Maxine Gordon, author of Sophisticated Giant: The Life and Legacy of Dexter Gordon, discusses her late husband’s complex, fascinating life....
April 11th, 2019
In this edition, Dexter Gordon tells the story of joining Louis Armstrong’s band in 1944, and how they enjoyed their intermission time....
April 2nd, 2019
in the toilette
in front of gate 73
Louis Armstrong sings & plays
i can’t see him but i know he’s here
March 7th, 2019
. . “If you can dance at all, you can dance to [Guy] Lombardo’s music,” the Metronome writer George T. Simon wrote in 1942. The Lombardo band’s popularity was once so immense and widespread that he set attendance marks wherever he went, including at Harlem’s Savoy Ballroom. His appeal came despite what Simon described as … Continue reading “Guy Lombardo, “about as artistically creative as the average comic book””...
January 1st, 2019
One afternoon at the age of ten, lightning strikes.
Alone in our ramshackle wood-frame house in Hartford, I decide to listen to some of my parents’ 45 RPM records. I watch one slide down the fat spindle and plop onto the turntable to receive the tone arm and needle. The music starts and like a bolt captures not just my ears but my whole being. It’s a guy with a gravelly voice singing something about...
April 17th, 2018
Tomorrow is opening day of the 2017 baseball season. The first day of major league baseball always provokes simultaneous thoughts of renewal and nostalgia – the return of sunshine (at last!) and an optimistic spirit is coupled with the thoughts of days gone by, when the likes of Mays and Mantle and Aaron roamed the outfield and Ellington and Armstrong and Miles set the rhythm of our culture.
Baseball and jazz are well connected, as theorized by trombonist Alan Ferber, who wrote that “baseball players and jazz musicians both strive for a perfect balance between disciplined practice and spontaneity.” They also shared the spotlight in popular culture, when...
April 1st, 2017
During the 1950’s and 60’s, when Louis Armstrong was one of the most famous people in the world, his opinions were often reported on, and would at times ruffle feathers on both sides of a political argument.
I recently came across an April 27, 1960 newspaper article that was published at a time when Armstrong was caught between 1) advocating for his country (while on tour as the country’s “jazz ambassador”) and 2) for his fellow African-American countrymen in the midst of the struggle for civil rights.
Titled “Satchmo Silent on Racial Crisis,” (from an unknown source but catalogued in the Armstrong file at the Institute of Jazz Studies at Rutgers University) this excerpt – transcribed at the time by the reporter in a...
June 15th, 2016
Barnacles scratch the hull of a voice
that grinds coral to grit in salty water
while a tune plays the tide
which whispers sandy beaches
and blows free on the wind.
Ships far from port halt in the night
to hear the fog-horn song,
to feel, to know and share
June 7th, 2016
“Liner Notes for ‘Stardust’ — In Seven Choruses” is a cycle of short poems framed as imaginary liner notes and prompted by poet Doug Fowler’s favorite musical covers of Hoagy Carmichael’s “Stardust.” In essence, according to Fowler, they are “imaginary liner notes for a real song about an imaginary song about love.”
The cycle is also partially a tribute to Chu Berry, who died as the result of a car accident in Conneaut, Ohio, in 1941, not far from where Fowler lives....
April 25th, 2016
Known early in his career (when with Chick Webb) as a Louis Armstrong sound-alike both on trumpet and on vocals, his recording of “On the Sunny Side of the Street” sounded so much like Armstrong’s live version that people actually thought it was Armstrong who was copying this trumpeter. Who is he?
Hot Lips Page
August 12th, 2015
Described as a “Louis Armstrong sound-alike on both trumpet and vocals” whose recording of “On the Sunny Side of the Street” was so close to Armstrong’s live show that some listeners thought Armstrong was copying him, this trumpeter (along with Bobby Stark), was Chick Webb’s main trumpet soloist during the 1930’s. Who is he?
Go to the next page for the answer!...
January 20th, 2015
I have long felt that students who learn something about jazz music will not only appreciate it as an important American art form, but, once exposed to it will also discover artistic inspiration from it. Fortunately, there are members of the Portland education community who share this view, so on Monday of this week I was privileged to teach a “Short History of Jazz” class to three photography/graphic design classrooms at Portland’s Lincoln High School. This is part of a project — “Jazz in the Schools” — we developed at PDX Jazz, the presenting organization of the Portland Jazz Festival.
After seeing classic film of Louis Armstrong and viewing a variety of...
January 17th, 2015
“If you can dance at all, you can dance to [Guy] Lombardo’s music,” the Metronome writer George T. Simon wrote in 1942. The Lombardo band’s popularity was once so immense and widespread that he set attendance marks wherever he went, including at Harlem’s Savoy Ballroom. His appeal came despite what Simon described as the band’s “exaggerated sax vibratos, the clippety brass phrases with their illegitimate tones…and the style of singing that lets you hear all consonants and no vowels,” leading to what some musicians would ridicule as being “about as artistically creative as the average comic book.”
But, as Simon wrote in the chapter on Lombardo from his essential 1967 book The Big Bands, “Lombardo believed implicitly in his music, and he succeeded handsomely in selling it to two generations of dancers.”
For many of us born in the years following World War II – raised culturally by the likes of...
December 30th, 2014
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.
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...
June 25th, 2014
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....
June 15th, 2014
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.”...
May 9th, 2014
In “Louis Armstrong: Master of Modernism, author Thomas Brothers writes about Armstrong’s early fascination with marijuana — an interest that began in Chicago, 1928, while playing the Savoy Ballroom. This interest led to a marijuana possession arrest on November 13, 1930 in the parking lot of Los Angeles’ Cotton Club. “Armstrong was allowed to finish out his night work before they hauled him off to jail around 3:00 A.M.,” Brothers writes.
The following book excerpt begins with a rather humorous transcript from his trial, and then...
March 25th, 2014
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...
March 7th, 2014
Dizzy Gillespie, with Yugoslav composer Nikica Kaogjera in tow, cycle the streets of Zagreb during a State Department tour designed to counter Soviet propaganda.
During the peak of the Cold War, propaganda was king, and was especially played out in the non-aligned, emerging nation regions of the Middle East, Africa and Asia. Responding to what was termed by the U.S. State Department as the Soviet Union’s “gigantic propaganda offensive,” in 1954 President Eisenhower created the Emergency Fund for International Affairs, whose role would be to present American culture abroad for the purpose of demonstrating the benefits of freedom (and capitalism) on artistic expression. According to Penny Von Eschen, author of Satchmo Blows Up the World: Jazz Ambassadors Play the Cold War, “Eisenhower resented Europeans’ depiction of the country as a ‘race of materialists’ and was distressed that ‘our successes are described in terms of automobiles and not in terms of worthwhile culture of any kind.'”...
February 19th, 2014
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...
March 26th, 2013
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”...
March 26th, 2007
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...
March 26th, 2007
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”...
March 26th, 2007
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...
March 26th, 2007
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...
March 26th, 2007
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....
June 12th, 2006
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....
October 31st, 2005
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....
October 6th, 2005
At the height of the ideological antagonism of the Cold War, the U.S. State Department unleashed an unexpected tool in its battle against Communism: jazz. From 1956 through the late 1970s, America dispatched its finest jazz musicians to the far corners of the earth, from Iraq to India, from the Congo to the Soviet Union, in order to win the hearts and minds of the Third World and to counter perceptions of American racism.
In Satchmo Blows Up the World: Jazz Ambassadors Play the Cold War, Penny Von Eschen escorts readers across the globe, backstage and onstage, as Dizzy Gillespie, Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, and other jazz luminaries spread their music and their ideas further than the State Department anticipated....
August 22nd, 2005
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....
July 15th, 2005
“I suppose you could say that the seeds of my next book, a full-length biography of Louis Armstrong, were planted three years ago, when I was writing an essay for the New York Times about Armstrongs centenary in which I called him “jazz’s most eminent Victorian,” Terry Teachout wrote in his August 17, 2004 Arts Journal blog.
Three years after the Times piece was published, he took a tour of the Louis Armstrong House in Queens and came away with the enthusiasm required of such an endeavor....
June 27th, 2005
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....
March 9th, 2005
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....
February 4th, 2005
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
Great Encounters #13: Why did Louis Armstrong leave Fletcher Henderson’s orchestra in 1925 and return to Chicago?
Excerpted from The Uncrowned King of Swing: Fletcher Henderson and Big Band Jazz by Jeffrey Magee.
By the fall of 1925, then, the musical synergy in Henderson’s band had reached unprecedented intensity. Henderson continued to hold court for dancers at the Roseland, reaching thousands of other listeners through its radio wire, and recording for a variety of record labels both with his full orchestra and with selected members of the band as accompanists for blues singers. And there were also continuous bookings in the summer between seasons at the Roseland, large crowds in venues up and down the East Coast, and consistently hyperbolic press coverage....
January 29th, 2005
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....
October 4th, 2004
Illicit drugs have transfigured the American cultural landscape in the past half-century, leaving their mark on everything from art, music, literature, sexuality, spirituality, pop culture, the economy, and politics, to crime, public health, and national law enforcement policy. In Can’t Find My Way Home: America in the Great Stoned Age, 1945 – 2000, documentary filmmaker and writer Martin Torgoff traces the tangled trajectory of illegal drug use in America, as it spread post-World War II from the Beats and bebop musicians, all the way to the Ecstasy-fueled rave culture....
August 27th, 2004
Look up pianist Joe Albany in the All Music Guide to Jazz and you will discover that during his career he associated with the likes of Benny Carter, Lester Young, Joe Venuti, Warne Marsh, and even Charlie Parker, and that eight of the albums recorded under his name in the United States and Europe between 1957 and 1982 are still in print. In the short biography accompanying Albany’s critical discography, the writer Scott Yanow touches briefly on his troubled life, his drug abuse, and his many wives, and concludes that given these circumstances, “…it is miraculous that he lived to almost reach 64.”...
November 11th, 2003
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....
June 2nd, 2003
Loren Schoenberg is a noted conductor, saxophonist and author who has appeared internationally and won the 1994 Grammy Award for Best Album Notes. He has recorded several albums with his own big band, and also with Benny Goodman, Benny Carter and Bobby Short. He is on the faculties of the Juilliard School, the Manhattan School of Music, Jazz at Lincoln Center’s Essentially Ellington Band Director’s Academy, and is program director of the Jazz Aspen Snowmass Jazz Colony and is Executive Director of The Jazz Museum In Harlem.
He is the author of The NPR Curious Listener’s Guide to Jazz, a book Wynton Marsalis describes as a “thorough guide to the music from a few basic perspectives: what it is and how it’s made, its history, the people who made and continue to make it, some suggestions on how to approach it — and a whole pile of ideas.”...
September 9th, 2002
The Ralph Ellison Project: Robert O’Meally, editor of Living With Music, discusses Invisible Man author Ralph Ellison
While Ralph Ellison will forever be best remembered as author of the classic American novel of identity, Invisible Man, he also contributed significant essays on jazz that stand as compelling testaments to his era. His work included an homage to Duke Ellington, stinging critiques of Charlie Parker and Miles Davis, and recognition of the changing-of-the-guard taking place at Harlem’s Minton’s in the 1940’s. He wrote on musical topics from flamenco to Charlie Christian, and from Jimmy Rushing to Mahalia Jackson....
August 20th, 2002
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....
August 2nd, 2002
When Gary Giddins, the jazz critic and columnist for the Village Voice, began work on an in-depth biography of Bing Crosby, many asked him, “Why?” He has explained that Crosby, perhaps the most famous entertainer in America between 1927 and 1956, has been unjustly forgotten since his death in 1977....
March 22nd, 2001
Matt Glaser is the only tenured professor of violin in the United States who specializes in jazz, folk and swing instead of classical music. Matt has appeared on over thirty recordings, is the head of the string department at Bostons Berklee College of Music, and co-authored the book “Jazz Violin” with legendary jazz violinist Stephane Grappelli.
A close friend of Ken Burns, Glaser has played on numerous Burns documentaries. He was a Senior Advisor to Burns during the filming of Jazz – A Film by Ken Burns. Glaser’s colorful interviews throughout the film are a dynamic part of the experience....
February 12th, 1999