Louis Armstrong – the genesis of his “crossover” appeal

Breaking into the white market without losing his African-American vernacular identity was an amazing achievement for Louis Armstrong — particularly during his era. I talk about this in an excerpt from my recent interview with Thomas Brothers, author of Louis Armstrong: Master Of Modernism.

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JJM In the winter of 1925 – 26, while making a name for himself at classy venues like the Dreamland Café and the Vendome Theater, Armstrong was also extending his reputation thanks to the Hot Five series on OKeh Records. The recordings sold in Chicago, but the main target audience was African Americans in the Deep South, where “race records” were immensely popular. What was OKeh’s marketing strategy for this series?

TB Yes, they certainly sold in Chicago, and they sold in all northern cities where there were African-American communities from the Great Migration. The target of these “race records” was of course to appeal to the African-American mass audience, and to do so in a low-budget way. They were not interested in paying musicians any royalties – they would get a flat fee

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June 25th, 2014

Interview with Thomas Brothers — author of Louis Armstrong: Master of Modernism

In Louis Armstrong: Master of Modernism, Thomas Brothers picks up where he left off with the acclaimed Louis Armstrong’s New Orleans, following the story of the great jazz musician into his most creatively fertile years in the 1920s and early 1930s, when Armstrong created not one but two modern musical styles. Brothers wields his own tremendous skill in making the connections between history and music accessible to everyone as Armstrong shucks and jives across the page. Through Brothers’s expert ears and eyes we meet an Armstrong whose quickness and sureness, so evident in his performances, served him well in his encounters with racism while his music soared across the airwaves into homes all over America.

Brothers discusses his book with Jerry Jazz Musician publisher Joe Maita in an April, 2014 interview.

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June 15th, 2014

Celebrating African American History Month — Exclusive Jerry Jazz Musician interviews with and about prominent African Americans

For years, we have published exclusive interviews with prominent historians on a variety of figures and topics essential to American history that can also be put into the “American American History” category. Some examples:

Musicians:

Biographers discuss John Coltrane, Miles Davis, Charlie Parker, Louis Armstrong, Fletcher Henderson, Thelonious Monk, W. C. Handy, Cab Calloway, Sam Cooke, Lena Horne, Dizzy Gillespie, Dinah Washington, Robert Johnson, Bessie Smith, Lester Young, Charles Mingus, Bud Powell, Jelly Roll Morton, Billie Holiday, Sonny Rollins, and Josephine Baker

Civil Rights:

Historians — including National Book Award and Pulitzer Prize winners — talk about the lives of Rosa Parks, Ralph Ellison, Madame C.J. Walker, Zora Neale Hurston, Richard Wright, Reverend C.L. Franklin, Bayard Rustin, the Reverend Ralph Abernathy, and the events of the Tulsa race riots of 1921, 1960’s Birmingham, Alabama

Sports:

Including interviews about Satchel Paige, The Harlem Globetrotters, Joe Louis, Negro League Baseball, Jack Johnson, Curt Flood and Jacke Robinson

There are countless other interviews and subjects to be discovered…If you are looking to do research for papers or to simply enjoy a favorite topic of history, we invite you to click here to get to a comprehensive list of interviews. Alternatively, you can find these interviews by doing a basic search.

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February 9th, 2014

Interview with Marc Myers, author of Why Jazz Happened

Marc Myers is a busy guy…In addition to being a frequent contributor to the Wall Street Journal (where he writes about jazz, rock, and other culture), he also posts daily on his award-winning blog Jazz Wax and travels around the world promoting his pursuits. Perhaps his most important contribution is his book Why Jazz Happened, described by his publisher (University of California Press) as “the first comprehensive social history of jazz.” Myers’ perspective is fresh and thorough and wonderfully entertaining. For those who love the history of this music, it should be on your night table.

I recently interviewed Myers about his book, which he took the time to converse in great detail about — topics like how the G.I. Bill altered the direction of jazz; the advent of the extended jazz solo that came with the introduction of the LP; and how the suburbanization of Southern California ushered in a new harmony-rich jazz style in contrast to the music played in urban markets. It is a great read!

What follows is part conversation/part history class about Myers’ fascinating cultural study of why, in his opinion, “jazz happened.”

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February 7th, 2014

Interview with Stanley Crouch, author of Kansas City Lightning: The Life and Times of Charlie Parker

Described by the New York Times as a “bebop Beowulf,” Stanley Crouch’s Kansas City Lightning: The Life and Times of Charlie Parker is a love song to the life and times of Bird, one of jazz music’s most critically important figures. Mr. Crouch, himself an essential participant in both contemporary criticism and in the delivery of live performance (through his work with Jazz at Lincoln Center), discusses his long-anticipated biography with Jerry Jazz Musician in a recently conducted interview.

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January 22nd, 2014

Coming Soon: An Interview with Charlie Parker biographer Stanley Crouch

I am delighted to report that I have scheduled an interview with Stanley Crouch, author of Kansas City Lightening, The Rise and Times of Charlie Parker, and for many years one of jazz music’s most outspoken and influential intellectuals. The interview will take place later this month, and my hope is to publish it over the holidays.

We recently published an excerpt from the first chapter of his book…In case you missed it, here it is again. Crouch describes the scene in New York’s Savoy Ballroom when Jay McShann (Parker on alto) dueled Lucky Millinder’s band, as well as Parker’s need for getting high, and doing so prior to the evening’s performance…

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November 8th, 2013

Excerpt of our interview with Why Jazz Happened author Marc Myers

Marc Myers is a busy guy…In addition to being a frequent contributor to the Wall Street Journal (where he writes about jazz, rock, and other culture), he also posts daily on his award-winning blog Jazz Wax. Perhaps his most important contribution is his book Why Jazz Happened, described by his publisher (University of California Press) as “the first comprehensive social history of jazz.” Myers’ perspective is fresh and thorough and wonderfully entertaining. For those who love the history of this music, it should be on your night table.

I recently interviewed Myers about his book, which he took the time to converse in great detail about — topics like how the G.I. Bill altered the direction of jazz; the advent of the extended jazz solo that came with the introduction of the LP;

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November 5th, 2013

Excerpt of our interview with The Amazing Bud Powell author Guthrie Ramsey

We recently published an interview with Guthrie Ramsey, author of The Amazing Bud Powell: Black Genius, Jazz History, and the Challenge of Bebop, a thought provoking read that explores the history of jazz and jazz criticism through the life of the bop legend. In this interview excerpt, Ramsey discusses the concept of jazz manhood and how bop’s move from Harlem to 52nd Street impacted the way the music was critiqued.

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October 31st, 2013

Interview with Guthrie Ramsey, author of The Amazing Bud Powell: Black Genius, Jazz History, and the Challenge of Bebop

Bud Powell was not only one of the greatest bebop pianists of all time, he stands as one of the twentieth century’s most dynamic and fiercely adventurous musical minds. His expansive musicianship, riveting performances, and inventive compositions expanded the bebop idiom and pushed jazz musicians of all stripes to higher standards of performance. Yet Powell remains one of American music’s most misunderstood figures, and the story of his exceptional talent is often overshadowed by his history of alcohol abuse, mental instability, and brutalization at the hands of white authorities.

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October 22nd, 2013

On the Influence of Albert Murray

One of my more interesting experiences as publisher of Jerry Jazz Musician was producing a series of interviews that focused on the work of the novelist Ralph Ellison. Invisible Man was a favorite novel of mine as a young man, but it wasn’t until I reread it in the 1990’s before I began to understand the enormity of its cultural significance. At that time, Ellison’s second (and unfinished) novel Juneteenth was being published, and a variety of books on Ellison were released at the same time – among them Living with Music, a collection of Ellison’s writings on jazz music edited by Columbia University scholar Robert O’Meally, and Trading Twelves: The Selected Letters of Ralph Ellison and Albert Murray.

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October 2nd, 2013

John Goodman on Charles Mingus — An Interview Fragment

I recently published an interview with John Goodman, author of Mingus Speaks, a terrific book of interviews Goodman conducted with Mingus in the early ’70’s.

The following is an interview fragment…

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September 25th, 2013

John Goodman, author of Charles Mingus Speaks

As a writer for Playboy, John F. Goodman reviewed Mingus’s comeback concert in 1972 and went on to achieve an intimacy with the composer that brings a relaxed and candid tone to the ensuing interviews. Much of what Mingus shares shows him in a new light: his personality, his passions and sense of humor, and his thoughts on music. The conversations are wide-ranging, shedding fresh light on important milestones in Mingus’s life such as the publication of his memoir, Beneath the Underdog, the famous Tijuana episodes, his relationships, and the jazz business.

Goodman discusses his book in a July, 2013 interview with Jerry Jazz Musician publisher Joe Maita.

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September 6th, 2013

In This Issue

This issue features a roundtable discussion about how the world of religion may have impacted the creative lives of Billie Holiday, Langston Hughes and Ralph Ellison. Also, previous winners of the Jerry Jazz Musician Short Fiction Contest reflect on their winning story; three new podcasts from Bob Hecht; new collection of poetry; recommendations of recently released jazz recordings, and lots more.

Short Fiction

"The Wailing Wall" -- a short story by Justin Short

Interviews

Three prominent religious scholars -- Wallace Best, Tracy Fessenden and M. Cooper Harriss -- join us in a conversation about how the world of religion during the life and times of Langston Hughes (pictured), Billie Holiday and Ralph Ellison helps us better comprehend the meaning of their work.

Poetry

Nine poets contribute ten poems celebrating jazz in poems as unique as the music itself

Short Fiction

In celebration of our upcoming 50th Short Fiction Contest, previous contest winners (dating to 2002) reflect on their own winning story, and how their lives have since unfolded.

The Joys of Jazz

In this edition, award winning radio producer Bob Hecht tells three stories; 1) on Charlie Christian, the first superstar of jazz guitar; 2) the poet Langston Hughes’ love of jazz music, and 3) a profile of the song “Strange Fruit”

On the Turntable

25 recently released jazz tunes that are worth listening to…including Bobo Stenson; Medeski, Martin and Wood; Muriel Grossman and Rudy Royston

Features

Chick Corea, Rickie Lee Jones, Gary Giddins, Michael Cuscuna, Randy Brecker and Tom Piazza are among those responding to our question, "What are 3 or 4 of your favorite jazz recordings of the 1940's?"

Poetry

"Billie Holiday" -- a poem (with collage) by Steve Dalachinsky

Coming Soon

Thomas Brothers, Duke University professor of music and author of two essential biographies of Louis Armstrong, is interviewed about his new book, HELP! The Beatles, Duke Ellington, and the Magic of Collaboration; also, Spelman College President Mary Schmidt Campbell, author of An American Odyssey: The Life and Work of Romare Bearden, in a conversation about the brilliant 20th Century artist

In the previous issue

This issue features an interview with Bing Crosby biographer Gary Giddins; a collection of poetry devoted to the World War II era; and a new edition of “Reminiscing in Tempo,” in which the question “What are 3 or 4 of your favorite jazz recordings of the 1940’s” is posed to Rickie Lee Jones, Chick Corea, Tom Piazza and others.

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