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News and Views '10/'11 # 7
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Allen Hall
MN Prince of Snark Darkness

Joined: 26 May 2004
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PostPosted: Tue Dec 28, 2010 7:36 pm    Post subject: News and Views '10/'11 # 7 Share topic on FB Add User to Ignore List Reply with quote

News and Views from the Hall LindyJazzMobile
‘10/’11 Installment # 7


Table of Contents:

1. The last of 2010 dancing in Florida
2. An Afternoon with the Masters
3. Dancing in the Big Easy
4. Houston Person Speaks to Us
5. A ‘10/’11 Dance Hemi-Summation
6. Coming Attractions


We attended our last regular Tuesday dance this year at the historic Hotel Don Vincente in Tampa’s historic Ybor City district/tourist pub-crawl area. This a special dance celebrating the birthday of Louie Prima. For us, this was a satisfying event for several reasons:
1. The music was provided by the dandy DJ tandem; two of Tampa’s finest swing music spinners, Carson and Kieth.
2. The dance salved the pain of missing a Louis Prima Birthday Dance in Minnesota featuring Joel Weismann, a nifty jazz tenor saxophonist, who, in my estimation, has improved markedly every time I have heard him, and I can’t say that about many jazz musicians.
3. Rudy and I enjoy the recordings of Louis Prima and Keeley Smith, most especially, because they are musically backed by “Sam Butera and the Witnesses” a signature jump combo, featuring Sam’s growling tenor saxophone.
4. The venue is gorgeous, with wall-to-wall dark hardwood floor in great dance condition.
The dance drew a big crowd, including lotsa folks from the Tampa ballroom dance studios(?).The tempos were taxing, but then, you knew that. There was a huge tasty Birthday cake. Hail Mr. Prima, may he R.I.P.

We went dancing at “Whirl and Twirl”. We have been dancing at this Orlando venue for going on 17 years. It now hosts a second and fourth Saturday swing/Lindy Hop dance, with live music. I don’t know about the other bands, but this one was just about tops, “The New Tradition Jazz Ensemble” is an 18 piece big band with a woman singer, a fine book of interesting arrangements, including a nifty reading of the Theolonius Monk classic “Well You Needn’t”, tight ensemble work, and a couple of sweet soloists from the reed section. It was the Christmas dance replete with a rotund Santa fitted with an air-inflated red costume. There was a big turn-out of dancers, gratis professional photos for all, a sealed knotty-pine floor with a fine dance surface, and enough free sugary goodies to flip me into diabetes.
Fun night.

We eyed going dancing at a regular Friday night dance in Port Charlotte to DJed music which was advertised to be what older people enjoy. With dreams of many Big Band recordings, we shouted “Sold!” Hey! Rudy and I qualify as old, but we had to go to find out about the “enjoy” part. The DJ turned out to be a baby boomer one man band (guitar, keyboards, tenor saxophone and Elvis-clone vocals with pleasing voice quality). This he augmented with an electronic rhythm/chord/melody machine. Ahrrrrrrg! There went our dream of big band music. The DJ’s name was Erich, and he was playing for 250 people, almost all of which were much older than Erich’s baby boomer cohort, and all but a few couples, did “their” dance, regardless of the type of music or tempo. This released Erich to play whatever pleased him, and when he played “YMCA” only 10% of the 250 did the de rigeur hand motions. Huge nice parquet wood floor, adequate lighting, good sound system and acoustics. Noticeable absence of musical energy and dancer enthusiasm. Notable also was a poverty of blubber, we saw one man who was a bit larger than merely over-weight, but otherwise, these were thin or average-weight people—Hmmmm. We got in a few dances and Rudy entered the “mixer” (guys in outer circle going clockwise, gals in inner circle going counter clockwise, and when the lively music stopped, and the drugerously slow music started, you danced with whomever was in front of you.) After we had changed our shoes, Erich played the only pleasingly familiar tune we heard all night “Goin’ to Kansas City”. Must there be a rule that the best recording of the night starts right after we change our shoes? Does this misfortune befall any of you folks? Hey! it was exercise for the arthritis-afflicted (A recent article reported that in order to reduce pain, those with arthritis should do regular low impact exercise [does dancing come to mind?] because it keeps joints loose, and weight-bearing tissue properly nourished. I am a limping testament to this phenomenon—dancin’ don’t make the hurt go away, but dancin’ makes it more tolerable, and after four days of no exercise I am stove-up like a spavined mule.)

We made our last 2010 Sunday dance at the Tampa Zendah Grotto, and it was a good ‘un, with Abdul Presume DJing and a large turnout of excellent LHers from the Orlando and Tampa areas. We got good and sweaty—Damn! That feels so satisfying.

After driving from Tampa to Panama City on the back roads, we went to the regular Monday night dance put on by the “Bop and Shag Club”. While Bop and Carolina Shag are both common in the SE US, and the dancers do commonly sort of mix, it is uncommon to have a co-joined dance club. I supposed they didn’t have enough dancers of each, and had to join to create a critical mass of dancers large enough to hold a dance. We had been previously informed that most of the dancers there do swing. Well, after we got there, we learned that most of the dancers do Cha-cha. Indeed, that was the most prominent dance, and it didn’t matter that the musical rhythm was not Cha-chaish. But, what the hell, you can do a lot of different dances to 4/4 time music. We saw no LHers nor did we expect any, and no one doing WCS. We heard one recording which was fast enough for comfortable LH*. I can remember no vocals played?, and much of the music sounded like it was manufactured for slower “fast dancing” (Bop/Carolina Shag/ WCS), with tempos stuck tight to 120 BPM, and rhythms provided by MIDI manufactured music replete with byzantine electronic drum tracks, and few, indeed, were heard rhythm breaks and fewer still were musical endings (codas). While I am bitching, is there some rule which says that all music with a Latin beat must go on and on and on like a bad dream? Huge wall to wall oak floor in great condition, room lighting adequate and sound system crisp and penetrating, even though no human was selecting the recordings—makes a body wonder if the same DJ-produced program of music is played each week, or do they cleverly put it on “random” play. The dancers were very friendly, and Rudy and I got in a few dances, she to the best of the guys, me to those ladies on the wall-flower bench. One of these days I may learn to do minimalist swing, or maybe it will be that I will HAVE to learn minimalist swing.

*Genuine music made by real humans and was LHish at about 144 bpm, and, dig this, it filled the floor. Hmmmm? Can it be that there is a disconnect between those choosing the music and those dancing to it?

That’s it for 2010 Florida dancing.


One O’clock PM on December 10th I got an e-mail from “Jazz on the Tube” informing me that jazz saxophonist great, James Moody, had died at age 85. I then watched a video of him playing flute—so pretty. This led me to a video of King Pleasure vocalizing to James Moody’s timeless contribution to jazz, “Moody’s Mood for Love”. This then led me to a video of the patron fount of vocalizing, Eddie Jefferson, fronting a dynamite big band and vocalizing on “The Last Time I saw Jeanine”. (Mr. DJ, if you get that cut of “Jeanine” on the record “The Main Man” by Eddie Jefferson, and play it at a dance, I will kiss you on the lips. It only costs .99 cents on Amazon.) It just about drove me out of my skull with delight. This then led me to the modern vocalizing quartet “Manhattan Transfer” on a couple of tunes. This led me to Erroll Garner playing….. and it really doesn’t matter what he plays. I finished off three afternoon hours with Erroll. The tunes---the tunes—the tunes. He chooses the best of the best, “Where and When”, “She’s Funny that Way”, “I Only Have Eyes For You”, “April in Paris ”, “The Shadow of Your Smile”, “A Cottage for Sale”, “Laura”, “Avalon”, I’ll Remember April”, his own stellar contribution, “Misty” and on and on……magnificent taste, and magnificent rendering of each. It is axiomatic that the faster the tempos the more difficult it is to swing, but no one ever told Erroll Garner about that axiom. Erroll swings so hard, and so effortlessly, there is cognitive dissonance between what you see his hands doing, and what your ears are hearing. It’s mysterious musical magic. See, his hands don’t move up and down, only sideways on the keyboard. It’s almost like he’s finger-synching it
Erroll Garner is the quintessential jazz piano stylist—as they say, “three notes and you know it’s him, and sometimes two will do.” I was so privileged to see him once playing solo in a joint in New Orleans in 1974. The break pianist sat on some stairs over the bandstand and shook his head in disbelief. With his left hand, Garner needs no rhythm section. In a word “astounding”, but I have been smitten with Erroll Garner ever since 1952 when I bought my first Garner record in Nagoya Japan. I enthusiastically second many of the comments found appended to these videos of him, e.g., “He acts like he doesn’t know what he is doing is hard.” “He and everyone playing with him have fun, and it shows” “If you are tired of Erroll, you are tired of life.” Garner had exquisite taste for the most elegantly crafted tunes. “Taste” is a musical characteristic not often attributed to jazz musicians, but Erroll Garner had it in rare abundance.
Sadly, you will never likely hear an unedited Erroll Garner recording at a swing dance. See, most often, Garner starts each musical selection with a long, complicated, teasing and curiosity-arousing, solo introduction, while never revealing the melody. The tension is delicious, and rooted in,“What in the hell is he going to play, and when is he going to start?” The rhythm section enters when Garner’s reveals the melody, and his left hand digs in with his characteristic dragging behind-the-beat, rhythm-guitar-like driving rhythm. It gives me goose-bumps just thinking about it.
Two of my most favorite jazz pianists were self-taught, Erroll Garner, and Dave McKenna. I like them for a number of reasons, 1. They both had strong left hands, and could provide their own rhythm—being self-taught, they had to. 2. Neither sounded like a jazz clone, and were thus readily identifiable and 3. They both had good taste in what they played because they came up practicing and playing only that which they enjoyed, and not what the current jazz canon de jure forced upon them.


After sluicing off the road dust from our four days of driving from Punta Gorda FL to New Orleans, we went to Rock ’n’ Bowl for the regular Wednesday night swing dance, this to the Joe Krown quartet plus a good woman singer, with Joe on keyboards and B-3, plus, bass, drums and a FINE tenor saxophone. The floor is sealed dark hardwood of some kind, and the surface is wonderful, as is the lighting, seating and sound system. Note: the original Rock ‘n’ Bowl in the Mid-City Bowling alleys just down the street, had been the one and only swing dance mainstay in N.O for many many years. The walls covered with full murals of early N.O. life, gave the place a unique ambiance. WELL, lookie here, while we were gone, the owner sawed the murals off the walls at the old bowling alley and installed them in the new one. This is a town which thrives on tradition—just another example of that. Fun night of dance with old good friends, to good music in NOLA.

This N&V is getting hefty, so I will continue “Dancing in the Big Easy” in the next N&V.

The sections in quotes below are from an editorial in the Wall Street Journal entitled “Protector of the Soulful Melody” by jazz critic Nat Hentoff (a column about jazz tenor saxophonist, Houston Person).” Starting on piano, Mr. Person switched to tenor saxophone at 17, playing in rhythm-and-blues combos and absorbing the importance of what he calls "the dance feeling" in both rhythm and blues and jazz. As he told critic Bill Milkowski for his notes to "Opening Round: Groove Masters Series 1" (Savant), "the way we had to play coming up in the neighborhood, playing for dances, you want that happy, happy dance feeling. I like people to dance. And I love to dance" “Some jazz players” Mr. Person told me, ‘forget this music is for dancing." Houston was also quoted, "My own feelings about the direction in which jazz should go are that there should be much less stress on technical exhibitionism and much more on emotional content—on what might be termed humanity in music.”
I can testify to his interest in dance. The first time Houston Person played the Huntington Beach Jazz Party, always held on Valentines day weekend, he asked promoter Joe Rothman for the addition of a late Saturday night dance set, saying “It’s Valentine’s Day, the people want to dance with their partners”. Even though dancing is not done at Jazz Parties, when Houston Person, a large and formidable man, asks for something, it’s prudent to grant his request. And, the dance set was added, and to my knowledge, he has been asked back to every HBJP ever since, and there is always a late Saturday night dance set, with him on tenor appearing in a combo with crème de la crème of jazz musicians. Been there, and I can’t begin to tell you how good that was.
“Here and throughout his other music, Mr. Person demonstrates that the operative jazz verb, ‘to swing’, can be deeply fulfilling to the musician and the listener at any tempo—when the player's own feelings are deeply personal. The life pulse that is jazz can transform a ballad into an epiphany that swings the soul.”
“During our conversation, Mr. Person made a point of adding that, like Lester Young and Ben Webster, he always learns the lyrics of the songs he plays.” "The lyric," he's told critic-author Doug Ramsey, "gives the song its meaning and provides the springboard for the improviser. I never play a song the same way twice, and my music doesn't disguise the melody or reshape it or convolute it so that it's unrecognizable."
My personal opinion is that horn players who, during improvisations, play homage to melody and lyric structure usually swing harder and are much more personally (no pun) engaging than those who display their chops using dazzling displays of musical virtuosity—is “self-indulgence” too strong a knock?

I have been blessed to hear Houston Person play many times and thrice danced to his music. To say he has a “robust tone” is like saying King Kong is a somewhat over-sized Gorilla. Houston Person flat fills up a room with the huge sound of his tenor. As well, tribute to his 30 years touring with Etta Jones, he is a master at supporting a singer with obbligato interjections; always urging, encouraging and lifting the singer, while never stepping on the singer’s phrases.
Houston Person is and always will be in my all-time top-ten list of Jazz tenor saxophonists.


On December 10th we were about halfway through our winter wanderings, 96 days out and rolling, and we have danced on 30 days. Not bad, and, so far, slightly ahead of recent years. Maybe we are over our slump. We’ll let you know come May, ‘11

1. Continuation of Dancing in the Big Easy
2. New Orleans Dance Renaissance Weekend
3. A night of Cajun music and dancing in Lafayette LA
4. LH in Houston

Allen Hall, Lindy Hopper
December 28, 2010, and freezing our keesters in New Orleans—this ain’t fair.
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