In This Issue
…..Best known among audiences as one of the most popular singers of his era, what placed Nat King Cole apart from many other great artists of the 20th Century was that he was also a masterful instrumentalist. As one of the great jazz pianists of all time, he accompanied legendary musicians like Lester Young and Charlie Parker (Dizzy Gillespie even cited him as his favorite keyboardist), and the King Cole Trio that he assembled in 1937 became the prototype for small group jazz ensembles. His piano playing was so admired it influenced a generation of players, among them Bill Evans, Oscar Peterson, Hank Jones, Ahmad Jamal, Bud Powell and Tommy Flanagan.
…..It is hard to overstate Cole’s success as a singer. Over 100 of his recordings were hits on the pop charts, among them “The Christmas Song,” “Orange Colored Sky,” “(I Love You) For Sentimental Reasons,” “Sweet Lorraine,” “Nature Boy,” “Mona Lisa,” “Smile,” and “Unforgettable,” a hit in 1951 that was triumphantly re-released in 1991 as a duet with his daughter Natalie. He consistently performed these songs – ballads and swingers alike – with unique charisma, charm and self-confidence.
…..Cole was the first Black man to have his own network television show, and, despite all the artistic challenges posed by popularity and fame, his work was rarely compromised – his music maintains its magic and remains relevant and captivating 55 years after his passing.
…..Describing the importance of Cole’s career, Will Friedwald, author of Straighten Up and Fly Right: The Life and Music of Nat King Cole, writes, “In his relatively short time on earth, Nat King Cole would not only change the meaning and the sound of both jazz and popular music several times over, but he would also significantly alter the public perception of what it meant to be black.”
…..The story Friedwald tells in his impeccably detailed and wonderfully entertaining biography is of Cole the creative visionary, the bandleader, the immensely popular entertainer, the family man, and the civil rights icon who, in his brief life, successfully navigated the challenges and complexities of his era.
…..In an August 13, 2020 interview, Friedwald – a leading historian of the singers of the Great American Songbook, and whose previous books include the 1996 ASCAP Deems Taylor award winning Sinatra! The Song is You! –discusses Cole and his book with Jerry Jazz Musician Editor/Publisher Joe Maita.
Also in this issue:
The 43 poets who contribute to the Summer Collection communicate their heartfelt passion for the artistry and inspiration found in jazz music, and help readers, in the words of Art Blakey, “wash away the dust of everyday life” – a special gift to share during this restless summer of discontent…and hope.
(featuring the art of Warren Goodson)
…..The Dave Brubeck Quartet’s 1959 album Time Out has long been recognized as one of jazz music’s most important and enduring recordings. While that album remains essential (and enjoyable) listening – Paul Desmond’s “Take Five” may be the most recognizable jazz recording ever – Brubeck’s genius is that through much of his 66-year-long-career he managed to construct music that displayed complex technique while simultaneously earning wide commercial success.
…..Brubeck’s most notable achievements came during a time of major societal and cultural change, and often in the face of critics who at times found his music too technical and bombastic. He was an enigmatic and extraordinary pianist, composer, and band leader, and a subject ripe for biography.
….. In the introduction to Dave Brubeck: A Life in Time, the author Philip Clark writes that his plan for the book was to “thread his life back through the times that formed it.” Much of the book revolves around conversations and details that emerged during a ten day period in 2003 when, according to the book’s publisher (Da Capo), the author was “granted unparalleled access” to Brubeck. The result is that “Brubeck opened up as never before, disclosing his unique approach to jazz; the heady days of his ‘classic’ quartet in the 1950s-60s; hanging out with Duke Ellington, Charlie Parker, Louis Armstrong, and Miles Davis; and the many controversies that had dogged his career.”
…..Clark’s book is an impressive blend of expert musical analysis, the sociology that surrounded and informed much of Brubeck’s art, and an appropriate amount of esteem reserved for his legendary subject.
…..An interview with Maria Golia, author of Ornette Coleman: The Territory and the Adventure, who author discusses her compelling and rewarding book about the artist whose philosophy and the astounding, adventurous music he created served to continually challenge the skeptical status quo, and made him a guiding light of the artistic avant-garde throughout a career spanning seven decades.
…..At the heart of great jazz music are the tunes that make up the Great American Songbook. These songs – most often written for Broadway musicals and films of early Hollywood – have become known as “American Standards,” and are some of the most revered in popular music history.
…..While many distinguished composers contributed to the Songbook, we are directing attention on three eminent figures – Irving Berlin, George Gershwin and Cole Porter – whose lives have come into focus due to the recent publication of three outstanding works devoted to them: Irving Berlin: New York Genius, by James Kaplan; Summertime: George Gershwin’s Life in Music, by Richard Crawford; and The Letters of Cole Porter, by Cliff Eisen and Dominic McHugh.
…..In this issue of Jerry Jazz Musician, we feature interviews with these acclaimed writers and scholars who discuss their books and their subjects’ lives in and out of music.
…..In our interview on Irving Berlin, Kaplan – author of Frank: The Voice and Sinatra: The Chairman – discusses Berlin’s unparalleled musical career and business success, his intense sense of family and patriotism during a complex and evolving time, and the artist’s permanent cultural significance.
…..In our interview with Richard Crawford, the professor emeritus at the University of Michigan, a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and a past president of the American Musicological Society who has published ten books on American music, discusses Gershwin, the man he has described as a “fresh voice of the Jazz Age” who “challenged Americans to rethink their assumptions about composition and performance, nationalism, cultural hierarchy, and the racial divide.”
…..In our interview with Dominic McHugh, the Professor in Musicology at the University of Sheffield, U.K. who has published six books on American musicals (including Loverly: The Life and Times of My Fair Lady and The Complete Lyrics of Alan Jay Lerner) talks about how “several of the big biographical tropes that we associate with Porter are either modified or contested by the letters,” and that “when you put together these letters, and add our quite extensive commentary between the letters, it creates a different picture of him.”
…..These interviews – which each include photos and several full-length songs – provide readers easy access to an entertaining and enlightening learning experience about these three giants of American popular music.