Archive for “Features”

roye Features

A Roy Eldridge story

Happy Birthday #104 to Roy Eldridge, who in addition to being one of the great trumpet players of his time, is known as the “bridge” between Armstrong and Dizzy. I loved the brightness of his playing, and for contributing to one of the great moments in jazz — his vocal duet with Anita O’Day, leading into a seldom-in-a-generation trumpet solo on “Let Me Off Uptown.”

When I was a kid, my dad used to tell me stories about his friendship with “Eldridge,” and in particular one eventful experience he had while he was traveling with his band in Pennsylvania. In 1998, two years before his passing, my father wrote this piece for Jerry Jazz Musician about this very special experience in his life. I hope you enjoy his telling of it… […] Continue reading »

getz2 Features

Great Encounters #40: In the studio with Bill Evans and Stan Getz

“Great Encounters” are book excerpts that chronicle famous encounters among twentieth-century cultural icons. This edition tells the star-crossed story of the 1964 recording session featuring Verve saxophonist Stan Getz and pianist Bill Evans, issued as Stan Getz and Bill Evans.

Excerpted from Bill Evans: How My Heart Sings by Peter Pettinger

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In 1961 Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer had purchased Verve Records from Norman Granz. Creed Taylor became the new executive director, and made a number of crucial policy decisions, including the sacking of the majority of Verve’s contract artists. One of a handful to survive was Stan Getz, who had been recording for the company since […] Continue reading »

playboy1 Features

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 […] Continue reading »

otis Features

Johnny Otis on Lester Young and the racism that territory bands encountered

In his 1993 book Upside Your Head! Rhythm and Blues on Central Avenue, the jazz and blues musician and impresario Johnny Otis writes primarily about the music scene in Los Angeles during the 40’s and 50’s. Otis — who discovered the likes of Big Mama Thornton, Jackie Wilson and Etta James, and who is considered one of the most prominent white figures in the history of R & B — also devotes substantial portions of his book to the toxic white racism so prevalent in American entertainment in the first half of the 20th Century.

The following excerpt — which begins and ends with an homage to Otis friend Lester Young — describes the experience of […] Continue reading »

milesb1 Features

Liner Notes — Miles Davis In Person Friday and Saturday Nights at The Blackhawk, San Francisco

On the evenings of April 21 and 22, 1961, Miles Davis and his quintet recorded at San Francisco’s The Black Hawk nightclub, a longtime Tenderloin neighborhood establishment described by Bay area music writer Ralph J. Gleason as “gloomy, dirty and unattractive” -– a club kept proudly “repulsive” by its owner, Guido Caccienti, who claimed to have “worked and slaved for years to keep this place a sewer.”

Written by San Francisco Chronicle music critic (and eventual co-founding editor of Rolling Stone) Ralph J. Gleason in a typically witty and often derisible tone, the liner notes to Miles Davis In Person Friday and Saturday Nights at The Blackhhawk, San Francisco are compelling not only because they were authored by Gleason, but also because they are comprised of two distinct biographies -– Miles Davis as “social symbol” of the early 1960’s, and The Blackhawk as an “oblong, corner-saloon-with music” that attracted a “most incredible cross section of American society.”

The recording itself was […] Continue reading »

vince Features

Vince Guaraldi — a career beyond “A Charlie Brown Christmas”

Arguments abound about what is hip and what isn’t when it comes to Christmas music, but few can argue that Vince Guaraldi’s A Charlie Brown Christmas remains a breath of fresh air in a world otherwise dominated by recordings by Kenny G, Mannheim Steamroller, and the Trans-Siberian Orchestra. Certified “triple platinum” by the Recording Industry Association of America, and ranked by Sound Scan as the #10 best selling Christmas album since 1991, A Charlie Brown Christmas — and his association with Peanuts creator Charles Schulz — is what Guaraldi is best remembered for.

What few of us probably know about Guaraldi, however, is that he was actually a self-proclaimed “reformed boogie-woogie player” who got his start filling in for […] Continue reading »

cocker1 Features

“Cry Me a River” — Joe Cocker’s remake of a 1950’s torch song

Joe Cocker, the flamboyant British rocker who died yesterday at the age of 70, was best known for his gravelly voice and charismatic onstage personality, but his career was especially noteworthy due to his successful model of interpreting popular songs of the day. The most obvious example -– the Beatles’ “With a Little Help From My Friends” performed before hundreds of thousands at Woodstock in 1969 -– was his signature career achievement, a performance Paul McCartney yesterday called “mind-blowing,” one that he was “forever grateful for him for having done that.” One could make the case that Cocker’s appearance at Woodstock and his filmed performance of that tune was indeed a defining moment of the rock era.

Cocker also successfully remade Arthur Hamilton’s “Cry Me a River,” a 1953 torch song originally composed for Ella Fitzgerald to sing in Pete Kelly’s Blues, the Jack Webb film in which Peggy Lee portrayed an […] Continue reading »

coltranedolphy1 Features

A Moment in Time — John Coltrane and Eric Dolphy, 1961

In 1960, Eric Dolphy told Down Beat magazine, “At home I used to play, and the birds always used to whistle with me. I would stop what I was working on and play with the birds.” This imitation of birds (who, according to Dolphy, sing in “quarter tones”) was embraced by none other than John Coltrane, who said that the addition of Dolphy — and his philosophy — to his quartet “turned [the quartet] all around.” Dolphy’s playing helped set the stage for the music Coltrane would create later.

Also critical was their friendship, which was especially important to Coltrane since he was so consumed at the time by his alcohol and heroin abuse. Quoting a Coltrane friend, John Fraim writes in his 1996 biography Spirit Catcher: The Life and Art of John Coltrane that “outside of Sonny Rollins, Eric Dolphy was his [Coltrane’s] only true […] Continue reading »