Bob Greenwood book review

Bob Greenwood book review

Gilbert M. Erskine
Gilbert M. Erskine

June 5th, 2009, 8:49 pm #1

The British site culturewars.org.uk has the June 5th book review by Robert Greenwood of Mezz Mezzrow's REALLY THE BLUES.

The review, titled 'Jazz & the Myth of Authenticity', has a terrific summary of the traditional jazz scene in the UK today. It is perceptive, and not done with any of the 'intellectual' baggage that often creeps into writings like this.

Here is Greenwood's paragraph on Mezz commenting on Bix Beiderbecke---

"The cornettist Bix Beiderbecke (whose early death in 1931 from alcoholism made him an early martyr to the pop culture) disappointed Mezzrow because of his desire not to live in a permanent adolescence. He started wearing wing collars, got himself cleaned up, sprouted a moustache and an English accent, and even began washing his socks. Even worse, Bixs musical ambitions went beyond playing hot jazz. Jazz wasnt riot in music to him; his head always gave orders to his heart, and the jazz wasnt the end for him, it was just a springboard to something else, some new kind of expression that would let him say different things. How dare he"
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Really The Blues, written with Bernard Wolfe (former secretary to Leon Trotsky} was originally published by Random House in 1946 and has had many international reprintings.

The Greenwood review is based on Brit's Souvenir Press edition of April 2009. It has a respectable sales rank of #195,770 in Amazon.uk

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Gilbert M. Erskine
Gilbert M. Erskine

June 6th, 2009, 12:45 pm #2

OOOOOPS

I should have included the direct link---

http://www.culturewars.org.uk/index.php ... mythology/
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Joined: January 1st, 1970, 12:00 am

June 9th, 2009, 2:42 pm #3

His assertions regarding it being played today in the UK are both incorrect and misleading. It shows that he has no knowledge of most of the jazz being played in the UK at the present time. It misrepresents the work of the many fine musicians, in the UK and Europe, still playing jazz in the traditional - for want of a better word - way. It's the equivalent of saying that Bix played dixieland jazz.

Alex Revell
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Ken Bristow
Ken Bristow

June 9th, 2009, 8:46 pm #4

I think Mr. Greenwood was referring to those awful Trad Bands who pop up sometimes in demo marches, village fetes, riverboat trips etc. playing "Mark One" British Trad Jazz. These middle or aging musicians are often to be seen wearing straw boaters, striped jackets and cravats etc. Oh, and beards are mandatory. There is absolutely no connection whatsoever with the noise these bands make and 1920's vintage or classic jazz, the kind of jazz all Bix Forumites love to listen to.
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Alex Revell
Alex Revell

June 10th, 2009, 11:30 am #5

Yes, that element unfortunately still exists. Usually these now old and middling age men have been trying to play like old men, even when they themselves were young. Now they are old they no longer have to try. But there are lots of other musicians playing good jazz, as there were in the old Trad boom days. Some of us never wore straw boaters, striped blazers, bowler hats or old gamblers' outfits. We left that to the traddies.
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Robert Greenwood
Robert Greenwood

June 10th, 2009, 3:46 pm #6

I think Mr. Greenwood was referring to those awful Trad Bands who pop up sometimes in demo marches, village fetes, riverboat trips etc. playing "Mark One" British Trad Jazz. These middle or aging musicians are often to be seen wearing straw boaters, striped jackets and cravats etc. Oh, and beards are mandatory. There is absolutely no connection whatsoever with the noise these bands make and 1920's vintage or classic jazz, the kind of jazz all Bix Forumites love to listen to.
Thank you, Mr Bristow; that is exactly what I am referring to in my article. Ken Colyer never played "trad", nor did Humphrey Lyttelton or any of the excellent bands led by Barry Martyn. I'm glad of the opportunity to make that clear. Has anyone out there (apart from Gilbert) read past the first paragraph of my Culture Wars article?
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Alex Revell
Alex Revell

June 10th, 2009, 5:11 pm #7

Mr Greenwood
Yes, I've read past the first paragraph of your review. But in that first paragraph you talk about the Trad jazz venues and festivals of today. I agree that such venues and festivals still have some bands that can be loosely described as Trad bands, but these are very much in the minority. As someone who was around in the Trad boom years, I can assure you that the majority of the bands at these festivals today are very far from being Trad bands in that sense. I'm afraid that Ken was very much a part of the Trad scene in the boom, and many bands today, which are basically the same type of band, still follow that style. They used to be described as young men trying to play like old men, and now that they are old men themselves they are still trying to play like old men - and succeeding. Later in your review it is stated that the aim of white jazz musicians was 'authenticity'. It wasn't. It was just to play jazz as best we could, in whatever style we particularly liked or followed. If you take yourself along to the Bude festival this year I'm sure you'll find a great many bands which cannot be described as 'Trad' bands.
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Robert Greenwood
Robert Greenwood

June 11th, 2009, 8:57 am #8

Trad, as I say, limps on but its a pretty sad sound by now and one which I predict we may not hear ten years from now; certainly not in twenty. Many of its better practitioners have died in the last twenty years. Although the traditional jazz movement started out as an attempt to emulate earlier jazz styles and the sort of New Orleans music heard on records made during the New Orleans Revival of the 1940s, it soon developed its own practices and conventions and many of the more recent bands emulate Ken Colyer or Chris Barber rather than Bunk Johnson or Kid Ory. Many trad fans, in fact, are completely parochial in their interests and tastes, lacking in knowledge or curiosity concerning what might be called the real thing. Ken emulated the New Orleans music of Bunk and Mutt Carey, reinforced by what he heard when he visited NO in 1952/53. The impact, also, of hearing the Condon Band in NY in the late 40s and its effect on his style is often overlooked. Kens first hero, and the inspiration for his hair style, was Wild Bill Davison. Ken never played the sanitised traddie-pop played by Barber, Ball, and Bilk.
Mr Revell: Are you the Alex Revell mentioned in Kens autobiography?
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Bridget
Bridget

June 12th, 2009, 3:12 am #9

At 43, I find myself as a youngster at many festivals. Initially, I was quite surprized that in a crowd of supposed trad jazz fans had no idea who too Bix was. There are precious few authentic bands, as this doesn't seem to be the focus of most festivals. They've become a social event for an older crowd, and hence cater to that crowd. And to play festivals, bands cater to that atmosphere. I think it's more the atmosphere, rather than the music that is detrimental to the perpetuation of the trad movement.
I first heard a trad jazz band at a restaurant in Florida at the age of 22. I was your basic punk rock girl and thought, "these guys are good!" It may be the dancer in me that admired the same snap, multiple rhythms and similar tempos old jazz had in common with punk bands like the Ramones. Good is good regardless of genre or time. New listeners will realize this. It just needs to be accessible.
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Alex Revell
Alex Revell

June 12th, 2009, 8:45 am #10

Trad, as I say, limps on but its a pretty sad sound by now and one which I predict we may not hear ten years from now; certainly not in twenty. Many of its better practitioners have died in the last twenty years. Although the traditional jazz movement started out as an attempt to emulate earlier jazz styles and the sort of New Orleans music heard on records made during the New Orleans Revival of the 1940s, it soon developed its own practices and conventions and many of the more recent bands emulate Ken Colyer or Chris Barber rather than Bunk Johnson or Kid Ory. Many trad fans, in fact, are completely parochial in their interests and tastes, lacking in knowledge or curiosity concerning what might be called the real thing. Ken emulated the New Orleans music of Bunk and Mutt Carey, reinforced by what he heard when he visited NO in 1952/53. The impact, also, of hearing the Condon Band in NY in the late 40s and its effect on his style is often overlooked. Kens first hero, and the inspiration for his hair style, was Wild Bill Davison. Ken never played the sanitised traddie-pop played by Barber, Ball, and Bilk.
Mr Revell: Are you the Alex Revell mentioned in Kens autobiography?
Mr Greenwood,
In my opinion and that of many other musicians who began listening to the jazz of Louis, Morton, Oliver, Dodds, Noone, Bix, etc in our early teens, Trad has always been a pretty sad sound and still is. And its fans were always extremely parochial- not to say ignorant - in their taste and interests, and, as you say, have remained so until the present.
Ive not read Kens book. Im surprised if I am mentioned. I had very little contact with him, we moved in completely different musical circles. The only direct musical contacts I had with Ken were firstly, when he and Sonny Morris auditioned for the first Chris Barber band that Chris and I were forming in the late 40s and later, in the 60s, when I was in the Brian Green band. On this last occasion, Ken had broken up his current band, but had still to honour some of his contractual obligations, and he choose to use the Green band to do so. Why he did was always a puzzle to us in the band because our style and repertoire were completely at odds with his own. I must say that for us it was a month of extreme musical boredom. However, this forum is not the place to discuss Ken and those times. If you want to do so, please email me
Regards
Alex
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