Κυριακή, 14 Ιουλίου 2013

MY TAKE

The wife insisted that we go to this gig that was supposed to be a "jazz and swing night".
My kind of music. The real thing. Glenn Miller, Count Basie, Benny Goodman, Big Bad Voodoo Daddie, Dixieland, Orin Tucker, Cab Calloway, the Andrews sisters Peggy Lee  and what have you, to say nothing of the great Django Reinhart.
She meant well, but I knew I was in for a night with a taste somewhere between Listerine mouthwash and stale tobacco chew.
I did her the favor for two reasons. A. She's the wife. I am still in love with her and that ain't gonna change any time soon. So I didn't want to spoil it for her.
  and B. I wanted to listen again to a young singer named Mariza Rizou. A first class jazz singer in Greece and one among a handful of trully talented singers in this here country.
The night went exactly as I had felt.
To begin with, the place, Benakeion Museum at Pireos St., didn't have enough chairs for all of us to sit.
Not because of the crisis mind you.
It's a "public participation" concept that has nothing to do with participation and eveything to do with denial of comfort.

Anyways, about twenty minutes later than the posted time here comes the group and plays a genuine swing tune and Mariza lights up the night sky with her talent, vitality, and rare voice tuned with divine precision for this kind of music. Had she lived Stateside in the 30's and 40's she would be a household name today. But she lives in Greece and she is largely unknown. Not for long I hope.
I'm convinced she's world class material for jazz and swing music and hopefully somebody will take notice and bring to the world this rare talent before it's too late.

I started getting my hopes up that the evening would turn out better than I had thought.
Not so.
What followed was a series of  intellectually "correct" jazzy adaptations of dead music by dead composers like Yannides that burried her wonderful talent no matter how hard she tried to bring these dead songs to life.    They were stillborn because jazz composers in Greece can't get jazz.
They can't let go.
Deep down they're conservative prudes.
Jazz is about pain and loneliness. It is also about uninhibited, unconditional love and all that goes with it. Jazz is about the harderst of the hard times and the best of the good times. Jazz is about the truth lying deep within the soul in the best of us and the worst of us. In a word, Jazz is about life.
Jazz is eternal like the Greek theater.
But.
Just as the Greek theater is the quintessence of Greek civilization, the world seen through the eyes of the Greek soul,  jazz is the American gateway to the soul. You either feel the American way or you don't. It either carries you away on the spot or it doesn't.
You can either feel your heart racing as you enter an ice-cream parlor where the girl of your dreams is sitting sipping a soda, the sun playing a thousand golden games with her hair or you can't. You can either feel the cold wind of Detroit racing down from the Great Lakes  as you walk down John R St. on a cloudy automn late afternoon, lonely, full of broken dreams and hopes, surrendered to cheap liquor,  or you can't.
But in real  jazz of all kinds and denominations that I would'n't pretend to know, the music always wins. The truth of the soul always wins.
Because the soul is music.
It takes a good soul to make good jazz.
It may be that Greek composers are not prudes after all. They just didn't like what they saw coming out of their souls when they came face to face with jazz. So they fell back on their considerable technical abilities and pretended all was well. Well it ain't .
Greek jazz compositions are dead for another reason. They are  because of leftist ideology creeping in the melody, the chords the tunes themselves.
On this particular evening it came in the form of depressive "ballads"  from " the record" reeking  leftist intellectual correctness reminiscent of Kurt Weil.
When it comes to leftist "correctness" in music in Greece, we're talking Brecht and Weil thanks to the huge influence of Mikroutsikos. That's where leftists of all colors and stripes agree.
Anything from a tsamiko, to "La Traviata" MUST sound like Weil and Brecht in order to gain approval  in leftist intellectual circles. Try that on the "St. Louis Blues March" and you got a disaster the size of Three Mile Island.
Don't get me wrong. Technically, it's impeccable music. It is also soulless.
The people who go at it are among the smartest in the country, many of them with degrees in Physics and Mathematics turned musicians. That's where the problems start.
Mixing political theory with mathematics and music does not a good jazz and swing brew maketh.
Nothing to elevate the soul there.
The agony of the composer to reduce the music to the solution of some kind of problem in quantum theory or the theory of primes sticks out like a sore thumb, along with his/her effort to bring a new and creative solution to a variation in a theme by Weil so the piece is politically correct.
It's all brain. No heart.
As for the lyrics, you need ECT therapy after a couple of songs of this kind to get over the  bottomless pit of utter absolute hopelessness. Top this off with the most dysharmonic chords ever invented and you get the picture.
The bad guys win. The music loses big time.
Well, the evening went on.
 Somebody had the "brilliant" idea of having her sing "Dream a little dream of me".
She ain't Mama Cass and never will be. She is a force of nature waiting to happen; not the soft angelic creature Mama Cass was when she sang.Totally different.
Then came an attempt to save the night with a "bossa nova". No dice.
But then the sky went on fire again as Mariza sang a Motown song. By this time not only me but the whole audience hoped for the real thing. American jazz and swing.
It didn't happen.
It is obvious that there are reasons for this talented youg lady to stick around a group who are doing an excellent job of  burrying  her godgiven talent.
So, let's go down the list.
The man on the saxophone is a mama's boy pretending to be a black street musician without the pain, the despair the loneliness and.....other accessories, necessary to move on in life or make good street jazz.
The trombone man is a fine musician if only he played the right kind of music.He's got what it takes.
The trumpet was also good but not excellent. Needs work on speed and stamina.
The keyboards were definitely well below standard.
The drummer is a decent musician but like most Greeks these days needs discipline and hard work to get better.
The same goes for the man playing the base.
Last but not least is the "problem child" of the group.The guitarist.
He is precise but unnecessarily complicated and dysharmonic as an accompanyist and below standard in solos.Typical of a comrade.
He lacks in speed and has the unique ability of sucking the life out of a song, stripping it naked of all emotion.
Guessing from certain subtle gestures and nods, I strongly suspect that he is the leader of the group and he is probably responsible for the choice of songs performed by Mariza.
He is probably the one who subjugates a great individual talent to the "collective" not letting her explode with the bright rainbow of her soul colors in that divine voice of hers, that would eclipse the rest of the group.

As the show came to an end I stepped on the butt of my last cigarette and headed for the exit.
Somewhere out there, Peggy Lee was singing:
"Why don't you do right".She was talking to Mariza, not to me. If only she could hear.

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