Jazz History Quiz #105

November 21st, 2017


The correct answer is Bob Burnet!



In The Jazz Years: Earwitness to an Era, Leonard Feather writes that just before accepting a job as an assistant to Ivan Black, the publicist of the famed night club Cafe Society Uptown, he was involved with Cafe Society on a different level. “Bobby Burnet, the excellent trumpeter who had just left Charlie Barnet’s orchestra, wanted to start his own group.  I suggested hiring such sidemen as Charlie Holmes on alto and Albert Nicholas on clarinet, both Armstrong alumni.  We then put together a rhythm section with a promising eighteen-year-old pianist, Sammy Benskin; the bassist Hayes Alvis (ex-Ellington and Carter) and Manzie Johnson, the superb drummer whom I had heard often with Don Redman’s band. 

“This made Burnet the first white leader in history to organize an all-black group; it also made front-page news in Down Beat, with an encouraging story headlined, ‘Barnet Horn Man Fronts Colored Band’ and displaying a picture of Burnet captioned, ‘He’s Leading a Sepia Band.’

“In an interview for a new magazine, Music and Rhythm, headlined ‘Can a White Man Successfully Lead a Negro Band?’, Burnet was quoted as saying, ‘I never learned a thing from white musicians.  Every white musician can learn something from a Negro musician.’  This was somehow considered more newsworthy since Burnet, who had studied at a private school in Switzerland, was a member of a socially prominent family.’

“Our first requirement, of course, was a library.  Burnet was a first-class arranger, and since the instrumentation was that of the John Kirby sextet, I had little difficulty writing several charts to round out the repertoire.  Functioning as arranger, publicist and de facto booker without pay, I persuaded Barney Josephson to put the group in Cafe Society Uptown.

“The two-week engagement at the club, during which time I began officially with Ivan Black, was well received, but Barney Josephson already had John Kirby booked in to follow, and very soon the Burnet group was out of a job.  I could do no more than recommend Bobby for a few gigs at the Famous Door and a series of off-nights (Mondays) at Nick’s.  The band never secured a record date; within a couple of months it was defunct, leaving only a very satisfying memory for those of us who heard it.  Burnet rejoined Barnet briefly, then faded from the scene, eventually moving to Mexico, where he died some years ago.”



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In This 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.


In this edition of Reminiscing in Tempo,, Chick Corea, Rickie Lee Jones, Tom Piazza, Gary Giddins, Randy Brecker, Michael Cuscuna, Terry Teachout and many others answer the question, “What are 3 or 4 of your favorite recordings of the 1940’s?”


Interview with Bing Crosby biographer Gary Giddins, author of the new book "Swinging on a Star: The War Years, 1940 - 1946"


Eight poets — John Stupp, Aurora Lewis, Michael L. Newell, Robert Nisbet, Alan Yount, Roger Singer, dan smith and Joan Donovan — write about the era of World War II

The Joys of Jazz

Award winning radio producer and host Bob Hecht shares his love of jazz through his podcasts on his site “The Joys of Jazz.” In this edition, he tells two stories; the history of the virtual anthem of World War II, “I’ll Be Seeing You,” and the friendship and musical rapport of Bing Crosby and Louis Armstrong.

Short Fiction

Hannah Draper of Ottawa, Ontario is the winner of the 49th Jerry Jazz Musician New Short Fiction Award. Her story is titled "Will You Play For Me?"

Coming Soon

Three prominent scholars in a conversation about the lives of Billie Holiday, Ralph Ellison, and Langston Hughes (pictured)

Contributing writers

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