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Bebop Spoken There

Vadim Neselovskyi, Professor of Jazz Piano, Berklee College of Music: “Every pianist has to deal with a very complex left-hand part at some point. This is the essential pianistic experience – to split your brain into two halves and execute two very different tasks at the same time.” – (Down Beat September 2017).

Roscoe Mitchell: “To me, improvisation is trying to improve your skills so you can make these on-point compositional decisions. That takes practice.” – (Down Beat September 2017)

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Today Tuesday September 26

Afternoon
Vieux Carré Jazzmen - Black Bull, 98 Front St., East Boldon NE36 0SG. 1pm. Free. 0191 5365127. 2nd of 6 consecutive gigs. 2 mins from East Boldon metro.
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Evening
Maine Street Jazzmen - Royal British Legion, West Jesmond Ave., Newcastle NE2 3EX. 8:30pm. £5.
Charles Gordon (solo piano) - Redwood Bar, Vermont Hotel, Newcastle. 10pm - midnight. Free.
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To the best of our knowledge, details of the above events are correct but may be subject to alteration.

Wednesday, February 03, 2016

Crazy Rhythm: Another in my series of Favourite Songs

By Ann Alex
Here is another great song I’ve decided to write about in my occasional series of what I consider great jazz songs. Last time I tackled No Moon At All; lately I’ve discovered Crazy Rhythm, which has cropped up in our Blue Jazz Voices singing class at Sage Gateshead.  
Consider this:-
Crazy Rhythm here’s the doorway
I’ll go my way, you’ll go your way
Crazy Rhythm, from now on we’re through
Here is where we have a showdown
I’m too high hat, you’re too low down
Crazy Rhythm here’s goodbye to you
They say that when a high brow meets a low brow
Walking along Broadway
Soon the high brow he has no brow
Ain’t it a shame and you’re to blame
What’s the use of Prohibition
You produce the same condition
Crazy Rhythm, I’ve gone crazy too.
When you express lyrics in prose, it always sounds a bit naff, but I’ll attempt a prose version.  After all, a skilled lyricist (Irving Caesar in this case) would have written prose if that was the best way to get across his meaning.
The crazy rhythm is of course this jazz tune (and others by implication) which the lyricist says he’ll leave behind as this new music is too ‘lowdown’ for a highbrow like him.  But when this is attempted, he finds it’s not possible as the jazz gets him involved too much and he loses his musical bearings (‘no brow’).  This is the fault of the entrancing music, which has the same effect as strong drink, which makes him feel quite crazy.
As with many jazz songs, the social history of America is treated with a wonderful light touch.  We have themes of musical snobbery, great implied praise for the new jazz music, and mention of the failure of Prohibition to make any real change, except perhaps to create illicit drinking dens with music. Quite a subversive lyric.
I especially like phrases such as ‘here’s the doorway’ and ‘walking along Broadway’, when I picture someone walking along a New York street with sounds of music emerging from every door, and the amusing ‘no brow’ and also the rhyming of Prohibition and condition, which emphasises the meaning intended.
And all this is set to a jaunty tune (Joseph Meyer and Roger Wolfe Kahn) to which I guess you could dance the Charleston.  For good measure, there is also a long verse, too much to write here, which is really effective. It compares the jazz tunes to Nero fiddling while Rome burned and Father Knickerbocker (a symbol for New York when it was under Dutch influence and called New Amsterdam) also playing music while New York ‘burns’.  The second part of the verse refers to all the immigrants coming to Manhattan, but they soon start to play jazz and they discard their native folk songs!  As a folkie I am none too happy about that – I’m sure they kept both types of music!
I’d welcome other comments, interpretations etc. I got the information about Father Knickerbocker from our friend Mr Google, and I’m sure readers could get the full text of the verse from there.
Ann Alex. 

6 comments :

  1. Thank you and well done Ann! A brilliant take on what many of us jazz folk just considered a tune to blow or scat on!
    I hope you'll keep on with this series - I for one can't wait till the next one!

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  2. Excellent Ann, you have a flair for this! I have always loved the clever lyrics of "Crazy Rhythm"

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  3. It was a coincidence that you decided to write about this Ann, because Jenny and I were disc ussing the lyrics on Monday night and Jenny thought it was about violence and that fisticuffs were involved! I have forwarded your excellent explanations and she has responded: "Well done Ann! She’s done her research and come up with the correct interpretation.

    I had already begun to question my ideas of violence- it all seemed a bit too rock and roll and Tarantino- but I had gone down the drugs route and wondered if Crazy Rhythm was jazz code for cocaine or something. Ann’s analysis suggests that it is a term for being intoxicated or ‘off your face’ which makes sense. Much more convincing than fisticuffs! She must explain it to George." The last sentence is because George Anyfantis was questioning these lyrics and asking what highbrow/lowbrow etc was! Hard enough for us English to understand!!!

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  4. I think Ann meant Crazy Rhythm as being intoxicated by the music (jazz) which was just entering American society - hence 'The Jazz Age'. Other numbers such as Gershwin's Fascinating Rhythm - 'Fascinating rhythm, you've got me on the go - Fascinating rhythm, I'm all a-quiver.' Broadway Rhythm, written in the mid '30s, evokes a similar response - Oh, that Broadway rhythm. When I hear that happy beat, I feel like dancin' down the street. I'm sure our good friend Carstairs will come up with a host of other examples from that era.

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  5. Yes Lance I thought that...I will inform Jenny....these performing arts folks get carried away with their imagination!!

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  6. I'm just so glad that this has lead to so much discussion, especially among my fellow Indigo singers as we need to know about our lyrics. And the piano rag-like version of the tune highlighted by Lance is just brilliant.
    Ann Alex

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About this blog - contact details.

Bebop Spoken Here -- Here, being the north-east of England -- centred in the blues heartland of Newcastle and reaching down to the Tees Delta and looking upwards to the Land of the Kilt.
Not a very original title, I know; not even an accurate one as my taste, whilst centred around the music of Bird and Diz, extends in many directions and I listen to everything from King Oliver to Chick Corea and beyond. Not forgetting the Great American Songbook the contents of which has provided the inspiration for much great jazz and quality popular singing for round about a century.
The idea of this blog is for you to share your thoughts and pass on your comments on discs, gigs, jazz - music in general. If you've been to a gig/concert or heard a CD that knocked you sideways please share your views with us. Tell us about your favourites, your memories, your dislikes.
Lance (Who wishes it to be known that he is not responsible for postings other than his own and that he's not always responsible for them.)
Contact: lanceliddle@gmail.com I look forward to hearing from you.

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