By Tony Gieske
Waiting for the great Chris Walden band to begin its performance at Vibrato Tuesday, that old Louis Jordan classic “Coleslaw” kept going through my head.
Down in Arkansas
They call it coleslaw…
It wasn’t because of anything on the dinner plates on the tables of the waiting listeners; you don’t order coleslaw in Vibrato, no sir! And it certainly didn’t apply to the work of the Walden band. When the last notes of the much-honored leader’s concluding three movement symphony had quit sounding, you could be sure there was no coleslaw on anyone’s mind, least of all mine. It had all been super high-class stuff.
No, by the end I was thinking about Kurt Marti, to whom the symphony was dedicated. After the standards and originals marched by, adorned with devastating solos by cats like Ron King, the trumpet player, and Rob Lockart, the tenor man, and interspersed with silvery vocals by Tierney Sutton, I found Marti’s hedgehogs on my mind.
Why should I praise
the heart of the hedgehogs?
So wrote Marti, a renowned Swiss theologian of ordinarily elevated diction, in an uncharacteristic bit of lyric verse about why he wrote. Lyricists, the Reformation authority wrote, “are driven by pleasure or dismay, ambition or despair.. they write into an anonymous sphere….”
As Tierney coolly and sweetly sang “Smile,” advising the Vibrato patrons to do so through their pain and sorrow, I wondered if Charlie Chaplin was driven by ambition or despair, and I doubted that his sphere was anonymous.
Me, I was driven by admiration for the far-reaching palette upon which the Hamburg-born Walden drew, not to mention the millions of practice hours the players drew on to make it all effortlessly work.
Sometimes, as the flutes, muted trumpets or trombones and guitar blended, I thought of Claude Thornhill. But then there’d be an intricate jump tune like “Moment’s Notice” that took me back to Boyd Raeburn. And you couldn’t help recalling Gunther Schuller’s Third Stream all night long, particularly in the ambitious three-parter “Film Noir,” another Marti dedication.
The heart of a woman, the heart of a man is larger
But they strictly refuse
To step into my poems
And that, wrote Marti, is why he sticks with the hearts of hedgehogs. Me, I sing of coleslaw.
Photos by Tony Gieske. To read and see more of Tony’s jazz essays and photos at his personal web site click HERE.