“Great Encounters” are book excerpts that chronicle famous encounters among twentieth-century cultural icons.
When Clark Gable came to the aid of Billie Holiday
Excerpted from Lady Sings the Blues, by Billie Holiday
One day in Hollywood I went out for a drive with this rich young blonde starlet. She was running around with Billy Daniels, whom I used to work with back at the Hotcha. Billy had loaned her his pretty Cadillac to drive around in. She was taking me to the aquarium, when boom, this brand-new fishtail stopped and we couldn’t start it.
[…] Continue reading »
Although Dexter Gordson’s influence was felt by many of the great tenor saxophonists of the 1950′s, due to what is often described as “personal demons,” he was pretty much overlooked throughout the decade. “Dexter was able to consolidate his substantial progress only during the first couple of years in the fifties,” wrote Stan Britt, author of Dexter Gordon: A Musical Biography. “Thereafter, his was to become something of a half-forgotten name among jazz personalities of the decade.” At the root of this inactivity was, of course, that “demon” — heroin. His two year incarceration for heroin possession, followed by the death of his close friend Wardell Gray was, Britt wrote, […] Continue reading »
In 1967, Macmillan published the first edition of George T. Simon’s The Big Bands, an entertaining and essential account of the era that was hailed at the time by the Los Angeles Times as “the definitive volume in its field.” Simon, whose credits include being an early drummer in Glenn Miller’s band, was editor of dance band publication Metronome from 1939 – 1955, and during the 1960′s wrote regularly as a critic for the The New York Post and The New York Herald-Tribune.
In Part Four of the Second Edition (printed in 1971), Simon visits with several of the iconic big band leaders he profiles in his book, and asks them to express their opinions about rock and roll, the Beatles, and the generation gap. Their responses — now 43 years in the rear-view mirror, and excerpted here from Simon’s book — are worth revisiting. […] Continue reading »
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.
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. […] Continue reading »
“We’re here to bring beauty to the world and make a difference in this planet. That’s what art forms are about.”
- Charlie Haden, 1937 – 2014
Haden touched everyone who loves this music…
[…] Continue reading »
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 »
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.
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 »
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 »
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 »
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 »