Saturday, April 22, 2017

Celebrate Record Store Day. Go ahead, find one.

This has been declared "Record Store Day," which is particularly ironic in a week which found the HMV store on Robson Street locked, empty and dark.

True, there has been a mild proliferation of stores selling old, and, in some cases, new vinyl, but there's nothing to compare with the old A&B Sound on Seymour or the sainted Sam the Record Man.

So on Record Store Day, let's remember them, and other record stores where one felt at home in their listening booths, including Dojack's in Regina and Assiniboia Music in Moose Jaw.

Celebrate Record Store Day. Go ahead, find one. And be grateful there's still Sikora's.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

There's a Call for You from Joe Keithley

As British Columbia braces itself for another provincial election, and all the campaigning that attends it, from nonstop television commercials to appearances by party leaders in hard hats and grim, fixed smiles, we may also expect telephone calls from candidates.

Perhaps the most interesting calls will be received by voters in the Burnaby-Lougheed riding, where the candidates are Katrina Chen for the NDP, Steve Darling for the Liberals, and Joe Keithley for the Green Party.

Ms. Chen's calls will, we're sure, be polite and demure. But we expect more show biz from former Global TV anchor Steve Darling, who may urge us to vote for the team led by Christy Clark ("A very good friend of mine, and a favorite of NW listeners") and finish with "And now for a look at the weather, and hoping for a liberal--heh heh--dose of sunshine, here's Mark Madryga."

But the most straightforward of messages should come from Joe Keithley, longtime front man of the punk rock band DOA: "Hi, this is Joe Keithley. So are you gonna #$%+&*%@ vote for me? I #$@*&_%&^ hope so. Stay cool."

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Scrabble with Chuck and Vladimir

A few days ago, the world celebrated Scrabble, the ne plus ultra of word games, and we immediately thought of Chuck Davis and Vladimir Nabokov. Nabokov because he and his wife, Vera, enjoyed playing the game in four languages; Chuck because he was not only Vancouver's dedicated historian, but also the city's Scrabble guru. In an issue of NUVO, Chuck wrote an article called "Love at First Tile," subtitled "How to Score 392 Points on a Single Move."

He was introduced to the game in 1954 while serving in the Canadians Army.  In the 1970s, he came second in a British Commonwealth Scrabble Tournament, topping 400 points twice. But the record for the highest number of points in a single move, when Chuck wrote his article, was Karl Khoshnaw of Twickenham, England. He scored 392 points with "caziques." A cazique, Chuck helpfully told us, is a tropical songbird.

Chuck went on to tell readers about the creator of Scrabble: a British architect named Alfred Mosher Butts, who found himself out of work in the Depression years and decided to invent a board game.  He first called it Lexico and then Criss-Cross Words. But it didn't take off until 1948, when he met James Brunot, who rearranged the squares and simplified the rules. Then the collaborators came up with the name Scrabble. By the year 2000, more than 100 million sets had been sold.

Chuck Davis ended his NUVO piece writing "More than 45 years after I first played it, Scrabble is still a game I like a lot. Not as much, though, as Helen Cornelius Bowden of Chicago. She died in 1990 and left instructions that her headstone be cast in the form of a Scrabble board."

Talk about getting the last word.

Saturday, April 8, 2017

Buy a Poet a Drink

It has come to our attention that April is National Poetry Month.
Take a poet to lunch.

We wonder what it might cost
To have a drink with Robert Frost.
Or if we could go another round
With crazy, red-haired Ezra Pound
Or should we just continue tippling
With Nobel laureate Rudyard Kipling.
Time to eat, let's have spaghetti
With Dante Gabriel Rossetti
And also Lawrence Ferlinghetti;
You know there always are good eats
When you nosh down with the Beats.
Waiter, send more jugs of beer
For our buddy Edward Lear,
And another tub of Stilton
For the eminent John Milton.
And now a haunch of venison
Carved for Alfred, yes, Lord Tennyson.

But truly, if we had our say,
We'd spend the day with Miss Millay.

Thursday, April 6, 2017

No Minor Chords

Many notable birthdays this date, including Andre Previn's. We have been listening to Previn since the mid-1940s, when his recordings were often played at noon on CKCK Regina. We still have an album from that period, a photograph of the very boyish pianist on the cover; the 78s within have, sadly, disappeared.

Jurgen Gothe was a Previn fan. His favorite Previn album was "King Size." Ours is "Give My Regards to Broadway," with Red Mitchell and Frankie Capp, but a close second is "Old Friends," with Ray Brown and Mundell Lowe. Previn's most popular album was "My Fair Lady," in a trio under drummer Shelly Manne, including bassist Leroy Vinnegar. It was an enormous success, and led to a stream of jazz albums reworking Broadway musical scores. Perhaps the most surprising jazz albums Previn made were two with Itzhak Perlman ("A Different Kind of Blues").

Previn has worked with many classical artists, but some of the most memorable performances have been with singers--Kathleen Battle, Frederica von Stade, Eileen Farrell, Sylvia McNair, et al. And he had a curious collaboration with playwright ("Rosenkrantz and Guildenstern are Dead," "Shakespeare in Love") Tom Stoppard on a music theatre piece they called "Every Good Boy Deserves Favour."

And then there has been Previn's long run as a conductor, principally with the London Symphony Orchestra, where, among other achievements, he revived interest in the music of Frederick Delius and other somewhat neglected English composers.

But what initially established Andre Previn was his time as music director of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, begun when he was just out of Beverly Hills High School. He tells his Hollywood stories in a cleverly entertaining memoir called "No Minor Chords." The title came from a memo issued by the studio president. Hearing some music he found sad, he complained to an aide, who told him, "It's based on a lot of minor chords." The studio boss immediately had a memo sent to the MGM music department: "No minor chords."

And no minor chords for Andre Previn, who today turns 88--just like the keys on a piano.

Sunday, April 2, 2017

The Girl Singer

The girl singer, and sometimes "the canary": that's what the female vocalist--Ginny Simms, Helen Forrest, Jo Stafford, Peggy Lee, Helen O'Connell--was called in the Big Band days.

You couldn't get away with that now. And this month, April, has been declared Jazz Appreciation Month, with particular appreciation for Women in Jazz.

So here comes our appreciation for: Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughan, Carmen McRae, Lil Hardin Armstrong, Betty Roche, Susannah McCorkle, Ivie Anderson, Eleanor Collins, Rosemary Clooney, Helen Merrill, Janis Siegel,  Sophie Milman, Astrud Gilberto, Diana Krall, Blossom Dearie, Helen Humes, Lil Green, Anita O'Day, Annie Ross, Dinah Shore, Sylvia Sims, Sheila Jordan, Maxine Sullivan, Esther Phillips, Lee Wiley, Nina Simone, Shirley Horn, Carol Sloane, Joya Sherrill, Jackie Cain, Irene Kral, Teddi King, Lena Horne, Abbey Lincoln, Pearl Bailey, Ernestine Anderson, Betty Carter, Kate Hammett-Vaughan, Bessie Smith, Mamie Smith, Ma Rainie, Alberta Hunter, Dianne Reeves, Cassandra Wilson, Dinah Washington, Nancy Wilson, Melody Gardot, Norah Jones, Phoebe Snow, Karen Young, Cheryl Bentyne, Velma Middleton, Stacey Kent, Ethel Waters and Ricky Lee Jones. And, among non-singers: Mary Lou Williams, Carla Bley, Marian McPartland, Helen Keane, Marjorie Hyams, Toshiko Akiyoshi, Joanne Brackeen, Renee Rosnes, Melba Liston, and Ingrid and Christine Jensen.

And could we sneak in the Dixie Chicks?

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Warning: Politics May Be Injurious to Your Health

There are days--most of them--when you don't want to read, watch or hear the news. There is way too much political toxicity in the air. Political news should now come with those warnings drug manufacturers are required to give: "May cause headaches, nausea, desire to throw oneself off a bridge..."

We had hoped to make this blog a politics-free zone, but it is hard to ignore what's happening out there. Lord Acton said, "Power tends to corrupt," but a lot of those aiming for power seem to bring their corruption with them.

In other slightly related matters--have you noticed how often politicians say they speak for the "middle class"? What, exactly, is the middle class? And if they do, who is left to speak for the lower class? Does anyone even dare refer to the "lower class" or the "higher class"?

And just one more thing, as Columbo used to say: it is really boring to see politicians, hoping to prove they are regular guys by appearing in public without neckties. Of course, it is possible that, like Sean Spicer, they don't know how to knot neckties properly. But if they really want to look like regular guys, they should skip the $2,500 suits, as well, and turn up in tank tops and jeans, or even sweats.

Actually, a lot of regular guys do wear neckties. Even the $125 Bugattis.