Excerpts from an upcoming Radio Documentary for WDR (Germany)

I'll be sharing more details as they emerge, but my pal and Other Europeans bandmate Paul Brody decided to expand our many long conversations into and actual radio program. He's well know in Germany, where he lives and works, and has even done a piece for NPR on Berlin's Avant Guard arts community. Paul visited me during my painful re-location from my once beloved Texas to a hopeful but uncertain future in my adopted home of New Orleans. ("NOLA for Life" as the transplants like to say. I'm sticking around for my funeral, if you get my drift.) 
Paul at my home in New Orleans

It was a great/lousy time to be talking to me. I had just been diagnosed with a serious mental disorder (BiPolar 2) and through intensive counseling and drug therapy had been grappling with a long series of recovered memories from my dynamic and oft confusing upbringing. If you've a friend of mine for any amount of time, I sure the diagnosis will come as little surprise as I was for the last few years as one good pal noted "a slow moving train wreck." I left quite a few casualties in my wake of wild ranging manias and depressions. And as we approach the Jewish Days of Awe, I have quite a few folks I need to atone to before I enter the new year and my new life here in Southern Louisiana. 

But at the Breslover Rebbe admonished: "if you believe something can be broken, then by definition it can be fixed." I hope the process of laying bare of every aspect of my personality, even the dark and unpleasant parts, that I encountered in the making of this little radio show for German public radio will finally allow myself a little rachmones for myself and by extension those around me.

But enough about me, here's me talking about me:


Swing, in it's Okla-Tex and NOLA forms.

Having made my musical life for so long in Texas/Oklahoma and now living in New Orleans, I'm confronted regularly with so called "jazz" music. Seems that having played Texas Swing for so long, I've been exposed to a great big chunk of the core material that makes up the standard repertoire of the Non-African American dance music "scene," here. But unlike just about every musician I encounter here, I don't have a college degree and I didn't study music formally. I don't read music, well enough that is to sight read on a gig at any rate. And no one ever taught me any of these tunes, I had to learn them on the bandstand. It's been a STEEP learning curve, I tell ya. And the keys that they play in here are mostly in Eb, Bb and Ab, which is good natural keys for trumpets and clarinets. Bet they're HELL on the tenor banjo or fiddle which play best in keys without flats, and having to re-learn all the classics in a new key has been a real challenge. A fun one, but still. I have a LOT to learn here and it's been very humbling and affirming as I make the changes to become a working New Orleans musician.
This is what a Texas Swing band looks like.

One of the aspects that I really loved about the "Texas Swing" approach was that it was founded by dance band trained folk musicians, "breakdown" fiddlers and such, who were exposed to African-America music styles who then clumsily, 
but honestly, reconfigured the music to suit themselves and their audience. Milton Brown, Cliff Bruner and Pre-War Bob Wills recordings always sparkled with this new concoction of melding the established traditions of Anglo-American dance music and the aspirational sounds of the Black "hot music" bands that they would run into. It's not for no reason Milton Browns' sides were cut in here in New Orleans. Steel man Bob Dunn was a hot jazz Trombonist before he pioneered the brand new instrument that came to dominate Texas Swing to this day. It's was "swinging," but it wasn't "Jazz." It was something all its own.

Nice hat, but he's not from Texas.
Actually a Jew from Rhode Island.

It wasn't until WW2 and just after did the "hillbilly" guys start playing with the instrumental and arranging sophistication of not only the great Black dance bands (Ellington, Basie) but also the White City-boy bands like Woody Herman and Stan Kenton. Here and then the "Texas" sound start to fade replaced with the now California based "Western Swing," essentially "jazz" played with cowboys boots. It's not my favorite development, but listening to the best examples of it show just how far the Texas boys had strayed from "Boil Them Cabbage Down." (Tex Williams' amazing note for note rendering of Stan Kenton's "Artistry in Swing" as "Artistry in Western Swing" is as fine as an example as you will find.) This is where guys like Ray Benson and his Asleep at the Wheel start listening and take from there. Seriously. He told me so in person, "that old hokum stuff from before, it's just not cool." Which explains his personal version of the music which for good or ill has become the de facto standard of the form in it's present and entirely de-contextualized version.

How refreshing it was to find this video of just some band leaping into a fun tune, no different really from any the groups I saw growing up as a kid in Oklahoma on say, the Jude and Judy show on WKY-TV or playing the weekly square dance where my folks club "the Norman Thunderbirds" would dance. A hot NOLA standard too. 



Submitted humbly is my personal version of Texas Swing music: