Daily Archives: January 5, 2010

WE’LL BE THERE!

Where? 

At the twentieth — and last — Whitley Bay International Jazz Festival.  The theme this year — appropriately — is FROM AFRICA TO THE WORLD, and the bands come from all across the globe. 

It’s taking place this year (that’s 2010) 9-11 July, Friday-Sunday, with a pre-festival concert at the beautiful Sage Gateshead called MIDNIGHT IN MAYFAIR — a tribute by Keith Nichols to the British dance and jazz bands of the Thirties (with Rico Tomasso in that band)!  Once the festival begins, it will be non-stop jazz.  With these bands and players, how could it be otherwise?

La Retaguardia Jazz Band (Chile)

New Orleans Rascals (Japan)

Andy Schumm’s Bixologists (USA)

Les Rois du Fox-Trot (France)

Bohém Ragime Orchestra (Hungary)

Michael McQuaid’s Late Hour Boys (Australia)

Hot Antic Jazz Band (France)

Keith Nichols’ Blue Devils (UK)

Hot Jazz Trio (Sweden)

Thomas Winteler’s Jazz Serenaders (Switzerland)

Cecile McLorin Salvant (France) with Jean-Francois Bonnel’s Swing Septet

Chalumeau Serenaders (Germany/Sweden/UK)

Jeff Barnhart’s Ivory & Gold (USA)

Martin Litton’s Red Hot Peppers

Bent Persson’s New York Orchestra (Red Allen Tribute)

Fidgety Fingers with Langham, Wheatley and Stephen

Norman Field’s Novelty Recording Orchestra

Barrelhouse & Boogie/ Kings of Harlem Stride/Ragtime Piano Summit

Spats & His Rhythm Boys

New Century Ragtime Orchestra

West Jesmond Rhythm Kings

Keith Stephen’s Hot Club Trio with Caroline (Irwin)

Flaming Reeds

Don’t be the last one on your block!

Visit http://www.whitleybayjazzfest.org/home.htm for all sorts of useful details — pictures of the musicians, hotel information, and (of course) ticket prices.

I hear tell that Bob Cox, John Whithorn, Elin and Ron Smith will be there — as well as the Beloved and your humble correspondent.

EMPTY THOSE CLOSETS AND GET RICH!

A scan of eBay’s “Entertainment Memorabilia” section last night shows that treasures once held in secret are now up for sale — did the flagging economy force jazz conoisseurs (or their heirs) to put their cherished artifacts in the market?

Here’s a young Pee Wee Erwin.  Who was lucky Diane?

http://cgi.ebay.com/PEE-WEE-ERWIN-Trumpet-Original-Jazz-Photo-SIGNED-1940_W0QQitemZ220528589398QQcmdZViewItemQQptZLH_DefaultDomain_0?hash=item3358873a56

And another famous trumpet player, in a checked shirt, signing with his characteristic green pen:

Was Maynard’s last name Ferguson?  Or perhaps Krebs? 

http://cgi.ebay.com/Louis-Armstrong-Signed-8×10-Photo-Jazz-Fine_W0QQitemZ360219545316QQcmdZViewItemQQptZLH_DefaultDomain_0?hash=item53dec20ee4

And this fellow — not precisely a jazz musician but someone jazz musicians and listeners hold dear:

http://cgi.ebay.com/George-Gershwin-Signed-8×10-Photo-1929-Composer-Jazz_W0QQitemZ330389790952QQcmdZViewItemQQptZLH_DefaultDomain_0?hash=item4cecc420e8

And the woman who signed the pink page certainly knew how to sing Gershwin:

http://cgi.ebay.com/7-Signed-Jazz-Musicians-Carter-Butterfield-Gillespie_W0QQitemZ360221170785QQcmdZViewItemQQptZLH_DefaultDomain_0?hash=item53dedadc61

In the presence of all these riches, who needs groceries?

P.S.  It’s obvious, though, that the sellers often don’t have the faintest idea of what they are putting up for sale: in the set of autographs above, one is identified as “Berry Carter,” and another seller is offering a fine photograph of Louis — identified as “Count Bassie.”

COME OUT FROM BEHIND THOSE WORDS!

I’m troubled by the code words that jazz listeners use to describe the varieties of music they prefer. 

Some who believe that jazz only reached fruition when Charlie Parker (or John Coltrane or Ornette Coleman) burst forth, say in print that they prefer jazz that is “forward-looking,” “adventurous,” “innovative.”  Others who think jazz reached the perfection of form sometime before 1945 or 1960 or 2000 and has been in decline ever since, then your music of choice is “authentic,” “the real thing,” “pure,” “uncorrupted.”  Of course, “modern,” “contemporary,” “timeless” get a workout as well.   “Adventurous,” too. 

Veiled in code words, these ideological positions seek to validate a false premise: that Art progresses or declines.  Did Louis “improve” on King Oliver?  Did Clifford Brown “improve” on Roy Eldridge?  Was “Swing” more innovative than “New Orleans” or “Chicago”; did “Bebop” sweep all that come before it away, only to be rumped by “Hard Bop” and “Free Jazz”? 

Seriously, it makes jazz seem like a parade of the years: if you thought 1944 was great, wait till you hear 1945 — or one box of detergent replacing the last one because the NEW box is IMPROVED (and orange with blue stripes, too).

We all have very particular — sometimes idiosyncratic — preferences in our music as well as in everything else. 

But when those preferences are expressed as statements of critical truth, they may do the music a disservice.  I prefer Ellington’s analogy of the diner in a restaurant who likes his fish cooked the way Pierre does it.  So if your definition of the ideal way to play the alto saxophone is Hilton Jefferson or Benny Carter or Phil Woods, say so.  Those who see jazz as a progress year by year, with each new stylistic change an inevitable improvement on the old-fashioned music of the dusty past are missing out on many hot choruses, now and on record.  And the listeners who are so committed to banjo-and-tuba rhythm sections and find anything else oppressively “modern” may deprive themselves of the joy of Andy Brown, Neil Miner, and Jeff Hamilton. 

So let us abandon the ideological structures for an hour or a day.  Say, rather, “I like the way _________ sings, the way ________ plays trumpet,” rather than suggesting that either of these players has somehow made all others superfluous.  “Better” and “greater” might well be dispensable.  Let us be open about our admittedly subjective likes and dislikes (I have boxes of them to share) — to be cherished as personal expressions, but not made into statements of value. 

And perhaps it’s time for listeners and critics, too, to go back to the Blindfold Test — or what CADENCE calls “Flying Blind.”  Let us not be swayed by the famous name (or the absolutely unknown name) on the CD: what does the music sound like? 

A few unsolicited ruminations to begin 2010 . . . .