Jazz Festival season is well underway and it doesn’t get any easier to fill a concert hall with real jazz acts. Of course that begs the question as to what constitutes jazz. The parameters have changed drastically and the word jazz has been embraced by everything from airlines to deodorants. But for the sake of this discussion let’s use the term classic jazz which will range from Buddy Bolden and King Oliver to Miles Davis and John Coltrane. And if you question such diversity of styles, bear in mind that this year’s JUNO for best traditional jazz went to John MacLeod’s Rex Hotel Orchestra.

But classic jazz and major concert halls?

Yes, you can successfully present the Dave Brubeck Quartet, Wynton Marsalis and the Lincoln Centre Orchestra and All-Star packages like Return To Forever, but more and more festivals have to turn to performers with only a passing acquaintance with jazz. This year, Tom Jones headlined at the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival and one of the headliners at the Vienna Jazz festival is – wait for it – Liza Minnelli! With all due respect, she has as much to do with jazz as I do with ballet dancing.

I remember a disastrous attempt in 1991 by Kiri Te Kanawa to make a jazz album with Andre Previn on piano, Mundell Lowe on guitar and Ray Brown on bass. It’s just not that simple. You can’t just decide to be a jazz performer overnight.

In Toronto, one of the major attractions is Jessye Norman and I’m sure she will be more successful than Kiri Te Kanawa, but it is still something of an anomaly to find her topping the bill at a jazz festival.

But it will sell tickets.

There was the occasion when Louis Armstrong and Lotte Lenya were recording “Mack The Knife.” Between takes tape was running. I have a copy on cassette of Armstrong trying to help Ms. Lenya syncopate the phrase, “Mack The Knife,” and try as she might, she just could not get it right. The jazz interpretation of those three little words which came so naturally to Louis Armstrong, one of the great jazz singers, was completely foreign to Lotte.

p22_option_yehudi_menuhin_and_stephane_grappelliMore successful were the collaborations between Stephane Grappelli and Yehudi Menuhin, but there is little doubt as to which of them is the jazzer.

More and more, the real jazz content of festivals is to be found in smaller venues. Maybe that’s how it should be and has to be. The intimacy of a smaller venue lends itself to the spirit of the music and when jazz moved into large concert halls it lost something. I am not trying to take away from the success of presenting jazz in a more formal setting. The Modern Jazz Quartet, among the first to meet with acclaim in making their music successful in the concert hall environment, made some wonderful music, but hearing Milt Jackson in a club setting was a far more satisfying jazz experience than listening to him within the confines of the M.J.Q.

Which takes me back to the observation that bigger is not necessarily better when it comes to enjoying jazz. In fact, largely because he liked a freer flowing style of playing, Jackson left in 1974, causing the group to disband, although they re-formed in 1981.

It’s that time of year when I often find myself in Europe. Not that I’ve been lost or missing, you understand. As I write this I am in Vienna enjoying one of the few remaining jazz clubs that operates on a six nights a week policy. Jazzland is the name of this friendly cellar club and next year it will celebrate 40 years of presenting jazz. It is unpretentious, but has a history going back 500 years when it was an escape route in times of siege. The walls are lined with photographs of famous jazz musicians who have played in the club.

Long time readers of the column might remember earlier references to this jazz oasis, but it bears repeating that Axel and Tilly Melhardt, owners of the club, must be the best in their field.

By the time you read this, my 13 weeks of being on Jazz.FM91, Sundays from 4pm to 5pm will have begun. I hope you will give it a whirl and those of you who know me won’t be surprised to hear that each week I will feature a recording which demonstrates humour in jazz, such as Lester Young singing “It Takes Two To Tango,” and Bill Harris and Ben Webster asking for “Just One More Chance.”

Happy listening.

Jim Galloway is a saxophonist, band leader and former artistic director of Toronto Downtown Jazz. He can be contacted at jazznotes@thewholenote.com.

“Musick has Charms to soothe a savage Breast,” was coined by William Congreve, in The Mourning Bride, 1697. Some music, yes. But the other day I was in a large store owned by a grocery chain. And there it was, seeping unbidden and unwanted into my sensitive ears – perhaps too sensitive for this day and age – disagreeable and intrusive “music” flooding the store through tinny, ceiling-mounted speakers, just loud enough to disturb and certainly loud enough to annoy me.

People listen to music for a variety of reasons. It can help you to relax. It can make you happy. It can give solace. It can trigger memories. But nowadays it is everywhere – all the time – and somehow it has lost value and too often is a form of noise pollution.

I will walk out of a restaurant or bar if there is a pounding, repetitive noise coming through the sound system, forcing everybody to raise their voices just to be heard across a small table. And, it seems to me, almost nobody is actually listening to it; the noise seems to act like some sort of security blanket. Heaven forbid that they would have to cope with silence. Familiarity and all that.

26_george_squierIt all began with Muzak which, believe it or not, was created in 1922! It was the brainchild of General George Squier and initially was called Wired Radio. He devised a system to deliver music from phonograph records to subscribers – mainly workplaces – via electrical wires, in the belief that people would be more productive listening to certain types of music. He decided later to change the service’s name to “Muzak.” Influenced by the system, the BBC began to broadcast music in factories during World War II in order to encourage workers.

So who was this General Squier?

He was an officer in the U.S. Signal Corps and was Chief Signal Officer during World War I. He had a distinguished career, died in 1934 and in 1943 was honoured by having a U.S. troopship named after him.

Don’t get me wrong. The concept, and value, of music in the work place goes back a long way. The human voice was an instrument which everybody possessed. People could sing either individually or in groups. When in groups, singing was always a collective act. The rhythm of songs was key to work, coordinating workers’ muscles for the repetitive tasks of the day. Songs commented on the work process, everyday life or religious themes, thereby establishing a shared bond between co-workers even in the most difficult of situations. Songs sung together at the workplace, at home, and in worship established solid bonds – work songs and sea shanties come immediately to mind – by providing shared experiences. Music was both a communal activity and, in memorializing events, it was a form of history writing. And it was performed live.

Until recorded music, no two performances were exactly the same, just as today, for example, no two performances of a play are exactly the same.

With the coming of the Industrial Revolution, everything changed and machines became the prevailing producers of sound. General background noises were inescapable. Not only that, singing in the workplace was difficult and sometimes frowned upon by factory management. If you worked for Henry Ford, for example, you were expected to work in silence, although he did organize concerts for his workers several times a year.

Then along came General Squier and music was taken out of the hands, or rather the voices, of the general public. It was replaced by sounds which in too many instances today seem to me to be leading the charge in the dumbing-down process in evidence all around us, in a society which is afraid of having to deal with even a few minutes of silence.

Muzak’s claims were questioned in some quarters and among those expressing some doubts was Canadian composer R. Murray Schafer who feared that it would lead to a dulling of aesthetic sensitivity. I wonder what he thinks about today’s assaults on our ears.

Perhaps it is time to form the National Organization for the Prevention of Aural Pollution or NOPAP.

Of course, the only antidote to muzak is live music! WholeNote colleague Ori Dagan lists the jazz happening in the clubs; here is some other live jazz taken from our concert listings:

• May 5 at 7:30: Jazz.FM91. Jazz Lives 2011. Local and international artists including Al Jarreau, vocals; Karrin Allyson, vocals and piano; Randy Brecker, trumpet and flugelhorn; Joey DeFrancesco,  jazz organ, and others. Convocation Hall.

• May 14 at 8:00: Emilie-Claire Barlow. In Concert. Jazz vocalist covers songs from the 1960s. Queen Elizabeth Theatre.

• May 14 at 8:00: MCC Toronto. Leading Ladies: Jackie Richardson. Jazz, blues and R&B vocalist performs with David Warrack, piano.       Metropolitan Community Church.

• May 31 at 8:00: Gallery 345. Mark Kieswetter & Ross MacIntyre CD Release. Piano-bass duo release jazz recording “Green Edge Sky, Green Edge Sun.”

• June 5 at 8:00: Jazz Performance Education Centre. Seamus Blake Quartet. Featuring New York-based tenor saxophonist and                                composer Seamus Blake, joined by trio of Toronto-based musicians. Glenn Gould Studio.

Giving Me the Air

I hope you will forgive me for taking this opportunity for a little self-promotion, but starting June 5, for 13 Sundays, I will be on Jazz.FM at 91.1 from 4pm to 5pm with a programme called “Journeys In Jazz with Jim Galloway,” playing music from my own collection. Much of the music will be played by musicians I know or knew personally on and off the bandstand and I’ll have some little anecdotes about some of them.

Please give it a listen. It won’t be boring and you’ll hear some music that you might not have heard before, played by some of the great but sometimes under-appreciated talents who helped to shape jazz. Oh, and yes, it will be melodic and it will swing.

Happy listening to music that you choose to hear.

Jim Galloway is a saxophonist, band leader and former artistic director of Toronto Downtown Jazz. He can be contacted at jazznotes@thewholenote.com.

How many of you are aware that in August 2003 the U.S. Congress passed Public Law 108-72 declaring April “Jazz Appreciation Month” – a time when musicians, schools, colleges, libraries, concert halls, museums, radio and television stations, and other organizations should develop programs to explore, perpetuate and honour jazz as a national and world treasure? I can understand that the initiative for such a celebration would have originated in the States, but I can find no acknowledgement of it in Toronto jazz circles, or, for that matter, anywhere else in Canada. A pity, because it would seem to be an opportunity to get some media recognition for the music, and Lord knows, it could use it.

Perhaps we have an opportunity for Stephen Harper to do something which would cement even more strongly his ties with our neighbours to the South! He surely was exposed to jazz when he was growing up. After all, his father, Joe Harper, was a keen collector of jazz records and was a member of the Duke Ellington Society right here in Toronto.

To mark the occasion this year, on March 26, 2011, in New Orleans, Louisiana, the Postal Service issued a Jazz commemorative stamp. In addition, The Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History will mark the tenth annual Jazz Appreciation Month in April with a month-long celebration of jazz. The main focus this year will be on the legacies of women in jazz and there will be a special ceremony related to the nation’s first integrated, female big band, the International Sweethearts of Rhythm, founded in 1937 at the Piney Woods School, in Mississippi. Another group which originated at the Piney Woods School in the same year was the Cotton Blossom Singers which later changed its name to the Five Blind Boys of Mississippi.

28aThe Piney Woods School was born in 1909, in a desperately poor section of Mississippi. The first school building was an abandoned sheep shed that had been cleaned up, repaired and whitewashed. The original International Sweethearts of Rhythm band members were students, 14 years and older, who paid for their education by performing as a jazz band to help promote and sustain the financially struggling school. The Sweethearts eventually travelled nationwide in a customized tour bus built by the school, named Big Bertha, performing at churches, state fairs, dance and civic halls and later at name entertainment venues such as the Apollo Theatre.

Some of their work was in the Deep South and they could never be sure of finding lodgings. Also, being a multi-racial group they did not want to run afoul of the “Jim Crow” laws, so the Sweethearts had their bus equipped with eating and sleeping facilities. One can only imagine the difficulties they must have had to overcome at that period in American history as a group of women of mixed race. And integrated they were – over the years the band members included a Chinese saxophonist, a Mexican clarinet player, an Indian saxophonist and a Hawaiian trumpet player. The first white musicians joined in 1943 and when they were in Jim Crow territory they had to paint their faces dark so the police wouldn’t come and take them off the bandstand or arrest them.

They were probably the best female aggregation of the Big Band era but personnel changes eventually led to the breakup of the band in 1949. Without doubt their dedication and the pluckiness of its members earned the International Sweethearts of Rhythm a very special place in the story of jazz. On a personal note, I can recall a Saturday afternoon in the 80s when I had my weekly live jazz radio show “Toronto Alive!” on CKFM (now better known as MixFM) and two attractive elderly ladies introduced themselves. They had actually been members of the International Sweethearts of Rhythm, an achievement of which they were justly proud.

But back to JAM (Jazz Appreciation Month). In my research I discovered that in the month of April there are 20 jazz festivals in the United States and seven more in Estonia, England, Ireland, Finland, Germany, Northern Ireland and Saint Lucia. Too late for this year, but I hope that in 2012, Canada, and specifically Toronto, can do something in April to celebrate and increase awareness of jazz.

I mean, we celebrate National Donut Month – so why not jazz?

In the meantime here are a few suggestions that you, as an individual, might consider for the month:

• Read a good book on jazz.

• Listen to a jazz CD that is new to you.

• Explore the music of a musician who is new to you.

• Go out and hear some live jazz.

• And, most important of all, when JAM is over keep doing all of the above!

On The Menu In Toronto

HERE ARE A FEW of the events in Toronto that are worth a mention:

29aOn Apr 14 at 7:30: Canadian vocal treasure, Jackie Richardson, will be at Trinity-St. Paul’s Centre, 427 Bloor St. W. along with Trinity-St.Paul’s United Church Choir presenting “Homecookin’ with Jackie Richardson.” Proceeds will go to the Canadian Association for Spiritual Care. For ticket information call 416-340-4055.

29_darrensigesmund_hires_photo_28_3_8bitsFor those of you who like your music contemporary and original, Galaxy Rising Star award-winner, Darren Sigesmund and the Strands II Septet will be at the Al Green Theatre in the Miles Nadal JCC, 750 Spadina Ave. on April 27 at 8:00pm. The band will feature a couple of interesting out-of-towners: one is violinist Mark Feldman who has played with such jazz notables as John Zorn, Dave Douglas, Lee Konitz and Chris Potter, and the other is Gary Versace, piano and accordion, who has been featured in the bands of Maria Schneider, John Scofield and Ingrid Jensen. For tickets phone: 416-924-6211 ext 0.

“Tommy Ambrose & Friends” will be at Lula Lounge on May 1. Tommy’s friends include pianist Norman Amadio, bassist Rosemary Galloway, saxophonist Pat LaBarbera, drummer Don Vickery and John MacLeod on flugelhorn. The evening is the brainchild of Ron Manfield who runs MPC Music, a small indie label. As Ron says, an evening like this is “nourishment for the soul.” The music kicks off at 7pm and for tickets you should call MPC Music at 416-788-2699.

In closing, April provided the names of some pretty good songs. Here are some of them: April In Paris, April In Portugal, April Showers, I’ll Remember April and April In My Heart.

Happy listening and don’t forget that list of things to do.

Jim Galloway is a saxophonist, band leader and former artistic director of Toronto Downtown Jazz. He can be contacted at jazznotes@thewholenote.com.

For more on the month in Jazz, see In the Clubs.

26_victor_recordsOn March 7 1917, two sides “The Dixie Jass Band One Step,” and “Livery Stable Blues” by Nick LaRocca’s Original Dixieland Jass Band were released. It was the first jazz recording issued for sale in the U.S. That honour might well have gone to a group called The Original Creole Orchestra, the first New Orleans Jazz band to tour outside of the South, but in 1915 trumpeter Freddie Keppard turned down an offer from the Victor Talking Machine Company. The story goes that he didn’t want other musicians to be able to steal his music by listening to records.

Another version claims that the Victor Company wanted the band to make a test recording without pay. Yet another story is that Keppard was offered $25.00 to make a recording – much less than he was making on the vaudeville circuit at that time, although pretty well the going rate for a recording. He refused saying, “I drink that much in gin every day!”

But what was the earliest Canadian jazz recording?

Well, there isn’t much information available about the early Canadian bands or, for that matter, musicians. But in the mid 20s a piano player called Gilbert Watson formed a band which included an American trumpet player called Curtis Little. In 1925 they recorded a couple of numbers in Montreal for Starr Records, probably the first records by a Canadian band.

In these days when a little piece of electronic wizardry no bigger than a square of chocolate can store upwards of 2,000 tunes as MP3s, it is fascinating to look back in time to the early days of phonograph recordings. Before discs, recordings were made on cylinders, a process invented by Edison in 1877. By the early 1900s cylinders were selling by the millions. Then the gramophone disc took over the market. It also had been around since the late 1800s, invented by a German-born American called Emile Berliner. He founded the Berliner Gramophone Company in 1895, and in 1899 the Berliner Gramophone Company of Canada in Montreal. The original discs were only five inches in diameter and intended for toy phonographs.( He also created Deutsche Grammophon in 1898.)

I remember “Wild” Bill Davison, one of the hottest jazz cornet players in the history of the music (and who was already playing in the 1920s telling me about his memories of the early days of discs when it was an acoustic process, before the days of electric recording.

A large metal horn protruded from one wall in the studio. On the other side of the wall was the recording equipment consisting of a needle, connected to the narrow end of the horn, which vibrated to the music and cut grooves in the form of wavy lines into a revolving slab of wax thus creating the sound track. It was, in fact, direct to disc recording. (An interesting aside: in 1977 Rob McConnell and the Boss Brass recorded a limited edition 2-LP set, direct to disc, but they didn’t use wax slabs!).

“Wild” Bill then went on to explain that if the band had to stop for whatever reason during the take, a ring of gas burners would be lowered to the wax in order to melt the surface making it smooth again. You could have a maximum of three attempts before the wax had to be replaced. An added complication was that the band could not set up as it normally would on stage because the louder the instrument, the farther it had to be from the horn in the wall!

A typical example of the difficulties that had to be overcome was described by American writer Rudi Blesh, writing about a recording session with the King Oliver band in the early 20s. The band had two cornet players, Oliver and the young Louis Armstrong and when the band set up around the horn in the wall, Oliver and Armstrong drowned out the rest of the band and had to back off while clarinet player Johnny Dodds had to play right into the horn. Drummer Baby Dodds couldn’t use his bass drum at all, and had to limit himself to a greatly reduced kit.

But that wasn’t the end of it; on the next try they could hear Louis Armstrong, but not King Oliver, so Louis had to move back even more before they could achieve some semblance of balance! Far from ideal conditions you might say.

But let’s go back to that first recording by The Original Dixieland Jass Band.  Note that they used the word jass. The transformation of the word jass to jazz is shrouded in conjecture and legend. There is correspondence dated April 19, 1917 from Victor addressed to the Original Dixieland Jazz Band and certainly by 1918 the ODJB was using jazz in the band’s name. One of many stories about the change from jass to jazz is that mischief makers would obliterate the letter ‘j’ from posters advertising the music! But there is no real proof as to who first used the word.

On Friday December 10, 2010 a tongue-in cheek letter from the New York copylaw firm of Lloyd J. Jassin was issued. Here is a partial transcript of the letter. “In a ceremony on Friday, which exuded warmth and openness, the the Jazz world and Jassins came together and reconciled a 95-year dispute over the derivation of the term Jazz.” If you would like to read the very witty transcript you can find it in my expanded column on the WholeNote web site.

The letter closes with this quotation from Martin Luther King: “Everyone has the blues. Everyone longs for meaning. Everybody needs to love and be loved.  Everybody needs to clap hands and be happy. Everybody longs for Faith. In music, especially that broad category called Jazz, there is a stepping stone towards all of these.”

A sad note. Last month we lost George Shearing and I miss his sense of humour almost as much as his music. One of my favourite examples was the following; “When people ask me how is it I was a musician, I facetiously say that I’m a firm believer in reincarnation and in a previous life I was Johann Sebastian Bach’s guide dog.”

Happy listening.

Jim Galloway is a saxophonist, band leader and former artistic director of Toronto Downtown Jazz. He can be contacted at jazznotes@thewholenote.com.

Acouple of issues ago I wrote about the less than thriving club scene which is, by the way, not confined to Toronto. For those of you who did not read the article in question it bemoaned the sad state of affairs in the jazz job market and the difficulties of finding enough employment to sustain a career in music.It has never been an easy career choice. It’s tougher now. The article elicited a larger than usual response, favourable, with one exception and mostly from musicians who could empathise with the challenges faced by the musical community.

This is not to suggest that there is no scene at all in town. A fair number of venues do present jazz on a regular basis, albeit sometimes only once a week – a partial list includes Quotes, featuring the Canadian Jazz Quartet on a Friday evening at 5pm, (I’m happy to say that I’ll be playing there on February 11), The Old Mill with its three nights a week policy in the Home Smith Bar, Grossman’s New Orleans inspired sessions on a Saturday afternoon, The Reservoir with its nightly entertainment and, of course, The Rex which rolls on its merry way.

They deserve your support.

Looking at all of the above you might say not a bad little crop. But it’s still a far cry from the days when you had a choice of three or four clubs six nights a week. Today it is the concert events which are just about the only way to hear some of the “big names” in jazz. The Wayne Shorter Quartet with pianist Danilo Perez, bassist John Patitucci, and drummer Brian Blade will be at Massey Hall on Saturday Feb.12; JAZZ.FM91’s Sound of Jazz Concert Series at The Old Mill on February 14 will present a Valentine’s Day special with The Steve Koven Trio, special guests Christopher Plock on reeds and vocals, and singer Lori Cullen; and as part of the same series, on Monday February 28 Brian Browne, who for years was a fixture on the Toronto jazz scene, will team up with Robi Botos to play a tribute to Bill Evans.

A relative newcomer on the scene is the Jazz Performance and Education Centre, created to support and nurture the jazz scene here in Toronto and, whenever possible, across Canada. Created in 2007, it is dedicated to the preservation and continued development of jazz in Canada. A committee of jazz lovers, musicians and business people was assembled to make plans which would enrich Toronto’s jazz scene and complement existing successful local establishments

The driving forces behind the venture are longtime jazz supporters Ray and Rochelle Koskie and the ultimate goal is to create a full time multi purpose facility which would feature performances by top local, national and international jazz talent plus educational programming through which fans of all ages can learn about the music.

The centre would incorporate recording facilities; and a Hall of Fame which would preserve our jazz heritage and tradition. In other words a Canadian version of the Jazz at Lincoln Centre

25_lee_konitz1_Their 2010-2011 concert season began with an evening with Fred Hersch and Norma Winstone and will continue on Friday February 11 with Lee Konitz and the Brian Dickinson Trio. A word about Mr. Konitz. He has been a significant force in jazz for more than sixty years, was heavily influenced by Lennie Tristano, played on the Miles Davis compilation, “Birth of the Cool” and on the Bill Evans “Crosscurrents” album, and has well over a hundred albums as leader. Konitz has become more experimental as his playing evolves and has released a number of avant-garde jazz albums, working with many of today’s younger players. Composer/teacher/pianist Brian Dickinson and his trio (Jim Vivian on bass and Barry Romberg on drums) will be accompanying Konitz and it promises to be a very special occasion.

Looking ahead, on Friday, March 18, JPEC will be presenting the Robert Glasper Experiment, an electric, hip-hop influenced quartet, one of the best of the groups taking jazz in new directions. TASA, a world music ensemble inspired by the traditions of India will share the stage with Hugh Marsh on Friday April 29 and on Sunday June 5, the New York based tenor axophonist/composer Seamus Blake and his Quartet. “Extraordinary, a total saxophonist” is how he was described by John Scofield.

In addition to the above, JPEC is also planning special workshops at the Miles Nadal Jewish Community Centre and will establish the JPEC Jazz Hall of Fame with Phil Nimmons as its first inductee.

Certainly JPEC has lofty ambitions and I wish them well.

To finish off on a light-hearted note, I give you the following:

In 2009 The World Entertainment News Network ran an article about Dustin Hoffman and his unfulfilled life ambition. He claimed that he would give up Hollywood in an instant to be an accomplished piano player! He was quoted as saying, “If God tapped me on the shoulder and offered me an ultimatum – acting or jazz piano – I’d make the decision in a New York minute.”

All I can say is this. Don’t give up your day gig, Dustin.

Meanwhile, happy live listening.

All the club action worth taking in (yes, including a bunch of jazz) is in the Club Listings starting on page 45.


Jim Galloway is a saxophonist, band leader and former artistic director of Toronto Downtown Jazz. He can be contacted at jazznotes@thewholenote.com

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