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Catamount Community Radio - September 9, 2012

Spanish has a verb, despabilarse, which means wake up, buck up, get your act together, etc. I went to bed early last night, woke up before the alarm rang this morning, made it to the studio in plenty of time ... yet still, I needed to "despabilarme" this morning ... it took me awhile to get rolling ... I was neglecting to push buttons, cue up songs. After about twenty minutes, I finally had it going. Could a week off do that to me? Last Sunday I drove to Atlanta and back, so there was no show. I thought the kids might run one from the vaults, but they neglected to, that's OK.

Lyricist Hal David died September first, so I decided to do a small tribute to him today. How great are those tunes that he and Burt Bacharach wrote together?

What do you get when you fall in love
with a guy with a pin to burst your bubble?
That's what you get for all your trouble


What do you get when you kiss a guy?
You get enough germs to catch pneumonia
and after you do, he'll never phone you.


L.A. is a great big freeway.
Put a hundred down and buy a car.
In a week, maybe two, they'll make you a star.
Weeks turn into years. How quck they pass.
And all the stars that never were
Are parking cars and pumping gas.

I played some quirky covers: The Bad Plus doing "The Guy's in Love With You," Medeski, Martin & Wood doing a goofy "Do You Know the Way to San José?" I quipped, "Yeah, get on I-40 West and keep driving; you'll get there eventually." There was Erik Friedlander with "Promises, Promises" and its added ostinato section.

I played Joplin's "Swipsey Cakewalk." What is a cakewalk, anyway? I remember vaguely cakewalks in the gym in Mancelona when I was a kid. Anyway, I checked to see what the World Wide Web had to say about it. I found this from James Weldon Johnson:

"It was at one of these balls that I first saw the cake-walk. There was a contest for a gold watch, to be awarded to the hotel head-waiter receiving the greatest number of votes. There was some dancing while the votes were being counted. Then the floor was cleared for the cake-walk. A half-dozen guests from some of the hotels took seats on the stage to act as judges, and twelve or fourteen couples began to walk for a sure enough, highly decorated cake, which was in plain evidence. The spectators crowded about the space reserved for the contestants and watched them with interest and excitement. The couples did not walk round in a circle, but in a square, with the men on the inside. The fine points to be considered were the bearing of the men, the precision with which they turned the corners, the grace of the women, and the ease with which they swung around the pivots. The men walked with stately and soldierly step, and the women with considerable grace. The judges arrived at their decision by a process of elimination. The music and the walk continued for some minutes; then both were stopped while the judges conferred; when the walk began again, several couples were left out. In this way the contest was finally narrowed down to three or four couples. Then the excitement became intense; there was much partisan cheering as one couple or another would execute a turn in extra elegant style. When the cake was finally awarded, the spectators were about evenly divided between those who cheered the winners and those who muttered about the unfairness of the judges. This was the cake-walk in its original form, and it is what the colored performers on the theatrical stage developed into the prancing movements now known all over the world, and which some Parisian critics pronounced the acme of poetic motion."

We heard Duke Ellington, doing SNAFU. What does SNAFU mean? Again, the internets to the rescue:

"SNAFU, which stands for the sarcastic expression situation normal: all fucked up, is a well-known example of military acronym slang. It is sometimes bowdlerized to all fouled up or similar. It means that the situation is bad, but that this is a normal state of affairs. It is typically used in a joking manner to describe something that's working as intended. The acronym is believed to have originated in the United States Marine Corps during World War II.
Time magazine used the term in their June 16, 1942 issue: 'Last week U.S. citizens knew that gasoline rationing and rubber requisitioning were snafu.'"

Finally, a little tribute to Billy Strayhorn. Strayhorn was Duke Ellington's writing and arranging partner for more than 30 years. As is often said, it is hard to say where the hand of Ellington leaves off and the hand of Strayhorn starts. Even so, there are many tunes out there that are unequivocally Strayhorn's. I played a few. "Chelsea Bridge," as done by Ben Webster; Donny McCaslin doing "Isfahan." A few days ago I was reading David Hasjdu's biography of Strayhorn, Lush Life. Near the end, he talks about the tribute album that the Ellington band did after Strayhorn died:

“The sessions were shaded gray by Strayhorn’s shadow. 'You kept expecting to turn your head and see him,’ said Jimmy Hamilton, ‘You knew all the guys was thinking about See’ Pea.’ They played like it: the album is full of trenchant solos, particularly from Johnny Hodges … As one session ended, the band members packed up and talked a bit while Ellington sat alone at the piano, as he had done at the conclusion of so many performances, and played ‘Lotus Blossom’ for himself. This time, however, one of the studio tape recorders hadn’t been turned off, and the performance – solemn, tormented, unnervingly intimate – was captured.”

As I read, I was listening to the very recording he is talking about. I don't cry, but if I did, there would have been tears in my eyes. A colleague walked into my office right at that moment, but she didn't pick up on the sad vibe. Strayhorn drank and smoked heavily, who knows why. Maybe part of it was being an openly gay man when that was not considered OK.

Catamount Community Radio, Sunday mornings, 10-12 (ET) on WWCU-FM. Tune in and be somebody!

1. Brad Mehldau- Alfie
2. Noro Morales – Darktown Strutters Ball
3. Dionne Warwick – Don’t Go Beaking my Heart
4. Nicholas Payton – After You’ve Gone
5. Erik Friedlander – Promises, Promises
6. Ben Webster – Chelsea Bridge
7. Art Pepper – Body and Soul
8. Johnny Hartman – It Was Almost like a Song
9. Duke Ellington – Rockin’ in Rhythm
10. Aretha Franklin – Walk on By
11. Dr. John – Delicado
12. Scott Joplin – Swipsey Cakewalk
13. Nick Lowe – Rome Wasn’t Built in a Day
14. John Hartford – Your Tax Dollars at Work
15. Bill Frisell – The Days of Wine and Roses
16. Louis Armstrong – Snafu
17. Teddy Wilson, Benny Goodman, Lionel Hampton – Avalon
18. The Bad Plus – The Guy’s in Love with You
19. Floyd Cramer – Woodchopper’s Ball
20. Donny McCaslin – Isfahan
21. Duke Ellington – Lotus Blossom
22. Sir Roland Hannah – Single Petal of a Rose
23. Dionne Warwick – The Windows of the World
24. Medeski, Martin & Wood – Do You Know the Way to San José?
25. Dionne Warwich – I’ll Never Fall in Love Again
26. Bebo Valdés – La bayamesa
27. Sonny Rollins – Toot, Toot, Tootsie, Good-bye



May 2019



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