8 years ago

Volume 14 - Issue 4 - December 2008

Jazz NotesThe Ghost Of

Jazz NotesThe Ghost Of 'Christmas Present'It's that "festive " time of the yearagain - rival groups of Ho 1 Ho!Hos! in the red corner and BahHumbugs! in the blue, myselfamong them. Please don't misunderstand.I'm just tired of thecommercialism and big sell insincerity.School may be out, butcrass isn't dismissed!The first Christmas card's inscriptionread: "Merry Christmasand a happy New Year to you.""Merry" was then a spiritual wordmeaning "blessed," as in "merryold England." But today the secularmeaning of merry is winning ata canter, with what might well becalled "giftmas" lasting for at leasttwo months.By far, most of the music associatednowadays with Christmas isof a secular nature; I was going tosuggest some Christmas jazz albums- until I discovered the enormousnumber of available Yuletiderecordings. The rest of this columncould simply consist of a list!So instead, here's some history.It was widely believed that theearliest jazz recording celebratingChristmas was Bessie Smith's"At The Christmas Ball", composedby Fred Langshaw and recordedon November 18, 1925 inNew York City with Joe Smith oncornet, Charlie Green on trombone,and a piano player who wasdestined to be a major figure in thebig band era, Fletcher Henderson.But "Santa Claus Blues" by GusKahn and Charley Straight wasrecorded almost two weeks earlieron November 5th 1925 (also inNYC) by The Gulf Coast Sevenconsisting of June Clark (cornet),by Jim GallowayJimmy Harrison (trombone),Buster Bailey (a/sax, clarinet),Prince Robinson (t/sax), Willie'The Lion' Smith (piano), BuddyChristian (banjo), a tuba player(probably Bill Benford), and'Jazz' Carson (drums).(An aside about trumpeter JuneClark. His real name was Junius -so, to take liberties with the JohnnyCash song, he was a boynamed June. His name does indeedshow up in some lists of earlyfemale jazz players! A minorfigure in the jazz landscape, illhealthforced him to give up playingand he was, for a time, roadmanager for Louis Armstrong. In1939, suffering from tuberculosis,he went into hospital. He recoveredenough to act as musical assistantto Earl Hines, then in thelate 40s made a complete turnaround,getting involved in boxing,eventually becoming SugarRay Robinson's manager!)"Christmas Night in Harlem"by Raymond Scott and MitchellParish, sung on a 1934 recordingby Johnny Mercer and Jack Teagarden,was a memorable additionalto the seasonal songbook aswas Fats Waller's boisterous 1936"Swingin' Them Jingle Bells".The 1940s gave us the all-timeChristmas classic by Irving Berlin,"White Christmas" and "TheChristmas Song" by Mel Tormeand lyricist, Bob Wells, again allnonreligious in character (althoughthe two last mentioned do evokethe feelings of love and compassionassociated with the originalsense of a merry Christmas. Thereis by contrast a rare, somewhatFeaturing some of Toronto's best jazz musicianswith a brief reflection by Jazz Vespers ClergySunday, December 14th at 4:30 p.m.THE DIXIE DEMONSSunday, January 4th at 4:30 p.m.TED QUINLAN QUARTETSunday, January 1 Bth at 4:30 p.m.NANCY WALKER TRIOChrist Church Deer Park, 1570 Yonge Street(north of St. Clair at Heath St.) 416·920·5211Admission is free.An offering is received to support the work of the church, including Jazz Vespers.stringent version of "White Christmas" by Charlie Parker with MilesDavis on trumpet, Al Haig on piano,Max Roach on drums andCurly Russell on bass, recorded atthe Royal Roost, New York onDec 25, 1948.The Modern Jazz Quartet, notsurprisingly, was among the firstto adapt a sacred song to theirbrand of jazz - an 1833 Englishcarol, "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen"(there's that "merry"again!) which they recorded underthe title "England' s Carol".Stan Kenton also chipped in withan album of Christmas carols, andin 1960 Tchaikovsky's "NutcrackerSuite" was given a wonderfuland respectful jazz interpretationby Ellington and Strayhorn.Perhaps as jazz became moreintrospective, willingness to accepta spiritual awareness grew. ThinkColtrane's "A Love Supreme".In vocal jazz it was Ella Fitzger -aid who raised the bar with her"Ella Wishes You a SwingingChristmas", (re-released on CDthis year with six bonus tracks). Ifyou like Ella, this should be inyour collection. Anyway, there isabsolutely no shortage of seasonaljazz CDs. It seems that just abouteverybody who is anybody hasjumped on to the bandwagon - orshould that be sleigh?A couple of Canadian releasesdid come my way this year:"Hark, The Herald Angel Swings"presents Bob De Angelis and his"Champagne Symphony" orchestra,arranged and conducted byJohn MacLeod with guest singersMelissa Stylianou and RobinLangdon. You can also hear themlive at Roy Thomson Hall at 2 pmon New Year' s Eve."Jazz For Christmas" on theAnalekta label features The LorraineDesmarais Trio with CamilBelisle, drums, Frederic Alarie,bass, and special guest Jean-PierreZanella, saxophone, reinventingsome of the festive classics includingJingle Bells and Schubert'sAve Maria.By the way, if you want toswing into the New Year, I'll be atQuotes, 220 King Street West withLaurie Bower (trombone), IanBargh (piano), Rosemary Galloway(bass), Don Vickery (drums).For info call 416-979-7717 .Closing thought: Don't eat theChristmas decorations. You gettinsel-itus! Hope yule have a merryjazzy Christmas, and will resolvethroughout the new year tomake at least some of your listeninglive!In the Clubs:Come to the Cabaret,Then Check Out ThatChordless Quartet!By Ori DaganCabaret seems to be enjoying a revivalin Ontario's capital. For severalseasons, the TD Canada TrustToronto Jazz Festival has featureda sold-out Cabaret Series bookedby Sybil Walker. Challenging , thecabaret art form forbids late admittanceand requires an audience ofengaged listeners to remain silentwhile they drink. Enter the UpstairsCabaret series at the PolarIce Lounge, right above StatlersPiano Lounge at 487 ChurchStreet. Founded and booked byfirst-class cabaret performerGeorge Evans, the series has beena hit since launching in September.Highlights have included the miraculousMaureen Kennedy Singsfor Hipsters and Beatnicks andHeather Bambrick's hilarious Life,Laughs, Love. Get madly happywith George Evans as he proudlypresents Happy Madness: Songs ofLove and Hypomania on Friday,December 5th at 8 o'clock.November 9th, 2008 at Gate 403marked the official debut of a newjazz quartet. Much like the LinaAllemano Four, the Bobby Hsu/Sophia Perlman Quartet is "chordless": only bass and drums supportthe soloists. Leading this groupwith finesse , Bobby Hsu is an altosaxophonist whose fortes includewarm tone and an intelligent senseof humour. Vocalist Sophia Perlman'sdazzling set of pipes andphenomenal pair of ears producesinging that is consistent! y creativeand always engaging (check outher gigs at Chalkers on December14th, The Old Mill's Home SmithBar on December 19th and everyMonday night with The Vipers atThe Reservoir Lounge). Thequartet is completed by brilliantbassist Ross Macintyre and soulfuldrummer Ernesto Cervini, bothideal for their contagiously highenergy. The cherry on the cake:quirky repertoire choices such as"We Kiss in a Shadow" , "ShallWe Dance?" and "You Taught MyHeart to Sing". The icing on thecherry: Bobby Hsu's programnotes. The quartet returns to theGate on December 26th.And for all the club action,please turn to the club listings onpage 51.22 WWW. THEWHOLENOTE.COM D EC EM BER 1 2008 - F EB RUARY 7 2009

Bandstand and Podiumsby Jack MacQuarrieWhether it be Christmas, Hanukkah or some other festival, most wintersolstice observances have, as dominant components, celebration throughmusic and gift giving. For community musical groups, this translates toa busy, but rewarding, schedule of performances at a broad spectrum ofvenues from seniors' residences and long term care facilities to churchfunctions. From performances with chorus and full orchestra to smallensembles, the message is the same. We are giving the gift of music.But we are receiving it too! As musicians we receive personal satisfactionin the knowledge that we have conveyed pleasure to our audiences.However, there is growing evidence that performers derive an additionalgift - enhanced mental capabilities. Just as physical exercise does forbody health, mental stimulation maintains brain function.It's not rocket science - arguably it's something far more complex!Think how a series of little black dots on a piece of paper prompts thealmost infinite variety of complex psychomotor tasks required of thevarious members of a modem band or orchestra. Provide the same sequenceof dots to a cellist, bassoonist and trombonist and compare howthey translate those marks into such diverse physical tasks. All three canproduce the same melody. However, the information processing in theirbrains translated into the playing of their instruments couldn't be muchmore diverse. For the cellist, superb dexterity for the fingers of the lefthand is paramount, but the thumb does not participate. For the bassoonist,not only is finger dexterity required, but the thumb has no fewerthan eight keys to deal with. For the trombonist, the left hand supportsthe instrument, but in many instruments the left thumb must bekept free to operate the valve to shift from Bb to F. What this all meansis that the human brain is processing patterns on a page into complexmovements which result in the production of what we call music.Each year at this time I play in a small ensemble at long term carefacility where all of the residents have some form of dementia. We, asperformers, have no way of knowing the effects of our music in theminds of our audience, but we do observe a broad spectrum of facialexpressions to convey to us that our message is being received. And theevent serves as a reminder of what a gift it is to still be able to makemusic the way we do.My curiosity about the benefits of music in maintaining and/or enhancingbrain function led me to two research facilities: the BaycrestCentre, affiliated with the University of Toronto; and McMaster Universityin Hamilton. I contacted one of the researchers in the ResearchCentre for Aging and the Brain at Baycrest and mentioned my personalinterest in how lifelong involvement in music might minimize or slowthe adverse effects of aging on brain function. This led to my volunteeringas a subject in one of their research studies. Initially I was given astandard audiology test to determine any hearing loss due to aging (ormy exposure to gunfire while serving in the navy). This standard testdetermined that my hearing was as good as, or better than, the averagefor my age. Then I spent two hours in the same small anechoic chamberperforming a series of sound perception tests. This data, and that fromother subjects with lifelong musical experience, will be compared withthe results of subjects with no significant experience as musicians.Hopefully, we will learn more on the results of these experiments in thecoming months.With a visit to the website of McMaster University's Institute forMusic and Mind, I learned that their 4th Annual Music and the MindBrass - Woodwind -String Instruments - GuitarBuy direct from the DistributorAUTHORIZED DEALER FOR:Armstrong, Artley, Besson, Buffet,Conn, Getzen, Holton, Jupiter,Keilworth, King, Noblet,Selmer, Vito, Yanagisawa~1~~HARKNET'f.Musical Services Ltd.MUSIC BOOKSBEST SELECTIONOF POPULAR&EDUCATIONAL MUSICPiano - Guitar - Instrumental905-477-11412650 John Street, Unit 15Uust North of Steeles)www.harknettmusic.comWorkshop: Musical Connections in the Brain was to be held on Saturday,November 29, 2008. It was too short notice to consider attending.But the findings will be worth persuing. The introductory comment ontheir website states: Critically, the developmental neuroscience perspectivewill inform the research community on how music induces emotionalreactions, how musical experience and training affect brain development,and how musical training/exposure affects language, cognitive,and social abilities in both children and adults. Visit their website athttp :I lmimm. mcmaster. ea/From the preliminary information we have seen so far, there isstrong evidence that when musicians give the gift of music, they givetwo gifts. They give the gift to listeners, but they also give a significantgift to themselves in the form of a healthier brain.Musicians wanted: The Markham Concert Band is looking for anothertuba player. For information contact Events - Please see the listings section for full detailsSunday, December 7, 2:00 pm The Northdale Concert Band atScarborough Civic Centre. Free.Sunday, December 7, 2:00 pm The East York Concert Band windup their 60th Anniversary Celebrations with a Christmas Concert at St.Patrick Catholic Secondary SchoolTuesday, December 9, 7:30 pm The Weston Silver Band presenttheir Annual Community Christmas Concert at Central United Church.Saturday, December 13, 8:00 pm The Hannaford Street Silver Bandpresent Christmas Joy with The Canadian Children's Opera Chorus,Metropolitan United ChurchSaturday, December 13, 8:00 pm The Milton Concert Band presenttheir Second Annual Christmas Concert at St. Paul's United Church.Sunday, December 14, 3:00 pm The Northdale Concert Bandpresent a holiday concert at St. Jude's Anglican Church (Wexford).Friday, December 19, 8:00 pm The Etobicoke Community ConcertBand present Christmas Pops at Etobicoke Collegiate Auditorium.Please write to us: bandstand@thewholenote.comD ECEMBER 1 2008 - F EBRUARY 7 2009WWW. THEWHOLENO TE. COM

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