Daily Archives: November 10, 2009

JAZZ MERITOCRACY. GONE?

No, it’s not a Jimmie Lunceford original.  But I just read a newspaper profile by Rachel Swan devoted to the drummer Donald Bailey (whose work I know from recordings he made with Jimmie Rowles) where he spoke about being a young player in Philadelphia.  These words leaped out at me (italics mine):

Bailey started playing drums as a preteen by practicing along with his brother’s records. His timing couldn’t have been better: Be-bop had become the avant-garde, and Philly was a veritable hotbed of it. John Coltrane, Bud Powell, Lee Morgan, Stanley Turrentine, Buster Williams, Jimmy Smith, Dizzy Gillespie, and Charlie Parker all lived in Philly at some point in their careers — and that’s only a partial list. Unknowns like Bailey would hobnob with these elder statesmen at places like the Blue Note Club and get whatever they could get. At that time, the scene was more of a meritocracy, said Bailey. “Nowadays, anybody can get up on the bandstand and play. We couldn’t do that when I was coming up,” the drummer said. “You just couldn’t do it. You would either be too embarrassed or they would embarrass you. They would take you by your pants and throw you out the door.”

Consider that, dear readers.  The full piece can be found here:

http://www.eastbayexpress.com/music/an_old_blueprint_made_new/Content?oid=1228901

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BUNNY, LOUIS, WILLIS

Two items from eBay form a lovely combination. 

The first is a Bunny Berigan autograph.  Too bad that the original owner snipped out the signature and glued it to the page, but who knew about acid-free paper and archival storage then?  Probably (s)he just waggled an autograph book open to a blank page in front of Berigan, who signed his name in the neat handwriting characteristic of the time.  

Bunny

Bunny, not surprisingly, idolized Louis Armstrong — and said in an interview that all a trumpeter on the road needed was a toothbrush and a picture of Louis.  For his part, Louis said, “Bunny can’t do no wrong in music.”  They knew.    

Then there’s the photograph below — the Voice of America jazz commentator Willis Conover (who made jazz accessible behind the Iron Curtain) seated with Louis himself, sometime in the late Fifties. 

Willis Louis

FLASHES of BIX / “FLASHES” for BIX

Many YouTube videos of jazz performances are exuberant hot music, nearly violent in their emotional effect. 

This tribute to Bix Beiderbecke’s early life, created by Mook Ryan, is something different.  It beautifully melds photographs of Bix’s early life with his composition FLASHES played by Chris Hopkins and Bernd Lhotzky.  And Mook’s video does what great art, deeply understood, should do.  Hearing the music and seeing the panorama, we celebrate Bix and mourn him.  Beautiful, triumphant, evocative, and sad.