Friday, October 27, 2006


My father was pretty much wholly responsible for my love of jazz. When I was a child, our family was very much divided into two - my sister and mother, and myself and my father. To cut a long story short, this meant that my sister ended up in dance classes and youth theatres most of the time - acting out (literally) our mother's (desired but unfulfilled) career as an actress, and I took on my father's jazz obsession, which we both used as an 'escape hatch' from my mother - there was nothing more guaranteed to get her to leave a room than to put on a recording of Gene Krupa or Stan Kenton.

In spite of, or more probably, because of, the dubious psychology and family politics behind this, my sister ended up becoming a dancer and myself a jazz promoter. Neither of us were ever forgiven for this - we were meant to be teachers or bankers or doctors. And the 'Arts' were meant to be hobbies, not careers. My sister was persistently told to 'get a proper job', and even though I sort of had one, my father never saw a single one of the 4,000 or so jazz concerts I programmed, because my mother simply wouldn't let him....
Perhaps we both did it to rebel, or perhaps we did it in some way to fulfil the unfulfilled dreams of our parents. Either way, it resulted in us being geographically too far away for them and psychologically a bit too close to home.

If I have a single regret in life, and I'm not one for regrets, it's that I didn't 'kidnap' (parentnap?) my father and take him to London to Ronnie Scott's and a myriad of other venues he'd never been to, to actually SEE all the artists he spent his whole life listening to on record.

But back to being a nine/ten yr old, and the highlight of my week was a trip to Birmingham Record Library every Saturday morning with my father, where we would borrow four jazz albums, then devour them for the whole of Saturday afternoon (or as long as we could get away with) when we got home. They were inevitably big band albums, as this was my father's real passion, and I grew up loving that awesome and powerful sound (and still do). The crunch came when we brought back 'There Comes a Time' by the Gil Evans Orchestra. I think I was 13, and I was SO excited by this music - it was the most profound and beautiful noise I had ever heard. My father absolutely hated it. From that day our tastes went in different directions, and I took out my own library membership and brought home all kinds of new and wonderful off-shoots from this initial discovery, whilst my father continued to perfect his ability to recognise every soloist and sidesman from every big band in the 30's, 40's & 50's without the aid of sleeve notes. I know - I used to test him.

All of which brings me to today. And I'm now only a couple of years younger than my father was when we were playing those records together every Saturday. And partly because I'm filling in all kinds of gaps in my jazz knowledge on the jazz course I'm currently doing, and partly because I have toothache and now a cold as well and am resigned to spending a few days indoors, I have hauled out my father's 78 rpm jazz collection. My sister and I found boxes and boxes of these 78's in the attic when our parents died, along with a rather beautiful wind-up Columbia Grafonola - in perfect working order. The records are in varying states of health, but most need lots of TLC, and I so wish my father had 'talked me through' these when he was alive - but I rather think they'd been in the attic since before I was even born. So now it is my task to clean them all, catalogue them in some way, try to find out the line-up on each record via internet searches (out of sheer curiosity), then find some way of transferring the ones I like onto disc. There is not much information on the net surprisingly. I've spent the entire morning (unsuccessfully) trying to find reference to the Brunswick UK releases of a dozen Lionel Hampton Orchestra recordings, and impatient with that task, I randomly picked out another record to look into, a Tommy Dorsey recording, only to find a mysterious orange stamp in the middle of the label. What, if anything, does that mean?

It would have been my father's birthday tomorrow. So somehow fitting that I am sitting on the floor, in the birthplace of jazz, surrounded by shellac, trying to make sense of his jazz age in relation to mine.


Blogger codenameLizzy said...

I cannot believe that you took all that stuff to NYC but I'm really glad that you bothered. I'm Daddy's Little Girl too.

5:31 PM, October 27, 2006  
Blogger purplemafling said...

Dear Sis so beautifully put and has reminded me that I must start to closely look at 'Dad's weather' and see if we are really going to have another Iceage. Today is probably a very good day to start,

5:36 AM, October 28, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I was really touched reading this post... like your sister said, so beautifully put.

janet xx

7:39 AM, October 28, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I must agree with the previous "anonymous said"...really moving.

8:57 PM, November 03, 2006  
Blogger Big Buzzard said...

Great story. Sounds like you need to subscribe to the jazz-l email list. There are people on there who would help you with the old 78s I'm sure. Will dig out the details for you...


10:22 AM, November 14, 2006  

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