Drum Roll, Please: Jazz Concert Etiquette

Grumpy
The definition of grumpy is irritable or grouchy. An explanation of grumpy is a person who is always complaining and unhappy.

Charles Mingus
Nearly as well known as his ambitious music was Mingus’ often fearsome temperament, which earned him the nickname “The Angry Man of Jazz.” His refusal to compromise his musical integrity led to many onstage eruptions, exhortations to musicians, and dismissals. Although respected for his musical talents, Mingus was sometimes feared for his occasionally violent onstage temper, which was at times directed at members of his band and other times aimed at the audience. He was physically large, prone to obesity (especially in his later years), and was by all accounts often intimidating and frightening when expressing anger or displeasure. When confronted with a nightclub audience talking and clinking ice in their glasses while he performed, Mingus stopped his band and loudly chastised the audience, stating: “Isaac Stern doesn’t have to put up with this crap.” Mingus reportedly destroyed a $20,000 bass in response to audience heckling at the Five Spot in New York City.

Most of us can (I hope for the sake of jazz) can agree….Mingus was one of a kind. Musical genius…. he deserved the respect at a performance.

At that level. Wow!

Which brings to me this news.

Our Jazz Jams and Jazz Gumbos should be treated as jazz concert performances. It not only shows respect to the musicians you have come out to support, but to the organization that we are trying to grow. Is it a social event? Sure. But it is still a performance. Please show respect. At the venues we hold our events, please show respect. Our Jazz Jams are held at a venue that normally is closed on Mondays. They open so we can have a venue in which to present our Jazz Jams. Tipping is a cool thing. The servers are there for you. Treat them with respect. Treat them as you would want to be treated.

Jazz Concert Etiquette
If you are considering attending a jazz concert, keep in mind these basic rules: Even though the concert takes place in a social setting – bars, clubs, etc. – make an effort and restrain yourself from talking during performances. Turn off your phone, or at least put it on vibrate.

Let us continue to keep making forward steps. We need it now more than before.

Please, Give Peace A Chance
Still Your President
Fred Domulot
Taye Drums
Dream Cymbals
Silverfox Drumsticks
AFM Local 389

Fred Domulot
AFM 389
“Give Peace A Chance”

Great posts from two favorite jazz blogs

It was a red-letter day recently for Vickers, and, I believe for Jazz Pensacola. On May 28, 2019, two of my favorite blogs had artists who had performed for Jazz Pensacola previously.

Michael Steinman’s blog, jazzlives.wordpress.com, featured a group from the West Coast that included jazz pianist Carl Sonny Leyland, clarinetist Jacob Zimmerman, bassist Marty Eggers and drummer Jeff Hamilton. The post included several videos from the March 3, 2019 Monterey Jazz Festival.

So why was this especially important to me? Jazz Pensacola has been blessed to have pianist Sonny Leyland and bassist Marty Eggers to appear at our JazzFest in the early 2000s. And having seen them at jazz festivals elsewhere, it was like a visit from old, dear friends. Also, Michael Steinman is a good friend to us as well. When drummer Hal Smith brought his Kid Ory tribute group for our November 2017 jazz event co-sponsored by ACE (Arts, Culture, and Entertainment), the event was videotaped and Steinman featured it on his blog.

Stephanie Nakasian

Jazz writer Marc Myers’ jazzwax.com blog recently featured vocalist Stephanie Nakasian. There are several clips of her performance from outstanding recordings, including one video of her performing with a band led by Pete Rugolo who was Stan Kenton’s composer/arranger.

The significance is that The Jazz Society of Pensacola had Stephanie and her pianist husband Hod O’Brien in Pensacola for a performance in the 1980s. Then, in the early 2000s, Stephanie and Hod performed again for Pensacola JazzFest. At that time, their 13-year-old daughter Veronica sang a number with her mother. Subsequently, Veronica, now performing as Veronica Swift, has graduated from Frost School of Music in Miami and has embarked on her own singing and recording career.

In the interview, Myers leads Stephanie through various stages of her career including Hod’s death in 2016.

I have had opportunity to review both of Marc’s books, “Anatomy of a Song” and “Why Jazz Happened.”
In addition to writing a daily jazz blog, Myers also is a regular columnist for the Wall Street Journal — one column is weekly and the other is monthly. His interviews with interesting persons are not all related to jazz; they can be authors, actors or other persons of interest.

To the credit of both Michael Steinman and Marc Myers, there is a long index of their previous work so this information is readily available for those who are interested. Thanks, Michael and Mark for making my day!

See jazzwax.com and jazzlives.wordpress.com for the columns and sign up, if desired.

Drum Roll, Please: Get ready for a hot season of hot jazz

Dear friends,

Excuse me, I have to adjust my thermostat.

It’s summer!

Get ready for hot weather. And get ready for hot jazz. Our monthly jazz jams and gumbos will continue to be served.

Most important news: You asked for it, and we listened. I would like to welcome our two newest board members: Carolyn Tokson and Paul Bruno.

We are looking forward to working to continue bringing the “best” jazz to you, the members. And with the help of our two new members, I see clear sailing on the jazz seas.

Nothing can go wrong!

Peace
Fred Domulot
AFM 389

Drum Roll, Please: ‘Look What They’ve Done to My Song, Ma’

“Look What They’ve Done to My Song, Ma” is one of my favorite tunes covered by the great Ray Charles. It was written by Melanie Safka, whose fans knew her simply as Melanie. She was a Woodstock performer and a writer of other great hits.

Ray Charles’ version is a killer version!

The song is about how music companies change artists’ music, and their true message. They can ruin the deepness of an artist because their intentions are to make money…take control. This happens every day.

But look at what positive change can do, look at what we’ve done to Jazz Pensacola:

We received the 2019 Majority Opinion Research Survey of Events & Festivals, which is done annually for Visit Pensacola/Escambia County.

Check this out, according to the report:

  • The 2019 Pensacola JazzFest attracted an estimated 17,000 attendees, which surpasses previous years.
  • 31% of the 2019 event attendees were visitors to Pensacola, which is a record high for this event.
  • 85% of the destination visitors (26% of total attendees) were aware of the event before visiting (up from previous years), and 59% came to Pensacola specifically for the event (also up from previous years).
  • 12% of attendees spent the night in paid accommodations (highest since 2014) and stayed an average of 2.0 nights (similar to most years).
  • Factoring in that 59% of the destination visitors at the event specifically came to Pensacola for the event, it is estimated that the
  • 2019 Pensacola JazzFest generated 745 room nights in Escambia County, which is another record high for this event.
  • On average, destination visitors attending the 2019 Pensacola JazzFest spent $691.01 during their stay ( more than any other year, except 2015 and 2016) and resident parties spent an average of $63.29 (more than any other year, except for 2015) in the course of attending the event.
  • All together, it is estimated that the 2019 Pensacola JazzFest attendees contributed $1,505,020 to the Escambia County economy (more than any other year).
  • Factoring in that 59% of the visitors at the event specifically came to Pensacola for the event, it is estimated that the event directly aided in $992,920 being spent in the Escambia County economy (yet another record high for this event).
  • According to the 2019 Majority Opinion Research Survey of Events & Festivals, Jazz Pensacola broke many records with its last JazzFest.
  • One of the significant growth areas is how we are reaching out via social media. From April 2 to April 29, Facebook analytics show: posts reached 12.2K, had 2.9K engagements, 218 link clicks and 77 new page likes. Shout out to: Mike Suchcicki, Jazz Pensacola administrator Alice Crann-Good and Jazz Pensacola board member/secretary Ali Egan for this growth! Well done!

Plus, Jazz Pensacola’s 2019 Student Jazz Competition In March was a tremendous success. The students, families and guests greatly enjoyed having the annual event at Phineas Phogg’s in Seville Quarter. Giving the competition a “real life” performing experience with a jazz room vibe was a very positive change.

Our community recognition is reaching new heights. The Downtown Improvement Board has asked Jazz Pensacola to orchestrate the July Gallery Night with a jazz theme.

And, get this. Jazz Pensacola recently came in 3rd out of 37 grant applications for 2019 Foo Foo Festival grants! Another shout out to our administrator Alice Crann Good for the grant writing. Full funding! Our act this year will be Big Bad Voodoo Daddy. More info on that soon.

Even so…

“It’s the only thing that I could do half right…and they’ve turned it upside down.”

Just be nice. Listen to “Sketches of Spain” in the morning. it will change your day.

Peace

Fred Domulot
Jazz Pensacola President
AFM Local 389

Book Review: ‘Superstride: A Biography and Discography of Johnny Guarnieri’

SUPERSTRIDE
A Biography and Discography of
Johnny Guarnieri
by Derek Coller
pp. 253, Jazzology Press $24.95

This 6”x9” book, like the subject, is small in size but packed with good things. British author Derek Coller has done an excellent job of summarizing the life of pianist/composer Johnny Guarnieri (1917-1985.) Baseball was Johnny’s sport of choice and each of the nine chapters in the book is entitled with a baseball theme.

Please allow a personal reference: Little did I imagine when I was a teenager just at conclusion of WWII and dancing to Summit Ridge Drive–small group recording at Artie Shaw’s address of same name as the tune with JG playing harpsichord–that I’d get to see/hear him perform in person in Mobile, Alabama, in 1983, two years prior to his death.

JG was born to an Italian immigrant family in Manhattan. His father was a classical violinist and musical repairman and was descendant of the famous Guarnieri family of violin makers. His father hoped he would continue in the family tradition as a violinist, but, instead, JG took to the piano with his father’s blessing. JG had small hands, which make for a disadvantage in playing stride piano in the style of James P. Johnson and Thomas “Fats” Waller. But Johnny overcame the small-hands disadvantage. In the ’30s and ’40s, he had opportunity to perform with Benny Goodman, Artie Shaw and Jimmy Dorsey.

Johnny had poor eyesight, which got him a deferment from draft during WWII, during which time he made many recordings for Armed Forces Radio. During the ’40s and ’50s there were recording engagements, radio work as well as performances. Johnny’s personal habits were of clean-living, so he was spared some of the difficulties of drugs and alcohol that plagued many of his colleagues. He was an inveterate pipe-smoker, however. And, during those times, he could smoke on the job. One of the “tricks” mentioned in the book — and I observed it myself during his Mobile, Alabama, stay — he’d re-light his pipe with a match while his left hand played arpeggios. Unless one were looking, it would be unlikely that the ear would detect that only the left hand was playing.

There was a second marriage during JG’s New York and subsequent New Jersey residence. Then he moved to the Los Angeles area in the ’60s. It was hoped that he’d get more studio work, but it didn’t meet his expectations. However, performing and recording opportunities came his way and there was opportunity to tour both the U.S. and Europe. One long-time engagement was a restaurant-lounge on LA’s Ventura Blvd. called Tail of the Cock. The book details some of JGs regular attendees — musicians, movie-stars and others. Pianist Johnny Varro, now living in the Tampa area, was one of his substitutes when he toured. In my recent conversation with Varro, JV reported, “Yes, and Johnny G. would substitute sometimes for ME when I needed to be away from my gig for a while.”

During the Los Angeles years, JG was a frequent visitor to the Sacramento Jazz Jubilee (and its subsequent slight name-change). There was a special event called the Pianorama where the jazz pianists with the varying bands at the festival got to play solo piano for short periods. Sometimes JG might be the master of ceremonies or share with pianist/bandleader Bob Ringwald. As an occasional visitor there, myself, the Pianorama was a special treat for me.

The biographical portion of this book is only 125 pages, but it is packed with interesting facts and has multiple photos of musicians and bands with whom JG performed. The remainder of the book contains discography, tributes from fans and protégés including Herb Mickman, “Vinny” Armstrong and Jim Turner.

For the musical scholar, pianist virtuoso Dick Hyman has a short piece about his interactions with JG and has included some musical transcriptions as examples of JG’s expertise.

Author Derek Coller, now in his ninth decade, has produced a valuable and interesting addition to our jazz history. Somewhere up there, JG must be smiling and playing great jazz piano.

A chance encounter with Blind Willie McTell

While in medical school at Emory University in Atlanta, I discovered a blind guitarist named Blind Willie McTell, who played at a drive-in near my rental apartment.

He was an interesting singer who played a 12-string guitar, the first I’d ever seen and heard. I was intrigued by this man because of many reasons. For example, how does a blind man navigate to the various cars at the drive-in to find willing customers for his vocal and guitar performance? The answer: His walking stick was metal-tipped. His tap-tap with the cane both helped him locate the parked autos and advertised his availability for hire. He would sing and play your requests for tips, a drink, or both.

So, my pattern would be to study until about 10 p.m. and then drive to the nearby Blue Lantern Tavern on Piedmont Avenue. I’d then hear Willie’s tap-tap and invite him to play and sing for me. Normally, he would stand by the car window and sing for tips. As I got to know him better and request a longer session, I’d open the rear car door so that he could sit with his feet on the pavement; this being satisfactory to accommodate him and his large 12-string guitar. For a session such as this, I’d buy him a beer in addition to the usual tip. He had an unusually large repertoire of songs. He’d composed Statesboro Blues, a lament about Statesboro, Ga., where he spent time while growing up. A favorite song of mine was Talkin’ Blues. This had been recorded by many but, as far as I can determine, not by Willie. I’d take notes when he performed this because he’d added verses I’d never heard.

I related my discovery of the blind 12-string guitarist to my uncle, Dr. Frank Norman Gibson of Thomson, Ga. He had also attended Emory Medical School in the 1930s and he had heard him in that era when he was performing at the Pig ‘n Whistle drive-in (opened in 1927 and operated continuously until the 1960s). At that time in the ‘30s, he was performing as Pig ‘n Whistle Red.

Over the two year period (’54-’56) in which I’d listen to him perform for 15 to 30 minute intervals about twice weekly, there was not much time to take a detailed “medical history” but we did talk about his travels. He had performed along the eastern seaboard and had spent a short time in New York. There was never mention that he had recorded on various occasions. In the early days of recording, equipment wasn’t so elaborate that it required a studio. Many field recordings were made by putting the equipment on a truck and going to the folk-artist instead of vice-versa.

My next revelation about Blind Willie came when I was visiting a jazz museum in New Orleans. Part of my medical training was on Tulane service at New Orleans’ Charity Hospital (’59-’61). In going through a stack of LPs, I found an album with Willie’s photo on the cover. It was astounding, because in our meetings over a two year period, no mention was ever made of his having recorded anything. Then some further research uncovered a number of recordings from the late ‘20s until 1956. So I saw him in the last good year he had. He died in 1959 of diabetes and dementia.

The last phase of research on Blind Willie came when I discovered a biography by Michael Gray entitled “Hand Me My Travelin’ Shoes; In Search of Blind Willie McTell.” This was published by Chicago Review Press © 2007. In that book, Gray covered areas from his birth in Happy Valley, Georgia, to his time in Statesboro, his attending blind school, two locations, including the same school attended by vocalist-pianist Ray Charles. Willie was recorded in Atlanta in the 1940s by folklorist Alan Lomax.

It turns out that Willie and my mother were born just before the turn of the century—1898, she in Thomson, Georgia, and Willie in Happy Valley, a rural area near Thomson. It is unlikely that they ever met as Willie moved with his mother to Statesboro during his youth.

I wrote Gray and briefly outlined my encounters with Willie and offered to speak with him should he desire. The author called me from a vacation spot in France. He was able to fill in some of my areas of interest and, he was interested in hearing from someone who had seen and heard Willie. Gray asked about Willie’s appearance, dress and speech. His speech was articulate and more refined than the average man of his age and background. We both agreed that it was likely that this influence was from his attendance at blind schools, giving him a better education than average.

For the person who is interested further, there are a number of YouTube offerings that will give an appreciation of his vocal and guitar skills. A number of rock artists who have recorded his songs, notably the Allman Brothers Band which recorded Statesboro Blues and Bob Dylan recorded a 1983 song Blind Willie McTell. Also, one may get an overview from the Wikipedia section on Blind Willie.

Thomson, Georgia, has an annual music festival related to McTell.