Monday, December 20, 2004


the center of a diamond

Woody Herman, Four Brothers.

Woody Herman had disbanded his orchestra (the "First Herd") in late 1946, citing both financial and physical weariness, but in six months time he built another one. The "Second Herd" was a bebop big band, filled with Parker and Gillespie disciples, and its heart was the "four brothers" saxophone section--Stan Getz, Zoot Sims, Serge Chaloff and Herbie Steward--whose playing inspired arranger/composer Jimmy Giuffre to write a piece highlighting them, a tune indebted to bop as well as a harbinger of the cool jazz styles to come.

"Four Brothers" starts with the four playing in harmony, and then each gets 16 bars to solo (I think the order is Steward, Chaloff, Sims, Getz--someone correct me if I'm wrong). After the whole band takes over, Woody pops in on clarinet and the slightly insane drumming of Don Lamond leads us out.

Getz would become one of the finest saxophonists of the 20th century (we will be hearing more from him in '48); Sims would record with Jack Kerouac and Al Cohn; Steward, the Zeppo Marx of the bunch, faded into obscurity; Chaloff had the most tortured fate--addicted to heroin for much of his prime, snubbed by colleagues upon his eventual return to jazz, and stricken by spinal paralysis, he would be dead by 34.

The Second Herd fell apart by the end of '48, in part due to the band's massive heroin problems, enough that players were falling asleep on stage. Arranger Ralph Burns: "On more nights than I'd care to remember, the front line would be cacked out."

Recorded in Los Angeles on December 27, 1947. Buy the Herd.

It was the year of no return for television. There are a number of milestones--the first TV show review in the New York Times; Harry Truman becoming the first televised president; the first televised World Series; the first commercial TV stations west of the Mississippi; the first commercial TV drama; the first broadcast of Meet the Press. The TV pictured above is one of the finest available--the DuMont Model RA-103--collectors call it "The Dog House." Consider it the iPod of '47.

Wallace Stevens, So & So Reclining On Her Couch.

Also in '47, Wallace Stevens, insurance executive and poet, published one of his finest collections, Transport to Summer. One likes to imagine WS sitting at his desk, reading over actuary reports or talking to a client about increasing his health coverage, while somewhere in his head, the words are gathering:

"The cricket in the telephone is still.
A geranium withers on the windowsill

"He is not here, the old sun,
As absent as if we were asleep."

"On an old shore, the vulgar ocean rolls
Noiselessly, noiselessly, resembling a thin bird,
That thinks of settling, yet never settles, on a nest."

"The sun, in clownish yellow, but not a clown,
Brings the day to perfection and then fails."

"The death of Satan was a tragedy
For the imagination."

"Life is a bitter aspic. We are not
at the center of a diamond."

No comments: