Confession: I’m sure this is a fantastic album and that the musicians are doing fancy things with time signatures that I could only dream of, but their talent exceeds my ability to appreciate it. This is mostly experimental jazz recorded live in 1962 at the Newport Jazz Festival. The opening track is 10:45 long and titled “Undecided,” as in “I don’t know what we just played, so this title is kinda undecided. The album jacket says that the beat is kept by “an adaptable, swinging drummer who possesses a fine ear.” While I’m sure this is true, it sounded to me like he was playing his own song in another room. There was one point of the song where one of the trumpets thought his impromptu solo was over and blew a note but good ol’ Roy just kept drumming and you can hear one of the guys laugh. The whole album is like that. The bass player seems to be playing twice as fast as everyone else and the brass just does its own thing, baby. Like I said, I’m sure this is better than I’m giving it credit for. It needs a more sophisticated listener.
I’ll summarize with another quote from the album jacket. “The charge has sometime been leveled at jazz festivals – sometimes justifiably, too – that they’re nothing but a rehash of what every aware jazz fan has heard many times before. Certainly much of this record refutes that charge, insofar as Newport is concerned. Instead, it reveals quite clearly that some pretty fine, unrehearsed, spontaneous jazz does get blown there.”
Unrehearsed and spontaneous indeed.
“Are we going on a heist?”
That’s the first thing that popped in my mind when the needle dropped. The first few measures had me thinking this might be the soundtrack to Ocean’s 11-13. Thankfully it is not a full album of swingin’ 60’s Vegas music. Instead, it is a nicely balanced big band bossa nova album that focuses heavily on Zentner’s trombone. This is a stereo mix from an era where sound engineers liked to experiment with the sound stage and over separate the channels. The result is something that sounds fantastic on headphones, but the imaging through speakers is a little on the harsh side. The biggest surprise on the album for me was the song “Quizas, Quizas, Quizas” which translates to “Perhaps, Perhaps, Perhaps.” I’d first heard that song on Cake’s Fashion Nugget CD and I didn’t know it was a remake of a standard.
Overall, this was a pleasant album and makes for good evening background music.
The year is 1854. London is in the middle of yet another cholera outbreak. There had been one in 1832, and another five years earlier in 1849 that killed 14,137 Londoners. Mostly women and children. Cholera is a nasty thing. People suffering from cholera experience watery diarrhea that can lead to severe dehydration. This results in sunken in eyes, cold skin, and turning blue. In addition, it may also cause vomiting and muscle cramps and as seen above, death. The germ theory had not been established yet – Louis Pasteur would not propose it until seven years later in 1861 – and instead people held to the miasma theory, which held that somehow “bad air” was to blame. It certainly was not the slaughter houses and grease boiling dens lining the streets, or the overrunning cesspools underneath the cellars. Doing what governments do, the London authorities wisely dealt with the cesspool problem by pumping the sewage into the Thames. Problem solved. Miasma theory is, incidentally, the same theory that proposed one could become obese by smelling too much food. Thankfully, none of this sounded quite right to an epidemiologist named John Snow. Dr. Snow decided to do something quite radical for the time. Rather than fearing sinister “bad air”, Dr. Snow wanted to approach the problem with data. He decided that he needed to collect data, and then analyze that data. When Dr. Snow had gathered the information, he did something else that was revolutionary. He put his data onto a map, creating a visual chart of his data. Dr. Snow was an early data analyst. Was Dr. Snow, the budding data scientist successful in his efforts? We’ll come back to Dr. Snow and the dear old London at the end of this paper.