“Great Encounters” are book excerpts that chronicle famous encounters among twentieth-century cultural icons. This edition tells the story of the 1925 recording session of Bessie Smith and Louis Armstrong
Excerpted from Bessie, by Chris Albertson
I’ve got the world in a jug;
The stopper’s in my hand.
“Down Hearted Blues”
When Bessie sang those words on her first recording date in 1923, her future looked promising, but by the onset of 1925, there was no longer any doubt — Bessie had “arrived.” She could look back on a year and a half of prominence and prosperity; her billing as “The Greatest and Highest Salaried Race Star in the World” was accurate; dreams of supporting her family had come true; […] Continue reading »
Graham Nash tells a story about how bandmate David Crosby reacted to Miles Davis’ cover of Crosby’s song “Guinivere,” which Davis recorded during the Bitches Brew sessions in 1970, and was subsequently released in 1979 on Circle in the Round (also released on The Complete Bitches Brew Sessions).
Excerpted from Graham Nash: Wild Tales, a Rock & Roll Life
“Lady of the Island”…was a three-track record on an eight-track tape that we got on one take. Me singing and playing guitar, with Crosby sitting right next to me, blending in that beautiful cellolike fugue. We also got a gorgeous take of “Guinevere,” […] 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
[…] Continue reading »
As told by J.C. Thomas in Coltrane: Chasin’ the Trane
Bill Cosby used to hang out at Birdland in the days when he was known as the young black comic who didn’t tell racial jokes and specialized in comedy sermons such as his hilarious, poignant version of Noah.
When Cosby walked into the club, he’d often joke with manager Johnnie Gary; sometimes the two of them would still be talking when Coltrane arrived. The saxophonist then pulled out peanuts from his pocket, still in their shells, and offered them to both. Then Coltrane would continue on to the dressing room, […] Continue reading »
A 1928 story of Louis Armstrong, Earl Hines and Zutty Singleton
As told in Armstrong’s “Goffin Notebooks” memoirs, written in 1943 – 1944 and eventually published in 1947 as Horn of Plenty: The Story of Louis Armstrong, by Robert Goffin
‘Earl – ‘Zuttie and ‘I – Stayed out of work so long until it was impossible for me to get my ‘Car out of the ‘Shop, ever after it was fixed. ‘Things gotten so ‘Tough with us until 15c (Fifteen cents) looked like $15.00 (Fifteen dollars). But we did not lose our Spirit. And we all kept that good ‘ol Clean Shirt ‘on everyday, and ‘ol ‘Earl Hines kept the Big Fresh ‘Cigar in his ‘mouth ‘everyday. Zuttie and ‘I both ‘admired that. […] 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 »
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
[…] Continue reading »
Paris was the perfect place for Monk and Nica’s first meeting. The city had lost some of its pre-war sheen but was still the capital of chic. Chanel had reopened her fashion house in 1954, introducing natty little suit jackets and slimline skirts. French movies inspired women to cut off their hair, wear cigarette pants and hooped earrings. There was an aura of tolerant multiculturalism. Nica’s friend Kenny Clarke, the bebop drummer, arrived in 1947: […] Continue reading »
Ever since Patrick Jarenwattananon of the NPR Classical Music blog Deceptive Cadence published a story called “Why Jazz Musicians Love ‘The Rite of Spring’” in May, there has been a lot of traffic on the Jerry Jazz Musician page devoted to the meeting of Charlie Parker and Igor Stravinsky. NPR linked their readers to our “Great Encounters” page called “When Charlie Parker played for Igor Stravinsky,” where Jazz Modernism author, the late jazz scholar Alfred Appel, tells the story of how “Stravinsky roared with delight […] Continue reading »
Excerpted from W.C. Handy: The Life and Times of the Man Who Made the Blues, by David Robertson
Harry Pace, even at his distance at Atlanta, always had been more innovative in marketing their firm’s songs in newer ways than Handy, and, as his career later reveals, he was interested in the possibilities of owning his own phonographic business. While on a trip for his insurance company to New York City […] Continue reading »