May 31, 2010

Gerry Mulligan - "Walking Shoes" (1956)

Recorded in Rome. Gerry Mulligan, baritone sax; Zoot Sims, tenor sax; Jon Eardley, trumpet; Bob Brookmeyer, trombone; Bill Crow, bass; and Dave Bailey, drums.

May 29, 2010

Buck and Cow Cow

Perhaps only baseball players and mobsters have more colorful and varied nicknames than jazz musicians. I did an earlier post on jazz musicians with animal nicknames entitled “Little Bird and Papa Mutt,” which included the following list:
  • Bird - Charlie Parker
  • Cat - William Alonzo Anderson
  • The Cat - Jimmy Smith
  • Duck - Donald Bailey
  • The Fox - Maynard Ferguson
  • Frog - Ben Webster
  • Gator - Willis Jackson
  • The Great Dane - Niels-Henning Ørsted Pedersen
  • The Hawk - Coleman Hawkins
  • The Lion - Willie Smith
  • Little Bird - Albert Ayler and Jimmy Heath
  • Mouse - Irving Randolph
  • Mousey - Elmer Alexander
  • Mule - Major Holley
  • Mutt or Papa Mutt -Tom Carey
  • Pony - Norwood Poindexter
  • Rabbit - Johnny Hodges
  • The Stork - Paul Desmond
  • Tiger - George Haynes
     A reader suggested the following addenda: Ben Webster was also apparently called "Beast"; saxophonist Sonny Stitt was yet another "Little Bird"; and Charles Edward Davenport, an early boogie woogie piano player, was known as "Cow Cow." I also found a few others to add, thanks to Bill Crow’s (who doesn't need an animal nickname) book Jazz Anecdotes:
  • Bunny - Roland Berrigan
  • Honeybear - Gene Sedric
  • Hoss - Walter Page
  • Octopus - Tal Farlow
  • Porky - Al Porcino
  • Sharkey - Joseph Bonano
     Trumpeter Wilbur Dorsey Clayton, who played with Count Basie, was nicknamed “Buck” by his mother, although this was apparently a not-so-subtle allusion to his American Indian ancestry. A couple of questionable additions: Trumpeter Charles Melvin Williams, who spent many years with the Duke Ellington orchestra, was known as  "Cootie." I call this “questionable” because the word cootie refers only to a body louse, and I would hesitate to include this under the category of animals. Ditto for guitarist Clifton “Skeeter” Best - a mosquito is an animal only by the broadest definition.
     Finally, there’s trumpeter and composer Joseph “Wingy” Manone, who lost an arm as a boy in New Orleans as a result of a streetcar accident. This nickname has to rank as a bit of gallows humor, although Manone’s 1948 autobiography was entitled Trumpet on the Wing. Jazz violinist Joe Venuti, who was a notorious practical joker and good friend of Manone, used to send “Wingy” a single cufflink every year on his birthday.

May 27, 2010

This Week in Jazz History: May 27 to June 2

May 27
  • Bassist Niels-Henning Ørsted Pedersen born 1946 in Osted, Denmark.
  • Pianist Gonzalo Rubalcaba born 1963 in Havana, Cuba.
  • Vocalist Dee Dee Bridgewater born 1950 in Memphis, TN.
 May 28
  • Pianist/composer Reginald Forsythe born 1907 in London, England.
  • Bandleader Andy Kirk born 1898 in Newport, KY.
  • Pianist Russ Freeman born Chicago, IL, 1926.
 May 29
  • Drummer Kenny Washington born 1958 in Staten Island, NY.
  • Duke Ellington records Anatomy of a Murder, 1959.
  • Pianist Hilton Ruiz born 1952 in New York, NY.
 May 30
  • Saxophonist Frank Trumbauer born 1901 in Carbondale, IL.
  • Clarinetist/bandleader Benny Goodman born 1909 in Chicago, IL.
  • Trumpeter Sidney DeParis born 1905 in Crawfordsville, IN.
 May 31
  • Saxophonist Otto "Toby" Hardwicke born 1904 in Washington, D.C.
  • Two drummers born - Albert "Tootie" Heath 1935 in Philadelphia, PA, and Louis Hayes 1937 in Detroit, MI.
  • Pianist Bill Evans records Time Remembered, 1963.
 June 1
  • Saxophonist Hal McKusick born 1924 in Medford, MA.
  • Vocalist Billie Holiday records “I’ll Never Be The Same” with a band led by pianist Teddy Wilson, including tenor saxophonist Lester Young, 1937.
  • Pianist/composer Thelonious Monk records “Played Twice,” 1959.
 June 2
  • Vocalist Ella Fitzgerald records “Sing Me A Swing Song” with drummer Chick Webb’s band, 1936.
  • Pianist Marty Napoleon born 1921 in New York, NY.
  • Multi reedman Eric Dolphy records “Last Date in Hilversum,” The Netherlands, 1964.
Source: Smithsonian Jazz

    May 24, 2010

    The Way It Went Down

    Anita O'Day - The Life Of A Jazz SingerAnita O'Day: The Life of a Jazz Singer (2009) is a warts-and-all portrait of the great jazz vocalist, who passed away in 2006 at the age of 87. The film contains a trove of archival footage covering O’Day’s entire career, extended interviews with O’Day, and comments from other musicians and critics. While the filmmakers obviously adore her, they don’t shy away from the darker aspects of her life. Neither does O’Day herself - shy is not an adjective you could possibly apply to her.
         O’Day was born in Chicago in 1919 and was a chorus girl by the age of 17. She claimed a surgical mistake during a childhood tonsillectomy, which excised her uvula, left her incapable of singing with vibrato or able to maintain long notes. This forced her to develop the more rhythmic singing style that she was famous for.
         She got her big break in the early 1940s with Gene Krupa’s band. A short “soundie” musical film from the time shows a young, flirty O’Day upstaging trumpeter Roy Eldridge on "Let Me Off Uptown." She also spent some time with the Stan Kenton orchestra as the lead singer, although it was not always a happy collaboration.
         She launched her solo career in the late Forties, and this was also the start of her drug problems. She was arrested for possession of marijuana and sentenced to 90 days in jail. O’Day was one of the earliest embodiments of the “hip white chick” and she’s even mentioned in Jack Kerouac’s On the Road. She asserts that the controversy actually helped her career.
         She recorded her first album, Anita O’Day Sings Jazz, in 1952 for the new label Norgran Records, Norman Granz’s precursor to Verve Records. In fact, it was the label's inaugural record and proved to be a popular success. O’Day recorded a total of seventeen LPs for Verve. At the same time, she was also arrested for possession of heroin, an addiction that would continue into the late Sixties and lead to her designation as “the Jezebel of Jazz.”
         Her appearance at the 1958 Newport Jazz Festival propelled her into stardom. Her spectacular performance of “Sweet Georgia Brown” while decked out in a short black dress and showy ostrich-feather hat is featured in Bert Stern’s documentary Jazz on a Summer’s Day, where she steals the show. This performance is shown in full here as well. After this, she continued to record in the 1960s and toured extensively overseas, particularly in Japan.
         She nearly died of a heroin overdose in 1968; in fact, she was pronounced dead before being revived. This experience convinced her to kick the habit. She is quite matter-of-fact about her drug addiction in her 1981 memoir, High Times, Hard Times, and in this film she refuses to sentimentalize or moralize about it. During an interview on the Today show, host Bryant Gumbel sanctimoniously delineates her many hardships: "Your personal experiences include rape, abortion, jail, heroin addiction..." She cuts him off - "It's the way it went down, Bryant" - the icy emphasis on the final “t” in his first name chills any attempt to elicit “valuable lessons learned” from her life. She’ll have none of it.
         This film shows her to be not only a great vocalist and hip white chick, but also - there’s no better way to put it - a tough broad. Her later career was uneven, as was her voice (intonation was not her strong suit), but she continued recording right up to the end - her last LP was the aptly named Indestructible! (2006). 
         Life of a Jazz Singer contains some great vintage material of O’Day: versions of “Let’s Fall In Love” and “Boogie Blues,” as well as “Love For Sale” and “Trav’lin’ Light” with a Japanese big band. Also included are a lightning-quick “Tea For Two” and a sensuous “Nightingale Sang In Berkeley Square” from a 1963 Swedish performance. My personal favorite is a version of “Honeysuckle Rose” from a televised concert in Tokyo from 1963. The video quality is mediocre, but the performance is a swinging, joyous experience.

    May 22, 2010

    Jimmy Smith - "The Sermon" (1964)

    Jimmy Smith, organ; Quentin Warren, guitar; and Billy Hart, drums. From a BBC-TV broadcast.

    May 20, 2010

    This Week in Jazz History: May 20 to May 26

    May 20
    • Woody Herman’s Woodchoppers record “Pam” featuring trumpeter Sonny Berman, 1946.
    • Drummer Ralph Petersen born 1962 in Pleasantville, NJ.
    • Mills Blue Rhythm Band records “St. Louis Wiggle Rhythm” with trumpeter Henry "Red" Allen, 1935.
     May 21
    • Bassist Christian McBride born 1972 in Philadelphia, PA.
    • Pianist/vocalist Fats Waller born 1904 in New York City.
    • Trumpeter Kenny Dorham records But Beautiful with pianist Hank Jones, bassist Oscar Pettiford and drummer Max Roach, 1957.
     May 22
    • Pianist Dick Hyman records “Jelly and James P.,” a tribute to Morton and Johnson, 1975.
    • Alto saxophonist Ornette Coleman records “Lonely Woman” and “Congeniality,” 1959.
    • Pianist Sun Ra born 1914 in Birmingham, AL.
     May 23
    • Saxophonist John Coltrane records “Greensleeves” with a large ensemble including trumpeters Booker Little, Freddie Hubbard and reedman Eric Dolphy 1961.
    • Banjoist/guitarist Fred Guy born 1897 in Burkesville, GA.
    • Clarinetist Artie Shaw born 1910 in New York City.
     May 24
    • Tenor saxophonist Archie Shepp born 1937 in Fort Lauderdale, FL.
    • Historic jazz concert at New York’s Imperial Theater - including clarinetist Artie Shaw’s new band that featured a string section. 1936.
    • Tenor saxophonists John Coltrane and Sonny Rollins record Tenor Madness, 1956.
     May 25
    • Clarinetist/tenor saxophonist Jimmy Hamilton born 1917 in Dillon, SC.
    • Two trumpeters born - Miles Davis, 1926 in Alton, IL., and Wallace Roney, 1960 in Philadelphia, PA.
    • Saxophonists Benny Carter and Coleman Hawkins and trumpeter Roy Eldridge record “I Can’t Believe That You’re In Love With Me,” 1940.
     May 26
    • Trumpeter, bandleader, and composer Miles Davis born 1926 in Alton, IL.
    • Vocalist Peggy Lee born 1920 in Jamestown, ND.
    • Vibraphonist Lionel Hampton records Flying Home with a classic solo by tenor saxophonist Illinois Jacquet, 1942.
     Source: Smithsonian Jazz

    May 16, 2010

    John & Julie & Julia

    Julie & JuliaJulia Child made me a blogger.
         At the beginning of this year, I watched Julie & Julia. For those of you unfamiliar with the film, it concerns a young woman in Queens, Julie Powell (played by Amy Adams), who is feeling that her life has stagnated. To break out of her doldrums, she decides to cook her way through Julia Child’s tome, Mastering the Art of French Cooking, in the course of a year - 524 recipes in 365 days - and to blog about the experience. The movie then jumps back to Julia Child (played by Meryl Streep) in late-1940s Paris, who is also looking for something to do with her life. After several unsuccessful attempts at procuring an avocation, including hat making, she finally enrolls in the Cordon Bleu cooking school, where she sticks out like a broken drumstick as a tall, uncouth, loud American - who fearlessly attacks every cooking challenge.
         The story cuts back and forth between the stories of these two women, who both find fulfillment in their own ways in the act of cooking. Julia, after many struggles, writes her masterpiece and gets it published. Julie gains more and more followers for her blog, is profiled in the New York Times, and publishes a book about her year of cooking called Julie & Julia.
         The day after watching this film, I started this blog. I was truly inspired by the notion of sharing a passion - in my case, it happened to be jazz instead of Coq au Vin - by communicating with others online. And even though fame, fortune, and the New York Times have yet to come calling, I don’t regret it a bit. In fact, I’d like to encourage anyone reading this to start a blog. Whatever it is that you’re passionate about, share it. If you’re a visual artist, post your art. If you’re a musician, post your tunes. Writers, write. There’s an audience out there looking for you. And you’ll get to indulge your own sweet tooth for your subject every day. You can have your cake and blog about it too.

    May 14, 2010

    Happy Birthday, Sidney Bechet!

    Sidney Bechet, backed by Claude Bolling's rhythm section - "Premier Bal" (1958)

    May 13, 2010

    This Week in Jazz History: May 13 to May 19

    May 13
    • Pianist Red Garland born 1923 in Dallas, TX.
    • Louis Armstrong records “S.O.L. Blues,” 1927.
    • Arranger/composer Gil Evans born 1912 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, and records Priestess, 1977.
     May 14
    • Saxophonist/clarinetist Sidney Bechet born 1897 in New Orleans, LA.
    • Fletcher Henderson records “Wrappin’ It Up” 1934.
    • Drummer Zutty Singleton born 1898 in Bunkie, LA.
     May 15
    • Pianist Ellis Larkins born 1923 in Baltimore, MD.
    • Multi-instrumentalist/composer/bandleader Rahsaan Roland Kirk born 1936 in Columbus, OH.
    • Jazz at Massey Hall concert 1953 recorded - last reunion of trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie, alto saxophonist Charlie Parker, pianist Bud Powell, bassist Charles Mingus and drummer Max Roach.
     May 16
    • Reedman/bandleader Woody Herman born 1913 in Milwaukee, WI.
    • Clarinetist Jimmie Noone records “Four or Five Times” 1928 with pianist Earl Hines.
    • Vocalist Betty Carter born 1930 in Flint, MI.
     May 17
    • Alto saxophonist Jackie McLean born 1932 in New York, NY.
    • Trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie makes his first recordings (“King Porter Stomp”) with Teddy Hill’s band, 1937.
    • Tenor saxophonist Dewey Redman born 1931 in Fort Worth, TX.
     May 18
    • English bassist/composer Spike Hughes records with Benny Carter’s band 1933.
    • Bassist Pops Foster born 1892 in Mc Call, LA.
    • Vocalist Big Joe Turner born 1912 in Kansas City, MO.
     May 19
    • Count Basie records “Pound Cake” with classic solos by tenor saxophonist Lester Young and trumpeter Harry "Sweets" Edison, 1939.
    • Saxophonist Sonny Fortune born 1939 in Philadelphia, PA.
    • Vocalist Sarah Vaughan records “Nice Work If You Can Get It” with trumpeter Miles Davis, 1950.
     Source: Smithsonian Jazz

    May 11, 2010

    Jazz Poetry - "Dream Boogie"

    Dream Boogie by Langston Hughes

    Good morning, daddy!
    Ain't you heard
    The boogie-woogie rumble
    Of a dream deferred?
    Listen closely:
    You'll hear their feet
    Beating out and beating out a --
         You think
         It's a happy beat?
    Listen to it closely:
    Ain't you heard
    something underneath
    like a --
         What did I say?
         I'm happy!
         Take it away!
    Hey, pop!

    --From Montage of a Dream Deferred (1951)
    Note: Langston Hughes (1902 - 1967) was an American poet, novelist, and playwright. He was one of the innovators of so-called jazz poetry in the 1920s and 1930s. Jazz poetry came to mean language with jazz-like rhythm or improvisational feel, although early versions just made reference to jazz musicians, instruments, and locations. During the 1920s, the simultaneous development of new forms of poetry and jazz bursting onto the scene resulted in a kind of merging of the two art forms. Poets such as Hughes, who was part of the Harlem Renaissance movement, incorporated jazz rhythms and repetitive phrases into their poetry. The descendants of jazz poetry include Beat poetry and even today's live poetry slams.

    May 10, 2010

    Sonny Rollins - "St. Thomas" (1968)

    Sonny Rollins, tenor sax; Kenny Drew, piano; Niels-Henning Orsted Pedersen, bass; Albert "Tootie" Heath, drums.

    May 9, 2010

    New Release: Hot Club of Detroit - It’s About That Time

    It's About That TimeThis year is the centennial of Django Reinhardt's birth and the 76th anniversary of the formation of the original Quintette du Hot Club de France with Stephane Grappelli. From all appearances, the tradition of “gypsy jazz” is alive and well, and the Hot Club of Detroit is a prime example. They both honor the tradition and extend it in new directions. Formed by guitarist Evan Perri in 2003, the Hot Club of Detroit has been winning awards ever since, and their most recent album, It’s About That Time, demonstrates just how vital Django’s music remains to this day.
         The album gets off to a fast start with “On the Steps,” played at a blistering pace and with great facility. Other numbers such as “Noto Swing” and “Equilibrium” are also played “hot.” However, to my ear, while technically impressive, this leaves enjoyment of the tune itself lagging behind, and one wishes for a little more time to catch one’s breath. As with sex, speed of execution does not necessarily lead to the most satisfying experience.
         I much prefer the medium-tempo numbers and the slow swingers on the album, such as “Duke and Dukie” and “Patio Swing.” Here, the band members get to shine in extensive solos, and particular mention goes to Perri, accordionist Julien Labro, and Carl Cafagna on sax, who are all outstanding. Bassist Andrew Kratzat and rhythm guitarist Paul Brady keep things swinging for the drum-less quintet.
         The album includes songs written by Django, Charles Mingus (the funky "Nostalgia in Times Square"), and even Frédéric Chopin. But there is also a lot of terrific new material by members of the band, including the aforementioned “Patio Swing,” a quiet ballad called “Papillon,” and the edgy waltz "Sacre Bleu." If you are a fan of gypsy jazz and want to hear some of its contemporary permutations, check out It’s About That Time.

    May 6, 2010

    SFJAZZ Announces New Home

    Very exciting news for Bay Area jazz fans! The San Francisco Jazz Festival announced today that it will be building a new SFJAZZ Center to be the home of the festival. The new facility, on Franklin Street in the Hayes Valley neighborhood, will be a 35,000-square-foot transparent structure designed by renowned architect Mark Cavagnero. This will put SFJAZZ in the same neighborhood with the Conservatory of Music, Davies Symphony Hall, and the Opera House. The $60 million facility will include a state-of-the art 700-seat auditorium, a smaller 80-seat performance/education space, rehearsal rooms, a digital learning lab, advanced recording and broadcasting capabilities, and a cafe.
         “The SFJAZZ Center represents a major transformation for SFJAZZ,” said Srinija Srinivasan, Chair of the Board of Trustees. “It’s more than a new home for the organization; it represents a place where the world of jazz music and education can be expressed and enjoyed in all its diversity, by all its global characters. This American art form has gone around the world and come back again. The SFJAZZ Center is our way of giving it the home it deserves.”
         SFJAZZ is hoping to break ground on the new building in about a year. Watch the video announcement here.

    This Week in Jazz History: May 6 to May 12

    May 6
    • Cornetist/composer Bix Beiderbecke records “Riverboat Shuffle” with The Wolverines, 1924.
    • Bassist David Friesen born 1942 in Tacoma, WA.
    • Herbie Nichols records The Third World, his first album of his own music 1955
     May 7
    • Vocalist Sarah Vaughan records “If You Could See Me Now” with trumpeter Freddie Webster, 1946.
    • Saxophonist Herbie Steward born 1926 in Los Angeles, CA.
    • Saxophonist Ornette Coleman records Love Call, with Dewey Redman, Jimmy Garrison and Elvin Jones, 1968.
     May 8
    • Pianist Keith Jarrett born 1945 in Allentown, PA.
    • Pianist/composer Mary Lou Williams born 1910 in Atlanta, GA.
    • Pianist/vocalist Fats Waller records “I’m Gonna Sit Right Down and Write Myself A Letter,” 1936.
     May 9
    • Vocalist Billie Holiday records “God Bless The Child” with trumpeter Roy Eldridge, 1941.
    • Tenor saxophonist Sonny Rollins records “East Broadway Rundown” with Elvin Jones, Jimmy Garrison and Freddie Hubbard, 1965.
    • Trumpeter Miles Davis records “Dear Old Stockholm” 1952.
     May 10
    • Drummer/bandleader Mel Lewis born 1929 in Buffalo, NY.
    • Keyboardist Mike Melvoin born 1937 in Oshkosh, WI.
    • Louis Armstrong records “Potato Head Blues” 1927.
     May 11
    • Cornetist/bandleader born Joe "King" Oliver in New Orleans, LA., 1885.
    • Pianist/composer Carla Bley born 1938 in Oakland, CA.
    • Trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie and alto saxophonist Charlie Parker record “Shaw ’Nuff” 1945.
     May 12
    • Sauter-Finegan Orchestra records “Doodletown Fifers” 1952.
    • Bassist Gary Peacock born 1935 in Burley, ID.
    • Guitarist Charlie Christian is recorded in a jam session with Thelonious Monk and Kenny Clarke, and plays an extended solo on “Stompin’ At the Savoy,” 1941.
     Source: Smithsonian Jazz

    May 2, 2010

    A Groovin' Groover

    Organist Richard “Groove” Holmes (born May 2, 1931) must have been extremely fond of his nickname. Or the marketing people at the record labels he recorded for were just cashing in on his brand. For whatever reason, variations on the word groove appear in numerous album titles:
    • Groovin' with Jug (1961)
    • Blue Groove (1967)
    • The Groover! (1968)
    • Workin' on a Groovy Thing (1969)
    • New Groove (1974)
    • Groove's Groove (1991)
         Songs recorded with the same theme included “Groove’s Groove,” “Groovin for Mr. G,” and “Let’s Groove.” Holmes was firmly in the soul-jazz camp, with his playing characterized by articulate melodies in the upper registers and a pulsating bass - I hate to say it - groove laid down under other instrumentalists.
    Soul Message     Holmes first started recording in 1961, and probably his best-known tune was a version of “Misty” from the 1965 album Soul Message.  This is one of my favorite albums from Holmes - it also contains the doubly eponymous “Groove’s Groove” as well as a terrific version of Horace Silver’s “Song for My Father.”
         Holmes’ playing became funkier through the Sixties and Seventies. Some of his recordings showed a trend toward commercialization, which may have tainted his reputation somewhat. However, Holmes is credited with being one of the pioneers of acid jazz. In honor of that, the Beastie Boys included an organ track on their 1992 album Check Your Head called “Groove Holmes.” He died in 1991 after a long battle with prostate cancer.

    May 1, 2010

    Little Bird and Papa Mutt

    My previous post on Willis “Gator” Jackson entitled "Give 'Gator' Some Respect" tangentially brought up the subject of animal nicknames for jazz musicians. I was curious to see how many I could find and here’s the list:
    • Bird - Charlie Parker
    • Cat - William Alonzo Anderson
    • The Cat - Jimmy Smith
    • Duck - Donald Bailey
    • The Fox - Maynard Ferguson
    • Frog - Ben Webster
    • Gator - Willis Jackson
    • The Great Dane - Niels-Henning Ørsted Pedersen
    • The Hawk - Coleman Hawkins
    • The Lion - Willie Smith
    • Little Bird - Albert Ayler and Jimmy Heath
    • Mouse - Irving Randolph
    • Mousey - Elmer Alexander
    • Mule - Major Holley
    • Mutt or Papa Mutt - Tom Carey
    • Pony - Norwood Poindexter
    • The Rabbit - Johnny Hodges
    • The Stork - Paul Desmond
    • Tiger - George Haynes

    Now “Frog” for Ben Webster seems just a little cruel, and I don’t ever recall seeing him referred to by that nickname. Nor had I heard of Paul Desmond as “The Stork.” A few of these animals have actually flocked together for a working menagerie: certainly Cat and The Rabbit; Bird and The Hawk; Duck and The Cat; The Great Dane and Little Bird (Albert Ayler); and The Hawk and Mule.
         Can anyone think of other jazz musicians with animal nicknames?