Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Who Made Wynton Marsalis the King of Jazz?

On the Blog-ee-O with The Daddy O'Daily Post #4
Who Made Wynton Marsalis King of Jazz?

I watched a video of Wynton Marsalis and his Lincoln Center Jazz Band (what a privilege; how many jazz dudes would love to have their own band paid for by the City of New York?) playing over in Liberty State Park in Jersey--and, yes, OK, it was filmed outdoors on a summer's afternoon and, yes, I know the sound quality was minimal, but still.... The band was juggin' along on a jazz standard (though it could have been one of Wynton's latest compositions) and I was just diggin' it, not criticizing it, when my attention was grabbed by the trumpet solo. It sounded so shaky, so plain jane, so diddled, I was curious--I thought Wynton stood down front and led the band, but, no, the camera panned up into the trumpet section and there he was, Wynton himself, blowing on his $20,000 custom-made trumpet (I mean, come on, Wynton had to upstage Dizzy Gillespie at something--and it certainly wasn't trumpet virtuosity! Hey, I'll stand up and shout it pretty loud, Dizzy Gillespie is the greatest jazz trumpet player ever bar none--and that includes Satchmo and Miles--though I'll admit, Clifford Brown came closest to outblowin' Dizzy on the trumpet--had he lived longer, who knows?).

As I watched Wynton blowin' on this long unimaginative solo, I asked myself, "How did this M-F-er get to be the King of Jazz?" And then I remembered it was Rudy "Mussolini" Giuliani--NYC mayor at the time the Lincoln Center Jazz Center was opened and Dizzy's C___ C___ Lounge was created who made Wynton King of Jazz.

As an aside: I won't dishonor Dizzy's name by associating it with a commercial tag--fucking Coca Cola--yeah, old jazzmen used to do Coke and Aspirin--I guess that's the closest Coca Cola came to catering to the Black culture--otherwise it was by pumpin' 'em full of sugar water juiced up with cocaine in the original Old South Coca-Cola (it's from an Atlanta chemist (druggist)). And Old South Coca-Cola, too, by the way, was the first sugar-water manufacturer to use Monsanto's phony sugar Saccharin (think carcinoma) in their colas. These colas starting off as medicines. I know Dr. Pepper was created by a Waco, Texas, druggist as cough syrup--same thing with Pepsi-Cola, that Pepsi standing for Syrup of Pepsin--an old-line original cough syrup--replaced during World War II by the wonderful codeine-laced cough syrups--and many an old jazzman knew about codeine highs--and also during World War II the old jazzmen knew about the Benzedrine nasal inhalers that were introduced during the war and became so beaucoup popular (I myself as a kid had my Benzedrine inhaler--I constantly complained of bronchitis in order to keep from having to go to school--that got me my steady Benzedrine fix until it was finally banned in the pure White 1950s)--that Benzedrine came packed in those plastic bomb-shaped tubes; those tubes you broke open with a hammer and extracted the yellow cotton out of them--that yellow was the Benzedrine soaked into the cotton, and all you had to do was put that cotton in your mouth and suck all that great Benzedrine juice out of it and down the hatch or you pushed two pieces of the cotton up each nostril and breathed Benzedrine for the next 15 minutes or so--and hell, on a Benny high, you could gig 'till 4 in the morning and then go play a five-hour breakfast jam on that one stick of Benzedrine-soaked cotton. (As a kid, my mom also kept a bottle of codeine cough syrup in the medicine chest, plus a small green-tinted glass bottle that contained something called paregoric. Only later as an adult did I find out paregoric was an opiate--derived from the finest Afghanistan heroin. So, damn, as a kid, my parents made me a drug addict--as a kid, too, I was a pianistic phenom--thanks to those drugs? Enhancers. Elevators.)

That really pisses me off naming Dizzy's Lounge just Dizzy and not Gillespie, too; they spelled out Coca-Cola's full name--otherwise why isn't it Dizzy's Coke Lounge?--and anybody who knew Dizzy knew he may have done Coke but that wasn't his elevator of choice--his elevator of choice was pot--the herb--the viper--the tea (in Dizzy's original "Swing Low, Sweet Cadillac" he ends it with a 4-note be-bop riff that fits the words Dizzy says to end the tune--"Ten-der-leaf Tea")--or pot was called the mezzroll or just mezz--named for Chicago clarinetist and pot dealer, Mezz Mezzrow, a Jewish boy who wanted desperately to be Black--his book Really the Blues is a jazz masterpiece--though the White critics put it down as bullshit, I think it very honestly exact in terms of street-level look at the life of a Black or White jazz musician back in those days. So they could have named it Dizzy's Mezzroll Lounge...or Dizzy's Tea Lounge...or Dizzy's Mary Jane Lounge.

I never thought much of Wynton Marsalis's playing. Yes, I took his side in the famous debate between Wynton and Herbie Hancock--after Miles took jazz toward a totally new direction--starting I think with the In a Silent Way Columbia LP--the long original version released a few years back--in that debate, I got pissed at Herbie because I hadn't yet realized Miles's total influence on young Herbie so I kind'a went along with Wynton's wanting to stick to the traditional aspirations and inspirations of historical jazz, to build certain jazz composers, like Duke Ellington jazz compositions up to concert hall levels--though mostly Wynton seems to have concentrated on the sounds his father taught him were the most considerate of "pure" jazz, whatever the hell that is.

Wynton came up via Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers--though to me, Freddie Hubbard was Art's greatest trumpeter--and speaking of great old trumpeters, I forgot to mention Kenny Dorham--and I forgot to mention Maggie, Howard McGhee--somewhere out there is a recording of Howard McGhee playing on a South Pacific island that is almost as out of this world as Clifford Brown's solo recorded during that jam in Philadelphia. And may I add in here as a young man I was very impressed by a trumpet player named Frank Motley--Frank played "dual trumpets"--two trumpets at once--later picked up and popularized by Lonnie Hilliard in the late 50s and early 60s.

So, I was just wondering not only who made Wynton the King of Jazz but also why is he the spokesman for all jazz? Of course, here in NYC we have Phil Schaap, the Mister Know-It-All of jazz.

By the bye, I'm looking for a copy of one of Ravel's Piano Trios that's got that blues movement in it--also, anybody remember when Phineas (pronounced Fine-us) Newborn introduced one of his specialty tunes by playing the intro to a Ravel sonatine? And oh what an enigmatic jazz character Phineas was. One of B.B. King's first pianists--with Phineas's brother Calvin on guitar.

Oscar Peterson goes against the grain in the video Life in the Key of Oscar and says he considers jazz as transcendent over classically executed music (classical music). That he as a jazz pianist was much more virtuosic and versatile than any of the greatest classical executioners--what Virgil Thomson wittingly called classical musicians--music executioners. I like that.

My best to Wynton Marsalis--at least his father named him after a jazz great, Wynton--Daddy-O Daylie called him "Wine Tone"--Kelly--but then I used to go listen to and very much appreciated Wynton's father, Ellis, all around New Orleans when I lived there in 1964-1965--he played the hotel lounges and music bars around town--he and a guy named Art Hodes.

Until we meet again,

Long John From Bowling Green

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

thegrowlingwolf Goes to the Grammies--Daddy O'Daily Issue #3

How 'Bout Those Grammies!
What was Mick Jagger doing there? It's the American Academy of Music Awards. Oh, I forgot, Brits are considered American musicians aren't they. Hey, I've admitted I met Jagger one time and he wasn't a bad sort; he, like all Brit rockers, was eager to prove to American dudes he was hip and cool. On the other hand, he can be quite embarrassing, which he was Sunday night on the Grammies when he did a tribute to Solomon Burke by covering "Everybody Needs Somebody to Love." And Mick, like all Brit musicians, came out trying to put big-man depth in his nerdy imitative voice, trying to sing Black, and, to me, he made a mockery of Burke's works. EXCEPT, I must admit, Jagger put on the best show in terms of getting the audience stirred up and focused back on where all those Brit boys stole their fame and fortune from by mocking American Black musicians, and getting filthy rich doing it while the artists they claimed to admire mostly died in poverty. I don't know if Solomon Burke died in poverty, he was having a very successful come-back tour in Europe when he dropped dead in a Netherlands airport, but I'll bet you anything, he didn't die as rich as Mick Jagger's going to be when he dies--and as skinny and anemic as old Mick now looks, I'd say he'll be buying the farm--shall we say "soon."

I didn't watch many of the other touted celebrity acts, like Lady Antebellum--god what a god-awful singer she is. I did watch Dylan's big moment. I never liked Dylan's music--I considered him as copycatting Woody Guthrie--Arlo can imitate Bob better than Bob can imitate Arlo's father, in other words. Even when he confiscated the Canadians and Lee Von Helm and made them The Band and made "Like a Rolling Stone," I still heard Woody--even Bob's lyrics followed the same rhythmic patterns and vocal embellishments as Woody's. But, recently, I've come to dig Bob as a individual since I saw that Frances Ford Coppola docu on Folksy Bob. I liked Bob's attitude in that puff piece. I liked his attitude toward the music he heard when he was a kid; the same music I heard when I was a kid--and Bob and I are related in age and the small-town growing-up environment--I chose a piano as my instrument and jazz and blues as my genres, which meant rather than hit Highway 51, I had to stay embedded with my instrument and learn it further than picking out some chords and sticking to them (again a la Woody's guitar style)--plus, I had to learn much more complicated melodies and polytonal and atonal lines--as Jaki Byard taught his students, I tried to accomplish a little technique in all styles of jazz and blues. Bob instead hit the road and realized he had to get to New York City...whereas, I stayed in Texas--and, yes, I withered on the vine where Bob went on to fame and fortune and a place in American music celebrity and history that earned him a documentary by Frances Ford Coppola. The closest I've ever been to Frances Ford Coppola was about 20 feet--he happened to be in his restaurant, Coppola's on Third Avenue, while my wife and I were eating there and not enjoying the rather bland Italian food that we were served by a snotty actor-waiter--actually the woman manager came over and apologized for this asshole's bad attitude--I should have demanded F.F. himself come over and apologize by picking up the check. As a result, I've never again entered a Coppola's restaurant--in fact, I don't even think there are any Coppola restaurants left in NYC. If there are, I could care less. I wouldn't drink his fucking celebrity wine either--all these Hollywood phonies (all actors are phonies) going into the wine business. I'm not a wine snob. I find a nice bottle of Gallo Hearty Burgundy just as savory and inebriating as a bottle of $500 French Burgundy that the Japanese used to buy up every year overpaying for it. In fact, I have no idea what wines are what these days--I'm still marveling at the rise of Shiraz wines--especially those from Australia. All of this 'round Bob's barn to say, yes, I dug Bob's coming out and singing "Maggie's Farm." Plus I love the star way old Bob treated his youthful and adorational back-up bands, two brothers's bands I've never heard of, both of whom sounded like a reemerging of Bela Fleck and the Flecktones. Of course these young men were brilliant technicians and they did their best to swing their folksy pseudo-bluegrass picking--bouncing straight up and down pogo style like good little obedient White boys. Bob blew 'em all out of the holy waters even if his voice is shot and his demeanor is other world, he's still paid so many dues, you gotta love the guy even if you hate him.

for The Daily Growler