Perspectives of a Writer and Musician

Issues related to writing, publishing and playing jazz music: One man's muse.
by Al Stevens

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Location: Florida, United States

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Music for Steve Axtell's Jazzman

I've been busy the past week on a project for Steve Axtell. He has a great new puppet called the Jazzman. The project I'm working on creates a musical CD that ventriloquists and puppeteers can use with the Jazzman.

The format is a six-piece band similar to Louis Armstrong's All-Stars that were so popular in the 1950s. Trumpet, trombone, sax, piano, drums, bass.

You can see the real thing in the Bing Crosby, Frank Sinatra, Grace Kelly movie, "High Society." I met most of the guys in that band when I was a young man, including ol' Satchmo, himself, and I worked a few gigs with some of them over the years. Satch used a clarinet player instead of a sax player, but I chose sax because I own one and know how to play it. Not so with clarinet. No better reason than that.

We seleted four tunes for the CD. The tunes are:

  1. When The Saints Go Marchin' In

  2. Bill Bailey Won't You Please Come Home

  3. Way Down Yonder In New Orleans

  4. Ja-Da


The CD will have two versions of the four tunes. One version has the band playing and the Jazzman singing and commenting. This version is for puppeteers who do not provide the character's voice themselves. The other version has the same instrumental accompaniment but without the vocal and commentary. This version is for ventriloquists who use a voice they create for the character.

This project is a lot of fun for me. I play all the instruments in the band and do the singing, too. The good news is that being a multi-instrumentalist, I don't have to hire musicians. The bad news is that it takes six times as long to record one tune. The other bad news is that I have to rest my voice between takes. That gravelly Jazzman voice takes its toll on the old pipes.

I'll be getting a Jazzman puppet of my own, and I will perform with it. This is a big step for me. I am a traditional ventriloquist with a strong bias for hard figures. But Steve Axtell captured the essence of New Orleans jazz musicians so well in this puppet, that there's no way I wasn't going to use one in my jazz music and ventriloquism show. I already have a script underway. His working name is, "Pops." Because of the voice straining thing, Pops's scripts will probably be about five minutes, and it will be at the end of my show. And will it ever be a show stopper!

If you buy an Axtell Jazzman puppet and need customized audio tracks, perhaps so he can play and sing an original tune or a parody that you like, get in touch. We can work such a deal.

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