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  1. #1

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    Inspired by the "Corn" thread, I was picking up a vibe from some that a lot of Swing music is corny. I myself used to think Benny Goodman was as nerdy and as square as they come. But after many years of listening to Charlie Christian, you begin to appreciate how hip a lot of Benny's lines actually are, well, at least I think so...

    What about you guys? Anyone with me? Kinda makes you contemplate what constitutes "hip". If you put a gun to the head of many modern "hip" players, could they play those cool, slippery, supple, language soaked yet still unpredictable lines that make you tap your foot, smile as well as make you go "Wow!"... Hmmm, for ages now we're supposed to think that "modern" means more hip. But for me, I'm not feeling that at all... I mean, sure Chris Potter makes me go Wow, but not the kind of "Fuck Yeah" kind of Wow I get from the top cats from the 40's, 50's and 60's. Heck, even Louis Armstrong to me sounds more "hip" than many if not most, if not all, of the current guys.

    So yeah, back to Benny and the other Sultans of Swing from the bygone era, forget some of the cheesy tunes and the arrangements, try transcribing those solos and you'll come to realise you could never have come up with ways to get from one chord to another like they did. Beautiful, perfectly shaped story telling steeped in the old language tradition (Benny, Lester, Andre Ekyan, Don Byas etc etc ) that makes much of the modern post Coltrane / Shorter pattern or CST based soloing kinda dull in comparison, and, dare I say, kinda unhip ... Well, to me at least anyway... Strange how I've gradually come to this realisation, especially considering I once considered any kind of Jazz from the 70's was way cooler than every decade that preceded it put together!

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  3. #2

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    Quote Originally Posted by princeplanet
    Inspired by the "Corn" thread, I was picking up a vibe from some that a lot of Swing music is corny. I myself used to think Benny Goodman was as nerdy and as square as they come. But after many years of listening to Charlie Christian, you begin to appreciate how hip a lot of Benny's lines actually are, well, at least I think so...

    What about you guys? Anyone with me? Kinda makes you contemplate what constitutes "hip". If you put a gun to the head of many modern "hip" players, could they play those cool, slippery, supple, language soaked yet still unpredictable lines that make you tap your foot, smile as well as make you go "Wow!"... Hmmm, for ages now we're supposed to think that "modern" means more hip. But for me, I'm not feeling that at all... I mean, sure Chris Potter makes me go Wow, but not the kind of "Fuck Yeah" kind of Wow I get from the top cats from the 40's, 50's and 60's. Heck, even Louis Armstrong to me sounds more "hip" than many if not most, if not all, of the current guys.

    So yeah, back to Benny and the other Sultans of Swing from the bygone era, forget some of the cheesy tunes and the arrangements, try transcribing those solos and you'll come to realise you could never have come up with ways to get from one chord to another like they did. Beautiful, perfectly shaped story telling steeped in the old language tradition that makes modern post Coltrane / Shorter pattern based soloing kinda dull in comparison, and, well, kinda unhip ?by comparison. To me at least. Strange how I've gradually come to this realisation, especially considering I once considered any kind of Jazz from the 70's was way cooler than every decade that preceded it put together!
    With age comes wisdom, at least sometimes. The only Benny Goodman stuff I listen to is with Charlie Christian. Love it. But I think I also used to like the trio and quartet stuff, will have to check it out again.

  4. #3

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    Anyone who has as long a career as he did is bound to release some corn. But yeah all the trio and quartet stuff is killer. Though even Charlie thought Benny was a little square, when sitting in at Minton's.

  5. #4

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    When I was a teen I liked hard bop and what we now call doo wop. I thought any music prior to 1954 was impossibly square and unhip. When I discovered jazz guitar I ignored Christian, preferring to listen to his disciples. All the music from the swing era seemed far in the past and remote from my life, but it was only 10-30 years gone.

    Ironic then that I've been in a big band for the last nineteen years, playing Goodman, Miller, Shaw, Kenton and enjoying it immensely. What I find interesting is that people of all ages still seem to find early rock, the Beatles, the Stones, folk-rock and other ancient forms of music fifty or more years old still relevant. My joke about our repertoire in that our "new music" is sixty years old. We typically have sold-out audiences for it.

    Danny W.

  6. #5

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    The small group Benny Goodman stuff is cool. I really like the pianist Teddy Wilson, and the Benny Goodman stuff with Teddy is really good. (Though I might prefer Wilson's own groups and big-bands, haven't listened recently enough)

  7. #6

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    I think Benny and the Orchestra sound fine here with Peggy Lee singing "Why Don't You Do Right."
    Benny was a helluva player.


  8. #7

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    Goodman was, IMO, the best of the clarinetists. His big band swung better than most, because he hired the best musicians available. Not as good as Basie's, but very good. As a player, he could cover everything from classical to modern (for the times).; I never considered his music to be corny. Glen Miller, Guy Lombardo, et al, yes pure corn. But Goodman had a different approach. I grew up listening to that music, and some of my earliest memories are of hearing Goodman sextet and septet recordings on 78rpm records with my parents, and learning the sounds of the instruments as different ones took solos. Miller et al were listenable, but mostly what I liked then, and now, were Goodman and Bob Wills. People think country/western/whatever music is corny, but Wills' musicians could hang with Basie's, and sometimes did, there are many photos even if no recordings. If Goodman was corny, then I like that sort of corn.

  9. #8

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  10. #9

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    bennys small groups were usually far from the corn

    here's a septet with great tenor man wardell gray...(who played with dexter, bird, earl hines, basie and goodman!)..also features frannie beecher on guitar (later famous for his stint in bill haley & the comets)

    bedlam



    cheers

  11. #10

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    The thing you have to remember about Goodman is that he started out a very long time ago, almost 100 years ago now. Music has evolved, and what was once new and exciting no longer is. Listen to him with Red Nichols, playing what was cutting edge stuff at the time. "Sing Sing SIng" still swings, as old as it is. What was hip in the 1930s no longer is, but that's only because it has been so overdone for so long. Back then, Goodman was as hip as anyone playing, and much moreso than most. Time goes by, and things change, but I can still listen to the Goodman small groups all day and night. I can't think of many musicians from his era that have stood the test of time better, or even as well. Basie, Ellington, not many more.

  12. #11

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    Benny's bands played at a very high level. Swing predated Bebop, so what was hip in the swing days changed quite a bit. The dancers sat down for bebop.

    I think that historical context matters.

  13. #12
    Quote Originally Posted by sgosnell
    The thing you have to remember about Goodman is that he started out a very long time ago, almost 100 years ago now. Music has evolved, and what was once new and exciting no longer is....
    Yeah, but 100 years is long enough for the wheel to turn full circle. Old stuff can seem fresh again if it has been ignored sitting in the attic corner gathering dust and cobwebs for that long. I'm pretty sure Beethoven was considered "square" in the 1950's (at least Chuck Berry may have thought so! ) ...

  14. #13
    Quote Originally Posted by Littlemark
    ... the trio and quartet stuff is killer. Though even Charlie thought Benny was a little square, when sitting in at Minton's.
    I can imagine CC might have thought that (where did you read this?), and that guys like Charlie P would have no doubt heard him as a mouldy old fig. It's natural for each generation to want to push the envelope so that looking back just 10 years into the past feels cringeworthy. Young people today can short circuit that loop and jump right into that scene and have it feel as fresh as it did to youngsters when it came up the first time. I see the young'uns are into the Lindy Hop revival the world over at the moment. Same deal.

    It seems the "classics" in all the arts will always be rediscovered at some point in the future because true substance is self evident and undeniable, irresistable even. It's a lasting testament to the merit of any period in art, music, literature, film etc, and let's face it, there have been lean times in all the above (today maybe?) where we struggle to imagine anything from these periods is worth rediscovering at all...

  15. #14

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    I think that the level of musicianship was higher in those days. These guys had no distractions like TV or the Internet and were playing 300+ shows year. The guys on staff at radio stations were probably playing more. The jobs paid well when a lot of good people were in soup lines, and the top players were celebrities. Records were cut in one take.

    It is hard to call something corny when the musicianship is at a level like that.

  16. #15

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    Quote Originally Posted by sgosnell
    Goodman was, IMO, the best of the clarinetists... Miller et al were listenable, but mostly what I liked then, and now, were Goodman and Bob Wills. People think country/western/whatever music is corny, but Wills' musicians could hang with Basie's, and sometimes did, there are many photos even if no recordings. If Goodman was corny, then I like that sort of corn.
    I always liked Bob Wills too.


  17. #16

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    Quote Originally Posted by princeplanet
    I can imagine CC might have thought that (where did you read this?), and that guys like Charlie P would have no doubt heard him as a mouldy old fig....
    I don't know, Charlie Parker and Lester Young both admired Jimmy Dorsey (alto sax, though he also played clarinet and trumpet). And Benny was way hipper than Jimmy Dorsey. ;o)

  18. #17

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    Quote Originally Posted by princeplanet
    I can imagine CC might have thought that (where did you read this?), and that guys like Charlie P would have no doubt heard him as a mouldy old fig. It's natural for each generation to want to push the envelope so that looking back just 10 years into the past feels cringeworthy. Young people today can short circuit that loop and jump right into that scene and have it feel as fresh as it did to youngsters when it came up the first time. I see the young'uns are into the Lindy Hop revival the world over at the moment. Same deal.

    It seems the "classics" in all the arts will always be rediscovered at some point in the future because true substance is self evident and undeniable, irresistable even. It's a lasting testament to the merit of any period in art, music, literature, film etc, and let's face it, there have been lean times in all the above (today maybe?) where we struggle to imagine anything from these periods is worth rediscovering at all...
    I just looked through a bunch of my books. I can't find the quote right now. Anoying.
    But as you say every generation needs to push the envelope. Charlie was only 25 when he died. When those Minton recordings were done Goodman's band was on retainer while he recuperated from sciatica. Lots of time to experiment.

  19. #18

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    To paraphrase Art Blakey's remark to Branford Marsalis,

    "Benny Goodman doesn't need us to be hip..."

    Hear it at 20:50


  20. #19

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    Quote Originally Posted by rabbit
    To paraphrase Art Blakey's remark to Branford Marsalis,

    "Benny Goodman doesn't need us to be hip..."

    Hear it at 20:50

    That was Gershwin

  21. #20

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    Quote Originally Posted by wintermoon
    That was Gershwin
    right on wm!

    "According to Marsalis, Blakey could be merciless in his instructions to his young charges. He told Milkowski about the time he tried to change the chords in a George Gershwin ballad. When Blakey asked him what he was doing, Branford replied, ‘You making me play it, I’m gonna do what I can to make it hip.’ He said, ‘Let me explain something to you, (expletive). George Gershwin does not need your sorry ass to make him hip. He’s already hip. The only thing you are doing is masking the fact that you don’t know what the (expletive) you are doing. So you’re going to play the song the way it’s written…"

    from-Branford Marsalis: Program notes by Rick Mitchell - Da Camera chamber music and jazz

    cheers

  22. #21

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    Benny Goodman. Well, from a post-1950 sensibility, Goodman is going to come off as an old-timer...a progenitor of "swing," and a purveyor of "corn." Taken in terms of the context of _his_ era, however, he is an iconic figure. Even the small-group stuff with Charlie Christian is going to, at best, end up being regarded as proto-bop. And, I'm being generous.

    A chart like 7 Come 11, one of my personal favorites, is still a swing song--even though it is indelibly a Charlie Christian chart. Even though everyone under the sun from the 30s through the 90s played that chart, it's still a swing staple. Tell you what, though. It's a killer chart to send out there to the audience. In any configuration, from a duo to a big group, it just works. Try it. Corny? Probably. Fun? Without a doubt.

    For the most part, though, younger audiences prefer Goodman to Gillespie and Parker. When I perform, I am only too happy to play about two-thirds material that I think will connect with the audiences--and I will lean on GAS and swing material pretty heavily--and about a quarter of the material coming from more post-1950 jazz material that I think that I can tease the audiences into liking. The remainder is stuff that I think will surprise folks--i.e., material not normally associated with jazz that benefits from a jazz treatment, e.g., "Tin Man" by America, or "50 Ways to Leave Your Lover." (These might not be great examples, but they came to mind.)

    So, I am probably more likely to perform a Goodman chart than "Oleo" or "Pithicanthropus Erectus." I'd probably call out "My Favorite Things" over "A Love Supreme." Now, I love all these charts...but the audience will relate to the stuff you are more likely to hear in an elevator more readily.

    I guess corny stuff is a guilty pleasure, in the sense that it makes you feel good about getting peoples toes tapping. Early bop can do that, too, you know. People react strongly to a good rendition of "A Night in Tunisia." It stands on its merits. Same with Miles--from just about any period you choose. Even "Back Seat Betty" will get money in the tip jar.

  23. #22

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    Gershwin doesn't need us to be hip, either.

    But, that is another thread.

  24. #23

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    rabbit,

    I absolutely love Gershwin. OTOH, If you were a bopper in the 40s and 50s, you probably would have regarded Gershwin as impossibly corny. The 20s just sounded dated to the bop ears.

    Louis Armstrong is another example. There simply wouldn't be bebop without Armstrong. Armstrong emancipated Western music from the slavish adoration of the strong beats. Still, nobody would dare show up to a jam session at Minton's and lean in with a great rendition of "West End Blues."

  25. #24

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    i think there are two distinct levels of corn

    things that seem corn because they are from a different age...and this is not just confined to jazz!

    or things that are just corny, even within their own age..and there is plenty of that as well!

    cheers

  26. #25

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    Benny's as hip as they come if you ask me... one of the greatest soloists of all time. They didn't call him King of Swing for nothing.

    With regards to Glenn Miller being corny etc. - that's fair enough - although some of the later Glenn Miller band material, when Ray McKinley was directing the band is really cool. They really modernised the band, but I think in later years the band reverted to it's more 'easy listening' sound. Still had the Glenn Miller sound with those reed arrangements but the rhythm section was swinging in a different way.

  27. #26

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    Corn is in the ear of the beholder.

    OUCH !

  28. #27

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    Corn is in the mouth of the eater!

  29. #28

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    Played an accurate transcription of this actual big band chart for 15 years. An audience Goodman favorite, nothing corny about it.


  30. #29

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    Quote Originally Posted by cosmic gumbo
    Played an accurate transcription of this actual big band chart for 15 years. An audience Goodman favorite, nothing corny about it.

    I believe the quality stands the test of time.

  31. #30

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    Are we all going to pretend his "performance" in the Benny Goodman story isn't Oscar worthy? :P

  32. #31

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    Quote Originally Posted by MarkRhodes
    I always liked Bob Wills too.


    i think the lesson is clear:

    Wear Cowboy Hat, swing harder.

    It's not like I'm desperate for any little advantage or anything.

  33. #32

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    Super hip

    Thing is hip isn’t doing something complex and cerebral (although imo many of the BG sides have this quality) it’s doing something intriguing and stylish. Often it links the popular world with the highbrow... in CC’s case blues and dance music with more advanced harmonic ideas.

    It is of its time, urban, connected to the vernacular, but also referencing other things. It’s kind of a tension, a synthesis of two or more elements.

    (for this reason Steely Dan, say, are hip, and prog rock isn’t hip.)

    So when something talks about a certain voicing being ‘hip’ I think - I have no idea what the fuck you are talking about. In context a voicing can be hip. Sonny Clarke comping for Dexter is hip, Bill Evans playing a standard is hip; someone playing an isolated chord, not so much.

    This is what happens when young jazz nerds talk about ‘hip’ - it’s actually pretty cringe. Playing in 11 isn’t hip per se.

    For me most of not all things I find ‘hip’ in jazz have a strong rhythmic side. with Charlie Christian hipness can be found in the way he’ll contrast crisp blues phrases with much more angular phrases that are almost ‘out’ - playing A13 tonalities in D minor, that sort of stuff, but this would mean nothing without the swing. The compositions too ... Air Mail with its straight up riff A and knotty B is Charlie encapsulated.

    (Plus Stravinsky loved those sides and he was pretty hip....)

    Of course the hippest shit CC ever played wasn’t on these sides. But they are still pretty hip.

    ‘Style is a magic wand and turns everything to gold’

  34. #33

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    Quote Originally Posted by Greentone
    rabbit,

    I absolutely love Gershwin. OTOH, If you were a bopper in the 40s and 50s, you probably would have regarded Gershwin as impossibly corny.
    Except for the boppers who played rhythm changes...

  35. #34

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    Not a bad singer too!


  36. #35

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    Benny G. and his sidemen were consummate musicians. And, unlike later "Jazz," he played dance music to a generation of listeners/dancers. To compare him to later styles/musicians is an apple/orange discussion. These musicians laid the foundation for all forms of Jazz to evolve to what we have today. And, as a side-note, IMO, Jazz lost its popularity when people could no longer dance to the music. It became cerebral, not visceral. Can you imagine dancing to "Giant Steps?????"
    Play live! . . . Marinero

  37. #36

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    Quote Originally Posted by grahambop
    Except for the boppers who played rhythm changes...
    They would've played "I Got Rhythm" instead of Oleo if they hadn't thought I Got Rhythm was corny

  38. #37

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    Quote Originally Posted by docsteve
    They would've played "I Got Rhythm" instead of Oleo if they hadn't thought I Got Rhythm was corny

  39. #38

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  40. #39

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  41. #40

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  42. #41

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    And one of my favorites from a very little mentioned Joe Pass album that I think is fantastic.

    During a rare 6-month period of my life when I was playing jazz every week, the leader called this tune and I'd never heard it or heard of it. But I really fell for it and so Joe Pass' treatment of it is, well, everything I love about Joe Pass.


  43. #42

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    What is hip?
    This is hip!


  44. #43
    Quote Originally Posted by MarkRhodes
    What is hip?
    This is hip!

    'Nuff said ...

  45. #44

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    Quote Originally Posted by lawson-stone
    And one of my favorites from a very little mentioned Joe Pass album that I think is fantastic.

    During a rare 6-month period of my life when I was playing jazz every week, the leader called this tune and I'd never heard it or heard of it. But I really fell for it and so Joe Pass' treatment of it is, well, everything I love about Joe Pass.

    I would hope this album isn't well known by jazz guitar lovers; It is the 2nd most listened to Pass album for me (Tudo Bem being #1, since I find this to be the most melodic Joe).

    Of course there are the Gershwin tunes. Shelly Manne does his thing here and provides a feel similar to the Kessel Trio albums of the 50s. Just solid all around. And did I mention the tunes,,,,

  46. #45

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    Hip or corn, I'd love to be able to play like Benny Goodman and to think up lines like Benny Goodman. Being able to do that would be enough for me!

  47. #46

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    There is a temporal component on both sides of the corny equation.

    Well played music is well played music.

  48. #47

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    Quote Originally Posted by christianm77
    ‘Style is a magic wand and turns everything to gold’
    Alfred North Whitehead:

    “Style, in its finest sense, is the last acquirement of the educated mind; it is also the most useful. It persuades the whole being. The administrator with a sense for style hates waste. The engineer with a sense for style economizes his material. The artisan with a sense for style prefers good work.

    "Style is the ultimate morality of the mind.”

  49. #48

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    I think Jazz - especially (and maybe only) up to 50s- early 60s was a unoque phenomenon of musical culture.

    It belonged to tough business-stipulated commercial enviroment of mass culture. at the same time within those frames it developed extremely vivid authentic and truely artistic languge.
    Eventually this led to inside conflict: the ambitions of some players to be treated as serious art confronted the actual practice of business. But it was solved through expansion to overseas markets partly, and partly with rock'n'roll sunstituting jazz on pure mass entertainment seen - so jazz could safely move into the 'true art' niche. Did it serve it for better or worse? To be honest I am not always sure... it gave us new really great names but definitely jazz lost some part of its original authencity with it.


    Coming back to the OP ... I think that genuinity and authencity of performing practice and language are much more inportant than enviroment and repertoire.
    That is why probably Benny Godman is not corny to me... Diana Ross singing Close To You or John Lennon's Jealous Guy... the are not corny too.

    But for example some modern jazz guitarist playing Close To You or Jealous Guy cover can sound terribly corny... though it can be done with sofistication, mastery, skillls and all.

  50. #49

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    Quote Originally Posted by MarkRhodes
    What is hip?
    This is hip!

    What is hip?
    Why T.O.P of course!

  51. #50

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    With regards to what is corny: The 1941 film Ball of Fire has a scene where corny is defined. I couldn't find that scene but I did find this opening scene from the film with Gene Kuppa.