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News and Views '09/'10 # 7
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Allen Hall
MN Prince of Snark Darkness


Joined: 26 May 2004
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PostPosted: Mon Feb 15, 2010 1:15 pm    Post subject: News and Views '09/'10 # 7 Share topic on FB Add User to Ignore List Reply with quote

News and Views from the Hall LindyJazzMobile
‘09/’10 Installment # 7

DANCE, DRIVE, REPEAT

Table of Contents:
1. Drive, Dance, Repeat—NOT
2. Jazz in (of all places) Punta Gorda Florida
3. Jazz ‘n’ Dance
4. Dancing in New Orleans
5. New Orleans Dance Renaissance
6. Coming Attractions

DRIVE, DANCE, REPEAT—NOT
For reasons partially beyond my control, from Dec 7 to 19 it will have been 13 days since we have danced, and I am not happy. I am an exercise junkie, and dancing is now my only substantive exercise. For me, exercise is much like food. I can easily go several days without either, but after that, I become exceedingly needy, and I soon go slightly crazy with unrequited need. However, must favorably spin this. An analysis of our 2009 dance activity reveals we danced on 166 days ( 45%) which is about average for the recent past years. So why am I bitching, sniveling and whining? Because I can; that’s why. You got a problem with that?

JAZZ IN, OF ALL PLACES, PUNTA GORDA ,FLORIDA

In Punta Gorda Florida we were treated to a wonderful and entertaining performance (not the same thing) by four outstanding jazz musicians, guitarist, Bob Leary, trumpeter Davy Jones, Clarinetist, Alan Vache, and bassist Phil Flannigan. This quartet with the highly unusual instrumentation allowed a separation of individual instrument sounds seldom heard in small jazz combos containing a piano and drums. The inspiration for this group was an early 1940s jazz combo with identical instrumentation, with musicians Carmen Matren, guitar, Muggsy Spanier, cornet, Sidney Bechet, soprano saxophone and clarinet, and Wellman Brand, bass. This 1940s combo only recorded twice, March and April 1940, and the combo we heard IN Punta Gorda faithfully reproduced several of the recordings from those two recording dates. This kind of repertory jazz is precious, and priceless when heard live as played by four accomplished jazz musicians.

JAZZ ‘N’ DANCE

You have read ad nausicum in this periodical, about Jazz music’s decline and woes. This subject is important to me because I believe, with no jazz, there is no Lindy Hop as we now know it. Stuart Nicholson reports on a jazz success story aptly entitled, “Inside View of a Jazz Success Story”. “The annual Molde Jazz Festival, now in its 50th year ….draws 100,000 fans to a city with a population of only 25,000.” It is a not-for-profit jazz event held on the west coast of Norway—who said jazz is dying?
This from Bill Barnes writing in his three part article “Guitar Hero, Jazz Style” “The audience can no longer be ignored.” “Musicians must be willing to communicate more and connect with their target audiences.” The artists which keep it simple have the broad appeal to reach the neophytes. “they may not understand it, but it makes them want to dance.” “…if you happen to be in Paris , pay a visit to the Caveau Huchette. You will see an ancient cellar full of young people dancing to bebop, swing and cool jazz. Huchette is not exactly avant-guard. Nor is it the hippest place in Europe, but its patrons are having fun. What’s wrong with that?” The music does not have to be dumbed-down, but it has to understand “there is a world of difference between vapidity and clarity.” “There must come a time when jazz once again enjoys a broad appeal, without losing its soul; when people everywhere no longer feel threatened and intimidated by its complexity, and have no qualms over dancing joyfully to its boundless energy.” The Loon believes jazz should adhere to the KISS principle (Keep It Simple Stupid). To understand that, buy a John Pizzarelli CD. Simple music is not bad music, and if people dance to it, they WILL be back, and probably bring their friends.

DANCIN’ IN NEW ORLEANS (It will be a dance-busy 12 days)
New Orleans is my favorite American City, and has been ever since I first came here for a Mardi Gras circa 1954. It is a city where music and dance go together, where it is not long until the next New Orleans music festival of some kind, and where people have a good time and friendliness is openly given and seldom, if ever, forced. Rudy and I have been dancing or trying to dance in New Orleans since 1993. The early years were lean, but now the N.O. Lindy Scene is cooking, buoyed by a recent influx of experienced LHers, and sustained by a vibrant host group.
This year, we started out on a Wednesday doin’ some Zydeco dancin’ at Rock and Bowl, To my knowledge the only bowling and dance hall in the same room, and a traditional New Orleans Wednesday night swing dance venue. Sadly, it is diversifying to other forms of music. Rock and Bowl moved down the street last winter into a much quieter venue (less pin crash—much more sound absorbing material) with a much bigger, much better floor (smooth oak now vs. tacky asphalt tile in the old joint). We danced at the new venue once last winter, and I remember the floor surface as acceptable. I recently read about someone who critisized the floor as being sticky. The floor we danced on this year was almost perfect for dancing and a big crowd of dancers showed up to dance to Zydeco music (a.k.a. so-called black Cajun music) to a great sextet led by Zydeco star, Geno Delafose. The instrumentation was two electric guitars, a held bass, drums, rub board, and Delafose on mini-squeezbox and vocals. The Zydeco dance basic is a bit like Balboa but the hold is on 4 and 8, and done laterally and often in open position with a lot of energetic wiggling. I found I could introduce some LH moves between segments of Zydeco basic, which was apparently good enough to keep from being thrown out of the place. Just kidding, as the dancers were very friendly, and I met a guy who had taken clarinet lessons from Pete Fountain, and whose father was the station manager for the WWL clear channel* radio station way back when. WWL was broadcast from the roof of the New Orleans Roosevelt Hotel, and I, as an acne-ravaged adolescent, could pick it up in St. Louis late at night on a car radio. WWL broadcast mostly Jazz until right before day-break when farmers were getting up. At this point, they segued into Country/Western music.

*For those who don’t remember Clear Channel radio, it was a right given by the government to some AM radio stations (e.g. in New Orleans, Des Moines, Cincinnati and Del Rio Texas) to broadcast with markedly increased power and resulting increased geographic penetration, but only late at night when the clean channel wouldn’t interfere with the regular local AM stations which go off late a t night.

Saturday found us at Tipitina’s, an ancient grubby traditional treasure of a dance joint in uptown New Orleans. They held a two day Cajun/Zydeco festival with nine Cajun/Zydeco bands and one swing band (go figure?) over the two days after Christmas. The first day, Rudy and I danced an hour at 1PM to Geno Delafos, and then two hours from 6 to 8PM to the Joe Krown Swing Band. They had a swing dance contest with a cut-off at 20 couples. Three entered, and one scratched. So, the worst we could do was second. We lucked out, and won two $35 buck Tix to go on an afternoon lunch/dance cruise on the Natchez Queen paddlewheeler. We knew the other couple, so we switched partners during the second tune in the contest. Joe Krown is one of my favorite N.O. musicians as he swings hard, and plays both B3 Hammond organ and piano. His Swing Band is a quartet, Joe on keyboard with bass, drums and a BAAAAD tenor saxophonist, plus an excellent woman singer.
That night we danced at the Balcony Music Club (which is at street level in the French quarter?) to singer/LHer Jayna Morgan and the Sazerac Surprise Band, a quartet of piano, bass, trumpet and somebody else (I forgot).
I have good reason to forget. It was five hours of dance in one day—BIG day, and we paid for it the next day. We didn’t go to Tipitina’s the next day, so, Damn! we missed the Cajun Yelling Contest, BUT…
Sunday evening we danced for a couple of hours at the DBA (Doin’ Business As) Club on Frenchman’s Street. There was not too much floor (about 5 couples max), but it was well-worn wood and it danced very well. The band was the “Palmetto Bug Stompers”, a Trad Jazz sextet of trumpet, reeds, excellent trombonist front line, and a rhythm section of nifty lead guitar, rhythm guitar, bass, and Rub Board Chaz on…Guess? A good energetic band playing a few short numbers with some reasonable tempos. Fun night.
Monday we went to one of the classiest venues in one of the classiest Hotels in N.O. Top-notch jazz trumpeter, “Irvin Mayfield’s Jazz Playhouse” in the “Royal Sonesta Hotel” on Bourbon Street three blocks west of Canal. The room is rich with heavy red drapes, comfortable furniture and an ambiance which obviously doubles the price of drinks—BUT, no cover. The dance floor is in front of the band stand; made of satiny dark wood, but there is not too much of it. The floor is hardly spacious @ approx 40 sq ft. and about 1/3 of that was occupied by a table and four chairs, for visiting celebrities of some kind or other. Bob French’s New Tuxedo Jazz Band was playing, a quintet of trumpet, trombone , piano, bass and curmudgeonly Bob on drums. Hey ! Bob earned the right as he just turned 73 and the New Orleans Saints had just lost their second game in a row. Bob’s “time” is a bit suspect, but, otherwise, he handled the drums and produced wry humor on microphone quite well—this after several many drinks of what appeared to be unmixed spirits. All the musicians were good, as was the woman singer, as was her sit-in sister (these are two of 18 sibs which all sing), and a sit-in young guitarist from Japan who has mastered his instrument and improvisation, but has had not yet learned to swing. Rudy and I were the only two dancers; we got in five fine dances in two sets of entertaining peppy music. The band liked us, and, for me, that’s always important.
On Tuesday Rudy and I had a move-swap evening with the Sherrys, in the great room of Chez Sherry’s a.k.a. The Sherryton Hilton. Tom and Tracy Sherry are New Orleans LH stalwarts, and they have added to their west-bank home a large room with a wall-to wall oak floor with a dance-perfect surface.

NEW ORLEANS DANCE RENAISSANCE ‘09/’10

Starting on the last day of 2009, it was, for us, four days of social Lindy Hop dancing, and almost all of it to live music. There were also dance contests, dance workshops and instructor showcase dancing. Dance renaissance is not imprecise, as there were lessons in Lindy Hop, Balboa, Charleston, Argentine Tango, Salsa and “Moves and Grooves” fit for, if I am not mistaken, free-style solo dance. As well, there were special dances for Tango (a milonga), late night blues, and salsa.
Thursday was a New Years Eve Masquerade dance with costumes and masks recommended. It was on a perfect wood floor surface, and few will you find in New Orleans*, with music provided by a trad jazz band, Zazou City .
*Assisted during our 12 day stay by an uncommon stretch of extremely dry (and cold) air in New Orleans.
Friday was a dressed-up party with the theme “Famous People and Super Heroes.” Although Rudy and I are neither famous nor super, we went as ourselves—a motor-home seldom carries a wardrobe adequate for theme-dances. The band was the BRW, a Soul/R&B band consisting of two dancer/singers, and a three piece rhythm section led by a loud busy rock drummer. My feet tried but were soundly defeated by the byzantine snare drum accents found around and between, and instead of 2 and 4. Sigh! Big classy room, but too dark, but pretty good dark softwood floor.
Saturday was a vintage party with a stress to impress with dress from the ‘20s to ‘50s. The music was provided by the Palmetto Bug Stompers plus Washboard Chaz, a lively three horn trad jazz sextet. The dance was at the same venue as the Saturday dance but the room was better illuminated and we could see the finery worn by dancers.
Sunday night was a club-crawl/pub-hop along Frenchmen Street, several blocks of live music watering/dance venues. We danced with the LH weekend tail-enders to Jayna Morgan and The Sazerac Surprise Band (trumpet, guitar, bass, keyboard, and drums quintet). The floor was some kind of softwood and composed of 8 inch wide boards, some of which had been buckled by water damage. It felt like I was slightly drunk, and dancing on an ocean liner in a storm.
Rudy and I had a good time at New Orleans Dance Renaissance which drew many really good dancers from in and out of town, and that is always a major plus. Additionally, we loved our visits with good N.O. friends, notably the Sherry family, and made some new friends, plus, all the while, staying well away from the blizzards up north.
I saved my gripe until last, and this may get me in a hellovalotta hot water, but what else is new? I have never been a huge fan of the live jazz for Lindy Hopping in New Orleans. What bothers me most are the trad jazz bands which play for swing dances. These band usually have two primary gaits, too fast and too slow, and the duration of numbers played at dances are, all too often, too long—this has come to represent, for me, the too long music of the missing tempos. These band have predominant tempo gaits over 200 bpm, and under 120 bpm. The wheelhouse range of tempos for LH social dancing usually includes tempos between 160 and 180 bpm—I heard very few of those tempos in New Orleans. Look! I can dance fast, and I can dance slow, but I can’t dance fast for very long, and slow music defeats my sorry attempts at the dynamics and counter-balance which defines and identifies Lindy Hop. When the numbers were fast, I noted the floor often contained a sparse number of pairs, usually experienced dancers, and the faster the tempo, the fewer the pairs and the more experienced they were. The rest of the dancers were either sitting or standing, and presumably waiting for a tempo they preferred—I know I was. While I ordinarily prefer to dance to the energy found in live music, but it is weekends like this which can make me appreciate the charm of DJs playing a wide spectrum of tempos of different types of swinging jazz, with few recordings over 4 minutes long. End of gripe.
But to finish on an happy note, the heroic Sherry family re-installed my lost Balboa basic. I can’t remember where I lost it, but I sure hope I can now hang on to it. “Hold on 3 and 7”, right? Look, I fail to understand how that is different from “hold on 1 and 5”, but even if that was acceptable, I would still not be happy, as it just seems so…so…so counter-intuitive.

COMING ATTRACTIONS:
1. Some Lindy Hopping in Some Parts of Texas (to include “The Lone Star Championships” in Austin)

Allen Hall, Lindy Hopper
January 8, 2010, in downright cold Houston
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