Archive for “Features”

Features

Great Encounters #3: The Lester Young and Coleman Hawkins Kansas City battle

Excerpted from Lester Leaps In: The Life and Times of Lester “Pres” Young, by Douglas Henry Daniels

(Lester) Young earned recognition for being not only a stylist but a saxophone “freak” – not a pejorative term at all but rather a comment on his unparalleled virtuosity. He “could make a note anywhere” on his instrument. Certain notes were usually produced by depressing specific keys or combinations of keys on the saxophone (or valves on the trumpet and cornet), but “freaks” found ways to defy convention and orthodoxy by means of “false fingerings” and adjustments of the mouth and lips, or embouchure. The trombonist-guitarist Eddie Durham explained that “Coleman Hawkins and Chu Berry and those guys, they fingered it correctly with what they were doing.
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Features

Great Encounters #2: When Miles Davis hired John Coltrane

Excerpted from A Love Supreme: The Story of John Coltrane’s Signature Album, by Ashley Kahn

Miles Davis was desperate. He was in the midst of preparing for his first national tour arranged by a high-powered booking agent, and Columbia Records — the most prestigious and financially generous record company around — was looking over his shoulder, checking on him. “If you can get and keep a group together, I will record that group,” George Avakian, Columbia’s top jazz man, had promised. To Miles, an alumnus of Charlie Parker’s groundbreaking bebop quintet, “group” still meant a rhythm trio plus two horn players, but he still had only one: himself.

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Features

Great Encounters #1: When Charlie Parker played for Igor Stravinsky

Excerpted from Jazz Modernism, by Alfred Appel

Charlie Parker enthusiasts circa 1950 often declared him the jazz equivalent of Stravinsky and Bartok, and asserted that he’d absorbed their music, though skeptics countered that there was no evidence he was even familiar with it. Parker himself clarified the issue for me one night in the winter of 1951, at New York’s premier modern jazz club, Birdland, at Broadway and Fifty-second Street. It was Saturday night, Parker’s quintet was the featured attraction, and he was in his prime, it seemed. I had a good table near the front, on the left side of the bandstand, below the piano. The house was almost full, even before the opening set
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