Jazz on the Web: The Cab Calloway legacy 

So you thought that "hi-de-ho" was merely an expression associated with the zoot-suit set, did you? Or that jive isn't properly associated with jazz? Or that the great showman, Cab Calloway, took his saucy brand of entertainment with him when he left this life?

Wrong on all counts.

Cab Calloway's legacy of hip humor and joyous abandon lives and breathes in the person of his grandson, C. Calloway Brooks, who directs the Cab Calloway Orchestra and has some strong arguments that will explain precisely and plausibly why Cab Calloway belongs in the pantheon of jazz greats, and why reverence for improvisation as a defining characteristic of jazz is a wrongheaded notion..

And at the orchestra's official home page -- to be found at www.cabcalloway.cc -- admirers of the swing era can satisfy their appetites for the days when people got dressed up, headed out for a night at the club and let the music take their bodies as they danced the night away without any of the ponderous intellectualizing that interferes with the appreciation of the art.

But there is a lot more here, and I think it helps demonstrate another view of jazz, a view that the music is not a lab specimen to be dissected. Rather, it is something to love and appreciate and cherish, as art, in the mysterious way that one person loves and appreciates and cherishes another. The music, its performers and its consumers form a tight community, with the musicians serving the crucial function of opening the door to the wonder that takes over when the orchestra is cooking and the audience gives some back. After that, it's magic time, and anything can happen.

On this web site, one may find a plethora of broader applications of this notion. The very music that always picks me up, carries me along, and puts me back down with love, is sustaining a lot of good works, and C.C. Brooks is the guiding hand. The list of benefit performances alone is awe-inspiring and there are many, many other entertaining and informative nooks to explore.

You want a capsule history of this great music? You got it. How about a list of familiar names who have passed through the Calloway Orchestra's ranks and enriched our music? It's here, too. Information on historic recordings? No problem. Photos? Got 'em. Lyrics, films, even a jive lexicon can be found here, along with lists of worthy causes to keep the spirit of the Harlem Renaissance, so crucial to the development of our music, alive.

The Cab Calloway Harlem Renaissance Center is a museum, performing arts center and public charter high school that creates an atmosphere to sustain the art that has inspired us all.

On this site, as well, one may join the discussion forum and get in touch with other friends of the marvelous legacy of Cab Calloway.

The mission of the orchestra springs from the inspiration of the art, and this is as it should be. And the enterprise appears to be in good hands with C.C. Brooks at the helm. His credentials are the best in the world -- he grew up watching his grandfather perform, and his knowledge of the music is thorough. Add to the mix that he was fortunate enough to have attended performances by Louis Armstrong and there is no further need for discussions of credibility. Having studied at the New England Conservatory, his firm understanding of why jazz has fallen on hard times over the years was demonstrated to me in a couple of e-mails we exchanged a few weeks ago.

I'm still enjoying this site, even without links for downloading samples of the music. It meets an important need by putting a proper light on the achievements of Cab Calloway and importance of the Harlem Renaissance, not only to American culture, but to cultures around the world that have assimilated the jazz aesthetic.

That is not a small thing, and I salute C. Calloway Brooks for keeping that great engine running.