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News and Views '11/'12 #5
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Allen Hall
MN Prince of Snark Darkness

Joined: 26 May 2004
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PostPosted: Sun Mar 25, 2012 6:52 pm    Post subject: News and Views '11/'12 #5 Share topic on FB Add User to Ignore List Reply with quote

News and Views from the Hall Stationary JazzLindyMobile
‘11/’12 Installment #5

LISTEN AND/OR DANCE, DON’T DRIVE, REPEAT (or something like that.)

Table of Contents:
1. Book Review, “Jazz Singing”
2. Dance in Dayton and Surrounds
3. Bitchin’ and Complainin’
4. Irreverent “History of Lindy Hop” from “The Onion”?
5. Decaying Dance Trend-Line
6. Coming Attractions

BOOK REVIEW, “JAZZ SINGING” (This review also found in a recent “Fruit o’ the Loon”.)

Written by Will Friedwald and published in 1990, this is the best ever and most complete book on jazz singing, and was written by a man who is scholarly, knowledgeable, enthusiastic, and opinionated beyond acceptability. The book’s sub-title gives you the scope of the book “America’s Greatest Voices from Bessie Smith to BeBop and Beyond.” Because of his obvious gift of alliteration, scholarship and writing talent, I can forgive him much. He and I do often disagree, but then, he is the master, and I am just a person who holds equally firm, but different criteria and tastes. To understand the differences between us, you would have to completely know and understand his and my criteria for opinions. That you will likely never understand nor know. While you may not suspect it from my written polemics, I read books primarily in order to learn, and not to pick fights.
This is the most the supremely detailed book on some jazz singers—each sentence has meaning and import. Friedwald loves language and it shows. His familiarity with pre-WW-II writing is in display with his love for and breezy use of 30s slang. This he had to learn from previous writings, as Friedwald was born in 1961. To his credit, he does not write “down”, nor does he assume “unhipness” in readers, and, most important, what he doesn’t know about the good and bad of jazz singing is simply not worth trying to learn. Read the book and then think “Law of diminishing returns”.
Other than the sounds of gun-fire, explosions and sirens, I think the most arresting sound to the human ear is the sound of the human voice raised in song. Until Kurt Elling came to my attention, the most beautiful sounds I had ever heard were several chest tones from Lou Rawles and Johnny Hartmann. I am saddened to hear that Elling’s voice how has a rasp or buzz; this often the result of overuse. However, he still has a gorgeous voice, resonant and rich throughout its entire range, and that’s, in my belief, exceedingly rare.
Gems from the book abound:
1. “Tin Pan Alley, at least before corrupted by Mitch Miller, was one of the greatest friends Jazz ever had, no less than the Blues.”

2. r.e. the music recording biz. “With musical minds in charge of things, pop music had the same kind of floor found in New Deal economics, they couldn’t get much worse than a certain level. With money men (A&R*) running the show, we have no such guarantee, making the worst dreck of the thirties sound good in comparison with the kiddie pop of the mid-fifties and onward.”

*A&R is “Artists and Repertoire” meaning the recording company weenies in charge of insuring that musical artists will record that which the weenies believe would sell the most product, with no regard for quality. And don’t you know it, they were supremely successful in both aspects.

3. “David Allyn was as good (in his own way) as was Sinatra.” I concur, Allyn is certainly not a household name in singing, but I once saw him perform in front of a good big band, and I was stunned by how good he was, and he was not, to my ear, a Sinatra clone nor wannabe.

4. The oft read and heard comment “There’s only two kinds of music, good music and bad music.” has been originally attributed to Irving Berlin, Duke Ellington, Igor Stravinsky, and Louis Armstrong. Additionally, I too subscribe, mostly because it forces the listener to damn well decide which the music is.

5. “Even if he had any real competition, (Jon) Hendrick’s work would still be the greatest argument for the artistic integrity of the vocalese lyric.” I am not going to write “down”. I’ll assume you understand “vocalese”. If not, Google it.

6. As a sad commentary on modern American show biz, this. “Anita O’Day got a little mileage out of the notoriety she achieved after she admitted a few unsavory habits, just as did Billie Holiday. Musical talent has nothing to do with being asked to write an autobiography or getting on “60 Minutes”. Just ask “(Mel) Torme. They wanted him on the show until he confessed to not being a junkie.”

7. “A British critic once wrote that the greatest compliment you could pay a jazz musician is to call him ‘underrated’”.

8. “(Frank) Sinatra and (Peggy) Lee happened to stay on top of the music world long after the appearance of Presley, Pat Boone and the Beatles, and to millions of grown up kids, they simply are ‘adult pop’”.

I cannot leave this subject without tossing roses to Ernie Andrews. He is not only a gifted performer who can roll out a viciously funny tongue-in-cheek ditty, a ballad aching with desire, and a swinging-to-the-bone up-tempo finger-snapper. Forget it, that he has a remarkable instrument, a deft use of human voice with range of timbre to do ANYTHING his good taste selects. And, Ernie is a top Bad-
Ass on the Blues. I defy anyone to sit through a set of masterful Ernie and not feel entirely entertained.

This is a library book, so you have to get your own copy to read, but be forewarned—it’s a hardback heavyweight. I do own the companion Friedwald book published in 2010 “A biographical Guide to the Great Jazz and Pop Singers” and it’s equally authoritative and, likewise, a hardback doorstop.


Not to fuss, but Dayton is slightly jazz sorry and, similarly, slightly Lindy Hop poor. For truly energetic dances we have to drive to Cincinnati or Columbus. I am not sniveling because I don’t have access to the best, but still…..I do remember so fondly those seven winters in Los Angeles.
To make a lie of that statement, we did go to a great semi-annual dance held by the University of Dayton Swing Dane Club in their Kennedy Student Union ballroom. We attended their spring dance this year and were slightly disappointed as most of the college kids just stood in clusters on the floor and talked. This time was different. There was way more dancing. The venue was fine, big room, fair acoustics, enough lighting, wood floor with fine surface, and the UD Jazz Big Band played, as in the spring, a one hour set of predictable swing dance evergreens, but did so remarkably well, especially the tight horn ensemble play and the drummer who was worthy of the title Big Band Drummer, but then, the band’s leader and conductor is Jim Leslie a very versatile professional Dayton jazz drummer.
The next afternoon, we attended a memorial concert in Oxford Ohio, for Mama Jazz a radio eclectic jazz DJ fixture hereabouts for many years. Playing was a pared-down iteration of the Dave Greer Classic Jazz Stompers (a sextet of clarinet, saxophones, cornet, banjo and guitar, a big ass tuba, and a pianist who rushes like the room is on fire.) The venue was a true solarium with huge floor to ceiling windows on three sides, with a fine old parquet floor with a delightful dance surface. We were the only dancers. They served free finger food and drinks for a turn-out of mostly area trad-jazz aficionados. Hey! Ya gits yo dancin’ in wheres ever yo kin do it. Incidentally, the venue, music and time of day reminded us of the last time we had heard jazz in the afternoon in a solarium, which was, notably, in a funeral parlor in New Orleans while we were listening to the Jeremy Davenport Quartet.
R.I.P. Mama Jazz. She is much missed.
We made the once a month Columbus swing dance in the downtown YWCA second floor gymnasium. Big floor, great surface, good turnout of spritely dancers, lousy room acoustics, and, lamentably, way too many vocal recordings, which are almost uniformly cut with the vocalist’s microphone turned up. This dampens the rhythm section, and in that gymnasium, the RS just disappears with dancers employing roll-your-own rhythm, I can’t do that. if I lose it, I stop until I find it, and if I don’t, I apologize, promise a later dance and leave the floor. Still, we had fun, but we could have had more had more had the DJs not been on sedatives—S L O W music—none over 200 or even close to it, with two tunes in a row at 108 bpm—and not, I hasten to add, for Blues Dancing, as 108 bpm is found in the uselessness tempo hole in music for all kinds of social pairs dance. Wanna argue? I’m waiting. I guess I shudda saved some of that for “Bitchin’” below.
We found a PDG Lindy venue in Columbus on Wednesday nights, NyHo’s with a so-so sized oak floor with a good surface, and better than expected but slow music and high energy LHers. The disco lights are a nuisance but I s’pos ya cain’t have everthang. $3 and, best of all, it starts at 8PM cuz it’s a 65 mile drive from Dayton, and my lights start dimming around 10PM. Rudy drives home while I check-out the insides of my eye-lids. A week later we returned, only to find that the Lindy Hop cream had left for Lindy Focus. And so, the crowd was light, but enthusiastic. The music was---how to put this?—eclectic, but the tempos moved around with a couple in the bal/shag range.
NYE was spent in Cincy at the College Hill Town Hall (It usta be a church), with 75 swing dancers on an old wide-board pine floor which danced beautifully, to gang DJing. The first one was married to tempos close to 180 bpm, the second was better, the third was still better. We partook of the nice spread of finger food, but left before the champagne and noisiness—it has been our practice to be off the streets during the unsafe times during “Amateur Drinkers’ Night” and we figured if we could make it home, after an hour drive, by a half hour after midnight we could beat the dodgem car pile-ups. It worked. We got in lots of dancing and survived. What more can one ask for?


It’s not the same thing. Bitchin’ is being fussy about small annoyances. Complainin’, on the other hand, is a display of disapproval about that which should damn sure be corrected.
This is complainin’. Whyizzit #382. Why is it that many swing dancers who are part of every generation since and including the baby boomers do not applaud after every number of live music played for them? That’s a contentious question, and so, I will answer it myself. It is because:
1. Their generational exposure to music is primarily through radio, TV and listening through their ubiquitous ear buds. Ergo no need for applause.
2. Because bad manners and discourtesy has now become institutionalized in the United States.
3. Music has become such an utterly free commodity. It is heard everywhere and unappreciated everywhere. Even when real live visible people are creating music right there in their presence, these generations are largely oblivious to them.
If anyone believes it doesn’t matter to musicians that dancers show or don’t show appreciation, let me suggest you concentrate on the faces of musicians which get enthusiastic applause, and those who don’t, and while you are at it, be attentive to the differences in the quality and energy in the music.


During the 12 months of 2011, starting on January, we danced on the following number of days: 17,15,15,12,9,14,11,7,7,6,4,6. Notice anything? I do. Agreed, accessibility applies, as Jan., Feb. and Mar. were in Texas where the driving distances were short. Otherwise not, with average non-Texas distances to dances usually well over 100 miles RT. But, accessibility notwithstanding, overall, we are dancing less by design, that being to husband our flagging energies, while minimizing our pain. Reality sucks…..

1. None come to mind, so you and I will just have to be surprised, or not—whichever.

Allen Hall, Lindy Hopper
January 2, 2012, Dayton Ohio in Rudy’s Mom’s backyard.
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