During a recent stroll through the Internet, I was reminded of the story of Louis Armstrong requesting the use of Yogi Berra’s catcher’s mask during a 1960’s State Department tour of South America, “to fend off,” according to Armstrong’s widow Lucille, “the [enthusiastic South American] fans who wanted to touch his face and lips.”
Lucille’s recollection was disclosed in a December 10, 1981 letter to the U.S. Postal Service as part of a 14-year effort to have a postage stamp created in her husband’s honor. Duke Ellington’s stamp was issued in 1986, and the likes of Elvis Presley, Bessie Smith, Nat Cole and Billie Holiday had commemorative stamps well before Armstrong. How come? Was it politics?
To read about it, check out the two stories below…The first is the letter of advocacy
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Tomorrow is opening day of the 2017 baseball season. The first day of major league baseball always provokes simultaneous thoughts of renewal and nostalgia – the return of sunshine (at last!) and an optimistic spirit is coupled with the thoughts of days gone by, when the likes of Mays and Mantle and Aaron roamed the outfield and Ellington and Armstrong and Miles set the rhythm of our culture.
Baseball and jazz are well connected, as theorized by trombonist Alan Ferber, who wrote that “baseball players and jazz musicians both strive for a perfect balance between disciplined practice and spontaneity.” They also shared the spotlight in popular culture, when
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This lifelong friend of Duke Ellington co-wrote “Sophisticated Lady,” played clarinet, violin, baritone and alto saxophone during his first stint in Ellington’s band (prior to leaving in 1928), and, following time in a band that also included Fats Waller and Chu Berry, returned to Duke’s orchestra, where he would play alto until 1946. Who was he?
Go to the next page for the answer! […] Continue reading »
I could make the argument that jazz being marketed as a “popular music” officially died on January 12, 1975. Why? Because that was the date of the last Super Bowl halftime show that featured jazz music, in this case a “Tribute to Duke Ellington” performed by the Grambling State University Marching Band and Mercer Ellington. Sure, in subsequent years there was the occasional Pete Fountain/Al Hirt exhibition to pump local tourism when the game was held in New Orleans, but Madison Avenue officially ended all attempts at presenting jazz to a mass audience at the conclusion of the halftime show for the ’75 Steelers/Vikings game. What followed was an era of musical malaise for halftime shows (Up With People performed in four of the next 10 shows, for chrissakes!) and then Michael Jackson’s 1993 show opened the eyes of big business to the value of that time, and things were never the same.
Hard to believe, but I found a clip on YouTube of the 1975 halftime show. It is very raw and the sound makes early recordings made in the Gennett Studio sound pristine in comparison, but it is a remarkable piece of history. The introduction by NBC’s veteran (and very square) sports reporter Charlie Jones of the “Tribute to Duke Ellington” is shortly followed by […] Continue reading »
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 […] Continue reading »
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 […] Continue reading »
The great improvisational American jazz musicians of the mid-20th century inspired a generation of photographers to develop a looser, moodier style of visual expression. That evocative approach is on striking display in The Jazz Image: Masters of Jazz Photography. Covering six decades of performers from Louis Armstrong and Duke Ellington to John Coltrane and Miles Davis this unique collection is as much a comprehensive catalogue of jazz greats as it is a salute to the photographers who captured them.
Jerry Jazz Musician presents a number of editions of “Master of Jazz Photography,” featuring a work by one of the photographers featured in The Jazz Image
This edition: Hugh Bell
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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. […] Continue reading »
In 1929, this trumpeter replaced Bubber Miley in Duke Ellington’s band. Who was he?
Ziggy Elman […] Continue reading »
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: […] Continue reading »