… 13 JAZZ REFLECTIONS ON THE NATIVE AMERICAN
It’s all about love, dear folks, and also about a guilty conscience… ? …Now, meditate a while on that.
Dave Brubeck must have felt this guilt, or rather shame, paired of course with a deep concern and musical curiosity, otherwise he wouldn’t have studied the original music of the first American inhabitants in his later years – incorrectly called “Indians” by a not very swingin’ Christopher Columbus.
But, we don’t wanna get too politically correct here, do we?
The jazz musicians, songstresses, bandleaders & arrangers who wrote and performed the 13 pieces on that playlist, they surely were only kidding when they musically portrayed the American Indian like those titles are suggesting:
“Smoke Dreams” ‘n’ “Red Skin Rumba” (by the way one of the very first truly modal tunes!), or “The Bottom Man On The Totem Pole” (which definitely could be quite offensive nowadays), or the first line of Ray Noble’s lyrics to “Cherokee”: “Sweet Indian Maiden…”
An enlightened, a tolerant, and amiable man like Dizzy Gillespie who was completely aware of the social situation, the standing of the American Indian in the USA, he certainly meant no harm when recording Gigi Gryce’s “Smoke Signals” (and blowing, by the boppin’ way, one of his greatest solos ever!) together with Benny Golson in 1957.
For me personally, it’s all wonderful music in the first place, the “incorrect” aspects left aside. You all know very well – don’t you? – that jazz musicians (also Hollywood!) have stopped using all those racist clichés ages ago.
So, I would suggest that you’d just listen to the 13 tunes, and enjoy.
— My favorites?
Mildred Bailey, doing an utterly brave vocal at “Smoke Dreams”. Now, why brave?
There goes the tale that Eddie Sauter had arranged it extra-dissonantly for the notoriously moody Mildred; but if you’d listen closely, you can hear pianist Herbie Haymer feeding an “F” to La Bailey, glimpses of a second before she started to sing over those crazy chords.
The rest of the drama is a superbly delivered flawless swing song which harmonically was a flash-forward to the kind of jazz the’ve later baptized bebop. Red Norvo beats the xylophone.
Another favorite of mine is “The Bottom Man On The Totem Pole” with Glen Gray & The Casa Loma Orchestra.
— Mye, mye … what an hilarious nonsense, huh? Geronimo would have … yawned out loudly in his grave, wouldn’t he?
Anyway, a wonderful chart, originally covering two sides of a shellack disc, with a very deep vocal by Casa Loma’s Big Chief Pew Wew… err, chief trombonist Pee Wee Hunt, and a fantastic clarinet improvisation by Clarence Hutchenrider, who’s one of the unsung heroes of the era.
Really, I don’t want to bore you. Anyway, one more before you’ll be freed to find your own favorite(s), ok?
Everybody shouts: “Yeah, give us one more, Big Chief Brew!”
“Indian Love Call” from 1949, with the dreamy trombone of the otherwise *not so* gentlemanlike Tommy Dorsey … 😉
I love the dynamics at this one; Charlie Shavers has added his two cup-muted cents too.
— A very effectively constructed chart (also by Eddie Sauter?), and played in a great big easy way.
Love & peace, sisters & brothers!
Swingingly yours truly,
Big Chazz Chief Brew
01. Smoke Dreams (Mildred Bailey, voc) – Red Norvo & His Orchestra (1937)
— The Indian Suite, as performed by its composer Ray Noble & His Orchestra (1938, 1939 & 1940)
03. Commanche War Dance
07. Indian Love Call (Tony Pastor, voc; Artie Shaw, cl; & Buddy Rich, d) – Artie Shaw & His Orchestra (Melody And Madness Broadcast, January 1, 1939)
08. Redskin Rumba (Charlie Barnet, as; Cliff Leeman, d; & Billy May, tp & arr) – Charlie Barnet & His Orchestra (1939)
09. The Botton Man On The Totem Pole (Pee Wee Hunt, voc) – Glen Gray & The Casa Loma Orchestra (1941)
— The Beautiful Indians, a two-part mini suite by & with Duke Ellington & His Orchestra (1946)
10. a) Hiawatha (Al Sears, ts)
11. b) Minnehaha (Kay Davis, voc)
12. Indian Love Call – Tommy Dorsey & His Orchestra (1949)
13. Smoke Signals – Dizzy Gillespie Octet – Dizzy Gillespie (tp) Henry Coker (tb) Gigi Gryce (as, arr) Benny Golson (ts) Pee Wee Moore (bars) Ray Bryant (p) Tommy Bryant (b) Charlie Persip (d) (NYC, December 17, 1957).
P.S. — By the way, I was never a friend of PC …I’m on a Mac