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News and Views '11/'12 #9
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Allen Hall
MN Prince of Snark Darkness


Joined: 26 May 2004
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PostPosted: Fri Jun 01, 2012 12:24 pm    Post subject: News and Views '11/'12 #9 Share topic on FB Add User to Ignore List Reply with quote

News and Views from the Stationary JazzLindyMobile
‘11/’12 Installment # 9

LISTEN, MAYBE DANCE, DON’T DRIVE, REPEAT

(Editor’s notes: This thing has grown humongous; five pages. Reading time—interminable.)

Table of Contents:
1. Buckeye Bobcat Lindy Exchange, A OSU and OU Lindy Hop Clubs co-sponsored weekend.
2. Body Isolation
3. The Future of Lindy Hop?
4. Assorted Jazz and Lindy Hop information
5. Book Review of “A Jazz Odyssey: The Life of Oscar Peterson”
6. Coming Attractions

BUCKEYE BOBCAT LINDY EXCHANGE

Well, we made the Buckeye half, a Friday night dance in the Archie Griffin ballroom of the Ohio State University Student Union in Columbus Ohio. It was a tall magnificent room elegantly designed and with acoustical cleanliness. The floor was wide board Maple ornamented with Walnut inserts and it danced beautifully. The band was Chief Johnny Lonesome on piano with an abbreviated Rick Brunetto big band (bass, drums, sax, trumpet and trombone) plus a female singer of modest talent singing into a hand-held microphone which was set way to high. When she sang the band disappeared into the sound mix. Aside from several Latin numbers, we enjoyed the charts played and the tempo mix.
A little over 50 dancers attended.
We had planned to go to Ohio University in Athens for the Bobcat half of the Lindy Exchange on Saturday night, but pain interfered, i.e. mainly Rudy’s shoulder which need surgery, and, of course, as usual, most of my flawed skeletal articulations from the waist down. It was no tragedy to miss a dance due to injury, but it is a tragedy to miss a dance featuring the Boilermaker Jazz Band with Jeanie Luv. Sigh!

BODY ISOLATION

Of all people, I’m taking a huge risk by trying to define “body isolation” as it is applied to Lindy Hop in particular, or to any social pairs dancing in general. To have good body isolation skills means you are aware of where all the parts of your body are in time and space at all times, and have the ability to stop, start and control amplitude and speed of movement in each body part, such as to maximize the esthetic appeal of the whole body with respect to shape and movement. (or something like that) Anyway, I have close to zero body awareness, so how’s come I am writing about it? Well, because I recognize good body awareness when I see it, and I really wish I had it.*

*Excuse me please while I toss myself a little bone. I do have good musical awareness. Unfortunately it doesn’t rescue me from appearing to be anything other than a bent-over and about to collapse folding four dollar Chinese lawn-chair.

It is foolish to use only words to describe people in motion. And so, for an extreme example of body awareness, check out the following video. It exemplifies strongly one very important aspect of body awareness, the ability to hold some body parts still or minimize motion so the observant eye is led to that part or those parts which are in motion.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LXO-jKksQkM

Now, for an example of body isolation in dance, watch this montage clip of Rita Heyworth dancing. (Especially note the placement and movement of her shoulders, arms, hands, head and neck.)
http://biggeekdad.com/2012/03/rita-hayworth-is-stayin-alive/
I think Rita Hayworth has exquisite body isolation and she uses that skill appropriately while in motion, plus that mane of red hair, gorgeous wide-set eyes, lifted eyebrow and engaging facial mobility make for a very yummy package of feminine eye-candy. Many people only remember Ginger Rogers and Cyd Charisse as Fred Astaire’s primary women dance partners. Fred had no dogs as partners, and he did have some accomplished classically-trained dancers as partners, and several excellent hoofers (tap dancers), but I think Rita Heyworth brought more to Fred than any other partner. She was 5’6’’, tall for a partner, and yet she remains statuesque when in motion and graceful, even when dancing fast, and she has the control be either cute or sultry . She is the only Astaire partner who holds my complete attention, this, in spite of the fact that I regard Fred Astaire is the most elegantly graceful man and dancer I have ever seen, bar none, and, he never sacrifices masculinity to be that way. I do so want to be able to cross a room on foot and gracefully open a door just like Fred Astaire did it. Dream on, Crazy Al.

THE FUTURE OF LINDY HOP?

But first, take a look at this video of two of the best West Coast Swing dancers, Mario Rabau and Kellese Key, in what I think is an excellent choreographed routine to a slow (108 BPM) uncomplicated 4/4 rhythm blues. Then, I will discuss what I saw.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=50FUohEQNow&feature=relmfu

Unlike some WCS danced today, Mario and Kellese are firmly connected and counter-balanced as a pair, and, more importantly, they are relating to one another, and not just sharing a dance while doin’ their own thing, as they mug gratuitously for the camera, audience and judges. They are rhythmically centered and “dancing the music”, using difficult styling and moves. If you have done WCS or seen it as a social dance, you know what they are doing is really quite difficult, far more difficult than almost all but a few WCS dancers can dream of ever doing. It is this which sets widely apart the best of competitive WCS dancers from the rest of WCS social dancers. This too can happen to Lindy Hop, but it wouldn’t be the worst thing ever.
For something I think would be the worst thing ever to happen to Lindy Hop, look at the following video.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M9nd0zDox5I&feature=relmfu
This choreographed routine with the same follower, Kellese Key, but with a Benji Schwimmer as leader, is done to a faster (144bpm) Latin rhythm, with both partners seldom looking at one another, but rather, primarily presenting themselves toward the audience, the camera and the judges. Agreed, one hellova good routine and danced really well, but it’s what I hope doesn’t ever happen to Lindy Hop. If competitive Lindy Hop runs off and leaves social Lindy Hop so far behind, social dance loses the boost expected from competitive dance, and becomes, instead, discouraged……well, you finish the sentence.
But, Hey! think about it. It did happen to WCS.
Hall’s Law: A social dance is an organic entity, and the style of dance, the music danced to, and the type of dress will all change according to Hall’s Law, the particulars of which, no one understands, not even Hall, and in a way no one can predict.

ASSORTED JAZZ AND LINDY HOP INFORMATION

1. If you have bad knees, do not, I repeat, do not dance on carpeting of any kind. This advice stands, regardless of what kind of soles are on your dance shoes. The last time I didn’t take my own advice, was the other night when I had exactly 9 Lindy Hop dances on a carpet, and then found it exceedingly difficult to walk to my car. The occasion of dancing on a carpet before that sent me to an orthopedic surgeon in L.A. to have my left knee opened to have the carpet-created knee-trash flushed out of it.
Wisdom can be the result of making all your own mistakes and suffering appropriately because of them, but a pain-free path to wisdom is to observe those idiots who don’t take their own advice, and then listen carefully to their instructive and plaintive moaning.

2. Eclectic DJed music; the bad and good news. The bad news is that some of it can sorely tax anyone who is trying to Lindy Hop to 4/4 time swing rhythm. Namely, “me”. The good news is that you never know what you will hear. Look, I am not sniveling about hearing the same-old Lindy Hop canon of music recordings. As a matter of fact, I love it. But DJed music can provide welcome variety, if, and only if, the DJ has an ear for quality in music, and if you open to the unusual, you may be pleasantly surprised by what you hear, as I have been recently in Columbus. An unusual but very good Mel Torme vocal followed by a very nice early Willie Nelson vocal—now, that’s a stretch in musical genera, as I’m sure you will agree. Later that same night I heard a late Willie Nelson vocal. I prefer the late Willie as he finally learned what to do with his gorgeous set of pipes. Another night, I heard a Scott Hamilton recording—how rare is that? And, a couple of delightful recordings done by “The Three Sounds”. Question: Do you, perchance, know who the pianist was in ”The Three Sounds”? The answer is found at the end of this N&V.
I wrote too soon. We returned to the venue of eclectic music and were disappointed to hear an almost entire evening of 50s-60’s Rockabilly and pure Rock Music of that era, plus a tango and two or three Cha-cha rhythms. Yep, we experienced the dark side of eclectic music played for Lindy Hop.

3. We found a new good big band for dancing in Cincinnati, the “Swingtime Big Band” at the York Street Café in Newport KY, on most first and third Saturday nights, at 7:30 for ten bucks. It’s upstairs on an fair-sized old GOOD wood floor, but ya gotta share the room with a crowd of mostly senior sitters. The band is an honest 17 piece band configured just as you might expect, and two superb vocalists, a man and a woman, both with pleasing voices and knowing how to use them. What a treat. The band has a predictable book of arrangements; mostly swing-era golden-oldies, but they play them well, and they feature few solos, which means they probably don’t have any which merit featuring. The drummer is not shy and keeps the band on the rhythm tracks, and the horn ensemble work is tight, just as it should be with a band which is 10 years old. You could do a a hellovalot worse for a local big band, and heaven’s knows we have.
P.S. The last time we danced at the York Street Café was, Oh say, circa 1998 and it was to see and hear “Big Bill Pickle and The Legendary Jerkin’ Gherkins”. You really may not want to see that band with Big Bill half way up to 7 feet tall, and on guitar and the band playing Rockabilly, and greasy R&B, but, Hey! think about it, with a band name like that, wouldn’t you too just have to go see them?

4. This isn’t about jazz but it’s too good to pass up.
Old bagpipe joke. Q. Why do pipers walk when they play? A. To get away from the sound.

5. Musical Review of the Wynton Marsalis led “Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra”. Oh my! for $41 each tix, Rudy and I went to see the most famous big band in the land, playing in Dayton Ohio while we were sitting in the highest-up, oxygen-poor, first-row balcony seats at the Schuster Center, a huge modern listening venue with pleasing clean acoustics, marred slightly by a loud microphone buzz in the first set. Have I set the scene for more dichordencies? You bet I have, but I am not a curmudgeonly philistine when it comes to jazz. I hope, instead, to show that I am both discriminating and fair.
This is a 15 piece big band (three trombones and a standard 3 piece rhythm section telling all those who know the usual composition of big bands, of all sizes, all they need to predict the remainder of the instruments in the band.) The musicianship throughout was exceptionally good, with one exception; the drummer was not always in the middle of the beat, thus breaking a time-honored law for all big band drummers. The band did not swing, although most of the soloists did, and I did not hear one poor solo; most of the horns did solo, and that is saying quite a lot about a big band. The band had three trumpeters who could easily play serviceable lead trumpet, and one who was far better than serviceable. The reed section was undergirded by a very unusual cat, a grey-haired (the only one in the band) Scotsman who plays baritone sax and bass clarinet and who was the most musical soloist in the band. His name is Joe Temperley, and, in order to weave his usual lyrical beauty on solo through a baritone saxophone, an instrument better known for guttural timbre, Joe plays, by necessity, very softly, relying on an alert sound man for adequate projection. One huzzah for the sound man, who, incidentally, finally fixed the microphone buzz for the second set. Ted Nash on alto saxophone was my next most favorite soloist, followed by Marcus Printup on trumpet, with an “also rans” going to to Victor Goines and Walter Blanding on tenors, the latter featured as a home-town guy. I must give Marsalis honors for top chops in a band stuffed full of top chops, but Marsalis has neither the “time” nor lyrical instincts to properly Wow me. The bassist, bless him, was the rock of the rhythm section. The pianist was not given solo time commensurate with his notable musical abilities—his brief solos were, each one, like one tiny bite of a chocolate éclair; not nearly enough for satiety. The horn section work was splendid; tight, and dynamically balanced, and it must be noted, they played ensemble and faithfully a Benny Carter chart which featured the reed section playing exactly like Benny Carter plays—try that shit some time to understand the definition of “HARD”, hard liken to what “Supersax” does. (If needed, go to Wikipedia for “Supersax”)
The charts in the two sets (no encore) was not to my liking. First for my unrealistic expectations. The LCJO was founded as a repertory orchestra to recreate live and pristine some of best of older big band recordings which suffered horribly on ears, because of recording inadequacies “back in the day.”
The set list, as best as I can give it to you. (I was pissed because they turned the house lights down so low I couldn’t see to make notes.
First Set
1. “In the Mood”. I know the grey/blue hairs need to be pandered to, but come on. ITM is so damned tired.
2. “All of Me” arr. Benny Carter
3. “Begin the Beguine”, a Artie Shaw evergreen, but also tired, and musically inferior to a number of Shaw recordings.
4. “Things to Come” a Dizzy Gillespie barn-burner up around 300+ bpm.
5. I Left My Baby Sittin’ in the Back Door Cryin’” a vocal blues with a Basie tinge.
6. “Satin Doll” an Ellington composition and his last popular recording.
7. “Jump” an up-tempo set-closer written by Wynton. (It should have been the set-opener.)
Second Set
1. A whole set extravaganza of Wynton Marsalis’ penning of so-called jazz. The first a piece in three movements. A. “Chant to Call the Indians Out”. B. “Sleeper Car”. C. “An orchestral sonic re-enactment of a train leaving the station, running down the tracks, and, then, stopping”. These pieces featured horns playing un-earthly and hardly-fetching sounds. There were some lilting scraps of ear-worm quality melody, but, otherwise, I don’t know where to start about these three numbers, and so, I won’t.
2. “The Itsy Bitsy Spider….” I’m not kidding, and I leave to your imagination Wynton’s idea of musical comedy.
3. I think there was another piece—but don’t know for sure or the name of it, but…….
after the band member introductions, the rhythm section stayed and played as the rest of the band left the stage—this done to squelch all attempts by the audience to applaud continuously for an encore. A cheap stunt, and I don’t like it one bit, but then, Hey! it was only un-hip Dayton Ohio, and besides, why complain, I had heard quite enough, and Rudy slept, unbelievably, through most of the second set of yowling and howlings.
Where were the repertory renderings of those gorgeous Fletcher Henderson charts?
This is a mostly harsh review of the most popular big band in the land, but I am not contrite.

P.S. I was pissed because the printed program did not list band members names nor list program tunes, both of which were obviously set in concrete.

BOOK REVIEW OF “A JAZZ ODYSSEY: THE LIFE OF OSCAR PETERSON”

I am always leery of autobiographies, and reading this book affirms that prejudice, but this book also affirms a prior impression about Oscar Peterson. While Oscar Peterson is certainly one of the finest jazz pianists ever from a purely technical perspective, and one of the most adept at blazing tempos, but he is, in my opinion, far from the best improvisationalist. Further, his competitive/combative musical nature detracts from his music. Oscar at the fastest tempos, induced one jazz wag to remark, “Oscar, turn off the piano machine.” I agree, at the fastest tempos he is, at first, stunning, but quickly becomes uninteresting with endless formulaic phrases. That said, several have been the times upon hearing a walking tempo recording of an unknown jazz pianist with gorgeous touch and fluid and effortless ability to swing, such that I have mistaken Peterson for the pre-eminent swinging jazz pianist, Gene Harris. But, Oscar, apparently finding his solitary hero in Art Tatum, mostly decided to go for speed over almost every other pianistic capability.
Make no mistake, he was a driven worker. I remember reading in my youth about his months-long arduous training regimens before he would go on tour.
Despite credits in this book as editor and consultant, Richard Palmer, who wrote a book about Peterson as part of the Jazz Master’s series in the 1980s, there is little doubt that Oscar wrote this book. The writing is filled with musical minutia, but, otherwise, dull English. The nature of the writing is a window into Oscar’s mind, or better put, his ego, which is enormous. Not that he does not deserve to very proud of his considerable accomplishments, but it is seldom dampened or avoided in this book. It might be said that the book is a paean to Oscar Peterson using his own honors as evidence. Further, the promised “Life of Oscar Peterson” is seldom delivered beyond his early years, as the book decays into a series of newsy “insider” descriptions of other jazz artists. I guess the book was not quite long enough, and so, he appended his take on politics, racism and the current ennui in jazz, and then, he polishes it off with some random thoughts, plus, instead of including a list of credits, adds to an already steady saccharine use of superlatives to use even more to nominate to Valhalla his friends and colleagues-- by this time, I was near needing an insulin shot.
Notably absent was any meaningful mention of his stroke in the early ‘90s and the consequences which left him an almost purely right-handed pianist. To read his few mentions of his stroke would make one think he had suffered a minor and temporary hangnail. Ego is as ego says.
I seldom rip a book about jazz, as it is my lifelong unconditional passion, but my advice is, don’t buy this book. There is a much better biography of Peterson by Gene Lees, entitled “Oscar Peterson: The Will to Swing.” It is fair to mention that Gene Lees noted a distinct unpleasant character shift in Peterson after his stroke, which could have been the result of a vascular insult in part of the Peterson’s brain governing emotion (I have been witness to just such a thing), or possibly it was the frustration in a man whose whole life was a constant striving for perfection. At any rate, after many years of friendship with Lees, Peterson made Lees persona non grata. In Oscar’s autobiography, Gene Lees, a long time friend, and major figure in jazz criticism and writing and a biographer of Peterson, is never mentioned once in the book. That’s what can happen in an autobiography, when the author is both writer and editor for the personal narrative of a life, but in this case, the narrative is both incomplete, questionable, inconsequential, and, in one instance, mean-spirited.
I was disappointed to read that jazz writer, Nat Hentoff, included this book as one of the 5 best books on jazz published since 1960. Nat must have forgotten to read this book, or he was smoking something strong while doing so.
Besides, Oscar Peterson rushed. And, I suspect that it was the 17 years with Oscar that made Ray Brown rush. For a pianist to rush is a venal sin; for a bassist it’s a mortal sin.
If anyone wants the book, ask, and it is yours, gratis and good riddance.

COMING ATTRACTIONS
1. Book Review “The Torment of Buddy Rich: a Biography” As teaser, Buddy Rich must be one of the most interesting jazz musicians ever.
2. Book Review: “Good Vibes: A Life In Jazz” an Autobiography of Jazz Vibraphonist Terry Gibbs
3. Other Items of Dubious Note

(Thanks for reading.)

Allen Hall, Lindy Hopper
May 1, 2012** and maybe back in Minnesota. Nope! still in Dayton and my excuses include, I just had foot surgery, and Rudy needs it on her left shoulder. We have become a pair medical catastrophes. That despite Hey! I just read that Medicare costs have leveled off. Makes no sense; Rudy and I are both draining the Medicare coffers with utter abandon? I also read that 90% of medical care costs occur in the last 5 years of life—this is unwelcome news for Rudy and I. Is this the first notice of the lingering last goodbye?

**I am dumping this N&V a day early—so sue me.

Answer: Gene Harris, bless his swinging soul, wherever it is right now.
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