More lovely DJing, this time with the very nice Track Town Swing at their Online Jazz Party (which is on every month).
I didn’t have a plan, or anything in particular prepared, though I did plop some songs in my maybe list while I was listening to the DJs before me. I have had an overall goal of ‘play more old music’ and to stop leaning on the hifi Basie and Ellington. And I managed that. Well done, me.
This is what I played:
Let Yourself Go 1936 Bunny Berigan and his Boys (Chick Bullock (vcl), Bunny Berigan (tp), Bud Freeman, Forrest Crawford, Joe Bushkin, Eddie Condon, Mort Stulmaker, Dave Tough) 168 The Complete Brunswick, Parlophone and Vocalion Bunny Berigan Sessions (Mosaic disc 4)
Jack, I’m Mellow 1938 Trixie Smith acc. By Charlie Shavers, Sidney Bechet, Sammy Price, Teddy Bunn, Richard Fullbright, O’Neil Spencer 199 Charlie Shavers and The Blues Singers 1938-1939
It Ain’t Like That 1941 Una Mae Carlisle 190 Complete Jazz Series 1941 – 1944
I’ll Build A Stairway To Paradise 1945 Eddie Condon and His Orchestra (Yank Lawson, Lou McGarity, Edmond Hall, Joe Dixon, Joe Bushkin, Sid Weiss, George Wettling) 163 Complete Commodore And Decca Eddie Condon And Bud Freeman Sessions Mosaic [disc 07]
Shake That Thing 1930 Barbecue Joe and his Hot Dogs (Wingy Manone, George Walters, Joe Dunn, Maynard Spencer, Dash Burkis) 162 Wingy Manone: Complete Jazz Series 1927 – 1934
With a Smile and a Song (-1) 1937 Teddy Wilson and his Orchestra (Hot Lips Page, Pee Wee Russell, Chu Berry, Sally Gooding (v)) 110 Classic Chu Berry Columbia And Victor Sessions (Mosaic disc 03)
Chasing Shadows (-1) 1935 Putney Dandridge and his Orchestra (Roy Eldridge, Chu Berry, Nappy Lamare, Harry Grey, Artie Bernstein, Bill Beason) 137 Classic Chu Berry Columbia And Victor Sessions (Mosaic disc 01)
Mutiny In The Parlor 1936 Gene Krupa’s Swing Band (Roy Eldridge, Benny Goodman, Jess Stacy, Allan Reuss, Israel Crosby, Helen Ward) 137 Classic Chu Berry Columbia And Victor Sessions (Mosaic disc 01)
Sing, Sing, Sing 1936 Louis Prima and his New Orleans Gang (Pee Wee Russell, Joe Catalyne, Frank Pinero, Garry McAdams, Jack Ryan, George Pemberty) 212 Complete Brunswick and Vocalion Recordings of Louis Prima and Wingy Manone (1924-1937) (Mosaic disc 02)
Big Apple 1937 Teddy Wilson and his orchestra (Harry James, Archie Rosati, Vido Musso, Allan Reuss, John Simmons, Cozy Cole, Frances Hunt) 164 Classic Brunswick and Columbia Teddy Wilson Sessions 1934-1942 Mosaic (disc 3)
C-Jam Blues 1949 Duke Ellington and his Orchestra (Ben Webster) 185 At The Hollywood Empire
Georgianna 1938 Count Basie and his Orchestra (Ed LEwis, Karl George or Bobby Hicks, Bennie Morton, Eddie Durham, Dan Minor, Earle Warren, Jack Washington, Lester Young, Herschel Evans, Freddie Green, Walter Page, Jo Jones, Jimmy Rushing) 164 Classic 1936-1947 Count Basie And Lester Young Studio Sessions Mosaic (disc 02)
Woodchopper’s Ball 1954 Billy Jack Wills and his Western Swing Band (Tiny Moore, Vance Terry, Dick McComb, Kenny Lowery, Cotton Roberts) 233 Sacramento 1952-1954
Big Noise From Winnetka 1938 Bob Crosby and his Orchestra South Rampart Street Parade
The Wedding Samba 1950 Bob Crosby and the Bobcats 187 Bob Crosby and the Bobcats: The Complete Standard Transcript
Joshua Fit De Battle Of Jericho 1946 Kid Ory and his Creole Jazz Band (Barney Bigard, Helen Andrews) 160 Kid Ory and his Creole Jazz Band 1944-46
Stars Fell On Alabama 1946 Eddie Condon and his Orchestra (Billy Butterfield, Joe Dixon, Bud Freeman, Joe Bushkin, Jack Lesberg, Dave Tough, Brad Gowans) 142 Complete Commodore And Decca Eddie Condon And Bud Freeman Sessions Mosaic [disc 07]
Atlanta Blues 1946 Eddie Condon and his Orchestra (Max Kaminsky, Fred Ohms, Joe Dixon, Gene Schroeder, Jack Lesberg, Dave Tough, Bubble Sublett(v), James P. Johnson) 123 Complete Commodore And Decca Eddie Condon And Bud Freeman Sessions Mosaic [disc 07]
Don’t You Leave Me Here 1939 Jelly Roll Morton’s New Orleans Jazzmen (Zutty Singleton) 143 Jelly Roll Morton 1930-1939
Don’t Tetch It! 1942 Una Mae Carlisle with Charlie Shavers, Buster Bailey, Russell Procope, Billy Kyle, John Kirby, O’Neil Spencer 191 Una Mae Carlisle: Complete Jazz Series 1941 – 1944
Goin’ Out The Back Way 1941 Johnny Hodges and his Orchestra (Ray Nance, Lawrence Brown, Harry Carney, Duke Ellington, Jimmy Blanton, Sonny Greer) 155 The Duke Ellington Centennial Edition: Complete RCA Victor Recordings (disc 12)
W.P.A. 1940 Louis Armstrong and the Mills Brothers (Harry Mills, Herbert Mills, Donald Mills, Norman Brown) 155 The Complete Louis Armstrong Decca Sessions (1935-1946) (Mosaic disc 06)
The Breaks 1944 Albert Ammons Rhythm Kings (Hot Lips Page, Vic Dickenson, Don Byas, Israel Crosby, Sidney Catlett) 135 Best of Hot Lips Page
Pound Cake 1939 Count Basie and his Orchestra (Lester Young) 186 Classic Columbia, Okeh And Vocalion Lester Young With Count Basie (1936-1940) (Mosaic disc 02)
Pound Ridge 1941 Benny Goodman and his Orchestra (Jimmy Maxwell, Billy Butterfield, Al Davis, Cootie Williams, Lou McGarity, Cutty Cutshall, Clint Neagley, Skip Martin, Vido Musso, George Berg, Chuck Gentry, Mel Powell, Tom Morgan, John Simmons, Sidney Catlett) 185 Classic Columbia and Okeh Benny Goodman Orchestra Sessions (1939-1958) (Mosaic disc 04)
The Huckle Buck 1949 Hot Lips Page and his Orchestra (Pearl Bailey) 143 Jump For Joy!
1. This features a dood jump roping to a jazz band.
2. The comedian Hamtree Harrington is in this, and he’s the guy looking for a dance partner (and eventually winning) the dance contest in the Keep Punchin’ (Big Apple) soundie. And this character inspired the character and dance scene in Spike Lee’s film Malcolm X – all feat. Frankie Manning.
3. The band is the MILLS BLUE RHYTHM BAND.
4. They explain what a rent party is, then they go.
5. The Three Deuces tap trio dance.
Yesterday I DJed a really nice zoom party/listening session for the San Antonio Swing Dance Society in Texas. I was in Sydney (still am), but perhaps one unexpected perks of a pandemic, is dance scenes’ refocussing on their local community. Quite a few local scenes have been running regular online meet-ups for the crews, keeping social and creative bonds alive.
In the days before COVID, it’s unlikely I’d have had a chance to DJ in San Antonio. I wouldn’t have travelled so far for a small gig that can’t defray costs, and I would have found it hard to make friends with the San Antonio peeps from Australia. But now – I can!
Anyhoo, the session was about 1.5 hours long, and is run weekly. It was so NICE to see a bunch of brand new people, and to make new friends! This sort of social interaction has just become so important for me during COVID. I’m used to traveling a lot during the year and meeting lots of new people. But it’s been a year of no traveling, and very little socialising. I’ve met far too few new people. But for this set, I only knew ONE of the participants!
I’ve done quite a few of these online/zoom sets now, and I’m really enjoying tailoring the session to the group and expectations of the organiser. Do they want solid party hits for dancing? Do they want a radio show style session with back announcing songs? Do they want history stuff? This session involves a fair bit of conversation in the chat, and there’s less dancing that pure social engagement. If everyone else is like me, they’re just soaking up all those faces on the screen.
Anyway, this one was a bit of talking (more than I usually do, but I checked with the organiser mid-set a few times to see if they wanted less talking, more music), but lots of good music, played the way I’d play a normal social dancing gig.
This is what I played:
(title year artist bpm album length)
Tippin’ Out 1946 Roy Eldridge and his Orchestra (Zutty Singleton) 112bpm Roy Eldridge: Little Jazz Giant 2:54
Hootie Boogie 1945 Jay McShann 148bpm Jay McShann: Complete Jazz Series 1944 – 1946 2:55
Tempo de Luxe 1940 Harry James and the Boogie Woogie Trio 130bpm New York World’s Fair, 1940 – The Blue Room, Hotel Lincoln 3:19
Ridin’ On The L&N 1946 Lionel Hampton and his Quartet (170) Lionel Hampton Story 3: Hey! Ba-Ba-Re-Bop 2:53
A Touch Of Boogie Woogie 1944 Teddy Wilson Sextet (Emmett Berry, Benny Morton, Edmond Hall, Slam Stewart, Sidney Catlett) 196bpm Teddy Wilson: The Complete Associated Transcriptions 1944 4:49
The Count 1941 Benny Goodman and his Orchestra (Jimmy Maxwell, Billy Butterfield, Al Davis, Cootie Williams, Lou McGarity, Cutty Cutshall, Clint Neagley, Skip Martin, Vido Musso, George Berg, Chuck Gentry, Mel Powell, Tom Morgan, John Simmons, Sidney Catlett) 169bpm Classic Columbia and Okeh Benny Goodman Orchestra Sessions (1939-1958) (Mosaic disc 04) 3:15
Take It 1941 Benny Goodman and his Orchestra (Jimmy Maxwell, Irving Goodman, Alec Fila, Cootie Williams, Lou McGarity, Cutty Cutshall, Gus Bivona, Les Robinson, Georgie Auld, Pete Mondello, Bob Snyder, Johnny Guarnieri, Mike Bryan, Artie Bernstein, Dave Tough) 174bpm Classic Columbia and Okeh Benny Goodman Orchestra Sessions (1939-1958) (Mosaic disc 03) 3:13
If I Could Be With You 1948 Kay Starr featuring Novelty Orchestra (Joe Venuti, Les Paul) 124bpm Best Of The Standard Transcriptions [Disc 1] 1:53
No Regrets 1936 Billie Holiday and her Orchestra (Bunny Berigan, Artie Shaw, Cozy Cole) 130bpm Lady Day: The Complete Billie Holiday On Columbia (1933-1944) (Disc 01) 2:38
When Day Is Done 1935 Mildred Bailey and her Swing Band (Chu Berry) 218bpm Classic Chu Berry Columbia And Victor Sessions (Mosaic disc 01) 3:32
Rose Room 1944 Esquire Metropolitan Opera house jam session (Barney Bigard, Art Tatum, Al Casey, Oscar Pettiford, Sidney Catlett) 196bpm Sid Catlett: Chronological Classics 1944-1946 5:56
Well All Right! 1939 Ella Fitzgerald and her Famous Orchestra 183bpm Ella Fitzgerald In The Groove 2:31
Flying Home 1940 Charlie Barnet and his Orchestra 185bpm Charlie Barnet : Skyliner 2:57
Redskin Rhumba 1940 Charlie Barnet and his Orchestra 186bpm Charlie Barnet : Skyliner 2:41
Algiers Stomp 1936 Mills Blue Rhythm Band (Lucky Millinder, Henry ‘Red’ Allen, JC Higgenbotham, George Washington, Edgar Hayes) 219bpm Mills Blue Rhythm Band: Harlem Heat 3:08
Apollo Jump 1943 Lucky Millinder and his Orchestra 143bpm Apollo Jump 3:27
Harlem Air-Shaft (Rumpus in Richmond) 1940 Duke Ellington and his Orchestra 191bpm The Duke Ellington Centennial Edition: Complete RCA Victor Recordings (disc 08) 2:59
Barney Goin’ Easy (I’m Checkin Out Goom-Bye) (WM 1036-A) 1939 Barney Bigard and his Jazzopators (Rex Stewart, Juan Tizol, Harry Carney, Duke Ellington, Billy Taylor, Sonny Greer, Fred Guy) 151bpm Duke Ellington: The Complete 1936-1940 Variety, Vocalion and Okeh Small Group Sessions (Mosaic disc 06) 2:59
Harmony In Harlem 1937 Duke Ellington and his Orchestra 151bpm The Complete 1932-1940 Brunswick, Columbia And Master Recordings Of Duke Ellington And His Famous Orchestra (Mosaic disc 08) 3:08
Hello Little Boy 1950 Duke Ellington and his Orchestra 180bpm Duke Ellington and his Orchestra: 1949-1950 2:50
Hi Ho Trailus Boot Whip 1946 Roy Eldridge and his Orchestra (Zutty Singleton) 224bpm After You’ve Gone 2:46
All She Wants To Do Is Rock Wynonie Harris 145bpm Greatest Hits 2:34
Froggy Bottom 1957 Jay McShann and his Band (Jimmy Witherspoon) 155bpm Goin’ To Kansas City Blues (Mosaic) 2:37
C Jam Blues 1994 Statesmen Of Jazz 161bpm Statesman Of Jazz 6:32
Every Day I Have The Blues 1959 Count Basie and his Orchestra (Joe Williams) 116bpm Breakfast Dance And Barbecue 3:49
Hallelujah, I Love Her So 1958 Count basie and his Atomic Band 133bpm Complete Live at the Crescendo 1958 (disc 2) 3:03
What did you do?
I began with an acknowledgement of the Gadigal people of the Eora nation, traditional custodians of this land (where I was speaking from), and a shout out to the Black history of jazz music and dance, to the elders of that community.
Why did you play that?
Then I played one of my favourite songs, Hootie’s Boogie.
It has good energy, but isn’t too up in your face crazy loud/fast. Also it’s LOLsome.
Then Tempo deLuxe, which is another of my faves. It’s a song I’ve started a jillion sets with in the past, because it builds from a mellow intro to an upenergy, fun finale with shouting and shit. It’s a live recording from the 1939/1940 New York World Fair. This is a pretty fun connection for dancers, as the Savoy Ballroom had an exhibition at the fair. And there’s footage of it:
Yep, that’s women dancing with women, and men dancing with women. Always has been, always will be.
There are HEAPS of photos of people dancing lindy hop (and of lindy hoppers and jazz musicians), including this one:
You might recognise that jacket logo from the repro Chloe Hong from Seoul did a few years ago for Frankie100. When you think about the fact Whitey’s Lindy Hoppers were promoting the Savoy, it makes complete sense that they were basically walking billboards.
Apparently working the World Fair gig was HARD WORK, with long hours, few breaks, hot sun, and bullshit working conditions. It gave us footage like the Hot Mikado, but it also pushed the Black dancers far too hard. Check out Frankie Manning’s bio for stories about his experiences, and the Alan Lomax bio, ‘Man Who Recorded the World’ for stories about how Lomax’s original ideas for showcasing Black music were curtailed by bullshit.
There’s a heap of stuff from the World Fair in the NY Public Library, so you should defs hunt that down!
Anyhow, I played that song second because it’s by Harry James’ Boogie Woogie Trio (though I think it’s more than three musicians :D) and I dig the boogie vibe.
Then it was Ridin On The L & N, which is one of my most faves. It also has a boogie piano feeling, this time feeling like a train (the L&N) riding down the track.
Then we had radio transcript, ‘A Touch Of Boogie Woogie’ by Teddy Wilson and his Sextet. I had intended to play the 1941 Wilson Orchestra version, because it’s such a surprise to hear that band play something so chunky and exciting and pulse-poundingly good. But the sextet version is equally good, BUT it features some interesting musicians: Sidney Catlett and Slam Stewart. We all know Teddy Wilson for his work with Billie Holiday, and then Benny Goodman’s small groups, but Catlett is a drummer who played in Goodman’s band too. But only for a few months.
Apparently Catlett was so charismatic, so exciting, and so popular, that Goodman fired him in a fit of jealousy. I don’t know if it’s true. But luckily we have some of his recordings with Goodman’s band, including the live album ‘Roll Em!’ from 1941. I don’t have that album, but there is photographic evidence of the gig:
And of course, Slam Stewart we know from Slim and Slam, and thinking of him in Mr Tighty-Whitey Rules Mc Rulesington Benny Goodman’s band is just weird. But there are recordings of him with the Goodman orchestra, and they are FANTASTIC.
(Stewart and Goodman waiting for something in 1945 (source)).
Anyway, I played ‘The Count’ by Goodman’s orchestra, featuring Catlett, so we could feel just how exciting the band was with this drummer. Incidentally, this song is a nice follow-up to the previous one, as it carries that big energy, lindy hopping fun with it. NB it’s just as great for balboa :D
I followed up with another Goodman Orchestra recording from the same year, this time with Dave Tough (our beloved Dave) on drums. Still amazing, but also different. Two songs by one artist in a row? Don’t mind if I do!
A Note: Catlett and Stewart are Black. Goodman was putting mixed race bands on stage for years, and copped flack for it.
After that, it was a complete change of pace, with Kay Starr singing ‘If I could be With You’. This is another transcript, and the band features Joe Venuti, which is weird, because I associate him with gypsy jazz. But by this point, he was major famous. But it’s also wonderful. This photo of them in the ABC Studios was taken ~1945, while the song was recorded in 1948.
Then we had some Billie Holiday, because I wanted to hear some more nice female vocals, with a bit of charm. 1936 put us back into the period I wanted to explore next.
Then ‘Day Is Done’ by Mildred Bailey and her band, featuring her husband Red Norvo.
This song is a nice companion to the previous two female vocals, and she and Holiday match well. But I wanted to play these two artists because they were important in the story of Goodman’s small groups. The story is that Bailey used to host great parties at her house, and at one of these in 1935, Goodman and Teddy Wilson met, and started jamming together. Later that year the Goodman Trio was born.
Bailey herself is super important as this sort of social lubricant, but also as a musician.
Then I played ‘Rose Room’ by an Esquire band, because it’s a live recording, and it features Catlett talking to the audience directly. And it has an epic drum solo at the end.
Then I just went with that exciting big band sound, and another live recording, this time Ella Fitzgerald with Webb’s band in 1939. I wanted to just play some good hard party music. YEAH!
Same for the next song, really: straight up party music. I ADORE this version of Flying Home.
And again – just another uptempo party song.
Then a slight change in tone, with Algier’s Stomp by the Mills Blue Rhythm Band. I do recommend reading up about them. This song features Lucky Millinder.
Which was my segue to playing Apollo Jump, classic lindy hop party song.
Then I switched it up a smear, to play Harlem Air Shaft, by Ellington of course. I like this song for the story about it: that Ellington composed it to reflect the sounds that carry up the internal shaft in an Harlem apartment building.
Now I’m reading about airshafts in Harlem, it’s FASCINATING! Here’s a little article about them.
I dropped a word here about the extreme crowding in Harlem in that 1920s-40s period, where thousands of Black Americans travelled north in the Great Migration, fleeing lynching and violence, and looking for jobs. This crowding led to extremely high rents, rent parties, and competition for housing. It also led to the burst of creativity and political activism that was the Harlem Renaissance.
[I didn’t say it, but in my mind, I was thinking about how these close conditions, everyday stuff like Mildred Bailey’s parties, etc all led to people living and working and writing and thinking and playing music in very close quarters. Harlem really was an important place in that moment.]
Then on to something else by Ellington, but one of his smaller groups, playing something calmer. Here, I wanted to chill us out a bit, emotionally, but stick to Ellington and that period and sound.
And another Ellington, Harmony In Harlem. Because Harlem. Musically, it’s a bit chill, but it grows in energy. It’s a nice dancing song at first, because it’s quite simple and calm, but it gets louder and more exciting. Break over. Party time.
ANOTHER Ellington, but this is one of my super faves. It has a chill start, but a snappy tempo, and what makes it really interesting and fun, is the combination of characteristically weird Ellington harmonies with a solid, chunking beat, all over an old school blues structure and blues vocals. It’s about as Ellington as Ellington can get. You can enjoy it for the stompy rhythm and salty lyrics, for the clever harmonies and almost-dissonance, or all of it combined.
Then I just went hardcore with ‘High-ho trailus bootwhip’, which is loud and fun and exciting. In my head, I was thinking ‘let’s strengthen that blues structure and element, and go further towards jump blues. But I didn’t say that. I was just thinking it.
That song is quite quick, but it feels EXCITING. So I pulled a standard DJing stunt, and built energy with that, then followed up with a solid party hit at an accessible tempo, with shouting and clapping. Something that would fill the floor after the faster song. Wynonie Harris is straight up party music.
Then I just felt like it was a party.
Then I realised I hadn’t cued up a song :D So I fumbled, and pulled out the Elder Statesmen of Jazz, playing ‘C Jam Blues’.
Then back on party track with ‘Everyday I have the Blues’ from Breakfast Dance and Barbecue, the first Basie album I bought. It has a great story: held at about 3am, a party held by the American Disc Jockey’s Association, and everyone was drunk and tired. Then Basie’s band hit the stage, and it was PARTY TIME. Worth buying the CD for the liner notes!
And then the final song, a party version of Basie’s Atomic band playing ‘Hallelujah I love her so’. This is from a huge, multi-CD set, ‘Complete Live at the Crescendo 1958’, which you can listen to on youtube. Or buy for the liner notes.
WHAT a fun set. Lots of nice people talking and having fun. I love it.
Gee that Mills Blue Rhythm Band is good.
I keep forgetting, and then I come back to them, and my mind is blown again. The ‘band’ itself has an interesting history, and is worth looking up.
I’ve just relistened to this song, Let’s Get Together (1937). There’s something about the relationship between bass and guitar driving the beat that really makes the whole thing swing.
I adore the Chick Webb band version (1936, and with Ella leading them LIVE in 1939), but this one is the SHIT.
Look at the people in that band!:
Charlie Shavers, Carl Warwick, Harry Edison, Al Cobbs, Wilbur DeParis, Tab Smith, Eddie Williams, Ben Williams, Harold Arnold, Billy Kyle, Danny Barker, John Williams, Lester Sonny Nichols, Chuck Richards, Lucky Millinder.
Yes, Lucky Millinder. But also Charlie Shavers. I follow his recordings across the jazz landscape, and there are some real gems. But Millinder, of course, went on to greater fame.
There was a really great thread on the MBR on the (lovely) Swingdjs.com discussion board, and that’s how I heard about the band. Then I went into the incredible Hobart music shop Music Without Borders in 2006, where the unusual owner gave me a MBR CD and told me to buy it. So I did.
I tried DJing from it in Melbourne over the next year, but I remember being audibly shouted at by the groove-loving fools. That was my first lesson in how not to DJ: don’t DJ to ‘teach’ people anything, or they will kick your wanky arse off the stage.
After yesterday’s extra fun set for Tracktown Swing’s zoom party (fun), I’m feeling interested in jazz again. Overhearing Andrew’s interest in Sid Catlett’s drumming, I’ve been digging through the Catlett in my own collection.
I can’t remember listening to this song ‘How High the Moon’ by Al Casey and his Sextet (1945) before. The band has a pretty impressive line up:
Al Casey And His Sextet
Gerald Wilson (trumpeter), Willie Smith (alto sax), Illinois Jacquet (tenor sax), Horace Henderson (piano), Al Casey (guitar) John Simmons (bass), Sid Catlett (drums).
Every time I listen to a band like this I have to look up the personnel. Thank goodness for google. This isn’t Willie The Lion Smith, it’s another one. And I always forget what Horace Henderson played. I often forget he’s Fletcher Henderson’s brother too.
Things I noticed:
– There’s a bit in an Illinois Jacquet solo (at about 0.45) where the first few notes sound just like his famous part in Flying Home (with Hamp). I’m assuming it’s Jacquet. I have no clue tbh.
– The guitar is extra nice. I’m digging guitar in these sorts of swinging jazz songs atm, not as rhythm, but as soloists.
– The drumming _is_ nice.
Anyhoo, this is a nice song.
There are a few recordings by Benny Goodman’s big band in 1941 that are off the charts HOT. Like, the best, tightest band, and they really swing.
I’ve just discovered that Sid Catlett was the drummer in the band for a few months in 1941, which explains a few things.
These recordings include Pound Ridge, The Count, a few others, an ROLL EM.
And, apparently, this live CD is pretty fricking great.
I really like this. I feel like this might be something I’d like to see Rikard dancing too.
It’s got some of the gun musicians from that song in the OP, and you can hear the musicians shouting and calling out.
‘Henderson Romp’ (1945)
Big Sid Catlett’s Band
Joe Guy, Ben Bull Moose Jackson, Hubert Bumps Myers, Illinois Jacquet, Horace Henderson, Al Casey, John Simmons, Sid Catlett.
I think I might be really into Al Casey.
And Sid Catlett is playing in this recording of ‘Madame Dynamite’ by Eddie Condon’s band in 1933. It’s worth noting that this is a mixed race band. The connection is, of course, Chicago.
Catlett also played in bands led by Teddy Wilson, Louis Armstrong, Sidney Bechet, Hot Lips Page, Lester Young, Lionel Hampton, Coleman Hawkins…
Basically, he was the shit.
I’m doing some prep for my set with Track Town Swing tomorrow, and I’m starting with songs I never DJ, but adore.
I do love this song, and Bing Crosby’s voice… sigh. The band features Bix, Trumbauer, and Eddie Lang, among others. 1932 in Chicago.
Someone on fb recently asked:
“Question: has someone made a visual timeline/lineage of Lindy Hop? Is this a good idea?”
I dislike the linear timeline model because:
- It puts Africa in the past, when helloooo it’s not;
- It uses a very western hierarchy of value with a particular dance or people as the apex or cumulation of different dance. Soz but lindy hop has never stood still or existed in a singular ‘true’ form. It is meaning in motion.
- Who gets to decide when the line begins and ends? If it ‘begins’ in Africa and ‘ends’ with the white observer, then that is some fucked up racist social Darwinist crap. Stop, white person. That ways lies revivalist colonialism.
- linear notions of time are white patriarchy.
There are other, far more interesting notions of ‘time’. The Aboriginal idea of the Dreaming is a good one: it is now, then, to come, and always. So, eg, when we tell a creating Dreaming story/dance/song, we are at once telling history and engaging in that act of creating as well.
If we take this way of understanding (the assumption that time needn’t be linear) to jazz dance, we have multiple dances existing at the same time in different and the same spaces. Specific shapes move through time and between generations, but are also moving laterally between siblings of different ages. So different aged people dance the same movements at the same time, but it has different meanings, depending on who is dancing where.
If we use a linear model, elders are in the past, superseded by successive generations of ‘improvers’, all focussed on a single point/form in time: lindy hop.
But we know it doesn’t work like that. Frankie teaching a bunch of white people the electric slide to Easy Does It, at the same time (day, even!) Black families might be dancing it to disco at a party. White people may separate generations and social spaces and learning, but other cultures do not.
So i say no to time _lines_, because they force western ideas and hierarchies of meaning onto Black culture.
It’s more useful to get up and dance, and feel those changes. Or to think of those dancers from all over Africa leaping up to share a step like the ones Al and Leon were demonstrating, all of them ignoring Marshall Stearns’ voice, and sharing ideas and feelings in a single moment of inter-continental, cross-generational immanence.
Africa isn’t in the roots of lindy hop. The nations of Africa are dancing now, in conversation with lindy hop.
Gender Inequality in the Australian Music Industry (Part Two) is a bit of a clunky piece, but it’s so unusual to read a male Australian jazz musician commenting on this issue, it’s worth a look. Note that that they contacted 50 musicians, and only 3 replied.
I’ve worked with a lot of jazz musicians over the last twenty years. Very few of them have been women or enby. And the misogyny and sexism has been stunning. Far worse than any other industry I’ve dealt with. I’ve been harassed by musicians while I’m DJing while I’m MCing and while I’m actually running the event. Yes, they think it’s ok to harass their freaking BOSS. This is because it is a male-dominated industry, and an industry dominated by older white men. I remember one particular evening having a conversation with a band leader who insisted there was no sexual harassment in the the Sydney jazz scene, then five minutes later I was dodging the groping hands of a musician in that guy’s band.
Individual sexual offenders (rapists and men who commit acts of sexual violence) are not the biggest problem with Australian jazz. It’s the other men who turn away from these men and refuse to believe women when they tell them about their physical experiences. It’s the older men who are the bigger problem. And by ‘older’ I mean over 30.
Get it to-fucking-gether Australian jazz musicians.
I actually think that the young men in the music scene would rehabilitate the older people in the music scene a lot better. Nowadays, I think there’s a lot more ‘wokeness’ happening in the music scene, but young men still need to work with young women, play music together, and get the fuck over it.
The jazz music industry is a subset of the wider society in which it is positioned (like the jazz dance community). But the Australian jazz music industry is _even more_ patriarchal than Australian society generally: it’s overwhelmingly white, male, and able-bodied.
Luckily (sadly) we’ve been openly discussing sexual assault and harassment in the wider community since at least the 1980s. So we have a range of practical and discursive strategies, resources, and support services available to us. I’d argue that the Australian jazz industry actively suppresses anti-discrimination actions and thinking.
It can certainly be addressed _now_. The international jazz dance scene started working on this issue about 8-10 years ago, and we’ve had very good results. The practical strategies of the BLM movement has helped even more.
But most of this work is being done by women, and woc.
With the jazz music world, it’s going to need to be men who step up. And a lot of (older white) men aren’t going to like it, because it will mean stepping aside.
At one point in the linked article, it notes that there’s idea (myth) in the jazz world that ‘if you can play, you’ll get the gig,’ as though success is merit-based. That’s untrue. The JM case is a perfect example: a young straight white guy was literally mid-court case, and the patronage of an older white guy got him an exemption and gig.
The adage should be ‘if you’re a white guy with white patrons, you’ll get the gig. Even if you’re a violent criminal.’
The Australian jazz world is very much invested in the myth of creative genius winning out. ButAustralian jazz is not a meritocracy. It is white patriarchy.
The next step of course, is for you, musicians, and your friends to make a list of practical things you can and will do to improve things:
– don’t laugh at sexist jokes. Practice stamping them out in a non-vibe-killing way
– learn to see sexist acts; don’t look away
– step in when you see a bro do sexist stuff
– be inclusive; involve women and enby folk in jokes, drinks, hangs so they can get into professional networks
– swap drinking/drugs sessions for stuff that is less risky for vulnerable people: eating, talking, dancing, basketball, etc
My feel is: explore how you can do _positive_ things. Practice them at home or with your mates. Then do them. Musicians are creative people. You can do this.
fb post 25 June at 05:47
A question was posed on a Facebook group called Swingopedia, and I have decided to finally voice my answer. Hey, it’s quarantine, I don’t have any gigs to lose right now…
“I’ve noticed that music trends in the global swing dance community have changed, since I started in 1995.
I’ve heard a mix of Big Band, RnB, Groove, Soul, Hip Hop, lounge/elevator jazz in early 2000s, Gypsy Swing, Ragtime etc. I’ve even heard Madonna!
What do you believe constitutes swing music and what style of music should we be swing dancing to?
Also should musicians only play recreations of original classics by Basie etc or should they be creating their own music?”
I got a lot of opinions about this. I’m a bass player, trombonist, and singer. I’ve been playing the Lindy Hop scene since 2004, with Solomon Douglas, Jonathan Stout, Michael Gamble, and basically anyone else you can think of. I co-founded Moonshine Rhythm Club. As much as I love playing with all the musicians in this scene, my opinion and my approach to music definitely diverges from a lot of them. And I think it also addresses the lack of a serious Black presence in lindy hop.
Here’s what I think:
The way we approach this music, AND this dance, is not at all in the spirit of those who created it.
Let me unpack that just a little bit. Back in the day, musicians were inventing new music that they dug, and that made people want to move their bodies. So they drew big crowds of people who invented new ways to move their bodies to it. That’s it. Does it feel good? Does it make you want to move your body? Then move your body. How? I dunno, let’s make something up together. Does it sound good? Is it fun? If not, whoops, nobody showed up to your gig.
Today, we have a historical dance taught with a preservationist mindset, and we play historic music with a preservationist mindset, or we almost reverse-engineer what music needs to be played so that we can dance this specific dance to it.
We are starting to see more new, original swing music, and I love that. But it still falls within pretty strict guidelines. We are also starting to see more swing audiences actually caring about the music itself, not just as a utilitarian function to dance to; I would definitely credit Michael and Jonathan and the Lindy Focus community for encouraging that, and I think the transcription projects have been a big part of that. It’s been really cool playing at Lindy Focus the past few years and seeing crowds of people standing by the stage just DIGGING the music.
But when you think about what was happening in the 30s and 40s with music and dance, it was a popular movement, and an organic thing. You wanna know what happened to Black musicians and audiences? They didn’t stop playing music, and they didn’t stop dancing. They created new genres, and they created new ways to dance to them. Every single decade up to the present. How can you expect to attract Black musicians and dancers to a scene that is frozen in time?
So ok, what am I proposing instead? I don’t have all the answers, for sure. And yes, I am still a musician that loves playing vintage jazz, and loves playing for dancers. But I look at musicians like Kansas Smitty’s, Bria Skonberg, Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra, Gunhild Carling, and so many others that play amazing, badass, swinging, move-your-body music, and who aren’t even CLOSE to cutting-edge far-out modern jazz, and I hear crickets from the lindy hop community.
Here is my point. There is SO much music out there that swings. Modern stuff. Stuff that feels really good, deep in your body, and makes you want to move and groove. And because it doesn’t fit the specific historical constraints of the dance that this community commodifies and REPLICATES, lindy hoppers want nothing to do with it.
Like, how can you ask the question “what constitutes swing music” or “what style of music SHOULD we be dancing to,” and then turn around and act bewildered that you don’t have more BIPOC in the scene??
I envision a world where the historical preservation of swing music and dance can meet the modern world, where there are all kinds of dances being done to all kinds of killer music. You don’t have to drop the preservation stuff, you SHOULDN’T stop studying and presenting and talking about the history of jazz and swing and lindy hop. But what you have done is put walls around this whole situation, and it keeps you in, and it keeps a whole lot of other people out. It’s religion, in the restrictive sense of the word. And if you ever manage to notice how many badass vintage jazz musicians don’t bother with the swing dance scene anymore, it’s because they don’t fit. They got too big for the walls.
Personally, I would love to be able to continue playing swing music for lindy hoppers. But I can’t tell you how many frustrating gigs I’ve had where either the audience barely noticed there were real musicians on stage, or I was playing with really poor musicians, but nobody really cared because they fit the constraints of the dance. I think my favorite gigs are where some people are dancing (whether it is a dance or not, because they feel it in their bodies), and some people are listening (because they actually hear and enjoy the music), and I can stretch out with my fellow musicians beyond the artificial, misinformed, dance-centric constraints of “around 3 minutes song length, not too fast, not too slow.”
Oh yeah, I thought I was wrapping up, but that’s another thing I gotta address. Not every song has to be danceable for every person. That’s another aspect of the utilitarianism of music in the dance community. You think that because all we have are 3-minute songs from the swing era that that was what musicians did live. I can’t possibly believe that’s true. Not gonna go too deep down that rabbit hole, but here’s something to think about: as soon as the long-playing record was invented, Duke Ellington released a 12-minute version of Mood Indigo, and it is glorious. My favorite version of that song ever. SO swinging, so beautiful, makes me want to move, makes me want to play.
Jazz is a living art form. It’s an improvisational art form. The very best times I’ve had playing jazz with people, we’ve found our way to the special spark, the moments that make people look up and shout, the moments that inspire dance. If I’m hired to perform a utilitarian function for your specific dance style, and I’m fired when I go outside the specific constraints, you’re not gonna get my best. You’re not gonna get the magic, the spark. You are missing out. (I have a couple dancer friends in Rochester who figured this out years ago, and started going to the international jazz fest there and checking out all sorts of amazing music. They GET it.)
Music and dance have been co-created since humans have existed. In my opinion, the lindy hop community is creating neither one right now. I don’t think it has to stay that way; but you’ve gotta tear down the walls, if you want it to change.
(Disclaimers. 1. Even though I’m speaking somewhat harshly about the scene, I still love parts of it, and I love a lot of the people in it, and when I play at Lindy Focus and walk around those hallways, I’m proud and glad to be part of it. 2. I’m talking about some historical stuff in here, but I am far from a swing historian. Michael Gamble, Jonathan Stout, Jon Tigert, and a bunch of other musicians and dancers probably know quite a bit more than me about the specific history of the music and dance. The depth of my musicianship is what makes me feel like I have something to offer with this commentary.)
I have problems with the American-centredness of this post. He is generalising from what he sees in the US (at huge events) to the entire world. And it just doesn’t hold up. I’d argue that the ‘mega-event’ is a very different animal (and product) to smaller events that focus on a regional audience, or even hyper-local audience. The usual issues apply to a huge event: you need to entertain trillions of people, you have to appeal to the widest audience (rather than niche audiences), you have a lot of money at risk, you need to do quality control. You and and should (perhaps) use this big budget opportunity to do more big band gigs. The events he’s talking about are largely in the US, and these are unlike things you see in other countries (with the exception of Camp Swing It, which is MASSIVE). So you end up with a relatively homogenous, palatable menu of music and dance held in a boring big hotel, isolated from the local host community.
Because he’s generalising from big US events, he ignores all the smaller, more interesting events. There’s no Upside Down here. No Rhythm Korea. No Jazz BANG. He also conveniently ignores the work being done by Black event producers. Teena Morales, anyone? She’s been running the biggest events in the US for years. And she runs the Houston Jazz Dance Festival, which has all-Black musicians and teachers, and is firmly positioned within the modern Black community’s culture.
“But when you think about what was happening in the 30s and 40s with music and dance, it was a popular movement, and an organic thing. You wanna know what happened to Black musicians and audiences? They didn’t stop playing music, and they didn’t stop dancing. They created new genres, and they created new ways to dance to them. Every single decade up to the present. How can you expect to attract Black musicians and dancers to a scene that is frozen in time?”
Well, they’re at Teena Morales’ event, doing dances that actually relate to them, with people who make them feel welcome. But let me address this issue: how to attract Black dancers to lindy hop. I’m guessing he means the US? This issue is a lot like the issue of attracting people of colour to other institutions. It won’t work if you don’t deconstruct or analyse whiteness itself:
As result of the invisibility of whiteness, diversity initiatives are often about including diverse bodies into the mainstream without critically examining what that mainstream is” (source: Diversity Means Disruption ; I speak more about this here: A Lot of White People Will Be Uncomfortable).
And if we’re going to deconstruct whiteness, we also need to deconstruct patriarchy, because white supremacy is built on the dominance of heterosexual masculinity.
If I follow that thinking, to truly change the nature of jazz and music in the lindy hop world, do we need to kill off the mega-event?
Here’s the thing. Covid19 has already done this. This is another thing that I see missing from so much of the online talk about lindy hop culture: this moment of change/crisis is the result of a global pandemic. Push has come to shove. BUT, white people have the time and energy to dig into ‘racism’ because they are in iso, or because their usual lives have been disrupted. Black people and marginalised people are busy trying not to die, whether they’re killed by disease, an dangerous ‘healthcare’ system, or the police.
So why does this white male musician assume that things will go on as they did before? They’re not going to. The world has changed irrevocably. The mega-event is not coming back any time in the next few years. That means the the existing market/audience for the mega-event will have disappeared (we know the lindy hop ‘generation’ is only about 5 years long). We also know that all the necessary infrastructure for a mega-event will also have disappeared: international airlines have folded; the arts are in disarray, from sound engineers to restaurants; international guests will not be visiting the US with its unchecked covid. It would also be horrifically selfish for dancers to attend a mega-event… lindy hop = superspreader.
So I think the question has to be,
What will jazz music and jazz dance look like in a covid19 world?
At first I was all ‘no one wants jazz dance during a plague’ and then I remembered that people really want music and dance during hard times. Who gets to dance will be the issue.
My government has taken advantage of the virus to introduce frightening laws, and expand awful powers. The same company that runs our offshore-detention camps for refugees is in charge of the quarantine hotels. Poor, refugee, and migrant people have been detained in housing commission towers for fear of covid spread. The federal police have expanded search and detain powers. … and so on.
The people who are suffering most from this are the Black members of our community.
I haven’t quite gotten there in the thinking, but I think that it’s obscene to consider running a mega-event in this climate. I mean, I have huge, massive ethical problems with fundraising for white people to transcribe Black recordings so white people can play them for white audiences in THIS moment. It’s a great promotional gig, but how does it fight white supremacy?
So if we can’t do mega-events, what do we do?
The same thing marginalised events and dance communities have already been doing: smaller scale events that cater to the local community’s needs and interests. And by local community, I mean the musicians, sound engineers, DJs, dancers, teachers, performers of a particular city. There’s no budget to fly in the same old crew of white men. So we get local. And that, as with governments*, means we have a more diverse body.
We subsidise local dancers on lower incomes with volunteer spots. We see a more sustainable labour model generally. And we see greater diversity in event types and event staff and attendance. The thing about smaller events, is that they often don’t enforce those rules about what bands should play. For all sorts of reasons. But you’ll get the odd funk number, you’ll get 10 minute songs, and you’ll get a range of tempos. Because the organisers don’t have the ‘knowledge’ to control the music like that. And they don’t particularly prioritise that issue – they’re trying to find the light switch or get the key for the late night party.
I think that this ‘definition’ of ‘good music’ is a matter of power and privilege, not objective value or ‘truth’. As the OP says, insisting on ‘good songs for dancing’ gives us a boring menu, and promotes a conservative palate. This in turn gives us boring dancing. None of those sparks of real creativity and emotion.
I think that DJing plays a big part in this. The lack of diversity in the highest profile DJing ranks is a direct result of some serious gate keeping: DJs are selected for their social skills (do they network like a white man?), their availability (do they have the money and time to drop everything for a weekend gig? Or do they have kids and family to care for?), and then, finally, their music taste (how do they talk about songs – loudly in a crowd, or with a quietly brilliant set at 11pm?). This type of musician hierarchy and power structure marginalises anyone who’s not a straight white guy.
If we want to see more diversity in the songs being played by musicians, we need more diversity in the cohort of musicians.
Which means WHITE MEN NEED TO STOP RAPING AND HARASSING EVERYONE ELSE.
WHITE MEN NEED TO STOP _EACH OTHER_ DOING THIS SHIT.
* Local governments have more women, poc, and other marginalised groups represented. As we move up tiers of government (state, federal, commonwealth, etc), we see diversity disappear and white patriarchy at work.
….RE sexual assault in the jazz music scene:
That’s my next job. I was starting work on it before covid, by deliberately setting up gigs and sessions that promote women musicians (ie sessions that are safe workplaces). But it’s been derailed. I figure we can use the methods we’ve developed in the dance world to tackle the music world.
One of the things we’ve found in Sydney, is that if we address sexual harassment and assault, we get a safer, more diverse scene generally. More people of colour, more queer folk, more trans folk, more kids.
This why this OP musician needs to address his own power as a white man in America. He is one of the obstacles we need to deconstruct.
fb comment on above post
25 June at 10:30
Hey friend, we have talked about this a bunch, and I know we have a lot of common ground, so i feel comfy talking about this “publicly” with you. I also wanna say I appreciate that going out on a limb can be stressful, and I respect you getting into it regardless.
That being said, I think you’re coming at this from a strange angle, one that on the surface looks extremely relatable (I see a “successful” post/video/blog/etc on this topic about once a month for, I dunno, the past 15 years or so) but to me totally falls apart when you zoom in. My issue is that the thing you’re critiquing isn’t some firm opinion that anyone holds, it’s just the emergent properties of a bunch of different people’s subjective taste. And I’m pretty sure you’re ok with it on the micro level, you just don’t like the overall effect, yeah?
Like, I play music in a style I like. To you it’s narrow, but for me it’s actually a wild experiment in combining elements of different swing era rhythm sections with elements of early new orleans & chicago looser collective improv, moving familiar riffs to new contexts, and yes, paying homage to inspiring classic (but never heard live by current audiences) recordings. There’s a ton of room to play there for those of us that are deeply in love with the performers, arrangers, and composers of that era, and importantly, the current dancers, instructors, and organizers are also deeply educated fans of a wide range of old styles, and enjoy playing in that space – that’s why they hire these bands. (They’ve been geeking out on these rare recordings that they and their friends uncovered over the course of years of musical archeology, and look!-> someone’s playing that live?? Hell yeah I’m gonna hire them, that’s a dream come true!!) And unless I read you wrong, you probably think that’s cool, you just wish that wasn’t ALL there is, or something?
Here’s where I point out that there are a million other places to play music, to dance, and to explore like, every iteration of every art under the sun. The WCS scene has much more modern taste. The Blues scene, and especially the Fusion scene know how to break the mold and push boundaries. (also, there was a generation of Bebop dancers at the Savoy, and there is a push within the modern lindy movement to explore that.. which I think is great. Just FYI!) Do you know about those? The swing scene isn’t this philosophy-driven “preservation movement” in the way you’re making it out to be; it’s a loose collective of folks that happen to have a lot of taste in common. That’s…it. Trying to say their taste should be different is just… weird to me.
Like, there’s nothing stopping anyone from experimenting with other flavors like those scenes do, or like another theoretical new scene could do. There are plenty of folks that don’t dig Ella Fitzgerald & Chick Webb, Billie Holiday & Teddy Wilson, Jimmy Rushing & Count Basie. I wouldn’t wanna live in a world where what we’re doing is the only thing.. and it’s not!
I think that’s my other issue with this type of takedown —> do you realize how small the modern swing scene is? Like, compared to virtually any other hobby or “art scene”? It’s a niche within a niche within a niche. We are people who love what, in our evaluation, is actually a very broad range of dance and music forms that one could spend many lifetimes studying and never master. We’ve carved out a little space to do our thing. And still people feel the need to tell us to stop. All. The. Time.
Last thing: I see “this” being the thing that’s blamed for lack of blackness in our scene very casually, on a regular basis. Y’all, the causes of that are soooo much worse than this one singular artistic impetus. Our scene alienates black folks in basically every way that appears on the racism bingo card. Don’t make vintage music the scapegoat for this. Our scene has historically welcomed and elevated racist individuals and ideas for as long as I can remember, to our shame. Also, though it is somewhat rarer (remember: niche within a niche within a niche), there are a lot of great black musicians that play great swing and early jazz. Mostly we honestly just can’t afford them. (yet) And yes, also the overall whiteness of our scene makes it a less attractive place to seek work, which makes sense. THAT is something we can change. I can’t even remotely pretend to speak for any black person in this, but I think at the very least you are making a ton of assumptions about what’s causing what, and there’s a lot more going on.
(and here’s my social media caveat – my life is nuts right now and I totally don’t have time for an extended FB debate, AKA what the hell am I doing?? Regardless, I do love you, Eric Heveron-Smith!)
I’d add this as an example of Michael’s missing some of the political point:
“My issue is that the thing you’re critiquing isn’t some firm opinion that anyone holds, it’s just the emergent properties of a bunch of different people’s subjective taste.”
There’s a chunk of literature about how ‘individual taste’ isn’t about individual subjective choice, but about cultural forces. So while these aesthetics might seem ‘subjective choices’ from the inside, they’re clearly part of broader patterns and structures of patriarchy and white hegemony. As soon as we see patterns, we can look for the forces that are invisible to the dominant group because they are so ‘normalised’.
ie we have normalised the idea that a bunch of white people playing Black music at an event promoted as ‘preserving the past’ is a good thing. We haven’t engaged with the idea that white people are gaining cultural power from this work, that modern Black musicians are marginalised, and that only seeing white people on stage supports the myth that Black people don’t like jazz or do it well.
This is another difficult bit for me:
“There’s a ton of room to play there for those of us that are deeply in love with the performers, arrangers, and composers of that era, and importantly, the current dancers, instructors, and organizers are also deeply educated fans of a wide range of old styles, and enjoy playing in that space – that’s why they hire these bands. (They’ve been geeking out on these rare recordings that they and their friends uncovered over the course of years of musical archeology, and look! someone’s playing that live?? Hell yeah I’m gonna hire them, that’s a dream come true!!)”
My feminist brain is saying “Who is ‘those of us’? And ‘their friends?’?”
Who is running these large events?
Who is managing the music?
It’s mostly white people, and mostly white men.
My follow up question would be, “If white men are doing the music stuff, what jobs do women do on these events?” and “What jobs to people of colour do on these events?” Are they handling the low-profile stuff like catering or volunteer management or budgets? Events like Focus spend a lot of time convincing people that music is the most important part of an event. The jobs men do. When punters might say, “Actually, the person who met me at registration and made me feel welcome was the most important person I met this weekend.”
The dominant discourse of modern lindy hop prioritises and values the work that white men do most highly.
Here’s another issue:
“The swing scene isn’t this philosophy-driven “preservation movement” in the way you’re making it out to be; it’s a loose collective of folks that happen to have a lot of taste in common. That’s…it. Trying to say their taste should be different is just… weird to me.”
This is a misleading premise.
This isn’t how ideology works. If it’s a fascist state, it might. But hegemony in the modern capitalist patriarchy works in a different way. We don’t have a scene spokesman standing at a mic declaiming, “We will only enjoy bands from 1935-1945. We will only dance to bands from the US.”
But hegemony is more subtle. We get this message that ‘preservation is prime’ from a whole heap of sources and texts:
- The only bands that get hired at mega-events are preservationist bands led and staffed by white men. Each of those independent messages tells me that big organisers don’t value the work of women or people of colour. It also suggests, implicitly, that the only _valuable_ or ‘good’ musicians are white men.
- The only DJs who play those mega-events are white. And often white men (those the latter is changing, I’d argue that most of those white women DJs (myself included) are people who engage with dance in a particular way: assertive, relatively ambitiously, etc -> characteristics usually ascribed to hetero white men).
…and so on.
I’m interested in how this works in places like Seoul. There we see white bands flown into the country for big gigs. And they’re the same bands we see at American mega-events. But we also see local gendered and ethnicised relationships of power at work. Interestingly, Sage Minn’s band, one of the very few in Seoul, has women members. I wonder if it’s because they’re playing western music, Korean mores and values don’t apply in the same way? I actually saw a fab conference paper about pop culture in Seoul a few years ago that discusses this.
“Like, there’s nothing stopping anyone from experimenting with other flavors like those scenes do, or like another theoretical new scene could do. There are plenty of folks that don’t dig Ella Fitzgerald; Chick Webb, Billie Holiday; Teddy Wilson, Jimmy Rushing; Count Basie. I wouldn’t wanna live in a world where what we’re doing is the only thing.. and it’s not!”
…so you can do all that other stuff, just not here?
“I think that’s my other issue with this type of takedown —”
This is where this post gets a bit defensive. The original post was actually really gentle (I thought). But you know that saying, “When you’re accustomed to privilege, equality feels like oppression.”
If you’re used to adulation, a little light supposition feels like a take down.
“Last thing: I see “this” being the thing that’s blamed for lack of blackness in our scene very casually, on a regular basis. Y’all, the causes of that are soooo much worse than this one singular artistic impetus.”
This is a deeply problematic comment. I’ve seen this quite a lot in white discussions about racism (I actually did a Masters on it). If we only define racism as white cops killing Black kids, or KKK lynching Black men, then anything ‘less’ can be positioned as ‘not-racism’.
But we know that racist discourse is far more complex. All those white DJs and white bands and white MCs? That’s racism.
Here’s an example:
“there are a lot of great black musicians that play great swing and early jazz. Mostly we honestly just can’t afford them.”
This is racism.
In this sentence he is literally saying that he/we** do not value Black musicians enough to pay them what they’re worth.
It’s racism because of what is not said, and because of the implicit valuing of ‘historic’ Black work, and devaluing of contemporary Black work. We’ll only raise a zillion dollars to fund the transcription of work by dead Black men; we won’t shell out some of that money to pay living Black men and women a living wage.
More importantly, this statement presented with no facts or evidence, will become a ‘truth’ repeated all over the scene. It will become what we describe in cultural studies as a ‘myth’: a valuative statement that is repeated so often it becomes a ‘fact’ with huge, powerful status.
The effect of this type of cultural myth is that other events and organisers won’t book Black bands or artists because ‘they’re too expensive’. And the myth will grow.
But why. Why is a Black musician more expensive? Does he mean that he’ll only hire a brilliant Black musician, but won’t hire a less awesome Black musician, and is quite ok hiring mediocre white men musicians?
I can’t continue down this reasoning: mediocre white men. Oh to have your confidence and power.
**The way he elides ‘we’ and ‘I’ is telling – he positions himself with an important ‘many’/majority, rather than taking responsibility for his own choices. This establishes his position as part of a powerful ‘many’.
“and here’s my social media caveat – my life is nuts right now and I totally don’t have time for an extended FB debate, AKA what the hell am I doing??”
While I have sympathy for him, I’d like to remind the white world that Black Americans have been fighting like demons while their society rapes and murders them with official sanction. Women work on sexual harassment and assault issues while they are being harassed every day.
This is why we call it disruption: it disrupts the status quo. And if you’re a white man, it’s often the first time you’ve had to do this work while also managing your daily dramas.
As a final note, I’m gonna quote Audre Lorde:
For the master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house. They may allow us temporarily to beat him at his own game, but they will never enable us to bring about genuine change (source: Audre Lorde, Sister Outsider
In this context, I mean that accepting the premise of the original post is misleading. Following the instructions of a powerful white man will not help us deconstruct racism. We need to do something completely different.
I’m going to direct you to this post.
Diversity Means Disruption.
Why hire First Nations people into your mostly white structure and expect/want/demand everything to remain basically the same?
… diversity and inclusion policies and initiatives … are often shallow exercises as they are seldom created to challenge and disrupt whiteness within and outside the sector. We cannot change institutional racism without first changing institutions and without disruption, nothing will change.
Covid19 provides an opportunity for this disruption. Or does it? In the US and here in Australia, people of colour are disproportionately affected by the virus and its effects. They’re too busy fighting racism to think about jazz. Here is a really clever twitter thread, where the writer Abu Owaisi connects up the Victorian government’s locking 9 housing commission towers, the SES removing donated goods, white journalists’ influential commentary, and the devaluing of work by migrant community groups.
So, allies, time to dismantle the master’s house. Let’s do something completely new.
So we know that musicians need/want to work. And we also know that their work (and creative practice) involves risky behaviour. So how do we make sure musicians minimise risk, for themselves and their audiences?
The best model is really to have musicians develop safe work practices, then peer-pressure their colleagues into doing things the safe way. Then as a group presenting these safe methods as a solution to employers.
Because the laws of each city and country vary, and advise given is varying, musicians need to take the facts about covid spread, and adapt them to produce their own working model.
I think that sex workers are a great parallel. They know that STIs like HIV/AIDS are a real risk in their work. But they also know how to minimise risk. They’re good at hygiene. They set boundaries with clients. They’re good at disclosure when necessary. But all of course, only if they work within a safe workplace, and aren’t disempowered by their work being criminalised. If they are empowered by legal protection, they can set rules that minimise their risks, without having to also worry about police (arrest or blackmail/’protection’.)
In the case of both sex workers and musicians, we know that abstinence isn’t a good option :D Both groups want to and need to work in their chosen industry. We can also assume that both groups are specialists in their work and workplaces, and can develop safe (or harm minimising) work practices.
So if we work with this as a model, what can musicians do to minimise the risk of getting and spreading covid?
We know how to prevent the spread of covid, and it has parallels with HIV/AIDS:
- Wear an effective prophylactic
- Know how to use and dispose of prophylactics properly
- Practice good hygiene (washing hands, and washing hands properly; cleaning tools properly)
- Avoiding disease-specific transmission.
- Being able to set rules and then enforce them, even with bullying employers or clients.
In terms of a musicians’ work:
- Wear a mask. And it has to be an effective mask that still allows them to do their job. So while a sex worker could choose to wear a hazmat suit, they go with condoms and dams instead. Similarly, musicians must choose which type of mask does the job, but doesn’t impede their work.
- Know how to put on, wear, and then remove and dispose of masks without touching them. This takes training.
- Regular hand washing. Not dumping spit from a brass instrument onto the floor. Cleaning instruments regularly and properly. Not sharing mics. Keeping mics clean and stored correctly. Wiping down mic stands. Not touching audience members or other musicians.
- Understanding that covid spreads via respiratory droplets, which are spread by snot and spit in the air (as aerosol transmission) or via surface contact (wiping your nose, shaking hands, then than person touching their own nose). So this means not touching your face while you play gigs. It also means keeping 1.5m from other people, and having the right ventilation.
- This is the most important one. Once musicians have some good processes and rules in place for themselves and their groups, they then present them to employers as a list of solutions that they take as a requirement for a gig. They’re in a good position to do this atm, as venues are desperate to make $$.
When you write it out like this, you can see some obvious challenges. eg not touching other people in your band? Hard. So perhaps you develop a ‘bubble’ (to use NZ’s powerful language), and you only play with people who are inside that bubble. Any new people who come along to sit in with your bubble must take additional precautions.
None of these things are set out as ‘rules’ in government guidelines. But they take what we know about the virus and minimising risk, and then apply it to this specific case.
But once we have these sets of industry-specific guidelines (‘safe jazz’ vs ‘safe sex’), we need to communicate them to all the musicians, and we need individuals to adopt and enforce them themselves.
Peer pressure! Because jazz is so male dominated, and so dominated by straight white men who are already very good at enforcing hierarchies and specific behaviours, they could actually be really good at this. At this stage, though, I’m seeing jazz musicians normalising unsafe behaviour by talking about what they’re currently doing, by teasing or shaming musicians who do stricter harm reduction.
So, musician friends, how are you minimising risk while playing at the moment?
Here are things you’ve listed already:
- 4. DOING OUTDOOR GIGS
This is a good one. But does wet weather contingencies (eg awnings overhead) maintain the harm reduction of not having walls or ceilings?
- 1 and 2: WEARING MASKS
Another useful one, but it’s being applied inconsistently.
– Some of you have said that the audience have to wear masks, but only if they’re not eating or drinking.
– Are venue staff wearing masks?
– Are musicians wearing masks? And then, more importantly, are they wearing effective masks (ie clean and effective), and
– are they _not_ touching or contaminating masks?
– Do they dispose of masks correctly?
– If you’re wearing masks while traveling to and from gigs (which Chris has illustrated), are these same guidelines being applied?
Venues provide masks for musicians, punters, and staff. They are a requirement in booking the gig.
Bands provide masks for the whole group.
Bands spend time before the gig refreshing training about how to use a mask safely – eg how to put a mask on or take it off if you’re playing sax :D And when that’s impractical, how to use a mask while traveling together to gigs.
Disposing of masks safely is super super important. Are they being chucked on the floor of the band’s van like an old coffee cup? Or disposed of properly.
…and so on. You can see where I’m going with this.
THE most important part will be having high status, high visibility musicians practicing safe jazz, and then being really cool while they do it. :D