The Explanation
(for those who require one)

And, of course, that is what all of this is -- all of this: the one song, ever changing, ever reincarnated, that speaks somehow from and to and for that which is ineffable within us and without us, that is both prayer and deliverance, folly and wisdom, that inspires us to dance or smile or simply to go on, senselessly, incomprehensibly, beatifically, in the face of mortality and the truth that our lives are more ill-writ, ill-rhymed and fleeting than any song, except perhaps those songs -- that song, endlesly reincarnated -- born of that truth, be it the moon and June of that truth, or the wordless blue moan, or the rotgut or the elegant poetry of it. That nameless black-hulled ship of Ulysses, that long black train, that Terraplane, that mystery train, that Rocket '88', that Buick 6 -- same journey, same miracle, same end and endlessness."
-- Nick Tosches, Where Dead Voices Gather

The Art of Jazz #8


Opera in Vout - Slim Gaillard (1946)

It's about time I added something to this series, and I immediately thought of Slim Gaillard, one of the greatest and oddest characters ever to emerge out of jazz, who created the hipster language called "Vout" that was all the rage with 1940s hepcats (you can hear some of it in cartoons, especially Coal Black and de Sebben Dwarfs) and still survives today every time someone calls me "Stevoroonie". He was so cool, he got namechecked by Jack Kerouac in On the Road, which automatically makes him one of the smoothest souls that ever lived.

Gaillard is probably best known for Flat Foot Floogie, recorded with amazing bassist Slam Stewart, but his delight in offbeat language continued for years afterward, on songs like Boip! Boip!, Yip Roc Heresy and Mishugana Mambo. This particular cover is for the album of 78 r.p.m. discs (later reissued as a 10" record) for Gaillard's Groove Juice Symphony, a four part piece that manages to make fun of classical and big band all at the same time. It's available on CD on the excellent Verve release Laughing in Rhythm, a must-have for anyone who wants to understand hipster culture, or just have a heck of a good time (the same goes for the Slim and Slam collection released by Columbia).

4 comments :

Tom Sutpen said...

Outstanding choice, Stephen!

About a year ago I got 'The Complete Slim & Slam' and I listened to all three discs in one evening. Which is rare, because I rarely listen to multi-disc box sets all the way through in essentially one sitting; even those of artists I truly truly love (took me almost a month to get through all 16 discs in Bear Family's Jim Reeves box set, for example). But Slim & Slam's recordings are so infectious they go down like a soft ice cream cone in Springtime.

swac said...

Records like Slim & Slam and Fats Waller combine this incredible sense of fun and amazing musical skill that's so rare these days. When did it become a law that in order to be a "serious" musician, you had to be completely lacking in humour? I sometimes suspect humour and virtuosity became strangers the day Frank Zappa died.

Rob said...

My aunt, who was considerably younger than the rest of her siblings, decided one day to become a beatnik when I was very young, even tho the fad had passed in general. Her version contained heavy fusions of jazz, early R&R and a whole lotta vout-like rhyming speech patterns. Listening to her converse with her fellow 'nics was like hearing something you could almost get a handle on, but not quite, like they were from some New Zealand madhouse. She left records all over the floor when she visited, and one day my brother put on a Slim album....enlightenment! Now we knew where she got all that stuff. "Man, she's a weirdo", said Dan, even tho I was too young to know quite what a weirdo was.

A few years later she was now a hippy, and she mistakenly asked me what I would think if she came to live with us for a while. I had just been reading Ben Franklin's Poor Richards Almanac, so what else could I say but, "Fish and visitors stink after three days." She stared at me openmouthed for a few seconds, then, "Is this because I used to talk funny?" she asked. HeHe, I was actually thankful she brought some jaz and rock into the house!

BCNU

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