Today is Big Tea’s Birthday.
Happy birthday, Jack Teagarden! Here he is with Pops at Billy Berg's in 1947, the birth of All Stars. What a team! pic.twitter.com/62ZTZhWCqT
— Louis Armstrong (@ArmstrongHouse) August 20, 2016
Yeah, I know. This space hasn’t been updated in a long time. I may have been distracted by something.
Some time ago, I wrote this article about the Republican party’s seemingly irrational communiques to those people we affectionally know as the American People.
You don’t have to read it again. Here’s the gist: a (non-healthy) amount of what Republicans rely on to maintain political viability and power is actually play-acting, designed to mislead, frighten, outrage, and/or “lather-up” an electorate already made vulnerable by their own unwillingness to pay attention. Acting is behaving truthfully under imaginary circumstances, and in the case of the Republicans, the circumstances are often pretty imaginary. In the preceding years, President Obama has taken the brunt of many of these fanciful scenarios, designed to “prove” that anything he’s associated with is a disaster. The facts tend to tell a different story.
From a short distance, Donald J. Trump looked on all the Republican vaudeville enviously. He’s a guy who has always truly loved to get in on the act, and soon did as one of the original “birthers.” As a young man, he inherited a lot of money. Like the fictional but likable Elmer J. Fudd, the real but obnoxious Donald J. Trump had more than enough money for a mansion and a yacht. Consequently, he got bored easily and needed something to do, so he built up an image of himself as a master businessman/deal maker. True? Nope, but if Donald J. Trump has proven anything in the course of his career, it’s that — provided you start with enough money — you can fail sideways by “leveraging” a ridiculous, gold-leafed, classy-with-a-k, brand. Trump did the book. Trump did the board game. Trump did the vodka and steaks. Trump did the Reality TV. Trump did the completely unaccredited university. Trump even did the fictional comedy chicken joint:
Last summer, a Trump run for the presidency seemed jokey. Trump came down an escalator. He hired supporters. Trump was a windy bozo, and was compared to every other windy bozo — your uncle being loud and embarrassing at the family reunion, your uncle being loud and embarrassing at Walmart, your uncle, loud and embarrassing on the back stoop drinking beer while complaining about all the foreigners ruining everything.
Now, as we head into the summer of 2016, Donald J. Trump is the (presumptive) nominee of the GOP. In the beginning, there were 16 other Republican contenders. 16! One by one, Trump dispatched them all with a witch’s brew of braggadocio, nonsensical school-yard taunts, xenophobia, and misogyny. He did it without really being a politician, and without really being a Republican. Trump crashed a party that, while managing to stay pretty old, quit being grand around 1865. It’s morning in America now — there’s a weird smell no one can identify, and red solo cups are strewn everywhere.*
*Don’t worry, though, Donald J. Trump has more than enough money to cover the cost of those red solo cups, I will tell you that.
It’s the birthday of one of the great voices of jazz music, J.J. Johnson. Of the slide instrument, J.J. — often referred to as the father of modern jazz trombone — once quipped, “It’s a horrible, beastly to play, especially to play jazz on.” Well? You could never really tell that when J.J. played. His handling of the trombone always projected a relaxed calm, and the musical results speak for themselves.
In 1960, for Jazz at the Philharmonic, here’s J.J. playing with Stan Getz and band: Victor Feldman piano, Sam Jones, bass, Louis Hayes, drums. The location is the Salle Pleyel in Paris, France. The musical vehicle is Sweet Georgia Brown, a tune whose changes J.J. was evidently fond of improvising on. He recorded it more than once as a harmonic basis for tunes he composed like Sweet Georgia Gillespie and Tea Pot. Speaking of composing, the fact that J.J. was an inventive composer showed in all of his musical expressions.
It may seem pretty unlikely, but The Commander is still out there somewhere, fixing leaks, kicking ass, and taking names, not neccesarily in that order, or even literally. And note, by “out there,” I don’t mean hunkered down in a bird sanctuary somewhere in the great state of Oregon.
In other news, here’s a Happy New Years video. Hope everything winds-up great for your year! Ha! Er . . .
Trombonist and proprietor of Hip Bone Music Michael Davis has been running his excellent Bone-to-Pick interview series for a while now. A little over a year ago, Davis featured the incomparable trombonist Bill Watrous. Watrous, who is full of stories, observations, and the occasional joke*, is a natural for this sort of thing, and that makes the interview fun to watch.
Watch the entire interview if you haven’t already, but for the joke as told by Carl Fontana to Watrous, check out 32 minutes 13 seconds.
When recalling his earliest — and fairly obscure — LP solo recordings, Bill mentions one whose title seems to be a 60s zeitgeist send-up: Love Themes For The Underground, The Establishment & Other Sub Cultures Not Yet Known. Watrous remembers the arranger Walter Raim talked him into the project when he was in New York City doing other recording work. Love Themes For The Underground, The Establishment & Other Sub Cultures Not Yet Known had interesting instrumentation in addition to Watrous’s trombone, consisting of string quartet, vibes, guitar, bass, and drums, plus voices. “I still have a copy of this. You can’t get these anywhere,” says Watrous.
Well, over at my favorite used record store, Hymies, I did find a copy of, you know, Love Themes For The Underground, The Establishment & Other Sub Cultures Not Yet Known. It was recorded in 1969 for MTA Records in New York (not to be confused with the current label of that name). Despite the high concept title, the recording is a standards outing with Aquarius (from the 1967 musical Hair) added in. (Also, did Aquarius ever really become a standard?) To be sure, it’s easy listening, but as the liner notes mention, using a string quartet — as opposed to a huge string section — changes up the usual “easy listening” texture. The arrangements are interesting — the tracks on this LP could have easily been used for Mad Men music cues.