The passing of Aretha Franklin yesterday hits hard on a variety of levels. I am sure we all have wonderful Aretha memories. For me, she will always be remembered as the singer who opened my world to the sounds of soul and gospel music, and doing so during the height of the civil rights movement, when so much important work was being achieved — and cutting edge art was being created in response to it — virtually every day.
Aretha learned to sing at the New Bethel Baptist Church in Detroit, where her father, the Reverend C.L. Franklin, was minister — “the most famous African American preacher in America,” according to his biographer Nick Salvatore. Franklin’s style of “booming, soaring, flashy and intense” preaching “revolutionized the art, and his call for his fellow African Americans to proclaim both their faith and their rights helped usher in the civil rights movement.”
Rev. Franklin had an intense influence on daughter Aretha, “…[Aretha] always sang from her inners,” Ray Charles once said. “In many ways she’s got her father’s feeling and passion,’ [for when C.L.] — one of the last great preachers — delivers a sermon, he builds his case so beautifully you can’t help but see the light. Same when Aretha sings.”...
August 17th, 2018
Besides doing his best to help raise three kids, during my 1960’s childhood my father worked his heart out at two jobs — one of which was as owner of a restaurant on Oakland’s Telegraph Avenue, and the other as a musician, playing trumpet and viola throughout the San Francisco Bay area, mostly on evenings and weekends in “casual” jobs. For years he was part of a strolling quartet that entertained San Francisco’s elite at the World Trade Club — an ensemble that at its peak toured the Philippines, playing to an audience that included...
June 17th, 2018
In 2003, as part of the Jerry Jazz Musician “Conversations with Gary Giddins” series, I was fortunate to interview Giddins — his generation’s most esteemed jazz writer — about Cecil Taylor, who died earlier today at age 89. It is an excellent read for anyone with an interest in Cecil (or Gary). You can access it by...
April 6th, 2018
Poetry is a courageous art form. No poet can possibly succeed without the willingness to create a completely transparent window into his or her soul. A poet rarely achieves by faking it.
A successful poet’s thoughts are naked to the world, and this full-on exposure — because it is so often blunt and painful for the poet — leaves the reader with a reasonable understanding of lives led and footsteps taken (or not). These revelations build a rewarding and intimate connection.
I have never met or spoken to Mike Faran, whose poetry I occasionally publish on Jerry Jazz Musician. I only outwardly know him by the short biography he sent me — retired lobster trap builder from Ventura who has had some work published in journals around the country. That’s it, really. I don’t even have a photo of him.
He has periodically sent me emails with a poem or two attached to them, seeking my interest in publishing them. (“Here is another poem that I hope will meet with your approval.”) Although I haven’t published them all, they almost always...
January 17th, 2018
Fats Domino is remembered as a rock and roll legend, and idolized by many musicians of his era, including Elvis Presley, who, according Peter Guaralnick, author of Careless Love: The Unmaking of Elvis Presley, referred to Fats as “The King of Rock and Roll.”
In 2006, Jerry Jazz Musician contributor Adrienne Wartts interviewed Domino’s biographer Rick Coleman…You can read it by...
October 30th, 2017
The comedian Dick Gregory, who died last week at the age of 84, lived a full and important American life as a comic, candid social satirist, and political activist (who famously ran for president in 1968). He once said he earned $5,000 a week “for saying out loud what I’d always said under my breath.” Gregory earned a living as a first class headline interpreter who was able to communicate his satire to an appreciative, integrated audience during fractious times. His work influenced countless comedians, including Eddie Murphy, Chris Rock, Bill Cosby and Richard Pryor.
In the liner notes to Gregory’s 1961 (and first) comedy album Dick Gregory in Living Black and White, Alex Dreier wrote that Gregory is “neither Ralph Bunche nor Amos ‘n’ Andy. Gregory’s humor is not...
August 23rd, 2017
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,...
April 25th, 2017
Nat Hentoff’s memorial service was held at St. Peter’s Church in New York on Friday, February 24. Aidan Lee reported on the service for the Jazz Journalists Association, and the Village Voice — a longtime employer of Hentoff — provided an extensive photographic account of the day’s events. Click through to the next page to view a performance of pianist Joe Alterman playing Errol Garner’s “Gaslight” at the memorial...
March 1st, 2017
Paul Morris is a longtime friend and contributing writer of Jerry Jazz Musician. He currently writes “Cover Stories with Paul Morris,” a frequent column about classic record album art and design.
Paul shares a memory of the legendary jazz writer and journalist Nat Hentoff, who died on January 7 at the age of 91.
In the late 1970’s I was a jazz fan who liked reading about the music as much as listening to it. My next music choice often came from a recommendation from a jazz critic’s liner notes or articles. Nat Hentoff proved to be a reliable guide in his early jazz books and the occasional article.
These years were the heyday of the Village Voice, where Hentoff was a regular. He concentrated on First Amendment issues in his Voice column, but from time to time he would mention...
January 30th, 2017
I was eighteen when I read Nat Hentoff’s Jazz Is, and it changed my life. I’d always thought good jazz was just the crafting of pretty notes with a smooth feel. I’d never imagined it could be a “cry for justice.” Or a captivating tour through a heart lay bare. The greatest jazz goes even beyond that: the symphony of a soul freshly released and taking flight, nothing less than what Nat calls “spirit-music.”
As readers know, Nat Hentoff was far more than a jazz authority. He was a spectacular writer and a freedom-of-speech icon with no tolerance for hypocrisy. He was a great hero of...
January 11th, 2017
I am saddened to read of the passing of journalist Nat Hentoff, who died yesterday at the age of 91. Hentoff’s work was published by the Village Voice for 50 years, and was also frequently found in the New Yorker, the Atlantic Monthly, the Wall Street Journal, and Jazz Times. He was also editor of Downbeat during the mid-1950’s. There are many obituaries available to read about Nat and his career – including Robert McFaddin’s in today’s New York Times.
As I began publishing original content on Jerry Jazz Musician in 1999, I had the privilege of having my site embraced by the three most prominent jazz writers of the time, Gary Giddins, Stanley Crouch, and Nat Hentoff. All three of them got involved in Jerry Jazz Musician in their own way.
Giddins — who I was able to catch up with during a recent trip I took to New York — and I developed an interview series called...
January 8th, 2017