Take Five, Buddy: Dave Brubeck and Paul Desmond, A Match Made in Heaven (and Hell, and Everywhere in Between)

 

Jazz is often a cooperative enterprise. But that doesn’t mean that jazz musicians are always good at cooperating. Far from it, as, for example, Charles Mingus learned when Duke Ellington demanded that he resign from the Ellington Orchestra for having chopped Juan Tizol’s chair in two with a fire ax in the middle of a performance after the trombonist pulled a knife on him. 

Probability says that Dave Brubeck and Paul Desmond should have gotten along about as well as Tizol and Mingus. An amphetamine-dependent, chain-smoking womanizer certainly doesn’t seem like the ideal partner for an (eventually) deeply Catholic, even-tempered family man. But to understand such an extraordinarily improbable 33-year partnership, we’d better go back to the beginning. 

Dave Brubeck, born in December of 1920, was the son of a cattle rancher and his former concert pianist wife, one of three boys. His father decided that, since his two older brothers had chosen to become musicians, Dave would take over the family ranch. He entered the College of the Pacific on track for a degree in veterinary science, but in his first year, the head of the department told him that it was clear he belonged in the conservatory, where he spent all of his free time. Already, Brubeck showed signs of compositional genius, but, because he was unable to sight-read music, he was only allowed to graduate from the program if he promised never to teach piano. 

Upon his graduation in 1942, Brubeck joined the army and was sent to Camp Hahn, in Riverside, California. On his way, like many other musicians, to joining Patton’s Third Army in Europe, he was transferred through San Francisco, and ended up sitting next to, and playing with, members of the 253rd American Ground Forces Band stationed at the Presidio. One member of this band in particular, Paul Breitenfeld, praised his playing, saying, “Man, like Wigsville! You really grooved me with those nutty changes.”  Brubeck replied, “White man speak with forked tongue.” 

Spending most of 1944 and early 1945 near the German front lines, the pianist was taken off of combat duty when he volunteered to form a band of wounded men to play for soldiers recovering from combat fatigue. The Wolf Pack was the first integrated band of WWII. After being discharged in 1946, he took advantage of the GI Bill, and enrolled at Mills College to study under Darius Milhaud. 

The late 40s, though, also gave Brubeck the opportunity to reunite with Paul Breitenfeld, now Paul Desmond. Desmond was the son of Emil Breitenfeld, a San Francisco-based pianist and composer, who had studied clarinet from the age of 12, before switching to alt sax in his first year at San Francisco State College. He was drafted into the army that same year, and discharged 4 years later, returning to California to work as a backing musician for various groups. Occasionally, he joined The Three D’s, a combo Brubeck worked in at the Geary Cellar. 

However, Desmond had grander ambitions than this. When the owner of the Band Box in Redwood City offered him a residency, provided he could form a band, he convinced everyone in the D’s, except for their leader, Daryl Cutler, to move with him. Brubeck was so fascinated with the growing musical rapport between himself and Desmond that he willingly took the huge pay cut, from $100 a week to $42, despite fears that he may not be able to support his wife and two young children. For a few weeks, things went spectacularly, until Desmond was offered another, more lucrative residency at the Feather River Inn. He took two of the musicians who composed his quartet, hired a new pianist, and refused to let Brubeck take over his former position, promising that he would be back in three months. He never returned. 

With few other prospects, Brubeck accepted a job at a remote tavern near Santa Rosa, and, working for scale, was forced to move his family into a corrugated tin shack behind the establishment. “I never want to see Paul Desmond again,” he told his wife, Iola. She was instructed to turn him away if he ever turned up, and to be as vicious as she needed (or wanted) in doing that. He gradually worked his way back from this musical death sentence, moving to San Francisco, and recording albums with a trio which were well received by Jimmy Lyons, an influential area disc jockey, and future Fantasy label owners Max and Soul Weiss.  

It was here that Desmond arrived back on the scene. He had heard the recordings and realized his mistake. 

But one day,…Desmond came to the door. Iola let him in. Dave was on the back porch pinning diapers to a clothesline. Iola was susceptible to Paul’s charm from the first time she met him. She told Gene Lees forty years later that he looked so forlorn, she went out back and told her husband ‘You just have to see him.’  Brubeck did, and Iola said ‘he was full of promises to Dave. He said ‘if you just let me play with you, I’ll babysit, I’ll wash your car.’ Brubeck was unable to keep up his resistance.”

By all reports, Desmond was a very devoted babysitter, and it took Darius, one of Dave’s sons, almost until adulthood to realize that Paul wasn’t truly his uncle. 

In 1951, he put together the Dave Brubeck Quartet, and took up residency at the Black Hawk nightclub, touring colleges all over the country to great success. Initially working with Fantasy, where he encouraged the owners to pick up artists like Gerry Mulligan and Chet Baker, he moved to Columbia within a few years to cut a more advantageous deal on interest share in the recordings. Five years later, eager to start experimenting with different time signatures, he hired the drummer Joe Morello. With Morello, Brubeck felt he had finally found a rhythm section support that could help him venture into the new territory he wanted to explore for a decade, but his integration into the quartet was not quite seamless. 

“Now when he got into the group Paul heard him featured and saw Joe get his standing ovation the first time he took a drum solo and then Paul said, “I’m leaving the group. Either he goes or I go.” And I said, “He’s not going, Paul.” Now here’s when you’re a leader and you know you have a group that’s really gonna go to the top if you can hold them together. And so you challenge them and you say, “I’m not letting Joe go because I know that Joe can do on drums what I want to hear. He’s the greatest polyrhythmic drummer I’ve ever worked with.”…I don’t want to lose Paul. I’ll gamble that Paul really doesn’t mean this. So the next night Paul showed up at the job. I didn’t know if [he was] gonna show up. I expected I might have to play a duet with drums and piano.”

When the African-American bassist Eugene Wright joined in 1958, for a State Department of tour Asia and Europe, the classic Brubeck line-up was complete. Fiercely protective of his integrated quartet, Brubeck would cancel any gig where club owners or college administration questioned a racially mixed group, and refused to appear on any tv program which would not give Wright equal camera time as the rest of the quartet. 

By the next year, the group had skyrocketed to fame when “Take Five”, a Desmond composition in 5/4 time, became a surprise hit on the album “Time Out.” Columbia initially hesitated to release the record, which contained all original compositions, most in unusual time signatures, but it rapidly went Platinum, and eventually sold more than one million copies. While Desmond’s circus full of bad habits sometimes drove Brubeck to despair, the next 8 years were elysian ones for the group. Decades later, he reflected, “Yeah in spite of…us being very different, musically we were very much the same. Paul called it ESP. I didn’t but Paul did. We just would think together. I never said I disliked Paul’s playing; I just disliked Paul as a young man that had some crazy habits. But never have I ever said anything but compliments about how wonderful he played and how we did belong together.”

All in all, the Quartet produced 31 albums, combining original compositions, old (and new) jazz standards, live performances, studio recordings, and everything in between. Their live performances, though, were something to behold, musically ingenious, and often filled with humor. 

“The cops pulled us over and Paul was driving and I guess speeding a little. And, [the cop] told us to follow him and he took us down across the railroad tracks to a farmhouse where there was a judge. And we had to pay a certain amount of cash to this judge. Well, there wasn’t time to rehearse or even talk about this and the next night at the concert, in the middle of a tune, Paul laid out the whole sequence in quotes. Titles of songs that would tell the story. In the first place the cop was supposed to be wearing a broad rim hat like they do in Pennsylvania, kinda, you know like the Canadian Mounted Police. The first quote he played was “Where did you get that hat?” The next thing was “Down by the railroad station, early in the morning.” All wove into another tune — quote after quote after quote that made absolute sense as a jazz chorus. And of course, Paul just strung out these quotes.”

The pianist and his sax player used quotes not just to tell stories, but to give each other musical direction, and, every once in a while, get on each other’s nerves. 

“SMITH: You told me he would even do that on stage playing with you and sometimes he’d play, I don’t know, Don’t Fence Me In, I mean he’d…I mean he’d play things that were sorta, you know, giving you the elbow.

DAVE: Oh yeah, he had some good quotes. We’d be playing in the middle of a song and I might hit a chord that was too far out and the next thing he would play, you’d hear “You’re driving me crazy.” What did I do?”

Unlike so many jazz partnerships, The Dave Brubeck Quartet broke up not out of enmity, but because its leader wanted to spend more time with his six children, and “the incomparable, regal Iola,” as Desmond dubbed her. Despite the professional parting of ways, Desmond and Brubeck remained “best friends” and continued to collaborate, with Demond serving as a musical mentor to two of his former bandleader’s offspring. Likewise, as he had when they were touring together, Dave tried to keep Paul from indulging too frequently in his favorite narcotic and alcoholic habits. 

Even when I was disappointed with what he was doing, I still loved him, yeah. And uh, Iola’s seen us go through things where we were trying to steer Paul away from the direction he was going. Then as a bandleader, you’re becoming like a parent which doesn’t work, because these guys are full-grown, brilliant people and it’s very hard to tell a guy, “Look, you’re really doing the wrong thing.” It’s gonna really end up badly. And then you withdraw because you know you’re not gonna be able to do any good and you back off. But that doesn’t mean you stop loving somebody.”

The 1970s saw Brubeck doing much of his touring and recording, in various configurations, with his sons, Desmond was welcome to join in whenever he felt the urge. In 1976, a concert promoter suggested to Brubeck doing a 25 day, 25 city tour to celebrate a quarter-century of The Dave Brubeck Quartet. Despite his eagerness to ‘get the band back together,’ he feared that the others, especially Paul, would turn down the idea. Instead, they reacted with glee and quickly agreed to the adventure. Three days before the end of the tour, Joe Morello was forced to return to Boston in order to have urgent surgery for a retina problem. Before he set off, he made Brubeck, and the others, promise that they would all come together again. 

Amidst plans for doing just that, this time in Europe, a required insurance physical revealed that the second reunion would never happen. Paul Desmond had advanced lung cancer. Despite Dave’s pleading, Paul turned down further chemotherapy after one round showed no effect on the progression of the disease, and insisted on joining the Brubeck family group on tour. In February, he played for the last time, with the Brubecks, at Avery Fisher Hall in New York City. Joe Morello, the man who he had threatened to walk out of the group over, and who had become one of his best friends, was, according to Brubeck, “so torn up by his being ill. He insisted that one of his drum students stay with Paul and look after him.”

On May 30th, 1977, Paul Desmond died at the age of 52. Doug Ramsey, a jazz journalist who spent years working on the definitive biography of Desmond, revealed that twenty years after his death, “Whenever we talk, Dave says, ‘Boy, I sure miss Paul Desmond.’”

“We did belong together,” indeed.

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  1. Percival Thatcher
    Percival
    @Percival

    KirkianWanderer: he was only allowed to graduate from the program if he promised never to teach piano. 

    Hah! I’ve never heard that one before.

    • #1
  2. Percival Thatcher
    Percival
    @Percival

    KirkianWanderer:

    Joe Morello, the man who he had threatened to walk out of the group over, and who had become one of his best friends, was, according to Brubeck, “so torn up by his being ill. He insisted that one of his drum students stay with Paul and look after him.”

     

    Musicians can have the weirdest friendships. When Lester Flatt heard that Bill Monroe was planning on hiring a banjo player for The Bluegrass Boys, he threatened to quit. A banjo player would slow the group down and muddy up their sound. Monroe persuaded him to let the new guy, Earl Scruggs, have a chance.

    It turned out that both Flatt and Scruggs left the group after a few months, and formed The Foggy Mountain Boys.

    • #2
  3. KirkianWanderer Coolidge
    KirkianWanderer
    @KirkianWanderer

    Percival (View Comment):

    KirkianWanderer:

    Joe Morello, the man who he had threatened to walk out of the group over, and who had become one of his best friends, was, according to Brubeck, “so torn up by his being ill. He insisted that one of his drum students stay with Paul and look after him.”

    Musicians can have the weirdest friendships. When Lester Flatt heard that Bill Monroe was planning on hiring a banjo player for The Bluegrass Boys, he threatened to quit. A banjo player would slow the group down and muddy up their sound. Monroe persuaded him to let the new guy, Earl Scruggs, have a chance.

    It turned out that both Flatt and Scruggs left the group after a few months, and formed The Foggy Mountain Boys.

    Yep. Buddy Rich and Frank Sinatra met playing for Tommy Dorsey (he introduced Sinatra to Rich by saying, “I’d like you to meet another pain in the ass”), and regularly got into fistfights, but also became the best of friends. Sinatra gave him $50,000 to start his own band, they became neighbors in Palm Springs, and, when Rich had heart surgery in the 80s, Sinatra would visit him every day, and even make meals.

    Dave Brubeck, meanwhile, was a magnet for substance dependent and less than totally sane sax/trumpet players. Paul Desmond, Chet Baker, Gerry Mulligan. God must have just given that poor man a sign that said, “if you like heroin and brass instruments, come talk to me!”

    • #3
  4. The Reticulator Member
    The Reticulator
    @TheReticulator

    Isn’t Dave Brubeck the guy who used irrational numbers for time signatures? 

    • #4
  5. HankRhody Freelance Philosopher Contributor
    HankRhody Freelance Philosopher
    @HankRhody

    KirkianWanderer (View Comment):
    if you like heroin and brass instruments

    I like the sound of brass; I guess I could give the other a try.

    • #5
  6. Hoyacon Member
    Hoyacon
    @Hoyacon

    The Miles Davis-John Coltrane relationship also was intriguing.  Two very different people making great music together threatened by Coltrane’s drug use.

    • #6
  7. Percival Thatcher
    Percival
    @Percival

    The Reticulator (View Comment):

    Isn’t Dave Brubeck the guy who used irrational numbers for time signatures?

    Not irrational, but not traditional either.

    • #7
  8. The Reticulator Member
    The Reticulator
    @TheReticulator

    Percival (View Comment):

    The Reticulator (View Comment):

    Isn’t Dave Brubeck the guy who used irrational numbers for time signatures?

    Not irrational, but not traditional either.

    In April 2013, after a bicycle ride from Van Wert to Marietta OH, we looked around to see what was going on in between the history events that drew us there. There was a jazz event in an old house, not ideally set up for performances, where Dave Brubeck was being honored not so long after his death. I had heard the name before but didn’t really know anything in particular about him.  There I learned about some of the weird time signatures, and wondered how anyone could possibly keep them going, but this little jazz group did. It was an enjoyable evening. 

    • #8
  9. TBA Coolidge
    TBA
    @RobtGilsdorf

    Time Out is awesome. Time Further Out has ‘It’s a Raggy Waltz’ and ‘Unsquare Dance’ which is particularly fine. 

    • #9
  10. Hartmann von Aue Member
    Hartmann von Aue
    @HartmannvonAue

    Thanks a ton! I very much enjoyed reading this. 

    • #10
  11. KirkianWanderer Coolidge
    KirkianWanderer
    @KirkianWanderer

    Hartmann von Aue (View Comment):

    Thanks a ton! I very much enjoyed reading this.

    You’re welcome. So glad you enjoyed it! (I am mid-way through exams, so working on this was a nice excuse for a couple hours of happy time listening to good music and reading old interviews). 

    • #11
  12. KirkianWanderer Coolidge
    KirkianWanderer
    @KirkianWanderer

    Hoyacon (View Comment):

    The Miles Davis-John Coltrane relationship also was intriguing. Two very different people making great music together threatened by Coltrane’s drug use.

    It is, although I suspect that Davis’ earlier troubles with heroin made him, well, probably not sympathetic to Coltrane, but comprehending of what was going on there, and how to work around it. He was a great artist, but not a very good or pleasant man, or one with a lot of patience, from what Herbie Hancock has to say. Charles Mingus was similarly short with his players, and audiences, but he had comparatively fewer vices than Davis. And then you’ve got someone like Ginger Baker, who did very interesting stuff with Blues Incorporated, but was perpetually half a notch below homicide towards anyone that came within 3 feet of him.

    There’s plenty of wonderful music made by people who were on the verge of murder (that’s certainly one lesson I’m learning from Terry Teachout’s definitive musical biography of Duke Ellington), but it’s especially nice to listen to/watch something and know that the people producing it were enjoying the experience, and each other. 

    • #12
  13. KirkianWanderer Coolidge
    KirkianWanderer
    @KirkianWanderer

    TBA (View Comment):

    Time Out is awesome. Time Further Out has ‘It’s a Raggy Waltz’ and ‘Unsquare Dance’ which is particularly fine.

    I’m really fond of Jazz Impressions of Japan, especially “Koto Song” and “Fujiyama.” 

    “Unisphere”, which is off of Time Changes, an album from the same year as Jazz Impressions of Japan, is also a wonderful composition. Particularly the Helsinki live performance, where one of the mics picked up Brubeck’s reaction to Desmond’s solo. 

    • #13
  14. thelonious Member
    thelonious
    @thelonious

    Hoyacon (View Comment):

    The Miles Davis-John Coltrane relationship also was intriguing. Two very different people making great music together threatened by Coltrane’s drug use.

    Coltrane played like he was getting paid for every note he played . He was in his sheets of sound phase. Miles valued space only to  interrupt the silence every once in awhile with a couple of well placed notes. Miles was also a world class a-hole while Coltrane was a humble generous gent.

    • #14
  15. thelonious Member
    thelonious
    @thelonious

    KirkianWanderer (View Comment):

    Percival (View Comment):

    KirkianWanderer:

    Joe Morello, the man who he had threatened to walk out of the group over, and who had become one of his best friends, was, according to Brubeck, “so torn up by his being ill. He insisted that one of his drum students stay with Paul and look after him.”

    Musicians can have the weirdest friendships. When Lester Flatt heard that Bill Monroe was planning on hiring a banjo player for The Bluegrass Boys, he threatened to quit. A banjo player would slow the group down and muddy up their sound. Monroe persuaded him to let the new guy, Earl Scruggs, have a chance.

    It turned out that both Flatt and Scruggs left the group after a few months, and formed The Foggy Mountain Boys.

    Yep. Buddy Rich and Frank Sinatra met playing for Tommy Dorsey (he introduced Sinatra to Rich by saying, “I’d like you to meet another pain in the ass”), and regularly got into fistfights, but also became the best of friends. Sinatra gave him $50,000 to start his own band, they became neighbors in Palm Springs, and, when Rich had heart surgery in the 80s, Sinatra would visit him every day, and even make meals.

    Dave Brubeck, meanwhile, was a magnet for substance dependent and less than totally sane sax/trumpet players. Paul Desmond, Chet Baker, Gerry Mulligan. God must have just given that poor man a sign that said, “if you like heroin and brass instruments, come talk to me!”

    It’s a much shorter list to mention the jazz musicians who didn’t do drugs in the those days.

    • #15
  16. Percival Thatcher
    Percival
    @Percival

    thelonious (View Comment):

    Hoyacon (View Comment):

    The Miles Davis-John Coltrane relationship also was intriguing. Two very different people making great music together threatened by Coltrane’s drug use.

    Coltrane played like he was getting paid for every note he played . He was in his sheets of sound phase. Miles valued space only to interrupt the silence every once in awhile with a couple of well placed notes. Miles was also a world class a-hole while Coltrane was a humble generous gent.

    That was Miles after he became a genius. Becoming a genius can screw a musician up, sometimes.

    • #16
  17. Hartmann von Aue Member
    Hartmann von Aue
    @HartmannvonAue

    thelonious (View Comment):

    KirkianWanderer (View Comment):

    Percival (View Comment):

    KirkianWanderer:

    Joe Morello, the man who he had threatened to walk out of the group over, and who had become one of his best friends, was, according to Brubeck, “so torn up by his being ill. He insisted that one of his drum students stay with Paul and look after him.”

    Musicians can have the weirdest friendships. When Lester Flatt heard that Bill Monroe was planning on hiring a banjo player for The Bluegrass Boys, he threatened to quit. A banjo player would slow the group down and muddy up their sound. Monroe persuaded him to let the new guy, Earl Scruggs, have a chance.

    It turned out that both Flatt and Scruggs left the group after a few months, and formed The Foggy Mountain Boys.

    Yep. Buddy Rich and Frank Sinatra met playing for Tommy Dorsey (he introduced Sinatra to Rich by saying, “I’d like you to meet another pain in the ass”), and regularly got into fistfights, but also became the best of friends. Sinatra gave him $50,000 to start his own band, they became neighbors in Palm Springs, and, when Rich had heart surgery in the 80s, Sinatra would visit him every day, and even make meals.

    Dave Brubeck, meanwhile, was a magnet for substance dependent and less than totally sane sax/trumpet players. Paul Desmond, Chet Baker, Gerry Mulligan. God must have just given that poor man a sign that said, “if you like heroin and brass instruments, come talk to me!”

    It’s a much shorter list to mention the jazz musicians who didn’t do drugs in the those days.

    Lamentably this is true. 

    • #17
  18. Patrick McClure Coolidge
    Patrick McClure
    @Patrickb63

    In the PIT one Ricochetti (@henrycastaigne) talks about his desire for genetic engineering. While I don’t agree most of the time, I do wish in my heart of hearts that I had been born with rhythm and musical talent. A few years of lessons showed I had neither, so I will have to be content with enjoying it as a spectator. But the green-eyed monster never goes away. Thanks for the article and music.

    • #18
  19. Hoyacon Member
    Hoyacon
    @Hoyacon

    thelonious (View Comment):

    Hoyacon (View Comment):

    The Miles Davis-John Coltrane relationship also was intriguing. Two very different people making great music together threatened by Coltrane’s drug use.

    Coltrane played like he was getting paid for every note he played . He was in his sheets of sound phase. Miles valued space only to interrupt the silence every once in awhile with a couple of well placed notes. Miles was also a world class a-hole while Coltrane was a humble generous gent.

    Miles was, indeed, “difficult,” but I think there’s a good case to be made that he helped Coltrane on his musical journey.  He kicked Coltrane and Philly Joe Jones out of his band because of  drug use, inspiring Coltrane to get clean, and reunited with Coltrane after his stint with Monk in time for “Milestones” and “Kind of Blue.”  

    • #19
  20. Henry Castaigne Member
    Henry Castaigne
    @HenryCastaigne

    Patrick McClure (View Comment):

    In the PIT one Ricochetti (@ henrycastaigne) talks about his desire for genetic engineering. While I don’t agree most of the time, I do wish in my heart of hearts that I had been born with rhythm and musical talent. A few years of lessons showed I had neither, so I will have to be content with enjoying it as a spectator. But the green-eyed monster never goes away. Thanks for the article and music.

    Most people have genetic advantages and genetic disadvantages. I am becoming more and more convinced that much of humanity’s potential excellence has to do with genetics rather than effort or environment. I am fairly sure that you have many genetic advantages to make up for your lack of rhythm. I worry about folks who lack nearly any genetic advantages which is why I argue for genetic engineering. 

    In the meantime, we need to continue to foster excellence among those with talent. 

    • #20
  21. Sisyphus Member
    Sisyphus
    @Sisyphus

    Growing up in DC, mom would pick us up from her parents after a night out and Felix Grant would be playing jazz on WMAL. It seemed that “Take Five” was in the mix more often than not. Loved the tune, but didn’t learn the name for another twenty years. And then instantly bought the album. 

    I’m not usually one for music biographies, but this post was a pleasure to discover.

    • #21
  22. Hoyacon Member
    Hoyacon
    @Hoyacon

    Sisyphus (View Comment):

    Growing up in DC, mom would pick us up from her parents after a night out and Felix Grant would be playing jazz on WMAL. It seemed that “Take Five” was in the mix more often than not. Loved the tune, but didn’t learn the name for another twenty years. And then instantly bought the album.

    I’m not usually one for music biographies, but this post was a pleasure to discover.

    Thanks much for bringing back memories of Felix on WMAL, and of listening to him while front step sitting on 18th. St.  He also gave me my first taste of Brazilian jazz/samba, and the show was just one of those radio pleasures that’s rare these days.  I cut work to go to his funeral and it was attended by all sorts of DC jazz luminaries.

    • #22
  23. TBA Coolidge
    TBA
    @RobtGilsdorf

    Time Out is number five on the bestselling jazz albums of all time. Miles Davis’ Kind of Blue is number one. 

    • #23
  24. KirkianWanderer Coolidge
    KirkianWanderer
    @KirkianWanderer

    Sisyphus (View Comment):

    Growing up in DC, mom would pick us up from her parents after a night out and Felix Grant would be playing jazz on WMAL. It seemed that “Take Five” was in the mix more often than not. Loved the tune, but didn’t learn the name for another twenty years. And then instantly bought the album.

    I’m not usually one for music biographies, but this post was a pleasure to discover.

    I wish I could remember the first time I heard it, but I’m not sure. I wouldn’t be surprised if it was in a music class in middle of high school. 

    Thanks, I’m glad you enjoyed it. 

    • #24
  25. Gary McVey Contributor
    Gary McVey
    @GaryMcVey

    What a great post! Fine writing on a fascinating subject. I have to wonder if Bagehot or John Maynard Keynes would have been able to spin this tale into such a sparkling fabric of music and history. “London School of Economics–Home of Jazz Journalism” doesn’t quite roll off the tongue. 

    • #25
  26. KirkianWanderer Coolidge
    KirkianWanderer
    @KirkianWanderer

    Gary McVey (View Comment):

    What a great post! Fine writing on a fascinating subject. I have to wonder if Bagehot or John Maynard Keynes would have been able to spin this tale into such a sparkling fabric of music and history. “London School of Economics–Home of Jazz Journalism” doesn’t quite roll off the tongue.

    Oh, thank you, Gary. 

    No, I don’t think you’re wrong; LSE’s affirmed specialties are in producing investment bankers, third world dictators, and Whitehall types who retire at 106 as Sir So and So, OBE. Although perhaps the contributions to blues/rock from our drop-outs make up for it. 

    Maybe I’ll have to take it up as night gig and change that. (My parents will be so happy, historian and part-time jazz journalist, two of the most lucrative careers going). 

    • #26
  27. Percival Thatcher
    Percival
    @Percival

    KirkianWanderer (View Comment):

    Gary McVey (View Comment):

    What a great post! Fine writing on a fascinating subject. I have to wonder if Bagehot or John Maynard Keynes would have been able to spin this tale into such a sparkling fabric of music and history. “London School of Economics–Home of Jazz Journalism” doesn’t quite roll off the tongue.

    Oh, thank you, Gary.

    No, I don’t think you’re wrong; LSE’s affirmed specialties are in producing investment bankers, third world dictators, and Whitehall types who retire at 106 as Sir So and So, OBE. Although perhaps the contributions to blues/rock from our drop-outs make up for it.

    Maybe I’ll have to take it up as night gig and change that. (My parents will be so happy, historian and part-time jazz journalist, two of the most lucrative careers going).

    You’ve got to pick up another instrument. Harp is fine for what it is good for, but we gotta get you an axe.

    Nita Strauss.

    • #27
  28. Jim Beck Member
    Jim Beck
    @JimBeck

    Evening Kirkian,

    I have often thought that the music I like is being made by musicians who are having fun with the music and with each other,  Someone said that Benny Goodman told some of his colleagues to play as if they were singing into their instrument.  I do not have a deep understanding of music, of any kind so I may be off about this.  What is necessary for a collection of musicians to join voices to make some of this super music? I like “Unsquare dance” but I can’t keep with different times.

    Evening Gary, 

    To mix several threads current and past, to tell a joke. She @she  recently posted about Oliver Crowell, and you posted on Lord Nuffield, who was nursed by my wife’s friend, Sue Green, at “The Nuffield”.  Well on a English show called “My Word” it came up that there was a joke highlighting the unhorsing of the upper class.  Is was said that, “Lord Nuffield was at the club and asked the porter to bring him his hat.  When the porter arrived Lord Nuffield asked the man if he was sure that this was his hat, the porter replied, that he was not sure if it was the Lord’s hat, but it was the one he came in with.”  Told by Dennis Norden. 

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  29. KirkianWanderer Coolidge
    KirkianWanderer
    @KirkianWanderer

    Jim Beck (View Comment):

    Evening Kirkian,

    I have often thought that the music I like is being made by musicians who are having fun with the music and with each other, Someone said that Benny Goodman told some of his colleagues to play as if they were singing into their instrument. I do not have a deep understanding of music, of any kind so I may be off about this. What is necessary for a collection of musicians to join voices to make some of this super music? I like “Unsquare dance” but I can’t keep with different times.

    It’s certainly more comforting, and fun, to think that the music we enjoy is being made by people who are enjoying their jobs, and each other, in turn. (A little ironic to mention Goodman in that vein, as he could apparently be something of a terror, although he was very admirable on racial integration and civil rights).

    This is probably an intellectual cop-out, but I’m not sure that “what is necessary for a collection of musicians to join voices to make some super music” is an entirely understandable thing. On the face of it, Desmond and Brubeck shouldn’t have gotten along, especially after that what Desmond did to him in ’49, but they worked so well together musically that they also learned how to work together, and love each other, as people, to the extent that Desmond was basically a part of the Brubeck family. There’s also been a lot of very good stuff produced by guys that are on the verge of strangling each other, though. The mystery of why or what is needed to make great music happen is part of the magic. 

     

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  30. Jim Beck Member
    Jim Beck
    @JimBeck

    Afternoon Kirkian,

    I forgot that Goodman could give that look that Jess Stacy called “the ray”.  The part that seems to be the most destructive to me is when the musicians narrow their audience to each other, or when they think their wider audience is a bunch of idiots, ie, Artie Shaw complaining that “all they want to do is ‘jeeter bug’”.  As an idiot, I prefer that they not turn their back on me either literally  or metaphorically, but then I am so unhip that when someone says Dylan……

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