Look: I am eager to learn stuff I don't know--which requires actively courting and posting smart disagreement.

But as you will understand, I don't like to post things that mischaracterize and are aimed to mislead.

-- Brad Delong

Copyright Notice

Everything that appears on this blog is the copyrighted property of somebody. Often, but not always, that somebody is me. For things that are not mine, I either have obtained permission, or claim fair use. Feel free to quote me, but attribute, please. My photos and poetry are dear to my heart, and may not be used without permission. Ditto, my other intellectual property, such as charts and graphs. I'm probably willing to share. Let's talk. Violators will be damned for all eternity to the circle of hell populated by Rosanne Barr, Mrs Miller [look her up], and trombonists who are unable play in tune. You cannot possibly imagine the agony. If you have a question, email me: jazzbumpa@gmail.com. I'll answer when I feel like it. Cheers!

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Record Review

The last two SMB entries got me thinking about Kenton's West Side Story, a CD I haven't listened to in three or four years. I forgot how much I loved it. Back in 2000, for reasons that are not likely to become clear any time soon, I wrote this review of it.

Kenton's West Side Story
Capitol Jazz CDP 7243 8 29914 2 7 copyright 1994

Stan Kenton died in 1979. I wonder if, during the intervening decades, any brass musician has ever touched a mellophonium to his lips. This awkwardly pitched instrument, residing in the foreign territory between the trombones and trumpets that would be occupied by French Horns in other musical settings, is to the trombones what boy sopranos would be to the three tenors.

Kenton's arrangements always challenged brass players to exceed a sensible upper register for their horns. I suspect he got the good folks at the Conn Instrument company to invent the mellophoniun for him because even his crew of astounding trombonists could never play quite high enough. Unfortunately, even in it's mid-range the mellophonium's tone is too much like the sound you might expect to result from blowing through a garden hose. In the low range, it's like a trombone in insulin shock. And when it's screaming at the top of its register -- you know Kenton is going to make that happen -- it's hard not to imagine that the soprano's status is being surgically converted to permanent.

Still, in Kenton's West Side Story the mellophonium is put to good use. The entire album has a sound that is enormous and bold, without ever getting an irritating brassy edge. Even given the six trumpets and five trombones, this effect would not be possible without the mellophoniums.

Stan Kenton's musicians and Johnny Richards' arrangements take Bernstein and Sondheim's fabulous score and make from it even more than was already there. Richards starts the PROLOGUE with a unlikely but amazingly appropriate lick borrowed from the opening strains of Joachin Rodrigo's CONCIERTO DE ANRANJUEZ. From then on it's pure Bernstien, but refined and recast in the Kenton image.

MARIA begins with a Kenton piano solo that would fit perfectly in a concerto. Then, with the mellophoniums leading the brass entry, the sound becomes so lush it evokes images of someone far more voluptuous than delicate Natalie Wood. There's nobody in today's crop of size-0 actress-waifs* who could stand up to the comparison. You'd have to go back to Jayne Mansfield, or perhaps Jane Russell to find an appropriate fit.

This album is loaded with brilliant improvisations by Conte Condoli on trumpet and Gabe Baltazar on alto. Even the mellophonium gets its brief but glorious moment in the sun in the TAUNTING SCENE with Gene Roland's raucous, beautifully conceived jazz solo, immediately preceding Jack Spurlock's imitation of Kai Winding on trombone.

When West Side Story hit Broadway in 1957, nobody had ever seen anything like it, and its jazzy pop tunes laced with classical overtones opened the way for a new era in show music. From almost four decades remove, Richards' interpretation is not quite the startling revelation it was in 1961. But it's still not dated -- the ideas work, the sound is fresh, and the recording quality is faultless. Would you make that bold statement about any other recording from the early 60's?

Maybe the mellophonium wasn't such a bad idea after all.
* Update - maybe Angelina Jolie

Monday, June 29, 2009

Monday Music Blogging

MMB is not likely to be a regular feature here at R. Blues.  But the Jacko Wackosity of recent days has overshadowed all other news events, both great and small.

Here, then, we take note of the passing of another contemporary musician.

I'm sorry to say I never heard of Tim Krekel while he was alive.

Here is a song I've never heard before.  Very poignant.  Love the harmonies.  I suspect it will haunt me for a while.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Sunday Music Blogging

Another selection from Kenton's London appearance in 1972.

A Little Minor Booze is composed and arranged by Willie Maiden.  I don't know who the alto soloist is.  I'm assuming Quin Davis, since he has it on the album, and the style is similar. Flugelhorn solo by Ray Brown.

One interesting detail on the arrangement is the syncopated scale passage at 4:05 - just before the bass trombone pedal at 4:11, has 2nd trombone ascending and 3rd trombone descending.  They cross somewhere near the middle (or maybe the top) of the bass clef.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

I'd like to make a Cone Head Joke . . .

. . .but somehow, can't quite bring it together.

I don't have this blog to simply construct links to other blogs.*

But this is just so gob-stoppingly stupid, I can't stop myself.

Now, I must go hug a squid.

*That is, after all, Glenn Reynolds' job

Monday, June 22, 2009

Taking Stock

Anyone who has listened to me with half an ear any time in recent years knows I'm skeptical to the point of cynicism about the stock market.

Let's just say, there is a time to buy, and a time to sell.

Smart money might get it right. Dumb money usually gets it wrong. The DJIA, as of this writing is down about 2% on the day, but that is beside the point. Insiders have sold into this recent rally. Think what you will about corporate executives. They are more likely than anyone else to be informed, and that's about as good as being smart. They haven't sold like this since 2007. Let's see -- what happenend then?

And, who do you suppose has been buying . . .

Just Because

And we haven't had a fairy for a while. So here. Picture above from the linked website.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Sunday Music Blogging

In the interest of full disclosure, I'll have to admit that I'm more than a little bit perplexed by my new acquaintance, J. But, a wise trombonist knows to take a good suggestion, and, after a rather rocky start, J offered one in the comments to last week's SMB.

So, this week, we feature Stan Kenton, and a look into his trombone section from a live performance in London in February, 1972. And, to introduce an arbitrary slant, I've decided to use in SMB only Kenton arrangements that I've actually performed. Here is one of the Strangest, and most difficult. At that time, I was playing third, and did not have the solo.

Chiapas is mostly in 5/4 time, but takes excursions into 7/4, and IIRC (it's been several years) 11/8 and 13/8 in the riffs following the improvised soprano sax and trumpet solos.

The trombone solo - written, not improvised - here features Dick Shearer, probably the edgiest trombonist I've ever heard.


Friday, June 19, 2009

Letter to a Columnist

Here is a recent article by the ever-wise Leonard Pitts, and my response to it.

Dear Mr. Pitts:

I enjoy reading your columns. You are a consistent voice of reason in a world that suffers from a severe lack of it.

I do have a disagreement with your column published locally in the Detroit Free Press this morning, titled "No Joking for Conservatives."

Sir, you are too much of a gentleman. Perhaps Mr. Datsyuk should share his Lady Bing* Trophy with you. You give historical conservatism credit for an intellectual coherence that never existed. Going back to Russell Kirk's 1953 epic, "The Conseravtive Mind," we find the pillars of the conservative mindset to be prejudice, ignorance, false choices, and magical thinking. I am not making this up - you only need to read the first 35 pages.

Further, President Reagan displayed every bit of the intellectual incoherence that his ideological heirs so proudly exhibit. It was Reagan who professed small government while it mushroomed around him, fiscal restraint while tripling the national debt, and foreign policy chaos - propping up Saddam Hussein while secretly arming the Iranians at war against him. The deaths of millions of people on both sides resulted from American weaponry and American financing.

Modern conservatism does not deserve to be called conservatism at all. As much as I disagree with real conservatives, I can at least respect a view point that is internally consistent, no matter how difficult it is to correlate it with reality. But modern faux-conservatism is simply guano-in-the-belfry crazy.

But, perhaps a more gentlemanly approach is what is needed in a world bereft of either sense or sensibility.

Keep up the good work.

Very truly yours,


* Should by BYNG. My bad.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Sunday Music Blogging

The sinister guitarist speaks and plays.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

It's Been a Really Bad Week . . .

. . . at the National Review.

WOW. Just . . . wow.

At NR they post an unbelievably misbegotten end multiply racist cover picture, and out* a pseudonymous blogger, because he shows them up.

I first saw these things at EoTAW, here, where the cover pic is deconstructed by SEK, and here.

Kos shows and comments on the infamous cover picture.

Lowry explains the essence of humor to TEH LIBRULZ.

Publius explains his rationale for pseudonymous blogging.

Here is mine.

The right gets everything wrong, every time, and for every imaginable reason.

What truly miserable, awful, nasty, self-righteous, hypocritical people they are.

The Anonymous Liberal weighs in.

UPDATE 2 (6/08 a.m.)
Wisdom from one of A.L.'s anonymous commenters:

Can someone please explain why "anonymity" on the internet should be encouraged?

Let me add to what A.L. has said. For one thing, there's a difference between anonymity and pseudonymity: over time, a consistent pseudonym establishes a reliable identity. And the writer does have a strong investment in that identity's integrity, because within the online community, that pseud is the writer: his or her reputation, relationships, and credibility are attached to that name, rather than to any offline name.

But more than that, pseudonymity on the net allows for the strength of an argument or idea to stand independent of the writer's formal credentials, or of accidents of body or birth. It allows for true meritocracy in argument, without some voices being automatically ignored merely because they come from women, or men who went to the wrong school, or people who have the wrong shade of skin. This is a problem for folks even when they're talking to others who have no intention to take women or people of color or those who didn't go to Princeton less than seriously, since it's difficult to fully overcome social training that operates on an unconscious level.

In other words, it's a Good Thing that on the Internet, no one knows you're a dog. I still boggle that anyone would want to eliminate that rare and glorious quality.
UPDATE 3 (6/08 pm)
Quiddity (discovered via A.L.) adds some perspective.

Under our Constitution, anonymous pamphleteering is not a pernicious, fraudulent practice, but an honorable tradition of advocacy and of dissent. Anonymity is a shield from the tyranny of the majority. ... It thus exemplifies the purpose behind the Bill of Rights, and of the First Amendment in particular: to protect unpopular individuals from retaliation--and their ideas from suppression--at the hand of an intolerant society.
-- Justice Stevens
Yes, I used "out" as a verb.

The Economy

So much worse than anyone wants to admit.

Many parents who were frantic last year about sons and daughters serving in Iraq and Afghanistan — the state has sent a disproportionate share of its young people overseas — now are relieved their children have a steady job with benefits.

It's even worse than I used to think it was.

Penguins Play Off Blogging - Pt 3

Other than adjusting the details to include slashes and even more sucker punches, there is little to add to this.

But wait, after further reflection, there's more.

I predicted before the 2nd period was over that the officials would have to start tossing Penguins out of the game to keep people from getting hurt. The same thing happened when the Wings undressed the Black Hawks.

The Penguins have been an embarrassment to hockey in two consecutive games before a National audience on a major network -- not with their play, but with their childish lack of composure, maturity and character. Gary Bettman looked like he just drank a quart of hemlock, laced with battery acid.

Sunday Music Blogging

Breast cancer survivor* and sinister guitarist team up on Pride and Joy.

You go, girl!

Wednesday, June 3, 2009


John Sherffius
May 28, 2009

Penguin Playoff Blogging Pt.2 - Revenge of the Zebras

At a certain point, even profanity fails me, so I’ll just ask a few questions

Why does the home town crowd get to call the game?

If the zebras are going to let that happen, then why didn’t they just stay on the game preserve?

Would there be a penalty if there were 7 Penguins on the ice? 8? What does it take?

Why do the announcers on Against keep talking about the “subtle picks and interference” of the Red Wings, but not a word about the blatant obstructions of the Penguins? Or the two-handed cross-checks to the back of the head? Or the goal they score on a off-side play? Or the waved-off icings?

Or the spearing?

Does this game even have rules?

What team did Olczyk coach?

And Milbury loved it when Malkin sucker-punched Zetterberg. Is this what you might expect from a guy whose career stats include 49 goals, and 1552 minutes in the penalty box?

Is the NHL so desperate to hype Crosby as a cup-hoister that they will do anything to let his team win?

I just discovered yesterday was Gary Bettman's birthday. Where did I put my profanity dictionary? And my barf bag?

Monday, June 1, 2009

Penguin Playoff Blogging

It's said that in times of adversity you show what you're made of - and I believe it. In the first two games of the Stanley Cup finals the Pens have demonstrated that they are LOSERS.

Their two stars - the leaders of their team - are devoid of character. They are young, and might grow up some day. But, as of now, no matter how great their skills, they are little more than thugs.

What else would you say about a guy who blind-sides his opponent at center ice with a cross-check body blow that sends him flying, after he has already passed the puck; or who hits his opponent in the head with his stick after the whistle; or who stick-jabs a member of the opposing team after the game when he is in line to congratulate his winning goalie goalie for a brilliant performance? The worm Sidney Crosby did every bit of that in game 1.

What do you call a player who spears the other team's goalie in the waning seconds of a lost game? You might call him #25 Maxime Talbot. I call him a pissant. At least this transgression drew a penalty, as meaningless as it was.

What do you call a guy who sucker-punches the other team's star for stepping in to defend his speared goalie? Evgeni Malkin is the crumb who did this.

Check this low-light video. And the idiot announcers approve. Malkin should have been suspended for instigating in the last 5 minutes, but the league demurred 'cuz - you know - he's a Penguin.

This series is men against boys; and in subtle ways, men against boys and zebras.

The Penguins might achieve their potential greatness some day, if they mature. But their Chicago-Black-Hawks-style melt-down at the end of game 2 demonstrates just how far they have to go.

Meanwhile I have nothing for them but contempt.

A Rant*, in re: Saturday's LA Times X-Word**


I am writing to RED YE the riot act for the puzzle of 5/30/09. "WAIT A SEC -- WHAT'S THE PROBLEM?" you ask? Okay, SES I - A hard puzzle is fine. And if I can't complete it: that's Okay, too. Sometimes the constructor wins. But win by playing fair.

As soon as one WADES IN, there is boom = THRIVE, an EXTRA LARGE stretch. When the ANS is a foreign word, you PESO me off. And when the clue and ANS don't correspond - "That is the sort of nonsense up with which I will not put"*** I WON'T STAND FOR IT. Don't you 'SPOSE that pajamas are specifically bed-time attire, and a cat wears its FUR 24/365? Or that SEE FIT means decide is tolerable, rather than best?

IDIO of me, perhaps, but I'm really SCRAPED OFF by your use of obscure technical jargon, SUCH AS "NISI," and "REDOX," and silly word fragments. PSHAW, I INTONE: leave your ETTES at 'OME. This toxic MEME is worse than EBOLI. Keep giving me Roman Numerals, and I will keep giving you FLAX. Nor does the use of overly-clever clues justify these flaws. Major follower? No - just F'n STOP it!.

Crosswords should not inspire cross words. They should be games, not CHORES that make me tear even more FUR from my already receding HAIRLINE.

Credit where it's due, though, I will CEDE you DIAPER RASH, PED, STRAY, ARB, and ATOLL. THAT'S MORE LIKE IT. But, alas, too little, TOO LATE. NEH -I cannot EVER NOMINATE as SOIGNE a puzzle with so much STRAY SASS.

Yours in tough love,
* Clues and more rational commentary can be found here.
** ANS grid can be found here
*** Sorry. Wrong quote.