Waxing & musings. If background music sends a subliminal message, then I'm not quite sure what C-Span 2, the U.S. Senate TV channel, is trying to tell us. Tuning in to catch the Sonia Sotomayor [pictured] confirmation hearings last week, I switched on C-Span 2 only to find that the Senators and the Supreme Court nominee were on a lunch break. As clerks milled about on the screen in the empty chamber, the music playing was Mozart.
It's hard to say what kind of music the ad-free C-Span 2 should cue up when filling time. But foreign classical music doesn't seem to be it. I have nothing against Mozart or any classical recording. But I think if we're looking at the U.S. Senate, music composed by American artists is probably more appropriate. Perhaps executives at the live-feed channel might consider instrumental recordings by American jazz musicians. Maybe the station could even list the American jazz artists and the song at the bottom of the screen as we wait for our American political representatives to reconvene? I'm sure my European friends and readers would agree.
Or does C-Span, like so many other Washington institutions, feel that jazz and other forms of American music aren't quite up to snuff? I suppose the choice of classical music is supposed to make viewers feel relaxed and less impatient, or to convey the message that the U.S. Senate is a sophisticated and civilized institution.
If the folks who run C-Span 2 don't know much about jazz, I understand completely. Let me offer a few educated and civilized suggestions that would both relax viewers and enliven dead air time: Wes Montgomery's Gone With the Wind, Bill Evans' Waltz for Debby, Oscar Peterson's Wave, Teddy Wilson's Like Someone in Love, or anything by Erroll Garner [pictured] or Art Tatum.
Just a thought.
Hal McKusick on Bill Harris. Following my posted remarks last week on trombonist Bill Harris, legendary saxophonist Hal McKusick sent along the following e-mail:
Bill was one of the great soloists in any band he was with, and this band was no exception. Bill was funny to boot! Perhaps my favorite Bill Harris story took place at Birdland in Miami, when the New York club had a Florida outpost. Toward the end of the band's stay at the club, Bill loosened his pants' belt. Then he had the band play Artistry in Rhythm, Stan Kenton's theme. As he conducted dramatically, like Kenton, he sucked in his stomach, turned to the audience and let his pants drop to the floor. The club let the band go that night. Bill may have looked like a serious guy, but he was as wild as anyone back then."
Will Friedwald. Shortly before jazz writer Will Friedwald moved out of his East Harlem office space in New York earlier this summer, I paid him a visit. Upon entering his walk-up, I was floored. Inside, the walls were lined with about 14,000 jazz and pop LPs. All were waiting patiently on steel shelves for the arrival of boxes and strong hands. Will had donated his lifelong jazz collection to a jazz archive in Washington, D.C., and the pop discs to the Michael Feinstein Foundation, and the transfers were to take place in a matter of days. Soon after the generous (and valuable) gift was trucked away, Will relocated to more spacious digital digs. The point of all of this is to show you what the scene looked like around the time I was invited up...
Billy Taylor. Next Friday is Billy Taylor's birthday, when the legendary pianist turns 88. You'll find the link to my five-part interview series with Billy in the right-hand column under "JazzWax Interviews." To celebrate, Bret Primack has posted 88 Billy Taylor video clips at Billy Taylor's site here.
CD Discovery of the Week. If you're a fan of Dizzy Gillespie's early 1960s output for the Philips label, you'll dig the nearly forgotten Dizzy Goes Hollywood. I stumbled across it last week while snooping around at iTunes. The album features Gillespie (trumpet), James Moody (alto and tenor sax, and flute), Kenny Barron (piano) Chris White (bass) and Rudy Collins (drums). The tracks are all jazz spins on movie themes popular at the time, and in Dizzy's hands (not to mention Moody's), the results are brisk and smart.
Between 1962 and 1964, Dizzy recorded a series of jazz-pop albums for Philips that were quite good. The run started with Dizzy on the French Riviera (which was recorded in a New York studio) and ended with The Cool World. In between were New Wave, Dizzy Goes Hollywood, Something Old Something New and With the Double Six of Paris. While these album are hardly the best albums Dizzy ever recorded, they do feature Dizzy relaxed and having fun.
Dizzy Goes Hollywood swings and features smart small-group arrangements of familiar movie themes. Dizzy curls notes patiently and slams others on the nose while flying through runs. Despite the commercial fare, Dizzy never sells out, ensuring that songs like Days of Wine and Roses, Moon River and Theme from Picnic are jazz executions first and foremost.
You'll find Dizzy Goes Hollywood as a download at iTunes or as part of a two-fer download under The Cool World title ($11.99 version).
Oddball Album Cover of the Week. Peggy Connelly didn't record much, but what she did record was pretty darn good. Most notable was her Bethlehem Records album That Old Black Magic in 1956 with Russ Garcia's Wigville band. She also recorded Sings! [here] in the early-1950s for the Nocturne label, co-owned by bassist Harry Babasin and drummer Roy Harte. The 10-inch LP featured an orchestra arranged and conducted by Marty Paich and included Jimmy Rowles (piano), Harry Babasin (bass) and Roy Harte (drums). I'm not quite sure what point the photographer was trying to make with this angle or why Peggy is posing next to what seems to be the trunk of a palm tree. We can only assume that the early 1950s was another time and another place.