Thrift store jazz, Part 1

Listening to the incredible Buddy Rich Big Band LP Mercy Mercy I picked up when the annoying lady in the Santa hat wasn’t looking, and that Don Menza solo was so freaking good I had to listen to it again. And dig that little flurry by Art Pepper. Had to listen to that twice, too. (Lifting up the tone arm and dropping it again, guessing, almost got it right. CD’s are easier.) Buddy is soloing now, going nuts, and it’s 1968, and it’s no “Toad”.

Also got this great collection of sides by aggregations led (supposedly led) by Jack Teagarden and Max Kaminsky, Big T and the Mighty Max. One of the those Commodore reissue things from the ’70’s, with cheap creepy artwork. Aesthetics got very strange in the seventies. No one buys these things, not even for a buck–no one buys anything pre-be bop–and whenever grandpa dies and his beloved record collection gets dumped at the thrift store record bins, his beautifully maintained albums sit there unloved amid the beat up Mantovani and disco and Barbara Streisand. But I’m a sucker for the things. Now, all the older jazzers remember Jack Teagarden, of course, one of the greatest trombonists of all time, and a singer up there, almost, with Louis Armstrong. He was that good. (Check out their priceless duet on Old Rocking Chair to become an instant fan.) Kaminsky is better known to The Swinging Years listeners and he’s blowing hot on this LP. Great bands, in the Eddie Condon style, in fact Eddie is on some of the cuts, sounding old style slick on guitar, and you can imagine the drinking and carrying on. This is mostly World War Two era stuff, and the endless notes on the back cover by some expert or other points out how these barrelhouse jazz bands (I love that term, “barrelhouse jazz”) were stock full of refugees from swing bands who either couldn’t hack the road schedules or just wanted to blow instead of reading charts all night but couldn’t or just wouldn’t adapt to be bop. It’s a forgotten time, in between big band swing and small group bop, but the jazz on here swings like a mothereffer (this is a family blog) and I flipped it over a couple times and let the stuff rock as I prep the house to be trashed all over again. That Kaminsky, he’s on fire here, this must have been his moment. And Teagarden, well I can never get enough of him. Oh yeah, there was the torrid dirty clarinet solo instantly recognizable as Pee Wee Russell. One of the sad little greats, Pee Wee. If I remember right he even did a set with Monk–playing Monk’s music–at Newport. Can’t remember if I saw film of that or have it here in the piles of CDs somewhere, but it was a trip, Pee Wee playing his ass off and thinking in ways guys his jazz age never thought. We laugh but how many of us can do that? We sit surrounded by the past like it’s the present and bitch about the new. Anyway, I picked this up with a random selection of cool LPs at the Out of the Closet in Atwater Village while looking for a coffee table. Nada on the table but the LPs are fun. Considering I sold off so much of my collection to pay for epilepsy medicine before coverage kicked in, I actually have room for new LPs again. If only I had sold off more books. I keep buying them and they’re stacked up here on the floor, all these big thick wordy non-fiction tomes, mocking me. The absurdities of bohemian life.

Buddy at Timothy Leary's pad, grokking with the universe.

Buddy at Timothy Leary’s pad, grokking with the universe before he kicks some hippie trumpeter off the bus.

Old Rocking Chair

Sometimes I think that if there were jazzers nowadays who could do this, we’d have people lined up down the block to see it. Everything is so damned intellectual now. But sometimes people need to stop thinking and start feeling. Deep down we’re all emotion, this thinking is all piled on top in our cerebral cortex, but music can get beneath all that, where feelings have no words or concepts, just feel. That warmth you get all over when something moves you, that comes from deep beneath all our modern human cerebral capacity, that’s the connection you make, say, with your purring cat or loyal dog or infant child, there’s no thought there, no concepts, no civilization, no books or college learning. It’s not even something I can explain here, it’s just the sound of Satchmo’s horn coming in at the thirty second mark, and Jack picking up the chorus again with that voice like a Midwest summer night, the air settling in, sultry, slow, and blinking with fireflies.