Tag Archives: Google

“SEARCH ENGINE TERMS” IS BACK!

It’s time for another collection and consideration of the odd ways in which people find JAZZ LIVES.  What they do when they alight, and how long they stay is a matter for philosophers or perhaps ornithologists.  For myself, I simply marvel at the weird intricacies of what used to be called the World Wide Web.  Herewith (and to wit), the latest examples, with commentary in parentheses:

fats waller white man’s stomp  (Yes, there was a Fats Waller composition — legend has it composed to pay off a gargantuan late-night snack) called WHITEMAN STOMP.  Here the Googler has made it into something more pointed, perhaps even racially ominous: a musical depiction of the jackbooted Caucasian in the apartment above?)

wife jazz brushes   (The literal-minded reader will easily see that this is only a misprint, and what was meant was “wire brushes for jazz drumming” or something less ambiguous.  But the mind delights in the possibilities: does one brush one’s wife to a jazz score, or to a syncopated rhythm, or is this an early annotation of the unheralded skills of women jazz percussionists?  Research!) 

artie show  (Exhibitionistic clarinetist, recorded for the Bluebird label.)

family watching radio  (This, I assume, refers to one of many famous photographs of the cozy family seated in the living room, children on the rug, absorbing the sounds coming out of the large, burnished mahogany radio.  But the particular search terms here make it sound as if this family was prematurely prescient.  “Something called television is on the way in a few decades — until then, let’s just stare at the radio hard enough so that we see things!”)

world war two ii radio listen listening  (A cousin of the above, but your guess is better than mine here.)

tuba rose flower varieties  (Perhaps some tuba players — known or unknown — have despaired of finding sufficient gigs to make a living, and have turned their tubas into shiny portable flowerpots, a-blossom with roses?)

what music goes with jazz  (The winner, the favorite.  A deep philosophical question.  What is the sound of one jazz clapping?  If jazz falls in the forest, does someone blog about it?)

This piece of text isn’t a search engine term, but I thought it deserved attention.  Anyone with a blog has to delete a goodly number of spam comments.  Sometimes they are gibberish; sometimes they advertise a product promising erotic bliss . . . and then there’s the sub-category of Vague Praise: an all-purpose statement that the sender hopes will woo the recipient into posting it and thus advertising the sender’s website.  I ignore these, but not this one: a comment on a post I had written about the recent Bill Savory collection:

Can I just say what a relief to discover someone who truly knows what theyre talking about on a internet. You truly know how to bring an dilemma to light and make it important. A lot more men and women have to read this and realize this side of the story. I cant think youre not much more well-liked simply because you really have the gift.

And this one (to which I responded politely, after doing a little research on the requester’s behalf):

Hello sir, my name is M—. I have been instructed to write a paper on a musician, and i have selected X—- Y—-. Would you happen to know any way i could contact him?

What is there to say? (And what is there to do?)  For the record, I directed the writer above in what I thought were useful directions — musician-colleagues of XY — but I never heard back, so I don’t know if my efforts were to no avail.

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“BUGLE DISPOSITION RAG” — SAVORY TRANSLATIONS?

Newsweek: Exclusive clips from jazz greats

2. “Bugle disposition Rag”: Count Basie’s 1940 ensemble, featuring substance instrumentalist Lester Young, on a set this adornment never transcribed in the studio, on March 8, 1940. Personnel: author Clayton (tp, arr); Harry “Sweets” Edison, Al Killian, Ed adventurer (tp); Vic Dickenson, Dan Minor, Dicky author (tb); Tab adventurer (as, sop, arr); peer Warren (as); Lester Young, Buddy poet (ts); Jack pedagogue (as,bar); Count Basie (p); Freddie Green (g); director Page (b); Jo designer (d).

I know what Bessie Smith would have said about this!  This excerpt came from www.flashnewsworld.com. and is its very own kind of jive.  Brilliance comes through no matter what amiable violence is done to the language: Google translation has at least recognized that the men of the Basie band were adventurers, authors, designers, and poets.  And what they played was always an adornment. 

GJON MILI’S 1943 JAM SESSION

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Thanks to jazz scholar and old friend David Weiner, I encountered this glorious photograph two nights ago.  Gjon Mili is known to most of us as the man behind the 1944 film JAMMIN’ THE BLUES, but he made his primary mark as a still photgrapher, shooting many pictures at jam sessions staged for LIFE.  Now that Google has made the picture archives of that long-lived weekly magazine available, we can all enjoy such lively archaeology.

If you can’t wait to see previously unknown pictures of Mildred Bailey, James P. Johnson, Eddie Condon and friends, Benny Goodman, Duke Ellington, and others, the link to the site is http://images.google.com/hosted/life and I’ve already spent a good deal of time there.  It is fascinating not only for the jazz players, but for the glimpses of what is, for most of us, a lost world — where, as John Cheever once wrote, all the men wore hats.  If you enter the search term “jam session,” always a good idea, you will find 183 images including everyone from Gene Krupa to George Wettling to Dizzy Gillespie and Vic Dickenson.

The picture above is a wonderfully odd mix of players: the man at far left, holding a glass, might be drummer Zutty Singleton.  To his right, the altoist has been identified as a young Leo Parker.  Then there’s Hot Lips Page at the microphone.  Nearly hidden behind him is clarinetist Buster Bailey and bassist Al Lucas.  The drummer (in Navy uniform) is Kansas Fields, the pianist Teddy Wilson.  And, inescapably, in the back, clarinet at the ready, is Mezz Mezzrow.  Any guesses about the other players will be appreciated — and I’m indebted to the discussion already held by members of the jazz research group moderated by Michael Fitzgerald for the additional identifications above.  This jam session and one other was recorded for V-Disc, but legend has it that the recordings were rejected because the assembled multitudes were having a noisy good time.  Given these musicians, I would have shouted, too.

Here’s another from the same session:

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My long-time myopia holds me back here, but I see Eddie Heywood at the piano, Buster Bailey again, and the wondrous pairing of Dizzy Gillespie and Vic Dickenson, at a time before producers, clubowners, and other people had decided that one played “bebop” and the other one “Dixieland.”

Too many players to list them all (even if I recognized everyone) but I’ll bet that the musical atmosphere was both festive and creative when Mili clicked his shutter:

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How about Mezz Mezzrow, Muggsy Spanier, bassist Al Hall, Dizzy, and Duke?

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Then, there’s a less ecumenical gathering: drummer George Wettling (who could play in anyone’s band), the irreplaceable PeeWee Russell, and a bassist who might well be Al Lucas once again.

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A rare early portrait of Vic Dickenson, with Heywood at the piano.

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Properly at the center of things — he could shape a jam session like no one else — is William Basie.  You know, the fellow from New Jersey?

I had to stop myself before posting more than a dozen images on this blog, although I will return to this site for uniquely posed evidence of the lost Golden Age, the Eden that very few people now alive got to visit.  Thank you, Gjon Mili!  And thank you, LIFE, which I once thought hopelessly middlebrow: these pictures prove me wrong.

WE’LL MISS WAYNE WRIGHT

Aside from the justly celebrated Freddie Green, the rhythm guitarist is the stoker down in the ship’s hold: unseen, uncredited, yet essential. My version of the Decline of the West got even more gloomy when four-piece jazz rhythm sections became three-piece. Green, like Eddie Condon, got a perverse kind of fame for refusing to play a solo, as if he were a farmer being paid not to grow his crop.

By way of Jon-Erik Kellso, I learned that the singular guitarist Wayne Wright died on May 9. If you saw Les Paul a half-dozen years ago, you might have seen Wayne providing rocking motion that kept it all together.

My own delighted perceptions of Wayne come from small-group New York jazz sessions of the early Seventies. At the time, Wayne was a cheerful, wisecracking presence, with a modified Beatle haircut and black-framed glasses. He was left-handed, and he liked to accent phrases with a simple figure, like a drummer’s rimshot-bass drum accent, which he would emphasize with a leap of the guitar’s neck, as if it were a fish trying to wriggle out of his grip. His rhythmic pulse was urgent but never loud — an audible, pushing sonic wave.

Even before he became a member of the Ruby Braff – George Barnes quartet, he surfaced, rewardingly, in odd places. One such occasion was a free lunchtime concert in summer 1973 which brought together Bob Wilber and Kenny Davern before they had organized Soprano Summit. Backing them was a perfect ad hoc New York rhythm section: Wayne, Milt Hinton, Dill Jones, and Jackie Williams. They played outside the Seagram Building in midtown, on a great concrete plaza with huge fountains, so rushing water competed with the music. Eubie Blake was the intermission pianist (!) and WCBS-AM anchorman Brian Madden brought his tenor sax and played enthusiastic early-Hawkins choruses with the band on “Crazy Rhythm.”

Wayne also came down to Brew’s, a little eatery that turned into a jazz club at night, just east of the Empire State Building. The Dave Tough-inspired drummer Mike Burgevin booked his friends and heroes — a very brief Golden Age that few noticed. They included pianists Jimmy Andrews and Dill Jones, bassists Al Hall and others, and horn players Herb Hall, Rudy Powell, Joe Thomas, Herman Autrey, Vic Dickenson, Marshall Brown, Kenny Davern, and others I have forgotten. But I remember one night in July 1974 when Ruby Braff, Sam Margolis, and Wayne joined forces with Jimmy Andrews and Mike to pay tribute to Louis, with exquisitely swinging music, much of its rhythmic impetus courtesy of Wayne, his bell-like sound always floating the beat. Brew’s couldn’t stay afloat because the cabaret laws caught up with it — ironically so, in terms of the noise that follows us everywhere now! — and Mike tried, for a minute or so, to have jazz trios without a drummer. I caught one such evening — a trio led by Wayne, with Jimmy Andrews and Al Hall, making delightful homespun jazz, Wayne playing melody and single-string variations on “I’m Beginning To See The Light” and “Say It Isn’t So.” Wayne’s tone sang; he bent notes; he earnestly worked around the melody.

He also played for about eighteen months with the irreplaceable quartet that Ruby and George Barnes had. The two leaders soon loathed each other, and the quartet imploded, but it was a great experience to sit on the floor of the New York Jazz Museum and listen to them meander through “Sweethearts on Parade,” for one. Wayne recorded two impossible-to-find records of guitar duets with Marty Grosz on Jerry Valburn’s Aviva label, Let Your Fingers Do The Walking and Goody Goody — but much of the material on those records is a careful, loving exploration of duets by Dick McDonough and Carl Kress, among others. Wayne is there, but his personality rarely comes through.

Now he’s gone, and it feels as if he took as much of the identifying evidence with him as he could. YouTube used to offer clips of the Braff-Barnes quartet in Berlin, in 1974, but no more. Google Images came up only with two record-cover pictures of the quartet, which I’ve included here, and the closest thing we have to Wayne’s oral history or a self-portrait is a jazz guitar site where he talks about Barnes: classicjazzguitar.com/…/article.jsp?article=61

Was he content to strum in the background? I don’t know. But he could play! Goodbye, Wayne, and thank you.