Whiplash: A Jazz fan’s Insight

Damien Chazelle‘s 2014 film Whiplash is an exciting and confronting exploration of obsession, intimidation and excellence. Centered on the relationship between student Jazz drummer Andrew Neiman (Miles Teller) and abusive band leader Terence Fletcher (J. K. Simmons), the film portrays the lengths an artist will go to prove their excellence.

From a Jazz fan’s point of view, I found the film extremely exciting as it was opening up the world of Jazz to a larger audience. I hadn’t actually heard Hank Levy’s “Whiplash” piece before, but it’s the perfect track for this film. The track is actually found on Don Ellis‘s 1973 album Soaring.

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The sound of this track does have flurries of late 60’s Jazz moods, but it’s opening and rise are what make it special. I’d wager this played a big role in why Chazelle used it as such an important element of his film. I also enjoy the sense of tension the track has (which is evident is most of the music pieces used throughout the film).

There’s plenty of discussion of Traditional Jazz and Bebop era Jazz musicians in the film. The infamous Jo Jones/Charlie Parker story is recountered multiple times (however in truth, Jones threw the cymbal at Parker’s feet, not at his head). Louis Armstrong and Buddy Rich are also mentioned at various times.

One of the big takeaways this film gave me, was a whole new appreciation of Jazz drumming. Since seeing the film, I’ve been consuming work by Rich, Jones and just about any other Jazz drummer I could. I’ve always been more interested in the horns/brass section of Jazz, and I’m glad I’ve been able to learn a little more.

If you’ve seen the film, I don’t need to sing it’s praises. The editing, cinematography and performances are incredible. As a friend said to me recently, the film is just so “tight”. It does what it needs to do quickly and does it well. The central theme of the film is what gets me. Andrew and Fletcher have a toxic and abusive relationship that eventually leads to them…making incredible art.

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This was what threw me about this film. Fletcher is the antagonist, the badguy and he’s played so well we hate  him. But at the end, his method works. Now, we don’t know what becomes of Andrew after the film (nothing good, according to Chazelle). But in that moment they create something pure, tremendous and near-perfect. Which is the closest any artist is going to get.

As we live in an age where the message needs to be continually uplifting, positive and self gratifying, I loved that Whiplash was telling me that sometimes awful people create beautiful art – even as they harm people to do it.

From a Jazz fan’s perspective, I can only hope this inspired people who don’t normally listen to Jazz to give it a try. Or hell, even pick up a pair of drum sticks. Whilst the film explores the pursuit of excellence, it presents music in a unique, interesting and best of all –interesting way.

Wade K. Savage

Editor, Vitola

For more from Vitola be sure to Like us on Facebook! https://www.facebook.com/VitolaMagazine/ 

 

 

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What makes smoking a Cigar so special?

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Smoking a cigar is a very special thing.

It’s stimulating, relaxing and invigorating. There’s more going on than the rush of chemicals that hit your brain when you smoke a fantastic cigar – there’s a performance involved.

That sense of ritual is evident from the moment you choose the cigar you want to smoke and the kind of drink you want to pair it with. Are you going to combine a maduro leaf cigar with a dark spirit? A rum or a bourbon? Or maybe a hoppy beer? Have you just had desert? Or have you just had breakfast? Your palate plays a huge role as well.

Once you’ve made those decisions, you can finally settle in and start the process. For me, music is integral. If I’m not working and smoking, I will schedule in a real session – 2 to 3 hours of drinking, smoking and listening to music. My music of choice is always Jazz. Especially traditional Jazz. I’ve even made sure to create a cigar smoking mix on YouTube.

Now that the tunes are selected, I’ll cut the cigar, light it up and start to relax. Where possible, this will be a no Social Media zone. I want to settle in with the cigar, the music and the drink. I don’t want my phone buzzing, or to be continually checking Reddit. This is all about the experience of enjoying an amazing cigar.

But I still haven’t answered my question: what makes this process so special?

I think it has a lot to do with how special cigar smoking is. There’s nothing like it. It’s such an old tradition, that’s pure in it’s simplicity.  As Michael Douglas said: “Cigar smoking by it’s very nature is much more reflective than interactive.”

And he’s right.

Cigar smoking creates this wonderful sense of calm and reflection in me. Whatever stresses and problems I may have, I watch them whirl away in think charming smoke. All I want to think about is the quality of the cigar I’m smoking, the taste of the drink I’m paring it with and the notes that Frank Sinatra is hitting. That’s all.

I can burn 2 or three hours like this easily. There’s something so pure in this, something so clean about the whole process. Again, that sense of ritual is throughout. There’s nothing to chase, or achieve, except for that next great cigar.

So, do you have a cigar smoking ritual? How do you go about your Cigar smoking sessions?

 

Thousands of Cigars stolen in Florida

About a week ago, Cigar Aficionado reported about thousands of Arturo Fuente cigars being stolen in Florida. The report states that a truck was stolen – on the back of the truck? A whole sea container of cigars. The theft is so bad, that’s going to effect market supply for Arturo Fuente for the entire year.

From their piece:

In an official letter, company president and owner Carlos “Carlito” Fuente Jr., stated:

“I was stunned—this has never happened to us in over a century of business. Unfortunately, we can’t replace the hundreds of thousands of cigars that were stolen, and this loss will cause more shortages of Fuente cigars this year. We will allocate our cigars in a fair manner…We have been expanding our factory in the Dominican Republic for the last two years and we hope to increase production in the future.”

For more on this story as it develops, be sure to read the full piece here:

http://www.cigaraficionado.com/webfeatures/show/id/thousands-of-fuente-cigars-stolen-19331

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Interview: Joshua Metcalfe-Parsons from Devlin’s Cigar Divan

297033_281943141839031_698369885_nI was able to finally get a chance to interview the manager of Devlin’s Cigar Divan: Joshua Metcalfe-Parsons. For those of you who don’t know, Devlin’s  is one of the most revered luxury cigar stores in the country, and a powerhouse here in Western Australia.

I’ve been buying cigars from Devlin’s for well over a decade, so I thought it was due time we had a inside look into one of the country’s premier cigar sellers.

Vitola: What are some of the challenges of having a brick and mortar cigar store in this day and age? (And especially in Australia).

Being a B’n’M has both its challenges and its benefits and the two often go hand in hand.
For example, having a physical location means that people can come in to our store and talk with us about cigars, which is great.

Cigars are confusing; there’s so many of them available, they’re all so different. Hell, week to week even the same cigar can be different depending on the year, the colour, the oil content etc. So, it’s great that a person who doesn’t know about cigars can come in and we can help them out.

But that has its challenges as well because it’s then up to us to make sure they can do that – we spend a LOT of time on every new team member we hire. In fact, they’ll spend 2 full weeks in training before they’re able to be on the floor talking to customers at all.

Vitola: How do you see the relationship between the US, Australia and Cuba changing Cigar pricing?

Honestly I don’t think it’s going to have nearly the impact on the market that people seem to think it will, especially not price. Cuban cigars aren’t a product prone to dramatic price increases due to availability. They just stop being available.

As a bigger picture answer I don’t think it’s going to impact the market at all. The thing that effects cigars is availability of quality tobacco and how that relates to demand: Cuba is currently saying they intend to capture 25% – 30% of the American cigar market (http://www.cigaraficionado.com/webfeatures/show/id/Habanos-SA-Predicts-Big-US-Sales-Shows-2015-Cigars-18012) which would be a 15% increase in production. But those numbers don’t account for the cigars already being smoked by Americans.

In contrast to something like a devastating hurricane or bad harvest year (like 2014) I don’t see that increase in production having a negative impact on Cuban cigars.

Certainly lots of positive benefits though!

Vitola: What’s your favourite Cigar?

There’s a few I would consider “go to” cigars. I’m a big fan of the Sencillo Black series out of Nicaragua, particularly the Short Churchill. And I was incredibly surprised by the My Father Connecticut cigars. I could smoke those every day and be a happy man.
In terms of Cuban cigars I’d say pretty much anything by H. Upmann. It was the Magnum 50 that was the first cigar I really enjoyed so I have a soft spot for that brand.

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Vitola: What do you like to drink with your Cigars?

I love experimenting with drink pairings. Scotch and cigars, wine and cigars. Everyone knows those. What about stout with a cigar? A really oaky white wine? Some of the things you think are least suited offer some of the best pairings.

My favourite weird pairing: Coke with a really dark Maduro cigar. The sweet, caramel flavours are excellent together.

Vitola: What’s it like Managing Devlin’s?

It’s rewarding I think is the best word, both internally and externally. It gives me a chance to engage with people every day I wouldn’t normally get to, and make real connections with them through cigars. And it’s great that I’m able to talk directly with the man whose name is on the door. We’re always looking to try new things and I get to see those things become reality (Keep an eye out for Pipes 101 this year!)

Vitola: What does Devlin’s pride itself on?

We really try and take customer service to the next level. Most people don’t come in and just grab a cigar off the shelf and buy it, we engage with them and help them make a proper decision. This usually means spending a decent time with each person finding out what the situation is, who’s going to be smoking the cigars, when they’ll be smoking them etc.

It’d be really easy for a person to buy the wrong cigar and so I take a lot of pride in someone leaving the store and me knowing they’ve left with the right cigar.

Vitola: Do you listen to Jazz? Any favourite artists?

Jazz isn’t something I’ve had a chance to really get in to. I enjoy it when I listen to it but I couldn’t tell you what artists I prefer.

So, if you’re in the neighbourhood and need a stogie you know where to go. You can also buy all kinda of great cigar related stuff at Devlin’s Official Wesbite: https://devlinsonline.com.au/

 

 

 

How to Cut and Light a Cigar (Video)

We just released our first little video on our Official YouTube page.

In the video, I show you how to cut, treat and light a cigar. It was great fun to make this little video. I put it together in about an hour, and you can see it’s pretty rough.

However, as you watch the video – here’s a brief breakdown:

  1.  I initially show off the tail of the cigar, before prepping and starting the cut. This is to highlight how much of the tip of the cigar I remove.
  2. I try to be as exact and slow as possible. Take your time cutting a cigar! It’s an art unto itself.
  3. I use a weird little trick when I smoke cigars. I use a tiny bit of water to clean off or tamper down any tiny flakes of tobacco. I hate getting bits of tobacco in my mouth. Give it a try!
  4. I give the head of the cigar a really big even burn as I light it. I turn the cigar ever so slowly as I light it. I want it to be nice and hot and very even charred.
  5. And voila! Your cigar is now ready to enjoy. It’s pretty easy once you’ve had some experience doing it.

What are some Cigar lighting tips you’d like to share? Be sure to hit me up below.

Come say hi to me on Twitter @WadeKSavage and Instagram Wade.K.Savage 

 

Cigars for Dessert?

A recent article on Cigar Aficionado reminded me of the sometimes bizarre trend of creating desserts that look like cigars. It’s a really funny thing to see something that looks so much like a cigar – but is in fact, a sweet chocolatey dessert, rather than a tobacco flavoured smoke.

I actually got a chance to try this years ago at a restaurant called Print Hall. It was tea-smoked chocolate ganache rolled in brik pastry, served with a whisky laced chiboust cream topped with caramel jelly. I remember really enjoying it, and as a longtime cigar smoker thinking it was entirely bizarre.

I kept imagining that I was biting into rolls of tobacco leaves, when all I could taste was chocolate. I really liked the chiboust cream, too. After being reminded of this, I spent a little time looking at other Cigar desserts online. I have a pretty big sweet tooth, and we all know that cigars and dessert work well together.

One of the best I found was the Chocolate Cigar with Vanilla-Armagnac Ice Cream by Chef Christopher Gross. I think the presentation is brilliant, and unlike most other dessert cigars – this doesn’t remind me that I’m eating a cigar per se. For the record, I don’t like seeing the cigar’s ash being recreated – that just seems a tad gross to me.

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Another dessert cigar I really liked the look of, was the Chocolate Cigar at the Bull and Bear Steakhouse at Disney World, of all places. They serve their chocolate cigar with a meringue powder to create the illusion of ash (note, it’s not grey!). Like the dessert from above, it’s also served in an ashtray, but still looks like a dessert first and foremost.

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And finally, I wanted to highlight Joan Roca’s Cigar Smoke Icecream recipe. I’ve never tried “smoked” ice cream, but I would love to give it a go. This looks like a pretty complex recipe at times – so if you give it a try, be sure to come back to us with your thoughts.

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Is there a great place that you know that does dessert cigars? Or perhaps a really fantastic cigar and dessert combo we should know? Be sure to leave a comment or reach out to me on Twitter if you get the chance. And if you’re the kind of chef that likes to make desserts that look like cigars – please leave out the grey ash detail!

Wade K. Savage 🎬

Come say hi to me on Twitter @WadeKSavage and Instagram Wade.K.Savage