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Wednesday, June 27, 2007


Back in the '70s, the great debate that developed was between those who preferred rock and those who preferred the upstart disco. (This will give you an idea of the general intellectual achievement of the time.) Being someone who neither danced nor had a girlfriend to dance with, I preferred rock. As time has passed, however, I have come to think that if asked to weigh in on this question today, my answer just might be "Swing."

Ah, swing music. It captivated the country from the late '30s to the mid-'40s, and I am currently under its thrall. Benny Goodman and his orchestra, who was to Swing what the Ramones were to New Wave, just get my toes a-tappin'. My current fixation comes courtesy of the channel on XM called The Forties on 4, but my interest has been alive for some time. (You can try out XM for free online for a three-day trial period.)

I've really loved jazz for some years, stretching back into the distant mists of my memory. I really got hooked when I was in college. I heard some of Scott Joplin's rags being played in the classroom next door to the costume shop and signed up immediately after for Jazz History. We followed the development of jazz from its origins in New Orleans and up the Mississippi to Chicago. We listen to Louis Armstrong and Kid Ory. (I even went to see the Preservation Hall Jazz Band during this time. Fantastic.)

We listened to Bix soloing with creative abandon only to have Paul Whiteman and his Orchestra cut in after the number of measures indicated in the score. I discovered the glories of Fletcher Henderson and enlarged and enlivened my acquaintance with Duke Ellington and the aforementioned Mr Goodman. We listened to the great Big Bands and then Bop, with its patron saints of Bird, Diz, and Monk.

I stuck with it pretty well up through Modern Jazz and the Cool School, but found myself less interested in Free Jazz and the experiments of Coltrane. As jazz went from hot to cool, so did my interest.

Of course, I still like rock 'n' roll and its many variants, but there is something about swing that really steals me. I guess I'm just a hepcat at heart.

Swing out high and gutbucket and peace out.