Folks should realize by now that I’m essentially a jazz head. No matter what other musical style invaded my life—and no matter when—I always had an ear for jazz or anything that depended on its free-formity of melody and rhythm. The kind of thing Mr. Duke Ellington would eloquently sum up by saying, “No boxes.” No boxes indeed. So why did the narcotic poppers and the punky rockys become so frowzy formulated after their messy marches thru the mucky marshes of invention? It couldn’t have all been for the money… could it?
Shit. I’ll let y’all argue that out on yer ownz. At least the Hermosa Beach-centered “Jazz v. Punk” film wrestled nicely with this concept and stumbled onto some unexpected confessions in the process. If you care about South Bay music culture I recommend viewing the 30-minute documentary. Couldn’t hurt.
In a similar universe… when I moved from Austin to Sheboygan in 2012 I was fortunate to meet Mr. Bill Klewitz one night at a dreaded open mic event. It only took a few minutes to find out that we both knew Ernie Durawa—one of the most revered and solidly played drummers in central Texas music. Bill had the good luck to actually play with Ernie, whereas my involvement came from doing various live sound gigs at venues where Durawa was on the skins.
Naturally, Klewitz (a great B&W photographer still using film) shot this photo of the drummer in the not too distant past. They’re great friends and I’m proud to have worked with Ernie in some capacity. And Bill managed to get me gifted a CD copy of the man’s recent band Los Jazz Vatos, a straight ahead collection of cool tunes that tend to freak the more conservative customers at the Weather Center Cafe from time to time. A very good thing! I mean… if you can’t hit em with Flipper or Zappa, some good ol’ Jimmy Smith or Bill Evans will make em order another caffeine refill. This is the stuff I grew up listening to between Lonnie Mack and Ike & Tina Turner. ‘Twas truly a classic, grayscale pop music era with lotsa teeth.
A died-in-the-wool purist who has a close history with the Chicago jazz and blues scene, we’ve come to identify him as “Jazz Bill.” He gets along well with the young twits at the coffeehouse (until he rails against modern rock & roll, hip hop, and pickers who bend strings, use effects, or play outside of the standard pure style). Sometimes this inflames my rock-ass background, but I won’t jump too deep into what is basically a useless argument. I thoroughly understand his love of the music and its native time frame. I was there too… and I still consider jazz to be a pinnacle of American culture, bar none. Without it, I would have missed the most essential elements of raw, musical emotion. By its very nature, music has no rules; it cannot survive well in boxes. Call me crazy, but I ain’t gonna waste my time explaining this to anyone. I know better. And Klewitz has a deep, deep knowledge of the players, the music and recordings. I’m absolutely sure he’s aware of what Bubber Miley did with trumpet and Tralfamadorian plunger—the effect that Jimi Hendrix kicked into orbit around inner and outer planets—and the vast vocabulary of clarinet and saxophone tonal curves that redefined gravitational concepts. Hell, even the Hammond B3 is nothing more or less than a storage lab of unexpected timbres and pitches that hands, feet and dreams can send anywhere—I repeat… ANYwhere.
OK, nuff said from a rock-ass perspective.
Regardless, Klewitz, a lefty, still does respectable guitar and bass gigs in Chicago and Milwaukee. I was mortified the night he showed me his 60s Les Paul gold top, saying, “Have a play on it.” All I could do was drool, knowing I can’t play those lefty axes with any grace, dammit!
The parting shot here is knowing that if Bill and Mike Watt sat together and talked about Coltrane, Oscar Peterson and Gerry Mulligan (maybe while sipping some whiskey or Swedish glögg) it’d be one helluva spiel-o-rama. Like this photo (by Jim Brown) of Bill and Duke in 1970, no goddam boxes; anywhere.