Daily Archives: January 19, 2009

LOUIS AND “THAT MODERN MALICE”

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Sam Parkins, wily explorer of the reeds, is also a phenomenal writer.  Here’s a snippet from his memoirs about Louis’s approach to the harmonic “modernism” that so shaped the jazz of the times:

I heard Louis Armstrong the music critic at that dance in Lexington KY, spring 1945.  A very clear statement about his loathing for modern music, coming at him like a tornado.  Music lesson:   For preceding centuries, a song or a complete chorus ended on what’s called the “tonic” – the home key, and the chord that preceded it was called the “dominant”, 4 notes below. Here comes modern, and by 1944 the “dominant” was often replaced by a somewhat purple 7th chord a half-step above the “tonic”.  Let’s put our mythical tune in the key of F major; at least 20% of the standard repertoire is in F.  Eddie Condon called F “the key of love”.  Means the traditional “dominant” chord is C, usually with a 7th.  So I’m grooving away with Louis blowing his heart out over the band, and come to an ending, where his up-to-date arranger has modernized things with a G-flat 7th before the “tonic” F.  Louis slashes an angry C triad right across it, making him play at least two “wrong” notes, and Louis was incapable of playing wrong notes.  “That for your godamned modernism!”.


GOODBYE, LESLIE

Freud, among others, points out that we all need love and work in equal measure to make our lives fulfilling.  

Fortunate are the people who can work with all  with all their hearts at something they love and then share the work, the love, and the glorious results with us.  We all benefit beyond measure — not just because of  the results, but because of the inspiring examples these people offer us: models of how life should be lived. 

Leslie Johnson, who edited and published The Mississippi Rag for thirty-five years, was  just such a person.   

I’ve written about Leslie several times in this blog — most recently, LESLIE JOHNSON, JAZZ HERO (January 15), and yesterday I posted the news of her death.  

 Here is the email I received last night from her family:   

It breaks my heart to write this letter and I know how hard it will be for you to read it. Leslie passed away Saturday afternoon, January 17, 2009.
 
Leslie had five goals going into the end of 2008; completing 35 years of publishing the RAG with the December 2008 issue, enjoying Christmas with her family, sending a personal letter to the writers, writing a final letter to post on the website and sending the monthly email notification. Once all of the goals were completed to her satisfaction, she was able to let go of everything tying her down. Although we knew this day was coming, we were unprepared for how quickly it actually happened. Fortunately, the entire family was able to be there and the hospice staff made sure her time there was beautiful, peaceful and pain-free. For this we will be eternally grateful.
 
With warm regards,
Willard,
children Tony & Renee,
sisters Jody & Debbie
 
 Visitation: Wednesday, January 21st, 5-8 p.m., Washburn-McReavy Funeral Chapel, 5000 W. 50th St., Edina, MN 55436
Funeral Mass: Thursday, January 22nd, Noon, St. Richard’s Catholic Church, 76th St. and Penn Ave. S., Richfield, MN