As told by J.C. Thomas in Coltrane: Chasin’ the Trane
Bill Cosby used to hang out at Birdland in the days when he was known as the young black comic who didn’t tell racial jokes and specialized in comedy sermons such as his hilarious, poignant version of Noah.
When Cosby walked into the club, he’d often joke with manager Johnnie Gary; sometimes the two of them would still be talking when Coltrane arrived. The saxophonist then pulled out peanuts from his pocket, still in their shells, and offered them to both. Then Coltrane would continue on to the dressing room, […] Continue reading »
A 1928 story of Louis Armstrong, Earl Hines and Zutty Singleton
As told in Armstrong’s “Goffin Notebooks” memoirs, written in 1943 – 1944 and eventually published in 1947 as Horn of Plenty: The Story of Louis Armstrong, by Robert Goffin
‘Earl – ‘Zuttie and ‘I – Stayed out of work so long until it was impossible for me to get my ‘Car out of the ‘Shop, ever after it was fixed. ‘Things gotten so ‘Tough with us until 15c (Fifteen cents) looked like $15.00 (Fifteen dollars). But we did not lose our Spirit. And we all kept that good ‘ol Clean Shirt ‘on everyday, and ‘ol ‘Earl Hines kept the Big Fresh ‘Cigar in his ‘mouth ‘everyday. Zuttie and ‘I both ‘admired that. […] Continue reading »
Eddie Condon — a great guitarist/banjoist/bandleader of the Jazz Age era — recalls the day in Chicago in 1922 when he first met and heard the cornetist Bix Beiderbecke.
As told in Remembering Bix: A Memoir of the Jazz Age by Ralph Berton
One day Pee Wee Rank, a drummer, called me from Chicago. “How would you like to play in Syracuse?” He was on his way to the Tri-Cities – Rock Island, Moline, and Davenport – to round up talent…”Meet me at the LaSalle Street Station at eight o’clock tomorrow night.” […] Continue reading »
Stanley Crouch writes about the 1935 Kansas City jam session in which the great local musician Buster Smith was challenged by fellow clarinetist Benny Goodman.
Excerpted from Kansas City Lightning: The Rise and Times of Charlie Parker
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Paris was the perfect place for Monk and Nica’s first meeting. The city had lost some of its pre-war sheen but was still the capital of chic. Chanel had reopened her fashion house in 1954, introducing natty little suit jackets and slimline skirts. French movies inspired women to cut off their hair, wear cigarette pants and hooped earrings. There was an aura of tolerant multiculturalism. Nica’s friend Kenny Clarke, the bebop drummer, arrived in 1947: […] Continue reading »
Ever since Patrick Jarenwattananon of the NPR Classical Music blog Deceptive Cadence published a story called “Why Jazz Musicians Love ‘The Rite of Spring'” in May, there has been a lot of traffic on the Jerry Jazz Musician page devoted to the meeting of Charlie Parker and Igor Stravinsky. NPR linked their readers to our “Great Encounters” page called “When Charlie Parker played for Igor Stravinsky,” where Jazz Modernism author, the late jazz scholar Alfred Appel, tells the story of how “Stravinsky roared with delight […] Continue reading »
Excerpted from W.C. Handy: The Life and Times of the Man Who Made the Blues, by David Robertson
Harry Pace, even at his distance at Atlanta, always had been more innovative in marketing their firm’s songs in newer ways than Handy, and, as his career later reveals, he was interested in the possibilities of owning his own phonographic business. While on a trip for his insurance company to New York City […] Continue reading »
Excerpted from Playing the Changes: Milt Hinton’s Life in Stories and Photographs, by Milt Hinton, David G. Berger, and Holly Maxson
In 1939, Doc Cheatham, who’d been with Cab for years, was feeling ill and decided to give notice. By this time, when it came to finding replacements, Cab would go to Chu [Berry] first. He knew everybody and was really on top of the music scene. Chu spent about a week looking around and then recommended a young kid named John Birks Gillespie, who everyone called Dizzy. Cab hired him.
We were at the Cotton Club when Diz joined us. He’d been playing with Teddy Hill’s band and really had no reputation to speak of. Even back in those days, he was hanging out with Lorraine, who was in the chorus at the Apollo and later became his wife. […] Continue reading »
Excerpted from The Producer: John Hammond and the Soul of American Music, by Dunstan Prial
On a cold, clear night in February, 1933, Hammond went on the town alone in search of music. Heading up Broadway toward Harlem in a Hudson convertible (he kept the top up in the winter), he fought traffic, but as he passed Columbia University, he was flying. At 133rd Street, he took a right and headed east toward Lenox Avenue. He pulled over after a few blocks and parked in a space a few doors up from a new speakeasy run by Monette Moore, the singer who had appeared with Ellington and Carter at the fund-raiser for the Scottsboro boys he had helped organize the previous fall.
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Excerpted from FEVER: The Life and Music of Miss Peggy Lee, by Peter Richmond
In CHICAGO in August 1941, preparing for an engagement at the College Inn, Benny Goodman was staying at Frank Bering’s Ambassador East. One night, Benny’s fiancee, Lady Alice Duckworth, suggested that he come next door to the Buttery and catch the new girl singer. The imperious, handsome granddaughter of Commodore Vanderbilt – founder of the New York Central Railroad – Lady Duckworth was also John Hammond’s sister.
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