Funny Jazz Bass Names from M to S: Fording the Fjord


It even looks like a bass.

We learn a lot of things at this joint. Things like, whoa, Norway totally dominates funny jazz bass names.

At least for the first half of the alphabet. Now we’re here to see if it’s true for M-S.

Place your bets, folks!

In the “M” quadrant, immortal titans Cecil McBee and Charles Mingus square off against Norsemen Jo Berger Myhre and Guro Skumsnes Moe. Jazz and blues bassist Clarence Horatius “Big” Miller enters the fray, tipping this round to the U.S., with results complicated by the appearance of Jesús Alfredo Merchán aka Chucho Merchán , Colombian. Overall, a strong 4-2 start for the Americas. Cecil McBee emerges with the highest net funny name value, because it was adopted as the name of a fashion brand in Japan without the bassist’s consent. (McBee unsuccessfully sued the company to stop.)

(Cecil McBee with Chico Freeman, “Wise One”)

But Norway comes back at us strong on “N” with bassist Magnus Skavhaug Nergaard, involved in such interestingly named bands as Monkey Plot and Ich Bin N!ntendo.

“O” is a tight squeeze between the Nordic Eivind Opsvik, Poland’s Darek Oleszkiewicz, and Nigeria’s Ugonna Okegwo, based in NYC. We don’t know what yr gonna think but we’re gonna give it to Ugonna.

“P” is an embarrassment of riches, musically and name-wise. We are tempted to drop the rivalrous banter and contemplate our bassists in reverent awe. There is legendary Jaco Pastorius, the Jimi Hendrix of electric bass. There are bass masters Gary Peacock and John Patitucci. There is the great Norseman Niels-Henning Ørsted Pedersen who produced arguably the warmest, most resonant double bass tones ever. Lesser known to me are Truck Parham, Robert Popwell and Giuseppe Prestipino Giarritta aka Pino Presti. But let’s give this one to Alcide Louis “Slow Drag” Pavageau taking us back to New Orleans and the roots of jazz itself.

Pluckings are slim (See what I did there?) in the “Q” category so we have to take liberties. We go with the multi-genre bassist called “Q” though his real name is Quentin Berry. That’s all we got.

“R” is a bland letter, not for music, but for names. Norseman Steinar Raknes comes out on top. Golf clap.

“S” is more interesting. Honorable mention of course to Avery Sharpe because he reminds us of Ingebrigt Håker Flaten. Otherwise, we got Len Skeat, Todd Sickafoose, Putter Smith, Leroy Eliot “Slam” Stewart, Victor Sproles, Ben Street, Ike Sturm, the great Steve Swallow, and the multi-talented Esperanza Spalding going up against Norsemen Jon Rune Strøm, Øyvind Storesund, Baard Slagsvold and Audun Skorgen.

(Steve Swallow with John Scofield and Bill Stewart)

We have to stop here, because we’re approaching the official BoFN word limit. So, we’ve had a respectable showing by our Nordic friends, but we’ve got them outnumbered. For now.

And speaking of numbers, Dave needs a higher number of dollars to fight cancer, so please visit the link below.


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Chief Slugamus Koquilton

Chief Sugamus Koquilton could have said, “I went to this party once and had a very good time.” But he didn’t.

Glinda, the Good Witch, told Dorothy to tap her heels together three time and say, “There’s no place like home”. Glinda was right.

One of my history buff friends suggested our next guest, Chief Slugamus Koquilton, formerly of Muckleshoot, Washington, USA. It is this blogger’s humble opinion that Chief Slugamus epitomizes the Funny Names Theory: the Outerbridge Horsey Certainty Principle, where we celebrate great people with greater names.

Chief Slugamus holds an unusual distinction in U.S. history. He was the last living person to have seen the Charles Wilkes US EX EX (Exploration Expedition) at the first ever 4th of July celebration held west of the Mississippi in 1841, in the Oregon Territory north of the Columbia River. Try saying that three times fast.

The Wilkes expeditions for those of you not in the know, was the largest scientific undertaking of its time sponsored by the United States. Wilkes reported directly to Congress. Congress only printed 100 copies of his completed findings at the time and kept the knowledge (including extensive maps of the west coast) to themselves. Commodore Wilkes brought back so many specimens from around the world, they created the Smithsonian Institute to house it all. He even weathered a storm in the harbor of my home town during a survey expedition, giving it it’s name, and putting it on the map, literally.

Sixty-five years later in 1906, when the celebration was planned, Chief Slugamus took the party planners to the original site where they erected a monument marking the location near Sequalitchew Lake. (Thank you copy and paste.)

At the celebration, Chief Slugamus was an honored guest and presenter. He described the Wilkes celebration, “They fired the big guns many times . . . . The soldiers marched all step as one man . . . . They carried flags, and had music with fifes and drums and horns . . . . They roast ox . . . . Big dinner . . . . Race horses . . . . A great many Indians from country all about . . . .”

It must have been a sight to see.

Chief Slugamus’s even made it into the “The Fourth of July Encyclopedia”.  How many of us can say that?

Imagine becoming famous because you crashed a party at the right time, and lived long enough to tell about it. And all this before social media.

Tracy – Fannie Cranium’s Guide to Irreverent Wisdom

Sources: Washington, West of the Cascades, 1917, authors Hunt, Herbert, Floyd C. Taylor; includes photo credit.
The Conquerors, 1907, author Atwood, A.

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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 Jazz Bass Names from A-L: A Norwegian Invegian

Somebody had to do this. Well, actually, no, nobody had to do this at all, but let’s get started anyway! This will only get us halfway there, I’m afraid.

We start with “A,” a tough call for jazz bassists, but we give it to Ahmed Abdul-Malik (1927 – 1993), who, interestingly, self-invented the name and a Sudanese heritage, though he was in fact born of Caribbean immigrant parents who gave him the name Jonathan Tim Jr.. That counts for a lot around here. We like multiple first names, and even have a postulate to prove it (see “Arthur Lee Samuel Consequence”).

“B” is for Svein Olav Blindheim (born 1954), a Norwegian bassist whose brother Oddbjørn Blindheim plays jazz piano.

With “C” ruled by giants like Ron Carter, Stanley Clarke, and Paul Chambers, we shift focus here to Curtis Counce (1926 – 1963). Though lesser known, he played with many of the greatest.

“D” is a dead heat between Brandi Disterheft (born 1980) of Vancouver and Mbizo Johnny Dyani (1945–1986) of South Africa. Your call.

“E” is for Mats Eilertsen (born 1975), another Norwegian bassist. My Spidey senses are tingling. Norway seems to have a strong jazz scene, and it’s starting to dominate here name-wise.

Spidey sense is corroborated with our “F” pick, Ingebrigt Håker Flaten (born 1971). By the way, that doesn’t mean he plays out of tune. Maybe he just likes flat keys. To be punnish (yes, pun intended there, too), to like B flat is not the same as to be flat.

For “G” we have to pass over one of my favorites, Eddie Gómez, and give it to Ole Amund Gjersvik (born 1963). Norwegian! This is looking like a Viking raid. And our regional specialist Arto isn’t around to negotiate peace.

(Eddie Gomez with Bill Evans.)

With “H” we got titans of the bass like Charlie Haden, Percy Heath, and Dave Holland, but we got to give this one to . . . Stig Hvalryg (born 1960). I’ll let you figure out the nationality (if you’re struggling, you’re trying too hard).

For “I” Charles H. “Chuck” Israels (born 1936) merits mention for his outstanding work with Bill Evans, but our pick is David Izenzon (1932 – 1979) of Pittsburg. Take that, Norway.

“J” includes great masters of jazz funk like Paul Jackson (born 1947) and Alphonso Johnson (born 1951). But we have to give this one to Greig Stewart “Chubby” Jackson (1918 – 2003), who has the great virtue of not being Norwegian.

(Paul Jackson lays down the bass with Herbie Hancock and the Headhunters.)

The Norwegians come back at us with “K,” where we got Olaf Kamfjord (born 1962) in a dead heat with Bjørn Kjellemyr (born 1950).

With honorable mention for the groundbreaking Scott LaFaro (1936–1961) who died tragically young, our pick for “L” is Abraham Laboriel Sr. (born 1947) father of Abe Laboriel Jr., a drummer, and brother of Johnny Laboriel, a singer.

So, Norwegians routed us but didn’t get the last word. We’ll see how it goes with the other half of the alphabet.

In the meantime, learn about our man Dave at the link below:

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The Handsome Family Sparks Up TV

I am laughably behind on TV but I’ve done some catching up recently. I watched seasons and seasons of truly outstanding programs, unlike anything I’ve seen on the medium, or even beyond. There was Breaking Bad. Then there was Better Call Saul.

And most recently, the best TV series I’ve ever seen: True Detective, Season One, starring Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson.


“I can smell the psychosphere.”

As the older Marty might put it under debriefing,

You know, sometimes you can set the bar too high in life. And when you shoot that high, and actually hit it, well, it may feel good at the time. But after that, everything is . . . just, lower. And then you realize, it’s never going to be that high again.

Couldn’t have said it better myself. It’s certainly how I feel as I look at my viewing options these days. Everything is suddenly unwatchable. It’s odd that the greatest TV show ever made may actually cure me of TV.

Anyway, as Rust might say, “I drift.”

Inextricably linked with Season One is the opening theme song, “Far from Any Road.” This dark, moody, soulful ballad has a way of getting into your head and not finding its way back out again.

From the album Singing Bones (2003).

At first I thought the singer was Johnny Cash, but it is actually Brett Sparks, and the female vocalist that comes in later is his wife, Rennie Sparks. Together they form the core of their band The Handsome Family.

Rennie writes the lyrics, Brett writes the music, and they both sing and play, and record, and tour. In addition to The Handsome Family’s astounding musical gifts, Rennie writes and paints. They’ve got a great website here.

According to Wikipedia, Brett accounts for the band name thusly:

“It’s just kind of a stupid name. We used to have this really obnoxious drummer, and he used to call me ‘Handsome’, that was his nickname for me, I think for sarcastic reasons… And he wanted to call it the Handsome Family… and we thought it was funny, too. We thought it was a good name.”

Now, ordinarily, the Name Funniness Index (NFI) might put Brett and Rennie out of the running for funny name status. Brett is about as ordinary as a name could be. Rennie is marginally better. “Sparks” obviously helps, and brings them close to the brink, but it’s the band name that seals the deal. That and Matthew McConaughey. And the fact that Dave and Arto are not watching the shop. And Fannie’s not very strict. Heck, she lets me get away with just about anything, these days.

I drift.

OK, how about this? The music director of True Detective, who chose the theme song, is Joseph Henry “T Bone” Burnett III, himself a major presence in the music world.

All that being said, I do hope you click on the link below and spark up Dave’s life in his time of need.

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For Ignaz Semmelweis Hand Washing is a Good Thing

Ignaz might have said, “Hand washing is a good thing.” I’m sure Martha Stewart would agree.
Legalese: published anywhere before 1923 and public domain in the U.S.

Welcome back Funny Names Fans. My favorite aunt once asked me to write a post about Ignatz Ratzkowaski. Only I can’t find him anywhere. But it did lead me to someone with an equally wonderful name.

Dr. Ignaz Phillipp Semmelweis entered the world on July 1, 1818 in Pest, Hungary, now part of Budapest. A Hungarian of German descent. He is now recognized as an early pioneer of antiseptic procedures, but he wasn’t always.

After finishing medical school he was given a position with the First and Second Obstetrical Clinics of the Vienna General Hospital. Today’s equivalent would be chief resident.

In the early 1800’s European medical institutions began addressing the problems of infanticide of illegitimate children. At the time illegitimate children could not marry and had few legal rights.

Maternity wards across Europe were set up as free institutions and offered care for the infants. This made them attractive to poor women⏤including prostitutes.

Dr. Semmelweis noticed the high maternal mortality rate from “Childbed Fever” in the First Clinic and the low mortality rate at the Second Clinic run not by doctors, but by midwives.

The clinics rotated admission every other day for delivery of children. The First Clinic earned such a poor reputation, that on their day to accept patients, many mothers preferred to deliver their children in the street outside the hospital. The women would pretend to have given birth en route to still qualify for infant care.

The mortality rates due to infection drove Dr. Semmelweis to distraction trying to figure out the differences between the two clinics.

The First Clinic was a teaching hospital for medical students. Part of their day was spent studying cadavers, the rest of the day spent in obstetrics. The second clinic had midwives and no medical students.

Sadly, the breakthrough occurred when his good friend and fellow physician, Jakob Kolletschka, died after he was accidentally stabbed by a medical student’s scalpel while the student was performing an autopsy. Kolletschka’s own autopsy showed a similar pathology to the women who died from “Childbed Fever”(puerperal fever).

Dr. Semmelweis instituted a policy of hand washing using chlorinated lime and saw the death rate drop, when he added the cleaning of medical instruments it dropped to almost zero deaths.

Unfortunately, the germ theory of disease had not yet been accepted by the medical community of Vienna. So his theories conflicted with the medical and scientific communities of the time. Some doctors were offended that they needed to wash their hands. They were, after all, gentlemen and the idea their hands were not clean was inconsistent with being a gentleman. (Cough, cough.)

Semmelweis eventually offended most of his peers and his boss with his insistence on the importance of hand washing, and was eventually replaced. The mortality rate climbed back up, but no one mentioned it because of Semmelweis’s unpopularity.

Semmelweis moved his family to Vienna, but could only get pro bono work, no one would pay him, yet the clinic he ran showed the same improved results.

He eventually publicly denounced his peers for not following his methods. Then he began to show signs of some sort of “cognitive disorder”, at the age of 47, which fixated around his theory. So the medical leaders at the time had him committed to an insane asylum, where he was beaten by the guards and died two weeks later from a gangrenous wound possibly caused by the beating.

It wasn’t until Louis Pasteur’s discoveries confirmed the germ theory of disease that Ignaz Semmelweis was recognized for his contributions to medicine.

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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