“One For Daddy-O” — in memory of my dad on Father’s Day

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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June 21st, 2015

Surfing the Net — Remembering Ornette Coleman

Like everyone who has a love of jazz music and its culture, I mourn the passing of Ornette Coleman. We will all likely miss the impassioned spirit of his musical creativity, and how his art not only changed the way musicians played music, but how listeners consumed it.

Few artists have lived to read words like those written of Coleman by the influential critic Martin Williams, who in 1959 wrote in Jazz Review, “I honestly believe . . . that what Ornette Coleman is doing on alto will affect the whole character of jazz music profoundly and pervasively.” It certainly affected what I played on my turntable over the years.

I found his music to be intensely and joyfully challenging and most times best suited for introspective listening, but very early on in my “Jazz 101” phase I was struck by this artist whose every album title seemed to communicate passion and revolution – what Gary Giddins and Scott DeVeaux wrote in their 2009 textbook Jazz “seemed to incarnate the authority of the New Negro: The Shape of Jazz to Come, Change of the Century, This is Our Music, and Free Jazz.” These albums provided great curiosity, led

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June 18th, 2015

“Ornette’s Permanent Revolution” — a 1985 essay by Francis Davis

While hunting around the Internet for tributes of Ornette Coleman (a collection of which I will attempt to point readers toward tomorrow), I was reminded of the critic Francis Davis’s essay titled “Ornette’s Permanent Revolution.” Originally published in the September, 1985 edition of The Atlantic, Davis, now the jazz critic for the Village Voice, writes eloquently about the complexities of the great saxophonist’s “clean break from convention.” It is a worthy and timely read…

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All hell broke loose when the alto saxophonist Ornette Coleman made his East Coast nightclub debut, at the Five Spot Cafe, in Greenwich Village on November 17, 1959—twenty-five years ago last fall.

The twenty-nine-year-old Coleman arrived in New York having already won the approval of some of the most influential jazz opinion makers of the period. “Ornette Coleman is doing the only really new thing in jazz since the innovations in the mid-forties of

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June 17th, 2015

Memorable Quotes — Ornette Coleman

“Making music is like a form of religion for me, because it soothes your heart and increases the pleasure of your brain. Most of all, it’s very enjoyable to express something that you can only hear and not see, which is not bad.”

– Ornette Coleman

1930 – 2015

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June 11th, 2015

Bruce Lundvall, 1935 – 2015

Bruce Lundvall, a record executive best known among fans of jazz music as Blue Note Records president for 25 years, died yesterday at the age of 79. In addition to his work at Blue Note, Lundvall was president of CBS Records during the heyday of the LP business, and was responsible for signing many of that label’s major artists, and for expanding the jazz division of Columbia Records.

My own experience with him was always very favorable. Although I hadn’t spoken to him for several years, whenever I did reach out to him, either as a record executive myself or as publisher of Jerry Jazz Musician, he always made himself available and was supportive of my work.

In 2003, I hosted a conversation on the state of the business of jazz with Lundvall, New York Times columnist Ben Ratliff, and saxophonist Joshua Redman. Part of the discussion dealt with

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May 20th, 2015

My B.B. King story — An unforgettable experience with my son, but the end of a business dream

The passing of an artist the magnitude of B.B. King hits us all in some way. Mostly it is a loss of a revered and cherished entertainer. Who doesn’t have a memory associated with the guitar riff from “The Thrill is Gone,” or his humor-laced vocal on “Nobody Loves Me But My Mother” (“and she could be jivin’ too!”)? But since he performed live at least 200 times a year for two generations, many of us also have memories from seeing him in concert or having met him that makes his death feel slightly more personal.

No one can doubt what a great musician he was, and in the summer of 1995, my then-six-year-old son Peter and I had an unforgettable personal experience with him that also demonstrated

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May 17th, 2015

Gil Scott-Heron and the influence of John Coltrane’s A Love Supreme on his life

Yet more evidence demonstrating the influence John Coltrane’s A Love Supreme has had on musicians…This book excerpt from Marcus Baram’s excellent biography, Gil Scott-Heron: Pieces of a Man demonstrates how Coltrane’s legendary recording “inspired Gil with his mercurial independence in the face of criticism” at a time when the creative artist was contemplating his future as a novelist, poet, musician, and

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May 13th, 2015

Sammy Davis, Jr. and seeking white acceptance in an “independent and assertive way”

This excerpt from cultural historian Gerald Early’s essay from The Sammy Davis Jr Reader is a provocative reminder of Davis’ important role in breaking down racial barriers, and how the racism he faced led to his rebellion against it that was “couched in terms of seeking the acceptance of whites, but seeking

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May 6th, 2015

Great Encounters #41: The friendship of Miles Davis and Sugar Ray Robinson

“Great Encounters” are book excerpts that chronicle famous encounters among twentieth-century cultural icons. This edition tells the story of the importance Miles Davis placed on his friendship with boxer Sugar Ray Robinson in 1954, when he was trying to kick his drug addiction.

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May 5th, 2015

In This Issue

This issue features an interview with Thomas Brothers, author of Help! The Beatles, Duke Ellington, and the Magic of Collaboration…Also, previous winners of the Jerry Jazz Musician Short Fiction Contest reflect on their winning story; two new podcasts from Bob Hecht; a new collection of poetry; recommendations of recently release jazz recordings, and lots more…

Poetry

"The Thing of it Is" -- a poem by Alan Yount

Short Fiction

In celebration of our upcoming 50th Short Fiction Contest, previous winners reflect on their own winning story, and how their lives have unfolded since.

Poetry

Twelve poets contribute 15 poems to the February collection

Interviews

In Help! The Beatles, Duke Ellington, and the Magic of Collaboration, Duke University musicologist Thomas Brothers – author of two essential studies of Louis Armstrong – tells a fascinating account of how creative cooperation inspired two of the world’s most celebrated groups. He joins us in an interview to discuss his book, described by the Wall Street Journal as “a historically masterly and musically literate unraveling of some of the most-admired credits in 20th-century popular music.”

The Joys of Jazz

In this podcast, Bob Hecht tells the story of the song now synonymous with Feb. 14

Poetry

Steve Dalachinsky's poem of John Coltrane is dedicated to Amiri Baraka

Black History Month Profile

The life of Rosa Parks is discussed with biographer Douglas Brinkley

On the Turntable

Recommended listening…20 recently released jazz tunes by, among others, Brad Mehldau, Matt Penman, Ethan Iverson/Mark Turner, Ben Wendel, Julian Lage, and Don Byron

Great Encounters #54

In this edition, Joe Hagan, author of STICKY FINGERS: .The Life and Times of Jann Wenner and Rolling Stone Magazine, writes about how co-founders Wenner and legendary San Francisco music critic Ralph Gleason came upon the name for their revolutionary publication, Rolling Stone magazine.

“What are 3 or 4 of your favorite recordings of the 1940s?”

Chick Corea, Rickie Lee Jones, Gary Giddins, Michael Cuscuna, Randy Brecker and Tom Piazza are among those responding to our question, "What are 3 or 4 of your favorite jazz recordings of the 1940's?"

Cover Stories with Paul Morris

In this edition, Paul writes about the album art of the 1950's classical label Westminster Records

Coming Soon

Romare Bearden biographer Mary Schmidt Campbell is interviewed about the great American artist; Maxine Gordon discusses her biography of Dexter Gordon, her late husband... . . .

In the previous issue

This issue features a roundtable discussion among religious scholars Tracy Fessenden, Wallace Best and M. Cooper Harriss, who talk about how the world of religion may have impacted the creative lives of Billie Holiday, Langston Hughes and Ralph Ellison; also a new collection of poetry; previous winners of the Jerry Jazz Musician Short Fiction Contest reflect on their winning stories; three podcasts from Bob Hecht; recommended jazz listening; and lots more

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