Jazz Around the World

Recently, we have been curious about the readership, especially since thejazzmonger blog went through a protracted period of idleness last year. So, I checked into our usage statistics a little bit. We found some surprises… some very pleasant surprises. First, we have been averaging around 65 hits per day, recently, with the high being 82 hits and the low being 50. So the traffic has been pretty steady. That’s good, I think.

Kudos are due to the great folks at WordPress for providing a terrific vehicle to let one speak to the whole wide world. If you have ever given any thought to expressing yourself in blog form, I encourage you to check out the great package of services and assistance  provided there.

But, what really surprised us was where the visitors are logging in from. Naturally, most connections originate in the United States, with the United Kingdom and India (both predominantly English-speaking countries and very heavily wired-in) coming in second and third. It was the overall distribution that was a revelation. Over the last seven days, we have logged visitors from thirty-eight (38) different countries.  And I am quite stoked about that.

Any disappointments? Yes, a couple. We would really love to be picked up more in Japan. The Japanese are well-recognized as sincere fans and aficionados of good Jazz. One fine exampleof this is the excellent site Jazz in Japan, edited by Michael Pronko.  Not only does he thoroughly cover the Jazz scene in Japan, but he writes with passion and talent on some surprisingly (for me) provocative subjects, such as Jazz and ZenThis guy has stretched my horizons considerably. Maybe our problem, here, is that thejazzmonger just doesn’t measure up to this kind of material. Michael gives us something to shoot at.

And the Japanese are not just fans. Many important contributors to the genre are from Japan. A case in point is one of my favorires, Gota Yashiki, about whom thejazzmonger wrote lovingly some time ago (Cf: http://wp.me/ppvVJ-al).  thejazzmonger needs to put in some serious thought on how we might appeal to this sophisticated audience, in the future.

Another disappointment is the low showing from Switzerland. I have some family, and a couple of good friends in Switzerland. We bagged one hit for the week. C’mon family!

We draw some encouragement, though, from what we think are pretty good numbers in some other places. Fifty-three hits from India and Pakistan, combined. Twenty from Greece! The Greeks have plenty going on, right now, so we are gratified that a few of them had time to drop by. One hit from the Russian Federation, probably Vladimir Putin, unwinding from another election rout.

WE invite any, and all, visitors to come back often, comment as you see fit and, please, drop us a note via the “Contact Us” link, introduce yourself and let us know where you sign in from.

Here is the chart

Maurice White, Penguins & Single-parent Households

Three disparate items in that title, but they are connected. Trust me, they are, even if only in my convoluted mind. Bear with me or, if the weather is hot where you are, BARE with me.

Maurice White is the founder and the creative genius behind most of the work of the super-group Earth Wind & Fire. He wrote much of their music, often working together with the late Charles Stepney. He sang lead on their recordings, countered by the soaring falsetto of Philip Bailey. Maurice produced records for EWF and many other stars such as Barbra Streisand, Neil Diamond and Cher. He was also the guiding hand behind EWF’s elaborate live performances, working with magician Doug Henning (and his young assistant David Copperfield) to develop elaborate staging and special effects. With everybody, including The Phenix Horns,  in motion, lavish costumes and pyrotechnics, Earth Wind & Fire always delivered an outstanding show, in keeping with their terrific music.

I defy you to keep all your body parts still as you experience this 1979 performance of EWF’s  Boogie Wonderland

Now that you have enjoyed that, it is time for the Penguins connection. The talented folks at Warner Bros. gave us the wonderfully entertaining animated film Happy Feet. The film won a Golden Globe and the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature Film. It is a great movie, a heart-warming story and just jam-packed with terrific music. Not too far into the film is what I think is the best musical production number EVER in an animated film. Sit back and enjoy this:

So, now you get the connection between Maurice White, EWF and Penguins. How do we get to single-parent households? Mumble and Gloria, the two penguins you saw featured in that great musical number, are Emperor Penguins. The plot principles for the movie Happy Feet are drawn from the excellent National Geographic feature-film documentary March of the Penguins. Written and directed by Luc Jacquet and narrated by Morgan Freeman, this movie was also an Academy Award winner for Best Documentary & Best Documentary Feature. The film tells the incredible story of  the Emperor Penguins’ will to survive in the harshest environment on Earth, an area so bleak in the winter season that it supports no other wildlife. Each year, as the season heads toward winter and the sun virtually disappears, the penguins march some 60 miles, from the sea to their ancient breeding grounds.

March of the Penguins DVD

March of the Penguins DVD

Once the mothers lay their eggs, they must get back to the sea and gorge themselves to recover. The precious egg is carefully handed off to the father, a transfer that must take place in a matter of a few seconds to prevent freezing the embryo inside. The father nestles the egg on top of his feet and wraps a pouch of its lower belly, heavy with feathers and warming fat, over the egg. There, he incubates the young chick inside. Huddling together for warmth, in temperatures that reach -80 degrees and winds of up to 112 MPH, the devoted dads take turns being on the outside of the group, absorbing the worst of the icy blasts.

Needing plenty of time to replenish their body fat, and with a 60+ mile march each way, the mothers are gone for as long as NINE WEEKS!!!! For more than 60 days, these penguin fathers go without a single bite of food. Exhausted, hungry, pounded by the icy winds, they shuffle between the slightly warmer middle of the huddle, and the severely frozen exterior, keeping their baby alive.

Eventually, the eggs hatch and the youngster is quickly stuffed back into the safety of the warm belly-pouch and cradled on the father’s feet. There the dads stand, waiting, patiently, determinedly for the mother to come back with food in her belly to feed the young chick. And all that time, Dad knows that once his relief shows up he has that same 60+ mile walk to get to the sea before he can finally eat. In all, he will likely go nearly three months without a single morsel in the harshest climate imaginable.

You men know how you get much hungrier, tend to eat more, and burn it off easier in the winter? Think about going through next winter, from December 21 to March 21, on nothing.

The most recent statistics show there are about 13.6 Million single parents in the United States, raising some 21.2 Million children.  Approximately 84% are mothers, and 16% are fathers. About 1% of the mothers are widowed. In all the other cases, there is a divorced or separated husband, or some kind of a biological father, somewhere. In all too many cases, that father has little or nothing to do with the education, care and nurturing of his children. Those men (or boys) should be ashamed. Tales of mistreatment by the ex-wife, discomfort and embarrassment about their personal circumstances, too busy at work, whatever, these are nothing compared to 80-below temperatures, 112 MPH winds and starvation, true starvation,  for up to ninety days.

They ought to show March of the Penguins to every boy in America, beginning in about the fifth grade, and repeat it every year through high school. You want to talk about role models for our young men? Don’t make any babies that you are not willing to suffer and stand in the strong winds for, each and every day.

Emperor Penguin family

Emperor Penguin family

And you guys that have a child out there somewhere, never mind about trying to prove to the world that you are a MAN. Prove to me that you are AS GOOD AS A PENGUIN!

Deal with your kid(s) EVERY day. Some way, somehow. Every day!


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Jazz Clarinetist Walt Levinsky

You may not know him, but you have heard him.

Walt Levinsky (b. April 18, 1929 / d. Dec. 14, 1999) was a terrifically talented musician whose genius escaped the glare and hubbub of the “fame machine” by his own choice. A standout talent on the clarinet, alto saxophone &  flute, Walt was dubbed “the most talented musician that ever came to this school,” by the Woodwind instructor at the Music Conservatory where he trained in Anville, PA. [wikipedia]

Even before becoming a full-time professional, Walt started right near the top, with the Les Elgart Orchestra. His first full-time position was replacing the  noted Buddy De Franco in the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra. He left Dorsey to enlist in the U.S. Air Force during The Korean War and played with the renowned Airmen of Note.

Walt with Airmen of Note

Walt settled in the New York City area in 1954, upon mustering out of the  Air Force. In 1956, Benny Goodman added Walt to his orchestra for a set of appearances at The Waldorf Astoria. Walt was the lead saxophone player but was also tapped by Goodman as his backup player on clarinet solos. If Benny couldn’t play, he trusted Walt to deliver the “Goodman sound.”  Walt toured, briefly, with Benny Goodman‘s orchestra but he hated all the flying. Strange for an Air Force guy, huh?

Eschewing the life “on-the-road,” Walt began a life-long involvement as a session musician on the highest of high-end recordings. He worked with pretty much all of the best: Frank Sinatra, Tony Bennett, Sarah Vaughan, Lena Horne, often contributing arrangements in addition to his playing.

Walt was always in demand by the best in the industry for recordings and major appearances.  He is credited over-and-over on recordings by the best of the reed-men like Stan Getz and Gerry Mulligan. From his work with Stan Getz and Joao Gilberto, Walt became a fixture on recordings in the Bossa Nova and Samba styles. A master of his instrument as well as all styles of music, he played on a number of Cal Tjader‘s tracks and ventured into Acid and Fusion Jazz.

Levinsky joined the NBC staff orchestra and in 1962 became a member of Skitch Henderson‘s Tonight Show Band. Enjoying the regular work so close to home, with talented musicians, Walt stayed with the band when Doc Severinson took over as leader, and appears on most of Severinson’s recordings. In the 60s, Walt left NBC join MBA Music, a producer of theme show music and commercial jingles. This gave him an opportunity to really utilitze his composing and arranging talents. Among his many compositions for television is the theme music for The CBS Evening News with Dan Rather.

Perhaps the highest professional accolade any clarinetist could ever earn came to Walt Levinsky in 1962. Artie Shaw, the noted perfectionist, was recreating his all-star 1938 Orchestra and needed someone to be Artie Shaw. Artie went straight to Walt Levinsky and there are some who say that Walt played Artie better than Artie did.

Although Walt played in some 5,000 recording sessions, he only produced one album as the headliner: Walt Levinsky and his Great American Swing Band (featuring Lynn Roberts). On the Kenzo Records label, it is a terrific CD and it really swings. The production values are top-notch and the band he has assembled is just terrific. Here are two tracks from the CD, which do not sound nearly as good on Youtube as they do on the original source material:

#1 – Let’s Dance + Bugle Call Rag

#2 – Wang Wang Blues

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