December 30, 2010

This Week in Jazz History: December 30 to January 5

December 30
  • Pianist/arranger Jimmy Jones born 1918 in Memphis, TN.
  • Trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie records “Manteca,” with percussionist Chano Pozo, 1947.
  • Duke Ellington records “The Clothed Woman,” 1947.
December 31
  • Trumpeter Jonah Jones born 1909 in Louisville, KY.
  • Bassist John Kirby born 1908 in Baltimore, MD.
January 1
  • Vibraphonist Milt Jackson born 1923 in Detroit, MI.
  • Pianist Albert Ammons records "Shout for Joy," 1939."
  • Bassist Al McKibbon born 1919 in Chicago, IL.
January 2
  • Drummer Nick Fatool born 1915 in Milbury, MA.
  • Gene Krupa records "Blue Rhythm Fantasy," 1940.
  • Vocalist Arthur Prysock born 1929 in Spartanburg, SC.
January 3
  • Count Basie records Blues In The Dark, featuring vocalist Jimmy Rushing, 1938.
  • Pianist/composer Herbie Nichols born 1919 in New York, NY.
  • Alto saxophonist John Jenkins born 1931 in Chicago, IL.
January 4
  • Trumpeter Frankie Newton born 1906 in Emory, VA.
  • Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie record "What's The Matter Now?" with vocalist Rubberlegs Williams.
  • Saxophonist/flutist Frank Wess born 1922 in Kansas City, MO.
January 5
  • Cornetist "Wild" Bill Davison born 1906 in Defiance, OH.
  • In 1959, Trumpeter Blue Mitchell records Out of the Blue with Art Blakey, Wynton Kelly, Benny Goldson and Sam Jones.
  • Trumpeter Jerry Gonzalez born 1949 in New York, NY.

Source: Smithsonian Jazz

December 29, 2010

Jazz News: Pianist Billy Taylor Has Died

Jazz pianist Billy Taylor has died. Here's the story from the New York Times:

Billy Taylor, Jazz Pianist, Dies at 89

By Peter Keepnews

Billy Taylor, a pianist and composer who was also an eloquent spokesman and advocate for jazz as well as a familiar presence for many years on television and radio, died on Tuesday in Manhattan. More...

December 27, 2010

The Story Behind the Smile: Terry Teachout's "Pops"

I just finished reading Terry Teachout's biography of Louis Armstrong, Pops, which is now out in paperback, and can recommend it wholeheartedly. Teachout, the drama critic of the Wall Street Journal, had access to a lot of previously unavailable material on Armstrong, including over 650 reels of tape recordings made by "Satchmo" during the last two decades of his life. This provides a very intimate and fascinating look at the man behind the very public persona: his dope smoking, his marriages, his run-ins with the mob, his generosity, and his unadulterated joy in music.
     Armstrong was universally recognized as an artist who changed everything about jazz when he burst on the scene in the late 1920s. And he was also roundly criticized over the years for his on-stage and on-screen antics - a kind of fawning or clowning to please the audience - which many people, including other jazz musicians, considered demeaning or even "Uncle Tomming."
Pops: A Life of Louis Armstrong     What we see in the book is that Armstrong was very much a product of his time. He grew up in poverty in the New Orleans of the early twentieth century and he lived in a time when race was an everyday issue. Armstrong also grew up without the presence of a father, so he often had a father-like figure in his life that he relied on - other musicians such as Joe Oliver or his long-time manager Joe Glaser. So, there was an aspect to his personality that wanted to please others, but it was not some kind of showmanship he put on.
     We also see Armstrong the savvy career man. He made the conscious decision in the early Thirties to try to become more mainstream and, frankly, appeal to white audiences. This led to more emphasis on his singing and less on his trumpet playing and to a string of mostly forgettable movie appearances. His bands and musical arrangements for much of the decade were also primarily mediocre. It worked, and "Pops" became a crossover star.
     But the jazz world was moving along while he stood still. The Big Band era came and went and bebop came along in the Forties. Armstrong had a revival in the late Forties and Fifties when he switched to a small-group format. He toured relentlessly, but often played the same tunes every night. And then he had his biggest hit of all with "Hello, Dolly!" in the Sixties, which beat the Beatles' "Can't Buy Me Love" to be the most popular tune in America.
     Through it all, he played and audiences around the world fell in love with the sheer joy that came through in his performances. Armstrong never made a differentiation between art and showmanship - he was an unapologetic entertainer. But this is why his critics were so off the mark: there was nothing phony or fawning about "Pops"; it just wasn't in his DNA.

December 23, 2010

This Week in Jazz History: December 23 to December 29

December 23
  • Coleman Hawkins records “The Man I Love,” 1943.
  • The first Spirituals To Swing concert is held at Carnegie Hall, 1938.
  • Louis Armstrong records “Sweethearts on Parade,” 1930.
December 24
  • Drummer Warren ‘Baby’ Dodds born 1898 in New Orleans, LA.
  • Wayne Shorter records Speak No Evil, 1964.
  • Miles Davis and Thelonious Monk record “Bag’s Groove,” 1954.
December 25
  • Trombonist/bandleader Kid Ory born 1886 in La Place, LA.
  • Pianist/organist/composer Don Pullen born 1941 in Roanoke, VA.
  • Bandleader/singer Cab Calloway born 1907 in Rochester, NY.
December 26
  • Bassist Monty Budwig born 1929 in Pender, NE.
  • Tenor saxophonist John Coltrane records “Do I Love You Because You’re Beautiful?” with trumpeter Freddie Hubbard, 1958.
  • Guitarist John Scofield born 1951 in Dayton, OH.
December 27
  • Tenor saxophonist Ben Webster records “Old Folks” with alto saxophonist Benny Carter and bassist John Kirby.
  • Bassist/author Bill Crow born 1927 in Othello, WA.
  • Pianist Walter Norris born 1931 in Little Rock, AR.
December 28
  • Bassist/composer Charles Mingus records “Changes I” with trumpeter Jack Walrath, tenor saxophonist George Adams, pianist Don Pullen, and drummer Dannie Richmond, 1974.
  • Lester Young records first session as a leader (“Sometimes I’m Happy”), 1943.
  • Two pianists born: Earl Hines 1903 in Duquesne, PA, and Michel Petrucciani 1962 in Orange, France.
December 29
  • Tenor saxophonist Joe Lovano born 1952 in Cleveland, OH.
  • Pianist Art Tatum records “Without A Song,” 1953.
  • Snub Mosely born 1909 in Little Rock, AR.

Source: Smithsonian Jazz

December 20, 2010

Jazz News: A New Addition to the Louis Armstrong House Museum

A story in the Wall Street Journal provides details about a planned new visitor's center at the Louis Armstrong House Museum in Corona, Queens. It will house the entire Armstrong collection.

What a Wonderful House
In Queens, the Louis Armstrong House Museum Trumpets Its Namesake Anew
By Will Friedwald

Louis Armstrong has been gone for nearly 40 years, but there's still little doubt that he is regarded as the single most important figure in jazz, and perhaps all of American music. More...

Harold Land - A West Coaster Worth Surfing For

Hard bop saxophonist Harold Land (1928 - 2001) grew up in San Diego and started playing saxophone at the age of 16. He recorded some early sides as a leader in the late 1940s, but he really came into his own in 1954 when he joined the famous Clifford Brown/Max Roach quintet. He toured and recorded with the group for a couple of years before returning to Los Angeles to be with his family.
     Land remains lesser known because he spent his career on the West Coast, although his playing style does not fit the conventional definition of West Coast jazz. Rather, he falls well within the hard bop school. His tone was strong but had a somewhat melancholy edge to it, which added glints of emotion and even a certain vulnerability to his playing.
West Coast Blues     In Los Angeles, he recorded with the likes of Curtis Counce on You Get More Bounce with Curtis Counce! (1956) and with Red Mitchell. In 1958, his leader date Harold in the Land of Jazz was released by Contemporary Records chased by The Fox the following year. One of my personal favorite Land albums, West Coast Blues!, was released in 1960. It was recorded in San Francisco, with Wes Montgomery on guitar, Joe Gordon on trumpet, and the rhythm section from Cannonball Adderley's quintet (Barry Harris, Sam Jones, and Louis Hayes). The title number is a good sample of the excellent playing throughout.
     In the late 1960s, he formed a group with vibes player Bobby Hutcherson, which recorded several albums with Blue Note Records. From this period onward, his playing took on a new level of intensity, which Land himself ascribed to the influence of John Coltrane. In the 1980s and 1990s, he toured with the Timeless All-Stars, sponsored by the jazz label of the same name. This group included Hutcherson, Cedar Walton on piano, and Curtis Fuller on trombone. Land was also a professor in the University of California, Los Angeles, Jazz Studies Program, along with guitarist Kenny Burrell. He died of a stroke in 2001.

For more on West Coast jazz, see "Sand, Surf, and Sax: West Coast Jazz Album Covers."

December 18, 2010

Eddie Condon All Stars - "Royal Garden Blues" (1964)

From a 1964 television broadcast, "Salute to Eddie Condon," on ABC. With 'Wild' Bill Davison (cornet), Edmund Hall (clarinet), Cutty Cutshall (trombone), Willie "The Lion" Smith (piano), Al Hall (bass), and George Wettling (drums).

December 16, 2010

This Week in Jazz History: December 16 to December 22

December 16
  • Vocalist Sarah Vaughan records “You’re Not The Kind” with trumpeter Clifford Brown and pianist Jimmy Jones, 1954.
  • Jelly Roll Morton’s Red Hot Peppers record “Grandpa’s Spells,” 1926.
  • Saxophonist Joe Farrell born 1937 in Chicago Heights, IL.
December 17
  • Pianist Bud Powell records A Portrait of Thelonious with drummer Kenny Clarke, 1961.
  • Alto saxophonist Charlie Parker records “Crazeology” with drummer Max Roach and trumpeter Miles Davis, 1947.
  • Arranger Sy Oliver born 1910 in Battle Creek, MI.
December 18
  • Jimmie Lunceford records “Rhythm Is Our Business,” 1934.
  • Two saxophonists born: Eddie ‘Cleanhead’ Vinson 1917 and Harold Land 1928, both in Houston, TX.
  • Bandleader/arranger Fletcher Henderson born 1897 in Cuthbert, GA.
December 19
  • Drummer Lenny White born 1949 in New York, NY.
  • Trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie records Sonny Side Up with tenor saxophonists Sonny Rollins and Sonny Stitt, 1957.
  • Valve trombonist and composer Bob Brookmeyer born 1929 in Kansas City, MO.
December 20
  • Clarinetist Sidney Bechet records “Blue Horizon,” 1944.
  • Saxophonist Arne Domnerus born 1924 in Stockholm, Sweden.
  • Pianist Larry Willis born 1940 in New York, NY.
December 21
  • Drummer Panama Francis born 1918 in Miami, FL.
  • Ornette Coleman Double Quartet records Free Jazz, 1960.
  • Composer/conductor/cellist/trombonist David Baker born 1931 in Indianapolis, IN.
December 22
  • Red Onion Jazz Babies record “Cake Walking Babies From Home,” with trumpeter Louis Armstrong and soprano saxophonist Sidney Bechet, 1924.
  • Pianist Ronnie Ball born 1927 in Birmingham, England.
  • Four bands record, 1947 - Stan Kenton (“Interlude”), Dizzy Gillespie (“Woody ’n’ You”), Duke Ellington (“On a Turquoise Cloud”), and Fats Navarro/Dexter Gordon (“Index”).

Source: Smithsonian Jazz

December 14, 2010

In the Mood for James Moody

At the Jazz WorkshopOn hearing of the recent death of saxophonist and flutist James Moody, many casual jazz listeners may be seeking out his music for the first time. One of my personal favorite albums of his is At the Jazz Workshop (GRP, 1961), recorded here in San Francisco, which I believe serves as a wonderful sampling of Moody's many talents. The recording is a live date that emphasizes the blues but also incorporates some fine ballad playing. The ensemble is a septet - Moody, Musa Kaleem (baritone saxophone), Howard McGhee (trumpet), Bernard McKinney (trombone), Sonny Donaldson (piano), Steve Davis (bass), Arnold Enlow (drums) - with Eddie Jefferson chiming in on three vocal numbers. The band plays with a terrific full sound and Moody is the featured soloist throughout, playing on alto and tenor sax as well as flute. Particularly fine tunes include the swinging "Bloozey," "The Jazz Twist," and "Bunny Boo." Ballads include "It Might As Well Be Spring" and "Round Midnight." And the album finishes with a remake of Moody's surprise hit "Moody's Mood For Love," with a playful vocal from Jefferson. Highly recommended.

December 9, 2010

Jazz News: James Moody Has Died

Sad news out of San Diego today - jazz saxophonist James Moody has died. Here's the story from USA Today:

Jazz Saxophone Giant James Moody Has Died at 85
Acclaimed jazz saxophonist James Moody died this afternoon of pancreatic cancer at a San Diego hospice, the San Diego Union-Tribune is reporting. He was 85 and had lived in the city for more than 20 years.  More...

This Week in Jazz History: December 9 to December 15

December 9
  • Two trumpeters born: Donald Byrd 1932 in Detroit, MI, and Jimmy Owens 1943 in New York, NY.
  • The John Coltrane Quartet records A Love Supreme, 1964.
  • Louis Armstrong records “Struttin’ With Some Barbecue,” 1927.
December 10
  • Trumpeter/violinist Ray Nance born 1913 in Chicago, IL.
  • Clarinetist Irving Fazola born 1912 in New Orleans, LA.
  • Bassist Bob Cranshaw born 1932 in Evanston, IL.
December 11
  • Duke Ellington records “The Controversial Suite,” 1951.
  • Tenor saxophonist Coleman Hawkins records “Angel Face” with pianist Hank Jones, 1947.
  • Pianist McCoy Tyner born 1938 in Philadelphia, PA.
December 12
  • Pianist Earl Hines records “Fifty-Seven Varieties,” 1928.
  • Vocalist Joe Williams born 1918 in Cordele, GA.
  • Drummer Tony Williams born 1945 in Chicago, IL.
December 13
  • Drummer Sonny Greer born 1895 in Long Beach, NJ.
  • Louis Armstrong records “Hotter Than That,” 1927.
  • Bennie Moten’s band makes its last recordings, including “Moten Swing,” featuring pianist Count Basie, tenor saxophonist Ben Webster, trumpeter Hot Lips Page, and arranger/guitarist Eddie Durham, 1932.
December 14
  • Trumpeter Clark Terry born 1920 in St. Louis, MO.
  • Jelly Roll Morton records “King Porter Stomp,” 1939.
  • Two saxophonists born: Budd Johnson 1910 in Dallas, TX, and Cecil Payne 1922 in Brooklyn, NY.
December 15
  • Bandleader/composer Stan Kenton born 1911 in Wichita, KS.
  • Drummer Dannie Richmond born 1935 in New York, NY.
  • Pianist Cecil Taylor and drummer Max Roach record a duo concert at Columbia University, 1979.

Source: Smithsonian Jazz

December 8, 2010

Happy Birthday, Jimmy Smith!

Jimmy Smith is the acknowledged master of the Hammond B-3 organ. In fact, the B-3 is the only instrument in jazz on which you'd find so little disagreement about who was the greatest player. And Smith took up the instrument relatively late.
     Smith was born on this date in 1925 (although some members of his family claimed he was actually three years younger) in Norristown, Pennsylvania, a suburb of Philadelphia. Both his parents were pianists, and young Jimmy took up that instrument as well. He joined the Navy in World War Two, where he played both piano and bass in segregated band. After his discharge, Smith attended the Hamilton and Ornstein schools of music in Philadelphia, studying piano and bass while working jobs in construction and on the railroad.
     In 1951, he was playing rhythm-and-blues piano with Don Gardner's Sonotones and toying with the idea of playing the B-3 organ. That's when he heard Wild Bill Davis, the "organ king" of the day, playing at an Atlantic City club and Smith knew he had to make the switch. He bought his first organ in 1954 and kept it in a Philadelphia warehouse, where he practiced on it.
Midnight Special (Reis)     In January 1956, Smith made his debut in New York City at Small's Paradise in Harlem, then he made a splash at the 1957 Newport Jazz Festival, and the rest is history. He started recording with Blue Note Records shortly afterward with the hit A New Sound, a New Star: Jimmy Smith at the Organ, and he made over 30 additional albums for the label, including The Sermon! (1958), Midnight Special (1960), Back at the Chicken Shack (also 1960), and Prayer Meetin' (1963).
     Smith played a winning combination of R&B-inflected blues and bop in an earthy groove that came to be called the "Philadelphia sound." He had a very percussive fingering attack on the organ and emphasized certain notes in the lower ranges much like someone playing a string bass. Before Smith, the organ got little respect in the jazz world - his appearance on the scene changed everything.
     He switched to Verve Records in the 1960s, with whom he recorded over 30 more albums. He worked with many of the great jazz musicians of the day, including Kenny Burrell, Grant Green, Stanley Turrentine, Lee Morgan, Lou Donaldson, Tina Brooks, and Jackie McLean. In the 1970s, Smith took a break from touring and opened an supper club in Los Angeles, where he regularly played. But in the 1980s and 1990s, he started recording and touring again, right up to his death in 2005. In his final year, Smith was awarded the NEA Jazz Masters Award from the National Endowment for the Arts.
     One of my favorite albums of Smith's is the aforementioned Midnight Special, where a quiet, swinging groove is maintained throughout by Kenny Burrell on guitar, Stanley Turrentine on sax, and Donald Bailey on drums. Here is a video of Smith playing the title tune from that album live in 1992.

December 5, 2010

Louis Armstrong - "Mack the Knife" (1959)

From a concert in Stuttgart, Germany. Louis Armstrong on trumpet and vocals, Trummy Young on trombone, Peanuts Hucko on clarinet, Billy Kyle on piano, Mort Herbert on bass, and Danny Barcelona on drums.

December 2, 2010

This Week in Jazz History: December 2 to December 8

December 2
  • Vocalist Sylvia Syms born 1917 in New York, NY.
  • Composer/arranger Eddie Sauter born 1914 in New York, NY.
  • Two pianists born: Wynton Kelly 1931 in Jamaica, and Ronnie Mathews 1935 in New York, NY.
December 3
  • Tenor saxophonist Booker Ervin records The Freedom Book with pianist Jaki Byard, 1963.
  • Valve Trombonist/arranger Brad Gowans born 1903 in Billerica, MA.
  • Alto saxophonist Benny Carter plays and sings his composition “Goodbye Blues” with The Chocolate Dandies, 1930.
December 4
  • Guitarist Jim Hall born 1930 in Buffalo, NY.
  • Duke Ellington records “Daybreak Express,” 1933.
  • Duke Ellington’s band historic opening at New York’s Cotton Club, 1927.
December 5
  • Bassist Art Davis born 1934 in Harrisburg, PA.
  • Louis Armstrong and pianist Earl Hines record their duet “Weatherbird,” 1928.
  • The BeBop Boys, featuring trumpeter Fats Navarro, record Nostalgia, 1947.
December 6
  • Guitarist Remo Palmier born 1923 in New York, NY.
  • Bassists Slam Stewart and Major Holley record “Shut Yo’ Mouth!” 1981.
  • Pianist/composer Dave Brubeck born 1920 in Concord, CA.
December 7
  • The Casa Loma Orchestra records “Casa Loma Stomp,” 1930.
  • Bandleader Teddy Hill born 1909 in Birmingham, AL.
  • Pianist Matthew Shipp born 1960 in Wilmington, DE.
December 8
  • Organist Jimmy Smith born 1925 in Norristown, PA.
  • Louis Armstrong records “That’s My Home” with drummer Chick Webb’s band, 1932.
  • The Sound of Jazz is broadcast live, setting a standard for jazz television that has yet to be equaled, 1957.

Source: Smithsonian Jazz

December 1, 2010

A Groovier Thing - Dizzy for President!

With the midterm elections behind us and the rumors and prognostications already starting for the presidential election of 2012, let’s hope and pray for an inspiring candidate like the one we had in 1964. No, not Barry Goldwater or Lyndon B. Johnson - I mean John Birks “Dizzy” Gillespie!
     Dizzy’s presidential run began as something of a lark, and it never really developed much beyond that stage. A bunch of “Dizzy Gillespie for President” buttons had been created several years before for an unrelated publicity campaign. Jean Gleason, the wife of jazz critic Ralph Gleason, seems to have been the chief instigator of the campaign, mainly out of a desire for an alternative to the arch-conservative Goldwater other than LBJ. As Dizzy stated, “I was the only choice for the thinking man.”
     She organized college rallies in California - at the University of the Pacific, San Francisco State, U.C. Berkeley, and elsewhere - and attempted to get Dizzy’s name on the ballot. There was even a “Dizzy for President” birthday ball on October 21, 1963, at Basin Street West in San Francisco. At a rally in East Menlo Park, Dizzy’s official campaign song was unveiled. Sung to the tune “Salt Peanuts,” it included the following lyrics:

Your politics ought to be a groovier thing
Vote Dizzy! Vote Dizzy!
So get a good President who’s willing to swing
Vote Dizzy! Vote Dizzy!

     By 1964, his fans formed the John Birks Society, a takeoff on the radical right-wing John Birch Society, which was prominent at the time. The John Birks Society was active in 25 states. Asked why he, a jazz musician, was running for president, Dizzy replied, “Because we need one.” But as the civil rights movement began to pick up steam, Dizzy and his followers saw the campaign as something a little more substantial - a chance, at least, to show support. Proceeds from Dizzy’s presidential paraphernalia went to civil rights groups like CORE (Congress of Racial Equality) and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference.
     “Anybody coulda made a better President than the ones we had in those times,” wrote Gillespie in To Be, or Not ... to Bop, “dillydallying about protecting blacks in the exercise of their civil and human rights and carrying on secret wars against people around the world.”
Dizzy for President (Dig)     His platform included strengthening equal opportunity laws, free education for everybody, diplomatic recognition of China (he was way ahead of his time on this one), a national lottery to replace the income tax, and an end to the war in Vietnam. He thought NASA should have at least one black astronaut. On the less serious side, Dizzy promised that his first executive order if elected president would be to change the name of the White House to the “Blues House.” And he proposed the creation of civil service nightclubs, where musicians would actually be government workers and could play and get paid regularly (a federal bebop/Dixieland playing time ratio would probably need to be determined annually).
     For his cabinet, Dizzy proposed getting rid of the title “Secretary” and replacing it with the more dignified “Minister.” Miles Davis would head the CIA, Max Roach would be Minister of Defense, Charles Mingus as Minister of Peace, Ray Charles would head the Library of Congress, Peggy Lee as Ministress of Labor, Malcolm X as Attorney General, Duke Ellington as Minister of State, and Thelonious Monk as Roving Ambassador Plenipotentiary. (This last appointment is the only one that could be said to have come to pass.)
     Eventually, the whole thing sort of fizzled out, but not before making some serious points and having a lot of fun along the way. Gillespie did finally make it to the White House in 1978, where he sang “Salt Peanuts” (presumably with the original lyrics) for President Jimmy Carter.