The Brackbill Farm history indeed(s)

Deed conveying the Brackbill Farm in Salisbury Township from Abraham Hershey to Benjamin Brackbill in 1867

After being reminded while writing the last post that I hadn’t dug up the deed to the farm back in 2009, I decided to spend some downtime this morning going back through the notes and seeing what I could find regarding the transfer of the farm from Abraham Hershey, who built the farmhouse in 1857, to the family of Harry G. Brackbill, whose descendants (my extended family) still own the property today.

And I might have found something. In reviewing the photos of the General Index of Deeds that were posted by the Southern Lancaster County Historical Society, I found a deed conveying property in Salisbury Township from Abraham Hershey et ux (and wife) to Benjamin Brackbill, my great-great-great grandfather, in 1867. No deeds in Salisbury Township were recorded after that date against Abraham Hershey, so I think this was probably the property.

Benjamin Brackbill, whose main residence and land holdings were in Paradise, was, according to his obituary, “a man of wealth.” He had two sons who were farmers, Elam (my 2x great grandfather) and Benjamin. I think it’s quite likely that Benjamin purchased the Abraham Hershey farm so that Elam could become established, without having to subdivide his farm in Paradise between his two sons.

Thanks to the index, I was able to view the actual deed (book T9, pp. 317-318) and confirm that Abraham and Barbara Hershey, who built the house on the farm in 1857, sold the farm to Benjamin Brackbill in 1867 for the sum of $22,357.50. From there, presumably the wills of Benjamin and Elam would show the property changing hands to Harry G. Brackbill, my great-grandfather. The deed also showed the history of the property before Abraham Hershey: it had been purchased from Christian Umble by Christian Hershey, Abraham’s father, on April 2, 1812. The deed for that transaction (book 8, p. 91ff) shows that the land originally belonged to Andrew Deig and his wife Ann, who sold it on April 14, 1807, to Christian Fisher; who turned around and sold the land to Christian Umble (or Ummel) on April 1, 1812; who then turned around the next day and sold it to Christian Hershey. At the time the parcel was only 30 acres; Christian and Abraham subsequently enlarged it to 101 acres before it was sold to Benjamin Brackbill.

And it doesn’t stop there! The deed (book Y3, p. 700ff) between Andrew Deig and Christian Fisher gives us more of the history. On March 27, 1786, Andrew and Robert Caldwell and their wives sold a parcel of 232 acres containing this property to John Rickebaugh and Christian Roop (or Roof); the two purchasers partitioned the land in 1790, but Rickebaugh purchased Roop’s share. From there it gets messy, with the land being divided and partitioned until it ended up in Deig’s hands via sale from Christian Hurst.

And if you want to trace it further back, you can do it yourself. 🙂

Just kidding! I couldn’t stop! The Caldwells got the land in 1746 from the executors of Stephen Cole’s estate (book FF, p. 172ff); Cole got it from the Penns in 1731 (book FF p. 168ff).

And that’s as far back as I think it’s going to go.

On the road again

Brackbill farm, June 6, 2021

After almost fifteen months of enforced home time, I’ve been traveling and visiting family for the last few days. The occasion: my parents’ fiftieth wedding anniversary, which fell on the same day as my cousin’s son’s high school graduation. I wasn’t able to make the graduation ceremony due to flight times but have been accompanying (and chauffeuring) my parents to visits with our Lancaster County family for the past few days.

Our home base has been the Brackbill farm near Kinzers. My earliest memories here are the annual family picnics along the Pequea Creek, which borders the property. More recently, the availability of one of the three apartments in the 1857 farmhouse for visiting family has made it a logical place to stay for funerals and visits.

The house sits on a working farm, which while not as active as when I was a boy (the herd of cattle that feature prominently in my childhood memories no longer graze the field behind the barn), still produces organic vegetables and flowers for the family CSA.

We hit the road today, as I drive my folks home to the hills around Asheville, North Carolina … and probably through a bunch of rainstorms. Should be fun.

Exfiltration Radio: All Possibilities

It’s been quite a rollercoaster of a year, for all sorts of reasons, and there were times when it felt like we were hunkering down and waiting for a beating to end. But people are getting vaccinated now and it’s spring, and suddenly it seems reasonable to start hoping once more.

Musically, the period I associate most with “hope,” as opposed to “nihilism” or “despair” or “80s hair,” is the time from the late 1990s through about 2003 or so, which produced some of the loveliest songs of hope and happiness I can remember. Part of it was the rise of indie rock, part probably the sustained recovery of the world economy. Maybe it was just that I got married at the beginning of the period, who knows? For whatever reason, it feels like a good time to dust off some of these tracks and start hoping again.

Do not attempt to adjust your set…

  1. Untitled 4 (“Njósnavélin”)Sigur Rós (( ))
  2. ScratchMorphine (Yes)
  3. The Laws Have ChangedThe New Pornographers (Electric Version)
  4. When You’re FallingAfro Celt Sound System (Volume 3: Further in Time)
  5. The Way That He SingsMy Morning Jacket (At Dawn)
  6. Diamond In Your MindSolomon Burke (Don’t Give Up On Me)
  7. Brief & BoundlessRichard Buckner (Since)
  8. All PossibilitiesBadly Drawn Boy (Have You Fed The Fish?)
  9. Time Travel is LonelyJohn Vanderslice (Time Travel Is Lonely)
  10. ShineMark Eitzel (The Invisible Man)
  11. Why Not SmileR.E.M. (Up)
  12. You Are InvitedThe Dismemberment Plan (Emergency & I)
  13. Where Do I BeginThe Chemical Brothers (Dig Your Own Hole)
  14. I’m Still HereTom Waits (Alice)

Exfiltration Radio: Shorter story

Lee Morgan’s “Search for The New Land” session, Van Gelder Studio, Englewood Cliffs, NJ, February 15, 1964. This is the cover shot for Shorter’s “The All Seeing Eye.”

I’ve been going down a rabbit hole in my listening lately, as I grow increasingly conscious that great artists live among us… but perhaps not for too much longer. One I’m thinking about right now is the great saxophonist and composer Wayne Shorter.

I started listening to Shorter over 30 years ago, thanks to a CD copy of The Best of Wayne Shorter: The Blue Note Years that I found in Plan 9. Like all single-disc anthologies (and like this mix!), it’s a sparse summary of an astonishing period of creativity and excellent performances. But it hooked me… especially the opening track, the title from Shorter’s sixth album, which manages to be both relaxed and full of tension at the same time thanks to his unshowy use of modal scales.

I think I heard this album before I came across the Second Great Quintet recordings he did with Miles, which included many of Shorter’s compositions (especially the great “Footprints,” heard here) in very different arrangements. Miles’s version of “Footprints,” on Miles Smiles, ups the anxiety in the modal scale through tempo and urgency, especially in Tony Williams’ polyrhythmic drumming. I also looked backwards in time, finding some of the great recordings that he did with Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers (and recently uncovering some of the sideman work he did for some of his colleagues, including Lee Morgan here).

Thanks to early-90s bias against fusion (which, in fairness, had fallen pretty low by the late 1980s), it took me years to discover Weather Report, particularly the first album, and I only recently began to listen to some of Shorter’s mid-1970s output, which featured a more accessible side of the great composer on songs like “Ana Maria.” And his late-period works with Danilo Perez, John Pattituci and Brian Blade continue to blow my head off with the genius of the collective improvisation, even as they document Shorter’s declining physical stamina. (He retired from performance in 2019 due to mounting health issues.)

Like that first Blue Note compilation, this sixty minute set is necessarily scanty, but hopefully will convince you to seek out more of Shorter’s work as well—and to utter a silent word of thanks that we walk the earth at the same time he does.

Enjoy…

  1. Speak No EvilWayne Shorter ( Speak No Evil )
  2. Ping Pong (No. 1)Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers ( Complete Studio Recordings (with Lee Morgan, Wayne Shorter…) )
  3. EddaLee Morgan ( The Rumproller )
  4. Yes or NoWayne Shorter ( JuJu )
  5. FootprintsMiles Davis Quintet ( Miles Smiles )
  6. TearsWeather Report ( Weather Report )
  7. Ana MariaWayne Shorter ( Native Dancer )
  8. Aung San Suu KyiWayne Shorter and Herbie Hancock ( 1+1 )
  9. Adventures Aboard The Golden Mean (live)Wayne Shorter Quartet ( Emanon )
  10. PinocchioHerbie Hancock Quintet ( A Tribute To Miles )

Exfiltration Radio: I feel no shame

I was a sixth grader in 1983 from a very white part of town. I went from going to school less than two miles from my home to getting on a bus and riding 40 minutes every day to my middle school, one of two sitting next to each other on the edge of downtown. (Kind of reverse-busing.) The bus was loud, the older kids were scary. But… someone always had a radio.

Technically, they had a boom box. But no one ever seemed to be playing a cassette; it was almost always tuned to one of the local stations, often Z-104. I had grown up in a house that played classical radio, and when not that, easy listening (WFOG!), so the top-40 stuff that was being played was new to me.

So was the other stuff that was sometimes played. I don’t remember the station identifications, but a fair amount of what I remember wouldn’t have been played on Top-40 radio — think “Roxanne, Roxanne” or “Electric Kingdom.” So part of my memory from this time comes with no liner notes and I’m still finding some of the songs.

But the stuff that stuck the longest, earwormed the most thoroughly, was probably the adult contemporary balladry of the time. Many of them aren’t great songs! But they’re really easy to get into, even for a pop music neophyte — the “quiet storm” jazz crossover stuff like Sade’s “Sweetest Taboo” flavored some of what was going on (there’s a common thread between this stuff and Sting’s Dream of the Blue Turtles that also touched the Pointer Sisters; listen to “Automatic”).

And then there were the really goopy ballads. Anita Baker need have felt no shame for “Sweet Love,” but oh man, “On My Own.” And “All Cried Out.” I banished them so far from my memory, I never even touched them when going through 1980s music in a series of ten mixes starting in 2003. But they’re there, and some of them might be worth more than you think.

Just maybe not Gregory Abbott. (Oh well well.)

One last note: I was reminded about more than a few of these songs courtesy of Stereogum’s The Number Ones column, which is essential reading. I’ve linked a few articles below for further reading on some of the tracks, but you should really read the whole thing.

  1. Rumors – Timex Social ClubTimex Social Club (Un, Dos, Tres…Playa Del Sol (12 Magic Summer Hits))
  2. Radio PeopleZapp (The New Zapp IV U)
  3. FreshKool & The Gang (The Very Best of Kool & The Gang)
  4. In My HouseMary Jane Girls (20th Century Masters: The Millennium Collection: The Best of Mary Jane Girls)
  5. Juicy FruitMtume (Juicy Fruit)
  6. Mr. WrongSade (Promise)
  7. AutomaticThe Pointer Sisters (Break Out)
  8. Sweet LoveAnita Baker (Rapture)
  9. Love ZoneBilly Ocean (The Very Best of Billy Ocean)
  10. Stop to LoveLuther Vandross (80’s Pop Hits)
  11. On My OwnPatti LaBelle (’80s Pop Number 1’s)
  12. Shake You Down (Single Version)Gregory Abbott (80’s Pop Hits)
  13. All Cried Out (with Full Force)Lisa Lisa & Cult Jam (80’s Pop Hits)
  14. Human Beat BoxFat Boys (Fat Boys)

Object oriented ourobouros

Isaac Rodriguez at RealPython: Inheritance and Composition: a Python OOP Guide.

The very first job I had after college1 was at American Management Systems, where I was hired as a business systems analyst and very rapidly molded into a programmer. In my first few days of training, I was introduced to concepts of object oriented programming, and it made a very strong impression on the way I solved problems. (Much to the chagrin of some of my fellow PowerBuilder developers.)

In that first six years as a programmer and architect, I learned a lot about object oriented concepts and tradeoffs: overriding, then invoking, behavior from a parent; the promise and madness of multiple inheritance; performance impacts of deep inheritance hierarchies. And I learned that, like every other tool, inheritance could be overused.2

I haven’t been a programmer for a long time, but I’m learning some Python now at work, and I was looking for some guidance on OO concepts in the Python world. Rodriguez’s article is thorough and well written, even if I’m not ready to adopt all the practices yet. Mostly, after wading through StackOverflow incantations and poorly written library how-tos, I’m just relieved to read intelligent discussions on how to program. I’ll be returning to this well.

1 Other jobs held before and during college: comic book store employee; electrician at particle accelerator; SGML encoder at UVA electronic text center.

2 Or as a former coworker liked to say, “When all you have is a hammer, every problem looks like a hippie.”

New year, new writing

I haven’t written much on the blog in a while. But that’s not because I haven’t been writing.

On Wednesday, December 30, I finished my first draft of a book I’ve been working on, off and on, for years: the history of the first 150 years of the Virginia Glee Club. Sort of finished, anyway: I closed the document, took our dog for a walk, and realized when I walked back in the door that I had forgotten things.

I expect to continue to have that realization for a while. There is, of course, a lot of ground to cover, and I’ve inevitably left things out—like the biographies of many individual Glee Club members I’ve researched over the years. Or important historical events that add context to the work. Or…

Well, you get the drift. The reality is that the work that I’ve done on the history of the group is spread across a bunch of places: Glee Club newsletters, the history wiki, even a Pinterest board I started over the summer. The book will hopefully, for the interested reader, be the tip of the iceberg.

And now I can, maybe, start writing in other places. Like here. Someday.

Just as soon as I get the thing published. And that’ll be a whole different journey that I will share as I am able.

Cocktail Monday: the TFC 50

I had the pleasure to invent a cocktail for a group of friends to drink this weekend — and not just any group of friends, but the Tanglewood Festival Chorus. Our holiday party went virtual like everything else has this year, and they asked me to bartend something festive that people could make and enjoy while we had the rest of the evening’s festivities.

If you’ve been following my cocktail posts for a while, you know that making cocktails that everyone can make isn’t necessarily in my wheelhouse. I spend a lot of time finding new ingredients and leveraging all the odd stuff in my liquor cabinet. But this felt like an opportunity to do something simple and fun.

I ended up going with a principle of classic cocktail making that always makes me shake my head, but was awfully convenient for this exercise: if you take a classic cocktail and change one ingredient in it, it’s a new cocktail and you get to name it!

So with past TFC parties in mind, I started with the French 75, which once upon a time was much consumed at the late lamented Brasserie Jo after concerts. (The fact that it’s named after a French artillery piece also means it’s never far from my cocktail imagination.) The name was natural, given the year: the French 75 becomes the TFC 50.

And to get to festive, I got rid of the powdered sugar, which I always hate because it doesn’t mix well, and replaced it with something else sweet and also festive in color: grenadine. I’m not normally a big fan, but I had just ordered some nice grenadine after being disappointed by the flavor profile of the old supermarket standby and figured I’d give it a go.

A few notes about the cocktail:

  • The kind of gin matters. London Dry gin (e.g. Beefeaters, Tanqueray) can be substituted with some other gins, but you have to know the flavor profile. Something botanical heavy like Hendricks is going to yield a completely different drink, while something like Berkshire Greylock Gin will substitute pretty successfully. In this drink you can go a little less dry as well, but only a little: Plymouth works, but Old Tom does not.
  • Surprisingly, the kind of grenadine matters. Turns out that using Stirrings tastes nicer, but you need to use more of it to counterbalance the sourness from the lemon. And it doesn’t do much to the color. On the other hand, using just a little Rose’s yields just exactly the right festive color and sweetness.
  • And of course, the kind of bubbly matters. Since I was getting rid of the powdered sugar, I went with a less dry sparkling wine—namely prosecco.

Anyway, please enjoy! I sadly didn’t take pictures of this one but you can enjoy the recipe anyway; as always, you can import this image into Highball if you use that fine app. 

Exfiltration Radio: new faces, new sounds

I’ve been listening to a lot of classic Blue Note recordings recently—thanks to a bad HDTracks habit—and what struck me the other day is how the composition of the recordings changes the further back you go. What had become a jazz-funk fusion label by the 1970s was principally a hard-bop label in the 1960s with an incredible stable of performers (even if you could expect to find some of them, like Bobby Hutcherson or Grant Green, on recording after recording during the period). But if you look even further back, the label was unearthing and recording new artists in the early to mid-1950s, like Jutta Hipp, Horace Silver, Gil Mellé, Kenny Drew, and others, on albums that bore the common title New Faces, New Sounds.

So this session of Exfiltration Radio digs into our current crop of new faces and new sounds, with a setlist that is heavy on the current crop of London jazz geniuses (Theon Cross, Nubya Garcia, Sarah Tandy), a few new faces from around the edges of Bandcamp (Joe Fiedler’s nutso take on Sesame Street, Chip Wickham’s meditative cuts from Qatar, the absolutely intense Damon Locks, the Lewis Express), the intense hard bop of Connie Han, the stretch music of Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah—and a few old souls, including the drum-led trio of Jerry Granelli playing the music of his colleague Mose Allison, and the Afrofuturist spiritual excursions of Idris Ackamoor & the Pyramids.

Do not attempt to adjust your set!

  1. X. Adjuah [I Own the Night]Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah (Axiom)
  2. For the O.G.Connie Han (Iron Starlet)
  3. The Colors That You BringDamon Locks – Black Monument Ensemble (Where Future Unfolds)
  4. ActivateTheon Cross (Fyah)
  5. Tico TicoThe Lewis Express (Clap Your Hands)
  6. People In Your NeighborhoodJoe Fiedler (Open Sesame)
  7. Baby Please Don’t GoThe Jerry Granelli Trio (The Jerry Granelli Trio Plays Vince Guaraldi and Mose Allison)
  8. TimelordSarah Tandy (Infection In The Sentence)
  9. Dogon MysteriesIdris Ackamoor & The Pyramids (Shaman!)
  10. La cumbia me está llamando (featuring La Perla)Nubya Garcia (SOURCE)
  11. Blue to RedChip Wickham (Blue to Red)

Exfiltration Radio: your transfer, your hand, your answer

There have been such a lot of mixes this year! It’s almost as if we’ve doubled down on music making to compensate for the otherwise almost complete lack of normalcy.

This time I revisited an old mix in progress that had been kicking around my iTunes—er, Apple Music—library for at least seven or eight years. Originally titled “Unrepentant Throwbacks,” this one went after a certain strain of college rock that emphasized guitars, odd lyrics, borderline competent vocals, and weird band names. You know, like R.E.M..

Only there were probably hundreds of bands that mined the same lode that they did, who never looked beyond their original sound and never got the major league deal. I asked some friends on Facebook and got over 100 great suggestions, which I couldn’t fit into this sixty-minute slot. I’ll post the full list later; it was awesome.

Anyway, hope you enjoy this sixty minute blast of nostalgia, which for some of you will take you back to before you were born. And see you again, sooner than you think.

  1. Fun & GamesThe Connells (Fun & Games)
  2. Do It CleanEcho & The Bunnymen (Songs To Learn & Sing)
  3. I Want You BackHoodoo Gurus (Stoneage Romeo)
  4. Watusi RodeoGuadalcanal Diary (Walking In The Shadow Of The Big Man)
  5. Talking In My SleepThe Rain Parade (Emergency Third Rail Power Trip: Explosions In The Glass Palace)
  6. With Cantaloupe GirlfriendThree O’Clock (Sixteen Tambourines/Baroque Hoedown)
  7. Kiss Me On The BusThe Replacements (Tim [Expanded Edition])
  8. I Held Her In My ArmsViolent Femmes (Add It Up (1981-1993))
  9. Voice Of HaroldR.E.M. (Dead Letter Office)
  10. Writing the Book of Last PagesLet’s Active (Big Plans for Everybody)
  11. Think Too HardThe dB’s (The Sound of Music)
  12. SparkThe Church (Starfish)
  13. My Favorite DressThe Wedding Present (George Best Plus)
  14. Muscoviet Musquito – Clan of XymoxClan of Xymox (Lonely Is an Eyesore)
  15. Tripped Over My BootStorm Orphans (Promise No Parade)
  16. Baby JaneWaxing Poetics (Manakin Moon)
  17. UntitledR.E.M. (Green)
  18. Embodiment Of EvilMeat Puppets (Up On The Sun)

Toolkit links – zsh

I’ve been teaching myself Python this summer, to support some of the things I need to do for my product. And while much of my learning experience conformed to the stereotypes about developers (cough Google cough StackOverflow), there have still been a few useful things I’ve learned along the way that were worth linking and writing down.

Maybe the most useful things I learned were at the humble shell. Here’s a few things I picked up and how I applied them:

Updating the path in MacOS Catalina – after installing a newer Python version, I couldn’t figure out why pip and other commands weren’t working. Path update to the rescue! Adding the directory where the Python install places the unversioned symlinks did the trick.

Searching command history in zsh – I have no idea how I lived this long without knowing this was possible. I was searching backwards to find this syntax…

Recursively zipping only certain files in a directory – Let’s say you have a code scanner in the cloud and you want to feed it all the code, but none of the git history, media and other fun stuff in the directory. This command to the rescue! And ultimate that led me to…

zsh functions – shell aliases on steroids! These little command shortcuts are tasty and addictive. Here was my zip function:


vczip () {
        zip -R $1.zip '*.py' '*.html' '*.js' 'requirements.txt' '*.json' '*.lock' '*.ts'
}

And then calling it is just as simple as typing vczip zipfilename in the appropriate directory.

Hardly rocket science, but definitely productivity enhancing.

Exfiltration Radio: À Paris en France comme dans la Rome antique

Guru and trumpeter Brownman

I had to do a presentation at work, and someone asked me the question I’ve been waiting for all my life: “What’s your walk-on music?”

I answered, immediately, without hesitation: “Rebirth of Slick (Cool Like Dat)” by Digable Planets.

See, the jazz-inflected hip-hop that was being made in the early 1990s, when I was in college, was the first hip-hop that I learned to appreciate. Before then I was as casually racist about “rap music” as any kid raised on classic rock radio in the South. But then began my great awakening. I don’t remember what the first thing was; probably Gangstarr’s “Jazz Thing” on the Mo Better Blues soundtrack. Eventually it completely got under my skin, with the result that this was a playlist that was a complete joy to put together.

Sure, a lot of it is the Native Tongues groups — Jungle Brothers, De La Soul, Tribe Called Quest. There’s also a lot of groups influenced by the scene, like Us3 (the Blue Note hosted group that actually played their samples), the Roots (of course), the crazy MF Doom + Madlib collaboration Madvillain; and latter day follower Kero One. And off to the side stands Gangstarr and Guru, who arrived at the combination of jazz and hip-hop through their own path.

There’s also a lot of actual jazz in these tracks, whether sampled (Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers on “Rebirth of Slick”, Lou Donaldson on “Le Bien, Le Mal”, Roy Ayers on “Borough Check”, Grant Green on “Vibes and Stuff,” Bill Evans on “Raid”, Jimmy McGriff on “God Lives Through”) or live: Ron Carter playing along with MC Solaar on “Un Ange en Danger” and Roy Ayers (again!) playing with the Roots on “Proceed II.” Both of the latter are on the fantastic compilation Red Hot and Cool, which I can’t recommend highly enough, especially for the tracks from the Pharcyde and the Last Poets, neither of which I can play on the radio.

Wherever the music comes from, that funky music will drive us til the dawn. Let’s go! Let’s boogaloo until…

Please do not attempt to adjust your set. There is nothing wrong. We have taken control as to bring you this special show, and we will return it to you as soon as you are groovy.

  1. Rebirth of Slick (Cool Like Dat)Digable Planets (Reachin’ (A New Refutation of Time & Space))
  2. Proceed IIThe Roots with Roy Ayers (Stolen Moments: Red Hot + Cool)
  3. Manifest (Alternate)Gang Starr (No More Mr. Nice Guy)
  4. Because I Got It Like ThatJungle Brothers (Straight Out the Jungle)
  5. I Got It Goin’ OnUs3 (Hand On The Torch)
  6. Plug Tunin (Last Chance To Comprehend)De La Soul (3 Feet High And Rising)
  7. Kool Accordin’ 2 a Jungle BrotherJungle Brothers (Done By the Forces of Nature)
  8. Vibes And StuffA Tribe Called Quest (The Low End Theory)
  9. Borough CheckDigable Planets (Blowout Comb)
  10. Un Ange En DangerMC Solaar with Ron Carter (Stolen Moments: Red Hot + Cool)
  11. Raid (Feat. MED)Madvillain (Madvillainy)
  12. Give Thanks (feat. Niamaj)Kero One (Windmills of the Soul)
  13. God Lives ThroughA Tribe Called Quest (Midnight Marauders)
  14. Le Bien, Le MalGuru Featuring Mc Solaar (Jazzmatazz Volume 1)

Exfiltration Radio: jazz in inner space

It’s that time again… time for the Godfather to grace you with an hour of weird music. Today’s playlist comes from the cusp of jazz’s transition into fusion and dives into the music that came around In a Silent Way, still one of the most revolutionary recordings in jazz.

In this 1969 record, Miles had reached the end of standards, the end of modal changes, the end of the post-bop revolution he had led with his second great quintet. He was listening to other innovators, working beyond jazz, especially Jimi Hendrix. And most importantly, he was continuing to surround himself with musicians who innovated, listen to them, and push them to take their performances beyond where they could on their own. (He also sometimes claimed authorship of those songs, but that’s a different story.)

The sound at the back of this new direction in jazz was the electric piano (usually a Fender Rhodes) fed into the echoplex and joined by musicians who were playing, as Miles said on the back cover of Zawinul, “cliché-free,” not relying on changes or modes but on rhythm and vamping and atmosphere and sometimes incredibly gorgeous scraps of melody that come and go in the middle of the track like smoke.

One of the things that’s hard to appreciate just by looking at the track titles is how much of this music was made by the same handful of musicians. Let’s take a look:

Herbie Hancock (electric and acoustic piano) plays on “Doctor Honoris Causa” (which Zawinul dedicated to him for his honorary doctorate from Grinnell), “Mountain in the Clouds,” “Opus One Point Five,” “Filles de Kilimajaro,” his own “You’ll Know When You Get There,” and “In a Silent Way.” Miroslav Vitouš (bass) is on “Causa,” “Mountain,” “Orange Lady,” and “Water Babies.” John McLaughlin (electric guitar) is on “Mountain” and “In a Silent Way.”

Billy Hart is on “Causa” (percussion) and “You’ll Know” (drums). Joe Henderson (tenor sax) is on “Mountain” and his own “Opus One Point Five.” Jack DeJohnette (drums) is on “Mountain,” “Opus One Point Five,” and “Water Babies.” Chick Corea plays electric piano on “In a Silent Way” and drums and vibes on “Water Babies.”

The great Wayne Shorter (tenor sax) is on “Orange Lady,” “Filles De Kilimanjaro,” his own “Water Babies,” and “In a Silent Way.” Airto Moreira plays percussion on “Orange Lady” and “Water Babies.” Ron Carter is on “Opus One Point Five” and “Filles.” Tony Williams plays drums on “Filles” and “In a Silent Way.” And Joe Zawinul plays on “Causa,” “Orange Lady,” and his composition “In a Silent Way.”

It’s not surprising that some of the tracks seem to blend seamlessly into each other. It’s more surprising how distinctive the musical identity of each track is. Definitely worth an hour, and then many more checking out the albums these came from.

Do not adjust your set; there is nothing wrong.

  1. Doctor Honoris CausaJoe Zawinul (Zawinul)
  2. Mountain In the CloudsMiroslav Vitous (Infinite Search)
  3. Orange LadyWeather Report (Weather Report)
  4. Opus One Point FiveJoe Henderson (Power To The People [Keepnews Collection] [ Remastered ])
  5. Filles De Kilimanjaro (Girls Of Kilimanjaro)Miles Davis (Filles De Kilimanjaro)
  6. Water BabiesWayne Shorter (Super Nova)
  7. You’ll Know When You Get ThereHerbie Hancock (Warner Archives)
  8. In A Silent WayMiles Davis (The Complete In A Silent Way Sessions)

Finding faces from 84 years ago

“Glee Club,” 1930s, Special Collections, University of Virginia Library

My latest exercise in madness has been an effort to index all the images on the Virginia Glee Club History Wiki. In doing so, I took the opportunity to link images to their sources where I could and to find some more context, including trying to identify individuals in photos. Which brings me to the photo above.

There might be no more momentous photo from the early years of the Glee Club. It’s one of the better photos of legendary Club conductor Harry Rogers Pratt (conductor from 1933 to 1943), a showman who took the group to New York City, got them their first radio gigs, and instituted the Concert on the Lawn, among other achievements. And just over his left shoulder, eyes closed, is one of the more famous Glee Club alums, at least to UVA graduates, Ernest Mead. The two professors together had about 80 years of teaching UVA students between them.

But who were the other students with them? I decided to find out. Thankfully Corks and Curls came to the rescue.

The man on the left is the easiest guess. Since Mead was only in the Glee Club in 1936-1937, that narrowed the field, and my first guess proved correct. Say hello to Mac—or McDonald Wellford, president during that year. The only reason I was able to make the identification was thanks to a fraternity brother, Mr. Bosher, who donated photographs to the UVA online exhibit “100 Years on the Lawn” (sadly, the exhibit is no longer available and was not archived. Boo!) Wellford, like many a Glee Club alum, went on to practice law, and was the commissioner of accounts for the chancery court and the circuit court of the City of Richmond from 1963 to 1994.

After that it gets a little squirrelly, but thanks to Corks and Curls I was finally able to identify the other two men. Next to Mac stands Chester Harris Robbins, of Worcester, Massachusetts, who sang in the Glee Club from 1933 to 1937.

And at the end is the distinctive visage of Kenneth Seaman Giniger, who had the most colorful career of any of the alums. While a student, he instituted the Jefferson Society’s Woodrow Wilson Memorial Banquet, with guests including five US senators, the University’s president, a Supreme Court justice, and the governor of Virginia, to say nothing of Mrs. Woodrow Wilson (Edith Bolling Wilson), who was elected as an honorary member of the Society by the end of the evening, the first woman to be so honored. After serving in World War II, Giniger became the assistant to the director of the newly formed Central Intelligence Agency in 1951-1952. And then he went into publishing, forming the K.S. Giniger Company and writing inspirational books. He might be the only person to receive both the French Legion of Honor and the Norman Vincent Peale Award for Positive Thinking.

So, quite a gathering in one unassuming photo!

Saving Jefferson

Statue of Thomas Jefferson, University of Virginia Rotunda. Photo © Tim Jarrett 2017.

A quick one today. I’ve been up to my eyeballs in various kinds of work, but this was too cool not to write about.

The Glee Club has thousands of known alumni and all of them have some sort of story to their lives. One who I didn’t know much about was Dr. Lawrence Thomas Royster (1874-1953), who was a member in 1893-1894 and 1896-1897. A physician, he taught pediatrics at the University of Virginia Medical School. And he saved Thomas Jefferson… or at least his statue.

While Royster was a student, in October 1895, the annex to Jefferson’s Rotunda, his library and centerpiece for the Academical Village, caught fire and burned. Efforts were made to keep the fire from spreading to the main Rotunda with little success, and the building burned completely, leaving just the brick shell behind. But while the fire progressed, students rescued what they could from the building, including books from the library and, notably, the enormous marble statue of Jefferson that had been given to the University by Alexander Galt in 1861.

Historian Philip Alexander Bruce writes of the rescue:

A few minutes before the explosion occurred, the fine marble figure of Jefferson by Galt had been lowered by ropes to the level of a table hastily pushed forward to catch it. So great was its weight that this support at once gave way under it; but luckily the fall to the floor did not damage the statue. Turned over on its face, it was rapidly dragged to the door opening on the front stairway, and just as there began the attempt to pull it through this narrow exit, the explosion shook the whole building. “The statue,” says Morgan P. Robinson, in his vivid description of the scene, “was gotten out on the staircase, and step by step, it was carried down the western stairs feet foremost. As the base of the statue was eased over each step, it would gather momentum, and gaining speed, would tear off the top edge of the next step, while, under the combined weight of the statue and twenty to thirty of the students, the whole staircase would tremble. It is conservatively estimated that it took from ten to fifteen minutes only to remove the statue from the library to the Lawn.”

Bruce, History of the University of Virginia, Vol. IV, p. 260, 1922.

The story is well known to me, but until today, I didn’t know that a Glee Club member was among the students who rescued the statue. Then, while checking my sources on Royster’s photo, I found the entry for the photo at the UVA Library and read the following:

A native of Norfolk, Virginia, where he was born in 1874, Dr. Royster received his prepatory education at Norfolk Academy and entered the University in 1892. In the memorable fire of 1895 he was one of the group of students who entered the burning Rotunda and lifted the Galt statue of Jefferson from its pedestal, drew it through the room on a mattress, safely eased it down the curving stair, and deposited it on the Lawn. The only damage to the statue was a slight chipping of the edge of the drapery. 

Bulletin of the UVa Medical School and Hospital, Fall 1942.

So, Royster was one of those responsible for saving the statue of Jefferson. And it’s interesting to note that, in this age of iconoclasm, the statue was not one of the post-Reconstruction Civil War statues. Instead, Alexander Galt, Jr., a native Virginian who took up sculpture after being inspired by the work of Houdon and studied in Florence, was commissioned to create the statue for $10,000, completing it in 1861. (Galt died in 1863 of smallpox while serving as aide to Virginia’s Confederate governor John Letcher.)