Letters to the Editor November 2017

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– The last Moldye Figge? –

To the Editor:
I read the letter from Lawrence Cannon (Readers’ Correspondence, October 2017) and realized that he is a grouch, I don’t want him as a neighbor. I love my Syncopated Times, it keeps me informed and upbeat. I love the fact that there are people who love my type of music and want to keep it alive. Thanks for the stories, the ads, the information about Hot Jazz!

David Diestel
Rancho Palos Verdes, CA

To the Editor:
I was saddened to see than our long-time friend Larry Cannon has given up on TST. He is a friend of early jazz, but also one of the last remaining West Coast “moldye figges” so I understand why he does not care for a more inclusive publication. His late father, Maynard Cannon, was a bulwark of early jazz support, whose stated goal was that no jazz society band should ever play “In The Mood” or other swing classics.

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On the other hand, I’ve left the Portland Dixieland Jazz Society board over the issue of the name. That is, I have found in our education efforts that the word “dixieland” is absolute poison to local school band directors. I am not a politically correct person, but when a word in the language has gained negative connotations, nothing can rehabilitate it. When one says “dixieland” to other musicians, be they classical, swing, big band, bebop, or pop, the response is overwhelmingly negative and condescending.

So I think that TST is in the right place, encompassing a variety of jazz styles. This is especially true because music critics persist in categorizing. Some critics lump early jazz bands into the same chapter, for example—King Oliver, Original Dixieland Jazz Band, Eddie Condon’s groups, and the Bob Crosby band—when serious jazz fans know they were very, very different in their approach and musical sophistication. Our hope is that younger players can take something from the past and continue to keep it “alive,” and not just as repertory jazz.
Keep up the good work.

Rick Campbell
Tigard, OR

The thing is that I devote plenty of space to jazz that even the moldiest of figs would endorse. I’ve consistently defended early jazz against the hucksters and dilettantes, and have celebrated those who approach it with the proper spirit. I’m amazed that a curmudgeon like Larry Cannon couldn’t find at least something to enjoy in the paper. I’m on his side, whether he knows it or not.

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But his note did make me laugh, and it was fair game for the letters column. It’s funny that his father had an interdict against “In the Mood,” since its famous riff was first recorded by Wingy Manone as “Tar Paper Stomp” in 1930. Wingy was New Orleans royalty.

People will defend “Dixieland” to the death. Many readers complained vociferously that I took “Dixieland” off the masthead when I relaunched the paper. It’s not a bad word to me, but I understand the connotations. To my ears, Dixie is essentially the same music that was played and recorded by Phil Napoleon with the Original Memphis Five (a white New York band) from 1922 through about 1926, and revived a quarter century later. But I can’t think of Bix, King Oliver, or Red Nichols as Dixie, so-called. Hot Jazz, early jazz, Chicago-style. . .maybe. As you suggest, you can’t judge any of the early jazz groups as a “drive by.” You have to carefully listen to and consider each on its own merits.

Excellent music played by a good band in the real Dixie style can be thrilling to hear. Bad Dixie, not so much. But if the pigeon will not fit into the pigeonhole, I won’t force him in there—even if he insists on using The Syncopated Times for his own purposes. – Ed.

– Coastal Bias? –

To the Editor:
The paper seems to have so much East Coast and Midwest news there is little space for West Coast items except the paid for ads. We are letting our subscription lapse due to a lack of West Coast items.

Jay R. Weed
Camarillo, CA
via Jazz Journalists Association message

Subscribers on each coast seem to think I’m favoring the other. The truth is, I’m covering the whole country. There are plenty of items in Festival Roundup about West Coast events, and many stories about musicians and events across the country.

I have Randi Cee writing in Los Angeles and Harvey Barkan occasionally contributing on local jazz events there. Scott Yanow, who writes reviews and historical articles, lives in California. Lew Shaw is based in Phoenix, Arizona, which is hardly the Midwest.

If you’re a writer (since you’re communicating through the Jazz Journalists’ site), why don’t you suggest a remedy for the supposed bias? I could use a well-written, credible column on the West Coast trad/hot jazz scene. If you can provide that, I’ll comp you on a subscription (at the very least).

Why merely complain and walk away? – Ed.

– Mastering the “Real” Banjo –

To the Editor:

If I typed out an email every time you published a great edition … I’d get carpal tunnel syndrome. But re October:
First, just a few months ago I took up plectrum banjo. It was at the urging of Katie Cavera, and of the bass player in our cabaret band, who’s put up with my banjo ukulele for a few years, and finally said, “why don’t you get one of those ‘real’ jazz banjos?” After a lifetime of playing guitar and ukulele, plectrum tuning is like walking into a room full of people, all of whom look familiar, but all of whom are speaking to me in a language I’ve never heard before. Fortunately, I’m being tutored by one of the greats, Sacramento’s Bill Dendle. His stories are every bit as effective as the technical parts of our lessons together!

With my taking up banjo, I’ve also “discovered” the wonderful Cynthia Sayer. So here comes Lew Shaw’s great lead story about her! Loved it.

Second, as always, I loved Randi’s story for the month. Each of us probably has a friend like “Mel,” but sometimes we’re too blind to see.
Thanks!

Rob Sawyer
Sacramento CA

I empathize. Like many guitarists, I’ve cheated in the banjo department as well, using a banjo uke and a banjo-guitar. My attempt to learn the five-stringer was unsuccessful, and I dabbled at tenor, but the familiar comfort of those guitar and uke fingerings was not to be denied.

Though “comfort” is a strong word in this context. When I used to take my guitar around to various venues to perform my own compositions, my left hand would occasionally cramp and lock up on me while I was playing. That’s when I began to bill myself as “The Carpal Tunnel Kid.” – Ed.

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