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Dan Morgenstern

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Dan was on Fresh Air today.

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I actually agree with his line about the importance of minstrelsy and Armstrong, though I haven't read Appel's book and don't know if I feel this way for the reasons that he does; I think minstrelsy is a complicated and multi-layered subject, but relates here most specifically as, musically, the intial source for multi-streams of American music and comedy. Virtually every type of popular music (incl. country, jazz, standard song) can be seen as having minstrelsy as a source. This goes as well for popular entertainment and comedy, for the development of archtypes and comic methods. Minstrelsy is very much a music of impersonation and alteration of identity, as is pop music, as is Armstrong's m.o. Add to this the documented fact that minstrelsy used early forms of vocal/background obligatto (meaning vocal accompanied by instrumental asides) and you have an interesting collision of forms and styles - also think of of the minstrel performer's characteristic distance from the material, his need to perform it and comment on it at the same time, the use of ironic distancing - Armstrong's persona was very much related to this -

Edited by AllenLowe

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From that review, I wonder whether Appel read anything besides the Armstrong and Ellington section. What do you think?

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Appel's review was inexplicably slight -- with the exception of references which reflected his tome on Armstrong and Ellington. (A case of Appel pumping his own organ, I'm afraid.)

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Allen: Certainly there are aspects of Armstrong's stage show that were rooted in minstrely. But so what? What is the point in stating that it is "ignored or de-emphasized by friendly critics like Morgenstern?" Should we be less accepting of Armstong's contributions for that reason?

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Based on what Allen said above, I'd be eager to read what he had to say about Armstrong and minstrelsy -- because I'm sure that his take on the latter is as rich and complex as his view of the former, and because I'm unsure myself just how the two fit together. It's unclear to me just what Appel had in mind when he said: "And what do we make of Armstrong's persona of joy, ebullient and ingratiating? This minstrelsy aspect of Armstrong is crucial, although ignored or de-emphasized by friendly critics like Morgenstern." My guess is that whatever Appel is thinking of here, it wouldn't be akin to anything that Allen or most of the rest of us would agree with. Don't have Appel's "Jazz Modernism" around anymore, but I recall some really crude passages (intellectually crude, that is) equating Armstrong's playing and personality with literal sexual arousal or the like. That's why they called it "hot" jazz, right?

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"And what do we make of Armstrong's persona of joy, ebullient and ingratiating? This minstrelsy aspect of Armstrong is crucial, although ignored or de-emphasized by friendly critics like Morgenstern."

Is Appel's assumption that joy, ebulience, and ingratiation are automatically minstrel qualities? That it's a;ways a "persona"? Does he rule out the possibility that such qualities may well "come naturally" to some people, irregardless of the public forum in which they were delivered?

I mean, it's good to be cynical (and smart, too), but not to the point where you can't accept that happiness and goodness happen just like shit happens (sometimes at the same time!) What an imbalanced view of the range of life's possibilities!

Cross me off the list of people who refuse to accept the possibility that joy can be as natural as pain, and/or that the two are mutually exclusive realities.

Immediately, if not sooner!

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"And what do we make of Armstrong's persona of joy, ebullient and ingratiating? This minstrelsy aspect of Armstrong is crucial, although ignored or de-emphasized by friendly critics like Morgenstern."

Is Appel's assumption that joy, ebulience, and ingratiation are automatically minstrel qualities? That it's always a "persona"?

dunno, is it? from what I am reading, he says that minstrelsy comes with the qualities listed, not that the qualities listed always come with minstrelsy. Where Louis's qualities fit in, I leave to those better informed.

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There seems to be a lot of interesting, intelligent commentary about Dan Morgenstern's new book. It looks like I might find some good reading in it, but I have a long standing aversion to Mr. Morgenstern, dating to his days as the editor of down beat, when he seemed to turn that magazine into a bastion of controversy - post boppers/hard boppers vs. the "new thing" (an unfortunate phrase). It was all just music, but Mr. Morgenstern seemed to want to fan the flames of controversy more than anything else. (Perhaps that was the order of the publisher - controversy = sales - but if so, Mr. Morgenstern certainly followed that order.) He seemed to want to portray himself as a man of moderation, but he made use of his buddy Ira Gitler as a kind of resident pit bull - at least that was my impression at the time.

As I say, there may be things that I might learn from reading his book, but I'm not sure that I can bring myself to read it. His down beat tenure left me with that bitter a taste.

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I'll leave it to Larry Kart to address that since he was writing under DM's editorship - I'm looking now at a 3-page piece on "Notes And Memories Of The New Music" from the Music '69 Yearbook. It's also reprinted as the opening selection in Larry's own book.

In my view, down beat had excellent coverage of the avant garde. Reviews, interviews, profiles, etc. A lot were written by people *other* than DM and I think that there's nothing wrong with that. Morgenstern's book has his own reviews of Ornette - one ends with this phrase: "What is perhaps more important is that the music of Ornette Coleman is often beautiful. It is a pity that some ears remain closed to that." (1961 - true, before he was editor of db) and there's also the review of the "Titans Of The Tenor Sax" show with Coltrane, Ayler, Rollins, Lateef, Pharoah, Zoot, Hawkins - which is not positive at all. (1966, again pre-editor).

I think the bigger issue during his period as db editor might be the introduction of rock into the down beat world.

Here's a response to that:

Well, what kind of reaction to Newport's rock groups do you expect when you send Ira Gitler and Dan Morgenstern, Down Beat's Dixieland and Duke Ellington aficionados, to cover them? I wasn't there to draw my own conclusions, but I received no idea whatever from their typically myopic viewpoint.

It became obvious from the first attack on amplifiers and from the inevitable jazz guitarist who could 'give the rockers a lesson' that neither was capable of giving an objective opinion because neither enjoyed rock for its own sake. They both tried to disguise this fact, however, with tokenism: Gitler thought that John Mayall, a commercialized tripe vendor, was 'quite pleasant,' and Morgenstern liked the Mothers of Invention, not because they were music but because they were 'satire.' Your reporters' attitude was summed up perfectly when they referred to the attending rock fans as 'human litter.' 'Leave rock where it belongs: in the circus or the kindergarten.'

This is the kind of garbage that nostalgia-oriented music critics have been producing for centuries, and those of us that want to live in the present have no time for it. I hate to see an excellent music magazine blemish itself with articles such as this and Gitler's insulting review of Monterey Pop. If Down Beat is going to have anything to do with rock, it should choose its participating personnel more intelligently, or else admit that this is not its bag and pull out.

Gary Milliken

San Jose, Calif.

-- I've been called many things, but never before a 'Dixieland Aficianado.' Ira Gitler digs Ellington, to be sure, but anyone who knows him knows that bebop is his true love. Yet we both try to be objective though we can't live up to reader Milliken's standards of objective opinion, exemplified by the lovely phrase 'commercialized tripe vendor.' If that's objective, I *am* a Dixieland nut. As for 'human litter,' I applied that non-objective opinion not to 'attending rock fans' but to the non-attending, non-anything fans milling about outside the festival, destroying property, preventing ticket-holders from access to the field, and in general making a bloody mess of things. (They succeeded, of course, in having rock barred from Newport - something Ira's and my own mild criticism could never have accomplished. With such 'fans', all no doubt, living in the present, rock needs no enemies.) And what I said about the Mothers was '*musical* satire.' We shall continue to call the shots as we hear them. - Ed. [DM]

Mike

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I started reading DB regularly in 1970, when Morgenstern was editor, and don't remember the type of staged confrontations mentioned above. As memory serves, they occured during the earlier part of the 1960s. I forget who the editor was then.

But the Morgenstern-edited DB that I came to was a delight (and bi-monthly!). The very first issue I came across had Ornette & Captain Beefheart on the cover. A few months later, there was the Louis Armstrong tribute issue to commemorate his passing. Both issues were chock-full of artivles, reviews, commentary, etc. that I still refer to today, as is the case with most of the issues from that time.

The magazine of that time also took full advantage of its being based in Chicago, and drew upon a significant number of local writers, which not only gave us some truly great writing (Mssrs Kart & Litweiler, for example), but also some early-ish "mainstream" media documentation of the AACM, documentation that would have been lost if Morgenstern had insisted on the NYC-centric perspective of his predecessors.

The rock coverage was, uh..."intereting", but in both senses of the word. It's worth remembering that DB readers voted Jimi Hendix into the magazine's Hall Of Fame, long before a huge numberr of jazz greats had been so honored, and there were actually calls for Morgenstern to revoke the honor. He steadfastly refused, and continued to let rock have a place in the magazine. Considering the tenor of the times, musically as well as socially, I don't see how he could have done otherwise.

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Paul, I considered Dan a friend (personal and musical) during his tenure in Chicago and still consider him a (remote) friend. He was always supportive of my work. My complaint "back in the day" was what I viewed as jazz "boosterism" in the reviews - all of those Buddy Rich lps were NOT 5 star dates. He countered with an attitude about the "jazz biz" being in the doldrums and he was just trying to help.

I'm sure the ad department trying to sell instrument layouts dictated the “pop” coverage.

I listened to Terry Gross's interview last week and after the interview was over she ended the program by saying something about Dan being convinced (of something) by the following track by the AEC and played a piece from my set. When I checked out the stream from NPR, it ended with the interview proper and omitted the "outro" and bump. DANG.

Dan's predecessor, Don DeMichael took crap for making DB an "anti-Coltrane" mag but Don friggin' worshiped Trane. Editors always pay a price for attempting to be "balanced".

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Bob Thiele wrote a long letter to db when my review of a Carnegie Hall concert produced by him included a negative. I pointed out the fact that some instruments, including Lawrence Lucie's guitar, could not be heard in the hall, because audio was being fed directly to a recording truck parked outside. Forcing concertgoers to buy the album in order to hear what their ticket should have bought them was, I wrote, a case of warped priorities.

Thiele was livid and threatened to yank all his ads out of the magazine unless I was dismissed, but Dan, in his usual cool manner, wrote back that Bob was welcome to do whatever he felt was necessary. It was against db's policy, he added, to allow advertisers to dictate editorial decisions.

Thiele continued to run his ads and I continued to collect my $5 per review ($15 for Caught in the Act).

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I worked with/under Dan at Down Beat in 1968-9, and I don't recall any orchestrated campaign against the avant-garde. Ira Gitler sure didn't like that music, and he and Dan were and still are friends (I'd like to think I was a friend of Ira's too -- he's a terrific guy, great sense of humor -- but our paths haven't crossed that often), but no one who wrote for Down Beat when Dan was there was being operated by remote control. Who had time for that, anyway? The days of Coltrane's music being referred to as "anti-jazz" (by John Tynan, I recall) were under a previous editorial regime (maybe Gene Lees or Don DeMichael), but again I think that was a reflection of the views of the writer or writers involved rather than an orchestrated editorial campaign. There were several instances (under DeMichael, I think) of two reviews being run side by side of albums that were thought to be controversial, but on the whole, nothing like the bop versus moldy-fig wars of the forties. Certainly no one told me that I couldn't write enthusiastically about, say, Roscoe Mitchell. The only time when I was there that I recall Dan being tempted to intervene in what a writer had to say was when someone, in a jazz festival review, wrote that a Tal Farlow set was bad because Farlow's music was "out of date" (or words to that effect). I'm pretty sure we let it stand though, because I vaguely recall wincing all over again when I saw the phrase in print.

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I never noticed any bias against avant garde when I was writing for Down Beat. In fact, Dan gave me assignments that ran the gamut from Cecil Taylor to The Red Onion Jazz Band. I do, however, recall a couple of occasions when Dan was displeased with an opinion expressed by me and suggested a more positive angle. Dan always looked out for the artists and, in retrospect, I think that was a good thing as long as it did not result in appeasement.

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Re- mintrelsy - I have not read the Appel book; I am pretty certain, however, that his idea of mintrelsy is much different than mine. It is a complicated subject, but suffice to say that I think he may be right, if for all the wrong reasons. In Armstrong's formative years, one of the most important Southern vehicles of entertainment was the medicine show, a traveling performing circus of song and dance and a close relative of the misntrel show. I have no doubt that his attitudes about entertainment and audience were at least partially shaped by that format; more likely they were powerfully shaped. This would take a full essay, but mintrelsey has been documented to have much stronger ties to 19th century African American music and dance than were previously thought; also, see my last post, as many of the archtypes, both comedic and musical, that we associate with early and later jazz/comedy/entertainment may indeed have origins in minstrelsy. Minstrelsy also provided a forum for early professional songwriters; it also employed instruemntal techniques (vocal with improvised obligatto) that are very much related to Armstrong and jazz. It is likely, as I said, that Appel knows little or nothing of this, and so was correct for the wrong reasons. I certainly don't agree that you HAVE to consider misntrelsy when you consider Armstrong, only that, if you are going to deal with certain aspects of his art, it helps to have some real knowledge of minstrelsy. It is a lot more than blackface and stereotypes, but related to attitudes and approaches, and I believe this is where it fits Armstrong's methods -

Edited by AllenLowe

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Sudhalter - loaded question - extremely knowledgeable guy with a racial chip on his shoulder - has spent too much time arguing, in my opinion, that both whites and blacks are equally responsible for the origins of jazz. I think that opinion is indefensible and has occured to him because he knows next to nothing about the 19th century and developments prior to jazz. Still, I like Lost Chords and think he has made worthy attempts to revive the reputatrions of musicans like Miff Mole, Jack Purvis, et al, musicians whom I admire hugely and who, indeed, I feel have been neglected out of a misguided type of critical liberalism. But stll...I think he doth protesteth too much; lost chords has, as well, some silly critical brickbats aimed at specific black musicians which I feel can be interpreted as racist - to get more detail I'll need some time to go through my copy...

Tosches is interesting and I believe is a good writer whose historical knowledge has some unfortunate gaps. There are historical probelms in Country, and I found his Emmett Miller book riddled with errors or questionable statements - once again I can't give citations right now, and I hate to make this a kind of hit-and-run criticism - I no longer have my copy of the Emmett Miller book, however, as it annoyed me so much I returned it. I think Tosches does have a tendency to over-inflate his opinions -

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Wel, a lot to respond to , but I'll do my best -

honestly I don't like Tosches, too flashy, not enough real knowledge, but we'll have to agree to discagree here, as with Francis -

I have had very little mainstream success with getting published, and some downright rotten luck:

First book, American Pop, published by Cadence, good, honest people but little distribution.

Second book, That Devilin Tune published 2002 by Music and Arts and than frozen in time - delays in getting out the boxed CD set that is supposed to accompany it (I spent nearly 2 years mastering that sucker), but I am told they are finally getting ready to put the whole package together. I certainly hope so but am worried about the condition of mastering CDRs that are almost three years old. 1

Third Book - Jazz of the 1950s: Sheldon Meyer was very interested in it at Oxford, but it got turned down in peer review, including rejection by one reviewer who advised that he was mentioned prominently in the book - I yelled and howled to the editor (a complete idiot)that this was a conflict of interest, got a nice, shit-filled twinky of a letter from the head of the press, but no book. The editor was fired right after this. My bad luck. I think I have a publisher now, but will know more in a few months. Still editing and re-writing.

Last book- history of rock and roll 1950-1970 - nasty rejection by U of Illinois - Burton Peretti, I found out, was one of the reviewers - I responded to these guys who reviewed it, but I got a sense that 1) they had political problems with the book and 2) they knew and did not like my prior work. Politically I deal very honestly and forthrightly with racial issues and I admire the music on its own terms, not as "whitewashed" r&B, which is the prevailing academic attitude. I was previously advised by U California that the work would be politically unacceptable to their board, and by the editor of U North Carolina that I was full of shit. I tended to disagree. I have found a small publisher for 2006 and they will include a CD with the book that I will master -

so as you can see I have not had a lot of luck - DaCapo has turned down every one of these books, Routledge has turned down the last two. I feel like I've done some important work, but it's getting harder and harder to justify the time spent on these projects -

Edited by AllenLowe

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I was conected to Crumb by Harvey Pekar, who loved my jazz history, but nothing ever came of it - and Pekar himself is completely uncommunicative these days - I think he's upset that he's gotten so famous and thinks everyone wants something from him -

I admire some of what Tosches has done but I find too much flash there, less substance at the core than I would like - I would have to buy the Emmett Miller book again and do some itemization about errors, etc, but unfortunately can't do it now. It's a good idea, though.

I like Fahey more for his conception and ambition than execution - I keep thinking, when listening to him, that I wish there was just a little bit more there - but honestly it's been some time since I listened closely -

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I was previously advised by U California that the work would be politically unacceptable to their board, and by the editor of U North Carolina that I was full of shit. I tended to disagree.

Words for the tombstone! :tup:tup:tup:tup:tup

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Sudhalter - loaded question - extremely knowledgeable guy with a racial chip on his shoulder - has spent too much time arguing, in my opinion, that both whites and blacks are equally responsible for the origins of jazz. I think that opinion is indefensible and has occured to him because he knows next to nothing about the 19th century and developments prior to jazz. Still, I like Lost Chords and think he has made worthy attempts to revive the reputatrions of musicans like Miff Mole, Jack Purvis, et al, musicians whom I admire hugely and who, indeed, I feel have been neglected out of a misguided type of critical liberalism. But stll...I think he doth protesteth too much; lost chords has, as well, some silly critical brickbats aimed at specific black musicians which I feel can be interpreted as racist - to get more detail I'll need some time to go through my copy...

Tosches is interesting and I believe is a good writer whose historical knowledge has some unfortunate gaps. There are historical probelms in Country, and I found his Emmett Miller book riddled with errors or questionable statements - once again I can't give citations right now, and I hate to make this a kind of hit-and-run criticism - I no longer have my copy of the Emmett Miller book, however, as it annoyed me so much I returned it. I think Tosches does have a tendency to over-inflate his opinions -

I bought the book and the cd released to accompany it. I'm always interested in finding out about lesser known worthy musicians. The cd was good but I couldn't finish the book. Because he only talks about White musicians and (as far as I read) doesn't discuss influences or interactions with Black musicians I felt I had to keep referring to other books to get much sense of what was going on.

It was sort of like reading a history of Europe that had arbitrarily decided not to mention France because the French had gotten too much credit in other books.

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Wel, a lot to respond to , but I'll do my best -

I have had very little mainstream success with getting published, and some downright rotten luck:

First book, American Pop, published by Cadence, good, honest people but little distribution.

Second book, That Devilin Tune published 2002 by Music and Arts and than frozen in time - delays in getting out the boxed CD set that is supposed to accompany it (I spent nearly 2 years mastering that sucker), but I am told they are finally getting ready to put the whole package together. I certainly hope so but am worried about the condition of mastering CDRs that are almost three years old. 1

Third Book - Jazz of the 1950s: Sheldon Meyer was very interested in it at Oxford, but it got turned down in peer review, including rejection by one reviewer who advised that he was mentioned prominently in the book - I yelled and howled to the editor (a complete idiot)that this was a conflict of interest, got a nice, shit-filled twinky of a letter from the head of the press, but no book. The editor was fired right after this. My bad luck. I think I have a publisher now, but will know more in a few months. Still editing and re-writing.

Last book- history of rock and roll 1950-1970 - nasty rejection by U of Illinois - Burton Peretti, I found out, was one of the reviewers - I responded to these guys who reviewed it, but I got a sense that 1) they had political problems with the book and 2) they knew and did not like my prior work. Politically I deal very honestly and forthrightly with racial issues and I admire the music on its own terms, not as "whitewashed" r&B, which is the prevailing academic attitude. I was previously advised by U California that the work would be politically unacceptable to their board, and by the editor of U North Carolina that I was full of shit. I tended to disagree. I have found a small publisher for 2006 and they will include a CD with the book that I will master -

so as you can see I have not had a lot of luck - DaCapo has turned down every one of these books, Routledge has turned down the last two. I feel like I've done some important work, but it's getting harder and harder to justify the time spent on these projects -

Allen - Could have done this through a pm, but I'm sure that there are others who might be interested:

Which of your books would you suggest that a reader who hasn't read either read first?

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back to Sudhalther--

it ** IS ** however a specialist work & presumes a half-encyclopaedic knowledge of ALL "jazz" c. 1919-1938 (or whenever). Medjuck, i'd tell you to listen to EVERY damn record you can find that has Henry "Red" Allen on it & THEN go back to Sudhalther.

I'd already heard a lot of Red Allen when I tried to read this book. I think that like many people in many fields (including politics) he's taken an intersting idea and become obsessed by it to the point of distortion.

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Sorry to be so slow to respond -

1) I think American Pop is a good intro to my work, but that actually Devilin Tune is better from a jazz perspective - both can be ordered from Cadence -

2) Wondrich is smart but a bit jivey - makes a fair amount of mistakes, writes in a way that personally I find, from a stylistic standpoint, a bit tired - I have not, however, completely read his book but only browsed through it - it does appear, I will say, immodestly, to lift some things from my own work -

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