Yet more evidence demonstrating the influence John Coltrane’s A Love Supreme has had on musicians…This book excerpt from Marcus Baram’s excellent biography, Gil Scott-Heron: Pieces of a Man demonstrates how Coltrane’s legendary recording “inspired Gil with his mercurial independence in the face of criticism” at a time when the creative artist was contemplating his future as a novelist, poet, musician, and...
May 13th, 2015
This excerpt from cultural historian Gerald Early’s essay from The Sammy Davis Jr Reader is a provocative reminder of Davis’ important role in breaking down racial barriers, and how the racism he faced led to his rebellion against it that was “couched in terms of seeking the acceptance of whites, but seeking...
May 6th, 2015
“Great Encounters” are book excerpts that chronicle famous encounters among twentieth-century cultural icons. This edition tells the story of the importance Miles Davis placed on his friendship with boxer Sugar Ray Robinson in 1954, when he was trying to kick his drug addiction....
May 5th, 2015
Sad news this morning…The great comedian and satirist Stan Freberg, who was also successful as an actor (and voice over actor), recording artist, puppeteer, advertising creative director and radio personality, died yesterday at the age of 88. His career was filled with artistry and courage. His comic recordings were always hilarious and often biting – his mocking of Senator Joseph...
April 8th, 2015
One of the iconic images of jazz — Chet Baker and wife Halema — is a shot taken by William Claxton during a photo session for the cover of a Pacific Jazz anthology album called The Blues. It was a time of brilliant artistry for Baker, and of course rampant and destructive drug abuse.
A story of their relationship and of this photo session, as told in this book excerpt from James Gavin’s Deep in a Dream: The Long Night of Chet Baker begins with the dark, drug-caused decline of the band Baker played with at the time — Phil Urso, Peter Littman, Bobby Timmons, Jimmy Bond and Bill Loughbrough — who had most recently recorded the album...
March 18th, 2015
I awoke to the very sad news that a prominent figure in the history of jazz music has died. Orrin Keepnews, whose work as co-founder of Riverside Records forever connected him to the lives and spirits of Bill Evans, Thelonious Monk, Cannonball Adderley, and so many other great jazz musicians of mid-century America, died in California at the age of 91 (a day shy of his 92nd birthday).
Keepnews was a transcendent figure in jazz music, excelling as a journalist, entrepreneur, and producer. The recordings he produced were among the very first to...
March 2nd, 2015
“I’d always thought that the most important thing was to play my horn — to get into this band or that band or Duke’s band, to have my own band, to perform, record. And I did enjoy these things. Worked hard to achieve them. But later on, I had a new dream: helping...
February 23rd, 2015
Tonight, NBC presents a 40-year anniversary show on Saturday Night Live, which, during that time has presented many cutting-edge (and let’s face it, at times very drab) comedic moments and personalities. While the show is known for its comedy, musical performances have at times made the show staying up past normal bedtime hours a worthwhile option. One of those moments was a December, 1976 SNL hosted by Richard Pryor, who hand-picked his musical guest, the soul/jazz poet Gil Scott-Heron. That memorable appearance is reported on by Marcus Baram in this excerpt from his biography Gil Scott-Heron: Pieces of a Man:
In the fall of 1975, Gil got a call from Richard Pryor, who invited him to be a musical guest on an upcoming episode of Saturday Night Live, which Pryor was going to host in a few weeks. Pryor invited him after hearing a story about Gil that impressed the comic: A few months earlier, Gil had been invited by singer Roberta Flack to perform on...
February 15th, 2015
Happy Birthday #104 to Roy Eldridge, who in addition to being one of the great trumpet players of his time, is known as the “bridge” between Armstrong and Dizzy. I loved the brightness of his playing, and for contributing to one of the great moments in jazz — his vocal duet with Anita O’Day, leading into a seldom-in-a-generation trumpet solo on “Let Me Off Uptown.”
When I was a kid, my dad used to tell me stories about his friendship with “Eldridge,” and in particular one eventful experience he had while he was traveling with his band in Pennsylvania. In 1998, two years before his passing, my father wrote this piece for Jerry Jazz Musician about this very special experience in his life. I hope you enjoy his telling of it…...
January 30th, 2015
“Great Encounters” are book excerpts that chronicle famous encounters among twentieth-century cultural icons. This edition tells the star-crossed story of the 1964 recording session featuring Verve saxophonist Stan Getz and pianist Bill Evans, issued as Stan Getz and Bill Evans.
Excerpted from Bill Evans: How My Heart Sings by Peter Pettinger
In 1961 Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer had purchased Verve Records from Norman Granz. Creed Taylor became the new executive director, and made a number of crucial policy decisions, including the sacking of the majority of Verve’s contract artists. One of a handful to survive was Stan Getz, who had been recording for the company since...
January 29th, 2015
For those of us who bought it “for the articles,” it was easy to see that few publications supported and promoted jazz music during the 50’s and 60s quite like Playboy magazine. Among its many endeavors involving jazz, Playboy, Inc. produced festivals and concerts, featured artists on its late-night television programs, invited readers to vote for their favorite performers by instrument, and released record albums. The music was a passion of founder Hugh Hefner,who found that its aesthetic fit in well with those of other “products” pitched to the sophisticated and elite male of the era. Jazz conversations were often found within the pages — the first of the now famous Playboy interviews featured Miles Davis in a 1962 conversation with a young Alex Haley.
In February, 1964, Playboy published a remarkable conversation on jazz. Hosted by journalist Nat Hentoff, “The Playboy Panel: Jazz — Today and Tomorrow” included the musicians...
January 28th, 2015
In his 1993 book Upside Your Head! Rhythm and Blues on Central Avenue, the jazz and blues musician and impresario Johnny Otis writes primarily about the music scene in Los Angeles during the 40’s and 50’s. Otis — who discovered the likes of Big Mama Thornton, Jackie Wilson and Etta James, and who is considered one of the most prominent white figures in the history of R & B — also devotes substantial portions of his book to the toxic white racism so prevalent in American entertainment in the first half of the 20th Century.
The following excerpt — which begins and ends with an homage to Otis friend Lester Young — describes the experience of...
January 26th, 2015
On the evenings of April 21 and 22, 1961, Miles Davis and his quintet recorded at San Francisco’s The Black Hawk nightclub, a longtime Tenderloin neighborhood establishment described by Bay area music writer Ralph J. Gleason as “gloomy, dirty and unattractive” -– a club kept proudly “repulsive” by its owner, Guido Caccienti, who claimed to have “worked and slaved for years to keep this place a sewer.”
Written by San Francisco Chronicle music critic (and eventual co-founding editor of Rolling Stone) Ralph J. Gleason in a typically witty and often derisible tone, the liner notes to Miles Davis In Person Friday and Saturday Nights at The Blackhhawk, San Francisco are compelling not only because they were authored by Gleason, but also because they are comprised of two distinct biographies -– Miles Davis as “social symbol” of the early 1960’s, and The Blackhawk as an “oblong, corner-saloon-with music” that attracted a “most incredible cross section of American society.”
The recording itself was...
January 23rd, 2015
Arguments abound about what is hip and what isn’t when it comes to Christmas music, but few can argue that Vince Guaraldi’s A Charlie Brown Christmas remains a breath of fresh air in a world otherwise dominated by recordings by Kenny G, Mannheim Steamroller, and the Trans-Siberian Orchestra. Certified “triple platinum” by the Recording Industry Association of America, and ranked by Sound Scan as the #10 best selling Christmas album since 1991, A Charlie Brown Christmas — and his association with Peanuts creator Charles Schulz — is what Guaraldi is best remembered for.
What few of us probably know about Guaraldi, however, is that he was actually a self-proclaimed “reformed boogie-woogie player” who got his start filling in for...
December 25th, 2014
Joe Cocker, the flamboyant British rocker who died yesterday at the age of 70, was best known for his gravelly voice and charismatic onstage personality, but his career was especially noteworthy due to his successful model of interpreting popular songs of the day. The most obvious example -– the Beatles’ “With a Little Help From My Friends” performed before hundreds of thousands at Woodstock in 1969 -– was his signature career achievement, a performance Paul McCartney yesterday called “mind-blowing,” one that he was “forever grateful for him for having done that.” One could make the case that Cocker’s appearance at Woodstock and his filmed performance of that tune was indeed a defining moment of the rock era.
Cocker also successfully remade Arthur Hamilton’s “Cry Me a River,” a 1953 torch song originally composed for Ella Fitzgerald to sing in Pete Kelly’s Blues, the Jack Webb film in which Peggy Lee portrayed an...
December 23rd, 2014
In 1960, Eric Dolphy told Down Beat magazine, “At home I used to play, and the birds always used to whistle with me. I would stop what I was working on and play with the birds.” This imitation of birds (who, according to Dolphy, sing in “quarter tones”) was embraced by none other than John Coltrane, who said that the addition of Dolphy — and his philosophy — to his quartet “turned [the quartet] all around.” Dolphy’s playing helped set the stage for the music Coltrane would create later.
Also critical was their friendship, which was especially important to Coltrane since he was so consumed at the time by his alcohol and heroin abuse. Quoting a Coltrane friend, John Fraim writes in his 1996 biography Spirit Catcher: The Life and Art of John Coltrane that “outside of Sonny Rollins, Eric Dolphy was his [Coltrane’s] only true...
December 12th, 2014
Paul Chambers, the bassist on many of Miles Davis’ most important recordings — including all that Gil Evans and Miles Davis collaborated on — fulfilled, according to Stephanie Stein Crease, author of Gil Evans: Out of the Cool, “an important role in Gil’s writing. The bass provided a harmonic color base as well as a rhythmic one, a foundation for the shifting polyrhythms among the brass and woodwinds.”
Here is what Evans said about Chambers:
“There was nobody ever before or after Paul Chambers, he was such a glorious player. When he played up-tempo it was never the least bit choppy – he could hang onto the preceding note as long as possible before the next...
November 7th, 2014
I received a disc in the mail recently from Israeli-born guitarist Assaf Kehati called Naked, a nine song recording that includes bassist Ehud Ettun and drummer Ronen Itzik. It has grown on me to the point of not being able to remove it from my CD player (other than to carry it to my car so I can hear it while driving).
This is the New York-based guitarist’s third album, but it is my introduction to his work. The disc is anchored by the title track, which...
November 6th, 2014
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.”...
October 30th, 2014
In his 1973 autobiography Music is My Mistress, Duke Ellington writes about his admiration for Lena Horne. In a footnote to Ellington’s thoughts on Horne, he wrote that he inherited the line he was known to use when telling a woman he thought she was beautiful — “You Make That Hat Look Pretty!” — from his father.
Lena Horne is such a delicate beauty. When she decided it was show business for her, before she became of age, she had to be accompanied by her mother when she came to work at the Cotton Club. From bandstands with Charlie Barnet, she went on to movies, and always with a dignity that...
October 26th, 2014
I can’t let Columbus Day go by without paying homage to the Chu Berry/Andy Razaf song that was a “novelty hit” for Fats Waller and the theme song of Fletcher Henderson’s orchestra. Recorded and performed by countless artists from Louis Armstrong to Lawrence Welk, Jeffrey Magee, author of The Uncrowned King of Swing: Fletcher Henderson and Big Band Jazz, tells the story of the song’s origins, and how it became “another focal point of frustration to those around [Henderson].”...
October 14th, 2014
In an essential jazz history book Jazz, co-written by Gary Giddins and Scott DeVeaux, the authors describe Ornette Coleman as being “universally revered as one of American music’s most original figures,” and whose influence is “beyond calculation.” In addition to his musical significance, his six albums recorded for Atlantic Records from 1959 – 1961 “generated a cultural storm, not least for album titles that continued to lay emphasis on the group’s challenging attitude, which — without once mentioning the civil rights struggle — seemed to incarnate the authority of the New Negro: The Shape of Jazz to Come, Change of the Century, This is Our Music, and Free Jazz.” Those Atlantic albums are creative and emotional landmarks, and for open-minded musicians and listeners, continue to be indispensable material for measuring our respective aesthetic boundaries.
The importance of these recordings heightens the influence of their liner notes. But, which liner notes best characterize Ornette Coleman’s work on Atlantic? Focusing on the first three of the recordings, in the liner notes to the first,...
October 5th, 2014
I am in the early stages of reading pianist Hampton Hawes’ 1972 autobiography (written with Don Asher) Raise Up Off Me, which Gary Giddins called, in his introduction, “the first book to give an insider’s view of the most provocative and misunderstood movement in jazz — the modernism of the ’40s, bebop.” It is incredibly entertaining and a witty, lucid, and smart read.
In a paragraph representative of the book’s quality, Hawes writes about his respect for and appreciation of his instrument’s dependability:
The piano was the only sure friend I had because it was the only thing that was consistent, always made sense and responded directly to what I did. Pianos don’t ever change. Sittin’ there every day. You wanna play me, here I am. The D is still here, the A flats still here, they’re always going to be there and it don’t matter whether it’s Sunday, Ash Wednesday or the Fourth of July. Play it right and it comes...
October 4th, 2014
“Perhaps the hours of greatest pleasure in my life have come about as a result of the capacity of the piano to be in itself a complete expressive musical medium. In retrospect, I think that these countless hours of aloneness with music unified the directive energy of my life. At those times when I have achieved this sense of oneness while playing alone, the many technical or analytic aspects of the music happened of themselves with positive rightness which always served to remind me that to understand music most profoundly one only has to be listening well. Perhaps it is a peculiarity of mine that despite the fact that...
October 2nd, 2014
From Miles: The Autobiography, Miles Davis recalls an evening that could have had him on stage with a very young Barbra Streisand
One night we were playing at the Village Vanguard, and the owner Max Gordon wanted me to play behind a singer. So I told him I didn’t play behind no girl singer. But I told him to ask Herbie [Hancock] and if Herbie wanted to do it then it was okay with me. So Herbie, Tony [Williams], and Ron [Carter] played...
September 29th, 2014
In this edition of “Reminiscing in Tempo: Memories and Opinion,” noted critics and musicians list their favorite jazz record albums of the 1970’s....
September 24th, 2014
“Great Encounters” are book excerpts that chronicle famous encounters among twentieth-century cultural icons
In this excerpt from Fever: The Life and Music of Miss Peggy Lee, author Peter Richmond writes about how singing in front of a boisterous Jack Benny and his entourage in a Palm Springs haunt led to her discovering the power of singing “softly, with feeling.”...
September 23rd, 2014
In his 1973 autobiography Music is My Mistress, from a chapter titled “The Taste Buds,” Duke Ellington writes about his special diet, losing thirty pounds while on it, and the resulting onstage antics.
In 1955 my doctor, Arthur Logan, told me I would have to take off twenty-two pounds. I tore up his suggested menu and made one of my own. Mine was simply steak (any amount), grapefruit, and black coffee with a slice of lemon first squeezed and then dropped into it. With the exception of a binge one day a week, I ate as much of this and as often as I please for three months.
When we returned to the New York area, my first date was...
September 20th, 2014
Pianist Joe Sample — who died on September 12 at the age of 75 — was a critical link to both the glories of hard bop and the perils of smooth jazz. His career will principally be remembered as a founding member of the Jazz Crusaders (ultimately just “The Crusaders”), a band he described as being “fathers of jazz-funk-fusion.” While his musical contributions are noteworthy, I also remember him for an altogether different reason.
In 1974, The Crusaders were all over the radio. In the San Francisco Bay area (where I lived at the time), their music — particularly their arrangement of Carole King’s “So Far Away” and a sweet ballad called “Way Back Home” — was in heavy rotation on the adult contemporary formatted KSFO-AM as well as on the era’s alternative rock giant KSAN-FM. In record industry parlance, they had “crossed over” into multiple formats. The Crusaders were “huge.”
In addition to being an important musical influence during...
September 18th, 2014
Lee Santa, who calls himself “simply a fan of jazz who is also a photographer” and whose life has been “heavily influenced by jazz’s sounds, structures and impressions,” recently reached out to me via email, informing me that Roundbend Press has just released his collection of photographs, A Journey Into Jazz: Anecdotes, Notes and Photos of a Jazz Fan.
Along with his entertaining introduction to the book, Santa sent me several photographs from the book — all of which I have never seen before. For example, there is Ornette Coleman at Berkeley’s Greek Theater in the turbulent year of 1968, Pharoah Sanders at the Village Gate in 1970, Sam Rivers playing outdoors (maybe at the Jazz Festival?) in Portland, 1979, and one of Mose Allison in Seattle in 1988 (about the same time I recall seeing him at a club in Portland).
Santa’s background story is very cool, and is told in his introduction and in Terry Simons’ publisher’s note, both published here. At the end of Santa’s introduction, you will find several photos...
August 26th, 2014
Our most recent edition of “Reminiscing in Tempo: Memories and Opinion” asked critics, writers and musicians the question: “What are 3 or 4 of your favorite jazz albums of the 1960’s?” We received responses from some of the profession’s most prominent thinkers, including Gary Giddins, Dan Morgenstern, Michael Cuscuna, John McLaughlin, Terry Teachout, and many others. To read the entire edition, go here.
Meanwhile, we are asking a new question of many of the same people (and others as well). This time, the question is “What are 3 or 4 of your favorite jazz albums of the 1970’s?” Hoping to publish the edition yet this month…Stay tuned....
August 11th, 2014
Cannonball Adderley was an endearing, charismatic and cutting-edge musician who, as Adderley biographer Cary Ginell writes in the introduction of Walk Tall: The Music and Life of Julian “Cannonball” Adderley “brought an enthusiasm for his music to nightclubs around the world, expanding jazz’s boundaries with a fresh exuberance as the music progressed from the bebop of the 1940s and ’50s to combine with gospel and soul to help pioneer the subgenres of hard bop and soul jazz in the ’60’s.” His signature sound — though cut short at the age of 46 in 1975 — remains an essential ingredient of the music’s past, present and future.
I am in the process of working on an interview with Ginell, which I expect will be published sometime in August. Meanwhile, the book’s Foreward — a fond remembrance of Adderley by his friend Quincy Jones — is published here in its entirety,...
August 1st, 2014
“Great Encounters” are book excerpts that chronicle famous encounters among twentieth-century cultural icons.
When Clark Gable came to the aid of Billie Holiday
Excerpted from Lady Sings the Blues, by Billie Holiday
One day in Hollywood I went out for a drive with this rich young blonde starlet. She was running around with Billy Daniels, whom I used to work with back at the Hotcha. Billy had loaned her his pretty Cadillac to drive around in. She was taking me to the aquarium, when boom, this brand-new fishtail stopped and we couldn’t start it.
July 31st, 2014
Although Dexter Gordson’s influence was felt by many of the great tenor saxophonists of the 1950’s, due to what is often described as “personal demons,” he was pretty much overlooked throughout the decade. “Dexter was able to consolidate his substantial progress only during the first couple of years in the fifties,” wrote Stan Britt, author of Dexter Gordon: A Musical Biography. “Thereafter, his was to become something of a half-forgotten name among jazz personalities of the decade.” At the root of this inactivity was, of course, that “demon” — heroin. His two year incarceration for heroin possession, followed by the death of his close friend Wardell Gray was, Britt wrote,...
July 29th, 2014
In 1967, Macmillan published the first edition of George T. Simon’s The Big Bands, an entertaining and essential account of the era that was hailed at the time by the Los Angeles Times as “the definitive volume in its field.” Simon, whose credits include being an early drummer in Glenn Miller’s band, was editor of dance band publication Metronome from 1939 – 1955, and during the 1960’s wrote regularly as a critic for the The New York Post and The New York Herald-Tribune.
In Part Four of the Second Edition (printed in 1971), Simon visits with several of the iconic big band leaders he profiles in his book, and asks them to express their opinions about rock and roll, the Beatles, and the generation gap. Their responses — now 43 years in the rear-view mirror, and excerpted here from Simon’s book — are worth revisiting....
July 25th, 2014
Writing that the “good” African-American orators of the day (“spellbinders”) do for lifting up the “Race” is “nil,” this 1919 Chicago Defender editorial makes the case that the music of James Reese Europe could have a significant political impact on race relations of the time.
With the ringing down of the curtain at the Auditorium last Saturday night there closed a remarkable period of band concerts. If you were not fortunate enough to attend you missed a rare treat. This band had made a wonderful record with the American expeditionary forces in France and with its jazz music had proved a source of great entertainment wherever it went. When it returned to the United States it was given a great ovation by the people of New York City, and Chicago found it equal to advance notice. It has all the artistic finish of any band that has invaded these parts in many years....
July 24th, 2014
In the late 1970’s, the great trumpeter Roy Eldridge wrote of his experience mentoring Dizzy Gillespie during the 1930’s.
“I was with my own band at the Savoy. And Dizzy, Charlie Shavers, Bama, Joe Guy, and another little cat that was bad, named Bobby Moore, all used to come around. They could play all the things that I had made better than I could, you know. But Dizzy had his thing going. I talked to him once down at Minton’s and he was asking me how I did certain things and I told him. And the one thing I appreciate about Diz, even though he used to play something like me, is that he went on and...
July 11th, 2014
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...
July 5th, 2014
Concerning yesterday’s passing of the great pianist Horace Silver, others much more qualified than I will write of his musical brilliance, and communicate his importance to the music’s growth. (To that end, there is an excellent life remembrance of Silver by Peter Keepnews in today’s New York Times that you can read by going here). I would just like to devote a couple paragraphs to my own introduction to his music, and what it meant to me at the time.
When I moved from Berkeley to Portland in the summer of 1978, I was already a pretty passionate listener of jazz, but I was still in the “101” phase. I knew and loved the “A Team” — Basie, Ellington, some early Armstrong, Monk, Bird and Miles. Coltrane’s ballads were gorgeous, and I loved his playing on...
June 19th, 2014
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 “strongman” Ferdinand Marcos and his wife Imelda.
Prior to that, in the 30’s he traveled the country and led his own band in Sacramento. In the 40’s, he spent the war years as a member of the Winged Victory Orchestra. And, in the late 40’s and 50’s, among many musical pursuits (although toned down once he married my mom in 1947), he played in the Jack Fina Orchestra, as well as in Ernie Heckscher’s orchestra, which famously played at the Fairmont Hotel atop Nob Hill.
He loved his music, and part of my own early appreciation for music came as a result of hearing his practice sessions. To this day I can still very clearly hear the sound of his viola...
June 15th, 2014
Ruby Dee, perhaps best known for her work on stage and screen in Lorraine Hansberry’s A Raisin in the Sun — a play the New York Times’ Frank Rich said “changed American theater forever” — and for her political activism, particularly during the era of the civil rights movement, died on June 11.
To read Bruce Weber’s comprehensive New York Times obituary, click here....
June 15th, 2014
For the five years prior to the 1955 recording of ‘Round About Midnight, Miles Davis had, according to John Szwed, author of So What: The Life of Miles Davis, “gained the reputation of an unreliable junkie who blew gigs, missed notes, and couldn’t hold a band together.” It was also a time that Miles would regularly try to convince Columbia Records producer George Avakian to sign him to his label — the era’s gold standard of recording companies. After sorting out his contractual obligation to Prestige Records, Avakian was able to do so. Now, Davis had to put a band together. It is what led to the collaboration of Miles and John Coltrane. Szwed tells the story:
On Tuesday, July 19 , Miles met with Avakian for lunch, bringing along his friend Lee Kraft and his lawyer, Harold Lovett. Bob Weinstock (president of Prestige) had bought the idea of Miles recording for Prestige and Columbia simultaneously. As part of the arrangement for signing with Columbia,...
June 6th, 2014
“Great Encounters” are book excerpts that chronicle famous encounters among twentieth-century cultural icons. This edition tells the story of the 1957 meeting of Billie Holiday and Maya Angelou, who at the time was a calypso singer/dancer, living with her son Guy in Los Angeles.
Excerpted from The Heart of a Woman, by Maya Angelou...
May 29th, 2014
While reading through Donald Marquis’ outstanding In Search of Buddy Bolden: First Man of Jazz (1978), I was reminded about the only photograph in existence of Bolden — perhaps the most famous photograph in the history of jazz. Here is what Marquis learned about it while writing his book…...
May 24th, 2014
Straight Life: The Story of Art Pepper, published in 1979, remains one of the most critically acclaimed jazz biographies ever written — some would even call it a “classic of its kind.” Written by the great West Coast alto player and his third wife Laurie, the book is brutally honest about the world Pepper traveled in, and is filled with colorful stories about his time with Stan Kenton, graphic descriptions of his sexual encounters, and, of course, the toll of his epic substance abuse.
Laurie Pepper has just published a follow-up to Straight Life called Why I Stuck with a Junkie Jazzman, an exciting development for many of us. I haven’t read it yet, but hope to do so. No less an authority than Gary Giddins blurbed for the book: “Everyone who knows the skillful craftsmanship she brought to Straight Life, the masterpiece she made of Art Pepper’s life, will find it here again, in service to her own story, which would be...
May 22nd, 2014
The stories about racial confrontations that jazz musicians experienced are, unfortunately, limitless. I recently posted “The Jazz at the Philharmonic Dice Game Bust,” which told the story of how producer Norman Granz challenged segregation in Houston.
Here is a pretty interesting story that Louis Bellson tells about how his bandleader Tommy Dorsey stood up for trumpet player Charlie Shavers during a swing through the Carolinas:
Somewhere down South — North Carolina or South Carolina — segregation, of course, was going on. Tommy told the buyer [on one date], “He’s [Shavers] in my band. He’s an artist. He’s featured...
May 21st, 2014
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....
May 10th, 2014
Thanks to this week’s public airing of the racist thoughts attributed to Donald Sterling — the Neanderthal owner of the Los Angeles Clippers — bigotry, hatred and ignorance have been on full display this week. Sterling’s discussion with his equally insipid companion is most obviously insulting and hurtful to African Americans, but it is also abhorrent to everyone who had the courage to challenge the thinking of fellow members of the boomer generation — as well as (and especially) those in our parents’ generation — who grew up in a world of segregation, taking part in or witnessing the insensitivity and bigotry that is a product of it on a daily basis.
At times like this it is helpful to be reminded of moments in our history when heroic community leaders and artists encouraged our society to rise above the Donald Sterling’s of the world...
April 30th, 2014
“Great Encounters” are book excerpts that chronicle famous encounters among twentieth-century cultural icons. This edition tells the story of the 1925 recording session of Bessie Smith and Louis Armstrong
Excerpted from Bessie, by Chris Albertson
I’ve got the world in a jug;
The stopper’s in my hand.
“Down Hearted Blues”
When Bessie sang those words on her first recording date in 1923, her future looked promising, but by the onset of 1925, there was no longer any doubt — Bessie had “arrived.” She could look back on a year and a half of prominence and prosperity; her billing as “The Greatest and Highest Salaried Race Star in the World” was accurate; dreams of supporting her family had come true;...
April 20th, 2014
Reminiscing in Tempo: Memories and Opinion, Volume 15: What are 3 or 4 of your favorite jazz record albums of the 1960’s?
“Reminiscing in Tempo” is part of a continuing effort to provide Jerry Jazz Musician readers with unique forms of “edu-tainment.” As often as possible, Jerry Jazz Musician poses one question via e mail to a small number of prominent and diverse people. The question is designed to provoke a lively response that will potentially include the memories and/or opinion of those solicited.
This edition asks the question “What are 3 or 4 of your favorite jazz record albums of the 1960’s?” Respondents include the musicians John McLaughlin, Vijay Iyer, Warren Wolf, Jane Ira Bloom, Don Byron, Robin Eubanks, and journalists Gary Giddins, Dan Morgenstern, Terry Teachout, Neil Tesser, John Goodman and lots more…...
April 10th, 2014
What do the musicians Don Byron, Jane Ira Bloom, Eric Revis, Robin Eubanks, Steve Turre, and Warren Wolf have in common with the journalists Gary Giddins, John Goodman, Terry Teachout, and Marc Myers? They have all participated in the next edition of “Reminiscing in Tempo: Memories and Opinion” by answering the question, “What are 3 or 4 of your favorite jazz recordings from the 1960’s?”
The complete edition will be published in April, and many more participants are expected. Meanwhile, here is a sampling of responses:...
April 1st, 2014
“I think there are only three things that America will be known for 2,000 years from now when they study this civilization: the Constitution, jazz music and baseball. They’re the three most beautifully designed things this culture has ever produced.”
—Gerald Early, cultural critic
Spring is upon us, and so is the start of the baseball season. As Gerald Early points out, there are great connections between jazz and baseball, prominent of which is the role that desegregation of each institution played in creating the political climate essential to the civil rights movement.
There are interesting similarities among two of the leading African American figures of the era who helped integrate their professions, not the least of which was the quality of their character. To Branch Rickey, after thoroughly investigating the college-educated Jackie Robinson, he felt...
March 28th, 2014
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....
March 26th, 2014
In “Louis Armstrong: Master of Modernism, author Thomas Brothers writes about Armstrong’s early fascination with marijuana — an interest that began in Chicago, 1928, while playing the Savoy Ballroom. This interest led to a marijuana possession arrest on November 13, 1930 in the parking lot of Los Angeles’ Cotton Club. “Armstrong was allowed to finish out his night work before they hauled him off to jail around 3:00 A.M.,” Brothers writes.
The following book excerpt begins with a rather humorous transcript from his trial, and then...
March 25th, 2014
“Everybody has the blues. Everybody longs for meaning. Everybody needs to love and be loved. Everybody needs to clap hands and be happy. Everybody longs for faith. In music, especially this broad category called jazz, there is a stepping-stone to all of these.”
— Martin Luther King...
March 19th, 2014
Graham Nash tells a story about how bandmate David Crosby reacted to Miles Davis’ cover of Crosby’s song “Guinivere,” which Davis recorded during the Bitches Brew sessions in 1970, and was subsequently released in 1979 on Circle in the Round (also released on The Complete Bitches Brew Sessions).
Excerpted from Graham Nash: Wild Tales, a Rock & Roll Life
“Lady of the Island”…was a three-track record on an eight-track tape that we got on one take. Me singing and playing guitar, with Crosby sitting right next to me, blending in that beautiful cellolike fugue. We also got a gorgeous take of “Guinevere,”...
March 18th, 2014
On the heels of terrific books on Bud Powell, Charles Mingus, Charlie Parker and Duke Ellington comes Louis Armstrong, Master of Modernism, author and Duke University Music Professor Thomas Brothers’ follow-up to his revered Louis Armstrong’s New Orleans.
In the book’s introduction, Brothers reports that his book picks up where Louis Armstrong’s New Orleans left off, with Armstrong’s 1922 Chicago arrival, and ends ten years later. He writes, “My main thesis is that the success of this nimble-minded musician depended on his ability to skillfully negotiate the musical and social legacies of slavery. Indeed, his career can be understood as a response to these interlocking trajectories.” I have just begun reading it and have been taken in by “Welcome to Chicago,” the book’s first chapter that tells the story of what Armstrong would have seen as he entered Lincoln Gardens for the first time in August, 1922; for example, the racially inflected floor show whose “centerpiece of the presentation is a row of light-skinned dancing girls;” dancing couples in an environment where “correct dancing is insisted upon” (to keep immorality charges at bay); and the local white musicians — “alligators” — described as “the little white boys…motivated to learn the music and cash in.”
I had the privilege of interviewing Thomas Brothers following the publication of Louis Armstrong’s New Orleans, and he has accepted my invitation for an interview about his new book. It is...
March 7th, 2014
As part of its 75th Anniversary celebration, Blue Note records has announced that it has “donned our lab coats” and worked with “a team of dedicated and groovy engineers” in an all-out effort to release 100 “essential remastered jazz albums” on vinyl, beginning with the March 25 release of Art Blakey Free For All, John Coltrane Blue Train, Eric Dolphy Out To Lunch, Wayne Shorter Speak No Evil, and Larry Young Unity. Future vinyl releases are expected on a monthly basis, and will feature “modern classics” as well, including Joe Lovano Quartet: Live At The Village Vanguard, Jason Moran Soundtrack To Human Motion, Terence Blanchard Flow, Medeski Martin & Wood Combustication, and Cassandra Wilson Traveling Miles.
The vinyl release is just part of the news reported in their February 28 press release. “On the same date,” the release states, “the GRAMMY Museum in Los Angeles will launch Blue Note Records: The Finest In Jazz, a one-of-a-kind exhibit offering visitors an in-depth look at the legendary record label through music, album artwork, photographs, artifacts,...
March 4th, 2014
Growing up in the San Francisco Bay area in the 1960’s and early 1970’s afforded me access to incredible, cutting-edge radio. It was the height of the progressive FM radio era, and no station in the country understood its market opportunity better than KSAN, rock radio legend Tom Donohue’s creation that gave a musical platform to breaking local and national acts who remain the backbone of the “classic rock” radio format.
international acts who remain the backbone of the “classic rock” radio format.
While the bulk of the programming exposed rock and roll recordings introduced by the local hip DJ (the voice of Bob McClay referring to KSAN as the “Jive 95” lives on in my unconscious), for a year or two I looked forward with great enthusiasm to the Sunday evening jazz show hosted by Orrin Keepnews, the co-founder of New York’s Riverside Records — by then long in bankruptcy but whose recordings were already a staple of recorded jazz history. His shows weren’t solely responsible for introducing me to the artists on his labels (including Milestone at the time — an offshoot of Berkeley’s Fantasy Records, where Keepnews was head of A & R), but they were a culprit for perpetuating my curiosity of them....
February 28th, 2014
In 1924, jazz was becoming popular in the major cities of New Orleans, Chicago, Kansas City and New York, and with Paul Whiteman’s Aeolian Hall performance of George Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue, it was being judged in some critical circles as a serious musical art form. That wasn’t the opinion of everyone, of course.
“‘Jazz’ has created a ‘malarious’ atmosphere in the musical world. It is abnormal. The air needs clarifying.” So wrote popular music composer Robert M. Stults in the August 1924 edition of The Etude magazine, an issue dedicated to what they defined as “The Jazz Problem.”
The Etude was published from 1883 – 1957 and was a popular music publication of the era. Its primary audience was made up of popular music teachers, and the debate of the time of this particular edition was the legitimacy of this controversial new music known as “Jazz.” To solicit opinion about jazz, The Etude posed the question “Where is Jazz Leading America?” to composers, educators, musicians, members of the clergy, playwrights and novelists.
The debate inspired by this question featured fascinating perspectives,...
February 27th, 2014
Saxophonist Benny Golson describes what was, according to Clifford Brown biographer Nick Catalano, “probably the first meeting between Brown and Fats Navarro.”
Excerpted from Clifford Brown: The Life and Art of the Legendary Jazz Trumpeter, by Nick Catalano...
February 25th, 2014
One of the things I like about jazz, kid, is I don’t know what’s going to happen next. Do you?
– Bix Beiderbecke
A great symbol of the Jazz Age, Bix Beiderbecke was one of the era’s most influential soloists, and remains one of jazz music’s most enduring and colorful personalities.
This short biography of Beiderbecke (followed by a fantastic listening guide of his performance on “Singin’ the Blues”) as published in the most complete and entertaining history on jazz music, Jazz, by Gary Giddins and Scott DeVeaux, tells a concise, interesting story of Beiderbecke’s life....
February 20th, 2014
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.'”...
February 19th, 2014
The Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery in Washington is currently curating an exhibit called “American Cool,” which features 100 photographs of iconic Americans who, according to the institution, “have contributed an original artistic vision to American culture and are symbolic figures of their time.”
Artists like Bessie Smith, Bix Beiderbecke, Bert Williams, and Willie “the Lion” Smith and writers like Ernest Hemingway and Zora Neale Hurston are included in the “Roots of Cool” category, while Lester Young, Frank Sinatra, Duke Ellington, Charlie Parker, Miles Davis, Dizzy Gillespie, and Thelonious Monk are among those deemed to be part of the “Birth of the Cool” group.
What were the determining factors in what constitutes “cool” and who has enough of it to be featured in the exhibition? According to Kim Sajet, director of the National Portrait Gallery, “‘American Cool’ is about America’s greatest cultural export—cool—and who embodies it. The show offers an opportunity...
February 12th, 2014
With the 50th anniversary of the Beatles’ appearance on Ed Sullivan prominently in the news this past week, it is interesting (and entertaining) to revisit some of the critical perspectives of their music following the performance.
On February 10, 1964, Theodore Strongin, music critic for the New York Times (who Wikipedia describes as a “champion of new music”) wrote that “The Beatles’ vocal quality can be described as hoarsely incoherent, with the minimal enunciation necessary to communicate the schematic texts.” Three days later, acknowledging the phenomenon that hit our shores, George Dixon of the Washington Post wrote, “Just thinking about the Beatles seems to induce mental disturbance. They have a commonplace, rather dull act that hardly seems to merit mentioning, yet people hereabouts have mentioned scarcely anything else for a couple of days.”
Months later, William F. Buckley, the era’s chief conservative voice and founder of the National Review got into the act, writing...
February 11th, 2014
On occasion I have taught a very basic 45 minute “History of Jazz” class to first and second graders. I play music and show video, hold up classic record album covers, and read a quotation or two. Without fail, the 6 – 8 year olds are excited by the music and images, and it is exhilarating to see them get to their feet and unabashedly dance, inspired by the music of Armstrong, Goodman, Ellington, Basie, Billie, and Monk. Their energy is unbounded, and is a reminder of what lives inside children before many unlearn their “hip” roots.
Whenever a new book geared toward teaching children about jazz music is released, I am moved to share the news…Check out Journey to Jazzland, a picture book to inspire kids to learn about jazz. Conceptualized by Gia Volterra de Saulnier, she writes that she hopes to “get more kids inspired to learn at least a little bit more about jazz,” and to get them to know about “this important music history that really should be kept alive.”...
February 5th, 2014
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...
February 4th, 2014
Political, fiery, critical, poetic, inspirational…All of this shows up in Amiri Baraka’s brilliant liner notes to the 1963 recording of John Coltrane’s Live at Birdland. At the time known as LeRoi Jones, Baraka’s liner notes to this album were the first time the jazz writer Stanley Crouch “had seen that kind of poetic sensibility brought to the discussion of jazz. It was as new to me as the way Coltrane and his band were reinventing the 4/4 swing, blues, ballads, and Afro-Hispanic rhythms that are the four elements essential to jazz…His was the first Negro voice that sailed to the center of my taste by combining the spunk and the raw horrors of the sidewalk with the library, for an elegant manhandling of the form.”
These notes were written at the time of Jones’ 1963 Down Beat essay “Jazz and the White Critic,” which, in the words of Blowin’ Hot and Cool: Jazz and its Critics author John Gennari, was a “challenge to jazz writers of all backgrounds to reckon with the lived experience of black Americans and to consider how this experience had been embedded in the notes, tones, and rhythms of the music.” Keep that in mind when reading these notes…...
January 31st, 2014
“I’m glad [Ornette Coleman] is such an individualist. I like the firmness of thought and purpose that goes into what he’s doing, even though I don’t always like to listen to it. It’s like living in a house where everything’s painted red.”
– Paul Desmond...
January 30th, 2014
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,...
January 28th, 2014
The recent death of Amiri Baraka gets us looking back at the 1963 publication of his important and enduring study of jazz and and blues, Blues People: Negro Music in White America. Two pieces to turn interested readers to…The first, “The Blues,” by Ralph Ellison, first appeared in the February 6, 1964 edition of the New York Review of Books, and features Ellison’s classic line of criticism, “The tremendous burden of sociology which Jones would place upon this body of music is enough to give even the blues the blues.” The second, “Black History Meets Black Music” ‘Blues People’ at 50″ is a July 26, 2013 piece by Eugene Holley, Jr. published on NPR’s “A Blog Supreme,” in which Holley seeks opinion on the book from key contemporary critcs and musicians, including Harvard educator Ingrid Monson, who says that “Blues People is a brilliant and path-breaking book, not because all of its factual information is correct, or because all of its interpretive perspectives are unassailable, but because of the sheer audacity, scope and originality of its interpretive perspective.”...
January 19th, 2014
“Reminiscing in Tempo” is part of a continuing effort to provide Jerry Jazz Musician readers with unique forms of “edu-tainment.” As often as possible, Jerry Jazz Musician poses one question via e mail to a small number of prominent and diverse people. The question is designed to provoke a lively response that will potentially include the memories and/or opinion of those solicited.
This edition’s question is “Who was your childhood hero?” Participants include Gary Burton, Pat Martino, Gary Giddins, Nat Hentoff, and others....
January 16th, 2014
Amiri Baraka, the poet, author, playwright and activist who, as described by the New York Times, “spent his early career as a beatnik, his middle years as a black nationalist and his later ones as a Marxist,” died on January 9 at the age of 79. In Blowin’ Hot and Cool: Jazz and its Critics, John Gennari called him “the pioneer and preeminent symbol of the 1960’s black cultural revolution” who, along with Malcolm X, Eldridge Cleaver, Stokely Carmichael, and Huey Newton gave “black power a distinctive masculinist intonation.”
As a jazz and blues writer, he was brilliant, essential, astute and polarizing. Of Baraka’s writing in the 1960’s (while LeRoi Jones), Stanley Crouch — himself a brilliant and polarizing jazz writer — said that he was “the first
January 14th, 2014
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...
January 11th, 2014
There was a time when jazz music was considered “dangerous” and a threat to “our way of life.” Consider the words of Fenton T. Bott of Dayton, Ohio, described by John R. McMahon in the December, 1921 edition of Ladies Home Journal as an “expert in the dance and professional dancing master”: “It [jazz] is degrading. It lowers all the moral standards. Unlike liquor, a great deal of its harm is direct and immediate. But it also leads to undesirable things. The jazz is too often followed by the joy-ride. The lower nature is stirred up as a prelude to unchaperoned adventure.”
Conservative opinions were so strong about the “dangers” of jazz and the dancing it provoked that jazz dancing was being regulated. Bott told McMahon that “Municipal regulation has been started and applied to some extent in something like sixty towns and cities. The best-regulated cities are probably Cleveland, Detroit and Omaha. The movement began not long ago in Cleveland when officials asked my brother, who is a professional teacher, to assist in the regulation of public dance halls. They asked what he wanted for his services, and he told them he would be glad to do the work for a dollar a year.”
Bott, of course, wasn’t alone in his thinking....
January 5th, 2014
“Louis Armstrong changed all the brass players around, but after Bird, all of the instruments had to change — drums, piano, bass, trombones, trumpets, saxophones, everything.”
– Trumpeter Cootie Williams...
January 2nd, 2014
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....
December 31st, 2013
Earl “Fatha” Hines was born on this day in 1901. As one of jazz music’s most influential pianists, his work has touched the creative heart of American culture since 1925, when he first met Louis Armstrong at a Musicians’ Union poolroom in Chicago.
Hines is one of those figures who contributed to the development of jazz on a variety of levels. In The Chronicle of Jazz, Mervyn Cooke credits Hines’ “trumpet style playing” for being the “first tangible departure from the post-ragtime stride idiom, cultivating a right-hand melodic technique more directly comparable to that of front-line melody instruments.”...
December 28th, 2013
In his New York Times obituary of Yusef Lateef – who died on December 23rd at the age of 93 – Peter Keepnews describes him as a “decidedly unconventional musician,” and quotes Lateef as saying “My attempts to experiment with new instruments grew out of the monotony of hearing the same old sounds played by the same old horns. When I looked into those other cultures, I found that good instruments existed there.”
Keepnews also writes that Lateef “professed to find the word ‘jazz’ limiting and degrading; he preferred ‘autophysiopsychic music,’ a term he invented. He further distanced himself from the jazz mainstream in 1980 when he declared that he would no longer perform any place where alcohol was served. ‘Too much blood, sweat and tears have been spilled creating this music to play it where people are smoking, drinking and talking,’ he explained to The Boston Globe in 1999.”...
December 27th, 2013
You may want to consider adding Donald Fagen’s book Eminent Hipsters to your reading list. In it, the Steely Dan co-founder writes intelligently and often humorously about his early-life relationship with the jazz culture and how it helped shape his life choices and musical direction. Fagen says that the book’s main subjects are “talented musicians, writers and performers from a universe beyond suburban New Jersey who showed me how to interpret my own world.” Some of the “hipsters” Fagen shares along the way are Henry Mancini, all-night jazz DJ Mort Fega, WOR radio legend Jean Shepherd, and the Boswell Sisters.
An example of his colorful writing…In his chapter titled “In the Clubs” — an appreciation for the jazz clubs of New York he frequented as a young man — he wrote:...
December 19th, 2013
Jerry Jazz Musician presents a number of editions of “Masters of Jazz Photography,” featuring a work by one of the photographers featured in Lee Tanner’s The Jazz Image.
This edition: Bob Parent, featuring photos of Benny Goodman, Clifford Brown, the Modern Jazz Quartet, Billie Holiday and Lester Young...
December 17th, 2013
Few music writers had the resume of San Francisco’s Ralph J. Gleason: Columbia University School of Journalism; critic at the San Francisco Chronicle, where, in 1950, his criticism of popular music was the first such column in an American daily newspaper (before Gleason, newspapers regularly reviewed classical music only); produced the Jazz Casual television show for public television; witnessed and reported on all of the happenings of San Francisco during a time now known as the “San Francisco Renaissance,” when Gleason effectively connected the diverse endeavors of the era’s progressive musicians, literary figures, and comedians into an artistic aesthetic; co-founder of the Monterey Jazz Festival; writer on many a jazz record liner note (the next time you pull out Miles’ Bitches Brew, check out Gleason’s poetic description); contributing writer to Ramparts; co-founder of Rolling Stone magazine.
John Gennari, author of Blowin’ Hot and Cool: Jazz and its Critics – itself an important history of jazz journalism – described Gleason as “the jazz critic who...
December 14th, 2013
Our “Reminiscing in Tempo: Memories and Opinion” feature — where we pose one question via email to a small number of prominent and diverse people — is designed to provoke a lively response that will potentially include the memories and/or opinion of those solicited. We are currently in the midst of producing the current edition, in which we are asking the question, “Who was your childhood hero?”
Here is famed vibraphonist Gary Burton’s contribution, received earlier this week:...
December 13th, 2013
Richard Boyer’s entertaining and candid New Yorker profile of Duke Ellington first appeared in the June 24, 1944 edition under the title “The Hot Bach I.” (Parts “II” and “III” were published in subsequent weeks). Described by Ellington biographer Terry Teachout as “the most comprehensive journalistic account of Ellington’s life and work to appear in his lifetime,” the feature is filled with now well-known Ellington history (for example, his approach to composition and his appetite for food, women and the Bible), social history (Boyer’s casual description of the racial discrimination the band encounters on the road is notable), and some humorous interplay between Ellington and writing partner Billy Strayhorn, described at the time by Boyer as a “staff arranger.” The piece is a terrific companion to Teachout’s book, and another reminder of how important The New Yorker has been to the arts over the years....
December 10th, 2013