Sunday, January 26, 2014

Old Joe's Hittin the Jug-a film by Luke Jaeger 2000

This is project I had the privilege of participating in several years ago. The recording by Stuff Smith didn't run quite as long as the video did, so I was hired to play a "period" drum solo as the credits rolled. I improvised randomly for about an hour with various beats and effects, and engineer Dan Richardson actually created the solo by putting the pieces of my improvisations into an order that worked for the film and ended when it needed to. I'm not sure if it was a Pro Tools or similar program that he used but I was pleased with the results. My copy was a VCR tape at the time, so I was pleased to find that it made its way to YouTube eventually. My solo starts at about 3:05 following the Stuff Smith tune.  Enjoy!
► 3:56

Monday, January 13, 2014

Book Review: Kansas City Lightning: The Rise and Times of Charlie Parker by Stanley Crouch

 Stanley Crouch, eminent social critic, music journalist, and co-creator of Jazz at Lincoln Center, has written a compelling account of the early life of pivotal jazz icon Charlie Parker.  Relying on research he began more than 30 years ago (much of it firsthand from Parker contemporaries and family members), Crouch has concentrated on the subject’s formative years in Kansas City prior to his relocating to New York where as we like to say, “the rest is history”.  Those aware of Parker’s significance are more likely to be familiar with the period after his arrival in New York in 1939, and through the birth of bop, the rise to fame and notoriety, and of course his tragic end in 1954.  Crouch has promised a second volume which will presumably cover that period. 

This story of Bird’s formative years and musical struggles in the crucible that was Kansas City in the 30’s is told against a backdrop of not only the music but the politics, racial issues, and cultural climate of the time, all areas where Crouch is a gifted and insightful reporter.  In fact it is the tangential subject matter that is of the most interest.  Crouch’s scholarship and his obvious appreciation of Kansas City’s place in American musical history, had this reader revisiting and rediscovering with open ears the music of Walter Page’s Blue Devils, the Bennie Moten Orchestra, Fletcher Henderson, and early Count Basie.

It’s interesting that in his public life Stanley Crouch is associated with a conservative wing of jazz scholarship, and yet has chosen for his subject the likes of Charles “Yardbird” Parker who, in his time strove to be anything but conservative, and took the alto saxophone and yes, jazz itself, to another level.  In Kansas City Lightning, Crouch has treated his subject, Charlie Parker the musician with love and respect, without glossing over the shortcomings of Charlie Parker the man.

Richard Mayer

(this review also appeared in the Brattleboro Reformer)