A few fun renditions of the classic poem. First a reading by Louis Armstrong (famously his last recording), followed by Wynton Marsalis’ interpretation from Crescent City Christmas Card. The last two are performed by Ed ‘Kookie’ Byrnes and Sesame Street‘s Norman Calloway.
Lenny Bruce is best known for his blue material, but “The Djinni in the Candy Store” is a beautiful bit (mostly) suitable for listeners of all ages. The Common Sense Media organization would probably knock down its star rating for Bruce’s joke about “income property” and make some remark about its ethnic stereotypes, but “The Djinni” is mild compared to most of Bruce’s material.
From time to time we think of Bruce’s Djinni, when tackling a big project in our own store. The whole bit, first recorded by the comedian in 1958, is just an elaborate set-up for a groaner of a line, but as often happens in Lenny Bruce’s best material the Djinni becomes a memorable character. The only one who makes us laugh more is poor Cardinal Spellman, who must explain the ways of the Church to Christ and Moses when the return to Earth in a later routine.
In a seventh season episode of The X Files, the supernatural monster discovered by Agents Mulder and Scully is revealed to be a djinni who has spent millennia a prisoner of her powers. With each new master she watches tragedy unfold as the wishes become nightmares, until she receives her freedom when Agent Mulder wishes for it.
Lenny Bruce’s Djinni seems to enjoy his work, although he describes his bottle as “a glass prison.” He grant’s Sol’s second wish without using his magical powers, and we imagine he wanted to run the candy store. It recalls Yakov Bok, the eponymous hero of Bernard Malamud’s The Fixer, a prisoner who “begged for something to do. His hands ached of emptiness.” Yes, the Djinni seems to take pleasure of the minutia of running the small shop, bringing in the milk and the rolls and so on.
Twice, when doubted, the Djinni is indignant: “I am the Djinni, I can do anything!” He is nothing like the sneaky, manipulative djinni in The Thief of Baghdad, who seems to have inspired Bruce’s hilarious voice. The only thing we don’t like about “The Djinni in the Candy Store” is its brevity. We wish he’d had a few more adventures, perhaps in other settings from Bruce’s albums. Perhaps he could have visited Lima, Ohio or Enchanting Transylvania. Or the Djinni could have helped educate people about gonorrhea and raised funds for the Brother Matthias leper colony in Guiana. After all, he is the Djinni and he can do anything.
We’ll be closed today, but we’ll be open earlier than usual tomorrow at 9am. Yes, we have a big selection of the limited black Friday release. Also we’ll have some delicious pizza and brownies from our friends at Moon Palace’s Geek Love Cafe. We hope you have a wonderful Thanksgiving!
And now, as is our tradition, here is Arlo Guthrie’s “Alice’s Restaurant Massacree.”
Our pal Craig is always bringing in odd finds from his thrift store trips, and he recently found this awesome tape of a 1988 radio documentary about Radio First Termer, a pirate station briefly broadcast in Vietnam.
Radio First Termer broadcast just over sixty hours, for three weeks in January 1971. Its host, Dave Rabbit, is now known to have been US Air Force Sargent Clyde David DeLay. You can hear one of the only surviving recordings of the original broadcasts here.
The story of Peter Parker, the amazing Spider-Man, from an early 70s LP. The narrator is actor Morgan Freeman, then a regular performer on TV’s Electric Company (appearing as Easy Reader, Vincent the Vegetable Vampire and DJ Mel Mounds). Many of Marvel’s comic book characters appeared on LPs, including the Fantastic Four and the Incredible Hulk.
Peter Parker was one of Stan Lee’s most famous creations. Like other Marvel heroes, he became a reluctant superhero, and he often faced everyday problems. Lee passed away yesterday at the age of ninety-five, just over a year after he lost his beloved wife.
Lee left behind an extraordinary legacy. Obituaries rightfully describe him as the architect of the modern comic book. In recent years as his characters appeared in blockbuster films, Lee could be counted on to make a cameo. His trademark tinted glasses and white mustache will be missed by comic book fans around the world.
In his own way Don Gillis brought the classical repertoire to millions of Americans. He was the producer for the NBC Symphony Orchestra during the long tenure of Arturo Toscanini, helping to broadcast hundreds of symphonic and operatic performances on radio and television (today you can buy an enormous, 85-disc box set of the complete recordings of Toscanini on RCA/Victor Records which including many with the NBC Symphony Orchestra).
After Toscanini retired in 1954 Gillis helped create the Symphony of the Air, which continued to broadcast orchestral music under the direction of Leopold Stokowski. Gillis was also an active composer when not busy with the office work of managing the Orchestra — He wrote ten symhonies (including the light-hearted Symphony No. 5 1/2 “A Symphony for Fun”), several concertos and quartets, and tone poems such as a celebration of the town where he grew up, Fort Worth, Texas (Portrait of a Frontier Town).
The Man Who Invented Music was written by Don Gillis for the U.S. Steel NBC Summer Symphony Series in 1949. It was debuted by Antal Dorati that August. Gillis conducted this recording himself, and it was narrated by Jack Kilty, a minor television star on, you guessed it, NBC.
Billie Holiday’s classic Columbia recordings (1933-1941) are her very best. Producer John Hammond describes them as “unique in music” on this little bonus record. “I don’t believe we’ve ever gotten this kind of interplay in the years since Billie’s prime,” he continues. The record was included in promotional copies of God Bless the Child, a 1972 double-LP compilation produced by Columbia in response to the success of Lady Sings the Blues, a bio-pic starring Diana Ross. We rarely sell copies of the soundtrack, which hasn’t aged particularly well, but Billie Holiday records have a one or two day shelf-life around here.
“We ought to have a lot of fun, having this record listened to by people who only know Billie Holiday through the movie,” says Hammond at the end.
The movie was loosely based on Holiday’s autobiography. It was fairly successful and nominated for several Academy Awards, but panned by jazz musicians who performed with Holiday, and jazz fans in general. Ross’ meek performance re-casts Holiday as a mid-level pop singer — it’s remarkable, for instance, that neither Lester Young nor Teddy Wilson appear in the film, even though Holiday collaborated closely with each for years (bringing out, we think, some of their very best). Hammond, who produced her records for years, likewise is nowhere to be seen.
Then again, what can you expect from a Hollywood movie starring Diana Ross? At least the film revived interest in her original recordings. There are several collections from her Columbia discography besides the 1972 double LP. Their nine volume Quintessential Billie Holiday series is on the Columbia Jazz Masterpieces imprint (the ones with the blue borders) and the sound on the LPs is fantastic, as are the notes for each. There’s also an earlier three-album box set, sort of a ‘best of’ collection, called The Golden Years. All are worth the search.
the man i love“The Man I Love” recorded December 1939. The band features Buck Clayton and Harry Edison (trumpets), Earl Warren, Jack Washington and Lester Young (saxes), Joe Sullivan (piano) Freddie Greene (guitar), Walter Page (bass) and Jo Jones (drums).
time on my hands“Time on my Hands” recorded June 1940. The band features Roy Eldridge (trumpet), Billy Brown, Joe Eldridge, Kermit Scott and Lester Young (saxes), Teddy Wilson (piano), Freddie Greene (guitar), Walter Page (bass) and JC Heard (drums).