Thursday, August 09, 2007

The Desert Island Thing

What If?
I linked to an NYC jazz site many moons of posts back. I found it a worthy job of sitebuilding and I gave 'em a couple'a stars for at least promoting JAZZ music.

It's ironic how the word "jazz" is hated by the young jazz musicians who came along after WWII, Dizzy, Bird, Max Roach, Monk, Mingus, none of them liked the word jazz, which really did mean "fuck" in it's original use--jazzing around; I'm puttin' the jazz on that babe; jazz me, mamma; but then, Jelly Roll (another word for a woman's yass-yass-yass) and those early cats like Louis, the King, the Kids, the Dodds, Henry "Red" Allen, they didn't mind the word; in fact they knew the word as "jass," probably pronounced "yass," as in that vaginalogism "yass, yass, yass," you know when LaBelle and them were singing Alain Toussaint's "Lady Marmalade"--"gotta get your 'yah-yah'" and to that you say, "I got it in the yass, yass, yass." But the young turks, the be-boppers, the cool cats, the East Coasters and West Coasters, too, the hard boppers, they resented old pure white Paul Whiteman being tabbed the "King of Jazz" and Jewish-white Benny Goodman (from Chicago, too) being called the "King of Swing," so they developed a new language, "Be-bop" (you can hear it fresh in Slim Galliard's "Reet-tee-teet" and adding "-a'rootie" as a suffix to everything he said just about, "Why lookie heah, it's old Charlie Yardbird'a rootie...."), a language that really started back in the streets of South Chicago and Harlem and the Hastings Street area of Detroit, a language Mezz Mezzrow made alive in his some-say "phony" book called Really the Blues. Mezz and them called it "scat" or "jive" and Mezz related it to both the music and the drug of choice in those days, Mary Jane, better known in Mexico as Maria Juana, Mezz's own proper name taken from a properly rolled mezzroll, a stick of mezz, and Mezz, too, was a white-Jewish cat from Chicago, and Mezz wanted to be black so bad he went and lived in black parts of town and hung out with blacks due to his having the best mezz in Chicago at that time--and all the cats in those days, like I said, had to have their muggles--"They was all vipers!" (the sound you make--the sound of a snake hissing--when you're kissing Mary Jane good and sexy and getting high off her magnificent aura), and Mezz wrote a whole conversation in Really the Blues in scat--"Jive Jelly roller who you doing the mezz off of on the corners these days, Daddy-O?"

Scat. Of the cat. Scattered. "Scatter brain" was a hip term back in those early "Jazz Era" days, all during and then after "the Roaring Twenties," and what a life that was, too; my mom and dad were "jazz babies" and they danced the Charleston, the Lindy, the Buck and Wing, the Slow Drag--all jazz dances, and that "scat" language was refined by these be-bop youngsters, again Bird, Diz, Monk, Bud P, Max, Dodo, Miles, and these guys wanted the "jazz" taken out of their form of jazz--they wanted to take jazz from the whorehouse and put it in the concert hall--and they even formalized "scat," you see, and turned it from crude re-bop (Lionel Hampton was the "hey-bob-a-ree-bob" king) and they made scat hep (the word was turned into "hip" by the white cats), turned it into a sophisticated form of a musical language called "be-bop"--and, yes, the word does describe exactly in terms of ending a tune hot and on the spot--most of the great be-bop classics end with a "be-bop" or a single "bop" or a "bop-be-bop." If you ain't on the "bop," at the end, you've missed the boat. The word "cat," by the way, comes from the days when the jass piano players (the can men) were trumping up the sexual energies in the CAThouses of the Storyville section of old New Orleans--where male "cats" (tomcats) went to do their "cattin' around." Oh isn't language and its so many interpretations lovely! Go to to see languages discussed at the highest level of the linguistic intellect--you could say languagehat is the be-bopper of Linguistics. He knows jazz, too.

And now "back at the ranch." The NYC jazz website from a few posts back...OK, I'm refocused...and on this site the two creators of the site gave their bios and credits--you know, the usual "we're great and deserving" bullshit you read on all these sites about their creators--and in their bios they put down the jazz albums (CDs now) they'd take with them were they stranded on a desert island, say way out at the far end of Long Island. Both of them shouted with glee how they would take Albert Mangelsdorf CDs first of all with them to this now to me desecrated island; plus both of them were taking like Rolling Stones albums and some punk albums or some such low not-jazz shit like that. BUT, here's what disturbed me, neither of them saw fit to take any Bird and Diz with them--HOLY SHIT, I was raging by then (in a growling way now--not going for these lads's throats), how dare these young rock punks think they know enough about jazz--based on digging Albert Mangelsdorf--to run "the World's Largest Jazz" site--that's their brag! Suddenly I was growling "F-thems" all over the place.

So I got to thinking--and here again I throw in my old pal l hat (language himself) because suddenly BOOKS came into this picture of my being on a desert island, too, and besides l hat's just moved his belongings across half-a-whole state and amongst those belongings were 5,000 books--the best I managed to accumulate during my bibliophilic heyday was 2,000--a weight problem of which I solved by getting divorced and my charming wife (may she RIP) taking half of them--you know the "these are mine anyway since you bought them while we were married"--"but, baby, you hate Hemingway, and those are the first editions my Chicago lover sent me"--"yeah, that bitch, the female Hemingway my ass--and those perfumed letters"--"OK, you can have the Hemingway first editions, but not my Henry Miller books--you hate Henry worse than you hate Hemingway"--my wife was a charter member of NOW, remember them? The National Organization of Women--I was at one of the first NOW meetings, here in NYC, with Gloria Stern-man and Betty Fried-man present and bickering and fighting--this was when they allowed men at their meetings--shortly after this meeting--because several of us men at that first meeting got up and gave the gals some male chauvenist advice--mine was "don't go the abortion route ladies; men won't give you that much freedom"--men were banned from future NOW meetings.

So, now my list included what CDs plus what books I would take to my desert island (make it St. Lucia or Guadalupe, please). Trust me, Albert Mangelsdorf isn't among the CDs I'm taking with me. However, I got a CD (a 4 CD CD) in the mail yesterday that's going with me for sure.

I first came across the Buck Clayton Jam Sessions when I was still a young jerk-off, a little boogie-woogie boy, who was just getting into be-bop. These jam sessions were put together by George Simon (Carly's uncle, right?)(of Simon and Schuster name, too, right?) and George Avakian and there were eventually 3 LPs released on their Columbia label to compete with Norman Granz's very successful series of Jazz at the Philharmonic albums that started coming out in the late 40s and proved to be bestsellers for Norman up until the middle fifties when the JATP no longer existed but the recording labels Granz founded all became more and more successful, Norgran, Clef, and then Verve (one of the most successful all-jazz labels ever) [By the bye, as irony would have it, Lester Young and his brother Lee actually started the JATP jams--every Sunday at Billy Berg's club where the Young Brothers Band played during the week. Lester started jam sessions, which Lester loved, the jam the place where you showed how much wood you could cut and got your reputation as a true blower, a cat (which later became a "brother" when the Christian aspect of the Civil Rights Movement took over the slang--"cat" became "brother" and "chick" became "sister")--and chick was for chica, a term of endearment in the black-Spanish community of those days--"Hey, sweet baby!" and just like chica is now considered offensive so did "chick" become offensive. Yes, the Naz called 'em "cats and kittens," but to me and my generation a cat had his chick with him. I don't remember having any special word for chick musicians, though there were some cool chick musicians in those days, like Mary Osborne and Terri Pollard and Lorraine Geller.

Simon and Avakian produced, like I said, 3 albums of these Buck Clayton Jam Sessions, the first and second in December of 1953 and the last one in the early months of 1954. The first one was the one I bought first--it was recorded December 14, 1953 in the famous CBS church recording studios in NYC--and it featured Buck Clayton on trumpet, Joe Newman (a really hip cat trumpeter out of the Count Basie Band), Urbie Green (the studio-slick white trombonist who played with Buddy Hackett's small groups at the height of their popularity), Henderson Chambers (from the Erskine Hawkins band I think and one of the most overlooked cool, hip trombonists I had never heard of until this album), Julian Dash (a totally unknown tenor player who'd been one of the members of the famous Tennessee State college band of the forties), Charlie Fowlkes (form D.C. and the bari player with Count Basie), Lem Davis (and if you don't know Lem you're missing a treat--Lem was an old jumper alto player (maybe with Louis Jordan) who heard Parker and it changed his whole style of playing--and by God, old Lem could blow some pretty dazzling Parkeresque lines too once he got fired up and inspired--which is what jams were for, to give the blower enough time to develop his progressions, dig? The more creative your progressions the longer you jammed and cut--once you lost steam, the band cut you off by riffing over your last chorus--then you took your bows and turned the jam over to the next cat--"Let's see you cut that, motherfucker!" Mingus's famous workshops were nothing but Mingus-controlled ("ooooh-weee-dee-dee-wooh") jams--Mingus set the patterns and the band jammed 'em full of progressive solos)--and backing up these Buck Clayton jam sessions dudes was the greatest rhythm section of all time, the All-American Rhythm Section, with Papa Jo Jones on drums (and Jo Jones invented the modern jazz drum styles that Max Roach picked up on and took to a higher level, though Papa Jo could play a pretty interesting and melodic set of just drums and he recorded an album of him playing drums only and talking about drums --yeah, he learned from the old New Orleans slow-drag march drummers, but especially from a cat named Zutty Singleton who's the drummer on the greatest-ever recorded "Salt Peanuts"--"be-dadi-oh-dada, bop-de-bop [whomp!] 'Salt peanuts...Salt peanuts!'"), Walter "Pagin' the Devil" Page (founder of the Original Blue Devils and from Oklahoma City) on bass, Freddie "The Prettiest Man in Jazz" Green (Billy Holiday said Freddie Green was the best sex she ever had but that's all he was good for and she'd never marry a man like him) on guitar, and the inevitable, most laid-back, cool dude ever, Sir Charles Thompson on piano (Sir Charles--he got his royal title from Prez--plus he's the guy that wrote "Robbin's Nest").

That first Buck Clayton Jam Session album ran 39 minutes with a 20 minute and 12 second version of Paul Williams's wonderful "Hucklebuck" (Parker recorded it as "Now's the Time") on the A side and a 17 minute and 49 second version of "Robbin's Nest" on the B side.

You talk about relaxin'. Buck and the jammers were about as relaxed and cool and boppish as old K.C. dudes could get on this first jam LP--it's one hell of a beautiful jazz recording--smooth as silk and with solos that could only have come from the heavens in these original cats's skulls--they blow their asses off slick as hell--especially Urbie and Henderson and Joe Newman and Lem Davis and Charlie Fowlkes and I played this old album until the grooves disappeared to where not even the best diamond stylus could interpret them, but now I own all three of these LPs on this great probably bootleg CD set out of Ach die Lieber, Augustin, Germany--they're called Quadromania, Jazz Edition, and this one's subtitled "Buck Clayton featuring Lester Young, Count Basie, and Teddy Wilson"--the whole 4 CDs devoted to the early work of the great Basie trumpeter, Buck Clayton, containing 49 cuts, the Jam Sessions on the last 2 CDs.

And then in yesterday afternoon's mail, I got the piece de resistance; for 99 cents on eBay, I had bought this Achtung! German bootleg (I assume--I doubt if Parker's estate got any royalties from this CD) CD entitled Parker's Mood, Charlie "The Bird" Parker. The first ten tracks were from the old California takes of the Charlie Parker All-Stars with Miles, Curley, John Lewis, The Haig, Max, Kenny Dorham (one of the overlooked great jazz trumpeters), Hank Jones, Ray Brown, Tommy Potter, you know--AND THEN I HEARD IT---YIKES! "Bloomdido"--yes, it was "Bloomdido," and it was a "Bloomdido" I knew by heart. Again, as a little be-bopper jockey boy I had bought this Mercury LP--you heard me, a Mercury LP--I think Mercury recorded the first JATP concerts for Norman Granz and pressed his Norgran and Clef records--I know the Parker With Strings things were done at the New York Mercury studios (Emarcy was a Mercury label, too--"em-ar-cy" for Mercury Recording Company)--and this Mercury LP had simply been called Bird and Diz--but it was more than Bird and Diz, it was them all right, but it was Monk, too; yes, Monk, and the great Curley Russell, and the great Buddy Rich on drums--"Bah-deo-do, be-do-be-dah, be-bop-ee-oh-dodio-do"--the melody line to "Bloomdido" and by God it was the "Bloomdido" off that Mercury LP, all of it here on this German CD--all of that album--"Bloomdido," "My Melancholy Baby," "Relaxin' With Lee," "Leap Frog," "An Oscar for Treadwell," "Mohawk," "My Melacholy Baby" (Take 2), and "Relaxin' With Lee" (Take 2). This is about the purest and sweetest be-bop-jazz LP ever made. It's essential if you want to learn how to play jazz like it should be played and not like the Pink Martini Band plays it--oh HOLY SHIT! or how Harry Connick, Jr., plays it--OH HORRORS of HOLY SHIT WAVES! or how even, I'm sorry, Dave, how Dave Brubeck plays it--and I love old Dave, bad back and all--though like a good white man, Dave tried his best to bring European forms to jazz--and like I say, I loved old Dave and still do--he spoke his piece, that he did--and he finally used a black man in his group finally--Joe Benjamin was his name.

So, there, I've already got 5 CDs I'm taking on this desert island I may one day be let off on for my own good.

Now I've got to pick some books to take with me.

for The Daily Growler

[A little aside of joy: I just won on eBay a 50s-chic Philco table model AM/FM radio--it's white and plastic--actually probably Bakelite--and it's gonna look so damn moderne on this white enamel table I have. Hot damn! I can listen to the Yankees radio broadcasts on it! Jeez, I'm happy over the cheesiest of things sometimes. I also now own an original Lester Young Aladdin 78 ("Jumpin' With Symphony Sid"/"No Eyes Blues") record in almost-mint condition; plus I bought and now own the very first LP of Charles Ives's music I ever heard, a Columbia Blue Label LP of the The Second Piano Sonata, the Concord Sonata, as played by the first man, John Kirkpatrick (the early champion of Ives's music and editor of the massive book of Ives "notes and dictations about his music" entitled Memos, the Bible for us true Ives devotees) to ever play it in public, at Town Hall in NYC in 1937. I may just hang these recordings on my wall as art. Lester's Aladdin can hang next to my Carl Van Vechtin photo of Billie Holiday. I love collecting. But collectors are hard to live with; very selfish people really.]

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