Welcome to THE CULTURAL WORKER, a blog dedicated to arts of the people, from the radical avant garde and free jazz to dissident folk forms, punk and popular arts . The Cultural Worker celebrates revolutionary creativity and features a variety of essays, reviews, fiction, reportage, poetry and musings through the internet pen of this creative writer, journalist, musician and cultural organizer. Scroll straight down and you'll also find an extensive historical Photo Exhibit of cultural workers in action, followed by a series of Radical Arts Links. The features herein will be unabashedly partisan---make no mistake about that. The concept of the cultural worker as a force of fearless creativity, of social change, indeed as an artistic arm of radicalism, has always been left-wing when applied with any degree of honesty at all. No revolutionary act can be truly complete in the absence of art, no progressive campaign can retain its message sans the daring drumbeat of invention, no act of dissent can stand so strong as that which counts the writers, musicians, painters, dancers, actors, photographers, film and performance artists within its ranks. Here's to the history and legacy of cultural work in the throes of the good fight...
john pietaro

Friday, December 25, 2015


-Originally published in the NYC Jazz Record, December 2015-

Sackville Stereo, released by Delmark Records 2015

Wild Bill Davison, cornet
Herb Hall, clarinet
Benny Morton, trombone
Claude Hopkins, piano
Arvell Shaw, bass
Buzzy Drootin, drums

CD Review by John Pietaro

Visions of hipness, concepts of cool, are born of a moment in time on which the industry machine feeds before the next whimsy strikes us—or is engineered to do just that. And so it goes in the wrestle between jazz and popular taste. Once upon a time, the music was drenched in the blues, marching to the strain of freely contrapuntal music that tore loose the constraints of the day. Such “traditional jazz”, born most excitedly in New Orleans but really in many places, cast seedlings universally. By the 1920s some of its greatest exponents ventured northward, inspiring the so-called Chicago school. This brand of hot jazz held strong regardless of the developments in the music or the demands of popular taste.

By the time the cornetist Wild Bill Davison brought all-star septet the Jazz Giants to Toronto, it was 1968. He’d trumpeted in the tradition, so to speak, for more than four decades, braving the ire of booking agents and modernists alike. But Davison, who’d struggled to take his place at center stage, had no intention of giving it up regardless of Miles’ “Nefertitti”, the Beatles’ ‘White Album’, or other musical advances released that year. For Davison, the classic instrumental line-up was all that was necessary, and here it was comprised of woefully under-recorded clarinetist Herb Hall (brother of Edmond), celebrated trombonist Benny Morton (who’d played with big band royalty), pioneering pianist Claude Hopkins (of Wilbur Sweatman’s early 20s band, Josephine Baker), Armstrong All-Star bassist Arvel Shaw and the drummer Buzzy Drootin, a regular at Eddie Condon’s nightclub and name bands alike. 

Wild Bill called for the stage to weep, smoke, sizzle, and sometimes burn. “Struttin’ With Some Barbecue”, fittingly, opens the disc. The spirit of Chicago resounds but also that of the Hot 5.  Hear time-honored titles like “Them There Eyes”, “Black and Blue”, “I Surrender Dear” plus one that harkens back to a groundbreaking ‘28 Condon session, “I Found a New Baby”. The mix keeps it fresh, the features of the band members spreads the wealth. And for those squeamish about the “Dixieland” moniker, listen to the free interactions between horns out front and an ignited rhythm section--and enjoy the fact that Albert Ayler and others revolutionists rode the tradition right into New Thing fire music.

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