Posts tagged “jazz history”

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The last Super Bowl halftime show that featured jazz music

     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

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“Even the drummers on 52nd St. sound like Dizzy Gillespie!”

While the romantic notion is to imagine that the music coming out of the clubs lining New York’s 52nd Street during the 1940’s was universally applauded, we of course know that is not the case.  In an example of this dissent, consider the words of Los Angeleno Norman Granz, who told Downbeat this during his April, 1945 visit to New York:

“Jazz in New York stinks!  Even the drummers on 52nd St. sound like Dizzy Gillespie!” 

“I can’t tell you how disappointed I am in the quality of music here.  We keep getting great reports out west about the renaissance of jazz along 52nd St. but I’d like to know where it is.  Literally, there isn’t one trumpet player in any of the clubs with the exception of ‘Lips’ Page and he was blowing a mellophone the night I caught him.  Maybe Gillespie was great but the ‘advanced’ group that Charlie Parker is fronting at the Three Deuces doesn’t

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Nat Cole and the KKK

     An uncredited piece in the January 11, 2018 edition of AL.com titled “The Night Nat Cole was Beaten on a Birmingham Stage” recounts the April 10, 1956 evening in Birmingham, Alabama, in which Nat Cole was attacked on stage by local members of the Ku Klux Klan.  It is not only an example of our not-so-distant racist past, but also concerns the complexity concerning Cole’s involvement (or lack thereof) in the civil rights movement.  Consider this brief excerpt from the article:

 

     “I can’t understand it,” Cole said of the attack.  “I have not taken part in any protests. Nor have I joined an organization fighting segregation. Why should they attack me? I’d just like to forget about the whole thing.”

     Roy Wilkins, the executive secretary of NAACP sent Cole a telegram after the attack, “You have not been a crusader or engaged in

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“White Christmas” trivia

In an effort to get into the Christmas spirit, a revisit of Bing Crosby’s “White Christmas” is a seasonal requisite.  It percolates around the house for a couple of spins, leads to an Ella tune here, a Nat Cole there…before you know it much of an entire afternoon is spent attempting to find something, anything, that will capture the season’s enthusiasm so elusive this year.  

This year the tune inspired some Internet surfing about the 1954 film that net neutrality seamlessly allows…I landed on some interesting trivia about the film found at the Regal Cinema’s website.  Among the items listed, many obvious but welcome reminders:

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Features » Historic Journalism

Art Tatum on 52nd Street

In this entertaining short excerpt from Arnold Shaw’s 1971 homage to the jazz clubs of New York,  52nd Street:  The Street that Never Slept, Ralph Watkins, owner of legendary New York City clubs like Kelly’s Stable, the Royal Roost (the famed chicken restaurant nicknamed the “Metropolitan Bopera House” due to it being near the Metropolitan Opera House) and Bop City, remembers the blind pianist Art Tatum:

“The 52nd St. performer that stands out in my mind is Art Tatum, above everyone else.  Not only his musicianship but the fire in him.  He had a way when he was annoyed.  When people were talking during his playing, he’d stand up, bang the piano shut, stare in their direction, and tell them off:  ‘Quiet, you

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Features » A Moment in Time

A Moment in Time: Artie Shaw and Roy Eldridge, 1944

In the fall of 1944, shortly following his medical discharge from the Navy, Artie Shaw formed a 17 piece band (without strings) that featured Barney Kessel on guitar, Dodo Marmarosa on piano, Ray Coniff on trombone, and the brilliant trumpeter Roy Eldridge, famous for his work with Gene Krupa’s band in the early 1940’s.  The band, according to noted critic Leonard Feather, was “quite impressive” and exhibited “a refreshing lack of bad taste and bombast.”

This era of Shaw’s band resulted in several excellent recordings, among them

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A pioneer of San Francisco jazz

A buddy of mine led me to a recent feature in the San Francisco Chronicle on early 20th Century pianist Sid Le Protti, described by writer Gary Kamiya as “one of the leading black musicians who played on the Barbary Coast” whose “life and career provide a window into a mostly forgotten but fascinating chapter of the city’s cultural and racial history.”

The story is a terrific profile of the artist, but also of the city’s rich

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Interviews

“Up From New Orleans: Life Before, During and After Hurricane Katrina” — A conversation with transplanted New Orleans musicians Mark DiFlorio and Devin Phillips

Watching the impact Hurricane Irma is having on countless lives this week brought back memories of stories that came out of New Orleans in the wake of Hurricane Katrina in August of 2005.  In the midst of all the devastation, many people left the Crescent City permanently, including a handful of jazz musicians who made the move to Portland at the invitation of the Portland Jazz Festival organization (now known as PDX Jazz).

In 2006 I interviewed two of those musicians — Devin Phillips, who has become a fixture on Portland’s jazz scene and is its most popular and accomplished saxophonist, and Mark DiFlorio, a drummer who lived in Portland before moving to Seattle (his website indicates he is now living in Los Angeles).  Their stories are remarkable, and this interview is worth revisiting…

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Timeline of King Oliver’s Creole Jazz Band (1917-1923)

I was recently contacted via email by Andrew Taylor, a self-described lifelong jazz fan, Armstrong aficionado and history buff who is also an imaging professional and metadata librarian who explores data visualization, timelines and dynamic media in the manner being pioneered by some practitioners of “data journalism.”

Taylor’s coalescing interests and effort has resulted in an entertaining timeline he created leading to the 1923-1924 recordings of King Oliver’s Creole Jazz Band.

Taylor writes that the timeline “chronicles the development of the band that created them – beginning in March 1917 when the pre-Oliver edition of the band left New Orleans for

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Features » Book Excerpts

“Diz for President”

Claiming that his first order of business as president would be changing the name of the White House to the Blues House, Dizzy Gillespie’s run for President in 1964 wasn’t as illogical (or comical) as it seems on the surface. (In fact, given the ignorance of one of our current major party nominees, it is easy to write that Dizzy put much more thought into his vision for the country, and was without question more evolved as a candidate). As election day approaches, it is time to ask ourselves, what better time than today for a candidate whose platform includes disbanding the FBI and giving major foreign ambassadorships to jazz musicians?

In his 1979 autobiography To Be, or not…to Bop, Dizzy devotes an entire chapter to the story of his experience as a candidate for the presidency. The entire

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