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 […] Continue reading »
As part of its 75th Anniversary celebration, Blue Note records has announced that it has “donned our lab coats” and worked with “a team of dedicated and groovy engineers” in an all-out effort to release 100 “essential remastered jazz albums” on vinyl, beginning with the March 25 release of Art Blakey Free For All, John Coltrane Blue Train, Eric Dolphy Out To Lunch, Wayne Shorter Speak No Evil, and Larry Young Unity. Future vinyl releases are expected on a monthly basis, and will feature “modern classics” as well, including Joe Lovano Quartet: Live At The Village Vanguard, Jason Moran Soundtrack To Human Motion, Terence Blanchard Flow, Medeski Martin & Wood Combustication, and Cassandra Wilson Traveling Miles.
The vinyl release is just part of the news reported in their February 28 press release. “On the same date,” the release states, “the GRAMMY Museum in Los Angeles will launch Blue Note Records: The Finest In Jazz, a one-of-a-kind exhibit offering visitors an in-depth look at the legendary record label through music, album artwork, photographs, artifacts, […] Continue reading »
Growing up in the San Francisco Bay area in the 1960′s and early 1970′s afforded me access to incredible, cutting-edge radio. It was the height of the progressive FM radio era, and no station in the country understood its market opportunity better than KSAN, rock radio legend Tom Donohue’s creation that gave a musical platform to breaking local and national acts who remain the backbone of the “classic rock” radio format.
international acts who remain the backbone of the “classic rock” radio format.
While the bulk of the programming exposed rock and roll recordings introduced by the local hip DJ (the voice of Bob McClay referring to KSAN as the “Jive 95″ lives on in my unconscious), for a year or two I looked forward with great enthusiasm to the Sunday evening jazz show hosted by Orrin Keepnews, the co-founder of New York’s Riverside Records — by then long in bankruptcy but whose recordings were already a staple of recorded jazz history. His shows weren’t solely responsible for introducing me to the artists on his labels (including Milestone at the time — an offshoot of Berkeley’s Fantasy Records, where Keepnews was head of A & R), but they were a culprit for perpetuating my curiosity of them.
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In 1924, jazz was becoming popular in the major cities of New Orleans, Chicago, Kansas City and New York, and with Paul Whiteman’s Aeolian Hall performance of George Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue, it was being judged in some critical circles as a serious musical art form. That wasn’t the opinion of everyone, of course.
“‘Jazz’ has created a ‘malarious’ atmosphere in the musical world. It is abnormal. The air needs clarifying.” So wrote popular music composer Robert M. Stults in the August 1924 edition of The Etude magazine, an issue dedicated to what they defined as “The Jazz Problem.”
The Etude was published from 1883 – 1957 and was a popular music publication of the era. Its primary audience was made up of popular music teachers, and the debate of the time of this particular edition was the legitimacy of this controversial new music known as “Jazz.” To solicit opinion about jazz, The Etude posed the question “Where is Jazz Leading America?” to composers, educators, musicians, members of the clergy, playwrights and novelists.
The debate inspired by this question featured fascinating perspectives, […] Continue reading »
Saxophonist Benny Golson describes what was, according to Clifford Brown biographer Nick Catalano, “probably the first meeting between Brown and Fats Navarro.”
Excerpted from Clifford Brown: The Life and Art of the Legendary Jazz Trumpeter, by Nick Catalano
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One of the things I like about jazz, kid, is I don’t know what’s going to happen next. Do you?
- Bix Beiderbecke
A great symbol of the Jazz Age, Bix Beiderbecke was one of the era’s most influential soloists, and remains one of jazz music’s most enduring and colorful personalities.
This short biography of Beiderbecke (followed by a fantastic listening guide of his performance on “Singin’ the Blues”) as published in the most complete and entertaining history on jazz music, Jazz, by Gary Giddins and Scott DeVeaux, tells a concise, interesting story of Beiderbecke’s life. […] Continue reading »
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.’” […] Continue reading »
How to keep up with all that is published on Jerry Jazz Musician? Subscribe to our newsletter. Our February edition was mailed yesterday, and can be viewed […] Continue reading »
The Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery in Washington is currently curating an exhibit called “American Cool,” which features 100 photographs of iconic Americans who, according to the institution, “have contributed an original artistic vision to American culture and are symbolic figures of their time.”
Artists like Bessie Smith, Bix Beiderbecke, Bert Williams, and Willie “the Lion” Smith and writers like Ernest Hemingway and Zora Neale Hurston are included in the “Roots of Cool” category, while Lester Young, Frank Sinatra, Duke Ellington, Charlie Parker, Miles Davis, Dizzy Gillespie, and Thelonious Monk are among those deemed to be part of the “Birth of the Cool” group.
What were the determining factors in what constitutes “cool” and who has enough of it to be featured in the exhibition? According to Kim Sajet, director of the National Portrait Gallery, “‘American Cool’ is about America’s greatest cultural export—cool—and who embodies it. The show offers an opportunity […] Continue reading »
With the 50th anniversary of the Beatles’ appearance on Ed Sullivan prominently in the news this past week, it is interesting (and entertaining) to revisit some of the critical perspectives of their music following the performance.
On February 10, 1964, Theodore Strongin, music critic for the New York Times (who Wikipedia describes as a “champion of new music”) wrote that “The Beatles’ vocal quality can be described as hoarsely incoherent, with the minimal enunciation necessary to communicate the schematic texts.” Three days later, acknowledging the phenomenon that hit our shores, George Dixon of the Washington Post wrote, “Just thinking about the Beatles seems to induce mental disturbance. They have a commonplace, rather dull act that hardly seems to merit mentioning, yet people hereabouts have mentioned scarcely anything else for a couple of days.”
Months later, William F. Buckley, the era’s chief conservative voice and founder of the National Review got into the act, writing […] Continue reading »