Saturday, December 31, 2016

So What Are You Doing?

New Year's Eve, and for only the second time in seventy-five years, Dal Richards will not be leading his band somewhere.

It's the night when almost every musical aggregation is sure of a gig (although one year Dave Brubeck couldn't get one), but in Vancouver, Dal Richards was always the top ticket, usually at the Panorama Roof.

This is also the night when people start looking for a date, often six months in advance. Thus the song "What Are You Doing New Year's Eve?"

It was written by Frank Loesser ("Guys and Dolls," "The Most Happy Fella," et cetera) in 1947, and since then seems to have been recorded by everybody from the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band to the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. Dave Frishberg called it "the perfect song--not a note, not a word could be better." You could probably fill a four-hour radio program with just different versions of the song. Surprised it hasn't been done.

So "maybe it's much too early in the game; ah, but I thought I'd ask you just the same: what are you doing New Year's?  New Year's Eve?"

Me, I'm staying home with cold remedies and a hot water bottle.

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Thank You for the Lovely Envelope

A friend informed us that she had received our Christmas envelope. No card, just an envelope. We wondered if the envelope--which, like the girl in Burton Cummings's song, had come undone--had been put through the Canada Post meat grinder or been intercepted by CSIS. No, someone suggested, perhaps a person with the wrong kind of Yuletide spirit thought the envelope contained cash, and opened it. Found no cash, but liked the card.

Meanwhile, we received two electronic cards that the computer refused to open, possibly on the grounds that they were overly sentimental or contained bad poetry or depicted Santa Claus in an unflattering way.

What have we learned from this? Next year, our Christmas card mailings will carry the kind of sign seen in drugstore windows: "This Envelope Contains No Cash. Or Drugs."

Or maybe we'll just send envelopes.

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Christmas Eve Shopping Guide

Clever shoppers who know how to beat the crowds wait until 9:00 p.m., Christmas Eve, to buy gifts. Of course, at that hour, the only place open is the corner Chevron station, but who wouldn't be thrilled to receive a set of cable jumpers?

Manny Goodman of the Jazzmanian Devils, another canny shopper, suggests air fresheners, those attractive decorations for your rear window visor. They're available in a number of compelling scents, including this year the manly Locker Room.

Good shopping, friends--and remember to ask Gus at the pumps for his recipes for Hi-Test Highballs and Grease Pit Punch.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Here We Come A-Caroling

Yeah, I know, we were just here crying "Trick or Treat," but now here we come a-caroling, as wandering choristers have been doing since 1521, when the big number was "The Boar's Head Carol." This is still sung at Christmas at Queen's College, Oxford, although we're not sure they still serve a boar's head at the Yuletide feast.

The carol we regret seldom hearing today is "Deck the Halls with Boston Charlie," beloved by all readers of Walt Kelly's "Pogo," and especially by fans of Albert the Alligator, who had a truly remarkable basso profundo, powered, no doubt, by all the cigars he favoured.

So here we come, and we'll soon be outside your door, and you won't get rid of us until you pay us off in sugarplums. Or maybe a hit from the wassail bowl.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Patron for Pen Pushers

Today--December 13--we celebrate the feast of St. Lucy, patron saint of writers.

Take a starving writer to lunch.

Monday, December 12, 2016

No Tune like a Snow Tune

Cognizant of our responsibility to provide playlists for seasonal change, we offer these suggestions for snowy, wintry listening:

"Snowfall"--theme for the Claude Thornhill orchestra, a unit that included such innovative arrangers as Gil Evans and Gerry Mulligan. "Snowfall" is a lovely, Impressionistic piece, which might have come out of the Ravel-Debussy-Bix Beiderbecke period.

"Winter Moon," a little known Hoagy Carmichael song, best on a 1952 Pacific Jazz recording arranged by Johnny Mandel, with Hoagy singing, and the impeccable Art Pepper opening with a long alto saxophone solo as chill and clear and pure as an icicle.

"Sleigh Ride"--Art Pepper again, this time with Richie Cole. A romp over the snow, with pianist Roger Kellaway cracking the whip, and bassist Bob Magnusson and drummer Billy Higgins powering the sled.

"Midnight Sleighride"--a version of "Troika" from Prokofiev's "Lieutenant Kiji Suite," reworked by the Sauter-Finegan band. Eddie Sauter and Bill Finegan, two of the top orchestrators of the big band years--Sauter primarily for Benny Goodman, Finegan for Tommy Dorsey--led one of the most eclectic and adventurous bands of the 1950s, a precursor of today's Pink Martini.

Happily, all of these tracks can be tracked on the Internet. The most entertaining, visually, is Sauter-Finegan's "Midnight Sleighride," with Finegan playing the part of the horses.

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Dressing for the Game

Cam Newton, quarterback for the Carolina Panthers, recently was punished by the team coach for failing to meet the dress code for airline travel. Newton was wearing a handsome (and probably expensive) blazer, dress slacks, dress shoes, and a turtleneck sweater. No necktie. That did it. The coach, who perhaps spends more time reading GQ than Sports Illustrated (as the score that day suggested) benched Newton for the opening play for failing to heed the necktie rule.

Curious ideas about proper dress in sporting circles. NBA and NHL coaches all seem to have personal designers and valets in attendance, while the high mark in CFL attire was Mike Benevides's hoodie.

Sportswriters, happily, are not required to follow any dress code. The only sports scribe known for sartorial elegance was Dick Beddoes, who was known to visit locker rooms wearing a homburg and carrying a walking stick.

Other sportswriters often look as though they had slept in their suits. And many of us did.

--Slap Maxwell.

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Resolved to Re-Resolve

A new year rapidly approaches, and it is customary to make resolutions, to guide one's behavior and activities in the next twelve months, to eschew bad habits and cultivate good works.

It is also time to review the resolutions made for this year, and see how we've done.

Hmm--checking the score on resolutions, it's 0-10.

Ah, well--to look on the positive side, this means we don't have to think up new resolutions for 2017--we can just re-run those we made for 2016.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Hold 'em, Lu!

Roberto Luongo, longtime Vancouver Canucks goaltender, and two-time Gold Medal winner, now between the pipes, as hockey broadcasters say, for the Florida Panthers, is having his best season since 2004, with a .930 save percentage, and his best season ever, with 2.04 goals against.

But what we really want to know is how Lu's doing at the poker table. And if his pre-game meal of choice is still lobster linguini.

P.S.: Apologies to those who really do or did love "Peter and the Wolf."

Monday, December 5, 2016

Cue the Bad Christmas Music

In a government wine shop the other day, we were jarred to hear "Silent Night" coming thru the speakers. If they're going to play Christmas music in a liquor store, it should be "God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen" or "Here We Come A-Wassailing."

At CHQM, at one time (when, as Terry Garner used to say, "the Q stood for quality") no Christmas music was allowed on the air until December 15. And in many parish churches, there are no Christmas carols until Midnight Mass, Christmas Day. (There are many lovely Advent carols--we are not musically bereft.)

In contrast, retailers have been running tinny Christmas and winter music (how many times must we endure "Silver Bells"?) since the day after Hallowe'en.

Something that seems always to turn up at this time of year is "Peter and the Wolf," said to be a treat for children. We have never met a child who admitted to being charmed by "Peter and the Wolf." Saint-Saens, who knocked off "Carnival of the Animals" as a party lark, wanted it never to be played again. If only Prokofiev had had the foresight to suppress "Peter and the Wolf."

There is some seasonal music we look forward to--"Sleigh Ride," by Art Pepper and Richie Cole; "England's Carol," by the Modern Jazz Quartet; "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas," by Dexter Gordon; and "Zat You, Santy Claus?" by Louis Armstrong.

Meanwhile, enjoy Handel's "Messiah," as performed by Alvin and the Chipmunks.

Friday, December 2, 2016

Did we get a card from them last year?

While looking over your Christmas card list, and calculating your contribution this year to keeping Canada Post afloat, let us offer this sugarplum of information:

When the custom of mailing cards was introduced in the late 19th century, Her Majesty, Queen Victoria, Ruler of the Empire, sent out 2,500. Two thousand five hundred! (And her image was on every stamp.)

Did you get yours?