Interview with Bing Crosby biographer Gary Giddins

Gary Giddins, his generation’s most eminent jazz writer and author of the award winning biography Bing Crosby: A Pocketful of Dreams: The Early Years, 1903 – 1940, talks with us about his brilliant second book on Crosby, Swinging on a Star: The War Years, 1940 – 1946. The interview is a fascinating read — a virtual history of Crosby’s life and his impact on America during its most consequential decade. Featuring photos, music and film clips, and information about Giddins’ experience studying Crosby for 25 years.

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October 25th, 2018

“Should I sacrifice my life to live half American?”

While the civil rights movement may not have officially begun until the December, 1955 day that Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat to a white man on a Montgomery, Alabama bus, the stage for it was set years before that.  Religious leaders and institutions, jazz and athletics all famously played important roles in building a foundation for the movement,

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September 24th, 2018

Miles and Coltrane’s final tour together

     In a March 29 post on Slate, Fred Kaplan writes about the newly released bootleg recording of Miles Davis’ quintet (featuring John Coltrane), The Final Tour, a four-CD box set of live concerts in Europe from 1960.  The tour happened a year after the release of Kind of Blue, so many of the tunes played during it is from that classic album.  According the Kaplan, the music found on this Columbia/Legacy set is “radically different” and such a “jarring departure” from the album that “it demands we revise the conventional wisdom about these two musicians (Miles and Coltrane) and fills in some blanks…in the story of jazz, and where it was going, in those pivotal years.”

     Kaplan’s essay includes a critique of the music itself – but of particular interest is his reminder of the

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April 1st, 2018

The last Super Bowl halftime show that featured jazz music

     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

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February 4th, 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

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January 30th, 2018

Nat Cole and the KKK

     An uncredited piece in the January 11, 2018 edition of AL.com titled “The Night Nat Cole was Beaten on a Birmingham Stage” recounts the April 10, 1956 evening in Birmingham, Alabama, in which Nat Cole was attacked on stage by local members of the Ku Klux Klan.  It is not only an example of our not-so-distant racist past, but also concerns the complexity concerning Cole’s involvement (or lack thereof) in the civil rights movement.  Consider this brief excerpt from the article:

 

     “I can’t understand it,” Cole said of the attack.  “I have not taken part in any protests. Nor have I joined an organization fighting segregation. Why should they attack me? I’d just like to forget about the whole thing.”

     Roy Wilkins, the executive secretary of NAACP sent Cole a telegram after the attack, “You have not been a crusader or engaged in

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January 27th, 2018

Art Tatum on 52nd Street

In this entertaining short excerpt from Arnold Shaw’s 1971 homage to the jazz clubs of New York,  52nd Street:  The Street that Never Slept, Ralph Watkins, owner of legendary New York City clubs like Kelly’s Stable, the Royal Roost (the famed chicken restaurant nicknamed the “Metropolitan Bopera House” due to it being near the Metropolitan Opera House) and Bop City, remembers the blind pianist Art Tatum:

“The 52nd St. performer that stands out in my mind is Art Tatum, above everyone else.  Not only his musicianship but the fire in him.  He had a way when he was annoyed.  When people were talking during his playing, he’d stand up, bang the piano shut, stare in their direction, and tell them off:  ‘Quiet, you

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November 9th, 2017

A Moment in Time: Artie Shaw and Roy Eldridge, 1944

In the fall of 1944, shortly following his medical discharge from the Navy, Artie Shaw formed a 17 piece band (without strings) that featured Barney Kessel on guitar, Dodo Marmarosa on piano, Ray Coniff on trombone, and the brilliant trumpeter Roy Eldridge, famous for his work with Gene Krupa’s band in the early 1940’s.  The band, according to noted critic Leonard Feather, was “quite impressive” and exhibited “a refreshing lack of bad taste and bombast.”

This era of Shaw’s band resulted in several excellent recordings, among them

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October 21st, 2017

The 1962 Miles Davis Playboy Interview

The other day, while stumbling around the Internet, I came across the first official Playboy interview — that of Alex Haley’s 1962 conversation with Miles Davis. The interview was published in the September edition and was considered quite controversial at the time. Consider this comment from the interview, and keep in mind what the world was like in 1962, and the shock it may have caused in certain segments of our society: “In high school I was best in music class on the trumpet, but the prizes went to the boys with blue eyes. I made up my mind to outdo anybody white on my horn.”

Now 54 years later, in the context of today’s world the interview doesn’t seem as controversial, but it remains a significant window to the soul of the era’s most revered

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April 22nd, 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

A Moment in Time — Monk and Coltrane at the Five Spot, 1957

The Five Spot Café, a club located in New York City’s Bowery neighborhood, was the site of a six month gig for the quartet of Thelonious Monk, John Coltrane, drummer Shadow Wilson, and bassist Wilbur Ware. This engagement — coming on the heels of Monk’s cabaret card reinstatement — marked the merging of two of the most original voices in American music, Monk and Coltrane, in a space where cheap beer and good music attracted some of the city’s most influential artists and writers. Regulars included Larry Rivers, Willem de Kooning, Franz Kline, Jack Kerouac, Frank O’Hara and Allen Ginsberg.

In Thelonious Monk: The Life and Times of an American Original, author Robin D.G. Kelley quotes Five Spot co-owner Joe Termini remembering the impact Monk’s quartet had on his club: “Once we hired Monk, all of a sudden the place was crowded every night. And frankly, in the beginning, I just didn’t understand any of it.”

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October 30th, 2014

Interview with Cary Ginell — author of Walk Tall: The Music and Life of Julian “Cannonball” Adderley

Julian “Cannonball” Adderley’s stellar career began in the era of hard bop and ended (far too soon) during the time of jazz fusion. In between, he played on some of the most prominent recordings in the history of jazz — Miles Davis’ Kind of Blue and his own Somethin’ Else among them — and ultimately became what the critic Gary Giddins described as “the patron saint of the soul-hymn movement,” a music that would reach a broad affluent audience while also keeping jazz relevant in the African-American neighborhoods.

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August 26th, 2014

Louis Armstrong – the genesis of his “crossover” appeal

Breaking into the white market without losing his African-American vernacular identity was an amazing achievement for Louis Armstrong — particularly during his era. I talk about this in an excerpt from my recent interview with Thomas Brothers, author of Louis Armstrong: Master Of Modernism.

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JJM In the winter of 1925 – 26, while making a name for himself at classy venues like the Dreamland Café and the Vendome Theater, Armstrong was also extending his reputation thanks to the Hot Five series on OKeh Records. The recordings sold in Chicago, but the main target audience was African Americans in the Deep South, where “race records” were immensely popular. What was OKeh’s marketing strategy for this series?

TB Yes, they certainly sold in Chicago, and they sold in all northern cities where there were African-American communities from the Great Migration. The target of these “race records” was of course to appeal to the African-American mass audience, and to do so in a low-budget way. They were not interested in paying musicians any royalties – they would get a flat fee

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June 25th, 2014

A short history of New York’s iconic jazz clubs

Where would jazz be without New York’s “joints’ of the 1920’s – 1950’s?  If Ellington hadn’t been hired to play the Cotton Club, what direction would his orchestra have taken?  Without the Royal Roost, would Parker play with Miles and Max Roach, and would Miles have had a venue to perform “Birth of the Cool” in?  And, where would Monk and Coltrane have played if not at the Five Spot?  

I came upon this terrific history today, “Jazz Joints Through the Ages.”  Written by noted jazz historian Ashley Kahn and originally published in Jazz Times in 2006, the feature provides short biographies of many of the most important clubs in jazz music’s past.  

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June 24th, 2014

Interview with Thomas Brothers — author of Louis Armstrong: Master of Modernism

In Louis Armstrong: Master of Modernism, Thomas Brothers picks up where he left off with the acclaimed Louis Armstrong’s New Orleans, following the story of the great jazz musician into his most creatively fertile years in the 1920s and early 1930s, when Armstrong created not one but two modern musical styles. Brothers wields his own tremendous skill in making the connections between history and music accessible to everyone as Armstrong shucks and jives across the page. Through Brothers’s expert ears and eyes we meet an Armstrong whose quickness and sureness, so evident in his performances, served him well in his encounters with racism while his music soared across the airwaves into homes all over America.

Brothers discusses his book with Jerry Jazz Musician publisher Joe Maita in an April, 2014 interview.

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June 15th, 2014

Jazz: Through the Life and Lens of Milt Hinton — A Photo Exhibit

As a jazz musician for seven decades, and as a chronicler of its intellectual and spiritual development through his fascinating, award-winning photography, Milt Hinton acts as an essential connecting point for the music and its associated culture. Hinton played bass alongside iconic figures like Cab Calloway, Dizzy Gillespie, and Louis Armstrong, and, as a photographer, brought these men and a host of others into focus as musicians, artists, and vital contributors to twentieth-century American life.

With the generous consent of David G. Berger and Holly Maxson, who along with Milt Hinton co-authored Playing the Changes: Milt Hinton’s Life in Stories and Photographs, Jerry Jazz Musician presents a photo exhibit, “Jazz: Through the Life and Lens of Milt Hinton.”

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May 9th, 2014

Book excerpt from Louis Armstrong: Master of Modernism, by Thomas Brothers

On the heels of terrific books on Bud Powell, Charles Mingus, Charlie Parker and Duke Ellington comes Louis Armstrong, Master of Modernism, author and Duke University Music Professor Thomas Brothers’ follow-up to his revered Louis Armstrong’s New Orleans.

In the book’s introduction, Brothers reports that his book picks up where Louis Armstrong’s New Orleans left off, with Armstrong’s 1922 Chicago arrival, and ends ten years later. He writes, “My main thesis is that the success of this nimble-minded musician depended on his ability to skillfully negotiate the musical and social legacies of slavery. Indeed, his career can be understood as a response to these interlocking trajectories.” I have just begun reading it and have been taken in by “Welcome to Chicago,” the book’s first chapter that tells the story of what Armstrong would have seen as he entered Lincoln Gardens for the first time in August, 1922; for example, the racially inflected floor show whose “centerpiece of the presentation is a row of light-skinned dancing girls;” dancing couples in an environment where “correct dancing is insisted upon” (to keep immorality charges at bay); and the local white musicians — “alligators” — described as “the little white boys…motivated to learn the music and cash in.”

I had the privilege of interviewing Thomas Brothers following the publication of Louis Armstrong’s New Orleans, and he has accepted my invitation for an interview about his new book. It is

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March 7th, 2014

“My Funny Valentine”

So many great songs to choose from for marking Valentine’s Day…The standard that most immediately comes to mind is an obvious choice, Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart’s “My Funny Valentine.” Written for their 1937 Broadway musical Babes in Arms, the piece was overshadowed on Broadway (and in the film version starring Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland) by “Where or When,” “I Wish I Were in Love Again,” and “The Lady is a Tramp,” and was not made relevant until Frank Sinatra’s recording of it in 1953. It was eventually recorded by more than 600 artists on countless albums, and became synonymous with Chet Baker, who recorded it over 100 times. Will Friedwald, author of Stardust Melodies: The Biography of Twelve of America’s Most Popular Songs — an entertaining and essential work of popular music history — wrote that “the tune could be said to follow Baker from the grave, since it’s usually included in memorial tributes to him.”

Friedwald writes, “What makes the whole [song] so remarkable is the happy/sad nature of the lyric, brilliantly mirroring the major/minor nature of the music. It’s a love song, but far from those ‘I love you and everything’s rosy’ tunes so popular in the twenties (vis-a-vis Iriving Berlin’s ‘Blue Skies’). It’s vaguely optimistic, but it couldn’t

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February 14th, 2014

The Beatles — post Ed Sullivan appearance critical reviews, a Charles Mingus rant, and perspective

With the 50th anniversary of the Beatles’ appearance on Ed Sullivan prominently in the news this past week, it is interesting (and entertaining) to revisit some of the critical perspectives of their music following the performance.

On February 10, 1964, Theodore Strongin, music critic for the New York Times (who Wikipedia describes as a “champion of new music”) wrote that “The Beatles’ vocal quality can be described as hoarsely incoherent, with the minimal enunciation necessary to communicate the schematic texts.” Three days later, acknowledging the phenomenon that hit our shores, George Dixon of the Washington Post wrote, “Just thinking about the Beatles seems to induce mental disturbance. They have a commonplace, rather dull act that hardly seems to merit mentioning, yet people hereabouts have mentioned scarcely anything else for a couple of days.”

Months later, William F. Buckley, the era’s chief conservative voice and founder of the National Review got into the act, writing

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February 11th, 2014

Interview with Marc Myers, author of Why Jazz Happened

Marc Myers is a busy guy…In addition to being a frequent contributor to the Wall Street Journal (where he writes about jazz, rock, and other culture), he also posts daily on his award-winning blog Jazz Wax and travels around the world promoting his pursuits. Perhaps his most important contribution is his book Why Jazz Happened, described by his publisher (University of California Press) as “the first comprehensive social history of jazz.” Myers’ perspective is fresh and thorough and wonderfully entertaining. For those who love the history of this music, it should be on your night table.

I recently interviewed Myers about his book, which he took the time to converse in great detail about — topics like how the G.I. Bill altered the direction of jazz; the advent of the extended jazz solo that came with the introduction of the LP; and how the suburbanization of Southern California ushered in a new harmony-rich jazz style in contrast to the music played in urban markets. It is a great read!

What follows is part conversation/part history class about Myers’ fascinating cultural study of why, in his opinion, “jazz happened.”

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February 7th, 2014

Interview with Stanley Crouch, author of Kansas City Lightning: The Life and Times of Charlie Parker

Described by the New York Times as a “bebop Beowulf,” Stanley Crouch’s Kansas City Lightning: The Life and Times of Charlie Parker is a love song to the life and times of Bird, one of jazz music’s most critically important figures. Mr. Crouch, himself an essential participant in both contemporary criticism and in the delivery of live performance (through his work with Jazz at Lincoln Center), discusses his long-anticipated biography with Jerry Jazz Musician in a recently conducted interview.

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January 22nd, 2014

Monday Quiz Show #22: Who was nicknamed “Hootie” after “becoming literally intoxicated by Kansas City’s nightlife?”

Who was nicknamed “Hootie” after “becoming literally intoxicated by Kansas City’s nightlife?”

Willie Dixon
Walter Page
George E. Lee
Bennie Moten
Harlan Leonard
Jay McShann
Joe Turner
Buddy Tate

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January 20th, 2014

Cover Stories with Paul Morris, Vol. 3

Paul Morris is a graphic designer and writer who collects album art of the 1940’s and 1950’s. He finds his examples of influential mid-century design in the used record stores of Portland, Oregon.

In this edition, Paul features jazz illustrations from the early years of the record album

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December 22nd, 2013

Duke Ellington, 1944 — “The Hot Bach – I”

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.

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December 10th, 2013

November 22, 1963, Time magazine, and Thelonious Monk

50 years ago this week, Time magazine – at the time a critical weekly linking Americans to news and features of the world – had planned to run a cover story on jazz music, with the cover devoted to pianist Thelonious Monk. Instead, the events in Dallas on November 22 caused Time to shelve the story until February 28, 1964, and they ran a cover of Lyndon Johnson on November 29, 1963 instead. Reportedly, this decision, according to Monk biographer Robin D.G. Kelley, caused Time to destroy “the three million copies they had already printed bearing [Boris] Chaliapin’s portrait of Monk.”

This discussion about the Time article appears in our December, 2009 interview with Kelley:

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November 22nd, 2013

Cover Stories with Paul Morris, Vol. 2

Paul Morris is a graphic designer and writer who collects album art of the 1940’s and 1950’s. He finds his examples of influential mid-century design in the used record stores of Portland, Oregon.

In this edition, Paul focuses on the art of Columbia

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November 11th, 2013

Interview with Guthrie Ramsey, author of The Amazing Bud Powell: Black Genius, Jazz History, and the Challenge of Bebop

Bud Powell was not only one of the greatest bebop pianists of all time, he stands as one of the twentieth century’s most dynamic and fiercely adventurous musical minds. His expansive musicianship, riveting performances, and inventive compositions expanded the bebop idiom and pushed jazz musicians of all stripes to higher standards of performance. Yet Powell remains one of American music’s most misunderstood figures, and the story of his exceptional talent is often overshadowed by his history of alcohol abuse, mental instability, and brutalization at the hands of white authorities.

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October 22nd, 2013

John Goodman, author of Charles Mingus Speaks

As a writer for Playboy, John F. Goodman reviewed Mingus’s comeback concert in 1972 and went on to achieve an intimacy with the composer that brings a relaxed and candid tone to the ensuing interviews. Much of what Mingus shares shows him in a new light: his personality, his passions and sense of humor, and his thoughts on music. The conversations are wide-ranging, shedding fresh light on important milestones in Mingus’s life such as the publication of his memoir, Beneath the Underdog, the famous Tijuana episodes, his relationships, and the jazz business.

Goodman discusses his book in a July, 2013 interview with Jerry Jazz Musician publisher Joe Maita.

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September 6th, 2013

Book Excerpt from “Mingus Speaks,” by John Goodman

Charles Mingus is among jazz’s greatest composers and perhaps its most talented bass player. He was blunt and outspoken about the place of jazz in music history and American culture, about which performers were the real thing (or not), and much more. These in-depth interviews, conducted several years before Mingus died, capture the composer’s spirit and voice, revealing how he saw himself as composer and performer, how he viewed his peers and predecessors, how he created his extraordinary music, and how he looked at race.

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July 3rd, 2013

Kansas City Jazz: A Pictorial Tour

In cooperation with Frank Driggs and Chuck Haddix, authors of Kansas City Jazz: From Ragtime to Bebop — a look at the fascinating historyof Kansas City’s golden age through book excerpts, photos and music

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April 15th, 2013

Paul Desmond:  A Life Told in Pictures, Music and Memories

Doug Ramsey’s biography of saxophonist Paul Desmond is a lavish, detailedwork of art, filled with photographs, letters, and memories of a complexand frequently inspiring life. “Paul Desmond: A Life Told in Pictures,Music and Memories,” a Jerry Jazz Musician production published in cooperation with Ramsey and Parkside Publications, features photographs and excerpts from the book, as well as sound samples of Desmond’s music.

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April 6th, 2013

An Online Story of Jazz in New Orleans – Introduction

Featuring the complete text of chapters 1 – 5 from ‘Hear Me Talkin’ To Ya: The Story of Jazz As Told By the Men Who Made It,” a 1955 book by Nat Shapiro and Nat Hentoff

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March 26th, 2013

Doug Ramsey, author of Take Five: The Public and Private Lives of Paul Desmond

Take Five: The Public and Private Lives of Paul Desmond is the story of a jazz artist who transcended genres to establish one of the most immediately recognizable sounds in all of music. Long before his success as the alto saxophonist with the Dave Brubeck Quartet, decades before he wrote “Take Five ,” Desmond determined that he would be himself, never a disciple or an imitator, whatever the cost.

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March 1st, 2013

Conversations with Gary Giddins: On his books Jazz and Warning Shadows

Giddins has been a frequent contributor to Jerry Jazz Musician. This is the 15th interview in our “Conversations with Gary Giddins” series. He joins us in a June 1, 2010 discussion about his two new books.

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June 1st, 2010

James Gavin, author of Stormy Weather: the Life of Lena Horne

Drawing on a wealth of unmined material and hundreds of interviews – one of them with Lena Horne herself – critically acclaimed author James Gavin gives us a “deftly researched” (The Boston Globe) and authoritative portrait of the American icon. Horne broke down racial barriers in the entertainment industry in the 1940s and ’50s even as she was limited mostly to guest singing appearances in splashy Hollywood musicals. Incorporating insights from the likes of Ruby Dee, Tony Bennett, Diahann Carroll, and Bobby Short, Stormy Weather reveals the many faces of this luminous, complex, strong-willed, passionate, even tragic woman – a stunning talent who inspired such giants as Barbra Streisand, Eartha Kitt, and Aretha Franklin.#

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September 18th, 2009

Graham Lock and David Murray, editors of Thriving on a Riff: Jazz & Blues Influences in African American Literature and Film

The widespread presence of jazz and blues in African American visual art has long been overlooked. The Hearing Eye makes the case for recognizing the music’s importance, both as formal template and as explicit subject matter. Moving on from the use of iconic musical figures and motifs in Harlem Renaissance art, this groundbreaking collection explores the more allusive — and elusive — references to jazz and blues in a wide range of mostly contemporary visual artists.

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August 14th, 2009

Great Encounters #27: When W.C. Handy traveled to New York for his first phonographic recording session and meeting with James Reese Europe

Excerpted from W.C. Handy: The Life and Times of the Man Who Made the Blues, by David Robertson

Harry Pace, even at his distance at Atlanta, always had been more innovative in marketing their firm’s songs in newer ways than Handy, and, as his career later reveals, he was interested in the possibilities of owning his own phonographic business. While on a trip for his insurance company to New York City

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August 12th, 2009

“Accent on Youth,” by Ted Bryan

Ted Bryan is an eighteen-year-old Portland, Oregon resident who was co-winner of the 2006 Accent on Youth Essay Contest, as judged by jazz critic Gary Giddins, vocalist Dee Dee Bridgewater, and the publisher of Jerry Jazz Musician. His passion for and perspectives on jazz is the focus of the column.

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July 26th, 2007

Great Encounters #26: When Cab Calloway and Dizzy Gillespie fought over a thrown spitball

Excerpted from Playing the Changes: Milt Hinton’s Life in Stories and Photographs, by Milt Hinton, David G. Berger, and Holly Maxson

In 1939, Doc Cheatham, who’d been with Cab for years, was feeling ill and decided to give notice. By this time, when it came to finding replacements, Cab would go to Chu [Berry] first. He knew everybody and was really on top of the music scene. Chu spent about a week looking around and then recommended a young kid named John Birks Gillespie, who everyone called Dizzy. Cab hired him.

We were at the Cotton Club when Diz joined us. He’d been playing with Teddy Hill’s band and really had no reputation to speak of. Even back in those days, he was hanging out with Lorraine, who was in the chorus at the Apollo and later became his wife.

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March 29th, 2007

An Online Story of Jazz in New Orleans – Chapter 5

An Online Story of Jazz in New Orleans With an introduction by Nat Hentoff __________ Featuring the complete text of chapters 1 – 5 from Hear Me Talkin’ To Ya: The Story of Jazz As Told By the Men Who Made It, a 1955 book by Nat Shapiro and Nat Hentoff (Published with the consent … Continue reading “An Online Story of Jazz in New Orleans – Chapter 5”

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March 26th, 2007

An Online Story of Jazz in New Orleans – Chapter 4

Featuring the complete text of chapter 4 rom “Hear Me Talkin’ To Ya: The Story of Jazz As Told By the Men Who Made It”, a 1955 book by Nat Shapiro and Nat Hentoff

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March 26th, 2007

An Online Story of Jazz in New Orleans – Chapter 3

An Online Story of Jazz in New Orleans With an introduction by Nat Hentoff __________ Featuring the complete text of chapters 1 – 5 from Hear Me Talkin’ To Ya: The Story of Jazz As Told By the Men Who Made It, a 1955 book by Nat Shapiro and Nat Hentoff (Published with the consent … Continue reading “An Online Story of Jazz in New Orleans – Chapter 3”

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March 26th, 2007

An Online Story of Jazz in New Orleans – Chapter 2

Featuring the complete text of chapters 2 from “Hear Me Talkin’ To Ya: The Story of Jazz As Told By the Men Who Made It,” a 1955 book by Nat Shapiro and Nat Hentoff

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March 26th, 2007

An Online Story of Jazz in New Orleans – Chapter 1

Featuring the complete text of chapter 1 from “Hear Me Talkin’ To Ya: The Story of Jazz As Told By the Men Who Made It,” a 1955 book by Nat Shapiro and Nat Hentoff

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March 26th, 2007

Great Encounters #25: When John Hammond “discovered” Billie Holiday

Excerpted from The Producer: John Hammond and the Soul of American Music, by Dunstan Prial

On a cold, clear night in February, 1933, Hammond went on the town alone in search of music. Heading up Broadway toward Harlem in a Hudson convertible (he kept the top up in the winter), he fought traffic, but as he passed Columbia University, he was flying. At 133rd Street, he took a right and headed east toward Lenox Avenue. He pulled over after a few blocks and parked in a space a few doors up from a new speakeasy run by Monette Moore, the singer who had appeared with Ellington and Carter at the fund-raiser for the Scottsboro boys he had helped organize the previous fall.

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December 29th, 2006

Great Encounters #24: When Peggy Lee joined Benny Goodman’s band

Excerpted from FEVER: The Life and Music of Miss Peggy Lee, by Peter Richmond

In CHICAGO in August 1941, preparing for an engagement at the College Inn, Benny Goodman was staying at Frank Bering’s Ambassador East. One night, Benny’s fiancee, Lady Alice Duckworth, suggested that he come next door to the Buttery and catch the new girl singer. The imperious, handsome granddaughter of Commodore Vanderbilt – founder of the New York Central Railroad – Lady Duckworth was also John Hammond’s sister.

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November 29th, 2006

Harlem of the West: The San Francisco Fillmore Jazz Era author Elizabeth Pepin

Billie Holiday singing at the New Orleans Swing Club. Dexter Gordon hanging out at Bop City. Dizzy Gillespie, Lionel Hampton, Charlie Parker, John Coltrane all swinging through town for gigs. Sound like a nostalgic snapshot from the New York jazz scene, or perhaps New Orleans? Nope. This particular sentimental journey describes San Francisco’s Fillmore District in its heyday.

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August 16th, 2006

Ashley Kahn, author of The House That Trane Built: The Story of Impulse Records

Following the path of its star musician John Coltrane, Impulse Records cut a creative swath through the 1960s and 1970s with the politically charged avant-garde jazz that defined the label’s musical and spiritual identity. Ashley Kahn’s The House That Trane Built tells the story of the label, balancing tales of individual passion, artistic vision, and commercial motivation.

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July 29th, 2006

Thomas Brothers, author of Louis Armstrong’s New Orleans

New Orleans at the turn of the twentieth century was a complicated city, a rough and beautiful place bursting with energy and excitement. It was a city marked by racial tensions, where the volatile interactions between blacks and whites were further confounded by a substantial Creole population. Yet it was also a city of fervent religious beliefs, where salvation manifested itself in a number of ways. Perhaps abolve all else, New Orleans was a city of music: funeral bands marched through the streets; professional musicians played the popular tunes of the day in dance halls and cabarets; sanctified parishioners raised church roofs with their impassioned voices; and early blues musicians moaned their troubles on street corners and in honky-tonks, late into the night.

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June 12th, 2006

Great Encounters #23: When Dizzy Gillespie and Charlie Parker Played 52nd Street

Excerpted from Chasin’ The Bird : The Life and Legacy of Charlie Parker, by by Brian Priestley.

Early in 1945, Parker had begun his first live small-band gigs with Gillespie, after he too left Eckstine the previous December, working briefly with Boyd Radburn and then being booked on the Street. In the meantime, Charlie himself had played some Monday nights at the Spotlite (run by Clark Monroe of the Uptown House) and deputised in the Cootie Williams band, narrowly missing the young pianist Bud Powell, who had been invalided out of the band by a vicious beating from the police in Philadelphia. But, when Dizzy hired Charlie to complete the frontline of his new quintet at the Three Deuces in March,

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February 9th, 2006

“Up From New Orleans: Life Before, During and After Hurricane Katrina” — A conversation with transplanted New Orleans musicians Devin Phillips and Mark DiFlorio

“I’m always wondering,” Louis Armstrong wrote in 1966, “if it would have been best in my life if I’d stayed like I was in New Orleans, having a ball.”

In 1922, Armstrong left his city of New Orleans by choice, boarding a Chicago-bound train in his long underwear, carrying a “little” suitcase with a “few” clothes in it, his cornet, and a trout sandwich packed by mother Mayann.

In late August of 2005, an unimaginable number of New Orleans residents in the path of an oncoming Hurricane Katrina were left with little choice but to flee the city. One can only assume that few had the luxury of leisurely packing a suitcase, let alone a trout sandwich

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February 7th, 2006

Brian Priestley, author of Chasin’ The Bird : The Life and Legacy of Charlie Parker

Charlie Parker has been idolized by generations of jazz musicians and fans. Indeed, his spectacular musical abilities — his blinding speed and brilliant improvisational style — made Parker a legend even before his tragic death at age thirty-four.

In Chasin’ The Bird, Brian Priestley tells Parker’s life story, from his Kansas City childhood to his final harrowing days in New York. Priestley offers new insight into Parker’s career, beginning as a teenager single-mindedly devoted to mastering the saxophone, to his first trip to New York, where he washed dishes for $9.00 a week at Jimmy’s Chicken Shack, a favorite hangout of the great pianist Art Tatum, whose stunning speed and ingenuity were an influence on the young musician.

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February 6th, 2006

Peter Levinson, author of Tommy Dorsey: Livin’ in a Great Big Way

No musician evokes the time of the Big Band era more strikingly than Tommy Dorsey (1905 – 1956), whose towering trombone style and smash hits created legions of fans and influenced popular music for decades. Peter Levinson, the author of criticially acclaimed biographies of Harry James and Nelson Riddle, has now written the definitive account of this icon of jazz, drawing on exhaustive new research and scores of interviews with the musicians and others who knew him best.

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November 5th, 2005

Conversations with Gary Giddins: A History of Jazz in New Orleans

This edition of “Conversation with Gary Giddins” is the first of three Jerry Jazz Musician features devoted to the importance of New Orleans culture. In an enlightening, passionate conversation, Giddins — for many years the country’s most eminent jazz critic — discusses the beginnings of jazz in the city of New Orleans, its prominent figures, and what needs to be done to properly market jazz in a city that has contributed so much toward shaping the soul of America.

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October 31st, 2005

Book Review/”Weatherbird,” by Gary Giddins

The world of jazz criticism is enriched every time Gary Giddins brings out a new book, and Weather Bird: Jazz at the Dawn of its Second Century, bulges with riches. The collection is mostly drawn from his recently-ended Village Voice column (also called “Weather Bird”), with the addition of significant essays published elsewhere. Even faithful readers of the Voice will find ample new Giddins material here.

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October 29th, 2005

“Civil Liberties and Jazz — Past, Present and Future” — A conversation with journalist Nat Hentoff

at Hentoff, a prolific author and journalist whose work has been published for many years in, among other publications, the Village Voice, the New Yorker, the Atlantic Monthly, the Wall Street Journal, and Jazz Times, has been described by one of his publishers, DaCapo Press, as “a man of passion and insight, of streetwise wit and polished eloquence — a true American original.” This “passion of insight” is particularly apparent in his lifelong devotion to the chronicling of jazz music — a pursuit that began even before he became editor of Downbeat in 1953 — and in his steadfast defense of the Constitution.

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October 6th, 2005

Chuck Haddix, author of Kansas City Jazz: From Ragtime to Bebop

There were but four major galaxies in the early jazz universe, and three of them — New Orleans, Chicago, and New York — have been well documented in print. But there has never been a serious history of the fourth, Kansas City, until the recent publication of Kansas City Jazz: From Ragtime to Bebop — A History, by Frank Driggs and Chuck Haddix.

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September 30th, 2005

Great Encounters #21: The influence of Tommy Dorsey on Frank Sinatra

Excerpted from Tommy Dorsey: Livin’ in a Great Big Way, by Peter Levinson.

With young men being drafted in profusion and some even volunteering for military service, big bands found new venues to work: Army and Air Force bases and Naval stations. With the pre-war and war period having nothing but a favorable effect on the band business, by 1940, dance bands were still big business. Altogether, big bands of every stripe earned one hundred ten million dollars that year.

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September 29th, 2005

William Kenney, author of Jazz on the River

Just after World War I, the musical style called jazz began a waterborne journey outward from that quintessential haven of romance and decadence, New Orleans. For the first time in any organized way, steam-driven boats left town during the summer months to tramp the Mississippi River, bringing an exotic new music to the rest of the nation. For entrepreneurs promoting jazz, this seemed a promising way to spread northward the exciting sounds of the Crescent City. And the musicians no longer had to wait for folks upriver to make their way down to New Orleans to hear the vibrant rhythms, astonishing improvisations, and new harmonic idioms being created.

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July 15th, 2005

Conversations with Gary Giddins: on Big Bands

In the final column of his thirty year career as jazz critic of the Village Voice, Gary Giddins wrote, “I’m as besotted with jazz as ever, and expect to write about it till last call, albeit in other formats. Indeed, much in the way being hanged is said to focus the mind, this finale has made me conscious of the columns I never wrote.”

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May 10th, 2005

Michael Dregni, author of Django: The Life and Music of a Gypsy Legend

Django Reinhardt was arguably the greatest guitarist who ever lived, an important influence on Les Paul, Charlie Christian, B.B. King, Jerry Garcia, Chet Atkins, and many others. Handsome, charismatic, childlike, and unpredictable, Reinhardt was a character out of a picaresque novel. Born in a gypsy caravan at a crossroads in Belgium, he was almost killed in a freak fire that burned half of his body and left his left hand twisted into a claw. But with this maimed left hand flying over the frets and his right hand plucking at dizzying speed, Django became Europe’s most famous jazz musician, commanding exorbitant fees — and spending the money as fast as he made it.

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March 9th, 2005

Jazz historian Dan Morgenstern, author of Living with Jazz

Buying a vinyl long playing jazz album in the format’s heyday — from the 1950s through the 1980s — was a three-step sensual process that stirred an almost irrational enthusiasm for the entire culture the music ignited. The record industry’s flair for creating passionate cover art seduced the imagination, the sounds etched into the grooves promised diversion and surprise, and the densely-typed liner notes on the back cover fired up an eagerness for enlightenment. The process continued at the turntable, where the cut of a stylus transformed the listener into an aural witness to the performer’s character and improvisational skills. It was, quite simply, a bonding experience.

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February 4th, 2005

John Leland, author of Hip: The History

John Leland’s Hip: The History is the story of an American obsession. Derived from the Wolof word hepi or hipi (“to see,” or “to open one’s eyes”), which came to America with West African Slaves, hip is the dance between black and white — or insider and outsider — that gives America its unique flavor and rhythm. It has created fortunes, destroyed lives and shaped the way millions of us talk, dress, dance, make love or see ourselves in the mirror. Everyone knows what hip is.

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January 3rd, 2005

Don’t the Moon Look Lonesome: A roundtable discussion with Stanley Crouch, Gerald Early and Kitty Margolis

Although it has had its share of detractors, critical acclaim for Stanley Crouch’s first novel, Don’t the Moon Look Lonesome, is quite impressive — particularly among scholars and fellow writers. For example, Susan di Sesa, former Executive Editor of The Modern Library called it “one of the most profound novels in the English language,” while Pulitzer Prize-winning author James Alan McPherson wrote, “In attempting to employ ‘riffs’ to explore the emotional and psychological dimensions of his characters, Stanley Crouch has evolved a new narrative technique.”

Crouch — known primarily as an outspoken New York cultural critic — clearly understands that a serious writer’s role is to provoke his audience with potentially new avenues of thought

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November 23rd, 2004

Conversations with Gary Giddins: on Jazz Vocalists

In the final column of his thirty year career as jazz critic of the Village Voice, Gary Giddins wrote, “I’m as besotted with jazz as ever, and expect to write about it till last call, albeit in other formats. Indeed, much in the way being hanged is said to focus the mind, this finale has made me conscious of the columns I never wrote.”

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October 25th, 2004

Joshua Berrett, author of Louis Armstrong and Paul Whiteman: Two Kings of Jazz

Joshua Berrett’s Louis Armstrong and Paul Whiteman: Two Kings of Jazz is a dual biography of two great innovators in the history of jazz. One was black, one was white — one is now legendary, the other nearly forgotten. Berrett offers a provocative revision of the history of early jazz by focusing on two of its most notable practioners — Whiteman, legendary in his day, and Armstrong, a legend ever since.

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October 4th, 2004

Great Encounters #9: The first meeting of Duke Ellington and Billy Strayhorn

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.

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September 29th, 2004

Nadine Cohodas, author of Queen: The Life and Music of Dinah Washington

Nadine Cohodas’s Queen: The Life and Music of Dinah Washington, is the landmark biography of the brief, intensely lived life and soulful music of the great Dinah Washington. A gospel star at fifteen, she was discovered by jazz great Lionel Hampton at eighteen, and for the rest of her life was on the road, playing clubs, or singing in the studio — making music one way or another. Dinah’s tart and heartfelt voice quickly became her trademark; she was a distinctive stylist, crossing over from the “race” music category to the pop and jazz charts.

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September 13th, 2004

Great Encounters #8: When Chet Baker played with Stan Getz, 1953

Excerpted from Deep in a Dream: The Long Night of Chet Baker by James Gavin

On August 12, the (Baker) quartet made its earliest known live appearance in a concert at LA’s Carlton Theater. But not everybody trusted Baker to stand on his own. With (Gerry) Mulligan in jail, John Bennett had paired Baker with Stan Getz, another baby-faced wunderkind whose feathery, cascading solos, even more detached than Baker’s, had made him a fellow prince of West Coast cool. Getz had won the 1952 tenor polls in Down Beat and Metronome by a landslide, while Baker still ranked low in the trumpet categories. The two addressed each other politely enough, but they loathed each other almost on sight, as their live duo recordings suggest:

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August 31st, 2004

Great Encounters #7: When Gene Krupa hired Roy Eldridge

Excerpted from Roy Eldridge: Little Jazz Giant by John Chilton

The booking at the Capitol was extended into 1941, but Roy’s long term prospects looked no better than they had a year earlier. However, Roy’s old friend drummer Gene Krupa was about to offer him a life-changing opportunity. Krupa had finished his stint with Benny Godman almost three years earlier and was now one of the foremost bandleaders of the era. Krupa’s Band played at the Hotel Sherman in Chicago during late 1940 and Gene often visited the Capitol (with his wife Ethel and manager Frank Verniere) after he’d finished his sets. Sometimes Roy went off with Gene to find a nightspot on the South Side where they could jam and eat ribs. During this Chicago stay Roy, as ever, was always game for an “after-work” blow,

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July 29th, 2004

Great Encounters #6: When Bing Crosby met Louis Armstrong

Excerpted from Bing Crosby: A Pocketful of Dreams by Gary Giddins

To hip musicians in Chicago, scat had been the rage for months. Bing and some of the other adventurous musicians in Whiteman’s band heard it that very week from the master himself, Louis Armstrong. If mobster Al Capone ruled the city, Armstrong ruled its music. Whatever he played was instantly picked up by other musicians. The previous spring Okeh issued his Hot Five recording of “Heebie Jeebies,” and it caused a sensation, selling some 40,000 copies thanks to his inspired vocal chorus – a torrent of bristling grunts and groans in no known language.

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June 22nd, 2004

Conversations with Gary Giddins: on Underrated Jazz Musicians, Part Two

In the final column of his thirty year career as jazz critic of the Village Voice, Gary Giddins wrote, “I’m as besotted with jazz as ever, and expect to write about it till last call, albeit in other formats. Indeed, much in the way being hanged is said to focus the mind, this finale has made me conscious of the columns I never wrote.”

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April 30th, 2004

“Remembering Dizzy Gillespie,” a conversation with Nat Hentoff and James Moody

Saxophonist James Moody, whose significant achievements include employment in a variety of Gillespie’s best groups, and journalist Nat Hentoff, whose chronicles on jazz during Gillespie’s era were the benchmarks of his craft, remember Dizzy and his remarkable life in a March 19, 2004 Jerry Jazz Musician hosted conversation.

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March 19th, 2004

Great Encounters #2: When Miles Davis hired John Coltrane

Excerpted from A Love Supreme: The Story of John Coltrane’s Signature Album, by Ashley Kahn

Miles Davis was desperate. He was in the midst of preparing for his first national tour arranged by a high-powered booking agent, and Columbia Records — the most prestigious and financially generous record company around — was looking over his shoulder, checking on him. “If you can get and keep a group together, I will record that group,” George Avakian, Columbia’s top jazz man, had promised. To Miles, an alumnus of Charlie Parker’s groundbreaking bebop quintet, “group” still meant a rhythm trio plus two horn players, but he still had only one: himself.

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February 22nd, 2004

Great Encounters #1: When Charlie Parker played for Igor Stravinsky

Excerpted from Jazz Modernism, by Alfred Appel

Charlie Parker enthusiasts circa 1950 often declared him the jazz equivalent of Stravinsky and Bartok, and asserted that he’d absorbed their music, though skeptics countered that there was no evidence he was even familiar with it. Parker himself clarified the issue for me one night in the winter of 1951, at New York’s premier modern jazz club, Birdland, at Broadway and Fifty-second Street. It was Saturday night, Parker’s quintet was the featured attraction, and he was in his prime, it seemed. I had a good table near the front, on the left side of the bandstand, below the piano. The house was almost full, even before the opening set

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January 29th, 2004

John Chilton, author of Roy Eldridge: Little Jazz Giant

Roy Eldridge’s style is universally recognized as the all-important link between the playing of Louis Armstrong and the achievements of modernist Dizzy Gillespie. Roy’s daring harmonic approach and his technically awesome improvisations provided guidance and inspiration for countless jazz musicians, but he was also a star performer in his own right, whose recordings as a bandleader, and with Gene Krupa and Artie Shaw, gained him a durable international reputation. The indignities he experienced and overcame during the 1940’s while working in otherwise all-white ensembles proved he was as bold a social pioneer as he was a performer.

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January 19th, 2004

Conversations with Gary Giddins: on Underrated Jazz Musicians, Part One

In the final column of his thirty year career as jazz critic of the Village Voice, Gary Giddins wrote, “I’m as besotted with jazz as ever, and expect to write about it till last call, albeit in other formats. Indeed, much in the way being hanged is said to focus the mind, this finale has made me conscious of the columns I never wrote.”

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January 5th, 2004

“Jazz in the Modern World” — a Roundtable discussion with Joshua Redman, Bruce Lundvall and Ben Ratliff

What are the boundaries of the jazz idiom? What is the role of jazz in today’s world? To download or not to download? What is the future of retailing and how does that affect the art of making music? What is the value of recorded music?

As ever, jazz faces an array of questions, certainly more than three people can address in an hour. The hour spent in this particular discussion among men at the top of their respective fields focuses on confronting the challenge of marketing a music filled with nuance and passion to a modern audience conditioned by technology for instant gratification, and the issue of competing with its own historic past.

In a Roundtable hosted by Jerry Jazz Musician publisher Joe Maita, Blue Note Records president Bruce Lundvall, saxophonist Joshua Redman, and New York Times critic Ben Ratliff lend their perspectives.

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October 2nd, 2003

Conversations with Gary Giddins: on Jazz Criticism

Village Voice writer Gary Giddins, who was prominently featured in Ken Burns’ documentary Jazz, and who is the country’s preeminent jazz critic, joins us in a conversation recorded on June 20, 2003 — and then slightly revised in October — about the profession of jazz criticism.

The conversation is an autobiographical look at the writer’s ascension in his field, and includes candid observations of other prominent critics. It concludes with a unique “Blindfold Test” that asks Giddins to name the jazz writer responsible for the essay excerpt he is spontaneously shown.

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June 20th, 2003

Newport Jazz founder George Wein, author of Myself Among Others: My Life in Music

No one has had a better seat in the house than George Wein. The legendary impresario has known some of the most celebrated figures of jazz — from Duke Ellington to Count Basie, and from Thelonious Monk to Miles Davis. As a founder of the Newport Jazz Festival and countless other festivals around the world, Wein has brought a broad spectrum of musical artists to millions, forever changing the country’s cultural landscape.

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June 18th, 2003

Alfred Appel, author of Jazz Modernism

How does the jazz of Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, Fats Waller, Billie Holiday, and Charlie Parker fit into the great tradition of the modern arts between 1920 and 1950? In his book Jazz Modernism, cultural historian Alfred Appel compares the layering of sex, vitality, and the vernacular in jazz with the paper collages of Picasso, and the vital mix of high and low culture found in Joyce.

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June 2nd, 2003

Conversations with Gary Giddins: on pianist Cecil Taylor

Village Voice writer Gary Giddins, who was prominently featured in Ken Burns’ documentary Jazz, and who is the country’s preeminent jazz critic, joins us in a March 13, 2003 conversation about pianist Cecil Taylor.

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March 13th, 2003

Conversations with Gary Giddins: on Thelonious Monk

Village Voice writer Gary Giddins, who was prominently featured in Ken Burns’ documentary Jazz, and who is the country’’s preeminent jazz critic, joins us in a December 23, 2002 conversation about jazz legend Thelonious Monk.

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December 23rd, 2002

Conversations with Gary Giddins: on Sonny Rollins

Village Voice writer Gary Giddins, winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award, and who is the country’s preeminent jazz critic, joins us in an October 21, 2002 conversation about jazz legend Sonny Rollins.

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October 21st, 2002

Will Friedwald, author of Stardust Melodies: A Biography of Twelve of America’s Most Popular Songs

In Stardust Melodies: A Biography of Twelve of America’s Most Popular Songs, author Will Friedwald takes these legendary songs apart and puts them together again, with unprecedented detail and understanding. Each song’s history is explored — the circumstances under which it was written and first performed — and then its musical and lyric content.

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August 2nd, 2002

Jazz Photographer Lee Tanner discusses his life in jazz

Lee Tanner began using a camera as a teenager in New York City. An avid jazz fan from the age of eight and inspired by the jazz photography of Gjon Mili, Bill Claxton, Herb Snitzer, and Herman Leonard, he turned to documenting the jazz scene with a love for the music comparable only to his creative drive for visual expression. Photography, however, was only an avocation.

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July 29th, 2002

Sue Mingus, author of Tonight at Noon: A Love Story

In Tonight at Noon, Sue Graham Mingus gives us an elegant and unsparingly honest memoir of a romance between American opposites: she, a product of privilege, a former midwestern WASP debutante and Smith College graduate who worked as a journalist in Europe and in New York; he (Charles Mingus), an authentic jazz titan, a brilliant, eccentric, difficult artist, a scion of Watts, Los Angeles, who would become one of America’s foremost composers.*

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July 24th, 2002

Richard Sudhalter, author of Stardust Melody: The Life and Music of Hoagy Carmichael

Hoagy Carmichael remains, for millions, the enduring voice of heartland America, a beloved counterpoint to the urban sensibility of Cole Porter and George Gershwin. The author William Zinsser said of Carmichael ,”Play me a Hoagy Carmichael song and I hear the banging of a screen door and the whine of an outboard motor on a lake — sounds of summer in a small-town America that is long gone but still longed for.”

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July 23rd, 2002

David Amram, author of Offbeat: Collaborating with Kerouac

The composer David Amram has been hailed by the Washington Post as “one of the most versatile and skilled musicians America has ever produced.” Since Leonard Bernstein appointed Amram as first composer-in-residence with the New York Philharmonic in 1966-67, he has become one of the most acclaimed composers of his generation, listed by BMI as one of the Twenty Most Performed Composers of Concert Music in the United States since 1974.

Amram is also known as the musical collaborator of the great mid-century American author Jack Kerouac, whose book On the Road is considered to be the artistic soul of the 1950’s.

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July 17th, 2002

Farah Griffin, author of In Search of Billie Holiday: If You Can’t Be Free, Be a Mystery

More than four decades after her death, Billie Holiday remains one of the most gifted artists of our time, and also one of the most elusive. Because of who she was and how she chose to live her life, Holiday has been the subject of both intense adoration and wildly distorted legends.

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June 24th, 2002

Conversations with Gary Giddins: on John Coltrane

Village Voice writer Gary Giddins, winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award, and who is the country’s eminent jazz critic, joins us in a June 21, 2002 conversation about jazz great John Coltrane.

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June 21st, 2002

James Gavin, author of Deep in a Dream: The Long Night of Chet Baker

That trumpeter Chet Baker was a sensitive musician whose sound is a cherished part of the jazz landscape is well known. That he led a hard life is also pretty well known, perhaps even to the most casual music fan. His 1988 death from a fall out an Amsterdam window only added to the sad mystery surrounding his persona.

What was not known by most of us is the haunting depth of Baker’s self-destructive life; that he was an arsonist, a thief, a second-story man, a drug addict, an abusive husband and lover, a philanderer, a liar…need we go on? We could, you know.

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June 12th, 2002

Max Morath, author of The NPR Curious Listener’s Guide to Popular Standards

American Popular Standards have become a vital part of our cultural heritage. They are the show tunes of Broadway and Hollywood, which – taken up by swing bands, jazz singers, and countless other performers of every description – were for decades the sound of popular music.

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June 5th, 2002

Kind of Blue: The Making of the Miles Davis Masterpiece author Ashley Kahn

In the spring of 1959, seven musicians got together in a converted church on 30th Street in Manhattan and made jazz history. Over forty years have passed since Miles Davis assembled his famed sextet to record Kind of Blue, and in that time the album has risen to the level of masterpiece.

In Kind of Blue: The Making of the Miles Davis Masterpiece, Ashley Kahn gives readers the unprecedented opportunity to enter the 30th Street studio and witness the creation of this remarkable album

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April 29th, 2002

The Jazz Album Art of Jim Flora

Vintage record buffs have long been bedazzled by the bizarre, cartoonish album covers tagged with the signature “Flora.” For Columbia in the 1940s and RCA Victor in the mid-1950s, James (Jim) Flora (1914-1998) designed diabolic and hallucinatory covers that enticed music shop habitués browsing in the jazz, ethnic, and classical aisles. His jaw-dropping boldness and savory color combinations invited lingering glances. Although you shouldn’t judge an album by its cover, in the case of Flora’s work, the disc inside almost seemed an afterthought.

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March 2nd, 2002

Douglas Daniels, author of Lester Leaps In: The Life and Times of Lester “Pres” Young

ester Young was jazz music’s first hipster. He performed onstage in sunglasses and coined and popularized the enigmatic slang “that’s cool” and “you dig?” He was a snazzy dresser who always wore a suit and his trademark porkpie hat. He influenced everyone from B. B. King to Stan Getz to Allen Ginsberg. When he died, he was the subject of musical tributes by Charles Mingus (“Goodbye Pork Pie Hat”) and Wayne Shorter (“Lester Left Town”), and incidents from his life were featured in the movie ‘Round Midnight.

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February 14th, 2002

Phil Pastras, author of Dead Man Blues: Jelly Roll Morton Way Out West

When Ferdinand “Jelly Roll” Morton sat at the piano in the Library of Congress in May of 1938 to begin his monumental series of interviews with Alan Lomax, he spoke of his years on the West Coast with the nostalgia of a man recalling a golden age, a lost Eden. He had arrived in Los Angeles more than twenty years earlier, but he recounted his losses as vividly as though they had occurred just recently. The greatest loss was his separation from Anita Gonzales, by his own account “the only woman I ever loved,” to whom he left almost all of his royalties in his will.

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January 7th, 2002

Stephanie Stein Crease, author of Gil Evans: Out of the Cool

When Stephanie Stein Crease was a child, and her older brother started bringing home records by Gil Evans and Miles Davis, her world turned. Fascinated by the colorful orchestrations found on Miles Ahead, Porgy and Bess and Sketches of Spain, recorded between 1957 and 1960, Crease began a life long affair with the music of Evans, a man noted critic Gary Giddins has called “one of the great figures in American music.” Gil Evans, Out of the Cool, is a culmination of her fascination of and appreciation for the work of Gil Evans.

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December 17th, 2001

Eric Nisenson, author of Open Sky: Sonny Rollins and His World of Improvisation

Author Eric Nisenson has devoted much of his adult life to reporting jazz. The genesis of his passion for jazz was his introduction to Miles Davis’ Kind of Blue at an early age – a passion so strong it eventually led to a friendship with Miles. The subjects for his three biographies are no less than Miles, John Coltrane, and now, Sonny Rollins, all key musicians and all strong, unique personalities worthy of icon status in the world of music. Nisenson discusses his friendship with Miles and his new book, Open Sky : Sonny Rollins and His World of Improvisation

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November 29th, 2001

In this Issue

Art by Russell Dupont
Twenty-eight poets contribute 37 poems to the Jerry Jazz Musician Fall Poetry Collection, living proof that the energy and spirit of jazz is alive — and quite well.

Short Fiction

Photo/CC0 Public Doman
Short Fiction Contest-winning story #52 — “Random Blonde,” by Zandra Renwick

Interview

photo by Michael Lionstar
In a wide-ranging interview, Nate Chinen, former New York Times jazz critic and currently the director of editorial content for WBGO (Jazz) Radio, talks about his book Playing Changes: Jazz for the New Century,, described by Herbie Hancock as a “fascinating read” that shows Chinen’s “firm support of the music

Great Encounters

photo by William Gottlieb/Library of Congress
In this edition, Con Chapman, author of Rabbit’s Blues: The Life and Music of Johnny Hodges, writes about Hodges’ early musical training, and the first meeting he had with Sidney Bechet, the influential and legendary reed player who Hodges called “tops in my book.”

Essay

photo of Esbjorn Svensson Trio/Pkobel/Creative Commons
“The Trio That Should Have Reshaped Jazz” — an essay by Scott Archer Jones

Photography

Veryl Oakland’s “Jazz in Available Light” — photos (and stories) of Mal Waldron, Jackie McLean and Joe Henderson

“What are 4 or 5 of your all-time favorite Blue Note albums?”

"What are 4 or 5 of your all-time favorite Blue Note albums?"
Dianne Reeves, Nate Chinen, Gary Giddins, Michael Cuscuna, Eliane Elias and Ashley Kahn are among the 12 writers, musicians, and music executives who list and write about their favorite Blue Note albums

Pressed for All Time

"Jazz Samba"/Verve Records
In this edition, excerpted from Michael Jarrett's Pressed For All Time, legendary producer Creed Taylor remembers the 1962 Stan Getz recording, Jazz Samba

Interview

Photographer Carol Friedman
In an entertaining conversation that also features a large volume of her famous photography, Carol Friedman discusses her lifelong work of distinction in the world of jazz photography

Art

"Dreaming of Bird at Billy Bergs" - by Charles Ingham
“Charles Ingham’s Jazz Narratives” — a continuing series

Humor

photo by William Gottlieb/Library of Congress
"Every Soul is a Circus," by Dig Wayne

Interview

photo by Francis Wolff, courtesy of Mosaic Records
Maxine Gordon, author of Sophisticated Giant: The Life and Legacy of Dexter Gordon, discusses her late husband’s complex, fascinating life.

Short Fiction

photo/Creative Commons CC0.
Con Chapman, author of Rabbit's Blues: The Life and Music of Johnny Hodges, contributes a humorous short story, "Father Kniest: Jazz Priest"

In the Previous Issue

photo of Sullivan Fortner by Carol Friedman
“The Jazz Photography Issue” features an interview with today’s most eminent jazz portrait photographer Carol Friedman, news from Michael Cuscuna about newly released Francis Wolff photos, as well as archived interviews with William Gottlieb, Herman Leonard, Lee Tanner, a piece on Milt Hinton, a new edition of photos from Veryl Oakland, and much more…

Contributing writers

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