Nordic Masters of Jazz Drums A-F

For everything there is a season. A time to fight. A fight for tactical retreat. A time to rally and re-engage.

And a time to wave the white flag.

That’s where we are now, with funny names, and jazz. And Norwegians. And drums.

See, I’m not even going to try this time, is what I’m saying. I’m just giving it all straight to the Norsemen. Or, as the case may be, Nørsèwômên.

Håppy, güys?

Let’s just get this over with, Økåy?

A is for Knut Aalefjær, a drummer, percussionist and composer born in 1974, just before I entered high school and got into my “jazz phase.” I’m sure Kerbey can do something with that name, but my mind’s a blank.

Maybe it’s Stockholm syndrome. Which is kinda knutty because Stockholm isn’t even in Norway. (I guess it’s Oslo day for wordplay.)

B is for Stein Inge Brækhus (born 1967), Ivar Loe Bjørnstad (b. 1981) and Øyvind Brandtsegg (b. 1971), who confirm my suspicion that most Norwegian jazz musicians (and there are a LOT of them) tend to have been born in the 70s or 80s. Someday, someone is going to have to explain the background of this Norwegian jazz renaissance to me. But, another story for another day.

C is for Jon Ivar Christensen (b. 1943) and Svein “Chrico” Christiansen (b. 1941), an older generation of jazzmen, with similar last names. Neither one is particularly outstanding on the Funny Name Index (FNI), but both are major figures in the International and Norwegian jazz scenes, respectively. Jon Christensen is at least on my top twenty list of jazz drummers for his layered, complex, understated drumming style. It first caught my attention on Ralph Towner’s Solstice album (1974).

Where were we? Oh, yeah.

D is for Børre Dalhaug (b. 1974), another name where you have to wonder, “What’s Kerb gonna do with this one?” And, “No, seriously. Come on! What is it about the 70s and 80s and Norwegian jazz births?”

The other thing about D is that it also has some competition from the Scandinavian sounding Buddy Deppenschmidt (b. 1936) of the U.S.A. and Benjamin “Buzzy” Drootin (1920-2000), also of the U.S.A. but born in the Ukraine. Plus, there’s Jack DeJohnette (b. 1942), whose name may not be outstanding sounding on the FNI, but hey, he’s one of my all time favorite drummers.


(I’d give something to get this album on CD. Used to have it on vinyl.)

What’s up next? Right, E.

E is for Torstein Ellingsen (b. 1966) who no doubt played some Duke Ellington standards, and beats out the more placidly named Kenneth Ekornes (b. 1974). He has two other things going for him: 1) If his first and last names were reversed I wouldn’t even notice. 2) His photo is a great testament to brush sticks. Cheers, Torstein.

Also, we can’t pass E by without a shout out to Peter Erskine (b. 1954). ‘Sup, Peter? Like your work, dude.

Norwegians are probably mad that I post about their jazz musicians but don’t embed enough of their music. They’ll be even madder when I announce our pick for F, Jon Fält (b. 1979) who’s actualy from Sweden. But it’s just next to Norway, so you can’t Fält me too much for that, right?

Now, speaking of drums, we want to drum up more support for our man, Dave. Please click on the link below.

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133 Days Lost at Sea on a Wooden Raft, the Poon Lim Story

November 23, 1942, 750 miles off the Amazon coast of Brazil: British armed merchant ship SS Benlomond traveled without convoy from Cape Town, South Africa, en route to Paramaribo, Suriname, six days from her destination. Accounts vary on the crew numbering around 55, including 25-year-old Chinese sailor, Second Stewart Poon Lim.

Poon Lim Photo by Richard Arthur Norton

German U-Boat U-172 intercepted the SS Benlomond at 11:45 a.m. firing two torpedoes. They struck the engine room and the Benlomond took on water. As the ship sank, Poon grabbed a life jacket. He and five of his crew mates—from the gun crew—abandoned ship moments before the boilers exploded. Within two minutes, the SS Benlomond disappeared into the ocean with the rest of the crew.

Poon lost sight of his five crew mates and their raft—carried away by the current. After two hours in the water, he spotted an 8’ square wooden raft and swam to it. The raft contained several tins of biscuits, a 40-liter jug of fresh water, some chocolate, a bag of sugar lumps, two smoke pots, some flares and a flashlight.

He rationed out the rafts supplies for 30-days. When his supplies ran low, he resorted to fishing, catching birds and catching rain water with the canvas cover of the lift jacket. He crafted a fish hook from a wire in the flashlight. He used hemp rope to make the fishing line and he dug a nail out of the raft to make a hook for larger fish. Then he made a knife from one of the biscuit tins, which he used to gut fish.

Because he gutted the fish on his raft and hung them to dry, sharks were attracted to the blood. He used his larger hook to bring a small shark into his boat. After quite a struggle he bludgeoned the shark with his water jug, partially filled with sea water.

To keep his physical strength up, he would swim in the water twice a day whenever sharks weren’t around. Occasionally the sharks would knock his raft around looking for a free meal.

Several ships passed him, but none stopped. He assumed they wouldn’t rescue him because he was Asian or because German U-boats would put out “survivors” as bait for other ships to stop where they were easy targets for sinking.

American airmen spotted him in the water and dropped a buoy near his location for rescue. A storm blew in and moved him miles away from the buoy.

Recreation of Poon Lim’s raft commissioned by the U.S. Navy. Poon Lim pictured.

On April 5, 1943, about ten miles from the coast of Brazil, a fisherman picked up Poon. He was starving and had lost 20 pounds. They fed him from their supplies and 3 days later landed at Belem, Brazil. He was able to walk off the boat under his own power. He spent four weeks in the hospital before the British consul arranged his passage to Great Britain. He was the only survivor.

So impressed with his accomplishment, King George VI awarded him the British Empire Medal and the Royal Navy incorporated his survival techniques into their manuals.

After the war, he wanted to emigrate to the U.S. He was initially denied entry because the Chinese emigration quota had been met for the year. Senator Warren Magnuson of Washington State, so impressed with his survival, wrote special legislation allowing Poon Lim entry.

To this day he still holds the record for the longest time a lone person survived adrift on a life raft. When told, he replied, “I hope no one will ever have to break that record.”

He passed in January 1991, a resident of New York, New York.

Tracy – Fannie Cranium’s Guide to Irreverent Wisdom

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Please consider donating to our founder, Dave, and his fight against a cancerous brain tumor, all while he goes to medical school to learn to fight the very thing he is battling.

Update: Dave is now entering his fourth year of medical school and recently regained his drivers license. Way to go, Dave!

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Mildred “Mama Dip” Council

Welcome funny names fans! Not since early 2017 have we had an opportunity to talk about food celebrities. The streak is broken today.

Let’s celebrate Mildred “Mama Dip” Council. There are no photos of Mrs. Council in the public domain, however, The Daily Tar Heel has a wonderful photo of her working in her restaurant’s kitchen.

Born in 1929, Mrs. Council earned the nick name “Dip” because she was tall and was the only one in her family who could reach the bottom of the rain barrel to dip out water when the water was low. She was born into the time of the Jim Crow laws, when all that was expected of her was to be hard working and a good cook.

In the introduction of her first cookbook, “Mama Dip’s Kitchen,” which she published in 1999, she describes herself this way:

“I was born a colored baby girl in Chatham County, North Carolina, to Ed Cotton and Effie Edwards Cotton; grew up a Negro in my youth, lived my adult life black and am now a 69-year-old American.”

Mrs. Council grew up in North Carolina. While raising eight children, she worked for monied Chapel Hill families and local fraternities. She earned a reputation as a hard worker and a good country cook with a down to earth manner.

In 1976 she was struck with a crazy idea. She opened her own restaurant, Dip’s Country Kitchen, with the $64 she earned from her job at the local hospital. She used $40 to purchase two days worth of food and $24 to make change. She ran out of food after breakfast. She used the profit from breakfast to buy enough food for lunch and like any successful idea, ended up doing the same for dinner. She earned $135 that day, more money than she earned from her day job.

Mama Dip did not use recipes, instead she called herself a “dump cook.” She cooked by eye, feel, taste, and used whatever she had on hand at the time. In her own words, “Farm fresh is the highlight of country dump cooking.”

She cooked good simple country food—crisp fried chicken, biscuits and gravy and a pecan pie with crisp nuts and a soft, sweet, soul-melting filling. Word spread and people began to make pilgrimages to her restaurant. New York Times Food Critic, Craig Claiborne, found his way there. He encouraged her to write down her recipes. Those two cookbooks lead to a bigger restaurant that is still run by her children.

She received North Carolina’s highest civilian honor, the Order of the Long Leaf Pine, in recognition of her contributions to her home state.

Mrs. Council passed away Sunday, May 20th, at the age of 89. She left us with this cooking advice:

“Use what you have. Try something different. Use your imagination.”

Tracy – Fannie Cranium’s Guide to Irreverent Wisdom

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Please consider donating to our founder, Dave, and his fight against a cancerous brain tumor, all while he goes to medical school to learn to fight the very thing he is battling.

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Funny Names in Jazz Bass T-Z: Very Vivid Vignettes for Victoriously Vanquishing Voracious Vikings

Here we wind up our alphabetical odyssey through the names of jazz bassists, searching for the most numerous numinous names, whether Norwegian or non.

Norway

Drat, it STILL looks like a bass.

Our Norse friends are being singled out, but only because they brought so much attention to themselves in the first two stages of this journey. To recap: our first round took us up to the letter “L” and revealed an astounding preponderance of Norwegian bassists.

This was an unexpected and humiliating defeat, at least for those of us who stand for . . . uh . . . a level playing field in funny name distribution insofar as it pertains to geographical origin.

Norsemen also had a very strong showing as we re-engaged our journey, from M to S, but they were narrowly edged out by non-Norwegian bassists.

Some might think it an error in judgement to look at the global distribution of jazz bassists as some sort of zero sum game.

There is some merit in that critique. Nevertheless, we . . . uh . . . Well, we’ve invested too darn much in that premise, so we’re gonna stubbornly cling to it, to the very end, dangnurbit.

Anyway, our preliminary scan promises more parity with regard to Scandinavian bass pluckers.

You might doubt that as we come upon our first letter. For “T” we find that Norwegians Magne Thormodsæter and Bjørnar Kaldefoss Tveite are neck and neck with the rest of the world, represented by Jamaaladeen Tacuma of the USA and Jannick Top of France. We give it (with no bias or favoritism!) to the latter two, because putting their names together creates alliteration, assonance, and consonance–a nice poetic effect. Right?

The letter “U” also appears to be split down the middle between Norwegian Sigurd Ulveseth and Phil Upchurch (USA). We give it to Phil (again, no bias here, no siree Bob!) because of the exquisite wordplay, suggesting a preponderance of parishioners in the pews, where–we at BoFN approve of this kind of irony–they probably don’t play jazz.

For “V”, rest-of-the-world comfortably leads Norway, with Ole Morten Vågan edged out by Hein van de Geyn (Holland), Mads Vinding (Denmark), Leroy Vinnegar (USA) and Miroslav Vitous (former Czechoslovakia).


(Miroslav with Chick Corea and Roy Haynes)

Vitous and Vinnegar have immense standing in jazz, but we’re going to give this one to Leroy. Because Leroy Vinnegar. Plus, he was on that Swiss Movement album with Les McCann:

Victor Lemonte Wooten easily takes “W” for the USA. I first noticed Victor when he did Jaco Pastorius‘s “Teen Town” on the Jaco Tribute album. This is a tune that all aspiring electric jazz bassists must bust their chops on, or at least try:

Victor also does a nice one-man-band with Stevie Wonder‘s “Isn’t She Lovely” which is itself lovely:

The letter “X”, somewhat like “Q” in our previous installment, presents some difficulties. We have to bend the rules here not only for names, but for genre. First, we note the punk rock band called X, and its bassist who has the stage name John Doe. This may be the first funny plain name in BoFN history, but even better, his real name is John Nommensen Duchac (USA).

Heath (real name Hiroshi Morie) plays bass for the ever-resurrecting metal band X Japan, a position once held by the great Taiji Sawada, who is sadly no longer among the living.

Our final bassist in the this letter category is Nikki Sixx of Mötley Crüe, Brides of Destruction and Sixx:A.M.

We give it to Nikki, because it’s hard to find even one X, much less four.

We are forced to agree that the above has nothing to do with jazz, whatsoever, but no one can deny that there are no Norwegians involved. I think.

Eldee Young (USA) has it covered for “Y”. The long and short of it is that Eldee sets a new ole precedent for self-contradictory names. We may have a Funny Name Theorem brewing here.


(Eldee with Hysear Don Walker and Isaac Red Holt)

As our journey ends we come to “Z”, where Per Zanussi (Norwegian/Italian) faces off against Chester “Little Bear” Zardis (USA). That’s not much excitement for a finale, but at least it comes out only 25% Norwegian. And that’s what counts.

Apologies to all Norwegians for this series! Truth be told, it’s a wildly disproportionate but awesome contribution you’ve made to jazz.

Speaking of contributions, hit the black button below to learn about Dave’s Go Fund Me campaign:

 

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Polixeni Papapetrou

Hello Funny Names Fans! For those of you who love the land down under, we are celebrating famed Australian photographer, Polixeni Papapetrou. Her name is pronounced poh-leek-SEE-nee  pah-pah-PET-roo. I have been unable to verify if her father had a pet kangaroo.

Sorry folks, there were no public domain photos available, but you can check our her collection at her website, which includes a self portrait (hint, she’s the first photo on the top left of the collection).

Her parents, Andreas and Eftihiya (nee Xilinakis) Papapetrou, moved to Australia from Greece. Polixeni, a spring baby, was born in Melbourne, November 21, 1960. She always felt different from the other children she grew up with. The food her family ate, the way they looked and other traditions set them apart.

She studied law and art at Melbourne University, graduating in 1984. She started her career as a lawyer. She once said, “I worked as a corporate lawyer and really enjoyed this environment, but the desire to be an artist was stronger.”

Her photographs are whimsical and eerie. She started taking photographs of Elvis fans and impersonators. Eventually shifting to subcultures like body builders and cross dresser. She continued to study art after she became a full time artist, getting a masters degree in arts from RMIT University in Melbourne in 1997 and a Ph.D. at Monash University, also in Melbourne, in 2007.

She featured her children, Olympia and Solomon Nelson, and their friends in many of her collections. One series of photos recreated and explored the photos of Lewis Carroll’s photographs of Alice Liddell. Her series finished in 2016 called Eden featured Polixeni’s daughter and her friends from childhood to adulthood.

Her work was shown internationally. But as this is the Blog of Funny Names I must give a shout out to her series The Ghillies (a reference to a specific type of camouflage clothing) because it was featured in the 13th Dong Dong Gang International Photo Festival, South Korea. How many of us can say that?

Polixeni was once called out by former Australian Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, for a controversial magazine cover photo taken from one of her collections—created several years earlier—featuring her very young daughter in the nude. Polixeni’s then preteen daughter, Olympia, defended her mother stating it was one of her favorite photos.

Polixeni Papapetrou, a sometimes controversial photographer, passed at her home in Fitzroy, near Melbourne, Australia, on April 11, 2018.

Tracy – Fannie Cranium’s Guide to Irreverent Wisdom

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Please consider donating to our founder, Dave, and his fight against a cancerous brain tumor, all while he goes to medical school to learn to fight the very thing he is battling.

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