****** Musician's Meanderings******
Steve Hashimoto's Journey Journal – News From the Trenches – 08-24-2003:
I've gotten, unfairly, I think, this reputation as a singer-hater. Not true
-- I love good singers, whatever the genre. Referring to last week's bulletin,
a female vocalist asked, with some frustration, what does a singer have to do
to be respected by musicians? Short answer -- be as good as Sinatra.
Channel 11 aired two Sinatra specials this week, one a compilation of clips
from his '50's tv show, and the other his first "comeback" special, "Ol' Blue
Eyes Is Back", and watching him was very instructive. Non-musicians often ask
what it is about Sinatra that musicians love, and we invariably answer that
it's his sense of swing and his phrasing. Watching him at what was arguably the
height of his powers, I was immediately struck by quite a few things that
aren't readily apparent strictly through hearing recordings. One was how relaxed he
was, and as an outgrowth of that how patient he was -- he NEVER rushed a
line, amazing especially in view of the fact that (in both specials) the ensembles
backing him, ranging from combos to full orchestra, were always off-stage. I
don't know what kind of monitoring systems were in use in television studios
of the '50's, but I bet it was sort of primitive. Yet he was always perfectly
in synch with his musicians. Working with the cream of L.A. and N.Y. studio
players probably contributes to a sense of confidence that the band will always
be there when it's supposed to be, but that alone can't explain how, even at
rubato or very slow tempos, he was always perfect. Sinatra's time was
impeccable. This was during the period when he often used a cigarette as a prop, and he
was able to swing his smoking! In a telling period moment (you'd never see
something like that now) he inhaled, coughed, and still got the line out in an
elegant way. Now, we all know people who couldn't keep a beat if you hot-wired
their nervous systems to a drum machine. Those people will never swing.
Nancy and I were watching together, and she remarked that he didn't move
much; he pretty much just stood there and sang the song. Obviously it wasn't
because he couldn't -- in the second special he did a long song-and-dance number
with Gene Kelly (they were, I believe, 66 and 72 respectively), and he showed
that he could still move when he needed to. A big part, for me, of his genius
was that he respected his material enough to know that he didn't need to do
anything to "sell" the song, that his singing and the strength of the material was
enough (a lesson he probably learned from Billie Holiday). The unspoken part
of this equation is also that his audience was also sophisticated enough to
get it, and didn't need the lines telegraphed or force-fed, and that,
unfortunately, is a train that's long departed and probably won't be coming back.
In the second special his voice wasn't quite as smooth or strong as it had
been 15 years (or however long it was) before, but the tradeoff was that his
emotional connection to the material, already strong, was even deeper. A medley o
f songs from the "September Of My Years" album was very naked and touching,
and again, something you'll probably never see on contemporary tv (a 10 minute
medley of fairly depressing ballads).
And when he snapped his fingers it was always on 2 and 4!
Played a jazz gig in Crown Point, Indiana, tonight, and there's a happening
little scene going on out there! The venue was called Naughty Grapes, and it's
kind of a musicians' hang. The gig was fun, the players were good, the vibes
were mellow -- thanks to Marco Villareal, who asked me to come on down. Marco's
another one of these "best-kept-secret" guitar players who one day is gonna
blow a lot of y'all out of the water.
This week Steven Hashimoto gets a little breather (let's not make it too
SUN. 8/24: a little leader date, thanks to Mike Glick.
TUES. 8/26: at QUENCHERS, 2401 N. Western, 10pm-1am, with Sueños Latin Jazz
Quartet (Mike Levin, sax; Leandro Lopez-Varady, piano; Heath Chappell, drums)
-- you're welcome to come sit in, but you gotta play my book. It'll be fun,
FRI. 8/29: at THE UNDERGROUND WONDER BAR, 10 E. Walton, 8-10:30pm, with The
Robin Kay Band (Robin, vocals and socio-political commentary; Paul Coscino,
keyboards; Pat Fleming, guitar; Mike Levin, saxophones; Rick Vitek, drums); then,
later on, as always, at THE GREEN MILL, 4802 N. Broadway, 1:30-3:45am, with
The Green Mill Quartet (Barely Winograd, bari sax; Bob Long, piano; Rick
Shandling, drums) for The After-Hours Jam Session.
SAT. 8/30: a jobbing date.
SUN. 8/31: another jobbing date! Is there light at the end of the tunnel?
Probably not. I'm looking at a slow September. I need to fill numerous
weeknights as well as Sat. the 27th. Call me at 708-222-6520 with your interesting
and bizarre offers.