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Understanding makes the mind lazy.

Penelope Fitzgerald


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Wednesday, February 22nd, 2012

Ensemble Autobiography

Just then Slippers, the bouncer, came into the bar and yelled: "Hello, Mayann. What in the world are you doing out on the stroll tonight?"

When she told him we were making the rounds he thought it was the cutest thing he had seen in a long time. Then he insisted that we have a drink with him.

By this time my mother and I were getting pretty tight, and we had not visited even half of the joints. But we were determined to make them all; that was our agreement and we intended to stick to it. Besides we were both having a fun time meeting the people who loved us and spoke our language. We knew we were among our people. That was all that mattered. We did not care about the outside world.

Autobiography and memoir have never been my cup of tea, really. But right now I am reading two autobiographies and digging them (Fug You, and Satchmo: My life in New Orleans), and I'm thinking I may have figured out how to read and enjoy the genre. Essentially it is this: don't read the book as the life story of the person who wrote it; read it as you would read a novel, and paying special attention to the "minor characters", that is to say the people around the author. A well-written memoir -- and these very different books are both well-written -- will give you some insight into the lives of the people who are not its primary subject, and this insight can allow you to see yourself in the picture.

posted evening of February 22nd, 2012: 2 responses
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Friday, February 24th, 2012

Armstrong and Monk on technique

By this time I was beginning to get very popular around that good old town of mine. I had many offers to leave Kid Ory's band, but for some time none of them tempted me. One day a redheaded band leader named Fate Marable came to see me. For over sixteen years he had been playing the excursion steamer Sydney. He was a great piano man and he also played the calliope on the top deck of the Sydney. Just before the boat left the docks for one of its moonlight trips up the Mississippi, Fate would sit down at this calliope and damn near play the keys off of it. He was certainly a grand musician.

When he asked me to join his orchestra I jumped at the opportunity. It meant a great advancement in my musical career because his musicians had to read music perfectly. Ory's men did not. Later on I found out that Fate Marable had just as many jazz greats as Kid Ory, and they were better men besides because they could read music and they could improvise. Fate's had a wide range and they played all the latest music because they could read at sight. Kid Ory's band could catch on to a tune quickly, and once they had it no one could outplay them. But I wanted to do more than fake the music all the time because there is more to music than just playing one style. I lost no time in joining the orchestra on the Sydney.

Satchmo: My Life in New Orleans

Just because you're not a drummer, doesn't mean that you don't have to keep time.
Pat your foot & sing the melody in your head, when you play.
Stop playing all those weird notes (that bullshit), play the melody!
Make the drummer sound good.
Discrimination is important.
You've got to dig it, you dig?
All reet!

T. Monk's Advice

posted evening of February 24th, 2012: Respond
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