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April 10, 1990 - Image 8

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 1990-04-10

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Page 8-The Michi~

~an Daily-Tuesday, April 10, 1990
jazz traditions die

by Phillip Washington
11! ERE'S a typical conversation
that I have had with some acquain-
Them: "Yeah, I like jazz too. I
love Kenny G. and Grover Wash-
Me: "Well, actually I'm more
into traditional jazz.
Them: "Oh yeah, you mean like
John Coltrane?"
Me: "'Trane's cool, but I mean
even further back."
Them: "Okay, I see now. You
mean like... ah... that guy Clint
Eastwood made a movie about...
Me: "You mean Charlie "Bird"
Parker. Yeah, I dig the Bird, but I
really get into stride, swing and
New Orleans musicians - Jelly
Roll Morton, Earl hines, James P.

Them: "Who?"
Thus ends our conversation. To
be fair, most people would recog-
nize names of such jazz pioneers as
Louis Armstrong, Fats Wailer and
Duke Eliington, but it is unlikely
that they would know much, ~f any-
thing, about these musicians or their
I asked James Dapogny to shed
some light on the art and importance
of traditional jazz and ragtime. Da-
pogny is a pianist, bandleader and
professor of music theory at the
University's School of Music. I re-
cently spoke with him in his office.
Daily: When did you first be-
come interested in traditional jazz?
James Dapogny: I found jazz
when I was about 13. It was the first
music that really got me inter-
ested.... I fell upon some reissues of
older records that really interested
me, and then probably at the age of
15 or 16 or even younger I started to
being able to hear some of the peo-
ple who had come to Chicago in the
1920s, guys who came from New
Orleans, for instance. And these were

guys who were in their 50s and 60s
and were still playing well. And get-
ting to hear these guys and meet
them and talk to them really fasci-
nated me.
D: What is the audience response
to traditional jazz?
J.D.: I find that audiences, if
they can be persuaded to listen to it
in the first place, usually can like it
and get behind it. But it's that first
step of getting them to sit and listen
to it.... I've had younger people
come up to me and say things like,
"Gee, you know what's different
about you guys and the way you
play? You guys can really play your
instruments!" I think that they real-
ize that there is a level of technical
expertise greater than what they're
used to hearing.
D: What do you think about con-
temporary composers who still
compose in the traditional jazz id-
iom? Do you think that this is
J.D.: I compose a lot too and
this is a hard thing to say. I think I
can lead someone by a series of logi-
cal statements or arguments into at
least an intellectual acceptance of
people playing the way I play. That
is, we can say Duke Ellington's mu-
sic is valuable therefore there ought
to be somebody around to play Duke
Ellington's music as he played it;
therefore, there have to be people
like me and my band. That people
can accept intellectually. Now
whether those same players or others
should go on to compose in that
style is another problem, and that I
don't know about.
D: You bring up the idea of jazz
being almost an American "clas-
sical" music, a serious music. What
elements of jazz, especially tradi-
tional jazz, make it a serious music?
For instance, why is a composer like
Jelly Roll Morton still relevant
today? Why is his music still
J.D.: Well, I think the thing that
keeps any music alive is its artistic
power.... What I mean by artistic
power is very-hard for me to define. I
just mean something that comes
across to people and grabs them.... I
think that Morton's music is
tremendously valuable and tremen-
dously beautiful. It has a great kind

of reach aesthetically and technically
and the same is true of Ellington and
Louis Armstrong. I think this is
what keeps any music alive, its abil-
ity to speak beyond its time to peo-
ple. And I think (their) music does. I
think there's other music that was
played at that time that doesn't....
When I'm looking for something
that I really want to be nutritious
aesthetically, I will not pick up the
Richard M. Jones "Jazz Wizards"
records. I will pick up the Louis
Armstrong's Hot Sevens or Hot
Fives or the Jelly Roll Morton
records or Bix (Beiderbecke) and the
D: I want to throw a couple of
composer and musician names at
you, and perhaps you could give me
a short synopsis of your thoughts on
each one. How about Scott Joplin?
J.D.: Well, I think one of the
things that is interesting about
Joplin is that his music has kind of
an expressive range that some people
find hard to hear. I think it's very
much the responsibility of the per-
former to get this across. I think it's
very easy to hear ragtime as being
this kind of jolly music. And I think
there are pieces in Joplin's work that
have a very different expressive qual-
ity. Some are lighthearted.., some
sound rather serious to me... and
others sound sad. I think it's impor-
tant when we hear Joplin to realize
that there is this expressive range.
D: Eubie Blake?
J.D.: He was altogether a re-
markable talent... I play a tune of
his called "Memories of You." He
was a very original and valuable
D: How about James P. John-
J.D.: I'm working with a friend
on an edition of James P. Johnson's
music. Of all the stride pianists, he's
the one I like best.... There's some-
thing to me about James P. John-
son's music that is more widely ex-
pressive (than Fats Waller's).
D: Jelly Roll Morton?
J.D.: I'm starting a book on
Morton... a step-by-step appreciation
of his recordings and his music and a
discussion of how he composed and
a history of his music on records and
in print.... I think he was the first

great artist in jazz.
D: How about Earl "Fatha"
J.D.: I've been listening to some
of his stuff lately... (he was) just an
incredible pianist. He had a very, the
word is not aggressive, but a very
questing kind of style. He sounds to
me like he never takes it easy, that
he is always just right on the edge.
And that is a tremendously exciting
thing that comes across... with
limes you have the feeling that the
top of his head is just going to blow
off... I feel that he was the first jazz
pianist to have world-wide influence.
D: How about some of the swing
era players: Art Tatum and Teddy
J.D.: People often ask me about
Teddy Wilson versus Art Tatum. I
believe that Teddy Wilson was by far
the greater artist. I hear greater in-
ventiveness in the improvising and I
like his rhythmic feel better. This
takes nothing away from Tatum but
Tatum often sounds to me like he's
playing set pieces and doing this
kind of "gee whiz" piano technician
act. I admit that Tatum was a great
player and had a wonderful sense of
how to reharmonize a tune and he
had a great sense of wittiness about
him, but for elegance, beauty, polish
and sincerity, I prefer Wilson.
D: How is the University of
Michigan responding to jazz and its
importance in America?
J.D.: As you may know we now
have a teacher of improvisation, Ed
Sarath, who is a very fine musician.
The University has done absolutely
the right thing with regard to jazz.
They found somebody who could
come here and teach improvisation,
which is the core of jazz. A lot of
schools have jazz programs which
are essentially built around big
bands. We have that too, but it is re-
ally the improvisation that is the
most important. So I would say that
the school's recognition of this and
the school's going about instituting
jazz offerings in the curriculum in
this particular way is absolutely the
right-headed way to do this.
D: Where do you think that jazz
is headed?
J.D.: I don't really know. People
say that there are no more sales of
jazz records than there are of classical

music. That's something like five
percent of total records... I believe
that traditional jazz could have a lot
to do with making jazz in general
better understood and better appreci-
ated. There are things about tradi-
tional jazz that make it easier for the
non-jazz audience to hear.... If it's
true that traditional jazz is more ap-
proachable and if it's true that you

hear traditional jazz and this opef~M
up your ears for more kinds of jazz,
then traditional jazz is something
that the jazz community itself ougtrt
to get behind and for years it
hasn't.... But I think there is ~t very~
practical reason for the jazz commti~
nity to help traditional jazz, andi,
think that is because it is a foot in
the door for the music.

University music professor James Dapogny plays old-style jazz in the "'
tradition of all the greats. He also has a great deal to say on the subje~t."


Frederick Busch
writes short, sweet


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ROSELLEN Brown has commented that Frederick Busch "is one of the
richest, most emotionally satisfying writer publishing today." This high
praise from his talented peer comes as no surprise. Busch's latest novel, "..
harry and Catherine, is praised for what has become a constant in his 14
novels, namely finely-honed dialogue, a sense of big-heartedness, painful ti:'
honesty and a generous dose of humor to salve all wounds.
Busch does not come without honors. His work has appeared in the
Best American Short Stories and in the 0. henry Awards. He has
received, among many other prizes, the National Jewish Book Award for"
Fiction and a Guggenheim fellowship. He currently is the Edgar W.B.
Fairchild Professor of Literature at Colgate.
Harry and Catherine delves into the day-to-day domesticity of
protagonist Catherine in upstate New York as Harry, her former lover,
reappears on her doorstep after 12 years. Her current boyfriend gets booted:
her sons become bewildered, and more often than not, the couple is show
doing the dishes. Time complained, "When Catherine is done preparing a
meal and cleaning it up... the reader is left exhausted and with dishpan
Yet the novel is more than quips and jilted gripes. Carter, Catherine's
former lover, is a contractor building a shopping mall parking lot that
Harry's senator (for whom Harry works) believes will desecrate the site of,.,
a cemetery full of slaves who esaped the Civil War. And Harry could nix
the project and financially break Carter, depending on whether he decides
there is a reason to halt construction.
Readers come to care about Busch's chamcter~because of his tenacity ifl
giving them life; his characters are well-rounded and steeped with rich
description. Even his characters of lesser importance are giyen patient
time. Here is Olivia Stoddard, a woman Harry interviews because she has
become caught up in Carter's project:
Mrs. Stoddard was so lively, he thought, in a driven way... Her
anger, so apparent on her compressed lips.., seemed somehow to be at
odds with the generosity of her breasts and hips. She was small but
large, pinched but generous; she was confusing.
This is Frederick Busch: lucid, somewhat sympathetic and always in
touch which what might be ridiculous.
FREDERICK BUSCH will be reading at the Union's Pendleton Room
today at 4 p.m.
Continued from page 7
Livin' Ain't Easy is a definite ao4
ends with a set of ambiguous string complishment on the part of Jerry
plucks, leaving the listener uncertain Giddens. The lyrics are unobtrusive
as to whether the song was good or yet meaningful, the vocals are obini-
not. However, this is effective in sive only where he wants them to
that it forces the listener to ponder be, and the guitar is subtly fantastic.
the album upon its conclusion. -Kim Yaged
The University of Michigan Gilbert and Sullivan Society presents...
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WITH YOUR HO$ T............


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