Monday, July 13, 2009

Sha da do wop, da shaman do way, We like birdland.

6 Dave Brubeck, ‘Take Five’; 7 Charlie Parker ‘Romance without finance’

I dabble in jazz. I have all the biggies – Coltrane, Rollins, Davis, Parker, Hancock, Getz, Byrd, MacLean, and Monk – and I genuinely enjoy listening to them, but I know I don’t get jazz like jazz lovers do. Otherwise I’d have a lot more in my collection. The Brubeck and Parker songs are two that I can hum for you and they are significant for very different reasons.

There was no avoiding jazz in my house. My father, God bless him, played it a lot and LOUD! He especially liked Dave Brubeck. I can remember thumbing through his albums and the Brubeck covers always stood out. I wasn’t sure about Dave though. He didn’t look much like a hip musician with those heavy black horn-rimmed glasses, short hair and suit. He looked like my dad!! Jazz guys were supposed to look hip, cool, and …well…black. Dave wasn’t. He reeked of whiteness. And geekhood - he played piano! I studied that Time Out cover a lot. It was sharp lines, edges and semi-circular shapes. No squares, but there should have been. The back cover talked about time signatures and other esoteric stuff like the emancipation of jazz that bored me rigid. Music is about feeling, right? Nevertheless I found myself playing the album from time to time and falling for the charms of Take Five. It began to take on a cool all of its own – even though played by the Bill Haley of the jazz world, and has now become a kind of shorthand for those fabulous fifties. Go figure.

Charlie Parker, on the other hand, was, to me, the epitome of cool when I started out on my own jazz collection, and the real deal. It helped he was black and played sax. On the Encores album that started me off, he was multi-hued with eyes closed, feeling his music. Recorded in 1944, Romance Without Finance, with vocals, was the first jazz song I could hang my hat on. Accessible, funny and with a side order of rude! When the lyric goes, “mama mama please give up that gold”, you know he ain’t about money!! In short, living in Birdland was nothing like Dave Brubeckville! But I love them both.

[No film of Parker doing this song as far as I can see.]

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