Last week, a brilliant publicist managed to get the U.S. media to pay attention to an obscure popular music study in an obscure publication by obscure Spanish researchers. Congratulations to the publicist, since this isn't easy to do. The problem is the conclusion that was reported by the media—or who fed the flawed conclusion to them. Yet another example of radio and TV editors who accept what they're told at face value.
Here's the bill of goods the publicist managed to unload: One leading news-radio station in New York reported that "a new study shows that our grandparents were right—all pop music sounds alike." An all-news TV network reported later in the day that "a new study confirms that all pop music sounds the same—and has for 50 years."
The stupidity of the study's so-called conclusion should have at least been a red flag. But editors all over the place bought it hook, line and sinker.
First off, the original study is virtually unintelligible. Perhaps its coherence was lost in translation. Or maybe it was incoherent to begin with. Second, as far as I can tell, nowhere in the study does it say "all popular music sounds the same."
This is as close to a conclusion as I could find in the study: "Therefore, contemporary popular music may have a well-established set of underlying patterns and regularities, some of them potentially inherited from the classical tradition."
Huh? As any good editor knows, when something sounds too good to be true, it probably is and needs verification. Here's a conclusion: Dumb studies always prove dumb points—and have done so for the past 50 years. Want to read the study? Go here.
Pianist Ronnell Bright, Sarah Vaughan's accompanist in the late '50s, called last week and we had a wonderful chat. Here's Ronnell on The Jeffersons (move the bar on up to 6:02 and 8:40)...
And here's Ronnell with the Count Basie Band in 1989, five years after Basie's death, when Frank Wess and Harry "Sweets" Edison led the orchestra. On I Wish I Knew, Ronnell runs away with the song, even outdoing Sweets...
1961 jazz radio. Recently, David Brent Johnson, host of Night Lights, which airs Saturdays on Indiana University's WFIU, featured a show entitled "1961: New Jazz Frontier." The hour-long show examined the year in which jazz styles changed and featured the music of Bill Evans, John Coltrane and Eric Dolphy, Duke Ellington and Louis Armstrong, Jimmy Giuffre, Dexter Gordon, George Russell, and Stan Getz. To hear a podcast of the hour-long show, go here.
"In 1975 I was living in Europe and did a photo story for Home magazine, a Sunday supplement of the Los Angeles Times, on Bob Willoughby and his family at their home in Cork, Ireland, before they moved to France.
"His home was called Coolmaine Castle. It was late fall and the castle had central heating and all the comforts of home. In the enclosed picture—shot on an old Kodachrome II at the entrance to their castle—Bob is with his wife Dorothy, their children, the family dog and his mother in-law.
More Kay Starr. My post on Kay Starr struck a chord with many readers. JazzWax readers Ross Firestone and Paul Brown reminded me about the series of 78s Starr recorded for the Lamplighter label in 1945 and '46. Most were standards, and she was backed by small groups that included Barney Bigard, Vic Dickenson, Ray Linn, Willie Smith and Zutty Singleton. For a CD collection, go here.
Ross went on to say, "There also are the sides Starr did with the so-called Capitol International Jazzmen for Capitol records in March 1945, where she was backed by a truly incredible ensemble that included Bill Coleman (tp) Buster Bailey (cl) Benny Carter (as,arr) Coleman Hawkins (ts) Nat King Cole (p) Oscar Moore (g) John Kirby (b) Max Roach (d)."
Here's Starr singing If I Could Be With You with the Capitol International Jazzmen...
Oddball album cover of the week. It's King Curtis, so it has to be good. Good thing the music is billed as "authentic" though. Wouldn't have wanted to make the mistake of picking up King Curtis playing the inauthentic kind.