Stan (30 December 1926 – 6 December 2013) was one of the best.
Here he is with his then-trio (Rick Laird, bass and Jackie Dougan, drums) in London in December 1964, accompanying the great tenorist Ben Webster:
Telegraph obit here
Part of his famous interpretation of Under Milk Wood is here
Fundraiser for Edinburgh Coalition Against Poverty and Autonomous Centre for Edinburgh.
Full Moon Club style DIY punk ethic music night. Expect everything from seasoned professionals to brand new talent. With a bit of experimentation thrown in.
6pm til midnight.
Back room: The Bucky Rage, Sad Society, The z28s, Babylon Dub Punks, Desperation A.M., FRAKtured Fingers, Ugly Baby, The Phlegm.
Front room: Rodney Relax and NUSS, Tommy MacKay, Liz Cronin, Freeloadin’Frank, Etrange, and Kirsty Kennedy.
£5 before 9pm, including veggie haggis, neeps and tatties. Food finishes at 9pm, £3 door.
212 Cowgate, Edinburgh, EH11NQ
I’m playing at this gig. My band, FRAKtured Fingers, is on at 7:30.
Today’s Graun carries an editorial about a man who wrote some fine music but who was (to be charitable) an idiot when it came to politics. Maybe because his execrable political opinions quite resemble those of many Graun journalists and (no doubt) readers, it’s an almost laughable piece of hagiography:
Benjamin Britten at 100: voice of the century
Above all, he was the writer of music that still thrills because of its toughness, beauty, originality and quality
Imagine an English classical music composer who is so famous in his own lifetime that his name is known throughout the country, who is the first British composer to end his life as a peer of the realm, a composer from whom the BBC uniquely commissions a prime-time new opera for television, and whose every important new premiere is a national event, a recording of one of which – though it is 90 minutes long – sells 200,000 copies almost as soon as it is released, and a musician whose death leads the news bulletins and the front pages.
Next, imagine an English classical composer who is a gay man when homosexuality is still illegal, who lives and writes at an angle to the world, who can compose strikingly subversive music, who is passionately anti-war, so much so that he escapes to America as the second world war threatens, who is in many ways a man of the left, certainly an anti-fascist, certainly a believer in the dignity of labour, as well as a visitor to the Soviet Union and a lifelong supporter of civil liberties causes.
Now, imagine an English composer who in many estimations is simply the most prodigiously talented musician ever born in this country, who wrote some of the deepest and most rewarding scores of the 20th century, who set the English language to music more beautifully than anyone before or since, who almost single-handedly created an English operatic tradition and who, all his life, saw it as his responsibility to write music, not just for the academic priesthood or for the music professionals but for the common people, young and old, of his country.
Benjamin Britten, who was born in Lowestoft 100 years ago, was not just some of those multifarious things. He was all of them. And he was much more besides – including a wonderful pianist, the founder of the Aldeburgh Festival, and arguably the 20th century composer who is best served by his own extensive legacy in the recording studio. He was also, as many have written, a difficult and troubled man – even at times a troubling one.
Above all, he was the writer of music that still thrills because of its toughness, beauty, originality and quality. In his 1964 Aspen lecture, Britten said: “I do not write for posterity.” In fact, he did. In his lecture he said he wanted his music to be useful – a noble aim for an artist. He said he did not write for pressure groups, snobs or critics. He wrote, he said, as a member of society. His job was to write music that would inspire, comfort, touch, entertain and “even educate” his fellows. Britten spoke – and composed – as a serious man of his serious time. Impressively, much of that endures. If we seem today to have let some of Britten’s ideals slip, that may say more about our shortcomings as a culture than about Britten’s greatness and achievement, then and now.
Bearing in mind that “visitor to the Soviet Union” is Grauniad-speak for “willfully blind apologist for mass-murder”, just how many non-sequiturs can you spot in the following:
“…passionately anti-war, so much so that he escapes to America as the second world war threatens, who is in many ways a man of the left, certainly an anti-fascist, certainly a believer in the dignity of labour, as well as a visitor to the Soviet Union and a lifelong supporter of civil liberties causes” ..?
Us old jazzers love discussing the perennial question of the ‘hottest’ record of all time. Alyn Shipton at Radio 3′s Jazz Record Requests has asked for suggestions. The definition of ‘hot’ in this context is (like the word ‘swing’ or indeed ‘jazz’) not at all easy to pin down. But we know it when we hear it. It doesn’t necessarily just mean ‘up-tempo,’ though a brisk pace is usually a requirement. It’s to do with intensity, drive and raw excitement.
Philip Larkin reckoned that Louis Armstrong’s 1929 recording of St. Louis Blues was the Hottest Record Of All Time, and I’m inclined to agree. But leaving that aside, what other contenders are there?
I’d put forward Hello Lola by the Mound City Blue Blowers (1929), Bugle Call Rag by the Billy Banks Rhythmakers (1932), That’s A’ Plenty by Wild Bill Davison (1943), and this (which I’ve suggested to Alyn and should be played on JRR this Saturday):
I thought his Berlin too glamorously decadent for words, and Walk on the Wild Side had a real sweetness and warmth about people who most would have regarded as depraved deadbeats.
Apparently, the brown leaves dropping of the trees is not indicative of a real autumn at all, but is caused by a particularly dry summer which leads to early autumn colour in some tree species, and in effect we’ll experience two autumns.
“True autumn colour is triggered by fading sunlight and cold temperatures. Leaves lose the chlorophyll that makes them green, revealing spectacular yellow and red pigments.
“Fool’s autumn colour is different. It’s caused by trees still struggling to cope with a dry summer. They wilt and drop their leaves early to save water. A particularly dry summer can lead to early autumn colour in some tree species, and in effect we’ll experience two autumns” says Rory Syme of the Woodland Trust, Scotland.
Still, it’s a good excuse to feature Stan Getz as part of the Woody Herman Orchestra in 1948 with the ballad that put him (Getz) on the jazz map, Early Autumn:
Stacey Kent greets the change of season…
…as does Zoot Sims, in a nice instrumental version apparently filmed in someone’s front room:
Sarah AB, over at That Place and also at Engage, has described the circumstances leading to the Malian singer-songwriter Salif Keita to cancelling an appearance in Jerusalem. We have argued many times here at Shiraz, that the BDS campaign to boycott and “delegitimise” Israel is counterproductive, of no real use to the Palestinian people and generally more about hatred of Israel than about solidarity with the Palestinian people.
I thought it would be useful to republish this statement from Salif Keita’s Facebook page:
Salif Keita forced to cancel Jerusalem Festival due to dangerous threats by BDS
August 22, 2013 at 4:40pm
August 22, 2013
Dear Sacred Music Festival, Hadassah Hospital, Salif Keita fans,
On behalf of Salif Keita and the Salif Keita Global Foundation, we would like to thank you for organizing a magnificent unifying music festival, and a visit of the albinism treatment center in Jerusalem. Unfortunately, Mr. Keita will not be able to attend either events because of the cancellation of his show at the Sacred Music Festival.
Although, the show was cancelled, Mr. Keita (and his foundation for albinism) would like to convey his most sincere apologies to all concerned, such as the concert organizers, the Albinism Treatment Center and especially all his wonderful and diverse fans in Israel. The reason for the cancellation is not one which was made by Mr. Keita, but by his agents who were bombarded with hundreds of threats, blackmail attempts, intimidation, social media harrassment and slander stating that Mr Keita was to perform in Israel, “not for peace, but for apartheid.”
These threats were made by a group named BDS, who also threatened to keep increasing an anti-Salif Keita campaign, which they had already started on social media, and to work diligently at ruining the reputation and career that Mr. Keita has worked 40 years to achieve not only professionally, but for human rights and albinism.
Of course, we do not agree with any of these tactics or false propaganda, but management’s concern is to protect the artist from being harmed personnally and professionally. Although, we love Israel and all his fans here, and the fantastic spirit of unity of the Sacred Music Festival, as well as the important work your hospital is doing for albinism, we did not agree with the scare tactics and bullying used by BDS; therefore management decided to act cautiously when faced with an extremist group, as we believe BDS to be.
In addition, Mr. Keita is not a politician who plays for governments, but a musician who performs for his fans who are of all faiths and origins in Jerusalem. It is unfortunate that artists like him are threatened by this group who falsely claim to defend human rights, when they should take their concerns to governments or ask for support of their cause in a lawful way, and not by endangering the freedom of expression of artists, or using harrassment and intimidation of artists who play for peace and for all people, in order to bring some kind of justice to the Palestinians they claim to represent.
Since Mr. Keita, during his stay and performance in Jerusalem, had planned to visit the Hadassah Hospital and albinism center, he had also planned to make a donation of certain goods to the hospital which he would still like to offer. The boxes are already in Jerusalem and were shipped for his planned visit to the hospital. The modest donation consists of about a couple of hundred new UV protected sunglasses, as well as UV protected clothing, swimgear and hats for patients with albinism.
Again, we thank you for your invitation to Jerusalem, and are deeply saddened and disappointed by the outcome of this planned performance and visit. We hope that you will receive this donation with the love it was intended to bring to the patients, as we determine a future time to be able to perform in Israel, and visit your important center for albinism and skin cancer treatment.
Salif Keita and Coumba Makalou
The Salif Keita Global Foundation INC
RIP: Marian McPartland, jazz pianist and broadcaster, b March 20 1918, d August 20 2013
Great Day in Harlem: Marian, Mary Lou and Monk
Jazz can be proud of its anti-racist traditions and of how, from the early twentieth century, black and white musicians defied Jim Crow in order to work together to make great music. Jazz played a major role in the civil rights movement and - long before the Brooklyn Dodgers signed Jackie Robinson for the 1946 season - helped convince white America that black people were at least their equals, and had an awful lot to contribute to the American Way Of Life, if only given the chance.
Jazz’s record on sexism and women’s rights is less honourable. Until quite recently, women were scarcely tolerated in jazz, and even then only as fans, hangers-on and singers. The few female instrumentalists that there were in the 1930s, 40s and 50s tended to be treated with condescension or (as with pianist Mary Lou Williams, whose talent could not be denied), as novelties if not downright freaks.
When British-born pianist Marian McPartland arrived in the US in 1946, having married the American cornetist Jimmy McPartland, the influential jazz critic Leonard Feather (himself a Brit) declared, “Oh, she’ll never make it: she’s English, white and a woman.”
Marian went on to prove him, and many other detractors, wrong. On her arrival in America, she sought out the great Mary Lou Williams and, no doubt, received some tips about “making it” in the macho world of the US jazz scene. And she didn’t depend upon the reputation or the contacts of her husband Jimmy: he was a well-established “hot” traditionalist (“Dixielander” if you must) who’d taken over from Bix Beiderbecke in the Wolverine Orchestra in the 1920s, whereas she had more modern ideas and was more at home with bop and post-bop players. In the famous 1958 ’Great Day in Harlem’ photograph Marian stands at the front with Mary Lou Williams, Thelonious Monk and Sonny Rollins. Husband Jimmy isn’t present, though cronies like George Wettling, Bud Freeman and Pee Wee Russell are there, forming a distinct little group a couple of rows behind Marian.
By that time, in any case, the McPartland marriage was in trouble, due at least in part to Jimmy’s heavy drinking. Marian, meanwhile, began a long-standing affair with drummer Joe Morello. Jimmy and Marian finally divorced in 1972, but remained friends and continued to work with each other from time to time. Jimmy even quipped: “All married people (should) get divorced and start treating each other like human beings.”
Further unpleasantness in Marian’s life was caused by Benny Goodman, who in 1963 asked her to join his band only to decide that he didn’t like her playing after all, giving her a miserable time on tour, and driving her into therapy. Marian eventually sort-of forgave Goodman, noting that he had unwittingly done her a favour: her time in therapy gave her an opportunity to re-think her life and resulted in a second career as a radio broadcaster specialising in interviews with fellow jazz musicians. Her series Piano Jazz on NPR ran for 33 years and was syndicated throughout America and beyond (though regrettably, not in the UK). Marian said she treated her role as an interviewer in the same way as she approached working in a jazz group: knowing when to contribute, and when to shut up. The show began, in 1978, with Marion interviewing and playing alongside fellow jazz pianists, as in this wonderful encounter with Dick Wellstood. But the show evolved (perhaps as Marian became more confident) and she eventually began interviewing non pianists and, indeed, musicians who might not, strictly, be considered jazz at all: here she is with members of Steely Dan.
But Marian remained active as a pianist, and her stylistic range continued to develop. She continued to perform in public until her late 80s and before she turned 90, composed a symphonic piece, A Portrait of Rachel Carson in memory of the author of the environmental book Silent Spring.
And throughout it all, she and Jimmy remained friends. In fact, just before Jimmy died in 1991, they remarried.
Here they are, playing together at a jam session in 1975. It’s more Jimmy’s scene than Marian’s: most of the musicians are old cronies from the 1920s, 30s and 40s (note the presence of violinist Joe Venuti, for instance). But it’s a great opportunity to see and hear Jimmy and Marian playing together. The marriage may have had its ups and downs, but the music was always great:
New York Times obit, here.
Marian McPartland: A Life in Jazz (2009 tribute), here.
What’s this? Two music posts in succession!
Well, thanks to ’Perfessor M. Figg’ at The Pop Of Yestercentury I’ve just realised that one of my favourite 1930s/40s bandleaders, Bob Crosby, was born 100 years ago today. The ‘Perfessor’ pays a fine tribute, analysing the Crosby Orchestra’s 1938 rendition of ‘Diga Diga Doo’ with evident knowledge and appreciation.
I’ll take this opportunity to share their 1942 record of ’Vultee Special’ featuring Yank Lawson on trumpet, Floyd O’Brien on trombone and Jess Stacy on piano:
Bob was Bing’s younger brother and was only the titular head of the Orchestra: in reality it was a co-operative, run by its members and devoted to playing jazz rather than simply aiming at the hit parade. The late Richard Sudhalter wrote a fine appreciation of the Bob Crosby Orchestra in his 1999 book Lost Chords:
“Above all,” Bob Haggart recalled, “we were like a family. We worked together, socialised together. Thought musically together. Most other bands — well, to tell the truth, we didn’t pay much attention to what everybody else was doing. To us most of the time, they just sounded as if they were trying to steal from one another.”
Meet that wonder of the musical 1930s, the Bob Crosby Orchestra. In the whole colorful decade there wasn’t another band like it, and in certain ways there may not have been another nearly so good.
For chronicler George T. Simon, they were an ensemble “with tremendous spirit, one filled with men who believed thoroughly in the kind of music they were playing and, what’s more, who respected and admired one another as musicians and as people.”
Few bands, however brilliant, approached that degree of unanimity with any consistency. It extends beyond mere skill, beyond originality — even beyond a leader or arranger’s inspired vision. Neither Goodman’s virtuosity nor the faultless precision of his orchestras ever quite transformed their efforts into the expression of a single collective will. Artie Shaw came closer, his various bands driven by the strength and singularity of his vision: but Shaw’s musicians remained his employees. Much the same could be said even for Red Norvo’s extraordinary 1937 band, breathing, whispering, exulting as extensions of both its leader’s xylophone sound and Eddie Sauter’s ensemble concept.
The Crosby orchestra had an extra dimension. It lives in such words as “ensemble,” when describing tightly knit group acting, or “team,” in the finest athletic sense; the idea of a collective entity, each component interacting constantly and creatively with the others to shape, to determine the whole. Gesalt, a single consciousness compounded of many.
In that rarified context only the Duke Ellington Orchestra comes to mind as in any way comparable. But an Ellington orchestra, any Ellington Orchestra, assumed its finished shape through the leader’s (and often Billy Strayhorn’s) codification of an ongoing fusion and fission among its individual members. The Crosby orchestra, by contrast, began with unanimous, shared dedication to a single stylistic ideal. its name, most often popularly (and imperfectly) identified, was “Dixieland.” But the word fails to describe either a stylistic predisposition or a rhythmic foundation, not to mention a wide palette of orchestral color and texture.
Better by far, and more accurate, to remember that the band led by Bing Crosby’s younger brother was built around a core of New Orleans musicians, whose shared background and affinity determined its musical direction.
Historically, New Orleans jazzmen away from home shared a bond, a camaraderie, that seemed to transcend class, education, politics, even race. Meeting in New York, Chicago, or Los Angeles, they were often simply homeboys together, carrying their environment with them in a way that seemed to render differences among them irrelevant, or at least secondary. It may be that way with musicians from St. Louis, Boston, or San Antonio, but not to that degree: and on the evidence it’s anything but that with New Yorkers.
Crescent City jazzmen seemed to recognise one another, even gravitate toward one another’s company both on and off the stand. When clarinettist Joe Darensbourg, a Creole, says of guitarist Hilton “Nappy” Lamare, a white, “if everybody was like Nappy Lamare this would be an awfully nice world,” he’s talking New Orleans. The sight of Eddie Miller and Kid Ory crawfishing together in a stream on the outskirts of Los Angeles says less about race relations or social ecumenism in jazz than about their shared home town and its ways.
In this connection the Bob Crosby band has a strong cognate, perhaps even a forebear, in the great Luis Russell Orchestra of 1929-30. Henry “Red” Allen on trumpet, bassist George “Pops” Foster, drummer Paul Barbarin, and clarinettist Albert Nicholas had known each other back home, and they were at the heart, musically and socially, of an extraordinary band. Others, such as Russell himself (born in Panama but raised in New Orleans), Georgia-born trombonist J.C. Higginbotham, and Bostonian saxophonist Charlie Holmes, quickly got (as the title of one of their best records put it) “Feelin’ The Spirit.”
Like the Russell band, the Crosby unit had New Orleans musicians — Lamare, drummer Ray Bauduc, tenor saxophonist Eddie Miller, and, slightly later, clarinetist Irving Fazola — at its core, alongside a cadre of avid fellow-travellers, among them Long Islander Haggart, Kentucky-born clarinetist Julian “Matty” Matlock, and Missourian John “Yank” Lawson on trumpet.
As with the Russell band, Crosby’s men were never in any doubt or disagreement about what they wanted to play and how they would do it. Even with a slightly larger instrumentation than Russell’s, they were doing what they’d known “down home.” In this connection, all the Miller-Lamare banter about “po’ boy” sandwiches and other local delights that opens the Crosby record of “Way Down Yonder in New Orleans” tells its own affectionate story. As the guitarist put it in a 1940 interview, “white musicians as well as the colored seem to have the right ideas down there.”
Whatever it was, and by whatever name its music was known, the band had sparkle, spontaneity, and lift and left a legacy of distinctive records, which have easily withstood the shifting winds of musical fashion.
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