Sunday, November 22, 2009

The Daily Growler "Belated" Issue

Foto by tgw, "brick lines" new york city, 2009.
A Belated Happy Birthday to Ezra Pound--We forgot Ez's birthday this year; to make up for it, here's a little Ez for you, one of his more understandable po'ms.


Luini in porcelain!
The grand piano
Utters a profane
Protest with her clear soprano.

The sleek head emerges
From the gold-yellow frock
As Anadyomene in the opening
Pages of Reinach.

Honey-red, closing the face-oval,
A basket-work of braids which seem as if they were
Spun in King Minos' hall
From metal, or intractable amber;

The face-oval beneath the glaze,
Bright in its suave bounding-line, as,
Beneath half-watt rays,
The eyes turn topaz.
from Selected Poems of Ezra Pound, New Directions, 1957, 25th Printing, p 77.

We hope that medallion was hanging from the neck of one of Ez's young lovers! Maybe H.D.
A Belated Happy Birthday to the Bean, Coleman Hawkins
The Hawk's birthday was Saturday, Nov. 22.

From Gunther Schuller:

"It is difficult to think of anyone in jazz who has had a greater influence on his musical contemporaries than Coleman Hawkins. Armstrong and Hines are arguable contenders, particularly the former, since he deeply influenced even Hawkins. But while Hines and Armstrong had countless disciples and neophytes, they did not procreate as many major figures as Hawkins. He founded a veritable dynasty of tenor saxophone players, not to mention a number of formidable altoists and baritonists (in particular Johnny Hodges and Harry Carney). Those who came from Hawkins's protean lineage include Ben Webster, Herschel Evans, Chu Berry, Budd Johnson, Don Byas, Teddy McRae, the alas much underrated Lucky Thompson, and in some significant ways much later masters of tenor such as John Coltrane and Sonny Rollins--and, of course, a host of other finer and lesser players. Hawkins's mesmerizing hold on all who followed--except for Lester Young--was overwhelming, permanent, and unquestioned. One very large reason for this pervasive dominance is the extraordinary fact that Coleman Hawkins virtually invented the jazz saxophone, at least the tenor saxophone" [from Gunther Schuller, The Swing Era, chap. 6, "The Great Soloists," part 1, p 426, Oxford University Press, 1989].
From the Pianist Mary Lou Williams:
"The word went round that Hawkins was in the Cherry Blossom, and within about half an hour there were Lester Young, Ben Webster, Herschel Evans, Herman Walder, and one or two unknown tenors piling in the club to blow.

"Bean didn't know the Kaycee tenor men were so terrific, and he couldn't get himself together though he played all the morning. I happened to be nodding that night, and around four a.m., I awoke to hear someone pecking on my screen.

"I opened the window on Ben Webster. He was saying, 'Get up, pussycat, we're jammin' and all the pianists are tired out now. Hawkins has got his shirt off and is still blowing. You got to come down.'

"Sure enough, when we got there, Hawkins was in his singlet, taking turns with the Kaycee men. It seems he had run into something he didn't expect.

"Lester's style was light, and, as I said, it took him maybe five choruses to warm up. But then he would really blow; then you couldn't handle him on a cutting session. That was how Hawkins got hung up. The Henderson band was playing in St. Louis that evening, and Bean knew he ought to be on the way. But he kept trying to blow something to beat Ben and Herschel and Lester. When at last he gave up, he got straight in his car and drove to St. Louis. I heard he'd just bought a new Cadillac and that he burnt it out trying to make the job on time. Yes, Hawkins was king until he met those crazy Kansas City tenor men" [Quoted in Frank Buchmann-Moller's You Just Fight for Your Life, the Story of Lester Young, Praeger, 1990, p 47].
Later in New York City, Billie Holiday used to set up cutting matches between Prez and Hawk up in Harlem--in one both Prez and Hawk blew over 130 choruses, blowing for over 2 1/2 hours on the same tune. Long gone are those days. Long gone is that kind of jazz. Long gone is that lifestyle. Long gone is the true remembrance of such free-style, individualistic, pure improvised jazz--gone are the days when any tenor saxophone player would be allowed to blow for 2 1/2 hours straight on one tune.
And We Close With: from thegrowlingwolf's post in August 2008:

While writing on this [The Daily Growler, August 12, 2008] , I've listened to nearly two hours of the music of Coleman Hawkins, the Hawk, a college graduate back in a time when most blacks were lucky if they were allowed to get out of high school or even had a high school to go to--and Coleman was a trained musician and started his career out on the road with the old babe blues singers, like Ma Rainey and Mamie Smith--that bunch that preceded Bessie Smith--and young Coleman played with these blues bands until he broke loose and ended up in the forefront of jazz--guiding swing and jump into be-bop, using Theolonious Monk as his pianist in the mid-1940s...and Jesus X that sounds like so long ago--and even further back than the forties in the mid-1930s the Hawk lived in London and Europe for several years. During that time, the Hawk made one of the swingiest series of recordings ever--in Paree with Django Rinehart and a French sax player who wasn't half-bad, Alex Combelle (sic)--with a "Sweet Georgia Brown" that literally powers up Django until he can't hold back and hollers "Yeahhhh!"--and this was when sound had the hiss of a needle ploughing through a record groove on a shellac platter playing over it--when records were "cut"--"Let's cut a record today," the old guys used to say. And the early things were simply "sound" recordings--then in the twenties Gennett and record companies like that discovered electronic recording where amplification was used--mics were invented--and the sound started to get clearer, each instrument more distinct--though still you had the sound of that needle ploughing through those grooves--you used diamond needles to playback if you were smart--and those needles let off that hiss as they grooved through those cuts--the grooves--where "the groove" comes from, i.e., Dizzy's "Groovin' High"--and one of Coleman Hawkins's best swingers is "Bean Stalkin'," and later a brilliant abstract-like thing he called "Picasso," and another thing called "Phantomesque"--ah sweet memories!

I attended the Bean's funeral (the Bean was the Hawk) in 1969 at the Jazz Church, St. Peter's, over on Lexington Avenue here in old Gotham; it was the Rev. John Gensil's (I called him Father Gunsell--I didn't like him) church, a great old dark red-brick structure that was torn-down with God's Holy blessing by City Bank in order for it to build its bigger-than-God bank headquarters, when they became CitiBank, though the CitiBank building is now getting dirty-looking-and-tacky-looking on the NYC skyline--and CityBank incorporated a new, modern Saint Peter's Church within its secular confines--an old college mate of mine used to be the music director there--Ed Summerlin--Ed tried to make jazz religious music--he wrote jazz masses and jazz cantatas and jazz doxologies.

At Bean's funeral, I sat right in the middle of a bunch of my heroes. It was one of the greatest experiences in my young life to that time. I mean, listen to this, right next to me on my right was Charlie Shavers--he was a heavy drinker and soon into the funeral Charlie passed out and started snoring. Someone tapped me on my shoulder and I turned around and it was Dizzy Gillespie, I was quivering all over, man, and Diz was telling me to wake Charlie up--he was sitting right behind Charlie and I wondered why he didn't wake him up, but anyway, I obediently gently nudged dear ol' Charlie. He popped dead awake and automatically let out a head shakin' awakening, "Yeah," very loud! It was heard all over the church. And then I heard Dizzy laughing his ass off behind me--Diz knew Charlie would react that way. And sitting just in front of me was Gerry Mulligan; and sitting a little behind me was Horace Silver; and Russell Procope was down the aisle with me next to Charlie Shavers on his right side and then Ray Nance was down by Russell. And then Ray got up and walked to the front of the church, up just to the side of Bean's coffin--and it was Ray Nance who brought the house down when he started playing "Body and Soul" solo on his violin--just his violin ramblin' through the ceiling of that old church--putting us all up teary eyed and sayin' "Yeah, Man, blow for the Bean"--and later when we all filed by the open casket, I was right behind Bean's wife, and when she got in front of Bean, after she bent down and kissed him, she put a rose on his emaciated chest--Bean had lost a lot of weight near the end of his life; in fact, he'd become skin and bones and he had grown a huge beard and it all really made him look like a voodoo prophet or somethin'--and the last time I saw the Bean play he was with his end-game buddy, Little Jazz, Roy Eldridge, and the Bean was weak as hell and sat down in a chair and played until they got into "Bean Stalkin'" and then the Bean got up and came to the microphone and blew his ass off, going from that to "Disorder on the Border" and ending with a hell of a rompin' "The Walker." And after the gig the buzz was that Bean had been playing well but while extremely sick--and then only a few weeks later he died and then there I was at this great man's funeral. And when I went up for my turn with the Bean, Mrs. Bean turned and handed me a rose, and instead of putting the rose on Bean's emaciated chest, I put it in the bell of his sax that was sitting by the coffin on its stand, and Mrs. Bean said, "That was very nice of you, young man," and I said, "Thank you," and then walked on out of the church and into a sunshiny streets of NYC and back into the rest of my life.

And everyone knows I always dug Lester Young and followed Lester's life to the bone--but when asked what the difference is between Hawk and Prez, I say, "There are more likenesses than differences, so how 'bout, ding dong, we talk about those."

1 comment:

Language said...

Great post, great Mary Lou Williams quote. I wonder how many people now remember/realize how great Hawk was?