Victor Borge In And On The Air
Wednesday November 30th 2005, 11:01 am
Filed under: I'm All Ears,Notables,Writing Life

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Around the time that Terry Teachout was watching Victor Borge on an old What’s My Line? episode (read TT’s reminiscence here ), I was perusing Luther Henderson’s papers and came across…Victor Borge.

One Wednesday evening, February 19, 1958 at 9 PM to be exact, CBS-TV broadcast “Victor Borge’s Comedy and Music.” This one-hour show was “Presented by the Big Bold Pontiac and your authorized Pontiac Dealer.” I know this because among Luther’s papers was a program, and I am guessing that there was a live TV audience. (Why else would there be a program for a television show?)

The opening number was described as follows:

Liechtensteiner Polka . . . . . . . VICTOR BORGE and the Orchestra
Mr. Popp’s arrangement of Mr. Borge’s conception of SHAMPOO MUSIC for the 16-piece orchestra under the baton of LUTHER HENDERSON, JR., Conductor and Arranger for the Polly Bergen TV show, Lena Horne, Duke Ellington, Andre Kostelanetz, and other top names in American music.

Pontiac got their monies worth as the program included several “commercial” numbers including:

STILL ANOTHER COMMERCIAL . . . . . starring MILTON CROSS narrator, and VICTOR BORGE
Mr. Borge performs variations on the themes of Pontiac greatness: style, performance and handling…and reaches an impressive conclusion. Narrated by Milton Cross.

There are a number of old television programs I’d like to view as part of my research for “Seeking Harmony: The Life and Music of Luther Henderson.” Thanks to the Museum of Television & Radio , I should be able to see this show, the Polly Bergen show, and a number of other programs for which Luther composed, arranged, and/or conducted music. Bea Arthur tells me that Luther even made an on-camera appearance in an episode of Maude, and I’m really looking forward to seeing that!


Women in Jazz History
Tuesday November 29th 2005, 6:52 am
Filed under: Jazz Ears

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A self-described periodic reader has written in with a question:

As a jazz fan I was asked an innocent question recently by a younger female colleague. She observed that, “Other than singers, jazz seems to be a mostly male endeavor. Why is that?” Although I was immediately able to come up with a dozen names of contemporary female performers who I think make significant contributions, and also to point to the historical influence of one or two others (Lil Hardin’s influence on Louis Armstrong comes to mind) I really couldn’t give her a comprehensive answer about the historical role of women in jazz. I went to my bookshelves and the internet but couldn’t find any good sources to share with her. I wonder if you can give me any guidance?

I am not a great jazz historian, nor a feminist, but the names of several older female jazz instrumentalists do come to mind. To start, I would mention trumpeters Clora Bryant and Norma Carson, saxophonist Vi Redd and trombonists Melba Liston, Janice Robinson, and Lillian Briggs. Also drummers Elaine Leighton and Dottie Dodgion, harpist Dorothy Ashby, and vibraphonist Margie Hyams.

Of course there are many female pianists – Toshiko Akiyoshi (also a composer and bandleader), Beryl Booker, Patti Bown, Barbara Carroll, Dorothy Donegan, Jutta Hipp, Marian McPartland, Shirley Scott (organ, too), and Mary Lou Williams, to name a few. And the piano-playing singers (some with greater pianistic prowess than others) including Shirley Horn, Nellie Lutcher, Hazel Scott…perhaps even Nina Simone and Carmen McRae should be included.

These are just a few of the women who have made significant contributions. As for the historical role of women in jazz, here are a few books that might shed some light:

Swing Shift: “All-Girl” Bands of the 1940s (Paperback) by Sherrie Tucker
Stormy Weather : The Music and Lives of a Century of Jazz Women (Paperback) by Linda Dahl
Blues Legacies and Black Feminism : Gertrude “Ma” Rainey, Bessie Smith, and Billie Holiday (Vintage) (Paperback) by Angela Y. Davis

Also check out these chapters:
“Telling Performances: Jazz History Remembered and Remade by the Women in the Band” – Sherri Tucker in Unequal Sisters: A Mulicultural Reader in U.S. Women’s History (Paperback) by Vicki L. Ruiz (Editor), Ellen Carol Dubois (Editor)
“Melba Liston” and “Clora Bryant” in Central Avenue Sounds: Jazz in Los Angeles by multiple editors/contributors including Clora Bryant.

It should be noted that many of the female instrumentalists today (Maria Schneider, Laurie Frink, Ingrid Jensen, Lesa Terry, Regina Carter, Carolina Strassmayer, Stacy Rowles, Terri Lynne Carrington…) generally eschew the “women in jazz” approach — it smacks to much of the “she’s good…for a woman” attitude. They are more likely to suggest that you judge the music, not the musician. They may have drawn some measure of strength from knowing of women who came before them, but their creative inspirations are genderless.

I hope that some of my more academic friends and colleagues will have recommendations and/or comments to add. (For your convenience, there is an Email Me link on the left side of your screen, second box from the top. I hope to hear from you.)


Stuffing or Dressing?
Monday November 28th 2005, 7:23 am
Filed under: Hmmm....

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What do a handful of writers discuss over the Cranberry Curry Dip while waiting for turkey dinner with their spouses and assorted family members? The BIG question: do you call it stuffing or dressing? And what’s the difference between the two, anyway? The youngest member of the group, age eleven, may be a budding wordsmith as she informed us that one of the words was likely a retronym for the other — though she did not know which came first. She did, however, provide us with an example of a word that became a retronym as its meaning evolved: watch –> pocket watch –> wrist watch. We were duly impressed, but no closer to an answer. One friend opined that the word choice might have changed in the Victorian era, the image of stuffing being too base, too vulgar, and dressing sounding more proper, more circumspect. The New Shorter Oxford English Dictionary, however, seems to refute that premise as it suggests that dressing was used earlier than stuffing, if only by a few decades:

    dressing “(A) sauce or other mixture added to food, esp. a salad; a seasoning; stuffing. E16.”
    stuffing “A savoury or sweet mixture used to stuff poultry, rolled meat, vegetables, etc., esp. prior to cooking. M16.”

I perused a few other references — including Random House Webster’s Unabridged Dictionary and the Plumb Design Visual Thesaurus — and quickly realized that I’d best stick to the nouns, for digression into verbs would bring us into the realm of fecundation and fertilization (“the act of making fertile by application of fertilizer or manure”), donning attire, and applying bandages.

Within culinary boundaries, the Visual Thesaurus defined stuffing as “a mixture of seasoned ingredients used to stuff meats and vegetables,” under which fall types including farce and forcemeat, the latter defined as “a mixture of ground raw chicken and mushrooms with pistacheos and truffles and onions and parseley and lots butter and bound with eggs.” Oxford defines forcemeat a bit more generically: “A mixture of finely chopped meat or vegetables etc., seasoned and spiced, and chiefly used for stuffing or garnish.”

Of course the best part of noodling around in reference books is the serendipitous discovery of related entries you had not thought about. In this case, Oxford served up two of interest, one a word I had never heard, and the other interesting in its meaning. The first is salpicon:

    /”salpIkQn/ n.E18. [Fr. f. Sp., f. salpicar sprinkle (with salt).] Cookery. A stuffing for veal, beef, or mutton, also used as a garnish.

The other is pudding, certainly a familiar word, but the substance that comes to my mind is sweet and either butterscotch or chocolate. Here are portions of the Oxford entry (I’m skipping over the coarse slang and colloquial meanings):

    /”pUdI/ n. Also (colloq. & dial.) pudden /”pUd()n/.ME. [(O)Fr. boudin black pudding f. Proto-Gallo-Romance f. L botellus pudding, sausage, small intestine: see BOWEL. Cf. BOUDIN.]
    I 1 The stomach or intestine of a pig, sheep, etc., stuffed with minced meat, suet, oatmeal, seasoning, etc., and boiled. Now chiefly Sc. & dial. or w. specifying wd. ME.
    > black pudding, white pudding, etc.
    b A stuffing mixture of similar ingredients, roasted within the body of an animal. L16–L18.
    2 In pl. The bowels, the entrails, the guts. Now chiefly Sc. & dial. LME.

    II 7 A cooked dish consisting of various sweet or savoury ingredients, esp. as enclosed within a flour-based crust or mixed with flour, eggs, etc., and boiled or steamed; a baked batter mixture. Now also, the sweet course of a meal. M16.
    > bread pudding, Christmas pudding, milk pudding, roly-poly pudding, steak and kidney pudding, Yorkshire pudding etc.

Lots of interesting info, but still no answer to the pressing question: stuffing or dressing? I looked in Roget’s Superthesaurus, which says little about stuffing (“fill, wadding, padding, innards”) and nothing about dressing, forcemeat, salpicon, or pudding. I even looked in The New York Public Library Desk Reference, to no avail, although I did learn from that tome that “a jiffy is an actual unit of time. It is 1/100 of a second.” And all this time I thought jiffy was cornbread mix.

If you know the answer, please email me. Inquiring minds want to know.


Amusements
Wednesday November 23rd 2005, 11:36 am
Filed under: This 'n' That

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If you’re of a certain age, have a nostalgic fondness for the disco era, remember Gloria Gaynor, and are in the mood for some silly yet clever musical humor, click here. I’ve been playing this clip several times a day for the last two weeks ’cause it makes me smile. For some reason I thought I’d be in the minority, but the link has been making the email rounds in increasing numbers so it must be tickling more feathers than I had thought.

Some of you have taken the Punctuation Test and one friend — an ellipsis — sent me the text, which I think is also pretty funny:

Your life can be difficult because of your insecurities, but you should know that it isn’t your fault. YOU didn’t ask to be thrown in around thirty times per page in every bodice-ripper on the shelf! Those who overuse you can kiss your . . . you know. You need to learn to hold your head high and glory in your solitude. You really do have excellent, scholarly tastes. You must never forget that your friend, the period, will be there to support you at the end of every sentence where you truly belong, and, if what is left out is as important as what is said, why, then you are as vital as the alphabet!

Bassist Bill Crow stopped by to tell me that he’s a quotation mark and to share the following about brevity:

A university creative writing class was asked to write a concise essay containing the following elements:
1. Religion
2. Royalty
3. Sex
4. Mystery

The prize-winning essay read:
“My God,” cried the Queen, “I’m pregnant. I wonder who did it!”

Household renovation continues, and the crew will be working Friday and Saturday. I, however, will not be working, or blogging, until Monday. So I hope you all have a wonderful turkey day, and I’ll be back with you next week.


Semicolon
Tuesday November 22nd 2005, 12:41 pm
Filed under: This 'n' That

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I was visiting A Sweet, Familiar Dissonace and came across a link to The Which Punctuation Mark Are You Test. Although I have oftewn been accused of being comma happy, it seems that that, like the blogess who led me here, I, too, am a semicolon, though I appear to be more sociable and a little less sophisticated than she. Here’s what it said about me:

You scored 30-percent Sociability and 64-percent Sophistication!
Congratulations! You are the semicolon! You are the highest expression of punctuation; no one has more of a right to be proud. In the hands of a master, you will purr, sneering at commas, dismissing periods as beneath your contempt. You separate and connect at the same time, and no one does it better. The novice will find you difficult to come to terms with, but you need no one. You are secure in your elegance, knowing that you, and only you, have the power to mark the skill or incompetence of the craftsman. You have no natural enemies; all fear you. And never, NEVER let anyone tell you that you cannot appear in dialogue!

Which mark are you?


Some Jazzy Birthdays This Week and Next
Monday November 21st 2005, 10:00 pm
Filed under: Date Specific,Jazz Ears,Notables

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Celebrating those who are here as well as though who are gone —
November 21: Coleman Hawkins would have been 101.
November 22: Happy 80th to Gunther Schuller; Jimmy Knepper would have been 78.
November 23: Happy 80th to Johnny Mandel; Willie The Lion Smith would have been 108.
November 24: Al Cohn would have been 80; Teddy Wison would have been 93.
November 25: Nat Adderley would have been 74 and Paul Desmond would have been 81.
By the end of the month, Ed Bickert and Jack Sheldon will be celebrating their 73rd and 74th birthdays, respectively; violinist Eddie South, Billy Strayhorn, and Gigi Gryce, would have been 101, 90, and 80 respectively.


Chaos – Part 2
Monday November 21st 2005, 7:50 am
Filed under: This 'n' That

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Today is the beginning of renovation week #3. Clearly, there will be no Thanksgiving dinner served from my kitchen this year – we’ll be dining at the home of friends. I think the cabinets may get finished today or maybe tomorrow, and then they will start to tile the kitchen floor. The kitchen counter is almost done, but the tiles are heavy and the added few inches in depth now necessitates corbels be added to support the overhang. Also, the expanse of the counter changes the impact of the color of the tiles, which now no longer seem to blend with the color of the family room walls. (It’s hard to imagine a 12’ x 4.5’ expanse when looking at a 13” square tile.) So, I’ve had to pick out a new paint color for the walls. (Funny how these projects seem to mushroom.) I have never been partial to white walls – except perhaps for my parents’ home where the white living room walls make a great backdrop for all the colors and art works that fill the room. My childhood bedroom had yellow flowered wallpaper and the beds were covered with green corduroy spreads. Our bedroom today, once blue, became green about a year ago. John’s office is beige, my office walls are butterscotch, and for several years now the family room walls have been a deep raspberry color. The kitchen has been the only white-walled room in our house. As of today, my new plan is to paint the kitchen Soft Ivory and the family room a golden yellow color called Valley Flower that I think will complement the counter as well as the new bamboo floor to come without requiring a change of the family room draperies. Raspberry and blue will then continue to be the accent colors.


Traffic and Music
Friday November 18th 2005, 1:59 pm
Filed under: Boos & Bravos,I'm All Ears

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A colleague from the other coast is in town for meetings that are taking place on the West Side of Los Angeles. Said colleague, being a connoisseur of good music, decided to take in a concert at Disney Hall, got a pair of tickets to a classical duo guitar performance by Sérgio and Odair Assad, and invited me to join him. We thought to have dinner first, but I warned that rush-hour traffic was likely to make that impossible as his meetings ran until 5 pm — at that hour, the 20-minute drive from the ocean to downtown L.A. was likely to take over an hour… at best. So the plan was to meet at the box office at 7:30. At 7:15 my cell phone rang – traffic was crawling along the #10 Freeway and my friend was barely half way across town. At 7:50, just as I was surmising that we would miss the first half of the show, my intrepid colleague appeared; just after his call, the traffic magically began to move, and so we were able to settle in to our excellent seats just as the lights dimmed.

Brazilian born Sérgio and Odair Assad are brothers, and part of a multigenerational musical family that includes their mandolin-playing father, vocalist mother, sister who also sings and plays guitar, and the brothers’ two daughters. But tonight it’s just the two men, alone on an unadorned stage playing unamplified classical guitars, breathing as one, exhibiting a sympatico between them that belies not only their brotherhood but also the fact that they’ve been playing together for 40 years. The program opened with a piece by Isaac Albéniz that sounded oddly pianistic to me. I was not familiar with this composer, so later, in perusing the program notes by John Henken, when I read that Albéniz was a pianist and that his piano pieces have been transcribed and arranged for guitar, I was pleased that my ears had not deceived me.

The second piece was by Rodrigo, a three-movement composition titled Tonadilla that contains fragments reminiscent of his more famous composition Concierto de Aranjuez. Without comparing the scores, or at least hearing it again, I cannot say whether those fragments were deliberate auditory allusions to Concierto or simply harmonic and rhythmic snippets peculiar to Rodrigo’s sound and style. The program also included pieces by Sérgio, his daughter, Piazzolla, Bittencourt, Gismonti, Dyens, and Brouwer.

The house was not sold out, but the applause was thunderous leading to repeated curtain-calls, and I am happy to say that there were quite a few young people in attendance. The duo reappeared from the wings without their guitars the first two times, but finally gave in and remerged for an encore. Sérgio informed the audience that they grew up poor and had only one guitar, so they would now show us how they played in the beginning. He put down his guitar, stood behind Adair who was seated, and together they played a very intricate and lively piece, four hands, simultaneous, on one guitar. It was amazing! A bravissimo evening to be sure.


Expressive Music
Friday November 18th 2005, 11:56 am
Filed under: Quotables

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On occassion, the Rifftides staff posts Compatible Quotes. Earlier this week they paired a Bill Evans quote with this one from Igor Stravinsky

Music is, by its very nature, essentially powerless to express anything at all. Music expresses itself.

To which I add this line from Aldous Huxley:

After silence, that which comes nearest to expressing the inexpressible is music.


Chaos – Part 1
Thursday November 17th 2005, 12:50 pm
Filed under: This 'n' That

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Well it’s been nearly two weeks and the house still in chaos due to the kitchen and family room renovation, but I can see some progress. The cabinets are getting new sliding shelves and drawers, the backerboard has been affixed to the kitchen floor and is awaiting tiles, and the tiles for the kitchen counter are being placed at this very moment. Still boxed in the garage is the new kitchen sink in a creamy off-white color they call “bisquit,” the “brushed bronze” faucet, and the bisquit colored dishwasher. (Here’s hoping the Sears Kenmore and Kohler versions of “biscuit” match.) Stay tuned. I think progress from here on in will be rapid (at least I hope so).