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