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February 18, 2008

fats waller v duke ellington

Posted by dogpossum on February 18, 2008 11:18 AM in the category digging and djing and lindy hop and other dances and music


It's been tricky fitting in all my listening this past weekend.

Will it be Fats, or will it be Ellington? Witherspoon and Sam Price don't even get a foot in the door, I'm afraid.
I have 8 Ellington CDs to get through, and 3 Fats CDs to get through, and I'm not rushing, mind you. I like to listen to new CDs really slowly, lots of repeat listens to individual songs, lots of skipping back to check out a particular section.
So I'm not exactly running through my new goodies. And when I'm reading, I simply don't hear the music at all, so I never know when a song's finished. Or a CD's finished. I think this is partly why I hate having music on when I'm working - it's a waste. Music also tends to stop being music and just turn into the odd sound or bump or squeak which I catch every other minute as my attention shifts back to the aural world. I also really hate having that annoying background buzz distracting me from ideas when I'm thinking. So I like Total and Complete Silence when I'm working.

But I was all about Fats at first:
Fats Waller and His Rhythm the Last Years ( 1940-1943 ) to be precise. This is the other goody that came for me last week. It's really, really wonderful. I adore Fats, and this is perhaps the best collection I have (so far - there's no end in sight). So, seeing as it was the first collection that arrived, this was where my listening was at. But then the Ellington Mosaic arrived, and now I'm all about Ellington.
It's not a real competition, not really. But I'm finding it tricky getting through all these. And it feels like every single song on this Mosaic set is wonderful - I have to keep stopping to put songs into my 'should play' list for DJing. Luckily there's quite a bit of stuff I don't already have (I love, love, love the smaller group stuff, and have the Columbia 2-CD 'Duke's Men' vol 1 and vol 2.

I really should get my finger out and properly research all these guys, get a proper idea of who recorded with which companies when. Get some sort of clue as to who was in whose band at what time. But I really can't be arsed devoting valuable research time to something that's meant to be fun. There's so much other stuff I should be researching (let's not talk about reality TV, ok?), I just don't want to ruin music for me. I have read bits and pieces, but I just don't have a sensible, comprehensive set of facts and figures and names at my disposal.
I mean, I am totally crap with that sort of thing normally (my memory is so crap it's a joke), and I find it really difficult to remember the names of songs. I can pick the musicians or the bands (mostly because they tend to have quite distinct musical 'styles' or 'accents', so you can guess who's playing what), but names of songs? Nope. I can generally guess the era (30s, 40s, etc), but not reliably. This means that it's always a nice surprise to discover I actually own that song that such and such just DJed. But it also means my learning curve re jazz history is more of a plateau.
I've also noticed that a song seems to sound completely different when you're dancing to it than when you're DJing it or sitting at home listening to it. I think it's because when you're DJing or listening, you pay really close attention, in a conscious-brain sort of way. But when I'm dancing, I'm responding unconsciously, not actually consciously thinking 'oh, muted trumpet' or 'huh, chunky bass'. Plus there's a bunch of other things going on when you're dancing that distract you.

Anyways, the bottom line is, Ellington is winning, but Fats is kind of niggling in my hindbrain. It's high-brow versus visceral, bodily goodness - Ellington is clever, Fats is fun (Ellington is fun too, and Fats is clever, but Ellington is telling you he's smart and Fats is telling you he'd like you to sit a little closer and pass him a drink).

Posted by dogpossum on February 18, 2008 11:18 AM in the category digging and djing and lindy hop and other dances and music