Sunday, February 24, 2008

An Interview with Carol Sloane

There’s a reason to write an introductory paragraph giving the highest praise to the artist one interviews. Here’s why. Carol Sloane is one of the greatest jazz singers of all time. It’s a tall mountain to climb, jazz singing, and there is room for many at the top. Throughout Carol’s career those who have heard her knew within three notes that she belongs at this still exclusive pinnacle. Her voice is so fine and rare that there really isn’t anyone with whom to compare her. Just like Wes Montgomery and his miraculous thumb, Carol has a remarkable larynx. Most singers coordinate these muscles and fibrous tissue to generate one clear note. Not Carol. She has such control that she sings with chordal overtones. I’ll say it simply. She sings harmonies with herself. If you listen carefully, she is singing very subtle chords. Her concept of jazz singing, then, is the harmonic interplay between her and the piano or guitar, the small adjustments they make as the song moves on, one harmony for the A section, a variation on the second A, the bridge, and maybe a third way of doing the A section again. Who else can do this? Who else has that conception? On the mountaintop, the group shrinks considerably. But my experience with Carol’s voice is 99 percent listening to her sing Solitude or I’ve Got You Under My Skin. Her experience with her voice is 90 percent wondering out loud where she put the car keys, or, since she lives in New England, telling others how to drive. Not to mention forgiving Bill Buckner (don’t know if she’s gotten to that point yet, I know she’s striving for it if she hasn’t yet arrived) and blessing the Scion of Casablanca. So, for Carol, there is no mystique. For me, mystique is all there is. And that’s why one has to praise these great artists, because they are with themselves all of the time and are not in the least bit impressed, quietly confident is as good as it gets.

We did this interview using Google’s Instant Messaging, which transcribes as you talk, bless them. And so there are bits where we are both discovering how to do little Googly tricks, her succeeding, me flailing away. But we both had fun, and I believe she has offered some invaluable insights into jazz and jazz singing.

me: One thing I’ve noticed is that you tread where other musicians are afraid to go. The idea that you would not only try to sing the Frank Sinatra book, but ADD to it is pretty amazing. How did you muster the courage, or were you always on the courageous side?
Carol: lol ... I don't think that cd really succeeded although I had high hopes (a song I didn't include). And I did songs he had recorded.
me: It sounded pretty darn good to me. It didn't sound like Sinatra, but how could it? It added to the tunes. When I see a guitar album and the guitarist chose a Wes tune, I think, oh boy, how's this going to turn out. Usually not that good, we guitarists are all dwarfs compared to Wes. That wasn’t the case with your Frank stuff. You went at it eye to eye.
Carol: There was never any intention with it except to acknowledge that he'd sung those songs at one time, hence the title. I used the same for the Carmen album and the concept concluded with The Songs Ella and Louis Sang
me: Right, that's a bold musical move. Even Ella did songbooks about composers, not other singers.
Carol: The idea is pretty popular now, tributes to Ella for example, to Ray Charles. Oh just name them.
me: Yes, but...they, to me, make me want to hear the original singers. Your renditions stand by themselves.
Carol: Oh, that's nice of you to say. Thank you.
me: You're going to be modest, aren't you?
Carol: It's my middle name.
me: Okay. Then let's try it from another angle. A duet with a clarinet? That's not something people without confidence do. Have you always been so bold?
Carol: Well, if the musicians are as wonderful as (Ken) Peplowski or any of the true giants I've worked with, the concept isn't bold at all. It's more the essence of jazz singing (at least as I conceive it): no unnecessary embellishment, songs stand on their own and have more impact perhaps, at least that's what I strive for.
me: Okay, it’s not bold. (Yes it is). You have worked with the best of the best. No question here, I've just noticed it. Phil Woods, George Mraz…
Carol: Jimmy Rowles, Kenny Barron, Bill Charlap, Richard Rodney Bennett, Art Farmer, Clifford Jordan, Kenny Burrell and lots more.
me: They feel honored to get the call?
Carol: Hope so. Mostly I'm just glad if they're available, and it's no lie to say they are all friends as well as colleagues. I've been around a long time. George Shearing told me long ago to always work with the best.
me: Let's talk about Kenny Burrell for a second. I noticed that you did some very intimate playing with Ken Bollenback. I don't know his style as I know Burrell's, but it seems as though Kenny usually sounds like Kenny, whereas Bollenback seemed to wrap his chords around your voice. Am I off on this perception?
Carol: Not at all. And I must confess Burrell and I only worked together on one track, on the Love You Madly cd. Bollenback is a member of my band WHEN I can get him. He's got such a terrific sense of the blues and is equally sensitive on ballads. Love the man.
me: That leads me to the next question. The later stuff is so perfectly done. I usually think, what would I play in this situation, and I was stumped. It seems as though your conception is so clear and beautiful that I would risk getting in the way. How well does your band know each other before the recording begins? Is there much rehearsal, how much is spontaneous?
Carol: Good question. I met PB at rehearsal for the "I Never Went Away" cd. Norman Simmons chose him and I couldn't have been more pleased. The band is now: Norman Simmons, Bollenback, Steve LaSpina on bass and Norman's lady-love on drums. She's just right for what I need, the band swings its a** off, and each time we do a tune, it's slightly different. Jazz is…jazz is exploration, and Norman or Paul play something new to my ears in every set ... great experience. And I wouldn't have it any other way, playing the same way each night isn't jazz. I'll be right back ... I'm going to get a glass of wine, want some?
me: Then I'll start tyopsdthol like this.
Carol: lol
me: There's another aspect to the small group, and that is that your voice implies chords. Even though only one note can come out, it sounds like there are harmonic overtones.
Carol: MY voice implies chords? I think it's the other way around. The musicians are so inventive—consistently they inspire me. The important fact is this: they treat me like a fellow musician, not the girl singer they are hired to play for.
me: They don't say this to you? That's one of the reasons I felt stumped, if you were thinking of a 7b9 and I end up playing a #9, it would feel as if I’d broken some crystal.
Carol: lol. That's very funny because I can't read a note of music. I'd only know the chord didn't sound right or might even be dead wrong. One has to KNOW the song before taking improvisatory leeway.
me: That's why they treat you like another musician. They have to listen and work like crazy, you can't just play anything behind you. It's possible to play the tune correctly and still sound like you missed something.
Carol: I suppose so ... another thing is I'm not working with kids fresh out of Berklee. I choose them because I know their own heads are filled with many of the same songs I know. That helps when we get a request or I just feel like singing something we hadn't rehearsed.
me: How is their feel? (Here’s where we were moving quickly, typing and reading, and I misunderstood what she just said. I thought I read that presently she IS working with kids fresh out of Berklee)
Carol: The best. And it's led by Norman (Simmons). His skill as an accompanist is legendary. He didn't play for Carmen, Anita, Sarah and Joe Williams and not learn a great deal about when to play and more importantly when NOT to play.
me: Ah, so it's not just a group of Berklee kids. There is a leader.
Carol: Well, I'm the leader in one sense. But I trust Norman to choose the right tempos. I choose the tunes, we all contribute.
me: Actually, and correct me if I'm wrong about this, but Berklee has musical coldness associated with it, at least it did.
Carol: Well, the kids graduating have little or no real exerience working with veteran players. Talent is one thing, the actual gig is another matter.
me: You said that you can't read a note, that only leaves singing from the heart. Could you comment on that.
Carol: I learned early on that I have a very good ear. I am not easily thrown and I worked when I was young with musicians who deliberately tested me on that. When I sing it's always as honest as I can make it, a reflection of who I am. And the music inspires my heart.
me: How did they test you?
Carol: Deliberately played the wrong chords, and then would laugh when I turned around with raised eyebrows. They knew I couldn't read music but they also quickly learned they couldn't keep me from singing the correct melody. I was able to concentrate and focus all the time.
me: You took charge of the band then?
Carol: Those particular musicians were not very professional in any sense of the word. It was a long time ago.
me: If you give them a look, it has some clout.
Carol: Like Benny's famous ray?
me: I wouldn't know your look. But Benny had business to do. I think his music allowed the guys to march across Europe, had his tunes going through their heads.
Carol: Benny was a character ... I worked with him too ... never got the ray though!
me: No, I've heard you. You wouldn't. I would.
Carol: Well, maybe not ...practice more.
me: I practice to keep up with my daughter. Do you do any workshops, work with young singers?
Carol: I haven't conducted classes in some time. I enjoyed it when I did. I subbed for an instructor some years ago at the NE Conservatory and half my students were quite dreadful, made for some tedious times. But my private group classes were a different matter, no one got in until they passed an audition.
me: I assume that several had classical training. Did that get in the way?
Carol: I never asked about it. It was clear from the start that some had, so trying to get them into a feeling of improvising wasn't easy, but I didn't allow anyone to scat. That's not jazz singing anyway.
me: Go ahead with that thought. That will turn a few heads.
Carol: As far as I'm concerned, scat singing's masters are very skilled and I appreciate their inventiveness. Scat can be very tedious and excruciating when singers use the technique just to proclaim how hip they are. Few are experienced as (Mark) Murphy, (Kurt) Elling, and (Tierney) Sutton.
me: Keep going.
Carol: That's about it really. I don't think scat singing can persuade me that the person doing it is therefore a jazz singer, some think it's proof positive. I disagree. Carmen could but didn't do much, Sarah couldn't help herself, Shirley Horn never did, I don't believe ... and I don't think Billie Holiday ever did. And they most assuredly were the voices of jazz.
me: Why do you think you and Billie had such different opinions about Oscar Peterson?
Carol: I'm not aware of what her opinion was, did she dislike him? And did she say why?
me: Said he played too much.
Carol: Well, she was dead right. He was not a great vocal accompanist, listen to his recording with Bill Henderson, it's impossible for him to play the subtle role of side-man. He's even a bit over the top when working with Fred Astaire. No: I take it back—he is over the top. I sat in with him on more than one occasion; he distracted the hell out of me, but then: my God, I was standing beside OP! THE OP!
He didn't throw me off my stride though :-)
me: This would be a smiley--oh you can do smileys? Let me try. Didn't work.
Carol: I clicked the smiley and then typed :-) ... it translated itself
me: like this? Nope. Didn’t work.
Carol: :-)
me: Show off.
Carol: Oh yeah! If you type a colon, a dash and a close paran .. it will convert itself.
me: Do you still practice, and what was your routine like when you were practicing the most? I'll try (the animated smiley) again when you answer this one.
Carol: I don't practice and I used to agonize about it, but I'm too lazy. Now I take medication to help with performance anxiety and nothing much bothers me anymore. I used to be sick before every performance. I nearly hyperventilated on stage at Carnegie Hall once.
me: Nope (no smiley). So if there ever was a natural, you're it.
Carol: Well, I know I need to warm a little before I perform but I haven't been put to the test for a long time, last time in NY I was only asked to sing once song, hardly seemed worth the train trip down and back. One song.
me: So, to summarize the last few points, your idea of jazz is more of a group interplay, the spontaneity of the musicians, not the vocal improvisation?
Carol: The musicians are playing for me and enhance my singing by choosing inventive chords, knowing the right moments to slip in an extra chord or lick. And so it's a two-way street; they play for me but we all work together. It blends into one element at times and then it's all me. If they do their job right, the audience focuses on me and my singing, not in some cases, realizing that I sound that good because I am surrounded with the most beautiful frame.
me: Does your band rehearse a lot?
Carol: We're lucky if we can at least get a sound check on the afternoon of the night we open.
me: But by now you know each other very well. Did it take long to get that level of familiarity?
Carol: Not really, but we grow more mellow and comfortable with each engagement we play, just not often enough. But then, I'm withdrawing from it all a bit. I hate to fly, there aren’t many clubs or really nice rooms outside of Boston and New York, one or two in LA but they don't pay enough to make the trip worthwhile. It's difficult for many.
me: Have you seen your discography on either Amazon or CD Universe?
Carol: I see it at my web site ... why do you ask?
me: To see if there's anything that we all need to hear but they may not have.
Carol: Who they? And how will they hear if with jazz radio in this country in such a mess, being replaced by ‘talk’ or ‘light rock’ formats. Which reminds me: I was listening to KCMS today. Did you ever investigate those urls I gave you? KCSM I mean, WICN, WGBO?
me: Didn't get to them. I think I'm holding out hope that WSIE will stream. The ‘they’ is Amazon and CD Universe. And if they don't have some, we go to the expert shops, like Vintage Vinyl in St. Louis. They seem to have the ability to find anything.
Carol: But a lot of my stuff is OOP or very expensive in Japan or occasionally at auction at ebay, AND a lot is still circulating of course.
me: What are your favorites?
Carol: Of mine?
me: Is there someone else typing here?
Carol: lol ... Dearest Duke and Love You Madly…
me: Okay, I think I'm running out of questions--actually we're getting so silly that I might end on this--did Grady Tate sing for you? I saw he played on one of your albums.
Carol: He sang with me on a cd called The Real Thing, and we have sung together live in performance. Before we finish here: any idea what happens if I click Options and/or Pop-Out ... not as in wardrobe malfunction but I'm curious.
me: Well, on pop-out, nothing happens other that I wait. Options, I've never done. But I'm hoping that when we finish this whole thing is transcribed in my in box.
Carol: I'll get this ... how hard can it be for a woman who has been known to sing Lush Life a capella? Thanks for the chat
me: Okay. Thank you. I'll sign off and hope to hell this transcribes. Talk to you soon.
Carol: Fine ... happy to answer more if you wish ... Ciao
me: Roger and out.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Two Degrees of Separation, Greg Osby and Me

Sometimes the idea of ‘the public’ isn’t so nebulous. And with the issue of Chet Baker on Youtube, the public is showing a stand for principle, and even courage. They are well aware of the Chet purge, and have decided to dare Toronto into spending every minute of every business day trying to stop what only promises to be a deluge of Chet appearances on Youtube. There is wisdom in their conviction, that Youtube will only shut down sites, which will reappear under different names, and people will see Chet Baker. It will dawn on Chet Baker Toronto that they are spending all day stopping people who want to hear Chet Baker from hearing Chet Baker. Precious neurons in the collective Toronto Chet Brains will pop.

But this expression of will by the public, the refusal to be intimidated the Chet Baker Foundation of Toronto, this is what will take us to the next level—which I will describe below.

And so the public is showing what Billy Wilder described as a collective intelligence. He quoted Lubitsch, that individually the public may not be so smart, but collectively they are indeed smart. Odd thing. But judging from Wilder’s and Lubitsch’s movies, they do know something.

Many large corporations don’t see it that way, preferring to go with the line attributed to P.T. Barnum, no one ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American public. And so record companies, publishing companies, movie companies, television networks, all tend to feed us watered down books, over produced recordings of people without talent, and lame-brained shows, about which many folks simply do not care.

Many artists make the same mistake, exploring their art in a disconnected way, not tapping into the collective wisdom and beauty within us, but choosing to create things which do not move us, do not touch us in any way. The artist simply interprets this as their art being too advanced for the public.

This brings me to two interviews I read and listened to this week. One with Barney Kessel, recorded in the sixties, one more recent, with saxophonist Greg Osby, who is from what will always be my hometown of St. Louis.

Kessel stressed, over and over, that the artist must go to great lengths to connect with the audience. The situation with Osby is more complex, that ended nevertheless, in abandoning the effort to make the connection, choosing instead to see the audience as not able to grasp what he is playing. In other words, an uncompromising P.T. Barnum.

As I said, the Osby situation is more complex. I spoke this week with former employers, who said only the kindest words about him. I remember playing in clubs when, during breaks between sets, we would talk about Osby, that he learned to play before he went to school, and that seems to be the way to beat the assembly line aspect of music schools, to learn to play before you go. That’s affected the way I raise my children, to prepare them before school can slow them down. And so without ever having met him, his influence is felt in my home, felt by my children who’ve never even heard of Greg Osby, who always traveled in pathways outside of established institutions, because those institutions simply could not meet his needs—to help him to grow at the pace he preferred.

This still leaves us with the question that every artist must answer, who is the public? Osby spoke of not being able to get gigs, and that, without the support of his producer, he would have no outlet whatsoever—his music, in other words, would fall in the woods with no one to hear the sounds. And so once again, without having met Greg Osby, he has taught me a valuable lesson about life, one I will certainly teach to my children, that one must work on the assumptions of Ernst Lubitsch, Billy Wilder, and Barney Kessel, and that we can see to be demonstrated by the public’s determination to hear and see Chet Baker, despite the institutions that are trying to stop this from occurring.

And now for the unveiling of what I promised. It's not really an unveiling, since I'm actually behind the curve. Our present technology is suggesting the possibilities, which are being worked on as I write this. It is a new economy, no longer dependent on large institutions, but eventually returning to the cottage industries, where individual artists can produce their own work, can use file sharing and streaming video to promote their work, and where artists and the folks who purchase the art, will think nothing of using Paypal, or it’s next incarnation, to allow the musicians and writers and artists to display what is in their hearts, and where folks will think nothing of supporting them with one, five, or ten dollars. It seems as if everyone knows this, and it appears as though this hard to define notion of public is working towards this. Hardly a mystery, hardly needs any unveiling. But the faster this becomes reality, the better it will be.

It is not unlike the invention of the car, where the possibilities presented themselves immediately, except that there were no roads. Eventually, the idea of getting in the car, of everyone even having a car, to travel the roads to get our basic needs met, this is now common sense. It happened once, I suspect it will happen again. But right now, the idea of the internet being completely free, an obstacle. I think we’ll get over it. It will be a good day when it does. It is always a good day when people can express their inner beauty.

Saturday, February 9, 2008

The Benny Clark Bar

I’ve saved to my Youtube favorites some 1967 footage of a Benny Goodman small group. Benny was playing with Zoot Sims, Clark Terry, Ed O’Shaughnessy, Milt Hinton, and Hank Jones. And by chance I listened to a Clark Terry recording on which one cut was an interview with Clark. In the beginning of the Benny band, Benny interviews his band members about what they feel, what they think about when playing, when soloing. It was another instance of Benny Goodman having a stethoscope on our collective hearts, where Carl Jung could only get as close as the Earth is to Pluto.

I think I can guess why Benny did this in 1967, and I think I know why Clark did this in 1995. They were saying the same things, they were responding to the same trend, which Benny saw before anyone else—showing up at various university Jazz programs in 1965 and 1966, venerated no doubt, but with the trimmings of a relic of a much less sophisticated age. He was asked what he plays over a m7b5 chord, he was asked which mode he prefers to play over blues, was asked how best to learn to emphasize thirds and sevenths of chords when soloing. From this, he knew jazz was in deep deep trouble. Somehow, in our climb up the mountain of jazz aesthetics, someone hammered a pick into the heart of the music and it fell to the earth like a big chunk of rock that turned to gravel as it hit the ground. And no one knew it, except for old relics like himself and his band. Actually, I’m not sure if Zoot Sims knew, because the whole concept of putting concepts on music was so strange he could barely speak.

What do you feel when you solo? Benny asked. What are you thinking about? Zoot answered with a nice long Uhhhhh, before getting to it. I guess I just to try feel happy and think about being happy. All the way around the band—Ed O'Shaughnessy said it all gets down to feeling good, you have to know your instrument, but there has to be a short passage from your heart to your mind. Hank Jones just said he’s trying to create a rhythm, since he’s in the rhythm section, and he’s just trying to help out. Can you imagine the educational beating these guys would take today—if they were freshmen in a major college music program? If they hadn’t already done everything a musician could do, including changing the whole idea of how the world thinks and feels about music?

Now class, it seems that young Mr. Sims here is having trouble grasping the concept that he needs to understand what he’s playing—and Mr. Sims, if that attitude doesn’t change soon I’m afraid you won’t last very long in this program. It’s all well and good to feel happy, but this is a college, you are here for a degree in music, and if you insist that feeling good is so important I suggest that you hang out at the nearest bar and have a few drinks instead of going to class. Is that clear Mr. Sims? Mr. Goodman and Mr. Terry can join him if they think this is so funny.

Update on the Chet Baker Foundation:

Clues abound. First I contacted the Chet Baker Foundation in Toronto, went to the Contact Us page, filled out my email address and wrote the following:

My name is Bob Levin, and I write a jazzblog. I am presently covering the controversy involving Youtube, that several sites were shut down which contained footage of Chet Baker. The proprietors of these site claim that a complaint from the Chet Baker Foundation is the reason the sites were shut down. Presently there is no footage of Chet Baker on Youtube. I would like someone to contact, with whom I can correspond regarding this issue, to hopefully resolve it for the benefit of jazz itself.

Thank you for your time.

Then I clicked on Send Message, and this is what happened:

Not Found
The requested URL /chetbaker/mailer.php was not found on this server.
Apache/2.2.0 (Fedora) Server at Port 80


Thursday, February 7, 2008

Music Theory II: The Carrollian Mode

If you are taking the time to read a jazz blog, it can only be because you love jazz. There are so many more important things to read, the music is almost dead, not completely dead, but almost dead—to steal a line from the Princess Bride. So it’s got to be love. There are players we all love, there are players we argue about, there are styles we argue about—but all of it comes from the love of jazz.

And we also know that at the end of the day, the decline in jazz popularity comes from the musicians themselves, that somehow the music became the most passionate and inspiring music in the history of the world despite the astounding level of self-destructiveness among those so gifted. We can argue about the different levels of this behavior, who hurt jazz the most, but we know that the soul heat this music could generate, as often as not, came from soul nitro, with the expected consequences. So, we’ve moved from Orwell to Lewis Carroll and have taken a step through the looking glass.

That being said, we are faced with a bit of a problem, same problem, different form. And so I must move from my halfway poetry to halfway journalism and try to get some facts straight.

So here are the facts. Youtube exists. (I’m really starting at the bottom of this pyramid, aren’t I?) My nephew told me I must check this thing out because I can see footage of my favorite jazz musicians. Ah. So I began to surf this new thing, and lo and behold, there were others who were not just surfing, but continually posting some of the finest music I’ve heard. I’ve been playing guitar for years, heard just about every note Wes Montgomery recorded, but I had never seem him play. I’d never seen or could conceive of how he saw the guitar neck. But there he was. He glows when he plays. Like Marilyn Monroe gives off sex appeal, Wes glows with true beauty. A remarkable sight. I discovered the genius of Barney Kessel—just seeing him with a not-so-famous trio, doing things on the guitar that just weren’t possible, and seeing him during his solo, force himself into areas where he truly did not know what was going to happen next—as in whether or not he would be able to play the next lines or chords at all. Who does that anymore? Solos to the precipice then walks two steps over. Just inspiring. It wasn’t just guitarists, but so many others, Frank Rosolino. If you don’t live on the West Coast, if you’re below a certain age, who knew how brilliantly he played, who knew the tragic story of his life? My jazz appreciation and skill took a quantum leap upward because of Youtube. The same applies to Chet Baker. I have one of his records, but just to watch him play—he played more music when he wasn’t playing than most musicians play when they’re playing. (Take your time on that sentence, I wrote it and still have to read it twice.)

Not just Youtube—it’s just a computer program. It was the people posting. Such as Itsartolie. I’ve never asked, but I believe when I was collecting baseball cards and reading comic books, he was collecting jazz music, film, pictures, and videos. And so, given the restrictions of Youtube, of this computer program, he posted nearly 600 videos. I watched every one of them. Not only did I watch, but so did 1500 other folks who took the time to subscribe to his stuff. His videos were watched nearly 4,000,000—take your time, I didn’t make a mistake there—4,000,000 times. And he would get hundreds of emails during the day thanking him for his service and probably a few wondering why he let’s me keep commenting when I clearly don’t know what I’m talking about (see my Miles Davis post). As he commented yesterday, he would get letters from family members of deceased jazz players who were tearfully grateful that someone was showing the greatness and skill of their loved one, playing in their prime, so that children and grandchildren could see a young man playing instead of an old man in assisted living. This is all invaluable.

And then one day this email comes to Itsartolie from Youtube:

---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: Copyright Notice
Date: 29 Jan 2008 22:42
Subject: Video Removed: Copyright Infringement
To: itsartolie
YouTube | Broadcast Yourself™
Dear Member:
This is to notify you that we have removed or disabled access to the following material as a result of a third-party notification by Chet Baker Foundation claiming that this material is infringing:
Chet Baker 1986 - Shifting Down:
Please Note: Repeat incidents of copyright infringement will result in the deletion of your account and all videos uploaded to that account. In order to prevent this from happening, please delete any videos to which you do not own the rights, and refrain from uploading additional videos that infringe on the copyrights of others. For more information about YouTube's copyright policy, please read the Copyright Tips guide.
If you elect to send us a counter notice, please go to our Help Center to access the instructions.
Please note that under Section 512(f) of the Copyright Act, any person who knowingly materially misrepresents that material or activity was removed or disabled by mistake or misidentification may be subject to liability.
YouTube, Inc.
Copyright © 2007 YouTube, Inc.

And so his site was shut down. Please note the ‘please note’ paragraph. Anyone who can write a basic sentence in English knows that this paragraph has nothing to do with basic English. And so I asked Itsartolie, whose first language is not English, to translate into English this apparently English sentence. This is how he explained it:

It really means that if access is restricted on my Youtube videos and I am certain that I own this material, I can claim it back. But, caveat emptor, if I bullshit them the offended party (the rightful owner that is) could sue my ass to his heart's content.

Okay, that’s English.

And now we come to the moment of international intrigue. The Chet Baker Foundation in Oklahoma denies it did this. In fact, in my comments section, one of the directors said so much. Well, okay, but this is curious. And there’s another Chet Baker Foundation in Canada (International Intrigue!) that might have done this. So now, using our best retention of Sherlock Holmes methods (you know my methods Watson, use them!), we have many hypotheses. One is that the Oklahoma Chet Baker Foundation is not telling the truth, another is that the board of the Oklahoma Chet Baker Foundation doesn’t know what the day to day administrative Chet Baker Foundation of Oklahoma is doing, another is that the Chet Baker Foundation of Oklahoma is telling the complete truth—which would then point to the Chet Baker Foundation of Canada that is doing the great harm to jazz. And the answer is—I don’t know and I never will. It will only become curiouser and curiouser.

But some Chet Baker Foundation might have the power to restore the site of Itsartolie, and restore and assist in their given mission. I’m not saying that they can—this is Youtube we’re talking about, but they might. And they should try. So I will help them, because they need to know which material is in dispute. Again, let’s find out from the source, Itsartolie:

Love for Sale
My Ideal
Just Friends
Helen David
interview by Elvis Costello
The Very Thought of You (w/ Costello)
If I Should Lose You
You Don't Know What Love Is (w/ Costello)
Shifting Down

It is worth mentioning that on 1/12/08 I got the exact same email for the Chet/Van Morrison performance of Send In The Clowns but this time third party was VAN MORRISON / POLYDOR.

At any rate, all these performances come from a single DVD called CHET BAKER LIVE AT RONNIE SCOTT'S PERFORMING WITH ELVIS COSTELLO AND VAN MORRISON issued by RHINO HOME VIDEO.

Apart from these and the Sinatra issue I had no other infringement trouble, so in essence it was only two instances.”

And there we have it. Who owns the copyrights to these? Is it possible to give written permission for Itsartolie to post them, since his work is most definitely helping the Chets Bakers Foundations. Is it possible after this is figured out, to tell Youtube that we, the Chets involved, withdraw our complaint, please let Itsartolie resume his most important work? Yes.

Is this actually a family squabble that all jazz lovers must now suffer? Could be. And that of course would get back to jazz being jazz’s worst enemy. These are questions that I can’t answer, I can’t write about anymore.

But we will know the truth shortly. If the Chet Baker Foundation in Oklahoma chooses to do nothing about this, then it’s a legitimate question to ask how much they actually care about their mission. If they contact the Canadian side of the coin to find out who has the rights to this material, and a fight ensues, we know that jazz must continue to fight jazz in order for jazz to be preserved. It’s life through the looking glass. And if both Chets get it worked out and Youtube is unresponsive, then I’ll be happy to write a post about Youtube trying to kill jazz while allowing its many virulently racist and anti-Semitic posts to remain.

We will also know the truth if someone from Chets tries to contact Itsartolie. I’ll be happy to help with that.

A friend told me years ago, you vote with your feet. In other words, people can say anything, the truth emerges from their actions. So, let’s hope for a happy ending, but the cynical Benjamin in me will not get my hopes up.

And this is the Carrollian Mode.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Music Theory: The Orwellian Mode

Best laid plans, right? I was hoping to stay out of politics but that just isn’t going to happen. But on the upside, this isn’t about normal politics, liberalconservativeblahblah. It’s about what bureaucracies do, what I think they will always do as long as folks who are smart refuse life’s ample opportunities to become wise.

This week Youtube began shutting down many jazz sites. Half of my Favorites, it feels like, vanished in the middle of the night, because the hosting sites also vanished in the middle of the night. If you pop around Youtube, love jazz, I don’t need to mention the names. I’ve talked to some of you, there is shock, bewilderment, and most of all astonishment, there is always astonishment, every time something like this happens. It’s not the fault of Youtube. They are in the business of copyright violation, and just about everyone who posts is violating some law or another. Occasionally someone will threaten some serious legal action, and so Youtube does a purge. This is their morality, what is legally threatening is wrong, morally repulsive—as in many sites of hate they allow to exist, not so much. People who are filled with hatred also buy things to live every day, it’s a matter of eyes on the site overall. The fact that they are a business only means that they were acting in their own interest—which is eminently comprehensible.

So this isn’t about Youtube. It’s about a charitable foundation whose mission is to promote jazz and specifically to promote the jazz artist from which this institution derives its name. Just for the heck of it, reread the last sentence—several times. I’ll even rewrite it. Their mission is to promote jazz and specifically the music of their jazz artist, The Chet Baker Foundation. And here’s where I feel like the donkey, Benjamin, in Orwell’s Animal Farm, long memory, profoundly cynical to the point of never being surprised by the selfishness and pettiness of those who have even a modicum of power. Because it was the Chet Baker Foundation that put the legal screws to Youtube. What other medium, who else was doing more, right now, to promote jazz and the music of Chet Baker than those particular sites? Answer: no one. More Answer: not the Chet Baker Foundation.

And at this point, because there is logic, the Orwellian mode takes over. Here is the choice of the Chet Baker Foundation. They could continue with their mission or become their own antithesis. If they chose to continue their mission, here’s all they had to do. Set up a Youtube account, link it to their website, offer Chet cds, have someone write blogs about the life and times of Chet, post archival footage of Chet, publicize events related to Chet in the Youtube blurb explaining the video—in other words, join the 21st century.

To be honest, I am a technological clod. One of the proprietors of these now vanished sites is, compared to me, a technological wizard. He is amazed I can be so backward. He is astounded that not even do I not know things, I haven’t even heard of them. He also told me how to start this blog, which was like Marine basic training to me. But if even I get the idea, then something has to be wrong with them, who, to a person, must be more tech savvy. Because everyone is more tech savvy than I am. And I’m not kidding. My nine year old knows more than I do.

What the Chet Baker Foundation did though, was to completely abandon their mission, to become their own nemesis. They became their anti-mission by shutting down the promotion of jazz and limiting the access people have to Chet Baker. Their new mission is to continue to solicit funds for their foundation and keep their positions within their community. The Chet Baker Foundation now has nothing to do with Chet Baker, despite their website, despite all that they might say. And that, unfortunately, is the way of bureaucracy.

Four legs good, two legs better.