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News and Views '10/'11 #5
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Allen Hall
MN Prince of Snark Darkness

Joined: 26 May 2004
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PostPosted: Tue Nov 30, 2010 6:25 pm    Post subject: News and Views '10/'11 #5 Share topic on FB Add User to Ignore List Reply with quote

News and Views from the Hall LindyJazzMofile
‘10/’11 Installment # 5
Table of Contents:
1. Jazz Quotes.
2. Still mo’ dancin’ in the Tampa area
3. I Don’t Get it
4. Bitter Disappointment in Orlando
5. How to Listen to Jazz, Part I, by Jeff Fitzgerald, resident Genius and regular writer for AAJ (All About Jazz)
6. Smooth Jazz Be-gone, an Editorial, by Yours Truly.
7. Coming Attractions
1. “It’s taken me all my life to learn what not to play,” Dizzy Gillespie
2. ”Hawk, I heard that record you made with Sonny Rollins! Don’t ever do it again!” Anonymous fan to Coleman Hawkins (You tell him, Bro)
3. “As the music changes so does the dance.” African Proverb
4. “If it has more than three chords, it's jazz. Lou Reed
5. “Jazz was uplifted by what I did.” Norman Grantz (Amen! Norm—you were THE MAN!)
We made another Tuesday night dance at the historic Don Vincente Hotel to eclectic DJed music. (Note: this is a spiffy venue, and while it’s not mandatory, they urge dancers to dress well.) Close $5 parking--tight off-street parking as this is in the trendy Tampa night-crawl area, Ybor City. There is a mixed pretzels and nuts bar-food dish on every table, a full bar with moderate drink prices, and an $8 cover. Music 8 -11:30. Adequate sized floor for the crowd, a fun classy place to dance with skills-rich swing dancers of all types and ages.
We made to our umpth “Sun Coast Dixieland Jazz Classic” at St Petersburg Beach which is always held the weekend before Thanksgiving. We opted for the $12 dance tix for Friday night (5 bands in 5 hours, 7-12), and, given the tempos, we just about put ourselves in the hospital, but when the music is good and there is enough good floor, whatcha ‘spect we gonna do? There was abundant floor on both sides of the bandstand and few dancers, except for slow and moderate tempos, of which there were only a few. We danced to:
1. “Mighty Aphrodite” an all woman Dixieland band sextet led by Bria Skoberg who is as pretty as a spring morning, and plays a mean jazz trumpet.
2. “Bill Allred Classic Jazz Band” which is the most popular group playing the trad. jazz fest circuit, and they richly deserve that popularity. It is an octet with a 5 horn front line of twin trumpets, and trombones (one of which is first call international jazz tramist) and reed-man, Terry Myers, who I place somewhere in Allen Hall List of the Worlds’s top living swing tenor saxophonists, plus an astounding three piece rhythm section, anchored by drummer Ed Metz Jr, who is as good as he is humorous and surprising. All members of this band are top jazz musicians in their own right, and the band plays, and plays well the jazz from the late 20’s to the early ‘50s.
3. “JB Scott’s Swingin’ All-stars”, a sextet with Dixieland horn instrumentation (clar. Trump. Trom.) which included a dynamite clarinetist, plus a three piece swing rhythm instrumentation (piano, bass, drums).
4. “Cornet Chop Suey”, a St. Louis band, which was previously a Dixieland group, but has now segued to a DixieSwing band. Everyone but the pianist is a top notch musician.
5 “Yerba Buena Stompers”, a true classic old jazz music band with a tuba and banjo in the rhythym section and the tree piece dixieland horn front line. They are headquartered in San Francsco but the band members live all over the country. The came on last for the dance, and were they ever welcome, as they played more moderate tempos than the other bands, and Rudy and I were already well over-drawn on our nightly allocation of dance stamina.
This 5 bands and 5 hours of dance for twelve bucks was well advertised in the Tampa Bay area Lindy Hop venues, and there was no competing regular LH dances, but none of the young Lindy Hoppers showed up. Was it the twelve bucks? Maybe, but I doubt it. I have seen this same phenomena many times, and I simply cannot understand it. Can it be that young LHers have an aversion to old people? if so, how come they don’t seem reluctant to dance with me. Can it be that young Lindy Hoppers have a warped opinion of traditional jazz music, believing it is no good for them to dance to. That might be it, if so, they are mistaken. Or they just will not go anywhere outside of their regular habitual dance-comfort venues. That said, whenever young LHers do show up at Dixieland gigs, they are usually get caught up in the energy of the music and show it on the dance floor. So, I don’t get it. What is keeping them away in droves all over the country? I guess it’s time for me to scratch my curiosity itch by starting threads on some LH websites.
I have to set this up. See, my twin mottos are “Let no big band go unheard” and “Always attend big band dances”. Rudy and I have been dancing while wandering around on a couple of continents for almost two decades, and during this time we have danced to more big bands than I can remember or count, but I do remember those which disappointed. Does that say anything about me? Anyway, the disappointing Big Bands were two in number; one in Phoenix. The band was composed of really old, really bad, really poorly- practiced musicians. I remember we stayed for 3 tunes and left $14 poorer. The other was in St. Louis at the Sunday night dance of a weekend swing event. The big band was so bad, all, (I repeat “all”) of the dancers left the room. It was not only too bad to dance to, it was too painful to listen to. Note: the event organizer apologized, and told me the band played for free. I was not surprised. And she said she had never heard them before. That was also not surprising.
Sure, we have danced to some Big Bands which could be considered “sweet” and some even “diabetes-inducing”, but even those bands playing ballroom sets of 1. Foxtrot, 2. Latin, 3 Waltz and 4 Swing (not necessarily in that order) did not qualify as unacceptable—if ya wanna eat the wheat, ya hafta eat some chaff.
So, back to this theme. We were in Tampa and a flyer read “a big band dance in Orlando”. This was enticing. Hey! only $40 for gasoline, $15 for an RV spot and $4 for tolls, and, Hey! this is our M.O. i.e., “find dance music –go dance there.” Further, the band’s name was “The Orlando Swing Band” YESSSSS! “a full big band” YESSSS! “community-based” Whoa! That’s scary, but our second motto is still in effect. And, “$4 cover” YESSSS! “Music from 7:30 to 10” YESSSS! We like to get home early. “Big Band music from Glenn Miller” okay “to Count Basie”. YESSSSS! SOLD!
After we drive to Orlando and arrive to the gig, we see few cars in the venue parking lot. This causes suspicion. When we went in at 7:30 , we saw three people; two workers lounging in chairs, and the venue supervisor was in her office. She said “NO DANCE, The band cancelled after the flyers went out.” When I showed her the flyer, she mentioned that it was always a good idea to call ahead during the holiday season. Does this not smack of blaming the victim? It gets worse.
When we left the No Dance venue, I scored a copy of the local freebie tabloid “Orlando Weekly , so we could look for jazz or dance on this Wednesday night. Unfortunately this tabloid started the next day—What about today? Hell, it’s still today? I looked at last Wednesday, but no Jazz listed, but, wait, there is dancing again at the Atlantic Dance Hall on the Disney Boardwalk. Rudy and I danced there during the last century, but they turned a beautiful dance hall into a supper club (blasphemy), but now, there is DJ dancing there every night. Our evening is salvaged. Right? Wrong, I call and learn that the music is from the ‘70s, ‘80s and ‘90s. I think to myself, “Self, we are all dressed up with only one place to go. How bad can the music be?” To this I answer, “Self, it will be very very bad.” And so, we go home to watch TV, which turns out to be not very good.
It gets worse. See I get up on Thanksgiving morning to buy a newspaper. Wanna guess how much it costs to get Wednesday’s news on Thanksgiving morning in “The Orlando Sentinel”? It costs $1.60 for a shit-pot full of ads for bargains I wouldn’t take for free, and they have the nerve to brag about the price and ads on a front page sticky. This is for a daily newspaper 85 cents overpriced, AND it’s a lousy newspaper with lousy writing about, basically, what is going on in Orlando Florida. Not to unduly disparage Orlando Florida, but it’s a town with two industries, growth, and entertainment for children of all ages, and the newspaper reflects that. Well, I am an adult for quite a while, and have lost most of my childish ways, and I really don’t give damn if Orlando grows, shrinks or stays the same. I am not happy and haven’t been since 7:30 last night. We left Orlando $59 poorer and a day behind in our lives.
The only thing worse than a bad band is no band when one is promised, because it might have been a really good band, but we will never know.
HOW TO LISTEN TO JAZZ , PART I, BY JEFF FITZGERALD, RESIDENT GENIOUS AND REGULAR WRITER AT “ALL ABOUT JAZZ’ (I didn’t get permission to reprint this—I hope I don’t get into trouble. I don’t think I will unless I try to peddle subscriptions to “News and Views”.)

“After surviving a near-fatal marriage and returning once again to the Original Geniusdome, the site of some of my best work.” “I recently took some time to reflect upon my contributions to Our Music. As the Dean of American Jazz Humorists©®, I have long considered it my responsibility both to demystify some of the more esoteric aspects of jazz and to loosen the death grip of the zealot so that the music can breathe. And if by fulfilling these duties, I should somehow end up rich and famous, romantically linked to unspeakably hot actresses like Christina Hendricks and/or Scarlett Johansson and given a lifetime supply of beer by the Anheuser-Busch corporation for my work promoting the consumption of their product by tireless example, well, then, so be it.
But in the process of sifting through my collected works, a glaring oversight was pointed out to me by my parakeet/bodyguard Luca Brasi. "Yes, we get it, Wynton Marsalis has a very round head. But where in all this do you give JazzNoobs a lesson in how to listen to this sometimes daunting music?" he said, making a valid point for someone who spends a significant portion of his day chirping at his own reflection in a mirror.
Sure enough, in eight years of occupying my mantle here at AAJ, I had not once addressed the very basic issue that is probably most responsible for keeping people from making a more dedicated foray into the seemingly impenetrable depths of Our Music that lie beyond the safety and comfort of the familiar kind of jazz one hears on those 1970's TV shows where people in polyester bell-bottoms and crocheted sweater-vests are supposed to be hip.
Be that as it may.
To the uninitiated, jazz may seem either irrelevant or impenetrable. The soundtrack by which middle-aged men with ponytails drive their Volkswagen Passats to Whole Foods, a tuneless mishmash of meandering solos and jarring chords set atop a seemingly unrelated rhythm. Jazz comes off as inaccessible to the average Joe (not Joe Zawinul, obviously), like a 12-page wine list in one of those places where they call green beans "haricot verts" like they're better than you or something.
Yet, every day people from all walks of life find themselves exposed to some aspect of Our Music that makes them pause and think, "I like this, I wonder what kind of music it is?" When informed by a helpful passer-by that it is, in fact, jazz, most people go through the same five steps:
1. Denial. "That can't be jazz!"
2. Anger. "Jazz is for people with .edu e-mail addresses and too many cats, for crissakes!"
3. Bargaining. "Maybe it is kinda jazzy, but I wouldn't call it jazz."
4. Depression. "Me, listening to jazz? I might as well go buy some Birkenstocks and a Prius right now. And they'll never let me back in the Moose Lodge. All is lost."
5. Acceptance. "Maybe jazz is alright after all. Maybe I'll go buy me a whole jazz CD. And I might even try one of them mocha lattes they serve in places that sell jazz."
Upon admitting jazz to be a viable form of alternative listening, though, there is still the issue of how to make sense of the torrent of new sounds and advanced musical concepts. Unlike most forms of music, jazz is primarily active listening. That is, it requires participation from the listener, rather than lying passively in the background like the inoffensive music they play in grocery stores to make you shop slower and not steal anything. The problem is, most people lack active listening skills because most of the music we hear today requires nothing more than the ability to tolerate endless repetition of simple bass-heavy rhythms and frequent use of the word "booty."
Active listening is the difference between a fast-food burrito and a burrito from a little hole-in-the-wall joint where someone's abuelita is in the back making the tortillas. The fast food burrito is hot, fast, relatively tasty, and readily available. It is also bland, predictable, and safe. You don't run the risk of tasting anything you can't identify.
The hole-in-the-wall burrito requires a little more effort to find. It requires a little more effort to order, since it doesn't automatically come filled with shredded textured beef protein and happy-face-yellow processed cheese product. It requires a little more effort to eat, because it there are tastes and textures that may take some work to figure out. Is that cumin? What the hell is cumin? Is it as naughty as it sounds? And what is it doing in my burrito.”
“Arggg Ack!”, that’s the sound my cat makes when he barfs up a meal, which is something like what I utter when I hear Smooth Jazz a.k.a. Light Jazz, a.k.a. Jazz Lite. Is the sound of it annoying? No, but Smooth Jazz, like cancer, was metastasizing into recorded and broadcast music everywhere. And, like cancer, it spread into department stores, urban buses, elevators, coffee shops, airline earphone music and it had become ubiquitous on so-call Kool Radio Stations. It is a form of jazz which is designed not to offend, not to arouse, and now, mercifully, it is in decline, and let us all give thanks for that, as it is music perfectly suited to the sleepy; it makes few, if any, pat their foot; no one, to my knowledge, dances to it; it makes no blood run hot; in short, it’s quiet music for undiscriminating people with quiet minds. Is that so bad? It wouldn’t be if Jazz Lite were not a form of jazz, but, rather and more properly, it was a form of “Music of the Spheres”.
“The whole rise of new adult contemporary music and smooth jazz was a nice surprise.” This said by Kenny G. Okay, Kenny, the surprise is over, we are tired of the auditory Prozac. Make it go away. Kenny, you are a remarkably good saxophonist, but you are playing a remarkably uninspiring music. Say, who is it that composes Smooth Jazz tunes anyway? The music all sounds so much alike—you don’t suppose it’s being composed by electronic devices? Well, anyway, Kenny, let me suggest you get a buzz-cut, buy a tenor saxophone, and get thyself to a jazz jam so you can learn the changes and releases in The Great and Timeless American Jazz Songbook, because your audience is dwindling, and soon, you will no longer be able to demand “heavy bread” for “Lite” music. And, while I am handing out advice, Mr. Koz, either play the alto saxophone or dance, but please don’t try to do both at the same time. It makes you look like you’re embouchure-synching on your alto.
As a harbinger of Smooth Jazz doom, the recent Ybor Jazz Festival in Tampa carried this motto; “There’s nothing smooth about it.”

1. How to Listen to Jazz, Part II.
2.. Maybe, other matters appertaining to Lindy Hop and Jazz, but, then, maybe not.

Allen Hall, Lindy Hopper
November 30, 2010, in sunny south Florida, but not for long.
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