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Volume 17 Issue 9 - June 2012

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they dance.” So writes

they dance.” So writes Gary Griffin in his notes for Stratford’s productionof 42nd Street . “There’s a real desperation behind [the characters’]dance; they need to get a job in order to survive.” Indeed, themood of the Great Depression gives the whole production an ironic,if not bitter, edge. When rehearsing “Pretty Lady,” the show they areabout to open, the chorus dresses in various shades of brown. For theshow itself, they switch to costumes of black, silver and gold —flashingmore lamé and glitter than I would have thought possible outsideLas Vegas. Literally dancing on coins in the number We’re in theMoney, their tap routines become increasingly frenetic, a performanceof urgency in which the sound of synchronized shoes is nervewrackinglyloud. While the effect highlights the dancers’ polish andprecision, it also demystifies the genre: this is an exercise in showbusiness, with tap-dancing its tendentious technology.Griffin calls 42nd Street a “noisy” musical, one that has “a certainbrash energy that befits its subject matter.” Alex Sanchez, choreographerfor the show, explains, “Gary and I were also interested inmaking it a sexier and grittier production, much like the film.” Hisbiggest concern was the floor of the Festival Theatre which “afterthe show, is taken apart and replaced by the floor for the next production.I didn’t know what to expect as far as the kind of materialthey used and how the taps would sound. The staff and crew of theFestival …created a great sounding deck aided by floor microphones.”Microphones also are on view in the orchestra loft that Griffinhas integrated into the set design. “I wanted the audience to see andfeel the presence of the musicians,” he explains; “it was importantto me to put the musicians into the world of the play.” MichaelBarber, musical director for the show, agrees with the decision: “Ithink it adds an excitement to the show not felt when the band ishidden from view. It’s also important because people see the musiciansplay —it reminds them that there is a live band — and that’s whatit takes to make a show sound great.” The orchestrations by PhilipLang, written for the 1980 version, are reminiscent of the 1930s, hesuggests, but “reimagined through the lens of 1980s Broadway. Theeffect is more glamorous and showy than trying to go period …”For all its glitz and glamour, this production of 42nd Street ismemorable more for its dancing than anything else. Peppered withpopular standards like Lullaby of Broadway, Shuffle off to Buffaloand the eponymous 42nd Street, the score is as familiar as thenarrative is known. What feels contemporary, even as it remainstraditional, is the sight and sound of tap dancers filling the FestivalStage …and the reasons for their deployment.Based in Toronto, Robert Wallace writes abouttheatre and performance. He can be contactedat by Beat | Jazz NotesPlanes,Trainsand AutomobilesJim GALLowayLast month i wrote about three cities, New Orleans, Vienna andLondon. This month I’ll add two more, Norwich in England andOdessa, Texas, as different as chalk and cheese except for onething they have in common: a Jazz Party.Around the 5th century, Anglo Saxons had a settlement on thesite of present-day Norwich. By the 11th century, Norwich was thelargest city in England after London. This year it was announced thatNorwich would become England’s first UNESCO City of Literature.It is also home to the Norwich Jazz Party which was held on the firstweekend of May and featured a line-up of prominent mainstreamjazz musicians, including Harry Allen, Houston Person, BuckyPizzarelli, Rossano Sportiello and Warren Vaché.One of the welcome aspects of the jazz party is that musicians canmake suggestions about what they would like to do. For example,Alan Barnes, a wonderful British reed player, presented a set ofEllington compositions arranged for 14 musicians; Ken Peplowskigave us a program of Benny Carter’s music, arranged for four reedsand rhythm; trumpeter Enrico Tomasso organised a tribute to BillyButterfield; and I acknowledged the music of a lesser-known trumpeter,Al Fairweather, with a set of his original compositions. All ofthat plus the usual casual jam sessions made for a very special threedays of jazz.By contrast, Odessa, Texas was founded in 1881 as a water stopand cattle shipping point. Right beside it is Midland —with an airportseparating the two towns —originally founded as the midway pointbetween Fort Worth and El Paso on the Texas and Pacific Railroad in1881. The discovery of oil in the early 1920s transformed the area andOdessa was a boom town. Things turned sour when the price of oildidn’t justify keeping the rigs going and the area fell on hard times.But that has all changed with the price of oil now around 0 abarrel, bringing with it wealth and a major influx of workers. It hasalso brought with it a huge shortage of accommodation, so seriousthat there are even some workers making very good money butsleeping in their cars or trucks! No amount of money can pay forhousing that doesn’t exist.However, for some jazz musicians the raison d’etre for Odessa/26 June 1 – July 7, 2012

Midland is a Jazz Party. The First Annual Odessa Jazz Party was heldin 1967. Then in 1977 a group of Midland jazz enthusiasts formed theMidland Jazz Association and their Jazz Classic was born. In 1998 thetwo jazz parties merged under the umbrella of the West Texas JazzSociety and this year marks the 46th Annual Jazz Party. Held in May,it is now the longest-running jazz party in the United States andthis year featured among others —yes, Harry Allen, Houston Person,Bucky Pizzarelli, Rossano Sportiello and Warren Vaché, as well asyour resident scribe. Over the years they have presented a veritableWho’s Who of jazz musicians —Vic Dickenson, Herb Ellis, Milt Hinton,Flip Phillips, Ralph Sutton, Joe Venuti, Teddy Wilson, Kai Winding,and on and on.Incidentally, film buffs might be interested to knowthat part of the Coen Brothers’ Oscar-winning filmNo Country For Old Men is set in Odessa. Midland/Odessa is also the home of the Commemorative AirForce, formerly called the Confederate Air Forceuntil it was decided that the word Confederatewas politically incorrect. Its home used to be inHarlingen, Texas, and I remember one year whenI was playing at the Jazz Party, a couple of friendsfrom Toronto, Joy and Billy Ray Blackwood,talked me into going off to the annual C.A.F. airshow, after the party. So we took off, literally, forHarlingen and the air show. Well, as a certainScottish poet wrote, “The best laid schemes …gangaft agley,” —come unstuck —for when we got therethe air show had already started and we couldn’tland! So we saw fragments of the air show, butfrom above! (I did get to see the planes on theground another time, and it really is an impressivecollection of WW2 aircraft, mostly American,but also R.A.F., Japanese and German Luftwaffecraft. And you can find them in Midland/Odessa —as well as a great jazz party.So there you have it: two somewhat unlikely places 5,000 milesapart in which to find great jazz once a year.And speaking of planes in general, and WW2 aircraft in particular,I have another story or two from the Norwich weekend.Train travel to London for my trip home had been arranged givinglots of time to make the 6pm flight, the last Air Canada flight of theday. About a half-hour into the journey we stopped at a little towncalles Diss —no jokes please about diss and dere —and that’s when theday took a nosedive. A disembodied voice, (no pun intended), on theintercom informed us that the train ahead had mechanical troubleand we all had to get off, taking our luggage with us because theyhad to move our train out of the way so that a rescue engine couldcome up from Norwich to move the disabled one.Jim Galloway’s Norwich/Odessa/Midlandparty-mate Houston Person willalso be at Toronto Jazz, June 23.An hour and a half later we were still standing on the platform andI was beginning to worry about that 6pm flight; we were still a twohour train ride from London, never mind Heathrow.To cut a long story short, what started out as a comfortable traintrip from Norwich ended up as a taxi ride from Diss to Heathrow at acost of the equivalent of 0!Here’s where the story gets interesting. The driver, whose name isBarry, was very friendly and talkative. He mentioned that he quiteoften drove a lady who had been Winston Churchill’s secretary. I immediatelyknew who he was talking about and responded by saying,“Her first name is Chips, isn’t it?” The driver looked at me in the rearmirror with a look of surprise. “And her last name is Bunch,”I continued. “How do you know?” “Because herhusband was John Bunch who was a wonderfulpianist and he and I were friends.” A small world.There is another twist to the story, though.During the Second World War, John was a bombardierin B17 bombers. On his 17th mission hewas shot down and miraculously survived butspent the remainder of the war as a P.O.W. Fastforward many years. John and Chips inherited theirhouse near Norwich and the first time they usedBarry’s taxi service they drove past Duxford AirMuseum. John asked Barry if there was a B17 in thecollection. In fact they had two of them and he saidhe’d really like to see them some day. Well, for thenext ten years he said the same thing! Finally Barrysaid, “All these years you keep saying you want to goto Duxford and it never happens. Let’s do it!”So they got to the base and there sat a B17 in all itsglory, with a film crew around it. They were making adocumentary about the plane and our faithfultaxi driver called one of the crew over and said,“Do you realise that this gentleman with me wasa B17 bombardier during the war?” End result?John was interviewed and included in the documentary.By the way, good old Barry made it to Heathrow by shortly after4pm, giving ample time to check-in. And that was when I found outthat the flight was late and there would be a two hour delay!Some days it just doesn’t pay to get out of bed.Don’t forget that the TD Toronto Jazz Festival kicks off on June 22and the celebration goes on until July 1, Canada Day. Lots of programminginformation can be found in this issue.Enjoy your jazz and make some of it a live experience.Jim Galloway is a saxophonist, band leader and formerartistic director of Toronto Downtown Jazz. He canbe contacted at Abbott• St. Philip’s Anglican ChurchA casual, relaxing hour of prayer + great musicwith the city’s finest musicians● Sunday, June 10, 4pmJoe Sealy + Paul Novotny“There lives the dearest freshnessdeep down things.” Enjoy the beauty ofsummer and support live jazz!Jazz Vespers returns on September 16.• St. Philip’s Anglican Church | Etobicoke25 St. Phillips Road (near Royal York + Dixon)416-247-5181 • www.stphilips.netJune 1 – July 7, 27

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