[Dixielandjazz] Al Grey playing Dixieland
Stephen G Barbone
barbonestreet at earthlink.net
Tue Jul 1 06:36:52 PDT 2008
On Jun 30, 2008, at 5:29 PM, Marek Boym wrote: (polite snip)
> Hello Steve,
> I heard the Eldridge band at Ryans' in 1980, and it was BORING! The
> musicians sounded uninterested and lethargic. The intermission piano
> (Red Richards) was something else! I had that experience twice - the
> first time it was Max Kaminsky that fronted the band.
> On the Eldridge evening, during the intermission Eldridge was
> approached by two ladies of his age and height. They gave him a tape
> they had made at a concert in Chicago, if I am not mistaken, and all
> three seemed to have great time! After the intermission, it was a
> transformed Eldridge that took the stage. Disregarding the band and
> the repertoire, he played highlights of his old repertoire for his two
> guests, and it was Great! The band eventually followed, but Eldridge
> did not seem to care.
> If you want to know "just what the hell music between Swing and
> Dixieland could possibly be," listen to Eldrdge's "Dixieland" band on
> Verve! It is closer to "swing" than to Dixieland, but it features
> mainly Dixieland repertoire and line-up. But then, is it important?
> It sounds good, and that's what matters.
You bring up a couple of great points Marek.
Regarding Eldridge, maybe you hear him on a bad night. Happens to
Then again, he had been the band leader at Ryan's for over a decade
when you saw him. Playing the same 100 tunes or so for up to 6 hours a
night, six nights a week.
Dixieland musicians who have been there, done that, realize that you
become a jazz zombie with that much playing.
During my College/Law School years, (1956-1962) I played 4 nights a
week. In summers I played 6 nights a week. Band tune repertoire was
roughly 200, but the customers demanded the same 50 or so war horses
every night. Let me tell you from personal experience how one starts
to play by rote in that situation. Thank goodness for the occasional
sideman gigs in other bands that stirred the creativity pot.
Maybe after some 4000 or so gigs at Ryan's before you saw him there,
Eldridge was a just a little sour? And the audiences were aging and
getting less enthusiastic. Feedback energy is very important in the
quality of live performances.
Also bear in mind that in the 1980s, Eldridge had developed some heart
trouble which is why he stopped playing entirely, not long after you
saw him. Working with older musicians, I can relate from personal
experiences, that health problems sure kill the creative spark in them.
For me, playing with and knowing Roy Eldridge, there never was a more
competitive, fiery player than him. He proved that again and again in
cutting contests, loft sessions, JATP recordings, and countless live
performances in clubs. And he played the hell out of Dixieland.
Regarding "music between dixieland and swing" it is important to mock
that phrase because it is meaningless in the sense that each of us
ascribes a different meaning to it. Just like "jazz" as Jazz Jerry
correctly pointed out. The word is bastardized in that it has
different meanings to different people. Same for "dixieland". It too
has different meanings to different people.
So the point I try and make is that those words, or "trad jazz" or
"hot dance" or whatever, are really meaningless. The discussion
between us illustrates that. You say Al Grey doesn't play Dixieland. I
say he does. Why do we differ? Because we define Dixieland
differently. Not limited to you and me either. All of us on the DJML
define those words differently. Simple as that, and perhaps that's why
OKOM or MKOM is used to better effect. Or to quote Armstrong: "What's
Jazz? Jazz is what you are."
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