Monday, April 27, 2009


That was John King, the ukulele virtuoso who passed away recently. I found out about him from the respectful obituary in today's New York Times. In other music news, Barry B. has a new favorite band: Sleepytime Gorilla Museum. I looked them up on youtube and they scared me real bad. Finally, THE SAMMY DAVIS JR. READER is not all roses and sunshine. Some blistering critiques are included. Last night I read one by Gary Giddins, I writer I enjoy and admire, but who seems to have, in the representative article, an almost helpless loathing for Davis. (He manages to get in some extraneous shots at Bob Hope, too, just because he's feeling mean and saucy, I guess - "his prehistoric witticisms memorized and spun out like ticker tape" - and just for a second we'll forget journalistic accuracy; I mean, even as a toddler I realized that Bob Hope never MEMORIZED anything. In fact, I may have scientifically deduced the existence of cue cards from his delivery.) Giddins's piece - a review of a Davis TV show featuring jazz musicians - comes from 1975, a time at which criticizing Bob Hope and Sammy Davis Jr. was about as daring and interesting as rolling a tortoise over on its back. But the really fascinating thing is the nature of Giddins's main complaint, which is about the state of televised jazz: he is bitterly offended that the only jazz musicians he ever gets to see on network TV - live or in archival footage - are (among those he names) Count Basie, Dizzy Gillespie, Sarah Vaughan, John Faddis, Billie Holiday, Coleman Hawkins, Lester Young, Ben Webster, Gerry Mulligan, Jim Giuffre, Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Duke Ellington, Ella Fitzgerald, Dave Brubeck, Cecil Taylor, Sonny Rollins, etc., etc., etc., etc. Hey, where's Freddie Hubbard? he wants to know. What's the matter TV execs, are you afraid of Freddie Hubbard? (I'm paraphrasing, slightly.) If they weren't afraid of Cecil Taylor, I have a hard time imagining they were afraid of Freddie Hubbard, but this is Giddins's sincere and not in the least ironic complaint as a network TV viewer of 1975. I wonder if he imagined a future in which there would be hundreds and hundreds more channels and no jazz musicians on TV at all.