Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Fine And Mellow

I found this video yesterday. I have not been as utterly and completely blown away by a performance of any kind in a long, long time. There are two things about this clip that are very interesting. Actually there are more than two, but we'll keep it simple today. I'm playing this right now and I have this big grin on my face.

First off, this was recorded two years before Billie left us and she is in rough shape. Towards the end of her career, her voice was not what it once was, but she had lost none of her ability to sing, and by sing I mean transmit through her voice to us feeling even the essence of the song. In the words of Gary Giddins, "Her voice was frayed in those last years, but she communicated more deeply than ever, making banal songs more urgent and the good ones radiant." Miles Davis said, "I'd rather hear her now (1958.) She's become much more mature. Sometimes you can sing words every night for five years, and all of a sudden it dawns on you what the song means....So with Billie, you know she's not thinking about now what she was in 1937, and she's probably learned more about different things."

She can say more with one single word and note, than most singers today can in a whole song. I love watching her face, at times peaceful, at times you can see her thinking and listening, even working the song in her head. And I absolutely love the way she watches the soloists, truly appreciating their playing, even adoring in the case of Lester Young and Ben Webster. But behind the joy of her singing and her appreciation of her bandmates, there is a deep sadness and a hint of desperation in her eyes. I watch this video with joy and despair, having been in her shoes, at least partially. Her story is worse than my own, as I did not grow up as she did. Her childhood was horrible, and I cannot claim that, but I went through addiction so I share that with her. The joy comes from the music and from her sheer brilliance and artistry, and that of her bandmates.

And the second part of this video that is astounding her is band. Imagine a concert with Clapton, Jeff Beck, Jimmy Page, Paul McCartney and Rick Wakeman backing up the singer. I'm sure I could come up with a better analogy, but the lineup is obscene. The first pair of solos is taken by tenor saxmen Coleman Hawkins and Lester Young. After another verse, trombone player Vic Dickenson and baritone sax player Gerry Mulligan take turns. The final pair of soloists are Ben Webster on tenor sax and Roy Eldridge turning in a blistering trumpet solo. Watch Billie's face, particularly during the solos of Lester and Ben. Lester is amazing in his solos simplicity, yet deep bluesy feeling.

I share this with you in hopes you may enjoy it too. I would encourage watching this in it's entirety if you listened while reading. Go back and watch....oh, Lord....I'm being bossy, huh? Just a suggestion...lol. And I have one more quote about Lady Day in her last years....

"I feel there is no one in jazz who can come close in terms of emotional penetration to the Holiday on these tracks (referring to her last albums.) For those who say they liked the youthful Holiday and don't dig Billie in middle age, I would suggest they not abandon these records yet, and instead save them for their own middle age." - Nat Hentoff


Kimala said...

moonlighting SL DJ man
before I tell you what I think
I have ONE question for you...

whew ok, out of my system ;)

That being said. I have to tell you - that your blog entry reminds me of exactly what teachers do - set the stage, illustrate their point, and then ellaborate. Beautiful 9.5 on the teaching scale :) we'll see if D agrees.

On the music side of things - I find that my favorite thing to concentrate on is the eyebrows. I know that sounds silly - but if you watch the horn and sax players eyebrows, with their eyes closed as they improvise, you just know they are feeling the music through their souls. Same with Billie as she sings. She knows the words. The words are not complicated. She is feeling it. When you are part of music like that, when you are creating music as part of a group, big or small, and you have the mechanics down, it becomes an amazing (even spirtual) experience. It is something being created in its own language that is bigger than any one individual. You can tell these guys all had that going on. Prescribed or computer generated music can't do that in the same way. It has to come from a human soul.

Ok... now that I have hogged all the comment space... I have one last suggestion... Put up a video viewer at Savoy so that you can interject these kinds of things into the club. Not to use all the time - but wouldn't that be cool? You can still dance - you can still enjoy the music together - but with the real artists. Might be an interesting experiment if Bill is open to the idea.

/me waits to see if Crighton's head pops off with all my jabbering :)

bigd Flanagan said...

Dude you got some skills! This is the thing Crighton and I hope you know this is coming from a caring place.... Is your RL as rich and as textured as your SL? If not, why the fuck not? You have been given some gifts that need to be shared in boring RL. You blogged me awhile back that you saw yourself at some point helping others out. These gifts I spoke of are not random happenstance, someone or something has bestowed them upon you and if you do not answer that voice I don't know what else there is to say. They are there, lean into them. They will take your places in the ultimate gaming platform (RL) that will enrich you and your family beyond belief. Trust in the supernatural my brother...
People will benefit from your knowledge and you will benefit from the contact with them. Your insights, soul and passion can not be denied. Perhaps not even by you.

Joonie Jatho said...

thanks for the video, C. I knew I liked her music, but I can't say I've ever "seen" her before.

I don't really understand about her voice, I thot she rocked it. Maybe in comparison with her younger voice, she may sound a bit raspy or something, but I loved it. Her facial expressions were of a woman feeling perhaps melancholy but also full of wisdom. She has seen the world, knows it's good and bad, and yet still believes in the magic. I love the video.

As for you, well, I can't pretend to know what anyone else "should" do. I DO think you have a passion for music, and that passion feeds the rest of us. It inspires me to learn more, to listen closer, to experience the greatness of music and it's ability to heal. THAT is difinitely a gift. Use it well, Luke. May the Force be with you!

big hugs..

Kimala said...

very true Joonie ;) I am not in any position either to tell someone what to do. I'm just glad C shares his talents with us in SL.

Thank you for working so hard on SL Crighton - the clubs and even your own land make the experience worth the time :)

bigd Flanagan said...

Not trying to chart your life dude. Follow your passions and see where it takes you. My own preference, for sure, but I always liked a coach who patted me on the back and kicked me in the ass occasionally. Worked for me:)

Ajay said...

*waves at Crighton*

Dude has a brain... shoulda known...

*wanders off back to her RL blog*

Crighton Johin said...

Wow....I appreciate all your comments. And, yes D, I definitely need a kick in the ass at times. I definitely thank you for what you said, as it is spot on regarding me and my.....laziness in RL. Even moreso than laziness is the fear of change....fear of success.....fear of failure...all tied in to some degree there.

A big thing for me is, where the hell do I start? I know I love music, but what can I do in that field? I'm not a musician. I'm not a particularly good writer. Where do I fit in there?

Personally, I think someone should pay me to listen to music. I'm good at it.


Joonie Jatho said...

oh you two act all innocent...but I know you're trying to tell poor C what to do!!!!

LOL~ ;-) JK..srsly tho, I think you guys are on to something!

hugs and kisses...Joonie

Kimala said...

no need to be afraid of change, C - lean into it - hop on that roller coaster and hold your arms up high and HOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO. this coming from a crazy woman with so many kids i have trouble formulating complete thoughts and sentences- um, yeah

:) Kim

Galilla Sinatra said...

/me kicks Crighton in the ass.
Awesome post dude. :) Loved the video.
Luv ya,

Parker said...

I checked this out after you told me about it. it is an absolutely amazing piece of work and history. Thank you for finding it and sharing it with the rest of us.