Archive for “Features”

Features

Bobby Hutcherson, 1941 – 2016

Bobby Hutcherson, the most eminent postbop jazz vibraphonist who helped define the sound of Blue Note Records during the 1960’s and 70’s, has died. Described by contemporary vibes player Stefon Harris as “by far the most harmonically advanced person to ever play the vibraphone,” his career included the release of more than 40 albums as leader, and as a prominent sideman on many great records, including Eric Dolphy’s classic Out to Lunch and Jackie McLean’s One Step Beyond. I saw him many years ago at Kimball’s in Oakland (long since shuttered), an exciting set that, if memory serves, included […] Continue reading »

Features

Great Encounters #22…Cassius Clay, Malcolm X, and Sam Cooke — the Clay/Sonny Liston fight, Miami, 1964

In honor of the passing of Muhammad Ali, I am re-posting “Great Encounters #22, Cassius Clay, Malcolm X, and Sam Cooke — the Clay/Sonny Liston fight, Miami, 1964,” in which Peter Guralnick, author of Dream Boogie: The Triumph of Sam Cooke, tells the story of Ali’s (then Cassius Clay) relationship with Cooke and the circumstances of Clay taking his new name.

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Features

Great Encounters #45: Miles and Monk at Newport, 1955

“Great Encounters” are book excerpts that chronicle famous encounters among twentieth-century cultural icons. This edition offers two accounts of the events surrounding Miles Davis and Thelonious Monk’s performance at the 1955 Newport Jazz Festival — a story that is, according to Thelonious Monk biographer Robin D.G. Kelley, “shrouded in myth.”

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Features

A Moment in Time — Art Pepper, Los Angeles, 1956

Having just been released from serving a ten month drug related prison sentence at Terminal Island, the distinctive alto saxophonist Art Pepper re-entered the Los Angeles jazz scene in 1956 – still undeniably talented and hopelessly drug-addicted. His first gig upon his release was on June 29 in Malibu at Paul Nero’s The Cottage, and he also played with tenor Jack Montrose at the Angel Room in South Central. “I was doing well,” Pepper wrote in his classic autobiography, Straight Life, “but I was goofing, and I was really getting strung out.” On this photo session, taken by

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Features

Great Encounters #44 — Charles Mingus, Jackie McLean and their “nearly murderous confrontation”

“Great Encounters” are book excerpts that chronicle famous encounters among twentieth-century cultural icons. This edition tells the story of the violent, physical confrontation that took place between Charles Mingus and Jackie McLean while touring in Cleveland, 1956

Excerpted from Better Git it in Your Soul: An Interpretive Biography of Charles Mingus, by Krin Gabbard

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Any mature jazz artist with the ability and the desire to succeed will have shared the stage with a long list of musicians. But Charles Mingus seems to have played with everyone from Kid Ory to George Adams and at every stop along the paths of jazz history. Once he became a leader, he hired and fired a long list of sidepeople. Some stayed longer than others. Many were quickly discarded because


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Features

From What the Eye Hears — when the connection between jazz music and tap dancing became strained

I have been spending some time recently with an excellent new book, What the Eye Hears — A History of Tap Dancing. Written by New York Times dance critic Brian Seibert, the book — recently named a finalist for the National Book Critics Award in Nonfiction — is an informative, entertaining history of tap dancing, and a reminder of its central role in American popular culture. A particularly interesting part of its history is its relation to jazz music, especially in the vaudeville circuit and in the nightclubs of the early twentieth century.

Regarding this, Seibert wrote in an email to me: “Jazz and tap dancing grew up together. Both came, in W.C. Handy’s words, ‘down the same drain’ of minstrelsy, and origin stories for ragtime include the syncopated stepping of

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Features

A brief tribute to Maurice White

On the heels of the deaths of iconic rock musicians David Bowie and Glenn Frey comes the very sad news that Maurice White, the founder of the Earth, Wind and Fire, has died today at age 74. White’s music came to prominence in the thick of soul’s musical ascent, and E W & F embodied the sound of urban America at the time, their message communicated optimistically and on a large scale. White’s band possessed an unusual crossover appeal — the fact that his death has invited praise from

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Features

Liner Notes: The New Wave in Jazz, by LeRoi Jones and Steve Young

On March 28, 1965, a concert benefiting the Black Arts Repertory Theatre/School was held at New York’s Village Gate. Featuring John Coltrane, Archie Shepp, Sun Ra (he played but his music didn’t make the album) and Albert Ayler – artists described by Black Arts Music Coordinator Steve Young as “The Beautiful Warriors” and “magicians of the soul”– the performance was recorded and subsequently released on Impulse Records as The New Wave in Jazz.

This recording is significant for its brilliant “free jazz” performances, but also for Amiri Baraka’s (known as LeRoi Jones at the time) liner notes’ connection of music and politics. It is a reminder of the historic, turbulent times in which this music was created. The Selma to Montgomery marches took place in March, 1965. Malcolm X was assassinated in February. The war in Vietnam was dramatically escalating. And, jazz music was continuing to evolve, the most obvious example being the

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Features

A Moment in Time — Capitol Records’ Studio A, 1956

In 1956, shortly after recording Songs for Swingin’ Lovers — which included the ultimate Frank Sinatra tune, Cole Porter’s “I’ve Got You Under My Skin” — Sinatra’s career was white-hot. His record contract with Capitol was up for renegotiation, which posed a financial challenge for Capitol, who competed with other labels, particularly RCA, for Sinatra’s services. “When we took him on two and half years ago, Frank couldn’t get a record,” Capitol executive Alan Livingston told Downbeat. “Now, every company in the business is after him.”

After signing Sinatra to a seven-year contract that carried an annual guarantee of $200,000, Sinatra biographer James Kaplan writes that he had a “virtual carte blanche to record whatever he pleased. The suits were happy enough with their star to grant him an indulgence or two, and the first was

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