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mikeweil

"Bixing"

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Pretty soon (if not already) all the people who significantly knew the first wave of Jazz and Blues men and women will be dead. And all that will remain are whatever public records and archival information has been gathered from them. Save for unrecorded oral histories. Current and future writers/historians will then make of it what they will. But that's all that will be left. At least recent times have given many more musicians (or those reliable witnesses who knew them) the chance to speak for themselves, so future historians will have a lot more primary sources to work from. And will not need to fill in so many gaps. And if people stretch the truth, or assert opinion as a fact, it will more easily be able to be seen for what it is, or at least better argued against. Also the paper and media trail back to the original sources will not be so problematic. Perhaps also the fact that White writers will no longer dominate the 'historical and scholarly' future might help.

Recent interesting 'narrative-gap' filling and 'anti-Bixing' contributions I have felt enlightening re-Jazz guitar are;

The recent info on Wes Montgomery (from Buddy or Monk) - that despite the common knowledge, Wes actually began the study of guitar at a far younger age than previously believed - on a tenor guitar! - and before his brothers began.

The Grant Green oral history book by Sharony Andrews Green.

And this exhaustive and incredibly candid oral history interview with George Benson

My link

As well as this very good 13 part interview with Pat Martino

Of course, this is not to say that the musicians themselves are not guilty of a little 'Bixing' on their own behalf :g

Edited by freelancer

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I feel that the oral history/interviews that have appeared in Cadence will be valuable sources in years to come. Some of the musicians may put their own spin on things, but there's a world of first hand information there.

Edited by paul secor

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I recall reading (maybe here or on the BNBB) that that Grant Green book was chockful of Bix-ing.

One reference to that effect, I'll look for more:

http://fretterverse.com/2011/02/10/the-worst-musician-biography-ever/

Another:

http://www.musicweb-international.com/classrev/2004/jan04/Green_book.htm

and another:

http://www.jazzhouse.org/library/index.php3?read=hale10

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I recall reading (maybe here or on the BNBB) that that Grant Green book was chockful of Bix-ing.

One reference to that effect, I'll look for more:

http://fretterverse.com/2011/02/10/the-worst-musician-biography-ever/

Another:

http://www.musicweb-international.com/classrev/2004/jan04/Green_book.htm

and another:

http://www.jazzhouse.org/library/index.php3?read=hale10

I disagree. I think the author wisely provides a forum for the people who knew Grant Green intimately, to speak for themselves. As well as skilfully presenting some divergent recalled memories of events - to be left for the reader to decide. Part of the books great achievement is never letting the reader forget Grant Green was an African American musician immersed in an African American music community. I think the 'bixing' of people remembering Grant is more the point, and the author made good choices about how to deal with that I think. I found it very moving to read people like George Benson, Elvin Jones and Lou Donaldson talk about what Grant Green's artistry meant to them. I can see how a lot of people might really dislike a book done in this way. Really dislike it. I loved it. And it was one of the first times I felt I got a great insight into the life of one of my musical heroes. Who never survived to tell his own story in the way Pat Martino has been able to in the above link. And what's more, I doubt a White (and possibly male) researcher would have had the knowledge to be aware of - and focus on - several important aspects of Green's personal history. Sure, I would also like to have - the 'White-Male-Jazz scholar's book on GG as well - but I doubt that will be coming out anytime soon, and if I had a choice, this kind of book is more worthy.

Edited by freelancer

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Yeah, I enjoyed the Grant Green book as well. To me, it read more like like a family reminiscence/journey/whatever than a "scholarly bio", but hell, so what about that? I mean, really?

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Yes -- but Bird at Minton's in 1960? And what's with that 'White-Male-Jazz scholar's" thing? If I were an African-American jazz biographer, I'd be pissed at the implication that as an African-American jazz biographer I shouldn't be expected to be more than anecdotal, nor should I be expected to have much background in the music as a whole or get certain basic facts right. Or would an African-American jazz biographer who proceeded otherwise be imitating/beholden to 'White-Male-Jazz scholars"? Eeesh. Tell it to Robin D. G. Kelley.

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I remember how po'd Philip Evans was when Sudhalter told him that all the material in their book together was true and it turned out he added a lot of "Bixing." The later book Evans did with his wife was free of that stuff. . . excellent book.

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Biography is part art, part science and part craft. Oral histories are of course invaluable but they are by no means gospel -- people lie (benevolently or willfully), they stretch the truth, they mis-remember, they forget, they tell a different version of their story each time they tell it to an interviewer, who may or may not have the skill, knowledge or experience to deal with the material in a sophisticated way. Anyone who has done any interviewing or writing knows how elusive the "truth" can be, even about mundane facts much less the complicated issues in which personal relationships, pyschology, family, identity, ego, insecurities and other issues are involved. The primary source interview is the place to start, but it is by no means the end. It can take a lot of post-interview probing with the subject and extensive follow-up fact checking through secondary interviews and scouring the written documentary record -- and then collating all of the information -- before you begin to get at some sense of the objective truth. You know, letters can often be a gold mine -- think of the Founding Fathers, who wrote down just about everything in voluminous letters. Yet there was also myopia and score settling and it takes an artful biographer -- who herself/himself will be dealing with their own biases -- to make sense of it all.

Edited by Mark Stryker

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Yes -- but Bird at Minton's in 1960? And what's with that 'White-Male-Jazz scholar's" thing? If I were an African-American jazz biographer, I'd be pissed at the implication that as an African-American jazz biographer I shouldn't be expected to be more than anecdotal, nor should I be expected to have much background in the music as a whole or get certain basic facts right. Or would an African-American jazz biographer who proceeded otherwise be imitating/beholden to 'White-Male-Jazz scholars"? Eeesh. Tell it to Robin D. G. Kelley.

I'm really taking a swipe at the people who didn't appreciate this book and seemed to want something that corresponded to expanded liner note writing or 'guitar player magazine' type focus. I knew zilch about Grant Green's relationship to the Nation of Islam, or his early years in St Louis or that fact that his father carried a gun, or that Barry Harris considered him the greatest guitarist he ever played with. I always wanted to read George Benson reflecting on his experience of knowing GG. etc etc. I stand by what I wrote above. It is obvious when you first begin the book where the author is coming from, and once you appreciate that, it makes it a very contemporary grass roots approach. If you read that book, and can't perceive the skill involved in the presentation and choices made by the author, then so be it. The 'certain basic facts right' are largely irrelevant to the broader scope of this book. Just like a good improvised solo. An African American Black music scholar like Robin D. G. Kelley would obviously be coming from a different place than the author of this book, but Andrews Green is not trying to be something she's not. For what it's worth, I bet Robin D. G. Kelley would love and appreciate this book. And tellingly, I doubt if any of the White-ass bemoaners of this book had bothered to write it themselves, that they would have given the time of day to some of the people Andrews Green features in the text. Or gotten some of the insights and memories she did. And that's partly why this book is unique and treasured by me.

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I did read or tried to read the Green book once upon a time. I'll look for it and try again.

P.S. A nearby library has a copy: I'm there.

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I very much liked it for what it was. Like I said, it sounded like family talking and that's a rare trait in a jazz book these days, where the books too often sound like pseudo-scholarly pissing matches over ownership right (the exceptions do in fact prove the rule). Yuck

To put it another way - the amount of jazz literature that seems to be cut from the same cloth into the same clothes as the music itself just ain't that plentiful. The Green book is.

It feels like this cover looks:

grant_green_co_fr.jpg

I got no problem with that cover (or the music therein, for that matter).

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given that I once heard Barry Harris describe Jimmy Rainey as being in the same musical league as Bird, I'm a bit surprised he would claim Green as the greatest.

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given that I once heard Barry Harris describe Jimmy Rainey as being in the same musical league as Bird, I'm a bit surprised he would claim Green as the greatest.

Well, I would look to the excellent and informative post by Mark Stryker above ...especially "people lie (benevolently or willfully)". Not to say that Barry Harris was lying, but rather he was offering an opinion and memory regarding the talents of Grant Green. It came across to me (his whole quote in context) as a great musician paying respect to another great musician, by offering the highest praise he could, even if it may have been a little bit of a benevolent one. That's part of the fun of reading a book like this - about someone whose music you know well - in that you can ponder the quotes and opinions expressed by others. For instance, in the case of Elvin Jones - who played on so many truly great GG sessions - I doubt there is any conflating going on at all with what he offers. Indeed, there may not be by Barry Harris either. And the recollections of George Benson are really pivotal to the book. But he still gets a few jabs in, especially with regard to Grant Green's ego :g

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Re: Mark Stryker's wise remarks about oral histories and interviews -- It is now close to gospel that Art Blakey visited and spent a fair amount of time in West Africa in 1947 (this trip being something Blakey spoke of in numerous interviews, on the recording "Ritual," and IIRC in Art Taylor's "Notes and Tones"), and then revamped his style of drumming accordingly, taking off on what he heard and learned there. But even though this "fact" has led to at least one would-be scholarly article, Ingrid Monson's "Art Blakey's African Diaspora," and though it's hard to prove a negative, the preponderance of evidence/testimony from any number of sources (Blakey's lawyer, Horace Silver, etc.) is that Blakey was a habitual fabulist and that in particular (this from the lawyer) Blakey left the U.S. for the first time in 1957, for a European tour.

A subsidiary point: That musician X said such and such about himself or musician Y is at the least under some circumstances what musician X believed or remembered at the time he made that statement. But some figures (Blakey apparently being one) just made up a lot of stuff, and much of what they said is evidence mostly that they chose to/felt it was worth making up that stuff when they did so. Big difference.

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Life is complicated and contradictory enough while it's happening. Lots of moving parts and auxiliary subsystems all going on simultaneously. What makes us think that those complications and contradictions can finally be "solved" once all the parts stop moving? Sure, we can get "facts", but "facts" are always there to be had if you look hard enough. But "facts" are just a part of "truth", and perhaps the least determinant part at that. After the facts, conclusions are drawn, and that's where we believe what we want to believe about what it is we think we've found.

It is to laugh!

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Life is complicated and contradictory enough while it's happening. Lots of moving parts and auxiliary subsystems all going on simultaneously. What makes us think that those complications and contradictions can finally be "solved" once all the parts stop moving? Sure, we can get "facts", but "facts" are always there to be had if you look hard enough. But "facts" are just a part of "truth", and perhaps the least determinant part at that. After the facts, conclusions are drawn, and that's where we believe what we want to believe about what it is we think we've found.

It is to laugh!

Oh, Jim -- yes, yes, of course, but when you're at a carnival and approach a small table upon which three walnut shells and a small rubber ball rest, is it that "complicated" (or merely almost certain to be vindicated common sense) to grasp that one is in the presence of an ongoing con game?

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Grasping that you're in the presence of an ongoing con-game is Reality 101, and not just at a carnival.

Edited by JSngry

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Life is complicated and contradictory enough while it's happening. Lots of moving parts and auxiliary subsystems all going on simultaneously. What makes us think that those complications and contradictions can finally be "solved" once all the parts stop moving? Sure, we can get "facts", but "facts" are always there to be had if you look hard enough. But "facts" are just a part of "truth", and perhaps the least determinant part at that. After the facts, conclusions are drawn, and that's where we believe what we want to believe about what it is we think we've found.

It is to laugh!

Oh, Jim -- yes, yes, of course, but when you're at a carnival and approach a small table upon which three walnut shells and a small rubber ball rest, is it that "complicated" (or merely almost certain to be vindicated common sense) to grasp that one is in the presence of an ongoing con game?

Or to put it another way, lots of people are big fans of 'What makes us think that those complications and contradictions can finally be "solved" once all the parts stop moving?' until and unless those parts are part of the car they've been driving and that has broken down in, say, the desert. Then one wants and needs a competent problem-solving mechanic, not someone who broodingly observes that '"facts" are just a part of "truth", and perhaps the least determinant part at that. After the facts, conclusions are drawn, and that's where we believe what we want to believe about what it is we think we've found.' Either the car runs again or it doesn't -- that doesn't depend on "what we want to believe about what it is we think we've found." I'm all for cosmic navel gazing, but only after I've checked first to see if I've got my head up my butt.

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Life is a car. It either runs or it doesn't, and if you're stuck in the desert, you need a mechanic once you make sure your head's not up your ass.

And that's that!

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Life is a car. It either runs or it doesn't, and if you're stuck in the desert, you need a mechanic once you make sure your head's not up your ass.

And that's that!

:tup :tup And not up my ass (I hope).

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I've begun walking more. You don't need a car, you see/hear/smell more, and it's damn near impossible to do with your head up your ass.

So, uh,,,sometimes the car is best left in the garage (and not the mechanic's type).

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Moving on through the Grant Green bio today, I was nonplussed by this, from p. 21:

"'Well that's it. Pain is universal, [Nat Hentoff] agrees. 'There have been white players with great inventiveness. One of my favorites is Stevie Russell."

Pee Wee Russell?

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Yeah, Stevie Russell. Played with Art Blakesley & Sonny Stitts.

You should read more linear notes.

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Actually, Nat meant Stevie Ray Beiderbecke.

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