Archive for “Features”

dizroy Features

Memorable Quotes — Roy Eldridge on Dizzy Gillespie

In the late 1970′s, the great trumpeter Roy Eldridge wrote of his experience mentoring Dizzy Gillespie during the 1930′s.

“I was with my own band at the Savoy. And Dizzy, Charlie Shavers, Bama, Joe Guy, and another little cat that was bad, named Bobby Moore, all used to come around. They could play all the things that I had made better than I could, you know. But Dizzy had his thing going. I talked to him once down at Minton’s and he was asking me how I did certain things and I told him. And the one thing I appreciate about Diz, even though he used to play something like me, is that he went on and […] Continue reading »

mileshorace1 Features

A Moment in Time: Miles Davis and Horace Silver, 1954

From his autobiography, Miles Davis recalls his experience meeting and playing with the recently deceased pianist Horace Silver in 1954, a point in time following Miles kicking heroin.  Silver played on Rudy Van Gelder-engineered recording sessions with Miles at the time of this Alfred Lion photograph that were released on Miles Davis Volume 3 for Blue Note, and Miles Davis Quartet for Prestige.

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The scene in New York had changed since I’d been gone. The MJQ — Modern Jazz Quartet — was big on the music scene then; the kind of “cool” chamber jazz thing they were doing was getting over big. People were still talking about Chet Baker and Lennie Tristano and George Shearing, all that stuff that came out of Birth of the Cool. Dizzy was still playing great as ever, but Bird was […] Continue reading »

silver2 Features

On the passing of Horace Silver

Concerning yesterday’s passing of the great pianist Horace Silver, others much more qualified than I will write of his musical brilliance, and communicate his importance to the music’s growth.  (To that end, there is an excellent life remembrance of Silver by Peter Keepnews in today’s New York Times that you can read by going here).  I would just like to devote a couple paragraphs to my own introduction to his music, and what it meant to me at the time.

When I moved from Berkeley to Portland in the summer of 1978, I was already a pretty passionate listener of jazz, but I was still in the “101″ phase.   I knew and loved the “A Team”  – Basie, Ellington, some early Armstrong, Monk, Bird and Miles. Coltrane’s ballads were gorgeous, and I loved his playing on […] Continue reading »

dad Features

“One For Daddy-O” — in honor of my dad on Father’s Day

Besides doing his best to help raise three kids, during my 1960′s childhood my father worked his heart out at two jobs — one of which was as owner of a restaurant on Oakland’s Telegraph Avenue, and the other as a musician, playing trumpet and viola throughout the San Francisco Bay area, mostly on evenings and weekends in “casual” jobs. For years he was part of a strolling quartet that entertained San Francisco’s elite at the World Trade Club — an ensemble that at its peak toured the Philippines, playing to an audience that included “strongman” Ferdinand Marcos and his wife Imelda.

Prior to that, in the 30′s he traveled the country and led his own band in Sacramento. In the 40′s, he spent the war years as a member of the Winged Victory Orchestra. And, in the late 40′s and 50′s, among many musical pursuits (although toned down once he married my mom in 1947), he played in the Jack Fina Orchestra, as well as in Ernie Heckscher’s orchestra, which famously played at the Fairmont Hotel atop Nob Hill.

He loved his music, and part of my own early appreciation for music came as a result of hearing his practice sessions. To this day I can still very clearly hear the sound of his viola […] Continue reading »

rubydee1 Features

Ruby Dee, 1922 – 2014

Ruby Dee, perhaps best known for her work on stage and screen in Lorraine Hansberry’s A Raisin in the Sun — a play the New York Times’ Frank Rich said “changed American theater forever” — and for her political activism, particularly during the era of the civil rights movement, died on June 11.

To read Bruce Weber’s comprehensive New York Times obituary, click here.
[…] Continue reading »

milesmidnight Features

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, […] Continue reading »