Does it Swing?

I got the “old school” response yesterday at a rehearsal studio. The conversation turns from politics (of course) to music. I put it out there: “For me, it has to swing!” Michael snaps back: “Forget about Count Basie, that era is over. That’s old school.” I was stunned at the immediacy of the remark. And then it was over. Everybody left the room to rehearse and I’m standing alone, thinking about what just happened, and no time for a rebuttal.

How did he assume I was equating swing with the “swing era?” Does Stevie Wonder swing? OK, semantics is the issue. Why jump to conclusions when you don’t have all the facts? Should I have said” It’s in the pocket?” The term “swing” is obsolete? The music I enjoy the most has feeling, soul. “Try a Little Tenderness” is an old song, interestingly enough from the swing era. However, when Otis sings it the song swings, grooves, is soulful. It’s not Benny Goodman, Basie, but, to me, it swings. Swing does not need to describe an era, so much as a feeling.

A Brahms Symphony swings, Willie Nelson, Chris Rock swing. It’s not just in music. People, individuals, possess a quality or personality that swings. People I’m most comfortable around are relaxed, loose, not trying to impress you with how important they are. Do I really care how many gigs you have this week?? My best teachers were firm, but available to talk to and question. They possessed openness and used academics as tools to further knowledge.

The “old school” concept is baffling. Often the implication is obsolescence, irrelevancy. I was in a hardware store (yeah, talking about ‘old school’) and bought eight items. When I got to the register to pay, the manager took a note pad, added all the items up and wrote up an invoice. He didn’t use a computer, or calculator. He used his brain…’old school.’ I was impressed he had the ability to do that. Why? Because now it’s rare to find a store clerk who can add and subtract without a calculator/computer.

I remember many conversations about the drum machine with Mel Lewis. Mel was definitely old school and his approach to the machine was: “It has no feeling, no soul.”
I agree. The human element is missing and therefore the emotion we project is gone. I fear the day the machine will become the music maker. We are seeing and hearing it more and more. AI is the present and future.

And, oh yeah, by the way…good pizza swings!!!

4 Replies to “Does it Swing?”

  1. Leonard Bernstein once remarked to Bobby McFerrin (while studying Beethoven 7th) that it’s all jazz. Bernstein considered it all jazz from Bach to Basie. It all swings when you look for the dance element in the music.

  2. Whoever says Basie is “done” should zip it and go listen to the Count with Sonny Payne, Butch Miles or any of the great Basie drummers, or check out some of those YouTube videos. If that’s ‘old’ and stale, then beam me back to 1960, Scotty!!

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