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Jason Crane Posts

My grandpa’s band

Here’s a photo taken of my grandfather, Bernie Flanders, on August 15, 1930. He was 17 years old, and he played clarinet and saxophone in this band. My grandfather is standing, fourth from the left. (Click on the photo for a larger image.)

Bernard Flanders Band

My grandfather played a huge role in the person I became — particularly my love of jazz. Here’s more about that, excerpted from a larger piece I’m working on:

My grandparents have played a big part in my life. My grandfather was a saxophonist and clarinetist when he was younger. He played in a swing band with some guys from the GE plant where he worked. When I was growing up, my grandparents had one of those console stereos that was a piece of furniture. It looked like the bottom part of a hutch when it was closed up. It was painted white, and the speaker section along the front had a curtain covering it. To get to the controls, you opened the top of the console. Inside was a turntable and a receiver. My grandpa had a big collection of swing records – including an entire series of records by Glen Gray and the Casa Loma Orchestra. These records were made in the 1950s, when Gray decided to create an archive of classic swing tunes by recreating the arrangements of the famous big bands.

I learned every note on every one of these records. Unlike most kids in the late 70’s, who were memorizing the lyrics to “Detroit Rock City,” I was learning the horn parts to “Nightmare” and “String of Pearls” and “Take The A Train.” I also developed a real passion for Nat “King” Cole that continues to this day. My grandfather new most of the soloists from the records – particularly the sax and clarinet players. He and my grandma were also big Lawrence Welk fans, and they both knew the names of every musician and singer and dancer on the show.

My favorite album, and the one I learned the best, was Kenton In Hi-Fi. Kenton made this fantastic recording in 1956 for Capitol Records, and it features many of Stan’s biggest hits – “Artistry In Rhythm,” “Eager Beaver,” “Unison Riff,” and “Artistry Jumps,” to name a few. It also features the very gutsy tenor saxophonist Vido Musso, a ridiculous trumpet section led by Pete Candoli and Maynard Ferguson, and the drumming of the incomparable Mel Lewis. This record swings its ass off from start to finish, and it’s a huge piece of my musical upbringing.

I still love big band music, particularly when it gets cold. I’m not sure what the correlation is, but as the winter approaches, I pull out all my Ellington and Basie and drift back into the first half of the 20th century. I listen to swing music throughout the year, but the strong pull of nostalgia is only there in the winter.

* * *

Going back to music for a minute: I had a very strange musical upbringing. I listened to Nat Cole and Stan Kenton at a time when most kids were listening to disco and Kiss. As I got older, I stayed on my own course. I got some hand-me-down 8-track tapes when I was maybe seven years old. I can’t remember all of them, but my two favorites were a Kiss greatest hits collection (which I loved because Kiss was my cousin Todd’s favorite band, and thus my favorite band, too) and a collection of performances by Arthur Fiedler and the Boston Pops. I can only recall one song from that collection – and orchestral version of Burt Bacharach’s “Do You Know The Way To San Jose?” What kind of kid listens to big band, cheese rock, and the Boston Pops? Did no one in family own a radio?

One explanation for my early musical taste is that I spent so much time in the Hagyard Building with my grandparents, who didn’t listen to the radio all that much. It’s odd that they didn’t, because listening to the radio has been my grandfather’s main passtime for the past 15 years or so. I don’t remember listening to the radio a lot with my parents, which again is odd because they both worked at a radio station. I think I really started listening to the radio after we moved to New York State. Or at least that’s when I remember riding in the car a lot with the radio on, catching up on some of the music I’d missed.

Not counting the Kiss 8-track, I didn’t own my first rock record until I was in high school. I fell in with a crowd that was into prog rock. The first rock tape I remember owning was a copy of Signals by Rush, a Canadian rock band that my friend Jeff calls the “best all-girl band of the 70’s.” Somewhere around my freshman year, this group of friends turned my on to Yes, Genesis, Rush, King Crimson, the Moody Blues, Pink Floyd, Asia, Jethro Tull – all your prog rock favorites. I still love those bands now, although my tastes have broadened considerably since high school.

The first record I ever spent my own money on was Chuck Mangione’s 1978 album An Evening Of Magic: Live At The Hollywood Bowl. I got the album on cassette (two cassettes, if I remember right) and wore the thing out. In addition to Chuck on flugelhorn and electric piano, the concert featured Chris Vadala on saxes and flutes, Grant Geissman on guitar, Charles Meeks on the bass, James Bradley, Jr. on the drums, and a full orchestra. Vadala tears it up on every track. This album set the stage for my approach to jazz for years to come.

* * *

About the Kenton record: When I was first listening to it as a kid, it never occurred to me that I might one day talk to members of the band. And I don’t mean that I never thought I could reach those heights. I mean it literally never occurred to me that the band existed in the real world, and that some people had jobs that allowed them to talk to musicians.

I probably heard that record for the first time when I was four or five, and I got to know it well a decade later in junior high. Fifteen years after that, I interviewed Maynard Ferguson, one of the trumpeters on Kenton In Hi-Fi, and a legend in his own right. I didn’t ask him about that particular record, although we did talk about Kenton. He was a funny, approachable, articulate man, and he was very generous with his time as a guest on my radio show.

Before I ever thought about interviewing famous musicians, I thought about becoming one. As a young child, I took classical guitar lessons, but I was never very good and I didn’t last long. Right before I went into 7th grade, my cousin-hero Todd sent me his clarinet, which he’d traded in for an electric bass. I started playing clarinet in junior high, switched to saxophone in high school, and decided that being a professional musician was the life for me. As it turned out, though, I got much closer to the top level of performers as an interviewer than I ever did as a performer.

I’m not really sure when it was that I realized that musicians were actual human beings. Isn’t that strange? When do we cross that line of perception and discover that recorded sound is produced by regular people? How do we do it? I don’t think anyone ever told me that all those records were made by people just like me. I guess one day I just put together all the images I’d seen on TV with the records I’d been listening to and made the connection. All these years later, there’s still an element of magic and awe involved in talking with someone who was on a milestone recording.

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The White Hots have a new CD

White Hots

The White Hots are Rochester’s premier “chamber blues” band. If you’re in the area on December 11, this is one event not to miss:

The White Hots announce the release of Caught in the Act, our first CD with vocalist Tina Albright!

Come to our CD release party on Monday, December 11 from 7:30 – 9:30 p.m. at the Little Theatre Café, 240 East Avenue.

All three of our CDs are also available at any of our gigs (we are at the Little Theater the first three Mondays in December) or via thewhitehots.com.

Caught in the Act is dedicated to Dennis Monroe, the amazing musical talent who was our friend and fellow Hot. Dennis passed away earlier this year.

We look forward to seeing you!

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Anita O’Day, R.I.P.

One of my all-time favorite jazz singers is gone. Thanks for the music. You’ll be missed…

Anita ODay 1

ANITA O’DAY
October 18, 1919-November 23, 2006

Jazz Vocal legend Anita O’Day passed this morning October 23, 2006 at 6:17AM in West Los Angeles. The cause of death was cardiac arrest according to her manager Robbie Cavalina.

Born Anita Belle Colton in Chicago, Illinois on October 18, 1919, O’Day got her start as a teen. She eventually changed her name to O’Day and in the late 1930’s began singing in a jazz club called the Off- Beat, a popular hangout for musicians like band leader and drummer Gene Krupa. In 1941 she joined Krupa’s band, and a few weeks later Krupa hired trumpeter Roy Eldridge. O’Day and Eldridge had great chemistry on stage and their duet “Let Me Off Uptown” became a million-dollar-seller, boosting the popularity of the Krupa band. Also that year, “Down Beat” magazine named O’Day “New Star of the Year” and, in 1942, she was selected as one of the top five big band singers.

After her stint with, Krupa, O’Day joined Stan Kenton’s band. She left the band after a year and returned to Krupa. Singer Jackie Cain remembers the first time she saw O’Day with the Krupa band. “I was really impressed,” she recalls, “She (O’Day) sang with a jazz feel, and that was kind of fresh and new at the time.” Later, O’Day joined Stan Kenton’s band with whom she cut an album that featured the hit tune “And Her Tears Flowed Like Wine”

In the late’40s, O’Day struck out on her own. She teamed up with drummer John Poole, with whom she played for the next 32 years. Her album “Anita”, which she recorded on producer Norman Granz’s new Verve label, elevated her career to new heights. She began performing in festivals and concerts with such illustrious musicians as Louis Armstrong, Dinah Washington, Georg Shearing and Thelonious Monk. O’Day also appeared in the documentary filmed at the Newport Jazz Festival in 1958 called “Jazz on a Summer Day”, which made her an international star.

Summers Day

Throughout the ’60s Anita continued to tour and record while addicted to heroin and in 1969 she nearly died from an overdose. O’Day eventually beat her addiction and returned to work. In 1981 she published her autobiography “High Times, Hard Times” which, among other things, talked candidly about her drug addiction.

Her final recording was “Indestructible Anita O’Day” and featured Eddie Locke, Chip Jackson, Roswell Rudd, Lafayette Harris, Tommy Morimoto and the great Joe Wider. A documentary, “ANITA O’DAY-THE LIFE OF A JAZZ SINGER” will be released in 2007.

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Rutner & Wierenga! Wierenga & Rutner!

Here’s a message from my good friend Josh Rutner:

Mark it on your calendars! Josh Rutner and Red Wierenga will be bringing the Respect Aesthetic back to Java’s Cafe in Rochester, after several years away. Here’s the short take:

  • WHO: Josh Rutner (saxophone), Red Wierenga (piano) + a possible appearance by Respect’s drummer, Ted Poor!
  • WHEN: Friday, November 24th 2006 – 9:00 PM
  • WHERE: Java’s Cafe; 16 Gibbs Street, off East Avenue, Rochester
  • WHY: It’s been a while; we should see each other again!
  • HOW MUCH: No cover; tips would be greatly appreciated.

Josh and Red will be playing some great Respect Sextet gems, a bunch of new originals (and unoriginals, of course,) as well as a sampling from Respect’s
new project: SIRIUS RESPECT, THE MUSIC OF SUN RA & KARLHEINZ STOCKHAUSEN

We hope to see you back at the ol’ stomping grounds! Also, don’t forget that The Respect Sextet proper will be playing their annual “RESPECT THE HOLIDAYS” show at the Bop Shop on Tuesday, the 19th of December at 8PM!

Thanks,
Josh

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Podcast news: 2,000 downloads; new shows

If you haven’t yet listened to The Jason Crane Show, now is a great time to start. This week, we passed our 2,000th download, thanks to the strong support of all of you and folks like Norm at One Good Move. Here are the most recent episodes:

  • Show #14: Richard Dawkins – It Aint Random. An archival interview with Professor Richard Dawkins, originally broadcast on The Jason Crane Show on April 2, 2005. Dawkins is an evolutionary biologist, outspoken atheist, and tireless campaigner for science and truth. In this interview, he talks about his books A Devil’s Chaplain and The Ancestor’s Tale. You can find out more about Richard Dawkins at RichardDawkins.net.
  • Show #15: Problematic Patriotism. My wife and I discuss patriotism, being an American, and how we can create real change without compromising ourselves.
  • Show #16: Susan Jacoby – Freethinkers In America. An interview with author Susan Jacoby about her book Freethinkers: A History of American Secularism. Jacoby dispels the myth that the United States is a nation founded on Christian principles, and talks about prominent American freethinkers who’ve shaped this country’s intellectual and political history. If you decide to buy the book, please support The Jason Crane Show by buying Freethinkers using this link. Thanks!
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Viva Las … oh, never mind

Sahara

It’s not that I hate Las Vegas, it’s more that … um … OK, it’s that I hate Las Vegas.

I’m writing this from the Sahara Hotel and Casino in Vegas, where I’ve come for a meeting of hotel union folks. Las Vegas is one of the power bases of my union, UNITE HERE, given that we represent hotel and gaming workers. Nearly every casino on The Strip is union, and this city is home to more than 50,000 of our members. Hotel and gaming jobs here are becoming middle-class jobs as a result.

For me, though, Vegas is everything I dislike about American culture — lit up. Commercialism, overindulgence, self-centeredness, neon. It’s all here in quantities that could make even the most calm and collected person lose their marbles. And as you’ve learned by now, I’m not the most calm and collected person.

I think I would have liked Vegas 50 years ago, when the Sahara was built. Back when the entertainers had last names like Sinatra, Martin, and Davis. Back when Count Basie backed Nat Cole and swing was the popular music of the day. These days, though, most of that history is buried under an enormous pyramid, a fake Eiffel Tower, and a make-believe New York City.

The popular wisdom about this town is that everything’s cheap because they want you to gamble. That may have been the case back in the day, but now Vegas is a tourist destination for the whole family, and even the most obscure magician or comedian charges $50 a ticket.

At least I’m staying in one of the last surviving hotels from the golden era of Vegas. The Sahara was built in 1952, and it looks it. It’s far down on The Strip — actually off the main part of The Strip, as far as I can tell. The only other hotels and casinos near here are the Las Vegas Hilton and the Stratosphere. Except for the color TV and the wireless Internet access, it’s easy to believe that this room was occupied by John and Mary from Wisconsin on their first big trip back in the late 50s.

To summarize: It’s fantastic that so many workers are able to build a life here with a good wage and decent healthcare. That’s a good thing, and I hope for their sake that this place keeps going strong. But for my sake, I hope the next one of these meetings is somewhere else.

For information on UNITE HERE Local 226 in Las Vegas, visit their Web site. For more about the Sahara, check out this interactive timeline.

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The Hagyard Building, circa 1920

The picture at the top of this site is a section of the Hagyard Building on Main Street in Lenox, Massachussetts. It’s the building in which my grandparents and great-uncle lived, and it’s the first place I lived, too. This building looms so large in my life that I chose it as the symbol of this site. I took that picture in 2003 or 2004. Well, tonight I found another photo of it, this time from some time between 1910 and 1920:

Hagyard Building

I found this photo here, at the Library of Congress’s American Memory collection. The collection is chock-full of amazing artifacts, so go take a look.

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Nietzsche Family Circus…

…pairs a random Family Circus cartoon with a random quote from Friederich Nietzsche. Enjoy!

You’re welcome.

And thanks to Norm at One Good Move for the tip.

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Giving credit where it’s due

Back in April, I posted this item alerting readers to shows by Tierney Sutton and Claudia Acuna. To illustrate the article, I used two photos, including this one:

It turns out this photo was taken by Seattle’s Bruce C. Moore, a fact I learned when he mentioned it on his blog, Hey, I took that!. Bruce’s blog is dedicated to finding his photos in use by people who haven’t asked his permission, paid him or credited him, and he really made me reflect on that practice. In this digital age, it’s easy to find a photo of almost anyone you choose to write about. The ease, however, has lowered the bar for attribution. The photo of Tierney Sutton is taken from her own Web site, where it is also uncredited.

My apologies, Bruce. Consider me on notice. I’ll work hard from now on to provide proper credit for the photos I use, and to seek permission where feasible. I can’t promise complete compliance, but I’ll do my absolute best. As I said to Bruce on his blog, I encourage Bruce and other photographers to contact bloggers and Web administrators directly and let them know about their use of uncredited photos. People deserve to be recognized for the work they do.

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Brother of the Fist: The Passing of Peter Norman

This is from the always provocative sports writer and cultural commentator Dave Zirin. I don’t see it on his Web site, which is at EdgeOfSports.com. If it gets posted there, I’ll take this down and provide a link. In the meantime, Dave’s words are worth reading:

Olympics

Brother of the Fist: The Passing of Peter Norman By Dave Zirin

Almost four decades later, the image can still make hairs rise on unsuspecting necks. It’s 1968, and 200 meter gold medalist Tommie Smith stands next to bronze winner John Carlos, their raised black gloved fists smashing the sky on the medal stand in Mexico City. They were Trojan Horses of Rage — bringing the Black
revolution into that citadel of propriety and hypocrisy: the Olympic games.

When people see that image, their eyes are drawn like magnets toward Smith and Carlos, standing in black socks, their heads bowed in controlled concentration.

Less noticed is the silver medalist. He is hardly mentioned in official retrospectives, and people assume him to be a Forrest Gump-type figure, just another of those unwitting witnesses to history who always end up in the back of famous frames. Only the perceptive notice that this seemingly anonymous individual is wearing a rather large button emblazoned with the letters O-P-H-R, standing for the Olympic Project for Human Rights.

Only those who see the film footage notice that he never throws a furtive glance back at fellow medal winners as they raise their fists. He never registers surprise or alarm. At a moment that epitomized the electric shock of rebellion, his gaze is cool, implacable, his back ramrod straight, a fellow soldier proud to stand with his brothers.

Only those who go beyond official history will learn about the true motivations of all three of these men. They wanted the apartheid countries of South African
and Rhodesia to be disallowed from the Olympics. They wanted more coaches of African descent. They wanted the world to know that their success did not mean
racism was now a relic of history. The silver medalist with the white skin stood with Smith and Carlos on every question and it was agreed before the race, that
if the three, as expected, were the ones on the dais, they would stand together: three young anti-racists standing together in struggle.

That silver medalist with the nerves of steel and thirst for justice was Australian runner Peter Norman. Norman died of a heart attack last week at the age of
64 and Monday was put to rest.

Two people who knew the depth and conviction of Norman’s solidarity were the two who acted as lead pallbearers at his funeral: Tommie Smith and John
Carlos. Over the years the three men had stayed connected, welded together by history and the firestorm they all faced when the cameras were turned
off.

The backlash endured by Smith and Carlos is well documented. Less known are Norman’s own travails. He was a pariah in the Australian Olympic world, despite
being a five-time national champion in the 200 meters. He desired to coach the highest levels, yet worked as a Physical Education teacher, the victim of a down
under blacklist.

As John Carlos said, “At least me and Tommie had each other when we came home. When Peter went home, he had to deal with a nation by himself. He never wavered, never denied that he was up there with us for a purpose and he never said ‘I’m sorry’ for his involvement. That’s indicative of who the man was.” ”

When the 2000 Olympics came to Sydney, Norman was outrageously outcast from the festivities, still the invisible man. In a conversation at that time with
sportswriter Mike Wise, Norman was absent of bitterness and wore his ostracism as proudly as that solidarity button from 1968. “I did the only thing I believed was right,” he said to Wise. “I asked what they wanted me to do to help. I couldn’t see why a black man wasn’t allowed to drink out of the same water fountain or sit in the same bus or go to the same schools as a white guy. That was just social injustice that I couldn’t do anything about from where I was, but I certainly abhorred it.”

Norman never strayed from a life of humility. When a sculpture was unveiled of Smith and Carlos last year in California, Norman was left off, the silver medal
platform purposely vacant so others could stand in his place. Smith and Carlos protested it, feeling it fed the false idea of Norman as political bystander. But Norman himself who traveled from Australia to California for the unveiling said, “I love that idea. Anybody can get up there and stand up for something they believe in. I guess that just about says it all.”

Norman didn’t define himself by self-promotion, book deals, or the lecture circuit — only by the quiet pride that he was a part of a movement much bigger
than himself. By happily surrendering his personal glory to the greater good, Norman earned the love and respect of his peers.

As Carlos said about sudden passing of the man his children called Uncle Pete, “Peter was a piece of my life. When I got the call, it knocked the wind out of
me. I was his brother. He was my brother. That’s all you have to know.”

Dave Zirin is the author of “‘What’s My Name Fool?’: Sports and Resistance in the United States” (Haymarket Books) You can receive his column Edge of Sports, every week by e-mailing edgeofsports-subscribe@zirin.com. Contact him at dave@edgeofsports.com.

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