2018 Pushcart Prize nominees

Jerry Jazz Musician is fortunate to have had hundreds of accomplished writers and poets submit their work for consideration of publication during this calendar year.  Many thanks to everyone who thinks enough of this website to desire sharing their creative vision with our readers.  The works published are outstanding examples of the connections that exist between jazz music, its culture, and the literary arts.

I am proud to report that I have nominated six exceptional published pieces for the prestigious

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December 4th, 2018

Coming Soon…Religious scholars discuss Billie Holiday, Ralph Ellison and Langston Hughes

     On Monday, I had the great privilege of hosting a conversation among three prominent religious scholars, Professors Wallace Best (Princeton), Tracey Fessenden (Arizona State) and M. Cooper Harriss (Indiana University), each of whom has recently published fascinating works on, respectively, Langston Hughes, Billie Holiday and Ralph Ellison.

     Their work is brilliant and entertaining, and of significance to anyone with an interest in expanding their knowledge of these three iconic Americans, and the worlds – particularly the religious worlds – in which they moved.

     The conversation, which featured a wide range of topics (i.e. the Great Migration, the Harlem Renaissance, the Brown vs. Board of Education ruling) will be published in January.  Meanwhile, the authors have provided statements that will provide initial information about their work. 

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November 8th, 2018

An update from David Amram

In addition to his brilliance as a musician, composer, conductor and author, a major part of the 88-year old David Amram’s biography will forever be his role as Jack Kerouac’s musical collaborator, when, in the late 1950’s, their work together – an “intoxicating stew” combining theater, poetry, and jazz – was the first “performance art” of its kind. 

In my 2002 interview with him, he said that during these performances he “never knew whether Jack was reading something that he made up on the spot or if it was something of his own. There may be something by Walt Whitman in there, or maybe a fragment of a poem by Hart Crane, or something from Shakespeare, Beowulf or Chaucer. He knew all of these French poets like Celine, and he would say ‘check this out’ or ‘dig this’ and start reciting a

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October 15th, 2018

Driving Don Shirley

On November 21, Universal Pictures will release Green Book, a film directed by Peter Farrelly, and starring Mahershala Ali as African-American pianist Don Shirley, and Viggo Mortensen as “Tony Lip,” a New York bouncer who worked as Shirley’s driver during his 1962 concert tour of the South.

Shirley’s musical style can most easily be described as varied.  His cabaret-style jazz playing at times sounds like “Eric Satie meets Erroll Garner,” while his impressive classical work took him to, among others, performances with the Boston Pops Orchestra, the London Philharmonic, and Detroit and Chicago Symphonies.  He also composed several symphonies, string quartets, and classical piano pieces.  His work caught the attention of Duke Ellington, who hired Shirley to play at his 1955 Carnegie Hall performance.  His career featured a long stint with Cadence Records, where, during the 1950’s and 60’s he recorded 16 albums, including 1965’s

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October 9th, 2018

Coming Soon…from Jerry Jazz Musician

Last week I had the privilege of interviewing Gary Giddins, author of the forthcoming second volume of his biography on Bing Crosby, Swinging on a Star:  The War Years, 1940 – 1946.  Look for the interview to be published sometime around the October 30 publication date of his book. 

Also, around the time the Giddins interview is published, Jerry Jazz Musician will have a new look – new design, masthead, magazine-style layout and publication schedule, and (hopefully) better

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October 2nd, 2018

News about poet Michael L. Newell

     I am always happy to report when a writer published on Jerry Jazz Musician finds success with their work.  Michael L. Newell informs me that a new book of his poetry, “Meditation of an Old Man Standing on a Bridge,” is now available from Seattle’s Bellowing Ark Press.  This is particularly rewarding as I have proudly published many of the poems Michael has submitted to me since 2015 – two of which appear in this collection.

     Michael’s poetry is a gift to those of us who love and appreciate the culture inspired by jazz music.  His creative spirit is aligned with those musicians he writes about, maintaining a sensitivity critical to communicating the music’s cultural aesthetic.  

     Whenever I receive submissions from Michael, I know I will be reading the poetry of a well-traveled man whose work can lead me anywhere – a rainy window in Kigali, a snowy stroll in Tashkent, a Christmas spent alone in Jordan, a puzzling evening in

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September 22nd, 2018

“Whistlin’ the Bird” — Two True Jazz Stories by Bob Hecht

Part 1: Confirmation (1969)

 

     It wouldn’t be the first time my penchant for whistling jazz tunes got me in trouble…nor the last.

     I’d been crazy about whistling from my boyhood. Perhaps I inherited my obsession from my late father. He wasn’t a jazz fan like I am, and I barely even remember him whistling—he wasn’t around much when I was a boy and he died when I was twelve—but my mom later told me he was an outstanding whistler. “He could do triple tonguing and everything,” she said.

     So maybe it was in my DNA. But at any rate, after his death I determinedly taught myself to whistle. I have a good ear and decent sense of pitch, so I found I could easily get in sync with whatever music I was hearing. And then I practiced and practiced, whistling along with jazz compositions and solos for years until I got

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September 17th, 2018

Ralph Ellison’s record collection

In a wonderfully entertaining and informative 2004 New Yorker piece titled “Ralph Ellison’s Record Collection,” Richard Brody reminds us of the Invisible Man author’s passion for jazz music — what he referred to as “American music” — and of his somewhat controversial (for the time) opinion of the musicians coming up.  While often revering the music of Armstrong, Ellington, and Lester Young (and who can blame him?), of Charlie Parker’s music, he wrote “there is in it a great deal of loneliness, self-deprecation and self-pity,” and, in a letter to friend Albert Murray following a 1958 Newport Jazz Festival performance, described Miles Davis as “poor, evil, lost little Miles Davis.”  He famously characterized bebop as “a listener’s music” that “few people are capable of dancing to it” — although this critique was probably more of a lament of a lost culture. 

But the crux of the story is not Ellison’s opinion about music, rather the recordings he collected, reported by Brody as

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September 12th, 2018

“Transcending the Blues” — a critical essay by Matt Sweeney

     Mac’s Restaurant and Nightclub in Eugene, Oregon is where the blues aficionados in Central Oregon congregate to enjoy Cajun type bar food and dance joyously to pounding, power guitar driven blues.  Our friends Alan and Susan go there a couple times a month to satisfy their boogie dance cravings.  Whenever my wife and I pass through Eugene, we end up at Mac’s with Alan and Susan.  They also attend a lot of blues festivals around their neck of the woods and can be considered connoisseurs.

     I too love the blues.  I also love jazz.  Susan loves the blues.  She does not love jazz, “modern” jazz to be specific.  Susan explains that when she’s dancing at Mac’s, she feels the pounding bass and drums and screaming vocalist and Fender Stratocaster vibrating her bones and muscles and eyeballs.  That’s her heaven.  That’s how she wants to

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September 3rd, 2018

An invitation to writers and poets

Hello folks:

In November I will be devoting space to the music and culture of World War II, the centerpiece of which will be my interview with author Gary Giddins, whose highly anticipated book Bing Crosby:  Swinging on a Star, The War Years, 1940 – 1946, will be released at that time.

I am seeking a limited number of short stories and poems about events, figures, music, etc.  that can be associated with the World War II era.    While I am unable to

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August 24th, 2018

“The Color of Jazz” — an essay by Bob Hecht

     The late, great trumpeter Clark Terry once offered one of the most pointed, and humorous, comments about the perennial controversies in jazz over race and the perceived abilities of white versus black musicians…

     He said, “My theory is that a note doesn’t give a

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August 16th, 2018

“Jazz and Democracy” — by Bob Hecht

     As someone who both adores the best qualities that jazz has to offer, and abhors our current national politics of polarization, I’m often struck by how the two realms of jazz and politics so dramatically conflict, in their respective expressions of two great American inventions.

     It’s not supposed to be like that, though, because jazz and democracy,  theoretically at least, share so many core principles.

     Jazz, I believe, contains the best of democratic values. In jazz, everyone has a ‘voice’ and a

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August 1st, 2018

“Democracy is coming to the USA”

“Sail on, sail on
O mighty Ship of State
To the Shores of Need
Past the Reefs of Greed
Through the Squalls of Hate
Sail on, sail on, sail on, sail on”

So wrote Leonard Cohen in “Democracy,” his classic 1992 song devoted to America and democracy, a piece he said he wrote because he “wanted a revelation in the heart rather than a

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July 31st, 2018

A true jazz story — “The Sober Years” by Robert Hecht

From a small balcony above the stage of the Maybeck Recital Hall in Berkeley, I’m looking down on the jazz duo of bassist Red Mitchell and pianist Roger Kellaway, while tapping my foot to the earthy, swinging beat they are laying down.

It’s a Sunday afternoon in 1992 at this unique venue. The recital hall is part of a house originally built by the famed architect Bernard Maybeck in the early twentieth century. (Maybeck designed the Palace of Fine Arts in San Francisco, along with many other notable buildings in that city.) The hall accommodates only about 50 people, and it’s a warm, redwood-paneled room with beautiful leaded glass windows on three sides. It actually feels a lot like being in a little chapel—but the religion being worshipped here is that of acoustic jazz, primarily of the pianistic variety.

For several years now, ‘The Maybeck’ as it’s familiarly called, has hosted a who’s-who of

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July 5th, 2018

John Coltrane — musical innovator “with physics at his fingertips”

In a 2016 Business Insider post, the physicist Stephon Alexander – author of The Jazz of Physics:  The Secret Link Between Music and the Structure of the Universe – writes about the connections between John Coltrane, described by Alexander as a “musical innovator, with physics at his fingertips,” and Albert Einstein, who “was an innovator in physics, with music at his fingertips.”

Coltrane’s music, particularly his final three records, helped Alexander realize that improvisation is a characteristic of both music and physics.  “Much like Einstein working with his thought experiments, some jazz improvisers construct

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July 2nd, 2018

The Warriors are the Globetrotters

I never tire of watching the Golden State Warriors play basketball at their best — great passing, intense defense, and near-impossible and timely long distance shots (almost comical, in fact) made by compelling and mostly likable personalities.   Their popularity is not limited to the San Francisco Bay area — their following is worldwide.   According to ESPN, “the first two games [of this year’s NBA Finals between Golden State and Cleveland] peaked at more than 21 million viewers in the U.S. alone, and there were 50 million watching in China…This is basketball at its highest level in its highest profile.”

While much of this immense audience can be attributed to the participation of the larger-than-life figure of Cleveland’s LeBron James (basically a “superhero” on the court), the consistently brilliant play of the Warriors over the last four seasons has revolutionized the game of basketball, so much so that it is easy to be reminded of the Harlem Globetrotters when watching them.  Like the Trotters, they make watching basketball

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June 7th, 2018

Publication date for second volume of Gary Giddins’ biography on Bing Crosby is November 13

The publisher Little, Brown recently announced a November 13, 2018 publication date for Gary Giddins’ Bing Crosby: Swinging on a Star: The War Years, 1940-1946, the second volume of the author’s definitive account of Crosby, the enormously popular 20th century entertainer he describes as  “quintessentially American, cool and upbeat, never pompous, belligerent, or saccharine, never smug or superior. He looked down on

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June 5th, 2018

A true jazz story: “Woody ‘n Me” — by Robert Hecht

I’m driving up Raymond Boulevard toward downtown Newark. In the darkness the huge lighted sign atop the Public Service Electric & Gas Company serves as a beacon for approaching the city. Yet tonight something is off with the sign, and I laugh out loud as I see that its ‘L’ has burned out…and that it is now offering ‘PUBIC SERVICE’ to the community!

I am on my way to work at radio station WHBI where I am a staff announcer but also produce a nightly jazz show. On the car seat next to me is my

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May 21st, 2018

“I saw records made…”

The “record” business continues to make an impressive comeback.  Although actual record sales make up a small fraction of the $8.7 billion music industry, according to Nielsen, the 14.32 million records sold in 2017 was up 9% over the previous year, and the Lp format accounted for 14% of all physical album sales.

This resurgence is evident in my city, Portland, where many neighborhoods are anchored by restaurants and coffee shops spinning record albums, and often include

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May 17th, 2018

New Orleans Jazz Fest

     This year’s New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, which was held from April 27 – May, featured a multitude of artists from across the musical spectrum, “proof that,” according to critic David Fricke “no matter where music comes from, it has some New Orleans in it somewhere.”   You can read Fricke’s Rolling Stone review of the Festival

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May 11th, 2018

Miles and Coltrane’s final tour together

     In a March 29 post on Slate, Fred Kaplan writes about the newly released bootleg recording of Miles Davis’ quintet (featuring John Coltrane), The Final Tour, a four-CD box set of live concerts in Europe from 1960.  The tour happened a year after the release of Kind of Blue, so many of the tunes played during it is from that classic album.  According the Kaplan, the music found on this Columbia/Legacy set is “radically different” and such a “jarring departure” from the album that “it demands we revise the conventional wisdom about these two musicians (Miles and Coltrane) and fills in some blanks…in the story of jazz, and where it was going, in those pivotal years.”

     Kaplan’s essay includes a critique of the music itself – but of particular interest is his reminder of the

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April 1st, 2018

Masters of Jazz Photography: Paul Hoeffler

Photographer Paul Hoeffler, who studied with the likes of Ansel Adams, Alfred Eisenstadt, and Nancy Newhall, discovered an interest in photographing jazz musicians through his regular attendance at Rochester, New York jazz clubs the Pythodd, the Ridgecrest Inn, the Auditorium Theater, the Eastman Theater, and the University of Rochester auditoriums.  He cites Louis Armstrong as an early inspiration, and he subsequently photographed Duke Ellington, Count Basie, Billie Holiday, Chet Baker, Dave Brubeck and a variety of others during their tours through

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March 17th, 2018

Where I’ve Been

February and early March have been consumed by my work as Board Chair of PDX Jazz (Portland, Oregon), the presenting organization of the PDX Jazz Festival, which this year took place Feb. 15 – 25.   Immediately following the Festival, I spent some time out on the road with a dear friend, exploring the clubs and museums of Kansas City and the surrounding prairie.  Some highlights of the Festival events and

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March 12th, 2018

The Rat Pack Captured

For those with the time (and a strong nostalgic gene), you may enjoy viewing the 90-minute performance of a 1965 benefit entitled The Rat Pack Captured. This benefit – billed originally as a “Frank Sinatra Spectacular” benefiting “Father Dismas Clark’s Halfway House for Excons” – took place in St. Louis and was broadcast via closed circuit television in theaters all over the country.  (Father Charles Dismas Clark was known around the country as “The Hoodlum Priest,” and his ministry included the successful rehabilitation of felons).

A youthful Johnny Carson hosts (in place of an ailing Joey Bishop who, Carson jokes, “slipped a disc backing out of Frank’s presence”), Dean Martin is at his

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February 20th, 2018

A re-emerging D.C. jazz scene

After several years of an uncertain jazz scene caused by the closure of many of the city’s iconic clubs, Washington, D.C. is feeling optimistic thanks to the emergence of small venues in the city and its surrounding suburbs, which, according to Washington Post writer Fritz Hahn, is “helping to fill the void of…lost venues. Musicians are exploring opportunities beyond the usual hot spots, playing Saturday night gigs in the basement bar at the

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February 8th, 2018

The last Super Bowl halftime show that featured jazz music

     I could make the argument that jazz being marketed as a “popular music” officially died on January 12, 1975. Why? Because that was the date of the last Super Bowl halftime show that featured jazz music, in this case a “Tribute to Duke Ellington” performed by the Grambling State University Marching Band and Mercer Ellington. Sure, in subsequent years there was the occasional Pete Fountain/Al Hirt exhibition to pump local tourism when the game was held in New Orleans, but Madison Avenue officially ended all attempts at presenting jazz to a mass audience at the conclusion of the halftime show for the ’75 Steelers/Vikings game. What followed was an era of musical malaise for

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February 4th, 2018

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

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

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January 30th, 2018

Nat Cole and the KKK

     An uncredited piece in the January 11, 2018 edition of AL.com titled “The Night Nat Cole was Beaten on a Birmingham Stage” recounts the April 10, 1956 evening in Birmingham, Alabama, in which Nat Cole was attacked on stage by local members of the Ku Klux Klan.  It is not only an example of our not-so-distant racist past, but also concerns the complexity concerning Cole’s involvement (or lack thereof) in the civil rights movement.  Consider this brief excerpt from the article:

 

     “I can’t understand it,” Cole said of the attack.  “I have not taken part in any protests. Nor have I joined an organization fighting segregation. Why should they attack me? I’d just like to forget about the whole thing.”

     Roy Wilkins, the executive secretary of NAACP sent Cole a telegram after the attack, “You have not been a crusader or engaged in

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January 27th, 2018

“In Your Own Sweet Way” — A Bill Evans Memory, by Robert Hecht

     It was the kind of New York night not fit for man nor beast. Sleet and wind whipping about, snow banks and ice everywhere. With my ‘49 Dodge slipping and sliding on the Village streets, I make my way to the Vanguard to catch the midnight set. The small sign outside the entrance inconspicuously announces: “Bill Evans Trio.” This is the 1962 edition of the trio, reformed after bassist Scott LaFaro’s death the year before; and this is the club where Bill had played his last sets with

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January 25th, 2018

February is African American History Month

The annual celebration of African American History Month is upon us.  First proposed by black educators and students at Kent State University in February, 1969, the initial official celebration took place a year later.  In 1976, President Gerald Ford recognized Black History Month during the country’s bicentennial celebration, when he invited Americans to “seize the opportunity to honor the too-often neglected accomplishments of black Americans in every area of endeavor throughout our history.”

For years, Jerry Jazz Musician has conducted and published exclusive interviews with prominent historians on a variety of figures and topics essential to American history that can also be put into the “American American History” category. Some examples:

Musicians:

Biographers discuss John Coltrane, Miles Davis, Charlie Parker, Louis Armstrong, Fletcher Henderson, Thelonious Monk, W. C. Handy, Cab Calloway, Sam Cooke,

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January 23rd, 2018

“Jazz Speaks for Life” — Martin Luther King

The only known public words ever written (or spoken) by Martin Luther King about jazz are those found in this essay, written for the 1964 Berlin Jazz Festival program.

 

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God has wrought many things out of oppression. He has endowed his creatures with the capacity to create—and from this capacity has flowed the sweet songs of sorrow and joy that have allowed man to cope with his environment and many different situations.

Jazz speaks for life. The Blues tell the story of life’s difficulties, and if you think for a moment, you will realize that they take the hardest realities of life and put them into

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January 15th, 2018

The Healing Power of Jazz

“Music can change people’s lives.  Mozart knew it.  Beethoven knew it.  Miles Davis knew it. Dizzy Gillespie knew it.  Music is what’s important.  It’s giving me life, and it is giving other people hope.”  That is the message from seventy-year-old jazz drummer Phil Young, spoken during The Healing Power of Jazz, an emotional and enriching short film by Jay Dockendorf and Kenny Sule. 

“Music has a very healing energy,” Young says.  “It deals with a force.  It’s vibrations.”  He tells a story of how music helped a

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January 13th, 2018

“How the U.S. Used Jazz as a Cold War Secret Weapon”

As Time.com’s Billy Perrigo reminds us in his excellent December 22 piece “How the U.S. Used Jazz as a Cold War Secret Weapon,” the U.S. State Department “hoped that showcasing popular American music around the globe would not only introduce audiences to American culture, but also win them over as ideological allies in the cold war,” and that jazz, in particular the music of Armstrong, Gillespie and Brubeck could help “keep communism at bay by whatever means possible.”

The history Perrigo brings up is itself well-traveled, having been explored in depth by several writers, notably

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December 24th, 2017

A short history of A Charlie Brown Christmas

From one of the best websites on the net — Pitchfork — comes a short history of the now famous A Charlie Brown Christmas television special, originally aired on CBS in December of 1965 with, according to writer Ron Hart, “a surprising amount of controversy.”   

Hart writes that “much of the crew fretted over the quality of the product, which was completed just 10 days shy of its air date. [Director Bill] Melendez was said to be embarrassed of the final cut, while executives fretted over the cartoon’s darker themes of depression, anxiety, alienation, secularism and, perhaps above all,

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December 23rd, 2017

“White Christmas” trivia

In an effort to get into the Christmas spirit, a revisit of Bing Crosby’s “White Christmas” is a seasonal requisite.  It percolates around the house for a couple of spins, leads to an Ella tune here, a Nat Cole there…before you know it much of an entire afternoon is spent attempting to find something, anything, that will capture the season’s enthusiasm so elusive this year.  

This year the tune inspired some Internet surfing about the 1954 film that net neutrality seamlessly allows…I landed on some interesting trivia about the film found at the Regal Cinema’s website.  Among the items listed, many obvious but welcome reminders:

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December 18th, 2017

Sonny Rollins and his gift to Oberlin College

Oberlin College reports that, this fall, saxophone great Sonny Rollins designated a generous gift for the purpose of establishing and maintaining the Oberlin Conservatory of Music Sonny Rollins Jazz Ensemble Fund.

His gift to Oberlin, as reported on their website, “grew out of his friendship with author and musician James McBride, a 1979 graduate of Oberlin College. The gift was made in recognition of the institution’s long legacy of access and social justice advocacy. In particular, Rollins was moved by

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December 13th, 2017

Fred Hersch remembers meeting Charles Mingus

In a wonderfully soulful and revealing excerpt from his autobiography Good Things Happen Slowly: A Life In and Out of Jazz, the pianist Fred Hersch remembers his musical introduction to New York in 1977, and specifically when he felt appreciated by none other than Charles Mingus.  An excerpt-from-the-excerpt is

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December 7th, 2017

Lose weight…with the Duke Ellington “simply steak” diet!

After you indulge on Thanksgiving, consider giving Duke Ellington’s “simply steak” diet a try!  In his 1973 autobiography Music is My Mistress, from a chapter titled “The Taste Buds,” Duke Ellington writes about his special diet, losing thirty pounds while on it, and the resulting onstage antics.

 

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      In 1955 my doctor, Arthur Logan, told me I would have to take off twenty-two pounds. I tore up his suggested menu and made one of my own. Mine was simply steak (any amount), grapefruit, and black coffee with a slice of lemon first squeezed and then dropped into it. With the exception of a binge one day a week, I ate as much of this

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November 23rd, 2017

A pioneer of San Francisco jazz

A buddy of mine led me to a recent feature in the San Francisco Chronicle on early 20th Century pianist Sid Le Protti, described by writer Gary Kamiya as “one of the leading black musicians who played on the Barbary Coast” whose “life and career provide a window into a mostly forgotten but fascinating chapter of the city’s cultural and racial history.”

The story is a terrific profile of the artist, but also of the city’s rich

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October 9th, 2017

James Baldwin writes about the 1959 film Porgy and Bess

In this September 1, 1959 essay in Commentary, James Baldwin writes of filmmaker Otto Preminger’s treatment of George Gershwin’s revered opera Porgy and Bess, expertly weaving film criticism and social commentary, addressing the film’s shortcomings and the complexity of racism of the era — much (actually, most) of which still exists…

 

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Grandiose, foolish, and heavy with the stale perfume of self-congratulation, the Hollywood-Goldwyn-Preminger production of Porgy and Bess lumbered into the Warner theater shortly before the death of Billie Holiday. These two facts are not, of course, related in any concrete or visible way. Yet, at the time I was watching Bess refuse Sporting Life’s offer of “happy dust,” Billie was in the hospital. A day or so later, I learned that she was under arrest for possession of heroin and that the police were at her

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September 14th, 2017

Witnessing the brilliance of Cecile McLorin Salvant

Last week I had the privilege of attending a show in Portland by vocalist Cecile McLorin Salvant, the fast emerging superstar of jazz, of whom Wynton Marsalis has said “you get a singer like this once in a generation or two.”

The show – performed at the city’s 300 seat Old Church on August 30 – was one of the more astounding jazz performances I have ever seen.  Having been to hundreds (hell, probably thousands by now) of shows over the years in venues all over the globe, that is saying something!  I came away feeling as if I witnessed contemporary “greatness” of historic proportions.

Ms. Salvant, a 28-year-old native of Miami, was elegant, breathtaking, sensitive, angry, political, intellectual, adventurous, and everything in between (and always brilliant).  So many highlights — including Aaron Diehl’s performance on the Old Church organ, accompanying her on

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September 5th, 2017

Bassist Ron Carter’s favorite recordings

In this August, 2016 27, 2016 Detroit Free Press piece by Mark Stryker, Ron Carter – the most recorded bass player in the history of jazz – talks about the ten favorite recordings he appeared on during his distinguished career…

 

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Saying the Detroit-bred bassist Ron Carter has made a lot of recordings is like saying American swimmer Michael Phelps, the most decorated Olympic athlete of all time, has won a lot of medals.

Carter, who was born in Ferndale and graduated from Cass Tech, has more than 2,221 recording credits to his name. According to the Guinness World Records, he is the most

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June 20th, 2017

Timeline of King Oliver’s Creole Jazz Band (1917-1923)

I was recently contacted via email by Andrew Taylor, a self-described lifelong jazz fan, Armstrong aficionado and history buff who is also an imaging professional and metadata librarian who explores data visualization, timelines and dynamic media in the manner being pioneered by some practitioners of “data journalism.”

Taylor’s coalescing interests and effort has resulted in an entertaining timeline he created leading to the 1923-1924 recordings of King Oliver’s Creole Jazz Band.

Taylor writes that the timeline “chronicles the development of the band that created them – beginning in March 1917 when the pre-Oliver edition of the band left New Orleans for

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June 5th, 2017

“Pardon my dust”

  Hello Folks… Due to a recent change in website hosting companies, the Jerry Jazz Musician website was recently migrated from one (rather dependable) host to a another.  Unfortunately, many issues that may impact your normal experience interacting with the site have yet to be ironed out.   So…many thanks for your patience as I … Continue reading ““Pardon my dust””

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May 30th, 2017

“Born With It” — a story by Rod Martinez

Do you remember growing up and always running into that one kid that just could do it all? Or at least did something better than you that you just wished you could do? It could have been art, sports, holding his breath under water – whatever it was it seemed it was a natural gift for him, like he was born with it. Who didn’t wish he or she was “born with it”?

During my childhood, I was always told I was special. Sure we all hear that growing up, and each one of us believes it. No one could make a bed as well as you, no one could

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April 24th, 2017

“Space Age Greetings” — a letter to President Trump, from Sun Ra

Space Age Greetings, President Trump:

I am reaching outwards to you from outer space, the other side of nowhere.  (It is a place we both call home).    

I come bringing harmony in the face of the planet’s doom, which I predicted long ago, when I lived on Earth.

I believe you are throwing out a certain vibration that may bring about Earth’s doom.  When I lived on that planet I once said that “knowledge is laughable when attributed to a human being.”  But, I am thinking that under the circumstances, maybe it wouldn’t be such a bad idea for you to acquire some knowledge. 

I wrote something once that I believe can apply to you:

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April 17th, 2017

Beyond “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised”

You will not be able to stay home, brother
You will not be able to plug in, turn on and drop out

So begin the lyrics to Gil Scott-Heron’s most famous poem set to music, “The Revolution Will Not be Televised.”  The original version of this song – recorded and released in 1970 on Bob Thiele’s Flying Dutchman label – had Gil accompanied by bongos and congas only.  In 1971, a new and subsequently more popular version was recorded – which included a full band – and released on Pieces of a Man, Scott-Heron’s most accomplished album.  

“Revolution” has since become an anthem of sorts, and so relevant that it was used in the opening theme of this year’s season of the popular TV series

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April 15th, 2017

Sunset and the Mockingbird — a film about Junior Mance

In a career spanning 70 years, the pianist Junior Mance played with Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, Duke Ellington, Dinah Washington, Cannonball Adderley, Gene Ammons and Sonny Stitt, appearing on over 100 record albums in the process. In addition to his career as a recording artist, he taught for 23 years at the New School for Jazz and Contemporary Music, counting Brad Mehldau and Larry Goldings among his students before retiring in 2011.

Then, in 2012, according to Sarit Work, co-producer of a documentary in the works on Mance and wife Gloria, “Junior had a stroke which led to the onset of Alzheimer’s dementia. Though his musical abilities were untouched, his gradual mental and physical decline has forced Gloria’s role as manager, wife and soulmate to take on a whole new meaning.”

The story of Mance and Gloria’s role to

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April 13th, 2017

“Jazz is Dying” — the state of jazz in LA

The April 5 edition of LA Weekly features a report on the closing of many Southern California jazz clubs and institutions, despite, writes Tom Meek, “the breakout of Kamasi Washington and the West Coast Get Down to a worldwide audience, and the award-winning film La La Land, which prominently featured Los Angeles jazz and provided work both on camera and off for dozens of area jazz musicians….[which] have all helped give L.A. jazz more

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April 9th, 2017

Baseball and Jazz

Tomorrow is opening day of the 2017 baseball season. The first day of major league baseball always provokes simultaneous thoughts of renewal and nostalgia – the return of sunshine (at last!) and an optimistic spirit is coupled with the thoughts of days gone by, when the likes of Mays and Mantle and Aaron roamed the outfield and Ellington and Armstrong and Miles set the rhythm of our culture.

Baseball and jazz are well connected, as theorized by trombonist Alan Ferber, who wrote that “baseball players and jazz musicians both strive for a perfect balance between disciplined practice and spontaneity.”  They also shared the spotlight in popular culture, when

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April 1st, 2017

Is it the “jazzless age” at the New York Times?

A must-read for those interested in the challenges facing contemporary music journalism is Max Cea’s February 23 Salon piece on the changing state of jazz coverage at the New York Times (on the heels of longtime writer Nate Chinen’s departure from the paper), and how those changes will impact jazz music…Perhaps the most chilling sentence in the piece (but hardly the only one): “… the current political situation makes devoting significant resources to increasingly esoteric arts coverage seem inessential.” 

 

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Given the typical adversarial rendering of critics by artists — pedantic, sadistic and envious of their victims — you might expect two New York Times music critics leaving the paper in the span of six months to be cause for

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February 27th, 2017

“Jazz in the Schools”

Many thanks to Doug Ramsey, honored jazz journalist and publisher of the blog Rifftides, who during his visit to Portland to cover the PDX Jazz Festival, took the time to meet with me and learn about the “Jazz in the Schools” program we instituted at PDX Jazz.  You can read his report and get information about the program by clicking here.

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February 22nd, 2017

Armstrong and Portland

As board president of PDX Jazz, I have been busy of late in preparation for the Feb. 16 – 26 PDX Jazz Festival…Great lineup this year, including Maria Schneider, John Scofield, Jimmy Heath, Roy Ayers, Branford Marsalis, Kurt Elling and countless others. To keep up on the events of the Festival, check out Doug Ramsey’s blog Rifftides.

Portland has a long history of presenting jazz. In Jumptown: The Golden Years of Portland Jazz, 1942 – 1957, author Bob Dietsche reports on the neighborhoods where jazz thrived, the clubs, the local artists, and of course the national artists who came to town. This mid-1950’s poster announcing the performance of

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February 15th, 2017

The Jazz Loft According to W. Eugene Smith

In the late 1950’s, the photographer W. Eugene Smith happened to be Manhattan neighbors with musicians Dick Cary and Hall Overton, who used their apartment as a gathering place for the great jazz artists of the era. In this small apartment space, Smith catalogued the lives of the likes of Thelonious Monk, Bill Evans, Rahsaan Roland Kirk and Lee Konitz in 4,000 hours of recordings and 40,000 photographs. Among the most noteworthy is a recording of Monk and Hall Overton as they rehearse for their famous 1959 Town Hall recording.

The ongoing effort preserving this work known as “The Jazz Loft Project” includes the musical recordings and photos as well as conversations among the

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January 19th, 2017

Exploring the France that Josephine Baker Loved

Yesterday’s Travel section in the New York Times was led by a fabulous feature by Sloane Crosley, “Exploring the France that Josephine Baker Loved,” which described her world while living in the Chateau des Milandes — the castle overlooking the Dordogne in the Périgord region in which she raised her 12 adopted children. Crosley’s piece is a tantalizing invitation to visit a beautiful region of the world, while reminding us of the complexity of her career and life in France.

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July 18th, 2016

“We Insist” on the healing powers of music

In the wake of the recent horrifying and consequential days in America’s history, like always, we can turn to the healing power of music.

In 1960, when spontaneous sit-in protests by African-American students in Greensboro, North Carolina led to the involvement of Martin Luther King’s Southern Christian Leadership Conference and the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE), the jazz and cultural critic Nat Hentoff wrote that “Negroes throughout the country – and many whites – were surprised and stimulated by the effectiveness of these direct, mass action, nonviolent techniques.”

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July 12th, 2016

The “new, subdued Louis Armstrong”

During the 1950’s and 60’s, when Louis Armstrong was one of the most famous people in the world, his opinions were often reported on, and would at times ruffle feathers on both sides of a political argument.

I recently came across an April 27, 1960 newspaper article that was published at a time when Armstrong was caught between 1) advocating for his country (while on tour as the country’s “jazz ambassador”) and 2) for his fellow African-American countrymen in the midst of the struggle for civil rights.

Titled “Satchmo Silent on Racial Crisis,” (from an unknown source but catalogued in the Armstrong file at the Institute of Jazz Studies at Rutgers University) this excerpt – transcribed at the time by the reporter in a

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June 15th, 2016

Invisible Man: Gordon Parks and Ralph Ellison in Harlem

Today’s New York Times informs us of an exhibition called “Invisible Man: Gordon Parks and Ralph Ellison in Harlem,” a 1948 collaboration among two of the era’s most prominent African-American artists. The show features newly discovered images and photographs that have never been exhibited.

According the Times piece, “the black-and-white photographs are vignettes of life in Harlem: street scenes of adults and children; political advocacy in real time; and imagined scenes from ‘Invisible Man,’ Ellison’s watershed 1952 novel. The photographs are

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June 2nd, 2016

Universal Consciousness: The Spiritual Awakening of Alice Coltrane

In a brilliant piece titled “Universal Consciousness: The Spiritual Awakening of Alice Coltrane,” Britt Robson writes that “the closer one examines the genuinely phenomenal life, music and spirit of Alice Coltrane, the more inevitable it seems that she will also someday receive her proper due. The most striking aspect of her biography is that she became a master musician and a spiritual guru in the same way, by carrying forth all her accumulated wisdom in a welcoming synthesis, rather than shedding, judging and discriminating her way to ‘growth’ and ‘maturity.'”

This extensive biography focuses on Alice’s musical path, her marriage to John Coltrane, her ensuing spiritual awakening, and her influence on

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May 23rd, 2016

Portland — “Jazz Town”

Oregon Public Broadcasting has just produced “Jazz Town,” a thirty minute documentary devoted to presenting jazz and the nightlife in post-World War II Portland, Oregon, which at the time was home to one of the most vibrant and fascinating jazz scenes in the country (and still is!) The documentary and accompanying slide show — featuring newly discovered photos of Ellington, Armstrong, Ella and

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May 19th, 2016

The Dionysian Dynamics of Jazz

On June 3rd, those living or visiting in the area of New York City can experience a unique event featuring a lecture by Jungian analyst Gary Trosclair, followed by a jazz performance by The Archetypal Jazz Quintet (led by Trosclair on trumpet), which will include works by Miles Davis, Thelonious Monk, Oscar Pettiford and Joe Zawinul.

Titled “The Dioysian Dynamics of Jazz: Freeing the Soul and Inhabiting the Body,” the lecture, according to the invitation, will focus on Dionysus – the “God of Wine, Ecstasy and Rebirth” – as the “Great Liberator” whose “energy frees the physically and spiritually imprisoned.” During the lecture, Trosclair will presumably make the case that Dionysus’ “presence in the origins of jazz becomes apparent when we explore its central attributes: improvisation, swing, and

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May 12th, 2016

The 1962 Miles Davis Playboy Interview

The other day, while stumbling around the Internet, I came across the first official Playboy interview — that of Alex Haley’s 1962 conversation with Miles Davis. The interview was published in the September edition and was considered quite controversial at the time. Consider this comment from the interview, and keep in mind what the world was like in 1962, and the shock it may have caused in certain segments of our society: “In high school I was best in music class on the trumpet, but the prizes went to the boys with blue eyes. I made up my mind to outdo anybody white on my horn.”

Now 54 years later, in the context of today’s world the interview doesn’t seem as controversial, but it remains a significant window to the soul of the era’s most revered

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April 22nd, 2016

Reviving Shuffle Along

The revival of the landmark all-black Broadway musical “Shuffle Along” – originally produced in 1921 and opening at New York’s Music Box Theatre on April 28 – reminds us of the great Noble Sissle/Eubie Blake compositions (most famously “Love Will Find a Way” and “I’m Just Wild About Harry”), but also the challenges (and humiliation) performers, theater owners and audiences faced within a racist American society. “’Shuffle’ wasn’t exactly forward thinking on race,” John Jeremiah Sullivan writes in a recent New York Times feature titled “American Shuffle.” “It broke boundaries, no doubt, but mainly through its success, and by having great pop tunes. Otherwise, it was a blacks-in-blackface production.”

“An area in which the show genuinely pushed things forward,” Sullivan writes, “[was] romance.” This during a time when white America found black sexuality

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April 11th, 2016

On Miles and Chet biopics — A New York Times podcast

In a just recorded podcast, two of this era’s most accomplished jazz writers — the New York Times’ Ben Ratliff and Nate Chinen — discuss the two first-run biopics now out on Miles Davis and Chet Baker, the ingenious trumpeters who each experienced great drama in their professional careers and personal lives, most obviously their chemical dependency and great personal charisma. You can hear the journalists discuss

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April 8th, 2016

“Hollywood’s Fake Version of Nina Simone”

In an opinion piece titled “Hollywood’s Fake Version of Nina Simone,” the New York Times’ Brent Staples takes on the decision to cast Zoe Saldana as Ms. Simone in the upcoming film Nina. The casting controversy involves whether or not Ms. Saldana’s skin is dark enough, especially considering that, as Staples writes, “Ms. Simone’s embrace of her blackness was essential to both her art and who she was as a person, and that any number of talented

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March 21st, 2016

PDX Jazz Festival is underway

This is a great time of year in Portland. (Actually, just about every day is a great time of year here). The Biamp PDX Jazz Festival, of which I am proudly currently serving as Board President, is now underway, and continues through Feb. 28. Over the weekend I took in terrific shows by Sonny Fortune, Charles Lloyd, Gary Peacock, Gary Bartz, Javon Jackson (with George Cables on piano), and Dianne Reeves. This weekend our stages will feature

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February 22nd, 2016

A story of “My Funny Valentine”

So many great songs to choose from for marking Valentine’s Day…The standard that most immediately comes to mind is an obvious choice, Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart’s “My Funny Valentine.” Written for their 1937 Broadway musical Babes in Arms, the piece was overshadowed on Broadway (and in the film version starring Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland) by “Where or When,” “I Wish I Were in Love Again,” and “The Lady is a Tramp,” and was not made relevant until Frank Sinatra’s recording of it in 1953. It was eventually recorded by more than 600 artists on countless albums, and became synonymous with Chet Baker, who recorded it over 100 times. Will Friedwald, author of Stardust Melodies: The Biography of Twelve of America’s Most Popular Songs — an entertaining and essential work of popular music history — wrote that “the tune could be said to follow Baker from the grave, since it’s usually included in memorial tributes to him.”

Friedwald writes, “What makes the whole [song] so remarkable is the happy/sad nature of the lyric, brilliantly mirroring the major/minor nature of the music. It’s a love song, but far from those ‘I love you and everything’s rosy’ tunes so popular in the twenties (vis-a-vis Iriving Berlin’s ‘Blue Skies’). It’s vaguely optimistic, but it couldn’t

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February 14th, 2016

Calling all writers to “blow as deep as you want to blow”

The deadline for our next Jerry Jazz Musician Short Fiction Contest – the 41st since the contest’s inception in 2002 – is January 31. Please click here for complete contest details. If you would like to read our most recent winning story, “The Blues Museum,” by Jay Franzel, click here.

Also…I encourage writers to submit short stories, poems, essays and opinions for publication consideration at any time. Think of Jerry Jazz Musician as a place for “jazz literature,” and a place where, as Jack Kerouac would say, a writer can “blow as deep as you want to blow.” We have a large audience of readers (including 24,000+ Facebook “likes”) who may enjoy seeing what you have to say. If you want to submit something,

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January 17th, 2016

Mind of Blue: Conveying Emotion Affects Brain’s Creativity Network

In a recent University of California, San Francisco study involving jazz pianists, according to the public release document associated with the research, neuroscientists have concluded that “the workings of neural circuits associated with creativity are significantly altered when artists are actively attempting to express emotions.”

The public release, entitled “Mind of Blue: Conveying Emotion Affects Brain’s Creativity Network,” reminds us that during the act of improvisation, a brain region known as the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC), which is “involved in planning and monitoring behavior” is deactivated, allowing the musician to enter into a “flow state” that artists enter to

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January 14th, 2016

Revisiting Zora Neale Hurston

January 7 marked the 125th birthday of Zora Neale Hurston, a towering literary figure of the Harlem Renaissance whose best known published book is Their Eyes Were Watching God, a 1937 work that Time Magazine lists among the 100 best English-language novels published since 1923. Controversial at one time due to the strength of the black female protagonist’s character (resulting in the book actually being out of print for nearly thirty years), it is now considered essential reading in the study of African-American letters.

In addition to her work as a novelist, Hurston was a folklorist who studied the African-American culture of the rural South. During my 2002 interview with Carla Kaplan, author of Zora Neale Hurston: A Life in Letters, she describes Hurston as a

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January 9th, 2016

Joey Alexander — “Little Jazz Man”

Viewers of 60 Minutes this past Sunday were treated to “Little Jazz Man,” a segment devoted to 12-year-old jazz pianist Joey Alexander, whose career is being closely followed by devotees of the music. The two-time Grammy nominee (including Best Jazz Album for his 2015 debut, My Favorite Things) has already performed on the main stages of Jazz at Lincoln Center and the Newport Jazz Festival, and has been described by Wynton Marsalis as “my hero.”

Is he the best pianist in the world? Not a chance. Not now. But with the appropriate

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January 8th, 2016

All Things Must Pass — the Tower Records documentary

For fans of what was once the record business, the Colin Hanks film All Things Must Pass — which chronicles the history and demise of retailing giant Tower Records — can’t be recommended highly enough. While not a complete or thorough (or necessarily accurate) account of what happened to the chain and record retailing in general, it is a fabulous look inside the head of music retailing’s superstar — owner Russ Solomon. Fiercely loyal to his employees and a close friend to many in the label community, Solomon had one great (and at the time courageous) vision for retailing — marketing records in volume in a storefront devoted to music only. This was at a time when consumers would typically find a limited selection of records in a rack in the local appliance and furniture store.

Solomon’s vision carried his company for over 40 years and through multiple music format changes, but ultimately

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December 16th, 2015

When the cows came marching in

Ok, so this is probably old news to most of you, but I stumbled on to this 2011 video of French musicians who go by the name of “The New Hot 5” performing “When the Saints Go Marching In” and “(Won’t You Come Home) Bill Bailey” in a lush farm setting of Autrans, France. Their audience? A very attentive herd of cattle…It is wildly entertaining, and can

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November 30th, 2015

Learning to love jazz again

From a recent edition of Slate comes a lovely blog post from Isaac Butler, who rediscovered his passion for jazz after challenging himself to find the fragment of music originally responsible for his interest in jazz. It is a brief, satisfying read…

 

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More than two years ago, as summer changed to fall, I was walking to the gym when I heard, wafting out of the window of a restaurant, a snatch of a jazz song. It was a minor third, descending to the root, first on a trumpet, then on a

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November 23rd, 2015

Coming Soon

After a few weeks of cafés, wine and canals, I have returned from a sensational time in France, and will begin posting again as frequently as my time allows. Please be on the lookout for a new short story from Arya Jenkins, poetry from several new contributors, a new “Cover Stories with Paul Morris,” and the publication of our 40th Short Fiction Contest winning story.

Meanwhile, the CD listening group I am a part of devoted some time to the music of Red Norvo, which led me to the discovery of a few cool videos – not the least of which is this great clip from

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October 22nd, 2015

“To hell with the rules…”

“To hell with the rules. I am going for the unknown.”

– Wayne Shorter

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A combination of still unresolved technological challenges, vacation, travel, and work has caused me to take a bit of a hiatus. I hope to return on a regular basis in the near future. Meanwhile, please enjoy this hour long 2013 performance of the Wayne Shorter Quartet, who we have recently booked for an October 13 appearance in

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August 4th, 2015

On Nina Simone

In the Sunday, June 21 New York Times, Salamishah Tillet writes, “Fifty years after her prominence, Nina Simone is now reaching her peak.” The three new films she has inspired, along with a tribute album and an excellent 2012 biography by Nadine Cahodas, has brought additional importance to Ms. Simone’s music and the way she lived her life, to the point where writers like Tillet opine that Simone “broadened the parameters of the great American pop artist.”

“Simone’s androgynous voice, genre-breaking musicianship and political consciousness may have concerned ’60s and ’70s marketing executives and concert promoters,” Tillet writes, “but those are a huge draw for today’s gay, lesbian, black and female artists who want to

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June 25th, 2015

“Charlie Parker’s Yardbird” — the opera

In what is described by New York Times classical music writer Corinna da Fonseca-Wollheim as the company’s “wider shift toward more new music,” on June 5, Opera Philadelphia will present the premier of composer Daniel Schnyder’s “Charlie Parker’s Yardbird,” which stars Lawrence Brownlee as the bebop legend.

According to Fonseca-Wollheim, Opera Philadelphia has “a general willingness to take risks on unorthodox subjects and genres. Philadelphia’s last season featured the American premiere of Ana Sokolovic’s ‘Svadba,’ a raucous Balkan wedding ritual; October will bring a ‘Popera’ about Andy Warhol, mixing elements of cabaret and opera.”

“The mix of musical styles is especially risky in ‘Yardbird,’” Fonseca-Wollheim writes, “since it offers

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June 1st, 2015

What Queen Latifah left out of Bessie — the myth of Bessie Smith’s death

Queen Latifah’s homage to Bessie Smith, the HBO film Bessie, offers a look at the complexity of this transcendent entertainer’s life. The movie is wonderfully entertaining with strong performances by Latifah throughout, but, like most “biopics,” it is also somewhat flawed. For example, while her overt bi-sexuality, alcohol abuse, violent temper, and tempestuous marital life were central to her life story – and thus important to this film – her great musical talent didn’t feel completely honored in performance.

Given that the myth encompassing Bessie Smith’s death has dominated her life story to the point where prominent historians believe she was better known for her death than for what she accomplished in life, it was not surprising that Latifah chose to end her film without

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May 26th, 2015

Essentially Ellington, 2015

Congratulations to Portland’s American Music Program/Pacific Crest Jazz Orchestra, which recently won the prestigious “Essentially Ellington” high school jazz band competition. Led by Portland musician/educator Thara Memory – a local legend who is nationally recognized for being Esperanza Spalding’s former teacher – the band performed Duke Ellington’s “The Tattooed Bride” from memory on the Rose Theater stage at Jazz at Lincoln Center.

“There’s an emotional commitment to playing ‘Tattooed Bride’ from memory. No professional group does that,” Wynton Marsalis said of their peformance. “American Music Program wanted to play that for their band director, Thara Memory. They love him. They wanted him to

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May 14th, 2015

The latest West Coast jazz scene

In Sunday’s New York Times, music critic Ben Ratliff’s feature entitled “Los Angeles Jazz With Kamasi Washington and Others” addresses a snapshot of the current West Coast scene, with an emphasis on Washington’s group and its triple-disc recording titled “The Epic.”

In the piece, Ratliff reminds us of the aesthetic divide that has long existed between New York (“the center of the jazz-performance business”) and Los Angeles – specifically the “temper of life” there, where there is a “possibility for working in a less-pressured and lifelong artistic community, the artist’s sense of security against New York hustle.” From this comes a sense of artistic freedom perhaps not found in the

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April 29th, 2015

The Jazz and People’s Movement

In 1969, in the midst of rock music’s ascent and the social protests that effectively changed the way we looked at war, race and feminism, the great jazz musician Rahsaan Roland Kirk emerged as the leader of “The Jazz and People’s Movement,” a movement to, as John Kruth, author of Bright Moments: The Life and Legacy of Rahsaan Roland Kirk describes it, “rescue black classical music from certain oblivion and thrust it into the consciousness of the unwitting public.” Part of their plan was to “disrupt the prime time airwaves for the sake of the music they dearly loved and believe in,” and they were largely successful at it, disrupting the shows of Johnny Carson, Dick Cavett and Merv Griffin. Their tact was to

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April 23rd, 2015

Search For the New Land

In an excellent October, 2014 post for The Wire, Derek Walmsley writes about how jazz musicians “from the mid-1950s onwards imagined liberation through distant places and spaces.”

“Before free jazz broke through in the 1960s,” he writes, “you could read a desire for liberation unfolding in the titles jazz musicians gave their compositions from the mid-1950s onwards. In previous years, players might have dedicated a piece to a woman or a passed colleague. Now, they were naming them after newly independent nations of Africa, to underline their Afrocentric solidarity; after locations in the Far East, to flaunt a growing interest in

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April 20th, 2015

Charles Lloyd — “I can take that I’m in service”

“My music, it breathes. It’s the mysticism of sound. I’m a sound seeker, and I’m enthralled with it, by what it can do to change the molecules and uplift people. They feel something when we play. I can’t take authorship for that. I can take that I’m in service.”

– Charles Lloyd

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Imagine if the world was filled with people whose life’s work was built on

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April 13th, 2015

Awakened by Gene Ammons

I awoke this morning to the sound of a Gene Ammons ballad, “Stella by Starlight.” As a disciple of the sound of Ben Webster and Lester Young, and having been in the forefront – along with Von Freeman — of the “Chicago school,” where a bluesy “expressiveness” was paramount to their style, his music has always moved me. His personal life had its challenges, having been incarcerated on a couple of occasions for narcotics possession, but his sound overcame that, evidenced by the contract he signed with Prestige Records following his 1969 release from prison, which at the time was the largest ever offered by the label.

While some critics questioned the relevance of his style, the pianist

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March 27th, 2015

“Whiplash” — teaching success the old fashioned way, through humiliation

I finally got around to watching Whiplash over the weekend, accurately described by The Guardian’s Peter Bradshaw as the “Full Metal Jacket of jazz drumming.” Other than being recommended by several friends and casually knowing it involved a young musician attending a music conservatory, I did no research of the film prior to watching and had no expectation for it. I was struck by the brilliance of the performances – both acting and musical – but taken aback by the bizarre, near sadistic relationship between teacher (Terence Fletcher, played by Academy Award winner J.K. Simmons) and student (Andrew Neyman, played by Miles Teller).

It was great, but ultimately dispiriting art. How could anyone who purports to love music as much as Fletcher treat

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March 24th, 2015

“Jumptown”

I am proud to report that I have recently been named President of PDX Jazz, the presenting organization of the Portland Jazz Festival (going forward it will be known as the PDX Jazz Festival). We just completed our 12th annual Festival season, hosting over 100 performance and education events, including shows by the likes of Ron Carter, Vijay Iyer, Christian McBride, Kurt Elling, Bill Charlap, Lee Konitz, Lou Donaldson, Billy Childs and Nicholas Payton, and our educational endeavors – a critical component of our mission – reached many of the city’s public school students. The Festival is an important component of the winter arts scene in Portland, which has become, as advertised, a model city for progressive politics and cultural pursuits.

We have recently moved our offices from downtown to the inner Northeast Alberta Street Arts District, and while putting together a brochure for an upcoming performance in this space, I am reminded of the long love affair Portland has had with jazz – a romance that continues to this day, evidenced by the

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March 22nd, 2015

Take Me Out to the Ballgame(s)

Further evidence that life can indeed be very good…I am spending several days in Arizona, attending spring training games. Warm weather, major league baseball, (expensive) beer, (expensive) ballpark grub, good companionship, and the occasional ballpark organist all add up to quality vacation time. I will be in the bleachers for a

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March 7th, 2015

“Josephine (Baker) and I” opens in New York

The British actress Cush Jumbo is portraying the American singer/dancer/actress/civil rights activist Josephine Baker in her solo show, “Josephine and I,” which opens in New York’s Joe’s Pub at the Public Theater on March 10. The critically acclaimed show (called a “dazzling performance” by the Guardian’s Michael Billington) ran for some time in London’s Bush Theater, and according to the New York Times, “juxtaposes Baker’s fabled career with a more

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March 4th, 2015

“Bird” — a poem by Ed Coletti

I recall you
dream weaver
I remember you
You’re the one
who makes most dreams
come true
Sir Charles
just not your own
when the sax
ceases dreadfully
heroes fall
trumpets screech
Max Roach calls you
to attention
Sir Charles
listen to Diz
man just don’t fade man!

I hear Lover again
Bird you’re with me
like my mother’s voice

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February 26th, 2015

The Jazz Ambassador plays Tehran

During the Cold War era, America fought back with, among other “weapons,” the Jazz Ambassadors. Led by Louis Armstrong, Dizzy Gillespie, Dave Brubeck, Duke Ellington, Benny Goodman and others, these artists, in the words of Penny Von Eschen, author of Satchmo Blows Up the World: Jazz Ambassadors Play the Cold War, “were cultural translators who inspired the vision and shaped its contours, constituting themselves as international ambassadors by taking on the contradictions of Cold War internationalism.” In a February 23 New York Times piece by Thomas Erdbrink called “Rebirth of the Cool: American Music Makes a Return to Iran,” the effect of a modern day jazz ambassadorship – this one led by saxophonist

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February 24th, 2015

Results of the “Jazz in the Schools” project

As a Board member of PDX Jazz, the organization that produces the Portland Jazz Festival, I get to do a lot of very cool things. I wrote recently about my opportunity to present a program, “Jazz in the Schools,” to local high school students that combined a short history of jazz with its influence on art, photography, and graphic design.

After seeing classic film of Louis Armstrong and viewing a variety of album and jazz festival photography, art and graphic design, participating photography students went into the Portland community and took original photographs of any subject, person, object or setting that demonstrated their personal vision for jazz. They then collaborated with students from the graphic design class and combined their artistic visions, with each team creating a poster for the Jazz Festival.

The result is 39 outstanding contributions – all created by students who knew little (or nothing) about jazz music, but now do, and who now have an appreciation for its art and history, which is all we can ask for.

The four winning entries (as chosen by a panel of distinguished Board members and artists) are pictured on this page. To see all the entries,

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February 20th, 2015

Jazz historian Ashley Kahn wins a Grammy

Congratulations to jazz historian Ashley Kahn, who won a Grammy over the weekend for the liner notes he penned for John Coltrane’s previously unreleased recording, Offering: Live At Temple University. Kahn has mastered the art of telling a story about famous recordings. His Kind of Blue: The Making of the Miles Davis Masterpiece was described by Publisher’s Weekly as “a masterpiece in its own right,” and drummer Elvin Jones wrote that Kahn’s A Love Supreme – The Story of John Coltrane’s Signature Album “reaches a

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February 10th, 2015

Esperanza Spalding honors Wayne Shorter

Buried under all the popular music performances aired during last night’s Grammy Awards show was notice that the great saxophonist Wayne Shorter is the recipient of a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award. In an artful written tribute, bassist Esperanza Spalding – herself a recipient of a Grammy for Best New Artist of 2010 – wrote that Shorter has “masterfully realized his philosophy of taking the best of the past, and using it as a ‘flashlight into the unknown’” and “provided infectious originality to some of the most loved jazz institutions of the 20th century.” Her homage to Shorter is brief and brilliant, and is a worthy read…Click here to read it in its entirety.

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February 9th, 2015

The last Super Bowl halftime show featuring jazz music

I could make the argument that jazz being marketed as a “popular music” officially died on January 12, 1975. Why? Because that was the date of the last Super Bowl halftime show that featured jazz music, in this case a “Tribute to Duke Ellington” performed by the Grambling State University Marching Band and Mercer Ellington. Sure, in subsequent years there was the occasional Pete Fountain/Al Hirt exhibition to pump local tourism when the game was held in New Orleans, but Madison Avenue officially ended all attempts at presenting jazz to a mass audience at the conclusion of the halftime show for the ’75 Steelers/Vikings game. What followed was an era of musical malaise for halftime shows (Up With People performed in four of the next 10 shows, for chrissakes!) and then Michael Jackson’s 1993 show opened the eyes of big business to the value of that time, and things were never the same.

Hard to believe, but I found a clip on YouTube of the 1975 halftime show. It is very raw and the sound makes early recordings made in the Gennett Studio sound pristine in comparison, but it is a remarkable piece of history. The introduction by NBC’s veteran (and very square) sports reporter Charlie Jones of the “Tribute to Duke Ellington” is shortly followed by

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January 31st, 2015

“This is triumphant music” — Martin Luther King writes about jazz

The only known public words ever written (or spoken) by Martin Luther King about jazz are those found in this essay, written for the 1964 Berlin Jazz Festival program.

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God has wrought many things out of oppression. He has endowed his creatures with the capacity to create—and from this capacity has flowed the sweet songs of sorrow and joy that have allowed man to cope with his environment and many different situations.

Jazz speaks for life. The Blues tell the story of life’s difficulties, and if you think for a moment, you will realize that they take the hardest realities of life and put them into music, only to come out with

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January 19th, 2015

In This Issue

Jeffrey Stewart, National Book Award and Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The New Negro: The Life of Alain Locke, is interviewed about Locke (pictured), the father of the Harlem Renaissance.

Also in this issue…A new collection of jazz poetry; "On the Turntable," a new playlist of 19 recommended recordings by five 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 19 recently released jazz recordings, including those by Branford Marsalis, Joe Martin, Scott Robinson, Allison Au and Warren Vache

Poetry

In a special collection of poetry, eight poets contribute seventeen poems focused on stories about family, and honoring mothers and fathers

The Joys of Jazz

In this new volume of his podcasts, Bob Hecht presents three very different stories; on Harlem Stride piano, Billy Strayhorn's end-of-life composition "Blood Count," and "Lester-ese," Lester Young’s creative verbal wit and wordplay.

Short Fiction

We had many excellent entrants in our recently concluded 50th Short Fiction Contest. In addition to publishing the winning story on March 11, with the consent of the authors, we have published several of the short-listed stories...

“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 Homer Plessy” — a photo narrative by Charles Ingham

Jazz History Quiz #128

Although he was famous for modernizing the sound of the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra -- “On the Sunny Side of the Street” was his biggest hit while working for Dorsey (pictured) -- this arranger will forever be best-known for his work with the Jimmie Lunceford Orchestra. Who is he?

Great Encounters

In this edition, Bob Dylan recalls what Thelonious Monk told him about music at New York’s Blue Note club in c. 1961.

Art

Jerry Jazz Musician regularly publishes a series of posts featuring excerpts of the photography and stories/captions found in Jazz in Available Light by Veryl Oakland. In this edition, Mr. Oakland's photographs and stories feature Stan Getz, Sun Ra, and Carla Bley.

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

Coming Soon

Michael Cuscuna, the legendary record producer and founder of Mosaic Records, is interviewed about his life in jazz...Award-winning photographer Carol Friedman, on her career in the world of New York jazz photography

In the previous 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…

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