Mark Stryker

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Everything posted by Mark Stryker

  1. An email from a friend prompts this question: What are the greatest records to never make it to CD? (If there's a previous thread on this topic I apologize -- I looked but didn't see one.) My buddy suggests "Big George" (Affinity) by the George Coleman Octet -- a great one to be sure.
  2. Yes to all of this. I never had "Our Thing" until it was reissued in the 1980s on LP when Blue Note was reactivated. I had heard about "Unity" for years before one guy in my circle managed to cop a cassette from someone c. 1985. "Shades of Redd." "True Blue" "Hubcap," "A New Jazz Conception," "Happenings," Leapin' and Lopin," "Sonny Clark Trio," all of the Lee Morgan BN dates before "The Cooker" -- these were all super scarce because they went out of print so fast.
  3. I can't even count the number of Blue Notes I bought as cutouts while in high school, 1977-81, in Bloomington, Indiana. They were all 70s United Artists pressings (either White or Black b) and while in recent years I've replaced many of them with earlier and better pressings, I still have a lot of them from that era. Most I bought from a hip record store where an older cat (trumpet player) who worked there took a shine to my enthusiasm and started calling me when new batches would come in. But in a not unrelated note, I bought Sonny's "A Night at the Village Vanguard" at a fucking K-Mart! Coda: My Dexter pick from the decade is Swiss Nights Vol. 1.
  4. Maynard Solomon R.I.P.

    Until reading this obituary, I never knew that the classical scholar Maynard Solomon, who wrote landmark psychologically driven biographies of Beethoven and Mozart, was a co-founder of Vanguard Records https://www.nytimes.com/2020/10/08/arts/music/maynard-solomon-dead.html
  5. My dad had 78s of Billie Holiday ("Strange Fruit" & "Fine and Mellow"), Bird & Dizzy ("Salt Peanuts" & "Hot House"), Benny Goodman ("Body and Soul" & "Benny's Boogie"), Coleman Hawkins/Chocolate Dandies ("Smack" & "Dedication"), Dodo Marmarosa (!) with Lucky Thompson on the Atomic label, and stuff by Kenton, Basie, Nat Cole and others. I've got all of these now. Don't play 'em -- my turntable won't play 78s and they're fairly worn anyway -- but I look at them every once and while and give thanks that they helped get me off on the right foot when I discovered them around age 9.
  6. Short answer: Detroit on many nights. Baraka is complicated (what else is new?). What you say is absolutely correct, but I recently came across a set of liner notes he wrote in the early '60s where he expresses more sensitivit/admiration to the grits 'n gravy organ sound. Of course, he was being paid to dig it ... Hey, it's a living. I'll see if I can dig it up.
  7. There are two brief references to James Brown in "Stomping the Blues," including a tremendous photo whose caption that I read as an endorsement -- "James Brown, longtime kind of soul musicians. He performs almost as if he were a spellbinding evangelist preacher delivering a shout-getting sermon; and the atmosphere he generates is that of a downhome sanctified church during a revival time."
  8. Slightly off topic, but a few months ago a local bookstore in metro Detroit asked me to provide a list of 10 books that had a big influence on me. Early's "Tuxedo Junction" was on the list. https://www.thebookbeat.com/backroom/2020/04/22/jazz-is-and-other-notes-by-mark-stryker/
  9. Coda: The writer who has written most acutely about the music in this context is Gerald Early, who is not a jazz critic per se but a cultural critic and African American with a deep feeling and knowledge of the music, particularly its social function. There are a few trenchant jazz-related essays in "Tuxedo Junction" (1989), a book I HIGHLY recommend, and he travels into the territory in a more recent interview with Ethan Iverson. Here are some relevant passages: ---- GE: ,,, As a professional musician, you’re looking at how this person performed on record and in concert – this person’s abilities as an expressive artist in making this particular type of music – how this person deals with the particular theories and principles of making this music and the like. But a black musician within African-American culture occupies something that’s quite distinct from that. EI: Absolutely. GE: Very distinct from that. You know, when I was growing up, somebody like Jimmy Smith was like God. To black people he was God! It was like a Hammond B-3 was the thing! If Jimmy Smith was God, then he had some acolytes under him, like Richard “Groove” Holmes, and Brother Jack McDuff, and these people. And I didn’t know any white people who really liked this music very much. I’m sure there were some because Jimmy Smith was pretty popular, but by and large this was black music. At any rate, while they certainly had their detractors and there were some who didn’t like that sound, their importance culturally in the African-American community was quite apart from whatever their worth was as musicians. Those that had this groove style of playing (especially with a Hammond organ) occupied a kind of position that I think was quite apart from how any professional musicians might evaluate them based purely on their abilities as musicians. What they were expressing as musicians was deeply connected to the culture. And I think that it’s important for any musician that is interested in jazz – or anyone who really wants to understand this music – to understand that aspect of the musicians as well. How the first-generation fans decide how they’re going to translate the music into their cultural lives may have nothing to do with how later listeners see it or what they think it’s about. ... EI: I’d like to talk about a couple of essays in Tuxedo Junction which are smart without being the least bit academic, “The Gathering of Stones” and the obit for Sonny Stitt that closes the book. The Stitt piece goes back to the organ business we were talking about with Jimmy Smith. Actually, the first time I read Tuxedo Junction many years ago, I felt you missed something on Sonny Stitt because I regarded him as the quintessential professional bebopper… GE: Sure. EI: …and your piece was about him playing in organ joints with Gene Ammons. And I sort of thought, “Well, Gerald Early doesn’t know the real Stitt.” That was before. Now I’ve been around the block a few more times, and when I came back to your essay I realized that this might be one of the few places where Stitt is placed in the context of an African-American saxophone player making a living for years playing the real blues in all-black places. This is important to remember when considering his bebop music. GE: Well, that’s interesting. My piece was an elegy, and the only way I could remember him was how I was introduced to Stitt in Philadelphia where I grew up. My uncles would go out to see jazz performances, and that bluesy style was the kind of jazz they went out to see. They didn’t consider Sonny Stitt as this kind of bopper or something like that, they saw him in tenor sax battles with Gene Ammons with the screaming organ in the background. I was aware of Stitt as the bopper and everything, but in that essay I wanted to present his loss in the context of participating in an important part of the cultural memory. He had this African-American audience based in part around the honking tenor tradition like Eddie “Lockjaw” Davis and Johnny Griffin and Illinois Jacquet and so forth. There was a whole culture about saxophone battles and honkers, you know. When I first heard Junior Walker, I said “That’s another honker, man!” I remember when I first heard Gato Barbieri, I said “He’s another honker! He’s got these little avant-garde bleeps in it, but basically he’s another one of these honkers!” That’s how I saw it, and I thought that was an important thing to remember about Sonny Stitt when he died. But I can understand you saying “Boy, that really missed the mark.” EI: I now realize you didn’t miss the mark. Stitt’s an artist whose star seems to be receding because the understood trope is that he is a very proficient musician who lacks individuality. But your piece illuminates the cultural aspect. Even on Stitt’s boppiest records, there’s an element in his music which is as deeply mysterious as any other type of feeling, emotion, or technique: It’s the blues, and to really play the blues well is just as hard or harder than bebop. GE: Of the saxophonists I heard when I was a little kid my favorite was Gene Ammons. That way he had of playing, his bluesy style, the big sound and everything – that was what the adult people I was around liked. They liked that, they liked Ben Webster, they liked Eddie “Lockjaw” Davis. (I didn’t hear Charlie Parker or Ornette Coleman until I got to college.) That bluesy kind of jazz was really a popular music. My uncles, aunts and everything, they danced to that stuff. They said “Aw, yeah, man, hit it, hit it!” That was what I thought jazz was, because that’s how I saw people respond to it. I didn’t know until college that jazz was supposed to be an intellectual music! The people I grew up with, they weren’t intellectual people, these were working-class black people listening to this music. Their response to it was very basic. Their response to it was that it had a groove… and the bigger and bluesier the sound, the better! The first time I was introduced to jazz as an intellectual music was when my sister got Sketches of Spain. I had heard big band music before, a lot of Count Basie and some Quincy Jones. But Gil Evans or George Russell I hadn’t heard. So Sketches of Spain was the first time I was told that you’re supposed to come to this music with a kind of intellectual attitude. (Although the quality of Miles Davis’s trumpet solos did strike me emotionally.) But my introduction to jazz was as a kind of popular music that didn’t have any particular intellectual significance…and nobody told me that it was supposed to have some kind of intellectual significance. EI: Well, that sort of leads into the essay framed by your experiences listening to Lester Young in an all-black youth environment in the 1970’s. I think “The Gathering of Stones” is one of the best things ever written about jazz. Let me quote: “So you really like jazz, huh?” asked Mike Carpenter, a member of the West Philadelphia team, in an extremely sinister way. “Yes, I do,” I rather hesitantly replied. “It is a music of great dignity and rich in black cultural heritage.” I thought this to be a truly innocuous statement, but it must have offended Mike. He looked at me with the sort of disdain any lower-class black ought rightfully to feel when his middle-class brother pontificates like a condescending ass. GE: That’s pretty funny! I haven’t seen that essay in years. That’s an absolutely true account of that conversation. EI: I wouldn’t mind hearing more about jazz leaving the working-class African-American experience. Arguably jazz has been more awkward since that transformation. GE: There’s smooth jazz. EI: That’s true, there’s a very big African-American following for smooth jazz. There’s a black bar in Brooklyn I go into sometimes and there’s a picture of Kenny G on the wall, which is sort of like life’s greatest irony or something. GE: My older relatives, when I go back to Philly, they love smooth jazz. They love George Benson, Earl Klugh, they love that kind of music, because for them it still has a certain kind of groove to it that they like, and so it’s cool. Some of them like Kenny G now, I guess. I would say that a divide came up for me when I was in college, when jazz became much more of an intellectual exercise and I was deeply into classic recordings of jazz from Louis Armstrong and Jelly Roll Morton up to Thelonious Monk and Ornette Coleman. At that point a break came, because Grover Washington Jr. became really, really popular. And that was the first time that I really rejected an artist that was popular with African-Americans. A lot of the black kids I hung out with at college loved Grover Washington Jr. They thought it was funky, but I thought it was this kind of sellout music and I didn’t really care for it that much. By the time I’m describing the events in “The Gathering of Stones” I had really become quite a snob about jazz. In recent years, I’ve wanted to understand two things. One is how jazz’s appeal has become almost exclusively elite. (There’s some people I think who even take a certain kind of pride in how they like jazz because of its snob appeal.) After that, I’d like to get an understanding if it’s possible for jazz (other than smooth jazz) to have a broader appeal ever again. As I’ve grown older, I’ve became concerned with how I felt I was losing my connection with what jazz was really about – and really concerned about losing connection with my African-American cultural roots in jazz. The more I began to see jazz as this kind of elite art music, the more I lost a fundamental understanding of how the music worked. Because I wasn’t introduced to this music in this way! The people who played jazz for me as a kid didn’t tell me anything intellectual about this music, nor did they think it made them snobs to like it. They thought it was part of what everybody liked. In some of those essays I’d been kind of thinking about those issues and the divide within myself about jazz. Autobiographically, my own snob turn with jazz represented a disconnect with African-American cultural roots. It’s not unique, it happens to a lot of second-generation immigrants. You kind of get educated out of your background, and then you’re embarrassed by how Grandma has these habits from the old country. Probably in some way I became embarrassed by how the jazz fans around me when I was growing up didn’t have much of an intellectual appreciation for it. I’ve spent the last few years running summer workshops teaching schoolteachers about jazz so that they could put it in their curriculum. I’ve wondered: Is it possible that this music can still speak to young people in the way that it spoke to me when I was young? I suggested we just strip it of this intellectual veneer when teaching it to the kids. Too often the teacher treats it like classical music, with long speeches about “Bach this,” and “Mozart this,” and now a whole long speech about “Coltrane this.” Naturally, any kid being true to himself is definitely not going to be interested in what you’re trying to give this whole long speech about. You’re making the music like medicine! “Oh, this is gonna be good for you! Take your vitamins.” Instead of that approach, which we know doesn’t work, why don’t we pick out some pieces of music that we think the kids might like and not give them any explanation? Let’s just play a selection of enjoyable jazz and tell them, “Pick one of these pieces and write about it.” We had great success. We had Mose Allison’s “Your Mind Is On Vacation,” and Nina Simone. We did a Benny Goodman piece which was very popular with the kids, not “Sing, Sing, Sing,” but “King Porter Stomp.” The kids loved that one! We didn’t tell them anything about it: “Here. Just listen to this piece.” And Louis Armstrong’s “Do You Know What It Means to Miss New Orleans” went over big with the kids. We never gave them any explanations about these pieces of music, but that didn’t stop the kids from really getting into it or writing about it. This success convinced me that jazz still could speak to people emotionally. That was an important discovery to make, and important for me getting back to my roots. The greatest power in music is its ability to reach people emotionally. I’m not belittling the intellectual side of jazz or saying that that’s not important. I think it is important. Jazz is a virtuoso music that presents interesting constraints the artists have to transcend. All sorts of intellectual things are very interesting and exciting with jazz. But the emotional impact of the music is the key. The reason why this whole question came up was not whether could jazz ever speak to young people again, but whether it could ever speak to African-Americans again as it used to in the past. Because African-Americans don’t go out to hear much jazz anymore. EI: No, they don’t. That’s true. GE: Based on my experience with these kids, the answer was yes, I think it can. But for that to happen, it would have to be a persistent and careful re-cultivation of that audience, and it will take some time. EI: Well, it’s interesting and honestly a bit revelatory about how the Jimmy Smith audience evolved into the smooth jazz audience, because I forget about smooth jazz, it’s not even on my radar. GE: It’s on my radar only because I have so many older black adults around who listen to it.
  10. FWIW, in John Gennari's "Blowin' Hot and Cool," a history of jazz criticism, there are some interesting discussions of the reactions of critics black and white to various iterations of soul-jazz.
  11. I think that might be a bit of misread. Murray was less concerned with the primacy of sophistication per se than with the idea that the blues encompassed a far wider range of expression and cultural meaning than commonly understood, including including elegance, joy, sophistication, as well as the gutbucket -- as opposed to the music only expressing emotions of sadness and degradation. I can't find any mention of, say, Gene Ammons or JImmy Smith, in the Murray books I have close at hand -- he didn't write ear-on-the-ground criticism when it came to modern players. But given his insistence of viewing the music through an African American cultural lens and his admiration he expressed through blues-oriented social music by folks like Basie and Illinois Jacquet, who were precursors in a way to soul-jazz, I'm confident that he "got" this music way more than white critics.
  12. I assumed the elephant Jim was referring to was race. Most writers of jazz history and criticism have been (and remain) white; soul-jazz was (and remains) a cultural expression of the black community.
  13. Jay McShann/St Louis Mood arranger

    Here's another question: Does anyone have a release that tells us who did the arrangement of "St. Louis Mood" that Bird plays with the Jay McSchann Orchestra at the Savoy Ballroom in February 1942? Plosin tells us that it's a McShann composition, but I don't believe it's his arrangement. Thanks as always.
  14. Bob Gibson -- RIP

    Roger Angell profile of Bob Gibson, 1980 https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/1980/09/22/distance
  15. Jay McShann/St Louis Mood arranger

    I think he's playing lead on this track but I do not know for sure.
  16. Jay McShann/St Louis Mood arranger

    Yes, Jimmy Coe is playing baritone sax on this Savoy broadcast. There are some slippery saxophone lines streaked with triplet -- it's little more modern than I thought McShann might write, but maybe it's his chart anyway.
  17. Gang, I'm trying to identify the soloists on the 1938 version of Mary Lou Williams' "Mary's Idea" recorded by Andy Kirk and Clouds of Joy. Does anyone have an issue that these who they are? Many thanks in advance.
  18. Andy Kirk/Mary Lou Williams question re: Mary's Idea

    Thanks guys --exactly what I needed.
  19. Photo ID help, please

    Can anyone identify the guy with Miles Davis is this 1966 photo by Louis Draper?. The pictures is in the archives of the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts. Thanks ...
  20. Photo ID help, please

    Roy was actually my first thought ...
  21. Photo ID help, please

    Hmm. Maybe? The more I look, the more this seems like a possibility.
  22. RIP Stanley Crouch

    From 1979. “Coltrane had a black following while most of the avant-garde didn’t because Elvin Jones had orchestrated the triplet blues beat into a sophisticated style that pivoted on the boody­-butt sway of black dance. In tandem, Col­trane and Jones created a saxophone and drum team that reached way back to the sax­ophone of the sanctified church shouting over the clicking of those sisters’ heels on the floor and the jingling, slapping pulsation of tambourines. The sound was lifted even higher by the antiphonal chants of the piano and bass played by McCoy Tyner and Jimmy Garrison, whose percussive phrasing helped extend Jones’s drumming into tonal areas. In fact, one could say that both Coltrane and Coleman were the most sophisticated of blues shouters. Yet Coltrane’s fascination with African music gave him an edge, for he was to discover in his own way the relationship between harmonic simplicity and rhythmic complexity held together by repeated figures played on the bass and piano. In fact, one could say that the actual time or the central pulsation was marked by the piano and bass while the complex variations were made by saxophone and drums. “What made Coltrane’s conception so significant was that it coincided with the interest in African or African-related dance rhythms and percussion that has been re­vived at the end of each decade for the last 40 years. One saxophone player even told me that the first time he heard Coltrane, around 1961, he thought that a new kind of Latin jazz was being invented. I recall, too, that during those high school years the mambo and the cha-cha were gauntlets of elegance. Norman Whitfield’s writing at Motown for the Temptations and Marvin Gaye leaned on congas and bongos, and the dance power of the drums came to the fore, sometimes light­ly and elegantly, as in the bossa nova. The very nature of most black African music, which is layers of rhythm in timbral and me­lodic counterpoint, and the exploration of the blues were the sources of the dominant aes­thetic directions in jazz, rhythm and blues, and rock. For the jazz players those reinvestigations of roots called for the kinds of virtuosity developed by Elvin Jones and Tony Williams if another level of polyrhythm was to be achieved; James Brown’s big band, while alluding to Gillespie and Basie, evolved a style in which guitars became percussive to­nal instruments staggered against chanting bass lines, two drummers, and arrangements that were riffish, percussive, antiphonal; rock players began to investigate the electronic textures and contrapuntal possibilities of Point overdubbing.” https://www.villagevoice.com/2019/09/03/black-music-bringing-atlantis-up-to-the-top/?fbclid=IwAR0BDrvQ1XB7hi_T2axPJ2u0coldlF42Sd185cHmgu1ahqxlr5qg28iCHhQ
  23. RIP Stanley Crouch

    I don't, but I'm afraid the answer would likely be not very far. I think it wasn't all that long after Vol. 1 came out that he was over taken by various maladies and eventually stopped working altogether.