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The Truth About Biddy Fleet!!!


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#1 JSngry

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Posted 19 March 2012 - 04:43 PM

http://www.chasinthe...t/james1_e.html

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#2 clifford_thornton

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Posted 19 March 2012 - 04:48 PM

Huh.

#3 JSngry

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Posted 19 March 2012 - 05:02 PM

Chili AND Jelly!

http://www.network54...ist Biddy Fleet


#4 AllenLowe

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Posted 19 March 2012 - 05:54 PM

it's interesting though I'm a little skeptical - I do recall, though I would probably have to hunt for the details, that the old Bird quote about Biddy playing the upper intervals was pretty clearly discredited as never really having been said. But I cannot, at this date, cite chapter and verse. Though it does sound like the son is really quoting the quote more than he is quoting his father (it's from the book Hear Me Talkin to Ya) -

#5 Chuck Nessa

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Posted 19 March 2012 - 05:58 PM

Urinating can be a hobby. Sometimes it is necessary, sometimes not.
Why jump in if your don't have any facts?
I'd feel better if you could "cite chapter and verse".

#6 Larry Kart

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Posted 19 March 2012 - 08:02 PM

Urinating can be a hobby. Sometimes it is necessary, sometimes not.
Why jump in if your don't have any facts?
I'd feel better if you could "cite chapter and verse".



Sorry, Chuck, I too can't cite chapter and verse, but the money line from the Biddy Fleet-Bird at Minton's anecdote is Bird supposedly saying: "I found that by using the higher intervals of a chord as a melody line and backing them with appropriately related changes, I could play the thing I'd been hearing." The source I can't recall said while that is all well and good, "using the higher intervals of a chord as a melody line" is something that Bird really didn't do. Rather, IIRC, the point was that his melodic choices were far more "free" and (so to speak) sudden/less systematic from a harmonic point than taking the given chord structure of a tune and "using the higher intervals of {those chords} as a melody line."

#7 JSngry

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Posted 19 March 2012 - 08:09 PM

The truth for me has nothing to do with that chili house story and/or the verisimilitude of the quote, it's that I always figured that Biddy Fleet was some local layabout guy who had a gig in the back room of a Harlem chili house, and it appears that he was a pretty damn good musician in his own right, maybe coulda been a bigger name if not for a sense of domestic responsibility, maybe.

I mean, who knew (other than the ultra uber-geeks)?

#8 AllenLowe

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Posted 19 March 2012 - 08:39 PM

sorry Chuck, but just because I can't remember every damn think I've learned, doesn't mean I'm urinating - this came up when I was consulting on the Burns documentary - and at the time I had very unequivocal info that the quote, as cited by Hentoff and Shapiro, was completely invented. It was one of the few things they listened to me about, fortunately.

#9 jeffcrom

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Posted 19 March 2012 - 08:41 PM

I too can't cite chapter and verse, but the money line from the Biddy Fleet-Bird at Minton's anecdote is Bird supposedly saying: "I found that by using the higher intervals of a chord as a melody line and backing them with appropriately related changes, I could play the thing I'd been hearing." The source I can't recall said while that is all well and good, "using the higher intervals of a chord as a melody line" is something that Bird really didn't do. Rather, IIRC, the point was that his melodic choices were far more "free" and (so to speak) sudden/less systematic from a harmonic point than taking the given chord structure of a tune and "using the higher intervals of {those chords} as a melody line."


Larry, I've often thought that Bird's famous quote was rather poorly worded and not really an accurate description of what he was doing, but I disagree with you about Bird's playing being more free and less systematic harmonically. (I don't know what source you're thinking of - I'm basing this on listening and looking at transcribed solos.) He was very free melodically, of course, but what he played was very harmonically "systematic." That's not to say that his playing was formulaic or predictable, but that it can be easily analyzed/explained in terms of chordal harmony. Bird's quote seems to imply that he was using a lot of elevenths and thirteenths, but that's not really what was going on. (Well, a lot of thirteenths, maybe - but melodically, a thirteenth is the same as a sixth.) Bird's chord extensions tended toward altering the ninths and fifths in dominant chords and implying passing chords which his accompanists weren't necessarily playing. But harmonically speaking, Bird is pretty easy to analyze, once you've mastered the harmonic language

Bird's innovations are often boiled down to harmony, but that's only part of it. His rhythmic innovations were even more original - he tossed accents around in a way that nobody has been able to match in the ensuing 57 years. And his "macro-syncopation" - his unpredictable variety of phrase lengths - was maybe the most original aspect of his music.

Edited by jeffcrom, 19 March 2012 - 10:54 PM.


#10 Larry Kart

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Posted 19 March 2012 - 09:06 PM

JeffCrom -- I didn't put what I said quite right, and what you said pretty much hits the nail on the head. By systematic harmonically, I really meant systematic in the particular way that the quoted passage suggests he was, "using the higher intervals of a chord as a melody line and backing them with appropriately related changes." Instead, as you say, "Bird's quote seems to imply that he was using a lot of elevenths and thirteenths, but that's not really what was going on." What you add about his rhythmic innovations and "macro [and micro?] syncopation" is spot on, too. As I wrote in my chapter on the Jazz Avant-Garde 1949-1967 in"The Oxford Companion To Jazz": "However 'swing' is defined, it would seem that up to and including Parker, jazz's rhythmic language depended on the presence of relatively stable metrical frameworks -- ones in which rhythmic events could be shaped by, as Igor Stravinsky put it, 'the fruitful convention of the bar.' But in Parker's music the ability to make meaningful microsubdivisions of the beat within such frameworks may have reached a kind of physical or perceptual barrier. In any case, nearly five decades after his death (a very long time for an art such as jazz) that barrier arguably remains unbreached -- by John Coltrane, by Ornette Coleman, by anybody. New metrical frameworks, looser metrical frameworks, no metrical frameworks -- the issues were in the air."

#11 jeffcrom

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Posted 19 March 2012 - 09:27 PM

I didn't put what I said quite right,

What's your problem, dude? That's certainly never happened to me....

But in Parker's music the ability to make meaningful microsubdivisions of the beat within such frameworks may have reached a kind of physical or perceptual barrier. In any case, nearly five decades after his death (a very long time for an art such as jazz) that barrier arguably remains unbreached -- by John Coltrane, by Ornette Coleman, by anybody.

I think about this often; isn't it an amazing thing?

#12 Mark Stryker

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Posted 19 March 2012 - 10:24 PM

The chili house quote has always really bugged me, because it's so illustrative of the kind of shoddy history -- mythology, really -- that has been readily accepted in jazz but would never pass muster in the study of classical music. (This is something that we used to talk about a lot in Larry Gushee's class at the University of Illinois, including the chili house quote.) It's a function of the early jazz historians and critics being mostly enthusiastic fans with no real training in music or history and the tacit acceptance of the wider musical world that didn't think jazz was serious enough to demand true scholarship. The quote is meaningless in many ways on its face and what little fact there is doesn't, as Larry and Jeff note, get at Bird's innovations at all. But it sounds all music theoryish (musical truthiness, as Colbert might say) so we'll just accept it as gospel and keep repeating it through the decades...

In Thomas Owens' "Bebop" there's a discussion of this on pages 38-39. Here's a link to the Google Books. Scroll to page 38:

http://books.google....epage&q&f=false

I'll let Owens do the heavy lifting but will note that the original source was actually a paraphrase by John S. Wilson and Michael Levin in a story about Bird in Down Beat in 1949, From there it got rewritten by others, who invented the "quote" as if it came from Bird's mouth directly. That's how it appears in "Hear Me Talkin' To Ya" but it's not clear from Owens if this was the first instance of the quote being rewritten or if someone else did it first. Who knows what Bird actually said -- the original paraphrase is kooky enough to suggest that the authors got whatever Bird said pretty turned around ...

Edited by Mark Stryker, 19 March 2012 - 10:47 PM.


#13 Larry Kart

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Posted 19 March 2012 - 11:29 PM

Thank you, Mark -- Owens' is the chapter and verse passage I recalled reading.

#14 JSngry

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Posted 20 March 2012 - 12:41 AM

"upper intervals" may not be an accurate quote, but it's not an inaccurate not an unimportant observation about hoe all the chromatic substitutions the bop masters like Bird had at their coomnad. "Upper intervals" create other chords inside/on top of the original, and once you see where the potential pivot points are, you can substitute at will, It's the same thing Ornete stated doing, only he dropped the per-ordained reference point s of fixed song structures.

I'll need for the ambien to wear off in order to effectively describe what those "upper intervals" offer in therm of suddenly broadening harmonic horizons, but suffice it to say, they are many. They open up all kinds of scenic routes, and once they get to opening, no telling how long before they get closed again, or if they ever do.

#15 AllenLowe

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Posted 20 March 2012 - 06:01 AM

I agree with Jeff, but also disagree - there are solos in which Bird takes an interval (upper, lower, in-between) which, though technically not "incorrect," is unorthodox - and takes it in a brilliantly consonant direction that no one else could have conceived of. I think of people like Dave Liebman as systematic - organized in a very theoretical way; whereas Bird had a knack for bucking the tonal system yet making it all sound perfect.

And thanks to Mark for pulling the Owens - though somehow I remember finding a different source - as a matter of fact - Larry - I seem to recall that this came up on the Jazz research list (of which I am a former member) and that may be where I first encountered it. Or maybe not.

Also, let us not forget that one man's 6th is another man's 13th (I know there are technical reasons why this is inaccurate, but in practice the distinction is often blurred. But I also usually write flats instead of sharps because I think in flats; I have no idea why; probably lack of musical education).

Edited by AllenLowe, 20 March 2012 - 06:09 AM.


#16 flat5

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Posted 20 March 2012 - 08:10 AM

I'll never forgive John S. Wilson for his record review of Sonny Rollins' "Our Man In Jazz".

It's very obvious reading through the Bird Omnibook solos that Bird's rhythmic phrasing is free (complicated and varied) and natural for him. It's in a class of it's own, I believe. Perhaps Ravi Shankar is as varied :-)

In the 1970s someone wrote a doctoral theses on "Charles Parker's 42 original melodic ideas". It was available on microfilm from some university.

#17 freelancer

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Posted 20 March 2012 - 09:45 AM

I agree with Jeff, but also disagree - there are solos in which Bird takes an interval (upper, lower, in-between) which, though technically not "incorrect," is unorthodox - and takes it in a brilliantly consonant direction that no one else could have conceived of. I think of people like Dave Liebman as systematic - organized in a very theoretical way; whereas Bird had a knack for bucking the tonal system yet making it all sound perfect.

And thanks to Mark for pulling the Owens - though somehow I remember finding a different source - as a matter of fact - Larry - I seem to recall that this came up on the Jazz research list (of which I am a former member) and that may be where I first encountered it. Or maybe not.

Also, let us not forget that one man's 6th is another man's 13th (I know there are technical reasons why this is inaccurate, but in practice the distinction is often blurred. But I also usually write flats instead of sharps because I think in flats; I have no idea why; probably lack of musical education).

Leibman might have been systematic as a player, but he sure can't put 2 and 2 together any other way. In the Davis interview (in the other thread) he reflects on mimicking Miles style and personality, then can't work out why Miles later tells him not to be a Mockingbird.

#18 Chuck Nessa

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Posted 20 March 2012 - 07:00 PM

<_<

#19 Larry Kart

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Posted 20 March 2012 - 08:19 PM

Never been a Liebman fan, but those interviews are interesting to say the least.



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