“Jazz is too good for Americans!”

Being disgusted with Congress is, of course, nothing new…In an excerpt from Dizzy Gillespie’s 1979 autobiography (written with Al Fraser) to BE, or not . . . to BOP, Dizzy reminds us of the thick-headed politicians of 1957 who questioned the “exorbitant” fees paid to him and his band during their 1956 State Department-sponsored tour of Africa, the Middle East, Asia, Europe and South America.

In this excerpt — from a chapter titled “Higher Than Ike” —  Dizzy cynically writes about the “thanks” he received from members of Congress following the tour, as well as the controversy concerning his

...

August 30th, 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

“Hearing Dizzy Gillespie at Dino’s Club in St. Louis for the First Time” – a poem by Alan Yount

we all were
three fifteen year olds
along with one of our fathers.

we were
the only white guys
in the club.

it was at dino’s club
in st.louis, in the fall of 1962
at the corner of

...

November 10th, 2017

Dizzy is 100 today

Dizzy Gillespie — born 100 years ago today — recalls his childhood in this excerpt from his 1979 autobiography, To BE, or not…to BOP

 

*

 

The pictures show me as a very beautiful boy, but I was the last of nine children and my arrival probably didn’t excite anybody. So many people had been born at our house before. I don’t think Mama felt too blessed about having nine children, unless “blessed” means “wounded” like it does in French. She probably figured someone had put the bad mouth on us.

Every Sunday morning, Papa would whip us. That’s mainly how I remember him. He was unusually mean; and hated to see or hear about his

...

October 21st, 2017

“Diz for President”

Claiming that his first order of business as president would be changing the name of the White House to the Blues House, Dizzy Gillespie’s run for President in 1964 wasn’t as illogical (or comical) as it seems on the surface. (In fact, given the ignorance of one of our current major party nominees, it is easy to write that Dizzy put much more thought into his vision for the country, and was without question more evolved as a candidate). As election day approaches, it is time to ask ourselves, what better time than today for a candidate whose platform includes disbanding the FBI and giving major foreign ambassadorships to jazz musicians?

In his 1979 autobiography To Be, or not…to Bop, Dizzy devotes an entire chapter to the story of his experience as a candidate for the presidency. The entire

...

November 4th, 2016

Jazz History Quiz #86

In addition to composing the theme to films like Mission Impossible, The Cincinnati Kid, Dirty Harry and Cool Hand Luke, this pianist was Dizzy Gillespie’s musical director from 1960 – 1962. Who is he?

Randy Weston

Mal Waldron

Lalo Schifrin

Dodo Marmarosa

Dick Human

Dave Frishberg

Jimmy Rowles

Go to the next page for the answer!

...

April 29th, 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

“A Night in Havana,” a poem by Doralee Brooks

Dizzy in Thurston Howell garb steps samba-like
through the airport exit. On film, he and his entourage
move like dancers tapping clave in a Las Vegas
revue called A Night in Havana. His embrace
of space defies ground and grounding.
Amiri, you called him high priest, royalty,
a monarch who flew you from dusty bebop

...

October 24th, 2015

A Moment in Time — Ella Fitzgerald and Dizzy Gillespie, 1947

In November, 1946, at the height of his popularity, Dizzy Gillespie took his big band out on the road, and in 1947 hired Ella Fitzgerald to tour the South. According to Ella’s biographer Stuart Nicholson, she had been added to this tour in response to Gillespie’s Hepsations tour in 1945, whose groundbreaking sound “had confused and confounded the southerners,” and because Ella could “create balance after the unrelieved diet of bop…The Gillespie band saw Ella as a former swing era star, light-years removed from what they were doing, a palliative to help their music go down with the public.”

Even with Ella, however, things could be challenging. The audience would “listen, stand around and applaud,” band member Howard Johnson said,” and try and pretend they dug it. I think they appreciated the artistry of Dizzy because

...

August 17th, 2015

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

Site Archive