The Japanese Jazz Age and the Modern Girl

Modan Gaaru - Or Modern Girls Enjoying the Beach at Kamakura

Modan Gaaru – Or Modern Girls Enjoying the Beach at Kamakura

In 1918 following riots and civil unrest in Japan Emperor Taisho dissolved  the Military Government and appointed Hara Takashi as Prime Minster and he became the first ever elected official to become Prime Minister and so began the most exciting and liberating period in Japanese history in more than a thousand years.

The era of the Taisho Democracy had started – and with it Japans Jazz age and era of the Modan Gaaru, or  modern girl.

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What I Did On My Holidays Part III

pritzker pavilion, chicago

Well, the ‘Spill appears to hate me at the moment, as it refuses to let me post any comments (unless it’s just protecting me from the consequences of getting pointlessly worked up about stuff that doesn’t actually matter – you all know the genius of xkcd, right?) – so let’s see if it will allow me to create a post. This is just a brief report from my latest set of travels, which this week have brought me to Chicago; I’ve had to spend a lot of my time in conference sessions, but my dedication to academic debate has been sorely tested by the fact that this weekend is the Chicago Jazz Festival – completely free, decent beer from Goose Island, all in the lovely setting of Millennium Park. Two big tents, and the amazing Gehry building that is the Jay Pritzker Pavilion, seen above, for the main acts. This evening I caught a fabulous set from the Robert Glasper Experiment, whose records I must seek out asap: avant-garde jazz meets electronica and hip-hop with added vocoder, and a hilarious cover of Get Lucky – cheered along by a capacity crowd of ten thousand or more. No, I must have been imagining that; everyone knows that jazz was ruined and lost all hope of popularity when it started getting all avant-garde…

Happy Birthday DarceysDad !

This is to celebrate the birthday of a most sociable recommender. It marks DsD’s broad-minded but sometimes baffled engagement with the music known as Jazz, and the Scottish connection with St Andrew’s Day.  So, here’s the astonishing Rufus Harley, playing John Coltrane’s A Love Supreme, on the bagpipes. I hope others will join in the good wishes, and maybe even post something DsD will like.  Happy Birthday DarceysDad !

it is not as bad as you think ! ! !


Kinky Jazz

You may have noticed that I’m mad about New Orleans! So when Ray Davies chose to include the Preservation Hall Jazz Band in his recent Meltdown festival, I was off to the South Bank. My few video snippets don’t really do justice to what was a wonderful evening, in a very N’Awlins sorta way, with effortless virtuoso jazz, a ‘second line’ round the concert hall, and dancing on stage to the consternation of ‘security’. Ray sang on a couple of numbers, including his own composition ‘Complicated Life’. I’ve also included a great vid of the band doing this number filmed in the streets of the French Quarter.

Coming Across Criss

A few weeks ago, as her Question 31B, amylee asked for an instrumental song we love. I was thrilled at the clutch of warm responses to my choice of Sonny Criss playing I’ll Catch The Sun. The idea fermented to follow this up with a post celebrating the alto saxophonist, principally to give you a few more examples of his playing. This is what I’m doing here but it occurred to me that I’ve been trying off and on for 23 years to tell the world about Sonny Criss and thus the influence his voice has had on mine is also something I want to consider. As a result, I’m supersizing my blogging by twinning this post with one on my own blog, contemplating the literary issues that unspool from my Sonny Criss fandom.

This is a brief and not at all comprehensive primer, courtesy of YouTube, of my favourite instrumental voice in jazz. That’s an accolade that requires some clarification and contextualisation. There are, if we are to give these terms any meaning, ‘greater’ jazz musicians than Sonny Criss. Quite apart from anything else, Criss was one of the legion alto saxophonists who were turned onto a style of playing by Charlie Parker. There’s a reason we call the likes of Criss, Sonny Stitt, Cannonball Adderley, Jackie McLean, Sahib Shibab and more post-Bird saxophonists – it’s not to their detriment that they stood in the conceptual shadow of someone who, to all intents and purposes, made the music new again. You don’t look to Sonny Criss for game-changing innovation. He wasn’t pulling the blues inside-out: he was playing them straight, sultry, smoky and spine-tingling, as here in Black Coffee:

I bow before Mingus, Monk, Ellington, Carla Bley, Sun Ra and plenty more jazz composers before I think of Sonny Criss. But just as I can hear most songs better when they’re sung by Ella, Sinatra or Sarah Vaughan, Sonny could play a song lyric to the same level of perfection of those vocalists. Here he is on Charlie Chaplin’s Smile and Jimmy Webb’s Up Up And Away (links via text to save screen space).

Nor did he move with the times in the manner of Miles Davis or, more recently, David Murray. Things funked up a little in the seventies but the sound that soared over the top of the groove was still that wondrously fluid, human heart-tugging voice, as here in Cool Struttin’ .

Sonny Criss works for me as instantly as the voices of those I love most in the world. I’ll rave about and dance to and revere and be inspired by countless others but Sonny’s notes trigger a thousand awakenings in my brain and across my body. I feel encapsulated by the sense of mortality and intoxicated by the desire for joy that I hear throughout the dozens of his recordings I own. I want to line up loads more for you to enjoy but I’ll leave you with just this, and embed it so it doesn’t get overlooked and by way of a birthday gift to steenbeck, a captivating God Bless The Child:


I was very pleasantly surprised by the enthusiastic reaction to my recent blues post here, during which there was some discussion of a follow up with female blues singers. This weekend I started scanning my female blues vinyl for suitable cuts and I came across this album, I haven’t played it years, I’d forgotten that I had it but you can tell from the surface noise that it once got lots of play, I’ve had it for over 50 years. At the 1960 Monterey Jazz Festival Jon Hendrix put on a Sunday afternoon performance that was a history of blues music and it was directed towards a young audience, it was performed onstage as shown in the album cover, with Jon addressing a group of children who sat around him. So before we proceed with the female blues I thought this might be of interest, I’m sure it’s no longer in print so possibly most of you have never heard of it. On the album cover Jon wrote about how the piece came about, here’s what he wrote:

“It was Jimmy Lyon’s idea that we do something extended for a Sunday afternoon at Monterey and that it be about the blues. Ever since composer George Russell had kindly invited me to write some words and speak them on his “New York, New York” album I have been waiting for the opportunity to do something within that format just talking and letting the music speak for itself, following the advice of my mentor, Professor Milton Marx, of the English department, of the University of Toledo, Ohio: “Write about what you know.”

So I wrote about my people, about my great-grandmother who came from Guinea, Gold Coast, West Africa, about my father, Alexander Brooks Hendricks who ran away from the master who sold his father, mother and sister separately, came into West Virginia, married my mother, Willie “Sweet Will” Carrington, and moved to Ohio by covered wagon, where he became a minister, known as a circuit rider.

“Write about what you know.” So I wrote about the music they sang all through their lives, the spirituals, which they gave freely to America and the world. I didn’t stop there, because the spirituals didn’t stop there, but went outside the church to become the blues, and through horns to become jazz.

“Write about what you know.” So I wrote about the sun, the source of all light, heat and life in this universe, about all men on earth being the same man, all light the same light, all life the same life.

“Write about what you know.” So, buried deep in this story, yet never given word, is the heartfelt lament that some who play jazz have forgotten the spirituals that gave them their music, as they have forgotten the Lord who gave our ancestors the spirituals, have become corrupted by the surroundings to which jazz has been relegated, have become arch,, worldly, spiritualless, intellectual, demoralized, material, wealthy – and lost.

“Write about what you know.” I know that children are born into this earthly life with all knowledge, that the devil is an adult, that children are corrupted by adults too adult to realize that childhood is the kingdom of heaven, so I wrote my history for children, because they will understand. Above all, thank you children everywhere, and blessings on you all”

The album comprises both sides of a disc and runs about 44 mins. so I’ve added it in two parts.




I mentioned here recently how I enjoyed the way iTunes stacks your music so that you can search by title or artist or album; I usually keep mine organized by title and it’s always a pleasant surprise when I come across the same title by multiple artists that I’d forgotten that I owned. I recently noticed this set whilst looking for something totally different, it’s four versions of the same song and I was amazed by how differently each artist handled it and by the backing in each case. The song is ‘Cold Cold Heart’, it was written by Hank Williams in 1951 and reached number one on the country music singles charts. Over the years it’s been covered many times by a variety of artists and the four that I’ve accumulated are; Aretha Franklin [early 60's], Norah Jones [2002], Dinah Washington [1951] and I’ve included the original version by Hank Williams just to show what a great cover can do. They play in the following order:
1. Aretha.
2. Norah.
3. Dinah.
4. Hank.

Obituary: Herman Leonard dies at 87; photographer chronicled mid-century jazz scene

Herman Leonard was one of the great photographers of the jazz scene in the mid-20th century. (Luis Sinco, Los Angeles Times / March 13, 2010)

Herman Leonard, a photographer best known for his iconic images of such jazz greats as Billie Holiday, Duke Ellington and Miles Davis, has died. He was 87.
Leonard died Saturday at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, a family spokeswoman said. No cause was given. He had been living in Los Angeles since Hurricane Katrina struck New Orleans in 2005, flooding his home and destroying thousands of prints.
Leonard became famous for the smoky, backlighted black-and-white photos he took in dark jazz clubs beginning in the late 1940s.
“I took advantage of being a photographer to get myself into the clubs so I could sit in front of Charlie Parker,” he told The Times in March before the opening of an exhibit on jazz photography at the Fahey/Klein Gallery in Los Angeles. “I got to listen to music in person. That enriched me. The money didn’t. And I tried to make images that would satisfy me.”
The images did much more than that. They documented a musical era and cemented Leonard’s status.
“He knows how to capture, and to make, the natural beauty, artistry and individuality of musicians shine through — shine through the paper and the chemicals and the book and the gallery and the years,” John Edward Hasse, of the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of American History, told the Morning Call in Allentown, Pa., in 1999. “He’s an artist.”
He was born in Allentown in 1923 and became interested in photography early on thanks to his older brother. He attended Ohio University to study photography but that was interrupted by a stint in the Army from 1943 to 1945. Leonard returned to college and graduated with a bachelor’s degree in 1947.
After working as an apprentice for famed portrait photographer Yousuf Karsh, Leonard moved to New York in 1948 and started becoming immersed in the jazz scene. Using a 4-by-5 Speed Graphic camera, he shot Art Tatum, Dizzy Gillespie, Sarah Vaughan and countless other jazz greats.
Ellington watching Ella Fitzgerald sing in 1948. Dexter Gordon sitting, holding a cigarette and balancing his saxophone on a knee. There was music, amazing access and plenty of smoke.
“The smoke was part of the atmosphere of those days and dramatized the photographs a lot, maybe over-stylized them a bit,” he told The Times in 1990.
He spent 1956 as a personal photographer for actor Marlon Brando on a trip to the Far East. Then he moved to Paris and did commercial work, including for Playboy magazine, and kept shooting jazz.
“Ninety-nine percent of everything I shot was off the cuff,” he said in 2001. “I wanted to capture what was really there untainted by anything I would do. My whole principle was to capture the mood and atmosphere of the moment.”
The negatives of his jazz photos had been put away when he left the United States; but beginning in the 1980s he rediscovered them, and his first book, “The Eye of Jazz,” was published in 1985. The first exhibition of Leonard’s jazz photos was held in London in 1988.
More exhibitions and praise followed.
Leonard’s work showed an intimacy that “comes from a true insider whose genuine friendship with the musicians allowed him to capture moments that are personal and insightful,” David Houston, chief curator of the Ogden Museum of Southern Art in New Orleans, told the Morning Call in 2005. “You could teach the personal and musical evolution of jazz in the ’50s through his work.”
Leonard moved to New Orleans in 1992. His home was flooded by Hurricane Katrina and he lost thousands of prints. But his 60,000 negatives were safe, having been sent before the hurricane to the Ogden Museum. His return to New Orleans was chronicled in the 2006 documentary “Saving Jazz.”
“When I was photographing Miles or Dizzy in the early days, I knew these were good and important musicians, but not as important as they turned out to be,” he told the Chicago Tribune in 1999. “I had no idea. If I had any inkling, I would have shot 10 times as many pictures.”
Leonard is survived by children Valerie, Shana, Michael and David; and six grandchildren.

This guy was the best of the best, probably every iconic jazz image that you remember was one of his, I had the pleasure of meeting him and comparing notes and I have a signed and dedicated copy of his book.

To see a great selection of his work go to:

Hang on, it’s an oud!

Blimpy had a post about jazzers Portico Quartet a while back, noting that they use the hang drum in their music. So I went to see them the other day, to discover that they use not one, but three! And Nick Mulvey uses drumsticks, not his hands, to play them. I share Blimpy’s enthusiasm for their newish album, ‘Isla‘.

They were support to virtuoso oud player Anouar Brahem. Perhaps best known for his interpretation of Balkan and Roma music on ‘Astrakan Cafe‘, this concert was based on his new line up and album, ‘The astounding eyes of Rita‘, which nilpferd introduced us to last year. I thought their warm and unprecocious East-West style was mesmerising. Whilst Anouar is the ‘master’, Klaus Gesling often eclipsed him on the bass clarinet. See what you think in the clips I took…

Election Night Jazz

Aaah, elections, the roar of the ballot booth, the smell of the polling station – makes me think of one thing….Jazz!

More specifically the free taster tracks that the astounding Cuneiform Records have on their website!

First up with some post-free jazz semiconductors are The Claudia Quintet:

Next we take it sideways into the fridge with Ideal Bread and their slow-burn take on the lounge-ooompah giblets that was all the rage in ’82:

And to round it all off, we get totally balkan with Univers Zero and their fantastic voyage through folicle jive:

Please visit Cuneiform Records for more, and after the jump there’s a second opportunity to hear the jaw-dropping track by Zevious that stole the show in the last ‘Spillcast. Continue reading

Esperanza Spalding

I’m truly not a jazz aficionado. I usually stumble on a piece of jazz I like & just enjoy. One of the nice things about RR & the ‘Spill is I’ve been turned on to some great jazz I probably would not have encountered otherwise. Problem is I have little way of knowing what you here have listened to or discussed already but I’d like to return the favor. Esperanza Spalding is an artist I’ve come upon recently & it turns out she’s from Portland, Oregon where my daughter lives & went to college. Great music scene there. Esperanza was a bass player in a Portland band called Noise To Pretend and now it seems is making her name. Hope you enjoy. The new site is great!

ToffeeBoy Goes Jazz!

I’ve been listening to quite a lot of jazz recently and as I’m feeling utterly uninspired by the carnivorous theme set for us this week, I felt that a little diversion might be in order. So here is, what I hope will be the first in a long-running series, which I’m calling, Regular ‘Spillers Post Music That You Wouldn’t Really Expect From Them, Knowing Their Musical Tastes A Bit As You Do*. Catchy, ain’t it?

So, I will share with you just a small sample of the sort of jazz I like to listen to – I’d be interested to hear what others think – particularly non-jazz fans (although of course I want to know what you think too).

Two artists I particularly like are Dexter Gordon (who will be known to most) and Sahib Shihab who probably won’t. The latter was introduced to me (no, not personally) by a friends’ father who used to play drums in a jazz three-piece. I’ve included two tracks by each of these artists, not including my friends’ dad but definitely including Dexter Gordon‘s Cheese Cake which is probably my all-time favourite jazz piece of all time. There’s also one on the list, the discovery of which I owe entirely to Herr ‘Hachi. So here goes nothing:

Another Samba – The Sahib Shihab Quintet
Soy Califa – Dexter Gordon
The Sidewinder – Lee Morgan
So What – Miles Davis
Diamonds & Pearls – Marcin Wasilewski Trio
Look For The Silver Lining – Chet Baker
Moanin’ – Art Blakey
Who’ll Buy My Dream – The Sahib Shihab Quintet
Cheese Cake – Dexter Gordon

* Future posts will include:
DarceysDad presents: It’s A Rave!
CaroleBristol’s An Hour With Coldplay
treefrogdemon and ejaydee’s collaborative playlist Death Metal: A New Perspective
RockingMitch introduces: The Beatles – Fuck Yeah!
Maki Does Disco
Sampling with Zag
DaddyPig presents: The Spandex Years
Over-dramatic Pop Ballads (Like Wot They Do On X-Factor) With Special Emphasis On Those Containing A Key Change: An Hour (Or More If You Really Insist) In The Company of Chris
magicman welcomes you to the Battle of the Century – The Killers v U2 v Bartok
tincanman’s Guide To The Peruvian Nose Flute

So what would you be least likely to post? I’ll add them to the list – but bear in mind that you may have to do them …


I might be in the wrong shop altogether but I’ll take my chances, here goes.

What Aba came up with last week re. jazz and reaching new audiences had been on my mind also for quite some time, I’d had the same thoughts but as I said in the comments, I would approach it quite differently.
I find it very difficult to express my thoughts on this topic, there’s a conflict between the idea that jazz is grounded in free expression and improvisation and has evolved through artists going in new directions and in some cases the directions they go in. The former I can accept and you’ll find examples of it in my playlist but jazz reached a point in the 60’s-70’s where a small group of musicians took it in a direction that I and many others couldn’t accept, that was about when we started hearing discussions about “what defines jazz?”, somewhat similar to what we were hearing here last week, “what is pop?” A lot of people, myself included, chose to ignore jazz if that was what it had become, I found solace with 60’s pop and reggae and didn’t participate in the then current jazz to any degree, all of my jazz record buying involved music of prior era’s.
The idea of ‘Free Jazz’ doesn’t bother me, I choose not to listen to it but I do resent it’s adherents aquisition of the concept of ‘jazz'; jazz is a black music based in the blues that for decades has expressed the turmoil and suppression in that community, I can’t accept any group that thinks that they can apply the name of jazz to the cacophonous sounds that they’re creating. Jazz is a beautiful and exciting music, it’s performed by artists who are usually supreme on their instruments, it’s intended to be enjoyed both physically, intellectually and emotionally, ‘free jazz’ fulfills none of those, it’s the sound of a sick society in conflict with itself. If those are the sounds that they choose to make, let them find another name for it, their sad efforts have nothing in common with jazz.

Obviously we’re dealing with a subjective topic, everyone has a different tastes and different values but there’s something that’s been obvious to me since before I joined this group; from what little discussion there is on this topic it seems as though there’s a feeling amongst some, but not all re. jazz; it’s that it’s something that evolved in the mid ’60’s as a result of a small group of musicians, the names I hear most often are Miles, Coltrane, Bill Evans and Ornette. It’s such a limited perspective, there’s so much more.
I would like to present a variety of jazz musicians that date back to the beginnings of jazz, musicians that laid the groundwork for these and all contemporary artists.
I don’t know if the name Ralph J. Gleason rings any bells, he was the co-founder of Rolling Stone magazine and a very popular music critic, I found a quote in his liner notes on the Ray Charles album that seems relevant;
“Jazz’s new listeners, no matter at what point they entered the jazz world, have an overriding tendency to be swept up in the continuum of jazz recordings. They seldom stop and go back to something ten years old. He wrote that in 1970, I think it’s still appropriate today except I would expand the ten years.

OK, with that out of the way let’s play some records. Here’s a baker’s dozen, what I’ve selected all fall under the classification of “These are a Few of My Favorite Things”, they’re all vinyl transfers selected at random. I didn’t go out of my way to restrict the choices to pre 60’s music, it just happened that way, I could have as easily created a post 60’s list. The only parameter that I set was that I’d approximately match Aba’s list in terms of time, approx 50 mins. I started at the beginning of my records and went through saying ‘Oh, must include that…and this’, and suddenly I found I’d exceeded 50 mins. Start over or edit? I edited and accepted that I must leave out dozens, hundreds of choices! The perceptive amongst you might notice that I didn’t get beyond the ‘H’s’ but I scrambled them for playback and couldn’t resist including a ‘V’.

1. Ray Charles – Outskirts of Town. 1961. Ray as a jazz musician, The trumpet intro is by Clark Terry with another later by Phillip Guilbeau, Ray at the keyboard and a great orchestral arrangement by Quincy Jones.
2. Duke Ellington – Take the ‘A’ Train. This is a 1951 version from the Ellington Uptown album, three for the price of one: a great Ellington piano solo, a post bebop vocal by Betty Roché and a great tenor solo by Paul Gonsalves, check all the changes here, not to mention the great backing from the band.
3. Ry Cooder as a jazz musicologist – The Dream. He produced an album that investigated the roots of jazz, this cut is listed as ‘a piece of whorehouse music’. It’s approx 1900, before jazz even existed and it’s typical of what might have been played in New Orleans brothels at that period reflecting Spanish, African and Carribbean influences. From Ry’s album ‘Jazz’.
4. Stan Kenton Orch. Intermission Riff. This piece is from about 1947, Kenton had a popular all white band, June Christie was his singer, he loved brass, usually he had 5 trumpets and 5 trombones, three of each was typical. Vido Musso takes the tenor solo. He was based at the Avalon Ballroom in Southern Cal.
5. Sarah Vaughn. Cherokee. Wonderful alto solo by Cannonball Adderley, it’s from the ‘In the land of Hi-Fi’ album, remember Hi-Fi? I forgot to mention, don’t adjust your sets, many of these cuts are in ‘mono’, produced long before stereo existed.
6. Charlie Parker. Parker’s Mood. This is the original Savoy 1947 version, it includes a false start, Bird begins his second chorus after the John Lewis piano break and he hits a bad note so he deliberately hits another and then whistles a stop, they resume with a perfect take that’s became one of the great Bird solos.
I included the false start just to show how it was done before Pro-Tools.
7. Coleman Hawkins. Body and Soul. From 1939, considered by many to be the greatest tenor solo ever. ‘Bean’ [Coleman] brushes it off as ‘just a routine piece that he made up on the spot.’
8. Duke Ellington. Creole Love Call, 1927. Possibly one of my all-time favorite pieces of music.
What intrigues me is the fact that jazz was less than a decade old and here was Duke doing things like this, triple clarinet leads with the original ‘scat’ vocal, or at least a very creative use of a voice in jazz; it’s Adelaid Hall and Bubber Miley does the trumpet solo.
9. Duke Ellington. Black & Tan Fantasie, 1927. Couldn’t decide which one to use, couldn’t delete either so I include them both. Another great piece by Duke with another trumpet solo by Bubber. Just consider that only a few years earlier jazz was basically confined to N.O. and was a genre that consisted of 5-6 musicians playing totally in unison! And there were no means of communication, no media, no phones etc, apart from very early primitive records there was no way of knowing what others were doing, and yet….
10. Louis Armstrong. West End Blues. 1928. Often quoted as Louis’s greatest ever solo, it’s from his Hot 7. Also his first scat vocal, similar thing to what Duke was doing a couple of thousand miles away, another example of the enormous changes to the music in a very few years.
11. Ben Webster & Coleman Hawkins. Shine on Harvest Moon. 1957. Considered to be the two godfathers of the tenor, Hawkins was the originator and the teacher, he was playing in Europe before I was born. Ben has the nicest tone in jazz. Listen carefully and you’ll hear two tenors each with distinctive tones and styles duetting.
12. Johnny Hodges. Warm Valley, 1940 with the Ellington orch. The greatest alto player ever, he joined Duke in the late 20’s and was with him for about 40 years, Duke wrote many pieces just for him, as he did for all the soloists in the band. No one has a tone like Hodges and he does ‘impossible’ things on his horn, like glissandi on an instrument with push buttons!
13. Count Basie Orch. with vocalist Jimmy Rushing. 1938.
Sent for you yesterday.
A classic swinging Basie big band blues. Basie on piano with Herschel Evans doing the tenor solo, Sweets Edison on trumpet and JR on the vocal, the all time classic Basie era.