Monthly Archives: July 2010

RED NORVO’S SPOTLIGHT BAND on FILM

The distinguished jazz film scholar Mark Cantor offers another cinematic mystery:

“In Back Beats and Rim Shots, Warren Vache and Johnny Blowers discuss a band put together by Red Norvo, under the sponsorship of Coca Cola, for an overseas tour during World War II.  The tour never happened, but before the band broke up a film  — called THE VICTORY PARADE OF SPOTLIGHT BANDS — was made of (in Johnny’s words) “the show.”  At least one performance from this film is known to me, and I have pulled a small set of pictures of the band from this film.  Coverage is not great, and the guys are somewhat disguised by the costume hats they are wearing.  I do see Eddie Condon on rhythm guitar, and Flip Phillips is one of the saxophonists. From what Johnny said, both in an interview and in his book, Dale Pearce and Dick Taylor should be in the brass section, but you don’t get close enough to really see most of these players clearly. There are five reeds in the band, and I am almost certain that Flip Phillips is to the far right.  Hymie Schertzer and Aaron Sachs are supposedly in the section, but I am not sure where.  The rhythm section is quite possibly Ralph Burns, Eddie Condon (for certain), probably Clyde Lombardi and Johnny Blowers (again, a certainty).

Please let me know what your readers think.”

The hats, oh, those hats.  Eddie Condon looks as if he is beginning a long prison term.  

I would love to hear the soundtrack.  

I’d also like to know whatever possessed the film director to dress everyone up — although it is indeed possible that they wore period clothing as part of their “show.”

A postscript.  Eddie Condon loathed big bands and was not shy about saying so.  Phyllis Smith Condon, his wife, was a copywriter for the D’Arcy agency — and she was in charge of the Coca-Cola account.  During the war, she, Eddie, and Ernie Anderson tried to market jazz to the servicemen and women under the beverage’s sponsorship — one project that never quite materialized resulted in a late-1942 recoding session for Condonites and famous friends.  But Eddie still looks miserable under his hat.

SIDNEY’S SECRET

I was chatting with the wonderful drummer Josh Duffee at the Whitley Bay International Jazz Festival while we were in the pub.  Because he was waiting for his dessert, the talk turned to dinner, to cuisine, to matters dear to both of us. 

Then Josh gave me the great gift of an anecdote I’d never heard before.

“Louie Bellson told me that Big Sid always carried a bottle of catsup in his back pocket.  Put it on everything, Louie said.”

(The image comes from http://oldadvertising.blogspot.com/2010/06/snider-catsup-1915_19.html).

I have continued to speculate about this revelation.  The simplest conclusion I can draw is that Sidney liked the taste of catsup.  But perhaps it was because the food he often encountered on the road was of such variable quality that it often needed something to enhance its taste or perhaps to mask it altogether.  I will be delighted to consider other possibilities as well.

And perhaps we now have to amend Sidney’s famous declaration to read, “I can swing seventeen men with one wire brush, a telephone book, and a bottle of catsup.”

“H” MARKS THE SPOT?

There’s a proliferation of rare jazz autographs for sale on US eBay — oddly enough, most of them of artists whose names begin with the letter H.  Does this suggest some larger arrangement in the stars, or is “mrbebop” (the source of most of these gems) simply working through his collection in some logical alphabetical order? 

The one that will perhaps attract the most attention (and has the most substantial price tag) is Billie’s:

Here’s Bob Haggart’s autograph on a late-Thirties photograph of him with Ray Bauduc:

And the most exalted Edmond Hall:

A rarity — trombonist Bill Harris:

Finally, the long-lived and deep-rooted Art Hodes:

I wonder what marvels will come next . . . . !

ITALO LOVES JAZZ!

Who is this happy man?

Why, Italo Assogna, that’s who.  No, he doesn’t play cornet with the Pescara Hot Stompers, but he loves jazz with all his heart. 

How did we meet him? 

Italo is the manager of Pino’s, a wonderful Italian restaurant on the High Street of Lechlade in Gloucestershire, GL7 3AD, where the Beloved and I had lunch today.  I know this isn’t a food blog or a restaurant blog, but we had what Louis would call a truly dee-licious meal there.  And we met Italo’s charming fiancee, Maria, as well.

 “But this is a jazz blog!” I hear you insisting.  True enough. 

Italo loves jazz.  I knew this when I went inside the restaurant and heard a strangely familiar sound coming through the speakers — the closing instrumental choruses of PRETTY LITTLE MISSY by Signore Armstrong, followed by HAVE YOU MET MISS JONES? by the same person.  I found out that Italo had chosen the music, and we had a long chat about what kinds of jazz would be best for a restaurant (I suggested Ben Webster with strings, followed by Clifford Brown with strings; the Beloved suggested Paul Desmond; I thought of Hank Jones and Jimmy Rowles). 

But Italo and Maria were two of the most enthusiastic and charming people we have met on our UK trip, and I think they would stand out anywhere as wonderful individuals.  We will remember them — and the extraordinary food — long after we are back in New York.  And Italo loves jazz! 

Mille grazie!

“IN AN ACTUAL TRUMPET CASE”!

Introducing – The Genius of Miles Davis

Housed in an actual trumpet case!

43- CD Collection assembles all eight multi-CD, Grammy award winning box sets

 The consummate artistry of Miles Davis and the scope of his musical vision at Columbia Records is paid the ultimate tribute on THE GENIUS OF MILES DAVIS. Weighing in at 21 pounds and individually numbered to 2000, THE GENIUS OF MILES DAVIS is destined to be a treasure in the hands of true Miles Davis aficionados. A Direct to Consumer exclusive, this set is only available via GeniusOfMilesDavis.com, it is now available for pre-order at $1199.99 in advance of its September 14th release.

 The Genius of Miles Davis includes:

First and foremost there is, of course, the music, which is showcased as follows:

Miles Davis & Gil Evans: The Complete Columbia Studio Recordings (6 CDs)

Miles Davis Quintet 1965-1968 (6 CDs)

The Complete Bitches Brew Sessions (4 CDs)

Miles Davis & John Coltrane: The Complete Columbia Recordings, 1955-1961 (6 CDs)

The Complete In A Silent Way Sessions (3 CDs)

The Complete Jack Johnson Sessions (5 CDs)

Seven Steps: The Complete Columbia Recordings Of Miles Davis, 1963-1964 (7 CDs)

The Complete On The Corner Sessions (6 CDs)

Then comes the treasure of wonderful extras within the case:

A mouthpiece replica of exactly the ‘Gustat’ Heim 2 model used by Davis especially created by Kanstul.

A previously unseen and unavailable fine art lithograph by Davis, who was a dedicated and talented artist

A boutique-worthy T-shirt manufactured exclusively for this package by Trunk Ltd. showcasing the image of Davis playing his horn.

Images of each item included in the set as well as additional information and pre-order link can be found at MilesDavis.com

 Should anyone wish to write that I am insufficiently respectful of Miles Davis’s contributions to jazz, I would beg to differ.  However, this Sony enterprise leaves me feeling that the only appropriate thing to say is “No comment,” except when I tell people I spend my life thinking about and listening to jazz, a good many of them come up with Miles as the only name they can think of.  Products like this one — with an actual facsimile trumpet mouthpiece and trumpet case — seem fetishistic rather than musical.  Turning artists into commodities is sure to keep jazz alive!  Alas. . . .

“I GIVE UP!” SAID VERY LOUDLY

When I’ve been faced with something that’s annoying and frustrating — trying to find a parking space in Manhattan in an unwelcoming hour — after attempting everything plausible and reasonable, I have been known to say I GIVE UP! at high volume several times.  More often than not, just the dramatic pretense of a man ready to do the desperate act of overpaying for parking helps . . . a spot opens up.  The loud enactment of theatrical despair seems to help. 

So I am trying it here:

I GIVE UP!

“What is he complaining about?” you might ask.  It’s a technical problem.  I came back from the 2010 Whitley Bay International Jazz Festival with a new Panasonic HD video camera full of jazz videos — over one hundred fine performances.  And I began to download (or upload) them to YouTube, thence to this blog for all to see.  This worked wonderfully well in the US, and it worked — poorly and painfully slowly — in the UK.  It took something like three days to download four clips by the Hot Antic Jazz Band.  Then, here in Oxford, where the wireless broadband seems swift, nothing . . . either YouTube takes twelve hours to load a five-minute clip and then tells me (in my favorite new redundant phrase) “length of clip is too long” or it loads a clip in eight hours and then the video is out of synch with the audio, creating an impossible-to-watch spectacle.

If this latest batch of clips doesn’t load, I’m taking my clips and going off to do something else.  I’m going on strike.  You’ll see the Whitley Bay performances — starting in September. 

I will be grateful for any technical suggestions, but must say that I am hopeless at this: my dear friend Elin Smith tried to explain it to me, but her clear email had me converting formats back and forth until I was dizzy.  Pretend you’re writing to someone who hasn’t converted video files before . . . and sorry for the delay!

REMEMBERING KARL WATT

One of the many delights of having a blog is meeting people — not always in person — who enrich your life with their presence, their music, their stories.  One such person is banjo player Candace Brown, who’s a member of Chris Tyle’s Silver Leaf Jazz Band.  I had posted a clip of that band in full flower, playing the hot jazz we live for. 

Candace told me a little bit about the jazz drummer Karl Watt — much beloved and a swinging presence — who is no longer with us.  I urge you to read Candace’s story: http://goodlifenw.blogspot.com/2010/07/remembering-karl-watt.html.  And even though I don’t live near the Pacific Northwest (a lovely area of the US) her blog, Good Life Northwest, seems to be a renewing delight, and I plan to visit it often.