Posted on April 14th, 2011 7 comments
The groovy kats and kittens at Amazon.com were nice enough to send me a little email blast with some swingin’ deals on swingin’ tunes.
Space Escapades, Les Baxter
CD, 24 New from $10.06
Quiet Village, Martin Denny
CD, 21 New from $8.87
Music for a
Bachelor’s Den Vol. 6,
The Best of Arthur Lyman
CD, 7 New from $6.75
Plus 325 results under the search “Exotica” starting at around six clams, including hard to find stuff by The Waitiki 7, and the ever-elusive Exotica album by Bananarama (wait, what? How did that get in here????)
At prices like these you can afford and extra $15 drink at the Mai Kai!
Of course these are CDs. Old-school Tikiphiles will insist on original vinyl, which is a little harder to come by and a little more expensive. Sometimes people tell me they get lucky finding some original 1950’s Denny or Baxter albums at thrift shops for a buck. Damn, hats off to you kids! I gotta say through all my years of searching through piles of moldy, dusty records, I’ve never gotten that lucky finding a great album. However…you can still catch a break on eBay now and then…
-Tiki Chris reporting from the record store down the street from Pirate’s Cove Tiki Bar, Florida
Posted on April 12th, 2011 2 comments
There haven’t been too many jazz musicians who’ve been nominated for an Academy Award. In fact, besides Dexter Gordon who was nominated for Best Actor for his leading role in ’Round Midnight, I don’t think there really are any.
Dexter Gordon started playing for Lionel Hampton’s band around 1940, at the age of 17. His career continued to grow as he played with such greats as Louis Armstrong, Sarah Vaughan, Art Blakey and Billy Eckstine. He is credited as the THE first musician to translate the bop stylings and musical language of Parker and Gillespie to the tenor sax…And that’s a fact, Jack. And not so easy. You try playing a string of 1/16th notes that belong in the scale on a 1930’s tenor horn at 200 BPM, see how easy you think that jazz is. Whew.
Long Tall Dexter had a prolific recording career, churning out title after title of original tunes and standards. His 1964 album One Flight up had only four songs, but man did they swing.
Dex was the epitome of the Kool Jazz Kat: A sharp dresser with a laid-back attitude, and a smokin’ musician with a style all his own. His tenor stylings certainly did stand out from the crowd, from his unique blend of Parkeresque runs mixed with melodic passages to his deep, full, heavy sound. Anyone who knows even a little about Modern Jazz recognizes his playing by the fifth beat.
So it’s natch that they tapped the kat to play Dale Turner, the brilliant but alcoholic sax man who leads up the 1986 classic noir slice of life flick
Dale Turner’s character is based partly on pianist Bud Powell, partly on saxophonist Lester Young. Both musicians were extraordinary trend-setters (to say the least), moving flawlessly through the styles of big band swing to small combo jazz, bop, blues, and modern jazz. They both had success but never enough, and ‘the life’ eventually led to their demise…both dying from complications due to alcoholism while still young (Powell was 42, Young 40). Gordon does a fantastic job portraying a typical ’50s jazz musician…always practicing, always, partying, always looking for a new sound, always looking for a new gig.
Herbie Hancock won the 1987 Oscar for Best Music, Original Score. But Dex lost out to Paul Newman. Not too bad for a kat who never had a starring role in a movie before. To show you just how big a deal his nomination was, here’s the roll call for 1987 Best Actor nominations:
◦ Paul Newman – The Color of Money
◦ Dexter Gordon – Round Midnight
◦ William Hurt – Children of a Lesser God
◦ Bob Hoskins – Mona Lisa
◦ James Woods – Salvador
The movie itself is fantastic, if you dig jazz and want to see what things were like for jazz musicians in the ’50s, by an ’80s point of view. It features a few more real jazzers like Bobby Hutcherson, Freddie Hubbard and Wayne Shorter, and has a few scenes with Martin Scorsese. François Cluzet plays Francis Borler, a jazz buff who meets and befriends Turner. When he realizes his jazz idol is fallen angel, he tries his best to keep him on track. You’ll have to watch the movie to see how it goes.
My Take: I started playing sax for my own enjoyment when I was around thirteen. I learned the old fashioned way…by playing along with records, mainly of big bands, Glenn Miller, Dorsey, Shaw, Goodman, Basie, plus soloists such as Coleman Hawkins, Tex Beneke and Lester Young. Later I discover Sam Butera, and by the time I was 21 I had formed my own style based on these influences.
Then one night while digging the 4-piece jazz combo at Orsatti’s Restaurant in Atlantic City (c. 1992), I struck up a convo with the band leader, a trumpeter. I told him I swung and he invited me to sit in. So the next weekend I came back with my tenor horn, along with my own cheering section which included a couple of knock-out dolls, and played on pieces like Four, All of Me and Blue Bossa. I get free drinks all night for my two cents and it was a blast. After the set, a guy in the lounge asked me how long I’d been playing, and who I learned from. We got to talking and he asked me if I ever heard of Dexter Gordon. I said no (I was still learning a LOT back then). He said, “Man, you gotta check out One Flight Up. It’s life changing.” I laughed, but he was very nicely serious. “Do it man, One Flight Up, Dexter Gordon.” He repeated that a half a dozen times. I can still hear the kat’s voice in my head, clear as day. So the next day I went down to the CD store and picked up a copy.
The kid wasn’t kiddin’. Subtly, it was life changing. Four songs, going on forever, chorus after chorus and Dex still had something new to say. I found his sound to be so very kool, so deep, so very direct. He sounded like he was really having fun playing too, which is what really turned me on to his music. I immediately started playing along with his stuff, learning some of his techniques and working a little of his style into my own to come up with something new. Such is jazz.
A week later I went back to Orsatti’s (Which, by the way, was one of the last old-time 1940s Atlantic City landmarks that had survived until the mid ’90s without changing one bit, hence the lounge with the jazz combo) and found the kid there. “Well, was it life changing?” he asked, not even asking if I listened to the album. He just assumed I did, of course. “Yeah, you were right, I’m hip,” I replied. “Told you man,” he said, smiling ear to ear.
Orsatti’s closed up when the owners retired more than 15 years ago. Not sure, but I’m guessing it’s a parking lot or a strip club now. The band broke up long ago and I never saw them or the kid that turned me on to Dexter Gordon again, but I’ll always thank him for it. Listening to One Flight Up got me hooked on Modern Jazz and got me into bop and other jazz forms of the mid century variety. It helped expand my tastes to include more of the frontiersmen like Art Blakey, Oscar Peterson, Dizzie Gillespie and Woody Shaw. It’s been almost 20 years since I first listened to Dex, and over 30 since I fist picked up a horn. That horn and that music have become a part of who I am, whether I play for a crowd or just for myself, I am, and always will be, a Jazz Musician.
Here’s the Trailer from 1986:
-Tiki Chris, aka Zoot, reporting from the smokey stage in the basement bar off 49th Street somewhere in 1959.
Posted on April 8th, 2011 2 comments
It’s been a rough week, kids…no doubt you saw there was no Mod Movie Monday this week. Been crazy-bizy with work (good), writing (better), and of course, drinking exotic cocktails (best). I’m racing to get Murder on Tiki Island finished for the April 30th debut, and it’s taking a lot out of me. So I took the day off from work, have been doing some writing, and will begin drinking those exotic cocktails any minute!
Here’s a fun and easy on that tastes great at any Tiki bar or poolside cabana. The Islanders’ answer to the Tequila Sunrise, here’s…
In a shaker, combine:
2 shots spiced rum
1 shot triple sec
2 shots orange juice
2 shots pineapple juice
And shake, baby, shake! Strain into a tall glass filled with ice, drizzle with grenadine and garnish with orange slices, a pineapple wedge and a cherry. Preferably on one of those little plastic swords. You ever see the drink swords at the Mai Kai? They’re HUGE! I think they must have them special-made, cuz I ain’t seem em anyplace else that big. Anyway, there’s you drink…cheers!
-Tiki Chris P reporting from behind the bar at Tiki Lounge Talk, the Blounge for Tiki and Retro Lovers around the world. Come and visit me and my lovely wife Colleen at The Hukilau 2011, here in fabulous Fort Lauderdale, June 9-12!
Posted on April 4th, 2011 2 comments
The Hukilau 2011
Hey swingin’ kats and kittens, just a reminder that The Hukilau 2011…one of the world’s largest, swingingest and longest running Tiki parties…is happening this June 9-12 in sunny Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Tikiphiles, Retro Hipsters, Jazz Cats; whatever your scene, if you dig Tiki or anything Retro, you neeeeed to be there.
Visit The Hulilau 2011 website for the down-low, with lists of very kool entertainment, books signings, art and more.
Also…for all you very hip kids who procure, create, carve, sew, assemble, and sell Tiki/Retro-related goodies, there are still a few prime vendor spots available, so get in gear and email Christi Crowe, Hukilau sponsorship, vending and/or advertising contact at firstname.lastname@example.org.
It’s nice to have friends all over the world. Thanks to teh interwebs, of course. I verily enjoy rapping with the swingin’ kats and kitties that dig the same jive I do. It’s fun here, but even easier over at The Retro Tiki Lounge on Facebook. Check it out, dig the photos, watch the videos, and feel free to join the convo. Lots of fun stuff going on over there! Plus admission is free, and the bar is always open.
Murder on Tiki Island
Most of you have already heard that my new novel is in the works…Murder on Tiki Island is right up your alley, believe me. It takes place at a Tiki resort in the Florida Keys in 1956, and is a retro-style pulp noir fiction with a twist of lime. Due out April 30, it will be available in softcover and eBook format on Amazon.com See the official website or join the fan page on Facebook for details.
Tiki Chris P.
Posted on April 2nd, 2011 No comments
Here ye, Here ye, utmost Jazz-appreciating hipsters and hipsterettes; knock your lobes to the groove I’m layin’ down on you, as this is
Jazz Appreciation Month,
The 30 days on the calendar when you can truly appreciate good music.
Ok, what we’ve really got here is a month dedicated to all the swingin’ kats, past and present, who’ve taken a tune and bent it into one of America’s true original styles of music. It’s to remind us of some of the great tunes and players we may have forgotten, and to let the younger kids get hip to the swing…because as the Master himself said, It Don’t Mean A Thing If It Ain’t Got That Swing.
To go along with your appreciation of Jazz, here’s one of the cocktails I find to be perfect to sip tunes by.
Short and to the point. Not a fancy Tiki cocktail, not a pretentious apple Martini, just..The Stinger.
1 1/2 oz good quality Brandy (I prefer Courvoisier)
1/2 oz White Creme de Menthe
This seems simple but like all true cocktails, it must be built with care. Too much Brandy and it will taste dull and lifeless. Too much Creme de Methe and you’ll have a sickeningly sweet drink that tastes like a candy cane. Don’t use Green Creme de Menthe…that’s for Grasshoppers and ice cream parfaits.
Add the booze to a shaker with ice and shake. Serve straight up in an old fashioned glass, or on the rocks (I prefer rocks). No garnish. This is the kind of drink you sip when sitting in a basement bar in the Village, listening to some kats wailing on a pipehorn or banging the keys to some smooth, east coast Jazz. Asking for a Courvoisier Stinger in a jazz club like that will get you a lot of respect from the bartender and a real shot at the brunette with the peakaboo haircut and the four inch stilettos (assuming you travel in a time machine back to 1955).
When I first started this B-Lounge I added a Jazz 101 page for kats and kittens who wanted to learn a little more about the greatest music on Earth, but didn’t know where to start. Check it out just for fun here. There’s also a suggested playlist of some of the greatest jazz and swing tunes ever recorded…not a comprehensive list by any means, but a good start for people who want to dig it.
I’ll post a few spotlights on Jazz musicians this month, so stay tuned, kids.
-Tiki “Zoot” Pinto reporting from the sound booth at Pirate’s Cove Tiki Bar, Florida