First Lady Knows "Salt Peanuts!"
JAZZ FOUND A PLACE in more than the president's BlackBerry when the first lady invited some 150 young music high school students to the White House this summer for an afternoon workshop led by Wynton Marsalis and four other members of the distinguished trumpeter's musical family. The youngsters were instructed in "American History and Jazz," "Syntax of Jazz," The Blues Experience and Jazz" and "Duke Ellington and Swing." Michelle Obama said jazz might be "America's greatest artistic gift to the world." Paquito D'Rivera, one of several non-family instructors, played a guessing game with the audience, which included the two Obama daughters. When he tooted a famous Dizzy Gillespie lick, Mrs. Obama said, "Salt Peanuts, Salt Peanuts!" "Ahh!" shouted the clarinetist, "Michelle knows it!"
YIDDISH´N JAZZ QUARTET? That's right, and vocalist Rebecka Gordon, graduate of the Royal Academy of Music in Stockholm and seasoned trooper, has heard of no other singer whose book marries the Yiddish and jazz idioms. Audiences and the press sing her praises. "A voice that even the gods would envy," rhapsodized an Uppsala reviewer after a concert that included a swinging "Hey, Tzigelekh!" (Hi, Little Goats!). Rebecka and Claes von Heijne, piano, Filip Augustson, bass, Gilbert Mathews, drums, work the top Swedish jazz venues, and they've played London three times. "Last autumn we performed in little Pajala, far north of the Polar Circle, at a music festival for minority languages," Rebecka told this column. A new album will soon join their Yiddish'n Jazz (Touche Music, Stockholm). Check out rebeckagordon.com. To hear four song excerpts, click on "CD," then under the photo click on "Listen."
BACK IN JANUARY '08, an American-turned-Dane, Phil Glaser, put the Andrews Sisters's "The Boogie-Woogie Bugle Boy of Company B" on YouTube. The number is from "Buck Privates," the first (1941) Abbott and Costello film. "It's been seen over 85,000 times," reports Glaser. A youngster posted a comment: "I'm 13, but I love this kind of music... I hate the commercials... nowadays." Glaser said other young people wrote they're "performing that number in their choirs or in high school musicals." Google YouTube; in the search box, write as one word, philipglaser.
ITALIAN-AMERICAN MUSICIANS are no strangers to prejudice. David Anthony Witter, co-author of a book on Italian Americans in jazz, contacted The Washington Post after it ran an obituary on the tenor saxophonist Sam Butera. Asked for examples of prejudice in the 1920s onward "that compare with the fear of lynching and the humiliation of segregation faced by many black musicians for much of the 20th century," Witter replied: "From the 1890s until about 1920, Italians were the most lynched group of 'white' Americans in the Deep South." Even after Sacco and Vanzetti were executed in Boston and Italians quietly entered the middle class, he added, they were harassed and interned in 1942 (Una Storia Segreta) and negatively depicted in the major media well into "an age of political correctness ('The Sopranos')." For full blog: q&a italian americans in jazz.
WHY PAY FOR A BOOK you can read for free on your computer screen? "I don't see any chance of any new print editions of any of my stuff," Donald Clarke, author of All Or Nothing At All: A Life Of Frank Sinatra (Macmillan, London, 1997), tells this column. So he edited the book and laid it out on his website, with other works, for all to read. Meanwhile, a site called jazzfirstbooks offers the first edition for $40. The rare jazz book purveyor calls it "Probably the best of the recent Sinatra biographies by a popular music scholar and author of the well-regarded biography of Billie Holiday, Wishing On The Moon. Clarke still insists the book is "not in print anywhere." As for his masterwork, "The number of people worldwide who give a damn about my Encyclopedia of Popular Music (3,932 entries A-Z) is apparently very small, but they are no less precious to me for that."
JAZZ TIMES IS BACK on the stands and the web, making many happy. Only the June issue was skipped while a new publisher, Madavor Media of Boston, pumped new life into the nearly 40-year-old trade magazine. "Anybody who cares about the music has to be delighted," Dan Morgenstern told this column. "It's ironic that the presumed demise came on Down Beat magazine's 75th anniversary, but good for old DB not to be deprived of its only viable competitor," declared DB editor emeritus Morgenstern. "And isn't it heartening that both Jazz Times and New York's primary jazz festival will still be with us after all?" The JVC Festival has a new sponsor, CareFusion, a medical technology company.
A RARE VIDEO has surfaced and it's a must-see, especially for seniors: Louis Armstrong and Danny Kaye trade licks in a live performance of "When the Saints Go Marching In." See the video below.
Thanks to Joan McGinnis of Mission Viejo, CA for Web research assistance.