Dr. Vernick, I Presume

Note: Some of the links below will take you to the iTunes music store.

Recently, while searching the jungle of the iTunes music store, I came across an interesting iTunes U/Podcast by Dr. Gordon Vernick titled Jazz Insights.

Gordon Vernick

Vernick, who heads up the jazz studies program at Georgia State University, started Jazz Insights as a 10-minute radio show: short vignettes on the basics of jazz for the uninitiated. Since then, he’s continued the program by covering the work of individual jazz artists and their place in the history of the music.

On a series of shows about J.J. Johnson, an initial mention of the slide trombone’s recalcitrant nature is inevitable. Vernick says:

The Trombone is a very difficult instrument. It’s a very ancient instrument. It’s been around for hundreds, if not thousands of years…

It’ll come as no surprise that Dr. Vernick uses recordings as one of the vehicles to recount a jazz artist’s career and development. Continuing with Johnson — the only trombonist featured so far — Vernick begins with J.J.’s early swing-style playing on Lester Leaps In for Norman Granz’s Jazz At the Philharmonic. Johnson’s emerging be-bop style is illustrated by I Mean You with Coleman Hawkins and How Deep Is the Ocean? with Charlie Parker, before we hear classic be-bop dates with J.J. as the leader. By the end of the 40s, we hear how J.J. cooled off a bit.

While recounting his career in the 50s, Vernick discusses Johnson’s involvement in the somewhat short-lived idea of Third Stream Music (A Mix of Jazz and Classical Music) by playing us some of the rare recording Birth of the Third Stream,while getting to J.J.’s musical connection to Miles Davis. Naturally, there’s also discussion of The Eminent J.J. Johnson Volumes One and Two. Along the way, Vernick includes some other important Johnson recordings, including Jay and Kai + 6 (below, courtesy YouTube) and Stan Getz and J.J. Johnson at the Opera House.

I won’t spoil it by recounting all of Vernick’s show on J.J. here. You really should go give it a listen yourself. Vernick’s presentational style is friendly and geared towards a jazz novice, but it’s still interesting if you happen to know more. In other words, Jazz Insights is aptly named. Plus, Dr. Vernick has recorded programs on Jackie McLean, Thad Jones, Scott LaFaro, Stan Getz, and other artists. Check it out.

Everything Must Go

Today is the day of the big rapture, so it might be fitting to consider a few tunes for the end-times. Of course, many people are familiar with REM’s It’s the End of the World As We Know It, but how many have heard Mose Allison’s Ever Since the World Ended?

And, let’s not forget man-made Armageddon. In the movie, Dr. Strangelove, Slim Pickens rode the atomic bomb down to the earth to Vera Lynn’s We’ll Meet Again.

April Mea Culpa

First things first: it’s time to apologize for the lack of updates here in the month of April. April, which according to poet T.S. Elliot is the cruelest month, is also Jazz Appreciation Month, and National Poetry Month. Cruel, certainly. There were horribly destructive tornadoes in the southern U.S. (Learn more, and how you might help, here).

Fortunately, it’s always jazz appreciation month on this website. Some jazz-in-April links: Over at Jazzwax, Marc Myers is up for two jazz journalist association awards. David Brent Johnson’s Nightlights radio show featured bassist Scott Lafaro, amongst others. Undated, but musician Danny Barnes wrote a great article about how to play in someone else’s band. Don’t forget Donna over at Elements of Jazz dot com. She’s got the Twitter Jazzerati list over there, as well as other great stuff.

And the weather? It was also too cold for April in Minnesota, even in Minnesota. More soon…

Hip-Hop and the Gmail Fiasco

Google Houdini picture

H Houdini at gmail dot com?

Back in the day, when Google first started up “gmail,” I got one of the early invites to the service. Because I was present not-too-long-after the creation, I was able to pick a fairly straightforward user name that consisted of my first initial plus my last name. It was great, or at least it seemed great at the time. Sadly, even though my shiny new google email address was all mine, over time a lot of people began trying to use it. The reasons seemed various, but the simplicity of my address meant that:

  • It was used as a made-up address to register for various types of online things, or given in answer when someone else kept bugging that person for their email address in any number of ways.
  • Other people assumed they had the correct address for the person they were trying to email.
  • A small of group of people apparently thought the email address was theirs somehow. They even tried to reset the password. But, you see, the reset email comes to me.

Anyway, what all this means is that I’ve gotten lots of crazy email over the years. Blow-by-blow accounts of drunken vacations across Europe, notices from coaches and choir directors, “special thanks” from businesses about “your inquiry.”

I do try to respond and tell people of their error. I’m always nice about it, unless the temptation to “put people on” is too great. For example, one email was intended for “Pastor Chris.” Update: I should note here that the email I received was sent to a group, and that one of included addresses was “@” DHS (Department of Homeland Security) dot gov.

Pastor Chris I know this is your down time, but (smile) if time permits you please take a look at the other two items in this email and send us your reply by Thursday, that is when our next meeting, after Thursday night [sic] we hope to have an idea what is needed budget-wise and be presenting it to you for your approval shortly.

Thank you,
Anniversary committee

My response:

Dear Committee:
Thank you very much for your email, and for your acknowledgement that this is my (smile) downtime. I have no problem with providing input, but first, I must be completely candid and tell you that I am not (smile) pastor Chris. While my name is Chris, and I have no particular training as a pastor. Nevermind; on to the budget.

We will need to budget for plenty of office supplies, particularly sticky-notes. The brand does not matter, but I am partial to 3M. On to these sticky notes we shall write reminders to ourselves to check the accuracy of email addresses we intend to use for the official business of the anniversary committee. If necessary, we shall affix these sticky-notes to our foreheads. This will allow others to see the reminders, even if we cannot remember ourselves.

Further, if we work for some government agency, say, the Department of Homeland Security, we shall refrain from using that email address to conduct the business of the committee. The anniversary committee, while it no doubt conducts important work, should not “gum up” (smile) the email of the DHS. Write this admonition on a sticky note. Affix it to your forehead if necessary, then pause and get a Gmail account.

All Best Wishes and Regards,

Not-a-Pastor, Chris

Recently, I got some hip-hop — nothing in the message but a sound file. The subject line read “song.” The linked mp3 file below is an excerpt.

Roll Up (Excerpt):

Of course, the message demanded a musical response. Fortunately, I had a short Garageband track I had already composed that would fit the purpose well. All that was necessary was to add an extra vocal, and voila!

Email Wrong: