Takin’ It Back With Barack, Jack!

James Moody hipped Jimmy Heath to this YouTube clip and Jimmy sent it to me.
Watch, enjoy, and don’t forget to vote. (No matter what your viewpoint, it’s your right and your responsibility to make your voice heard)

Here are the lyrics:

Hate to see the nation being run by a hack
Dig the situation that he dug in Iraq
Half the population wants to give him the sack
And now he’s lookin’ round for somebody else to attack
We need somebody great to get us back on the track

So we’re takin’ it back with Barack, Jack!

Choo Choo, Change to believe in
Woo woo, we can achieve it
Choo Choo, Change to believe in
Takin’ it back with Barack, Jack!

Now that global warming is a matter of fact
The only real question is just how to react
The new administration needs the guts to enact
Drastic legislation, leave the planet intact
We can’t be foolin’ round with some Republican Mac

So we’re takin’ it back with Barack, Jack!

Choo Choo….

He only gets his money from your regular macs
Doesn’t take a penny from some whackity PAC’s
For bringin’ folk together he’s the man with the knack
And he’ll supply the hope and inspiration we lack
Cause he’s the best we got and did I ….mention he’s black?

So we’re takin’ it back with Barack, Jack!

Jazz For Obama – October 1 in New York City

This just in from JazzCorner

Just as we were about to give a shout out for jazz musicians and jazz fans to get more involved in the November election, we get this notice about this incredible line-up of jazz musicians performing for one night only to present Jazz For Obama, a concert event to benefit Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama:

  • Dee Dee Bridgewater
  • Dianne Reeves
  • Brad Mehldau
  • Joe Lovano
  • Roy Hargrove
  • Christian McBride
  • Stanley Jordan
  • Hank Jones
  • The Charlie Hunter/Doug Wamble Duo
  • Bilal/Robert Glasper
  • Stefon Harris
  • Roberta Gambarini
    …and special guests

The concert takes place at the 92nd Street Y’s Kaufmann Concert Hall on Wednesday, October 1 at 7:30 PM. The Kaufmann Concert Hall is located at Lexington Avenue at East 92nd Street. Tickets are $100 and available now at Jazz For Obama. A limited number of student tickets are available for $50. VIP tickets are $250 and include reserved seating and a post-concert reception. The concert is produced by Jazz for America’s Future. All proceeds benefit the Obama For America Presidential Campaign. Wednesday, October 1 at 7:30 PM at the 92nd Street Y’s Kaufmann Concert Hall New York, NY. You can only purchase tickets through Jazz For Obama

Free Admission – Excellent Music – 9/23/08

For those of you in New York City or the vicinity, I share with you an invitation to hear Bill Kirchner (soprano saxophone) and Marc Copland (piano) In Concert at The New School Jazz Performance Space on Tuesday, September 23, 8 p.m. [55 West 13th Street, between 5th and 6th Avenues, 5th floor]

In Bill’s own words:

Marc Copland and I have been friends and musical colleagues for 30 years, and we’ve played together many times in a variety of groups and settings.  Some of the best musical moments of my career have involved Marc, who is one of the most gifted and original musicians I know.

An example:  some years ago we played a duo concert, in which we did a free improvisation that went so well that I was able to transcribe it from a recording and orchestrate it.  It turned out as a very nice piece for jazz quartet and string quartet.  Once in a while, you get lucky.

I have every reason to think that we’ll be lucky at this concert as well.  I hope you can join us.

Be Careful!

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.


Brick Fleagel and Luther Henderson

I received an email this morning from Ed Danielson reminding me that today is Brick Fleagel’s 102nd birhday. Happy Birthday Brick. If you don’t know about Brick Fleagel, read what I wrote about him three years ago today  (drat! tempus is fugiting faster than I’d like!) and this email response from Bill Crow.

And if you don’t know who Ed Danielson is, he’s the host of The Morning Beat, KUVO’s weekday morning drive-time program. (You can listen to KUVO online here.) Ed’s been hosting the Denver program since June of 2001 and I have just learned that he regularly makes note of the birthdays of jazz musicians, both living and departed. In his email Ed asked if I knew when Brick died and while I once thought that date was circa 1981, I now think it was more like 1992 because Billie Henderson (Luther’s widow) remember’s Brick’s death as being shortly before the Broadway opening of Jelly’s Last Jam. Memories are suspect, however, so as a biographer I will have to keep looking for a verifiable date.

And speaking of Billie Allen Henderson, a respected actress and director in her own right, I want to tell you that she has established a Luther Henderson Scholarship Fund within the Juilliard School. A smashing evening benefit gala entitled “Spreadin’ the Rhythm Around” will be held on October 6th at Juilliard’s Jay Sharp Theatre. (Read more about the scholarship and gala here on the LHSF site and  here in JazzTimes magazine.)

Gerald Wiggins Memorial Tribute

To read Gerald Wiggins’ bio/obit, click here.

The Memorial tribute for Gerry Wiggins will be

Monday, July 28, 2008
6:30 P.M. – doors open
7:00 P.M. – 9:00 P.M. program
reception to follow on site

@ the Nate Holden Performing Arts Center

Theatre Address:
4718 West Washington Boulevard,
Los Angeles, CA 90016

Click here for directions to the theatre>

Conveniently located 1- block east of the theatre, complimentary parking is available at one of our two lots, located on the corner of Washington and Vineyard. Click here for a map>

Postscript: Tempus is Fugiting

For those of you looking to read about Gerald Wiggins, the bio/obit is just below this brief postscript (or click here).

There’s no more powerful reminder of the fleetingness of life, than the death of someone close to you. Well, maybe a brush with death yourself, but my own firsthand experience proves even that message can wear off over time.  DevraDoWrite has been silent for nearly three months, and perhaps it would amuse Wig that his death has spurred me back into action. We became close friends almost 38 years ago; he was on the road playing for Helen Humes and we met in Nice, France at Le Grand Parade du Jazz.  We continued our friendship in New York where Helen would play long engagements at The Cookery in Greenwich Village. In those early years that followed, Wig was a long-term house guest in the apartment I shared with our mutual friend, Ernie who also played piano and worked for the Musicians’ Union. We had two pianos in the apartment and many wonderful parties populated with friends and neighbors including Helen Humes, Tommy Flanagan, Norman Simmons, Richard Wyands, Jerry Dodgion… wonderful music and memories that I will always cherish.

Wig taught me a lot of cool chord changes back when I was still playing piano, but more important was what I learned from his example through the years:

“My name is Joe and I don’t know.” — never speak ill of anyone;

“My name is Jess, it’s not my mess.” — never meddle in someone else’s business;

“My name is Sam, don’t give a damn” — don’t let anyone get you down.

And I watched Wig fight his own demons and win.

Plagued by health problems, these last few years were really hard on him, but he kept rebounding, returning time and again to his family, his friends, and to the piano to create more live and recorded musical memories for his fans. He was well loved and will be sorely missed.

Gerald Wiggins R.I.P.

Gerald Wiggins began classical piano lessons at the age of four. Like most children, he was not wildly enthusiastic about Chopin or Beethoven, but he did display an aptitude for music. What finally got his undivided attention was an Art Tatum recording played for him by his cousin. “When I first heard that record, I thought it was two or three people playing at the same time.” When it was time for high school, Wig was able to attend New York’s High School of Music & Art in Harlem where, because of the abundance of piano students, he studied bass. Wig’s professional career began while he was still in high school. His very first gig was playing piano with Dr. Sausage & His Pork Chops, a tramp band complete with washboard and single string bass made from a washtub and pole. His next job was at Monroe’s Uptown House. He studied by day, maybe had time for a quick nap, and then played from midnight until dawn, only to head straight back to school. Later he got a gig at a club in Greenwich Village that earned him $3 a night, which was good money in those days. After finishing his last show at four o’clock in the morning, more often than not, he might stop off at Reuben’s, an after-hours hangout favored especially by the pianists. It was there, in the basement of a brownstone in Harlem, that Wig got to know his first idol, Art Tatum.

It was not unusual to see Teddy Wilson, Bud Powell, or Willie “the Lion” Smith each taking a turn at the old upright piano. Whenever Art Tatum came in, Reuben would line up a few quarts of Pabst Blue Ribbon, Art would drink some, and then set to playing, usually solo. Wig listened intently, soaking up the lessons he’d never get in the classroom. “Art was the kind of guy that if you asked him to show you how he did something, he would, but nine times out of ten you couldn’t do it anyhow!”

After hearing Wig play at Reuben’s, Tatum was impressed enough to recommend Wig for a job with movie comedian Stepin Fetchit. “I did some playing with Stepin Fetchit,” recalls Wig, “but I had to do other bits too. He used me as something of a straight man. We worked a lot, touring all over in lots of one-horse towns, but I was making $50 a week and that was really a lot of money back then.”

It was while working with Stepin Fetchit at the Brooklyn Strand in New York that Wig met Les Hite, whose band was also on the bill. At the end of the engagement, Les’ pianist was drafted into the Army and Wig was invited to join the band. The band was based in Los Angeles, and Wig rode out to the coast with them on the tour bus. Leaving the cold winter snows behind them, they arrived in California on Christmas Day, greeted by sunny 100-degree weather. “I called my mother and said ‘I’m in God’s country.’” No matter how many times work took Wig out of town, no matter for how long, he always returned to Los Angeles. Wig also recorded with Les Hite’s band and was playing on the historic 1942 recording of “Jersey Bounce,” the one with a pioneering bebop solo by Dizzy Gillespie.

In 1943, Louis Armstrong was in Los Angeles and asked Wig to make a cross-country tour with his band. They toured by bus, playing each night in a different town. Everything was going great until they got to the South. Having been raised in New York, Wig was not accustomed to the racial discrimination that was still prevalent in the southern states. “I put in my notice with Louis as soon as we got to New York,” remembers Wig. “Then Benny Carter called me a few days later and asked me to join his band. I asked him if he was going to go south and he said ‘Oh, no, of course not, don’t worry about it.’ Naturally, the first stop the band made was in Macon, Georgia! I got so mad at Benny that I put in my notice. J. J. Johnson and Max Roach had to talk me out of quitting.” Like Les Hite, Benny Carter was also based in Los Angeles and Wig was very happy when the tour ended and they could go back home.

In 1944, while playing an engagement with Benny Carter at Billy Berg’s in Hollywood, the war interrupted Wig’s professional career. Luckily, Uncle Sam turned out to be a jazz supporter and Wig’s two-year stint in the military (1944-46) landed him in Seattle where he played with the 29th Special Service Band at Fort Lewis. The band’s responsibilities included Saturday night performances at the USO, and Wig easily found time to play in the local jazz clubs as well, quickly becoming a fixture in the Seattle jazz scene. Paul de Barros, author of “Jackson Street After Hours: The Roots of Jazz in Seattle,” writes about Wig “playing sizzling-fast solos at concerts while reading a book…sheer bravado.”

After his release from the military, Wig stopped off in San Francisco and stayed for two years. The jazz grapevine is notoriously fast, and Wig’s reputation had preceded him. He and bassist Charlie Oden, who had also been in the Army band with Wig in Seattle, played some gigs together, and Wig also joined a group with bassist Vernon Alley, reedman Jerome Richardson, and guitarist Eric Miller.

Finally, Wig made his permanent home in Los Angeles. He played a long stint in the Turban Room, the club adjoining the Dunbar Hotel on Central Avenue, Los Angeles’ street of jazz. He also rejoined Benny Carter for a while, but soon signed on with Lena Horne to tour the United States and Europe. While they were in Paris, Wig also recorded two albums for a foreign record label, one with Zoot Sims and the other with Roy Eldridge.

By 1952, Wig was back home once again and busier than ever. He enjoyed the variety of playing engagements with many different artists and ensembles, but he loved playing with his own trio. He spent a lot of time in recording studios, and the name Gerald Wiggins can be found on at least two-dozen records released in the 1950s alone. One of the more historic recording highlights was the session for “Welcome to the Club”—Nat King Cole backed by the Count Basie Orchestra with Gerald Wiggins at the piano, honored to have been asked to sit in Basie’s chair.

Not only was Wig in demand as a sideman to play and record with jazz legends such as Milt Jackson, Art Pepper, Cal Tjader, Benny Carter and others, but during that same period he also recorded several albums as leader of his own trio. Wig’s first trio album, aptly titled “The Gerald Wiggins Trio,” was released in 1953. Wig, along with bassist Joe Comfort and drummer Bill Douglass recorded six standard tunes and two of Wig’s own original compositions. This same trio also recorded “The Loveliness of You” (Tampa, 1956). In 1957 both albums were re-released, the first by Dig Records under the title “Wiggin’ With the Wig” and the second by Motif Records under the title “Reminiscin’ with Wig.” Joe Comfort, who was working frequently with Nelson Riddle at the time, was not always available. On a date with Cal Tjader, Wig had met and worked with bassist Eugene Wright. Eugene may be best known for his later work with Dave Brubeck, but his musical contributions as a member of the Gerald Wiggins Trio were thankfully recorded on two albums: “Around the World in 80 Days” (Original Jazz) came out in 1956 and “The King and I” came out in 1958 on Challenge Records.

Throughout the 1950s, Wig kept up an exhausting schedule reminiscent of his round-the-clock days of high school. Most nights he was working in one club or another, and during the day he was likely to be at a recording session, in a studio working as rehearsal pianist for Lucille Ball, or on the lot of a movie studio coaching actress Marilyn Monroe for those movie roles that required her to sing. In appreciation, Marilyn gave him an autographed picture and the inscription read, “For Gerry, I can’t make a sound without you. Love you, Marilyn.” That photo still hangs on his wall today.

Wig had become well known for his musical sensitivity and his ability to accompany featured artists and singers. Accompaniment is an art form in itself, but Wig says there are some basic principles: “Stay out of their way! Don’t get on their notes; be in the background at all times. With singers I play differently behind each one, because each one sings different; I adapt my style to their way of singing.”

Wig’s reputation as a master accompanist was a mixed blessing; he was never without work, but he had less and less time to devote to leading his trio. Before Wig’s working schedule became completely dominated by tours with various singers, Wig managed to complete two more trio recordings. “Wiggin’ Out,” with Joe Comfort and Bill Douglass was released in 1960 on Hi-Fi, and “Relax and Enjoy It,” with drummer Jackie Mills replacing Bill Douglass, came out the following year on Contemporary Records. He would not have an opportunity to record with a trio of his own again until 1974.

Throughout the rest of the 1960s and 1970s, Wig worked some of the best singers of jazz and popular music, both male and female: Nat King Cole, Lou Rawls, Ernie Andrews, Joe Williams, Joe Turner, Pearl Bailey, Eartha Kitt, Kay Starr, Dinah Washington, Esther Phillips, and Helen Humes, to name a few. Even though the 1960s and 1970s were dominated by singers, that didn’t stop Wig from recording with a diversity of other artists including King Pleasure in 1960 and Teddy Edwards in 1962. And even while touring almost exclusively with Helen Humes in the 70s, Wig squeezed in more recordings including the movie soundtrack for Lady Sings the Blues in 1971, and albums with Joe Pass in 1973, and Harry “Sweets” Edison in 1975.

Wig was on the move so much that you might well have asked, where is Wig? He answered that question with a long awaited trio recording titled “Wig Is Here.” At the time of the recording in 1974, Wig was playing at the Nice Jazz Festival in France with Helen Humes. Wig asked bassist Major Holley and drummer Ed Thigpen, who were both playing at the same festival, to join him and they recorded six tunes for a French label called Black & Blue. One of those tunes, F.B.O.T., was a new version of a tune titled “Strip City” that Wig had written for a movie starring Marilyn Monroe. “It was a song I had recorded with Jackie Mills for the movie Let’s Make Love. They wanted some bump-and-grind burlesque music so we put together a wild thing off the top of our heads.” Wig continued on as accompanist to Helen Humes right up to her death in 1981. It was time for Wig to focus once again on his own career.

Wig was just as busy in the 1980s. From jazz parties to clubs to concert halls and outdoor amphitheaters, from California to New York to Europe and Japan, Wig was working everywhere at everything. And he did work occasionally with a few singers. Once again he was too busy to devote much time to his own group or to record on his own, but he did make several recordings with a lot of his musical friends: Linda Hopkins, Gerald Wilson, Maxine Sullivan, Jimmy Witherspoon, Scott Hamilton, Red Holloway, Clark Terry, and again with Joe Pass.

One of the most memorable recordings for Wig during this period was “Digital Duke,” the Duke Ellington Orchestra under the direction of Mercer Ellington with J. J. Wiggins on bass. Wig’s son, now known as Hassan Shakur, followed in his father’s footsteps at an early age. By the time he was thirteen, “Jay Jay” was playing professionally and recording with the Craig Hundley Trio. He left to join the Ellington Orchestra and now plays frequently with Monty Alexander. Between then and now, some of Wig’s happiest gigs have been collaborations between father and son.

There was no slow down in the 1990s, but Wig did find time to record two albums of his own. These two recordings are perhaps the most personal and self-revealing to date. “Gerald Wiggins Live at Maybeck Recital Hall” (Concord Records 1990) is a solo album for which Wig’s close friend and fellow pianist wrote the liner notes. “He doesn’t just play a concert,” wrote Jimmy Rowles. “He uses the approach of telling his story…” The second album, “Soulidarity” (Concord 1995) is the only recording featuring Wig’s 1990s trio with Andy Simpkins on bass and Paul Humphrey on drums. “We share one musical soul which inspired the title,” explains Wig. This trio was special.

Describing the trio’s performance at Lionel Hampton 90th Birthday Party and Benefit Concert, Los Angeles Times writer Don Heckman wrote “The trio of Gerald Wiggins on piano, Andy Simpkins on bass and Paul Humphrey on drums was superb, playing a set that defined the manner in which jazz can be simultaneously imaginative, elegant and swinging.” It is not often that a jazz club performance gets a lengthy review (25+ column inches) in The Hollywood Reporter, but this trio did. Sadly, Andy died in 1999 leaving his two cohorts, along with the trio’s friends and fans with this one recording and many wonderful memories of live performances.

Many honors and accolades have been, and continue to be, bestowed on the Wig. He has been honored by the American Society of Music Arrangers and Composers. By proclamation of Mayor Tom Bradley, the citizens of Los Angeles have celebrated Gerald Wiggins’ Day, a day topped off by the Los Angeles Jazz Society’s annual awards event with Wig as the main honoree. While somewhat reticent about his own accomplishments and honors received, Wig has always been a willing participant when it comes to honoring others. Such appearances include UCLA’s Duke Ellington Centennial Celebration, the University of Redlands’ Tribute to Jimmy Rowles, the Joe Pass Memorial Tribute sponsored by the Musicians’ Union, an all-star tribute to Benny Carter at the Hollywood Bowl, and the Los Angeles Music Center’s extravaganza Salute to the Songs of Johnny Mercer featuring Michel Feinstein, Charlayne Woodard of Ain’t Misbehavin’ fame, and others. Wig was also among the few players selected to play at tributes to Ella Fitzgerald, Quincy Jones, and at the Dorothy Chandler Performing Arts Award ceremony honoring George C. Wolfe, director of Jelly’s Last Jam.

Wig was always extremely generous in sharing his time and his talents with fellow musicians, especially the younger ones. Washington Preparatory High School honored Wig at one of their annual Jazzin’ at the Prep festivals to make public their thanks for his steady support and gift of time. Wig was also a mentor for jazz students at Santa Monica College. He loved to share his knowledge with aspiring and seasoned performers alike. Young pros such as pianists Benny Green, Eric Reed, and bassist John Clayton have felt free to call on Wig for advice. Clayton even recommended his bass students to study with Wig, proclaiming him to be “a one-man jazz history lesson.”

Wig has spent a lot of time with historians, both amateur and professional, who want to document the histories of jazz and in so doing perpetuate the art form. The book “Central Avenue Sounds” contains a chapter by Wig, and UCLA conducted extensive interviews with Wig as part of their Oral History Program focusing on Central Avenue, a section of Los Angeles that was as important to jazz as New York’s 52nd Street. The Hamilton College Jazz Archives also includes footage of interviews with Wig along with other jazz greats. Wig was always a willing and invaluable resource for students, researchers, and authors who wanted to learn the facts from someone who was there.

Despite his appreciation of history, Wig was never one to live in the past. Until these last few years his schedule was jam packed with lessons and live appearances. Wig and his wife Lynn especially enjoyed the jazz cruises and parties where they could catch up with musical buddies and mingle with Wig’s fans. They even saved memorabilia like the Triangle Jazz Party program book where the musicians—John Bunch, Bucky Pizzarelli, and Butch Miles—all signed each other’s copies as if it were their high school yearbook.

In addition to the nightclub and concert appearances, the jazz parties and cruises, Wig was likely to pop up in delightfully unexpected locations. Several years ago one of Wig’s high school teachers happened upon him at the Armand Hammer Museum of Art and Cultural Center where UCLA had invited the trio to play as part of the Westwood Jazz at the Hammer series. Wig’s teacher wrote him a note telling him to “keep spreading joy by spreading the music around.” She commented on “what a diverse group the music had pulled in…a wonderful, elderly Filipino gentleman taping a foot in open-toed sandals, nearby attractive couples of all ages and colors, and beautiful kids running around and stopping to listen and move to the rhythms…”

Jazz reviewer Kirk Silsbee wrote of “the kind of heads up creativity that has become a hallmark of Wiggins’ playing as an accompanist to singers, as a band pianist, as a leader of his own trio…The kind of synchronicity among musicians – in time, dynamics, and musical lane changes – only comes from years of interaction.” Wig has been a mainstay in jazz for more than sixty years, and his influence remains strong in the hands of younger players including Benny Green and Eric Reed.

“The Wig” died this morning in the hospital.

Welcome SloaneViewers

If you are new to DevraDoWrite, welcome! I hope you’ll stay awhile and scroll around a lot. Some of you may have found me by way of Sloaneview as my most gracious friend and songstress supreme, Carol Sloane, recently commented on the sad state of jazz and linked to a piece on my blog. If you’re looking for that particular post, click here.

You’ll find that the subjects I talk most about are writing (narrative nonfiction and biography, especially) and jazz. Lately, politics has been creeping in a bit as well, and, of course, being a blog, lots of my opinions about this and that and the other.

Hope you enjoy, and come back often.

Debate Debacle

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!