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News & Views from Hall's (parked) LindyJazzMobile 07/08
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PostPosted: Thu Jun 12, 2008 3:14 pm    Post subject: News & Views from Hall's (parked) LindyJazzMobile 07/08 Share topic on FB Add User to Ignore List Reply with quote

News and Views from the Hall (parked) LindyJazzMobile

’07/’08 Installment # 13

Our Summer Motto: Park, Dance, Scribble, Dance, Scribble, Dance, and So On.

So, I lied when I wrote that I was cruising all summer on the good ship Sabbatical

YOU MAY CONSIDER THIS "JAZZ AND SWING DANCE: ALLEN’S SUMMER POTPOURRI", OR NOT It’s your call, but no more promises from me, especially those I am reluctant to keep.

Table of Contents:

1.Care and Treatment of the Wooden Dance Floor

2. Confessions About Why I Dance, Not Like I Want to, But rather, Like I Do, and Why I Chose Lindy Hop.

3. Swing Dances Heading Back Toward Their Musical Roots

4. The Evolution of Swing Dance Music

5. A Lindy Hop Musical Canon?

6. Mel Torme “Cuts” the Music Recording Industry

7. Speaking of Mel Torme, and a Mini-Book Report on his Autobiography, “It Wasn’t ALL Velvet”.

8. Hitler Couldn't Kill Swing Music in Germany, What Chance did Rock'n'Roll Have in the United States?

9. Previews of Coming Attractions



CARE AND TREATMENT OF THE WOODEN DANCE FLOOR

The best treatment for a wood dance floor is studied neglect. Don’t mop it, wax it, oil it, shellac it, sand it, drive a motorcycle on it, or, may God forbid, polyurethane it, unless you apply, as directed, Michael DeAngelo’s super-secret perfect dance surface polyurethane formula. I suspect it contains trace amounts of Kryptonite. If you are overcome with a manic desire to DO SOMETHING, sweep the floor, and dance on it.


CONFESSION ABOUT WHY I DANCE, NOT LIKE I WANT TO, BUT, RATHER, LIKE I DO, AND WHY I CHOSE LINDY HOP.

1. I really want to dance like Fred Estaire, You know, upright, with feet close together, effectively encorporating stylish balancing dynamics, and using pleasing appropriate but minimal arm movement. But no, I dance bent over like a criminal poised to make a get-away, with my feet spread and under my shoulders, and this stance negates all attempts at stylish balancing, plus I wave my arms around like I am about to fall off a cliff. It's embarrassing, but I do this because I can't help it. Sob! See, my esthetics of motion have been poisoned by 50 years of amateur athletics; 30 years in Fast Pitch Softball and 30 years in Squash (obviously with overlap). See, in most forms of athletics, it matters not how you look, but only matters if you can git ‘ur done.

2. I really want to dance like a Jazz musician plays. You know, pausing on the rhytm breaks, mirroring, by motion, the musical accents, improvising on the melodic phrases, compressing triple-steps into a triplet, or changing them into a drag and a swing dotted eighth note, changing the amplitude (for want of a better term) of my motions depending on the volume or energy in the music, and most important, when the music swings, try to mimic that swing in my dance. There are moments when I can see the Lindy Hop Promised Land, but the moments are brief and damned infrequent....sigh!

During the last 20 years, I have stuck my beak in many different flavors of swing dance stew, but I chose Lindy Hop for two reasons:

1. Because It is more often danced to music which swings. Not to put too pointy a stilleto on this, there are some forms of swing dance (they shall go un-named) in which you can dance for hours and seldom detect any elements of swing (the adjective) in any of the music.

2. Lindy Hop is the most athletic of the swing dances, and, when it comes right down to it, I am just an old gym rat who likes to sweat, and who now dances because his dilapidated body is incapable of any form of vigorous athletics.



SWING DANCES HEADING BACK TOWARD THEIR MUSICAL ROOT

1. West Coast Swing.
John Festa is a leading figure in West Coast Swing, and he has been advocating a return to the music WCS was danced to when the dance emerged. Putting aside the question of when and under what circumstances WCS emerged from what progenitor dance, John is going to hold a weekend dance event containing only the so-called original (classic) WCS music. Putting aside the question of just what was the original (classic) WCS music, it will be interesting to learn about the attendance at his event, and the acceptance of that old music People have been murdered for less.

As is our annual custom, Rudy and I attended the anniversary dance of the Minnesota West Coast Swing Dance Club, an organization which must be near the record for longevity for Swing Dance organizations of any kind. Their DeeJay, Loren Greenberg, played for the dance, and for the first time in 3 years, I heard a movement to return to the roots of the WCS music. I heard echoes of music I heard at WCS dances back in 1992. However, the tempos for WCS were painfully slow. Of the 42 recordings I heard at the dance, 6 were Latin rhythms, 4 were Waltzes, 3 were glacial tempos for Night Club Two Step, 3 were C/W Two-Steps, 1 was a long Disco number for Hustle, and the remainder were a variety of 4/4 time music with an average tempo of 109 BPM. 109 BPM? I was astounded. Twenty years ago, the average tempo of acceptability was 128 BPM--this determined by a cleverly devised experiment which plotted the number of dance couples on the floor as a function of the tempo of the music played. And there was a wide range of tempos at that time--Oh! say, 115 to 144 BPM. After 1998, the tempos for WCS became stuck very close to 120 BPM, and I mean "stuck". I think the advent of 'lectronic magic which could change the tempo of a digital recording, but not the pitch, was being used by WCS DeeJays to standardize tempo. And now, in 2008, I go to a WCS dance where the average tempo is 109 BPM. It makes a body wonder were the WCS tempo floor is, and are they close to it?


B. Lindy Hop
DJed music at Lindy Hop dances has recently included a healthy helping of older Jazz.

1.Gypsy Jazz bands are all the rage now, and every city seems to have one. LHers love them even though their tempos can be challenging. Dixieland has now found favor with LHers, even though it too can serve up challenging tempos. .Somewhere in the middle 1940s came along an idiotic spat between the Moldy Fig fans favoring Dixieland/Hot Jazz, and the fans of modern (Bebop) jazz. And, seemingly, both sets of aficionados held the music of the Swing Era in contempt.


2. LHers now dig acoustic bands which are reminiscent of busker bands which played on American streets in the early 1900s. These were sometime known as Spasm Bands, for what reason, I have never been able to discern. It is ironic that Spasm bands are in popular ascendance with LHers, because that music preceded the onset of LH by several decades. For examples, think “Loose Marbles”, and “Bo Grumpus".

There was a time when Charleston was only incorporated into LH by the up-east LH Savoy traditionalists. Now days, everyone with any LH credentials does Charleston, and pairs and solo Charleston contests are often held in LH competitive events. Chicken or egg question: Did the old-time vertical 2 feel jazz beget neo-Charleston, or did neo-Charleston foster a demand for older vertical 2-feel jazz?



SOME MUSINGS ABOUT THE EVOLUTION OF DANCE MUSIC

Overdubbed electronic rhythm tracts are a cancer on the body of American popular music. The recording industry no longer cares if rhythm tracks sound like a real drummer or not--it seems to me like they now use rhytm overdubs that are both invasive (like a metastasizing cancer) and inhuman, as no instrument played by man can make the sounds they do. Come on Allen, tell us how you really feel.

Several years ago, Rudy and I went to a swing (the general term) dance in L.A. which advertised "Live Music". The music was played by two live guys and a big-assed machine which provided, on demand, just about any type of rhythm you could want. I was offended that a real drummer was denied a gig, but then, I became horrified when I heard that the machine could be programmed for X number of choruses of 4/4 time music with a certain type of rhythm at a certain tempo, but the infernal machine was incapable of playing the rhythm for a tag. And so, all songs stopped abruptly on the last note of the final chorus. I will leave to your imagination, the range of tempos played, and the plethora of types of rhythm. Dig this, that 2 live man and one inhuman man band had been playing that twice a month gig ever since Jesus was an apprentice carpenter—go figure?

Live Music Eclecticism is NOT NECESSARILY GOOD OR POSSIBLE at dances but has become almost de rigueur.

Ballroom dances to live music require a band sweet enough so the music is not too good or distracting, and the band can play in foxtrot, Latin, waltz and swing sets at appropriate tempos. The average age of ballroom dancers is inversely proportional to the number of bands who play that music. The future does not look especially bright for live music for ballroom dances. As for quality, I can only think of one band containing outstanding musicians which played so-called ballroom dance music. It's Lawence Welk and his Bubble Machine Orchestra.

C/W dances to live music requires, at an optimum, a band which can play two-step, WCS, waltz, 6-count swing , polka plus music for a number of specialty dances. How many C/W bands are capable of that diversity of music? I'll answer that--Damned few.


WCS dances to live music no longer exist. Yep! I am walking out on a rotten limb to say that, but I think it's true. Gonna tell you why. See, WCS is no longer just WCS. It has gathered to its eclectic breast, Hustle, Night Club two-step, and Cha-cha, plus several other Latin rhythm dances, and to please the crossover ballroom set, several of the ballroom dances. Have you ever been at a WCS dance and some misguided DeeJay played a Frank Sinatra Big Band number at a walking tempo? If you have you, no doubt, noticed some heavy counter-clockwise traffic at the periphery of the floor. And the band playing a WCS dance should also be able to play C/W dance music for the C/W crossover. See, to a degree, Ballroom and C/W cross-overs are keeping WCS alive today. If I am wrong, shoot me.

Lindy Hop has also gone sort of eclectic, which means a live band should be able to play music for Lindy Hop (slow, groove and fast), plus some peppy tempos For Balboa, and peppy tempos in verticle 2-feel for Shag and Charleston, as well as some dirge tempos for the Blues dancers. And drag tunes don’t, however, have to be blues, as most Blues dancers can't tell a 12 bar blues from a schottish.The take-away message is that the far-out future does not look bright for live music at Lindy Hop dances.


A LINDY HOP MUSICAL CANON?

Is there such a thing; a list of often-heard evergreen LHers' favorite recordings? If so, do you think overplay of the so-called canon of favorite LH recordings will wear them out with Lindy Hoppers? Put another way, can we have too much of a good thing?

A germane story follows. Paul Hennessey, President and principal DeeJay for the Cincinnati Bop* Club over-played a number of very popular dance recordings into the ground--so to speak-- early in the Club’s existence, and then shelved them for several years. Whereupon, he was taken to task by a new dancer, who complained “Why don’t you play some good music?” So, Paul hauled out all the old over-played chestnuts and played them the next week. This caused the complainer to comment “Now, that’s good music.” Paul explained that, he was happy to resurrect from limbo, the old warhorse numbers, but predicted they would enjoy a reduced useful reincarnated life, and would soon return to unplayed neither land.


* Bop is a form of social six-count swing dance native to the SEUS.

My personal opinion is that DJs become inured to the so-called Lindy Hop Musical Canon well before dancers do, and the preferred tempos DeeJays play are the tempos they prefer to dance to. Funny how that works.

SURVEY—send me your single Desert Island LH music recording** and I will publish the lot in the next edition of whatever-in-the-hell comes out next.


** That single recording you would chose to take with you if you were marrooned on a Desert Island, so’s you and your partner to dance on the beach, but if you didn’t have a partner you could always dance with a broom—Hey! I think Fred Astaire did it. Or, was it mop and Gene Kelly? Regardless it can be done.


MEL TORME "CUTS" THE RECORDING INDUSTRY.

In his autobiography “It Wasn’t All Velvet” Mel wrote (on page 196),

“It saddens me to say that some of the vilest people I have ever met are those who run and control the record industry. They hold the original patents on ‘creative bookkeeping’ and if you think this foregoing is sour grapes, I wish you could be privy to the dozens of horror stories I have heard from musicians, singers, arrangers and songwriters about the downright scurrilous activities of record executives.”

Ding Ding! From everything I have read, Mel is BANG ON. There has almost been a cottage industry grow-up around the publishing of books about the crooks in the music recording industry. Here are few titles.

“Hit and Run” How Jon Peters and Peter Gruber (a couple of nefarious conscienceless skunks) took Sony for a Ride in Hollywood.

“The Music Machine: What Really Goes On in the Record Industry”. The title says it al.

“Music Man; Ahmet Ertagun, Atlantic Records, and the Triumph of Rock’N’Roll”. Ahmet and his brother were perhaps the most honest men in a culture of criminality, but Ahmet put pressure on fine musicians and singers to produce salable hit. The artists caved because they were trying to put food on their tables at the height of the R’n’R era, when bad music was simply popular, and popular music was simply simplistic and bad.

“Hit Men” Power Brokers and Fast Money Inside the Music Business” And artists hardly ever got a taste of the “fast money”.

“Off the Charts: Ruthless Days and Reckless Nights Inside the Music Industry”. Another kiss and tell saga.

“Stiffed: A True Story of MCA, the Music Business and the Mafia” A particularly revealing book which explains that the music business is not just run by greedy ruthless music executive, and not just run by a bunch of a bunch of ordinary greedy criminals, but rather, it is run by organized crime.


SPEAKING OF MEL TORME, AND A MINI-BOOK REPORT ON HIS AUTOBIOGRAPHY, “IT WASN’T ALL VELVET”

Melvin Howard Torme was born in Chicago in1925, died of a stroke in 1999, and he was to male jazz singers what Ella Fitzgerald was to female jazz singers. Although I have an aversion to autobiographies and especially those ghosted or written by show biz folks, I just finished Mel’s autobiography. He wrote it, and he can evermore write with an admirable command of the language. Every sentence carries its own weight, and since he was a pro entertainer from the time he was 4 years old, he had seen, from the inside, the good, bad and indefensible of the entertainment industry.

Further, Torme’s writing credentials include 4 books, including “Traps—The Drum Wonder—The Life of Buddy Rich”, and rightly so, as Mel knew more about Buddy Rich than any man alive. Buddy died in 1987, and Buddy asked Mel to write the biography, and ordered him from his death bed to “tell the truth”. This was a stern and difficult command, as the truth about Buddy Rich was a precious commodity; conflicting anecdotes often sitting-in badly for facts. Mel wrote a novel, “Wynner” which “might” have had a chance to be an American classic, until it was butchered by his publisher in order to turn it into a money-making trite page-turner. Mel wrote numerous articles for periodicals and trade publications. He appeared in 23 movies. He had his own TV show, appeared in 9 others, and had numerable TV guest spots.

He was an excellent big band drummer who sat in as a guest on drums for most the jazz big bands of note He was a licensed pilot, a lifelong gun collector, a ladies-man who dated Ava Gardner, and he was married four times. He wrote over 250 songs, and since he was a Jew, strangely enough, he wrote (in 40 minutes) what has become an eternal and ubiquitous Christmas tune, “The Christmas Song”, better known as “Chestnuts roasting on and open fire”. However, he was primarily a jazz singer, even though he was labeled a crooner early in his adult career. He won three Grammy awards, and several European awards for jazz singing.

Will Friedwald, in Jazz Singing” wrote, “Torme works with the most beautiful voice a man is allowed to have, and he combines it with a flawless sense of pitch…As an Improviser he shames all but two or three other scat singers, and quite a few horn player as well.”

In a eulogistic essay, John Edwards wrote. “(He) sang with perfect diction and brought out the emotional contents of the lyrics through subtle alterations of phrasing and harmony. Ballads were characterized by paraphrasing of the original melody…” I have only heard of a scant few singers and musicians who have both the talent and chops to take liberties to make “improvements” to music and lyrics.

As long as there are drummers, Buddy Rich will be held in awe, and as long as there are male jazz singers, Mel tome will be likewise remembered; this long after Bing Crosby and Frank Sinatra have been forgotten.

IF HITLER COULDN'T KILL SWING MUSIC IN GERMANY, WHAT CHANCE DID ROCK'N'ROLL HAVE IN THE UNITED STATES?

Both tried, but some sneaky Germans, just like some musically down-trodden Americans refused to dig a hole, toss in the unpopular swing music, and shovel in the dirt.

In “The Nation” an article, by Brian X. Morton was entitled “Swing Time for Hitler” (get it?) with the subtitle “Swing Tanzen Verboten”. Morton wrote that “Bolsheviks” and the Taliban tried to abolish critical and independent thinking, but to no avail. People can often be “persuaded” to behave in accord with fascist demands, but seldom can they be led by their cerebral synapses. What goes on between the synapses is nobody’s business but the synapses. Hitler banned jazz as it was deemed to be “a music of racial impurity, lumped in with other examples of ‘degenerate art’, damned as ‘Judaeo-Negroid’, and not fit for the ears of good Germans.” However, when in Paris, do as Parisians do, and so, German military occupation Officers would sneak in, along with Jews and Negros, to hear Django tear it up. Likewise, pockets of swing music resistance persevered during the persecution of swing music during the rein of The Monkees, The Beatles, Elvis Presley and Fabian, the Pretty.



PREVIEWS OF COMING ATTRACTIONS

Are you kidding? There are no previews because I don’t know if there will be any coming attractions.



Allen Hall. Lindy Hopper

June 2, 2008, Will summer never come to Lake Sylvia?
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PostPosted: Thu Jun 12, 2008 6:19 pm    Post subject: Share topic on FB Add User to Ignore List Reply with quote

You're still crazy Allen, but I think this month was pretty on point. — No shootings this time!
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