‘Ultimately,’ the reader read, ‘you see, he said, we run into a problem when we get to Z.’

Reading The Cat in the Hat Comes Back can be decidedly problematic.
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It’s a tale of the Hat-sporting Cat coming back, to the house of Sally and Me (unnamed in the story, we never know why, a little like Marwood in Withnail and I) as they’re clearing up snow (all that snow’s GOT to go), but Cat turns the snow pink and it causes a stink… Then the Cat needs some help – all the help he can get – so he calls on some little cat friends who get set to defeat the pink snow… wait! Did I mention yet? These tiny felines – the whole purring set – are named for each letter of the alphabet

26 little cats, underneath Big Cat’s hat, all in hats of their own, bearing letters, letters printed on the gear on their heads, and they start off with A, B, and C, D and E, all the way through to X, and then Y, and then Z.

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The good Dr Seuss, when he wrote this, you see, made a lot of the rhymes depend on the Z not being said (as it is in my head) as a fine English Zed but instead – can it be? – an American Zee… Yes, zee! Really!

Well, it gets as confusing as confusing can be! You can read it both ways to a mere child of three, but the rhymes make no sense if it’s Zed and not Zee, which is tough when you’re learning to read phonically, and “zuh” is in fact what you say when you’ve read the letter that concludes the alphabet (Z)…

Shakespeare called it ‘zed’, anyway, and that’s that, for I trust him much more than that Cat, with his Hat full of minuscule moggies, with alphabet names, regardless of their pink stain removal fame, and their trick of being hidden like Babushka dollies, for the Big Cat to store and transport ’em with ease, and much more than Cats A, B, and C, through to E, F and G, M and N, and O, and P, and then – finally – that tiny beast we can’t see but imagine instead, touting the magical VOOM on his head – the invisible, infernal, most terminal ZED!

Returning to my A to Z Challenge Birthday Book theme, today is the day the world welcomed Edward Kennedy Ellington, better known as Duke Ellington, the inspirational band leader, composer, arranger and musician.

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Celebrating the fact, and taking the A to Z train to our penultimate stop, here are three Ellington compositions that all have a ‘Y’ component:

Black Butterfly:

A cast-iron Ellington classic, Black Beauty:

…and concluding with this vinyl delight from 1937, co-written with Rex Stewart. Sugar Hill Shim Sham, alternate title “You Ain’t in Harlem Now”:

Happy Birthday your Grace!

There is news that Prince died intestate, according to his sister, Tyka Nelson, who has quite reasonably filed papers stating she ‘does not know of the existence of a will’… Although even someone without special legal knowledge could note that that does not amount to the same thing as there not being a will, TMZ, etc.

Such events almost seem bound to happen in the music industry in such situations. I’d be very surprised if notorious music rights ownership maven Prince had not given his legacy some consideration, however.

While contemplating the circling of lawyers, relatives, and indeed the commentariat all looking for orts from the Paisley Park vaults, and trying hard to find a bit more W to go with the will aspect, I was tickled to discover that today’s Birthday Book quotation is from Will Shakespeare:

If money go before, all ways lie open.

Well, there we go, I thought.

Imagine my delight at returning home to discover that my esteemed father-in-law had dropped round and left a book he no longer requires and thought I might like to have.

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This is the 1968 revised edition of A Pictorial History of Jazz, compiled by Orrin Keepnews and Bill Grauer Jr. It’s as comprehensive a tome as any jazz-and-bibliophile might ever wish to get their grateful mitts on.

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For today’s A to Z Challenge purposes, page 251 is of particular interest:

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Featuring Sarah Vaughan, and Charlie Ventura.

The vestiges of the evening shall be devoted to a voyage of discovery through this venerable volume of virtuoso visuals!

Under-prepared… U get an ‘under’ themed playlist.

Unequivocal anti-fascist song from Derek Bowie & Tin Machine – ‘Under the God’

Up-tempo live version of ‘Got Me Under Pressure’ from ZZ Top, a mere 33 years ago:

Ultimately, though, we need to close with 10 minutes of FUNK. Funkadelic’s One Nation Under A Groove

Combining O, for the A to Z Challenge, with my normal Monday music-related ‘Rock Notes’, we are drawn ineluctably to the simple yet potent phrase ‘One, Two, Three, Four’.

The count-off – “Fellas, can I count it off?” – has on occasion been elevated to a special place of importance within records (James Brown’s Sex Machine, as quoted above). Many variants have occurred down the years. ‘Five, six seven, eight’. Mixing it up linguistically, with ‘Uno, dos, tres, cuatro,’ as used by the divine S’Express, for s’example. ‘Uno, dos, tres, catorce,’ U2 not only mixing it up linguistically but numerically, with the ’14’ signifying the precise number of people who heard that song’s count-off and didn’t hate it.

However, none of these start with O, and so today that means that we have to turn, of course, to the undisputed President of Count-Offs; Count Offula: the Boss, Bruce Springsteen.

Not just one but TWO count-offs. OK, the ‘four’ seems a little lost in the flood, but, y’know, you have to be able to really count to take such liberties. The count-off before the final verse (“The highway’s jammed with broken heroes on a last-chance power drive…”), every single time I hear this song in any context, causes me extensive goosebumps. Hey ho, rock n roll, deliver me from nowhere.

You too can learn the way of the count-off. Here’s a Springsteen tutorial.

‘Hut! Hoo! Hee! Hoa!’

Today, we celebrate the jazz musicians Miff Mole and Bennie Moten.

It’s not Mole’s birthday, although we are at least in the same month he died, but I like an opportunity for alliteration, as afforded yesterday by Loretta Lynn’s birthday. Also, we have a ‘pick a record’ pre-bedtime dance with the kids, and tonight our young one’s choice was Miff Mole and his Molers.

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Which led to some intense interpretive dance manoeuvres, as well as inspiring this post.
The tracks below are late-ish – 1929 – but you can hear Mole’s distinctive trombone style.

https://www.youtube.com/qq1àembed/fqIn9TUlnHY?rel=0

Next to Miff Mole and His Molers among the jazz on the shelves is another 1920s innovator,  Bennie Moten.

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There’s a fantastic looking playlist on YouTube that’s totally unavailable in the UK – boo! BOO!! – so you shall have to make do with these til I get a satisfactory means of ‘archiving’ my own copies.

First, the legendary composition by Moten and Thamon Hayes (his trombonist, coincidentally), South:

Elephant’s Wobble:

The sleeve notes on pretty much all my Moten records single out the ‘irritating’ mute clarinet effects for displeasure, although I think they’re hilarious. Given the rest of the band are doing quite as much fucking about, it seems more a mark of po-faced jazz beard strokery than there being a ‘correct’ way to which Woody Walder was not adhering. Not sure of the significance of the image of the baseball players here, but it’s the best sounding version. The raggediness of the timing on this makes my brain giddy.

Closing with this later entry from 1929…

THAT’S what I’m talking about!