February 27, 2011

Happy Birthday, Dexter Gordon!

Dexter Gordon playing (and reciting) "What's New" in Holland, 1964, with George Gruntz on piano, Guy Pedersen on bass, and Daniel Humair on drums.

February 24, 2011

This Week in Jazz History: February 24 to March 2

February 24
  • Keith Jarrett records Fort Yawuh live at the Village Vanguard, 1973.
  • Saxophonist David “Fathead” Newman born 1933 in Dallas, TX.
  • Pianist/composer Michel Legrand born 1932 in Paris, France.
February 25
  • Reedman Eric Dolphy records Out to Lunch, 1964.
  • Trombonist Ake Persson born 1932 in Hassleholm, Sweden.
  • Duke Ellington records The Queen’s Suite (of which only one copy is made and given to the Queen of England), 1959.
February 26
  • Louis Armstrong records the first jazz scat vocal “Heebie Jeebies,” 1926.
  • Tenor saxophonist Flip Phillips born 1915 in Brooklyn, NY.
  • Count Basie records “Avenue C” with Shadow Wilson on drums, 1945.
February 27
  • Tenor saxophonist Dexter Gordon born 1923 in Los Angeles, CA.
  • Pianist Erroll Garner records The One and Only, 1953.
  • Bassist Oscar Pettiford and drummer Max Roach record “There’ll Never Be Another You” as a duet, 1958.
February 28
  • Vocalist Mildred Bailey records “Downhearted Blues” with the John Kirby Sextet, 1939.
  • Percussionist Willie Bobo born 1934 in New York, NY.
  • Violin Svend Asmussen born 1916 in Copenhagen, Denmark
March 1
  • Trombonist Benny Powell born 1930 in New Orleans, LA.
  • Pianist Geri Allen records Eyes In The Back of Your Head with Steve Coleman, 1996.
  • Pianist Fats Waller records his piano solo “Handful of Keys,” 1929.
March 2
  • Saxophonist/composer/trumpeter Benny Carter records Central City Sketches with The American Jazz Orchestra, 1987.
  • Tenor saxophonist Eddie Lockjaw Davis born 1922 in New York, NY.
  • Trumpeter Miles Davis records Kind of Blue, the best-selling jazz album of all time, 1959.
Source: Smithsonian Jazz

February 21, 2011

Happy Birthday, Nina Simone!

Singing and playing "Love Me or Leave Me" - complete with an instrumental interpolation of J.S. Bach's "Fugue in C Major" - on The Ed Sullivan Show, 1960.

February 18, 2011

Vintage Dizzy

Jazz Icons: Dizzy Gillespie Live in '58 and '70Dizzy Gillespie: Live in '58 & '70 (2006), part of the Jazz Icons series of DVDs, presents another gem with these two concerts of Dizzy Gillespie. In the earlier date from Belgium, Gillespie is in a small group setting - a fantastic quintet with Sonny Stitt on sax, Lou Levy on piano, Ray Brown on bass, and Gus Johnson on drums. The hip repertoire includes “Blues After Dark” (penned by Benny Golson), “Blues Walk” (Clifford Brown’s ultra-cool favorite), and the standard “Cocktails for Two.” Gillespie is his ebullient self throughout, but it is Stitt who gets the chance to shine, blowing some powerful solos on tenor. He is featured on a wonderful torchy version of “Lover Man.” Dizzy and Sonny belt out a comical vocal on “On the Sunny Side of the Street.”

The 1970 date is from Denmark, where we see Dizzy fronting the Francy Boland/Kenny Clarke Big Band. In addition to Boland on piano and Clarke on drums, the group included, among others, Billie Mitchell and Ronnie Scott on tenor sax; Art Farmer and Idrees Sulieman on trumpet; Jimmy Woode on bass; and Sahib Shihab on baritone. The band may be big, but they produce a wonderfully tight sound on some complex blues and bop arrangements. Gillespie is at ease blowing on all. A couple of Gillespie originals are featured, his Afro-Cuban influenced “Con Alma” and “Manteca.” A special highlight is a smoky, noirish version of Jimmy Woode’s “Now Hear My Meanin’.”

Throughout, the visuals are excellent and intimately close to the performers. The sound is crisp and crackling. Here's a sample - "Blues After Dark" from the 1958 gig.

February 17, 2011

This Week in Jazz History: February 17 to February 23

February 17
  • Ruby Braff and Ellis Larkins record their first duo album, 1955.
  • Clarinetist Buddy DeFranco born 1923 in Camden, NJ.
  • Trumpeter Henry “Red” Allen records “You Might Get Better, But You’ll Never Get Well,” 1930.
February 18
  • Trumpeter Miles Davis records In A Silent Way, 1969, with pianist Chick Corea, Herbie Hancock, and Joe Zawinul.
  • Vocalist Billie Holiday records Lady In Satin, 1958.
  • Drummer Frank Butler born 1928 in Kansas City, MO.
February 19
  • Saxophonist/composer/bandleader David Murray born 1955 in Berkeley, CA.
  • Tenor saxophonist Gene Ammons and Sonny Stitt record Soul Summit, 1962.
February 20
  • Pianist/composer Anthony Davis born 1951 in Paterson, NJ.
  • Vocalist Ethel Waters records “Sugar,” 1926.
  • Pianist/arranger Phil Moore born 1918 in Portland, OR.
February 21
  • Composer/pianist Tadd Dameron born 1917 in Cleveland, OH.
  • Drummer Art Blakey’s Quintet with trumpeter Clifford Brown records Live at Birdland, 1954.
  • Vocalist Nina Simone born 1933 in Tryon, NC.
February 22
  • Cornetist Rex Stewart born 1907 in Philadelphia, PA.
  • Trumpeter Joe Wilder born 1922 in Colwyn, PA.
  • Tenor saxophonist Buddy Tate born 1913 in Sherman, TX.
February 23
  • Clarinetist Pee Wee Russell and tenor saxophonist Coleman Hawkins record Jazz Reunion, 1961.
  • Oliver Nelson records The Blues and the Abstract Truth, 1961, with Eric Dolphy, Freddie Hubbard, and Bill Evans.
  • Trumpeter/composer John Carisi born 1922 in Hasbrouck Heights, NJ.
Source: Smithsonian Jazz

February 14, 2011

Jazz News: George Shearing Has Died

Jazz pianist and composer George Shearing has died at the age of 91. Here's the story in the New York Times:

George Shearing, 'Lullaby of Birdland' Jazz Virtuoso, Dies at 91
By Peter Keepnews

George Shearing, the British piano virtuoso who overcame blindness to become a worldwide jazz star, and whose composition “Lullaby of Birdland” became an enduring jazz standard, died on Monday in Manhattan. He was 91. More...

February 13, 2011

Jazz News: 2011 Jazz Grammy Winners

Winners of the 2011 Grammy Awards in the jazz categories were announced tonight before the telecast. Jazz Times has a list of the winners.

Jazz Grammy Winners Presented in LA
Stanley Clarke, James Moody, Herbie Hancock and Dee Dee Bridgewater among winners
By Lee Mergner

In a pre-telecast ceremony held in Los Angeles today, the winners in nearly 100 categories were announced. Included in there were the jazz categories, in which Stanley Clarke, Dee Dee Bridgewater, Billy Childs, Herbie Hancock, Chucho Valdes and the late James Moody were among the winners. More...

UPDATE: The Best New Artist award went to Justin Bieber Esperanza Spalding!

Happy Birthday, Wingy Manone!

Trumpeter, singer, and composer Joseph “Wingy” Manone was born on this date in 1900. As a boy in New Orleans, he lost an arm as a result of a streetcar accident, but this didn’t stop him from taking up a musical instrument. His nickname has to rank as a bit of gallows humor, although Manone’s 1948 autobiography was entitled Trumpet on the Wing. He used a prosthetic arm so naturally when playing trumpet that his disability was not immediately noticeable.

He first played professionally around New Orleans and then took to the road in the 1920s, playing with bands from coast to coast. His performance style was somewhat reminiscent of Louis Prima - hot and fast trumpet playing and vocals sung in a rough, gravelly voice. He played on a few early Benny Goodman recordings and his band had steady radio work in the 1930s. He also appeared in the film Rhythm on the River (1940), starring Bing Crosby and Mary Martin as musical ghostwriters.

As a composer, Manone’s tunes include “Tar Paper Stomp,” “There'll Come a Time (Wait and See)” (with Miff Mole; the song was recently used on the soundtrack of The Curious Case of Benjamin Button), “Downright Disgusted Blues” (with Bud Freeman), and “Tailgate Ramble” (with Johnny Mercer). Manone played mostly in California and in Las Vegas from the 1950s onward, but he also continued to tour worldwide. He died in 1982.

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.

Here is some rare footage of “Wingy” Manone performing.

February 12, 2011

Jazz News: U.S. Postal Service Jazz Stamp Revealed

Later this year, the U.S. Postal Service will begin selling a postage stamp honoring jazz music. Here is the design and the press announcement from the USPS website.

Jazz Appreciation
With this stamp, the U.S. Postal Service is proud to pay tribute to jazz, America’s musical gift to the world, and to the musicians who play it in studios, clubs, or concert halls, and on festival stages.

Jazz developed originally as an innovative combination of European, American, and African influences. It first flowered near the dawn of the 20th century in New Orleans, LA, where Africans from various places mixed with native-born Americans of diverse ancestry as well as Europeans and people from the islands of the Caribbean. This unique blend of cultures gave rise to a distinctive musical expression—and the blending process has continued, with jazz incorporating further influences from Latin, Asian, and African cultures.

Major jazz figures include composers such as Louis Armstrong, Jelly Roll Morton, Duke Ellington, Billy Strayhorn, and Thelonious Monk; singers such as Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald, and Sarah Vaughan; and innovative musicians such as Lester Young, John Coltrane, Dizzy Gillespie, Charlie Parker, Bud Powell, Bill Evans, Miles Davis, and Ornette Coleman — all internationally admired.

Art director Howard Paine designed the stamp to showcase the work of Paul Rogers, an artist living in Pasadena, CA. In creating the art for the stamp, originally using ink on paper and then finishing his work digitally, Rogers explored the way images could become a visual equivalent of jazz music. He was inspired by the cover art from vintage jazz record albums—work that captured the music’s improvisational quality while built on a clear understanding of its underlying structure.

February 11, 2011

Louis Armstrong and Rex Harrison - "Now You Has Jazz" (1957)

Rex Harrison scat singing? This is an unlikely pairing to be sure, but quite a bit of fun to watch. (Kudos to Terry Teachout for discovering this gem.)

February 10, 2011

This Week in Jazz History: February 10 to February 16

February 10
  • Drummer/bandleader Chick Webb born 1909 in Baltimore, MD.
  • Pianist Sir Roland Hanna born 1932 in Detroit, MI.
  • Ornette Coleman records his first album Something Else!!!, 1958.
February 11
  • Guitarist/vocalist Josh White born 1908 in Greenville, MS.
  • Bing Crosby records “St. Louis Blues” with Duke Ellington’s Orchestra, 1932.
  • Benny Carter records The King with vibraphonist Milt Jackson and pianist Tommy Flanagan, 1976.
February 12
  • Vocalist Mahalia Jackson records “Come Sunday” with Duke Ellington, 1958.
  • Pianist/composer Mel Powell born 1923 in New York, NY.
  • Baritone saxophonist Lars Gullin records Holiday for Piano in Stockholm, 1953.
February 13
  • Trumpeter Wingy Manone born 1900 in New Orleans, LA.
  • Stan Getz and Charlie Byrd record Brazilian music for the first time, 1962.
  • Tenor saxophonist Wardell Gray born 1921 in Oklahoma City, OK.
February 14
  • Tenor saxophonist Pharoah Sanders records The Creator Has A Master Plan, 1969.
  • Tenor saxophonist Sonny Rollins records the title track of his classic album The Bridge, 1962.
  • Pianist Perry Bradford born 1893 in Montgomery, AL.
February 15
  • Saxophonist/composer Henry Threadgill born 1944 in Chicago, IL.
  • Composer Harold Arlen born 1905 in Buffalo, NY.
  • Duke Ellington records “Blue Serge,” 1941.
February 16
  • Renee Rosnes records For The Moment with Steve Wilson and Joe Henderson 1990.
  • Pianist/organist Bill Doggett born 1916 in Philadelphia, PA.
  • Bessie Smith makes her first recording, “Downhearted Blues,” 1923.
Source: Smithsonian Jazz

February 9, 2011

Jazz News: New Coltrane Tracks

Down Beat magazine reports that three new John Coltrane tracks are to be released.

New John Coltrane Tracks Discovered

Three previously unheard and unreleased John Coltrane tracks have been discovered and will be made available in April on First Impulse: The Creed Taylor Collection (Impulse/Universal), a four-CD set that celebrates the 50th anniversary of Impulse Records. More...

Jazz News: Jazz Grammy Nominees

The Grammy Awards are being presented this Sunday, February 13th. The Voice of America News has a rundown of this year's jazz nominees.

Jazz Grammy Nominees Include Lorber, Clarke, Moody
by Doug Levine

The 53rd Annual Grammy Awards will be held in Los Angeles, California on February 13. Here are this year’s nominees in jazz. More...

February 7, 2011

Jazz Poetry - “One O'Clock Jump”

One O’Clock Jump by Paul Zimmer

Still tingling with Basie’s hard cooking,
between sets I stood at the bar
when the man next to me ordered
scotch and milk. I looked to see who had
this stray taste and almost swooned
when I saw it was the master.
Basie knocked his shot back,
then, when he saw me gaping,
raised his milk to my peachy face
and rolled out his complete smile
before going off with friends
to leave me in that state of grace.

A year later I was renting rooms
from a woman named Tillie who wanted
no jazz in her dank, unhallowed house.
Objecting even to lowest volume of solo piano,
she’d puff upstairs to bang on my door.

I grew opaque, unwell,
slouched to other apartments,
begging to play records.
Duked, dePrezed, and unBased,
longing for Billy, Monk, Brute, or Zoot,
I lived in silence through
that whole lost summer.

Still, aware of divine favor, I bided time
and waited for the day of reckoning.
My last night in Tillie’s godless house,
late - when I knew she was hard asleep -
I gave her the full One O’Clock Jump,
having Basie ride his horse of perfect time
like an avenging angel over top volume,
hoisting his scotch and milk as he galloped
into Tillie’s ear, headlong down her throat
to roar all night in her sulphurous organs.

--From Crossing to Sunlight Revisited (University of Georgia Press, 2007)

Note: American poet and editor Paul Zimmer was born in Canton, Ohio, in 1934. Admirably, he flunked out of college and worked in a steel mill instead. In the mid-1950s, he was a journalist in the U.S. Army. It was the boredom and loneliness of Army life that led him to discover his love of reading and eventually writing. Zimmer published his first book, the darkly titled The Ribs of Death, in 1967, and the following year he finally received his Bachelor’s degree at Kent State. Other notable books include The Great Bird of Love (1989) and After the Fire: A Writer Finds His Place (2002). As an editor, he has directed the university presses at Georgia, Iowa, and Pittsburgh.

February 3, 2011

This Week in Jazz History: February 3 to February 9

February 3
  • Trumpeter Snooky Young born 1919 in Dayton, Ohio.
  • The Art Ensemble of Chicago records Thelonious Sphere Monk with Cecil Taylor, 1990.
  • Trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie and Count Basie record The Gifted Ones, 1977.
February 4
  • Count Basie records “Jive at Five” (featuring Lester Young), 1939.
  • Frank Trumbauer and Bix Beiderbecke record “Singin’ The Blues,” 1927.
  • Pianist Wade Legge born 1934 in Huntington, WV.
February 5
  • Edmond Hall Celeste Quartet (with guitarist Charlie Christian) records “Profoundly Blue,” 1941.
  • Pianist Rozelle Claxton born 1913 in Memphis, TN.
  • Gil Evans records Pacific Standard Time, 1959.
February 6
  • Bob Crosby’s Bob Cats record “Spain,” 1940.
  • Trumpeter Howard McGhee born 1918 in Tulsa, OK.
  • Alto saxophonist Cannonball Adderley records “Sophisticated Swing” with Junior Mance, Sam Jones, and Jimmy Cobb.
February 7
  • Pianist Eubie Blake born 1883 in Baltimore, MD.
  • Tenor saxophonist Johnny Griffin records Change of Pace with French hornist Julius Watkins, 1961.
  • Tenor saxophonist Hank Mobley records Soul Station, 1960.
February 8
  • Vibraphonist Lionel Hampton records the first of his All-Star sessions, 1937.
  • Duke Ellington records Billy Strayhorn’s “U.M.M.G.,” 1956.
  • Guitarist Lonnie Johnson born 1899 in New Orleans, LA.
February 9
  • Bassist Walter Page born 1900 in Gallatin, MS.
  • Trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie records “Groovin’ High” with tenor saxophonist Dexter Gordon, 1945.
  • Duke Ellington’s band is recorded in stereo by RCA Victor, 1932.
Source: Smithsonian Jazz

February 1, 2011

Blast From the Past: Mark Cantor’s Jazz Films

I had the pleasure of attending Mark Cantor’s “Jazz on Film” presentation on January 22nd here at the Jewish Community Center of San Francisco and it was a blast from the past. Cantor is a jazz film archivist who has collected over 4,000 reels (yes, actual film) of vintage jazz performances. He shares programs of these rare films at presentations all over the world, including The National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences, The International Association of Jazz Record Collectors, Monterey Jazz Festival, Academie du Dance (Paris, France), Festival de Popoli (Florence, Italy), and even the Playboy Mansion.

The San Francisco presentation included twenty-four jazz films from the 1920s up to the 1970s, all presented on the big screen with terrific sound. Sort of puts YouTube to shame. And these are films you’ll see nowhere else. Highlights included violinist Joe Venuti sawing out a swinging version of “Sweet Georgia Brown,” a prancing Lucky Millinder conducting his band in “The Hucklebuck,” and Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers doing “Moanin’” and featuring the song’s composer, Bobby Timmons, on piano. Lowlights (but fun nevertheless) included stripper Ann Corio singing “Pistol Packin’ Mama” backed by the Red Norvo Orchestra and an odd animated Prudential Life Insurance commercial from the 1950s featuring music written by Duke Ellington specifically for the commercial and played by his orchestra. The program also featured a couple of “Soundies,” which were the first “music videos” - filmed in the 1940s, they were played on special film juke boxes.

Cantor has served as a consultant on a large number of music documentaries and feature films. His footage was included in A Great Day In Harlem and Ken Burns’s monumental Jazz. (Burns said that Cantor was an “invaluable asset” to his film.) If you get a chance to catch one of his film presentations, I highly recommend it. You’ll discover some hidden treasures of great jazz that you won’t be able to see or hear anywhere else.

(For those in San Francisco, Cantor will be giving two more presentations at the JCC. Visit their website for more information.)