Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

Archive for the ‘Jazz’ Category

Ella Fitzgerald – All The Things You Are

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Written by Leisureguy

4 August 2021 at 5:58 pm

Posted in Art, Jazz, Music, Video

Oscar Peterson – Boogie Blues Etude

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Written by Leisureguy

25 July 2021 at 7:12 am

Posted in Daily life, Jazz, Video

Raymond Scott’s bizarre but intriguing ideas

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Being ahead of one’s time is a serious curse. Ted Gioia has a most interesting column that begins:

Background: Below is the latest in my series of profiles of individuals I call visionaries of sound—innovators who are more than just composers or performers, but futurists beyond category. Their work aims at nothing less than altering our entire relationship with the music ecosystem and day-to-day soundscapes.

In many instances, their names are barely known, even within the music world. In some cases—as with Charles Kellogg, recently profiled here—they have been entirely left out of music history and musicology books.

In this installment, I focus on the remarkable legacy of Raymond Scott. During the coming months, I will be publishing more of these profiles. Perhaps I will collect them in a book at some point.

The Secret Music Technology of Raymond Scott

Unfortunately, I need to start this article by talking about Porky Pig.

Raymond Scott deserves better. He never intended for his legacy in music to depend on cartoon animals. But his largest audience, as it turned out, would be children who laugh at Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Porky Pig and the other animated protagonists of the Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies cartoons released by Warner Bros.

Scott didn’t write cartoon music—at least, not intentionally—but his music appears on more than 100 animated films. For that give credit (or blame) to Carl Stallings, who needed to churn out a cartoon soundtrack every week, more or less, while under contract to Warner Bros. Stallings found a goldmine in the compositions of Raymond Scott, whose music had been licensed to the studio. These works, which straddle jazz and classical stylings, possess a manic energy that made them the perfect accompaniment to a chase scene or action sequence or some random cartoon-ish act of violence.

Scott called his music “descriptive jazz”—his name for a novel chamber music style that drew on the propulsive drive of swing, with all the riffs and syncopation of that dance style, but with less improvisation and proclaiming a taste for extravagant, quasi-industrial sounds. It was like techno before there was techno, but with a jitterbug sensibility.

When I first learned about Scott, I was taught to view him as a music novelty act, akin perhaps to Zez Confrey or Spike Jones, and the most frequently cited examples of his work (to the extent, they were mentioned at all) were these cartoon soundtracks. But Scott had higher ambitions. He was, after all, a Juilliard graduate, with a taste for experimental music, and worldview more aligned with Dali and Dada than Daffy Duck. But Scott also wanted to be a technologist—his early aim had been to study engineering. He dreamed of combining these two pursuits, and gaining renown as one of the trailblazers in electronic music.

Under slightly different circumstances, he might have become even more famous for music tech than for his cartoon music, as well-known as Robert Moog or Ray Dolby or Les Paul or Leon Theremin. But those dreams were all in the future, when he picked the name “Raymond Scott” out of a phone book—because he thought it “had good rhythm.” . . .

Continue reading. It gets stranger and stranger. He invented a music synthesizer, for example, hiring Bob Moog to design circuits for him. (Moog later made his own synthesizer, of course.) Amazing story.

There’s an old country song called “Pictures from Life’s Other Side.” This whole piece reminded me of that.

Written by Leisureguy

21 July 2021 at 3:03 pm

A jazz great who died too soon: Austin Peralta

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Austin Peralta recorded the album above when he was 15, with Ron Carter on bass. Ted Giola writes at The Honest Broker:

Frankly, I don’t recall why I reached out to pianist Austin Peralta back in 2008 or 2009. I vaguely remember that someone told me about him in an email—but I get recommendations like that every day. So why did I pay attention to this one?

It must have been someone whose judgment I trusted. Not a paid publicist or record label flack—probably a seasoned LA musician whose opinions I took seriously. The advice, as I recall, was short and to-the-point, along the lines of: Ted, pay attention to this LA teenager named Austin Peralta. He’s going to shake things up.

I can say with certainty that I had no interest in Peralta as a jazz child prodigy. There are few music critics less interested in child prodigies than I. I hear about them all the time—they’re everywhere nowadays—and I’ve come to the conclusion that there are just two kinds of child prodigies in jazz, and it’s wise to avoid both of them.

The first type is the over-hyped talent who is nowhere near as good as the press releases claim. This is not an infrequent situation—and usually because someone stands to gain from exaggerating the child’s ability. If I had a taste for jazz gossip (which I don’t), I could share shameful details of parents who invest a hundred thousand dollars or more in creating a reputation for their youngster as a prodigy, built largely on smoke and mirrors and cash payments. The kid must have a modest level of talent, but we’re definitely not talking about the next Mozart—more like a school band standout. If you have enough money to spend, you can even get radio airplay and fawning reviews. It sure looks good on the college application.

On the other hand, there are genuine child prodigies, with enormous talent. But even here, I find the whole situation distasteful. No matter how awesome their ability, children should not be releasing jazz albums. They need time to mature and find their individual sound and approach. If they’re rushed at this juncture, they may never achieve any genuine depth as artists.

Consider the case of Joey Alexander, the most hyped child prodigy in jazz in recent memory. The first time I heard him play, I knew immediately that he had huge upside potential. Alexander is the real deal. But I also knew that he shouldn’t be making records at age 11—and the New York Times wasn’t doing him any favors by proclaiming his greatness in large font headlines.

Even if the finger dexterity is impressive, the emotional depth and sense of individualism—absolutely essential elements in jazz—will be lacking at that age. There’s only so much soulfulness a preteen can put into a solo, and it barely fills a thimble. More to the point, too much praise too soon can stunt a child’s development. (If you have any doubts, just look at the teen sports world and count the tragic stories.) Alexander recently turned 18, and I’ve started paying closer attention—with the highest of hopes. But he may struggle holding on to his audience, because he built his public image as a precocious whiz kid, fast and glib at the keyboard—a rare adolescent, no doubt, but embraced by various interests as a marketable commodity. The time will come when Joey Alexander genuinely deserves a Grammy nomination, but when he was 13, there were a thousand jazz players more worthy than him. Yes, the marketing hype won out, but that’s a risky way to embark on your life’s work—you can only be the whiz kid for so long.

So I certainly didn’t reach out to Austin Peralta because he was promoted as a prodigy. That probably made me more skeptical than anything. But in all fairness, there wasn’t much promotion. I’d never received a press release, and few were aware of Peralta’s precocious music skills back in those days—at least in the United States. There was no fawning article in the New York Times or any other leading newspaper, as far as I could tell. I had never heard his name until someone told me about him.

But a Google search informed me that Peralta had achieved a degree of jazz fame in Japan when he was 15 years old. He even made two records in Japan—both of them released in 2007. The first one, called Maiden Voyage, featured Peralta playing with bassist Ron Carter. That caught my attention. Carter is one of the most respected bassists in the history of jazz—what’s he doing in the studio with a 15-year-old pianist? And that same year, Peralta recorded another album for the Japanese market, but this time with another world class bassist, Buster Williams.

At this juncture, I decided I should listen to this music, just to stay informed. I had low expectations—as mentioned above, the prodigy angle always turns me off. I’m old enough to remember the rise and fall of Craig Hundley—these youngsters come and go, usually sooner rather than later. But as a jazz critic, I still need to listen. I spend a lot of time doing just that, staying abreast of trends, whether I like them or not. Stan Getz once told me: “I listen to music the way a stock broker follows Wall Street”—a comment which puzzled me at the time, but I now understand exactly what he meant. You ought to know whose stock is rising, and whose is falling, even if you’re not making an investment.

But I ran into a problem. I couldn’t . . .

Continue reading. There’s much more.

Written by Leisureguy

12 July 2021 at 2:22 pm

Posted in Daily life, Jazz, Music

Good treatment of a jazz standard: After You’ve Gone

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Written by Leisureguy

4 May 2021 at 3:51 pm

Posted in Daily life, Jazz, Video

Bria Skonberg, excellent jazz trumpeter and vocalist

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Take a listen:

For more, see her interview in Classical Voice. And here’s a longer sample of her work:

Written by Leisureguy

3 May 2021 at 9:23 am

Posted in Jazz, Video

A Dance to ‘Swing, Swing, Swing,’ by Benny Goodman Orchestra (from a riff by Chick Webb)

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Written by Leisureguy

8 April 2021 at 8:12 pm

Posted in Art, Daily life, Jazz, Music, Video

Hellzapoppin (colorized)

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Written by Leisureguy

14 March 2021 at 4:35 pm

Posted in Jazz, Movies & TV

The most feared song in jazz, explained

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Written by Leisureguy

24 February 2021 at 6:32 pm

Posted in Jazz, Music, Video

Wow! Watch this Instagram

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Written by Leisureguy

25 January 2021 at 8:02 pm

Posted in Jazz, Music, Video

Gene Krupa and Buddy Rich with Sammy Davis, Jr.

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Not to forget Zutty Singleton:

Written by Leisureguy

16 January 2021 at 6:39 pm

Posted in Jazz, Music, Video

Elton John interviews Diana Krall

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I have loved Diana Krall’s work since her first album, which blew me away. I actually saw her perform in Santa Cruz. It was packed and at the intermission people were in line to to use the rest rooms. She walked up, asked where the rest rooms were, and as she walked away a woman standing near me turned and said, “It must be reincarnation. She’s too young to be that good.”

And she’s from just up the road in Nanaimo (home of the famous Nanaimo Bar), though she now lives in Vancouver and London with her husband Elvis Costello and their twin sons (age 11). Interview is from December 27, 2019.

I really enjoyed this interview and you can search on YouTube and Spotify for more songs by her. (And I also love Julie London’s work and I think I had CDs of everything. And I had lots of Nat King Cole CDs. I remember hearing Nat King Cole from my childhood.)

Written by Leisureguy

3 December 2020 at 6:57 pm

Posted in Daily life, Jazz, Music, Video

A more pleasant video: Doris Day and Kirk Douglas in a scene from “Young Man with a Horn”

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Young Man with a Horn is an excellent movie in which Hoagy Carmichael also plays (a role and the piano). It continues awhile after the actual ending of the movie, doing an after-the-fact pasted-on fakei-cheery epilogue narrated by Carmichael, but if you stop the movie just before that starts, it’s a great movie. Here’s the scene:

Written by Leisureguy

3 December 2020 at 6:02 pm

Posted in Jazz, Movies & TV, Video

Autumn Leaves

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These are leaves from cherry blossom trees (which, although there was an abundance of blossoms, gave rise to no cherries that I’ve seen). It struck me as an autumnal image, and of course there’s a tune to go with it.

Written by Leisureguy

25 November 2020 at 2:38 pm

Posted in Daily life, Jazz, Video

The Nicholas Brothers were polished performers from a young age

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This clip of the Nicholas Brothers is from 1936, but YouTube has one from four years earlier and even in that they are totally professional. They were born in 1914 and 1921, so they are not so young as they appear — but still.

Written by Leisureguy

15 November 2020 at 9:01 am

Posted in Jazz, Movies & TV, Video

Another look at “Giant Steps”

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Written by Leisureguy

11 November 2020 at 6:41 pm

Posted in Jazz, Video

ANFSCD: Tuba Skinny – Jubilee Stomp – Royal Street I 2018

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Recorded in New Orleans 04/07/2018

Shaye Cohn – Cornet
Todd Burdick- Tuba/Sousaphone
Robin Rapuzzi – Washboard
Jason Lawrence – Banjo
Max Bien Kahn – Guitar
Greg Sherman – Guitar
Barnabus Jones – Trombone
Ewan Bleach – Clarinet

Buy CD’s: http://tubaskinny.com/updates/

Written by Leisureguy

8 November 2020 at 11:05 am

Posted in Jazz, Video

Mystery solved: The box-back coat Phil Harris mentions in “That’s What I Like About The South”

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Listen to the song and you’ll hear the line:

I always wondered about the “box-back coat,” and as it happens Harris is wearing one. See the last two coats on the second row.

Written by Leisureguy

30 October 2020 at 11:58 am

Posted in Daily life, Jazz, Music

Betty Boop as Snow White, and Cab Calloway doing the moonwalk

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The above is from this Open Culture post, well worth reading. You’ll notice that the ghost Cab Calloway does the moonwalk. From the Wikipedia article on the step:

1930s

There are many recorded instances of the moonwalk; similar steps are reported as far back as 1932, used by Cab Calloway. In 1985, Calloway said that the move was called “The Buzz” when he and others performed it in the 1930s.

Written by Leisureguy

30 October 2020 at 10:51 am

Posted in Jazz, Movies & TV

A synesthete shows what music looks like to her

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Synesthesia is more common than we once realized — perhaps having a term for it enables people to recognize the phenomenon and realize, if they experience synesthesia, they are not alone and so are more willing to talk about it. It turns about that about 1 in 30 people have some form of synesthesia to some degree. There are a few Reddit synesthesia groups devoted to synesthesia — here’s one.

Synesthesia is a condition in which senses meld, so that you see music, or hear numbers, taste shapes, or smell words. Richard Cytowic, in fact, wrote an interesting and informative book on synesthesia titled The Man Who Tasted Shapes. Brain Pickings has a post that discusses synesthesia, and from that post:

Synesthesia is a neurological crossing of the senses, in which a stimulus in one sense (say, sight) evokes a sensorial response in another (say, smell), so that the synesthete registers a particular smell as inherently endowed with a particular color (or a number with a sound, or a tactile texture with a smell). Although synesthesia has long been thought to be an extremely rare condition, a growing body of neurological research and scholarship exploring centuries of written accounts from the world’s body of literature have revealed it to be far more common. Oliver Sacks has written about its science. The writings of Virginia Woolf, Dylan Thomas, James Joyce, William Faulkner, and Charles Baudelaire reveal them to be among its famous embodiments. But no one has described the interior experience of synesthesia and its transcendent sensorial discombobulation more electrically than Vladimir Nabokov (April 22, 1899–July 2, 1977) in his 1951 autobiography, Speak, Memory (public library).

“The confessions of a synesthete must sound tedious and pretentious to those who are protected from such leakings and drafts by more solid walls than mine are,” Nabokov writes, confessing that he has frequently experienced various mild aural and optical hallucinations since childhood. But as the crowning curio of his unusual sensory apparatus, he holds up his “fine case of colored hearing.” Constructing a kind of private Newtonian rainbow or Moses Harris color wheel of the alphabet, Nabokov writes:

Perhaps “hearing” is not quite accurate, since the color sensation seems to be produced by the very act of my orally forming a given letter while I imagine its outline. The long a of the English alphabet (and it is this alphabet I have in mind farther on unless otherwise stated) has for me the tint of weathered wood, but a French a evokes polished ebony. This black group also includes hard g (vulcanized rubber) and r (a sooty rag being ripped). Oatmeal n, noodle-limp l, and the ivory-backed hand mirror of o take care of the whites. I am puzzled by my French on which I see as the brimming tension-surface of alcohol in a small glass. Passing on to the blue group, there is steely x, thundercloud z, and huckleberry k. Since a subtle interaction exists between sound and shape, I see q as browner than k, while s is not the light blue of c, but a curious mixture of azure and mother-of-pearl. Adjacent tints do not merge, and diphthongs do not have special colors of their own, unless represented by a single character in some other language (thus the fluffy-gray, three-stemmed Russian letter that stands for sh, a letter as old as the rushes of the Nile, influences its English representation)… In the green group, there are alder-leaf f, the unripe apple of p, and pistachio t. Dull green, combined somehow with violet, is the best I can do for w. The yellows comprise various e’s and i’s, creamy d, bright-golden y, and u, whose alphabetical value I can express only by “brassy with an olive sheen.” In the brown group, there are the rich rubbery tone of soft g, paler j, and the drab shoelace of h. Finally, among the reds, b has the tone called burnt sienna by painters, m is a fold of pink flannel, and today I have at last perfectly matched v with “Rose Quartz” in Maerz and Paul’s Dictionary of Color. The word for rainbow, a primary, but decidedly muddy, rainbow, is in my private language the hardly pronounceable: kzspygv.

Synesthetes who are musicians may experience sound as having color (Duke Ellington, Marian McPartland, Franz Liszt, Richard Wagner, Pharrell Williams) or as having shapes (Greg Jarvis, who founded the Canadian Synethesia Association.

Michal Levy is a synesthete who experiences musc as colored shapes, and his graduation thesis for Bezalel Academy of Art & Design, Jerusalem, is this animation that depicts her experience of John Coltrane’s “Giant Steps.”

She has another animation that shows her experience of J.S. Bach’s “Prelude in C Minor.” That, along with a description of Kandinski’s experience of music as lines and color, is contained in this post in Open Culture.

I read a science-fiction story when I was in high school in the 1950s in which the protagonist suffered an accident that affected his perceptions. I cannot now recall exactly the effect, but it ended up with a tricky surgery. The final line of the story was his saying, as he recovered consciousness after the operation, “What smells purple?” I wonder whether the writer was a synesthete.

Written by Leisureguy

29 October 2020 at 10:38 am

Posted in Daily life, Jazz, Music, Video

Tagged with ,

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