Top 50 JAzz Blog

Monday, February 28, 2011

Unions-Bah! What Are They Good For?

This past weekend, the motley musical crowd I play with-The Second Line Social Aid Pleasure Society Brass Band (SLSAPS)- played at a rally at the MA State House in support of Wisconsin unions-and unions everywhere(put into decent context here) and at a rally for the Student Farmworker Alliance and the Coalition of Immokalee Workers.

Maybe it was being around so many scrufulous people, or trying to play with frozen chops, but the whole weekend really turned around my attitude about unions. So, despite my ambivalence about such lists, I ask you to hearken unto my top 10 reasons why we just don't need unions anymore:
  1. No one's gonna tell me I can only work 8 hours a day.
  2. When my kid works, I want her to know the real meaning of money-no minimum wage for her!
  3. From 1990-2003, CEO salaries went up 272%, workers' went up 8%-definitive proof of basic Darwinian precepts (apart from Evolution, of course).
  4. Collective bargaining? Who came up with that idea? No matter how big or small the company, the CFO is always happy to individually negotiate your personal salary and benefits-and without any possible recriminations. Try it!
  5. I'm sure we would have had Social Security anyway.
  6. Workers in unions get 30% higher pay. Why should anyone without an MBA make more than me?
  7. If the average person made more, they'd just blow it on video games and condoms.
  8. Incomprehensible logos. 
  9. Calling each other "Brother" and "sister"- I mean, really.
  10. If left to their own devices, businesses-like banks-will certainly do the right thing by their workers.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Orange Then Blue: Evanescent

Another video from the "Big Bands on the Edge" concert I produced at the Emerson Majestic Theatre in 1989, here is the group "Orange Then Blue," playing the song "Evanescent," composed by leader/drummer George Schuller. Some fine solo work by Ken Cervenka, Gary Valente and Stan Strickland.

Matt Darriau-sax
Stan Strickland-sax
Allan Chase-sax
John Allmark-trumpet
Diego Urcola-trumpet
Ken Cervenka-trumpet
Mark Taylor-Fluegelhorn
Gary Valente-trombone
Peter Cirelli-bass trombone
Tim Ray-piano
Paul Del Nero-bass
George Schuller-leader/ drums
Sa Davis-percussion

Monday, February 21, 2011

"Boston Jazz Radio and Government Funding" by Steve Provizer

Looks like the NEA will cut the Jazz Masters program and government funding for PBS and NPR is in jeopardy. How will such cuts effect jazz? I'll just bite off a small piece of it and focus on Boston media.

There's little jazz on TV. Public television has a small stake, carrying awards ceremonies at the Kennedy Center, White House specials, a rare American Masters and the odd Ken Burns documentary. Mr. Rogers used to have great jazz guests. RIP Mr Rogers. Maybe Sesame Street does some. There's no homegrown jazz TV hereabouts. Some years ago, I tried and failed.

In Boston, radio's a different story. Jazz has a strong presence here and an NPR affiliate is one of the major players.

In sheer number of hours, the biggest providers of jazz programming here are WHRB-FM and WGBH-FM. WHRB runs jazz every weekday 5am-1 pm. It is the Harvard-affiliate and not a public radio station. 

There are a number of other college stations which have jazz programs. Jazz lists them all, although the list is not necessarily up-to-date (2 of my defunct shows are still listed). Some of the hosts are college students who know little of the music, but some are knowledgeable community members and/or musicians.

WGBH, a powerhouse NPR affiliate, runs local jazz shows 8pm-midnight weekdays and overnight. Their jazz hosts are knowledgeable, if not very adventurous. Last year, WGBH shortened weekday jazz shows by an hour and swapped in a syndicated show for local DJ's overnights.

So what impact would the loss of funding have on local jazz radio? First of all, it would have no direct effect on any of the college stations-including WHRB's 35 hours of jazz a week and their orgy period, which often features hundreds of additional hours of jazz.


A recent enormous build-out and move combined with the bad economy have forced WGBH to cut back on tv and radio programming budgets. Losing the c. $11 million they get every year from the govt. would be a blow. It's important to note that last year, WGBH made moves to seriously re-position itself in the Boston radio market. In order to challenge the primacy of WBUR-FM and its all-news and public affairs format, WGBH juiced up its talk, eliminated all blues and folk programs and off-loaded its classical programming to a station it acquired-WCRB-FM.

So, it seems a simple enough deduction that, given any significant shortfall in income, WGBH would continue its trajectory and only retain the syndicated overnight jazz programming. Their major jazz show, 4 nights a week, is Eric Jackson's "Eric in the Evening." This is the major shmooze spot for jazz musicians playing in the area. Not my cup of tea, but I think these interviews do help to get people into the seats of local venues(albeit usually the mainstream ones). If "Eric in the Evening" did shut down, local stations with stronger signals than college stations would probably readjust programming to try and grab some of that audience-a pretty desirable demographic.

So, I think the loss of Federal money would not affect the sheer amount of jazz radio programming in Boston. It could de-centralize the radio audience, which might have a democratizing impact on audiences, with higher end acts and venues possibly negatively impacted, but smaller venues getting a boost.

But this is just Boston- a unique radio situation. In many other markets in this country, Public radio provides music, news and public affairs programming that would otherwise simply not be available. I say Federal funding should continue, but that whenever possible, the money should be used to create or buttress local programming that would not otherwise exist in a particular market. 

Friday, February 18, 2011

Who is Art Tatum Dating? by Steve Provizer

Trying to figure out the saturation coverage of George Shearing's recent death; coverage equal to that given over to Billy Taylor. Taylor was a creative musician, not a musical innovator, but his work as activist/mentor/educator kept his profile very high. The attention made sense.

Shearing's sheer longevity may be vaguely at play here, as is the rarity of a jazz musician who sold millions of records. To my ears, Shearing's music is pleasurable and well-crafted but unexciting. He was capable of playing any style, but the chosen format of his most well-known groups was harmonically consonant and the soloing, while very adept, lacked edge.

Media exposure is the big player. Shearing, while blind, was a prodigy, white-British even-and a jocular pun-maker. In a hyphenated word: media-genic.

For comparison, let's throw Art Tatum into the equation.

Like Shearing, Tatum was blind and a prodigy, but Tatum's musical impact was widespread and unassailable.

Shearing was a quirky, but user-friendly public representative of the jazz world; one of a handful of jazz musicians who showed up regularly on TV. Tatum seems to have been something of a cipher. Comments on his music are many, those on his personality few. He was not photogenic.

Despite Tatum's musical contributions, there are very few obits in 1956, the year of his death. In fact, there are 2 different dates listed for Tatum's death: Nov 4th and 5th. You can throw some of the blame on jazz magazines, which are notoriously derelict at putting their old stuff online. Some gleanings:

Wikipedia deaths give you Lugosi, Brecht and Pollock, but not Tatum. Wikipedia Commons does list him.
A brief Jet Obituary
The Times Obituary of the era.
Jazz Monthly in Britain had an obit
A brief graf in Billboard

Apart from jazz websites, there are a couple of "modern" mentions of Tatum: One site says: "But even the passing of a giant such as Art Tatum didn't create much stir elsewhere in the world. The Presidential election was on most people's minds, the crisis in Hungary and the Cold War all grabbed headlines, relegating the death of this true genius to the back pages in the obituary notices."

I'm not sure the Cold War really explains it.

The other contemporary non-jazz site that references Tatum offers the vital information: Who Art Tatum is Dating.

So, will a media-genic musician will always draw more attention?
Stupid question.

Friday, February 11, 2011

"Ginseng People"-Woody Shaw Quartet

The music is sublime.

Woody Shaw-trumpet,  Stanley Cowell-piano, David Williams-bass, Terri-Lyne Carrington-drums,


Sordid backstory:
I still get pissed thinking of the SOB sitting next to me, whose cigar smoke you see wafting through the visuals, who refused to move his damn stogie 2 inches so it wouldn't blow into my mouth...

Sunday, February 6, 2011

A New Jazz Glossary of Tempos (Super Bowl counter-programming)

I offered "Tempo de Chet: as a substitute for Lento. Others:

Larghissimo=Ray Charles
Adagio= Pee Wee Russell
Andante=Benny Carter

Moderato=Red Garland
Allegro=Fats Navarro

Presto=Lionel Hampton

Friday, February 4, 2011

Frank Foster Quartet-4.10.85

Another in a series of videos I shot in the 80's and 90's, which have never been seen.

Foster, longtime soloist with (and eventual leader of) the Basie band, is a guy who devours changes. The rest of the group are no slouches.
Frank Foster-sax
Rufus Reid-bass
Kenny Barron-piano
Terri-Lyne Carrington-drums

It took Foster a long time to find his way to Wellesley College for this concert, so he improvised this title:"The Leaving New York On a Rainy Friday And Arriving at 5:15 at Logan Airport in Boston On a Rainy Friday and Having One Heck of a Time Getting to Wellesley Blues."