[Dixielandjazz] Tempi - Improv - Programming - Doing business

Steve barbone barbonestreet at earthlink.net
Sat Oct 22 23:28:45 PDT 2005

Just a couple of miscellaneous thoughts on them:

Tempi - There is rarely only one tempo at which a tune can be played
successfully. Like "After You've Gone". Gorgeous at the original slow tempo,
Gorgeous at the Benny Goodman tempo. Or "Lover" done up-tempo by Peggy Lee
wonderfully, yet when she asked Richard Rogers how he liked it, seeing him
in the audience one night, he replied a bit testily; "Peggy dear, I wrote it
as a waltz". Tempo very often depends upon the audience. Wild Party Animals?
play loud and fast making "gee this is fun" faces. Old art lovers, play
slower and softer, with feeling all the while looking arty. Etc.

Improv - Eric H wrote that Stardust is gorgeous in verse and chorus exactly
as written and improv was not needed to improve upon it. While I agree,
Artie Shaw and others have done some fantastic things on it with improv. I
think it depends upon who is improvising and at what musical level. Does
anybody play it these days like Hoagy wrote it?

Programming -  Starting out by easing your chops into the gig is one way to
do it. However, gig audiences require that you start with a barn burner and
you had better be able to cut it if you want to retain the gig. Our casino
gigs REQUIRE that we start loud and fast and end loud and fast. Louis
Armstrong also preached starting a set, or gig with one of your best shots,
and ending it with another of your best shots. Why? People remember the
first and last songs more than they remember what happened in the middle.
He taught Basie this when Basie got burned with his first band by a lack of
audience response to a slow and easy starting set. Said Louis; "Hey Bill,
that's show business."

Our casino gigs start in the first venue with Tiger Rag, followed by That's
A Plenty and then Fidgety Feet or similar numbers at warp speed and volume
because that what the audience will react most favorably to. Then we move to
the second venue and play stuff like Sugar, Basin Street, Do You Know What
It Means, etc., because the audience there is different.

The four internal venues, which require different programming are:

1. Slot Machine Room (large/noisy - draws a crowd up close and personal)

2. Buffet (medium-quiet - just listeners),

3. Hallway (long noisy - get a second line while marching along)

4) Bus Area/Terminal - (medium noisy get a lot of dancers)

Bottom Line: - We may, like Artie Shaw love music but hate the music
business. But unlike him, we remain in it. So IMO, we should "do business".
What does that mean?

One of my musical buddies, Ace Tesone (bass) likes to tell a story about
Charlie Ventura and a specific quartet gig at a club in NYC, circa 1950s.
Tesone, Ventura, Krupa, T. Napoleon. They were in the middle of a smoking
first set. Then the club owner comes up and says. "Charlie, get off stage.
We have a line of people waiting to get in." (There was a $10 cover)

Charlie and the boys start a new tune and keep playing whereupon the owner
comes back to the stand and says. "Charlie, get the F*** off stage RIGHT NOW
and let the tables turn over. "DAMN IT, WE'RE HERE TO DO BUSINESS."

Ventura got the message and so did ACE who has done business all of his life
with many of the GIANTS of jazz. Each of us, in his/her own way might well
consider that the business of business is to stay in business.


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