Bad Music
Tuesday October 04th 2011, 8:45 am
Filed under: Boos & Bravos,Jazz Ears

Duke Ellington said there are two kinds of music – good and the other kind.
Here are some of observations regarding the Other:

    a jazz group is not an ensemble when all of the individuals solo simultaneously
    velocity and volume do not make up for a lack of taste or talent, no matter how great the technical execution
    drowning an audience in an avalanche of sounds gives them no space in which to discern
    it’s not likely to be good if the only message sent is ‘look ma, no hands’
    same approach to each and every tune – performer can’t possibly understand the ‘meaning’ of the compositions
    a few inventive licks get re-used, over-used, and ultimately abused until the spice kills the whole dish

Too many performers have played too many notes while managing to say nothing at all.


John Levy Celebrated at Farnsworth Park
Wednesday August 19th 2009, 7:21 pm
Filed under: Boos & Bravos,Notables,This 'n' That

thankyou.jpgjohn_headshot.jpgjohnheadshot2.jpg This is a cross-posting from SnapSizzleBop.com and includes some extra photos.
 
On Saturday evening, August 15, 2009, half-way through the free concert in the amphitheater at Farnsworth Park in Altadena, a plethora of plaques and commendations were bestowed upon John. Every summer, the Sheriff’s Support Group of Altadena (SSGA), sponsors a series of free concerts sampling a wide variety of musical genres. Saturday night featured smooth-jazz guitarist Brian Hughes, and tho his style is a tad more contemporary than the music John played and the artists he managed, it was fitting nonetheless and we were delighted to be there. Brian even surprised us with a lovely nod to Wes Montgomery in the second half.

[Many thanks to photographer Leroy Hamilton for sharing these pictures. Click on each image to enlarge and view in a separate window.]

ssga_certificateofspecialrecognition.jpgWe knew, of course, that the SSGA was going to honor John, and I suspected that he might get a proclamation from a local politician’s office, but neither of us were prepared for the number of awards that he received. First was the SSGA certificate of Special Recognition presented by the group’s president, Robert Klomberg, in recognition of John’s “achievements in the music world of Jazz, as a performer, Manager, and Produce of the greatest names in Jazz, and as an Altadena resident…”    sheriffsdept_certificateofappreciation.jpg

Then Bob turned the mic over to Capt. Roosevelt Blow who gave John a Certificate of Appreciation from the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Dept, signed by Leroy Baca, in tribute to John’s “dedication, unprecedented professional accomplishments, and lifetime commitment to music.”
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Next came an award from the NAACP, presented by Charles Pulliam, III. We are very familiar with the annual NAACP Image Awards, but this was a Certificate of Merit and so is quite special. In the presentation, they acknowledged that John’s history was just 3 years shy of theirs as the organization is commemorating its centennial, and in an accompanying letter, Branch President Barbara Bigby spoke of how John “paved the way and set the standard for those who enter unchartered territory.” 

lacounty_commendation.jpgCapt. Blow also did the honors on behalf of the California Senate, presenting a Certificate of Recognition for John’s “Lifetime of Music” signed by Carol Liu. Then came a beautiful hand-crafted County of Los Angeles Commendation (click here to see the special detail – a bass depicted to the right of John’s name) from Supervisor Michael Antonovich, “In recognition of dedicated service to the affairs of the community and for the civic pride demonstrated by numerous contributions for the benefit of all citizens of Los Angeles County.” congressionalflag_capitolbldg.jpgcertificateofspecialcongressionalrecognition.jpgAnd last, but certainly not least, Congressman Adam B. Schiff sent not only a Certificate of Special Congressional Recognition, but also a flag that once flew over the Capitol Building.

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coolidgegang1_4×6.jpgJohn never seeks the spotlight, and Saturday night was no exception. In his acceptance speech he deftly turned the spotlight on his friends. Eight households from our own little block turned out in force (with their children!) as well as many friends from the greater neighborhood at large. coolidgegang2b.jpgAs much as he appreciated the official commendations, nothing touched John’s heart as much as this show of love from our friends who are as close to us as family and who embody the true meaning of community. Thank you Neil and Brenda; Bill; Joe and Jen; johnmcintyres_4×6.jpgRobert and Sue; Richard, Jan, Jessica, and Christopher; Wayne, Cheryl, and Emily; Tom and Judy; Phil, Susan, and Robin; Byron and Regina; Laronda; William and Erin. Also our friends from Fox’s, Diana, Ron, and Spree; friends from across town, Valerie, Kit, Lynn and Mary; and…. (I am bound to have forgotten someone, if so my apologies.)
autographing-books.jpg Events like this require a lot of behind-the-scenes work, and had we known all the participants before-hand, John would have been able to thank them at the time. Now, after-the-fact, we want to at least acknowledge as many a we can, publicly via the Internet, and extend our heartfelt thanks for all that they did. Capt. Roosevelt Blow who spearheaded this effort, Robert Klomburg, President of the SSGA, the group that sponsors this annual series of free concerts in Farnsworth Park, and Angelica Calleros of Parks and Recreation. Also: Carolyn Seitz of the Sheriff’s Community Advisory Committee; Jamie Bissner, member of SSGA and the Altadena Town Council; all the members of the Altadena Sheriff’s Station including Lieutenant Sheila Sanchez, Sergeant Marsha Williams, Sergeant Dan Bartlett, and Deputy Sammy Estrada; Sussy Nemer and Rita Hadjimonukian in Supervisor Antonovich’s office; William Syms in Congressman Schiff’s office; and District Director Tahra Goraya in Carol Liu’s office.
WE THANK YOU, ONE AND ALL.

Long Narrative Articles
Thursday June 04th 2009, 12:36 pm
Filed under: Boos & Bravos,Reading Life

DevraDoWrite readers may remember the name Thomas French, a masterful narrative writer I admire. (Disclosure: he was my mentor in the Creative Nonfiction masters degree program at Goucher College.) I am delighted to find that OGIC over at About Last Night has recommended one of Tom’s long articles “Elegy For The King And Queen.” This is actually a short piece in the world of Tom French and was a precursor to his 9-part Zoo Story series that ran in December 2007.

(Maybe you already read “Zoo Story” as I mentioned it in my March 11th post Multimedia Enhanced Reporting)

One of Tom’s earlier series, “Angels and Demons,” chronicling the murder of an Ohio woman and her two teenage daughters on vacation in Tampa Bay, won a Pulitzer Prize for Feature Writing in 1998.

The online version of these narratives afford the inclusion of extensive audio and video extras, including interviews and commentaries from reporters and participants as well as many more photographs than ever get to run on newsprint. As a reader I love the extra photos and added perspectives, tho as a writer I sometimes chastise myself for this pleasure thinking that the idea of “a picture paints a thousand words” might encourage lazy writing — on my part, not in Tom’s case!

Other narratives by Tom include

    The Hard Road“, reports the case of an elementary schoolteacher involved in a hit-and-run accident.
    The Exorcist in Love” is a story about a mother of five investigating the paranormal.
    South of Heaven,” a 1991 series about a year with students at Largo High School, also became a book bearing the same title.

Sadly, this type of long-form narrative journalism, which was already a rarity in newsrooms across the country, is now being deemed economically unsustainable. Tom is no longer at the St Pete Times, but he is one of he lucky ones — lucky for him, and for us. As noted above, several of his serials found their way to full-length books, and such is the case for Zoo Story, slated for release later this year. Meanwhile, students at the Indiana University School of Journalism are also very lucky as Tom has joined their faculty.


NPR and Jazz?
Wednesday November 19th 2008, 8:57 pm
Filed under: Boos & Bravos,Jazz Ears,Writing Life

I have very mixed feelings about NPR and their commitment to jazz, or lack thereof. They long ago dropped staff and funding for Jazz Profiles — no new ones, just re-runs. Jazz Set, now hosted by Dee Dee Bridgewater is still running (I don’t know how much of it is new or not), and thankfully Marian McPartland’s Piano Jazz also continues. (I think there’d be a world-wide honest-to-God rebellion if they dropped Marian’s show.)

But lately I’ve taken notice of the NPR online jazz offerings such as their Jazz & Blues page with changing features and Take Five: A Weekly Jazz Sampler. This week’s sampler is titled Feeling The Vibes: The Short History Of A Long Instrument. The five selections include the usual suspects — Lionel Hampton, Milt Jackson, Gary Burton and Bobby Hutcherson — plus Stefon Harris playing Bach, specifically “Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring.”

This particular track brought to my attention The Classical Jazz Quartet featuring some of my favorite people – Kenny Barron on piano, Lewis Nash on drums and Ron Carter on bass. How this series of recordings (CJQ Plays Bach, CJQ Plays Rachmaninoff, and CJQ Plays Tchaikovsky) escaped my radar I do not know.

Perhaps due to my classical conservatory training, combined with growing up in a jazz household, I am one of those who love the jazz/classical hybrid. Eons ago, during lessons with Roland Hanna, he would take a classical piece from my repertoire and interpret it his way. At that time he was especially fond of Debussy and also introduced me to Scriabin. I could only dream of making such magic.

To this day, when I’m writing, or editing, I find it soothing to listen to John Lewis’ Bach Preludes & Fugues or Ron Carter Meets Bach. So now I’ve got some new CDs on the way.


Be Careful!
Tuesday September 09th 2008, 5:49 am
Filed under: Boos & Bravos,Hmmm....

Means do not justify the ends. It is important to determine the veracity of one’s arguments lest an inaccuracy undermine the credibility of the point you are trying to make. I really detest Sarah Palin for more reasons than I can count, but in these days of ‘spin’ and ‘at-any-cost’ I am not so quick to take political emails at face value, even one from a friend. The email I received began:

Let’s spend a few moments browsing the list of books Mayor Sarah Palin tried to get town librarian Mary Ellen Baker to ban in the lovely, all-American town of Wasilla, Alaska.  When Baker refused to remove the books from the shelves, Palin threatened to fire her.  The story was reported in Time Magazine and the list comes from the librarian.net website.

and it continued with another paragraph and a long list of books. So I did some checking.

First I went to the original Time magazine piece and found that it said only:

Over the past few years, a growing number of Evangelicals have been consciously distancing themselves from the more extreme stands of the Christian right. They live in the suburbs, hold graduate degrees, and while they might not want their children reading certain novels, would be embarrassed by attempts to ban certain books from libraries, as Palin is reported to have briefly considered while mayor of Wasilla, Alaska.

the caveat being “reported to have briefly considered.”

Then I checked out the post on librarian.net, not an organization web site, but one personal librarian’s blog on which she slams Palin (yes, I don’t like her either) and links to the list that was actually posted by one of her readers as a comment. The librarian/blogger also writes:

there’s some buzz being generated that says that this post contains a comment that lists the books that Palin supposedly wanted banned. The list is here, but there appears to be no truth to the claim made by the commenter, and no further documentation or support for this has turned up.

Another commenter on the blog pointed out:

The list of banned books is inaccurate. Several of the titles listed above, most notably the Harry Potter books, had not been published yet in 1996 when Sarah Palin attempted to fire the librarian.

I kept reading the comments and perseverance paid off when I came across reference to a New York Times article, Palin’s Start in Alaska: Not Politics As Usual (sept. 3, 2008):

“Shortly after becoming mayor, former city officials and Wasilla residents said, Ms. Palin approached the town librarian about the possibility of banning some books, though she never followed through and it was unclear which books or passages were in question.

Ann Kilkenny, a Democrat who said she attended every City Council meeting in Ms. Palin’s first year in office, said Ms. Palin brought up the idea of banning some books at one meeting. “They were somehow morally or socially objectionable to her,” Ms. Kilkenny said.

The librarian, Mary Ellen Emmons, pledged to “resist all efforts at censorship,” Ms. Kilkenny recalled. Ms. Palin fired Ms. Emmons shortly after taking office but changed course after residents made a strong show of support. Ms. Emmons, who left her job and Wasilla a couple of years later, declined to comment for this article.

In 1996, Ms. Palin suggested to the local paper, The Frontiersman, that the conversations about banning books were “rhetorical.”

Ms. Emmons was not the only employee to leave. During her campaign, Ms. Palin appealed to voters who felt that city employees under Mr. Stein, who was not from Wasilla and had earned a degree in public administration at the University of Oregon, had been unresponsive and rigid regarding a new comprehensive development plan. In turn, some city employees expressed support for Mr. Stein in a campaign advertisement.

Once in office, Ms. Palin asked many of Mr. Stein’s backers to resign — something virtually unheard of in Wasilla in past elections. The public works director, city planner, museum director and others were forced out. The police chief, Irl Stambaugh, was later fired outright.”

So the book list is probably bogus, but where there’s smoke…. The is one scary lady!

There are myriad posts online about Palin, but one that caught my attention  evoked the ghost of Bella Abzug. (If you’re not of a certain age you might not know that she was a formidable congresswoman representing New York and a leader in the woman’s movement when I was a kid.)

Bella Abzug…once remarked that we would only have true gender equality when an incompetent woman could go as far as an incompetent man. That milestone appears to have been achieved with the nomination of Sarah Palin for Vice President.

Hmmmm….


Debate Debacle
Thursday April 17th 2008, 7:03 pm
Filed under: Boos & Bravos

I’m so glad I missed the Hillary/Obama debate last night. John and I went to see Bill Cosby and for two hours we laughed, and laughed, and laughed some more. From what I read about the supposed debate, and from the snippets I’ve heard on television, the debate was no laughing matter. I think the only good thing that came out of it is that it elicited people’s outrage. Yes, the people were pissed off at the “moderators” for wasting time on ridiculousness and never really getting to any substantive matters. How do I know what the people thought. They posted their outrage in the form of online comments. Here are some excerpts from the abc news web site

hey george and charlie, i cant wait to narrate a debate between you two. Im going to talk to you about your mothers for two hours and half hours. …what does it feel like to have sons that are so far removed from the american mainstream consciousness, a body of people who are literally bleeding for change, that they go on national televison and put on a clown show debate like that one. … Charlie and George whats it feel like to hate america? Do your mothers approve? Posted by: abchatesamerica1 12:50 PM

What a farce! Gibson, Stephanapoulos, and everyone associated with ABC should hang their heads in shame. … Instead of spending all their time dreaming up trivial, demeaning gotcha questions, [they] might make an effort to actually learn something about, you know, issues and might make some small effort to contribute to an informed, rather than a distracted public. Shame on you bozos. Sean McCann

I thought that last night’s debate was the best debate ever held in U.S. history. I thought the lapel pin question was the best question ever asked. You all should be proud of the excellent job you’ve done. Thanks to you, America now has a clearer picture of how these two candidates would make life-affecting descisions if elected. Those soldiers who gave theirs lives so that you have your first amendment rights certainly got their lives’ worth last night! I especially liked Gibson’s question about Capital Gains tax cuts. During the horrible Clinton adminstration, Clinton did these 2 things. 1. Cut Captial Gains Taxes (collected less revenue) and 2. raised taxes (collected more revenue) You don’t have to be an economist to figure that collecting less revenue brought in more revenue that collecting more revenue would EVER bring in. Gahh! My only complaint is that you all neglected the most important issue facing American voters: Obama’s Middle Name. For God’s sake don’t you love America? What were you thinking? His middle name is Hussein! He’s probably murdering your wife right now! Keep up the good work. You should check in with your journalism professors from school, just to give them a chance to congratulate you and take credit for their excellent work. Posted by: Ted Koppel 12:50 PM

And, well, you decide, was this in praise, or in sarcasm? Ted Koppel?

…No more ABC for me. What a joke! Charlie and George need new professions. They were ridiculous. No wonder we can’t get anything meaningful accomplished in this country.

It took me about twenty minutes to realize that what I saw last night was the total meltdown of impartial media moderation of a debate. At 53 years of age, I’ve been around for some time, and watched a fair number of them. … I really wish ABC was running for something, so I could vote against you. Perhaps a total protest boycott is in order. Nightline and This Week? I will never watch them again. How’s that for starters?

You owe America an apology. As a side note, Fox welcomes you to the “we’re a complete joke” club.

Columnists have not been silent, either. Washington Post columnist Tom Shales wrote:

“It was another step downward for network news — in particular ABC News, which hosted the debate from Philadelphia and whose usually dependable anchors, Charlie Gibson and George Stephanopoulos, turned in shoddy, despicable performances.”

On the other side, The New York Times ran an opinion piece supporting the ‘moderators’ (“No Whining About the Media” by David Brooks), but the readers are not agreeing. The opinion begins:

“Three quick points on the Democratic debate tonight:
“First, Democrats, and especially Obama supporters, are going to jump all over ABC for the choice of topics: too many gaffe questions, not enough policy questions.
“I understand the complaints, but I thought the questions were excellent. The journalist’s job is to make politicians uncomfortable, to explore evasions, contradictions and vulnerabilities. Almost every question tonight did that. The candidates each looked foolish at times, but that’s their own fault.)”

And The NY Times readers are not buying it. Their comments include:

Are you kidding? The media’s job is not to make politicians uncomfortable — it is to provide substantive information to help citizens make good decisions. Focusing on tabloid-type issues such as whether one of the tens of thousands of people a candidate has associated with has ever said something improper, or on an occasional bungled line, is not what should be happening. ABC’s moderation tonight was disgraceful. — Posted by Nick Berning

David, the job of a journalist is to report the truth, not to “make politicians uncomfortable.” Star magazine does that. — Posted by daniel Kessler

So at least I can be happy that the people are speaking out. Now I will pray that we all take a stand with our checkbooks and make our votes count!


Can jazz save the planet?
Friday September 28th 2007, 12:34 pm
Filed under: Boos & Bravos,Reading Life

Bill Strickland does not play a musical instrument but Dizzy Gillespie called him “one hell of a jazz musician.” Bill is the founder of the Manchester Craftsmen’s Guild, and he has had 40 years of success leading a jazz life without playing a single note. The conversation with Dizzy took place almost 20 years ago. Bill had just taken Dizzy on a tour of the Manchester Craftsmen’s Guild and when Bill looked puzzled, Dizzy explained. “This place is your instrument, man, and everything that happens here is your song.” Bill did not fully understand Dizzy’s meaning at that time, but as the years passed the words took on greater resonance and meaning.

In his new book, MAKE THE IMPOSSIBLE POSSIBLE: One Man’s Crusade to Inspire Others to Dream Bigger and Achieve the Extraordinary by Bill Strickland with Vince Rause (Doubleday/Currency; December 31, 2007; $23.95) Bill shows us that a successful life is not something you simply pursue; it is something you create, moment by moment….just like jazz. He speaks of the power of the arts to connect people from all walks of life and “the transformative power that comes when your work and skill and imagination result in the creation of a beautiful thing,” but his message goes beyond the literal making of music. He defines personal and professional success as “something you assemble from components you discover in your soul and your imagination” and explains life as an ongoing improvisation. “We all need to have the vision and flexibility to react, recover, and keep moving forward every time life hits a snag or throws us an unexpected curve. It is the way we respond to these improvisational demands — embrace them, and use them to further our lives — that defines us as musicians in touch with the melodies and harmonies of life.

It was 1986 when the beautiful oasis in one of Pittsburgh’s toughest inner-city neighborhoods was built to house the Manchester Craftsmen’s Guild. In 1987 Bill hired Marty Ashby to head up the jazz program shortly after adding the world-class 350-seat concert hall; the stage of which has been graced by the jazz elite including Dizzy Gillespie, Dr. Billy Taylor, Marian McPartland, Herbie Hancock, Dave Brubeck, Ahmad Jamal, Jim Hall, Max Roach to name just a few. After the first season with rented pianos, it was Ahmad Jamal who accompanied Bill and Marty to the Steinway showroom in New York and personally picked out a 9-ft grand piano for them to buy. And it was in this environment where risks and creativity are nurtured that Pittsburgh-born bassist Ray Brown first conceived and tested his “superbass” program, an evening of music with three bassists — Ray with John Clayton and Christian McBride — and no additional accompaniment, that was later presented in concert halls and clubs around the world.

The MCG Jazz record label has released 20 CDs nationally and internationally and won four Grammy awards out of seven nominations. Today the jazz program, with its $1.2 million annual budget, presents a series of 40 concerts and hosts 20 additional educational activities, including master classes for high school and college musicians and lecture demonstrations for jazz enthusiasts of all ages. But the most exciting program might well be the hosting all 2,300 third graders in the Pittsburgh Public Schools – over three days they are exposed to short performances by local jazz educators, with audience participation components and a child-focused structure that provides a unique and successful formula for a memorable and meaningful introductory jazz music experience.

Bill did not accomplish all of this by himself, but he is the Maestro. He is a three-time Harvard Business School case study, a MacArthur Genius Award winner, has lectured at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, and has served on the board of the National Endowment for the Arts. Over the last forty years Bill’s improvisations have changed the lives of thousands of disadvantaged urban teens, displaced steel-workers and welfare mothers with his world class arts centers and high level career training programs. Bill’s songs have become “standards” and other leaders across the country have begun to compose their own riffs. Today, similar centers have taken root in Cincinnati, Grand Rapids, and San Francisco with plans already in progress to open additional centers in New Orleans, Philadelphia, Columbus and Cleveland.

Bill’s jazz-based approach to life has been beneficial. As he told the business students at Harvard, “in the process, jazz has enriched the culture of our school, enhanced our reputation, and earned us new allies and a level of recognition that has opened the doors to unexpected opportunities for growth.” But beyond the application of his philosophy to the business world, Bill has a message for all of us: Jazz is a state of mind in which possibilities for innovation and discovery are revealed to you, and you are able to tap into deep reserves of commitment and passion. And by that definition, properly applied, jazz can change the planet.

ps. here’s what John had to say about the book:

First as a bassist and then as a personal manager, I have lived a jazz life for the better part of my 95 years, but it was not until I read Bill’s book that I truly understood the influence that jazz has had on my success. I traded my bass for the manager’s desk and have been privileged to work behind the scenes. I never regretted my choices and now I know why. Kudos to Bill who has not only put into words what I have always felt in my heart, but who has laid out a path that others can follow. – John Levy, NEA Jazz Master, manager of Cannonball Adderley, Wes Montgomery, Joe Williams, Nancy Wilson, and many others.


It’s My Party
Saturday August 25th 2007, 1:22 pm
Filed under: Boos & Bravos,Jazz Ears

As most of my readers know, I do not consider or even intend for this blog to be an impartial journal or source of news as in ‘all-the-news-that’s-fit-to-print. I receive tons of press releases and even some review copies of books and CDs, but I am very selective in what I choose to write about, and my selection criteria is admittedly based on my personal taste. If I post a blatant plug — and I do from time to time — it’s to let you know about something that I like, or plan to attend, or wish that I could attend. Sometimes I choose to share my negative opinions about a performance or recording, but usually those opinions are not intended to attack a particular person as much as to address an issue or make a point using that particular performer or performance to illustrate. For example, one of my pet peeves is the substitution of technique for creative talent. Another pet peeve is the audience’s acceptance of this ‘substitution.’ These themes come up repeatedly on this blog and date back to its inception — see It Takes More Than Chops, or It’s About the Music, or of course the more recent post about the Benny Carter celebration.

Three comments were posted about my Benny Carter celebration piece and I’d like to respond to each. The first was from Wen. In addition to the comment he posted on my blog, he also sent me an email message:

roberta has “soul or feeling” . you got to be kidding. listen to her 2 cds
completely. LOOK YOU WORK FOR NANCY WILSON. SHE’S ON HER WAY OUT. GIVE THE YOUNG LADY A BREAK!!!!

First, this guy doesn’t know me or anything about me. If he did, he’d know that paycheck notwithstanding, I am the first person in line to criticize some of Nancy’s performances. In particular I am not fond of those selections on which she tends to over-emote, and I much prefer her very early recordings (1960s) and a few of her more recent (especially RSVP), while I usually skip over most of her 1970s releases. But when it comes to reading a lyric, telling a story, few can match the talents of Carmen, Sarah and Nancy, and neither Roberta nor Marlena came anywhere near close. I don’t know what Wen means when he says Nancy is “on her way out,” but I don’t believe in “giving” anyone a break — breaks are to be earned. There may be some right-time-right-place luck involved, but you have to be ready if you’re going to become anything more than a flash-in-the-pan or B-list performer. Success can be bought, but not talent; nurturing one’s talents takes a lot of hard work.

Second, I am going to take this opportunity to suggest to Wen that he consider some rules nettiquette — all caps is considering shouting, it’s rude, not to mention hard to read. Also, the beauty of a blog is that it is there for those who wish to read it, and rss feeds allow people to choose to be notified of new postings. ‘Choice’ being the operative concept here. Some websites and blogs also have a mailing list to notify subscribers; subscribers being those who ‘choose’ to sign up or register. Adding someone to your e-newsletter list without asking if they’d like to subscribe is now considered to be spamming by most internet providers. (Wen, please take note.)

The next comment was posted by Valerie, a good friend of mine. We often agree to disagree, but I do want to comment on some of the things she said. To support her appreciation of Roberta Gambarini, Valerie suggested “just ask folks like jimmy heath, james moody, slide hampton, hank jones and, if it were only possible to ask benny, i’m sure he’d agree also. ” I have my doubts about that. These guys are nice guys, Gentlemen with a capital G, and I have heard them encourage all sorts of people, including some who lack even a shread of talent. Heck, a few such notables used to encourage me to sing, even sit in at a gig, and I can assure you that I have no talent whatsoever as a vocalist. Way back when, in those days when I might have been described as “a fine young slip of a girl,” I did have the nerve to sit in on occasion at gigs in out-of-town clubs (ie not in NYC). One summer, Sweets Edison nearly coaxed me onstage at a major European jazz festival; good thing I had some sense left! I reiterate, I have no vocal talent, none, but that didn’t stop some very notable folks from saying otherwise.

Valerie also said that “the choice of singing ‘here’s to life’ was obviously a huge mistake!” I don’t think the selection was a mistake; I took umbrage not to Marlena’s selection of the song, but to her treatment of the song and what felt to me to be her lack of appreciation of the lyrics. Finally, I do have to agree with Valerie that Q’s hosting that night left much to be desired. As close as Q and Benny were, I think that his participation in the event was ‘a must,’ but perhaps he could have spoken briefly from his heart and then maybe conducted a piece, or, if hosting was to be his lot, the script should have been written more specifically with the speaker in mind – his voice, his cadence, his speech patterns, etc.

The last reader comment contained a very gentle reminder about Jon Hendricks’ lyrics to Ellington’s instrumental Cottontail. (Chris, thank you very much!) Whatever crevice of gray matter in which my prior knowledge of that song is stored must have been malfunctioning. (I know, that’s just convoluted speak for “I must have been having a senior moment” or more appropriately “how could I be so dumb?”) I used to love Carol Sloane‘s rendition of Cottontail (Carol, where are you? why didn’t you chime in to correct my gaff?) Here’s a YouTube link to a swinging audio rendition by Lambert, Hendricks & Ross with story graphics.

A line in the song — “carrots and you make a very good stew” — gives rise to the thought that my opinions may yet land me in the stew, but, to corrupt a song from my youth, “it’s my party and I’ll write what I want to….”


Who would have thunk?!
Thursday August 09th 2007, 7:45 pm
Filed under: Boos & Bravos,Hmmm....

I can’t believe I bought an iPhone. I am not an Apple person. I am strongly rooted in the DOS and Windows world, but that is only because that’s the bulk of my experience, not because I am pro Bill Gates. On the other hand, I am anti Apple. My Apple aversion is not so much because I don’t like using a Mac as it is because I don’t care for Apple’s policies. Way back in the dark ages, Apple blew their opportunity to carve a larger slice of the pie. They kept their operating system so close to the vest that third-party developers couldn’t code their programs for Mac use. That’s why there were so many programs and cool tools for PCs and so few for Macs. At that time, Macs may have had the better programs for graphic artists, but that’s pretty much the only edge they had, and that’s why, or how, Windows gained dominance.

Of course that’s old history. Today Apple tics me off by trying to control what I can do with my peripherals and music. I say “my” because “it” belongs to me. The first “it” was an iPod given to me as a gift on my 50th birthday. Within a year, the screen died, and when John bought a new iPod, Apple iTunes would not talk to it, nor would it allow us to un-install the old one or re-install the software. After several wasted hours, calls to tech support, and even a visit from a tech guru to try to erase the registry entry, we gave up. John returned his iPod to the store and I bought him a SanDisk Rhapsody mp3 player. And when it comes to music, if I buy it (download or disc), and decide I want to burn a CD for my car, or put it on my laptop, or share it with my husband, that’s my business. It’s not that I believe in file-sharing or copyright infringement, but I do believe in personal responsibility; I don’t want Big Brother on my computer determining how many copies I can make.

With this in mind, it was shocking to me when I found myself in the AT&T store fondling an iPhone, and then actually bought it. (No, I did not stand on line the day they went on sale.) I have to admit that I love using it and that it is just as easy as it appears on the television commercial. Having said that, I have heard that there is more to it, some surprising complexities to be discovered. So I now await receipt of my copy of the Pocket Idiot’s Guide to the iPhone, written by my friend Damon Brown who will undoubtedly be shocked to hear that, oh my god, I bought an iPhone.


SloaneView
Tuesday May 08th 2007, 12:48 pm
Filed under: Boos & Bravos,Jazz Ears

On April 18th Carol Sloane launched her blog SloaneView and she’s on a roll. As a consumate interpreter of a lyric, it’s no surprise that she has a way with words and is an engaging storyteller. (If you’re not hip to Carol’s vocal stylings allow me to reiterate a recommendation I made two years ago this month: get thee to Amazon now! One of my favorites is the 1988 recording Love You Madly, with Kenny Barron, Rufus Reid, Akira Tana, Art Farmer and Clifford Jordan. It’s one of Carol’s favorites, too. )

Carol’s stories are often humorous. Having been Carmen McRae’s publicist many years ago I am all-too-familiar with her phone manners and laughed myself silly at Carol’s happy birthday story. Her tales are told simply, conversationlly, with unflinching honesty and candor, coupled with a dash of explication for those not in-the-know. But what I really love is that these vignettes always show something about the people that might otherwise not be known. For example, I never knew that Jimmy Rowles was fanatical lover of animals. Okay, it’s not that the revelations are earth-shattering, but that unique perspective from being there allows us a glimpse of facets that make up the whole person — it’s those “telling details” that narrative writers are always talking about.

In addition to memorable career moments, Carol promises also to write about sports and cooking, politics and culture, and something I am very much looking forward to, ” and the occasional screech and holler aimed at knuckle-headedness.” I’ve added SloanView to my list of recommended sites and I will be checking in regularly.