“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,

...

September 24th, 2018

What Queen Latifah left out of Bessie — the myth of Bessie Smith’s death

Queen Latifah’s homage to Bessie Smith, the HBO film Bessie, offers a look at the complexity of this transcendent entertainer’s life. The movie is wonderfully entertaining with strong performances by Latifah throughout, but, like most “biopics,” it is also somewhat flawed. For example, while her overt bi-sexuality, alcohol abuse, violent temper, and tempestuous marital life were central to her life story – and thus important to this film – her great musical talent didn’t feel completely honored in performance.

Given that the myth encompassing Bessie Smith’s death has dominated her life story to the point where prominent historians believe she was better known for her death than for what she accomplished in life, it was not surprising that Latifah chose to end her film without

...

May 26th, 2015

Jazz and Baseball: The Desegregation Connection

“I think there are only three things that America will be known for 2,000 years from now when they study this civilization: the Constitution, jazz music and baseball. They’re the three most beautifully designed things this culture has ever produced.”

—Gerald Early, cultural critic

__________

Spring is upon us, and so is the start of the baseball season. As Gerald Early points out, there are great connections between jazz and baseball, prominent of which is the role that desegregation of each institution played in creating the political climate essential to the civil rights movement.

There are interesting similarities among two of the leading African American figures of the era who helped integrate their professions, not the least of which was the quality of their character. To Branch Rickey, after thoroughly investigating the college-educated Jackie Robinson, he felt

...

March 28th, 2014

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.

...

December 29th, 2006

Jeffrey Magee, author of Fletcher Henderson and Big Band Jazz: The Uncrowned King of Swing

If Benny Goodman was the “King of Swing,” then Fletcher Henderson was the power behind the throne. Not only did Henderson arrange the music that powered Goodman’s meteoric rise, he also helped launch the careers of Louis Armstrong and Coleman Hawkins, among others. In Fletcher Henderson and Big Band Jazz: The Uncrowned King of Swing, Jeffrey Magee offers a fascinating account of this pivotal bandleader, throwing new light on the emergence of modern jazz and the world that created it.

...

January 29th, 2005

Jerry Zolten, author of Great God A’Mighty – The Dixie Hummingbirds: Celebrating the Rise of Soul Gospel Music

From the Jim Crow world of 1920s Greenville, South Carolina, to Greenwich Village’s Café Society in the ’40s, to their 1974 Grammy-winning collaboration on “Loves Me Like a Rock,” the Dixie Hummingbirds have been one of gospel’s most durable and inspiring groups.

...

March 10th, 2003

In This Issue

This issue features a roundtable discussion about how the world of religion may have impacted the creative lives of Billie Holiday, Langston Hughes and Ralph Ellison. Also, previous winners of the Jerry Jazz Musician Short Fiction Contest reflect on their winning story; three new podcasts from Bob Hecht; new collection of poetry; recommendations of recently released jazz recordings, and lots more.

Short Fiction

"The Wailing Wall" -- a short story by Justin Short

Interviews

Three prominent religious scholars -- Wallace Best, Tracy Fessenden and M. Cooper Harriss -- join us in a conversation about how the world of religion during the life and times of Langston Hughes (pictured), Billie Holiday and Ralph Ellison helps us better comprehend the meaning of their work.

Poetry

Nine poets contribute ten poems celebrating jazz in poems as unique as the music itself

Short Fiction

In celebration of our upcoming 50th Short Fiction Contest, previous contest winners (dating to 2002) reflect on their own winning story, and how their lives have since unfolded.

The Joys of Jazz

In this edition, award winning radio producer Bob Hecht tells three stories; 1) on Charlie Christian, the first superstar of jazz guitar; 2) the poet Langston Hughes’ love of jazz music, and 3) a profile of the song “Strange Fruit”

On the Turntable

25 recently released jazz tunes that are worth listening to…including Bobo Stenson; Medeski, Martin and Wood; Muriel Grossman and Rudy Royston

Features

Chick Corea, Rickie Lee Jones, Gary Giddins, Michael Cuscuna, Randy Brecker and Tom Piazza are among those responding to our question, "What are 3 or 4 of your favorite jazz recordings of the 1940's?"

Poetry

"Billie Holiday" -- a poem (with collage) by Steve Dalachinsky

Coming Soon

Thomas Brothers, Duke University professor of music and author of two essential biographies of Louis Armstrong, is interviewed about his new book, HELP! The Beatles, Duke Ellington, and the Magic of Collaboration; also, Spelman College President Mary Schmidt Campbell, author of An American Odyssey: The Life and Work of Romare Bearden, in a conversation about the brilliant 20th Century artist

In the previous issue

This issue features an interview with Bing Crosby biographer Gary Giddins; a collection of poetry devoted to the World War II era; and a new edition of “Reminiscing in Tempo,” in which the question “What are 3 or 4 of your favorite jazz recordings of the 1940’s” is posed to Rickie Lee Jones, Chick Corea, Tom Piazza and others.

Contributing writers

Site Archive