In the winter of 1981 we were hired to play Downtown—
a performance in Greenwich Village billed “Frank Zappa Presents:
a Musical Tribute to Edgard Varèse.” I sat on stage,
wearing black, tuning my violin, warming up,
looking out at the audience milling around, most of them
covered in tattoos and piercings of every body part
We’re going through Security at Dublin airport, headed to Philadelphia, thinking about what’s ahead of us. There’s something sinister about lines of people queuing up to be processed. Nobody likes it. Belt, jacket, phone, laptop, wallet. Do they need my shoes? Everyone feels displaced, dehumanized somehow.
Three in the morning in the Hollywood Hills feels like five in the morning anywhere else. The coyotes and owls cross the northern boundaries and stray down under the big HOLLYWOOD sign that glistens in the moonlight at the top of Beachwood Canyon. Field mice, possum, snakes, and house cats become fair game for the wild intruders that prowl the narrow streets and canyons for a quick kill and a quiet meal with the family.
Friends remember Al Summ, whose love and appreciation of jazz showed up in a variety of ways. His artwork was found (and rescued) by his friends Dan Brown, Dave Watson, Bob Crimi and “Andy” – a.k.a. “The Gang of Four”.
This remembrance is a reminder of how jazz and its culture can touch the soul of an enthusiast, and a demonstration of a longtime, devoted friendship. I am proud to assist the “Gang” in sharing their heartfelt connection to their departed friend.
. . photo by William Gottlieb/Library of Congress Mary Lou Williams, c. 1938 . . ___ . . Opus for Mary Lou By John Bliss . …..“Baloney Bliss,” Mary Lou Williams said, lacing into my father. …..Mary Lou was Black and brought a spiritual magic into my white world. Her nose was petite like an … Continue reading ““Opus For Mary Lou,” a true jazz story by John Bliss”
. . Joseph Maita, Sr. c. 1935 . ___ . …..My father Joseph Maita (Sr.) was affable, charismatic, and loving – gifted as a musician and, ultimately, a successful business owner. He was also extraordinarily complex and challenged by having to make choices so many young parents find themselves confronting – following … Continue reading “True Jazz Stories: Musical Adventures of Joe Maita, Sr.”
I grew up in a household where music was second nature, always present, ingrained. My mother could sight read well and played not only classical pieces on the piano (Schumann, Liszt, Chopin) but show tunes—the full range of Gershwin, Cole Porter, Rogers and Hart, Irving Berlin, which she and I sang together.
Frank Sinatra floated through the air in my boyhood home and Philadelphia neighborhood. My mother and two of her older sisters, Henrietta and Marge, had seen young Frankie in person at Atlantic City’s Steel Pier in the late 1930s, the thrill that wed these young Italian-Americans to Frank for life. “It’s Always You” reached them. He was part of our Staffieri family — their fantasy husband.
.It must have been the late 1980s when my girlfriend and I put on our best clothes and shelled out more money than we had to hear McCoy Tyner at the very elegant Dimitriou’s Jazz Alley in downtown Seattle.
…..I have to wonder how many friendships have been forged over mutual love of Miles Davis’ album, Kind of Blue. The one I want to tell you about came to pass in an unlikely setting back during the winter of 1963…
It wouldn’t be the first time my penchant for whistling jazz tunes got me in trouble…nor the last.
I’d been crazy about whistling from my boyhood. Perhaps I inherited my obsession from my late father. He wasn’t a jazz fan like I am, and I barely even remember him whistling—he wasn’t around much when I was a boy and he died when I was twelve—but my mom later told me he was an outstanding whistler. “He could do triple tonguing and everything,” she said.
So maybe it was in my DNA. But at any rate, after his death I determinedly taught myself to whistle. I have a good ear and decent sense of pitch, so I found I could easily get in sync with whatever music I was hearing. And then I practiced and practiced, whistling along with jazz compositions and solos for years until I got
From a small balcony above the stage of the Maybeck Recital Hall in Berkeley, I’m looking down on the jazz duo of bassist Red Mitchell and pianist Roger Kellaway, while tapping my foot to the earthy, swinging beat they are laying down.
It’s a Sunday afternoon in 1992 at this unique venue. The recital hall is part of a house originally built by the famed architect Bernard Maybeck in the early twentieth century. (Maybeck designed the Palace of Fine Arts in San Francisco, along with many other notable buildings in that city.) The hall accommodates only about 50 people, and it’s a warm, redwood-paneled room with beautiful leaded glass windows on three sides. It actually feels a lot like being in a little chapel—but the religion being worshipped here is that of acoustic jazz, primarily of the pianistic variety.
For several years now, ‘The Maybeck’ as it’s familiarly called, has hosted a who’s-who of
I’m driving up Raymond Boulevard toward downtown Newark. In the darkness the huge lighted sign atop the Public Service Electric & Gas Company serves as a beacon for approaching the city. Yet tonight something is off with the sign, and I laugh out loud as I see that its ‘L’ has burned out…and that it is now offering ‘PUBIC SERVICE’ to the community!
I am on my way to work at radio station WHBI where I am a staff announcer but also produce a nightly jazz show. On the car seat next to me is my
It was the kind of New York night not fit for man nor beast. Sleet and wind whipping about, snow banks and ice everywhere. With my ‘49 Dodge slipping and sliding on the Village streets, I make my way to the Vanguard to catch the midnight set. The small sign outside the entrance inconspicuously announces: “Bill Evans Trio.” This is the 1962 edition of the trio, reformed after bassist Scott LaFaro’s death the year before; and this is the club where Bill had played his last sets with
The night I truly ‘got’ the shining genius of Charlie Parker I was in my girlfriend’s apartment on the Lower East Side. The year was 1961. I was nineteen, she was much older and hipper, and had turned me on not only to some great music but to getting high as well. She had all the essential jazz records, including the one on the turntable that night. It was The Fabulous Bird, on the old Jazztone label, consisting of reissues of some of Bird’s phenomenal 1947 Dial sessions. She had a very low-fi stereo—I can still see the nickel she had scotch-taped to the tone arm to keep it in the grooves. But the fidelity didn’t matter, in part at least because this evening I had just smoked a