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News and Views '10/'11 # 6
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Allen Hall
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Joined: 26 May 2004
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PostPosted: Tue Dec 14, 2010 1:20 pm    Post subject: News and Views '10/'11 # 6 Share topic on FB Add User to Ignore List Reply with quote

News and Views from the Hall LindyJazzMobile
‘10/’11 Installment # 6

DRIVE, DANCE, REPEAT

Table of Contents:

1. Itinerary Change
2. Four Days of Dance
3. How to Listen to Jazz, Part II
4. “Wandering & Pondering”
5. Coming Attractions

(Editor’s note: This is an inordinately long News and Views—best you either print it out, or hit “delete”.)

ITINERARY CHANGE

In order to make to two dance events new to us, we penciled into the December itinerary 10 days in Atlanta (weather permitting) including “Swing And Soul”, and, after that, on to Ashville NC (weather permitting) for “Lindy Focus”. Well, as I’m sure you have noticed, the weather didn’t begin to permit this—experience teaches that a motor home with frozen water pipes is a pitiful thing. So we are staying in Florida for another two weeks waiting for the rest of the country to thaw, and only then move on to New Orleans for a New Year’s Event there, and then get back on the Lindy Trail itinerary.

FOUR DAYS OF DANCE.

More properly put, “four consecutive days of dance in the Tampa Bay area.

DAY 1 Crossroads Dance. A unique DJed first Thursday of each month event in a dance studio with very nice wood floors in three rooms, two well-lighted rooms for Lindy Hop/Swing and West Coast Swing respectively, and a Blues room bathed in stygian darkness—say, what are they doing in there that they don’t want us to see? Rudy and I mostly danced in the LH/Swing room, but we also danced in the WCS room; she ably, me much less so—my feets get befuddled, jumpy and nervous with all the many extra drum accents in WCS music. The largest room was for Lindy Hop/Swing and, altogether, this dance attracted a large following of excellent dancers—more so than last year, and some of which dance very well in both the LH/Swing and WCS rooms. The LH/swing room featured a well-chosen mix of recordings, many of which were Fats Waller compositions; so many, in fact, when I asked the DJ if she was a Fats Waller fan, she lighted up and quickly replied “YES!”. I said “Me too.”
Fats Waller was a jazz pianist with prodigious keyboard skills. He died of pneumonia in 1943 at the age of 39, but left an indelible mark on piano jazz, on musical comedy and entertainment as a singer, and, most notably, on jazz and popular music with timeless musical compositions. It was reported that upon hearing of Fat’s death Louis Armstrong cried for hours.
Fat’s was a piano prodigy, playing church organ at age 10, the Harlem’s Lincoln Theater organ at 14, making his first recordings at 18, and playing Carnegie Hall at 24. Then later he was noted as a master of pianistic dynamics and tension and release during solos.
Waller copyrighted over 400 songs, some of which he sold for a pittance, but many of which, are firmly embedded in the canon of The Great American songbook. “Honeysuckle Rose”, “Ain’t Misbehavin”, “Squeeze me”, “Blue Turning Grey over You”, “Keepin’ Out of Mischief Now”, “I’ve Got a feeling I’m Falling”, “Jitterbug Waltz”, and “The joint is Jumpin’ are most notable, but he also contributed a number of stride piano evergreens, e.g., “Handful of Keys”, “Valentine Stomp” and “Viper’s Drag”. Most of Waller’s pieces are identified by a joyous melodic bounce and clever double-entendre lyrics, but he also wrote in 1929 (What did I do to be so) “Black and Blue” which is a depressing questioning statement about the black condition of the that era.
A 1978 Broadway Musical Review of Waller tunes “Ain’t Misbehavin’” ran for 1600 performances, and was reprised in 1988 by five supremely talented black performers, all of whom were equally adroit as singers, dancers and, most of all, at musical comedy. This broadway show was video-taped, but, to my knowledge, only shown once on TV. Those Lindy Hoppers who have been blessed to have seen it, or seen home video-tapings of the TV performance, know what I am talking about when I say that I remain enthralled by the production because no movements on stage was free of style, poise and meaning appropriate to Waller’s music. If you ever get a chance to see a videotape of “Ain’t Misbehavin’”, DO NOT MISS IT. It is one of the singular treasures of American Musical Comedy, and features the best of Fat Waller’s compositions. My copy of “Ain’t Misbehavin’” is about a 4th generation videotaping, and so, it’s a bad fuzzy video, but I never tire of watching it.
(Note: Some of the above was lifted off Wikipedia and other websites.)
(‘nother Note: It’s always fun to unexpectedly run into a dancer we have known for a while, but have not seen for a while—just so, this night we ran into NYC dancer, Michael Ingbar, with the predictable hilarious loud reciprocal questions, “WHAT in the hell are YOU doing here?”

DAY 2 we danced at the beautiful historic waterfront Gulfport Casino Ballroom to a pretty damned good Jump Blues sextet. “St. Pete Blues All-Stars” boogie woogie pianist Liz Pennock, tenor saxophone, blues harp, guitar, bass and a drummer who was not a rock retread. Lotsa dancers, but not too many Lindy Hoppers. We mostly hung-out and danced with a foursome of very good older* Bop** dancers—fun night.
*There are no very good young Bop dancers. In fact, there are few young Bop dancers at all. Bop is one of a number of post- WW-II swing dances which will be interred with the bones of the last two Bop dancers, and that will occur in the not too distant future.
**Bop is a six count circling form of swing dance prevalent in the southeast quadrant or the United States and danced to moderate tempo music (120 to 135 bpm) mostly with a pronounced simple back-beat.

DAY 3, we went to Skipper’s Smokehouse in Tampa for a night of zydeco***/cajun/swing dance to a pair of bands. “Porch Dogs” opened for “Gumbo Boogie” Porch Dogs (Zydeco) are an accordion and fiddle driven quintet with an appropriate drummer. Gumbo Boogie (Zydeco/Cajun) is a sextet of guitar, keyboard/accordion, bass/singer, rub-board/trumpet, saxophone/rub-board and non-rock retread drummer. How nice, two full nights of dance with three bands and all three drummers were content to sit back there and drive the bands with unembellished shuffle rhythm. Both bands were entertaining and energetic with fair to good musicianship. Skippers Smokehouse demands description. There is live music 6 nights a week, and the venue has most of the aspects of a seasoned Texas Roadhouse but sans roof. Yep! dance under the stars, but the management stresses the show goes on “rain or shine” and “over 21 admitted, except for kids under 10 admitted, if they are well-behaved.” The generous sized wood dance floor in front of the bandstand is composed of rot-resistant treated 2/6 planks of deck flooring with spaces between to let rainwater drain to the dirt below. It’s hard dancing because you have to pick up your feet, and we did dance hard—mostly zydeco which even I can do well enough so folks don’t stand off and throw long-necker bottles at me, some waltzes, a few Cajun two-steps, and, of course, Rudy and I got in some Lindy whenever tempos urged and allowed.
***Zydeco has been described as black Cajun music but they don’t play waltzes, and Zydeco dance is mostly an open or closed pairs quasi-swing dance with a basic like balboa except they hold on 4 and 8 instead of 1 and 5, and the dancers are very tolerable of anything you do, providing you stay on rhythm. Zydecoers have, so far, been okay with my nonsense.

DAY-4 back to the Zendah Grotto for the regular Sunday night swing dance, this night was to one of our favorite DJs, Abdul Presume. Rudy had a sore foot and I was battling two sore knees that double-doses of pills couldn’t seem to calm down, and so, our evening was over almost before it started, but we heard some good music and engaged in some fun chats with dancers, something we rarely get to do.
It appears that three straight nights of dances has become the limit and still maintain structural integrity of our weight-bearing joints.

HOW TO LISTEN TO JAZZ. PART II, by Jeff Fitzgerald, resident Genius and regular writer for AAJ (All About Jazz)

While the [Seventies] is primarily remembered as a time without quality control, one of the most embarrassing eras in America's history, Fusion (jazz) was in no way responsible for the ridiculous polyester clothing or goofy white-guy Afros.

Welcome back, kids. Now that we've gotten over our initial fear of jazz, and of food that can't be ordered from surly teenagers by yelling out of the window of your car, we can now seek out a more thorough overview of Our Music. Don't worry if you still think Thelonious Monk is that funny TV detective and soft bop has something to do with Hasbro's line of Nerf products; as the old saying goes, Rome wasn't built in a day (I mean, of course, Rome, Georgia. I don't presume to speak for the Italians).
That said.
It may come as a surprise to the newcomer that Jazz isn't one specific type of music that all sounds pretty much alike. It's not all piano and saxophone any more than all movies are about teenage vampires or thirtysomething single woman navigating the sometimes stormy waters of relationships all while simultaneously maintaining their independence and keeping a watchful eye on their biological clocks.
Jazz encompasses all sorts of wildly different types of music. It can be acoustic or electric, played solo or in groups of almost any size. It can rock (or, as we call it, swing) harder than Led Zeppelin, or softer than Dan Fogelberg. It can be played on almost any instrument, or by almost any combination of instruments. Got a tuba, a glockenspiel, two French horns and a zither? Brother, you can still make jazz.
With this much variety, it might be overwhelming to the JazzNoob® to even know where to begin. You may have discovered jazz by hearing some Miles Davis because you somehow found yourself in a Starbucks trying to order a regular damned cup of coffee and why can't they just call a large a large?
Anyway.
While waiting in line and trying to decipher whether the waitress's many tattoos constitute some sort of coherent theme or are just a random collection of whatever she was thinking at that moment, you decide that if this is what jazz is then you might just give it a try. So you head on over to Barnes and Noble and tell the clerk in the CD section to give you some jazz with trumpets in it. Peering over his retro-hip Buddy Holly glasses, he sizes you up, then goes over to the stock and returns with a Chris Botti CD. You pop it into your car stereo and prepare to enjoy some more of that jazz music you've just discovered that you like. Needless to say, what you hear isn't what you heard.
So you go down the road to that hip little buy-sell-trade CD store and tell the clerk you want some jazz featuring the trumpet as the lead instrument, all while trying to stifle your giggles because her ultra-red dyed hair makes her look like a Muppet. She twists her nosering thoughtfully, then goes over to their minuscule jazz section and returns with a Louis Armstrong CD.
Better. Great, even. But that's not it either.
So you return to the Starbucks and ask the clerk what jazz music with trumpets was playing about 45 minutes ago. She stares at you blankly, as though you've just asked her who led the Federal League in batting in 1914 (Benny Kauff, Indianapolis).
"That was 'So What,' by Miles Davis. It's on Kind of Blue." says the barista with the gray ponytail. "We've got the Legacy Edition for sale over there."
And there you have it. In the process, you've discovered that you like Miles Davis and Louis Armstrong. You've also learned that venti means "large." You've learned that a $4 cup of coffee doesn't necessarily taste better than a $1 cup of coffee. And you've learned that if you ever need to know anything about jazz, ask a grown-up.
So what now? You could go out and buy all the Miles Davis and Louis Armstrong CD's you can find. You will soon find, however, that they're not all created equal. Miles not only played several different kinds of jazz, he invented a couple of them. Louis ran the gamut from the blistering "Maple Leaf Rag" to the mellow "What A Wonderful World." How can you tell what you're going to like based on what you already know that you like?
It might be helpful to know that much of Our Music can be categorized into several distinct schools. And by schools, I mean something more akin to a school of thought than an actual bricks-and-mortar school. Though schools do teach jazz, they teach the existing schools that were largely developed independently of the schools that now teach them.
Still with me, kids?
Thinking, then, in terms of the various schools of jazz, that Louis Armstrong CD you liked is from the Hot school. Hot jazz (also known as Dixieland, when being played mostly by Caucasians) developed in New Orleans after the turn of the last century. A rollicking, kinetic, good-time music developed to keep America's mind off the coming unpleasantness of World War I, Prohibition, and that lurid Fatty Arbuckle scandal.
The popularity of Hot Jazz brought it to the attention of American popular culture. The Swing (or, Big Band) era saw jazz repurposed as a dance music for larger venues and, in the days before electric amplification, the only way to increase the volume was the increase the number of musicians. Unfortunately, this also meant that much of the freedom and spontaneity from the smaller combo days had to be curtailed. You can't have a large group of musicians just playing whatever the hell they feel like; just hang around a high school band room before a rehearsal.

Though it is not held in as high of a regard by jazz aficionados now, because it was the top-forty of its day and is seen as lacking the artistic integrity of the jazz before and after it, Swing is still pivotal to the jazz that comes after.
Newton stated in his Third Law of Motion that for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. Whether or not this had anything to do with the invention of those appalling Raspberry Newtons as a reaction to the perfectly acceptable Fig Newton is for you to decide.
What I'm saying is.
Musicians who found their only lucrative outlets playing in the dumbed-down confines of the predominant big bands of the day would often meet for after-hours jam sessions. Home canning was still considered a worthwhile pastime in those days, and the resultant preserves were often used for the good of down-on-their-luck musicians.
For anyone who has ever made their own jam, you know what a time-consuming, labor-intensive process it can be. For that reason, these sessions attracted large numbers of musicians who, naturally enough, would pass the time while waiting for the various processes to complete by playing their instruments.
Unfortunately, these jam sessions drew all sorts of musicians of varying skill levels. For the musicians who were using these sessions as a cathartic to release their frustrations, dealing with lesser-talented players only enhanced their frustration. In response, musicians like Dizzy Gillespie and Charlie Parker began devising breakneck chord changes and blistering solo runs to weed out all but the most hale and hearty of the bunch. Not only did this result directly in the creation of a new type of jazz called Bebop (or Bop, to its friends), the boldness inherent in its approach also led to such exotic jam flavors as Blueberry Habañero and Red Pepper Papaya.
As much as Bebop was a reaction to Swing, there came in its wake a variety of reactions to Bop itself. Miles Davis invented cool jazz while trying to make a classic mint jelly as an answer to the increasingly complex jams of the Bop set (and also, to go with his famous butterflied leg of lamb). Art Blakey developed Hard Bop as a more accessible, melodic answer to the daredevil displays of pure technique that had come to dominate the jazz scene (Scene 5, near the end of Act II).
Moving forward.
The Sixties brought a seismic change in American culture, and jazz reflected that shift in a variety of ways. Besides the ridiculous clothing and circus-clown-on-peyote hairstyles, there was the rise in prevalence of both Free jazz and Fusion. Free jazz ushered in the decade with a promise of abstract, unrestrained expression. Fusion, invented by Miles Davis to get himself in on the staggering amount of leg being scored by lesser-talented pop stars, merged jazz sensibilities with rock instrumentation.
Fusion ruled the Seventies, a fact which should not be held against it. While the decade is primarily remembered as a time without quality control, one of the most embarrassing eras in America's history, Fusion was in no way responsible for the ridiculous polyester clothing or goofy white-guy Afros.
The Eighties is where things start to get complicated. Besides all the skinny ties and that whole New Coke debacle, jazz found itself at a crossroads. Fusion had given birth to a bland, inoffensive genre known as Smooth Jazz which found popularity among people who think that Taco Bell is authentic Mexican cuisine. Neo-traditionalists resurrected Bebop and its subgenres. Electronic instruments, pasty white British people, a new breed of recreational pharmaceuticals and modern urban influences combined to create Acid Jazz.
Things have only grown more complicated as the decades have rolled on. The boundaries of jazz have spread beyond the established schools, expanding to include the possibility of unwashed quasi-hippie jam bands. And the disruptive effect of the digital revolution have changed the rules of both content creation and delivery.
By which I mean.
Back in the old days, before the Internet, before the iPod, music was purchased from a bricks-and-mortar store on some form of physical media and your choices were limited by the arbitrary decisions of monolithic recording companies. Now, individual artists can record and distribute their own work without an intermediary.
This brings about a good news/bad news situation. The good news is that more music is available than ever before. The bad news is that it can be harder to find, and has not been through the vetting process that once not only separated the wheat from the chaff but also some of the wheat from the wheat. But, it remains an unfortunate truism that some unheard music deserves to stay unheard.
Which brings us to more good news. The same Internet which allows virtually unlimited content distribution also provides the wherewithal to gather, sort and review this content. Websites such as, say, this one, are a perfect source for both discovering Our Music and finding out where to see it live. And hilarious, well-written, self-congratulatory articles such as, I dunno, this one can provide you with insight into the various types of jazz (see above).
Which brings us to.
Now that you know how to listen to jazz, and where to find it, there comes the larger metaphysical question of why to listen to jazz. Why deliberately seek out a music that, by its own choice, lacks pop culture appeal? Music that will not be heard on American Idol, will not be performed by pubescent TV actors seeking to make the largest possible flash in their allotted pans, and will not be blasted by ridiculous carloads of lilywhite college dinks who are about as urban as an IKEA store?
I probably just answered my own question, but next month (or whenever the hell I get around to it), Your Own Personal Genius will explore that question in depth. Either that, or a daring exposé uncovering the rampant use of performance-enhancing drugs in jazz. Can the same stuff that gave Barry Bonds that gigantic Pez dispenser head help the average jazz cat swing harder? Stay tuned to this URL for the shocking truth.
WANDERING & PONDERING
If you enjoy the content in News and Views, you might also enjoy “Wandering & Pondering” (link below for the latest installment). I think it’s a Lindy Hop blog, but it also includes guest writers, videos of lindy Hop and other dances, and it has published an interview of Karen Turman about her and Andrew’s boffo box-office choreographed performance depicting the historical evolution of Lindy Hop.http://jsalmonte.wordpress.com/2010/12/03/your-dancing-sucks-but-this-post-isnt-about-that/#more-3134
COMING ATTRACTIONS
1. Tag end of 2010 Lindy in Tampa/Orlando
2. Lindy in the Big Easy
Allen Hall, Lindy Hopper
December 12, 2010, in coolish South Florida (Given what a lot of the country is now enduring, I dasn’t dare describe my discomfort is due to COLD.
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