Foto by tgw, New York City, 2009
April 2: The Good John Bunch Has Left Us:
John Bunch, 88, American jazz pianist, melanoma.
I just read on the Wikipedia Death List that Herb Ellis one of the great jazzmen this country gave us had died. Herbie's dead. Eighty-eight. He had Alzheimer's, which makes his death even sadder.
The first time I heard Herbie Ellis? I know exactly. I was at my friend's apartment. Though he was still a senior in high school, his parents gave him permission to get an apartment of his own. It was a small but neat little apartment with a private entrance off the street. My friend's father was a famous C&W songwriter and entertainer who had made millions off his songs, especially one that had reached #1 on both the C&W and Pop charts--that song alone made the dude a multimillionaire--so my friend had a lot of material goods that most kids his age wouldn't have for years yet. Like he had his own cool car. Hell, he had his own apartment away from his parents. He had his own hi-fi (stereo would come only a few years later) and a fabulous record collection (his father also owned a couple of radio stations and all the record companies sent him tons of demo records and albums of all genres and my friend had permission to go through these tons of records and pick out the ones he wanted--his father had no intentions of listening to any of them since the recording companies sent these same records to his radio stations). Having his own apartment, too, meant he had his own refrigerator, which meant he had a place to keep BEERS cold! And BEER was as important to us then as learning the ways of seducing women (we read Havelock Ellis together)--and what better way to listen to music than with a cold beer and a good friend.
I had finished my freshman year in college that first summer my friend had his own apartment. As soon as I hit town from college and had unpacked and checked in with my folks, I was out the door and over to my friend's, which was just up the street from my family home. The minute I came through the door he had a cold can of beer in my hand and was holding an LP in his hands, which I knew meant he had a new LP he just had to have me listen to. He put this LP on his hi-fi and sat down on the floor beside me directly in front of his player's speaker. The LP was a Verve LP featuring The Oscar Peterson Trio playing live at the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam. The album became a great joke among jazz musicians when it was revealed that not only weren't the Oscar Peterson Trio playing live at the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam, they weren't even playing live. The LP was actually recorded in the Mercury Studios in L.A. and the audience noises were dubbed in. [Mr. Ed: I must hoof in here and say according to a CD of this concert here in the office, it was recorded in 1956 live at the Opera House in Chicago during a JATP tour. The Trio recorded in the Concertgebouw in 1959 but that concert was not recorded.] Norman Granz explained it that the album had originally been planned to actually be recorded at the Concertgebouw during Oscar's European tour but then plans changed at the last minute but by then the album sleeves had been made and printed as "The Oscar Peterson Trio at the Concertgebouw." The cover art was a photograph of a windmill one assumed was in Holland, though it had absolutely nothing to do with the music on the album. On the back was a photograph of the trio that made them look like they were on the stage of a concert hall.
The first tune on the album was "The Lady Is a Tramp." A blazing version. I was mesmerized. My friend and I were absolutely silent. We didn't even take a drink of beer. We didn't move. We were straining our ears to hear every sound coming out of these three wizards of jazz.
Oscar Peterson I already knew: first from his first album, a 10-inch RCA Victor LP recorded in Montreal, Canada, with a couple of radio station studio musicians backing him. That was 19-year-old Oscar playing absolutely amazing boogie-woogie. Though Oscar was lightnin' fast by 19, he wasn't yet as smooth-as-ice fast as Art Tatum nor yet did he have his time down as firmly as nor did he show the virtuosity of Nat "King" Cole. Soon, however, he was recording for Norman Granz's Clef and Norgran labels, later merged into the Verve label, with his own trio composed of Ray Brown on bass and Barney Kessell on guitar. Both Ray and Barney Oscar met when Norman Granz brought him down from Montreal to New York City--Carnegie Hall it was--and made him the Jazz at the Philharmonic house pianist. Ray and Barney were already a part of the JATP tours. Barney Kessell was a great guitar player--a great jazz guitarist--totally influenced by Charlie Christian, the young Black phenom guitarist from Oklahoma City who blossomed briefly playing the jazz guitar like it had never been played before--solo lines--with the Benny Goodman Ork from 1939 until Charlie died of TB here in New York City in February of 1941. Barney was learning the guitar in Muskogee, Oklahoma, while Charlie was gigging around the Southwest out of Oklahoma City (Ralph Ellison was growing up in Oklahoma City at the same time--and Walter Page's Blue Devils worked out of Oklahoma City in those pre-Kansas City days--in fact, Lester Young joined Page's Blue Devils in Oklahoma City before going with "Big" Page to Kansas City where they joined Count Basie in taking over the Bennie Moten Band). And Barney could play the blues and that's what Oscar was looking for, a guitar player who could play the blues like Oscar Moore played the blues with the Nat "King" Cole Trio on which Oscar wanted to base his trio. In no time flat, the Oscar Peterson Trio got big time and needed to go out on a tour and Barney Kessell got involved in A&R work in Hollywood and couldn't go so Oscar needed a new guitar player and he chose this guy Herb Ellis.
And this was the Oscar Peterson Trio my friend and I first heard that day at his small apartment on the floor with our attentions nailed to that speaker and the absolutely smooth-sailing overwhelming cookin' trio jazz coming out of that hi-fi. Oscar was reaching his peak years--his virtuosity had grown in its own way and O.P. had joined with Art Tatum and Nat Cole to form a triumvirate of swinging jazz pianists--pianists with speed-of-light fingers and ideas to go along with those fingers--flicking them over the keys with greased-pig speed yet hitting the notes solidly on the head--Tatum the champ at that, then Cole, then Oscar--because Oscar sometimes played so fast he hit double-keys--like a B and C--as one key--or in a bumble-bee flight up the keyboard he might trip over a couple of accidentals. These three pianists needed very special guitarists to make their trios become vehicles of their fame and fortune. Art Tatum had the amazing Tiny Grimes as his guitarist; Nat Cole had Oscar Moore; and soon Oscar Peterson had Herb Ellis.
I soon found out Herb Ellis was from McKinney, Texas. Then I learned he'd gone to college in Denton, Texas, to North Texas State Teachers College, along with Jimmy Guiffre, a sax and clarinet player from Dallas, the college I had just finished my freshman year at--and hanging in the jazz department, too--and that was the first time I'd ever heard Herbie went to North Texas State University, which it was when I went there--they had dropped the "Teachers College" and become a State University. By the next fall when I returned to NT, I knew all about Herbie Ellis. Back in the jazz department, I soon brought up Herbie's name and the head of the lab jazz band told me, "Hell, this jazz department owes its existence to Jimmy Guiffre and Herb Ellis. In fact, both Herb and Jimmy will be here this year to give labs."
I recently got my hands on a DVD put out by Oscar Peterson's daughter called "Life in the Key of Oscar." It's a great little docu on O.P.--his life, his moving on up--enveloping a reunion gig in a Toronto jazz club of the Oscar Peterson Trio comprising Ray Brown and Herb Ellis--with the addition of a young Canadian drummer (Oscar sometimes used drums instead of guitars in his trios--Ed Thigpen, who died just this year, was one of Oscar's first drummers after Herb quit the trio). The year was 1988--and though the men were older (Ray Brown kept his boyish handsomeness until the end) and in the case of Oscar heavier than ever--and Herbie was total grey where he wasn't bald and was somewhat paunchy--they still played with the same laid-back ferocity they had back when they were so hot in the late fifties.
Herbie talked about being the only White guy in a Black group and touring the South how he wouldn't stay in the White hotels but stayed in the Black parts of town with O.P. and Ray. Then he talked about battling alcohol and having to give up touring to kick the booze and do studio work back in L.A. Oscar then talked about how he'd just sensed that this White boy from Texas who he knew could play the blues was the guitarist he wanted to blend with he and Ray Brown in some of the most fascinating and popular at the time trio work in any musical venue--"We thought as one," Oscar said in his praise of Herb Ellis.
When that reunion video was shot up in Toronto (Oscar lived his last years in Toronto) all the men had almost 20 years to live. Oscar and Ray died in the 2000s--Oscar two or so years ago; Ray before then a bit; but Herbie. I knew Herbie wasn't dead. Though I hadn't really considered anything about him in years--hadn't seen any new CDs out from him; hadn't checked up on him at all. Jimmy Guiffre died last year but he was nearly 90 and terribly sick and his death didn't disturb me. Still I never even thought of Herbie. Then this morning I decided to check the Wikipedia Death List and there it was
Herb Ellis, 88, American jazz guitarist, Alzheimer's disease.
And there goes another of my heroes--mentors--fellow Texan, fellow Texas White boy who fell in love with Black culture and Black music and especially the blues and jazz, and fellow North Texan. Herbie's death shook me up. And I was already shook up just having finished a CD project commemorating the 1st anniversary of the death of my old music colleague and dear friend theryefarmerfromqueens.
White Male Rage (oh no, political comment)
This morning on our Pacific station here in NYC, WBAI-FM, the subject was "White Male Rage," as explained by two young men, a White man and a Black man, who have just written a book explaining White Male Rage (of the kind symbolized by Timothy McVeigh and the gun-toting men of the Teabaggers ("teabagging" is a sexual-prank term meaning that a man teabags another male by dangling his balls over another's man's mouth, his teacup, like one dangles a teabag over a cup of hot water in making tea--and these teabaggers are sexual deviates). These boys sound like graduate students from a prominent eastern university who got together and wrote a dissertation that some college don decided was worthy of publication.
Their premise was that due to the changing economy and racial relations in this country, White males are fearing they are losing power--they are becoming impotent in terms of position and superiority. Where before White men had no trouble making it the American Way, i.e., it was no problem for a White male to find a job; it was a White good-ole-boy network anyway, so being White guaranteed you certain first rights to all life experiences, jobs, society, institutions, government--this Nation the White man's birthright--and the White males were guaranteed a smooth-sailing path to the top of things if that was their ambition. Over the past 40 years, these boys say, things in this country have changed drastically including the population of nonwhites. This country is progressing in favor of a new majority against the old white network--and now with the election of a Black president, suddenly new ways of doing things have been forced on White men by the economy, by new laws and regulations, by jobs not being there exclusively for them anymore, by the outsourcing of jobs, by the closing of factories, and by having to be submissive to a bunch of Black male authorities, too, yes, like the president and his attorney-general.
The central idea posed by these two college boys with a new book out, I say is wrong. Yes, it is racism; yes, it is White males feeling they are losing the privileges they feel they have because they are White. And, yes, they believe White people founded this country and that Blacks and Mexicans and yellow people and smarmy Indians from India and greasy Pakis and God knows the messes of colored people pouring into this country by the hungry droves should be shouting glory that the White man formed this Nation. However, to today's White males it seems these "fur'ners" (and, yes, Blacks are foreigners to your basic White Teabagger mentality) come here and rather than adapting to a White Western European culture and nationalism they instead disrespect and rebel against this being basically a White Christian nation. "My god," the average white male thinks who's just lost his job, his home, his car, his wife, his dog, "these woolly booger bastards are taking us over, these god-damn Messkins allowed to take jobs away from us by these humanitarian sons of bitches who care more about common ordinary people than they do the White Power Elite, the White people who are respectful of the White philosophy that teaches us that the most CIVILIZED members of our society, are those rich White Males who provide us with jobs and health insurance and a chance to succeed"--the White Power Elite, the best educated (not true at all), the richest, the ones who control our wealth and therefore our lives.
The White Male Power Elite is still in control of this country.
Look at our justice system. It's corrupted by White male judges. I was looking at the 2nd Federal Court of Appeals here in New York State, a very powerful Federal Appeals Court. Most of its judges were appointed by G.W. Bush, one of them one of Georgie Junior's first cousins, John Walker, a rabid Bushite, a rabid hater of ordinary people, especially those people who to the Bushes should be servants and gardeners and cottonpickers rather than president of the USA! This John Walker asshole actually ran over a highway patrolman and killed him in Connecticut--the Bushes home state--and wasn't even tested for drugs and was released on the spot without being charged with any violation. Can you imagine if you should happen to run over and kill a highway patrolman? Why do we need judges anyway? Do away with judges. Design an impartial computer program to run our courts. Fuck judges. Why do we need a President for that matter? Why? Because a Capitalist-system-based government demands an Executive, a CEO, a Chairman of the Board!
These two college grad students who've written their NYTimes bestseller on White Male Rage have hit on a serious subject but they've neglected to figure out the real reason for it. Yes, of course it's due to racism--an inherent White racism, especially vitriolic against Mexicans, Muslims, Hindus, illegal immigrants (unless they're White ones--like all the illegal Irish women and men working in US Irish bars and restaurants).
Yes, of course White Male Rage is pro-Christian principles, which means it's pro War; it's antiGay; it's anti-Atheist; and it truly believes the White way of life is the righteous and God-approved way of life. White dominance is a gift to the White Man from his God. And, yes, the White Male (and the White female) is scared of anybody who isn't White! Scared because he has no way of understanding these people--Blacks just aren't White, that's all there is to it. Indians aren't White. Mexicans aren't White, though Spanish are! Mexicans are Native Americans so they are still considered savages by the CIVILIZED White man. The Spanish on the other hand are Europeans--they are conquerors; they are Imperial Grand Wizards. They are White. All the people the White Man at one time Imperially ruled over were considered uncivilized.
Where did these college boys missed the boat? Why in going all around Robin's barn without looking inside the barn where the seat of the problem is. IN CAPITALISM!
Who brought Capitalism to this country? Not the Native Americans. Not the slaves. How about the Colonizers? The first White Men (and women) to come to this country were brought here by Capitalist Companies and colonizers. The first White Men brought over here (either into Massachusetts or Virginia) were representatives of Companies, trading companies headed by rich and powerful Brits, Dutch, Spanish, Portuguese, French, Germans--all the European CIVILIZED corporations sending out their privateers, sending out their pirate captains, their fleets, their militias--their objective: TO CIVILIZE THE SAVAGES! To CAPITALIZE on the untapped wealth of the earth's money-making resources.
Capitalism. Brought to this country by the White Man. Capitalism that needs CHEAP LABOR to make it work--so that individual White Men can get richer and richer off the backs of indentured servants (the poor Whites) and African slaves, who were, don't forget, rounded up and sold to the White Slavers by African chiefs and tribal leaders--slavery being a part of the history of man since man discovered himself as a divine being back around the dawning of what has become known as CIVILIZATION (so far all civilizations have been built on the backs of slaves). This is why the White Man hates Nature so much. Nature is Natural. Nature provides all animals and living things (including plants, bacteria, etc.) a chance to make it, to survive. Civilization is the unnatural way and provides only certain individuals the chance to make it comfortably, to survive leisurely, not just to survive but to survive in style, in rich dress, draped in symbolic golds and jewels, the signs of Power! This is how it's always been. African tribal chiefs--check 'em out--check how they live--stylewise--the best of clothes, the best of cars, the best of mistresses, the best of booze and food.
The White Male Rage in this country, yes, is triggered by progressiveness or "movin' too fast" away from the White foundations on which these people believe this country was built--"it takes time to change," as the Old South holdin'-out rebels used to yell. Their rage is against any apparatus that threatens to ALTER (change) the laissez-faire policies that have traditionally worked wonders for White males in terms of privileged White exclusiveness.
The missed opportunity in all this White Male Rage argument--and as an armchair Sociologist I see it clearly--is that the White Male Rage expressed openly in this country is by a minority of White males. However, I see them as a small majority (the McCain-Pallin Repugnicans got 57% of the White vote in this last election)--listen to this!--they are magnified as problems in this country as it is progressing left by the FBI, the CIA, Homeland Security, the NIS, the military in general (in generals--all White males), Congress, and, of course, the commercial news media (mostly dependent on government licenses and deregulations and government time-buying for their big profits). These are the defenders of Capitalism.
The opposite of Capitalism is not necessarily Communism. It is not necessarily Socialism. It is Humanitarianism--the rights of all humanity to "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness."
Capitalism is the biggest cause of crime in this country. You think Bernie Madoff wasn't a great Capitalist? He bilked the Capitalist privileged that's why he got caught and sentenced to such a tough sentence. Kenny Boy (Bush) Lay was also a great Capitalist (an economist by training)--I mean look at the Capitalist scam this friend of the Bushes pulled on We the People--especially the State of Cal-y-forn-y-ah--Kenny Boy wrecked the California economy--and it hasn't recovered yet.
Capitalism (the coal industry) has ruined the State of West Virginia, too. Lowest of everything in the US--lowest education levels, lowest incomes for the hardest kind of work, worst environment in the nation--COAL the KING of West Virginia. Made its politicians rich, too. One of its Senators is John D. Rockefeller! Superrich ruling over a superpoor state. That's what's causing all this RAGE, not just White Male Rage. White Male Rage gets covered by the news--mostly White Male reporters and anchors. There are News Babes out there, too, but they have no power really--most News networks are controlled by White Males.
Capitalism has left the State of Michigan in ruin. Our automobile industry didn't just collapse on its own accord. The Capitalist running it ruined it. Capitalism breeds greed. A good Capitalist makes billions off failures. Why Capitalists make billions off wars. They make billions off disasters. That's the reason we kids, and I speak for White male kids, were placed in competitive situations from the time we were born--the hopes of our White families was placed on the heads of their male offspring. Farmers had as many boys as they could because under Capitalism it's natural for the family wealth to be passed on to the sons, not the daughters. The Rockefeller daughters were never as powerful as the sons. The Kennedy daughters weren't anywhere near as powerful as the sons.
White Males brought Capitalism to this country. Rich White Males. Land-owning White males. Plantation-owning White Males. White Males rich and powerful thanks to Cheap Labor and stolen natural resources! Capitalism NEEDS SLAVES for it to really be rewarding.
All of the current economic problems in this country stem from our thinking WE the People of the USA single-handedly won World War II. We crowned ourselves Rulers of the FREE World during the phony (advertising agency-created) Cold War with Russia (another White Male-controlled nation). Ike Eisenhower put "In God We Trust" on our dollars and it has been "in God" we've trusted ever since and trust me, God is the perfect Capitalist, he definitely will through his henchmen steal a society blind (and God's wealth is all tax free!). It's very White of God to bestow so many blessings on this his country. "This is God's country...." "God bless America!"
to be continued as is continued when continuing continues continuing the continuing present...
for The Daily Growler