Bob Hecht’s “Joys of Jazz” — Vol. 5

In this edition, Hecht tells three stories; one about Miles Davis’ use of space in his music, one on the mutual admiration society of Sinatra, Lady Day, and Lester Young, and the other about the train in jazz and blues music.

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April 6th, 2019

Bob Hecht’s “Joys of Jazz” — Vol. 1

Award winning radio producer and host Bob Hecht shares his love of jazz through his podcasts on his site “The Joys of Jazz.”
In this edition, he tells two stories; the history of the virtual anthem of World War II, “I’ll Be Seeing You,” and the friendship and musical rapport of Bing Crosby and Louis Armstrong.

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November 28th, 2018

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

“Jazz is too good for Americans!”

Being disgusted with Congress is, of course, nothing new…In an excerpt from Dizzy Gillespie’s 1979 autobiography (written with Al Fraser) to BE, or not . . . to BOP, Dizzy reminds us of the thick-headed politicians of 1957 who questioned the “exorbitant” fees paid to him and his band during their 1956 State Department-sponsored tour of Africa, the Middle East, Asia, Europe and South America.

In this excerpt — from a chapter titled “Higher Than Ike” —  Dizzy cynically writes about the “thanks” he received from members of Congress following the tour, as well as the controversy concerning his

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August 30th, 2018

“War Comes to 52d St.”

     In Arnold Shaw’s biography of New York’s 52nd Street, 52nd Street:  The Street of Jazz, he devotes an entire chapter to the impact World War II had on “The Street,” its musicians, and ultimately on American society.  

     “…World War II came to 52d St.,” Shaw writes, “bringing not only a curfew, entertainment tax, rationing and an influx of sailors and soldiers on leave, but a rash of striptease joints, tab padding and other sharp practices, fistfights and sluggings, racial conflict, and even attacks on

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May 9th, 2018

Aaron Copland’s favorite jazz musicians

     Aaron Copland, the mid-century classical composer whose work was greatly influenced by American life, had an interest in jazz, particularly, as he told Don Gold in a May, 1958 Downbeat article “the marriage – the fact that the young jazzmen are composers, often bridging the gap between fields. “  He also had some sympathy for jazz musicians because “they have the same trouble getting a big audience we have.”

     The article, titled “Aaron Copland: The Well-Known American Composer Finds Virtues and Flaws in Jazz,” is of special interest because

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April 13th, 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

“White Christmas” trivia

In an effort to get into the Christmas spirit, a revisit of Bing Crosby’s “White Christmas” is a seasonal requisite.  It percolates around the house for a couple of spins, leads to an Ella tune here, a Nat Cole there…before you know it much of an entire afternoon is spent attempting to find something, anything, that will capture the season’s enthusiasm so elusive this year.  

This year the tune inspired some Internet surfing about the 1954 film that net neutrality seamlessly allows…I landed on some interesting trivia about the film found at the Regal Cinema’s website.  Among the items listed, many obvious but welcome reminders:

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December 18th, 2017

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

A pioneer of San Francisco jazz

A buddy of mine led me to a recent feature in the San Francisco Chronicle on early 20th Century pianist Sid Le Protti, described by writer Gary Kamiya as “one of the leading black musicians who played on the Barbary Coast” whose “life and career provide a window into a mostly forgotten but fascinating chapter of the city’s cultural and racial history.”

The story is a terrific profile of the artist, but also of the city’s rich

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October 9th, 2017

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

Watching the impact Hurricane Irma is having on countless lives this week brought back memories of stories that came out of New Orleans in the wake of Hurricane Katrina in August of 2005.  In the midst of all the devastation, many people left the Crescent City permanently, including a handful of jazz musicians who made the move to Portland at the invitation of the Portland Jazz Festival organization (now known as PDX Jazz).

In 2006 I interviewed two of those musicians — Devin Phillips, who has become a fixture on Portland’s jazz scene and is its most popular and accomplished saxophonist, and Mark DiFlorio, a drummer who lived in Portland before moving to Seattle (his website indicates he is now living in Los Angeles).  Their stories are remarkable, and this interview is worth revisiting…

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September 11th, 2017

Timeline of King Oliver’s Creole Jazz Band (1917-1923)

I was recently contacted via email by Andrew Taylor, a self-described lifelong jazz fan, Armstrong aficionado and history buff who is also an imaging professional and metadata librarian who explores data visualization, timelines and dynamic media in the manner being pioneered by some practitioners of “data journalism.”

Taylor’s coalescing interests and effort has resulted in an entertaining timeline he created leading to the 1923-1924 recordings of King Oliver’s Creole Jazz Band.

Taylor writes that the timeline “chronicles the development of the band that created them – beginning in March 1917 when the pre-Oliver edition of the band left New Orleans for

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June 5th, 2017

“Diz for President”

Claiming that his first order of business as president would be changing the name of the White House to the Blues House, Dizzy Gillespie’s run for President in 1964 wasn’t as illogical (or comical) as it seems on the surface. (In fact, given the ignorance of one of our current major party nominees, it is easy to write that Dizzy put much more thought into his vision for the country, and was without question more evolved as a candidate). As election day approaches, it is time to ask ourselves, what better time than today for a candidate whose platform includes disbanding the FBI and giving major foreign ambassadorships to jazz musicians?

In his 1979 autobiography To Be, or not…to Bop, Dizzy devotes an entire chapter to the story of his experience as a candidate for the presidency. The entire

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November 4th, 2016

“Glossary of Jazz Slang” — from Mezz Mezzrow’s 1946 biography, Really the Blues

Really the Blues, the little-known but highly influential autobiographical work by jazz musician Mezz Mezzrow (co-written by Bernard Wolfe), is one man’s account of decades of jazz and American cultural history. The clarinetist’s colorful life – which he described in the 1946 counter-culture classic as having strayed “off the music” which led to his doing “my share of evil” – was adventurous, earthy, and jubilant, and was told not so much as a biography but as a novel that made “the Mezz” a hero with the era’s key counter-culture figures, including Allen Ginsberg and Jack Kerouac.

Much has been made of Mezzrow’s relationship with Louis Armstrong — he managed Armstrong for a time and dealt much of the “gauge” he craved, and Mezzrow’s reputation for dealing pot was so well known that “Mezz” became slang for marijuana. He is also remembered for his

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October 24th, 2016

Interview with Thelonious Monk biographer Robin D.G. Kelley

“The piano ain’t got no wrong notes!” So ranted Thelonious Sphere Monk, who proved his point every time he sat down at the keyboard. His angular melodies and dissonant harmonies shook the jazz world to its foundations, ushering in the birth of “bebop” and establishing Monk as one of America’s greatest composers. Yet throughout much of his life, his musical contribution took a backseat to tales of his reputed behavior. Writers tended to obsess over Monk’s hats or his proclivity to dance on stage. To his fans, he was the ultimate hipster; to his detractors, he was temperamental, eccentric, taciturn, or childlike. But these labels tell us little about the man or his

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October 14th, 2016

Portland — “Jazz Town”

Oregon Public Broadcasting has just produced “Jazz Town,” a thirty minute documentary devoted to presenting jazz and the nightlife in post-World War II Portland, Oregon, which at the time was home to one of the most vibrant and fascinating jazz scenes in the country (and still is!) The documentary and accompanying slide show — featuring newly discovered photos of Ellington, Armstrong, Ella and

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May 19th, 2016

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

Jazz writer Gary Giddins on underrated jazz guitarists

“If you look at the Grove Dictionary of Jazz, it is three volumes of jazz history and it embodies a never-ending challenge to discover all those artists. I think the important thing is to look beyond the most celebrated names. In this regard, jazz is profoundly different from nineteenth century classical music, where the pantheon has proven remarkably stable. A jazz listener will want to hear Miles Davis — his reputation is there for a reason — but so much of the fun in jazz lies in finding those distinct personalities who were extremely individual and inventive, yet abide in relative obscurity.”

This comment was made by the most eminent jazz writer Gary Giddins during our “Conversations with Gary Giddins” series, in which he talked about underrated jazz musicians. This particular conversation — from 2004 — concerns underrated jazz guitarists.

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January 26th, 2016

A Moment in Time — Capitol Records’ Studio A, 1956

In 1956, shortly after recording Songs for Swingin’ Lovers — which included the ultimate Frank Sinatra tune, Cole Porter’s “I’ve Got You Under My Skin” — Sinatra’s career was white-hot. His record contract with Capitol was up for renegotiation, which posed a financial challenge for Capitol, who competed with other labels, particularly RCA, for Sinatra’s services. “When we took him on two and half years ago, Frank couldn’t get a record,” Capitol executive Alan Livingston told Downbeat. “Now, every company in the business is after him.”

After signing Sinatra to a seven-year contract that carried an annual guarantee of $200,000, Sinatra biographer James Kaplan writes that he had a “virtual carte blanche to record whatever he pleased. The suits were happy enough with their star to grant him an indulgence or two, and the first was

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January 21st, 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

Great Encounters #42: When Horace Silver played with Charlie Parker

“Great Encounters” are book excerpts that chronicle famous encounters among twentieth-century cultural icons. In this edition, Horace Silver writes of five different occasions he played with Charlie Parker.

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June 26th, 2015

“Jumptown”

I am proud to report that I have recently been named President of PDX Jazz, the presenting organization of the Portland Jazz Festival (going forward it will be known as the PDX Jazz Festival). We just completed our 12th annual Festival season, hosting over 100 performance and education events, including shows by the likes of Ron Carter, Vijay Iyer, Christian McBride, Kurt Elling, Bill Charlap, Lee Konitz, Lou Donaldson, Billy Childs and Nicholas Payton, and our educational endeavors – a critical component of our mission – reached many of the city’s public school students. The Festival is an important component of the winter arts scene in Portland, which has become, as advertised, a model city for progressive politics and cultural pursuits.

We have recently moved our offices from downtown to the inner Northeast Alberta Street Arts District, and while putting together a brochure for an upcoming performance in this space, I am reminded of the long love affair Portland has had with jazz – a romance that continues to this day, evidenced by the

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March 22nd, 2015

Revisiting the 1964 Playboy panel “Jazz — Today and Tomorrow”

For those of us who bought it “for the articles,” it was easy to see that few publications supported and promoted jazz music during the 50’s and 60s quite like Playboy magazine. Among its many endeavors involving jazz, Playboy, Inc. produced festivals and concerts, featured artists on its late-night television programs, invited readers to vote for their favorite performers by instrument, and released record albums. The music was a passion of founder Hugh Hefner,who found that its aesthetic fit in well with those of other “products” pitched to the sophisticated and elite male of the era. Jazz conversations were often found within the pages — the first of the now famous Playboy interviews featured Miles Davis in a 1962 conversation with a young Alex Haley.

In February, 1964, Playboy published a remarkable conversation on jazz. Hosted by journalist Nat Hentoff, “The Playboy Panel: Jazz — Today and Tomorrow” included the musicians

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January 28th, 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

Fletcher Henderson and “Christopher Columbus”

I can’t let Columbus Day go by without paying homage to the Chu Berry/Andy Razaf song that was a “novelty hit” for Fats Waller and the theme song of Fletcher Henderson’s orchestra. Recorded and performed by countless artists from Louis Armstrong to Lawrence Welk, Jeffrey Magee, author of The Uncrowned King of Swing: Fletcher Henderson and Big Band Jazz, tells the story of the song’s origins, and how it became “another focal point of frustration to those around [Henderson].”

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October 14th, 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

“Jazzing Away Prejudice”

Writing that the “good” African-American orators of the day (“spellbinders”) do for lifting up the “Race” is “nil,” this 1919 Chicago Defender editorial makes the case that the music of James Reese Europe could have a significant political impact on race relations of the time.

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With the ringing down of the curtain at the Auditorium last Saturday night there closed a remarkable period of band concerts. If you were not fortunate enough to attend you missed a rare treat. This band had made a wonderful record with the American expeditionary forces in France and with its jazz music had proved a source of great entertainment wherever it went. When it returned to the United States it was given a great ovation by the people of New York City, and Chicago found it equal to advance notice. It has all the artistic finish of any band that has invaded these parts in many years.

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July 24th, 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

Liner Notes: Miles Davis’ ‘Round About Midnight — by George Avakian

For the five years prior to the 1955 recording of ‘Round About Midnight, Miles Davis had, according to John Szwed, author of So What: The Life of Miles Davis, “gained the reputation of an unreliable junkie who blew gigs, missed notes, and couldn’t hold a band together.” It was also a time that Miles would regularly try to convince Columbia Records producer George Avakian to sign him to his label — the era’s gold standard of recording companies. After sorting out his contractual obligation to Prestige Records, Avakian was able to do so. Now, Davis had to put a band together. It is what led to the collaboration of Miles and John Coltrane. Szwed tells the story:

On Tuesday, July 19 [1955], Miles met with Avakian for lunch, bringing along his friend Lee Kraft and his lawyer, Harold Lovett. Bob Weinstock (president of Prestige) had bought the idea of Miles recording for Prestige and Columbia simultaneously. As part of the arrangement for signing with Columbia,

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June 6th, 2014

The “perplexing” and “puzzling” Buddy Bolden photograph

While reading through Donald Marquis’ outstanding In Search of Buddy Bolden: First Man of Jazz (1978), I was reminded about the only photograph in existence of Bolden — perhaps the most famous photograph in the history of jazz. Here is what Marquis learned about it while writing his book…

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May 24th, 2014

Tommy Dorsey stands up for Charlie Shavers

The stories about racial confrontations that jazz musicians experienced are, unfortunately, limitless. I recently posted “The Jazz at the Philharmonic Dice Game Bust,” which told the story of how producer Norman Granz challenged segregation in Houston.

Here is a pretty interesting story that Louis Bellson tells about how his bandleader Tommy Dorsey stood up for trumpet player Charlie Shavers during a swing through the Carolinas:

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Somewhere down South — North Carolina or South Carolina — segregation, of course, was going on. Tommy told the buyer [on one date], “He’s [Shavers] in my band. He’s an artist. He’s featured

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May 21st, 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

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

A Moment in Time — Django Reinhardt, New York, 1946

At the invitation of Duke Ellington, the great Gypsy guitarist Django Reinhardt came to America in October, 1946. Long a dream of his, according to Reinhardt biographer Michael Dregni, “he yearned to play his guitar in the homeland of jazz…picking out his improvisations with the American greats in the high churches of jazz – the Savoy, Roseland, Paramount, Apollo, Minton’s, Monroe’s, the Onyx, the Three Deuces. Those reveries had gone unrequited, concert plans thwarted, tour schemes halted by war.”

He would play several major U.S. cities with Ellington, including Carnegie Hall performances of November 23 and 24, 1946.

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March 26th, 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

Revisiting “The Jazz Problem”

In 1924, jazz was becoming popular in the major cities of New Orleans, Chicago, Kansas City and New York, and with Paul Whiteman’s Aeolian Hall performance of George Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue, it was being judged in some critical circles as a serious musical art form. That wasn’t the opinion of everyone, of course.

“‘Jazz’ has created a ‘malarious’ atmosphere in the musical world. It is abnormal. The air needs clarifying.” So wrote popular music composer Robert M. Stults in the August 1924 edition of The Etude magazine, an issue dedicated to what they defined as “The Jazz Problem.”

The Etude was published from 1883 – 1957 and was a popular music publication of the era. Its primary audience was made up of popular music teachers, and the debate of the time of this particular edition was the legitimacy of this controversial new music known as “Jazz.” To solicit opinion about jazz, The Etude posed the question “Where is Jazz Leading America?” to composers, educators, musicians, members of the clergy, playwrights and novelists.

The debate inspired by this question featured fascinating perspectives,

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February 27th, 2014

Great Encounters #33: The night Clifford Brown and Fats Navarro shared the bandstand

Saxophonist Benny Golson describes what was, according to Clifford Brown biographer Nick Catalano, “probably the first meeting between Brown and Fats Navarro.”

Excerpted from Clifford Brown: The Life and Art of the Legendary Jazz Trumpeter, by Nick Catalano

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February 25th, 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

A Moment in Time — Stan Getz, 1954

It is a photo of the arrest of one man — and Stan Getz’s career is fortunately not defined by this arrest — but it is an image of a generation of jazz musicians hooked on drugs, and would cause Martin Torgoff, author of Can’t Find My Way Home: America in the Great Stoned Age, 1945 – 2000 to devote an entire chapter of his book on the scourge, calling it “Bop Apocalypse.” “The craving necessity of a constant supply alone would drive many to crime and humiliation and self-destruction,” Torgoff writes. “Sonny Stitt would steal and pawn every musician’s horn he could get his hands on; Red Rodney would invent elaborate criminal scams

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February 4th, 2014

Liner Notes: LeRoi Jones on John Coltrane’s Live at Birdland

Political, fiery, critical, poetic, inspirational…All of this shows up in Amiri Baraka’s brilliant liner notes to the 1963 recording of John Coltrane’s Live at Birdland. At the time known as LeRoi Jones, Baraka’s liner notes to this album were the first time the jazz writer Stanley Crouch “had seen that kind of poetic sensibility brought to the discussion of jazz. It was as new to me as the way Coltrane and his band were reinventing the 4/4 swing, blues, ballads, and Afro-Hispanic rhythms that are the four elements essential to jazz…His was the first Negro voice that sailed to the center of my taste by combining the spunk and the raw horrors of the sidewalk with the library, for an elegant manhandling of the form.”

These notes were written at the time of Jones’ 1963 Down Beat essay “Jazz and the White Critic,” which, in the words of Blowin’ Hot and Cool: Jazz and its Critics author John Gennari, was a “challenge to jazz writers of all backgrounds to reckon with the lived experience of black Americans and to consider how this experience had been embedded in the notes, tones, and rhythms of the music.” Keep that in mind when reading these notes…

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January 31st, 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

“Unspeakable Jazz Must Go!” — conservative opinions about jazz in 1921

There was a time when jazz music was considered “dangerous” and a threat to “our way of life.” Consider the words of Fenton T. Bott of Dayton, Ohio, described by John R. McMahon in the December, 1921 edition of Ladies Home Journal as an “expert in the dance and professional dancing master”: “It [jazz] is degrading. It lowers all the moral standards. Unlike liquor, a great deal of its harm is direct and immediate. But it also leads to undesirable things. The jazz is too often followed by the joy-ride. The lower nature is stirred up as a prelude to unchaperoned adventure.”

Conservative opinions were so strong about the “dangers” of jazz and the dancing it provoked that jazz dancing was being regulated. Bott told McMahon that “Municipal regulation has been started and applied to some extent in something like sixty towns and cities. The best-regulated cities are probably Cleveland, Detroit and Omaha. The movement began not long ago in Cleveland when officials asked my brother, who is a professional teacher, to assist in the regulation of public dance halls. They asked what he wanted for his services, and he told them he would be glad to do the work for a dollar a year.”

Bott, of course, wasn’t alone in his thinking.

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January 5th, 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

Excerpt of our interview with Why Jazz Happened author Marc Myers

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. 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;

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November 5th, 2013

Excerpt of our interview with The Amazing Bud Powell author Guthrie Ramsey

We recently published an interview with Guthrie Ramsey, author of The Amazing Bud Powell: Black Genius, Jazz History, and the Challenge of Bebop, a thought provoking read that explores the history of jazz and jazz criticism through the life of the bop legend. In this interview excerpt, Ramsey discusses the concept of jazz manhood and how bop’s move from Harlem to 52nd Street impacted the way the music was critiqued.

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October 31st, 2013

Liner Notes: Leonard Feather on “The Amazing Bud Powell”

Keeping in the Bud Powell frame of mind…Here are Leonard Feather’s liner notes to “The Amazing Bud Powell (Volumes 1 and 2),” featuring recordings made between 1949 and 1953. The many links within the text will take you to full song versions.

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October 25th, 2013

“Bop is Nowhere”

Given yesterday’s publication of our interview with The Amazing Bud Powell: Black Genius, Jazz History and the Challenge of Bebop author Guthrie Ramsey, we thought it would be appropriate to reach back into the time when debate raged about bebop, the music Powell was an originator of. Was bebop creative genius, or did it compromise the artistic assumptions set by the previous generation of swing musicians? There is no doubt which side of the fence Downbeat contributor D. Leon Wolff sits on. Check out this June, 1949 article titled “Bop Nowhere, Armstrong Just a Myth, Says Wolff,” in which he lays out how bebop’s “list of liabilities is staggering” and describes bop solos as “predictable.”

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October 23rd, 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

From Stanley Crouch’s biography of Charlie Parker — a story of Kansas City, the “third great spawning ground for jazz”

An excerpt from Stanley Crouch’s recently published Kansas City Lightning, The Rise and Times of Charlie Parker

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As the young Charlie Parker practiced and practiced, his life began to dovetail with the long story of Negroes in American music, dance, and show business. More and more often, even though it wasn’t working for him yet, he was going out there into the night of the professionals, where there were joys and dangers, potential regrets and moments of imperishable triumph.

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October 17th, 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

In This Issue

Maxine Gordon, author of Sophisticated Giant: The Life and Legacy of Dexter Gordon, talks about her book, and the complex life of her late husband.

Also in this issue…A new collection of jazz poetry; "On the Turntable," a new playlist of 22 recommended recordings by seven jazz artists; three new podcasts by Bob Hecht; a new “Great Encounters”; several short stories; the photography of Veryl Oakland and Charles Ingham; a new Jazz History Quiz; and lots more…

On the Turntable

This month, a playlist of 22 recently released jazz recordings, including those by Chris Potter, Sons of Kemet, Stephan Crump, Brittany Anjou, Julian Lage, Joey DeFrancesco and Antonio Sanchez

Poetry

Seventeen poets contribute 21 poems in this month’s edition…

The Joys of Jazz

In new podcasts, Bob Hecht tells three stories; one about Miles Davis’ use of space in his music, one on the mutual admiration society of Sinatra, Lady Day, and Lester Young, and the other about the train in jazz and blues music.

“What are some of your all-time favorite record album covers?”

Gary Giddins, Jimmy Heath, Fred Hersch, Joe Hagan, Maxine Gordon, Neil Tesser, Tim Page, Veronica Swift and Marcus Strickland are among the 25 writers, musicians, poets, educators, and photographers who write about their favorite album cover art

Art

“Thinking about Ida B. Wells” — a photo narrative by Charles Ingham

Jazz History Quiz #126

In 1964, along with the orchestra of arranger Lalo Schifrin (pictured), this flutist/alto sax player recorded one of the first “Jazz Masses,” and soon after studied transcendental meditation in India. He would eventually become well known as a composer of music for meditation. Who is he?

Great Encounters

Dexter Gordon tells the story of joining Louis Armstrong’s band in 1944, and how they enjoyed their intermission time.

Art

In this edition of Veryl Oakland’s “Jazz in Available Light,” photographs of Red Garland, Dizzy Gillespie and Rahsaan Roland Kirk are featured.

Short Fiction

"Strings of Solace," a short story by Kimberly Parish Davis

Interviews

Romare Bearden biographer Mary Schmidt Campbell discusses the life of the important 20th century American artist

Cover Stories with Paul Morris

In this edition, Paul writes about jazz album covers that offer glimpses into intriguing corners of the culture of the 1950’s

Short Fiction

"And so we went to Paris," a short story by Sophie Jonas-Hill

Coming Soon

National Book Award winning author for non-fiction Jeffrey Stewart is interviewed about his book The New Negro: The Life of Alain Locke

In the previous issue

The question “What are some of your all-time favorite record album covers?” was posed via email to a small number of prominent and diverse people, and the responses of Gary Giddins, Jimmy Heath, Fred Hersch, Joe Hagan, Maxine Gordon, Tim Page, Veronica Swift and Marcus Strickland are among the 25 writers, musicians, poets, educators, and photographers who participated...Also, the publication of the winning story in our 50th Short Fiction contest; an interview with Romare Bearden biographer Mary Schmidt Campbell; a collection of jazz poetry; two new podcasts by Bob Hecht; the March edition of "On the Turntable," and lots more...Click here to be taken to the issue.

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