Jazz Jottings February 2024

Larry Linkin has the unique distinction of having had an extensive and varied career as a performing musician, and who has also made a substantial contribution to the business side of the industry through his 24-year leadership of the National Association of Music Merchants (NAMM), a worldwide organization that represents the interests of music manufacturers, retailers and distributors in over 100 countries in promoting music-making advocacy and music education.

“Link,” as he is widely known, was a clarinet soloist with the University of Iowa Concert Band while in college and for three years was a member of the NORAD international band representing the four branches of military service from the United States and Canada. For 19 years, he traveled the seas as a headliner on Holland-America cruise ships, which took him around the world four times. He has performed at Carnegie Hall and in various Las Vegas venues and received honorary doctoral degrees from the Berklee College of Music and Duquesne University.

Red Wood Coast

He started in the business as a road salesman for brass and woodwind instruments. His first involvement with NAMM was as Director of Planning & Development for the organization’s trade shows. He doubled the exhibit space in just four years. He left NAMM to become president of Slingerland/Deagan, the leading drum manufacturer, and vice president of C.G. Conn, the world-renowned wind instrument company. A man of strong opinions, he readily acknowledges he’s been fired twice when he clashed with management. Proving that turnabout is fair play, he also reveals that he fired Buddy Rich when the legendary drummer was a featured artist for Slingerland.

Rejoins NAMM

He rejoined NAMM as President/CEO in 1980 and retired in 2001. He has devoted time and energy to educating and helping aspiring musicians and has spearheaded funding for research that proved young people who study and perform music do better in math, the sciences and all other areas of learning.

“I’ve played every clarinet on the planet,” he acknowledges, having once owned 28 versions of the instrument. He used five different clarinets when performing “Five Dances for Five Clarinets,” a suite for the clarinet family by Alfred Reed. He lectures frequently on the history of the clarinet and demonstrates different styles and sounds throughout his talk.

Hot Jazz Jubile

Going back to the origin of the instrument, Link informs his audiences that the name “clarinet” comes from “clarino” or “small trumpet.” A Nuremberg instrument maker Johann Christoph Denner is generally credited with inventing the instrument at the start of the 17th century, although a similar instrument – the chalumeau – was already in existence.

He explains that the clarinet family is composed of a number of similar instruments in various sizes such as the piccolo or octave clarinet, alto clarinet, bass clarinet and contrabass clarinet. The instrument produces sound by means of a single reed attached to the mouthpiece. Up until the first half of the 18th century, it only had two keys, but more keys were added to be able to play chromatic scales and cleaner notes.

According to Link, the key to playing classical music is to play the tune correctly and as written by the composer, while jazz allows far more ad libbing and improvisation. The B-flat clarinet is most commonly used in jazz.

Having his audience’s rapt attention, Larry Linkin proceeds to demonstrate why the clarinet enables composers and musicians to express many different feelings and for the audience to feel such a wide range of emotions as he plays Mozart’s Clarinet Concerto or his favorite jazz tune, 12th Street Rag.

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The note I ran in my January column regarding the Cakewalkin’ Jass Band and its leader Ray Heitger has taken on a life of its own, the latest being coverage in the home town newspaper, The Toledo Blade. There aren’t many of those vintage bands from the Dixieland festival era still performing, so those that are need to be recognized.

Evergreen

The bands that played those festivals had some colorful names, like Cats ‘n Jammers, Black Dogs, Professor Plum, Nightblooming Jazzmen, Hot Cotton, Cornet Chop Suey, Uptown Lowdown, Jazzberry Jam, Cell Block 7, Cottonmouth D’Arcy Vipers, K.O. Eckland’s Desolation Jazz Ensemble & Mess Kit Repair Battalion, just to mention a few. Great memories and fun times. Pick your favorite.

Blue Street Jazz Band at a December 1987 Fresno Dixieland Society meeting held at the Hilton Hotel. Founder Forrest Helmick is remembered in our Final Chorus column this month.

The Salty Dogs came out of Purdue University in 1947. Dr. Phil Crumley keeps the memory of his Natural Gas JB alive with articles in TST reminiscing about their 52-year run. Trombonist Stan Vincent is the solo original member of the band still performing with the New Black Eagles JB. Although not quite in the 50-plus year category, Wooden Nickel has recently been resurrected as the Brass Nickel JB.

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Watching Breakfast at Tiffany’s on Turner Classic Movies with Buddy Ebsen in the cast reminded me that occasionally one of the West Coast bands would have a celebrity from the movies or TV in its midst. Ebsen, known for his various television series (Davy Crockett, Beverly Hillbillies and Barnaby Jones) would on rare occasion sit it on banjo with Bob Finch’s Chicago Six.

Nauck

Conrad Janis, who played the role of Mindy McConnell’s father Frederick in 53 episodes of Mork & Mindy, and appeared in many guest-starring roles on notable television shows, was a longtime advocate of traditional jazz. He assembled a band of legendary jazz musicians in 1949 consisting of James P. Johnson (piano), Henry Goodwin (trumpet), Edmond Hall (clarinet), Pops Foster (bass), and Baby Dodds (drums), with himself on trombone. During the late 1970s, he formed the Beverly Hills Unlisted Jazz Band, which appeared multiple times on the Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson and gave eight sold-out performances at Carnegie Hall. One of his sidekicks on banjo was actor George Segal.

Lawrence Welk had Pete Fountain, Henry Cuesta, Bob Havens, Peanuts Hucko and Big Tiny Little on his long-running TV show. Actress Janet Carroll was vocalist for Mike Silverman’s Hot Frogs Jumping JB before starting her own Hollywood Jazz Cats band. Janet was Tom Cruise’s mother in the 1983 film Risky Business and had a recurring role as Doris Dial in the Murphy Brown TV series that featured Candice Bergen.

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Author-critic-music historian Ted Gioia raised an interesting question in his newsletter, The Honest Broker, when he asked “Could other jazz trumpeters match up with Louis Armstrong in the 1930s?” His short answer was “no,” but he named eight whom he felt came close:

Nauck

♫ Cladys “Jabbo” Smith, according to bassist Milt Hinton “was as good as Louis, but eventually moved to Milwaukee where he worked for a car rental company.”

♫ Oran Thadeus “Hot Lips” Page, who helped break down segregation by performing with Artie Shaw.

Elvis

♫ James “Bubber” Miley, a star soloist with the Duke Ellington band.

♫ Henry “Red” Allen, whom critic Whitney Balliett called “a master of sagacious phrases.”

♫ Leon “Bix” Beiderbecke, on cornet, a mystical figure whose life and times became emblematic of the Jazz Age.

♫ Frankie Newton, one of the greatest trumpeters of his day (1920s-early 1940s) and a committed political activist with a short temper.

♫ Roland “Bunny” Berigan, “I Can’t Get Started” enshrined him in the Grammy Hall of Fame.

♫ Roy Eldridge, further expanded the foundation established by Louis Armstrong and set the stage for Dizzy Gillespie, leader of the energizing bop sound.

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Bandleader Dan Gabel, president of the American Big Band Preservation Society, posted this story involving a couple legends from the Big Band era.

Stan to the rescue

One evening in 1956 as Guy Lombardo’s Royal Canadians were about to start an evening’s performance at Vaughn Monroe’s Meadows Restaurant in Framingham, Massachusetts, pianist Fred Kreitzer tripped over a microphone cord and sprained his wrist. The pain was excruciating, and he would not be able to perform with the band.

About five minutes before the Royal Canadians were due to start their first set, Guy Lombardo informed the audience that the band would only be using one piano (Buddy Brennan) that evening. Then he added, jokingly: “Unless someone in the audience would like to sit in with us this evening.”

A man near the front of the room raised his hand and said: “I’d be happy to help out, Guy.” As he walk towards the bandstand, Lombardo instantly recognized his fellow Capitol Records bandmate, pianist and bandleader Stan Kenton, who had dropped in to see his favorite dance band perform live while he was also on a New England tour.

For the rest of the evening, Kenton played that piano as if he’d been a Royal Canadian from the start. On one of the band breaks, he told the audience it was the thrill of a lifetime to perform with Guy Lombardo, who was one of his early inspirations and reasons for wanting to lead a band of his own.

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Here’s a fun exercise to relieve the dreary mid-winter blues, suggested by Cynthia Sayer. For each of the categories listed below, name an actual song title that includes an appropriate example. For instance, a good answer for PLACE would be “Meet in in St. Louis.” Let’s try the other eight categories:

COLOR: “Blue Skies” NUMBER: “Pennsylvania 6-5000,” GIRL’S NAME: “Sweet Sue, Just You,” BOY’S NAME: “Danny Boy,” ANIMAL: “That Doggie in the Window,” OCCUPATION: “Fiddler on the Roof,” DAY OF WEEK: “Juke Box Saturday Night,” and finally, ACTIVITY: “Dancing in the Dark.” Now come up with your list.

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Post-Christmas happenings from Mae West’s 1934 Christmas card:

If Santa fails to reach your house,

Just bear it with a grin.

I wrote and said, “Come up some time,”

And the dear old guy moved in!

Lew Shaw started writing about music as the publicist for the famous Berkshire Music Barn in the 1960s. He joined the West Coast Rag in 1989 and has been a guiding light to this paper through the two name changes since then as we grew to become The Syncopated Times.  47 of his profiles of today's top musicians are collected in Jazz Beat: Notes on Classic Jazz.Volume two, Jazz Beat Encore: More Notes on Classic Jazz contains 43 more! Lew 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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