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…

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cy7d27uOug0

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 ! ! !

HoshinoSakura

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:

THE EVOLUTION OF THE BLUES SONG by JON HENDRIX.

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.

Pt.1.

Pt.2.

COLD COLD HEART – THREE COVERS.


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.