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

Joined: 26 May 2004
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PostPosted: Wed Feb 09, 2011 12:54 pm    Post subject: News and Views, '10/'11 # 10 Share topic on FB Add User to Ignore List Reply with quote

Once more prolonging the inevitable.

Allen Hall

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


Table of Contents:
1. The Remaining 7 Days of the First 15 Days in Austin in 2011
2. Editorial Comments Aplenty—“The Grump” Opines
3. Coming Attractions


Friday, we went to a factory morphed into a joint without a sign out front, and quaintly name “Swan Dive” to dance to “Dave Jellema and Company” an excellent quartet of clarinet, up-right bass, fiddle/guitar and guitar/banjo, playing trad jazz at mostly rather brisk tempos. The generous sized dance floor is smooth concrete and level in most areas, but if you walk across this large club with eyes closed, you might suspect you’d had too many martinis. A great group of top Austin Lhers made it a fine night, and we both got in some fun dancing, albeit, tempos allowing. Swan Dive, 615 Red River (near downtown) $5 cover, alcohol served, good lighting as the high ceiling and all walls are painted flat white. Tight on-street parking.

Saturday we lay fallow by design, and Sunday too, but not by design. After the football games we went to the Continental Club to dance to “Haybale” a western swing quintet (lead and rhythm guitars, upright bass, keyboard and drums).
First, the good news: the band members are all talented musicians, three can sing as baritones or basso profundos. All are old hands in the Western Swing tradition (Austin IS the international epicenter of that music). Guitarist Redd Volkaert is a swinging magician on a fender guitar and when he sings you can understand the words. The drummer does not have a scintilla of rock influence in his whole musical body—where do we find such lovely narcissism-free percussionists? Keyboardist, Earle Poole Ball plays one the best examples I have ever heard of Honky-Tonk Pieanna, and only once did he lapse into Jerry Lee Lewis pieanna. We got pretty close to enjoying the good music. (should that be in “bad news”?)
Now the bad news: The other two singers might as well have been singing the lyrics in Sanskrit. The bass was amped up so high it created resonant vibration in everything in the club which could vibrate at the bass’s frequencies. In general, the music was deafening, but then, the sound guy must have known what he was going to have to deal with, i.e., inebriated people with jugular veins standing out like ropes, as they screamed at one another in order to be heard over the music—the over-amplified music volume won out, but not by much. Inebriates were careening all over the dance floor in terpsechoreal Brownian Movement—changing directions only after collisions with other dancers. The gig started at 10PM, which gave the inebriates a running start at topping-off their tanks. Rudy and I got in two dances and left the floor, in frustration, after the middle of the second one—we have good medical insurance, but it‘s not wise to tempt fate, and Rudy’s head was at the same altitude as the flying elbows and swinging purses. Cover for the gig was $8, and I am ashamed to admit I put nothing in the tip jar. We left, in a partial huff, near the end of the first set, and drove our bear-chawed butts home. Did I mention it was really loud in the club?

Monday we went to “Quality Seafood”, an fine eatery, to dance to “Aunt Ruby’s Sweet Jazz Babies” an excellent quartet of trombone, clarinet, guitar and bass, on a small painted concrete floor which danced beautifully and accommodated two pairs comfortably. About a dozen experienced Lindy Hoppers showed-up with all agreeably sharing the floor. Unlike some venues for dancing in Austin, we would go back there to eat and dance.

Tuesday We went to The Fed to dance to mostly moderate tempo DJed music at Four-on-the-Floor student’s practice dance. Many good dancers were there, but not enough in that huge room to generate much dancer-associated energy—there are multiple relationships between square footage of available dance floor space and numbers of dance pairs on the floor, but more about that later in “The Grump Opines”.

Wednesday we danced at “The Broken Spoke”, a quintessential Texas Honky-Tonk Roadhouse, to “Dale Watson and his Lone Stars”, a quintessential Texas C/W band with western swing flavoring, and the finest steel guitar player in the western hemisphere, and maybe the entire universe. He swings so hard he gives me the willies. There is a C/W music museum inside “The Spoke” , and Bob Will’s bus is parked out front on static display—got the picture? The dance floor is raw concrete which has been worn to a very danceably smooth surface by the shoes and boots of thousands of dancers over many many years. It is not going to be easy but let me try to characterize the dance crowd there. If you would expect a preponderance of C/W dancers clad in cowboy boots, tight levis and expensive western hats, you would be wrong. Yes, there were a few, but the take away impression for me, is that I have never seen a dance crowd consisting of so many young beautiful women, and so many old ugly men who dance really well. There were some young men there, but none could dance for shit. There are women in long and short skirts, men in baseball caps, skull caps and NYC cab-driver’s caps like I wear. Last night there were Dale fans from Newcastle England. I knew Dale had been playing Lee’s Liquor Lounge in MN this month, and so, I asked him “How was the weather in MN?” His eyes got real wide as he replied “That’s the first time I have ever been at 25 below zero.” That’ll teach him to leave Austin in winter so he can to play MN. P.S. Wednesday is Ladies Night at “The Spoke”, so only guys pay the $5 cover.

Thursday was our swan-song for this spell in Austin, and it turned out to be another two-fur dance night.
Dance. # 1 At the High-Ball Lounge, The Dale Watson swing octet with horns (Yes, that’s an “s”)-Dale on guitar, good keyboard and drummer, up-right bass, tenor, trumpet and excellent trombone,) This starts a regular weekly Thursday 8-11PM gig playing all swing music. Can Dale swing? Oh my! I own a whole CD of Dale Watson playing sweet swinging swing music. There was a big crowd of eclectic dancers and the floor surface was much more danceable than the first time we were there. No cover and tight off-street parking.
Dance #2 We went the Fed for the regular weekly dance. A crowd of 80 to 90 dancers attended this multi-DJed event. Much of the music was peppy primordial jazz—I will have more to say about that below.
Tomorrow we head for Dallas/Ft Worth, or, in order to not be impolitic, perhaps should that be Ft. Worth/Dallas? Anyway, we plan to be there for 9 days and dance on four nights.

For Austin Lindy opportunities go to the calendar on Austin Swing Syndicate, and www.austindance.net

1. Jazz Quotes:
“Jazz attracted me because in it I found a formal perfection and instrumental precision that I admire in classical music, but which popular music doesn't have.” – Django Reinhardt (“The Grump” believes that no written music is perfect, and all can be improved upon or embellished by the talented improvisationalist. The trick is not to destroy the original with excursions into the entirely personal, self-serving avant garde. If you don’t like the damned tune that much, then, for crying out loud, don’t play it, and write your own damned tune.)
“I was never, never ever, preoccupied and consumed with speed and a virtuoso-type technique. Never! I have been, always was, and still am consumed and preoccupied with the business of playing the instrument with clarity and with logic and with some kind of expressiveness….” Jazz Trombonist exemplar, J.J. Johnson (“The Grump” agrees, as there is almost an inevitability in a well-placed and swinging improvisational phrase, i.e., a succession of the best notes, in the best musical locations, each with the best duration and dynamic which results in the listener’s mind a “Yes! That’s it. That’s exactly the way it should be.” Each note should lead logically to the next note and so on. Busy arrpegiating and displays of virtuosity with blizzards of notes do not identify the adept jazzer; it identifies the jazzer who has nothing to say musically and is only trying to impress people while waiting for a pleasing musical thought to appear between his ears.)
In a WSJ Article entitled “Don’t Overstay Your Welcome in My mind” Eric Felten writes, “Pop music, mostly constrained by the 3-minute restrictions of commercial-radio airplay, has maintained a remarkable discipline.“ “By contrast, artistic ambition in jazz has led to a certain lack of focus, a tendency to go on and on like Hugo Chavez at a microphone.” (“The Grump” agrees, tho’ Lester Young and John Coltrane had oodles of musical ideas, most jazz soloists need to play their best first, and when they run out of pleasing musical ideas, pass the lead to the next soloist. Furthermore, “The Grump“ is enthused by well-played RHYTHMIC drum solos of reasonable durations, but interminable drum solos in several tempo movements become, at first, boring, and, finally, irritating.
2. Lindy Exchanges have come a long way, Baby. I remember the days when most LXs were a invitation for out-of-town dancers to come to a city for a weekend, be maybe be put up in local dancers’ homes, and have a contest-free, workshop-free, dance-show-production-free experience. Just social dancing, move-swapping and schmoozing with the like-minded. Local DJs providing the music in inexpensive venues, for not much money—some primitive LXs, as I recall, charged $15. Competitive escalation is a double-edged sabre. It can make something better, or it can make something worse, and even worse, escalation can lead to nihilism where, with no place to go, but way way up, with Lindy Exchanges disappearing—who wants to return to the ancient days of Lindy Exchange yester-year? Well, “The Grump” does, he prefers the original concept. He is not throwing poop at the DC Lindy Exchange, as it has a well-earned rep. for being a top event, AND, to be fair, “The Grump has never been to a DCLX—See, it’s held when he must be heading home to Minnesota. And, he am not finding fault with $83 for the DCLX2011—the boss CPA in heaven knows that many Lindy Hop events have undergone some recent hefty price increases. If bigness in Lindy Exchanges is a measure of goodness, here is a promo for DCLX 2011
“…in celebration of 10 years of exchanges in Washington, DC, we have the most incredible line-up of bands and DJs of the decade. From April 15-17th you will experience the FIVE top swing bands from around the country, including a BIG BAND BATTLE on Saturday night with Jonathan Stout’s Orchestra from LA against Seattle’s Glenn Crytzer’s Blue Rhythm Band featuring Meschiya Lake. You’ll feel like you’re in the Savoy while at our great Spanish Ballroom. Add to that Gordon Webster, the Boilermaker Jazz Band, Blue Sky 5, and you will have incredible live music each dance and late night! DCLX will be epic…..”
Not to nit-pick, but two “incredible”s as superlatives, are perhaps misused, but “epic” may be proper, but only, that is, if DCLX2011 is not easily surpassed by next year’s DCLX2012 or by another lavish never-been-seen-before, super-duper-duper Lindy Exchange. But, what about other weensie Lindy Exchanges? How can they compare and compete with epic events? And what about a little Lindy Exchange who decides to hold their event on the same weekend as DCLX2011? Not too smart, huh? And what if they want to feature one of the nation’s five top swing bands? Sorry, they’re already taken—better to book one from # 6 through #10.
3. Has the music for Lindy Hop become too fast for you too? Is this so-called too-fast music a conspiracy foisted on Lindy Hop by the best dancers in order to keep Lindy beginners off the floor? At what tempos will Charleston totally replace 8-count Lindy Hop? Is there a relationship between the age of jazz and tempo—put another way, does pre-Big band jazz have markedly faster tempos? These and allied questions will be addressed at some time soon by “The Grump”, unless, that is, you wanna weight in, and do it for him. With permission granted, I will re-print all comments.
4. “The Grump” is not complaining here, but, but merely curious. Using the dubious premise that the average Lindy pair needs a minimum of 32 sq. ft. of dance floor in order to dance freely, and plotting a Lindy dancer high-satisfaction curve with numbers of Lindy dance pairs on the Y axis, and dance floor square-footage on the X axis gives you, I am guessing, a sort-of straight line, with some number slope. Points well above the slope can lead to dancer dissatisfaction because there is not enough room to dance freely, and points well below the slope can lead to dancer dissatisfaction because there is not enough dancer-generated energy in the room. Taking those thoughts to their ridiculous extremes, imagine the dissatisfaction when 100 Lindy pairs try to dance on 100 sq. ft. of floor, and, likewise, imagine the dissatisfaction when only two Lindy pairs are dancing in the Aragon ballroom. It is difficult to generate dance energy on a huge floor with a few dancers. So what is the optimum floor space/dance pair when it comes to satisfying, as well as possible, both dance energy in the room, and enough floor space for everyone to dance freely? I’m not sure—if you have a number you can defend, lemmie hear about it. With your permission, “The Grump” will promulgate your number and defense of it in a future “News and Views”. This may not be high science at work, but it’s still fun to do. And while you are at faux dance science, would you care to estimate a BPM (Beats-Per-Minute) tempo number which puts the most Lindy pairs on the floor. Yes, they dance to faster music in Austin than they do in Houston, but the BPM number “the Grump” seeks is a theoretical average for a tempo which maximizes LHers on the floor, and arrived at by samples taken from all over the USA….or something like that.


1. Lindy in Dallas, Denton and Fort Worth
2. Back To Austin for Another Two Weeks

Allen Hall, tired Lindy Hopper
January 31, 2011, shiverin’ in Dallas, and waitin’, with trepidation, for this winter’s worst icy blast of sleet, snow and freezing rain.
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