Thankfully, the presidential election is over. And thankfully, someone else will be the President of the United States as of January 20, 2009. I have no quarrel with the character or intellect of John McCain, though I have been questioning the latter via his interesting choice of Sarah Pallin as Vice President. President Elect Barack Obama deserves our respect and support. Yes, he may be a bit short on the experience side–which is why his choice of Joe Biden as VP was such a good one–but above all, Obama is, quite simply, an inspiring presence on a scene that really needs some inspiration.
But let’s get our priorities in place. Sure, the economy is in shambles as is just about every other area of our society, and sure, we’re at war. But we all know what the most important issue is here at the site: Jazz.
With that in mind, our crack team of investigative reporters has discovered the President Elect’s history with jazz and his true feelings about it.
According to a February 8, 2007 profile in the Honolulu Star Bulletin newspaper by B.J. Reyes, which covered Obama’s time spent at a Honolulu prep school, “Barry” Obama started listening to jazz in earnest while he was in junior high school. “Barry was into things that other kids our age weren’t into,” said a one-time Obama school mate Dean Ando. “I remember when we went into a record store just to browse. He went through the entire jazz section while we were there. That affects me to this day. He’s the one who introduced me to jazz. When everyone else was into rock, Obama was into jazz.”
In terms of his favorites, those in the know claim that Obama is a big fan of Miles and Coltrane. And Herbie Hancock made an appearance in one of Obama’s television commercials. No word yet about the President Elect’s feelings about Eddie Shu.
There’s a new book out on Sammy Davis, Jr., entitled “Deconstructing Sammy,” written by a newspaper and magazine investigative reporter named Matt Birkbeck. My recommendation? Pass it by.
Whatever your feelings about Davis, there is no denying that he was among the most versatile and energetic of performers. No one has come along before or since who had the range of talents he had, which included singing, dancing, comedy and some swinging instincts as a multi-instrumentalist on drums, vibes and trumpet. His knowledge of jazz was encyclopedic, and in terms of breaking down racial barriers in the entertainment industry, Davis was a maverick. . Until he sadly became a caricature of himself in later years, he was something to see, and I was fortunate to have seen him many times. I spent some time with him at Atlantic City’s Golden Nugget Hotel and Casino shortly after he had hip replacement surgery in 1985. I was struck by the fact that he didn’t seem to be a happy fellow until he hit the stage. Remembering that he was responsible for engineering only one of two filmed appearances (that we know of) of Gene Krupa and Buddy Rich together (available on “Buddy Rich Jazz Legend” and “Gene Krupa: The Champ” on this site), and recalling that drumming was once a part of his stage act, I asked if he was still playing. “I put the drums Buddy gave me in storage,” he said. “The more I listened to Buddy the more I realized I could just never, ever be that good. No one could. So I gave them up.”
Unfortunately, Sammy Davis is best known today, if he is known at all, for things other than his music. And that’s what this book is about. It focuses on his alleged mob ties, admittedly legendary tangles with the Internal Revenue Service, the suffering and illness of his widow, and other juicy tidbits that have nothing whatsoever to do with why Sammy Davis, Jr. was famous during his lifetime. And presumably, it was Davis’ fame as an entertainer that made the publication of this book possible, but author Birkbeck all but ignores his talents, capabilities and contributions as an artist. “Deconstructing Sammy” has my vote for the most depressing book of the year. It’s like watching an autopsy. If that’s your taste…solid. Go out and buy one of Sam’s records or DVDs instead.
The 100th birthday of the man who made the drums a solo instrument, Gene Krupa, will be upon us on January 15, 1909. Modern Drummer magazine plans a tribute of sorts, and in the newest issue of Down Beat magazine, one of my favorite human beings, John McDonough, has a good piece on Gene and several other drumming legends, including Sid Catlett, etc. McDonough, of course, continues to refuse to acknowledge the existence of the Krupa or “Legends of Jazz Drumming” DVDs, but that’s not going to change. There is serious talk of a few major, major events that will celebrate Gene’s 100th, so watch this space. Carefully.
We often get emails about the availability of Krupa big band charts. There are several sources out there, but one of the very good ones is EJazzlines.com, who also offer just about every commercially -issued DVD and CD in the universe. Charts include “Disc Jockey Jump,” “Boogie Blues,” “Opus One,” “Leave Us Leap” and several others. On some of the Krupa charts I’ve obtained through the years, the orchestrations were about 89 percent faithful to the originals. There were some wholesale changes made here and there, for reasons that I still cannot figure. I hope the ones out there today are a bit closer to the originals. The only way to ensure complete accuracy is to go to the expense of having someone transcribe the charts right off the record.
Our good colleagues at www.DrumChannel.com are now in the Beta testing phase of what is certain to be an incredible, 24-hour internet drum channel. Even at this early testing stage, DrumChannel is incredible. Log on and join up to read incisive bios, get lessons, trade information, view vintage footage (check out the promos of the legendary Buddy Rich show from the Statler Hilton hotel) and much more.
We continue to do our bit for the economy by offering everything we’ve got for $10 per. But again, we do ask that you please seriously consider buying more than one item at a time so that we can continue to provide free shipping all over the world. Until then, keep swingin’