Sunday, February 28, 2016


The grooving and growling “Rice Pudding”, a honker recorded by tenor saxophonist Willene Barton and Her Trio either in 1963 or 1964, should be required listening for anyone seeking an R&B instrumental that could topple the domicile. Barton and her bandmates accomplished this effect in a scant 2:37, and Barton, in the process, cemented her credentials on the tenor saxophone, long the province of male musicians. Her somewhat gentler walking toward the very end of this cooker confers a small window of mercy upon the proceedings, when the listener may exhale and fully indulge his or her admiration of Barton, by then a musician in her mid-thirties. “Rice Pudding” itself responded to “Green Onions”, the hit recorded by Booker T and the MG’s. It appeared on the Sky-Mac label bundled with “Bossa Nova Twist” on the B-side.

Barton taught herself the saxophone. As a teenager, she encountered The International Sweethearts of Rhythm, an all-woman swing and jazz band that flourished throughout the 1940s. In particular, she admired Vi Burnside, the band’s featured soloist, who also played the tenor saxophone. While she never played in the Sweethearts, Barton toured the country with the band’s former leader, Anna Mae Winburn, as part of a variety act in the early 1950s. During a stop in Cleveland, Barton participated in “cutting contests”—musical confrontations—with her idol, Vi Burnside, duels that, one night, left her to enjoy “a [saxophone] bell full of money and a chicken dinner!” Later, in the 1950s, Barton played in New York clubs with the likes of Illinois Jacquet, Sonny Stitt, and Ben Webster. For a spell, Eddie “Lockjaw” Davis managed her career. She recorded a noteworthy album—There She Blows—with the Dayton Selby Trio in 1956.

Willene Barton with unknown musicians. (Photo credit: Dan Kochakian)

Owing to the popularity of guitar-driven rock ‘n’ roll, Willene Barton drifted out of music shortly after recording “Rice Pudding”. She would make a comeback—often part of all-women bands—starting in the 1970s. She passed away in 2005. Her achievements, including the powerful voice and phrasings she delivered through her horn, ought to be stacked alongside those of the leading male honkers, such as one of this blogger’s favorites, Plas Johnson. During the fertile eras of jazz, jump blues, and early R&B, some female musicians—Cleo Brown, Nellie Lutcher, and Nina Simone, for example—played piano, sang, and recorded as leaders, but very few women led groups as saxophone players. Willene Barton should be acknowledged for her pioneering activity but also for some rice pudding that roars. 

Sources of information:

Dan Kochakian, “The Willene Barton Story”, Rhythm & Blues 289
Crown Propeller’s Blog, Eddie Chamblee,Willene Barton, Dayton Selby
Linda Dahl, StormyWeather: The Music and Lives of a Century of Jazzwomen (Limelight Editions, 2004)
Columbus Library Digital Collection, Picture of Dayton SelbyTrio
Wikipedia entry for the International Sweethearts of Rhythm

Personnel on “Rice Pudding”: Willene Barton (tenor saxophone), Robert Banks (organ), guitar and drums unknown.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016


I didn’t know that Moses led the Israelites through an Alaskan island chain or maybe that’s just a biblical Aleutian.

Donald Trump questions every opponent’s national origins (do you know about this?) through his “birther” methodology, and in particular, his campaign slogan, “Eat Big Birther’s Mussels!”

If a religious group slobbers at the mouth, then it might be a delegation from the Salivation Army.

Their band features a drummer, a trombonist, and a sympathizer, but yeah, they struck up a hot version of “Dust Mites Broom”.

The theatre had to slash its budget—so it cut some farce.

If you have difficulty expressing yourself, the doctor might administer one or several enigmas.

Too, the doctor might try to take your Lubriderm count as part of treating your ethereal disease, or he might attempt to cure your estranged muscle.

Meanwhile, you should work out with dumbbells, because you could grow quite ambiguous.

A cat has asinine lives.

Everyone caught the new virus—a petulance spread throughout the land.

Many African diplomats don’t know how to receive the embassies from their colleagues in Dakar, because their colleagues are sending mixed Senegals.

Join me in a hug, an ecstatic cling, that won’t let go, or conversely, if you can’t experience love by asking, you could always hire a destitute.

They shanked a guy named Herb in the penitentiary. It was Herbicide.

Hey: if it can be placed in the freezer, it’s feasible!                                



How, after Obama’s weekly Saturday address, the Republican drifts into earshot a half-hour later, carping about some government wastrel, ministerial dealie. Maybe the junior senator from Alabama does this deed, the same way Kenny G. delivers the opposition response to the Super Bowl halftime show. The Super Bowl, of course, continues, so you’d have to bust out your AM radio, the one held together with slack rubber bands, the one leaking battery rust out of its rear compartment. Kenny G. jokes about playing the Chuck Mangione songbook, but in the pause between the quip and the first woozy weasel popping out of his saxophone, you involuntarily mime an evasive action, an incomplete destruction of documents, perhaps, to camouflage a significant (if imaginary) transgression. Quantum physics can best describe the influence that Kenny G wields with respect to the Universe, and it doesn’t recommend little-flower optimism. One Kenny G galaxy collides with another Kenny G galaxy, goes the science, but the distances—so vast—prevent the mutual destruction you might otherwise anticipate. Do you prefer Beyonce’s hair or Kenny G.’s hair? Do you prefer a Nat Geo hippopotamus fart or a Kenny G. hippopotamus fart? The opposition hasn’t devoted much bandwidth to this endeavor, and the spooky distortions between channels outperform Kenny G., the unfortunate rivulets of Kenny G. There, the radio conks, a splutter of overworked international vacuum tubes. “Surely the knell”, you think, “but for the Heaven of Wealthy Elevators.” You’ve always wanted to go for gelato, go for gelato, regard it as practice for when a trip to gelato will really matter in your life. Yes, pilgrim, a trip to gelato will—some day—matter in your life. Really.

this post is part of a double issue. also see: COPPIN’ A FEALTY.