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


Joined: 26 May 2004
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PostPosted: Sun Jul 01, 2012 2:40 pm    Post subject: News and Views '11/'12 #11 Share topic on FB Add User to Ignore List Reply with quote

News and Views from the Hall LindyJazzMobile
‘11/’12 Installment # 11
July 1, 2012

(Editor’s notes: The N&V is long, 5 pages including a ½ page a drawing of an instrument. Reading time approx. 10 minutes. Can you spare it?)

NOT MUCH DRIVIN’; JUS’ DANCIN’ ‘TIL OCTOBER

Table of Contents:

1. Book Review of “How Music Works”
2. An evening of Joy Dancing to the Solomon Douglas Trio
3. Another Evening of Joy Dancing to Maud Hixon and the Wolverines Trio
4. Two Dancable MN Live Music Venues, and One Not so Much
5. Book Review of “The Oxford Companion to Jazz”
6. Potpourri
7. Facebook
8. Coming Attractions

REVIEW OF “HOW MUSIC WORKS”

This book written by Brit musician and droll wit, John Powell, carries this catchy sub-title, “The Science and Psychology of Beautiful Sounds, from Beethoven to the Beatles and Beyond.” Powell does his best to define and describe the pertinent elements of music using everyday language seasoned with good humor, and his best is more than good enough. A few chapter titles are instructive.
Chapter 1. So, What is Music, Anyway? In this chapter he quotes Conductor Sir Thomas Beecham who said. “Brass bands are all very well in their place---outdoors and several miles away!”
Chapter 3. Notes and Noise.
Chapter 6. How Loud Is Loud?
Chapter 7. Harmony and Cacophony
Chapter 8, Weighing Up Scales
Chapter 10. I Got Rhythm
He explains similarities and differences in instrument’s sounds. He discusses perfect pitch and why you might not want it. He explains the intricacies of all those many bewildering scales and why some notes go together and others don’t. He tells why it is hard to make a Penny Whistle but easy to make a drinking straw oboe. He has a drawing of the exceedingly rare “hemidemisemiquaver”. He touches on the ancient history of music, and, in the back of book, under “Fiddly Details”, he tells how to tune a guitar, tells about the crazy decibel system used to measure loudness, and explains the good and the bad for musicians when the preferred western system of music went from 5 notes to 7 notes. All that, and much much more.
As lagniappe; the book contains a CD inside the back cover which the author uses for auditory examples of what he has discussed in the book.
This is an easy fun read, but you can’t have this copy. It has been sent off to a guitar-learning pal. If you want it real bad, e-mail me and I will have my pal send it to you once he is finished with it.
P.S. if you missed it in the last News and Views, 10 violinists playing are only twice as loud as is one violinist playing. How come? It’s complicated—read the book.
P.S.S. Whattayaknow? I learned something new. I always thought that the ear can differentiate between two different instruments playing the same note by each instrument’s individual timbre (tone, i.e. a combination of pitch plus over and under tones), however I learned that a greater key for instrument identification is primarily found in the instrumental attack (how a note starts).

AN EVEING OF JOY, DANCING TO THE SOLOMON DOUGLAS TRIO

If you get a chance to dance to a Solomon Douglas group, let me advise you to take advantage of it. He is REALLY really playing well, and I can say this with some authority after recently dancing four times to him, once in Columbus OH with his quartet, twice in Minneapolis with Glenn Crytzer’s band, at the “Mid West Swing Fest” in Minnesota, and once again with his own trio at a Monday “Rhythm Junction” dance gig in Minneapolis, I have heard quite enough to make a “Don’t Miss” call. His sidemen for his trio gig here in Mpls. were Steve Pikal on bass and Nik Bortolussi on drums, Both are wonderful swing players who support and encourage a lead voice, keep great “time” and solo with flair, and, altogether, the three guys were talking the same musical language and delighting the dancers. Rudy and I hung in through all three sets—that’s one set over our geriatric limit, but it was easy to do. Tell you why. The band blew the doors off the Four Seasons Studio and then……they burned the joint……DOWN, Jim. Solomon delighted me with his selections from the Great American Songbook, e.g. “Have you Met Miss Jones?”. He kept most tempos near the medium up tempo range, and he only played one over the top barn-burner all night. Easily one of our best nights of dance to live music….ever.

ANOTHER EVENING OF JOY, DANCING TO VOCALIST, MAUD HIXON AND THE WOLVERINES TRIO.

On June 2nd, this musical aggregation played four delicious sets of music at the Social Dance Studio for TCSwing’s First Saturday Dance. The venue has air-conditioning, a fine hardwood floor in fine dance condition, and the lighting is similarly fine. A fine group of experienced dancers showed up, but the instrumentalists and singer were not fine, they were musically superb with sets (musical selections and tempos) well-chosen for swing dancing, and the band’s obvious sense of musical joy is infectious for dancers. Rudy and I danced much more than we should have, but what can one do when swinging music is calling so seductively? And, on a personal note, they played one ballad, and it turned out to be my all-time favorite, a partly melancholy ballad written by a pair of Brits in 1939 as WW-II was threatening, “A Nightingale Sang in Barkeley Square.” Oh! lucky us, yet another over-the-top best evenings of dance to live music.

TWO DANCABLE MN LIVE MUSIC VENUES, AND ONE NOT SO MUCH

On 5/23 Rudy and I danced to “The Swamp Kings” at Legends Lounge in the Holiday Inn in St. Cloud. This venue books blues and blueish bands each Wed. night with music at 7P No cover, good dance floor fit for 6-8 couples. “The Swamp Kings” is a quartet (tenor sax, guitar, held bass, drums) which plays mostly Blues with a New Orleans flavor. It’s a local band, and the musicianship is outstanding. The drummer plays “second line” and “New Orleans Funk” rhythms each as naturally as breathing. This surprised me until I learned he teaches a line drum workshop twice a week and has taken a team to nationals and won. The guitarist has a ton of chops, the bassist has a nice voice and the sax player is a King Curtis acolyte and sounds like it, with nifty phrasing and dynamics.

On 5/25, Rudy and I went to a storied St Paul joint, “Wilebski’s Blues Saloon”, to dance to “The Senders”, a honest Jump Swing/Blues band with 25+ years experience in MN. Wilebski’s features live Blues each Friday night with free (damned good) buffet 5-7, Blues band 7-10, and an R&B band from 10-? For $5 cover. A huge black tile dance floor is dirty enough to be dancelooseable, and, and I have to commend the joint for a notable, absence of chewing gum gobs on the dance floor. The place looks remarkably like the original up-town, New Orleans joint, Tipitina’s. “The Senders” is a three horn septet (bari/alto sax, tenor sax, trombone, piano, guitar, bass and drums) with many of the same players from the early ‘92s when we used to chase their gigs shamelessly. They play a time-honored mix of Wynonie Harris et al jump tunes mixed in with Joe Turner and Johnny Cash standards.

On 6/1 we went to the Medina Ballroom to dance to “Davina and the Vagabonds” with a very sparse crowd of mostly sitters. Best damned big dance floor in or about the Twin Cities, and the band was good*, but when there are few pairs on that broad expanse of floor, I’m sorry, the energy just cain’t seem get to goin’. Down through the years, we have often gone to The Medina to dance, but regardless of the live music, there has routinely not been enough dancers to goose the release of energy to an acceptable level. The Medina’s owner is notorious tight about paying musical groups, and on 6/1, when he walked across the dance floor, I could hear audible squeaking.
*Davina is best appreciated visually and musically, as she has enthusiastic stage presence and a remarkably expressive face. However, sadly, half of her appeal was lost in the vast canyonesque reaches of the Medina Ballroom.

BOOK REVIEW OF “THE OXFORD COMPANION TO JAZZ”

Edited by Bill Kirshiner, this 852 page monster paperback is a compilation of the work of 60 writers, including some of the best editorialists, book authors and critics found in jazz, and covering 60 individual subjects, and, in my opinion, comprises, collectively the best history of Jazz, and this despite the several books written about jazz history. I must defend that statement and tell you why I hold that opinion. Regardless of what anyone says, Jazz does not have a clean uncomplicated history. A single author has enormous difficulty writing a defendable history of jazz for two reasons. I. Many jazz experts have preconceived prejudices about what and who is important, and 2. Because most writers don’t have the wide a spectrum of knowledge to do justice to the messy history and convoluted evolutionary development of jazz. This book, on the other hand, covers the same historical ground by multiple authors and after reading all of them, a clearer picture of a very complicated musical art form slowly hoves into view.
For instance, Bob Porter writes about the blues in Jazz, weaving it into the history of jazz. To use a weak analogy, if jazz is a wide river, and the blues has almost always been a part of that river, the changing river itself must be described to make sense of how the blues has contributed to the river, and how the blues, in the effort, has itself changed and evolved. If you multiply this coverage of the history of jazz dozens of times, by coming at jazz from many directions and through many themes, a more complete picture emerges of the history of the entire musical idiom. That’s a good thing, as it de-bunks one whole hellovalotta writer personal bias.
For those interested, Robert P. Crease writes 10 pages on “Jazz and Dance”. To me, some of the more interesting parts follow:
Enforcing the dictum that when a widely popular musical form undergoes an evolutionary drift distant enough to discourage dancers, it usually relinquishes much of its popularity, James T Maher describes a “tactile bond” between musicians and dancers.
When the Lindy Hop involved a “breakaway” in which the partners stepped back at arm’s length from one another, it constituted a extraordinary development, “it gave each partner a new measure of freedom and turned the basic recurring footwork pattern into a flexible structure on which to improvise.” Thus Lindy Hop created a improvisational dance to fit jazz an improvisational music. Marshal Sterns described Lindy Hop partially inaccurately by calling it “choreographed swing music”.
“After WW-II dancing to jazz and musical cultures separated.” The advent of Bebop (a.k.a. “Bop”) created a new jazz harmonic vocabulary and new patterns for phrasing, “Bop’s asymmetrical melodies and elliptical accents were harder to dance to than the predictable phrasing of riff-based swing compositions.” However, Dizzy Gillespie complained about those who said that bebop was undanceable. Dizzy, who was a Bebop founder, and, arguably, one of the best ever Lindy Hopper jazz musicians, remarked) “I could dance my ass off to it (bebop)….Jazz should be danceable….it should always be rhythmic enough to make you wanna move. When you get away from that movement, you get away from the whole idea.” I, for one, am throwing in with Dizzy. Given a Lindyable tempo, I would dearly love to Lindy Hop to Bebop, and don’t expect to find any difficulty doing so. However, it is rare indeed to hear a Bebop recording played at a Lindy Hop dance. At the crux of the swing/bebop divide, prominent jazz publication” Down Beat” lamented the loss of dancers at jazz venues. But, it was all in vain, as “ballrooms continued to be torn down or converted to supermarkets, movie theaters, bowling alleys, roller-skating rinks, and restaurants.” Predictably, soon after, new popular forms of jazz e,g., original R&B, Jump, and early R&R recruited dancers to Carolina Shag, Bop dance, and several city-specific swing dances throughout the nation, and eclipsed Lindy Hop which lay fallow for almost 30 years, when live “jump” music (the “neo-swing” of “Royal Crown Review” and it’s ilk) led to the revival of Lindy Hop. You know the rest of the story…….but, even today this, the last paragraph in this “Jazz and Dance” section.
“It is therefore a cruel irony to see such swing era classics as Basie arrangements of ‘Jumpin’ at the the Woodside’ or ‘One O’clock Jump’ celebrated through performances in concert halls, where the opportunity for this participatory experience is, once again, stifled. The interaction of the music and the dance and the consequences of their separation, is the single most important still-untold story in the history of jazz.” Amen! Bro….
To anyone interested in specific writings comprising the entirety of jazz including its history, from “African Roots of Jazz” on page 7 to “Improvisation and Concepts of Virtuosity” on page 788, I can warmly recommend this book, but this particular huge volume goes into my little library.

POTPOURRI

1. "Music together with dance co-evolved biologically and culturally to serve as a technology of social bonding," Nils L. Wallin and Björn Merker wrote in The Origins of Music.

1. “I would not know what the spirit of a philosopher might wish more to be than a good dancer.” Friedrich Nietzsche
2. This from somewhere. “Ears ringing from a truly awful jazz concert, officials in this Boston satellite city of Salem, came close to passing a ban on saxophones. The saga of how a single, tone-deaf street performer almost sparked an iron-fisted crackdown on the world's second-most-ridiculous wind instrument (seriously, there's one called a ‘Goofus’*) the Salem News, which quotes the city solicitor as saying, ‘I never realized how loud a saxophone could actually go.’ The offending musician had staked out a pedestrian mall and was playing ‘Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star’ and ‘Somewhere Over the Rainbow’ over and over again, leading citizens to bombard city hall with furious phone calls. However, the Salem Licensing Board opted not to add ‘no saxophones’ to its new set of street-performer regulations after councilman Bob McCarthy pointed out that not all practitioners of the instrument are terrible. (McCarthy's kid plays the saxophone in the school band.)”
* The Goofus a.k.a. “Couesnophone” or “Queenphone” appears to be a cross between a bagpipe and an accordion while masquerading as a saxophone. See, you blow noiselessly into the mouth piece, and then finger one or more of the 18 available note-keys, each with its own tuned reed, or something like that. It was played by Adrian Rollini ’03-’56, a prominent and influential early jazz instrumentalist. He apparently enjoyed playing unusual instruments as he also played the xylophone and became a virtuosos on the bass saxophone. Rollini formed a band “The Goofus Five”.
"GOOFUS"

Incidentally, I may have mentioned this before, but “The bagpipe is possibly the only musical instrument to have been labeled a tool of warfare.”


FACEBOOK

I would like to apologize to all those who have offered to befriend me on Facebook. Early on, my wife, Rudy, urged me to jump onboard the juggernaut social-media train, and so I did, but then, I soon learned that it was liable to take more time than I cared to devote to it, and so, while I have not relinquished my Facebook membership (something I really should do, but don’t know how), I have accepted no offers of friendship. I’m not an unfriendly person, but find many ways other than keeping up on social media to fill up my discretionary hours. That’s not to say Facebook is a unnecessary use of time for everyone, and its obvious value is both keeping up with many friends and likewise sending out personal information. Rudy has beaucoup Facebook friends, and so, it you want to know about me, read her Facebook page and whatever she is doing, I will be close by.
Not to lecture on the obvious, but “time” is one of those free essentials, like oxygen, afforded each of us by just finding ourselves, miraculously, still alive. Everyone has a fixed but unknown quantity of “time”, and so, “time” should be precious, but, quite often, it’s frittered-away with utter abandon. I have been glaringly guilty of this, but after turning 80, “time” has taken on an added luster, and I am trying to husband carefully that which is remaining for me. Right now, after I finish this sentence and the next, I will waste, to good advantage, one hour by taking a nap.
This will be copied on the next “Fruit o’ the Loon” in order to get full apologetic coverage.

COMING ATTRACTIONS

1. Poopy! And Here I thought I was through buying CDs
2. Band Review of “Radio Joe and the Jazzbos”
3. A Muse Swap
4. Potpourri

(Thanks for reading. You are a patient champion.)

Allen Hall, Lindy Hop Dancer
July 1, 2012, in Minnesota on warm (not hot) muggy Lake Sylvia
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