December 5th marks the 41st anniversary of the bebop trumpeter Kenny Dorham’s death. Only 48 years old at the time of his passing from kidney disease, Dorham’s professional life enjoyed a great measure of respect from his fellow musicians, but, as Nat Hentoff pointed out in the liner notes to Dorham’s 1963 Blue Note recording Una Mas, “he has yet to break through to the kind of wide public acceptance which has occasionally seemed imminent.” His recordings are timeless – each and every one packed with delicious passion and brilliant playing that still sounds fresh — but Dorham never did “break through” in his lifetime, and continues to be classified by important jazz historians as “underrated.” In a Jerry Jazz Musician-hosted conversation on underrated jazz musicians, the most eminent jazz writer Gary Giddins said “when anybody wrote about [Dorham] […] Continue reading »
Eddie Condon — a great guitarist/banjoist/bandleader of the Jazz Age era — recalls the day in Chicago in 1922 when he first met and heard the cornetist Bix Beiderbecke.
As told in Remembering Bix: A Memoir of the Jazz Age by Ralph Berton
One day Pee Wee Rank, a drummer, called me from Chicago. “How would you like to play in Syracuse?” He was on his way to the Tri-Cities – Rock Island, Moline, and Davenport – to round up talent…”Meet me at the LaSalle Street Station at eight o’clock tomorrow night.” […] Continue reading »
“The memory of things gone is important to a jazz musician. Things like old folks singing in the moonlight in the back yard on a hot night or something said long ago.”
- Louis Armstrong
A recording essential to anyone who appreciates jazz is Duke Ellington’s 1943 jazz symphony Black, Brown and Beige, written for his first Carnegie Hall concert appearance. Described by many critics as his most ambitious composition, Ellington called it a “tone parallel to the history of the Negro in America.” Ellington only performed it complete on three occasions; once at Westchester County’s Rye High School on January 22, 1943, the Carnegie Hall concert the next night, and in Boston’s Symphony Hall a week later.
Fifteen years later, Ellington revised the composition, which Columbia released as Black, Brown and Beige, “Featuring Mahalia Jackson.” In his recently published Duke: A Life of Duke Ellington, Terry Teachout writes that this recording was “falsely billed by Columbia as a complete version of ‘Black,’ the work’s first movement, augmented by a vocal version of ‘Come Sunday’ performed by gospel singer Mahalia Jackson, who also contributed an impromptu ‘setting’ of the Twenty-Third Psalm. (‘He didn’t rehearse me nothin’,” she later said of the latter performance. ‘He said, “Just open the Bible and Sing!”‘). For those who hoped that Ellington would put all of Black, Brown and Beige on record, it was a disappointment.”
This sets the stage for this edition of “Liner Notes” – Columbia Records producer Irving Townsend’s description of the 1958 recording of Black, Brown and Beige, by Duke Ellington and His Orchestra, Featuring Mahalia Jackson, […] Continue reading »
We all had Childhood Heroes…Excerpted from exclusive Jerry Jazz Musician interviews, our guests talk of theirs.
This edition…McCoy Tyner
JJM Who were your heroes?
MT When I was growing up, Bud Powell, Thelonious Monk were basically the people who inspired me on the piano. Later on, I found out about Art Tatum and others. Bud and Thelonious were the main people who inspired me. Bud Powell, fortunately, moved around the corner from me when I was about 15. […] Continue reading »
The great improvisational American jazz musicians of the mid-20th century inspired a generation of photographers to develop a looser, moodier style of visual expression. That evocative approach is on striking display in The Jazz Image: Masters of Jazz Photography. Covering six decades of performers from Louis Armstrong and Duke Ellington to John Coltrane and Miles Davis this unique collection is as much a comprehensive catalogue of jazz greats as it is a salute to the photographers who captured them. […] Continue reading »
“Jazz is the only music in which the same note can be played night after night, but differently each time.”
[…] Continue reading »
Stanley Crouch writes about the 1935 Kansas City jam session in which the great local musician Buster Smith was challenged by fellow clarinetist Benny Goodman.
Excerpted from Kansas City Lightning: The Rise and Times of Charlie Parker
It’s a great time for jazz biography. In addition to Stanley Crouch’s book on Charlie Parker, Louis Armstrong biographer and Wall Street Journal drama critic Terry Teachout has turned out what several critics report to be an important book on the life of Duke Ellington. I have just completed the first chapter and am eagerly anticipating the pages beyond. To get a flavor for the book, you may enjoy this short excerpt, in which Teachout describes Ellington’s work habits and what Ellington “sought and got” from his band, described here as his ”accumulation of personalities.’” […] Continue reading »
“If you don’t live it, it won’t come out of your horn.”
- Charlie Parker […] Continue reading »