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Volume 18 Issue 6 - March 2013

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  • Toronto
  • Jazz
  • April
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Beat by Beat | Jazz

Beat by Beat | Jazz NotesMarch AirsJIM GALLOWAYFiddling around (not literally) on the internet I found someinteresting jazz birthday items for March. For instance, saxophonistsJames Moody, Brew Moore, Flip Phillips and Lew Tabackinall share March 26 as their birth dates and the very next day is sharedby Harold Ashby, Pee Wee Russell and Ben Webster. Different years ofcourse, but the same date.Likewise, pianists Frankie Carle, Pete Johnson, Cecil Taylorshare the 25th.(Speaking of Cecil Taylor, the avant-garde pianistis one of the pioneers of freejazz and his playing uses a veryphysical approach, at timesattacking the piano with his fistsand forearms. There is a storywhich may be apocryphal butmakes for a good yarn. A truckwas transporting a Bösendorfergrand piano, Taylor’s pianoof choice, through city streetswhen the following small disasteroccurred — the Bösendorfer felloff the truck and was smashed topieces. Someone told the story toTaylor who paused for a few secondsbefore saying, “I wish I’d heard that!”Now you know what his playing cansound like.)Jimmy McPartland, jazz trumpeterand husband of Marian, who incidentally was born on March 20, wasborn on March 15, 1907, and died on March 13, 1991.Drummer Barrett Deems was born on March 1. So, for that matter,was Glenn Miller, but I’m not in the mood to write about Miller,although he shows up on quite a number of early jazz recordings longbefore he became James Stewart.(By the way, did you know that one of Miller’s early compositions,for the Dorsey Brothers Orchestra, was a ditty called Cousin Annie’sFanny and was reportedly banned by a number of radio stationsbecause of double entendres in the lyrics?!)But I digress. It’s Barrett Deems who is the focal point of thislittle story.Deems is probably best remembered for years spent as a member ofthe Louis Armstrong All-Stars. He had a formidable driving techniqueand was sometimes referred to as “the world’s fastest drummer.”Armstrong, who used to refer to him as “The Kid” was quoted ashaving said about Deems’ playing that “he makes coffee nervous.”Deems always was a bit of a character but the older he got the moreeccentric he became; by this time he had grown a beard and, truthto tell, had a pretty wild appearance. He was never at a loss for wordsand described himself as the oldest teenager in the business. Thewords weren’t always, shall we say, acceptable in polite circles and heruined more than one recorded interview. He certainly was justificationfor the practice of broadcast delay. It was around this time thatMr. Deems entered my life.We were both appearing at the Bern International Jazz Festivalwhich in those days used the five-star Hotel Schweizerhof as its headquarters.The festival musicians stayed at the hotel and each eveningwe ate like kings in its very elegant restaurant. Enter, literally, BarrettDeems who in a typically loud voice asked why they wouldn’t servehim a hamburger!But the straw that broke the camel’s back requires a little explanation.Deems was in the habit of carrying a duck call in his pocket — avery piercing duck call — and yes, came the evening when he paradedthrough the restaurant blowing theduck call to the obvious dismay of alland sundry. The very next day we wereall advised that in future we would beserved dinner at a nearby restaurant.It was a very nice restaurant, but itwasn’t the Schweizerhof.For the last few years of his life inChicago, Deems had a successful bigband and could still drive it alongwith energy and enthusiasm.In September of 1998 the oldestteenager in the business died ofpneumonia, leaving many of us witha trail of memories of an era whenGeoff Chapman.jazz had more than its share of realcharacters.Speaking of characters, March 24is a date that has been set asidefrom 4pm to 8pm as a celebration ofthe life of Geoff Chapman, longtime writer for the TorontoStar and later a contributor to The WholeNote, reviewing CDs ofCanadian jazz artists.After Chapman’s death last September, former Star editor VianEwart suggested having a celebration of Geoff’s life. Chapman’s wifeBilgi supported the idea and David Stimpson, founder of UniversityPress Group, avid reader and jazz enthusiast, suggested The Pilot asa suitable venue.We met with Michelle Elliott, The Pilot’s events coordinator,who helped to organize the event.There will be nibbles available and a cash bar. Geoff’s interests werewide-ranging and we are hoping that not only his jazz fans will comeout and join in the party.There will, of course, be music, provided by Don Thompson, piano,Neil Swainson, bass, and Terry Clarke, drums, with other musiciansinvited to sit in (and don’t be surprised if they do).I like to imagine that Geoff will be looking down on us quaffing hisdrink of choice, a good English beer.Marchons, marchons!Happy listening and please make some of it live.Jim Galloway is a saxophonist, band leaderand former artistic director of Toronto Downtown Jazz.He can be contacted at jazznotes@thewholenote.com.28 thewholenote.com March 1 – April 7, 2013

Beat by Beat | BandstandOf Bandingand BondingJack MacQuARRIEHow does one get started in banding? Nowadays, the mostcommon way is through school music programs. Almost everysecondary school in this part of the world has a music program,and many elementary schools do as well. Ithasn’t always been that way though. When Iwent to school in Windsor, Ontario, we hadno formal music program, nor did any otherschool in the city. The school had an excellentfully equipped auditorium with a balcony.It was the best auditorium in the city. Whenworld renowned groups like the Russian DonCossack Chorus came to town, that is wherethey performed. It was also home to manyamateur productions like the Gilbert andSullivan operettas where my parents first met.Things have changed. Most secondaryschools have bands as well as choirs, andmany have large string ensembles as well. As for my old school, it isnow the major school for the performing arts in the region. How didyoung people get introduced to music performance back then? Forboys there were a few boys’ bands, and girls were more or less leftout. A recent short excerpt on CBC Radio triggered my thoughts onthis subject. In the program B is for Brass Dave Pell, bass trombonistwith the Hannaford Street Silver Band, related how he started. As aboy, Pell’s introduction began when he was given a euphonium in theSalvation Army band. He was soon in love with the instrument and itssound. However, it’s only used in bands. So when it was time to buyhis own instrument, he wanted an instrument which would be foundin a broader spectrum of ensembles. He chose the trombone.My own case was very similar. My two best friends, Keithand Jimmy, played in a boys’ band sponsored by a local serviceclub. I decided to try to join the band with them. I thoughtthat I would like to play drums. There were no “openings” for drummers,so I was handed a euphonium and shown how to made asemi-musical sound. When that band ceased to operate, I was withoutan instrument. I liked the euphonium, but realized that there weremany kinds of musical groups where the euphonium was not used.I wanted the option of being able to play in dance orchestras orsymphony orchestras. Would it be trumpet with the same fingeringor trombone with the same mouthpiece? Like Pell, I chose trombone.Also like Pell, I have retained my love affair with the sound of theeuphonium and the counter melodies often written for it. When Imeet young people who have embraced their particular instruments,a frequent question which I ask is: “Did you choose the instrumentor did the instrument choose you”? In Dave Pell’s case and mine theeuphonium chose us, then we chose the trombone.Bands, their repertoire, their audiences and their performancevenues have certainly evolved over the years. From the works bands ofBritain and Europe to the early town bands in North America, muchof the programming was military music or transcriptions of classicalworks. Prior to and throughout WWII the major events for bands weretattoos, with most groups parading before a reviewing stand. On theplatform would be one featured band playing such works as concertovertures between various parts of the marching groups. But gradually,over the years the perception of bands and band music has evolved.The concert band has finally gained the respectability of performingin concert halls. The concert band that also participates in parades is ararity today.Waterloo Musical Society Band.Not so splendid isolation: Before looking at what the bands in thisarea are offering this spring and summer, there is another evolvingtrend in the band world which is receiving mixed reactions in thebanding community. I’m referring to the use of mp3 files for learningnew works. Many bands are now posting recordings of their currentrepertoire on their bands’ websites or asking their members to sign onto their internet groups, to listen to a recording and follow it on theirprinted music. In some cases it is suggested that the members shouldplay along with this at home. Is this a good idea?Proponents are all in favour of using any means to achieve a betterperformance. But the first flaw is the assumption that all bandmembers have ready access to a high speed internet connection withsuitable sound reproduction capabilities. It also assumes that membersare comfortable using all of this technology. Even if this unlikelysituation were possible, and that there were no distractions in thehome, is this the best way tolearn a new work? There certainlywould be no interactionwith other band members. Thoseopposed to the idea considerit to be the community bandequivalent of “paint by numbers”games for children. There is anoutput. But is it art? What willhappen to the all important sightreading skills which are so valued?We would love to hear fromreaders on this subject. Have youtried it? Did it work for you and/or your band, or was it more of a distraction? Are there other aspectsof modern technology having an influence in your band experience?Upcoming: As for programming, so far we have heard from twobands with details of what they will be performing in the comingmonths. In both cases, in keeping with a popular trend, they areMarch 1 – April 7, 2013 thewholenote.com 29

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