Archive for “Features”

gilevans2 Features

Great Encounters #46: The early friendship of Miles Davis and Gil Evans

“Great Encounters” are book excerpts that chronicle famous encounters among twentieth-century cultural icons. This edition describes the early friendship and collaboration of Miles Davis and composer/arranger Gil Evans, who Miles once described as “the greatest musician in the world.”

Excerpted from Castles Made of Sound: The Story of Gil Evans,

by Larry Hicock

 

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“I first met Gil when I was with Bird,” Miles told Marc Crawford in a 1961 interview for Down Beat.

He was asking for a release on my tune, “Donna Lee.”…I told him he could have it and asked him to teach me some chords and let me study some of the scores he was doing for Claude Thornhill.

He really flipped o me on the arrangement of “Robbin’s Nest” he did for Claude. See, Gil had this cluster of chords and superimposed another cluster over […] Continue reading »

whiteman3 Features

Revisiting “An Experiment in Modern Music”

The February 12, 1924 concert by Paul Whiteman at New York’s Aeolian Hall was billed as “An Experiment in Modern Music.” As reported by New York Times critic Olin Downes, who attended the event, “the concert was referred to as ‘educational,’ to show the development of this type of music [jazz].” The concert is now best remembered for being the setting for the world premiere of Rhapsody in Blue, with composer George Gershwin at the piano. As Times critic John S. Wilson wrote in 1987, “this concert is today considered a defining event of the Jazz Age and the cultural history of New York City.”

In this excerpt from Whiteman’s 1926 autobiography Jazz – written with essayist Mary Margaret McBride – Whiteman writes about his Aeolian Hall concert experience, and in particular the appeal of Rhapsody, which he described as

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bobby1 Features

Bobby Hutcherson, 1941 – 2016

Bobby Hutcherson, the most eminent postbop jazz vibraphonist who helped define the sound of Blue Note Records during the 1960’s and 70’s, has died. Described by contemporary vibes player Stefon Harris as “by far the most harmonically advanced person to ever play the vibraphone,” his career included the release of more than 40 albums as leader, and as a prominent sideman on many great records, including Eric Dolphy’s classic Out to Lunch and Jackie McLean’s One Step Beyond. I saw him many years ago at Kimball’s in Oakland (long since shuttered), an exciting set that, if memory serves, included […] Continue reading »

sam Features

Great Encounters #22…Cassius Clay, Malcolm X, and Sam Cooke — the Clay/Sonny Liston fight, Miami, 1964

In honor of the passing of Muhammad Ali, I am re-posting “Great Encounters #22, Cassius Clay, Malcolm X, and Sam Cooke — the Clay/Sonny Liston fight, Miami, 1964,” in which Peter Guralnick, author of Dream Boogie: The Triumph of Sam Cooke, tells the story of Ali’s (then Cassius Clay) relationship with Cooke and the circumstances of Clay taking his new name.

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monk1 Features

Great Encounters #45: Miles and Monk at Newport, 1955

“Great Encounters” are book excerpts that chronicle famous encounters among twentieth-century cultural icons. This edition offers two accounts of the events surrounding Miles Davis and Thelonious Monk’s performance at the 1955 Newport Jazz Festival — a story that is, according to Thelonious Monk biographer Robin D.G. Kelley, “shrouded in myth.”

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pepper2 Features

A Moment in Time — Art Pepper, Los Angeles, 1956

Having just been released from serving a ten month drug related prison sentence at Terminal Island, the distinctive alto saxophonist Art Pepper re-entered the Los Angeles jazz scene in 1956 – still undeniably talented and hopelessly drug-addicted. His first gig upon his release was on June 29 in Malibu at Paul Nero’s The Cottage, and he also played with tenor Jack Montrose at the Angel Room in South Central. “I was doing well,” Pepper wrote in his classic autobiography, Straight Life, “but I was goofing, and I was really getting strung out.” On this photo session, taken by

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jackie-mclean-3 Features

Great Encounters #44 — Charles Mingus, Jackie McLean and their “nearly murderous confrontation”

“Great Encounters” are book excerpts that chronicle famous encounters among twentieth-century cultural icons. This edition tells the story of the violent, physical confrontation that took place between Charles Mingus and Jackie McLean while touring in Cleveland, 1956

Excerpted from Better Git it in Your Soul: An Interpretive Biography of Charles Mingus, by Krin Gabbard

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Any mature jazz artist with the ability and the desire to succeed will have shared the stage with a long list of musicians. But Charles Mingus seems to have played with everyone from Kid Ory to George Adams and at every stop along the paths of jazz history. Once he became a leader, he hired and fired a long list of sidepeople. Some stayed longer than others. Many were quickly discarded because


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tap Features

From What the Eye Hears — when the connection between jazz music and tap dancing became strained

I have been spending some time recently with an excellent new book, What the Eye Hears — A History of Tap Dancing. Written by New York Times dance critic Brian Seibert, the book — recently named a finalist for the National Book Critics Award in Nonfiction — is an informative, entertaining history of tap dancing, and a reminder of its central role in American popular culture. A particularly interesting part of its history is its relation to jazz music, especially in the vaudeville circuit and in the nightclubs of the early twentieth century.

Regarding this, Seibert wrote in an email to me: “Jazz and tap dancing grew up together. Both came, in W.C. Handy’s words, ‘down the same drain’ of minstrelsy, and origin stories for ragtime include the syncopated stepping of

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white1 Features

A brief tribute to Maurice White

On the heels of the deaths of iconic rock musicians David Bowie and Glenn Frey comes the very sad news that Maurice White, the founder of the Earth, Wind and Fire, has died today at age 74. White’s music came to prominence in the thick of soul’s musical ascent, and E W & F embodied the sound of urban America at the time, their message communicated optimistically and on a large scale. White’s band possessed an unusual crossover appeal — the fact that his death has invited praise from

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