Jazz Jottings February 2022

Carol and Jeff Loehr aren’t sure what number to assign to the 2022 Sun Valley Jazz & Music Festival, scheduled to return to the Sawtooth Mountains of Southern Idaho October 12-16. “The last live festival was #30 and took place in 2019,” the co-directors said. “That was three years ago, so does that make this year’s event number #33? But the 2020 and 2021 festivals were cancelled due to the pandemic, so the next one in sequence should be #31.”

The Loehrs have not been totally idle over the past year. When the Blaine County health officials shut down large gatherings in Sun Valley, they decided to invite their major sponsors to a jazz party-like get-together at their home in Battleground, Washington (just across the Columbia River from Portland, Oregon). Some 50 sponsors from as far away as Cincinnati were entertained by 13 musicians and a quartet, and a good time was had by all.

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The Loehrs say all systems are GO at the moment and that they remain optimistic the 2022 Festival will take place in picturesque Sun Valley, concluding, “We do it because it is what we love to do.”

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When bassist Nicki Parrott came to the United States from her native Australia in 1994, the plan was to stay for six months. Those six months have since stretched into 28 years during which time she has become a highly sought-after rhythm section player, vocalist, songwriter, and recording artist who travels the globe performing at the leading jazz venues and festivals. Come May, Nicki and her husband, record producer Brian Wittman are planning to leave their home in Connecticut and move to the Land Down-Under, leaving a large void in the US jazz scene.

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The Evan Christopher family has left New Orleans to live in New York City. . . actually Brooklyn. Daughter Ilena has accepted an invitation to attend the Kaufman Music Center’s Special Music School in Manhattan. As Evan put it, “Clarinet Road has moved from the city where Jazz was born to the city where Jazz actually became Jazz.”

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Two musicians who are dealing with serious health issues are getting financial assistance as the result of fundraising appeals. Pianist Brian Holland initiated a GoFundMe campaign for multi-instrumentalist Clint Baker, who had a heart attack and underwent successful quintuple bypass surgery. Some 226 donors contributed $30,773 to ease Clint’s financial burden.

Clarinet-sax super star Ken Peplowski is undergoing multiple myeloma treatments which come with a hefty price tag. Donations should be directly to Ken at 34 Hillside Ave., Apt. 4AA, New York NY 10040.

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People wrote so many beautiful words about the late Maestro Barry Harris. Bassist Chuck Israel added his thoughts, saying: “Musicians and lovers of music have lost a dear, generous friend. I don’t know anyone else who’s given so much on such a personal level to so many.

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“Jazz schools are restricted by their structure to teaching mostly the mechanics of music— certainly essential components to achieving mastery. Those of us who had the opportunity to learn the music in apprenticeship circumstances when jazz schools were unavailable, often learned more efficiently and in better proportion—a better hierarchy of what’s important, despite (or perhaps because of) the absence of formal jazz education.

“In his classes, Barry gave time and attention to teaching vocabulary and efficiency while exhibiting almost endless patience and personal commitment unavailable in most school situations. For years, he’s been the antidote to the misaligned values of the jazz school system—a misalignment that’s not necessarily intended, but that’s a built-in result of the way schools are organized. We need to remember him for what he did and for what he valued. Time spent with Barry was a lesson in music, inclusivity, acceptance and understanding.”

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Allan Vaché has been a professional musician for over four decades, but realizes that the time has come to pass the mantle to younger musicians. In a Facebook posting, he reflected: “I’ve been a professional Jazz clarinetist for 46 years. I started on the instrument at the age of nine and, although in junior high and high school I played more saxophone, the clarinet was always my first love, and that was the instrument I majored on in college.

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“I did various gigs in New Jersey, including a Broadway show in 1974-75, but in late 1975, Jim Cullum called and offered me a job with his band in San Antonio, Texas. I moved there and stayed with his band for nearly 18 years. When I left the band, I moved back to New Jersey for a year until Harold Johnson, leader of the Rosie O’Grady’s Goodtime Jazz Band, called and offered me the job with his band. I moved to Orlando and have been here ever since.

“In the ’90s and early 2000s, I did a great deal of traveling to jazz festivals in the states and Europe, including two tours of Russia. The point of all of this is as I approach my 68th birthday, I have begun to realize that opportunities for playing have become less and less for me as a clarinetist. Once you start to reach a certain age, you have to be willing to move aside and let the younger players take over.

“Gigs for musicians in general almost disappeared during the pandemic, but as things start to open back up, I find that the younger players are getting the gigs. I’m not complaining. That’s the way it has always been, and I understand. I was a younger player once myself, and I’m so grateful for the opportunities I had and all the amazing musicians I had a chance to play with throughout my career. The most important thing has always been to keep the music alive, and the younger players will do that.

“So as my career winds down, I urge everyone who is a jazz fan to encourage the younger players to keep things going. Jazz has always been esoteric music and not always popular with the masses, so it needs your support. In the meantime, I plan on keep playing a gig or two. I still have a few notes left in me.”

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The New York City Council recently voted to give special names to sections of almost 200 city streets to recognize aspects of the city’s cultural history. While the term has been around for over 100 years, perhaps the most familiar name on the list is Tin Pan Alley, the publishing center for the musical world from the late 1800s through the 1920s.

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As American cities grew in size, grandeur and wealth, the transformation of music into a wholly American art form took place with the music of the Civil War era and ragtime. These developments required a unified industry for music publication and promotion. This industry developed in an area that became known as Tin Pan Alley, located on 28th Street between 5th Avenue and Broadway.

The publishing industry focused on popular music selections and newfound marketing to reach a larger audience of music connoisseurs. Many expanded to church music, instructional materials, and classical items for home and school. Broadway shows from Jerome Kern and Victor Herbert took precedence, along with the works of such composers as George Gershwin, Irving Berlin, and Cole Porter, followed by movie songs of the 1930s.

Music publishers hired pianists to perform new music, and the dissonance created a sound resembling hundreds of people pounding on tin pans. It was where songwriters banged away on cheap pianos to promote their latest compositions.

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Creating and producing new tunes has come a long way since the days of Tin Pan Alley, thanks to modern technology. A music video titled “Red Velvet Glove” is the collaborative work of three people living thousands of miles apart. Sally London, a songwriter, vocalist and multi-instrumentalist, lives in Sydney, Australia, Joel Russell is a Nashville-based songwriter known for his standout voice, engaging live performance, and thoughtful writing style. Adrian Cunningham, another Aussie now living in New York City, organized the band, offered a few thoughts regarding the arrangement, and supervised the recording in Manhattan.

Sally London is also a jazz writer who hosts a weekly jazz show. Music Industry News Network commented on one of her performances, stating “Sally’s brazen, often playful, funny sensuality is like a splash of ice water underneath a desert sun. Her voice, sliding between a sex-kitten purr and a soulful croon, is what microphones were made for.”

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According to author Ted Giola, “New rules for musicians in China include…a ban on lip-syncs? If this is true, 90% of major US pop music acts will no longer be able to perform in China.”

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“Try to be a good person while having a good time doing it.” – Les Paul

Lew Shaw started writing about music as the publicist for the famous Berkshire Music Barn in the 1960s. He joined the West Coast Rag almost thirty years ago and has been a guiding light to this paper through the two name changes since then as we became The Syncopated Times.  47 of his profiles are collected in Jazz Beat: Notes on Classic Jazz. Volume two, containing profiles from 2013-2016 will be available on Amazon soon. He taps his extensive network of connections and friends throughout the traditional jazz world to bring us his Jazz Jottings column every month.

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