Saturday, December 31, 2011

Played with Bird

Add one more to the list of living musicians who played with Charlie Parker -- Clora Bryant, who played R&B and swing with all-girl orchestras -- including the Prairie View Co-eds and the International Sweethearts of Rhythm.

Then she discovered bebop and entered that world, the only female musician to play with Charlie Parker on his West Coast dates.

Deserving of much wider recognition.

Friday, December 23, 2011

More Christmas carol thoughts

Contemporary Christmas songs have lines like "Tiny tots with their eyes all aglow" and "I don't know if there'll be snow, but have a cup of cheer." "Silver Bells," which is not an awful song, has lines like "Ring-a-ling, hear them sing." "The Little Drummer Boy" is actually a pretty good song -- decent, if done-before, plot, a retelling of "Jongleur de Notre Dame" and a bunch of other things, and it does have one interesting image -- "Mary nodded, ba-rup-bup-bup-bum, the ox and lamb kept time..." It could be a windup Swiss clock version of the Nativity scene.

But the old carols have moments of inspired language -- the sweet assonance of "Sleep in heavenly peace." The disturbing yet reassuring concept of "God and sinners reconciled." The Robert Burnsian imagery of "The Holly and the Ivy." The compounded swell of descriptive adjectives in "faithful, joyful and triumphant."

Merry Christmas, all.

Monday, December 19, 2011

More Jazz Portraits

Have Yourself a Cliched Christmas

Christmas is the time for beautiful traditional music, and mostly awful contemporary music. So many cliched lyrics -- "The Christmas Song" has most of them. Yes, nice melody, yes, always nice to hear Nat King Cole, but the tiny tots, and the reindeer, and the carols being sung by a choir, and the turkey and the after song after song, the same cliches.

Are there any good lyrics to modern Christmas songs? "White Christmas" is in a class by itself, not because the lyrics are spectacular, just because they're right. No one but Irving Berlin could write that simply, and there's no use trying to imitate him.

Stevie Wonder's "Someday at Christmas" has a different slant and a good lyric.

And I like "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas." Hugh Martin and Ralph Blane aren't on anyone's list of legendary masters of American song, but they outid themselves with "Meet Me in St. Louis," and they hit a touching, bittersweet note with this one.

Any others?


Tuesday, December 13, 2011

The Metropole Wiki'd

Wrote and posted my Metropole entry at Wikipedia.

Jazz portraits

Recent additions to my jazz portrait gallery:

Big Mama Thornton

McCoy Tyner

Bennie Moten

A brief history of homosexuality

Stuff I didn't know. Gleaned from Gotham by (the other) Mike Wallace -- Homosexuality was invented in the 1880s. Before that, no one thought it necessary to have such a concept. In the 1840s and 50s, which is the era I'm reading about, Society was basically organized along gender lines, and men worked together, played together, clubbed together, partied together, and frequently slept together. Women shopped together, lunched together, sewed together, and often slept together. It was pretty much an accepted norm.

It was not entirely an LGBT-friendly world, though -- not to the T part. Cross-dressing was a serious breach, because that was an affront to the social separation of men and women.