Vintage record buffs have long been bedazzled by the bizarre, cartoonish album covers tagged with the signature “Flora.” For Columbia in the 1940s and RCA Victor in the mid-1950s, James (Jim) Flora (1914-1998) designed diabolic and hallucinatory covers that enticed music shop habitués browsing in the jazz, ethnic, and classical aisles. His jaw-dropping boldness and savory color combinations invited lingering glances. Although you shouldn’t judge an album by its cover, in the case of Flora’s work, the disc inside almost seemed an afterthought. […] Continue reading »
Time has been an essential ingredient in the Smothers Brothers’ success. They have been considered ahead of their time, masters of timing and practitioners of timeless comedy. Now as they mark over 42 years in show business, the Smothers Brothers are being saluted as time-honored legends whose lengthy career has surpassed all other comedy teams in history. […] Continue reading »
Filmmaker Avon Kirkland’s career as a chemist was cut short by his desire to create social change. The path he chose led to filmmaking, and along the way he has profiled great men, among them Booker T. Washington and Thurgood Marshall.
His latest film is on Ralph Ellison, the great American writer whose classic book of identity, Invisible Man, stands as a monument in literature. Ellison’s wide range of intellectual breadth and profundity surprised even Kirkland, and is documented in Ralph Ellison: An American Journey, the Sundance Film Festival nominated film that has found an audience via PBS.
[…] Continue reading »
ester Young was jazz music’s first hipster. He performed onstage in sunglasses and coined and popularized the enigmatic slang “that’s cool” and “you dig?” He was a snazzy dresser who always wore a suit and his trademark porkpie hat. He influenced everyone from B. B. King to Stan Getz to Allen Ginsberg. When he died, he was the subject of musical tributes by Charles Mingus (“Goodbye Pork Pie Hat”) and Wayne Shorter (“Lester Left Town”), and incidents from his life were featured in the movie ‘Round Midnight. […] Continue reading »
Gene Lees is a well-known jazz chronicler. He is also a song lyricist, composer, singer, and author of more than a dozen volumes of jazz history and criticism, including the highly acclaimed Cats of Any Color: Jazz Black and White.
In You Can’t Steal a Gift, Lees writes of his encounters with four great black musicians: Dizzy Gillespie, Clark Terry, Milt Hinton, and Nat King Cole. Equal parts memoir, oral history, and commentary, each of the main chapters is a minibiography weaving together conversations Lees had with the musicians and their families, friends and associates over several decades.
[…] Continue reading »