Paging through the April 7, 2008 issue of The New Yorker, I was delighted to find “Hail To The Chief,” a brief essay by Colin Fleming commenting approvingly on the most recent Mosaic Records release — four CDs devoted to the 1936-40 recordings Lester Young did with the Count Basie Orchestra and small groups. To find Lester noted in this magazine was a surprise, for The New Yorker, since Whitney Balliett died, has acted as if jazz no longer existed.
But then I came upon this sentence:
A handful of previously unissued takes were culled from a vault treasure hunt, foremost among them a treatment of “I Left My Baby,” a gutbucket blues shorn of any hokum by a Young riff that seems to inhabit its own private atmosphere.
Fleming has good taste in admiring Lester (“Pres” or “Prez,” not “Chief,” but we shouldn’t split hairs) but I wonder if he knows what the words he uses so cavalierly actually mean. “Gutbucket” and “hokum”? Indeed. As homework, perhaps he should be asked to listen to Louis Armstrong’s Hot Five record of “Gut Bucket Blues” and the complete output of the Hokum Boys. Maybe then he will temper his verbal flourishes with some accuracy?