicism” – austerity/poverty/simplicity = happiness. Culture and politics is artifice.

Aristotle (384 – 322 B.C.E): The Father of Science: “truth resides around us in the world” (via biology, astronomy, etc.). Aristotle was also the first to rigorously categorize plants, animals, ideas, and such. He even categorized four sources of happiness: sensual (hedone), material (propraietan), ethical (ethikos), and logical (dialogike). This categorical approach to emotion would later influence Roman doctor galen and his work. He also provided the first real serious thought on deductive reasoning through syllogisms. For example:

All squirrels are furry.
Skippy is a squirrel.
Therefore, Skippy is furry.

Aristotle is also known for his work Nichomachean Ethics in which he argues that eudaimonia (“happiness”) is achieved through the pursuit of virtue (arête); through ongoing virtuous action in every aspect of existence.

Zeno of Citium (334 – 262 B.C.E): Stoicism, virtue = peace of mind. God is Fire (active energy) and Logos (reason, physics, controlling principles) diffused throughout the Cosmos. God = creative force materialized via Logos.

Epicurus (341 – 270 B.C.E): Epicureanism – maximize pleasure/reduce pain through modesty (absence of pain = happiness)


The Hellenistic Period (323 B.C.E – 31 B.C.E): A period in which Greek culture had a major influence on Roman and/or various Mediterranean cultures.

Hellenism and Christianity: Reconciling Christianity to its major opponent, Stoic philosophy (Stoic principles in service to Christian theology). Stoic ‘rational power’ present in physics = Christian/Jewish God revealing himself through such rational physics.

Hellenism and Judaism: Jewish spatial and temporal issues over landlessness (unique among world cultures). Without a common language, land and government, what makes the world’s Jews a community? Jewish history = adaptation and synthesis. Transfer of Temple power (high priest, rites) to local synagogue power: rabbi and his authority, exegesis of Jewish Law (Mishnah) and homiletics (midrashim), thus growing influence of Hellenism, and the rise of various sects.

Cicero (106 – 43 B.C.E): Introduced Roman society to Greek Philosophy and developed a Latin vocabulary for understanding philosophical terms (humanitas = the virtuous character needed for oratorial civil service).

Lucretius (99 – 55 BCE): Material Atomism: there is indeed evidence that the world is fundamentally material, and that nothing happens after death. Thus, god or not, we need not fall prey to thoughtless superstitions. Lucretius’ On The Nature Of The Universe is the first major Roman work on the subject.

Philo Judaeus (12 B.C.E – 47 C.E): Most important Hellenistic Jewish philosopher, based in Alexandria. Logos (the creative divine principle) presides over Being, and is an intermediary between God and his creation (like a second god; a type of intermediary like Christ eventually became). The presence of God’s essence is “sober intoxication”, presupposing emotionally altering divine indwelling hundreds of years before Islam.

Epictetus (55 C.E – 135 C.E): The only thing one owns exclusively – his will or purpose.

Marcus Aurelius (121 C.E – 180 C.E): Roman Emperor (Caesar Augustus) and Stoic philosopher. Meditations = discursive notes during warring and administration contemplating the seemingly unattainable goals of conduct while the world continues in brutality, triviality, and transient reality. “All hindrances to the performance of a good act can be changed into assistances to the performance of a good act…“.

Claudius Galen (129 – 201 CE): Roman doctor and Father of Psychology. If philosophy is the study of ideas, psychology is the study of how we act on which ideas we consider, and why we have and act on them (behaviour).

Galen thought that all things are a combination of earth, air, fire, and water, and the qualities of these elements can be found in four corresponding bodily fluids (“humors”) that affect the function of our body, as Hippocrates did, 500 years earlier. But Galen thought that humors also affect our moods (“temperaments”) of which there are four: Melancholic (depressed, poetic, artistic), Phlegmatic (quiet, rational, shy), Choleric (fiery, energetic, passionate), and Sanguine (cheerful, optimistic, confident). When our moods are imbalanced it meant that our fluids themselves are unbalanced. Thus, if a doctor restores balance in the fluids, our emotional and behavioural problems will be fixed.

Galen’s focus on body and emotion, which leads to certain behaviours makes him the first significant figure in what we consider the science of psychology or psychiatry; the first psychologist. Thus, after Galen, the study of moods eventually became endopsychic: that which is related to, or consists of, the contents of the mind, including the study of what we call phobias. Mild phobias (paraphobias) usually consist of simple aversions to things (like taking tests or cleaning the toilet), while actual phobias themselves are more severe, and often irrational. Such phobias include melophobia (the fear of music), aulophobia (fear of wind instruments), metrophobia (the fear of poetry), or even phobophobia, the fear of fear.

A particularly interesting phobia (shuk yang) is found in male members of ethnic Chinese communities in south and eastern Asia characterized by an sudden, intense fear that the penis is shrinking and retracting into the abdomen, which will result in death. Less common is the female variant: a fear of nipple or vulvic retraction. Sufferers often hold their genitals during the day and sleep with an inguinal bamboo clamp at night.

Sextus Empiricus (160 – c. 210 CE): Roman doctor and skeptic (“nothing can be known with certainty”). Empiricus practiced Pyrrhonism (pyrrhonic skepticism): nothing can be truly known, and we must also suspend judgment on that very idea; mild skepticism = begin with the idea that nothing is true or false). His work Outlines of Pyrrhonism, promotes the idea that Pyrrhonism is more of an open-ended way of living than a strict method of philosophy.


Introduction to Western Philosophy (1): Preview.


The ancient Greek poet Pindar (c. 522 – 443 BCE) states in one of his works (Pythian iii): Oh my soul, do not aspire to immortal life, but exhaust the limits of the possible”.  This quest to know and discover all that one can, to exhaust the limits of the possible, is an excellent description of the philosophical mindset, which has led to many scientific and creative advancements as well. Philosophers have looked at the world and sought to know what is really going on, inside and out.

But the formal study of ancient to modern Western (or Eastern) philosophy can be a long and challenging endeavor, with virtual hundreds of philosophers and ideas to mentally catalogue and contextualize. So as an aid to the study of philosophy, I have created a basic chronology of the major thinkers and an extremely brief, general summary of their contributions and ideas.

First one must know though that Philosophy (from Greek, meaning “love of wisdom”) can be thought of as the consideration of three main lines of thought down through human history: (1) Metaphysics – what is the nature of our existence, (2) Epistemology – what is the the nature of knowledge, and (3) Axiology – what is the nature of the values that we hold or aspire to. From Classical Greek mythology all the way to 21st century Slovenian philosopher Slavoj Žižek, what we call philosophy has these three rhetorical questions at its base.

Secondly, one must remember that philosophers have also sought to properly understand, define, and use words to their maximum effect in seeking truth (what the ancient Chinese philosopher Confucius called “the rectification of names“). Since words and ideas change over time, philosophers seek to understand how a word or idea was defined by Plato, for example, compared how that same word/idea is defined and used now after hundreds/thousands of years of history.  So to help you understand words and ideas in philosophy, I have put together the following four chronological posts on Western philosophy.

But first I want to include a glossary of terms that you may run across during the posts that may not be fully defined.


Act Utilitarianism: the measure of the value of an act is the amount by which it increases general utility and happiness. 

Aetiology: the assignment of causes, the chain of causes leading up to an event.

Aeviternity: Eternity defined as an infinite past/present/future totality in which events are contained in a matrix, like insects encased in amber.

Alienans: an adjective that functions to leave open the question as to whether or not it actually applies, e.g. alleged criminal, near victory, fake giraffe.

Apeiron: (Greek) the infinite, what is formless, the “flux of opposites” which needs peras (a principle of order) to be understood or intelligible.

Apophatic Theology: We can only say what God is not, never what he is.

Argumentum ad ignorantium: the fallacy that a proposition is true because it has not been shown to be false.

Argumentum ad baculum: the fallacy of supporting a conclusion by emphasizing dire consequences of not believing it.

Argumentum ad verecundiam: appealing to an authority out side of its legitimate area; trading on (illegitimate) reverence and respect, e.g. celebrity endorsements.

Aristotelian Catharsis: the purging/purifying (“cleansing”) of emotions such as pity or fear by feeling them in aesthetic situations, e.g. watching a horror movie.

Authoritarian Personality: rigid, conformist: submissive to authority while bullying inferiors. Attracted to regimes of command and submission, and impatient with subtlety of any kind.

Credo quia absurdum est: “Terullian’s Paradox”, the very impossibility of a proposition becomes a kind of motivation for believing in it: “I believe because it is absurd”. A common criticism of/occurrence in theology.

Critical Theory: (1) Politics: socio-cultural imperfections are defects of rationality to be compared with an ideal or ideals to which the progress of reason should move towards. (2) the criticism, interpretation, and historical analysis of social action as expressed in literature: the role of the critic, translation, communication, and the socio-historical processes that advanced or impeded such action.

Cosmological Argument: all natural things are dependent on something else for their existence, and the totality of all dependent beings must then depend on a non-dependent (necessarily existent) being, which is God.

Fallacy of The Accident: arguing from a general to specific case without considering qualifying factors: “if people shouldn’t park here, they shouldn’t park here to save someone from being robbed”.

(Converse) Fallacy of the Accident: fallacy of taking out a qualifying factor from an argument: “if is OK to kill in a war, then it is OK to kill at all times”.

Fallacy of The Ambiguous Middle: A flawed syllogism due to ambiguity in the middle term, e.g. all men are rakes, all rakes are useful in the garden, therefore all men are useful in the garden.

Fallacy of Many Questions (Law): implying guilt when a person cannot give straight yes/no answer to questions that by their very nature do not permit yes/no as options.

(The) Manifold: the unorganized flux presented to the senses but not actually experienced (Kant) since experience results from the mind structuring the manifold through concepts. The nature of unstructured manifold is unknowable (transcendental).

Meliorism: the idea that the world can be made better by human effort; a position between pessimism and optimism.


Accidence: inflections of words or changes in the forms of words to indicate grammatical functions: write, wrote, written, writing, etc.

Acoustic coding: remembering something by storing the sound of its verbal expression, rather than its meaning, e.g. Japanese singers remembering lyrics in a language they do not speak a single word of. 

Astrophobia: fear of being influenced by the stars.

Atelophobia: fear of incompleteness or imperfection.

Aulophobia: fear of wind instruments.

Caenophobia: fear of new ideas or novelty.

Chionophobia: fear of snow.

Clang association: an erroneous association made between words or phrases that sound similar rather than their explicit meaning, e.g. claustrophobia/close to photography.

Clitic: a linguistic term or device that functions as a word but is not one on its own, e.g. the “n’t” in doesn’t.

Cyprianophobia: fear of prostitutes.

Declarative knowledge: knowing that something is something (e.g. cats are mammals), as opposed to procedural knowledge: knowing how to do something (e.g. play the saxophone).

Dyscalculia: impairment in the ability to do arithmetic.

Ecclesiophobia: fear of Church and its traditions.

Ecological fallacy: what is statistically true for a group must be true for each individual, i.e. most kids eat strawberry ice cream so Jimmy must eat strawberry ice cream.

Endopsychic: that which is related to or consists of the contents of the mind.

Epistemophobia: fear of knowledge.

Graphophobia: fear of writing.

Kleptolagnia: the state of being sexually aroused by stealing or theft fantasies.

Melophobia: fear of music.

Metrophobia: fear of poetry

Operant Conditioning: conditioning in which the outcome depends upon an animal operating on its environment, e.g. pulling a lever to obtain food.

Pantophobia: fear of everything.

Parthenophobia: fear of virgins.

Philosophobia: fear of philosophers.

Phobophobia: fear of fear.

Procedural knowledge: knowing how to do something (e.g. play the saxophone), as opposed to declarative knowledge: knowing that something is something (e.g. cats are mammals),

Proctophobia: fear of the rectum.

Shuk yang: A culture bound syndrome in male members of ethnic Chinese communities in south and eastern Asia characterized by an sudden, intense fear that the penis is shrinking and retracting into the abdomen, which will result in death. Less common is the female variant in which a fear of nipple or vulva retraction occurs. Sufferers often hold their genitals during the day and sleep with a bamboo genital clamp at night.

Symmetrophobia: fear of symmetry.

Xenoglossophobia: fear of foreign languages.

(The) Zeigarnik Effect: the tendency to recall unfinished or incomplete tasks more easily than completed ones.


The Art of Band Leading


Duke Ellington Playing Piano


Being a solo artist who hires accompanying musicians (sidemen) requires a certain set of skills that maximize individual and collective benefit, working to ensure all involved get paid well and perform at their best. Thus it is important to have a certain set of skills, or develop certain qualities to be a successful leader on and off the bandstand. And though not everyone wants to actually lead a band, having these skills and qualities also ensures that you will be a successful sideman: the first choice of bandleaders themselves.

What also makes these skills and qualities extra important is that they give us the skills and mindset necessary to succeed in other areas of our life. Being able to apply them to our financial management skills, lifestyle, major purchase decisions (house, car, etc.), relationships, and so on builds a strong base for our musical careers, making sure our lives don’t interfere with or adversely effect our ability and opportunities to perform.

The first thing we must do is develop our talent in a way that maximizes our creative and technical abilities. Write the most interesting music you can, making it challenging, creative, logical, flowing, a mix of easy and challenging keys, and so on. Sometimes less is more, and simplicity is the key. Sometimes the music should push the musicians to play at their best technical level. A great way to maximize our own playing potential is always practice (concentrate) like you are in front of an audience. The way to do this is to imagine a crowd is watching you. What this does is ensure you will practice the piece at a manageable speed, not make careless mistakes and just brush them off, prepare your mind/body for the “joyful stress” of live playing, and develop superior powers of concentration.

Next we must take this kind of focus and consistency from practicing and apply it to band leading. We now must: choose the set list, make sure all arrangements are in the right key and contain no transcription or transposition mistakes, send out the set list and charts to members as soon as possible (sometimes even via e-mail months in advance), schedule rehearsals, or at least create an evening of music one can prepare for sufficiently if there is no time for any rehearsals, and the band will meet at the sound check for the first time, which happens a lot in jazz combo gigs.

This also highlights another very important quality a bandleader must have in order to be successful, as well as the kind of leader sidemen prefer to play with. As your career as jazz quartet leader for example often relies on finding a new set of sidemen for each gig, you want to maximize your chances of getting the best players by creating such a positive experience for your band, the word will get out and people will want to be onstage with you. I have seen way too many “bandleaders” scuttle their careers by doing the opposite; so developing a certain kind of personal character in band leading is essential. This means you should always surround yourself with sidemen who are better musicians than you are, and no matter how many awards or praise you get as a musician, always consider your sidemen as the real key to your success. Developing or cultivating true humility is hard to do, but it is essential as a bandleader, and can be accomplished when you know that the other three people in your quartet will make you play better; bring out your best. One great way to express this is to be open to suggestion, asking the group if there is something they think might help your music reach the audience more powerfully, etc. This is your chance to learn, and see your music from an “outside” perspective, and I’ll guarantee you will benefit from it much more often than not.

The positive flip side to this open-mindedness is leadership: being able to take suggestion and also have the confidence to reject changes without being dictatorial about it. It is your band, and you have the final say in what goes on. And if the sidemen don’t like it, make very sure that you are not being unreasonable. Beyond that, all bandleaders will face resistance of some sort no matter how reasonable you are, so do not be surprised by it. It will happen, and how you manage it will demonstrate to your sidemen that at least you listened to them. Showing them respect also does not mean pampering them. Hold your self to a higher standard than others, but never forget to (politely) hold your sidemen to the standards they should hold if they claim they are professionals. A great way to do this is to make sure the group understands in advance before agreeing to play with you that you run your band a certain way. If they don’t like it then you are giving them a fair chance to say no to working with you, as it should be.

It is also not a crime for a bandleader to be bold, to step up to the plate and not bend to public tastes and opinions, IF one’s creative vision conflicts with them. One should never assume that if one’s music is not popular, or a genre that is considered experimental/avant-garde, that the public is “at fault” if it is not received in a preferable way. Ignorant audiences do exist, but more often than not, resistance to our music should be considered an opportunity to either improve what we do or continue to make it as we see fit. But the audience is never “to blame” for your career. Our only goal as artists is to make our stuff, put it out there, and hope it finds the kind of people who like such a thing, no matter how many or how few they are. If “society” is to blame for 100% of our career, then we are deluded… not victims. Even artists like Hugh Masekela and Miriam Makeba found a way to reach their audiences after being treated horribly by the apartheid government of their native country South Africa.Their example should embolden us to be true to our art, no matter what the cost. Clarinetist Ivo Papasov himself risked imprisonment and/or being murdered by the government for merely making his own music: a way of resisting the Bulgarian Socialist enforced nationalization of ethnic minorities. Being disliked for the right reasons is important, if it happens at all. 

We must take responsibility for our part, especially when it is our fault. If you have a free jazz trio and you get yourself booked as an opening act for a death metal band, you deserve every swear word launched at you by the audience for not being smart enough to know you are probably not going to be liked very much that night. But the flip side is that if you think your band plays a kind of free jazz that a heavy metal audience might be surprised to find that they actually like, then have the courage to book the gig and accept the results. There is a difference between genius and garbage, and we as artists must concede that we are potentially capable of both, no matter how great we think we are. But if we know the difference, then we can cement our reputation as a strong leader by making a stand… at the right time, for the right reasons. A good band leader will be disliked by some people and liked by others. So make sure we earn our resistance and praise the right way, for being true to our art and damn good at it as well. Even if we go down in flames, we can still earn respect for having the courage to fight to the very end.

(Note: it is important to also remember that, as psychologist Robert Zajonc proved, Novelty is most often associated with uncertainty and conflict, emotional states that produce negative affect. So we must remember that even if we make audiences familiar with our music, some will grow fond of what we do, but other will remain resistant to it because it remains negatively affective often for reasons beyond our control: memory, cultural background, aesthetic taste, etc.

For example, we learn things through active experience, participating in education (teachers ask questions, students try and answer them). As we participate we apply our reasoning/values and construct meaning in our minds (how we “process” information). The next step in “knowing” is revisiting that information as new data is introduced to us, revisiting and reconstructing what we learnt previously. We do this in many areas of “knowing” and then connect our knowledge, ideas, and beliefs about art to religion, religion to politics, politics to philosophy, etc. Then when our beliefs are undermined or challenged by evidence to the contrary, we experience “cognitive dissonance”, and can either change our beliefs… or find a way to make the new evidence consistent with our beliefs, i.e. refuse to believe the new evidence, reinterpret certain scriptures as figurative rather than literal, etc. This also occurs in aesthetic taste, and all artists are critiqued and/or rejected by at least a few people because of this phenomenon). 

This means you must also be resilient. Not only will you have to lead a band when disputes arise, but face off against critics, certain audiences, club owners, sound technicians, booking agents, airport ticket counter clerks, customs officials, hotel managers, and various other people in charge of what is not under your control. AND you will often have to face off against these people while pressed for time, sick, jet-lagged, hungry, and/or in your second or third language… often all of them simultaneously if you are performing oversees. You will be tested by overseas performing, expect it and prepare for all things going wrong all at once so you are ready for anything and everything. The great bandleaders inevitably are coolheaded, and hold themselves to a higher standard than others. Thus, if you effectively deal with resistance, you can make the lives of those around you better, and gain great respect for being willing to shoulder your responsibilities without complaining about it. You’re the leader. You don’t get to whine or cry!

This means you must come to embrace failure and rejection, completely and openly. 1000 rejections = 1000 opportunities to develop thicker skin and greater wisdom. We all make mistakes, but once we reduce these mistakes to a minimum, we must accept and deal with the mistakes and lack of wisdom by others. Every leader is different, but I have noticed that the great ones, deep down in their souls, love the difficulties of leading. It is “fun” to them on an existential level. They relish creative conflict, and aren’t afraid to lose a few battles to win the greater war of their career. In this sense leading is fun, and if you don’t find it fun, then don’t be a bandleader. It is hard and stressful, and not for the faint of heart, especially in the 21st century. There is no shame in having other priorities in your life. But if you are a natural born bandleader, then you must do it. They say “the north wind made the Vikings”, because they had so much to overcome and so much cold weather, freezing water, and bone chilling wind to contend with it made them super strong and ferocious. Relish the vicious “north winds of band leading”, they are the only way to the top.

The next thing then to consider is what happens on the bandstand, especially your banter. Some people are good at just going with the flow and talking between songs. Others are better at just introducing each tune and keeping the banter to a minimum. I even know some people who type out their banter before hand so they always have something clever or interesting to say between songs if they need it. Whichever you prefer, it is wise to remember this quote from Voltaire: “the secret to being boring is to reveal everything”. Many of my favorite bands and artist say next to nothing, only speaking to the audience for the first time five songs into a performance. What this does, if done correctly, creates interest in what you might say next, if you are going to say anything at all in the next 30 minutes or more. This style is not for everyone, but it is a good example of how certain personalities can use this technique to great advantage. So your banter should be effective by being suited to your personality, while also considering how the audience might react to it. As time goes by you will find the right approach for your personality, and then if some audiences not respond to it as favorably as others, at least you know that you being true to yourself and have done the best you can.

Finally, the summation of all these skills or ideas is you should be a bandleader at all times. It is not something you shut off and turn on. It makes (or at least can make) you a certain kind of person; a person who makes things around them better by being a positive, responsible, thoughtful, in control of themselves, courageous and strong in the face of doubt and opposition. Band leader Duke Ellington would greet late night visitors to his hotel room wearing a suit and tie, with a flower in his lapel, even if he was woken up at 2 am; he held himself to this almost unbelievable sartorial standard in the same way he approached writing music and leading his band. Duke sent a clear message to the world; he was the gold standard for bandleaders because he practiced what he preached.

The art of leading a band is something that one learns over a long time, but keeping these few basic ideas in mind you will be set to maximize your success at any stage in your career.


BB King: Live At The Regal!


ビー・ビー・キング: リブアットザーリーガル

BB King: Live At The Regal

1965 (Recorded Nov. 21, 1964 at the Regal Theater (Chicago)
ABC-Paramount ABCS-509 LP: MCAD-11646 CD


Every Day I Have The Blues (2:38)
Sweet Little Angel (4:12)
It’s My Own Fault (3:29)
How Blue Can You Get? (3:44)
Please Love Me (3:01)
You Upset Me Baby (2:22)
Worry Worry (6:24)
Woke Up This Mornin’ (1:45)
You Done Lost Your Good Thing Now (4:16)
Help The Poor (2:58)

BB King: guitar, vocals
Bobby Forte, John Board: tenor saxophone
Duke Jethro: piano
Leo Lauchie: bass
Sonny Freeman: drums

Like my previous reviews of Coleman Hawkins (The Hawk Relaxes) and the Oscar Peterson Trio (Night Train), I want to introduce you all to albums that are not only brilliant, but ones that many of you may not have heard before, considering the diversity in age, nationality, and musical tastes amongst my readership (which I deeply appreciate, thank you!). So if you are not familiar with classic albums in the genre of blues music, then you are in for a treat, as Live At The Regal by B.B. King is a treasure for long time fans and newcomers alike.

Riley King, dubbed “Blues Boy” as a young musician, eventually came to be known to the world as blues vocalist/guitarist B.B. King, an iconic American blues master. Known for his minimalistic solos and ebullient, gospel tinged shout-style singing, King (1925 – 2015) was almost inarguably the most uplifting musician one could listen to or hear live. One could never walk away from King’s music depressed, as his personality, music, and overall message was always the cure for whatever woes you have previously, and you always feel as if things are (or will be better) after even a single song. Thus, you could call King a kind of soul doctor, and the prescription was always amazing blues music.

I will never forget the first time I heard B.B. My brother bought me a copy of one of his compilation collections (on tape, this was the late 80s after all). I put it in the car stereo, pressed play, and from that first song on, that tape was my driving music until the tape wore out and I bought copy after copy from that point on. There was something almost mystical about The Thrill Is Gone or Let The Good Times Roll. Like the music of RUSH between the years 1978 – 1987, or songs like The Working Hour and Standing On The Corner of the Third World by Tears For Fears, B.B.’s songs seemed to be almost divinely designed for my spiritual and musical education, and Live At The Regal always felt like it was designed as a reward for choosing the blues in the first place.

The first real noteworthy aspect of the album is the crowd, reacting to the entire show like one would expect of an act like the Beatles or the Rolling Stones, screaming and shouting. But in this case, lie all the classic blues performances, the crowd’s reaction is participatory, shouting reactions and responses to B.B.’s lyrics, something which has been lost in modern music which is based on passive spectacle: one sits back and is “blown away” by lights and dancing and giant video screens typical of stadium performances. Nothing wrong with this of course, but the interactive, engaged club/theater blues experience specialized in this “communal concertizing”, and it is almost strange in 2017 to hear a 1965 crowd “conversing” with B.B. and his band.

But this is one of the enduring charms of Live At The Regal. Like traditional Kabuki audiences calling out the names of past (legendary) actors as glowing comparisons to the actors they are witnessing in the moment, calling out words and phrases of exultation at moments of musical/emotional excellence in traditional Arabian musical performances, or the cries of “Hao!” (Man: “Good!” “Yes!”) during particularly excellent Peking Opera performances, the crowd at the Regal Theater wasted no opportunity to let B.B. and his band know they were really doing things right that evening. And as time and the music has proven, they were not wrong in their assessment. It is considered by many (myself included) to be the one of the greatest blues albums, and ranks highly on any serious list of the greatest albums of all time, even being included for permanent preservation in the National Recording Registry in the USA’s Library of Congress.

Though the entire performance is just over 30 minutes (including announcements and between-song banter), Live At The Regal is worth every penny, and a stellar example of how a performance of any length should be lead by any band or bandleader. Right from the start, B.B. rips into a sweet toned solo before smoothly belting out Every Day I Have The Blues, as saxophonists Bobby Forte and John Board play rollicking horn lines in the background. Though King opens the show in great form, what really sets the flavour and feeling of the show is drummer Sonny Freeman’s beat (a shuffle with a syncopated 2/4 feeling instead of the usual triplet feeling common to such beats). Another gem is the classic How Blue Can You Get? (a version of which was partially sampled by electronic artists Primitive Radio Gods for their hit Standing Outside A Broken Phone Booth With Money In My Hand). Once again, King sings with his wonderful signature sweetness mixed with brash shouting, while Freeman lays down a swinging ballad beat, switching from hi hat to ride cymbals to add a slight jazz flavor to the proceedings, keeping a great swinging feel going as B.B. moves to the energetic backbeat shuffle Please Love Me.

From start to finish Live At The Regal is like a hot bath before a great meal/evening with your lover. It is just really really really damn great!


The Oscar Peterson Trio: “Night Train”.

opt night train

オスカー・ピータソン: ナイトトレ

The Oscar Peterson Trio: Night Train

1963: Verve LP V6-8538, CD 314 521 440-2 (Remaster)


Happy-Go-Lucky Local (aka Night Train) (4:50)
C-Jam Blues (3:23)
Georgia On My Mind (3:44)
Bag’s Groove (5:40)
Moten Swing (2:52)
Easy Does It (2:43)
Honeydripper (2:22)
Things Ain’t What They Used To Be (4:36)
I Got It Bad (And That Ain’t Good) (5:06)
Band Call (3:53)
Hymn To Freedom (5:33)

Oscar Peterson: piano
Ray Brown: bass
Ed Thigpen: drums

Having previously reviewed The Hawk Relaxes by Coleman Hawkins, I thought I would introduce to my readers another jazz album that they may not be aware of that appeared during the great Jazz Upheaval that was occurring in the early 1960s with artist like pianist Cecil Taylor and Ornette Coleman (my saxophone teacher in New York). Like Hawkins, pianist Oscar Peterson came from an earlier generation of musicians and similarly chose to be a flag bearer for the small ensemble swing music he helped create and define. So it is yet another marvel to see Peterson’s LP Night Train (recorded in late 1962; released in 1963) arrive in the public in the same era as such works as Coleman landmarks The Shape of Jazz To Come (1959) and Free Jazz (1961), John Coltrane’s ferociously gorgeous playing on his album Africa/Brass (1961) or Impressions (1963), or alto saxophonist Eric Dolphy quirky Out To Lunch! (1964).

Like The Hawk Relaxes, or Miles Davis’ Kind Of Blue, this Peterson CD should be a staple in anyone/everyone’s collection: LP, CD, iTunes, or otherwise. It is (deceptively) simple, straight ahead piano jazz that is very uplifting and entertaining. And although this is an Oscar Peterson project, the world class accompaniment of bassist Ray Brown and drummer Ed Thigpen make this particular recording the masterpiece that it is, Peterson’s virtuosity aside. To be able to properly adjust to and accompany Peterson’s playing was a skill very few had, and thus to have been a Peterson sideman is to have achieved a very rare and high honor in jazz music.

(It just so happens that a causal friend of mine, Lorne Lofsky, was a long time Peterson accompanist, as well as a sideman for Chet Baker, Dizzy Gillespie, and others. Even when sitting around fiddling with his guitar during a conversation, I have heard Lorne play things it would take a seasoned pro’s entire concentration and maximum effort to play… he is a total and utter master, so it is no surprise Oscar would have asked him to play in both his quartet and quintet. It also just so happens Lorne is the nicest guy you will ever meet, as serious as his personality is and how intense his dedication to jazz). 

Thus, it is no surprise Thigpen and Brown play with the exact right amount of restraint and/or boldness at any given moment (especially restraint), considering this session was purposely designed to feature short, radio-friendly jazz cuts which required a very strict balancing act between improvisation and the overall arrangements).

The real treasures on this album though are the two-note melody C-Jam Blues and a previously unreleased, unfinished version of Charlie Parker’s Now’s The Time (on the re-mastered CD). C-Jam Blues, a simple Duke Ellington riff blues, is a prime showcase for what jazz does best: take musical material and spin it into swinging magic. What is remarkable as always is how Oscar Peterson’s time feel harkens back to before “jazz” to New Orleans social music, which did not “swing” but rather had a particular bounce to it. This ebullient bounce, which became the basis for the swing beat (ergo swing feeling). Capturing the flow and bounce of this pre-jazz (e.g. trumpeter King Oliver’s recordings from 1923), Peterson brings this sensibility into jazz swing feel, and thus his playing swings furiously hard, never lacking the roots that those who study jazz only after the late 30s have not established. Peterson, never unleashing his full pianist force, thus unfurls a sweet, gleeful two-minute solo that would serve any young pianist well as a textbook on improvisation.

Having played with iconic saxophonist Charlie Parker when he was still a teen, Peterson turns the now classic jazz blues Now’s The Time into yet another feature of not only his virtuosity and taste, but his personality as a bandleader, stopping the song right before finishing and critiquing the song with the producer (it was “too much of a change” from the rest of the album), thus not including it on the original LP. But what exists on the CD is 9/10ths of one of the best versions of Now’s The Time you will ever hear.

Peterson shows off his sweet side with Band Call, a two-chord pattern Duke Ellington used to use to “call” his band back to the bandstand after an intermission (which Peterson turns into a 12 bar blues like most other songs on the LP). Prominent in Peterson’s solo is how extremely adept he is at developing a simple musical idea into a series of very musical variations and improvisations, displaying the musical thinking of a true master.