Entries from August 2004 ↓

The Dozens

1. School starts tomorrow, bright and early at 8:15. Then again on Sunday. Seven day weeks for the next six months. I’m tired already.

2. Then I pull caretaker duty all next week. Same reason as before.

3. I deeply regret that I’ll be out of town during the convention. Not that I was trying to get arrrested, but I certainly planned to protest. But perhaps it’s for the best.

4. I’m missing summer already. I’d like about two more months of it.

5. I miss being upstate in the fall. There’s nothing like the leaf changes and cool crisp weather of upstate New York. And New York City is so not a college football town.

6. Watching the Olympics has been a great diversion from the rest of world and national news. But track and field is the reason to watch the games. It sucks that track doesn’t have a better following in the U.S. I want to see more.

7. I’ve been dwelling on some of the voids in my life. I really need to travel. I’m talking outside the country. I’ve barely left the state in ages.

8. I’m in a general state of stress and uneasiness right now that I’m trying hard to work through. I could really use a long period of doing nothing, someplace else.

9. The gym has become my refuge lately. It’s an escape from all my responsibilities. I’ve been going almost every day in recent weeks.

10. The apartment is a mess, indicative of so many other things.

11. I read about this here. It describes my situation.

12. It’s the most wonderful time of the year.

World’s Fastest Man

The Olympics have officially begun.

Gatlin wins 100m.jpgJustin Gatlin of the United States (on the right) won the Olympic Men’s 100m title, taking gold with a personal best and this year’s world leading time of 9.85.

In the closest 100m finish in Olympic history, Gatlin was just one one-hundredth of a second ahead of Portugal’s Francis Obikwelu (cente of the photograph) (9.86). Defending champion, Maurice Greene (USA, far left) finished third in 9.87, the same time that he ran in Sydney to win gold four years ago.

Greene and Gatlin both started strongly and were out in front midway but it was Obikwelu who had the strength in the final stages, moving quickly through the field. He almost caught Gatlin, and outdipped Greene for silver.

Shawn Crawford (USA) finished out of the placings, despite running 9.89 – the fastest time ever to miss out on an Olympic medal.

Asafa Powell, the quickest man in the semifinals, couldn’t repeat his dominating performance and finished in fifth place with 9.94.

World champion, Kim Collins (SKN), was back in sixth place in a season best 10.00.

Totally Unnecessary

More outrageous cowtowing to the Repugnant Party convention.

Madison Square Garden, where the event will take place, is between 7th and 8th Avenues, from 31st to 33rd Street. The 8th Avenue side is across the street from the James A. Farley Post Office, the main postal facility in New York City. During the convention, space in that building will be used as a media center.

To accomodate these assholes, a footbridge has been built across 8th Avenue.

footbridge01.jpg
footbridge02.jpg

Why?

They can’t get their precious feet dirty walking on the sidewalk? Are they afraid that drivers will aim at people in polyester suits or who have large hair?

I have no idea why this structure was built nor what it cost. I just know it was totally unnecessary.

The Count’s Centennial Celebration

August 21, 1904 in Red Bank, New Jersey, Harvie and Lillian Basie welcomed a newborn son into the world, and they named him William.

From his first piano lessons taught by his mother, to playing in vaudeville and movie houses in New York, to perfecting his style of stride piano playing through stops in Kansas City and Chicago, the man the world would come to know as “Count” would devote 50 years of his life leading a big band characterized by a light, swinging rhythm section, which he led from the piano, lively ensemble work, and generous soloing by some of the finest musicians ever assembled.

Count Basie.jpgCount Basie and his orchestra performed, recorded and toured from the mid-1930’s and the radio age, through World War II, the post-war decline of the big bands and the beginnings of rock and roll, into the golden age of television, and the coming of the Beatles. Basie himself performed until his death in 1984, and the band continues to tour even to this day, under the direction of Grover Mitchell.

Following his time in Harlem, where he was heavily influenced by pianist Fats Waller, Basie traveled to Kansas City. Finding himself stranded there in 1927, he joined Walter Page’s Blue Devils in July 1928, where he met vocalist Jimmy Rushing. After a brief stay with Bennie Moten’s band and Moten’s untimely death in 1935, Basie would soon after form his own group with some of the former members, among them Walter Page (bass), Freddie Green (guitar), Jo Jones (drums), Lester Young (tenor saxophone) and Rushing.

The group settled into the Reno Club in Kansas City where they began broadcasting on radio. That was also where he acquired his nickname and came to the attention of record producer John Hammond, who would bring them to Chicago and help him get his first recording contract with Decca Records in 1937. Basie’s recording of “One O’Clock Jump” would be their first chart topper and also the band’s signature song throughout his career.

A return to New York and a stay at the Famous Door nightclub in 1938, helped to establish the band. “Stop Beatin’ Round the Mulberry Bush,” with Rushing on vocals, became a Top Ten hit in the fall of that year.

basie poster.jpgRadio and touring would continue, and a contract with Columbia Records came in the late 30’s. The early 1940’s took Basie to the West Coast, but when World War II placed restrictions on travel, he stayed to work clubs and appear in five films, all released within a matter of months in 1943: Hit Parade of 1943, Reveille with Beverly, Stage Door Canteen, Top Man, and Crazy House. He also scored a series of Top Ten hits on the pop and R&B charts, including “I Didn’t Know About You” (pop, winter 1945); “Red Bank Blues” (R&B, winter 1945); “Rusty Dusty Blues” (R&B, spring 1945); “Jimmy’s Blues” (pop and R&B, summer/fall 1945); and “Blue Skies” (pop, summer 1946).

The post-war years were not kind to Basie nor many other big band leaders, and he broke up his orchestra in favor of smaller combos.

But by 1952 he was able to reform his band and take advantage of increased opportunities for touring. In 1954, he went overseas for the first time to play in Scandinavia and thereafter international touring played a large part in his schedule. An important addition to the band in late 1954 was vocalist Joe Williams. The orchestra was re-established commercially by the 1955 album Count Basie Swings – Joe Williams Sings and the hit single “Every Day (I Have the Blues),” which reached the Top Five of the R&B charts and was later inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame. Williams remained with Basie until 1960, and even after his departure, the band continued to prosper.

The 60’s would see some of the greatest pairings in jazz history. In 1961, First Time: The Count Meets the Duke, brought Basie’s orchestra together in the studio with Duke Ellington and his orchestra. In 1962, Basie’s switched recording companies and joined Frank Sinatra’s Reprise Records. They would record three memorable albums together, Sinatra and Basie, It Might As Well Be Swing, and Live at the Sands.

A list of the vocalists who have performed or recorded with Basie reads like a who’s who of jazz greats: in addition to Rushing, Williams and Sinatra, there was Sarah Vaughn, Ella Fitzgerald, Billy Eckstein, Billie Holiday, Tony Bennett, and Sammy Davis Jr.
Some of the musicians who’ve played in his band are equally legendary: Illinois Jacquet, Buck Clayton, Thad Jones, Marshall Royal, Frank Foster, Frank Wess, Sonny Payne, Joe Newman, Benny Powell, Roy Eldridge, and the aforementioned Freddie Green who was his sideman on guitar throughout the history of the Count Basie Orchestra.

Ernie Wilkins, Neal Hefti, Quincy Jones and Frank Foster are just four whose arrangements helped to define the style of Basie’s bands throughout the years.

I always say I “inherited” my love for Count Basie from my father, who was a fan from the beginning. Growing up in Dallas, he was close enough to hear those early radio broadcasts from Kansas City, and later as a young man, frequented the clubs where the band played. My childhood was spent listening to dad’s extensive collection of Basie albums.

By the time I personally had a chance to see the Count and his orchestra live and in concert–in 1980 in a free concert at Grant’s Tomb in NYC–Basie was suffering physically and required a motorized cart to get around. But his way of filling in the space with minimal plinks and plunks on the piano while the band swung at full throttle behind him was no less in evidence.

Radio marks the Count Basie centennial, on NPR and WBGO.

Count Basie’s autobiography with Albert Murray.

A Basie discography.

DL is BS

But then some of us could have told you so!

For more than a year now, the mainstream media has been blasting all kinds of stories about how supposedly “down low” or “DL” black men are having sex with other men then having sex with women, and as a result, are the link to the spread of HIV among heterosexuals.

A no account Nigrow named J.L. King has tried to make a lot of money with a book telling his own personal tale of internalized homophobia and self-hatred as if it were gospel truth and widespread reality, and even the queen of daytime talk herself, Oprah, jumped on the bandwagon.

Well guess what?

The federal government researcher whose study on young gay and bisexual men was cited in those mainstream press reports as evidence of the health threat said her work was not focused on down low men and there is little evidence to support the view that these men threaten the health of others.

Imagine that!

So what can we learn from this? Somebody (I don’t want to speculate as to who) has spent an awful lot of time misrepresenting facts so as to demonize black men who have sex with men. Ask yourself why.

AND–this is the important part–the rise in HIV infection rates among heterosexuals is most likely the result of…hold onto your hats now…unprotected heterosexual intercourse, just as most people who work in the field believed all along.

You see kiddies, the HIV virus doesn’t give a damn about sexual orientation. It is spread through an exchange of bodily fluids such as blood, semen, vaginal fluid, mother’s breast milk (a low risk transmitter) or saliva (an even lower risk transmitter), which are present in gays, straights and bisexuals. People at highest risk are those having unprotected sex (like anal) with multiple partners. (For those of you who have never watched porn, lots of straight folks do this too.) Intravenous drug users who share needles, are also at high risk. Shooting up is not limited to any one type of person either.

So, twenty odd years into this worldwide epidemic, don’t you think it’s time we stopped thinking HIV only affects “other” people?

The truth is now out about the great DL myth. Let’s see how widely it gets reported.

UPDATE: I came across this commentary and thought it similarly appropriate.