Reminiscing in Tempo: Memories and Opinion/Volume Seven: What do you recall about the first live music performance you ever attended?

September 12th, 2006

Reminiscing in Tempo

*

Memories and Opinion

_____

 

“Reminiscing in Tempo” is part of a continuing effort to provide Jerry Jazz Musician readers with unique forms of “edu-tainment.” Every month (or as often as possible), Jerry Jazz Musician poses one question via e mail to a small number of prominent and diverse people. The question is designed to provoke a lively response that will potentially include the memories and/or opinion of those solicited.

Since it is not possible to know who will answer the question, the diversity of the participants will often depend on factors beyond the control of the publisher. The responses from the people who chose to participate in this edition are published below with only minor stylistic editing. No follow-up questions take place.

_____

What do you recall about the first live music performance you ever attended?

Originally published September, 2006

 


It was late summer 1938 or 1939, so that would make me five or six years old, and I was growing up in a middle-class household in St. Paul, Minnesota. My mom took my brother Morton and me together with our visiting cousins from Wichita, Beryl and Marilynn Martin, for a day’s excursion on the SS Capitol, a big paddle wheeler that plied the Mississippi from New Orleans all the way to Little Falls, Minnesota. We boarded the boat in St. Paul, not far from our house, and we made the short round trip north before the boat started back down to New Orleans. It took three or four hours. Clutching a Holloway All-Day Sucker, I spent practically the entire trip standing at the edge of the big dance floor, staring at the band and watching the people dancing. Up to then, the only musical instruments I had seen were the grand piano in our living room and the upright piano at my grandmother’s house.

The musicians were Negroes, “colored people”, to use the terms then current in Minnesota. I don’t remember the instrumentation, but I remember the trumpet, the piano, the big gold bell of the sousaphone, and the white pearly drum set. The guys wore perfectly pressed white band uniforms with white shoes, and the horns and cymbals were gleaming under the lights. I have no recollection of what the music sounded like, but I’m certain it must have been jazz, because I learned years later that the SS Capitol was part of the Streckfus Line, and Fate Marable was band leader on the boat until 1940. Among the musicians who played on this boat only ten or fifteen years earlier were Louis Armstrong, Baby Dodds, Gene Sedric, Zutty Singleton, and Pops Foster. By the time I was gawking on the sidelines, those people had moved on, but Marable was probably there that day, and it’s likely I heard him toot a number or two on the calliope when the boat made the turn-around at Little Falls.

A day or two later we all went to the Minnesota State Fair, where in an outdoor pavilion I again witnessed live music, completely different and equally fascinating. This was the novelty band led by Freddy “Schnicklefritz” Fisher. They played and sang “Did You Ever See a Dream Walking?”, and I was hooked. I went home and figured it out on the piano. I’ve been figuring it out ever since.

_________

Fate Marable

*

Frankie And Johnny

 

_________________

 

 

 

The first concert I attended was on my 16th birthday at the Waldorf-Astoria hotel to see Lena Horne.

It was one of the most breathtaking experiences of my life. What was even more exciting was having the opportunity to meet her after her show.

This was my gift from my mom and dad.

__________

Lena Horne

*

Stormy Weather

 

 

 

 


 

When I was in grade school in Durand, Michigan, our class was taken to hear the Detroit Symphony. The first thing I remember is that we walked into the auditorium as they were playing their theme song. The music was from Hansel and Gretel — I think it was called “Prayer” — played mostly by the large string section of the orchestra. That was a sensation of a lifetime — hearing a full string section playing beautifully. I was awe struck.

Later on, having become a professional musician myself, I reveled in the memory of that experience, and it probably influenced me as a writer with my preference for string writing. Part of that was also that I started playing the cello in junior high and I played in the high school orchestra. There was a lovely young violist playing in that orchestra with whom I fell in love. I am married to her now and she has been the godsend of my life.

_________

Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep, from the opera Hansel and Gretel

 

____________________

The first live music performance I ever attended — or at least the first one that I can remember — took place in St. Louis’ Kiel Auditorium Opera House in October 1960. I was 13 years old and had discovered jazz about three months earlier, and with the help of the public library in my home town of Clayton, Missouri had already become acquainted with a few jazz artists. One of my favorites was John Lewis, who I had first heard on the albums Grand Encounter (aka 2º East, 3º West) and Improvised Meditations and Excursions. From there I had moved on to the Modern Jazz Quartet albums in the library’s collection. I think they had MJQ and Concorde on Prestige as well as Pyramid on Atlantic. So I was aware of Milt Jackson, but at the time I was much more excited by Lewis’ playing and his writing.

In any event, the MJQ and the Horace Silver Quintet were performing on a double bill at Kiel, and a family friend who liked jazz offered to take me to the concert. When the evening’s host came out and announced “Milt Jackson has the flu,” I was probably the only one in the audience who thought to himself, “Great! More John Lewis piano solos.” When the announcer followed by saying that “As a result, the Modern Jazz Quartet will be replaced this evening by the Three Sounds,” I was completely devastated. At that point in my listening I knew the Sounds only by name, and Silver through his appearance on the Milt Jackson Quintet tracks from the Prestige MJO album, and could only lament missing what I had looked forward to as my chance to see my first jazz idol.

Then Silver’s band came out with Blue Mitchell, Junior Cook, Eugene Taylor and Roy Brooks and launched directly into “Blowing the Blues Away,” the sound and the soul of which pinned me to the back of my seat. “Sister Sadie,” “Nica’s Dream,” “Strollin'” and “Yeah” were among the other compositions that followed. I have no recall as to what the Three Sounds played during its portion of the program, but I do know that I was back at the Clayton Public Library the next day, where I was delighted to find copies of Blowing the Blues Away and the brand new Horace-Scope.

__________

Horace-Scope

*

Strollin’, by Horace Silver

 

 


 

 

I don’t remember the first live music I heard (I started playing the clarinet at age seven, so I was interested in music at an early age), but by far the most important concert I attended in my youth took place on June 19, 1965. George Wein had organized a jazz festival at the Pittsburgh Civic Arena, and my parents took me to one night of it. The bill included the Walt Harper Quintet (a local group), the Earl Hines Trio, Carmen McRae and her Trio, the Stan Getz Quartet with Gary Burton, the John Coltrane Quartet (with McCoy Tyner, Jimmy Garrison, and Elvin Jones), and the Duke Ellington Orchestra. A kind of bill unthinkable nowadays, but fairly common then.

Wein shrewdly programmed all but Coltrane and Ellington before intermission, and Coltrane right after intermission. I say “shrewdly” because this was only nine days before Coltrane recorded “Ascension”; my memory of that night is that his music was not easy listening, to put it mildly. A number of people left during his performance, and I suspect that more would have done so had not the Ellington band been scheduled immediately afterward.

In any case, this evening was one of the pivotal experiences of my life. Though I didn’t know it at the time, my career as a jazz musician was set from then on.

_________

photo by Lee Tanner

John Coltrane

*

Ascension

 

 

Share this:

Comment on this article:

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

In This Issue

"Nina" by Marsha Hammel
A Collection of Jazz Poetry — Winter, 2024 Edition...One-third of the Winter, 2024 collection of jazz poetry is made up of poets who have only come to my attention since the publication of the Summer, 2023 collection. What this says about jazz music and jazz poetry – and this community – is that the connection between the two art forms is inspirational and enduring, and that poets are finding a place for their voice within the pages of this website. (Featuring the art of Marsha Hammel)

The Sunday Poem

photo by Mel Levine/pinelife, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons
“Lady Day and Prez” by Henry Wolstat

Click here to read previous editions of The Sunday Poem

Poetry

Proceeding From Behind: A collection of poems grounded in the rhythmic, relating to the remarkable, by Terrance Underwood...A relaxed, familiar comfort emerges from the poet Terrance Underwood’s language of intellectual acuity, wit, and space – a feeling similar to one gets while listening to Monk, or Jamal, or Miles. I have long wanted to share his gifts as a poet on an expanded platform, and this 33-poem collection – woven among his audio readings, music he considers significant to his story, and brief personal comments – fulfills my desire to do so.

Publisher’s Notes

photo by Rhonda Dorsett
A very brief three-dot update…Where I’ve been, and an update on what is coming up on Jerry Jazz Musician

Poetry

Photographer uncredited, but the photo was almost certainly taken by Chuck Stewart. Published by ABC/Impulse! Records.. Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons
“And I’m Not Even Here” – a poem by Connie Johnson

Click here to read more poetry published on Jerry Jazz Musician

Essay

"Lester Leaps In" by Tad Richards
"Jazz and American Poetry," an essay by Tad Richards...In an essay that first appeared in the Greenwood Encyclopedia of American Poetry in 2005, Tad Richards - a prolific visual artist, poet, novelist, and nonfiction writer who has been active for over four decades – writes about the history of the connection of jazz and American poetry.

Interview

photo of Pepper Adams/courtesy of Pepper Adams Estate
Interview with Gary Carner, author of Pepper Adams: Saxophone Trailblazer...The author speaks with Bob Hecht about his book and his decades-long dedication to the genius of Pepper Adams, the stellar baritone saxophonist whose hard-swinging bebop style inspired many of the top-tier modern baritone players.

Click here to read more interviews published on Jerry Jazz Musician

Poetry

Three poets and Sketches of Spain

Interview

IISG, CC BY-SA 2.0 , via Wikimedia Commons
Interview with Judith Tick, author of Becoming Ella Fitzgerald: The Jazz Singer Who Transformed American Song...The author discusses her book, a rich, emotionally stirring, exceptional work that explores every element of Ella’s legacy in great depth, reminding readers that she was not only a great singing artist, but also a musical visionary and social activist.

Trading Fours with Douglas Cole

Trading Fours with Douglas Cole is an occasional series of the writer’s poetic interpretations of jazz recordings and film. This edition is influenced by Stillpoint, the 2021 album by Zen practitioner Barrett Martin

Review

Jason Innocent, on “3”, Abdullah Ibrahim’s latest album... Album reviews are rarely published on Jerry Jazz Musician, but Jason Innocent’s experience with the pianist Abdullah Ibrahim’s new recording captures the essence of this artist’s creative brilliance.

Short Fiction

Christerajet, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons
Short Fiction Contest-winning story #64 — “The Old Casino” by J.B. Marlow...The author's award-winning story takes place over the course of a young man's life, looking at all the women he's loved and how the presence of a derelict building informs those relationships.

Click here to read more short fiction published on Jerry Jazz Musician

Book Excerpt

Book excerpt from Jazz with a Beat: Small Group Swing 1940 – 1960, by Tad Richards

Click here to read more book excerpts published on Jerry Jazz Musician

Poetry

"Jazz Trio" by Samuel Dixon
A collection of jazz haiku, Vol. 2...The 19 poets included in this collection effectively share their reverence for jazz music and its culture with passion and brevity.

Jazz History Quiz #170

photo of Dexter Gordon by Brian McMillen
This bassist played with (among others) Charlie Parker, Erroll Garner, Nat King Cole and Dexter Gordon (pictured), was one of the earliest modern jazz tuba soloists, and was the only player to turn down offers to join both Duke Ellington’s Orchestra and the Louis Armstrong All-Stars. Who is he?

Community

photo via Picryl.com
.“Community Bookshelf, #2"...a twice-yearly space where writers who have been published on Jerry Jazz Musician can share news about their recently authored books. This edition includes information about books published within the last six months or so…

Contributing Writers

Click the image to view the writers, poets and artists whose work has been published on Jerry Jazz Musician, and find links to their work

Coming Soon

An interview with Tad Richards, author of Jazz With a Beat: Small Group Swing, 1940 - 1960;  an interview with Laura Flam and Emily Sieu Liebowitz, authors of But Will You Love Me Tomorrow? An Oral History of the 60's Girl Groups;  a new collection of jazz poetry; a collection of jazz haiku; a new Jazz History Quiz; short fiction; poetry; photography; interviews; playlists; and lots more in the works...

Interview Archive

Eubie Blake
Click to view the complete 22 year archive of Jerry Jazz Musician interviews, including those recently published with Richard Carlin and Ken Bloom on Eubie Blake (pictured); Richard Brent Turner on jazz and Islam; Alyn Shipton on the art of jazz; Shawn Levy on the original queens of standup comedy; Travis Atria on the expatriate trumpeter Arthur Briggs; Kitt Shapiro on her life with her mother, Eartha Kitt; Will Friedwald on Nat King Cole; Wayne Enstice on the drummer Dottie Dodgion; the drummer Joe La Barbera on Bill Evans; Philip Clark on Dave Brubeck; Nicholas Buccola on James Baldwin and William F. Buckley; Ricky Riccardi on Louis Armstrong; Dan Morgenstern and Christian Sands on Erroll Garner; Maria Golia on Ornette Coleman.

Site Archive