Archive for the Be Bop Category

A Stan Kenton Christmas

Posted in Ballroom/ Big Band/ Swing, Be Bop, Jazz (miscellaneous), Music with tags , , , on December 15, 2013 by travsd

stan5

Today is the birthday of progressive jazz piano player, composer/arranger and bandleader Stan Kenton (1911-1979). We mark the occasion in timely fashion with his band’s swinging horn-heavy 1961 version of “God, Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen” — nothing like making a sweet hymn sounds like the soundtrack to a 70s cop show…but we like it!

To find out more about the variety arts past and present consult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famousavailable at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and wherever nutty books are sold. 

safe_image

And don’t miss my new book Chain of Fools: Silent Comedy and Its Legacies from Nickelodeons to Youtube, just released by Bear Manor Media, also available from amazon.com etc etc etc

chain%20of%20fools%20cvr%20front%20only-500x500

 

Charlie Parker: Bird Gets the Worm

Posted in African American Interest, Be Bop, Music with tags , on August 29, 2013 by travsd

Charles-Parker666

 

Today is the birthday of pioneering be bop alto sax player Charlie “Bird” Parker (1920-1955). Here’s his composition “Bird Gets the Worm” which he recorded in 1947 with his All-Stars: Max Roach, Miles Davis, Duke Jordan and Tommy Potter.

Stars of Vaudeville # 788: Lester Young

Posted in African American Interest, Ballroom/ Big Band/ Swing, Be Bop, Music, Television, TV variety with tags , , , , , , , , on August 27, 2013 by travsd

lester1

Today is the birthday of the great jazz saxophonist Lester Young (1909-1959). This one blew my mind — to learn that Lester Young, whom I think of as the ultimate be bop hep cat, had a background in vaudeville!

He grew up in his family’s musical act, The Young Family Band, which played the black vaudeville and carnival circuits. His father taught him to play trumpet, violin, drums and woodwinds. At 18 he peeled off on his own, and played with a number of bands before he joined up with Count Basie’s Orchestra, which is where he made a name for himself as a musician (he played with Basie on-again/ off-again through 1943, when he was drafted into the army. He also played with Fletcher Henderson’s band, and on records with the likes of Billie Holiday and Nat King Cole. After the war (the be bop era) he played with Norman Granz’s Jazz at the Philharmonic, and with a number of small combos. His last years were a downward trajectory of alcoholism and decline. But he is remembered as one of the great jazz soloists of all time.

He was reportedly a shadow of his former self by the time of this clip (1958), but he sure sounds good to me! Willie “The Lion” Smith is on piano:

To find out more about  the history of vaudevilleconsult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous, available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and wherever nutty books are sold.

safe_image

And check out my new book: Chain of Fools: Silent Comedy and Its Legacies from Nickelodeons to Youtube, just released by Bear Manor Mediaalso available from amazon.com etc etc etc

chain%20of%20fools%20cvr%20front%20only-500x500

Stars of Vaudeville #750: Henry “Rubberlegs” Williams

Posted in African American Interest, Be Bop, Dance, Music, Singers, Vaudeville etc. with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on July 14, 2013 by travsd

33610

Today is the birthday of Henry “Rubberlegs” Williams (1907-1962). The best dope on Williams I’ve been able to find comes from the terrific two volume set Vaudeville Old and New, which tells he started out singing and dancing for coins in a whorehouse at age 10 and then toured with Bobby Grant’s Female Impersonators Revue out of Atlanta. As a teenager, he danced the black bottom and the Charleston and did a legomania act on the TOBA circuit and in tent shows. By the late 20s he was playing Keith time as an overgrown “pickaninny’ in Naomi Thomas’ Brazilian Nuts Show (a tab show), and in the 30s and 40s he appeared in major revues like Lew Leslie’s Blackbirds and major nightclubs and theatres like The Cotton Club and the Apollo in Harlem. Towards the end of his singer he concentrated more on singing, performing with the likes of Fletcher Henderson, Charlie Parker and Dizzie Gillespie. 

Here he is in the 1933 short Smash Your Luggage:

To find out more about  the history of vaudevilleconsult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous, available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and wherever nutty books are sold.

safe_image

And check out my new book: Chain of Fools: Silent Comedy and Its Legacies from Nickelodeons to Youtube, just released by Bear Manor Mediaalso available from amazon.com etc etc etc

chain%20of%20fools%20cvr%20front%20only-500x500

Mingus!

Posted in African American Interest, Be Bop, Music with tags , , on April 22, 2013 by travsd

CharlesMingus[1]

Today is the birthday of the great be bop bass player and composer Charles Mingus (1922-1979). Who did more good for the soul of America during the Cold War? Some army general? Wrong! Billy Graham? Well, if that’s your thing, okay. But in terms of tapping a vein that contains something resembling genuine American creativity, imagination, energy and spirit, look ye first to the jazz makers. This 1968 documentary about Mingus gets you quite close to this irascible, complicated dude. It’s kind of counterintuitive to think that jazz was sort of dying out then. Mingus’s sort of music never did mainstream, has always been on the fringes where some people think it belongs. Me, I think it would be awesome to open a baseball game with a nutty, heavily improvised jazz variation on the Star Spangled Banner. But then I also think it would be cool if baseball could be played under conditions of complete anarchy, with people running around anywhere they wanted to, and throwing and hitting balls in whatever direction occurred to them  whenever they felt like it. My version would be called “base (bass) baby”. Tickets would be free. Look, I think someone’s playing it over there right now!

Stan Getz (and Astrud Gilberto) “The Girl from Ipanema”

Posted in Ballroom/ Big Band/ Swing, Be Bop, Jazz (miscellaneous), Music, Television, TV variety with tags , , , on February 2, 2013 by travsd

Stan Getz

Today is the birthday of the great jazz saxophonist Stan Getz (1927-1991). Here he is with Astrud Gilberto as she performs her famous rendition of the bossa nova tune  “The Girl from Ipanema” in a 1964 television special. His solo comes in at about 1:30:

To find out more about the variety arts past and present, consult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous, available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and wherever nutty books are sold. And don’t miss Chain of Fools: Silent Comedy and Its Legacies from Nickelodeons to Youtube, to be released by Bear Manor Media in 2013.

safe_image

Max Roach

Posted in Be Bop, Indie Theatre, LEGIT, EXPERIMENTAL & MUSICAL THEATRE, Music with tags , on January 10, 2013 by travsd

max-roach_by-francis-wolff-c-mosaic-images

 

Today is the birthday of the great be bop jazz drummer Max Roach (1924-2007). I always get real peeved when I hear people who don’t know what they’re talking about say that drums are an “easier” instrument than the melodic ones (keyboards, horns, strings, woodwinds). That’s nonsense. All musical instruments are just tools for the communication of artists. In the hands of one, an instrument (whatever instrument*) can be made to sing. In the hands of another, it fizzles. The object is to take the instrument as far as it can go, and the drums do NOT take a back seat to other instruments when they’re in the hands of a great artist like Max Roach. (Fun fact: Roach collaborated with Sam Shepard, also a drummer, on the music for some of Shepard’s early plays at La Mama).

* I speak within reason, of course. I think we have to draw the line at the triangle.

 

 

 

%d bloggers like this: