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News and views '11/'12 # 6
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Allen Hall
MN Prince of Snark Darkness


Joined: 26 May 2004
Posts: 495
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PostPosted: Sun Mar 25, 2012 6:54 pm    Post subject: News and views '11/'12 # 6 Share topic on FB Add User to Ignore List Reply with quote

News and Views from the Hall JazzLindyMobile
‘11/’12 Installment # 6

DANCE OR NOT AND/OR LISTEN, MAYBE DRIVE, REPEAT

Table of Contents:
1. Book Review of “Straight Ahead: The Story of Stan Kenton
2. Book Review of “Rifftide: the Life and Opinions of Papa Joe Jones
3. A New Lindy Venue near Cincy
4. 10th Anniversary Dance for Swingout Dayton
5. 2011, a Summary of Days Dancing by Month

BOOK REVIEW OF “STRAIGHT AHEAD: THE STORY OF STAN KENTON”

Written by Carol Easton and published in 1973, this is a well-written engrossing account of the life of innovative, ground-breaking, big band leader, Stan Kenton (1911-1979), including much material about his band, and the many colorful characters who played in it.
I can date my first experience with jazz. It was the 1945 Kenton recording of “Artistry Jumps” playing in the Etzell Ave. Drugstore juke box. Never exposed to jazz before, I was fascinated by that recording, and I spent so many of my precious nickels playing it, the store owner told me to stop or he would throw me out. I have come to believe now that he was a Lawrence Welk fan. Anyway,that recording set the jazz hook in the hard part of my mouth, and it has never come lose.
The book is roughly subdivided into discussions of the many bands formed by Kenton and the eras in which they played. Kenton was unique in that he continually formed very successful bands through the period when big bands were moribund and even after the big band era had died. His music was loud, bombastic, experimental, only occasionally swinging, and almost always brass-rich which is like saying King Kong was a pretty good sized ape. Pity the poor reed player who had to compete with ever increasing numbers of brass players, at one time the band was swollen with the addition of a tuba, several mellophoniums and french horns. There were few “pianissimos” in his charts. As a result, the unprepared concert goer could be shocked by the decibels coming from the Kenton band, in a word “overpowering” and was once described as “a wall of sound”.
Many of Kenton’s band members worshiped him as musical icon and father figure and Kenton returned that love. He attracted and kept on board many of the best jazz instrumentalists, vocalists and arrangers of that era. His first band was formed in 1941; his last in 1978. Thirty-seven years during which he formed 12 different bands. Behold the list below, most of the names are well known to any jazz fan over 50, as well as many younger ones: Art Pepper, Buddy Childers, Stan Getz, Boots Mussilli, Anita O’Day, Gene Roland, June Christy, Vido Musso, Bob Cooper, Eddie Safranski, Pete Rugolo, Kai Winding, Shelly Manne, Jon Von Ohlen, Eddie Bert, Al Porcino, Neil Hefti, Bud Shank, Don Bagley, Shorty Rogers, Maynard Ferguson, Conti Condoli, Lee Konitz, Richie Kumuca, Bill Holman, Frank Rosolino, Stan Levey, Zoot Sims, Ernie Royal , Bill Perkins, Lennie Niehaus, Carl Fontana, Mel Lewis, Jack Nimitz, Lucky Thompson, Jack Sheldon, Red Mitchell, Sam Donahue, Carl Saunders, Marvin Stamm, Don Menza, Howard Runsey, Gerry Mulligan, Ray Brown, Ed Soph, Chris Conner, and, doubtless other “names” I missed. The big bands of Duke Ellington, Count Basie and Woody Herman all had equally sterling jazzers in their bands, but I doubt any of them can match the length of the list above.
The book is highly descriptive of the hard life for musicians on the road, as the Stan Kenton band was primarily a road band. The author interviewed many members of the Kenton band and some of their road vignettes and stories are priceless, many having to do with excesses of adult beverages consumed. The Kenton band was notable as juicers, and Stan rode the bus with the band members and he drank as heavily as they did. However, Stan didn’t tolerate druggies in the band, and he had a hard rule “No drinking before the gig.”
The Stan Kenton bands were very profitable but Stan blew most of the money trying to make a lasting impact for his form of “progressive jazz” even moving into a cross between jazz and classical music, and thus alienating a large part of his fan base.
Stan Kenton was instrumental in jazz education, especially during his later years, taking his band to colleges and high school to promote big band music and teach young musicians in clinics on how to play jazz. Even though Kenton preferred to play concerts, the band had to play dances to keep the band afloat. Kenton bands recorded over 70 albums mostly in the studio but a few were live. And Kenton wrote over 20 compositions, most to be played by his band.
Somewhere in the book a mention was made about the Rendezvous Ballroom in Balboa Beach CA and when the band played their customary sets of very fast music, the dancers didn’t seem to mind as they were doing a “shuffling dance” known as “The Balboa”.
I never lost interest in the book; the writing was tight and well done. If you are a Stan Kenton fan, or want the full flavor of what it was like during the hey-day of traveling one-nighter big bands, this is great book. My copy came from the library, so you will have to get your own.

BOOK REVIEW OF “RIFFTIDE: THE LIFE AND OPINIONS OF PAPA JOE JONES”
(This review will also be found in “Fruit o’ the Loon”, ’12 #3)

This book, written by (or more precisely edited by) Albert Murray, consists of written verbatim dictations of interviews of Jones by Murray over a number of years. Jones (b’11,d’85) tried mightily to have his biography written, but was he bollixed by cruel fate at every turn, and so, this is it, unless another biography comes along. I must caution anyone who wants to read this book, it is Papa Joe’s riffin’ ‘n’ ramblin’ free-association best, using colorful language, and displaying a temperament which ran toward the irascible and combative, and while he was one of the most important and seminal drummers in jazz, he was a better talker than thinker. That said, he was no fool, and he had opinions on many matters born of a life of scholarly reading.
Jones was a jazz leader in the use of brushes on the drums, and, more importantly, he moved the “time” from the bass drum to the hi-hat cymbal. Thus, he was the innovator of modern jazz drumming, and he had a major influence on later drummers, Buddy Rich, Kenny Clarke, Roy Haynes, Max Roach, and Louie Bellson. He was a member of the acclaimed “All- American Rhythm Section” consisting of Jones, Count Basie, Walter Page and Freddie Green.
The book is preceded by lengthy “Editor’ Prefix” and “Introduction” by Paul Devlin, and an equally lengthy “Afterword” by Phil Schaap.
The book is promised, but if anyone wants it, I will try to wrest it from the clutches of the guy who gets it first.

A NEW LINDY VENUE NEAR CINCY

It’s on the 3rd floor over Molly Malone’s on 4th St. in Covington KY (just across the Ohio river from Cincy). The climb up those stairs was hell on my knees, but it was worth it because the dance floor was big and made of old wide-board softwood in excellent dance condition. The acoustics and lighting were fine as were the dancers (Oh say! 35 on a bitterly cold night with snow flurries). We really enjoyed one of DJs and semi-enjoyed the other. The only drawback for this gig is that it is only held once a month on the 2nd Friday, and some of them are theme dances. Next month it is “60s Night”. I think I can skip that one. Dance at 9, $5, tight on-street parking but a lot across the street for $5.

10TH ANNIVERSARY DANCE FOR SWINGOUT DAYTON

It seems like just yesteryear when this regular Wed. Nite Swing Dance started at Dance Elegance Studios. Darling Jean Cagas remains as the only founding member and regular DJ since the string of dances started there in 2002. A better than average crowd of local dancers showed to this (strangely) unpublicized event, augmented by some from Cincy, none from Columbus, and maybe one from Miami U. for a total I estimate at 40.
Predictably, the music was tres eclectic, but spiced with some quality selections, e,g, a super swinging Gene Harris/Ernestine Anderson cut, thus carrying on SwingOut Dayton’s heretical bent by blaspheming against all that is currently holy in Lindy Hop music. Yes, it’s true, and they played other cuts which had been recorded in the last 60 years.* Unthinkable? Well, someone has to push the outlanders’ avant garde sled down the Lindy Hop track. My problem with some of the really modern music e.g. Pop Rock and Hip Hop is primarily the ad infinitum duration of the recordings. Sorry for the editorial.
*Of course I exaggerate, but there is more than a mere modicum of truth found in the recognition of a wholesale adulation with ancient recorded music.
The maple floor is generous in size and has an outstanding dance surface. The acoustics balanced and penetrating and the ambiance, as always, stygian.
And, as always, I complained that it was too dark. Actually it takes the dubious prize as the darkest Lindy Hop venue I have ever been in, and I have been in hundreds of them. Not to put too sharp a point on this subject, I have seen many Blues Dance venues more brightly lighted. However, after my bitching, they were so accommodating; they plugged in a small table lamp near the back of the room and set it on the edge of the dance floor, thus illuminating adequately for dancing about 3 square feet of dance floor. Once someone accidentally turned on half of the room’s overhead fluorescent lighting and several dancers, led by me, ran headlong toward that side, as would moths toward a flame. But alas, the mistake was quickly corrected, and I resumed bumping into couples on the floor, and asking women, “Have we danced?” To try to cut them some slack, perhaps the studio owner has them on a tight budget of lumens and they blow the whole damned budget each night with bright lighting during the pre-dance lessons. I once entered this venue wearing my cap with twin bright LED light in the bill—no one laughed. If any Lindy Hoppers want to practice echo-location skills, by all means, come to Dance Elegance on a Wed Nite, 4 bucks, easy parking outside, music at 8:30. Yet, another editorial—sometimes, I jus’ cain’t hep mysef.
P.S. I shouldn’t be so critical, as Rudy and I have spent many pleasant evenings of dance at this venue, and I have almost overcome the difficulty of Lindy Hopping with a long white cane in my left hand. (The Minnesota Prince of Snark Darkness strikes again.)
P.P.S. Rudy and I had a good time and went home sweaty wet.

2011, A SUMMARY OF DAYS DANCING BY MONTH

Month Days Dancing
Jan. 17
Feb. 15
Mar. 15
Apr. 12
May 9
Jun. 14
Jul. 11
Aug. 7
Sept. 7
Oct. 6
Nov. 4
Dec. 6

Notice anything? So do I. Pitiful, isn’t it? And Jan. 2012 isn’t any better with only 5 days dancing. Goodbye, cruel world.

Allen Hall, almost ex-Lindy Hopper
January 31, 2012, in Dayton Ohio with, surprise!, recent unseasonable warm temperatures.
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