Jazz History Quiz #115

While he was a jazz pianist known to frequently accompany blues singers, he was also a composer (“Royal Garden Blues,” “West End Blues,” “Taint Nobody’s Business If I Do”), show producer, song publisher, emcee with a minstrel show, artist manager (including Bessie Smith, whom he helped get started), A & R man for Okeh Records, and one of the most successful African American businessmen of his era.  Who is he?

 

Meade Lux Lewis

Albert Ammons

Eddie Heywood

Teddy Wilson

Jimmy Blythe

Clarence Williams

Tommy Flanagan

Herbie Nichols

Jimmy Rowles

 

Go to the next page for the answer!

 

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June 22nd, 2018

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

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

Great Encounters #35: The 1925 Bessie Smith/Louis Armstrong recording sessions

“Great Encounters” are book excerpts that chronicle famous encounters among twentieth-century cultural icons.  This edition tells the story of the 1925 recording session of Bessie Smith and Louis Armstrong

Excerpted from Bessie, by Chris Albertson

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I’ve got the world in a jug;
The stopper’s in my hand.
“Down Hearted Blues”

When Bessie sang those words on her first recording date in 1923, her future looked promising, but by the onset of 1925, there was no longer any doubt — Bessie had “arrived.” She could look back on a year and a half of prominence and prosperity; her billing as “The Greatest and Highest Salaried Race Star in the World” was accurate; dreams of supporting her family had come true;

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April 20th, 2014

The Photography of Carl Van Vechten

The publication of a new biography on Carl Van Vechten has sparked a renewed interest in his work. Critic, author and patron of many a Harlem Renaissance artist, Van Vechten was also an accomplished photographer, whose work was described by a New York Telegraph reporter in 1933 as “breathtaking…each [photo] with life and sparkle, vision and intelligence.”

His access to the artists led to a portfolio of what he called “purely documentary” photographs of a “who’s who” of early-to-mid 20th Century American cultural icons — including some of the era’s finest writers and musicians. Emily Bernard, author of Carl Van Vechten and the Harlem Renaissance writes that “Van Vechten always saw the act of taking a photograph as

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March 12th, 2014

Historic Harlem Tour

Although it only encompasses about six square miles, the New York City neighborhood of Harlem has played a central role in the development of American culture. Originally rural farmland, then an affluent suburb, since 1911 Harlemhas been predominantly an African American community. Its residents havehad a disproportionately large impact on all aspects of American culture,leaving their mark on literature, art, comedy, dance, theater, music, sports, religion and politics.

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March 18th, 2013

Barry Lee Pearson, author of Robert Johson: Lost and Found

With just forty-one recordings to his credit, Robert Johnson (1911-38) is a giant in the history of blues music. Johnson’s vast influence on twentieth-century American music, combined with his mysterious death at the age of twenty-seven, has allowed speculation and myths to obscure the facts of his life. The most famous of these legends depicts a young Johnson meeting the Devil at a dusty Mississippi crossroads at midnight and selling his soul in exchange for prodigious guitar skills.

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November 12th, 2003

Chris Albertson, author of Bessie

Considered by many to be the greatest blues singer of all time, Bessie Smith was also a successful vaudeville entertainer who became the highest paid African-American performer of the roaring twenties.

First published in 1971, author Chris Albertson ‘s Bessie was described at the time by critic Leonard Feather as “the most devastating, provocative, and enlightening work of its kind ever contributed to the annals of jazz literature.” New Yorker critic Whitney Balliett called it “the first estimable full-length biography not only of Bessie Smith, but of any black musician.”

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September 22nd, 2003

In This Issue

This issue features a roundtable discussion about how the world of religion may have impacted the creative lives of Billie Holiday, Langston Hughes and Ralph Ellison. Also, previous winners of the Jerry Jazz Musician Short Fiction Contest reflect on their winning story; three new podcasts from Bob Hecht; new collection of poetry; recommendations of recently released jazz recordings, and lots more.

Short Fiction

"The Wailing Wall" -- a short story by Justin Short

Interviews

Three prominent religious scholars -- Wallace Best, Tracy Fessenden and M. Cooper Harriss -- join us in a conversation about how the world of religion during the life and times of Langston Hughes (pictured), Billie Holiday and Ralph Ellison helps us better comprehend the meaning of their work.

Poetry

Nine poets contribute ten poems celebrating jazz in poems as unique as the music itself

Short Fiction

In celebration of our upcoming 50th Short Fiction Contest, previous contest winners (dating to 2002) reflect on their own winning story, and how their lives have since unfolded.

The Joys of Jazz

In this edition, award winning radio producer Bob Hecht tells three stories; 1) on Charlie Christian, the first superstar of jazz guitar; 2) the poet Langston Hughes’ love of jazz music, and 3) a profile of the song “Strange Fruit”

On the Turntable

25 recently released jazz tunes that are worth listening to…including Bobo Stenson; Medeski, Martin and Wood; Muriel Grossman and Rudy Royston

Features

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?"

Poetry

"Billie Holiday" -- a poem (with collage) by Steve Dalachinsky

Coming Soon

Thomas Brothers, Duke University professor of music and author of two essential biographies of Louis Armstrong, is interviewed about his new book, HELP! The Beatles, Duke Ellington, and the Magic of Collaboration; also, Spelman College President Mary Schmidt Campbell, author of An American Odyssey: The Life and Work of Romare Bearden, in a conversation about the brilliant 20th Century artist

In the previous issue

This issue features an interview with Bing Crosby biographer Gary Giddins; a collection of poetry devoted to the World War II era; and a new edition of “Reminiscing in Tempo,” in which the question “What are 3 or 4 of your favorite jazz recordings of the 1940’s” is posed to Rickie Lee Jones, Chick Corea, Tom Piazza and others.

Contributing writers

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