Upon replacing Cootie Williams (pictured), this trumpeter’s very first night with Duke Ellington’s Orchestra was fully documented during the band’s famous November 7, 1940 Fargo, North Dakota concert. Who is he?
Go to the next page for the answer!...
March 16th, 2019
Interview with Thomas Brothers, author of Help! The Beatles, Duke Ellington and the Magic of Collaboration
In Help! The Beatles, Duke Ellington, and the Magic of Collaboration, Duke University musicologist Thomas Brothers – author of two essential studies of Louis Armstrong – tells a fascinating account of how creative cooperation inspired two of the world’s most celebrated groups.
The following interview with Mr. Brothers about his book — hosted and produced by Jerry Jazz Musician. publisher Joe Maita — was conducted on December 10, 2018....
February 5th, 2019
Aaron Copland, the mid-century classical composer whose work was greatly influenced by American life, had an interest in jazz, particularly, as he told Don Gold in a May, 1958 Downbeat article “the marriage – the fact that the young jazzmen are composers, often bridging the gap between fields. “ He also had some sympathy for jazz musicians because “they have the same trouble getting a big audience we have.”
The article, titled “Aaron Copland: The Well-Known American Composer Finds Virtues and Flaws in Jazz,” is of special interest because...
April 13th, 2018
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...
February 4th, 2018
In this June, 1964 Down Beat Blindfold Test hosted by pianist, composer, producer and journalist Leonard Feather — who created this famed feature and first published it in the late 1930’s in Melody Maker — the ears of Miles Davis are tested.
Although Feather writes in the introduction that Davis “does not have an automatic tendency to want to put everything down,” he appeared to be in rare form on this date. His remarks are brilliant, blistering, biting, sarcastic, insulting…and that’s just in his comments on the first record! Miles take aim at artists and record companies, musical styles and...
November 27th, 2017
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.
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...
November 23rd, 2017
During a recent stroll through the Internet, I was reminded of the story of Louis Armstrong requesting the use of Yogi Berra’s catcher’s mask during a 1960’s State Department tour of South America, “to fend off,” according to Armstrong’s widow Lucille, “the [enthusiastic South American] fans who wanted to touch his face and lips.”
Lucille’s recollection was disclosed in a December 10, 1981 letter to the U.S. Postal Service as part of a 14-year effort to have a postage stamp created in her husband’s honor. Duke Ellington’s stamp was issued in 1986, and the likes of Elvis Presley, Bessie Smith, Nat Cole and Billie Holiday had commemorative stamps well before Armstrong. How come? Was it politics?
To read about it, check out the two stories below…The first is the letter of advocacy...
April 4th, 2017
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...
April 1st, 2017
This lifelong friend of Duke Ellington co-wrote “Sophisticated Lady,” played clarinet, violin, baritone and alto saxophone during his first stint in Ellington’s band (prior to leaving in 1928), and, following time in a band that also included Fats Waller and Chu Berry, returned to Duke’s orchestra, where he would play alto until 1946. Who was he?
Go to the next page for the answer!...
May 31st, 2016
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...
January 31st, 2015
In his 1973 autobiography Music is My Mistress, Duke Ellington writes about his admiration for Lena Horne. In a footnote to Ellington’s thoughts on Horne, he wrote that he inherited the line he was known to use when telling a woman he thought she was beautiful — “You Make That Hat Look Pretty!” — from his father.
Lena Horne is such a delicate beauty. When she decided it was show business for her, before she became of age, she had to be accompanied by her mother when she came to work at the Cotton Club. From bandstands with Charlie Barnet, she went on to movies, and always with a dignity that...
October 26th, 2014
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.
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 and as often as I please for three months.
When we returned to the New York area, my first date was...
September 20th, 2014
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
At the invitation of Duke Ellington, the great Gypsy guitarist Django Reinhardt came to America in October, 1946. Long a dream of his, according to Reinhardt biographer Michael Dregni, “he yearned to play his guitar in the homeland of jazz…picking out his improvisations with the American greats in the high churches of jazz – the Savoy, Roseland, Paramount, Apollo, Minton’s, Monroe’s, the Onyx, the Three Deuces. Those reveries had gone unrequited, concert plans thwarted, tour schemes halted by war.”
He would play several major U.S. cities with Ellington, including Carnegie Hall performances of November 23 and 24, 1946....
March 26th, 2014
Our “Reminiscing in Tempo: Memories and Opinion” feature — where we pose one question via email to a small number of prominent and diverse people — is designed to provoke a lively response that will potentially include the memories and/or opinion of those solicited. We are currently in the midst of producing the current edition, in which we are asking the question, “Who was your childhood hero?”
Here is famed vibraphonist Gary Burton’s contribution, received earlier this week:...
December 13th, 2013
Richard Boyer’s entertaining and candid New Yorker profile of Duke Ellington first appeared in the June 24, 1944 edition under the title “The Hot Bach I.” (Parts “II” and “III” were published in subsequent weeks). Described by Ellington biographer Terry Teachout as “the most comprehensive journalistic account of Ellington’s life and work to appear in his lifetime,” the feature is filled with now well-known Ellington history (for example, his approach to composition and his appetite for food, women and the Bible), social history (Boyer’s casual description of the racial discrimination the band encounters on the road is notable), and some humorous interplay between Ellington and writing partner Billy Strayhorn, described at the time by Boyer as a “staff arranger.” The piece is a terrific companion to Teachout’s book, and another reminder of how important The New Yorker has been to the arts over the years....
December 10th, 2013
Liner Notes: Irving Townsend on “Black, Brown and Beige,” by Duke Ellington and His Orchestra, Featuring Mahalia Jackson
A recording essential to anyone who appreciates jazz is Duke Ellington’s 1943 jazz symphony Black, Brown and Beige, written for his first Carnegie Hall concert appearance. Described by many critics as his most ambitious composition, Ellington called it a “tone parallel to the history of the Negro in America.” Ellington only performed it complete on three occasions; once at Westchester County’s Rye High School on January 22, 1943, the Carnegie Hall concert the next night, and in Boston’s Symphony Hall a week later.
Fifteen years later, Ellington revised the composition, which Columbia released as Black, Brown and Beige, “Featuring Mahalia Jackson.” In his recently published Duke: A Life of Duke Ellington, Terry Teachout writes that this recording was “falsely billed by Columbia as a complete version of ‘Black,’ the work’s first movement, augmented by a vocal version of ‘Come Sunday’ performed by gospel singer Mahalia Jackson, who also contributed an impromptu ‘setting’ of the Twenty-Third Psalm. (‘He didn’t rehearse me nothin’,” she later said of the latter performance. ‘He said, “Just open the Bible and Sing!”‘). For those who hoped that Ellington would put all of Black, Brown and Beige on record, it was a disappointment.”
This sets the stage for this edition of “Liner Notes” – Columbia Records producer Irving Townsend’s description of the 1958 recording of Black, Brown and Beige, by Duke Ellington and His Orchestra, Featuring Mahalia Jackson,...
November 27th, 2013
It’s a great time for jazz biography. In addition to Stanley Crouch’s book on Charlie Parker, Louis Armstrong biographer and Wall Street Journal drama critic Terry Teachout has turned out what several critics report to be an important book on the life of Duke Ellington. I have just completed the first chapter and am eagerly anticipating the pages beyond. To get a flavor for the book, you may enjoy this short excerpt, in which Teachout describes Ellington’s work habits and what Ellington “sought and got” from his band, described here as his ”accumulation of personalities.’”...
November 13th, 2013
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....
March 18th, 2013
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
Excerpted from Myself Among Others: A Life in Music by George Wein
Nineteen fifty-six was the Newport debut of the Duke Ellington Orchestra. I had struck an agreement with Irving Townsend, Columbia Records’s A&R man, earlier in the year. It would be good publicity to have some recordings from Newport. Our arrangement seemed like a good deal: for each artist recorded, the record company was to pay us an amount equal to that artist’s performance fee. As it turned out, it was a terrible deal, because the record company got exclusive rights and all of the royalties.
Columbia recorded the equivalent of four LPs during the 1956 festival:...
November 29th, 2004
Excerpted from Lush Life : A Biography of Billy Strayhorn by David Hajdu
Shortly after midnight on December 1, 1938, George Greenlee nodded and back-patted his way through the ground-floor Rumpus Room of Crawford Grill One (running from Townsend Street to Fullerton Avenue on Wylie Avenue, the place was nearly a block long) and headed up the stairs at the center of the club. He passed the second floor, which was the main floor, where bands played on a revolving stage facing an elongated glass-topped bar and Ray Wood, now a hustling photographer, offered to take pictures of the patrons for fifty cents. Greenlee hit the third floor, the Club Crawford (insiders only), and spotted his uncle with Duke Ellington, who was engaged to begin a week-long run at the Stanley Theatre the following day....
September 29th, 2004