Blogs > Jim Collins' Editor's Notebook

Jim Collins is editor emeritus of The News-Herald and also serves as executive in residence at Lakeland Community College. His popular weekly column appears each Sunday in Comment in The News-Herald.

Friday, December 6, 2013

New musical treasure hits in just the right era

Buddy Rich, the greatest jazz drummer who ever lived, was asked by a nurse in a doctor’s office if there was anything he was allergic to.

“Yes,” he replied. “Country music.”

I thought it was hilarious. Many of the things he said were outrageously funny. But although I may have agreed with him at the time, the years have endowed me with the mellowness and the wisdom to soften my feelings on the subject.

1. Country music isn’t so bad after all. Some of it, in fact, is very good. (I have been to Grand Old Opry about five times and loved it.)

2. I have relatives who make handsome livings purveying country music. A nephew does very well touring the nation with country groups. He lives a good life. His music is excellent. His children are beautiful. His wife is stunning.

3. There is probably something good to be said for music in all of its shapes and forms, because music in almost every manifestation is good. I said “almost” because, to be sure, there is some music that is an abomination and an insult to the ears of an intelligent person. But by and large, music makes our lives better.

You have your preferences, I have mine. Mine is jazz in almost every way that it is played, but most especially swing, be-bop, big bands, small combos, and like that.

So at a time of year when we have been expressing thanks for the blessings that enhance our lives, I paused for a few moments the other day to day-dream, and to think of the people who not only enjoy jazz, but who are kind enough to think of me when they are in the mood to make copies of music they have found especially captivating.

And I, of course, return the favor. The result is a lot of people being able to enjoy sounds that they would otherwise not necessarily have come across.

Or, at least, being able to increase the size of their music libraries through swapping, trading and sharing.

One of my best trading partners was the late Bill Bradlee of Eastlake, a former jazz drummer from Chicago, who had the mechanical aptitude and ability to transcribe some of the classics I came across at the post radio station at Fort Hood, Texas. I believe they were called V-discs. I thus managed to obtain copies of a lot of Stan Kenton, Glenn Miller and Lionel Hampton music that was never released for general consumption.

Jack Volanski of Painesville has prepared for me some excellent jazz discs that he painstakingly put together through dint of great effort and research.

Duncan Soutar of Florida has sent me a lot of wonderful music that reflects his own taste — that is, sounds from the ’20s, ’30s and ’40s. I don’t think Duncan ever surfaced in the be-bop era, but no matter. The stuff he has been sending along is outstanding and not easily obtainable.

That brings us to the present time, when my two main “suppliers” are Devere “Dee” Logan of Mentor and Donald Miller of Eastlake.

Dee and I spend an occasional lunch hour at Bravo in Mentor, trading discs and raving about the virtues of our most recent acquisitions.

We are both huge fans of Sammy Nestico, an arranger without parallel who conducted a memorable session with the Cleveland Jazz Orchestra.

Any label that says “Sammy Nestico” on it is bound to be good.

If I were to choose just one recording to be stranded with on a desert island, it would be Sammy’s “A Warm Breeze.”

I can’t get enough of it! And that is saying quite a bit, when you consider that “Take the A Train” by Duke Ellington, “Well, Git It” by Tommy Dorsey and anything by the Four Freshmen are prime desert island listening material for those who become stranded — fortunately or unfortunately.

Unfortunately because that is no place to spend the rest of your days, and fortunately because, just think of the great music you would be enjoying.

Dee, the lucky so-and-so, and his wife go on a jazz cruise every year. Whenever I bring up the subject at our domicile, the lady of the house asks, “Who would watch the puppies?”

Good question. There is no good answer.

Don Miller, who has impeccable taste in music, surprises me every so often, like a bolt out of the blue, with a CD that absorbs the interior of my car until I have heard it multiple times.

The most recent one, a tribute to the music of the 1940s and ’50s, was accompanied by a very long, hand-printed letter extolling the virtues of the music of that era, which is part and parcel of my own lexicon.

If I were a lazy bum, I would turn this entire column over some Sunday to Don’s entire letter and just take a week off, so to speak.

Come to think of it, I may just do that – and sooner than you may think.


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