7/29/07

UNDER THE (non-alcoholic Analog) INFLUENCE

Sunday. Spent much of today in jazz-geek heaven, listening to transcriptions of old WRVR broadcasts of "Just Jazz with Ed Beech". Beech was a New York based d.j. who made discography sound suave. Using a Shakespearean-trained actors voice (at least according to his publicity) he filled New York radio with the sounds and history of jazz from the early sixties through the mid-seventies.

I was turned onto him by my old New York friend Tom Hayes, who acquired from a few different collectors shows that Beech did on the music of Teddy Wilson, Fats Waller, Benny Goodman and Earl 'Fatha' Hines, the last my favorite ever jazz pianist and the one whose work still inspires me spend (waste?) an hour or more a day at the keyboard.

Indeed, I just finished a solo CD of piano music inspired by Hines solo albums of the 1960's. But more on that another day. Much more, I'm sure.

My point here, though, is non-alcoholic influences (and what better time to write about them while on my second Campari and Soda? Okay, with a DASH of Gin thrown in...). And it has occured to me of late that all of my childhood interests/obsessions etc. were fed by a remarkably unsophisticated analog society. I was born in 1964 and first became enamoured of jazz in 1969, age five. Very little radio was playing the stuff that I liked--the good, swinging early 30's stuff that immediately captured my ear. In New York there was WRVR, or course, but little else that I remember. Then we moved to LA, where all I can recall was the local all-purpose jazz station KBCA. But on Sunday nights, there was a Dixieland show conducted by a dapper (I met him once) and wonderfully named man, Benson Curtis. Also KPFK did jazz stuff (clumsily) some of which I participated in as a so-called "prodigy" pianist--I was already playing stride, ragtime and blues before I was ten. (More on that another day. Much more...)

Best of all, though, were the LP's that had begun to be issued in the late sixties, the RCA-Victor Vintage series. Recently I unpacked a box of long-unplayed LP's and realized that most of the music that formed me was recorded by the above label in the thirties and early forties and smartly re-issued (with proper dates, line-ups etc.) under the "Vintage" label. The cover photo of the albums is always a photo of the artist--Hines, Waller, Morton, whomever--surrounded by an open, diamond-pattered, old-fashioned wooden wine rack.

As a child I remember wondering why the jazz musicians were always surrounded by wine bottles. Seeing no connection I finally decided to ask my mother, who said: "Because everybody drank too much back then."

More, next time, on how one could get a remarkably full film education by watching local 1970's LA television on a black and white Zenith--while being interrupted by Cal Worthington and his dog spot every ten (five?) minutes.

1 comment:

  1. Just Jazz, with "Ed Beech with you"? Wow, where did you find those transcriptions! I would love to hear those old shows again. I lived in Pittsburgh, and in the late 60's-early 70's, FM public radio played these shows (and the Classical music program Just Music, whose announcer I sadly forget) all the time. I learned so much from both of those shows, but being a kid, couldn't afford the open reel tape to record them. If you have any pointers, I'd love to know where to find them! Thanks - Old Edo, Japan

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