Archive for “Features”

Features

“Jazz is too good for Americans!”

Being disgusted with Congress is, of course, nothing new…In an excerpt from Dizzy Gillespie’s 1979 autobiography (written with Al Fraser) to BE, or not . . . to BOP, Dizzy reminds us of the thick-headed politicians of 1957 who questioned the “exorbitant” fees paid to him and his band during their 1956 State Department-sponsored tour of Africa, the Middle East, Asia, Europe and South America.

In this excerpt — from a chapter titled “Higher Than Ike” —  Dizzy cynically writes about the “thanks” he received from members of Congress following the tour, as well as the controversy concerning his

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Features

Aretha and her father — the Reverend C.L. Franklin

      The passing of Aretha Franklin yesterday hits hard on a variety of levels.  I am sure we all have wonderful Aretha memories.  For me, she will always be remembered as the singer who opened my world to the sounds of soul and gospel music, and doing so during the height of the civil rights movement, when so much important work was being achieved — and cutting edge art was being created in response to it — virtually every day.

     Aretha learned to sing at the New Bethel Baptist Church in Detroit, where her father, the Reverend C.L. Franklin, was minister — “the most famous African American preacher in America,” according to his biographer Nick Salvatore.  Franklin’s style of “booming, soaring, flashy and intense” preaching “revolutionized the art, and his call for his fellow African Americans to proclaim both their faith and their rights helped usher in the civil rights movement.”

     Rev. Franklin had an intense influence on daughter Aretha,  …[Aretha] always sang from her inners,” Ray Charles once said.  “In many ways she’s got her father’s feeling and passion,’ [for when C.L.] — one of the last great preachers — delivers a sermon, he builds his case so beautifully you can’t help but see the light. Same when Aretha sings.”

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Features

“It’s Too Darn Hot”

In June of 2017, the American president chose to leave the Paris climate agreement because, he said at the time, it is an agreement that “disadvantages the United States to the exclusive benefit of other countries.”  It seems that climate change knows no borders, and nobody benefits from our dear leader’s willful ignorance — witness the record heat and fires across the U.S., and indeed now all over the globe.

Oh well, we too can willfully ignore climate change today by finding a cool corner of our world and cranking up Cole Porter’s “It’s Too Darn Hot,” a song written for the Broadway musical “Kiss Me Kate” in 1948, and made famous by

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Features

Great Encounters #53: Backstage with Bud Powell and Charles Mingus

“Great Encounters” are book excerpts that chronicle famous encounters among twentieth-century cultural icons.  In this edition, the writer Francis Paudras — a young patron of jazz music in Paris during the 1960’s, and whose devotion, friendship and compassion toward the pianist Bud Powell helped Powell late in his life —  tells a short story about a backstage encounter between Powell and Charles Mingus following a 1964 performance at Salle Wagram in Paris.

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Features

We can learn from how jazz musicians communicate

From Wynton Marsalis’ 2008 book Moving to Higher Ground:  How Jazz Can Change Your Life comes another example of how humanity (and even the world of politics) can learn from how jazz musicians communicate…

 

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At [age] 12, I began listening to John Coltrane, Clifford Brown, Miles Davis, and Freddie Hubbard.  Just by paying serious attention to these musicians every day, I came to realize that each musician opens a chamber in the very center of his being and expresses that center in the uniqueness of his sound.  The sound of a master musician is as personalized and distinct as the sound of a person’s voice.  After that basic realization, I focused on […] Continue reading »

Features

On the Turntable — Miles Ahead

I have been fortunate – thus far – to have avoided the many summer colds going around this season, but I have been afflicted, once again, by “Miles Fever.”  Every so often, I am struck by an irresistible urge to dig into the catalog of this artist so present during virtually every season of my life, and rediscover the thrill of his sound, and of his cultural significance.   

I contracted the virus this morning, and spent the morning (in bed, of course) listening to Miles Ahead, the 1957 recording featuring Miles Davis and 19 musicians under the direction of Gil Evans – his first collaboration with Miles since the Birth of the Cool sessions of 1950, and one of his earliest recordings for Columbia Records.  An early example of

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Features

“Why should love stop at the border?”

On America’s 242nd birthday, this humanitarian quote from the Spanish cellist, composer and conductor Pablo Casals – written in his 90th year and published in his 1970 memoir, Joys and Sorrows: Reflections by Pablo Casals – seems like a timely philosophy for our difficult times:

 

“The love of one’s country is a splendid thing. But why should

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Features

Liner Notes: The Pee Wee Russell Memorial Album, by Dan Morgenstern

    In the early evening of March 29, 1960, I walked into Beefsteak Charlie’s, a midtown Manhattan bar frequented by jazz musicians.  With some surprise, I spotted a familiar figure at the bar – familiar, but not at Beefsteak’s.

     Pee Wee Russell, who’d turned fifty-four two days before, didn’t hang out there – or in any other bar, for that matter.  He’d done his share of that sort of thing – more than his share – but after his miraculous recovery from a near-fatal illness some years before, he had stopped.

     But here he was, by himself, having a quiet drink.  I didn’t yet know Pee Wee well in those days, though I’d been

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Features

“Vatican is Asked to Rule on Jazz”

     In the April 30, 1957 New York Times article headlined “Vatican is Asked to Rule on Jazz,” Paul Hoffman reports on the attack on jazz music made by Catholic leaders who felt that it was “music of materialistic and Dionysiac orientation,” and how this view might result in a curtailment of radio time devoted to serious jazz music.  This was of particular interest as jazz music was beginning to infiltrate the services of the 1950’s, which was, unsurprisingly,

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Features

“One for (my) Daddy-O”

Besides doing his best to help raise three kids, during my 1960’s childhood my father worked his heart out at two jobs — one of which was as owner of a restaurant on Oakland’s Telegraph Avenue, and the other as a musician, playing trumpet and viola throughout the San Francisco Bay area, mostly on evenings and weekends in “casual” jobs. For years he was part of a strolling quartet that entertained San Francisco’s elite at the World Trade Club — an ensemble that at its peak toured the Philippines, playing to an audience that included

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