[Dixielandjazz] vocals

Charlie Hooks charliehooks at earthlink.net
Tue Feb 4 09:10:51 PST 2003

on 2/4/03 4:06 AM, James Kashishian at kash at ran.es wrote:

> Anyway, I'm into the "heart" thing, and if a musician has it, that's
> great.

    ...and if he doesn't, then forget him--or her.  Well, not forget, maybe;
but drop him a notch or two, no matter what his admirable technique:
explains why I'll always love Zoot Simms over Stan Getz: Zoot always has a
story.  I have a track of him doing "Someone to Watch Over Me" that'll break
your heart every time you hear it.  Stan is a monster, indeed; but Zoot IMHO
is The Man.  Same with Cleo Laine.

    I love Jim Beebe like a brother, but we ain't identical twins.  I've got
to go with Kash on this one: Cleo is one of my most admired singers.  Some
songwriters--Harold Arlen leaps to mind--write songs so wedded to lyrics
that they can hardly be thought of apart: "Over the Rainbow," "Last Night
When We Were Young"--or Hoagy's "I Get Along Without You Very Well"--and you
can claim, with some validity, that none of these are "jazz" tunes.  Well,
folks, listen here: there ain't no "jazz tunes"; there's only jazz players.
As Louis famously remarked (and I do love this!): "If it gits off the groun,
don't matter what song you playin'.  An if it don't git off the groun...
don't matter what song you playin'!"

    No question that some progressions more than others seem to encourage
the player (I'm thinking of the 5 zillion versions of "I've Got Rhythm");
but also without question is the ability of a player like Louis (along with
others each of you will know--some known only to their home town crowd) who
could swing the hell out of "Pomp and Circumstance" and have the robed
doctors dancin' down the aisle!  IMHO, Cleo Laine is one of these people.

    I'm not sure I'd go so far as to take her over Ella; that's to me like
taking her over God.  But I'll put her right up there in the Trinity: Ella
and Cleo and Bessie Smith.  I'll never forget the first time I caught her,
early 70s; it was on TV, so I had video as well as audio.  My jaw dropped:
"Who the HELL is THIS???  Where's she been?  Why do I not know this woman?"

    One more piddling cavil: To attend only the "tunes of the twenties" or
any such limited designation simply shrinks one's musical awareness down and
down, until at last one becomes an "expert," a "knowledgeable person" who is
just a bit more handy than an IBM card.  (Do we still have those?)  Such
chosen shrinkage is even worse than that of the super-hip modernist who is
way too cool for "all that old shit," man!  Because, knowing the roots, one
should know better.  Because knowing the roots should promote admiration for
the entire plant, the marvelous, complicated, not-really-explainable bean
stalk that is the whole of Jazz.

    True, we like what we like and hate what we hate; but stretching
exercises are mandatory if calcification isn't to destroy all flexible





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