Doc’s True Thoughts On The Grammy Awards.

By Devon “Doc” Wendell

Well, it’s that time of year again; Grammy season. So here’s a bit of Eschatology for you.  Yes, there are people that I wish would receive this antiquated award but does it really fucking mean anything anymore? Even Quincy Jones was recently quoted as saying “we have no music industry.” So who are these people keeping this meaningless ceremony alive? Well, it’s a lot like the Rock n’ roll hall of fame. There’s a bunch of rich, greasy, old white baby-boomers who like to gather together in a disgusting ego driven circle jerk. They were the last ones to get as much money as they could steal before the music business imploded. Drinking champagne and toasting to the “glory days” is important to these impish old ghouls. And I really hope they have a blast.

Of course the recipients of the jazz and classical Grammy awards aren’t televised and we all know that Fats Navarro and Jimi Hendrix never got a Grammy. We also know that if we choose to torture ourselves by watching the televised broadcast, we’ll be subjected to throngs of bad hip-hop artists pushing shameless capitalism, sexism, and drug abuse plus tons of auto-tuned pop “starlets” who have to revert to sticking their tongues out and singing whiny breakup songs for 12 year old kids. Sounds like a barrel of monkeys huh?

If it is actually true that winning a Grammy in 2016 will get real musicians more work, then great, I’m all for it. But is this even true anymore? If so, how long before the novelty wears off completely?  These would be tough questions to answer say 20 years ago.

With all of that said, I just may pay as much attention to the Grammys as I have been to the GOP debates because after all, both spectacles have the same amount of taste, class, and honesty, oh, and let’s not forget rich old white guys in suites; The coup de grace for all of us broke, hard working musicians. Good luck nominees. See you next year, I’m done here.

 

 

 

Book Review: “It Was Jug That I Dug” by Al Carter-Bey

     By Devon “Doc” Wendell

What’s missing from so many music biographies today is an original personal connection between the author and the music. Yes, we get the history and the gory details but I am often left wondering why an author has chosen to write about a particular artist aside from wanting to make a few bucks. If you love jazz the way I do, you wouldn’t be able to hold back from telling the world how the music has transformed you in every way possible when writing about one of your idols.

Veteran Chicago jazz radio personality, writer, and promoter Al Carter- Bey’s new biography of saxophonist Gene “Jug” Ammons, aptly titled “It Was Jug That I Dug” (khabooks) not only gives you a highly detailed account of Ammons’s career and life, it gives it to you from Bey’s personal life experience with the music and the cats who created it which is truly refreshing.

There is a lot of heart in this book.

Ammons 250

Ammons’s thick, lush tenor saxophone tone and perfectly placed lines and phrasing made him one of the most soulful and legendary forces in the entire history of jazz. Ammons’ music epitomized the Chicago tenor bop style like no one else. His sound was so deeply personal and pure as is Bey’s connection to it.

Bey’s ability to express his love for that one and only “Jug” style is sincere, passionate, and always cool.

Bey takes us back to when Ammons was in Billy Eckstine’s phenomenal band of 1945 along with Sonny Stitt, John Jackson, Dexter Gordon, and Leo Parker. This swinging reed section was nicknamed the “Unholy Four”  due to the fact that they would miss rehearsals and acted out in a typically youthful fashion.GENEAMMONS

What makes this book so special is that Bey was at the center of this  amazing music happening in Chicago. A highlight of the book is Bey’s recollection  of preparing to interview Ammons and Sonny Stitt before one of their legendary saxophone duels only to have it get completely derailed after consuming some of Stitt’s gin and forgetting to turn on the tape recorder.  Bey was still able to have a conversation with these two giants about Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, Don Byas, and Nat “King” Cole; a jazz lover’s dream come true.

Bey’s love for jazz is present throughout the entire book and his language is both hip and precise which fits the music and scene perfectly. The book is all about one’s undying passion and dedication for this incredible and timeless music. Bey makes it abundantly clear that this is the greatest music in the world not to be taken for granted.

All music lovers must get a copy of It Was Jug That I Dug.  Check out Al Carter-Bey/JazzRapp on WHPK, 88.5 fm in Chicago or streaming live on http://www.whpk.org

 

 

 

 

And Then God Made ‘Trane

             By Devon “Doc” Wendell

 

For the last few months I’ve traveled hard. From Los Angeles to London, from London to Edinburgh Scotland, and then onto Venice Italy, back to London, Los Angeles again for a week and a half and then to New Jersey and New York for the holidays. There was horrible fear all around me, all of it emanating from that world outside of my safe little bubble of pristine isolation. On my final flight back home to L.A., I picked up some newspapers and read about terrorist attacks, mass shootings, suicides, overworked Americans at the end of their rope, and a narcissistic, bigoted hate monger pulling ahead  in the polls for the next U.S. presidential election. It was just too much to take. My temples throbbed in pain. I’ve felt this fear before many times but could not recall exactly when and where. Booze and drugs were no longer an option; haven’t been for quite a while now so I had to find peace in the only place left where it’s still  both tangible and attainable. In music.

For Christmas, my father had gotten me  John Coltrane: A Love Supreme-The Complete Masters box set. It not only features the original Classic Quartet session  from December 9, 1964 (with McCoy Tyner on piano, Jimmy Garrison, bass, and Elvin Jones on drums), it also features plenty of fantastic overdubs, and a sextet session recording with the addition of Archie Shepp on second tenor sax, and Art Davis on bass.

This plush compilation also comes with Coltrane and his Classic Quartet performing A Love Supreme live at Festival Mondial du Jazz Antibes in France, recorded on July 26, 1965.

 

John Coltrane: A Love Supreme: The Complete Masters

I had uploaded all of this music into my clunky old MP3 player and it was sorely needed. Before I placed the headphones on, I felt beads of sweat pouring from my brow and my heart raced like a freight train under the operation of some tweaker whose mind had finally snapped for good.

And then it happened. And then God made ‘Trane and did so just for such occasions. Within the first few bars of “Acknowledgement”, it felt as if a thousand bridge cables had snapped. Relief flooded through my mind, body, and spirit. The sound of ‘Trane’s beautifully soaring tenor saxophone with McCoy on piano, Jimmy Garrison on bass, and the mighty Elvin Jones on drums anesthetized me.  Every note was perfect. It had been a while since I had listened to anything from this particular era of Coltrane’s career. For the last decade or so, I’ve been more taken with his renegade post-bop recordings of the late ’50s.

The “modal” stuff from the ’60s seamed better on LSD and those days are gone. But sitting on this United Airlines flight back to Los Angeles, it felt as if I were hearing this music for the very first time. As the music would build into these fantastic crescendos, the terror that had seized my being had subsided. Everything was wonderful, for now anyway. That is the whole point  of A Love Supreme. Coltrane had gained an understanding of certain notes, tones, and chord changes that would conjure up deep serenity and a higher wisdom that is needed today more than when it was recorded over 51 years ago. And it works.  Yes, the insanity of the world both within me and without shall return in due time but for now I’m ready for the next awful wave.

 

 

And So It Begins…

By Devon Wendell        

 

So this is it; my very own blog. It’s been a long time coming but it’s something I had to do. I’ve had some of the greatest musicians and writers across the globe suggesting that I “branch out” and keep my own separate blog where I can write about anything and not “just” music but also politics, poetry, and what ever my many mood swings conjure up.

As you may notice, I have a long way to go. I need to work on a fucking logo, pictures and some other basics to keep you engaged but as a writer, I had to get a few words out first. Expect many fantastic things on this site.  My love and knowledge of music is the only thing keeping me sane during these dark and doomed times and that’s just fine. Most people don’t even have that.

I hope my many fans will come with me on this journey (I know, what an awful cliche, sorry) and offer some wisdom and suggestions.

Right now I’m still a victim of the road and a long month of traveling. I’m completely burned out and raw with nothing tangible to cling onto in the darkest corners of my scorched- earth consciousness so I must rest and regroup and figure out my next move here. And so it begins, Doc Wendell’s solo project blog.