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medjuck

Bird Plays for Stravinsky

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On twitter :"Harmony Holiday"  just posted a great account of the night Stravinsky came to Birdland to hear Bird, but they didn't cite whom they were quoting.  The quote was  from someone sitting at the table next to Stravinsky.  I've asked "Harmony Holiday" where it's from but she hasn't responded.  Does anyone here know? 

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16 minutes ago, medjuck said:

On twitter :"Harmony Holiday"  just posted a great account of the night Stravinsky came to Birdland to hear Bird, but they didn't cite whom they were quoting.  The quote was  from someone sitting at the table next to Stravinsky.  I've asked "Harmony Holiday" where it's from but she hasn't responded.  Does anyone here know? 

Alfred Appel, perhaps?

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Thanks, that's it.  But is Appel quoting someone else or was he present at the event?  The typology is confusing-- I can't tell if just the italicized part is from the book or whether the whole thing is. (I should just buy the book. the topic interests me.) 

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56 minutes ago, medjuck said:

Thanks, that's it.  But is Appel quoting someone else or was he present at the event?  The typology is confusing-- I can't tell if just the italicized part is from the book or whether the whole thing is. (I should just buy the book. the topic interests me.) 

I checked my copy after reading the Open Culture post, and it appears Appel is referring to himself.  

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1 hour ago, ghost of miles said:

I checked my copy after reading the Open Culture post, and it appears Appel is referring to himself.  

I highly doubt Appel witnessed any such thing. He was 21 when Bird died, so this makes him likely too young to have witnessed Stravinsky watching Bird; this is rumored to have happened in 1951, when Appel would have been 17.

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Based on a personal encounter with Appel, I wouldn't trust him about this or much of anything. It was at a party  at John McDonough's house. Dan Morgenstern was there, and Appel, very full of himself and out to impress, was holding forth about a memorable event in jazz that he had allegedly experienced (it may have been the Bird-Stravinsky encounter), and some aspects of Appel's tale led Dan and myself to exchange WTF glances. Wish I could remember the details that made us dubious. Maybe they're in Appel's book, but I disposed of my copy.

 

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The image of Stravinsky lustily and gleefully slamming his drink down on his table with such force as to send its contents ejaculating all over the surrounding tables seem just a little "based on a true story", if you know what I mean... 

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I've read this anecdote before, but forget where...first guess is Ross Russell's Bird Lives, but I can't verify (read a library copy way back when).

Alex Ross gave it in his book The Rest is Noise, but his wording was "[after Bird quoted some Firebird motifs]...Stravinsky was so delighted that he spilled his Scotch in ecstasy."

 

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A little more subtle, but still an ejaculatory motif. How about something along the lines of Stravinsky was so flustered by Bird that he fumbled his drink and spilled it all everything? 

Then again, Stravinsky seemed to not be afraid of ejaculation, so maybe that's what it was. Still, the story as told seems to be aiming at mythology, not historicity. 

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This is mentioned in a previous thread in 'Miscellaneous Music' - "Jazz Versions of Rite of Spring" (7/16/2007).

The original(?) quote is apparently from Appel's book "Jazz Modernism" (Knopf) 2002.

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18 hours ago, AllenLowe said:

I highly doubt Appel witnessed any such thing. He was 21 when Bird died, so this makes him likely too young to have witnessed Stravinsky watching Bird; this is rumored to have happened in 1951, when Appel would have been 17.

I can’t vouch for Appel’s veracity or lack thereof, but I’ve read several accounts of NYC-area teens attending performances at Birdland in the 1950s.  However, my understanding (again, based on what I’ve read—Dan Morgenstern, were he here on the board, could surely clarify) is that teens were required to sit in the so-called “bleachers,” an area next to the stage. Appel’s account has him seated at a table, and a good one, too, next to a table ostensibly reserved for a celebrity guest—so that does sound unlikely. But I don’t think the story can be disqualified solely on Appel’s age at the time of the alleged encounter. Might be a good question to put to Mike Fitzgerald’s jazz research listserv… thinking that there would surely be other accounts of Stravinsky dropping by Birdland one night to hear Parker play, if such a thing did occur. 

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I just wasted some time on Google. As far as I can tell, Appel is everyone's source on this.

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1 hour ago, T.D. said:

I just wasted some time on Google. As far as I can tell, Appel is everyone's source on this.

My observation as well.  At home right now, and the Parker books I have on hand here--Carl Woideck's Charlie Parker and Ross Russell's Bird Lives--each list several mentions of Stravinsky in their indexes, but none that reference any event like Appel's anecdote.  I'll look at my other Parker books when I get to my office in a bit.  One would think that Red Rodney would have recounted this incident if it did indeed occur, as in Appel's narrative he's the one who spots Stravinsky in the audience.  And Rodney was certainly asked to talk about Bird a lot later in life.  Maybe the second volume of Stephen Walsh's Stravinsky bio would include any pertinent info--hoping to read both of those books at some point.  

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I still say that in a perfect world, Stravinsky would have had a road band and actually played at Birdland himself.

and maybe Bird could have then skeeted some Scotch himself!

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Perused all of my Parker books here at work--Gary Giddins' Celebrating Bird, Brian Priestley's Chasin' The Bird, Carl Woideck's A Charlie Parker Companion, and Ken Vail's Bird's Diary 1945-1955--and the only possibly pertinent info I can find is Vail's entry for December 1950 showing the Parker quintet w/Rodney as trumpeter performing that month as Birdland, which could conceivably fit into Appel's "winter 1951" timeline.  Nothing that specifically confirms his story of Stravinsky dropping by the club, though.  I may post a query to Mike's listserv later this week, but in the meantime, Appel's account is the only one we appear to have.

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Too bad there's not a tune called "Skeetin' The Scotch". Maybe there is, on some back-end Verve record.

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Posted (edited)

Are there any other reports of Stravinsky having gone to hear any other jazz groups back in the day?

I would assume he might have heard the Thundering Herd (re: The Ebony Concerto) — but did he hear The Heard? (Do we know?)  I mean, go to hear them play live? — as opposed to just hearing them on record.

Edited by Rooster_Ties

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Yes, he definitely heard Shorty Rogers, for one. "On [Dec. 7 1957]  violinist Sol Babitz took us (Stravinsky and Robert Craft] to a jazz club on Crenshaw Boulevard, where Stravinsky heard Shorty Rogers play the flugelhorn,. The next day he rewrote the trumpet part for that instrument in Threni." This from Craft's "An Improbable Life," p. 192.

More on Rogers and Stravinsky  from Stravinsky and Craft's "Conversations with Igor Stravinsky" p. 116-17: ""Jazz is a different kind of music making.... Improvisation has its own time world, necessarily a loose and large one since only in a imprecisely limited time could real improvisation be worked up to; the stage has to be set, and there must be heat. The percussion and bass serve as a central heating system. They must keep the temperature "cool," not cool. The point of interest is instrumental virtuosity, instrumental personality, not melody, not harmony, and certainly not rhythm. Instead of rhythm there is "beat." The players beat all the time merely to keep up and to know which side of the beat they are on. The ideas are instrumental.... Shorty Rogers' trumpet playing is an example of what I mean by instrumental derivation, though his trumpet [he means Rogers' flugelhorn] is really a deep-bored bugle-sounding instrument which reminds me of the keyed bugles I liked so much and wrote for in the first version of Les Noces. {Rogers'] patterns are instrumental: half-valve effects with lip glissandos, intervals and runs that derive from the fingers, "trills" on one note, for  example, G to G on a B-flat instrument (between open and first-and third fingers,. etc.

"As an example of what I said about timing, I can listen to Shorty Rogers' good style with its dotted-note tradition for stretches of fifteen minutes and more and not feel the time at all, whereas the weight of every serious [classical] virtuoso depresses me beyond the counter-action of equanil in about five. Has jazz infuenced me? Jazz patterns and especially jazz instrumental combinations did influence me forty years ago, of course, but not the idea of jazz. As I say, that is another world. I don't follow it, but I respect it.  It can be an art of very touching dignity, as in the New Orleans jazz funerals.  And at its best, it is certainly the best musical entertainment in the U.S."

P.S. I like Shorty's playing, and Stravinsky's sense of it is shrewd, but it's a shame that Stravinsky never ran across  prime Lester Young, for one.

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Posted (edited)

21 hours ago, ghost of miles said:

I can’t vouch for Appel’s veracity or lack thereof, but I’ve read several accounts of NYC-area teens attending performances at Birdland in the 1950s.  However, my understanding (again, based on what I’ve read—Dan Morgenstern, were he here on the board, could surely clarify) is that teens were required to sit in the so-called “bleachers,” an area next to the stage. Appel’s account has him seated at a table, and a good one, too, next to a table ostensibly reserved for a celebrity guest—so that does sound unlikely. But I don’t think the story can be disqualified solely on Appel’s age at the time of the alleged encounter. Might be a good question to put to Mike Fitzgerald’s jazz research listserv… thinking that there would surely be other accounts of Stravinsky dropping by Birdland one night to hear Parker play, if such a thing did occur. 

It's not just a matter of him being 17 years old, but, as you implied, the lack of access that would lead to his sitting next to Stravinsky. It's just a silly story, implausible, just too "good" to be real; reminds me of Al Rose's fabricated conversations, in which the subjects say exactly what we want to hear them say. As to Appel's veracity, see Larry Kart's comments, above. I mean, if you want strange historical juxtapositions, I'll tell you about my meeting with Jean Genet at Slug's circa 1969/1970. I was only 15 or 16, but we never had any philosophical exchange (though he did say to me "son, you will have a great future; and by the way, Sartre says hello." Actually, all he did was nod).

Edited by AllenLowe

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It's like the alleged meeting between Stan Kenton and Maurice Ravel. Kenton for a long time told a wonder story about how Ravel talked to him at length, encouraged him, inspired him, etc. And then years later, he admitted that there was no such ting that happened.

Mythology is important, but it's mythology first. Actual reality is just a building block..

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Posted (edited)

I have always doubted the veracity of Appel's "eyewitness" account of the Stravinsky story, though it is easy to imagine that Stravinsky at some point might have heard Bird play and that he would have been delighted by hearing his music quoted within a saxophone improvisation-- though it is less easy to imagine him so surprised and astonished that he slammed his drink down with enough force to liberate the libation from its container.

Having said all that, I liked the Appel book for its framing ("Jazz Modernism: From Ellington and Armstrong to Matisse and Joyce") and for drawing creative aesthetic parallels between Armstrong/Ellington and the pillars of European modernism (Matisse, Picasso, Calder, Joyce, etc.). Bebop is generally considered the modern movement in jazz, which has the effect of relegating pre-war masters into a deeper haze of dead history, but I think there's validity and value in the "all jazz is modern" perspective. 

Edited by Mark Stryker

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1 hour ago, JSngry said:

It's like the alleged meeting between Stan Kenton and Maurice Ravel. Kenton for a long time told a wonder story about how Ravel talked to him at length, encouraged him, inspired him, etc. And then years later, he admitted that there was no such ting that happened.

Mythology is important, but it's mythology first. Actual reality is just a building block..

Makes me wonder if Andrew Hill and Hindemith ever really crossed paths (which I've wondered before).

Hill talks about it here, in this interview below, fwiw.  I should say I love a good story as much as anyone -- so I'm not trying to say this is any sort of great sandal or anything (if it happened not to be true).  And even if it's not true, good on Andrew for coming up with it!

https://tedpanken.wordpress.com/2011/06/30/andrew-hills-80th-birthday-anniversary/

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I'd like a great sandal myself, especially now that it's summer.

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1 hour ago, Rooster_Ties said:

Makes me wonder if Andrew Hill and Hindemith ever really crossed paths (which I've wondered before).

Hill talks about it here, in this interview below, fwiw.  I should say I love a good story as much as anyone -- so I'm not trying to say this is any sort of great sandal or anything (if it happened not to be true).  And even if it's not true, good on Andrew for coming up with it!

https://tedpanken.wordpress.com/2011/06/30/andrew-hills-80th-birthday-anniversary/

I have no inside knowledge of whether Hill or Hindemith actually met, but I can reliably tell you (based on conversations with an acquaintance who has done enough work to know) that Hill is an unreliable narrator of his own life.

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Posted (edited)

1 hour ago, Mark Stryker said:

I have no inside knowledge of whether Hill or Hindemith actually met, but I can reliably tell you (based on conversations with an acquaintance who has done enough work to know) that Hill is an unreliable narrator of his own life.

Yeah, I'd gotten that notion a time or two, I forget where all.  Like I wonder if there ever really was any sort of opera he was working on in the 70's (which I've read several minor reports of), after his run at Blue Note.  If I were to hazard a guess, I'd be more inclined to say 'no' than 'yes' -- though I don't doubt he might have been sincere in that such an endeavor might have been something he'd pondered more than a few times.

I've heard from a couple players in his bands that when they'd ask for his input on how to interpret his cryptic charts and/or instructions, that Hill would ask what they thought 'it' meant, and that if he liked what they said, he'd say "yeah, that's what I meant".

I don't mean to suggest he was a total fraud or anything -- he's still one of my all-time favorite jazz artists ever -- and none of this sort of thing is terribly surprising at all to me.

Edited by Rooster_Ties

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