11/5/15

TRIBUTE TO MOMMY DAY 3: LET'S DANCE!


Today's tribute to Dorothy Helene Gilbert De Felitta takes us to Carnegie Hall in 1938. That was the year of the famous (infamous?) Benny Goodman concert that brought jazz to the hallowed (hollowed?) walls of the vernerable (vulnerable?) concert hall. The Goodman concert is, of course, legendary for its "Sing Sing Sing" performance. The fact that it was recorded was also something quite out of the ordinary--live recordings were not yet part of the aural culture, though you could hear live remote broadcasts of bands on the radio. Though my mom wasn't in attendance, the concert was a life-changing event for people invested in the art of the jazz of that time--which she most certainly was (she actually put together a school newspaper about music called "Swing Of The Month"--somewhere deep in the closets of my parents house lay a few copies that I must unearth and preserve). Part of what my mom conveyed to me was that the recordings made of the Carnegie Hall Goodman concert were especially exciting to her and her friends because they could hear and feel the enthusiastic interaction of audience and band. While there was no way she and her friends from the Bronx could possibly have attended, they didn't really need too--the excitement in the air was captured on those big glass discs, always referred to as '78s'. It was an event that she remembered as if she'd been there and in some ways she was: being a swing lover in the late 30s was a religion, and if you couldn't worship at the church itself, playing the record over and over in the living room of the little flat you were being raised in was just--if not more than--as magical.

Instead of posting the above mentioned most famous recording of that legendary winter evening, I've opted instead for the second (I think) tune in the concert, "Don't Be That Way". I've always thought that this was the performance that broke the silence in the room--that made it okay for the audience to forget they were visitors in Carnegie Hall and instead allowed them to own the joint. It happens when the drummer Gene Krupa starts getting restless at about a minute and half in. Slamming the snare in a quite un-big-bandish style suddenly turns into a mad, slamming, in-your-face break just a few bars later--a moment of percussion utterly uncalled for in the arrangement and unlike anything else drummers were doing at the time. You hear the audience growl with excitement at the rudeness of it. It's a rock and roll moment--he's telling the audience "get off your ass and live!" From then on out, the evening is owned by the band, not the hall. And for a brief and glorious time, jazz was owned by the youth culture of the time, of which my late mother was a proud member.

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