The Five Spot Café, a club located in New York City’s Bowery neighborhood, was the site of a six month gig for the quartet of Thelonious Monk, John Coltrane, drummer Shadow Wilson, and bassist Wilbur Ware. This engagement — coming on the heels of Monk’s cabaret card reinstatement — marked the merging of two of the most original voices in American music, Monk and Coltrane, in a space where cheap beer and good music attracted some of the city’s most influential artists and writers. Regulars included Larry Rivers, Willem de Kooning, Franz Kline, Jack Kerouac, Frank O’Hara and Allen Ginsberg.
In Thelonious Monk: The Life and Times of an American Original, author Robin D.G. Kelley quotes Five Spot co-owner Joe Termini remembering the impact Monk’s quartet had on his club: “Once we hired Monk, all of a sudden the place was crowded every night. And frankly, in the beginning, I just didn’t understand any of it.” […] Continue reading »
From his autobiography, Miles Davis recalls his experience meeting and playing with the recently deceased pianist Horace Silver in 1954, a point in time following Miles kicking heroin. Silver played on Rudy Van Gelder-engineered recording sessions with Miles at the time of this Alfred Lion photograph that were released on Miles Davis Volume 3 for Blue Note, and Miles Davis Quartet for Prestige.
The scene in New York had changed since I’d been gone. The MJQ — Modern Jazz Quartet — was big on the music scene then; the kind of “cool” chamber jazz thing they were doing was getting over big. People were still talking about Chet Baker and Lennie Tristano and George Shearing, all that stuff that came out of Birth of the Cool. Dizzy was still playing great as ever, but Bird was […] Continue reading »
Racial harassment of touring jazz musicians was common throughout the South. Ted Hershorn, author of Norman Granz: The Man Who Used Jazz For Justice, tells the story of a racial incident provoked by Granz’s insistence on challenging segregation in Houston. […] Continue reading »
At the invitation of Duke Ellington, the great Gypsy guitarist Django Reinhardt came to America in October, 1946. Long a dream of his, according to Reinhardt biographer Michael Dregni, “he yearned to play his guitar in the homeland of jazz…picking out his improvisations with the American greats in the high churches of jazz – the Savoy, Roseland, Paramount, Apollo, Minton’s, Monroe’s, the Onyx, the Three Deuces. Those reveries had gone unrequited, concert plans thwarted, tour schemes halted by war.”
He would play several major U.S. cities with Ellington, including Carnegie Hall performances of November 23 and 24, 1946. […] Continue reading »
Dizzy Gillespie, with Yugoslav composer Nikica Kaogjera in tow, cycle the streets of Zagreb during a State Department tour designed to counter Soviet propaganda.
During the peak of the Cold War, propaganda was king, and was especially played out in the non-aligned, emerging nation regions of the Middle East, Africa and Asia. Responding to what was termed by the U.S. State Department as the Soviet Union’s “gigantic propaganda offensive,” in 1954 President Eisenhower created the Emergency Fund for International Affairs, whose role would be to present American culture abroad for the purpose of demonstrating the benefits of freedom (and capitalism) on artistic expression. According to Penny Von Eschen, author of Satchmo Blows Up the World: Jazz Ambassadors Play the Cold War, “Eisenhower resented Europeans’ depiction of the country as a ‘race of materialists’ and was distressed that ‘our successes are described in terms of automobiles and not in terms of worthwhile culture of any kind.'” […] Continue reading »
It is a photo of the arrest of one man — and Stan Getz’s career is fortunately not defined by this arrest — but it is an image of a generation of jazz musicians hooked on drugs, and would cause Martin Torgoff, author of Can’t Find My Way Home: America in the Great Stoned Age, 1945 – 2000 to devote an entire chapter of his book on the scourge, calling it “Bop Apocalypse.” “The craving necessity of a constant supply alone would drive many to crime and humiliation and self-destruction,” Torgoff writes. “Sonny Stitt would steal and pawn every musician’s horn he could get his hands on; Red Rodney would invent elaborate criminal scams […] Continue reading »
In December of 1957, Miles Davis journeyed to France to record the score to the director Louis Malle’s film Ascenseur pour l’échafaud (Elevator to the Gallows — alternatively known as Lift to the Scaffold). The recording, which featured American drummer Kenny Clarke and French session musicians René Urtreger, Pierre Michelot and Barney Wilen, is noteworthy because it was totally improvised while the musicians watched the movie on a screen. The movie itself — Malle’s feature-film debut — is described by critic Terrence Rafferty as a […] Continue reading »
Trumpeter Donald Byrd rides the New York Subway “A” Train line
At the time of this photo, Byrd — who was instrumental in launching the career of Herbie Hancock — was leading a band with baritone saxophonist Pepper Adams. […] Continue reading »