Remembering Jon Hendricks, 1921 – 2017

The great jazz singer Jon Hendricks died in New York earlier today at the age of 96.  In his New York Times obituary, Peter Keepnews writes that “Mr. Hendricks did not invent this practice, known as vocalese — most jazz historians credit the singer Eddie Jefferson with that achievement — but he became its best-known and most prolific exponent, and he turned it into a group art.” 

His work with Lambert, Hendricks and Ross was one of my gateways into jazz music.  My childhood home had only a few mostly dreadful record albums (and my beloved mother’s favorite radio station was KABL/San Francisco, with Mantovani and 101 Strings in heavy rotation on the Philco clock radio on the kitchen counter), but somewhere in the bowels of the house was Sing a Song of Basie LP that would somehow occasionally make its way on to our Hoffman stereo system’ turntable — in competition for time with Creedence and the Doors and Beatles 45’s.  Even as a little kid I could tell this was “hip” music, and it ultimately led me to an unforgettable experience.   

When I was living in Berkeley in the late seventies I went to see him on stage in a small North Beach

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November 22nd, 2017

Memorable Quotes — Ornette Coleman

“Making music is like a form of religion for me, because it soothes your heart and increases the pleasure of your brain. Most of all, it’s very enjoyable to express something that you can only hear and not see, which is not bad.”

– Ornette Coleman

1930 – 2015

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June 11th, 2015

Bruce Lundvall, 1935 – 2015

Bruce Lundvall, a record executive best known among fans of jazz music as Blue Note Records president for 25 years, died yesterday at the age of 79. In addition to his work at Blue Note, Lundvall was president of CBS Records during the heyday of the LP business, and was responsible for signing many of that label’s major artists, and for expanding the jazz division of Columbia Records.

My own experience with him was always very favorable. Although I hadn’t spoken to him for several years, whenever I did reach out to him, either as a record executive myself or as publisher of Jerry Jazz Musician, he always made himself available and was supportive of my work.

In 2003, I hosted a conversation on the state of the business of jazz with Lundvall, New York Times columnist Ben Ratliff, and saxophonist Joshua Redman. Part of the discussion dealt with

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May 20th, 2015

My B.B. King story — An unforgettable experience with my son, but the end of a business dream

The passing of an artist the magnitude of B.B. King hits us all in some way. Mostly it is a loss of a revered and cherished entertainer. Who doesn’t have a memory associated with the guitar riff from “The Thrill is Gone,” or his humor-laced vocal on “Nobody Loves Me But My Mother” (“and she could be jivin’ too!”)? But since he performed live at least 200 times a year for two generations, many of us also have memories from seeing him in concert or having met him that makes his death feel slightly more personal.

No one can doubt what a great musician he was, and in the summer of 1995, my then-six-year-old son Peter and I had an unforgettable personal experience with him that also demonstrated

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May 17th, 2015

“It Only Hurts When I Laugh”

Sad news this morning…The great comedian and satirist Stan Freberg, who was also successful as an actor (and voice over actor), recording artist, puppeteer, advertising creative director and radio personality, died yesterday at the age of 88. His career was filled with artistry and courage. His comic recordings were always hilarious and often biting – his mocking of Senator Joseph

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April 8th, 2015

Joe Sample, the S.L.A., and a budding writer’s altered career path

Pianist Joe Sample — who died on September 12 at the age of 75 — was a critical link to both the glories of hard bop and the perils of smooth jazz. His career will principally be remembered as a founding member of the Jazz Crusaders (ultimately just “The Crusaders”), a band he described as being “fathers of jazz-funk-fusion.” While his musical contributions are noteworthy, I also remember him for an altogether different reason.

In 1974, The Crusaders were all over the radio. In the San Francisco Bay area (where I lived at the time), their music — particularly their arrangement of Carole King’s “So Far Away” and a sweet ballad called “Way Back Home” — was in heavy rotation on the adult contemporary formatted KSFO-AM as well as on the era’s alternative rock giant KSAN-FM. In record industry parlance, they had “crossed over” into multiple formats. The Crusaders were “huge.”

In addition to being an important musical influence during

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September 18th, 2014

Ruby Dee, 1922 – 2014

Ruby Dee, perhaps best known for her work on stage and screen in Lorraine Hansberry’s A Raisin in the Sun — a play the New York Times’ Frank Rich said “changed American theater forever” — and for her political activism, particularly during the era of the civil rights movement, died on June 11.

To read Bruce Weber’s comprehensive New York Times obituary, click here.

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June 15th, 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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