THE HISTORY BOYZ
Um, yes. Well. Hello, um, and thanks for the keys, Dave, Ben, Jim & Co. Let’s see, okay okay… you’ve shown us where the lights are, how the fish are fed, how the cable remote works, warned us about your strange neighbor with the telescopic sight. I think we’ll just make ourselves at home in this new place with its strange new smells and scarily efficient alarm system (which will take us a few Pinkerton visits to get right – but what better way to get to know our local security personnel?). Of course, we’ll have to take an errant shower in your glassed-in cubicle with gold faucets and pulverizing water pressure; then the obligatory Tom Cruise thing of dancing around in our bath towel while your fab Harmon Kardon sound system blasts Duffy (drapes shut – that neighbor again); then ordering Japanese food and accepting it in aforementioned bath-towel; then the shameful pawing through your closets and bureau drawers – not in a creepy way, of course, but more of a philosophical-cum-anthropological way. Hmmm, Alex Comfort. How 70s!
Man, we leave for a brief vacation and return to find there’s never a dull moment out here in LA-LA. Last week (Oct. 12th) was the 77th Birthday celebration of Kenny Burrell at UCLA, which included not only the obligatory jam session but an assembled group photograph of L.A.’s jazz masters standing before UCLA’s Royce Hall – a la Art Kane’s famous 1958 “Great Day In Harlem” photo for Esquire magazine. This is quite a fashionable thing out here the last few years – at least two group photographs have been made of the South-Central jazz crew down at the World Stage in Leimert Park (read our coverage of one of them here); another “Great Day” photo of L.A’s punk first wave was staged by Gary Leonard at ArthurFest in 2005. A blogger was moved to add about the latter: “Of course, old jazz guys usually look just a tad better than old punk guys, even though they lived just as hard. That’s why hats are better than tats.”
Unfortunately, the UCLA Friends of Jazz were very specific about their group photo: “The public isn’t invited, unless they become a sponsor”; “Please avoid wearing busy patterns or designs; solid colors photograph best. Also, if possible, please wear darker colors.” (Read their tightly regimented itinerary for the day here.) Fair enough. But sadly, we have no direct textual reportage to offer as of yet – The Downbeast was on vay-cay, off all times! – but K-JAZZ DJ Leroy “the Jazzcat” Downs was there (as he is here and everywhere) and put up some nice photos of the gathering on his blogsite. The photographs were both cumulative (the whole 200+ group) and sectional (reed players, string players, pianists, vocalists, etc.). The lions they assembled were considerable: besides Mr. Burrell, there was Bobby Rodriguez, Fritz Wise, Buddy Collette, Barbara Morrison, Alphonze Mouzon, Niki Haris, Jacques Lesure, Diane Hubka, Barry Zweig and Jimmy Wyble. Then again, we know a lot of da local boyz who didn’t even hear of the group photo. (Rumor #1: Kenny G was asked to participate; Rumor #2: Jeff G. and the Crypto gang were not.) It was billed as “A celebration of jazz,” not “THE celebration of jazz.” Either way, there is always some grumbling. To do L.A. justice you would have to take at least five or six photos, all with different people from different scenes, ‘hoods, and schools.
|The UCLA photos were taken by William Claxton & Kelsey Edwards Photography. The sad fact of Mr. Claxton’s passing the morning before at age 80 gave the timing of the photo a cosmic-mystical bent. Sands in the hourglass and all that. Claxton’s images are so pervasive in American culture it’s almost ridiculous to have to restate it. The man himself was toweringly tall and thin and had a deep voice. We saw him speak last year at a jazz conference at the Getty Institute and he memorably commented on the difference he saw in the West Coast musicians from the East Coast (“Musicians on the West Coast were healthy — even the junkies ate health food”) as well as the stories behind some of his famous photo shoots for Pacific Jazz album covers.|
|One of them, Sonny Rollins’s Way Out West, which depicted the saxophonist in the desert sporting cowboy garb, apparently was one of Mel Brooks’ inspirations for Cleavon Little’s “Sheriff Bart” character in Blazing Saddles.|
At any rate, Rest In Tempo, Clax. And say hello to Mr. Stubbs while you’re up there.
Downbeast out. We promise these will get shorter. And we’ll turn the light off when we leave.