Afterbeat #16 - Judy Chaiken and "The Girls In The Band"
Wednesday, June 26, 2013 at 02:56PM
Rick Fleishman


Here, finally, is my talk with producer/writer/director Judy Chaiken. Primarily, we talked about her doc "The Girls In The Band" which covers the role of female musicians in big and small bands and their struggles with sexism, racism, and just plain bad behavior. What these "girls" had to endure just to find a place to play and a gig makes for a gripping story,mostly serious, sometimes tragic and sometimes hilarious. Judy struggled also to get this film out and her story provides a look into the sausage-making involved in conceiving and launching a documentary. It ain't always pretty and there is a lot of hard work and disappointment before the happy ending. As I write this, the film is now showing in Los Angeles and, I think New York City as well.

A personal word here: This episode was recorded in September of 2012. I never intended for it to be delayed, but events interceded. Among them, my production computer became totally unreliable, then began a six-month odyssey of "we've fixed-it-no-we-haven't" dealing with various repairs until Apple interceded and gave me a new machine (no; we never found out what was wrong with the first one. No; you can't buy it from me. Apple took it back.) During this time it was impossible to get any real recording work done, so I didn't post any shows at all from late September to, well, this week actually. I did get a MacBook Pro in December so that I could get some work done; I recorded the Bob Summers show on that and was finally able to start working again in my studio but the impetus to do the podcast kinda fled for a while. I didn't have a full-sized production machine until early Spring.

Also, there were other setbacks: my wife broke her kneecap last summer, about a week before the Judy Chaiken show was recorded. This required surgery and a long recovery (as well as a second surgery recently to remove stuff left in her knee to help it heal, and another unrelated surgery for a minor hand issue.) On the same day as Judy's show was recorded, my mother-in-law died after years of physical problems and Alzheimer's disease. At 94, she had outlived much of her family and practically all of her friends. She had also outlived her time in many ways and was thoroughly old school in her habits and beliefs. She stayed home and raised her five kids and made a home for them and her husband and their large extended family. She loved her family above all and if she seemed bewildered and confused at the world as it was, she countered this by keeping her home and her self consistent through the years: Sunday was for pasta; women did not travel long distances; grandchildren were loved but regarded with wariness; the living room was never - never - to be actually lived in. She liked my way with pasta gravy and with a roast chicken, and she liked that I was a musician. Given a choice, she would have filled her life with music. She sung in her church choir for fifty years. Her husband played the flute and violin and mandolin with devotion if not always with perfect pitch or time, and the two of them taught their children to treasure music. I loved that she had given birth to the woman that I love. While you couldn't describe our relationship as "warm," we figured each other out as best we could. As often happens, there was a long decline as she reached her nineties. Her remaining family was not speaking with one voice regarding her care, and it has been, and continues to be a complicated subject for all involved.

Sadly, and unexpectedly, Judy Chaiken's husband, trumpeter and contractor Jules Chaiken also passed away in this time. He was an important and well-loved figure on the L.A. music scene. He had a lot of good work, as we say, and he inspired love and loyalty from eveyone who knew him. As someone who has done a fair amount of contracting, I know the pressures that come with this chair. Jules was always a gentleman, always treated musicians with respect and love and stood up for his players when necessary. He will be missed. With every loss of a man like Jules, a little much-needed decency goes out of the music business.

I take some time at the beginning of the show for a little essay on this. Bear with me for a few minutes; Judy is well worth the wait. She's a fascinating, smart, funny and determined woman and she tells a great story. The sixteenth episode of the Afterbeat is in memoriam to Marietta Bocchicchio and Jules Chaiken.



Afterbeat #16

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