Tuesday, June 24, 2008
The Wolf Man Turns His Back on Reality
A Wolf in a Jazz Sanctuary
Woman at the bank told me I couldn't use money in my account until after 5 today. I ask her why and her reply was the standard one, "It's stated clearly in the bank's rules and regulations...." I stopped her with a growl. Chingamadre! Banks. They've been around since man let his crooked nature rule him--and it is a male thing to be glad-handedly deceiving all the time, constantly working on varieties of trick bags, schemes. "Hey, I got this here mercantile store--I do so much cash business I have to have that monster safe--there's plenty'a room in that safe...well, let's see now, there's space in there I could keep other folks's money on hand for them...yep, I could offer to let them 'deposit'--ooooh, I like that word, it's so syrupy and nice--yes, deposit their cash in my safe--let them deposit their money with me...in turn, I give them a deposit slip in exchange, and then anytime they need some dough, they just trot in to my store, write out a...what'll I call it...a 'take-out' slip...no, no, that's too effeminate--I'll probably only get men customers--though, hell, I'm not one to deny takin' a lady's money, too..." Schemin' all the time. Finally coming up with 'withdrawal slip.' My dad used to boast that he knew every banker in my hometown, he'd gone to high school with them, enough that he'd could walk in any of the three banks and get a quick loan if he needed it or a cup of coffee with all the bank prez's back in their plush offices, "How 'bout I put a dollop of sour mash in that coffee, Big Bad Wolf, and then we'll talk about what you need financially...anything for an old pal...." And my dad really believed that until one day his old pals were gone the way of rich bastards and he was left dealing with an impersonal bank employee who didn't know my dad from the proverbial Adam--and my dad ended up near his end totally antagonistic toward banks..."Like old Hetty Green used to say...they called her the Witch of Wall Street you know, and old Hettie said there wasn't a banker anywhere in New York City who wasn't a crook so she kept her money elsewhere--in the stock market, the bond market, in buying whole railroads--screw their stock--once her only child, Edward, she called him Ned, told her he wanted a train for X-mas so she bought him the Texas Midland Railroad, a thirty-mile freight hauler, in central Texas, just east of Dallas." And I really don't know if Hetty Green said that about bankers, how would my dad know, though he was born in the very town in which Neddy's railroad was headquartered and at about the time Neddy would have been there, living there--Ned Green had the first car ever driven in the unpaved streets of Dallas, Texas...way back in the early 1900s--before cars--and just think about how much horseshit was in those dear olden-day streets. A visitor to New York City back in the mid-1800s said the stench in the Manhattan streets was unbearable it was so thick and smoky and gravy like as it was swallowed up by your nose.
Banks. They raise the hackles down me spine! It's my money, but it isn't my money! It's their money they tell me 'till I withdraw it--free if I withdraw it from their bank at their approved time, but $4.25, if I withdraw it through an ATM at another bank. Bastards! I start cursing them! I need languagehat's book of curses, dammit! "I put a curse on you!" [You had to see Jay Hawkins to appreciate him--and also you have to listen to his infamous "Constipation Blues."] And if I believed in the powers of the wicked I'd certainly put a good curse on banks! I see where CitiBank here in NYC is laying off 5,000 boneheads--wow, just dumping them--"Sorry, we overhired when we were stealing the big bucks from the minorities with our cheap-loan schemes...ah, those golden days! Well, anyway, then we got caught sucking each other's dicks in our VIP men's room and shit now we have to pay out billions in reparations...I mean, folks, we're broke, and rather than firing me and the 52 vice presidents under me, all of whose salaries combined are more than we'll save firing 5,000 bonehead-loyal employees--of course, we'll steal a lot of pension money from you, too...so ya see folks,; why we gotta fire you?" Peasants (read: pissants)--that's what we all are to bankers. Can you imagine a guy making a couple'a million-a-month firing a bunch of people making if tops $75,000 a year? Like the Bear Stearns vice presidents that got busted by the Wall Street police--blaming Bear Stearns going belly up on these poor suckers. Of course, like Scooter Libby and Charles Colson, they'll go to one of the comfortable Fed prisons, the one in Alabama maybe where old crazy-ass John Mitchell served his time playing tennis all day on the prison tennis courts. John Mitchell? You don't remember John Mitchell? How about Martha Mitchell? Nutjobs! They got to rule us for a while.
But, goddammit, my intention was to turn my back on reality. I was listenin' to some George Carlin routines late last night--especially the one about WAR--how we "war" on everything, like our War on Poverty, or the War on Drugs--WAR, WAR, WAR...that's a great routine. And also I found out that that Saturday Night Live I'd seen down in Philadelphia in 1975, in a motel room on the Mainline, was in fact the premier Saturday Night Live and George Carlin was the first guest host! And the "God" routine highly bothered the Sat. Night Live goons--what was that Pepsi-Gen nut that started Sat. Night Live? Anyway, that was the George Carlin I heard that night--Wow! What a quick mind--he was a druggie of course--he was my generation, the forgotten generation--George Carlin perfectly represented the humor of my generation, the quick, cognizant humor--Carlin was a Master of Using Language in its so many variations to drive home his points--his pack of ironies--like his run in the "Seven Words You Can't Say on Television" routine with the word "shit"--like how we all use the word shit, shithead, shit for Shinola, "the shit, you say," "I can't take your shit anymore," stupid shit, how the shit did that happen? Same thing in the WAR routine--twisting the word war into so many vernacular usages. Wow. Such genius. Such turmoil though going on in old George, a trooper to the end, a painful end, and yes he was a druggie and he abused alcohol--and I've buried my ears in a Chet Baker "album" made back in 1959--which seems to be a B.C. date it has been so long ago now, WOW, 49 fucking years, shit, that's a shitload of years, and yet this music is as fresh as a daisy--so romantically pure music, man; yet with that good syncopation present--Chet's velvet trumpet--so full'a blues, an Oklahoma kid who played trumpet in his high school band and then his mother up and moved to Los Angeles--and young, pretty Chet hit the big time big in L.A. when he was just 20, self-taught jazz trumpet, with a mellow, velvet tone, a kind'a pure tone, that became associated with "the Cool" movement that started actually in New York City at the recording of Miles Davis's famous Birth of the Cool album, which had originally been a Gerry Mulligan project, and Chet Baker was an original member of the taking-jazz-right-to-the-top Gerry Mulligan Quartet and then the Quintet, on Pacific Jazz those quartet/quintet albums--"Utter Chaos" Mulligan's theme. That was Cool Jazz--and the Lighthouse All-Star gang, Shorty Rogers (his "Martian" albums were the coolest, man, can you dig? On one Martian cut, it ends with Shelly Manne spinning a 50-cent piece on his snare and the engineer mic-ing it as it spins all the way down to a plop stop. End of tune), Bob Cooper, Bud Shank--and damn I loved Bud Shank's playing--and then he made an album with Laurindo Almeida, the Brazilian jazz guitarist, that was the cat's meow for me--I listened to that album at least a hundred times--especially "Blue Baiao," which was written by Luis Gonzaga and Humberto Teixiera; Teixiera died in '79, but Gonzaga lived on until 1990. I used to work in Rockefeller Center here in NYC and one day my old pal and work partner, Senor B, came back from lunch a little looped--nothing new really--and he immediately started trumpeting the fare he'd just had at a place on West 45th, a Brazilian restaurant called Brasilia. The next day, it was hot as Holy Hades, and since I was a daily visitor to a coin shop on 44th, this day while I was in the neighborhood I decided to walk back down 45th from the coin shop and check out this Brasilia. From that hot day on, I was in Brasilia at least once every day and most times twice every day, so much so it became my home away from home, my headquarters--you wanted to find me, you went to Brasilia. One day while talking to Nealton, the son of the owner, his father Nealson, I mentioned Laurindo Almeida and Neal knew him very well, Nealton was from Rio where Laurindo was from and he was big there, called "The Boss of the Bossa Nova" there, though Laurindo moved to L.A. and became a part of the Cool Jazz movement, and his album with Bud Shank was the coolest damn pre-Stan-Getz-Bringing-the-Bossa-Nova to popularity album there ever was--Stan, that jazz musician, stole Astrud Gilberto away from Gil Gilberto--stole his woman and his music--though the Getz-Gilbertos "Ipanema" was a huge hit and moneymaker for all three of 'em--so in talking to Nealton about Laurindo Almeida I scatted a long bit of "Blue Baiao" and his eyes lit up and he started telling me all about the "baiao" and blah, blah, blah. About a couple'a full moons later, I'm in Brasilia at the bar sipping on a Cachaca (Brazilian gasoline), and Nealton comes up to me with this old geezer, really old, bent over, but still chisled face handsome, skin brown and taut, and Nealton said, "Wolfie, I'd like for you to meet Luiz Gonzaga." "Howdy-do, glad'a meet ya." And just as Nealton said it I realized it, "Luiz wrote 'Blue Baiao'...." "Holy Shit," said I, and I leaned over and kissed the old dude on the cheek--and then I was invited to his table--with his wife and Nealton's chef and his wife and we downed a whole bottle of Cardinal Mendoza brandy--and I started scatting "Blue Baiao" and Luiz and his wife started singing the real lyrics--co-composed way back when Luiz was paired with his friend for life, Humberto Teixeira--from Humberto's Wikipedia entry:
...and he [Humberto Teixeira] met his great co-author of countless hits Luiz Gonzaga. From this co-authorship came the baião a uniform beat made to dance to. They swapped the original instruments the viola, tambourine, steel drum and Brazilian fiddle for the accordion, triangle and bass drum. The new rhythm revolutionized Brazilian music which then swung between the samba songs and imported rhythms.
And what Cool times those were, and what a cool song "Blue Baiao" is--and the host of other tunes on that first Laurindo Almeida/Bud Shank album--there were eventually two it was so popular.
And I was listening to Chet Baker back yonder in '59, with the best, Bill Evans on the old piano, Paul "Mr. P.C." Chambers on bass, Herbie Mann on flute, Pepper Adams on barrie, and Connie Kay on drums. They're all dead now. Ain't that somethin'. At one time in my life these guys were so alive and in my life every damn day and I read about them faithfully in Down Beat and Metronome and I bought their albums, yes, I even liked Herbie Mann, though not so much Pepper Adams, though Bill Evans, shit, "Waltz for Debbie" almost changed my life--and I tried to play modal shit--but I was too fused into my style of boogie-bop--lame left-hand shit--though not any more, folks: I've got my left-hand in overdrive these days--still working on it; like Eubie Blake, I plan on playing the piano until I'm 100!
And Chet's blues takes me back--and I hate being romantic anymore--nostalgia being romantic. And I keep thinking of Tina Turner singing "What's Love Got to Do With It?" What a touching song.
The Cast of Characters
Hetty Green and her dog, Dewey. Hetty's son, Col. E.H. Green in his car. He became a Colonel in Texas, but he was never in the Army.
Laurindo Almeida & Bud Shank.
Chet Baker back in those Cool L.A. Days
for The Daily Growler