Friday, May 27, 2011
It's not the end of the world,
Maybe your world or
Mine, but let's face it,
Every second, someone's
Get used to it.
He follows us, he keeps track.
Each day his lists are longer.
Here, death. And here,
something like it.
Mr. Fear we say in our dreams,
what do you have for me tonight?
And he looks through his sack,
his black sack of troubles.
Maybe he smiles when he finds
the right one. Maybe he's sorry.
Tell me, Mr. Fear,
what must I carry
away from your dream?
Make it small please.
Let it fit in my pocket,
let if fall through
the hole in my pocket.
Fear let me have
a small brown bat
and a purse of crickets
like the ones I heard
singing last night
out there in the stubbly field
before I slept, and met you.
Saturday, May 14, 2011
Carol Mcleod's "Speculation
That's the character who makes a brief appearance in Something Wicked This
Way Comes, right? And you've often spoken of a real-life Mr. Electrico,
though no scholar has ever been able to confirm his existence. The story has
taken on a kind of mythic stature-the director of the Center for Ray Bradbury
Studies calls the search for Mr. Electrico the "Holy Grail" of Bradbury
Yes, but he was a real man. That was his real name. Circuses and carnivals
were always passing through Illinois during my childhood and I was in love
with their mystery. One autumn weekend in 1932, when I was twelve years old,
the Dill Brothers Combined Shows came to town. One of the performers was Mr.
Electrico. He sat in an electric chair. A stagehand pulled a switch and he
was charged with fifty thousand volts of pure electricity. Lightning flashed
in his eyes and his hair stood on end.
The next day, I had to go the funeral of one of my favorite uncles. Driving
back from the graveyard with my family, I looked down the hill toward the
shoreline of Lake Michigan and I saw the tents and the flags of the carnival
and I said to my father, Stop the car. He said, What do you mean? And I said,
I have to get out. My father was furious with me. He expected me to stay with
the family to mourn, but I got out of the car anyway and I ran down the hill
toward the carnival.
It didn't occur to me at the time, but I was running away from death, wasn't
I? I was running toward life. And there was Mr. Electrico sitting on the
platform out in front of the carnival and I didn't know what to say. I was
scared of making a fool of myself. I had a magic trick in my pocket, one of
those little ball-and-vase tricks-a little container that had a ball in it
that you make disappear and reappear-and I got that out and asked, Can you
show me how to do this? It was the right thing to do. It made a contact. He
knew he was talking to a young magician. He took it, showed me how to do it,
gave it back to me, then he looked at my face and said, Would you like to
meet those people in that tent over there? Those strange people? And I said,
Yes sir, I would. So he led me over there and he hit the tent with his cane
and said, Clean up your language! Clean up your language! He took me in, and
the first person I met was the illustrated man. Isn't that wonderful? The
Illustrated Man! He called himself the tattooed man, but I changed his name
later for my book. I also met the strong man, the fat lady, the trapeze
people, the dwarf, and the skeleton. They all became characters.
Mr. Electrico was a beautiful man, see, because he knew that he had a little
weird kid there who was twelve years old and wanted lots of things. We walked
along the shore of Lake Michigan and he treated me like a grown-up. I talked
my big philosophies and he talked his little ones. Then we went out and sat
on the dunes near the lake and all of a sudden he leaned over and said, I'm
glad you're back in my life. I said, What do you mean? I don't know you. He
said, You were my best friend outside of Paris in 1918. You were wounded in
the Ardennes and you died in my arms there. I'm glad you're back in the
world. You have a different face, a different name, but the soul shining out
of your face is the same as my friend. Welcome back.
Now why did he say that? Explain that to me, why? Maybe he had a dead son,
maybe he had no sons, maybe he was lonely, maybe he was an ironical jokester.
Who knows? It could be that he saw the intensity with which I live. Every
once in a while at a book signing I see young boys and girls who are so full
of fire that it shines out of their face and you pay more attention to that.
Maybe that's what attracted him.
When I left the carnival that day I stood by the carousel and I watched the
horses running around and around to the music of "Beautiful Ohio," and I
cried. Tears streamed down my cheeks. I knew something important had happened
to me that day because of Mr. Electrico. I felt changed. He gave me
importance, immortality, a mystical gift. My life was turned around
completely. It makes me cold all over to think about it, but I went home and
within days I started to write. I've never stopped.
Seventy-seven years ago, and I've remembered it perfectly. I went back and
saw him that night. He sat in the chair with his sword, they pulled the
switch, and his hair stood up. He reached out with his sword and touched
everyone in the front row, boys and girls, men and women, with the
electricity that sizzled from the sword. When he came to me, he touched me on
the brow, and on the nose, and on the chin, and he said to me, in a whisper,
"Live forever." And I decided to.
Monday, May 9, 2011
A Borrowed lyric
(for Frank Longley)
"Life is just a bowl of cherries,
don't take it serious,
you'll be delirious."
I told the old man
I never go to funerals,
"You work you slave
you worry so, but you can't
take it with you
when you go, go, go.
He looked at me with
sad eyes and said,
"When you get to be my age
you better get your suit pressed."
The next day one of my
best friend died.
"The best things in life,
for you are just loaned
you can't keep what
you've never owned.
Just keep believing
it's the berries,
and live and laugh
at it all."
Saturday, May 7, 2011
For the last few days I have been haunting my recently deceased co-worker Frank Longley's cubicle. Noticing things like an un-eaten apple, post notes with numbers, a
time stamp machine that never ceases clicking off the minutes, and then this
morning I come upon a poem featured on "Writer's Almanac." Sometimes poetry
says all that needs to be said.
In the Museum of Your Last Day
by Patrick Phillips
there is a coat on a coat hook in a hall. Work-gloves
in the pockets, pliers and bent nails.
There is a case of Quaker State for the Ford.
Two cans of spray paint in a crisp brown bag.
A mug on a book by the hi-fi.
A disk that starts on its own: Boccherini.
There is a dent in the soap the shape of your thumb.
A swirl in the glass when it fogs.
And a gray hair that twines
through the tines of a little black comb.
There is a watch laid smooth on a wallet.
And pairs of your shoes everywhere.
A phone no one answers. A note that says Friday.
Your voice on the tape talking softly.
Wednesday, May 4, 2011
Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the Pit from pole to pole.
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul...
William Ernest Henley "Invictus"
(for Frank Longley)
The first thing I noticed about him
Were his arms, big muscled, hairy
Arms digging through boxes of office files.
Not the kind of job you'd expect
A man like him to have.
After all, he played All-State football,
Ran with the bulls in Spain,
Sailed a home-made raft
Down the Mississippi to New Orleans,
Been 'around the world and back.
But at 50 he decided to marry,
Have a child, which he would worship,
And become a bureaucrat, but not really.
Like the old sea captain, whose picture
Hung proudly on his office wall,
He was captain of his own ship,
Unafraid of the darkness that waits for
Monday, April 11, 2011
A young man, probably in his 30s, spent two days hooking up two new cable connections to solve the problem. This morning he said he'd noticed a lot of musical instruments and recordings in my house and asked me what kind of work I did. I told him I was a part time College professor, entertainer and jazz radio dj.
"I thought I recognized your voice, I listen to your show on WFPK every Sunday morning."
He said he was a jazz fan and it was the only kind of music he listened too.
"I listen to the jazz programing all day on WFPK Sunday, but there's no way to hear jazz on the radio during the week in Louisville,"
Before he left he asked me if I would play Louis Armstrong's "Muskrat Ramble" for him.
You bet buddy, glad to know I'm appreciated.
Friday, March 4, 2011
Famous People I've Known - writer Ed Mcclanahan and singer Gail Wynters.
photo by Danny O'Bryan
There was a Serpent who had to sing
There was. There was.
He simply gave up Serpenting.
He didn't like his Kind of Life;
He couldn't fined a proper Wife;
He was a Serpent with a soul;
He got no Pleasure down his Hole.
And so, of course, he had to Sing,
And sing he did, like Anything!
The Birds, they were, they were Astounded;
And various Measures Propounded
To stop the Serpent's Awful Racket:
They bought a Drum. He wouldn't Whack it.
They sent,-you always send,-to Cuba
And got a Most Commodious Tuba;
They got a Horn, they got a Flute,
But Nothing would suit.
He said, "Look, Birds, all this is futile:
I do not like to Band or Tootle."
And then he cut loose with a Horrible Note
That practically split the Top of his Throat.
"You see," he said with a Serpent's Leer,
"I'm Serious about my Singing Career!"
And the Woods Resounded with a many a Shriek
As the Birds flew off to the End of Next Week.
War between the sexes
It all started when the first man
Wept over the first woman
Cried in his beer because
She wouldn't return his
Took it as an
Affront to his
Manhood. "She's a stuck up
Bitch," he says to his
Buddy's in the bar
As he looks over his
Shoulder at a fine
Thursday, March 3, 2011
It's All About Death Baby
It's spring, birds are singing
Buds are popping
And teenagers are sexting,
Sending high-definition color photos
Of their pulsating pubes into cyber-space
For all their friends to see.
A pretty blond on TV tells a reporter,
"Yeah, I had a guy send me a pic of his,
But I never got back to him."
Of course not, she had 20 others to
Compare it too!
It's spring, birds are singing
Buds are popping
And teenagers are sexting,
Upsetting their up-tight,
Baby-boomer, Cialis, Viagra
The old timers are furious
Because their long retired
May poles and Mary Janes
Have ceased to function
Without the chemical equivalent
Of a FEMA scaffolding crew.
It's spring, birds are singing,
Buds are popping
And teenagers are sexting.
The old people are mad as hell
And have damn right to be.
Wednesday, March 2, 2011
The air was abuzz with
Every where I looked they were
Dropping from the sky.
“God damn bugs,” an over-weight
Black fisherman cursed to himself
On the river bank.
“What are they?
I asked, as a boat pulled
Up to shore with a young brunette
Sitting on the hull.
She had lovely tanned skin and dimpled
Knees like Jane Russell in the old film
“Gentleman Prefer Blondes.”
And she kept scooting her ass
Up and down the front of the boat
While tying it ashore.
“Those bugs are May flies, they’ll
All be dead by nightfall,” the black man said
I feel fine but all my icons:
Ray Brown, Ted Williams,
All gone this week.
May files in July?
No wonder they die so soon.
Cab Calloway is 78 and still leading a band and ‘hi-dee-ho-ing
Bandleader-singer Cab Calloway is probably best known as the “hi-dee-ho man” of the early 1930s. That’s when he wrote and recorded songs like “Minnie the Moocher” and other novelty scat songs.
During that time he was a regular performer in New York City’s famous Cotton Club. He also appeared in many classic movies of the period with such stars as Lena Horne and Al Jolson.
But it was during the early 1940s when he led one of the best big bands in the country, that Calloway made his largest contribution to jazz. That band, which included in its ranks at one time or another such talent as saxophonists Ben Webster and Chu Berry, trumpeters Dizzy Gillespie and Louisville born Jonah Jones, plus drummer Cozy Cole, visited Louisville many times in those years. It played places like the old Rialto Theater on Fourth Street and the National Theater at Fifth and Walnut streets.
Both those theaters are gone today, Fourth Street, where the Rialto was located, is mall, and Walnut Street’s name has been changed to Muhammad Ali Boulevard.
Calloway, 78, will be appearing tomorrow night with his “Cotton Club Revisited” show in Whitney Hall in the Kentucky Center for the Arts. He said in a telephone interview this week that he remembers when he played Louisville during the 1930s and ‘40s.
“I played Louisville a lot back then,” he said. He remembers the National Theater as being on a corner “right downtown on the main drag.”
“Cab Calloway’s Cotton Club Revisited” will feature the Hi-Di-Ho Orchestra, the High Steppers dance troupe and comedians Anthony Thomas and Leroy, plus Calloway’s daughter Chris.
The most important thing about the show, though, is the big band, Calloway said. “I’ve gotten together the finest group of musicians, it’s a 14 piece band, and they sound just wonderful. There are still as few big bands around and I’ve got one of them. They play all the old tunes like “Jumping at the Woodside” and “One O’Clock Jump.” We don’t do any of that modern rock stuff.”
Calloway, who appeared a few years ago in the movie “The Blues Brothers,” has made some concessions to modern electronics. “I’ve done a few videos, but I really can’t get into that. I’m still sticking to tunes like “Minnie the Moocher” and “It Ain’t Necessarily So,” he said.
Asked if he thought the music business had changed much since the early days, Calloway replied. “It’s never going to change as long as you entertain the people. To entertain the people is the most important thing.”
After more than five decades in show business does Calloway ever plan to retire?
Laughing, he replied, “What am I going to retire for?”
The Louisville Times
November 2, 1985
From the up-coming book “Derby City Jazz.”
Sunday, February 27, 2011
The End is Near
photo by Danny O'Bryan
We are born into mystery
Never lose the magic
Always be astounded by
Life and you will
"Whatever I may do in this world, disturbing it, transforming it, or
rather imagining I've transformed it - whatever use I may make of the world,
even if I venture into the planets - it is always what it is. And what is it?
Nothing can surpass my astonishment at its being what it is, at its being and
at me being here. If I could succeed in opening every door, there would still
be the unopenable door of astonishment."
"Kathy Acker loved Miles Davis and like Miles didn't give a fuck - except
about the things she gave a fuck about."
"Who ever controls the words controls our thoughts."
"Reality is a fucked up place to live and we can do a lot better."
"Well I think writing is basically about time and rhythm. Like with jazz, you
have your basic melody and you riff off it. And the riffs are about timing,
and about sex."
"The reduction of nearly every man to the partial social function of the
specialist has produced a society of ennuchs..."
Friday, February 25, 2011
In an interview before his concert last night at Bellarmine College’s new Wyatt Theater Recital Hall, jazz pianist Billy Taylor, said that he considered himself a musical missionary.
Since the 1950s, Taylor who holds a combined masters and doctorate degree in music education from the University of Massachusetts, has been one of the most articulate spokesman for jazz in the United States.
Through his lectures, books and appearances on radio and television -
He was host of National Public Radio’s “Jazz Alive” series for six years and won an Emmy for a segment on CBS television’s “Sunday Morning with Charles Kuralt” - Taylor spends most of his time winning new converts for jazz.
But the full house at the Wyatt last night got to see another side of Taylor’s manifold personality, that of the musician. At 63, Taylor is a masterful jazz pianist who cut his teeth playing with the likes of Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie and Ben Webster.
He began the concert with a Latin flavored song entitled “You Tempt Me,” lightly tickling the piano keyboard for the first few bars of the tune. Taylor set up the rhythm before being joined by bassist Victor Gaskin and drummer Curtis Boyd, who added the percussive effects with his high hat cymbal.
Like fellow pianist Ahmad Jamal, Taylor has a penchant for Latin rhythms and it shows through much of his playing.
Taylor shares another thing with Jamal; he likes to refer to jazz as America’s classical music. He said during the interview, “Jazz is America’s classical music because for over 100 years it has taken all the elements of our society and put them in a musical perspective which represents more accurately than any other musical form who we are and what we are about.”
He told the audience pretty much the same thing during last night’s concert. Then he proved his point by playing “Make a Joyful Noise,” his own six-part, sacred composition, which contains nearly every mood that can be conveyed by music.
During “Rejoice,” the third movement of this work, drummer Boyd put down his sticks and began to play his drum set with his bare hands, stopping at times to rest an elbow on his snare drum to produce a desired effect. The audience loved it and gave him loud applause.
On “Prayer,” the fourth movement, Taylor reached inside his piano and strummed the strings before setting up the haunting theme. The final movement “Walking in the Light,” featured the trio swinging together furiously.
At one point during the concert Taylor took time out to commend local jazz educator and musician Jamey Aebersold, who was in the audience.
“Jamey has had a tremendous effect on musicians all over the world with his jazz clinics, books, and play along records. We should honor a person when they are alive, not wait until they are dead,” he said. The audience then gave Aebersold a round of applause.
Taylor ended the concert by playing another original composition of his, “I Wish I Knew How it Would Feel to be Free.”
He said the song had been named one of the most important songs of 1960s by the New York Times and he was playing it to commemorate the 20th Anniversary of Martin Luther King’s freedom march to Selma, Ala.
The Louisville Times
March 4, 1985
From the up-coming book “Derby City Jazz.”
Wednesday, February 23, 2011
Trumpeter Ansyn Banks at Ear-xtacy concert.
photo by Danny O'Bryan
"I don't see how people can do anything at all without writing or painting or
something of the like, some excessive splash against the darkness. It's just
too damned dumb to sit and take it straight like most of them do. No wonder
people look, act, are do awful, awful, awful.."
"Unless a man is continuously occupied in the creation of a form
material or intellectual modeled after the immaterial eternal form which he
either creates or perceives in his own soul...he cannot live alive, he's just
a dead object floating in space."
Allen Ginsberg's Journals
Yardhog's Journals 1999
Friday night I went to Bobby J's. I was sitting at the bar when a
young blond woman sat down next to me. We talked for a short while the band
played. All of a sudden there was a great deal of commotion in front of the
stage. An elderly man dropped like a dead raccoon in front of the band. A
woman started screaming. The bartender was trying to call 911 but all the
lines were busy. Soon, EMS arrived but the man had already gotten up and left
The blond left but not before inviting me to join her and her girl
friends in a booth in the front room but I declined wanting to watch the
action from my perch at the bar. All of a sudden there is a loud scream and
down the stairs by the bar comes a man and woman yelling at one another.
Throughout this madness the alto player in he band is wailing his ass off.
Two or three people jump in to break up the spat and the blond and a couple
of her friends return and start dancing in front of the bandstand.
I walked up to the blond and we started dancing, in her case jumping
up and down. Her girl friend introduced herself as Carol Yeager, a painter
who lives in Lexington. We had a nice conversation about California. She
lived there several years as a hippy.
Saturday night I went to the Sextacy Ball at Club X on Main St. Very
strange scene in the former home Murphy's Bar Complex. Upstairs are two large
rooms. One area was blocked off by yellow "Caution" tape. Behind stood
several domminatixes dressed in short black costumes, black nylons and high
heels. They all had an attitude. Nobody was smiling. This was serious
business. Soon the slaves were led into the room. Several not very attractive
men who were shirtless and dressed in leather shorts.
There were several wood crosses and stocks set up in the room and the
doms spent a lot of time tying their slaves to them. Mistress A was there
with a female slave, or so I thought. The she/he had long blond hair, nice
legs and a shapely ass, which the Mistress caressed liberally before applying
her paddle. I learned quickly that night I don't enjoy looking at men in
bondage. Nothing at all stimulating about it, at least for me. But young
shapely women being tied and flogged is quite another matter. Mistress A's
slave looked very appealing until she turned around and I realized she was a
trans-sexual or something like that. Definitely not a female.
I sat and watched this scene for an hour or two and could only think
of one word to describe it, dispassion. Despite the whips, the leather, the
semi-nudity and loud Xtreme music the word for it wsa dispassion. Neither the
Doms aor the slaves being punished showed any emotion. These were indeed some
strange sights. One young man was tied shirtless to a cross while a Dom
whipped his nipples, later attaching clothes pins. One of the women who was
anything but attractive, wearing a long shapeless dress was led into the room
by a male Master. He tied her to a cross and raised her skirt and used a
leather paddle to redden her back side.
Everyone in the room was dressed in black, including me in my black
suit, but I felt totally ignored, like a ghost, invisible. One fellow who
looked a little like Ron Whitehead, was dressed in an outfit that included a
top hat and a long coat. He had a large prosthesis of some sort on one hand
and was carrying a cane.
In one room they were giving bondage and s & m demonstrations. One
very attractive young girl in a very revealing outfit was all trussed up with
knotted ropes. Some kind of elaborate breast bondage.
When the Doms applied their whips they started out with light,
innocuous strokes, almost caressing their slaves with the leather. But
suddenly the rhythm and intensity of their strokes increased until the whips
landed with a solid SLAP! that elicited oohs and aahs from the crowd. The
next night I could still hear the sound in my ears.
Monday, February 21, 2011
The weather was frigid last night, but during tenor saxophonist Charlie Rouse’s concert at Downstairs at Actors it was Le Jazz Hot.
The concert put Rouse, best know for the years he spent from 1959 to 1970 as a member of the legendary jazz pianist Thelonius Monk’s Quartet, together with a rhythm section composed of some of this area’s finest jazz musicians. It’s hard to say who played better, Rouse or the local boys.
One of the problems that besets traveling jazz solo acts is they must depend on local musicians to accompany them. Sometimes the musicians or good, and sometimes they’re bad. Last night’s players - pianist Ray Johnson, bassist Mark McCulloch and drummer Jonathan Higgins were more than good they were excellent.
Johnson, who spent 20 years as a jazz pianist in New York City before returning to his hometown of Louisville a few years ago, got things going with a driving rendition of Charlie Parker’s “Billies Bounce.” McCulloch held things together with a solid bass line and drummer Higgins poured on the steam.
When Rouse came on stage for the first number, “What is this Thing Called Love,” the air was already charged with excitement he added even more by rushing through the song’s chord changes and interjecting his own unique musical ideas. Johnson came up from behind playing like a mad man on several smoking choruses, McCulloch and Higgins followed with good solos.
And it went on like that throughout the concert on a string of Monk standards like “Bolivar Blues,” “Light Blue” and “Straight No Chaser.” Rouse would state the theme, play the first couple of choruses and then turn it over to Johnson, who would take the song apart and put it back together, being careful to throw in a few Monk-like licks of his own.
Only once, on a standard “Lover Man,” did Rouse fail to deliver. On this song the tenor star had some intonation problems that caused him to play sharp through most of the piece.
But he made up for this infraction with a fireball version of “Straight No Chaser” that showcased his jagged phrasing and gruff tone. Johnson was particularly exciting on this song, bouncing up and down as his fingers raced along the keyboard. Bassist McCulloch also played a fine solo on this tune, which gained a laugh of recognition from leader Rouse and a round of applause from the audience.
After an intermission, Rouse and the band came back with an imaginative jazz line based on the chord changes of the standard “Out of Nowhere.” By this time the saxophonist was really getting loose, biting off huge chunks of changes and molding them to fit his peculiar taste and style.
The only problem with last night’s concert was that Rouse is the third saxophonist in less than a year to be featured in concert by the Louisville Jazz Society. It would be nice to see the society bring in some jazz vocalists like Sheila Jordan, Ben Sidran or Mark Murphy. After all, diversity is what jazz is all about.
The Louisville Times
January 28, 1986
From the up-coming book “Derby City Jazz.”
Friday, February 18, 2011
In the summer of 1964 I attended the Ohio Valley Jazz Festival at Crosley Field in Cincinnati, Ohio. The performers that night included the legendary pianist Thelonious Monk and his quartet.
Monk was in a fickle mood during the concert, occasionally jumping up from the piano and dancing around the stage while his saxophonist played with the bass and drums.
Monk’s saxophonist, Charlie Rouse was in great form, blowing chorus after chorus of strong angular jazz. Rouse’s tenor sax was a perfect complement to Monk’s unorthodox piano style. Some critics said he sounded like Monk playing saxophone.
Monday at 5:30 p.m. Louisville jazz fans will get a chance to see Rouse when he performs with the local rhythm section of pianist Ray Johnson, bassist Mark McCulloch and drummer Jonathan Higgins at the Louisville Jazz Society’s Jazz Party at Downstairs at Actors, 316 W. Main St.
Rouse, 61, was born in Washington, D.C. In 1943, he joined Billy Eckstine’s orchestra, which was one of the greatest all-star big bands in jazz history. It included such luminaries as singer Sarah Vaughn, alto saxophonist Charlie Parker and trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie.
In a telephone interview, Rouse talked about those days.
“When I was growing up there were so many places to play and there was a wealth of jazz talent. Everyone has their own individual styles and all the great jazz artists were working back then,” Rouse said.
Saxophonist Ben Webster was the first established jazz musician to befriend Rouse. Later he would be Webster’s replacement in the Duke Ellington Orchestra. But the new sounds of bebop that were being created by musicians like Parker, Gillespie and Monk were to be Rouse’s major influence.
After leaving Eckstine, Rouse joined Gillespie’s band.
“Dizzy left Eckstine about the same time I did. He formed the big band, and we did a tour down south. After that I joined a group headed by pianist Tadd Dameron featuring trumpeter Fats Navarro,” he said.
Rouse also worked with trombonist Benny Green, saxophonist and vocalist Eddie “Cleanhead” Vinson and a small band led by Count Basie. But he’s probably best known for the years, from 1959 to 1970, that he spent with Monk.
“Monk was a genius. He was one of the great American composers and jazz pianists. He could get a sound out of a piano that no one else had,”
He said his best years with Monk’s quartet was from 1960 to around 1968. During that time the group recorded numerous albums for Columbia Records and toured Europe on a yearly basis.
“Playing with Monk was a real challenge because you never knew what tunes he was going to do on any given night,” Rouse said.
In recent years, Rouse has been playing with Sphere, a quartet that specializes in Monk’s music.
“I’ll be playing a concert with Sphere at Purdue University the day before I perform in Louisville,” he said.
The Louisville Times
January 25, 1986
From the up-coming book “Derby City Jazz.”
Wednesday, February 16, 2011
A dangerous woman
photo by Danny O'Bryan
"Trying to penetrate the act of naming (language) is like trying to see a
mirror while standing in front of it. Trying to get a hold of it is like
trying to get a hold of the means of which we get a hold of everything else."
"The universe and all known phenomena within it maybe accurately described
according to one term - dyadic - interactions - cause and effect."
"Existentialism is based on the doctrine that existence takes precedence over
essence and holds that man is totally free and responsible for his acts, and
that this responsibility is the source of the dread and anguish that
February 3, 1997
Tuesday, February 15, 2011
photo by Danny O'Bryan
"Man is a wanting animal and one desire is no sooner satisfied than another
takes its place."
"If the self does not become itself it's in despair whether it knows it or
"When a true genius appears in the world, you may know him by this sign, that
the dunces are all in confederacy against him."
"The finest people marry the two sexes in their own person. Hermaphrodite is
the symbol of the finished soul."
Ralph Waldo Emerson
For flowing is the secret of things. No wonder the children love masks and to
trick themselves in endless costumes and be a horse, a soldier, a parson or a
bear and older delight in theatricals as in nature, the egg is passing to a
grub, the grub to a fly, and the vegetable eye to a bud, the bud to a leaf, a
stem, a flower, a fruit. The children have only the instinct of their race,
the instinct of the universe in which becoming something else is the whole
game of nature and death the penalty of standing still - Liberty means the
power to flow."
Monday, February 14, 2011
John Roy and I recently did a bit of time travel. When the 68-year old veteran Louisville percussionist arrived at my studio for our interview, I was playing a recording of “Bernie’s Tune” on my phonograph. The musicians on the 1969 date, recorded at the old Port O’Call on Zane St were guitarists Jimmy Raney, tenor saxophonist Bobby Jones, pianist Bobby Lam, bassist Jack Brengle and Roy on drums. Tragically, all the musicians featured in that concert are deceased today excepting Roy and Brengle.
Even back then, Roy was keeping the best of company, Raney one of the world’s finest jazz guitarists, had returned to his hometown from New York city and was being showcased along with some of Louisville’s finest.
Bobby Jones had already proved his musical worth in the bands of Tex Beneke and Woody Herman and would soon become the featured saxophonist with jazz bassist Charles Mingus’ band.
Bobby Lam was soon to move to New York City and even Brengle, who normally liked to stay in one place, would venture on the road with the Buddy Rich Orchestra.
Roy instead chose to spend most of his time in Louisville playing and teaching drums.
“I started raising a family when I was in my 20s. I had a wife and four children and I didn’t want to leave town on a permanent basis,” Roy said.
Despite his lack of wanderlust, Roy managed to become one of the city’s most respected musicians, playing for everyone from the Glenn Miller Band to the Louisville Orchestra and backing up stars like Bob Hope and Eartha Kitt, plus spending nine years as President of the Musicians Union, Local 11-637.
How did it all start?
“I was born in the inner-city around Shelby Park. When I was real young, my parents moved to the south end. From the time I was about three years old, I would always ask for a toy drum for Christmas,” Roy said.
“Finally when I was about six, they bought a real field drum at Durlauf’s music store. When I was nine, they got me into a drum and bugle choir. We wound up playing at the World’s Fair in New York City.”
When he entered the old Louisville Junior High School his drumming career took off. He played drums in the junior high school band but also was chosen to play with the Louisville Girl’s High School Orchestra, which was in the same building.
“It was a great experience for three years I got to play everyday with the band and the orchestra,” Roy said.
When he transferred to Manual High School, he got a scholarship to a summer band program at Eastern State University.
“Kids came from all over the country. We played music eight hours a day for five weeks during the summer, with about three concerts a week. That was a great experience for me,” Roy said.
When he was 17, Roy joined the Musicians Union and began substituting with the Louisville Orchestra and playing weekend jobs with dance bands. During the 1950s he worked industrial shows for big companies like Zenith Appliances and Ford.
“They would put together a musical show to enhance their product for the dealers, it’s something you don’t see that much today,” Roy said.
Roy was also a regular on local television for 15 years. He was the drummer in pianist Johnny Schrader’s band, which backed up performer’s on WHAS teenage variety “High Varieties.” Joining him in the band over the year’s was bassist Ralph Lampton, saxophonist and clarinetist Mel Owen and guitarist Gene Klingman.
Roy, who was divorced from his current wife, met his current wife, singer June Kelly on that show.
“She was 16 and I was about 32 at the time. Years later we met again and got together,” Roy said.
During the early 1970s, Roy played on the WAVE “Morning Show” with pianist Bob Millard and bassist Neil Burris. At about the same time, after years of teaching drums at Durlauf’s Music Store, Roy decided to open his own drum shop in St. Matthews. Some of Roy’s favorite drummers are his former students.
“Terry O’Mahoney is wonderful. I just had lunch with him the other day. He just finished a three-month touring show in Japan. I also taught Marvin Maxwell, Bruce Morrow and Mike Hyman.
Roy’s favorite drummer of all time was Buddy Rich.
“The first time I heard Rich I was eight or nine years old and he was 19 or 20. He was terrific then. I saw him again at least 20 times and he always seemed to get better,” Roy said.
During his years of playing Roy had to contend with some strange personalities.
“I once played with trombonist Buddy Morrow who was fronting the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra. He had a unique way of calling up tunes. He would call up one chart at a time and while you were playing it he would walk around the band an call the next chart. Everybody in the horn section had a little break to get up but the rhythm section didn’t. So, when we finished he’d kick off the next tune and we’d be scrambling. The first time I worked with him, I was sight reading the book and it was all new to me. But he wouldn’t waste time, you either got it up or had to wing it,” Roy said.
Another time, Roy played with the Glenn Miller Orchestra that was being led by drummer Ray McKinley. McKinley, who had played with the original Miller Orchestra, was only featuring himself a few times a night.
“When that happened, I’d get up off my drum set and he’d be the star. He told me when I started the job that he wouldn’t bother my drums but as the evening went on, he would keep lowering my cymbals or changing the angle on my toms toms until pretty soon I felt like I wasn’t working on my set. Finally I told him I didn’t want him to change anything so, he left it alone.
Since 1994 Roy has suffered a number of physical setbacks. That year he had an aneurysm of the aorta and in 1995 he under-went triple heart by-pass surgery. This spring he was operated on for cancer of the esophagus.
Despite these traumas, Roy continues to perform with the Ovation Orchestra, which features his wife June Kelly Roy as vocalist. He also leads a jazz quartet that regularly performs on Sunday nights at Bobby J’s nightclub. Like all of Roy’s bands it features some of the best musicians in town, which includes pianist Todd Hildreth, trumpeter Charlie Nieoff and saxophonist and flutist Dick Hiller.
A modest man, Roy calls himself not necessarily a jazz drummer, but instead a drummer who likes to play jazz.
“When students used to ask me what was the most important thing about playing drums, I’d tell them if you could get from beat two to three at the same distance that you got form beat one to two, you’d be a winner, because that’s called keeping good time,” Roy said.
“And no matter what rhythm you play on each beat, what style your playing, the evenness from beat to beat is the most important thing a drummer does. The licks that you play or the icing on the cake. But if you can’t put it together in a steady flowing manner, then you’re not a drummer, you’re just a person playing a set of drums,” Roy said.
After 40 years of teaching drums, what are Roy’s thoughts on the current state of the art.
“The printed material today is unbelievable. If a drummer wants to learn how to play rock, funk or jazz the instructional material is just endless. All they have to do is practice and listen and they can be proficient on their instrument,” Roy said.
Louisville Music News - September 1997
From the up-coming book “Derby City Jazz”
Wednesday, February 9, 2011
Laurel Fleury "The Goddess of Fire" doing her thing.
photo by Danny O'Bryan
"In 1889 Nietzsche suffered a breakdown. At first he raved, singing wildly,
banging on his piano, tearing off his clothes in the street. He wrote letters
to friends and the courts of Europe announcing that he was Dionysus and the
"Crucified." Gradually he withdrew, until near the end he was barely aware of
New York Times
(for a student)
A pocket full of Mozart
A tool box stuffed with
A man alive with learnin'
Wants to know all about
That guy named Plato
While hammering nails
All day straight and true
Radio tuned to classical or jazz
He reaches into his heavy coat
And retrieves a page of The Republic
To roll across his tongue
While adjusting a bathroom pipe or
Whispering Shakespeare sonnets
Composing love lines to his girl
A man alive with learnin'
With a pocket full of Mozart
And a tool box stuffed with Kant
Monday, February 7, 2011
The Louisville Jazz Society brought a giant of the tenor saxophone to Louisville last night for a concert at Downstairs at Actors, in fact, saxophonist Johnny Griffin is known as the “Little Giant” to his many fans all over the world.
Griffin, 58, was born in Chicago and is a graduate of Dusable High School, the same school that produced singer Nat King Cole, saxophonist Gene Ammons, and trombonist Benny Green, among others.
His first major job was with Lionel Hampton’s band in the forties. He later went on to play and record with a virtual pantheon of jazz that included pianists Bud Powell and Thelonious Monk and drummers Art Blakey and Max Roach.
In 1963 he left the United States for Europe and didn’t return until 1978. He still lives in Paris, visiting the U. S. only for concert tours.
Last night’s near capacity audience was treated to one of Griffin’s rare American appearances. It’s a concert few of them will ever forget.
After he was announced by WFPL-FM’s “Jazz Tonight” host Gerry Weston, Griffin gingerly walked on the stage to join his rhythm section: pianist Harry Pickins, bassist Curtis Lundy, and drummer Kenny Washington. He exchanged a couple of tuning notes with Pickins and then went head first into an up tempo number he later called, appropriately for the season, “The Hay Fever Blues.”
Griffin is one of the fastest tenor men on the scene today. But a lot of thought also goes into his playing. As jazz critic Nat Hentoff once said, “Griffin thinks as swiftly as he swings.”
During the first set last night Griffin interpolated humorous quotes from a number of songs like “Pop-eye the Sailor Man,” and “Santa Claus is Coming to Town,” into his solos.
Before playing “If I Should Lose You,” Griffin announced he was going to play a nice ballad with a businessman’s bounce. The bounce turned into a ball of fire as he raced through the song’s changes. Bassist Lundy also turned in a fine solo on this tune, wrapping his tall, thin frame around the large acoustic instrument.
In an interview before the concert, Griffin said that of all the musicians he’d played with, his favorite was Thelonious Monk.
He showed his allegiance to Monk during the second set when he played “I Mean You.” Griffin, a master of dynamics, used the song to showcase all the different sounds he can coax from his horn. A very “vocal” player, Griffin regularly moved from a soft, breathy whisper of a tone to a loud honk.
Griffin also saluted another jazz legend last night. Billie Holiday or “the lady from Baltimore,” as Griffin called her, was remembered during Griffin’s emotional rendering of “Lover Man.” Pianist Pickins also contributed a moving solo on this song.
The Louisville Times
From the up-coming book “Derby City Jazz.”
Sunday, February 6, 2011
Anna Mae Pilgrim recalls the days when her all-girl orchestra made history
Anna Mae Pilgrim is a 69-year old west Louisville widow whose life today is not much different from other devout women her age. She is a Jehovah’s Witness.
But during the 1940s and early ‘50s, Pilgrim, whose stage name was Anna Mae Winburn, led one of the most popular all-female orchestras in the United States - the International Sweethearts of Rhythm.
Pilgrim, an elegant and articulate lady who was described in a ‘50s music program as being “a slender mite of a woman, equally popular for her Oriental-like beauty as for her talent as a bandleader,” talked recently about her early years in jazz.
“My maiden name was Darden, I was born in Port Royal, Tenn., in 1914, but I was raised in Kokomo, Ind. I came from a large family of 10, and my mother died when I was in my teens. I married a young basketball player named Charles Winburn when I was 15, but it didn’t last.
“I hadn’t finished high school, so I wasn’t equipped to do office work. But I thought I had a little talent, everyone in my family played guitar and sang.
This background prompted young Anna Mae to enter a talent contest at the Isis Theater in Kokomo singing the old Ethel Waters song “Lovey Joe” and as she put it, “amusing myself on guitar.”
The Hoosier Hotshots won the contest, but Anna Mae came in second, causing her to get a job with a white band over radio station WOW in Fort Wayne, Ind.
Soon afterward, she hired a manager who arranged an impromptu audition with the Duke Ellington Orchestra.
“Ellington’s girl singer, Ivie Anderson had hurt herself, and he needed a replacement. My manager was as young as I was and didn’t know anything about the business, but he got the audition for me anyway. It was at a music store in Dayton, Ohio, and Ellington accompanied me on piano. But when it was time for me to sing. I froze and couldn’t get my mouth to open,” she said, adding “I failed the audition.”
Stage fright didn’t stop her, however and she continued to pursue her budding career, fronting several large bands in the Midwest. She was leading Lloyd Hunter’s Serenaders in Omaha when WWII began.
“When the war started, most of my musicians were drafted out of the orchestra, and I needed another band. So, my manager located one for me in Oklahoma City.”
This band that was later billed as “Anna Mae Winburn and her Cotton Boys,” was made up of what remained of the original Kansas City Blue Devils. It had in its ranks some of the finest jazz musicians in the Midwest, including the legendary guitarist Charlie Christian.
“We were a tremendous hit packing in crowds everywhere until one night in Minneapolis, Minn., when jazz producer and entrepreneur John Hammond came through town with Tommy Dorsey’s orchestra. They were playing a benefit, and some of my musicians asked me if they could sit in and show them what they could do. I told them they could as long as they didn’t disrupt the dance,” she said.
When Anna Mae’s band members, who included not only Christian but tenor saxophonist Henry Bridges, sat in with Dorsey’s band, Hammond was so impressed he hired them all on the spot and took them back to New York City. Later, Hammond would place Christian with Benny Goodman’s band, making jazz history.
But with many of her musicians gone and jobs getting harder to come by, Anna Mae was starting to get discouraged. It was then that the owner of the Dreamland Ballroom in Omaha asked her to listen to an all-girl orchestra he had working for him.
“They were 18 teen-age girls from the Piney Woods Country Life School in Piney Woods, Miss., and they called themselves the International Sweethearts of Rhythm.”
The Sweethearts were originally organized to raise money for the school, which had been funded by Lawrence Clifton Jones in 1910 for indigent black and racially mixed children. But because a few of their members had been refused graduation, they ran away and turned professional. They needed someone to lead the band, and Anna Mae agreed to take the job.
“When I first saw those girls, I was really amazed. They were very young and composed of many different races and nationalities. Some of them were mullatoes, others were part Italian or Chinese. When they came on stage in their colorful gowns, they looked like a beautiful bouquet of mixed flowers,” she recalled.
After Anna Mae took over the Sweethearts, they moved to Arlington, Va., purchased a 10-room house, set up a corporation to support themselves and began to rehearse for the first time.
“We hired some professional arrangers to write for the band. One of them was Eddie Durham, who also worked for Count Basie, Glenn Miller, and Jimmie Lunsford. He wrote ‘I Don’t Want to Set the World on Fire’ and a couple of other hit songs.”
But despite the box office appeal of her beautiful mixed bouquet, very few white people were aware of the International Sweethearts of Rhythm, Anna Mae said.
“We mostly played black circuits like the Paradise Theater in Baltimore, Md., and the Howard Theater in Washington, D.C.”
The Sweethearts did appear often in Louisville during the ‘40s and ‘50s at the Lyric Theater on Walnut Street and the National Theater at Fifth and Walnut streets. They were one of the last acts to appear at the National before it was torn down in 1951.
But then as now, a band had to be booked in New York City in order to be a big hit. And in 1941 the Sweethearts got their chance at the Apollo Theater in Harlem.
“We were a big hit at the Apollo and New York City is where I first met Leonard Feather, the now famous jazz critic who was just getting started in the business. We hired him as our agent,” she said.
Feather wrote a song for the Sweethearts called the “Blow Top Blues” which they recorded with Anna Mae doing the vocal.
“It was never pushed very hard by the record company, but Lionel Hampton later recorded it with Dinah Washington, and it became a big hit,” she said.
Even without a hit of their own, however, Anna Mae Winburn and her International Sweethearts of Rhythm crossed paths with some of the greatest names in jazz.
“The great tenor saxophonist Ben Webster would often come and sit in with our band. And Louis Armstrong loved our group and would play trumpet with us whenever he could, just to give the girls a lift.”
Once at the Howard Theater in Washington, D.C., Anna Mae helped a worry-torn Billie Holiday after a severe auto accident.
“Billie had come down from New York to appear at the Brown Derby. She wrecked her car on the way and it caught fire, destroying all her gowns. Her manager asked me if Billie could borrow some of my parachute silk for her costume. I always carried the silk to make turbans. I gave her what I had and she made the first night at the Brown Derby, but she couldn’t finish the week. She was very sick at the time,” Anna Mae said.
In 1945 the Sweethearts traveled to Europe for what turned out to be a highly successful USO tour.
“There were 2,500 soldiers in the lower decks of the ship on the way over. All the entertainers were housed on the upper decks. Our troupe was made up of Radio City Music Hall Rockettes, the cast from the Fred Allen (radio) show, actors from the play “Arsenic and Old Lace,” the Shep Fields Orchestra and the Sweethearts.”
When the captain found out he had two bands aboard, he asked the musicians if they would play for a dance in the ship’s ballroom. Shep Field’s and his orchestra played first and the Sweethearts followed.
“I’ll never forget it,” Anna Mae said, “We started playing our theme song, ’Fascination’ and Pauline Williams our drummer, gave us a big fanfare on the drums. After the overture I turned to the crowd and said, ’Ladies and Gentleman, let me introduce you to the International Sweethearts of Rhythm.”
“The audience went wild and we really upset the ship before it was over. All the musicians from Shep Fields’ Orchestra came over and told us, “We had no idea girls could play jazz like that.”
It was an opinion she had to contend with many times over the years. And when it wasn’t sexual discrimination in the Sweethearts way, it was racial discrimination.
“Once in Alabama our band was eating in a colored restaurant and a policeman came in and walked over to our bus driver, who was white and asked him, “Why are you eating in a colored restaurant? Don’t you know it’s against the law? Our driver said, ’I’m working for these ladies,’ but they put him in jail anyway, and it cost $90 to get him out. We had to endure a lot of incidents like that on the road,” she said.
The world was not eager to admit that women could play jazz, either, she said.
We never got the recognition we deserved. Men would say, “Oh they’re a bunch of cute girls, but they can’t really play.” They were wrong I’d put some of those girls up against any man. People are now just realizing how good those girls were.”
In the ’50s, Anna Mae gave up jazz, she married her manager, the late Duke Pilgrim and disbanded the last of her Sweethearts units so she could devote more time to her family. Today she has four children and seven grandchildren.
But her place in music didn’t go totally unnoticed, because in 1980 she and her surviving Sweethearts were honored during a special program at the Women’s Jazz Festival in Kansas City, Mo. She even received a telegram from President Jimmy Carter thanking her for her contributions to jazz.
And last year, a new book entitled “American Women in Jazz” (by Sally Placksin) examined the Sweethearts role and importance in jazz.
Today, Anna Mae doesn’t flinch remembering her past. She said she doesn’t regret a single minute she spent in music.
“The International Sweethearts of Rhythm were way ahead of their time, and they did a lot to break down racial and sexual prejudice in this country,” she said.
“We were a close knit family of 18 girls who helped bring people together through the International language of jazz.”
Louisville Times SCENE magazine
October 22, 1983
From the up-coming book “Derby City Jazz.”
Friday, February 4, 2011
Trumpeter Maynard Ferguson and his band blew the lid right off nostalgia during their concert last night in Whitney Hall at the Kentucky Center for the Arts. The concert was part of the Hilliard Lyons Big Band Series, but anyone who came expecting to hear the sweet innocuous sounds of yesteryear must have been sorely disappointed.
If the big bands ever do come back it will be because of musicians like Ferguson and his crew who refuse to wallow in the past and instead play the best contemporary jazz, funk, and fusion around.
Last night’s large audience was the youngest I’ve ever seen attending a Big Band Series Concert. Many in attendance were music students and music educators out to see the high note master do his stuff.
And Ferguson didn’t disappoint anybody. I’ve seen this band, and different versions of it, at least five times in recent years and I’ve never heard them play any better than they did last night.
Ferguson’s latest 10-piece aggregation - he’s dropped a couple of horns and added a guitarist and multi-percussionist - is one of the biggest small bands around. The concert began with “South 21st Shuffle,” the band’s theme, featuring a solo by guitarist Michael Higgins.
During the next song, the Latin “Expresso” alto and soprano saxophonist Tim Ries was featured on a solo in which he played both horns at the same time a la Roland Kirk. It’s a trick I’ve seen him perform in concert here before but it never ceases to amaze.
Throughout the first part of the concert Ferguson dressed in a gray jump suit, minced around the stage like a trumpet playing Liberace, occasionally adding ear piercing high notes to the ensemble and directing the band.
Whenever he soloed he gave the impression that he was going to explode before the last note sounded. When he finished he’d tear the trumpet from his mouth, shake his head of curly gray hair, and raise his arms in victory.
But there is more than hyperbole to this 52-year old Canadian who got his first break with the Stan Kenton Orchestra during the 1950s. Besides being an astounding trumpet player with the endurance of a bull, Ferguson is a humble artist who delights in showcasing his musicians, all of whom look young enough to be his grandchildren.
If bandleader Kay Kaiser had a “College of Musical Knowledge” Ferguson must have the graduate school. Virtually all of his musicians are music school graduates.
The second half of the concert opened with a duet between drummer Dave Miller and multi-percussionist Steve Fisher. Fisher plays a huge array of exotic percussion instruments that are almost as visually interesting as they are aurally. The solo ended with a dazzling display that had both men using lighted drum sticks.
During “Hey Jude,” which featured a medley of Ferguson’s greatest hits, several of the horn players went out into the audience while Ferguson and the rest of the band remained on stage building the tension. And before the song ended, the band engaged in a little free form cacophony that had them chasing each other both literally and figuratively all over the stage.
For an encore, Ferguson and his band played a dynamite arrangement of pianist Joe Zawinul’s “Birdland.”
October 30, 1985
from the up-coming book "Derby City Jazz"
Wednesday, February 2, 2011
Frog Man in Frankfort
photo by Danny O'Bryan
Saturday I went to Bobby J’s, another strange fellow at the bar. He looks at me and says, “You’re a very unusual looking man. You look like Sean Connery.”
Then he proceeds to buy me drinks, all night long. He was sitting with an English woman and was hitting on every woman in the bar. “I really hate women. You know, all these women in here are married. Their husbands don’t like anything about them. They don’t like the way they smell. They don’t like their pussies or their tits,” he said.
He was a short fellow with a slight build and very comical looking. “I’ll play their game and make over them while their husbands sit at home jacking off to porno. Funny when I’m talking to you, I feel like I’m talking to a woman.”
At one point he’s standing rather close to me at the bar and I could feel his penis against my leg but I ignored it and it didn’t go any farther.
I finally sat down next to the English woman he’d been sitting with. “He’s crazy, he really scares me. You look like a hair dresser I know. You’ve got the same hair style,” she says.
Meanwhile the crazy guy is dancing with every woman in the place, he’s totally rabid.
Finally he says to me, “You’re a really nice looking guy, why aren’t you hitting on any of the women?
I tell him, I’m married to a powerful attorney and music is my mistress and that’s the reason I’m in this bar listening to his madness and watching all these poor souls hopelessly trying to make a connection.
Meanwhile the black alto player is blowing his soul out on stage and I’m in heaven.
But the crazy guy won’t give up. “Doesn’t something really piss you off, I mean, look at Yugoslavia, all the refuges!”
April 12, 1999
Sunday, January 30, 2011
When Count Basie and his Orchestra last appeared in the Louisville area Dec. 6, 1983 at the Derby Dinner Playhouse in Clarksville, the great bandleader told me during an interview he was thinking of breaking his band up the following April.
“I think I’m going to wrap things up and spend a little time with my daughter in the Bahamas,” he said.
Basie’s words turned out to be cruelly ironic. He died of cancer in April 1984. But the explosive sound of his mighty orchestra continues to live on. During a concert last night at Whitney Hall in the Kentucky Center for the Arts, the current edition of the Count Basie Orchestra proved beyond a doubt that Basie’s unique style of big band jazz will never die.
The Basie band hasn’t actually changed much since losing its leader. Tenor saxophonist and flutist Eric Dixon, who now directs the band when he’s not soloing, has been with the orchestra for 17 years. Ditto trumpeter and manager Sonny Cohn, and guitarist Freddie Green, the patriarch of the band first joined Basie in 1937.
They opened last night’s concert, which was part of the Hilliard Lyons Big Band Series with “Strike Up the Band,” a tune that has been part of the band’s book for a decade or more. This traditional big band flag waver featured tenor saxophonist Kenny Hing playing several frenetic choruses while the brass section roared behind him.
Next, the mood turned mellow as alto saxophonist Danny Turner, another Basie veteran, came up front to play the ballad “Easy Living.” He started off at a slow tempo, later switched to double time, then ended with a cadenza that showed off his technique with a flourish of well chosen notes.
Basie’s replacement in the band is pianist Tee Carson. Carson is hardly a newcomer. He started his career in 1946 as an accompanist for Ethel Waters. Over the years he’s played piano for everyone from Billie Holiday to Ella Fitzgerald. Carson fills Basie’s role with impeccable style, using dynamics and special chord voicing’s in all the right places.
The Basie Orchestra has always been famous for its ability to move from a whisper to a roar. Last night, pianist Carson and the band’s rhythm section - bassist Cleveland Eaton, guitarist Green and drummer Duffy Jackson - began playing “It’s Only a Paper Moon” in a light, soft, swinging style. At just the right juncture, the entire brass section added an ear-piercing exclamation point that lifted some members of the near capacity audience right out of their seats. They did this several times and each time Carson feigned surprise by covering his ears.
The Basie Orchestra is also well known for all the great jazz arrangers it has employed over the years. Last night’s concert was filled with songs from the pens of Sammy Nestico, Ernie Wilkins and Frank Foster. During Foster’s “Good Time Blues,” an arrangement salvaged from the Basie band of the ‘60s bassist Eaton bowled the audience over with a masterful solo.
Guitarist Green got a lot of attention during the performance. At one point Hilliard Lyons president Gilbert Pamplin presented him with a large box containing a gift and thanked him for his 47 years with the Basie band.
During the second half of the concert, the band featured vocalist Carmen Bradford. Bradford was with Basie when he appeared here a little over a year ago, but she has improved a lot since then. She began her set with an up-tempo version of “A Foggy Day in London Town.” She handled the song smoothly and seemed quite at ease.
Bradford then showed everyone she also knows how to sing the blues. After taunting the crowd with some humorous blues lyrics, she launched into a powerful version of “Gee Baby, Ain’t I Good To You.”
As I mentioned earlier, the Count Basie Orchestra hasn’t changed much at all. Last night after playing their theme song “One O’Clock Jump” and receiving a standing ovation, they closed the show with same all-stops-out encore they’ve been using for years, “Woodchoppers Ball.”
The Louisville Times
January 23, 1985
Saturday, January 29, 2011
Gail Wynters sings with guitarist Greg Walker in 2006.
photo by Danny O'Bryan
A Jazz Legend Finally Recognized
She lived and performed in New York City for 20 years at some of the most prestigious concert venues on the planet, including Carnegie Hall, the Village Vanguard, and the Village Gate.
She shared the stage and recorded with jazz horn players like James Moody, Jon Faddis, Al Grey and Clark Terry, plus a monster roster of pianists like Adam Makovich, Roger Kellaway and Fred Hersch. The list goes on and on.
Singer Peggy Lee gave her three of her gowns. Jazz great Annie Ross listed her as one of her favorite singers in Leonard Feather and Ira Gitler’s Biographical - Encyclopedia of Jazz.
She was lauded in the New York Times by famed jazz critic John S. Wilson on many occasions.
No, I’m not talking about Ella, Carmen, Sarah, Helen Humes or Rosemary Clooney. They are all dead. I’m speaking of Gail Wynters, who is very much alive, though sometimes terribly ignored in Derby City.
But last night she got a chance to prove her mettle. Backed by pianist Chuck Marohnic’s superb trio consisting of bassist Chris Fitzgerald and drummer Jason Tienamen, Wynters tore through two sets of hand picked standards plus a tribute to Billie Holiday, one of her mentors, in a stellar performance at Louisville’s Jazz Factory.
Starting off with “My Secret Love,” a song she claimed she had never sung before, and wearing an ersatz gardenia in Lady Day’s honor, Wynter’s turned the Jazz Factory into a first rate New York City cabaret.
When she sang Peggy Lee’s “I Love Being Here With You,” you could tell it was no lie. Gail Wynters lives and loves to sing.
During the show she prefaced each song with witty stories about her life and philosophy. The daughter of an Ashland, Kentucky minister, Wynters hasn’t forgotten how to preach to the congregation, which last night consisted of music lovers.
And everyone present got their money’s worth. As the great jazz bassist Lynn Seaton once told me, “There are singers and there are “singers,” Gail Wynter’s is a Singer!
The control and rapport Wynters has with other musicians, and she is definitely a musician, is marvelous to watch. As one local drummer recently said, “You can’t lose this woman!”
It is hard to believe that an artist of this caliber has lived in Louisville for over six years with so little recognition. The late saxophonist Gordon Brisker, who worked for a time as jazz legend Anita O’Day’s musical director, once told me he preferred Wynter’s singing to O’Day’s.
Maybe last night’s feature gig at the Jazz Factory will be the beginning of a new kind of local recognition for one of the world’s greatest jazz singers, one who is still alive and just happens to be from Kentucky.
By Danny O’Bryan
From the up-coming book “Derby City Jazz.”
Wednesday, January 26, 2011
from the up-coming book "Derby City Jazz."
D. O. Welcome to Louisville, Ky Woody.
W. H. Thank you.
D. O. Jazz like everything else is in constant flux. What direction do you see the music going in 1978?
W. H. Well, I think we’re in a very healthy period and I’m pleased about it.
The fact is, there are a lot of youngsters involved in jazz today. Listening to it and participating in it by being members of stage band in high schools and lab bands in colleges. There is probably more interest in jazz today among young people than there ever was, in all the years I’ve been around. So, I feel there is a very good future particularly for big band jazz. Because we’ve got thousands upon thousands of kids involved.
When you think of 15 to 18 players in a high school stage band and we have in the neighborhood of 40 or 45 thousand of these bands in this country alone. And that’s not counting the college bands. It’s a good healthy scene. And of course there is a great deal of interest in Europe and Asia, actually jazz has always been more popular there than here at home.
D. O. You mentioned in an article in Downbeat magazine in 1976 that in a very short while there will be a new sophisticated audience for jazz.
W. H. I think they are here now. I really do. I think that all these young people that are involved in music and studying and learning is making up the most musically educated audience we’ve ever had in the history of American pop music. When I was a young man, a song was good if you could hum it by the second time and that was good enough. In unadulterated rock music they still depend on simplicity. Simplicity can be a real asset but it also can lead to a great deal of monotony.
D.O. Do you think that’s true even though the commercial radio stations are still playing disco and plastic music?
W. H. Yes, but radio has been doing this for years. We’ve had a top 40 for ever. And most of the kids in the stage bands would never have heard about jazz if they weren’t participating in it. But I think we are on the brink of a big change. I hope so and I pray for it every night.
D. O. What do you think will happen to the Big Bands after all the main leaders like yourself are dead?
W. H. Well, I think some of the most important band leaders right now are not as ancient as I am or Count Basie. I think Buddy Rich has quite a few good years left. And I feel the same about Maynard Ferguson. I’m hoping there will be a whole new era of new bands made up of young people.
D.O. What do you think of the Toshiko Akiyoshi Big Band, which is one of the first big bands written for and led by a woman?
W. H. No, that’s not really true; well I guess it’s true to some degree. But women have been involved in big bands and playing in big band since year one. I think Toshiko is doing some very interesting music but I don’t think it’s something that will go on to great heights. It’s really a glorified rehearsal band. And I’m proud that it’s around. But I just don’t think that it’s strong enough in its music.
D. O. Why don’t they work more steadily?
W. H. They depend on studio players. They use players from San Francisco and Los Angelus. Those people will not go on the road. They feel that’s it’s beneath their dignity or something. You have to start from scratch and build bands. Bands of that particular ilk include bands like the Thad Jones and Mel Lewis Jazz Orchestra, which is another glorified rehearsal band. The only time you hear about is when they are in New York playing Monday nights at the Village Vanguard. That’s when all the all-stars that are in town jump in there and have a happiness night. (laughter) And when you see that band somewhere else in the world it’s a whole other group of people, because the New Yorkers won’t leave.
I can’t put much faith in these kinds of groupings. That’s why the people I mention or the people who work constantly, Buddy Rich, Maynard Ferguson, Stan Kenton, Count Basie, my band and so on.
D.O. Do you think that one day it will be economically impossible to travel with a big band?
Danny O’Bryan interviews Woody Herman
Local 11 “Musicians Ball” April 23, 1978
W. H. It has been for many years. (laughter) But those of us who are struggling continue to do it. The last years that Duke Ellington had a band he financed it partially with his tremendous earnings from ASCAP. The Author’s and Composer’s Society of which he was a triple A member. So, he made a great deal of money each year, which he re-invested in the band in order to keep it going.
D. O. Is it hard to find out-standing soloists like Sal Nistico and Bill Chase to travel with the band?
W. H. It’s always difficult to find the right ones and then watch them develop and then they get to one of their peak periods. That’s usually when they make a move. It’s for many reasons. They want to try other things. Other yards look greener.
D. O. I asked Count Basie two weeks ago when he was here if Eddie “Lockjaw” Davis would ever be back in his band. And he said “Oh no,”
He thought his band was too restrictive for a top soloist like that.
W. H. I don’t know I never thought of it that way. There are some players who like to be more inventive and have more blowing time and they should be in a small group. There is no reason for them to be in a big band. But most of my players leave because they get tired of the road and want to stay in once place for a while.
D. O. John Hammond in his recent biography said that a lot of the young players today have great techniques but don’t know how to swing.
W. H. We all have a different concept of what is and isn’t swing. It’s pretty hard to make a statement like that and make it stick. There are some outstanding young players and there are a lot of great technicians who are not outstanding players so, you can’t mix one with the other really. I’ve had some marvelous soloists in the last few years and they are certainly all very young.
Even in this current group I have a trombonist who I think is really outstanding, a young man by the name of Bruce Johnson and my rhythm section I’m very pleased with and they are all extremely young guys and they are blossoming.
D. O. Do you think that since jazz is experiencing a renaissance today that the media will start to loosen up a bit.
W. H. I think that’s what everybody is hoping for. We try to make them aware of what’s going on but it’s a real tough nut to crack because unfortunately for the last many years the most creative people have been delegated to the outside of the business. The people in the media today are dollar sign people. They are only interested in bread. I guess there is nothing wrong with that either but I still think they should hire people who are capable instead of trying to do themselves.
There was a very interesting thing on “60 Minutes” on CBS. It was on the Disco business. The question was do you think this is an American fad. Once again it’s the monotony of it. If you keep a steady beat to the point of stopping, it will stop. I don’t think that’s conducive to creative thinking, composing or finding a direction. The whole purpose of it is to make dollars. It’s about bucks.
D. O. Money ruins everything it touches.
W. H. When it gets to the point that it’s that obvious, our whole system it’s typical of the age we’re living in. That’s because most kids today whether they are interested in music or not, are definitely interested in how to become Super Stars, because that’s how you get all the bread and how you become very important to your peers. There’s very little thought on how to learn to do something very, very well and become a perfectionist so, sometimes I think we are being mis-guided, all of us.
D. O. Do you think that despite this there is hope?
W. H. Yes, I do and I think the music educators should be commended because they are doing the greatest service that could be done for American popular music.
D. O. Do you think music reflects the mood of the time?
W. H. Sure, definitely we had a long period of heavy Acid Rock. Now there is a lot of cross-over music but usually it’s crossed over to try and get some dollars once again. But I’ve lived with the very old philosophy, “money is only important when you don’t have any.” Then it becomes terribly important. Not too many people think of it that way.
D. O. Besides that it’s relative. When you have a little bit, you spend a little bit. When you have a lot you spend a lot.
What do you think of electronic music?
W. H. It’s almost like anything else, if it enhances the performance by adding it. Then it’s doing a service. But if it’s just used to get people excited in hurry, then it’s not very important.
D. O. I want to thank you personally for the great contributions you’ve made to jazz. You’ve been a patriarch of jazz.
W. H. Well, I’m old. (laughter)
D. O. You’ve given us people like Stan Getz, Flip Phillips and Bill Chase.
W. H. I have a great full career and a good life with it. It’s a hard existence and as you get older it gets harder. But basically if I had to do it all over again, I’d probably do it pretty much the same, because I enjoy the music very much. All the other hassles I don’t. Music I truly enjoy.
D. O. Music is constantly changing but the main thing is to keep the quality up.
W. H. Stravinsky said it best “There are only two kinds of music, good and bad.”
D. O. Here in Louisville the Louisville Orchestra has been doing a lot of work with jazz performers. Sarah Vaughn was here recently and Buddy Rich performed with the orchestra. But a lot of the critics seemed to think the mix didn’t work.
W. H. I don’t know how they were presented but I’ve made quite a few different attempts at working with classical orchestras and I think they were reasonably successful. I don’t think we did anything earth shattering. For instance I had an album called “The Children of Lima” that we did with the Houston Symphony and I’m very proud of it, a good performance by both the orchestra and the band. And I think it was a reasonable wedding.
D. O. You mentioned early in the night that you had a new album out.
W. H. Yes, it’s called “Road Father.” It’s our first direct to disc album. It’s just been out a few weeks and it’s doing very well.
Tuesday, January 25, 2011
One of band leader Lionel Hampton’s biggest hits was a song called “Flying Home.”
This week Hampton flew home to Louisville, where he was born 72 years ago, to receive an honorary doctorate from Bellermine College and to play a concert with his orchestra in Whitney Hall at the Kentucky Center for the Arts.
During last night’s concert Hampton cruised the stage, smiling, during his orchestra’s first song, an up-tempo blues. Then he began playing his vibraphone, improvising, even throwing in a quote from “My Old Kentucky Home,” while his band’s brass section blew some loud high-note blasts behind him.
Next, Hampton was off chasing “Sweet Georgia Brown,” while the rhythm section smoked in the background.
Prancing up to the microphone, he sang the lyrics of the old song, and even added a few choruses of scat singing.
The orchestra’s next tune, “Jeanine,” was more modern in style, and featured several outstanding solos by orchestra members on tenor and baritone saxophones, trumpet and trombone.
Throughout it all, Hamp stood behind the vibes, smiling and swaying back and forth to the music.
After singing a medley of songs that included “Basin Street,” and “The Birth of the Blues,” Hampton and his orchestra were off again on a more modern tangent, tipping their hats to Miles Davis with a spirited version of “Four.”
Hampton’s first ballad of the night was Duke Ellington’s “Prelude to a Kiss.” He followed that up with one of his own compositions, “Midnight Sun.”
The second half of the concert opened with the orchestra running through the changes of the old bebop tune “Good Bait.”
After a rousing version of “It’s You or No One,” Hampton mentioned that February is Black History month, and honored the occasion by having baritone saxophonist Dave Schumacher play a beautiful rendition of Duke Ellington’s “Sophisticated Lady.” It drew loud applause from the large audience at the concert, which was part of the Hillard Lyons Big Band Series.
Singer Lisa Cable was introduced next. She sang her way through “Blues in the Night” and “Don’t Get Around Much Anymore,” but did little to make either song memorable.
And of course, what would an evening with Lionel Hampton be without the old flag-waver, “Flying Home?” He did the whole Milt Buckner arrangement last night, complete with dueling tenor saxophones.
Then he took the audience all the way home with “Hamp’s Boogie Woogie.”
The Louisville Times
February 26, 1986
From the up-coming book “Derby City Jazz.”
Monday, January 24, 2011
Jazz drummer Buddy Rich and his Orchestra have played concerts in a lot of different settings in Louisville over the years. Once on the Belvedere, once at the Kentucky Center for the Arts, and most recently last spring at Bellermine College’s Frazier Hall.
But Rich’s first show last night at t he Seville Diner & Pub, 2246 Bardstown Road was like the old college prank of discovering how many six foot freshman can fit into a phone booth.
The 68-year old master percussionist and his entire 15 piece orchestra were crammed together on a stage barely large enough for a quartet. To make matters worse, half the horn section wound up blowing high notes into a kitchen wall because of the stage’s location in a far corner of the diner.
Oddly enough, the acoustics weren’t all that bad. And although one of the bartenders turned on a drink blender just as the band started playing its first song of the evening “You Gotta Try,” it looked for a while as if Rich and his band were going to put on a show no matter how uncomfortable they were.
After the first song, which featured a good solo by tenor saxophonist Steve Marcus, Rich, who was casually dressed in a yellow sweater, paused for a moment, shrugged his shoulders, and said, “Well it’s different.”
Two more swinging arrangements followed with Rich leading the way and shouting encouragement to his band members.
Next, tenor saxophonist Marcus, who has been with Rich’s swinging machine for 11 years, was featured on Thelonius Monk’s classic “Round Midnight.” He took the song through a couple of interesting tempo changes and ended with a long and imaginative cadenza.
Pianist Barry Kiener and bassist Mike Boone were featured with Rich on a trio version of “Just in Time.” Rich put down his drum sticks and switched to brushes on this one. And he and Kiener traded fours before the song ended.
Bill Cunliff’s interesting modern arrangement of Duke Ellington’s “Rockin’ ‘n Rhythm” followed. It featured a wonderful soprano saxophone solo by Marcus. The rest of the band backed him up with various percussion instruments and Rich provided a wild jungle beat on the drums.
Things were just starting to loosen up when Rich jumped up from his drum kit walked over to the microphone and announced a 20-minute intermission. But not before he did a little of his stand-up comedy routine, adding a few things like, “This is really strange” and “We don’t work for many walls.”
Returning a few minutes later, Rich told the crowd that he was mistaken and that the intermission would last for an hour. That meant it was the end of the first show and the room had to be cleared for the second performance at 9:30 p.m.
Mark Smith, part owner of the Seville, said that he was hoping that Rich would do at least an hour for each show but his contract allowed him to stop after 45 minutes.
Tickets for last night’s concerts at the Seville cost $20 and $25. That’s pretty expensive entertainment when you consider that during the first show, Rich’s orchestra was on stage for 45 minutes and played only seven songs.
The Louisville Times, January 16, 1986
From the up-coming book Derby City Jazz