A few days ago we received a missive from Brick Wahl telling us that he had ended his association with the L.A. Weekly. “Brick’s Picks has left the building” was the way he put it. A bit later we discovered that his continuing problems – “micro-editing,” “rewriting” – with a new editor had driven him to end the tenure of his widely read “Brick’s Picks” column.
“I walked,” he said. But it’s hard to understand how the Weekly could have allowed Brick’s departure to take place. No one has done a better job of covering the Southland jazz community. His intelligence, skill, musical insights and whimsical humor were immensely valuable – if, obviously, underappreciated– assets to the Weekly. And it’s their loss.
Here at iRoM, however, we’re happy to welcome Brick’s presence and his far-reaching talents on our site – and often. Here’s the first installment of what we hope will be many Brick Wahl bylines at iRoM.
By Brick Wahl
Gil Bernal died last week. We had no idea till we saw Johnny Whiteside’s beautiful obituary in the Weekly. It shook us a bit, reading that. You see, Gil Bernal had played some of the most gorgeous tenor sax we had ever heard, played it right in front of us. We froze, listening. That tone, that feel, that sound…it seemed to go all the way back to Prez. It devastated us.
You just don’t hear that sound anymore. You didn’t learn to play like that in college, or from a teacher, or anywhere nice and clean and respectable. No, it was an old school tone, learned on endless nights of endless gigs, or on the tour bus, at cutting sessions till dawn. Jazz wasn’t academic then, wasn’t art and certainly wasn’t America’s Classical Music. It was way too real for that. This was inside stuff, all smoke and booze and sweat and pain and absolute joy. God and the devil together. This was jazz.
So we said something like that in print. We got a call. It was Gil. He tells us that we had gotten it exactly, that for the first time someone had gotten down in words what he was trying to do. It was like a sucker punch. Here we hated writing about jazz, dancing about architecture, wishing we had never started this stupid gig in the first place, and a man who’d played the most moving thing we had heard in forever thanks us for getting it.
This fucking music, it gets in your bones playing it, listening to it, even writing about it. It haunts you, it addicts you, it ruins you. Gil’s sound broke our hearts, and his passing does it again. Oh God we love this jazz music.