Tuesday, February 07, 2012

Sherman Jazz Museum

Next time you're in Sherman, TX (!), cart your arse on down to The Sherman Jazz Museum. I was expecting something the size of the Marie Dressler Museum. But seeing as how it's housed in a former Masonic Lodge (one of the biggest in the state at the time of construction), it's actually quite cavernous inside. And inside you get a collection of music machines, thousands of LPs, and a room where Satchmo, Duke Ellington, and Miles Davis are canonized alongside such titans as Maynard Ferguson, Al Hirt, and Chuck Mangione. You know, Maynard Ferguson, who once said of Ornette Coleman: "He's got bad intonation, bad technique. He's trying new things, but he hasn't mastered his instrument yet." You know, Al Hirt, who's been keeping our fingers dusty in dollar bins for years. You know, Chuck Mangione, who got saved from utter irrelevance by lampooning himself on King of the Hill. In short, the museum pays tribute to virtuosity as much as jazz. And yet I have to admit I loved every minute of it. Anything that could potentially give apoplexy to pretentious jazz types has my full support. And who knows? 500 years from now maybe Satchmo and Chuck Mangione will be cherished equally. The Sherman Jazz Museum is simply flattening out history at a quicker pace, just like Baz Luhrmann's Moulin Rouge.

Another thing I loved about the museum is that it reminded me of one of my very favorite pieces on jazz, Gary Giddins' essay on Stan Kenton from Visions of Jazz. Giddins wonders about the relative dearth of kitsch in jazz and finds it mostly in Kenton's overripe oeuvre. But The Sherman Jazz Museum had it in abundance including a copy of Stan Kenton's West Side Story glaring at us from the wall. In fact, Kenton seemed to be the museum's unacknowledged patron saint having helped kick off Ferguson's career and influencing much of the music on display. The proprietor was gracious enough to lend us iPods so we could listen to some samples. And it was a trip to hear Miles Davis' "Someday My Prince Will Come" next to something as "exquisitely, deliciously, and conceitedly bad" (to borrow Giddins' words) as Patrick Williams' "Threshold".

Back home I was naturally craving some Stan Kenton and played my classical-music-loving friend the scandalous Kenton Wagner which elicited approximately two minutes of derisive laughter. You haven't lived until you've heard his Latinized "Ride of the Valkyries." I kept getting visions of women in Viking hats and braids shaking their ta-tas to the beat. Wagner would've hated it. Adorno too. Also many pretentious jazz types. That's part of what makes it so much fun.

Labels: , , ,


Post a Comment

<< Home