Daily Archives: November 22, 2013

THE MYSTERIOUS CLEO GIBSON’S MOST EXCELLENT HIPS

It’s always startling to find a new artist — especially when that artist made one record in Atlanta in 1929, left behind no tangible evidence, and apparently vanished.  Even the blues scholar Paul Oliver found little about Cleo Gibson, born “Cleothus,” except that she had worked with her husband in vaudeville as “Gibson and Gibson,” and had obviously been influenced by Bessie Smith.

But oh! how she can sing — and deliver the song, which has less to do with automobile mechanics or hip replacements than the title would suggest.

Thank you, Miss (or Mrs.) Gibson!  We continue to marvel at your hips. In a nice way, you understand:

For the detail-oriented: Cleothus Gibson Acc By Her Hot Three : Cleo Gibson, vocal; Henry Mason, trumpet; J. Neal Montgomery, piano; unknown, guitar.  Atlanta, Georgia, March 14, 1929.

Flip it over and you have this — another bonus:

I don’t think art has to prove or show anything — it just IS — but these records once again suggest that there were, are, and always will be creators who don’t get the praise and publicity that the established “stars” do. In jazz, if you were performing somewhere and didn’t get recorded, you might have been consigned to local fame. But there is and always will be music, notable music, that the critics never pay attention to, and creative musicians who never get interviewed or chronicled. We are grateful that Cleo Gibson left us six or so minutes of fine deep music!

May your happiness increase!

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BEING OLDER HAS BENEFITS

My chronological age is increasing, as I occasionally notice.

Tonight, the Beloved created a wonderful homemade Thai dinner, and when we’d finished, we worked our way through the dishes to music: an assortment of the 1937-41 sides that Billie Holiday and Lester Young created together, with friends.

And I thought, not for the first time, “How lucky I am to be the age I am. I saw Buck Clayton play — at the end of his trumpet career — and got his autograph. My friend Stu and I rode the subway uptown with Benny Morton, who sweetly and patiently answered our eager questions. I saw Teddy Wilson play at a shopping center, and got his autograph. Jo Jones spoke to me several times; two autographs, some recordings, some photographs. Dicky Wells waved an annoyed finger at me to get me to stop recording him with my cassette recorder. I saw Freddie Green and Count Basie, from a distance, at a concert in a Long Island park, Benny Goodman and friends in Carnegie Hall in the late Seventies.

Yes, Lester Young, Walter Page, Red Allen, Buster Bailey, Ed Hall, Coleman Hawkins, Ben Webster, and Pee Wee Russell were already gone when I began actively searching out live jazz. But if I were younger today, I wouldn’t have had the precious experiences I did.

And listening to Billie and her friends — buoyant, wise, exultant, and so sweetly IN the music they were making — reminds me of how beauty never grows old. Let all the people who voyeuristically want only to make Billie into the Heroin Madonna, the Woman Abused by Louis McKay listen to this:

“Now they call it swing.” Exactly.

May your happiness increase!