“It’s Too Darn Hot”

In June of 2017, the American president chose to leave the Paris climate agreement because, he said at the time, it is an agreement that “disadvantages the United States to the exclusive benefit of other countries.”  It seems that climate change knows no borders, and nobody benefits from our dear leader’s willful ignorance — witness the record heat and fires across the U.S., and indeed now all over the globe.

Oh well, we too can willfully ignore climate change today by finding a cool corner of our world and cranking up Cole Porter’s “It’s Too Darn Hot,” a song written for the Broadway musical “Kiss Me Kate” in 1948, and made famous by

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August 9th, 2018

Two poems by Robert Nisbet

From red kite country, driving South,
Dai Grandpa, fresh from yesterday,
such yesterday. Only when the
June sun sank, had Dai – dudein’
up my shirt front, puttin’ on
the shirt studs – reached evening’s land
– and such a yester-e’en. (Dai caught
the breeze, his ship came home.)
He breakfasts now in wild kite

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November 13th, 2017

Ella is 100

2017 is the 100th birthday year of several jazz immortals – among them Thelonious Monk, Dizzy Gillespie, Buddy Rich, and, today, Ella Fitzgerald.

As a young and naïve jazz fan in the 1960’s, like Louis Armstrong, Ella seemed “square” to me – her voice too sweet and happy for my ears, especially when compared to the singer who most moved my soul to discover more of the music, Billie Holiday.   Plus, the Songbook series she became internationally famous for seemed too smartly packaged, slick in a Madison-Avenue-way that tore me away from the bins that stocked her record albums.

Over the years, however, I eventually came to appreciate and cherish her, especially as I learned the courageous and inspirational nature of her biography, and played her recordings with Chick Webb, and dug the collaborations with the Ink Spots, Louis Jordan, and eventually, of course,

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April 25th, 2017

Great Encounters #47: When Ella Fitzgerald chose not to meet Pablo Picasso

“Great Encounters” are book excerpts that chronicle famous encounters among twentieth-century cultural icons. This edition describes the time Ella Fitzgerald chose to pass on an opportunity to meet Pablo Picasso.

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December 15th, 2016

Masters of Jazz Photography — Tad Hershorn

In honor of the late jazz photographer Lee Tanner, Jerry Jazz Musician presents a number of editions of “Master of Jazz Photography,” featuring a work by one of the photographers featured in Tanner’s book The Jazz Image.



This edition: Tad Hershorn

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April 27th, 2016

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

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August 17th, 2015

“Cry Me a River” — Joe Cocker’s remake of a 1950’s torch song

Joe Cocker, the flamboyant British rocker who died yesterday at the age of 70, was best known for his gravelly voice and charismatic onstage personality, but his career was especially noteworthy due to his successful model of interpreting popular songs of the day. The most obvious example -– the Beatles’ “With a Little Help From My Friends” performed before hundreds of thousands at Woodstock in 1969 -– was his signature career achievement, a performance Paul McCartney yesterday called “mind-blowing,” one that he was “forever grateful for him for having done that.” One could make the case that Cocker’s appearance at Woodstock and his filmed performance of that tune was indeed a defining moment of the rock era.

Cocker also successfully remade Arthur Hamilton’s “Cry Me a River,” a 1953 torch song originally composed for Ella Fitzgerald to sing in Pete Kelly’s Blues, the Jack Webb film in which Peggy Lee portrayed an

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December 23rd, 2014

“Hearts For Ella”

Toward the end of her life, Ella Fitzgerald, “The First Lady of Song,” faced several health challenges, most stemming from her battle with diabetes. The effects of the disease resulted in the amputation of her legs, and famously contributed to the debilitation of her eyesight. (Who can forget her frequent television appearances, when each successive performance seemed to bring new eye wear fashion and a more powerful eyeglass prescription). But it was her respiratory ailments and congestive heart failure that brought some of the biggest names in jazz together for a fund raiser sponsored by the American Heart Association Avery Fisher Hall in February of 1990. Hosted by Lena Horne and violinist Itzhak Perlman, “Hearts For Ella” featured a Benny Carter-led band that included

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November 18th, 2014

A Moment in Time: Houston, 1955 — The “Jazz at the Philharmonic” dice game bust

Racial harassment of touring jazz musicians was common throughout the South. Ted Hershorn, author of Norman Granz: The Man Who Used Jazz For Justice, tells the story of a racial incident provoked by Granz’s insistence on challenging segregation in Houston.

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May 10th, 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

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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