[Dixielandjazz] Polkas and OKOM and Compromises

Stephen Barbone barbonestreet at earthlink.net
Thu Feb 27 15:47:27 PST 2003

> JimDBB at aol.com wrote:
> In a message dated 2/27/03 9:59:35 AM Central Standard Time,
> charliehooks at earthlink.net writes:
> >   But haven't we all done our share of shilling to the rubes: playing
> > "The
> > Bunny Hop," "The Chicken Dance," the "twist"--and dozens of others over the
> > years.  This crowd wants a polka?  Hell, roll out that barrel!  I think
> > Steve recommends some compromise here, some middle ground that will let us
> > play well and still sell ourselves without selling ourselves out.  If so,
> > I've got to go with him, though I sure understand Dan's feeling.
> >
> >     Thinking about all this is non-musical and a pain-in-the-ass. Yet so is
> > hustling jobs, and somebody has to do it.
> I always enjoyed playin the "Beer Barrel Polka"  expecailly for a jazz
> audience who was not expecting it.  They usually loved it, especially when we
> sang the trio and dixiefied the last chorus..  When Charlie Hooks was with me
> and we got a request for a polka I usually asked him to play the clarinet
> polka, which he plays the shit out of.  ( whoops, I broke one of his rules of
> writing).  The clarinet polka is akin to 'HIgh Society" in being a difficult
> clarinet classic.

Hear hear, Jim.

Polkas? Hell, all they are is Polish Dixieland. Played a bunch of them
the other night and the audience said hey, you are playing jazz. Well,
No S---, Sherlock. And I'll bet Hooks does it better.

In my view, I don't do anything that compromises the music. All I do is
what OKOM musicians originally did when they started to play jazz. They
took contemporary tunes and made jazz out of them. That is what we do.

They bent the existing "rules" to create jazz.

We bend the existing "rules" to create jazz. Do we flat 5ths? Sure, so
did Bix Beiderbecke 70 years ago. Do we swing the music? Sure, so did
Louis Armstrong 70 years ago. Do we put on a show for the audience?
Sure, so did Louis, so did Condon, so did the Dukes of Dixieland, so did
Bechet, and so did Pee Wee Russell, the ultimate 5th flattener.

All this talk about "real" OKOM from some players and fans is just
BS from people trying to be something they are not. . . .Experts!
Some will says some 2 beat Dixieland does not swing. If so, then
it is bad music. We swing the hell out of Jazz Me Blues in 2 beat.

I guess the point I would make is that many of the talking OKOM heads
believe that somehow, the "rules" for creating it were frozen at some
point in time. For me, that is just not true. The rules were never
frozen, just somebody's particular attitude was frozen.

Like we use a guitar as the primary chord instrument. That is not a new
idea. The original New Orleans Bands, starting with Buddy Bolden and the
very beginning of jazz used a guitar as well as the double bass. So who
the hell is any OKOM maven to tell me that I am not playing New Orleans
jazz? Hey, I may be the only one following the original path.

For all those meat heads saying that OKOM is banjo-tuba only, I say
BS. That was a commercialization of the original jazz by players
who wanted to get in on the action and record. It is not "authentic".
It is good music for sure, but not the only way to go.

Jazz Tunes? Hey, very few composers write them. The OKOM we so dearly
love from the 20s and 30s is simply Tin Pan Alley popular songs, or show
tunes, jazzed up. Why then do OKOMers now say you can't jazz up the
current music and call it OKOM?  Because they have their heads up there
where the sun don't shine.

The point that some DJMlers so blindly miss is that Barbone Street is
firmly in control of its musical destiny. We play what we feel like
playing, and only for people we like. We turn everything else down. And
in doing so, we are having the time of our life, playing as much as we
want, no more, no less. And, we're making money at it by playing to
audiences of younger generations.

If that is compromising, I'm missing something.

Steve Barbone

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