“Listening to Charlie Parker, Play Jazz, In the Dark” — a poem by Alan Yount

charlie parker
sits on the end
of my bed
holding his alto sax.

and for pete’s sake!  mr. traps:
buddy rich was also there,  
getting his drum kit ready
by the end of the bed.

then ray brown’s there
and making a

...

September 13th, 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

...

August 16th, 2018

A Black History Month Profile: Charlie Parker

In an interview originally published on Jerry Jazz Musician in 2014, Charlie Parker biographer Stanley Crouch talks about the great saxophonist’s life and his book, Kansas City Lightening:  The Rise and Times of Charlie Parker

...

February 28th, 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

...

January 30th, 2018

Jazz History Quiz #108

Though his work as pianist with the Savoy Sultans, Coleman Hawkins, Roy Eldridge and Sonny Stitt/Gene Ammons was important, he will always be most remembered as the pianist in Charlie Parker’s classic 1947 quintet.  Who is he?

 

Kenny Drew

Duke Jordan

Joe Albany

Duke Pearson

Tommy Flanagan

Herbie Nichols

Jaki Byard

 

Go to the next page for the answer!

...

January 16th, 2018

“Bird Lives” — a memory of Charlie Parker’s Kansas City, by Robert Hecht

     The night I truly ‘got’ the shining genius of Charlie Parker I was in my girlfriend’s apartment on the Lower East Side. The year was 1961. I was nineteen, she was much older and hipper, and had turned me on not only to some great music but to getting high as well. She had all the essential jazz records, including the one on the turntable that night. It was The Fabulous Bird, on the old Jazztone label, consisting of reissues of some of Bird’s phenomenal 1947 Dial sessions. She had a very low-fi stereo—I can still see the nickel she had scotch-taped to the tone arm to keep it in the grooves. But the fidelity didn’t matter, in part at least because this evening I had just smoked a

...

January 3rd, 2018

Great Encounters #46: The early friendship of Miles Davis and Gil Evans

“Great Encounters” are book excerpts that chronicle famous encounters among twentieth-century cultural icons. This edition describes the early friendship and collaboration of Miles Davis and composer/arranger Gil Evans, who Miles once described as “the greatest musician in the world.”

Excerpted from Castles Made of Sound: The Story of Gil Evans,

by Larry Hicock

 

_____

“I first met Gil when I was with Bird,” Miles told Marc Crawford in a 1961 interview for Down Beat.

He was asking for a release on my tune, “Donna Lee.”…I told him he could have it and asked him to teach me some chords and let me study some of the scores he was doing for Claude Thornhill.

He really flipped o me on the arrangement of “Robbin’s Nest” he did for Claude. See, Gil had this cluster of chords and superimposed another cluster over

...

September 12th, 2016

“Liner Notes for ‘Stardust’ — In Seven Choruses,” a cycle of short poems by Doug Fowler

“Liner Notes for ‘Stardust’ — In Seven Choruses” is a cycle of short poems framed as imaginary liner notes and prompted by poet Doug Fowler’s favorite musical covers of Hoagy Carmichael’s “Stardust.” In essence, according to Fowler, they are “imaginary liner notes for a real song about an imaginary song about love.”

The cycle is also partially a tribute to Chu Berry, who died as the result of a car accident in Conneaut, Ohio, in 1941, not far from where Fowler lives.

...

April 25th, 2016

From What the Eye Hears — when the connection between jazz music and tap dancing became strained

I have been spending some time recently with an excellent new book, What the Eye Hears — A History of Tap Dancing. Written by New York Times dance critic Brian Seibert, the book — recently named a finalist for the National Book Critics Award in Nonfiction — is an informative, entertaining history of tap dancing, and a reminder of its central role in American popular culture. A particularly interesting part of its history is its relation to jazz music, especially in the vaudeville circuit and in the nightclubs of the early twentieth century.

Regarding this, Seibert wrote in an email to me: “Jazz and tap dancing grew up together. Both came, in W.C. Handy’s words, ‘down the same drain’ of minstrelsy, and origin stories for ragtime include the syncopated stepping of

...

March 15th, 2016

Great Encounters #42: When Horace Silver played with Charlie Parker

“Great Encounters” are book excerpts that chronicle famous encounters among twentieth-century cultural icons. In this edition, Horace Silver writes of five different occasions he played with Charlie Parker.

...

June 26th, 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

...

June 1st, 2015

Jazz History Quiz #71

While he had a long career in jazz, including stints with, among others, Coleman Hawkins, Roy Eldridge, Sonny Stitt and Stan Getz, he will always be remembered primarily as the pianist in Charlie Parker’s classic 1947 quintet. Who is he?

Duke Jordan

Lennie Tristano

Mel Powell

Bud Powell

Al Haig

George Wallington

Hampton Hawes

Go to the next page for the answer!

...

April 27th, 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

...

February 26th, 2015

Bird Lives! opens in Los Angeles

Willard Manus, a Los Angeles playwright who has entered stories in our Short Fiction contest, has had works produced on a variety of iconic entertainers, notably Frank Sinatra, Marilyn Monroe and Lord Buckley. On August 15, Manus’ new play, Bird Lives! opened at the Chromolume Theater in Culver City. Montae Russell (with countless Hollywood credits, whose most recognizable role being in television’s ER) plays Charlie Parker in a one man performance described by Jay Weston in the Huffington Post as “one of the most powerful, raw, awesome and tragically-moving performances in memory. Oh, my, it really

...

August 19th, 2014

Masters of Jazz Photography — Hugh Bell

The great improvisational American jazz musicians of the mid-20th century inspired a generation of photographers to develop a looser, moodier style of visual expression. That evocative approach is on striking display in The Jazz Image: Masters of Jazz Photography. Covering six decades of performers — from Louis Armstrong and Duke Ellington to John Coltrane and Miles Davis — this unique collection is as much a comprehensive catalogue of jazz greats as it is a salute to the photographers who captured them.

Jerry Jazz Musician presents a number of editions of “Master of Jazz Photography,” featuring a work by one of the photographers featured in The Jazz Image

This edition: Hugh Bell

...

April 2nd, 2014

A Moment in Time — Stan Getz, 1954

It is a photo of the arrest of one man — and Stan Getz’s career is fortunately not defined by this arrest — but it is an image of a generation of jazz musicians hooked on drugs, and would cause Martin Torgoff, author of Can’t Find My Way Home: America in the Great Stoned Age, 1945 – 2000 to devote an entire chapter of his book on the scourge, calling it “Bop Apocalypse.” “The craving necessity of a constant supply alone would drive many to crime and humiliation and self-destruction,” Torgoff writes. “Sonny Stitt would steal and pawn every musician’s horn he could get his hands on; Red Rodney would invent elaborate criminal scams

...

February 4th, 2014

Interview with Stanley Crouch, author of Kansas City Lightning: The Life and Times of Charlie Parker

Described by the New York Times as a “bebop Beowulf,” Stanley Crouch’s Kansas City Lightning: The Life and Times of Charlie Parker is a love song to the life and times of Bird, one of jazz music’s most critically important figures. Mr. Crouch, himself an essential participant in both contemporary criticism and in the delivery of live performance (through his work with Jazz at Lincoln Center), discusses his long-anticipated biography with Jerry Jazz Musician in a recently conducted interview.

...

January 22nd, 2014

“Bird Read Beckett,” a poem by Erren Kelly

In anticipation of our very soon-to-be-published interview with Charlie Parker biographer Stanley Crouch (see the preview below), poet Erren Kelly defends Parker from the caricature portrayed in Clint Eastwood’s 1989 film Bird.


Bird Read Beckett

bird read samuel beckett

he read novels and plays
he lived his life as one long
exstitential episode
he prided himself on being
intellectual
bird loved his fried chicken
and preferred his gin
to go down smooth
like his solos

mr. eastwood,
take that lie back
and apologize!

...

January 21st, 2014

“For Miles” — a poem by Gregory Corso

For Miles
by Gregory Corso

Your sound is faultless
pure & round
holy
almost profound

Your sound is your sound
true & from within
a confession
soulful & lovely

Poet whose sound is played
lost or recorded
but heard

...

December 3rd, 2013

Coming Soon: An Interview with Charlie Parker biographer Stanley Crouch

I am delighted to report that I have scheduled an interview with Stanley Crouch, author of Kansas City Lightening, The Rise and Times of Charlie Parker, and for many years one of jazz music’s most outspoken and influential intellectuals. The interview will take place later this month, and my hope is to publish it over the holidays.

We recently published an excerpt from the first chapter of his book…In case you missed it, here it is again. Crouch describes the scene in New York’s Savoy Ballroom when Jay McShann (Parker on alto) dueled Lucky Millinder’s band, as well as Parker’s need for getting high, and doing so prior to the evening’s performance…

...

November 8th, 2013

From Stanley Crouch’s biography of Charlie Parker — a story of Kansas City, the “third great spawning ground for jazz”

An excerpt from Stanley Crouch’s recently published Kansas City Lightning, The Rise and Times of Charlie Parker

_____

As the young Charlie Parker practiced and practiced, his life began to dovetail with the long story of Negroes in American music, dance, and show business. More and more often, even though it wasn’t working for him yet, he was going out there into the night of the professionals, where there were joys and dangers, potential regrets and moments of imperishable triumph.

...

October 17th, 2013

Stanley Crouch’s biography of Charlie Parker

Harper has recently released Kansas City Lightning, The Rise and Times of Charlie Parker, the long anticipated biography (part one) by Stanley Crouch, long one of jazz music’s most outspoken and influential intellectuals. With the liveliness of a novel, Crouch’s first chapter describes the scene in New York’s Savoy Ballroom when Jay McShann (Parker on alto) dueled Lucky Millinder’s band. Check out this sampling of the story, in which Crouch describes Parker’s need for getting high, and doing so prior to the evening’s performance…

...

October 11th, 2013

When Charlie Parker Played for Igor Stravinsky

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

...

September 27th, 2013

Kansas City Jazz: A Pictorial Tour

In cooperation with Frank Driggs and Chuck Haddix, authors of Kansas City Jazz: From Ragtime to Bebop — a look at the fascinating historyof Kansas City’s golden age through book excerpts, photos and music

...

April 15th, 2013

Robin D.G. Kelley, author of Thelonious Monk: The Life and Times of an American Original

“The piano ain’t got no wrong notes!” So ranted Thelonious Sphere Monk, who proved his point every time he sat down at the keyboard. His angular melodies and dissonant harmonies shook the jazz world to its foundations, ushering in the birth of “bebop” and establishing Monk as one of America’s greatest composers. Yet throughout much of his life, his musical contribution took a backseat to tales of his reputed behavior. Writers tended to obsess over Monk’s hats or his proclivity to dance on stage. To his fans, he was the ultimate hipster; to his detractors, he was temperamental, eccentric, taciturn, or childlike. But these labels tell us little about the man or his music.

...

April 15th, 2013

“Accent on Youth,” by Sam Bishoff

Sam Bishoff, a high school student from Bainbridge Island, Washington, is the 2012 Jerry Jazz Musician “Accent on Youth” writer. His passion for jazz and the challenges he faces as a youthful fan of it is the focus of the column.

...

February 26th, 2013

Masters of Jazz Photography – Hugh Bell

In cooperation with Lee Tanner, author of The Jazz Image: Masters of Jazz Photography, Jerry Jazz Musician presents “Master of Jazz Photography,” featuring a work by one of the photographers featured in The Jazz Image.

This edition: Hugh Bell

...

November 10th, 2007

Stanley Crouch, author of Considering Genius: Writings on Jazz

Stanley Crouch — MacArthur “genius” award recipient, co-founder of Jazz at Lincoln Center, National Book Award nominee, and perennial bull in the china shop of black intelligentsia — has been writing about jazz and jazz artists for over thirty years. His reputation for controversy is exceeded only by a universal respect for his intellect and passion. As Gary Giddins notes: “Stanley may be the only jazz writer out there with the kind of rhinoceros hide necessary to provoke and outrage and then withstand the fulminations that come back.”

...

September 10th, 2006

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

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

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

...

February 9th, 2006

Brian Priestley, author of Chasin’ The Bird : The Life and Legacy of Charlie Parker

Charlie Parker has been idolized by generations of jazz musicians and fans. Indeed, his spectacular musical abilities — his blinding speed and brilliant improvisational style — made Parker a legend even before his tragic death at age thirty-four.

In Chasin’ The Bird, Brian Priestley tells Parker’s life story, from his Kansas City childhood to his final harrowing days in New York. Priestley offers new insight into Parker’s career, beginning as a teenager single-mindedly devoted to mastering the saxophone, to his first trip to New York, where he washed dishes for $9.00 a week at Jimmy’s Chicken Shack, a favorite hangout of the great pianist Art Tatum, whose stunning speed and ingenuity were an influence on the young musician.

...

February 6th, 2006

Chuck Haddix, author of Kansas City Jazz: From Ragtime to Bebop

There were but four major galaxies in the early jazz universe, and three of them — New Orleans, Chicago, and New York — have been well documented in print. But there has never been a serious history of the fourth, Kansas City, until the recent publication of Kansas City Jazz: From Ragtime to Bebop — A History, by Frank Driggs and Chuck Haddix.

...

September 30th, 2005

John Leland, author of Hip: The History

John Leland’s Hip: The History is the story of an American obsession. Derived from the Wolof word hepi or hipi (“to see,” or “to open one’s eyes”), which came to America with West African Slaves, hip is the dance between black and white — or insider and outsider — that gives America its unique flavor and rhythm. It has created fortunes, destroyed lives and shaped the way millions of us talk, dress, dance, make love or see ourselves in the mirror. Everyone knows what hip is.

...

January 3rd, 2005

Martin Torgoff, author of Can’t Find My Way Home: America in the Great Stoned Age

Illicit drugs have transfigured the American cultural landscape in the past half-century, leaving their mark on everything from art, music, literature, sexuality, spirituality, pop culture, the economy, and politics, to crime, public health, and national law enforcement policy. In Can’t Find My Way Home: America in the Great Stoned Age, 1945 – 2000, documentary filmmaker and writer Martin Torgoff traces the tangled trajectory of illegal drug use in America, as it spread post-World War II from the Beats and bebop musicians, all the way to the Ecstasy-fueled rave culture.

...

August 27th, 2004

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

Excerpted from Jazz Modernism, by Alfred Appel

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

...

January 29th, 2004

Amy Albany, author of Low Down: jazz, junk and other fairy tales from childhood

Look up pianist Joe Albany in the All Music Guide to Jazz and you will discover that during his career he associated with the likes of Benny Carter, Lester Young, Joe Venuti, Warne Marsh, and even Charlie Parker, and that eight of the albums recorded under his name in the United States and Europe between 1957 and 1982 are still in print. In the short biography accompanying Albany’s critical discography, the writer Scott Yanow touches briefly on his troubled life, his drug abuse, and his many wives, and concludes that given these circumstances, “…it is miraculous that he lived to almost reach 64.”

...

November 11th, 2003

John Szwed, author of So What: The Life of Miles Davis

More than half a century after his bebop debut, and more than eleven years after his death, Miles Davis lives on. His music is used to pitch jeans, shape films, and personify an era. To this day, he is revered as the archetype of cool.

While several books have been written about Davis, including his own autobiography, due to his passion for reinvention and his extreme reticence the real story of Miles Davis has been obscured by the legend and widely misunderstood.

...

January 27th, 2003

The Ralph Ellison Project: Robert O’Meally, editor of Living With Music, discusses Invisible Man author Ralph Ellison

While Ralph Ellison will forever be best remembered as author of the classic American novel of identity, Invisible Man, he also contributed significant essays on jazz that stand as compelling testaments to his era. His work included an homage to Duke Ellington, stinging critiques of Charlie Parker and Miles Davis, and recognition of the changing-of-the-guard taking place at Harlem’s Minton’s in the 1940’s. He wrote on musical topics from flamenco to Charlie Christian, and from Jimmy Rushing to Mahalia Jackson.

...

August 20th, 2002

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 #127

Before his tragic early death, this trumpeter played with Max Roach, Abbey Lincoln, and John Coltrane, and most famously during a 1961 Five Spot gig with Eric Dolphy (pictured). 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…

Contributing writers

Site Archive