Archive for “Features”

Features

“Diz for President”

Claiming that his first order of business as president would be changing the name of the White House to the Blues House, Dizzy Gillespie’s run for President in 1964 wasn’t as illogical (or comical) as it seems on the surface. (In fact, given the ignorance of one of our current major party nominees, it is easy to write that Dizzy put much more thought into his vision for the country, and was without question more evolved as a candidate). As election day approaches, it is time to ask ourselves, what better time than today for a candidate whose platform includes disbanding the FBI and giving major foreign ambassadorships to jazz musicians?

In his 1979 autobiography To Be, or not…to Bop, Dizzy devotes an entire chapter to the story of his experience as a candidate for the presidency. The entire

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Features

“Glossary of Jazz Slang” — from Mezz Mezzrow’s 1946 biography, Really the Blues

Really the Blues, the little-known but highly influential autobiographical work by jazz musician Mezz Mezzrow (co-written by Bernard Wolfe), is one man’s account of decades of jazz and American cultural history. The clarinetist’s colorful life – which he described in the 1946 counter-culture classic as having strayed “off the music” which led to his doing “my share of evil” – was adventurous, earthy, and jubilant, and was told not so much as a biography but as a novel that made “the Mezz” a hero with the era’s key counter-culture figures, including Allen Ginsberg and Jack Kerouac.

Much has been made of Mezzrow’s relationship with Louis Armstrong — he managed Armstrong for a time and dealt much of the “gauge” he craved, and Mezzrow’s reputation for dealing pot was so well known that “Mezz” became slang for marijuana. He is also remembered for his

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Features

A Moment in Time — Newport, July, 1958

The 1958 Newport Jazz Festival is remembered for its meltdown of Benny Goodman’s band, a Saturday night show featuring rock and roll pioneer Chuck Berry, and, of course, the full-length documentary film that covered many of the festival’s terrific moments. Jazz on a Summer’s Day was intended to be a short film but filmmaker Bert Stern shot so much footage that it wasn’t released until 1960. In this excerpt from

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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 »

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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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 »

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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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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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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