Oh!, the recent album by Janet Klein and Her Parlor Boys is a real different and unique effort in these days or like Janet puts it “like music from a lost planet“.
In her jazz-not-jazz interview Janet Klein talks about her love for the vintage stuff, how she became a keeper of said music from the lost planet, what she likes about modern technology and a lot more. So enjoy your visit to Janet’s parlor.
Q: Please tell me something about yourself. How did you become so fascinated by the early 1900s?
Janet Klein: I was an artistic type kid growing up in San Bernardino, California, a rather dreary town, although if you look at photos of it from old postcards from the 1910s, it was at one time, a beautiful place…lots of orange groves and a Carnegie Library building with an onion dome, an idyllic valley setting. The only places I found beautiful were those spots that were old or left alone and in tune with nature, like the old ranch down the street called the “Bachelors Back Achers” or the old Mission Inn, built in the early 1900s in nearby Riverside. An old stone cottage stood in the wash near our house, that was used as a shooting range…it was a mysterious old structure. Pointing down to the wash was a natural arrowhead shape imbedded in the hill above. Indians looked to this signpost to find a natural hotspring below. The hotspring, for as long as I can remember was a closed off Christian enclave. It had once been the fancy Arrowhead Springs CountryClub in the 1920s. Most of the modern buildings around town looked like trash. It’s that basic sense of discontent and a search for places or things that made me happy or intrigued. I was fairly disconnected and discontented with contemporary culture and retreated to my dad’s painting studio where he had a great record collection and a nice bohemian atmosphere. I was more comfortable around my parents, grandparents and great aunts than with other kids my own age. They told me great stories about New York in the 1930s-50s and about their experiences in the “Old Country”, i.e. Poland. When I visited them I loved to see objects in their homes, clothes in the back of the closets, photographs etc. I became quite a sentimentalist…I love objects and places infused with the presence of a person or a history.
As far as female role models, I had wonderful women around me, strong, lovely, interesting, smart, talented…I didn’t care for the tough-talking, “athletic” unfeminine angle of the “women’s liberation” movement I saw around me in the 1970s. The grown women I knew didn’t seem to be oppressed, in fact, they were ruling their respective roosts. “Bra-burning” wasn’t as interesting to me as going through the lingerie drawers of my lady relatives. I think I am attracted to finding evidence to show that women have always accomplished impressive things and have had no shortage of intelligence, attitude and feminine power, without trying to be “like” men. Which has led me to paw through alot of old books, photographs, printed matter,etc. When I see photos of women from the 1910s,20s 30s…I relate, I see people like me. I look at books and magazines today and I feel like an alien.
Q: You’ve just been on a tour in Japan. What was the experience like to perform in a country with a totally different culture and what do you like about the Japanese audience?
Janet Klein: We love it. This was our third tour in Japan and we have felt very welcomed and comfortable. To our surprise we’ve met and played with talented Japanese groups playing, American string band, jug band, klezmir, 20s hot Hawaiian music there. The clubs are beautiful and well-equipped and our fans have been gracious and enthusiastic. Sometimes girls wear their grandmothers’ kimonos to show me the old fabrics, and bring old photos. I have learned several obscure westernized jazzy Japanese songs from the 30s and recently a well known boogie woogie type tune from 1947, that translates as “The Ginza Can Can Girl”.
I admire Japanese culture very much. They are so careful with their land. It is a very aesthetic place. There seems to be a real preservation of regional specialty and the appreciation of nature is apparent in so many ways. I wish their sensibilities of modesty and politeness and their aesthetics of “small scale refinement” would make their way over to the USA. We could use a good strong dose of that kind of influence.