Top 50 JAzz Blog

Sunday, January 27, 2013

National Rock Association (NRA)

Recently, controversy has arisen over our efforts to introduce young people to the joys of rock throwing. Many of us in the NRA grew up in urban environments with an large indigenous supply of rocks and ample, safe targets that could be used by young people for healthy sport. It is our responsibility to pass on the joys of rock throwing to the next generation and, in the process, give our youth the chance to develop the kinds of physical, mental and ethical skills that will serve them so well later in life. 

We know that this healthy, deeply American process is being threatened, but we won't sit back and let that happen.

Instead, we have raised money to purchase abandoned factories and made the windows available for target practice. We have brought thousands of de-commissioned street lights to our compounds so that young people can exercise their minds and bodies in the same way that ancient Greeks would train to throw the javelin. 

We have designed a fabrication system that quickly renders a realistic 3-D target of the thrower's brothers and sisters. This adds verisimilitude to the process and our psychologists say it can help defuse sibling rivalries. 

There are ignorant people who don't know the difference between a hand rock, a hunting stone and an assault boulder and it is the misplaced moral judgements of these pathetic liberals that threatens to force rock throwing into a dark, uncontrolled underworld environment, where the building of satanic stone cairns and altars can flourish. 

Finally, we have begun stockpiling rocks as a necessary hedge against secret governmental plans to confiscate all rocks. We can and will fight this threat. The hulking monster that is our government daily threatens our precious independence, but we must take inspiration from the biblical story of Davis and Goliath; a story that shows us the continuing need to defend our right to bear rocks.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

"Alan Lomax," briefly reviewed

 Author John Szwed, who has also done bios of Miles Davis and Sun Ra, does an excellent job of delineating the work of Alan Lomax; work which altered the landscape of American music. Lomax doggedly sought out musicians in remote areas and prisons and brought their music to light-live, through radio, film and television. He was an early advocate of the need to provide a socio-political context for the music, which changed the approach of music archivists both in the US and abroadHe championed civil rights and tirelessly promoted the work of unknown musicians. 

Lomax was a driven, complicated man, who seems to have been as busy internally as he was externally. He was a risk-taker who was both inspired by and psychically somewhat intimidated by his father John. His sexual/romantic/family life was extremely complicated. He turned to and championed the talking cure. Despite his many successes and wide cultural acceptance, he remained broke his whole life. While elucidating an inner life is challenging, I would have liked Szwed to have put a little more meat on those particular bones. 

That said, this book does a fine job of showing us the power of Lomax's work. To some of us, more preoccupied with jazz, Alan and John Lomax are names we recognize and associate with folk music, but as this biography shows, Lomax pere et fils played a very important role in the preservation and presentation of several styles of American music-especially African-American music. A highly recommended read.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Sing Along WIth Diz

Brew reminds us that this year marks 20 years since the death of Dizzy Gillespie-one of the great souls of jazz. 

Some time ago, I wrote words for every note of Dizzy's amazing 1945 solo on I Can't Get Started. I invite you all to listen and to sing along, using my lyrics. If you don't know the solo, there's a lot of notes and it's a challenge. I've tried to notate it in a way that makes sense musically. Give it a shot and try as often as you like. If you get it down, record it and send it to me and I'll gleefully post your rendition. Tell your vocalist friends.

Long live Diz.


Someone teach me to win;
Don’t know how to begin;
I’m getting desperate to capture your heart,
Won’t believe that I can’t make you love me.
All my dreams are of you I fear,
The promise of your love brings me through
Days on my own,
My fate so unknown, depends on you alone.
Though many days have passed I still can’t

Start to prove that I love you.
Doesn’t seem right or fair, that the
Things I do aren’t convincing you,
You’re all I need, don’t you believe me.
Everything I say and I do is just to
Show you and to convince you;
Endlessly I search for new

Hills to climb. Wars to win, worlds to conquer.
Flying around the world
And outposts I’ve charted,
Don’t mean a damn with you,
Why is it so,
My exploits leave you cold?
I’m doing it all, hoping you fall, breaking the wall, give me a call,
Telling me you’ll always care;
And that you’ll always be near.
You’re still su--

--preme to me,
Lyrics I write of you, still scheming to
See you night and day.
I see your face in every flower and your
Eyes in stars that shine above.
Obsessed with trying to possess you and caress you,
Feel your touch so tender and loving, beautiful eyes looking into mine,
Hoping that you’ll trust that I’m willing to share all I own and that I love you with-

My body and soul, such a hard road.
Don’t ever believe I would deceive or mistreat you, run you around,
Only sounds I want to greet you with is
Joyful, tell you that my heart’s full.
Notes that are true and fine, listen to them,
Say that you’ll be mine.

Remember that it’s not what I say or I do,
But how I feel.
Please try to find the
Meaning inside all the foolish things I say and do.
Open up your heart,
Let me get started, with you.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

1950's Trumpets #4: Tony Fruscella

There's an ongoing discussion in jazz about the playing vectors represented by Louis Armstrong and Bix Beiderbecke and how these manifested through succeeding generations of trumpet players. How does a player use techniques like range, articulation and dynamics to favor melody and cool like Bix, or power and heat, like Louis?

The differences between schools are often exaggerated. After all, Pops knew melody and Bix did not lack fire, which makes placing most players squarely in one school or another difficult. Tony Fruscella, on the other hand, was clearly a child of Bix.
A brief recap shows that, in the Swing era, most players came from the Armstrong power vector-Roy Eldridge, Harry James, Charlie Shavers, Bunny Berigan, Rex Stewart... At the same time, though, there were players who, often choosing the cornet, stayed closer to Bix-Bobby Hackett, Wingy Manone, Billy Butterfield, Wild Bill Davison...

Bop trumpet players came more from power and technique-Dizzy Gillespie, Fats Navarro, Howard McGhee, Red Rodney, Sonny Berman. Miles Davis had technique, but edged more toward the Bix side of the ledger. The lineage of the "West Coast" players really comes from Bix and Miles. Of these, Chet Baker became the most well known.

Chet had very good chops, although he didn't have the top register that's associated with the Armstrong vector. However, his playing (more true in his earlier days) was strong and well articulated throughout his range.

If Bix, Miles and Baker diminished the importance of power over melody, Fruscella disregarded it almost completely.