Archive for “Great Encounters”

Features » Great Encounters

Great Encounters #20: When the Minneapolis Lakers played the Harlem Globetrotters; Chicago, 1948

Excerpted from Spinning the Globe: The Rise, Fall, and Return to Greatness of the Harlem Globetrotters, by Ben Green

In 1948, George Mikan, the six-foot-ten center of the Minneapolis Lakers, was dominating the sport like no other big man ever had. When Mikan had first arrived at DePaul University in 1942, he was a clumsy, slow-footed freshman who was so blind (with 20/300 vision) that, even wearing Mr. Magoo glasses, he had to ask teammates to read the game clock. But first-year DePaul coach Ray Meyer recognized the youngster’s fierce competitiveness, and put him through a rigorous, unorthodox, training program: he made him shoot thousands of hook shots with either hand, hired a female dance instructor to improve his footwork,
[…] Continue reading »

Features » Great Encounters

Great Encounters #19: Jelly Roll Morton and Louis Armstrong in Chicago, 1926

Excerpted from Jelly’s Blues: The Life, Music, and Redemption of Jelly Roll Morton by Howard Reich and William Gaines.

For a kid who had been kicked out of his family’s house, Morton had reached a zenith in his life and his art. He crushed anyone who doubted his preeminence; he carried a roll of two thousand dollars or more in his pocket; and, most important, his tunes — the work of years plying the brothels of New Orleans and hoboeing about the Gulf Coast — helped form the sonic backdrop for life in big-city U.S.A.
[…] Continue reading »

Features » Great Encounters

Great Encounters #17: The romance of Bobby Darin and Sandra Dee

Excerpted from Roman Candle: The Life of Bobby Darin, by David Evanier.

AFTER CONCLUDING HIS TRIUMPHANT DEBUT at the Copa, Bobby was cast in his first major movie role in the summer of 1960. He was signed to appear with Rock Hudson, Gina Lollobrigida, and Sandra Dee in Come September. He would be playing the role of an American student vacationing in Rome who falls in love with another tourist, Sandra Dee.

When he arrived in Portofino, Bobby first became involved with an older woman: Sandra’s mother, Mary
[…] Continue reading »

Features » Great Encounters

Great Encounters #16: When drummer Joe Morello joined the Dave Brubeck Quartet

Excerpted from Take Five: The Public and Private Lives of Paul Desmond by Doug Ramsey

By the fall of 1956, Joe Dodge was worn down by the travel and the intense schedule and wanted to be with his family. He told Brubeck it was time to look for another drummer. In the Quartet’s New York stays, Desmond had heard Marian McPartland’s trio and was impressed with Joe Morello, the drummer who had been working with her since 1953. Morello, born in Springfield, Massachusetts in 1928, played there with alto saxophonist Phil Woods and guitarist Sal Salvador before he moved to New York
[…] Continue reading »

Features » Great Encounters

Great Encounters #15: The 1931 evening that Art Tatum dazzled Harlem pianists Fats Waller and James P. Johnson

Excerpted from Ain’t Misbehavin’: The Story of Fats Waller by Ed Kirkeby.

In 1931 a pretty definite pattern of jazz in New York had come into being. Big and small bands held sway at countless nightspots, and most of the big names were in the Big City to stay. Not a lot of new talent was coming along, though bandsmen such as Chick Webb, Benny Goodman, Tommy Dorsey, and John Kirby — even if not yet in their full stride — were fast becoming known in and around New York music circles. The original crop of jazzmen who nursed the art from its swaddling clothes
[…] Continue reading »

Features » Great Encounters

Great Encounters #14: The story of the first commercial recording session of the Quintette du Hot Club de France

Excerpted from Django: The Life and Music of a Gypsy Legend, by Michael Dregni.

Early on the foggy morning of December 27, 1934, Stephane, Chaput, and Vola climbed into Vola’s small car along with their violin, guitar, and string bass and made their way to the ensemble’s first commercial recording session. For the group to have gasoline for the journey, Delaunay had to lend Vola one hundred sous.

Ultraphone had scheduled the recording session for nine, running until midday; the studio was reserved for the label’s stars in the afternoon.
[…] Continue reading »

Features » Great Encounters

Great Encounters #13: Why did Louis Armstrong leave Fletcher Henderson’s orchestra in 1925 and return to Chicago?

Excerpted from The Uncrowned King of Swing: Fletcher Henderson and Big Band Jazz by Jeffrey Magee.

By the fall of 1925, then, the musical synergy in Henderson’s band had reached unprecedented intensity. Henderson continued to hold court for dancers at the Roseland, reaching thousands of other listeners through its radio wire, and recording for a variety of record labels both with his full orchestra and with selected members of the band as accompanists for blues singers. And there were also continuous bookings in the summer between seasons at the Roseland, large crowds in venues up and down the East Coast, and consistently hyperbolic press coverage.
[…] Continue reading »

Features » Great Encounters

Great Encounters #12: The interconnecting paths of heavyweight champions Jack Johnson and Joe Louis

Excerpted from Unforgivable Blackness: The Rise and Fall of Jack Johnson by Geoffrey Ward

Johnson was back in Chicago in the summer of 1934, appearing in Dave Barry’s Garden of Champions, a sort of sideshow at the Century of Progress International Exposition organized by a veteran referee to compete with such attractions as the Midget Village, Sally Rand’s Balloon Dance, and the Aunt Jemima Cabin. For a dollar, children could throw punches at Jack Johnson while he ducked and laughed and popped his eyes. One evening, he fought an exhibition there against Tom Sharkey, whose sparring partner he had briefly been back in 1901. It was supposed to be a nonviolent sparring session, […] Continue reading »

Features » Great Encounters

Great Encounters #11: Duke Ellington and George Wein at Newport, 1956

Excerpted from Myself Among Others: A Life in Music by George Wein

Nineteen fifty-six was the Newport debut of the Duke Ellington Orchestra. I had struck an agreement with Irving Townsend, Columbia Records’s A&R man, earlier in the year. It would be good publicity to have some recordings from Newport. Our arrangement seemed like a good deal: for each artist recorded, the record company was to pay us an amount equal to that artist’s performance fee. As it turned out, it was a terrible deal, because the record company got exclusive rights and all of the royalties.

Columbia recorded the equivalent of four LPs during the 1956 festival:
[…] Continue reading »

Features » Great Encounters

Great Encounters #10: When Lionel Hampton Hired Dinah Washington

Excerpted from Queen : The Life and Music of Dinah Washington by Nadine Cohodas

As Ruth was settling into the Garrick, Lionel Hampton and his sixteen-piece band were getting ready for a weeklong stay at the Regal that would include a gala Christmas and New Year’s performance with Billie Holiday. It was a heady time for a group that was barely two years old and was riding a wave of ecstatic reviews and sold-out houses. The band had recently made its first recording for Decca.

“Hamp,” as he was universally known, was a consummate showman, a fireplug of energy who inspired his bandmates and thrilled his audiences.
[…] Continue reading »