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News and Views '11/'12 #1
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Allen Hall
MN Prince of Snark Darkness


Joined: 26 May 2004
Posts: 495
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PostPosted: Sun Oct 23, 2011 8:20 am    Post subject: News and Views '11/'12 #1 Share topic on FB Add User to Ignore List Reply with quote

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

(Editors warning note: Print this out; like “On a Clear Day” it goes on forever. To be precise, 5 single-space pages)

DANCE, DRIVE, REPEAT (MAYBE)

Table of Contents:

1. Potpourri
2. Confessions of an Anal-Retentive
3. Q. Who Wrote This?
4. To Watch and Listen or To Listen? Aye, that is the Question
5. A Surprise Venue and Band; Talk about Serendipity
6. “Rabid Need for Movement”
7. Coming Attractions

POTPOURRI

1. “I merely took the energy it takes to pout and wrote some blues.” Duke Ellington

2. “A piece of music is boring if it’s completely predictable, and boring if it’s completely unpredictable,” … “What we respond to aesthetically as humans is a mixture of order and disorder.” James Gleick

3. For anatomical structural problems…Ahem!...this downward spiral applies, ”The less we do, the more it hurts. The more it hurts, the less we do.” Dr. Walk M.D. Pain Clinic. The “Ahem!” refers to my achy-breaky weight-bearing joints. My gimpy joints have a funny way of making me forget this truism It’s difficult to remember that Hey! it’s only pain, and it’s only mine.

4. If you doubt there is any music too fast for the most experienced swing dancers to stay on rhythm, get a copy of Woody Herman’s “Apple Honey”. It’s a great chart played by a great band, and it goes right at 360 bpm. At this tempo I remain a listener, and always have been.

CONFESSIONS OF AN ANAL-RETENTIVE

I keep a daily calendar on which I make notes about where we are; the city/town/location for that date. Hey! old folks are forgetful. And how many miles it takes to get there, which can be vital, as you DO NOT want to be driving on an interstate highway during the week at rush hour through Chicago (bad and unpredictable), Atlanta (bad all the time) or Austin TX (impossible). I also try to stay ahead of the dance curve by noting future dances. Often included is the venue, the band, should there be one, and the time the music starts. Then, if we dance on that day, I put a red “D” on the date.
We, or better make that, I started dancing during the summer of 1992, but I didn’t keep a calendar with dance dates until 1996 and have done so ever since. I retain the calendars in a vault in the local bank safe deposit room, and so, for whatever meager value it affords, from Jan 1996 until today, I can tell you on what dates we danced, and for the most part where we danced, and less often the name of the band. Wanna know why I do this? Read the heading for this piece of dance drivel. Hey! I am an organized person, organized to a fault, BUT I am now able to reveal how often we danced on each of the months from Jan ’96 to Dec ’10, and it is all on one piece of paper.
TMI, and you don’t care? Well, how ‘bout this, I’ve compressed the data; annual totals of dance days from ’96 thru ’10?
’96-143
’97-135
’98-168
’99-208
’00-218
’01-177
’02-181
’03-198
’04-153
’05-153
’06-149
’07-142
’08-172
’09-166
’10-128
for a grand total of 2,488 days dancing over 15 years, or an average of 166 dance days, per year, with us dancing 45% of the days during those 15 years. Those years when we danced more than 200 days a year were our first two winters in Los Angeles when we went dance bonkers, much like hungry bug-eyed children locked up in a candy store overnight. Last year was our lowest dance year at only 128 days on the dance floor. Do you think we are slowing down? You can safely bet the farm and tractor that we are—numbers don’t lie. Last year we danced on only one day of 5, or 20% of the days. Peter Strom said about us “They can’t help themselves” and while it’s still true, the frequency is falling, and so too are the numbers of dances per night before we toss in the terpsichorean towel. The major reason for this fall in dance output is that our collective chassis are undergoing CSID&D, Catastrophic Self-Inflicted Disassembly and Disintegration. But we have our memories, those halcyon months in L.A. were huge, and while there, we routinely danced on 2 out of every 3 days, for months on end. Could it be we have ruined our bodies in the quest for pleasure? If so, it may turn out to be a fair trade.


Q. WHO WROTE THIS? ANSWER BELOW.

“The characteristics I most prize in Jazz musicians are honesty, passion, dedication to jazz and a natural ability to swing. I prize the unpretentious player who is doing his best to play the music in a way which moves him or her deeply. I distrust the showy virtuoso who is projecting to both the lowest common denominator, and self-important elite jazz fans. To me, honesty in jazz is when the musicians are pleasing themselves as best they can, and the passion come out when they are playing music which obviously moves them emotionally. To me, dedication to jazz means learning and playing well the timeless compositions favored in the genre. The constant newness of jazz is well-afforded by changes in interpretation of that canon of jazz music, To me, a natural ability to swing is one which is not forced, is consistent, fluid, flexible and just as natural as breathing. The best way to assess these several characteristics is study a jazz musician at work, If you are perceptive, faked honesty and passion cannot be sold. I distrust a musician who relies mainly on original compositions; there are many talented jazz musicians but only a few Gershwins, Ellingtons, Mercers and Carmichaels. I prefer swing which is neither intermittent nor forced. This is to not to say, that I am never entertained by artistic dishonesty, faked passion, egocentric play and contrived swing, only that I much prefer the other kinds.”

A. I wrote this back on September 23, 2002, but edited slightly on June 25, 2011. When you start quoting yourself, you know you are running out of things to write.

But, while I’m “stratospherically high” listening Janice Siegel’s CD “Friday Night Special”, I AM GOING TO DO SOMETHING I NEVER DO. I’M GONNA WRITE A CD REVIEW FOR GENERAL CONSUMPTION. Look, I understand that preferences in music are entirely personal, but right now, I don’t give a damn about that. This is from my heart.
Janice Siegel is the little woman singer in the “Manhattan Transfer” quartet. She swings soooooo hard, and she has mastered complete, even preternatural, control of her instrument while retaining the all the vocal variety inherent in jazz. Playing in her quartet are some of the best. The primaries are: 1. The best B3ist working today, Joey DeFrancisco, and 2. the best tenor obligatist, maybe ever, in Houston Person. He can purr as good as the master, Plas Johnson, and he can bark and yelp too. Joey has abandoned his leading role to do, and do skillfully, one of the roles the B3 was destined for—to lay down a groove so wide the Queen Mary could sail through it. Joey D takin’ care of business. And, guitarist, Russell Malone is not exactly chopped liver.
The comments below in quotes are from the liner notes written by the record producer, Joel Dorn.
“Time now for me to tell you that I’m from Philly, which in the golden age of organ jazz, the 50s and 60s, was the epicenter of that world.”
The two Jimmys, Smith and McDuff, plus Groove Holmes, and Shirley Scott, all came from Philly as did the young Joey D—something must be in the water.
“When organ jazz was in full bloom, the hierarchy of the jazz community looked down its collective nose at it. The critics dismissed it,. ’Serious jazz’ fans wouldn’t ever recognize its existence, and, surprisingly, many musicians who should have known better, wrote it off as some kind of roadhouse kitsch. But real people loved it (Allen Hall loved it, loves it still). “ “Unfortunately, the literati missed the “bus-o-rootie” on this music.
Amen, the sound of a big-toned tenor diggin’ in, while fronting a B3 is, I believe, one of the singular thrills in American Jazz. It’s a signature sound, that of Houston, Jug, Jimmy, Illinois, Ornette and all those other big-toned wailing Texas tenors who cannot play a solo without a “Texas moan”, and backed by the guttural drive of the bitch’ bad Hammond B3 Organ in soulful hands. May that music never die. And if you want to see it played before your living eyes, get your ass to Chicago, and pray that “Henry Johnson’s Organ Express” is still at Andy’s. If your jazz ear is not yet hardened or dead, you should writhe with pleasure, or not, if Rock music has made you deaf.
The CD cuts are a mix of ballad and up-tempos, most from beautifully crafted tunes—nothing but the best should be played by the best. Dig?
1. “That Same Love that Made me Laugh” @ 144 bpm
2. “My, How Time Goes By”, a slow groove @ 72 bpm
3. “I Just Stopped by to Say Hello” Johnny Hartmann’s gorgeous evergreen @ 60 bpm
4 . “My love is/ My babe @ 132 bpm
5. “Let It Be Me” @ 72 bpm
6. “Ill Wind” @ 60 bpm
7. “You Don’t Know Me” @ 84 bpm
8. “There’s a Small Hotel” @ 180 bpm
9. “Make Me a Present of You” @ 84
10. “Misty” Errol Garners’ masterpiece at a spritely tempo of 180 bpm
If you are only interested in music for Lindy Hop, and consider this too modern, since it was recorded recently and everyone on the record date is still alive, then keep away from me on cuts 1, 8, and 10, as you are apt to be sucked onto the floor in my slip-stream.

TO WATCH AND LISTEN OR TO LISTEN? AYE, THAT IS THE QUESTION

Tis’ better to see a singer on the screen than merely to listen?
“The camera is a restless beast with huge eyes and small ears, more often interested in visual gimmicks than in the glories of sound.“*
*Page 281, ”A Biographical Guide to the Great Jazz and Pop Singers” by Will Friedwald
Before I add another word, I must tell you about this book cited above. It is both remarkable and expensive. A 2010 edition costing $45 new. I bought it, and would pay twice that or more, as I am an avid collector of singer’s voices, and this book covers singers in a way not seen before. e.g., Ernestine Anderson gets 4,000 words, Sinatra 13,000. There are no photographs in the book, but it has essay long entries for well over 200 singers, some I have never heard of.
The author has written eight books, and liner notes for almost 500 CDs. Holy Toledo!
He has treated some of my favorites harshly, e.g., Eydie Gorme and Diana Krall, but, I believe, quite fairly. It is axiomatic that the criteria used to make singers become my favorites, do not exactly apply to anyone else. My criteria and their weights are not perfect, nor even necessarily defendable, but they are uniquely mine, and I ain’t changing them, e.g., if a singer can’t swing, he or she better be in the 95th percentile for all other vocal criteria, in order to get a chance to gain my praise.
Back to the question of seeing singers on the screen, on TV or on a video vs just hearing them. There is no question in my mind that I am more critical after actively listening to an unseen singer, than after seeing a singer in a movie/TV or Video. Why? Probably because it is difficult to actively listen when you are also getting germane visual input. Seeing a singer live and up close is the best for me, because they have nowhere to hide, and if I am distracted mightily, I can always close my eyes for a moment. This tactic seldom works for me viewing a movie, TV or video, as the sound seems to go instantly flat. I know there is a cognitive disconnect in this argument, but I stand by my sensory impressions.

A SURPRISE VENUE AND BAND; TALK ABOUT SERENDIPITY

See, I don’t write up the ordinary and well attended dances or venues because many of my addressees are dancers from MN. But, Rudy and I met friends for dinner at a blues joint, The Narrows Bar (3380 Shoreline Dr. Wayzata MN). The band was “Big Daddy Cade” in a B.B. King Tribute (a quintet, with Cade on B.B. ish vocals and guitar, another guitar, B-3ish keyboards, bass and drummer). We stayed for one long set. They played the standard blues book, and played them really well. The keyboard guy was dynamite, the drummer was that rarest of all living things, a drummer in a blues band who is content to sit back there and play shuffles or back-beat accents all night long. Shit! I thought they were all dead, and this cat is young. Big Daddy was FINE, and the tempos ranged from 160 to ballads. There was adequate dance floor space for maybe 5 couples, but Rudy and I had it all to ourselves on the up-temps numbers. The wood floor surface was wonderful, and we got no black goo on our shoes—this in food joint? Believe it. And the food was great—and Dig this, no cover on a Saturday night.

“RABID NEED FOR MOVEMENT”

I came on this phrase while surfing on Yehoodi, and it succinctly epitomizes my need for exercise, movement, sweating while moving, trying to sweat….call it what you will. I have always been an unconscious but purposeful proponent of movement. At first it was sports, then the silliness of running, and when my undercarriage began to fail, I went into pairs swing dance, a provident form of movement. This I have done for 19 years—where has the time gone? My needs for exercise drove me to the form of swing dance which maximized energy output, the most athletic form of pairs swing dance readily and widely available in the U.S., if you will, and, at the same time, minimized the need for graceful styling. I am not a physically stylish person. Anyone who has seen me knows that. But, what can a person do who has lousy posture, big feet, bowed knees, and ungainly movements, from the extra-wide base of an sorta ex-athlete. Well, to be precise, I have tried to mask my physical shortcomings by becoming dutifully rhythmic, by avidly trying to pattern how I dance in accordance with the nature of the music and changes in music, and by employing enough unusual moves to amuse partners, and, at the same time, try to keep it “fresh” for me. But—here comes the hard part—I now have so much sciatica pain and muscle weakness, I am contemplating abandoning dancing. It now requires too many drugs to hold the pain at bay. Furthermore, my stamina is now worse than suspect. The questions become: is the movement from dancing worth the current chemical needs? And what other form of movement can I find which will substitute and slake my “rabid need for movement”. I could get new knees and a new hip, but this would entail being in dry-dock, so to speak, for over a year. A year is a precious period of time to a 79 year old. A year without much satisfying movement (not all movement is satisfying) is an interminable period of time for anyone. And, given I have slowly but steadily worsening IPN (Idiopathic Peripheral Neuropathy), the propriocepters in my feet and ankles don’t work so good, and as a result, my balance is starting to suck. Strangely, it doesn’t seem to bother me when dancing, but a better judge would be my dance partners. Summing up, would I be able to dance as I chose after the dance-fallow year? Anyway, my wife, Rudy, wants me to follow her into a form of upper body exercise in a palindrome vehicle known as a “Kayak”. Exercise outside is weather dependant, and, I need regular exercise (dancing is now programmed by me to be done 3 days a week). “Programmed”? Ha! Besides, I suspect that as soon as I get hooked on kayaking, Rudy will have moved on to some other activity, plus, kayaking can only be done in summer and part of the shoulder seasons. Further, I tolerate boredom poorly. So physical activity needs to have either a certain feeling of gay variety (dancing does this), or predictability sufficient to allow me to think about things other than what I am doing. Running used to serve well for the latter, but now I can’t run across the street. My legs have not run in so long they have forgotten how to do it. When I try to run, my legs feel like they belong on a poorly designed and mal-constructed mechanical man. To make matters worse, I have developed low back pain and associated mild to moderate sciatica in both legs. In short, the number of dents in my chassis are several, some are getting severe and the discomfort is becoming a major problem. Can you detect that I am into ad hoc musing?
Why not just go the venues to listen to the music, watch the dancers and socialize with old and young dear friends? Because I have seen that happen to others, and that all seems so very sad. I, just like they, want to be in the arena, and if I cannot do that, I would prefer to be elsewhere. The questions are where and doing what?
EUREKA! I HAVE FOUND THE MAGIC ELIXURE, IT’S NAME IS “CORTISONE”, Turns out I got a late-hour reprieve. A MRI revealed some tight low back foramen (those holes in the backbone from which course the peripheral nerves.) Then, I talked a saw-bones into putting a couple of depots of long lasting cortisone into the back hot spots, and I am cured, albeit temporarily, but dig this. In the 5 days after I got the shots, I crawled around in the dirt like a salamander turning off the cottage water and sewerage systems, hauled a lot of stuff up the high hill behind the cottage and stowed it in the LindyJazzMobile, and then danced hard for 3 nights running—none of which would have been impossible BC (Before Cortisone). I am going to ride this chemical horse until it breaks down, and then I am going to find out how many times a year I can repeat this and still not break the Medicare rules.

COMING ATTRACTIONS

Truthfully, I didn’t know if there was to be any coming attraction, and this would be the last News and Views….but, thanks to the magic of cortisone, here we go again.
1. A review of the 13th Annual Sving du Nord
2. On the Road Again and Back to The Fizz in Chicago.

Allen Hall. Poly-Pharma-junkie, Lindy Hopper, Intermittent Basic Double-Shagger, Infrequent Faux-Balboa Dancer (a.k.a. the world’s Champion Bad Balboa dancer) ex-West Coast Swing dancer, ex-tyro Carolina Shagger, and dabbler in Steppin’, Bop, Zydeco, Jamaica, Cajun dances and assorted other 6 count swingish dances.
P.S. I can Waltz and Two-Step, but the way I do them bores me, and I despise being bored.
October 5, 2011, Looking out over Lake Michigan while camped at Great Lakes Naval Training Center.


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