Great Encounters: When Johnny Hodges met Sidney Bechet

 “Great Encounters” are book excerpts that chronicle famous encounters among twentieth-century cultural icons. In this edition, Con Chapman, author of Rabbit’s Blues:  The Life and Music of Johnny Hodges, writes about Hodges’ early musical training, and the first meeting he had with Sidney Bechet, the influential and legendary reed player who Hodges called “tops in my book.”

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December 3rd, 2019

Great Encounters: When Jann Wenner and Ralph J. Gleason named Rolling Stone magazine

“Great Encounters” are book excerpts that chronicle famous encounters among twentieth-century cultural icons. In this edition, Joe Hagan, author of .STICKY FINGERS: The Life and Times of Jann Wenner and Rolling Stone Magazinewrites about how co-founders Wenner and legendary San Francisco music critic Ralph Gleason came upon the name for their revolutionary publication, Rolling Stone

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January 30th, 2019

When Charlie Parker Played for Igor Stravinsky

Ever since Patrick Jarenwattananon of the NPR Classical Music blog Deceptive Cadence published a story called “Why Jazz Musicians Love ‘The Rite of Spring'” in May, there has been a lot of traffic on the Jerry Jazz Musician page devoted to the meeting of Charlie Parker and Igor Stravinsky. NPR linked their readers to our “Great Encounters” page called “When Charlie Parker played for Igor Stravinsky,” where Jazz Modernism author, the late jazz scholar Alfred Appel, tells the story of how “Stravinsky roared with delight

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September 27th, 2013

Great Encounters #27: When W.C. Handy traveled to New York for his first phonographic recording session and meeting with James Reese Europe

Excerpted from W.C. Handy: The Life and Times of the Man Who Made the Blues, by David Robertson

Harry Pace, even at his distance at Atlanta, always had been more innovative in marketing their firm’s songs in newer ways than Handy, and, as his career later reveals, he was interested in the possibilities of owning his own phonographic business. While on a trip for his insurance company to New York City

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August 12th, 2009

Great Encounters #26: When Cab Calloway and Dizzy Gillespie fought over a thrown spitball

Excerpted from Playing the Changes: Milt Hinton’s Life in Stories and Photographs, by Milt Hinton, David G. Berger, and Holly Maxson

In 1939, Doc Cheatham, who’d been with Cab for years, was feeling ill and decided to give notice. By this time, when it came to finding replacements, Cab would go to Chu [Berry] first. He knew everybody and was really on top of the music scene. Chu spent about a week looking around and then recommended a young kid named John Birks Gillespie, who everyone called Dizzy. Cab hired him.

We were at the Cotton Club when Diz joined us. He’d been playing with Teddy Hill’s band and really had no reputation to speak of. Even back in those days, he was hanging out with Lorraine, who was in the chorus at the Apollo and later became his wife.

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March 29th, 2007

Great Encounters #25: When John Hammond “discovered” Billie Holiday

Excerpted from The Producer: John Hammond and the Soul of American Music, by Dunstan Prial

On a cold, clear night in February, 1933, Hammond went on the town alone in search of music. Heading up Broadway toward Harlem in a Hudson convertible (he kept the top up in the winter), he fought traffic, but as he passed Columbia University, he was flying. At 133rd Street, he took a right and headed east toward Lenox Avenue. He pulled over after a few blocks and parked in a space a few doors up from a new speakeasy run by Monette Moore, the singer who had appeared with Ellington and Carter at the fund-raiser for the Scottsboro boys he had helped organize the previous fall.

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December 29th, 2006

Great Encounters #24: When Peggy Lee joined Benny Goodman’s band

Excerpted from FEVER: The Life and Music of Miss Peggy Lee, by Peter Richmond

In CHICAGO in August 1941, preparing for an engagement at the College Inn, Benny Goodman was staying at Frank Bering’s Ambassador East. One night, Benny’s fiancee, Lady Alice Duckworth, suggested that he come next door to the Buttery and catch the new girl singer. The imperious, handsome granddaughter of Commodore Vanderbilt – founder of the New York Central Railroad – Lady Duckworth was also John Hammond’s sister.

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November 29th, 2006

Great Encounters #23: When Dizzy Gillespie and Charlie Parker Played 52nd Street

Excerpted from Chasin’ The Bird : The Life and Legacy of Charlie Parker, by by Brian Priestley.

Early in 1945, Parker had begun his first live small-band gigs with Gillespie, after he too left Eckstine the previous December, working briefly with Boyd Radburn and then being booked on the Street. In the meantime, Charlie himself had played some Monday nights at the Spotlite (run by Clark Monroe of the Uptown House) and deputised in the Cootie Williams band, narrowly missing the young pianist Bud Powell, who had been invalided out of the band by a vicious beating from the police in Philadelphia. But, when Dizzy hired Charlie to complete the frontline of his new quintet at the Three Deuces in March,

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February 9th, 2006

Great Encounters #22: Cassius Clay, Malcolm X, and Sam Cooke — the Clay/Sonny Liston fight, Miami, 1964

Excerpted from Dream Boogie: The Triumph of Sam Cooke, by Peter Guralnick

Jerry Brandt got them all tickets for the Clay-Liston fight in Miami on February 25. Allen brought his wife, Betty, Sam took Barbara, and J.W. came by himself, with Allen arranging for accommodations at Miami’s resplendent Fountainebleau Hotel. Allen had already registered and was in his room when Sam arrived, only to be told that there had been a mix-up about the reservations. It was not as blatant as Shreveport,

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October 29th, 2005

Great Encounters #21: The influence of Tommy Dorsey on Frank Sinatra

Excerpted from Tommy Dorsey: Livin’ in a Great Big Way, by Peter Levinson.

With young men being drafted in profusion and some even volunteering for military service, big bands found new venues to work: Army and Air Force bases and Naval stations. With the pre-war and war period having nothing but a favorable effect on the band business, by 1940, dance bands were still big business. Altogether, big bands of every stripe earned one hundred ten million dollars that year.

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September 29th, 2005

Great Encounters #20: When the Minneapolis Lakers played the Harlem Globetrotters; Chicago, 1948

Excerpted from Spinning the Globe: The Rise, Fall, and Return to Greatness of the Harlem Globetrotters, by Ben Green

In 1948, George Mikan, the six-foot-ten center of the Minneapolis Lakers, was dominating the sport like no other big man ever had. When Mikan had first arrived at DePaul University in 1942, he was a clumsy, slow-footed freshman who was so blind (with 20/300 vision) that, even wearing Mr. Magoo glasses, he had to ask teammates to read the game clock. But first-year DePaul coach Ray Meyer recognized the youngster’s fierce competitiveness, and put him through a rigorous, unorthodox, training program: he made him shoot thousands of hook shots with either hand, hired a female dance instructor to improve his footwork,

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August 30th, 2005

Great Encounters #17: The romance of Bobby Darin and Sandra Dee

Excerpted from Roman Candle: The Life of Bobby Darin, by David Evanier.

AFTER CONCLUDING HIS TRIUMPHANT DEBUT at the Copa, Bobby was cast in his first major movie role in the summer of 1960. He was signed to appear with Rock Hudson, Gina Lollobrigida, and Sandra Dee in Come September. He would be playing the role of an American student vacationing in Rome who falls in love with another tourist, Sandra Dee.

When he arrived in Portofino, Bobby first became involved with an older woman: Sandra’s mother, Mary

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May 29th, 2005

Great Encounters #16: When drummer Joe Morello joined the Dave Brubeck Quartet

Excerpted from Take Five: The Public and Private Lives of Paul Desmond by Doug Ramsey

By the fall of 1956, Joe Dodge was worn down by the travel and the intense schedule and wanted to be with his family. He told Brubeck it was time to look for another drummer. In the Quartet’s New York stays, Desmond had heard Marian McPartland’s trio and was impressed with Joe Morello, the drummer who had been working with her since 1953. Morello, born in Springfield, Massachusetts in 1928, played there with alto saxophonist Phil Woods and guitarist Sal Salvador before he moved to New York

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April 29th, 2005

Great Encounters #14: The story of the first commercial recording session of the Quintette du Hot Club de France

Excerpted from Django: The Life and Music of a Gypsy Legend, by Michael Dregni.

Early on the foggy morning of December 27, 1934, Stephane, Chaput, and Vola climbed into Vola’s small car along with their violin, guitar, and string bass and made their way to the ensemble’s first commercial recording session. For the group to have gasoline for the journey, Delaunay had to lend Vola one hundred sous.

Ultraphone had scheduled the recording session for nine, running until midday; the studio was reserved for the label’s stars in the afternoon.

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February 1st, 2005

Great Encounters #13: Why did Louis Armstrong leave Fletcher Henderson’s orchestra in 1925 and return to Chicago?

Excerpted from The Uncrowned King of Swing: Fletcher Henderson and Big Band Jazz by Jeffrey Magee.

By the fall of 1925, then, the musical synergy in Henderson’s band had reached unprecedented intensity. Henderson continued to hold court for dancers at the Roseland, reaching thousands of other listeners through its radio wire, and recording for a variety of record labels both with his full orchestra and with selected members of the band as accompanists for blues singers. And there were also continuous bookings in the summer between seasons at the Roseland, large crowds in venues up and down the East Coast, and consistently hyperbolic press coverage.

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January 29th, 2005

Great Encounters #12: The interconnecting paths of heavyweight champions Jack Johnson and Joe Louis

Excerpted from Unforgivable Blackness: The Rise and Fall of Jack Johnson by Geoffrey Ward

Johnson was back in Chicago in the summer of 1934, appearing in Dave Barry’s Garden of Champions, a sort of sideshow at the Century of Progress International Exposition organized by a veteran referee to compete with such attractions as the Midget Village, Sally Rand’s Balloon Dance, and the Aunt Jemima Cabin. For a dollar, children could throw punches at Jack Johnson while he ducked and laughed and popped his eyes. One evening, he fought an exhibition there against Tom Sharkey, whose sparring partner he had briefly been back in 1901. It was supposed to be a nonviolent sparring session,

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December 29th, 2004

Great Encounters #11: Duke Ellington and George Wein at Newport, 1956

Excerpted from Myself Among Others: A Life in Music by George Wein

Nineteen fifty-six was the Newport debut of the Duke Ellington Orchestra. I had struck an agreement with Irving Townsend, Columbia Records’s A&R man, earlier in the year. It would be good publicity to have some recordings from Newport. Our arrangement seemed like a good deal: for each artist recorded, the record company was to pay us an amount equal to that artist’s performance fee. As it turned out, it was a terrible deal, because the record company got exclusive rights and all of the royalties.

Columbia recorded the equivalent of four LPs during the 1956 festival:

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November 29th, 2004

Great Encounters #10: When Lionel Hampton Hired Dinah Washington

Excerpted from Queen : The Life and Music of Dinah Washington by Nadine Cohodas

As Ruth was settling into the Garrick, Lionel Hampton and his sixteen-piece band were getting ready for a weeklong stay at the Regal that would include a gala Christmas and New Year’s performance with Billie Holiday. It was a heady time for a group that was barely two years old and was riding a wave of ecstatic reviews and sold-out houses. The band had recently made its first recording for Decca.

“Hamp,” as he was universally known, was a consummate showman, a fireplug of energy who inspired his bandmates and thrilled his audiences.

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October 29th, 2004

Great Encounters #9: The first meeting of Duke Ellington and Billy Strayhorn

Excerpted from Lush Life : A Biography of Billy Strayhorn by David Hajdu

Shortly after midnight on December 1, 1938, George Greenlee nodded and back-patted his way through the ground-floor Rumpus Room of Crawford Grill One (running from Townsend Street to Fullerton Avenue on Wylie Avenue, the place was nearly a block long) and headed up the stairs at the center of the club. He passed the second floor, which was the main floor, where bands played on a revolving stage facing an elongated glass-topped bar and Ray Wood, now a hustling photographer, offered to take pictures of the patrons for fifty cents. Greenlee hit the third floor, the Club Crawford (insiders only), and spotted his uncle with Duke Ellington, who was engaged to begin a week-long run at the Stanley Theatre the following day.

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September 29th, 2004

Great Encounters #8: When Chet Baker played with Stan Getz, 1953

Excerpted from Deep in a Dream: The Long Night of Chet Baker by James Gavin

On August 12, the (Baker) quartet made its earliest known live appearance in a concert at LA’s Carlton Theater. But not everybody trusted Baker to stand on his own. With (Gerry) Mulligan in jail, John Bennett had paired Baker with Stan Getz, another baby-faced wunderkind whose feathery, cascading solos, even more detached than Baker’s, had made him a fellow prince of West Coast cool. Getz had won the 1952 tenor polls in Down Beat and Metronome by a landslide, while Baker still ranked low in the trumpet categories. The two addressed each other politely enough, but they loathed each other almost on sight, as their live duo recordings suggest:

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August 31st, 2004

Great Encounters #7: When Gene Krupa hired Roy Eldridge

Excerpted from Roy Eldridge: Little Jazz Giant by John Chilton

The booking at the Capitol was extended into 1941, but Roy’s long term prospects looked no better than they had a year earlier. However, Roy’s old friend drummer Gene Krupa was about to offer him a life-changing opportunity. Krupa had finished his stint with Benny Godman almost three years earlier and was now one of the foremost bandleaders of the era. Krupa’s Band played at the Hotel Sherman in Chicago during late 1940 and Gene often visited the Capitol (with his wife Ethel and manager Frank Verniere) after he’d finished his sets. Sometimes Roy went off with Gene to find a nightspot on the South Side where they could jam and eat ribs. During this Chicago stay Roy, as ever, was always game for an “after-work” blow,

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July 29th, 2004

Great Encounters #6: When Bing Crosby met Louis Armstrong

Excerpted from Bing Crosby: A Pocketful of Dreams by Gary Giddins

To hip musicians in Chicago, scat had been the rage for months. Bing and some of the other adventurous musicians in Whiteman’s band heard it that very week from the master himself, Louis Armstrong. If mobster Al Capone ruled the city, Armstrong ruled its music. Whatever he played was instantly picked up by other musicians. The previous spring Okeh issued his Hot Five recording of “Heebie Jeebies,” and it caused a sensation, selling some 40,000 copies thanks to his inspired vocal chorus – a torrent of bristling grunts and groans in no known language.

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June 22nd, 2004

Great Encounters #5: When Richard Rodgers met Lorenz Hart

Excerpted from Lorenz Hart: A Poet on Broadway, by Frederick Nolan

A few days later, (Philip) Leavitt took young Richard Rodgers around to the Hart house. Larry Hart met them at the door. They were a study in opposites. Dick was fresh, tanned, athletic, handsome, a high school champion swimmer and tennis player. Larry was unshaven — according to Rodgers, Hart invariably looked like he needed a shave every five minutes after he’d had one — and wearing a bathrobe over an evening shirt and trousers, with carpet slippers on his feet. He was already talking — and doubtless puffing a cigar and rubbing his hands together as he invariably did — as his visitors climbed the steps,

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May 21st, 2004

Great Encounters #4: When Rahsaan Roland Kirk appeared on Ed Sullivan’s last show in 1971

Excerpted from Bright Moments: The Life and Legacy of Rahsaan Roland Kirk, by John Kruth

(Mark) Davis then sent the Ed Sullivan show a letter warning them that they were next. With its live audience and numerous commercials, the Jazz & People’s Movement would surely throw the show off its tight schedule. Sullivan’s people thought it over and decided it was best to make peace with the J&PM rather than risk a disruption of their show. “I brought the talent coordinator of The Ed Sullivan Show to see Rahsaan and he really dug his version of “My Cherie Amour,'” Mark continued.

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April 20th, 2004

Great Encounters #3: The Lester Young and Coleman Hawkins Kansas City battle

Excerpted from Lester Leaps In: The Life and Times of Lester “Pres” Young, by Douglas Henry Daniels

(Lester) Young earned recognition for being not only a stylist but a saxophone “freak” – not a pejorative term at all but rather a comment on his unparalleled virtuosity. He “could make a note anywhere” on his instrument. Certain notes were usually produced by depressing specific keys or combinations of keys on the saxophone (or valves on the trumpet and cornet), but “freaks” found ways to defy convention and orthodoxy by means of “false fingerings” and adjustments of the mouth and lips, or embouchure. The trombonist-guitarist Eddie Durham explained that “Coleman Hawkins and Chu Berry and those guys, they fingered it correctly with what they were doing.

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March 29th, 2004

Great Encounters #2: When Miles Davis hired John Coltrane

Excerpted from A Love Supreme: The Story of John Coltrane’s Signature Album, by Ashley Kahn

Miles Davis was desperate. He was in the midst of preparing for his first national tour arranged by a high-powered booking agent, and Columbia Records — the most prestigious and financially generous record company around — was looking over his shoulder, checking on him. “If you can get and keep a group together, I will record that group,” George Avakian, Columbia’s top jazz man, had promised. To Miles, an alumnus of Charlie Parker’s groundbreaking bebop quintet, “group” still meant a rhythm trio plus two horn players, but he still had only one: himself.

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February 22nd, 2004

Great Encounters #1: When Charlie Parker played for Igor Stravinsky

Excerpted from Jazz Modernism, by Alfred Appel

Charlie Parker enthusiasts circa 1950 often declared him the jazz equivalent of Stravinsky and Bartok, and asserted that he’d absorbed their music, though skeptics countered that there was no evidence he was even familiar with it. Parker himself clarified the issue for me one night in the winter of 1951, at New York’s premier modern jazz club, Birdland, at Broadway and Fifty-second Street. It was Saturday night, Parker’s quintet was the featured attraction, and he was in his prime, it seemed. I had a good table near the front, on the left side of the bandstand, below the piano. The house was almost full, even before the opening set

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January 29th, 2004

In this Issue

photo courtesy John Bolger Collection
Philip Clark, author of Dave Brubeck: A Life in Time, discusses the enigmatic and extraordinary pianist, composer, and band leader, whose 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.

Spring Poetry Collection

A Collection of Jazz Poetry – Spring, 2020 Edition There are many good and often powerful poems within this collection, one that has the potential for changing the shape of a reader’s universe during an impossibly trying time, particularly if the reader has a love of music. 33 poets from all over the globe contribute 47 poems. Expect to read of love, loss, memoir, worship, freedom, heartbreak and hope – all collected here, in the heart of this unsettling spring. (Featuring the art of Martel Chapman)

Interview

Ornette Coleman 1966/photo courtesy Mosaic Images
In a Jerry Jazz Musician interview, Ornette Coleman: The Territory And The Adventure author Maria Golia 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.

Poetry

Mood Indigo by Matthew Hinds
An invitation was extended recently for poets to submit work that reflects this time of COVID, Black Lives Matter, and a heated political season. The first volume of this poetry is now published.

Features

Red Meditation by James Brewer
Creative artists and citizens of note respond to the question, "During this time of social distancing and isolation at home, what are examples of the music you are listening to, the books you are reading, and/or the television or films you are viewing?”

Interview

A now timely 2002 interview with Tim Madigan, author of The Burning: Massacre, Destruction, and the Tulsa Race Riot of 1921. My hope when I produced this interview was that it would shed some light on this little-known brutal massacre, and help understand the pain and anger so entrenched in the American story. Eighteen years later, that remains my hope. .

Poetry

"Sister" by Warren Goodson
"Shit's About To Go Down" -- a poem by Aurora M. Lewis

Book Excerpt

In the introduction to Dave Brubeck: A Life in Time – the author Philip Clark writes about the origins of the book, and his interest in shining a light on how Brubeck, “thoughtful and sensitive as he was, had been changed as a musician and as a man by the troubled times through which he lived and during which he produced such optimistic, life-enhancing art.”

Interview

NBC Radio-photo by Ray Lee Jackson / Public domain
In a Jerry Jazz Musician interview, acclaimed biographer James Kaplan (Frank: The Voice and Sinatra: The Chairman) talks about his book, Irving Berlin: New York Genius, and 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.

Book Excerpt

In the introduction to Maria Golia’s Ornette Coleman: The Territory and the Adventure – excerpted here in its entirety – the author takes the reader through the four phases of the brilliant musician’s career her book focuses on.

Art

Art by Charles Ingham
"Charles Ingham's Jazz Narratives" connect time, place, and subject in a way that ultimately allows the viewer a unique way of experiencing jazz history. This edition's narratives are "Nat King Cole: The Shadow of the Word," "Slain in Cold Blood" and "Local 767: The Black Musicians’ Union"

Interview

Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, Carl Van Vechten Collection
Richard Crawford’s Summertime: George Gershwin’s Life in Music is a rich, detailed and rewarding musical biography that describes Gershwin's work throughout every stage of his career. In a Jerry Jazz Musician interview, Crawford discusses his book and 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.”

Jazz History Quiz #139

photo by William Gottlieb/Library of Congress
This bassist played with (among others) Charlie Parker, Erroll Garner, Art Tatum, Nat “King” Cole (pictured), Dexter Gordon, James Taylor and Rickie Lee Jones, and was one of the earliest modern jazz tuba soloists. He also turned down offers to join both Duke Ellington’s Orchestra and the Louis Armstrong All-Stars. Who is he?

Interview

photo unattributed/ Public domain
In a Jerry Jazz Musician interview with The Letters of Cole Porter co-author Dominic McHugh, he explains that “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.” Mr. McHugh discusses his book, and what the letters reveal about the life – in-and-out of music – of Cole Porter.

Short Fiction

photo Creative Commons CC0
Short Fiction Contest-winning story #53 — “Market & Fifth, San Francisco, 1986,” by Paul Perilli

Photography

photo by Veryl Oakland
In this edition of photographs and stories from Veryl Oakland’s book Jazz in Available Light, Frank Morgan, Michel Petrucciani/Charles Lloyd, and Emily Remler are featured

Interview

photo by Fred Price
Bob Hecht and Grover Sales host a previously unpublished 1985 interview with the late, great jazz saxophonist Lee Konitz, who talks about Miles, Kenton, Ornette, Tristano, and the art of improvisation...

Interview

photo by William Gottlieb/Library of Congress
Con Chapman, author of Rabbit's Blues: The Life and Music of Johnny Hodges discusses the great Ellington saxophonist

Humor

photo by William Gottlieb/Library of Congress
"Louis Armstrong on the Moon," by Dig Wayne

Pressed for All Time

A&M Records/photo by Carol Friedman
In this edition, producer John Snyder recalls Sun Ra, and his 1990 Purple Night recording session

Interview

photo by Bouna Ndaiye
Interview with Gerald Horne, author of Jazz and Justice: Racism and the Political Economy of the Music

Great Encounters

photo of Sidney Bechet by William Gottlieb/Library of Congress
In this edition of "Great Encounters," Con Chapman, author of Rabbit’s Blues: The Life and Music of Johnny Hodges, writes about Hodges’ early musical training, and the first meeting he had with Sidney Bechet, the influential and legendary reed player who Hodges called “tops in my book.”

Poetry

The winter collection of poetry offers readers a look at the culture of jazz music through the imaginative writings of its 32 contributors. Within these 41 poems, writers express their deep connection to the music – and those who play it – in their own inventive and often philosophical language that communicates much, but especially love, sentiment, struggle, loss, and joy.

“What are 4 or 5 of your all-time favorite Blue Note albums?”

"What are 4 or 5 of your all-time favorite Blue Note albums?"
Dianne Reeves, Nate Chinen, Gary Giddins, Michael Cuscuna, Eliane Elias and Ashley Kahn are among the 12 writers, musicians, and music executives who list and write about their favorite Blue Note albums

In the Previous Issue

Interviews with three outstanding, acclaimed writers and scholars who discuss their books on Irving Berlin, George Gershwin, and Cole Porter, and their subjects’ lives in and out of music. 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.

In an Earlier Issue

photo by Carol Friedman
“The Jazz Photography Issue” features an interview with today’s most eminent jazz portrait photographer Carol Friedman, news from Michael Cuscuna about newly released Francis Wolff photos, as well as archived interviews with William Gottlieb, Herman Leonard, Lee Tanner, a piece on Milt Hinton, a new edition of photos from Veryl Oakland, and much more…

Contributing writers

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