7 years ago

Volume 14 - Issue 5 - February 2009

Jazz Notesby Jim

Jazz Notesby Jim GallowayBrother, Can You Spare A DimeGreed and corruption have triumphed yet again. The financial worldis in meltdown - and we are all worse off than we used to be, withevery indication that, to borrow a line from President RonaldReagan (who in turn paraphrased a line spoken by Eddie Cantor inthe 1927 "The Jazz Singer") "you ain't seen nothin' yet!"The temptation is to compare today's crises to the crash of 1929.We haven't had reports of businessmen throwing themselves fromskyscraper windows-but then maybe that' s because the windows intoday's high rise buildings can't open .It is, however, impossible to compare the social circumstances ofthen and now. We live in a different world and seventy years haveseen It transformed at an unprecedented rate. The winds of changebecame a hurricane with television, LPs, Cassettes, iPods, MP3s,DVDs, downloads - as well as music trends such as hip-hop, rap, heavymetal , disco funk and whatever comes next. The innocence is gone.Nonetheless, it did seem like an interesting idea to look at some ofthe aftereffects of 1929 and their impact on jazz musicians. Whoknows, maybe there are some lessons (which we won 't learn, ofcourse) to be had.The easy street of the 20s became the dead end of the 30s.Musicians found themselves out of work. Bear in mind that therewere two main forms of mass communication in these years: radioand the phonograph record. After the crash, record sales droppedfrom 104 million in the late 20s to 6 million by 1932. Warehouseswere full of unsold product and with people spending less, musicianswere not making much money from the recording industry. Many ofthe record companies went out of business . Columbia Recordsdeclared bankruptcy early in the depression and the Victor Companyeven stopped producing record players. Meanwhile, radio allowedpeople to hear music free (after you bought the radio), but whateverwork there was in radio for musicians declined and fees fell.Radio was the first mass medium and played a hugely importantrole. It ended rural isolation, provided entertainment and connectedpeople with the outside world. I have spoken with musicians wholived through those times and they all remember nightly broadcastsby name bands from hotels and ballrooms. Radio spread music andin particular jazz across the country. "Name" big bands (ChickWebb, Fletcher Henderson, Duke Ellington) did enjoy something of aboom and by the late thirties, a number of band leaders wereenjoying commercial success, among them Benny Goodman, GlennMiller, and Tommy Dorsey. Jazz in the form of danceable swing musichad become popular among millions, and radio played a huge role in this.But the downside is that in 1928 the American Federation ofMusicians had 146,236 members and by 1934 the numbers weredown to 101 , 111. The Chicago local for example, held weeklydances, hiring local members so that they could earn a few dollarsand membership fees were reduced from .00 to .00.By 1932, Cook County, Chicago, was firing firemen , police andteachers and soup kitchens were showing up all over the U .S.A.We didn ' t recover from the great depression until the end of the 30s,even although it hit rock bottom in 1933, by which time stocks haddeclined by 80 % and wages by an average of 60%.We can only hope that it doesn 't get as bad this time around.Otherwise not only will they be passing the jar at The Rex inToronto, they might be passing collection plates at T.S.O. concerts!The repeal of prohibition in 1933 was another blow to musicians.Speakeasies and bootleg nightclubs used music to attract customersand it is well documented that jazz musicians earned good money inthose gangster-run establishments. I recall "Wild Bill" Davison, theveteran cornet player who lived and played throughout this era, tellingme about working mafia-run clubs. One of the ways a gangster couldshow off to his girl friend was by tipping the band, making a big dealof It as they danced past the bandstand, which of course meant thatother gang members would do the same thing in order not to lose facewith their ladies. Bill said it wasn't uncommon to be on the receivingend of a fifty dollar tip. To put that in perspective, you could buy anew car for 0.00!You might say it was thebest of times, it was the worstof times - it certainly was aDickens of a time!It is not all gloom and doomwhen one looks back at thedepression years. The rise inpopularity of jazz in the 30sand its ability to raise spirits ina troubled age inspired GeraldEarly, the noted essayist andAmerican culture critic, tosay the following - "Americawill be remembered for threethings: the Constitution,baseball, and jazz. A certainkind of paradox is built intojazz music. You had people who created a music that's reallycelebrating democratic possibilities: liberation, freedom of the spirit,a soanng above adversities ... Jazz is a kind of lyricism about thegreat American promise and our inability to live up to it. .. Jazz isprobably the most distinctive, the most complex musical art thatAmerica produced. It's also the most inclusive."Most of the references in this article have been to the UnitedStates, but jazz was also making its mark in Canada, flourishing inMontreal , for example where there was a booming night life in jazzclubs such as the Hollywood Club and the Terminal Club - for thosewith money to spend. Not fancy, these were what would be describedas "joints" - bare floors and a minimum of trimmings - but they werecertainly popular. More upscale was Connie's Inn on St. CatherineStreet. One of the bands to play there was the first organized Blackjazz band in Canada, The Canadian Ambassadors, led by an altoplayer called Myron Sutton. Indeed, Montreal attracted some of thejazz greats because at a time when most North American clubs weresegregated, Montreal offered a much more integrated and tolerantenvironment.Oh, and by the way , one of the local musicians who was playing inchurches and community halls with the family band during the thirtieswas a young piano player called Oscar Peterson.A sense of humour was an essential part of survival. It still is andbeing able to laugh at ourselves is part and parcel of the game.So I leave you with this one:-Q: What kind of calendar does a jazz musician use for his gigs?A: Year-at-a-Glance.And just remember, what goes down might come back up.Good news and bad, I suppose.Featuring some of Toronto's best jazz musicianswith a brief reflection by Jazz Vespers ClergySunday, February 1 st at 4:30 p.m.MIKE MURLEY (saxophone) andDAVID OCCHIPINTI (guitar)Sunday, February 8th at 4:30 p.m.GEORGE MARTON (piano) andJACK ZORAWSKI (bass)Christ 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.22 WWW, THEWHOLENOTE.COM F EB RUA RY 1 - M ARC H 7 2009

Jazz in the Clubs:By: Ori DaganIn 2005, fans of Canadian jazzsinger-songwriter GeorgiaAmbros were saddened tolearn that she was battlingnon-Hodgkins lymphoma andheld a benefit in her honour,"Georgia on My Mind".After chemotherapy and twoinvasive throat operations,Georgia has made a remarkablerecovery and last monthplayed her first gig in fouryears at the intimate UpstairsCabaret at Statlers. Singingan elegant cocktail-themed90-minute set with venerablegentlemen Gary Williamsonat the piano and Steve Wallace Betty Richardson comes to Hugh 's Roomon bass, her voice was inpretty good shape and as always, every word was sincere. The lady'stalents as a clever songwriter were proven when fans ended up singingalong to "The Limousine Song". Congratulations to sweet Georgiaon coming back in style! To learn more about the artist visit:www .agerecords.comFebruary concludes with two extremely promising shows atHugh's Room. The first: Jane Bunnett and the Spirits of Havanawtth Voices featuring Elizabeth Shepherd and Telmary Diaz on Friday,February 27. Bunnett is an award-winning multi-instrumentalistinternationally recognized as one of Canada's most significantJazz artists. The latest album, "Embracing Voices", is a large-scalecollaborative effort of epic proportions, remarkable depth and hauntingbeauty. Tickets are selling fast!On Saturday February 28, Hugh's Room presents a tremendouslytalented singer: Betty Richardson. Born to a supremely giftedmusical famiiy that includes sister/actress Jackie, Betty started singingprofess10nally at fifteen with Dr. Music's Doug Riley and theSilhouettes. Most of her career has been spent as a backgroundvocahst, but fans insist that powerhouse Betty belongs in the foreground.Her soulful performances are so heavenly that they borderon religious experiences. Reservations are strongly recommended.PLEASE NOTE: as of February 18, Lisa Particelli's GirlsNight Out vocalist-friendly jazz jam moves to WEDNESDAY nightsat Chalkers Pub. For more information visitwww.girlsnightoutjazz.comAnd there's more. See our CLUB LISTINGS starting on page 44.BandStand and Podiumby Jack MacQuarrieOn the serious sideof the silly seasonIn last. September's issue we talked about the challenges facingcommunity musical groups at the beginning of a new season, as if the"advent of a new season" only happens once a year. No such luck! Formost community bands and orchestras there are two or three seasonsin each year. Now, for example, the dust has settled on the fall seasonwith its final December rush, trying to fit in all of the traditional offeringsexpected by audiences. Most groups are now entering a new winterseason: With a clean slate, so to speak, many will explore previouslyuntned works, and embark on new musical challenges for theirmembers.For concert bands, available repertoire, one of the major differencesbetween the modern concert band and a traditional symphony orchestra,will be a major influence in shaping their program content,and may indeed be a stumbling block. For the traditional symphonyorchestra, there 1s an enormous legacy of what is often referred to asthe Standard Repertoire. True, there have always been changes inorchestral instrumentation over the years. In the 250 years since thedays of Haydn, Handel and Mozart, however, the changes have beenrelatively minor. With the exception of the introduction of valves onbrass instruments and modifications to the fingering systems of somewoodwind instruments, the instrumentation of a modern symphonyorchestra has remained relatively unchanged for over two centuries.T.he modem orchestra can trace its roots back to sponsorship by thenob1hty, thetr courts and the religious institutions of Europe. Themodern concert band, on the other hand has evolved into its presentform much more recently, with its origins stemming principally fromBnt1sh and European military traditions. So, while the top symphonyorchestras of the world today are almost without exception civilianorganizations, to this day the finest bands of the world are almost allfinanced and operated by military organizations. With the exceptionof bands raised for specific occasions, such as Olympic Games orExpo 67, one would be hard pressed to name many truly professionalconcert bands which have performed regular concert schedules in thiscountry in the seventy years since the outbreak of World War II.Perhaps as a consequence, few composers of so called seriousmusic have seen fit to write for concert band instrumentation. If theywished to present a program made up entirely of works from the socalled serious canon, a community band would have to resort almostexclusively to transcriptions from orchestral scores.In the early 1920s, officials at The Royal Military School of Musicat Kneller Hall , lamenting this lack of original music for concertband, commissioned Gustav Holst to write his Suites in Eb and F forthis instrumentation. At about the same time Ralph Vaughan Williamsproduced his Folksong Suite for band. Aside from a few such notableexceptions, and a plethora of excellent marches, little of music writtenspecifically for band over the past century has stood the test of time .To appeal to audiences with a taste for the standard repertoire bandshave had to rely on transcriptions of varying degrees of merit. WhileBrass - Woodwind -String Instruments - GuitarBuy direct from the DistributorAUTHORIZED DEALER FOR:Armstrong, Artley, Besson, Buffet,Conn, Getzen, Holton, Jupiter,Keilworth, King, Noblet,Selmer, Vito, Yanagisawa~;;~~HARKNET'EMusical Services Ltd.MUSIC BOOKSBEST SELECTIONOF POPULAR&EDUCATIONAL MUSICPiano - Guitar - Instrumental905-477-11412650 John Street, Unit 15Gust North of Steeles)www.harknettmusic.comWWW. TH EWHO LEN OTE . COM 23

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