SCAT!

Wait — don’t scat! Stay where you are and let scat come to you — scat singing, that is — and who better to lay the scat on you than two of the best: Mel Tormé, whose birthday (9/13/25) we celebrate this month, and the First Lady of Scat, Ella Fitzgerald:

Man, if that didn’t knock your socks off, you’d better put your shoes on and scat back to Squaresville, because you’re just not with it! To say scat singing is little more than vocal jazz improvisation with nonsense words is like saying The Donald is just improvising when he lets loose with nonsense tweets (to use a reverse perverse metaphor).

So, who was the cat who ‘invented’ scat? There seems to be no definitive answer, but some say it began 2/26/26 when Louis Armstrong supposedly forgot the words to this song and began improvising a little more than halfway through the recording:

Let’s wrap it up with this recent scat-iteration (which, I kid you not, ends with tweets):

And now you can scat! Come back any time.

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MAY IS OLDER AMERICANS MONTH (and don’t you forget it!)

May is OLDER AMERICANS MONTH. I’m pretty sure I qualify as an older American because, as George Washington told me, “The time is now near at hand which must probably determine whether Americans are to be free men or slaves”….or maybe I’m thinkin’ of Lincoln (incidental details, like who said what, can get a bit hazy at my age). No matter — either way, it proves I’ve been around long enough to establish my bona feces.

As long as I’m quoting bigwigs I have known or could have known (as the case may be), no doubt you will be interested in other memorable quotes that I remember, most of which admittedly weren’t said to me directly, but which I either overheard, or were whiskered to me in confidence by the quotees under their goatees (or beards, as the face may be):

Old age is no place for sissies. –Bette Davis (whose facial hair at the time was confined to a mustache, as I recall)

Life is a moderately good play with a badly written third act. –Truman Capote

Inside every older person is a younger person wondering what happened. –Jennifer Yane

If I’d known I was going to live this long, I’d have taken better care of myself. — variously attributed to  Eubie Blake, Adolph Zukor and Mae West, among others

There is no cure for the common birthday. —John Glenn

You’re only as old as the girl that you feel. –Groucho Marx

Growing old is mandatory; growing up is optional. –Chili Davis

Time may be a great healer, but it’s a lousy beautician. –Anonymous

Life is like a roll of toilet paper. The closer you get to the end, the faster it goes. –Anonymous

So there you have the story of my anonymous existence: just when I’m on a roll, I run flush out of time. C’est la vie. Take it on out, Pops (Louis) and Schnoz (Jimmy):

 

 

 

 

 

EAST MEETS WEST DAY

EAST IS EAST, AND WEST IS WEST, AND NEVER THE TWAIN SHALL MEET. –Rudyard Kipling

The above quote notwithstanding, it’s not too late if you want to meet Twain. Forget East/West, and return to the site of my previous post (MARK TWAIN ON DONALD TRUMP), where Twain still lives. I could quibble that you should have met him there then, but I am magnanimous enough to forgive those of you who didn’t read that post (so long as you promise never to let it happen again).

Be that as it may, this is April — April 24th, to be exact, which just happens to be East Meets West Day, which just happens to give me an excuse to engross you with some of my favorite East and/or West songs, such as this old standard by an old favorite:

Keely Smith (born Dorothy Keely) died four months ago at age 89, one of the best (though underappreciated) female vocalists of the 1950s-60s.

Next, we change directions for this Kurt Weill classic from the 1943 musical ONE TOUCH OF VENUS:

Let us end, fittingly, with WEST END BLUES by Louis Armstrong, one of the all-time great recordings in jazz history:

That performance was recorded in 1928; 90 years later, you can travel far and wide, east and west, and never the same shall meet.

 

02/20 VISION

In the tumult of men and events, solitude was my temptation; now it is my friend. What other satisfaction can be sought once you have confronted History? –Charles de Gaulle

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Indeed.  Where else but in my solitude can equilibrium’s vision be sought (much less found), if the following selection of February 20 events from “confronted History” is representative of “the tumult of men and events”:

1513 Pope Julius II (aka The Fearsome Pope and The Warrior Pope) died and was laid to rest in a huge tomb sculptured by Michelangelo [In those days, Catholic artists regarded such Popes as ‘Patron’ Saints

1839 U.S. Congress prohibits dueling in the District of Columbia [What a bad idea this turned out to be, given that since then, no one in D.C. has had a clue how to better resolve differences]

1907 President Theodore Roosevelt signed an immigration act which excluded “idiots, imbeciles, feebleminded persons, epileptics, and insane  persons” from being admitted to the U.S. [Unfortunately, there has not been a comparable act excluding such persons from becoming politicians]

1909 F.T. Marinetti, Italian poet, published the first Futurist Manifesto in the Paris newspaper Le Figaro and in Venice, including the statement “We want to glorify war – the only cure for the world.” [Evidently a utopian exception to “The cure is worse than the disease”]

1927 Golfers in South Carolina were arrested for violating the Sabbath [Talk about playing a-round!]  

1933 Congress completed action on an amendment to repeal Prohibition in the U.S. [and “I’ll drink to that!” rang out across the land]

1942 Mitch McConnell, the Republican Senate Majority Leader, was born [Coincidentally, the cartoon character Pruneface premiered (in a Dick Tracy comic strip) the same year]

1996 Gangsta rapper Snoop Doggy Dogg acquitted of murder in 1993 shooting of alleged gang member [Draw your own conclusions]

2002 The Pentagon stated that its recently created “Office of Strategic Influence” would not spread falsehoods in the media to advance U.S. war goals. Office was shut down six days later (Feb. 26) [Apparently the bummed guy in this snapshot was the last to get the message]:

Love’s labor lost. Lament in SOLITUDE. But despair not. It seems that Love, like the passions and madness of history, is where you — and a buoyantly young Julie Andrews — find it. So don’t be [Venetian] blind, it’s/all around you/everywhere.

 

 

STONE COLD DEAD

Alas! He is cold, he cannot answer me. –Mary Shelley, author of FRANKENSTEIN

Because I could not stop for Death — He kindly stopped for me. –Emily Dickinson

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *    grave stone 2Have you given any thought to what you want on your tombstone after you’ve gone to that great big pizzeria in the sky? I wouldn’t wait until the last minute if I were you, because ye know not the day or the hour (Matthew 24:36, or thereabouts), and once ye’re at the pearly gates, it’s too late. Now, it’s possible, before getting the gate, that your spirit may remain a while in the grave to consider what far-out gems of wit you might have come up with — but dream on. Afterthoughts aren’t written in stone….and if you don’t write your own epitaph, others may use the occasion to pick a bone “After you’ve gone.”

All of which brings me to SWI and its impending death. SWI, the blog for which I wrote many posts up to a few years ago, will bite the dust in November, according to its editor. Two of those remaining posts (published in early 2012) deal with real epitaphs not deserving of being left to vanish forever into the cold November ether or….wherever. Here are some of my favorites:

Here lies the body
Of poor Aunt Charlotte.
Born a virgin, died a harlot.
For 16 years
She kept her virginity
A damn long time
For this vicinity.
–DEATH VALLEY, CALIFORNIA

Here lies Butch,
We planted him raw.
He was quick on the trigger,
But slow on the draw.

Beneath this smooth stone
by the bone of his bone
sleeps Master John Gill;
By lies when alive
this attorney did thrive,
And now that he’s dead he lies still.

Here lies Anna Mann
Who lived an old maid
But died an old Mann.

MARGARET DANIELS
She always said
Her feet were killing her
But nobody believed her.

SIR JOHN STRANGE
Here lies an honest lawyer
That is Strange.

This is the grave of Mike O’Day
Who died maintaining his right of way.
His right was clear, his will was strong
But he’s just as dead as if he’d been wrong.

Beneath this stone my wife doth lie
Now she’s at rest and so am I.

JOHN BROWN, DENTIST
Stranger! Approach this spot with gravity!
John Brown is filling his last cavity.

Here lies the body of W. W.
Who never more will trouble you, trouble you.

Here lies the body of Mary Ford
Whose soul, we trust, is with the Lord;
But if for hell, she’s exchanged this life,
‘Tis better than being John Ford’s wife.

Owen Moore
Has passed away
Owin’ more
Than he could pay.

I’ll close with one I wish one and all could say in the end:

Been Here
and Gone There.
Had a good time.

 

 

ATTENTION! (Or, as the French say, ATTENTION!)*

*There is a pronounced difference.

 

It is said that youth must be served, but the extent of what this generation knows of music is such that 1920s-1940s popular music/classic jazz, and hence this post, might as well be in a foreign language. However, for those past being served by the myopic world of current culture, listen up! August 15 is one of those days of a convergence which doesn’t come along every day: it’s the birthday of no less than four Golden Age American songwriters, the titles of whose songs afford me a theme-opportunity beyond the happenstance of their birthdays-in-common.

All four (born on this date from 1892 to 1901) were prolific tunesmiths, but what caught my attention is that each wrote one song with a girl’s name in the title which, in two cases, became standards, and in all four cases, were big hits in their day. The writers: Harry Akst, Sidney Clare, Charles Tobias, and Ned Washington; the songs: DINAH, MISS ANNABELLE LEE, ROSE O’DAY and STELLA BY STARLIGHT.

Although none of these men’s fame survived their era, a number of their compositions did (or, as an Irving Berlin song title put it, The Song Is Ended, But The Melody Lingers On). One such ditty is DINAH, by Harry Akst,  a favorite of jazz musicians which has been recorded countless times since the 1920s. I like so many versions of this song that I couldn’t further narrow down this list if you Akst me to:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BhVdLd43bDI
(Louis Armstrong)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7P0XQuOd5HI
(New Orleans Jazz Vipers)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UlPLXNsz4GA
(Bing Crosby/Mills Bros.)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TdkvJQuj2co
(Fats Waller)

The next tune, by Sidney Clare, is a particular favorite of mine.Written in 1927, it was recorded by numerous jazz and dance bands and became a toe-tapping best seller in America and Europe. What’s not to like about her? She’s wonderful, she’s marvelous….MISS ANNABELLE LEE:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QqavTUwm7sM
(George Fisher Kit Cat Band)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pj-nTjL_aTY
(Savoy Havana Band)

Next we have Charles Tobias’s ROSE O’DAY, the most lightweight of the four — due, not to diet, but to being a silly novelty song which nevertheless was one of 1941’s top hits:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nkH-hmRFA_Y
(Dick Todd)

Last but not lightweight, there’s STELLA BY STARLIGHT, composed by Victor Young as the theme for the 1944 film “The Uninvited,” with lyrics added by Ned Washington in 1946. This beautiful standard has been recorded by dozens of artists, including the following:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rwSaY1oSCw4
(Billy Eckstein)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8UZ0xqdP2rw
(Anita O’Day)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P94vB3mLRzc
(Frank Sinatra)

That’s all. AS YOU WERE (if you’ve ever been in the military, you know what that means).

 

MAY 23 IS INTERNATIONAL JAZZ DAY

Although it is tempting to sum up the classic jazz era of 1917-32 with a few major names (Louis Armstrong, King Oliver, Jelly Roll Morton, James P. Johnson, Earl Hines, Duke Ellington, etc.), there were many other important contributors. The classic jazz era was one of dizzying innovation and breakthrough. –Scott Yanow, jazz writer

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

I am a classic jazz lover, pure and simple — which does not mean I love classic jazz exclusively. On the contrary, I’ve enjoyed the best of various types of music over the decades. But, considering the noisome state of what has been popular of late, I’m glad I was born early enough to appreciate the difference between music and noise. Thus, these poems on this day:

COUNTERFEIT NOTES

The things that pass
for music these days.

OUTDATED

I could tell you what it
was like in those days,
but you had to live it
to appreciate it, and why
should you give a damn?
I wasn’t born yesterday.

The destiny of every
generation is to become
irrelevant to the next.
You may save its music for
your collection of coming
tomorrows, its sounds
long died in the past, but
when you go, so too
goes the living ghost
of the world you knew.

WHEN JAZZ WAS JAZZ

Listen —
You can’t get
there from here.

May 23 also happens to be the birthday of all-time great clarinetist ARTIE SHAW, who was born in 1910 and played with many jazz/dance bands beginning in 1926. In 1936, he formed his own group, which evolved into one of the leading bands of the swing era. He also composed a number of fine songs, including LOVE OF MY LIFE (lyrics by Johnny Mercer) and ANY OLD TIME (which his band recorded in July 1938 with Billie Holiday as vocalist). That same recording session produced his biggest hit: