You say “Paloma,” I say “Pomona”
To the Editor:
I’m among many to be saddened to hear that Chet Jaeger is no longer with us. What an amazing guy.
Your February “Final Chorus” note does, however, have one little typo: “ … he started college at Paloma [?] before leaving school to serve in the war.” Chet started college at Pomona College in Claremont, where his father headed up the math department, before enlisting, and then returned and graduated from Pomona in 1946.
My late parents lived in Claremont for many years, where my father was the Dean of Financial Aid and Placement at Pomona College. They loved Claremont, a city that owed a lot to the Jaegers. And Chet was among many famous Pomona College grads, a group that includes Kris Kristofferson, Richard Chamberlain, Roy Disney, and Sen. Alan Cranston, among others. Dad used to brag from time to time about all of the great people who’d gone to Pomona.
By the way, it’s always encouraging in a way to read your “Final Chorus” notes, as in so many instances music seems to promote a long and happy life. Being an amateur musician myself, I hope that’s true. Though I am concerned that at the Pearly Gates, St. Peter will take one look at my plectrum banjo and say, “You’re okay, but that banjo is headed downstairs!”
Thank you for your correction. And regarding the instrumentation of the afterlife, I suspect that both places have harps but only the better accommodations have tuning keys. – Ed.
Kudos for February 2022!
To the Editor:
Okay, sign me up for another year. The latest paper was especially good, particularly the article on J.C. Heard. I mourn you and many others in mourning Chet Jaeger. He was a regular at Sun Valley (where I’m one of the few left who’s been part of every years doings).
One year, Chet’s bass player, George Olson, got in a car wreck on the way up, and bumped his head. Chet was concerned about his endurance and I had a very easy schedule that year, so I just followed them around, and about two-thirds of the way through each set I would go up and play a couple of tunes of George’s bass so he could rest. Then he’d come back and finish the set. All that playing with Chet’s band was one of the great times of my life.
George’s bass was one of those plastic jobs with about two feet of endpeg. One time the setting of the endpeg came loose and the whole instrument started sliding down the peg to the floor. The tune was something in about four flats, so I couldn’t do much with open strings—I just kept on bending further over to keep with the bass. When the tune ended I must have looked pretty silly. After that year, Chet would always have me sit in for a little bit, at least once every year. Great fun!
One year Chet and Bob Draga collaborated in putting together a usual Grand Finale—which merely meant that everybody got to play a little bit. Mostly it was three guys playing a half-chorus together. So Bob got on the mike and announced that because of his work in organizing the carry-on, Chet would get one whole chorus by himself.
The tune was “Muskrat Ramble” and the solos were in A flat. When Chet’s solo came up, Bob gave the rhythm section a cue and they went to the key of A. Chet scowled over his shoulder and then played a splendid chorus in A flat—and to hell with the rhythm section.
Like Jeff Barnhart I started out with a so-called fake book. They were illegal then, and getting one out here in Idaho was not easy. But I got one just like his first one. (I recognize the printing style.) It was as he said—wrong chords and all.
Articles like the one on Dolly Adams and the one on Russell Moore are particularly priceless, and there needs to be more written on the degree to which the big band rhythm section came out of Kansas City.
The page on Billie Holiday didn’t really offer anything new, but that’s okay; she should be admired regularly. She could sing the Herkimer phone book in a monotone and still make me cry. She is the exception that proves the rule—my own rule: the Great American Songbook and Jazz should be treated as two different art forms. The Great American Songbook of the ’twenties through the first half of the ’fifties is about as close as we have come to having a body of lieder comparable to that of nineteenth-century Germany.
I realize this is a bit of a stretch, but the point is valid. You don’t hear Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau rewriting Schubert songs. So why must we have some singer rewriting Porter or Gershwin? Those guys and Kern and Rodgers & Hart, and Berlin and Schwartz and Arlen are far greater musicians than the singer. If you can’t deal with the song, don’t sing it! Repeat: Billie Holiday is the exception.
Michael Steinman’s “Who Killed History?” was just fine!
Well, off the soapbox!
John R. March
Thank you for your renewal! I am most grateful for your kind praise. Concerning the abilities of vocalists (and what songs are fair game for “jazz”), I will differ with you here before the hate mail starts pouring in. The best jazz singers really know their stuff and can improvise like the horns. I know Rodgers loathed people jazzing his compositions, but most of the others you name were fine as long as someone sent them a check. Once a song is let loose into the world, the composer has no control over how it is performed—which is as nature intended. Some singers interpret those songs brilliantly and engagingly; others perhaps not so much. – Ed.