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

January 30th, 2018

New York’s 52nd Street, 1948/photo by William Gottlieb

 

_____

 

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 knock me out.  It’s too rigid and repetitive.  Ben Webster wasn’t playing anything when I heard him.  And Billie Holiday…I’m sorry!

“I’ve heard two good things in the three weeks I’ve been in town.  One was Woody Herman’s band which is just as sensational as everyone’s been saying it is.  The other was Erroll Garner, whose piano is really wonderful.  And I almost forgot, there’s a young guitarist named Bill De Arango who plays fine.

“Otherwise, the West Coast may not be the happy hunting ground of modern jazz, but, brother, neither is 52nd St. these days!”

Granz eventually became a key figure in the history of jazz music as a founder of record labels – among them Clef, Verve and Pablo — an impresario whose Jazz at the Philharmonic ensembles featured many of the musicians he chided in this Downbeat piece, and most notably, became famous for breaking down racial barriers in auditoriums in the Jim Crow South.  The writer Nat Hentoff called Granz “a promoter of civil rights as much as jazz.”

We all know what became of the artists Granz criticized in this piece – Charlie Parker, Ben Webster, Billie Holiday, Dizzy Gillespie – all of whom either recorded for Granz or toured with the JATP.  As for the “fine” playing guitarist Bill De Arango, while in New York he played with the likes of Don Byas and Webster, and recorded with Bird, Dizzy and Sarah Vaughan.  In 1947 he returned to his native Cleveland, where he ran a record store, performed in local clubs, managed the rock and roll band Henry Tree, and recorded occasionally with the likes of Kenny Werner and Joe Lovano.  He died in 2005.

 

 

Share this:

Comment on this article:

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

In This Issue

Maxine Gordon, author of Sophisticated Giant: The Life and Legacy of Dexter Gordon, talks about her book, and the complex life of her late husband.

Also in this issue…A new collection of jazz poetry; "On the Turntable," a new playlist of 22 recommended recordings by seven jazz artists; three new podcasts by Bob Hecht; a new “Great Encounters”; several short stories; the photography of Veryl Oakland and Charles Ingham; a new Jazz History Quiz; and lots more…

On the Turntable

This month, a playlist of 22 recently released jazz recordings, including those by Chris Potter, Sons of Kemet, Stephan Crump, Brittany Anjou, Julian Lage, Joey DeFrancesco and Antonio Sanchez

Poetry

Seventeen poets contribute 21 poems in this month’s edition…

The Joys of Jazz

In new podcasts, Bob Hecht tells three stories; one about Miles Davis’ use of space in his music, one on the mutual admiration society of Sinatra, Lady Day, and Lester Young, and the other about the train in jazz and blues music.

“What are some of your all-time favorite record album covers?”

Gary Giddins, Jimmy Heath, Fred Hersch, Joe Hagan, Maxine Gordon, Neil Tesser, Tim Page, Veronica Swift and Marcus Strickland are among the 25 writers, musicians, poets, educators, and photographers who write about their favorite album cover art

Art

“Thinking about Ida B. Wells” — a photo narrative by Charles Ingham

Jazz History Quiz #126

In 1964, along with the orchestra of arranger Lalo Schifrin (pictured), this flutist/alto sax player recorded one of the first “Jazz Masses,” and soon after studied transcendental meditation in India. He would eventually become well known as a composer of music for meditation. Who is he?

Great Encounters

Dexter Gordon tells the story of joining Louis Armstrong’s band in 1944, and how they enjoyed their intermission time.

Art

In this edition of Veryl Oakland’s “Jazz in Available Light,” photographs of Red Garland, Dizzy Gillespie and Rahsaan Roland Kirk are featured.

Short Fiction

"Strings of Solace," a short story by Kimberly Parish Davis

Interviews

Romare Bearden biographer Mary Schmidt Campbell discusses the life of the important 20th century American artist

Cover Stories with Paul Morris

In this edition, Paul writes about jazz album covers that offer glimpses into intriguing corners of the culture of the 1950’s

Short Fiction

"And so we went to Paris," a short story by Sophie Jonas-Hill

Coming Soon

National Book Award winning author for non-fiction Jeffrey Stewart is interviewed about his book The New Negro: The Life of Alain Locke

In the previous issue

The question “What are some of your all-time favorite record album covers?” was posed via email to a small number of prominent and diverse people, and the responses of Gary Giddins, Jimmy Heath, Fred Hersch, Joe Hagan, Maxine Gordon, Tim Page, Veronica Swift and Marcus Strickland are among the 25 writers, musicians, poets, educators, and photographers who participated...Also, the publication of the winning story in our 50th Short Fiction contest; an interview with Romare Bearden biographer Mary Schmidt Campbell; a collection of jazz poetry; two new podcasts by Bob Hecht; the March edition of "On the Turntable," and lots more...Click here to be taken to the issue.

Contributing writers

Site Archive