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Re: [RedHotJazz] Re: Bernard Wolfe, Mezzrow, and Really the Blues

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  • Howard Rye
    I mentioned Johnny Otis in an earlier post because I think Mezzrow wanted to achieve, both musically and socially, what Johnny Otis has successfully achieved.
    Message 1 of 79 , Jun 8, 2009
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      I mentioned Johnny Otis in an earlier post because I think Mezzrow wanted to
      achieve, both musically and socially, what Johnny Otis has successfully
      achieved. Reference to Otis¹s published works will elucidate what that is
      and needs no mediation from me. Far from denying his Greek ancestry, Otis
      has always celebrated his conscious choices and consequent mixed heritage.

      Otis has never had any trouble in working out what ³masquerading as black²
      (i.e. as a person of African-American culture) actually signifies. As black
      people often say, whites never have any trouble defining us when they want
      to discrimate against us. Colour-blind rhetoric is strictly for
      circumstances in which whites benefit.

      If real equality was on the agenda no doubt there would be some sense in
      embracing it, but, speaking directly to Robert, living as we do in a country
      which has just elected two ³neo-²Nazis to the European Parliament we can be
      pretty confident that it isn¹t. Is it anywhere?

      I think much of this political debate is way off topic for this list. More
      interesting is not to judge Mezzrow for his aspirations but to try to assess
      why he didn¹t fulfill them. Musically probably mainly because he didn¹t have
      the talent. Socially because, well I can guess some answers, but not enough.
      Where did he go wrong? Was it just that he didn¹t have a Preston Love to
      guide him with tolerant amusement into putting out the right cultural
      signals?


      on 08/06/2009 13:18, Robert Greenwood at robertgreenwood_54uk@...
      wrote:

      >
      >
      >
      >
      >
      > Tommer
      > As promised, a reply to your interesting post. This does move into areas
      > beyond the remit of this list. Unavoidably.
      >
      > 1. I don't know if Mezz was the first "wigga", or "white negro", but I would
      > distinguish him from blackface acts in that he, unlike them, wished to
      > masquerade as "black" (whatever that is) in every aspect of his life. All he
      > did, of course, was to offer a caricature. Surely black people do not present
      > a monolithic social entity undistinguished by class, age, religion, sex?
      > Mezzrow only helps to perpetuate a debilitating stereotype and no way have the
      > wiggas ever improved the real material position of black people or brought us
      > any closer to moving beyond race (well, they wouldn't, would they?) and
      > towards real equality. The notion that a person's "race", or their
      > "ethnicity", or their "culture" says all that needs to be said about them, or
      > is the most important thing about them, is deeply reactionary and finds
      > fervent approval both from the far right and the far left.
      >
      > White musicians seem to have been involved with jazz right from the start. I
      > don't accept that white musicians are necessarily imitating blacks or stealing
      > from them their "culture." Jazz is American music in origin, and quickly found
      > practitioners the world over.
      >
      > 2. It is likely that Mezzrow's book gets published again and again due to its
      > being a literary work. I think you have a point there. The point I'm making in
      > my article is that Really the Blues is promoted as a counterculture text and
      > displays all the puerile and politically reactionary characteristics one would
      > expect from it as such. Finkelstein was a Marxist and a humanist; as such, his
      > ideas are deeply unfashionable. The intellectual tradition he represents has
      > all but died in the face of the collapse of communism, the defeat of the
      > labour movement, postmodernism, fashionable pessimism, modish misanthropy
      > (A.K.A. Environmentalism) whereby all human aspiration and productivity is
      > seen as destructive, and the so-called end of ideology. The current poster boy
      > for the chattering classes is the arch people-hater John Gray. In this climate
      > no one is going to reprint Finkelstein's books.
      >
      > 3. Yes, Mezzrow encourages and celebrates a reactionary passivity and
      > resignation in the face of racism. Right on, Mezz…Light another joint…
      >
      > 4. The book is puerile, reactionary, and self-serving.
      >
      > 5. See 1 above.
      >
      > Best wishes,
      > Robert.
      >
      >
      >
      >
      >>
      >>
      >>
      >> Howard Rye, 20 Coppermill Lane, London, England, E17 7HB
      >> howard@...
      >> Tel/FAX: +44 20 8521 1098
      >>



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    • Howard Rye
      Sadly, I have to report that ³the sweeter side of King Keppard² was a discographical misattribution on which Rudi Blesh built a flight of fancy. This
      Message 79 of 79 , Jun 16, 2009
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        Sadly, I have to report that ³the sweeter side of King Keppard² was a
        discographical misattribution on which Rudi Blesh built a flight of fancy.

        This particular piece of tosh is to be found in the ŒPostscript¹ appended to
        later editions of Blesh¹s ŒShining Trumpets¹. Keppard isn¹t even on the
        record cited as proto-Beiderbecke, Doc Cook¹s ŒI Got Worry¹. The trumpeter
        is probably Elwood Graham, whose presence is confirmed by his file
        attribution as a member of the vocal trio on ŒHum and Strum¹. As the date
        is 1928 comment on the likely direction of influence is probably
        superfluous. This is a showband doing what showbands do (giving the public
        what it wants). It would be an exaggeration to call ŒI Got Worry² a
        Whiteman-imitation but they are aiming at the same territory and Graham
        plays in the style he or the arranger considered appropriate for that job. I
        seriously doubt that anything more compliacted is happening.

        Incidentally despite what discographies say about the personnel of this
        session, Doc Poston is certainly present since the files name him as one of
        the vocal trio too, unless there really was a musician called ³Postum² in
        the band.

        on 16/06/2009 18:01, Tommer at tommersl@... wrote:

        >
        > --- In RedHotJazz@yahoogroups.com <mailto:RedHotJazz%40yahoogroups.com> ,
        > "Tommer" <tommersl@...> wrote:
        >
        >> > I didn't read this Murray but IMO improvisation on Blues texture (hot) is
        >> different than improvising on the something that wraps the Blues (sweet).
        >> >
        >> > IMO Louis' "West End Blues" the piano is sweet. They also don't swing much.
        >> On the other hand the piano on Johnny Dodds' "New St. Louis Blues" is hot and
        >> they swing. I was reffering to the piano but it is more or less what I feel
        >> about the whole of each of the two.
        >> >
        >> > What I prefer? The hot!
        >> >
        >> > Tommer
        >> >
        >
        > I have to add something accordingly. I think that one of the problems in
        > understanding among Jazz listeners the connection between Jazz and Blues is
        > that because unfair argues. Like, saying anything Louis did was hot which is
        > not true. What those that like "West End Blues" is the virtuoso trumpet thing,
        > but in terms of hot music it is not so much.
        >
        > Why I mentioned this is complicated to explain, first because I saw that West
        > End is regarded by Albert and I am sure others think the same as one of the
        > two (with Singin the Blues) most important records of the 1920's, and for me
        > this record is a symbol to the end of the most powerful Blues era in Jazz,
        > because this as well as Singin are records that goes from collective efforts
        > on Blues texture to virtuoso use of Blues for other things.
        >
        > And I don;t mean 12-bar Blues, because 12-bar can play without improvisation
        > on the texture, as much as other forms can be played inside the texture.
        >
        > What I believe is that because assuming everything Louis did was "hot" is why
        > Rudi Blesh claimed that Bix wasn't influenced by Louis but, he was influenced
        > by the sweeter side of King Keppard.
        >
        > Because assuming everything Louis was doing at the time was hot, causes a
        > problem, how can a always hot musician influence so much a musician Blesh
        > believed was sweet?
        >
        > And this is what confuse people! Because there are romantic descriptions to
        > deal with this.
        >
        > So, Murray omitting Oliver or for that same matter any list is questionnable,
        > at the time Bunk and George Lewis were rediscovered they weren't as able to
        > deal with Blues texture too much. That era is over since the 1920's are over.
        > But, Murray could say that on Bunk because Bunk was from the old times!
        >
        > However, Oliver had Jazz Babies Blues and Alligator and Krooked Blues and
        > Canal Street Blues, and other that were some of the best Blues in Jazz ever
        > recorded IMO. I don't believe he omitted Oliver, maybe he didn't hear the
        > right records or just forgot about him or had a short selevtive or
        > representative list.
        >
        > Tommer
        >


        Howard Rye, 20 Coppermill Lane, London, England, E17 7HB
        howard@...
        Tel/FAX: +44 20 8521 1098




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