Warning for the timid and the finicky: the video that follows is unusually flawed and visually limited. But the sound is fine and the performance precious.
Some of you may recognize this now-obsolete piece of technology. In 2008, before I bought my first video camera, I tried out a Flip pocket video. It recorded sixty minutes; it had no controls aside from an on / off button and a rudimentary zoom function; it fit in a pocket.
I had shot some video with it, but remember only two instances: once at The Ear Inn, where a musician who shall be nameless expressed his displeasure by coming close to me and hissing, “Audio’s all right, but that video don’t do nothin’ for me, Pops,” to which I apologized, put it away, and later deleted the video. Pops hasn’t forgotten, you will notice, and in his dotage, he avoids that musician, even without a camera.
The other instance was in Mexico, where I recorded some vibrant street musicians, but I foolishly packed Flip (as I thought of him, like a cartoon character) in my checked luggage and he went on to a new life in someone else’s pocket. And I graduated to “real” video cameras, as you have probably seen.
The story of My Friend Flip would have remained a crumb in the breadbox of memory except that two days ago I started a rigorous — no, violent — apartment-tidying, in search of some things I knew I had but couldn’t find. You know the feeling. I found a once-blank CD with the puzzling notation, “Chau 2008 Flip.” At first I thought, “Did I see Flip Phillips at Jazz at Chautauqua?” but knew I hadn’t. I put the disc in the computer’s DVD tray, waited, and eventually discovered three video performances I had completely forgotten — but which made me joyous, as you will understand.
The late Joe Boughton, who ran Jazz at Chautauqua, was severe in the way I imagine a Roman emperor must have been. Oh, it was covered by friendliness . . . until you violated one of his strictures. Musicians can tell you the verbal assaults that resulted when someone played a song that was, to Joe, too common. SATIN DOLL or SWEET GEORGIA BROWN was punishable by exile: I WISH I WERE TWINS or HE’S A SON OF THE SOUTH would make Joe happy and guarantee you’d be invited back.
Joe also recorded everything for his own pleasure (and those recordings, I am told, survive in a university collection) but he didn’t want anyone else recording anything.
Fast forward to 2011, when I’d had this blog for a few years and had Joe in my readership. I boldly brought my video camera with me and — expecting the worst — asked Joe if it was OK if I videoed a few tunes, for publicity, if I got the musicians’ permission. His response was positive but also imperial, “Who cares about their permission? I don’t mind!: and I went ahead.
Before then, a shy criminal, I recorded as much audio as possible on a digital recorder I kept in my pocket (which means that some discs begin with the sound of me walking from my room to the ballroom) and in 2007 I took my point-and-shoot camera, stood at one side of the stage, and recorded two performances, which I have posted here. Joe didn’t notice, and the palace guards liked me, so I was able to return the next year.
On three separate occasions in 2008, I walked to one side of the stage (perhaps I pretended I was visiting the men’s room), turned on Flip, and recorded some wonderful music for posterity, for me, for you. Before you move on, I warn you that the video is as if seen through a dirty car windshield. I was shooting into a brightly lit window, so much is overexposed. The focus is variable, and there is a Thanksgiving Day Parade of slow-moving patrons who amble on their way, often standing in front of the man with a little white box to his eye. “Could it have been a camera that young fellow was holding, Marge? I don’t know, but don’t rush me, John!”
But the music comes right through. Some drum accents have the explosive power of small-arms fire, Flip was a simple camera. However, everyone shines: Randy Reinhart, cornet; Jon-Erik Kellso, trumpet; John Sheridan, piano; Vinc Giordano, string bass; John Von Ohlen, drums, playing STRUTTIN’ WITH SOME BARBECUE:
Two more surprises will come along in time. Until then, bless Randy, Jon-Erik, John, Vince, and John. Joe, I apologize, but as Barney tells us, “Sharing is caring.” And thank you, Friend Flip . . . wherever you are now.
May your happiness increase!