Archive for “Features”

Features

“It’s Too Darn Hot”

In June of 2017, the American president chose to leave the Paris climate agreement because, he said at the time, it is an agreement that “disadvantages the United States to the exclusive benefit of other countries.”  It seems that climate change knows no borders, and nobody benefits from our dear leader’s willful ignorance — witness the record heat and fires across the U.S., and indeed now all over the globe.

Oh well, we too can willfully ignore climate change today by finding a cool corner of our world and cranking up Cole Porter’s “It’s Too Darn Hot,” a song written for the Broadway musical “Kiss Me Kate” in 1948, and made famous by

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Features

Great Encounters #53: Backstage with Bud Powell and Charles Mingus

“Great Encounters” are book excerpts that chronicle famous encounters among twentieth-century cultural icons.  In this edition, the writer Francis Paudras — a young patron of jazz music in Paris during the 1960’s, and whose devotion, friendship and compassion toward the pianist Bud Powell helped Powell late in his life —  tells a short story about a backstage encounter between Powell and Charles Mingus following a 1964 performance at Salle Wagram in Paris.

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Features

We can learn from how jazz musicians communicate

From Wynton Marsalis’ 2008 book Moving to Higher Ground:  How Jazz Can Change Your Life comes another example of how humanity (and even the world of politics) can learn from how jazz musicians communicate…

 

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At [age] 12, I began listening to John Coltrane, Clifford Brown, Miles Davis, and Freddie Hubbard.  Just by paying serious attention to these musicians every day, I came to realize that each musician opens a chamber in the very center of his being and expresses that center in the uniqueness of his sound.  The sound of a master musician is as personalized and distinct as the sound of a person’s voice.  After that basic realization, I focused on […] Continue reading »

Features

On the Turntable — Miles Ahead

I have been fortunate – thus far – to have avoided the many summer colds going around this season, but I have been afflicted, once again, by “Miles Fever.”  Every so often, I am struck by an irresistible urge to dig into the catalog of this artist so present during virtually every season of my life, and rediscover the thrill of his sound, and of his cultural significance.   

I contracted the virus this morning, and spent the morning (in bed, of course) listening to Miles Ahead, the 1957 recording featuring Miles Davis and 19 musicians under the direction of Gil Evans – his first collaboration with Miles since the Birth of the Cool sessions of 1950, and one of his earliest recordings for Columbia Records.  An early example of

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Features

“Why should love stop at the border?”

On America’s 242nd birthday, this humanitarian quote from the Spanish cellist, composer and conductor Pablo Casals – written in his 90th year and published in his 1970 memoir, Joys and Sorrows: Reflections by Pablo Casals – seems like a timely philosophy for our difficult times:

 

“The love of one’s country is a splendid thing. But why should

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Features

Liner Notes: The Pee Wee Russell Memorial Album, by Dan Morgenstern

    In the early evening of March 29, 1960, I walked into Beefsteak Charlie’s, a midtown Manhattan bar frequented by jazz musicians.  With some surprise, I spotted a familiar figure at the bar – familiar, but not at Beefsteak’s.

     Pee Wee Russell, who’d turned fifty-four two days before, didn’t hang out there – or in any other bar, for that matter.  He’d done his share of that sort of thing – more than his share – but after his miraculous recovery from a near-fatal illness some years before, he had stopped.

     But here he was, by himself, having a quiet drink.  I didn’t yet know Pee Wee well in those days, though I’d been

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Features

“Vatican is Asked to Rule on Jazz”

     In the April 30, 1957 New York Times article headlined “Vatican is Asked to Rule on Jazz,” Paul Hoffman reports on the attack on jazz music made by Catholic leaders who felt that it was “music of materialistic and Dionysiac orientation,” and how this view might result in a curtailment of radio time devoted to serious jazz music.  This was of particular interest as jazz music was beginning to infiltrate the services of the 1950’s, which was, unsurprisingly,

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Features

“One for (my) Daddy-O”

Besides doing his best to help raise three kids, during my 1960’s childhood my father worked his heart out at two jobs — one of which was as owner of a restaurant on Oakland’s Telegraph Avenue, and the other as a musician, playing trumpet and viola throughout the San Francisco Bay area, mostly on evenings and weekends in “casual” jobs. For years he was part of a strolling quartet that entertained San Francisco’s elite at the World Trade Club — an ensemble that at its peak toured the Philippines, playing to an audience that included

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Features

William Gottlieb’s “Elusive Pianist”

Jazz photography has played an important role in the development of jazz, and, along with the art found on the record albums of the 1940’s – 60’s, is a visual window into the history of the culture.  The work of photographers like Herman Leonard, William Claxton and Lee Tanner impacted me pretty deeply, and led me deep into the record bins in search of the music they so effectively portrayed.  Leonard and Tanner, in fact, were major influences on my work on this site, and Tanner was indeed a personal mentor whose voice of encouragement remains in my head long after his 2013 passing.

Among the first interviews I ever did was in 1997 with William Gottlieb, best known as a

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Features

“War Comes to 52d St.”

     In Arnold Shaw’s biography of New York’s 52nd Street, 52nd Street:  The Street of Jazz, he devotes an entire chapter to the impact World War II had on “The Street,” its musicians, and ultimately on American society.  

     “…World War II came to 52d St.,” Shaw writes, “bringing not only a curfew, entertainment tax, rationing and an influx of sailors and soldiers on leave, but a rash of striptease joints, tab padding and other sharp practices, fistfights and sluggings, racial conflict, and even attacks on

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