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Steve Dalachinsky, Poet Who Chronicled and Championed the Jazz Avant-Garde, Dies at 72 | WBGO

Steve Dalachinsky, Poet Who Chronicled and Championed the Jazz Avant-Garde, Dies at 72 | WBGO


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https://www.wbgo.org/post/steve-dalachinsky-poet-who-chronicled-and-championed-jazz-avant-garde-dies-72#stream/0
 

Steve Dalachinsky, Poet Who Chronicled and Championed the Jazz Avant-Garde, Dies at 72

By  • 20 hours ago

 

Steve Dalachinsky, a contemporary poet unrivaled in his dedication to the jazz avant-garde, not only as a gimlet-eyed observer but also as a prolific collaborator and performer, died early Monday morning at Southside Hospital on Long Island.

He was 72. His death was confirmed by multi-instrumentalist Matt Mottel, a longtime friend who was with him when he died. Dalachinsky had suffered a stroke after reading his poetry at an art exhibition on Saturday night.

A steadfast presence on New York’s downtown scene — streetwise and pithy, sardonic but never jaded — Dalachinsky seemed to know everybody, and heard more live music than most. Many of his poems bear witness to some ephemeral magic on the bandstand, from the “long agos farewelled” of a Sheila Jordan-Steve Kuhn gig to the “screeching cohesions bowstrummed” of a concert by the Joe McPhee Quartet.

Within the avant-garde community, he was known as a discerning barometer. Jazz critic Francis Davis, who was born in the same year, advised his readers in The Atlantic “to keep an eye out for Steve Dalachinsky, a stream-of-consciousness poet and a loquacious advocate for his favorite players. His presence is a guarantee that on any given night you’re where the action is.”

Pianist Matthew Shipp, who first met Dalachinsky shortly after arriving in New York in 1983, remembered him on Monday morning in the present tense. “He’s very charming in one way,” Shipp said, “and in another way he’s so in-your-face and brutally honest. Personality-wise we just hit it off.” Their long creative partnership can be traced through a thicket of poems, performances and liner notes, as well as a book, Logos and Language: a Post-Jazz Metaphorical Dialogue.

Dalachinsky drew obvious inspiration from Beat poets like Jack Kerouac and Lawrence Ferlinghetti, but no less from Japanese haiku, e.e. cummings, Federico Garcia Lorca and other sources. And while jazz didn’t always provide the spark in his poetry, he acknowledged the depth of that connection; he was a permanent fixture at The Vision Festival, both as an artist and an audience member. 

“Music is my main obsession and in avant-garde jazz just like in Beethoven’s late string quartets, the artists are always taking risks,” he said in a 2016 interview with AMFM Magazine. “Though many of my poems are fairly linear, they in part follow and try to become part of that rhythm, that movement, that risk.”

His work appeared in literary journals like The Evergreen Reviewperiodicals like The Brooklyn Rail, and chapbooks like Long Play E.P., for saxophonist Evan Parker. A decade ago, the RogueArt label published Reaching Into the Unknown: 1964-2009, a massive collection of jazz-respondent poems, with photographs by Jacques Bisceglia. A previous Dalachinsky collection called The Final Nite & Other Poems: The Complete Notes From a Charles Gayle Notebook 1987-2006won the PEN Oakland/Josephine Miles Literary Award.

Dalachinsky also performed his work on a number of albums — the first and most fateful being Incomplete Directions, released in 1999 on Knitting Factory Records, with accompaniment by the likes of Shipp, bassist William Parker and guitarists Vernon Reid and Thurston Moore. Positive response to the album led to the publication of A Superintendent’s Eyes, inspired by Dalachinsky’s experience as a super in a building on Spring Street.

Steven Donald Dalachinsky was born in Brooklyn on Sept. 29, 1946, and grew up in the Midwood neighborhood, later recalling his childhood as solidly working class. He was drawn early to the visual arts but soon switched over to poetry, inspired to no small degree by Ferlinghetti’s A Coney Island of the Mind.

He was 15 or 16 when he first heard Cecil Taylor, the sphinxlike icon of avant-garde pianism; he was walking past The Five Spot when the music pulled him in. Dalachinsky retold this story for an In Memoriam episode of Jazz Night in America last year. “The music went right inside me,” he said, “and my addiction to free jazz began.” As was often the case with Dalachinsky, affinity led to a long and lasting friendship. That warmth is evident in his 2009 chapbook The Mantis— and in this reading of “cecil taylor-derek bailey duo at tonic,” from last year.

 

 

Dalachinsky was a longtime SoHo resident, predating the neighborhood’s evolution into a phalanx of flagship boutiques. With his wife of 36 years, visual artist and fellow poet Yuko Otomo, he lived in an apartment stuffed with books, records, and art materials. In addition to Otomo, he is survived by a sister, Judy Orcinolo, and a nephew, Shaun Orcinolo.

Along with his writerly calling, Dalachinsky was a serious collagist. His work was documented in collaborative practice and often in dialogue with his poems. Some of it became part of the fabric of New York, through local arts institutions.


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Two of Steve Dalachinsky’s brilliant collages, which he contributed as AFA calendar covers in 2014. He was a truly beloved member of the AFA family and we are heart broken by the loss.

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In recent years, Dalachinsky was called on to memorialize a number of friends who’d passed; he spoke at memorials for Taylor, alto saxophonist Ornette Coleman and tenor saxophonist David S. Ware, among others.

On Monday, social media was awash with memorials to Dalachinsky — his tireless work, his generous friendship and most of all his vital presence. “There was no pretense with him,” said Shipp, speaking by phone. “He can’t really be replaced.”

Jim Eigo Jazz Promo Services T: 845-986-1677 E-Mail: jim@jazzpromoservices.com
https://www.jazzpromoservices.com

HAVE A JAZZ EVENT, NEW CD OR IMPORTANT ANNOUNCEMENT FOR THE JAZZ COMMUNITY YOU WANT TO PROMOTE? CONTACT JAZZ PROMO SERVICES FOR PRICE QUOTE.

CHECK OUT OUR NEW YOUTUBE VIDEO
 


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Fall arts 2019 | Music: Jazz legend Charles McPherson eager to keep growing – The San Diego Union-Tribune

Fall arts 2019 | Music: Jazz legend Charles McPherson eager to keep growing – The San Diego Union-Tribune


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https://www.sandiegouniontribune.com/entertainment/music/story/2019-09-14/charles-mcpherson-is-a-jazz-legend-eager-to-keep-growing
 

Fall arts 2019 | Music: Jazz legend Charles McPherson eager to keep growing

The sax great, who turned 80 in July, is busier than ever with tours, new albums and more

Jazz saxophone great Charles McPherson credits his wife and social media for keeping him very busy, at the age of 80, as both a touring and recording artist.

“I’m actually working more than ever and a lot of it is due to Lynn,” McPherson said of his wife, whom he met after moving to San Diego in the late 1970s. “She’s become quite media-savvy and uses all the tools of the internet and social media to let people know what I’m doing when and where. Lynn is really the engine behind a lot of it. She’s been doing this the last few years, and it’s really started to snowball.”

Recently returned from his most extensive tour of Spain to date, McPherson will again perform in Europe this fall, after concerts this month in San Diego and Santa Monica.

In December, he’ll be in New York to record his next album. It will exclusively feature music he has written for the San Diego Ballet. McPherson is the troupe’s composer-in-residence. His daughter, Camille, 27, is one of its principal dancers.

The internationally acclaimed alto saxophonist was in New York in April for two 80th birthday year concerts at Rose Hall. He shared the stage with piano legend McCoy Tyner and the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra, led by Wynton Marsalis.

“Charles is the very definition of excellence in our music,” said Marsalis, a longtime admirer. “He’s the definitive master on his instrument. He plays with exceptional harmonic accuracy and sophistication. He performs free-flowing, melodic and thematically developed solos with unbelievable fire and an unparalleled depth of soul.”

In addition to celebrating his actual 80th birthday on July 24, McPherson is this year celebrating his 60th anniversary as a professional jazz artist.

The Missouri-born musician rose to prominence in the early 1960s during his 12-year tenure in the band of jazz bass giant Charles Mingus, with whom he made more than two dozen albums. McPherson’s first solo album, “Bebop Revisited,” came out in 1964. His reputation as an unusually eloquent and adroit musician has long been a matter of record. Ditto his ability to invest each note he performs with a singular combination of carefully calibrated consideration and freewheeling spirit.

“I’m still passionate about playing and I’m having fun, maybe more fun than I’ve ever had,” McPherson said. “Through the accumulation of life, you have more to say, to write about, and to play about — not only because of your world view, but your sense of life, who you are and the art you are involved with.

“I’ve become more of an experienced person and maybe have a deeper understanding of things. That’s one reason it’s more fun for me, because I understand more. You spend a lot of your early life dealing with craft and mastering the medium you are working through — in my case, music and the sax. After that, it’s more about content and what is it you’re saying with your music. This is where you understand not only what the note is, but why that note now, as opposed to another note at another time.”

McPherson prefers to look forward rather than back. Later this month, he will do both simultaneously, in a manner.

On Sept. 28, he will perform a fund-raising concert at San Diego City College’s Saville Theater for award-winning radio station KSDS Jazz 88.3. Billed as “Charles McPherson plays ‘Charlie Parker with Strings’,” the concert comes 14 years after his superb album, “A Tribute to Charlie Parker,” which McPherson recorded live with his quartet and the Cleveland Chamber Orchestra.

He is so adept at playing the music of bebop sax pioneer Parker, a key early inspiration, that he was prominently featured on the soundtrack to “Bird,” film director Clint Eastwood’s 1988 biopic about Parker.

“I think Charlie Parker is a legend, as opposed to myself,” McPherson said. “I shy away from that designation. Because, when you think of a legend, you think of age being a part of what a legend is. Maybe it’s because I’m 80, but I don’t even like to think I can be constrained by my age, even though I know I am. It’s not like I can run up and down the street, like when I was 17!

“I consider myself a work in progress. I’m in a state of becoming, not only as a musician and artist, but as a being.”

Future legend, as chosen by Charles McPherson

Trumpeter Gilbert Castellanos, the artistic director of the Young Lions Jazz Conservatory and curator of the San Diego Symphony’s Jazz at the Jacobs concert series

“Gilbert is an excellent musician. He’s such a catalyst for innovating and creating circumstances for young players to perform in town, and for opening up different clubs and venues. He’s all over the place — he could be the mayor! He’s a wonderful musician, a real go-getter and a good businessman. A lot of times, people don’t do all of those things well. But Gilbert does.”

Jazz trumpet player Gilbert Castellanos

Jazz trumpet player Gilbert Castellanos

(Eduardo Contreras)

Charles McPherson plays “Charlie Parker with Strings,” a fund-raising concert for radio station KSDS FM Jazz 88.3

 

When: 7:30 p.m. Sept. 28

Where: Saville Theater, 1450 C Street, San Diego City College

Tickets: $88.30 for each pair of tickets bought by new or existing KSDS members; no single ticket sales

Phone: (619) 388-3000

Online: jazz88.org

Jim Eigo Jazz Promo Services T: 845-986-1677 E-Mail: jim@jazzpromoservices.com
https://www.jazzpromoservices.com

HAVE A JAZZ EVENT, NEW CD OR IMPORTANT ANNOUNCEMENT FOR THE JAZZ COMMUNITY YOU WANT TO PROMOTE? CONTACT JAZZ PROMO SERVICES FOR PRICE QUOTE.

CHECK OUT OUR NEW YOUTUBE VIDEO
 


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PLEASE NOTE: IF YOU DO NOT WISH TO BE ON THIS MAILING LIST PLEASE RESPOND WITH ‘REMOVE’ IN THE SUBJECT LINE. IF YOU ARE RECEIVING DUPLICATE EMAILS OUR APOLOGIES, JAZZ PROMO SERVICES ANNOUNCEMENT LIST IS GROWING LARGER EVERY DAY…..PLEASE LET US KNOW AND WE WILL FIX IT IMMEDIATELY!

Copyright (C) 2019 All rights reserved.

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269 State Route 94 South

Warwick, Ny 10990

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Fall arts 2019 | Music: Jazz legend Charles McPherson eager to keep growing – The San Diego Union-Tribune

Fall arts 2019 | Music: Jazz legend Charles McPherson eager to keep growing – The San Diego Union-Tribune


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https://www.sandiegouniontribune.com/entertainment/music/story/2019-09-14/charles-mcpherson-is-a-jazz-legend-eager-to-keep-growing
 

Fall arts 2019 | Music: Jazz legend Charles McPherson eager to keep growing

The sax great, who turned 80 in July, is busier than ever with tours, new albums and more

Jazz saxophone great Charles McPherson credits his wife and social media for keeping him very busy, at the age of 80, as both a touring and recording artist.

“I’m actually working more than ever and a lot of it is due to Lynn,” McPherson said of his wife, whom he met after moving to San Diego in the late 1970s. “She’s become quite media-savvy and uses all the tools of the internet and social media to let people know what I’m doing when and where. Lynn is really the engine behind a lot of it. She’s been doing this the last few years, and it’s really started to snowball.”

Recently returned from his most extensive tour of Spain to date, McPherson will again perform in Europe this fall, after concerts this month in San Diego and Santa Monica.

In December, he’ll be in New York to record his next album. It will exclusively feature music he has written for the San Diego Ballet. McPherson is the troupe’s composer-in-residence. His daughter, Camille, 27, is one of its principal dancers.

The internationally acclaimed alto saxophonist was in New York in April for two 80th birthday year concerts at Rose Hall. He shared the stage with piano legend McCoy Tyner and the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra, led by Wynton Marsalis.

“Charles is the very definition of excellence in our music,” said Marsalis, a longtime admirer. “He’s the definitive master on his instrument. He plays with exceptional harmonic accuracy and sophistication. He performs free-flowing, melodic and thematically developed solos with unbelievable fire and an unparalleled depth of soul.”

In addition to celebrating his actual 80th birthday on July 24, McPherson is this year celebrating his 60th anniversary as a professional jazz artist.

The Missouri-born musician rose to prominence in the early 1960s during his 12-year tenure in the band of jazz bass giant Charles Mingus, with whom he made more than two dozen albums. McPherson’s first solo album, “Bebop Revisited,” came out in 1964. His reputation as an unusually eloquent and adroit musician has long been a matter of record. Ditto his ability to invest each note he performs with a singular combination of carefully calibrated consideration and freewheeling spirit.

“I’m still passionate about playing and I’m having fun, maybe more fun than I’ve ever had,” McPherson said. “Through the accumulation of life, you have more to say, to write about, and to play about — not only because of your world view, but your sense of life, who you are and the art you are involved with.

“I’ve become more of an experienced person and maybe have a deeper understanding of things. That’s one reason it’s more fun for me, because I understand more. You spend a lot of your early life dealing with craft and mastering the medium you are working through — in my case, music and the sax. After that, it’s more about content and what is it you’re saying with your music. This is where you understand not only what the note is, but why that note now, as opposed to another note at another time.”

McPherson prefers to look forward rather than back. Later this month, he will do both simultaneously, in a manner.

On Sept. 28, he will perform a fund-raising concert at San Diego City College’s Saville Theater for award-winning radio station KSDS Jazz 88.3. Billed as “Charles McPherson plays ‘Charlie Parker with Strings’,” the concert comes 14 years after his superb album, “A Tribute to Charlie Parker,” which McPherson recorded live with his quartet and the Cleveland Chamber Orchestra.

He is so adept at playing the music of bebop sax pioneer Parker, a key early inspiration, that he was prominently featured on the soundtrack to “Bird,” film director Clint Eastwood’s 1988 biopic about Parker.

“I think Charlie Parker is a legend, as opposed to myself,” McPherson said. “I shy away from that designation. Because, when you think of a legend, you think of age being a part of what a legend is. Maybe it’s because I’m 80, but I don’t even like to think I can be constrained by my age, even though I know I am. It’s not like I can run up and down the street, like when I was 17!

“I consider myself a work in progress. I’m in a state of becoming, not only as a musician and artist, but as a being.”

Future legend, as chosen by Charles McPherson

Trumpeter Gilbert Castellanos, the artistic director of the Young Lions Jazz Conservatory and curator of the San Diego Symphony’s Jazz at the Jacobs concert series

“Gilbert is an excellent musician. He’s such a catalyst for innovating and creating circumstances for young players to perform in town, and for opening up different clubs and venues. He’s all over the place — he could be the mayor! He’s a wonderful musician, a real go-getter and a good businessman. A lot of times, people don’t do all of those things well. But Gilbert does.”

Jazz trumpet player Gilbert Castellanos

Jazz trumpet player Gilbert Castellanos

(Eduardo Contreras)

Charles McPherson plays “Charlie Parker with Strings,” a fund-raising concert for radio station KSDS FM Jazz 88.3

 

When: 7:30 p.m. Sept. 28

Where: Saville Theater, 1450 C Street, San Diego City College

Tickets: $88.30 for each pair of tickets bought by new or existing KSDS members; no single ticket sales

Phone: (619) 388-3000

Online: jazz88.org

Jim Eigo Jazz Promo Services T: 845-986-1677 E-Mail: jim@jazzpromoservices.com
https://www.jazzpromoservices.com

HAVE A JAZZ EVENT, NEW CD OR IMPORTANT ANNOUNCEMENT FOR THE JAZZ COMMUNITY YOU WANT TO PROMOTE? CONTACT JAZZ PROMO SERVICES FOR PRICE QUOTE.

CHECK OUT OUR NEW YOUTUBE VIDEO
 


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PLEASE NOTE: IF YOU DO NOT WISH TO BE ON THIS MAILING LIST PLEASE RESPOND WITH ‘REMOVE’ IN THE SUBJECT LINE. IF YOU ARE RECEIVING DUPLICATE EMAILS OUR APOLOGIES, JAZZ PROMO SERVICES ANNOUNCEMENT LIST IS GROWING LARGER EVERY DAY…..PLEASE LET US KNOW AND WE WILL FIX IT IMMEDIATELY!

Copyright (C) 2019 All rights reserved.

Jazz Promo Services

269 State Route 94 South

Warwick, Ny 10990

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The jazz church lost one of its great spirits at 5 am this morning with the passing of poet Steve Dalachinsky

The jazz church lost one of its great spirits at 5 am this morning with the passing of poet Steve Dalachinsky


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https://twitter.com/adamshatz/status/1173612223580790784

I had a nice hang with Steve and Yuko at the Charlie Parker Fest in Tompkins. He looked fine and was happy talking about Cecil, poetry and everything he had going on.

It was a year ago this month that Steve and Yuko came up to Warwick to give a reading at the Seligmann Center in Sugar Loaf NY.

Here’s a little video I shot:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9iQ3JG-bQzo&feature=youtu.be

 

Jim Eigo Jazz Promo Services T: 845-986-1677 E-Mail: jim@jazzpromoservices.com
https://www.jazzpromoservices.com

HAVE A JAZZ EVENT, NEW CD OR IMPORTANT ANNOUNCEMENT FOR THE JAZZ COMMUNITY YOU WANT TO PROMOTE? CONTACT JAZZ PROMO SERVICES FOR PRICE QUOTE.

CHECK OUT OUR NEW YOUTUBE VIDEO
 


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PLEASE NOTE: IF YOU DO NOT WISH TO BE ON THIS MAILING LIST PLEASE RESPOND WITH ‘REMOVE’ IN THE SUBJECT LINE. IF YOU ARE RECEIVING DUPLICATE EMAILS OUR APOLOGIES, JAZZ PROMO SERVICES ANNOUNCEMENT LIST IS GROWING LARGER EVERY DAY…..PLEASE LET US KNOW AND WE WILL FIX IT IMMEDIATELY!

Copyright (C) 2019 All rights reserved.

Jazz Promo Services

269 State Route 94 South

Warwick, Ny 10990

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Google: BB KIng’s 94th

Google: BB KIng’s 94th


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Jim Eigo Jazz Promo Services T: 845-986-1677 E-Mail: jim@jazzpromoservices.com
https://www.jazzpromoservices.com

HAVE A JAZZ EVENT, NEW CD OR IMPORTANT ANNOUNCEMENT FOR THE JAZZ COMMUNITY YOU WANT TO PROMOTE? CONTACT JAZZ PROMO SERVICES FOR PRICE QUOTE.

CHECK OUT OUR NEW YOUTUBE VIDEO
 


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PLEASE NOTE: IF YOU DO NOT WISH TO BE ON THIS MAILING LIST PLEASE RESPOND WITH ‘REMOVE’ IN THE SUBJECT LINE. IF YOU ARE RECEIVING DUPLICATE EMAILS OUR APOLOGIES, JAZZ PROMO SERVICES ANNOUNCEMENT LIST IS GROWING LARGER EVERY DAY…..PLEASE LET US KNOW AND WE WILL FIX IT IMMEDIATELY!

Copyright (C) 2019 All rights reserved.

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269 State Route 94 South

Warwick, Ny 10990

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Google: BB KIng’s 94th

Google: BB KIng’s 94th


jazzLogo.jpg

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https://www.google.com/?gws_rd=ssl

Jim Eigo Jazz Promo Services T: 845-986-1677 E-Mail: jim@jazzpromoservices.com
https://www.jazzpromoservices.com

HAVE A JAZZ EVENT, NEW CD OR IMPORTANT ANNOUNCEMENT FOR THE JAZZ COMMUNITY YOU WANT TO PROMOTE? CONTACT JAZZ PROMO SERVICES FOR PRICE QUOTE.

CHECK OUT OUR NEW YOUTUBE VIDEO
 


Unsubscribe | Update your profile | Forward to a friend

PLEASE NOTE: IF YOU DO NOT WISH TO BE ON THIS MAILING LIST PLEASE RESPOND WITH ‘REMOVE’ IN THE SUBJECT LINE. IF YOU ARE RECEIVING DUPLICATE EMAILS OUR APOLOGIES, JAZZ PROMO SERVICES ANNOUNCEMENT LIST IS GROWING LARGER EVERY DAY…..PLEASE LET US KNOW AND WE WILL FIX IT IMMEDIATELY!

Copyright (C) 2019 All rights reserved.

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269 State Route 94 South

Warwick, Ny 10990

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Jazz stalwart Vic Vogel, who shared stage with Peterson, Gillespie, dies at 84 | Burnaby Now

Jazz stalwart Vic Vogel, who shared stage with Peterson, Gillespie, dies at 84 | Burnaby Now


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https://www.burnabynow.com/jazz-stalwart-vic-vogel-who-shared-stage-with-peterson-gillespie-dies-at-84-1.23947450


The Canadian Press

SEPTEMBER 16, 2019 12:19 PM

 

Jazz stalwart Vic Vogel, who shared stage with Peterson, Gillespie, dies at 84

MONTREAL — Vic Vogel, who began playing the piano by ear at the age of five and rose to become one of Canada’s jazz stalwarts, has died. He was 84.

A message on his official Facebook page stated he died Monday in Montreal “beside his true love, his Steinway piano.”

article continues below

During his lengthy career, he shared the stage with many music legends, including Oscar Peterson, Dizzy Gillespie, Maynard Ferguson, Mel Torme, and Slide Hampton.

Vogel also accompanied Paul Anka, Tony Bennett, Eartha Kitt, Andy Williams, Sammy Davis Jr., Jerry Lewis, Michel Legrand, Ann-Margaret, Shirley MacLaine and Tennessee Ernie Ford.

A colourful bandleader, he was also active in pop and occasionally symphony and once said that one of his proudest moments was writing, arranging and conducting music for ceremonies of the 1976 Olympic Games in his Montreal hometown.

He was born Victor Stefan Vogel on Aug. 3, 1935, to Hungarian parents in Montreal and became interested in music after watching his older brother play.

Vogel also taught himself to play trombone, tuba and the vibraphone and figured out how to arrange music.

At age 14, he gave solo performances on TV, and two years later he began occasionally playing the piano and trombone in Montreal nightclubs.

When he was 19, he sought help in piano theory from Oscar Peterson’s teacher, but since the instructor was in declining health, Vogel was referred to his colleague Michel Hirvy, who helped him perfect his talent.

After playing in several orchestras, he conducted his first band at a Montreal cabaret in 1960, then toured with the Double Six of Paris and the Radio-Canada orchestra. In 1967, he founded his Le Jazz Big Band.

Vogel, who was a fixture at the Montreal International Jazz Festival, remained loyal to the Quebec music scene and is credited with helping to maintain the popularity of jazz in the province.

He and his Le Jazz Big Band toured with Quebec rockers Offenbach, resulting in their “En fusion” record that won the Felix Award for rock album in 1980.

On Monday, Montreal Mayor Valerie Plante paid tribute to “a legend of our city,” whom she credited with helping to develop Montreal’s music scene and world-renowned jazz fest.

“The name Vic Vogel is associated with a musician who succeeded in each of his appearances to share his passion for music, and jazz in particular,” she said in a statement. “My thoughts go to his family, his loved ones and all the fans mourning his loss.”

Vogel had several gold and platinum records and was nominated for Juno and Felix awards. He released his first solo album in 1993.

Vogel also wrote, arranged and conducted music for ceremonies at Man and His World in Montreal and the Canada Games in 1985.

© 2019 Burnaby Now

Jim Eigo Jazz Promo Services T: 845-986-1677 E-Mail: jim@jazzpromoservices.com
https://www.jazzpromoservices.com

HAVE A JAZZ EVENT, NEW CD OR IMPORTANT ANNOUNCEMENT FOR THE JAZZ COMMUNITY YOU WANT TO PROMOTE? CONTACT JAZZ PROMO SERVICES FOR PRICE QUOTE.

CHECK OUT OUR NEW YOUTUBE VIDEO
 


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PLEASE NOTE: IF YOU DO NOT WISH TO BE ON THIS MAILING LIST PLEASE RESPOND WITH ‘REMOVE’ IN THE SUBJECT LINE. IF YOU ARE RECEIVING DUPLICATE EMAILS OUR APOLOGIES, JAZZ PROMO SERVICES ANNOUNCEMENT LIST IS GROWING LARGER EVERY DAY…..PLEASE LET US KNOW AND WE WILL FIX IT IMMEDIATELY!

Copyright (C) 2019 All rights reserved.

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269 State Route 94 South

Warwick, Ny 10990

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First Television Special On Bluegrass/Mountain Musicians -1965 – YouTube

First Television Special On Bluegrass/Mountain Musicians -1965 – YouTube


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https://www.newyorker.com/culture/photo-booth/the-private-side-of-jazz-music-through-the-eyes-of-a-blue-note-co-founder
 

A Blue Note Founder’s View of Jazz Music’s Private Side

The photographer of jazz whose work is art in itself is Roy DeCarava. His book “The Sound I Saw”—a montage of his images and texts that he composed in the early nineteen-sixties but was unpublished until 2001—reaches deep to the experience, of the black American city life, that the music embodies and the musicians express. (It’s newly reissued, and DeCarava’s work is also the subject of a pair of current exhibits at David Zwirner.) DeCarava’s musical portraiture is centered on the public performance of jazz in clubs and in concerts. Yet there’s another crucial aspect of jazz history—the private side, of music made in recording studios—which is documented in a remarkable archive newly available online: the photographs of Francis Wolff, which preserve precious moments of some of the greatest musicians at work on some of the most enduring jazz recordings.

Wolff’s photos are a peculiar, passionate, and personal subset of the medium: they’re both documentary and promotional, made in part for use on album covers for the great Blue Note record label, of which Wolff was a co-founder, along with Alfred Lion. They were childhood friends in Berlin, Jews who escaped Nazi Germany. The pair founded the label eight decades ago, and ran it together until 1966. Together they fostered a collective body of work and a teeming set of individual performances that are at the center of modern jazz history and a core of the music’s living repertory; Wolff’s images offer keen reminiscences of historic musical moments, and they inspire fantasies about what it would have been like to experience them in person.

 

Jimmy Heath, Percy Heath, Miles Davis, and Gil Coggins at a rehearsal for the “Miles Davis All Stars” ’ second session, New York City, April, 1953.

Despite their practical function, Wolff’s photos go far beyond the promotional; they are a part of the Blue Note label’s authentic devotion to the artists. In recording and promoting jazz, Lion and Wolff called attention to black American artistic heroes—many of whom they brought from merely local renown to the enduring spotlight—and Wolff’s photographs reflect the depth of his admiration for them, artistically and personally. (It’s exemplified in his habit of photographing artists from low angles—he’s literally looking up at them.) If there’s an element of mythology in the images, it’s one that’s rooted in truth—in the authentic artistic power of musicians who may have been at the margins of mainstream media but who, for Wolff and Lion, deserved the canonization of any of the cultural celebrities of the time.

 

Elvin Jones at an Elvin Jones Septet session, Van Gelder Studio, Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey, March 14, 1969.

 

Clifford Brown at Art Blakey’s “A Night at Birdland” session, New York City, February 21, 1954.

 

Wilbur Ware at the “Hank Mobley Sextet-Hank” session, Van Gelder Studio, Hackensack, New Jersey, April 21, 1957.

 

Larry Young at the “Mother Ship” session, Van Gelder Studio, Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey, February 7, 1969.

Most of the musicians photographed by Wolff are men, because most of Blue Note’s roster of musicians were male. Though there were female jazz musicians active at the time, they also, with very few exceptions, faced prejudice in the development of their careers—except for singers, who were prominent, but Blue Note recorded very few singers, male or female. The label concentrated on instrumental music, and there was an artistic point to that emphasis. The repertoire of most jazz singing was rooted in the so-called American Songbook of repertory from plays and movies; though many Blue Note artists certainly played these works, too, the core of the label’s repertory was rooted in instrumental improvisation—and in the musicians’ original compositions, which the label emphasized, by paying its musicians to rehearse, to prepare to record original pieces that were both unfamiliar and complex. (Wolff documented many of these rehearsals, as in an image of Miles Davis, pencil in hand, working on a chart for a 1953 session, and in the one of Bud Powell, in the company of his son, Earl John, rehearsing the 1958 album “The Scene Changes,” on which all nine pieces are Powell’s originals.) It’s as if the label were setting up a classical modern-jazz repertory that rendered black American music an instant modern American counterpart to the European classical repertory and a part of the avant-garde music of the day.

 

Bud Powell with his son, Earl John Powell, at a rehearsal for Powell’s “The Scene Changes” session, Birdland, New York City, December 1958.

Most of the musicians in the photos, and in the Blue Note catalogue, were young—in their twenties and early thirties. Lion and Wolff—whose tastes were expanded by their close consultation with the veteran saxophonist Ike Quebec, who also recorded a wide range of albums for the label—found that the jazz they loved was significantly a youth movement. In the nineteen-fifties and sixties, they recorded, as leaders of groups, Clifford Brown, Herbie Hancock, Freddie Hubbard, and Bobby Hutcherson at twenty-two; Larry Young and Tyrone Washington at twenty-three; Sonny Clark, Grant Green, Hank Mobley, and Joe Henderson at twenty-six; Lee Morgan and Tony Williams at eighteen. (The latter, a drummer, began recording for the label in 1963, in Jackie McLean’s band, at seventeen.) The saxophonist on the twenty-four-year-old Bud Powell’s classic 1949 quintet date (the band was expressly called “Bud Powell’s Modernists”) was the eighteen-year-old Sonny Rollins.

 

Billy Higgins in a rehearsal for Andrew Hill’s “Dance with Death” session, New York City, October, 1968.

 

Hank Mobley at the “Reach Out” session, Van Gelder Studio, Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey, January 19, 1968.

The names of many of the musicians may not have been known beyond the cognoscenti, but the prominence of the label and its associations helped to expand those ranks. Thelonious Monk’s first recordings as a leader came with Blue Note; John Coltrane recorded only one album, a historic one, “Blue Train,” there, in 1957 (and worked as a sideman on several other major Blue Note albums); the boldly modernistic pianists Herbie Nichols and Andrew Hill recorded a major body of work there. Other crucial modernist innovators were there, too, in the mid-sixties: Eric Dolphy recorded “Out to Lunch” at a key turn toward further extremes of the avant-garde months before his death, at thirty-six, in 1964; Cecil Taylor recorded two gloriously complex and explosive albums there; and Ornette Coleman recorded a spate of Blue Note albums, too (including one with his ten-year-old son, Denardo, as drummer).

Shirley Scott at Stanley Turrentine’s “A Chip Off the Old Block” session, Van Gelder Studio, Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey, October 21, 1963.

Art Blakey at a rehearsal for the “Roots & Herbs” session, New York City, February, 1961.

John Coltrane at Sonny Clark’s “Sonny’s Crib” session, Van Gelder Studio, Hackensack, New Jersey, September 1, 1957.

Horace Silver with Percy Heath (at left) at a rehearsal for Kenny Dorham’s “Afro-Cuban” session, the Village Vanguard, New York City, January, 1955.

Blue Note was, and is, also a business, and Lion and Wolff needed to sell records; not all the music was a part of the avant-garde. They also recorded music that was close to the R. & B. tradition—yet this, too, they recorded with enthusiasm and respect. They both noted and fostered the continuities between popular and intellectual black American music, including in their inspired mixing and matching among musicians for recording sessions, bringing younger and older musicians, more popular and more exploratory ones, together fruitfully. What’s more, even as Blue Note’s studio recordings (most done by the engineer Rudy Van Gelder, first in his parents’ living room, in Hackensack, New Jersey, then in his custom-designed studio in Englewood Cliffs—and Wolff’s photos display these singular spaces) helped to define an era, the label was also a pioneer of live-in-concert night-club recordings, which gave several artists (especially Art Blakey, Jimmy Smith, and Sonny Rollins) unusual and effective showcases. The musicians who recorded for Blue Note were working artists; their recordings were business for the label and jobs for them, and the fusion of their labor and their art meshes with Wolff and Lion’s fusion of their enterprise and their enthusiasm to create a catalogue, both sonic and visual, that’s a product of love on which the transmission of art, from generation to generation, depends.

Thelonious Monk at the Royal Roost, New York City, 1949.

Jim Eigo Jazz Promo Services T: 845-986-1677 E-Mail: jim@jazzpromoservices.com
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First Television Special On Bluegrass/Mountain Musicians -1965 – YouTube

First Television Special On Bluegrass/Mountain Musicians -1965 – YouTube


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My subscribers and others have been asking me for some time to post the full film I made back in 1965–I first professional documentary–primetime television at that time. I was 22 years old. I had never really traveled outside of my home area of New England. Being with these wonderful people taken around by the extraordinary collector of talent, Bascom Lamar Lunsford, was one of the most memorable experiences of my life as a filmmaker. I know that some commentators will say that this is not bluegrass but mountain or old-time music. To me, the distinction is irrelevant. Bluegrass. Country. Mountain. Old time. The creative source is all the same. The wonderfully talented people of the Appalachian Mountains. This is not the entire film but a good part of it.

Jim Eigo Jazz Promo Services T: 845-986-1677 E-Mail: jim@jazzpromoservices.com
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A Woman’s Place: The Importance Of Mary Lou Williams’ Harlem Apartment : NPR

A Woman’s Place: The Importance Of Mary Lou Williams’ Harlem Apartment : NPR


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A Woman’s Place: The Importance Of Mary Lou Williams’ Harlem Apartment

Tammy Kernodle 
September 12, 201910:48 AM ET

Mary Lou Williams in 1942. In the 1930s and ’40s, her apartment on 63 Hamilton Terrace formed an important space in advancing the evolution of jazz and the survival of musicians.

Donaldson Collection/Getty Images

You won’t find Mary Lou Williams’ apartment on the historical register or visit it during one of the many tours that have economically revitalized Harlem. From the outside, 63 Hamilton Terrace looked like many of the brownstones that architecturally defined Harlem’s landscape. Inside, however, a generation of young artists met, woodshedded new music and etched out a progressive, radical agenda that would shift the music world off its axis and challenge listeners to rethink their sonic understandings of jazz.

In the 1930s and 1940s, Harlem was full of places that nightly served a menu of music, social freedom, kinetic and sexual energy. There was the Savoy Ballroom on Lenox Avenue between 140th and 141st Streets, which functioned as the birthplace of modern social dance culture and the site of the historic “battle of the bands.” The Apollo Theater on West 125th Street, where amateur performers tested their talents in front of unforgiving audiences. Minton’s Playhouse, Monroe’s Uptown House, Small’s Paradise and the other small nightclubs that jazz musicians rushed to after their regular paying gigs. While all of these spaces shaped important aspects of jazz’s history, they also perpetuated the notion that paradigm-shifting experimentation was male-centered, cultivated in isolation or only occurred in these public spaces. Mary Lou Williams’ apartment on 63 Hamilton Terrace was as important as any of these spaces in advancing the evolution of jazz and the survival of musicians.

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Most of us have heard the cliché, “a woman’s place is in the home.” This axiom gained popularity in the post-war years in counter-response to the overwhelming economic and social freedom women experienced during the World War II and the emergence of the women’s movement in the late 1960s. The phrase originated with the Greek playwright Aeschylus in 467 B.C. In the play “Seven Against Thebes” Aeschylus wrote, “Let the woman stay at home and hold their peace.” In 1732, Thomas Fuller declared, in Gnomologia: Adagies and Proverbs, “a woman is to be from her house three times: when she is christened, married, and buried.” The spread of this belief, especially within the framework of respectability politics, led to the home or domestic sphere being equated with femininity. For many women, especially middle-and-upper class white women, the home became the space of deferred dreams and muted voices. But for black women, the home and domestic sphere represented so much more.

For poor and working-class women, the home provided alternatives to agriculture work and prostitution. Home laundries and domestic work provided these women with consistent work and wages, even if they at times exposed women to economic and sexual exploitation. Despite the limitations, this type of work did provide many black women with the means to acquire their own homes. Home ownership represented physical and social stability in the black community. In addition to providing shelter from the racialized violence inflicted upon black families, the home was one of the primary spaces outside of the Black Church, and black social clubs and Greek-letter organizations, where black women could embody the conventional notions of femininity and respectability. Crucially, the homes of black women also nested a black cultural revolution that extended to the literary, visual and performance arts. 

The development of black women’s intellectual acuity first occurred in the home. It was in living rooms and at kitchen tables that black women transferred the knowledge that was key to their survival and negotiation of white and male-centered public spaces. Knowledge transference also extended to the work of cultivating and preserving different forms of cultural expression. In time, the poetry, art, dance and music they created and nurtured migrated beyond the walls of these homes, entered mainstream America’s consciousness and radically redefined expressive culture.

In the years immediately following World War I, a revolution rooted in the ideology of racial vindication and uplift was gestated in the homes of black women like A’Lelia Walker, the daughter of the first self-made black millionaire Madame C. J. Walker. Her brownstones on West 136th Street, near Lenox Avenue, became home to the “Dark Tower,” a salon that hosted the young writers, artists, musicians, civil rights leaders and intellectuals who embodied what we know as the Harlem Renaissance. Writers Zora Neale Hurston, Bruce Nugent and Langston Hughes, along with artist Aaron Douglas, blues woman Alberta Hunter and composer/music critic Nora Holt, frequently participated in the poetry readings, musical performances and art exhibits that marked the Dark Tower’s short history. While working the black vaudeville circuit called the TOBA, a teenaged Mary Lou Williams visited Harlem. While I have founded no evidence that Williams attended any of A’Lelia Walker’s soirées, I have no doubt she would have heard about these grand affairs.

Walker’s cultivation of the black cultural arts through a mirroring of 19th century salon culture became one of the central ways in which black women reflected and promoted the New Negro aesthetic. In Chicago, music educator and organist Estelle C. Bonds hosted an array of writers, artists, performers and composers in her home on Wabash Avenue. Years later her only child, composer Margaret Bonds, recounted how her childhood home had, at one point, hosted every living black composer during the 1920s and 1930s. Helen Walker-Hill illustrates in the book From Spirituals to Symphonies: African-American Women Composers and their Music how Estelle Bonds’ home, like that of A’Lelia Walker, represented many different things to the black migrant community of Chicago. It was one-part hostel, one-part soup kitchen and one-part music school. What was most central to its legacy is how it hosted activity that revolutionized the Depression-era American concert hall. When composer Florence Price could not afford to hire a copyist to produce orchestral parts of her first symphonic work, Bonds called every literate musician she knew on the South Side, and they copied the parts at her kitchen table. This work would go on to win the Wanamaker Prize in 1932 and become the first symphony by a black woman to be performed by a major American orchestra. When black concert artists and composers wanted to create an infrastructure that would finance the training of new artists, and promote the music of their peers, they met at Bonds’ house and created the Chicago Music Association. A little more than two decades later, Mary Lou Williams embodied the same type of energy with her mentorship of the generation of musicians that would create bebop. 

In 1943, after spending almost a decade performing and touring with Andy Kirk’s swing band Clouds of Joy, Mary Lou Williams settled in Harlem. The previous two years had marked a period of instability for the pianist-arranger, as the camaraderie with the male musicians that defined her early years with the Kirk band had given way to money issues, personality clashes and sexism. In 1942, during a gig in Washington, D.C., an unhappy and physically-drained Williams left Kirk’s band and returned momentarily to her hometown of Pittsburgh. After an unsuccessful attempt to relaunch her career with a combo that included a young Art Blakey, Williams married trumpeter Harold “Shorty” Baker, and in early 1943 she joined Baker as he toured with Duke Ellington’s band. It was during this period that Williams first wrote for the Ellington band. Her re-working of Irving Berlin’s “Blue Skies,”became a feature for the trumpet section that she called “Trumpets, No End.” Several years would pass before the band recorded the song, largely because of the labor strike the American Federation of Musicians enacted against the recording industry between 1942 and 1944. The marriage was disastrous: Baker became physically abusive not long after the two exchanged vows. Despite this, Williams tried to salvage the relationship. These efforts led to her moving into the small apartment at 63 Hamilton Terrace. It is not clear if Baker ever visited the Harlem flat, but for almost three decades the apartment would serve as her home. 

In addition to marking a new phase in her personal life, the move to Hamilton Terrace also marked a new chapter in her professional career. Mary Lou Williams settled into the role of solo jazz pianist in a music scene that was dramatically changing. New York in 1943 was very different place from the Harlem she experienced first in the 1920s while touring with TOBA and later in the mid-1930s when the Kirk band played the Savoy Ballroom. Harlem was no longer the center of the city’s nightlife. The fetishizing of black culture that led many to trek up to Harlem was in decline. Instead, jazz patrons and tourists now frequented the nightclubs that lined 52nd Street. However, the music continued to play in Harlem and dancers continued the sojourn to the Savoy Ballroom. Harlem was also changing socially and politically. As Farah Jasmine Griffin discusses in Harlem Nocturne: Women Artists and Progressive Politics During World War II, the neighborhood was quickly becoming a provincial outpost of a larger progressive political movement that aligned itself with the pro-black American Double-V campaign of the war years. This political energy propelled the fight for equality in the decade that followed World War II and infected not only Harlem’s citizenry, but also its jazz community. The alignment of jazz with the left-wing Popular Front shifted the music from simply being popular culture to resistance culture. Mary Lou Williams, Billie Holiday, Duke Ellington and the young musicians who would come to call themselves beboppers would embodied this consciousness of protest and resistance by rejecting jazz conventions.

As early as 1941, this small group of young musicians began deconstructing the musical foundations of jazz during the jam sessions held at Monroe’s Uptown House and Minton’s Playhouse in Harlem. As Americans sought a diversion from the Great Depression and eventually World War II, the popularity of jazz and its dance culture exploded. Beboppers believed that the consumerist culture that the big band idiom generated throughout the 1930s and 1940s had led to creative and musical dilution of jazz. They had watched as the black bandleaders and bands that had defined the earliest aspects of that culture had been pushed into the margins of the mainstream scene as white bands, who garnered more dollars and support, were coded as emblems of democracy, nationalism and youthful exuberance. During their late-night jam sessions, these musicians devised a response to the “whitening” of jazz culture. They shifted the consciousness of the jazz musician by rejecting the homogeneity promoted through Swing. The emphasis of the collective over the individual was central to the big band idiom. Beboppers disrupted this narrative through their dress, which shifted away from matching suits, to an eclectic style that influenced ’50s hipster culture (e.g. berets, tortoiseshell glasses, goatees, etc.) This break with swing also extended to the emphasis they placed on self-actualization through the cultivation of the individual sound identity. During jam sessions, musicians developed the riffs, nuances and repertory that distinguished their individual quest for artistry from the previous generation of jazz musicians. Musically and ideologically, they professed to be modernists, which was reflected in their use of advanced and complex harmonic and structural devices. They studied, borrowed from and emulated the progressive approaches that framed early 20th century concert music. They also shunned the simplicity of the big band arrangement, deciding instead to deconstruct jazz conventions by decentralizing the melody and placing the focus on intricate and harmonically complex improvisations. Their political consciousness also aligned with this sonic radicalness. This generation embodied the radical blackness of the New Negro aesthetic without the elitist sensibilities that accompanied it. For most, even within the jazz community, the persona, attitude and musical sounds purveyed by this generation of musician was disconcerting, radical and transgressive. But Williams heard and saw something different.

Mary Lou Williams discovered this musical circle soon after moving to Harlem. Nightly, after performing at the influential nightclub Café Society, she would trek uptown to Minton’s Playhouse on West 118th Street. There she met trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie, drummers Kenny Clarke and Max Roach, trombonist J.J. Johnson and others. She became reacquainted with pianist Thelonious Monk, whom she had met in Kansas City in 1934 while he was working with a female evangelist. Despite the fact that she was nearly a decade older than most of them, Mary Lou Williams and these musicians had much in common. They all had risen through the ranks of local or territorial bands, and by 1942 had reached the level of the national or acclaimed dance bands. They had endured the brutal tours through Jim Crow America that sustained black bands during the 1930s. In Harlem, they fell into the company of others who shared similar musical interests and ambitions in the after-hours clubs and jam sessions. What strongly linked Williams and these musicians was their spirit of experimentation. The harmonies and structural changes the boppers experimented with were nothing new for the pianist. During her years in Kansas City, Williams played what she called “zombie music.” This style, according to her, consisted of “mainly of ‘outré’ chords, new ‘out’ harmonies based on ‘off’ sounds.” Williams and Kirk argued consistently about use of complex harmonies in her arrangements. Despite remaining with the Kirk band for over a decade, Williams felt creatively limited by his desire for commercial stardom

As her musical and personal bond with this young cadre of musicians grew, Williams’ apartment became another space for personal and musical engagement, the setting for a modern-day “salon” that paralleled 19th-century French musical circles. Each night Williams hosted the musicians as they sat around discussing music, listening to recordings and writing new tunes. “It was like the ’30s,”she remarked years later. “Musicians helped each other and didn’t just think of themselves. Monk, Tadd Dameron, Kenny Dorham, Bud Powell, Aaron Bridgers, Billy Strayhorn, plus various disc jockeys and newspapermen, would be in and out of my place at all hours and we’d really ball.” 

The apartment was modest in décor, consisting of two twin beds, seating for a few people, file cabinets that housed correspondence and musical scores, a record player and a Baldwin upright piano. The modesty of this interior, however, belied the creative energy that pervaded this space. Williams had a white rug on the living room floor that the group would sit on. Each would take turns playing because, as Williams recounted later, “most of them needed inspiration.” Some wrote new tunes during these moments. Others brought compositions they had worked on beforehand, seeking her opinion and help in developing these ideas further. More than any of the other musicians that gathered at 63 Hamilton Terrace, Thelonious Monk was particularly drawn to Williams. He valued her opinion greatly and often camped out at her house. In a series of articles chronicling her life and musical experiences that ran in the 1950s in the jazz periodical Melody Maker, Williams wrote “Monk would write a tune and he’d come here and play it for two or three months. I’d say, ‘Why do you keep playing the same thing over and over?’ He’d say, ‘I’m trying to see if it’s a hit. It’ll stay with you if it’s a hit.” She also grew close to pianist Bud Powell and trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie. Her friendship with Powell extended to her being hired by club owners to ensure he fulfilled his contractual obligations. Williams and Gillespie would share a life-long friendship that was central to her return to the jazz scene following a self-imposed three-year hiatus in the mid-1950s.

The impact of the intellectual activity that took place at Williams’ apartment is measured not only in the musical performances of this generation of musicians, but also Williams’ own work during this period. During the mid-to-late 1940s Williams entered a period of considerable experimentation that stretched beyond the performative aspects of jazz and the conventional spaces it was heard. She entered an exclusive recording agreement with Asch Records, which produced some important recordings that mark the evolution of jazz piano and aligned the progression of her sonic identity with the modern jazz aesthetic. Her composition “In the Land of Oo0-Bla-Dee,” written for and recorded by Dizzy Gillespie, reflected how Williams merged the bebop aesthetic and the big band idiom. Zodiac Suite, a series of compositions inspired by jazz musicians born under particular zodiac signs, represented how Williams was influenced by 19th-century Romanticism. This work stretched beyond the harmonic nuances of jazz to include the structural devices of the Romantic era symphonic poem. Williams’ continuous reworking of the composition in various performance configurations—from solo piano to small combo to setting for chamber orchestra—reflected her vision of jazz extending beyond conventional spaces and sounds. 

In the late 1950s and early 1960s, Williams’ apartment once again was central to the nurturing of a generation of musicians as Williams attempted to prevent the proliferation of drugs and the subsequent decimation of the jazz community. Following her own spiritual and physical breakdown in Paris in 1954, she returned to America and entered a period of spiritual transformation and converted to Catholicism. After experiencing the death of Charlie Parker and witnessing the deterioration of Bud Powell, Williams decided to intervene. In addition to taking musicians to church, she turned her one-bedroom apartment into a one-woman rehabilitation center. 63 Hamilton Terrace became a halfway house where Williams detoxified, fed, clothed and found work for addicted musicians. The worst cases she housed in a room down the hall that she rented cheaply from a neighbor. Musicians usually stayed a couple of weeks and, when possible, left clean, sober and with employment. Sometimes they returned in worse shape than before, but many got back on their feet, resuming their lives and careers. She funded her efforts through royalty checks and donations from other musicians like Dizzy and Lorraine Gillespie. The home that provided an intellectual and artistic sanctuary for a generation of musicians during the 1940s became a space of protection and healing for those battling their addictions and fleeing criminal prosecution. Williams continued this work for a number of years and had hopes to build a facility that would be funded through her Bel Canto Foundation. Unfortunately, this never materialized, but Williams continued her work, financing her efforts for years through the operation of a thrift store in Harlem.

While the cultural and social history that surround the homes of A’Lelia Walker and Estelle C. Bonds during the height of the Negro Renaissance have yet to be fully explored, the cultural importance of Mary Lou’s apartment became part of jazz musicians’ lore. It is important to note that 63 Hamilton Terrace was not the only home to nurture experimental waves of jazz performance and composition during the last half of the 20th century. In the years immediately following the death of her husband John in 1967, Alice Coltrane also opened her home to a generation of musicians who challenged the musical and social contexts of jazz. In this case, Coltrane used the recording studio John built in their Dix Hills, Long Island home to collaborate with the young musicians who had worked closely with him in progressing avant-garde jazz. During the late 1960s and early 1970s Alice recorded a series of albums in that studio that positioned her as one of the progressive voices of the second wave of avant-garde jazz and the genre of liturgical jazz. As with Williams, the progression of Coltrane’s sonic identity occurred after a major lifestyle change that correlated with an emerging wave of musical experimentation tied to radical forms of black consciousness and sound that polarized the jazz community. 

The cultural histories of the homes of A’Lelia Walker, Estelle Bonds, Mary Lou Williams and Alice Coltrane illustrate how economic stability and personal agency allowed black women to become important agents in the progression of black intellectual culture and peripherally in the long struggle for racial equality in America. When we tune our ears to hear beyond clichés, gendered expectations, social conventions and canonic markers, we will discover that the real place of a woman is not only in the home, but also within the groove.

Jim Eigo Jazz Promo Services T: 845-986-1677 E-Mail: jim@jazzpromoservices.com
https://www.jazzpromoservices.com

HAVE A JAZZ EVENT, NEW CD OR IMPORTANT ANNOUNCEMENT FOR THE JAZZ COMMUNITY YOU WANT TO PROMOTE? CONTACT JAZZ PROMO SERVICES FOR PRICE QUOTE.

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Meet Philly’s unsung forefather of jazz. And on Friday, listen to his music in a free live show.

Meet Philly’s unsung forefather of jazz. And on Friday, listen to his music in a free live show.


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https://www.inquirer.com/arts/library-company-philadelphia-francis-johnson-forefather-of-jazz-20190911.html


Meet Philly’s unsung forefather of jazz. And on Friday, listen to his music in a free live show.

by Shaun Brady, For The Inquirer, Updated: September 11, 2019 

In the early 19th century, Francis Johnson was the entertainer of choice for elite Philadelphia society. A free African American man, Johnson was a bandleader, musician, and composer whose music brought together influences that would go on to pave the way for ragtime, jazz, and “pops” orchestras. Yet his name, like that of so many black American innovators, has been largely forgotten by history.

The Library Company of Philadelphia is telling several of those innovators’ stories in its current exhibition “From Negro Pasts to Afro-Futures: Black Creative Re-Imaginings,” on display through Oct. 18. The sheet music for one of Johnson’s compositions is on display in the show, and his story will come into the spotlight on Friday with a lecture and performance by musician and scholar Brian Farrow.

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“Francis Johnson was at the nexus of what became American music,” Farrow said over the phone last week from the Yukon, where he was wrapping up a vacation. “He took early dance hall music, English ballads and operatic pieces, and made them his own, [fusing them into] an American idiom.

“Johnson influenced a lot of people that would take these music styles into the later half of the 19th century,” he said, “until we connect to the beginning of ragtime.”

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Old-time music has long been a passion for Farrow, who played in traditional jazz bands as far back as high school and later worked with Dom Flemons, cofounder of the Carolina Chocolate Drops. He’s also a member of the hip-hop bluegrass band Gangstagrass. While researching early music, Farrow discovered Johnson and immediately recognized the relevance of this obscure figure.

“I hope to contextualize his work and explain why I think his history is important for us today,” he said of his plans for the Library Company program. “We can make him a part of our American music tradition.”

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Songsheet from Francis Johnson's "A Collection of New Cotillions"
LIBRARY COMPANY OF PHILADELPHIA 
Songsheet from Francis Johnson’s “A Collection of New Cotillions” 

Johnson’s music makes up one part of the story told by “From Negro Pasts,” which displays historical artifacts to help relate the way that black artists have told their own stories throughout American history. The exhibition includes drawings, poems, speeches, love letters, songs, and more from the Library Company’s extensive holdings, touted as the most important collection of African American literature and history before 1900.

Performer to the queen

Johnson achieved a remarkable level of success, not just in Philadelphia but across the country. He led one of the era’s most popular bands, performing at society balls for Philadelphia’s upper classes as well as for military regiments and at African American churches.

Johnson became the first black man to tour past the Appalachian Mountains and was the first American bandleader to tour Europe, where his ensemble performed before Queen Victoria at Buckingham Palace.

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Dr. Deirdre Cooper Owens, program director of African American history for the Library Company, compared Johnson to another name rescued from the shadows of history, Solomon Northup. Now famous as the author of Twelve Years a Slave, Northup also worked as a traveling musician whose artistry allowed him access to elite white society.

“There was a niche field of African American male performers who could in some ways wiggle around the color line,” Cooper Owens explained. “It wasn’t that they could escape antiblack racism, but because of their exceptionality in performing they were able to do things as musicians that had been closed to most black people.”

This 1682 Ethiopian manuscript, "The Homilies of Michael," is also part of the Library Company of Philadelphia's exhibition "“From Negro Pasts to Afro-Futures: Black Creative Re-Imaginings.”
LIBRARY COMPANY OF PHILADELPHIA 
This 1682 Ethiopian manuscript, “The Homilies of Michael,” is also part of the Library Company of Philadelphia’s exhibition ““From Negro Pasts to Afro-Futures: Black Creative Re-Imaginings.” 

In a way, Cooper Owens continued, the Library Company’s African American History program echoes those accomplishments, bringing neglected histories to light in an unexpected context.

“It isn’t lost on me that the Library Company, [an institution] founded by Benjamin Franklin, is a very patrician and elite space,” she said. “Historically the Library Company had not been a bastion of blackness, yet the program in African American history has become its anchor program because of its large holdings.

 

“Brian Farrow is really following in the footsteps of Francis Johnson, bringing that kind of showmanship, roots music, history, and education to an audience that had not always been as receptive to privileging black people and black history.”

CONCERT AND TALK

Francis Johnson at the Roots of American Music, with Brian Farrow

5:30 p.m. Friday, Sept. 13, at the Library Company of Philadelphia, 1314 Locust St. Free with registration.

The exhibition “From Negro Pasts to Afro-Futures” continues through Oct. 18.

Information: 215-546-3181, librarycompany.org

Posted: September 11, 2019 – 9:28 AM 
Shaun Brady, For The Inquirer
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Hitsville: The Making of Motown (2019) Official Trailer | SHOWTIME Documentary Film – YouTube

Hitsville: The Making of Motown (2019) Official Trailer | SHOWTIME Documentary Film – YouTube

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https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sTbb39iNNqo

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Jimmy Johnson, Studio Staple of Southern Soul and Pop, Dies at 76 – The New York Times

Jimmy Johnson, Studio Staple of Southern Soul and Pop, Dies at 76 – The New York Times

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https://www.nytimes.com/2019/09/06/arts/music/jimmy-johnson-studio-staple-of-southern-soul-and-pop-dies-at-76.html?action=click
 

Jimmy Johnson, Studio Staple of Southern Soul and Pop, Dies at 76

By Bill Friskics-Warren

Sept. 6, 2019

Jimmy Johnson, center, with his fellow studio musicians David Hood, left, and Junior Lowe in 1968 at FAME Studios in Muscle Shoals, Ala. Mr. Johnson began his career at FAME before he, Mr. Hood and two other musicians opened their own studio, Muscle Shoals Sound.
Jimmy Johnson, center, with his fellow studio musicians David Hood, left, and Junior Lowe in 1968 at FAME Studios in Muscle Shoals, Ala. Mr. Johnson began his career at FAME before he, Mr. Hood and two other musicians opened their own studio, Muscle Shoals Sound.House of Fame LLC/Michael Ochs Archives, via Getty Images

Jimmy Johnson, the session guitarist and studio engineer who contributed to hundreds of hit records while helping to define the sound of Southern pop and soul music in the 1960s and ’70s, died on Thursday in Florence, Ala. He was 76.

His death, at Northwest Alabama Medical Center, was confirmed by his longtime friend and collaborator David Hood, who said Mr. Johnson had been struggling with kidney failure.

A highly intuitive musician, Mr. Johnson achieved early acclaim in the 1960s as the rhythm guitarist in the house band at the producer Rick Hall’s FAME Studiosin Muscle Shoals, Ala. His undulating swells and bluesy, staccato fills can be heard on recordings like “Respect,” Aretha Franklin’s first No. 1 pop hit, and Wilson Pickett’s “Funky Broadway” and “Land of 1,000 Dances,” both of which reached the Top 10.

In 1969 Mr. Johnson and three of his associates from FAME — the drummer Roger Hawkins, the keyboardist Barry Beckett and Mr. Hood, the ensemble’s bass player — parted ways with Mr. Hall in a dispute over money. That April they opened their own studio, Muscle Shoals Sound, in a former coffin warehouse in nearby Sheffield, Ala.

Billing themselves as the Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section, the four men proceeded to play on scores of landmark recordings. They were heard on the gospel-steeped “I’ll Take You There,” a No. 1 pop and R&B hit for the Staple Singers in 1972. They also backed Paul Simon on his 1973 Top 10 single “Kodachrome” and Rod Stewart on the gossamer ballad “Tonight’s the Night (Gonna Be Alright),” released in 1976. It topped the pop chart for eight weeks.

Admired for their blend of expressiveness and restraint, Mr. Johnson and his bandmates honed a less-is-more approach to playing marked by a seemingly unerring knack for hitting the right note at just the right time and place. They became as renowned in their day as the Funk Brothers of Motown Records or the Wrecking Crew in Los Angeles.

They were given the nickname the Swampers by the producer Denny Cordell after he heard the pianist Leon Russell extol the virtues of their “funky, soulful, Southern swamp sound.” They were further lionized by the band Lynyrd Skynyrd in their 1974 hit, “Sweet Home Alabama.” (“Now Muscle Shoals has got the Swampers / And they’ve been known to pick a song or two. / Lord, they get me off so much / They pick me up when I’m feeling blue.”)

In a 2017 interview with Southern Rambler magazine, Mr. Johnson explained what distinguished the Swampers’ extemporized, or “head arranged,” studio work from that of their counterparts in recording centers like New York, where they had played on sessions for the Atlantic Records producer Jerry Wexler.

“The records in New York were set by arrangers who wrote all of the parts down,” Mr. Johnson said. “It was out of the mind of one guy. In Muscle Shoals we did head sessions where everyone contributes.”

Jimmy Johnson in 2015 outside his home in Sheffield, Ala. He continued to do studio work into the current century.
Jimmy Johnson in 2015 outside his home in Sheffield, Ala. He continued to do studio work into the current century.Jay Reeves/Associated Press

Mr. Johnson was more than just an imaginative guitarist; he also ran a successful music publishing company and was an astute and empathetic recording engineer. He was at the mixing board for Percy Sledge’s “When a Man Loves a Woman,” a No. 1 pop and R&B hit in 1966, as well as for Bob Seger’s “Old Time Rock and Roll,” which, according to Wurlitzer, is the third most popular jukebox record of all time. He also engineered three tracks on the Rolling Stones’ acclaimed 1971 album, “Sticky Fingers,” including “Brown Sugar” and “Wild Horses.”

The Stones’ visit to Muscle Shoals was an example of the Southernization of pop music, in which Mr. Johnson played a crucial part. At the time, many musicians from outside the South wanted to record in the down-home style made famous there.

Jimmy Ray Johnson was born on Feb. 4, 1943, in Sheffield to Ray and Hazel (Roberson) Johnson. His father was an amateur musician who worked at the Reynolds Aluminum Plant in Muscle Shoals. His mother was a homemaker who often hosted out-of-town singers recording at Muscle Shoals Sound for dinner. He earned his first $10 as a guitarist at age 15 when he played a Saturday night sock hop at the National Guard Amory in Tuscumbia, Ala.

In 1962, while still in his teens, Mr. Johnson became the first paid employee at FAME Studios. He answered the telephone, booked studio time and did typing. By the mid-’60s he had begun engineering and playing sessions.

He continued to do studio work into the current century, inspiring new generations of musicians like Jason Isbell and Alabama Shakes.

Mr. Johnson’s legacy, and that of his colleagues, was celebrated in the 2013 documentary “Muscle Shoals.”

Mr. Johnson is survived by his wife, Becky (Hardy) Johnson; a son, Jimmy, known as Jay; a daughter, Kimberly Tidwell; a stepdaughter, Alana Parker; and a grandson. His brother, Earl, died in 1977.

Mr. Johnson’s early years as a session musician in Northern Alabama testified not just to the power of musical collaboration but also to the kinship among black and white musicians at a time when the divide over civil rights in this country seemed all but unbridgeable.

“We didn’t know we were making history,” he said of this interracial affinity in an interview with Southern Rambler magazine. “Black or white, we had the same goal: to cut a hit record.”

After the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated in 1968, the all-white Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section’s work on soul music sessions for Atlantic and Stax, two of the era’s most influential record companies, was suspended. To Mr. Johnson’s relief, the suspension was temporary.

“We were an integral part of Atlantic and Stax and thought that might be it,” he recalled in that interview. “We were told we wouldn’t be cutting any more black records, and those were our favorite records.”

A version of this article appears in print on Sept. 7, 2019, Section A, Page 21 of the New York edition with the headline: Jimmy Johnson, 76; Heard on Hundreds of Hits. Order Reprints | Today’s Paper | Subscribe

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Vinyl Is Poised to Outsell CDs For the First Time Since 1986 – Rolling Stone

Vinyl Is Poised to Outsell CDs For the First Time Since 1986 – Rolling Stone

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Vinyl Is Poised to Outsell CDs For the First Time Since 1986

In the near future, the revenue generated by record sales is likely to surpass the revenue generated by CDs

September 6, 2019 12:38PM ET

The "Kind of Blue" album cover is on display at Bull Moose record store in Portland, Maine, on the 60th anniversary of the album's release. Drummer Jimmy Cobb, the only surviving musician who performed on Miles Davis' jazz masterpiece "Kind of Blue," is still keeping time as the iconic recording marks its 60th anniversaryKind of Blue Drummer, Portland, USA - 17 Aug 2019

Record sales keep growing.

David Sharp/AP/Shutterstock

Sales of vinyl records have enjoyed constant growth in recent years. At the same time, CD sales are in a nosedive. Last year, the Recording Industry Association of America’s (RIAA) mid-year report suggested that CD sales were declining three times as fast as vinyl sales were growing. In February, the RIAA reported that vinyl sales accounted for more than a third of the revenue coming from physical releases.

Related: How to Clean and Care for Your Vinyl Collection

This trend continues in RIAA’s 2019 mid-year report, which came out on Thursday. Vinyl records earned $224.1 million (on 8.6 million units) in the first half of 2019, closing in on the $247.9 million (on 18.6 million units) generated by CD sales. Vinyl revenue grew by 12.8% in the second half of 2018 and 12.9% in the first six months of 2019, while the revenue from CDs barely budged. If these trends hold, records will soon be generating more money than compact discs.

Despite vinyl’s growth, streaming still dominates the music industry — records accounted for just 4 percent of total revenues in the first half of 2019. In contrast, paid subscriptions to streaming services generated 62 percent of industry revenues.

“We welcome [the growth in vinyl],” Tom Corson, now the co-chairman and CEO of Warner Records, told Rolling Stone in 2015. “It’s a sexy, cool product. It represents an investment in music that’s an emotional one. [But] it is a small percentage of our business. It’s not going to make or break our year. We devote the right amount of resources to it, but it’s not something where we have a department for it.”

Still, the vinyl resurgence has been a boon for some artists, especially classic rock groups. The Beatles sold over 300,000 records in 2018, while Pink Floyd, David Bowie, Fleetwood Mac, Led Zeppelin, Jimi Hendrix, and Queen all sold over 100,000.

 

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Miles Davis ‘Moon and Stars’ Trumpet Headed to Auction – Rolling Stone

Miles Davis ‘Moon and Stars’ Trumpet Headed to Auction – Rolling Stone

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https://www.rollingstone.com/music/music-news/miles-davis-moon-stars-trumpet-auction-878789/
 

Rare Trumpet Designed, Played by Miles Davis Headed to Auction

New video featuring ‘Miles Ahead’ trumpeter Keyon Harrold shows horn’s distinctive “Moon and Stars” design

September 4, 2019 6:00AM ET

 

 

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Christie’s will auction off a trumpet both designed and played by Miles Davisnext month. Commissioned by Davis in 1980, the Martin Company horn features a distinctive gilt pattern showing crescent moons and stars, with the word “Miles” inscribed inside the bell. Christie’s estimates the instrument’s value at between $70,000 and $100,000.

The trumpet is one of three commissioned by Davis around the time he reemerged from a five-year performing and recording hiatus. The horn up for auction features a deep-blue lacquer finish; a red one with the same celestial pattern remains in Davis’ family’s possession, while a black one is buried with Davis in the Bronx’s Woodlawn Cemetery. The model is a Martin Committee — named because it was designed by a team of five — which was favored by top jazz trumpeters from the Forties through the Sixties, and used by Davis throughout his career. The present owner of the blue “Moon and Stars” trumpet acquired it from jazz guitarist and sometime Davis collaborator George Benson.

“[A] trumpet like this — top quality in its field, beautifully made and, most important, with impeccable provenance — is definitely top in class,” Becky MacGuire of Christie’s tells Rolling Stone in a statement.

A video released in conjunction with the auction announcement shows contemporary jazz luminary Keyon Harrold — who recorded the trumpet passages heard in Don Cheadle’s 2016 Davis biopic Miles Ahead — playing the horn. In the New York–set clip, he discusses how “the fire of the music here” brought him to New York from his home of Ferguson, Missouri, near Davis’ birthplace of Alton, Illinois.

“Miles being one of the coolest of the cool, his energy on the scene really, really inspired greatness,” Harrold says, accompanied by footage of him improvising on the “Moon and Stars” horn in an empty club.

“This is a classic. This is a relic. As a trumpet player holding this horn, this is amazing,” Harrold says of the instrument, while the camera pans over its features. “Knowing the history of Miles as being very, very detail-oriented, I can imagine he designed this totally himself. He was a visual artist as well. The layout of this is so beautiful: the moon, the stars. Just looking at the design, it’s just flawless.”

The Miles Davis “Moon and Stars” trumpet will feature in “The Exceptional Sale” at Christie’s in New York on October 29th.

Jim Eigo Jazz Promo Services T: 845-986-1677 E-Mail: jim@jazzpromoservices.com
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‘Cousin Mary’ Lyerly Alexander, 92, John Coltrane’s inspiration and ‘the mother of jazz in Philadelphia’

‘Cousin Mary’ Lyerly Alexander, 92, John Coltrane’s inspiration and ‘the mother of jazz in Philadelphia’

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https://www.inquirer.com/obituaries/cousin-mary-john-coltrane-obituary-20190905.html
 

‘Cousin Mary’ Lyerly Alexander, 92, John Coltrane’s inspiration and ‘the mother of jazz in Philadelphia’

by Shaun Brady, Updated: September 5, 2019 

Mary Lyerly Alexander, 92, of Philadelphia, best known to jazz fans as John Coltrane’s beloved “Cousin Mary,” died Saturday, Aug. 31. 

Besides inspiring one of the iconic saxophonist’s most well-known compositions, Ms. Alexander worked for much of her life to help keep Coltrane’s legacy alive in Philadelphia. She founded the John W. Coltrane Cultural Society, introducing children across the city to jazz, and hosting a series of backyard concerts at the Strawberry Mansion house she and Coltrane shared during the 1950s.

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She was also an inviting presence and enthusiastic supporter of the Philly jazz scene for decades. Carla Washington, Ms. Alexander’s longtime friend and the community engagement manager at the Clef Club of Jazz and Performing Arts, said, “Cousin Mary was the mother of jazz in Philadelphia.”

Ms. Alexander lived in the John Coltrane House, now a National Historic Landmark, until 2004. A stroke in December 2005 rendered her speechless, and she spent her final years living at the Watermark nursing home at Logan Square.

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Born on July 23, 1927, Ms. Alexander was 10 months younger than her famous cousin. The two grew up together, as young children in High Point, N.C., and later as teenagers in Philadelphia. Coltrane bought the house on North 33rd Street with the help of a G.I. loan in 1952 for himself as well as his mother, aunt, and cousin.

Coltrane left the house when he moved to New York City in 1958, shortly after joining Miles Davis’ band. Coltrane died in 1967 of liver cancer. His mother remained in the house until her death in 1977, after which Ms. Alexander acquired and moved back into the property.

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The tune “Cousin Mary” first appeared on Coltrane’s landmark Atlantic Records debut, Giant Steps, in 1960. In the album’s liner notes, “Trane” described his cousin as “a very earthy, folksy, swinging person. The figure is riff-like and although the changes are not conventional blues progressions, I tried to retain the flavor of the blues.” 

Coltrane went on to record the piece several times over his career, and it’s entered the repertoire of numerous jazz musicians, from Stanley Jordan to Archie Shepp and Brad Mehldau. According to legendary saxophonist Jimmy Heath, “the composition John wrote was very applicable to [Ms. Alexander’s] personality. She was a very pleasant, music-loving person who John had high respect for.”

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“I knew how close we were,” Ms. Alexander told producer Joel Dorn in 1995, “but I never thought he’d write a tune for me.”

In the ensuing decades, Ms. Alexander did everything possible to repay the honor. She was originally a member of the TraneStop Resource Institute, founded in 1979 by the educator Arnold Boyd. Five years later, Alexander left to form the John W. Coltrane Cultural Society, with a group of local jazz artists and supporters including organist Shirley Scott, vocalist Dottie Smith, professor Linda Williams, and writer Marilyn Kai Jewett.

Mary Lyerly Alexander, best known to jazz fans as John Coltrane's beloved 'Cousin Mary.'
COURTESY OF THE CLEF CLUB 
Mary Lyerly Alexander, best known to jazz fans as John Coltrane’s beloved ‘Cousin Mary.’ 

Carla Washington and her husband, Clef Club artistic director Lovett Hines, also worked closely with the Cultural Society. “When Mary told you a story about John Coltrane, you knew it was the truth,” Hines said. “She tried to keep his legacy alive by just living it. She was really spiritually and artistically connected to him, and it was an education and a wonderful experience being around her.”

Washington recalled Ms. Alexander as an astute critic with a playful sense of humor, whose gauge for good music was how close it drove her to the edge of her seat. “We would go to a concert and Mary would say, ‘Well, I wasn’t on the edge!’ or ‘I almost fell off the chair!’ She was so supportive of the music and cultural organizations here in Philadelphia. She made her rounds, and was a people person, and she just lit up a room when she walked in.”

The cultural society’s main focus was its educational outreach, which conducted classes and workshops in schools, libraries, recreation centers, and other youth-focused venues with local artists. “Wherever children were, she wanted to introduce them to jazz,” Washington recalled. “The musicians loved her and loved doing that. They understood her vision.”

The group’s annual series of backyard concerts, held throughout the 1990s, hosted such luminaries as Ravi Coltrane, Bootsie Barnes, and Odean Pope, who was a close friend of Coltrane’s during the saxophonist’s Philadelphia years.

“I’m so grateful that I lived in Cousin Mary’s time because she was so delightful,” Pope said. “She was a very special woman and was so supportive of not only John but all musicians that she came in contact with. She really couldn’t get enough of listening to the great music that was being developed during that time.”

Ms. Alexander’s husband, Billy, died in 1995. She leaves no survivors. 

The Clef Club is planning to host a memorial tribute in September, with a date and performers to be determined.

Posted: September 5, 2019 – 4:40 PM 
Shaun Brady

Jim Eigo Jazz Promo Services T: 845-986-1677 E-Mail: jim@jazzpromoservices.com
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Citiview presents “WILLstock 2019: The Will Friedwald Birthday Bonanza” at the Triad

Citiview presents “WILLstock 2019: The Will Friedwald Birthday Bonanza” at the Triad

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September 5, 2019

To: Listings/Critics/Features
From: Jazz Promo Services
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By Will Friedwald 

A Citiview Special!

Citiview presents “WILLstock 2019: 
WILL FRIEDWALD’S BIRTHDAY BONANZA”

Please RSVP at the Triad Theater Website (click here).

Monday Sep 16 @ 9PM 
Triad Theater, 158 W 72nd ST
$10 cover (to pay for the space & the tech guy etc)
two-drink minimum

WILL FRIEDWALD’S BIRTHDAY BONANZA

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It’s two shows in one!

1. Live performances by some of the brightest contemporary stars in the jazz & cabaret firmament!
 

2. A Clip Joint Special! Classic music and comedy videos that will blow your mind, on the big screen and super-duper a/v system of the Triad,

Curated by Will Friedwald, Wall Street Journal & Citiview columnist and author of ten books on music.
(PS: this is NOT a big birthday, but it will be a double-big birthday bonanza! In lieu of presents, please bring more people!)

Dress code: Formal 
gentlemen: tuxedos, business suits
ladies: gowns, heels, and / or swimwear

appx timetable:
8:45PM – doors open
9:00PM – Clip Joint (film show) starts
10:30PM – Live performances start!

piano: Pete Malinverni ( Head of Jazz Studies, Purchase College, SUNY at SUNY Purchase College)

On stage:
Kat Edmonson
Marissa Mulder
Anais Reno & Juliette Kurtzman
Eric Comstock & Barbara Fasano
Karen Oberlin & David Hajdu
The Ladybugs
Eric Yves Garcia
Hannah Jane Peterson
Michael & Mardie
Saxy Susie Clausen & Ukulele Andrew Poretz
Plus guest stars and many more to be announced.

On Screen:
Frank Sinatra
Nat King Cole
Ella Fitzgerald
Judy Garland
Bobby Darin
Woody Herman
Count Basie
Joe Williams
Mel Torme
Buddy Greco
Louis Armstrong
Marilyn Maye
Perry Como
Dean Martin
Doris Day 
Benny Goodman
Puddles Pity Party
plus “Scratch,” the Wonder Crab!
and ALL YOUR FAVORITES!

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Author: Will Friedwald

Will Friedwald writes about music and popular culture for THE WALL STREET JOURNAL, VANITY FAIR and PLAYBOY magazine and reviews current shows for THE CITIVIEW NEW YORK. He also is the author of nine books, including the award-winning A BIOGRAPHICAL GUIDE TO THE GREAT JAZZ AND POP SINGERS, SINATRA: THE SONG IS YOU, STARDUST MELODIES, TONY BENNETT: THE GOOD LIFE, LOONEY TUNES & MERRIE MELODIES, and JAZZ SINGING. He has written over 600 liner notes for compact discs, received ten Grammy nominations, and appears frequently on television and other documentaries. He is also a consultant and curator for Apple Music.

New Books:

THE GREAT JAZZ AND POP VOCAL ALBUMS (Pantheon Books / Random House, November 2017)

SINATRA: THE SONG IS YOU – NEW REVISED EDITION (Chicago Review Press, May 2018)

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The Mark of Jazz: Mabel Mercer (1976) – YouTube

The Mark of Jazz: Mabel Mercer (1976) – YouTube

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https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dM-oyWKGp6A

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‘Complete Woody Herman Decca, Mars, MGM Sessions (1943-54)’ Review: A Decade of Many Changes – WSJ

‘Complete Woody Herman Decca, Mars, MGM Sessions (1943-54)’ Review: A Decade of Many Changes – WSJ

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https://www.wsj.com/articles/complete-woody-herman-decca-mars-mgm-sessions-1943-54-review-a-decade-of-many-changes-11566835022
 

‘Complete Woody Herman Decca, Mars, MGM Sessions (1943-54)’ Review: A Decade of Many Changes

A new collection reveals Herman’s genius as a bandleader, musician, coach and more, as well as the evolving sound of the group he headed.

By 

Will Friedwald 

Aug. 26, 2019 11:57 am ET

Woody Herman Photo: Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

It’s March 25, 1946, and you’ve come to Carnegie Hall to hear the most exciting jazz orchestra then playing, Woody Herman and His Orchestra—known to fans and followers as “The Thundering Herd.” Herman starts the concert agreeably enough with “Caldonia,” the Louis Jordan R&B classic that was also a hit for him, and then he launches into “Bijou,” the darndest thing you’ve ever heard. It begins with a polyrhythmic pattern like none ever known previously in jazz, as expressed by an unusual combination of vibes, bass and percussion; this is immediately followed by another off-kilter staccato rhythmic passage, this one played mostly by the brass. 

Did composer and arranger Ralph Burns provide a hint when he gave “Bijou” the subtitle “Rhumba a la Jazz?” It’s more like a misleading clue: The piece is more Middle Eastern than Pan-American, as Jon Hendricks realized when he wrote a lyric to “Bijou” a decade or so later and set the scene in Istanbul. The first solo instrument is leader Herman’s distinctive alto saxophone, which functions as a sideshow barker, beckoning us into a tent where a scantily clad belly dancer begins to undulate, slowly shedding her seven veils. This central “dance” is executed by the stunning trombonist Bill Harris, who transforms this singularly exotic number into something more down to earth: It’s like coming across a blues singer in the middle of a little street in Singapore.

Herman’s 1946 Carnegie Hall concert is documented in an 80-minute recording that is the centerpiece of the new Mosaic Records seven-CD package “Complete Woody Herman Decca, Mars, MGM Sessions (1943-54).” But the boxed set begins in 1943, when Herman’s orchestra was still being billed as “The Band That Plays the Blues,” and this is what distinguished them from virtually any other white band of that period. (During the Carnegie concert, Herman even sings the songbook standard “I’ll Get By” as if it were a 12-bar blues.) The earlier tracks borrow heavily from Duke Ellington, even to the point of featuring several key Ellingtonians, such as Johnny Hodges and Ben Webster.

It was with the arrival in 1944 of pianist Ralph Burns—who quickly became Herman’s dominant arranging voice, and worked with the remarkable rhythm section of bassist Chubby Jackson and drummer Dave Tough—that the band found its own distinctive sound: grounded in the fundamentals but facing the future. Even its basic variations on the blues (“Panacea”) sound unique. The Herd genuflected in the direction of the nascent bebop revolution, but—more important—they embodied the euphoric spirit that accompanied the ending of World War II. The Herd thunders with the ecstatic energy of an American battalion marching—make that swinging—into Paris or Berlin. There’s an inherent optimism in the band’s music.

While the first three discs document the birth and the height of the original Herd (1943-46), the remaining four CDs bring us the Third Herd of 1951-54, as documented on two records labels. The MGM recordings include some overtly commercial material, scorned by jazz purists then and now; still, there are lovely collaborations with crooner Billy Eckstine and movie soundtrack composer David Rose. But the box’s most satisfying material from the early 1950s comes from the Mars label, which Herman owned and operated for several years in partnership with music publisher and friend Howard Richman.

Richman briefly steered Herman in a direction no one could have foreseen: He was the only major American swing band leader to record a whole series of big-band calypsos. The taste and imagination of Herman and Burns led to an inspired orchestral jazz treatment of “Jump in the Line” utilizing flutes and bongos that surely was an inspiration for Harry Belafonte almost a decade later. Nearly every session here contains some previously buried treasure: The same 1952 date that included “Jump in the Line” yielded Burns’s highly imaginative paraphrase of “Stompin’ at the Savoy,” in which the familiar riff melody is played, well, sort of sideways, and Burns’s original “Terrissita,” essentially a gorgeous sequel to “Bijou” that continually shifts meters and keys in a genuinely exotic fashion yet never stops swinging.

Burns’s brilliance is all over this box, no less than Herman’s genius as a bandleader, musician, coach, cheerleader, editor, blues shouter, musical dramaturge, and—as his increasingly younger sidemen called him—“Road Father,” helping his musicians to do the best work possible. In these two somewhat random chunks of Herd history, Herman gives us 141 examples of why his orchestra—which lasted more than half a century from beginning to end—was among the greatest in all of American music.

—Mr. Friedwald writes about music and popular culture for the Journal.

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Clora Bryant, Trumpeter and Pillar of L.A. Jazz Scene, Dies at 92 – The New York Times

Clora Bryant, Trumpeter and Pillar of L.A. Jazz Scene, Dies at 92 – The New York Times

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https://www.nytimes.com/2019/09/01/arts/music/clora-bryant-dead.html?action=click

 

Clora Bryant, Trumpeter and Pillar of L.A. Jazz Scene, Dies at 92

By Giovanni Russonello

Sept. 1, 2019

Clora Bryant, a trumpeter who was widely considered one of the finest jazz musicians on the West Coast — but who ran into gender-based limitations on how famous she could become — died on Aug. 23 in Los Angeles. She was 92.

Her son Darrin Milton said she died at the Cedars-Sinai Medical Center after suffering a heart attack at home.

A self-described “trumpetiste,” Ms. Bryant came of age in the 1940s, aligning herself with the emerging bebop movement. But she never lost the brawny elocution and gregarious air of a classic big-band player, even as she became a fixture of Los Angeles’s modern jazz scene.

Often faced with sexist discrimination, without support from a major record label or an agent, Ms. Bryant did not come forth as a bandleader until middle age. By that point the jazz mainstream had moved on to fusion, a style she never embraced. 

Stay on top of the latest in pop and jazz with reviews, interviews, podcasts and more from The New York Times music critics.

And even when jazz history became a subject of major academic concern in the late 1970s and ’80s, she was rarely celebrated at the level of her male counterparts, who had enjoyed greater support throughout their careers.

But among themselves, those same musicians often recognized her virtuosity, and she played with many of them. Dizzy Gillespie, an inventor of bebop, found himself dazzled upon first hearing her in the mid-1950s, and took to calling her his protégé.

“If you close your eyes, you’ll say it’s a man playing,” Gillespie said in an interview for “Trumpetistically, Clora Bryant,” a documentary directed by Zeinabu Davis. (He apparently intended it as a compliment.) “She has the feeling of the trumpet. The feeling, not just the notes.”

Writing in The Los Angeles Times in 1992, when Ms. Bryant was in her mid-60s, Dick Wagner noted that she retained her beguiling powers. “When Bryant plays the blues, the sound is low, almost guttural, a smoldering fire,” he wrote. “When she plays a fast tune, the sound is piercing — the fire erupts.”

Clora Larea Bryant was born on May 30, 1927, in Denison, Tex., the youngest of three children of Charles and Eulila Bryant. Her father was a day laborer. Her mother was a homemaker who died when Clora was 3, leaving him to raise his children alone on a salary of $7 a week. 

Ms. Bryant credited her success as a trumpeter to her father’s tireless support. “Nobody ever told me, ‘You can’t play the trumpet, you’re a girl,’” she said in a 2007 interview with JazzTimes magazine. “My father told me, ‘It’s going to be a challenge, but if you’re going to do it, I’m behind you all the way.’ And he was.”

She started out on the piano but took up the trumpet after her high school established an orchestra and marching band. Showing preternatural talent, she often woke up at dawn to take private lessons before the school day began.

In 1943 she declined scholarships to the Oberlin Conservatory in Ohio and Bennett College in North Carolina to attend Prairie View A&M University — a historically black school outside Houston — because it had an all-female 16-piece jazz band. “When I found out they had an all-girl band there, that’s where I was going,” she said in a wide-ranging six-hour interview with Steven Isoardi for the University of California, Los Angeles’s oral history program.

In 1946 Ms. Bryant joined the International Sweethearts of Rhythm, the country’s leading all-female swing ensemble, where she was a featured soloist.
In 1946 Ms. Bryant joined the International Sweethearts of Rhythm, the country’s leading all-female swing ensemble, where she was a featured soloist.Ernest Mac Crafton Miller

But in 1945, after two years at Prairie View, Ms. Bryant moved with her family to Los Angeles and transferred to U.C.L.A. (Her father had been run out of Texas by a group of white people who accused him of stealing paint.) She immediately found her way to Central Avenue, the bustling nucleus of black life in the city, where jazz clubs abounded.

After hearing the trumpeter Howard McGhee at the Downbeat, she fell in love with bebop. She was underage, so she stood just outside the door, transfixed. But she soon found her way inside.

“I would not go without my horn,” she told Dr. Isoardi, remembering attending nightclubs like the Downbeat and the Club Alabam. “If I knew there was going to be somebody there, I’d have my horn with me, because I wanted to be a part of it. I wanted to try to learn something.”

In 1946 Ms. Bryant joined the International Sweethearts of Rhythm, the country’s leading all-female swing ensemble, where she was a featured soloist. (Jazz bands led by women had become popular during World War II, and many of these ensembles continued to thrive for years afterward.)

Soon after, she joined the Queens of Rhythm, another large group. When its drummer left, she learned drums to fill the role. A crowd-pleaser, she sometimes played trumpet with one hand while drumming with the other.

Ms. Bryant married the bassist Joe Stone in the late 1940s, and the couple had two children. In one publicity photo with the Queens of Rhythm, she subtly conceals an eight-month pregnancy. She and Mr. Stone eventually divorced, and she raised their children as a single parent, continuing to perform all the while. 

Ms. Bryant is survived by her four children — April and Charles Stone, from her marriage to Mr. Stone, and Kevin and Darrin Milton, from her relationship with the drummer Leslie Milton — as well as nine grandchildren and five great-grandchildren. Her brothers, Frederick and Melvin, died before her. 

Throughout much of the 1950s she regularly led jam sessions around Los Angeles. She also played in the house band at the Alabam, where she backed up visiting stars like Billie Holiday and Josephine Baker. She moved to New York for a brief time but soon returned to Los Angeles, where she would stay for the rest of her life, remaining a well-known performer and a mentor to younger musicians.

In 1956, the trombonist Melba Liston arranged for Ms. Bryant to meet Gillespie when he toured Los Angeles. He took her under his wing and gave her a trumpet mouthpiece that she would use for decades. Ms. Bryant later returned the favor, leading the charge to get Gillespie his own star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

She recorded her sole album as a leader, “Gal With a Horn,” for Mode Records in 1957. To satisfy audiences, Ms. Bryant had taken up singing onstage, and the label’s executives demanded — against her wishes — that she sing on the album’s eight tunes. But it is her trumpet solos that stand out: She often leaps out of the gate with a stoutly articulated melody before spiraling into coiled runs, her bold delivery reflecting the influence of Louis Armstrong as much as first-wave bebop pioneers like Gillespie and Fats Navarro.

By the mid-1950s, Ms. Bryant was performing around the country with various groups and accompanying the vocalist Billy Williams in his popular Las Vegas revue. They appeared together on “The Ed Sullivan Show,” and Ms. Bryant contributed a track to Williams’s album “The Billy Williams Revue.”

In the 1970s and ’80s Ms. Bryant stepped forward more as a leader, fronting a combo she called Swi-Bop. She toured internationally and often performed with her brother Melvin, a singer. In the late 1980s and ’90s, her son Kevin was Swi-Bop’s regular drummer.

In 1988, with tensions easing between the United States and Russia, Ms. Bryant wrote a letter to Mikhail S. Gorbachev, the Soviet leader, saying she hoped to become “the first lady horn player to be invited to your country to perform.” His cultural ministry invited her to the Soviet Union, where she toured the next year.

Ms. Bryant retired from playing trumpet in the 1990s after suffering a heart attack and undergoing quadruple bypass surgery. She committed herself to preserving and passing on jazz’s legacy, giving lectures at colleges and universities, working with children in grade schools around Los Angeles and coediting a book on Los Angeles jazz history.

In 2002 the Kennedy Center presented Ms. Bryant with a lifetime achievement award at its Mary Lou Williams Women in Jazz Festival. She sang some of her own compositions at the event, flanked by younger musicians.

At the conclusion of Ms. Davis’s documentary, Ms. Bryant acknowledges the frustration of having been passed over while watching her male counterparts rise to stardom, but she expresses a dauntless pride nonetheless.

“I’m sitting here broke as the Ten Commandments, but I’m still rich,” she says. “With love and friendship and music. And I’m rich in life.”

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Pedro Bell, Whose Wild Album Covers Defined Funkadelic, Dies at 69

Pedro Bell, Whose Wild Album Covers Defined Funkadelic, Dies at 69

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https://www.nytimes.com/2019/08/30/arts/music/pedro-bell-dead.html?action=click&module=Well&pgtype=Homepage&section=Obituaries

Pedro Bell, Whose Wild Album Covers Defined Funkadelic, Dies at 69

By Neil Genzlinger

Aug. 30, 2019

His vivid imagery, hypersexualized and full of futuristic themes, helped create the mythology of George Clinton’s groundbreaking group.

Pedro Bell in 2009. His psychedelic album covers for the pioneering band Funkadelic featured topless women, space imagery and mutants and, as one curator put it, “placed African-American reality in the context of a science fiction future.”
Pedro Bell in 2009. His psychedelic album covers for the pioneering band Funkadelic featured topless women, space imagery and mutants and, as one curator put it, “placed African-American reality in the context of a science fiction future.”Jean Lachat/Chicago Sun-Times

Pedro Bell, whose mind-bending album covers for the band Funkadelic gave visual definition to its signature sound in the 1970s and ’80s, died on Tuesday in Evergreen Park, Ill., near Chicago. He was 69.

George Clinton, the brains behind Funkadelic, announced his death on his Facebook page. Mr. Bell had been in poor health for many years.

Mr. Bell created his first cover for Funkadelic, the pioneering band that merged funk and psychedelic rock, in 1973. The album was “Cosmic Slop,” and it featured a topless woman, space imagery and mutants. Though Funkadelic and its sister act, Parliament, had been around for several years, Mr. Bell’s artwork and the liner notes he wrote under the name Sir Lleb (“Bell” spelled backward) helped define Funkadelic and its elaborate mythology.

Some of the images on Mr. Bell’s original cover for the 1981 Funkadelic album, “The Electric Spanking of War Babies,” raised alarm at Warner Bros. Records. “I made a mess of money on that one,” he later said. “They paid me to censor the cover.”
Some of the images on Mr. Bell’s original cover for the 1981 Funkadelic album, “The Electric Spanking of War Babies,” raised alarm at Warner Bros. Records. “I made a mess of money on that one,” he later said. “They paid me to censor the cover.”

“Bell portrayed the members of Funkadelic as ‘The Invasion Force,’ a Technicolor assortment of alien superheroes, afronauts, mutants and cosmic warriors,” Lodown magazine once wrote in an article about him. “Their mission was to fight the good fight, ‘to rise and prevail’ in the ideological and musical ‘Funk Wars.’”

Mr. Bell referred to his artworks as “scartoons.” But Pan Wendt, who with Luis Jacob curated a 2009 exhibition at the Justina M. Barnicke Gallery in Toronto called “Funkaesthetics” that included Mr. Bell’s work, said they were hardly frivolous.

“The artwork of Pedro Bell was an essential component of the alternately utopian and dystopian world of P-Funk, which placed African-American reality in the context of a science fiction future that was both scary and hopeful,” Mr.Wendt said by email. “Pedro was a brilliant autodidact who was a key source of George Clinton’s ideology through his readings of science fiction, media theory and environmentalist tracts, as well as his knowledge of Sun Ra’s Afrofuturism.”

After his heyday as part of the Funkadelic inner circle, though, Mr. Bell encountered financial and medical difficulties. At the time of the “Funkaesthetics” exhibition he was living in a shabby single-room-occupancy hotel in Chicago, his eyesight almost gone, his kidneys failing.

“I spent many hours talking with him, often in the middle of the night, as dialysis made him woozy during the daytime,” Mr. Wendt said, “and it was clear from these conversations that P-Funk’s worldview was deeply indebted to his analysis and imagination.”

Mr. Bell was born on June 11, 1950, in Chicago. In 2010, when some of his art was included in an exhibition called “What Makes Us Smile?” at the American Visionary Art Museum in Baltimore, Mr. Bell recorded a biographical interview, conducted by his brother Maillo Tsuru Postelwait. In the interview he said that his father, John, “had four main jobs: a disgraced cop, postal worker, jackleg preacher, and a lifetime subscriber to the Ike Turner School of Domestic Disharmony.” His mother, Annette, he said, was a “Genius Humanitarian and Super Nurse, 1969 Dodge Charger purchaser, and late-in-life shifted to pharmaceutical drug abuser, via White Coat Syndrome.”

George Clinton’s solo album “Some of My Best Jokes Are Friends” (1985).
Funkadelic’s “One Nation Under a Groove” (1978)..

“I’m a self-taught Pagan,” he said, “who tried and completed around 156,000 credit hours at Bradley and Roosevelt universities, with a million credit hours in Weed Science and Decadent Sex (The Joy of Flex) and Last Pocket 8-Ball to balance out the damage of formal education.”

In his memoir, “Brothas Be, Yo Like George, Ain’t That Funkin’ Kinda Hard on You?” (2014, written with Ben Greenman), Mr. Clinton recalled how Mr. Bell came to his attention.

“Around 1972 or so, we started to get letters from a young artist in Chicago named Pedro Bell,” he wrote. “He doodled these intricate, wild worlds, filled with crazy hypersexual characters and strange slogans.”

Mr. Bell’s letters arrived in hand-decorated envelopes, bizarre miniature works of art that sparked official alarm.

“After a few months of delivering Pedro’s letters to us,” Mr. Clinton wrote, “the postmaster general wanted to know if I was involved in some kind of subversive organization.”

“Pedro’s correspondence,” he added, “gave me an idea for how we could move Funkadelic up a notch, how we could take what we were doing musically, and onstage, and capture some of that anarchic energy in the album packages.”

It was a time before streaming audio and viral videos, when an album’s cover art, especially for performers who did not get a lot of Top 40 radio play, was vital to capturing the attention of consumers. Mr. Clinton, who used Mr. Bell’s art on his solo records as well, acknowledged as much.

“To this day, Pedro’s covers are many people’s point of entry for Funkadelic albums,” he wrote. “When people talk about ‘Cosmic Slop,’ for example, they talk as much about the cover art as anything else: the way that the screaming face is inset into the woman’s Afro, her vampire fangs, the map on one nipple and the stereo dial on the other, the strange yellow bug off to the right of the woman with Pedro’s signature along its body.”

In addition to his album covers, Mr. Bell created artwork like “Fyrebyrd Watch Your Rear” (1987), marker on board.Gavin Brown’s Enterprise, New York/Rome
“Black Diamond Steel Lookin’ Good” (1987), also marker on board.Gavin Brown’s Enterprise, New York/Rome

Rebecca Alban Hoffberger, founder of the American Visionary Art Museum, which focuses on outsider art, said that the “What Makes Us Smile?” exhibition included as guest co-curator Matt Groening, creator of “The Simpsons,” who suggested including Mr. Bell’s work. 

“Fabulous, energetic, fun, smart — Pedro Bell is a real unsung hero,” she said in a telephone interview. But when the museum reached out to Mr. Bell, she said, he had little of his own art to offer; a museum overseas, she said, had borrowed much of it for an exhibition and not returned it. 

“We bent over backwards to give him a lot of peace, because he had been hurt,” she said. 

He was, however, able to provide the cover art he did for Mr. Clinton’s 1985 album, “Some of My Best Jokes Are Friends.”

Information on Mr. Bell’s survivors was not immediately available.

One of Mr. Bell’s more scandalous covers, for the 1981 Funkadelic album, “The Electric Spanking of War Babies,” raised alarm at Warner Bros. Records, which was concerned about the naked woman inside a phallic-looking spaceship he had included. 

“I made a mess of money on that one,” he told Juxtapoz magazine in 1998. “They paid me to censor the cover.”

Mr. Clinton was especially fond of what Mr. Bell came up with for Funkadelic’s “Standing on the Verge of Getting It On” (1974): an alien landscape that was both scary and whimsical.

“It was a combination of Ralph Bakshi and Samuel R. Delany and Superfly and Fat Albert and Philip K. Dick and Krazy Kat and Flash Gordon,” he wrote in his book, “all mixed together in Pedro’s brain with some kind of blender that hadn’t even been invented yet.”

Neil Genzlinger is a writer for the Obituaries Desk. Previously he was a television, film and theater critic. @genznyt • Facebook

A version of this article appears in print on Aug. 31, 2019, Section B, Page 16 of the New York edition with the headline: Pedro Bell, Psychedelic Artist Behind Funkadelic Album Covers, Dies at 69. Order Reprints | Today’s Paper | Subscribe

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Buck Hill, famous D.C. saxophonist, is honored with a mural at 14th and U

Buck Hill, famous D.C. saxophonist, is honored with a mural at 14th and U

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https://www.capitalbop.com/buck-hill-dc-mural/

A new mural near the corner of 14th and U Streets NW features a 70-foot-high portrait of a postman playing a saxophone, leaning nonchalantly against a wall. It is a towering tribute to a figure who rarely sought the spotlight — but who ended up becoming a DMV legend anyway.

The man is Buck Hill, widely known as “the wailin’ mailman,” who for half a century doubled as a renowned jazz saxophonist and a daily-mail carrier in his hometown. The artwork is now the tallest mural in D.C. paying tribute to any individual figure, according to Nancee Lyons, a spokesperson for the D.C. Department of Public Works.

It was officially unveiled on Tuesday at noon, in a ceremony at the corner of 14th and U. A range of speakers — from jazz musicians to a representative of the postal workers’ union — addressed a crowd of roughly 60 people. A jazz trio also performed, featuring vocalist Donald Tillery, pianist Terry Marshall and drummer Earl Ivey.

MuralsDC, a collaborative project by the D.C. DPR and the D.C. Commission on the Arts and Humanities, sponsored the creation of the mural. 

The Arizona-based muralist Joe Pagac was hired to create a piece at the 14th St. location, but MuralsDC allowed him to choose the subject. Pagac consulted with the Georgetown University history professor Maurice Jackson before settling on Hill, who seemed appropriate given the U Street corridor’s history as the heart-center of D.C.’s jazz community. (Go-go legend Chuck Brown was also considered as an option, Lyons said, but his visage can already be seen in multiple murals across the city.)

Today, the corner of 14th and U remains a locus point for D.C. music culture. This spring it was the site of massive protest concerts, when the #DontMuteDC movement arose to push back against the silencing of go-go musicians — and against gentrification writ large.

At Tuesday’s ceremony, several elders in the D.C. jazz community spoke, including Rusty Hassan, a scholar, educator and longtime radio host; Davey Yarborough, the recently retired head of jazz studies at the Duke Ellington School of the Arts; and Rev. Sandra Butler-Truesdale, a DJ, author and advocate for D.C. music history. Other speakers included Brian Renfroe, the executive vice president of the National Association of Letter Carriers; Chris Geldart, the director of the D.C. DPR; and Pagac. 

The ceremony’s context also threw a light on some painful realities in the neighborhood where the mural was created. Hill’s image is a clear callback to the years when D.C. was widely known as Chocolate City, and when U Street was a bustling incubator of Black culture. While elements of U Street’s rich history remain intact, the corridor has been aggressively gentrified, with property costs skyrocketing and luxury apartments and condominiums springing up. “As much as I love seeing Buck on that wall, I’d love to see some affordable housing so people who look like him could live here,” Butler-Truesdale said in her remarks, according to the WAMU reporter Mikaela Lefrak.

The mural itself adorns the side of Elysium Fourteen, a shiny new apartment complex located above a SoulCycle and Lululemon store.


Mikaela Lefrak✔@mikafrak

I’m at the dedication of DC’s new Buck Hill mural and the guy next to me just said, “It’s been a minute since I’ve seen this many black people at 14th and U.” The neighborhood’s certainly changed a lot since Hill’s time.

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Coltrane house to get historic marker this week | High Point Enterprise

Coltrane house to get historic marker this week | High Point Enterprise

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https://hpenews.com/news/10585/coltrane-house-to-get-historic-marker-this-week/

Coltrane house to get historic marker this week

HIGH POINT — Last September, Phyllis Bridges feared what might happen to one of the city’s most significant cultural and historical structures — the house where legendary jazz icon John Coltrane grew up.

Only a year later, the High Point historian is preparing for a celebration. This week, a marker will be publicly unveiled at the Coltrane house, recognizing the 91-year-old residence on Underhill Street as a historic landmark and earmarking the structure for future preservation.

“This is another piece of important history that’s going to be marked, and it’s long overdue,” said Bridges, who spearheaded the campaign to secure the market. “There’s still a lot more we need to do to preserve our African-American history, but this is one marker that should’ve been done a long time ago, so I’m excited that we’re finally getting it done.”

The marker will be unveiled Friday during a public celebration at the house. The house will also be open for tours, and an exhibit about the history of the house will be on display.

Bridges said the house will also be open next weekend when the John Coltrane International Jazz and Blues Festival is taking place in High Point.

“It’s perfect timing,” she said. “We want people who are visiting for the festival to be able to have the experience of seeing the house, too. And hopefully even the musicians who are here performing will want to see it while they’re in town.”

Although Coltrane was born in Hamlet, North Carolina, his family moved to High Point when he was only 3 months old. He grew up here, attending Leonard Street School and William Penn High School. He lived in the compact, two-story house on Underhill Street from 1928, when it was built, until 1943, when he graduated from William Penn. It was during those years that Coltrane developed his love for music and began to blossom as a performer, first playing the clarinet and later the saxophone.

“His entire family was passionate about music, so there was always music in the household,” Coltrane scholar David Tegnell told The Enterprise for a story last year. “…John’s cousin, who also lived in that house and was like a sister to him, said he sat at the kitchen table day and night and practiced all the time.”

The house stands empty now, but it’s hard not to speculate about the layout and decor of the house when Coltrane lived there.

“I would love to know which room he was in, but we just don’t know,” Bridges said as she walked through the house one afternoon this past week. “And I would love to know where the piano was.”

Presumably, Coltrane slept in one of the four small bedrooms upstairs, and the family piano would’ve been in one of two downstairs rooms — the living room or the dining room. Coltrane moved the piano to Philadelphia in 1952, and now it’s owned by the High Point Museum and is on display there.

While the historic marker being unveiled this week will honor Coltrane, it will also pay homage to the man who built the house — Coltrane’s maternal grandfather, the Rev. W.W. Blair, an ex-slave and outspoken activist from Chowan County who was elected a county commissioner there and later became a presiding elder of the AME Zion Church.

“In High Point,” the marker will read, “he led citizen groups that lobbied successfully for additional schools for African-American children. John Coltrane owed his stable upbringing and early musical education to his grandfather’s efforts.”

The Coltrane house was built in the Dutch Colonial style, according to Benjamin Briggs, who wrote a book about architecture in High Point and who serves on a committee working to preserve the house.

“It was a fine home for High Point at that period,” Briggs said. “The neighborhood at that time was full of white-collar and professional African-American citizens, and the housing styles were comparable to neighborhoods such as Johnson Street and to a degree even Parkway (Avenue). It was built in the 1920s, which was a very popular period for Dutch Colonial houses.”

According to Briggs, the house is in good shape structurally, largely because it was so well-built.

“Some of the original architecture features on the inside date back to its construction,” he said. “The original windows are there. A lot of what we call the original fabric of the interior is still there. What we would not want to see is that the house had been gutted, and we did not find that here, so that gives the house a high level of integrity.”

One of the challenges now, he said, is interpreting the interior of the house, or figuring out how to make it look authentic.

“We’re hoping family members will have old photographs with details that might help us understand what it looked like on the inside,” Briggs said. “You can’t help but wonder what rugs were on the floor, what pictures were on the walls, and what curtains were on the windows.”

In the meantime, Bridges and other volunteers have been busy getting the house ready for its public debut on Friday.

“It’s been awesome,” Bridges said. “There’s a lot of excitement in the air about all of this.”

jtomlin@hpenews.com | 336-888-3579

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Want to go?

An event celebrating the unveiling of the historic marker at John Coltrane’s childhood home will be held Friday, from 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., at 118 Underhill St.

The marker will be unveiled at noon.

The event will also include a food truck, live music by SonDown, tours of the house and an exhibit about Coltrane, the history of the house, and the man who built it — the Rev. W.W. Blair, Coltrane’s maternal grandfather.

Admission is free.

Jim Eigo Jazz Promo Services T: 845-986-1677 E-Mail: jim@jazzpromoservices.com
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Painter, printmaker and sculptor Oliver Lee Jackson on the artist who inspires him | CANVAS Arts

Painter, printmaker and sculptor Oliver Lee Jackson on the artist who inspires him | CANVAS Arts

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https://artscanvas.org/arts-culture/painter-printmaker-and-sculptor-oliver-lee-jackson-on-the-artists-who-inspire-him

Painter, printmaker and sculptor Oliver Lee Jackson on the artist who inspires him

Transcript

John Yang: The work of American artist Oliver Lee Jackson explores, among many things, themes of music in American and African cultures. It is currently on display at the National Gallery of Art in Washington.

Born in 1935, Jackson sometimes collaborates with musicians, and some of the music in this piece was written for him.

We asked Jackson which artist has influenced his work. He took us to the old masters wing of the National Gallery to see Girl With a Red Hat painted in the Netherlands by Johannes Vermeer 3.5 centuries ago.

Jackson’s story is part of Canvas, our ongoing arts and culture series.

Oliver Lee Jackson: He’s a maker. The effect is supposed to take you into a dream world. That’s what it does.

My name is Oliver Lee Jackson. I make things, paintings, sculptures, et cetera.

This is all about light. Ain’t no light in the painting. The light’s out here. But you believe it. This is intense. This is not casual stuff. It’s not art. This is making.

Our canvas is not a three-dimensional world. It is a flat plain, so we have got to make a world. How do you do it? You make the architecture. How will it stand? What will push here so that you can get something to happen that evokes in other people a feeling?

The piece is really about joy that creates an interior intimacy. Try to express that by just duplicating it again and again, intimate relationships and images everywhere.

These colors never stop showing themselves clearly and evenly throughout. The pink throughout doesn’t shift. So the harmonies are never lessened by the play of the light.

This one was very, very physical in a specific kind of roughness here and the building up of the paint here, kind of sickness here and there that evoke feelings in you.

As you move across this visually, you can’t help but in the inside shift. It’s impossible that you cannot. When it’s happening in you, it’s like a kind of symphony that is directed.

He has to make the effects. He makes them with slanting that thing, forcing you to feel space. This is what pulls you. It’s not the red hat. It’s the red. There ain’t no hat in there. That’s an excuse for the red, this big slash of red against all that cool blue and those tertiaries and this slash of white.

To be able to pull that off is to make a punch, just a punch. It’s like getting in somebody’s face. When anybody looks at this, apart from the subject matter, is that.

I chose gestures that tell everything I want to say. In this arena, which is the whole world, everything seems to be connected to everything else. And there’s actually three of this, three of this.

In the space, it’s closed. They’re all closed in. They don’t shift outside. That means this is a potent area in which these forms interact.

I understand these marks, the scraping, everything, every bone. You do this, what does this require in relation to that? What is it — what are the requirements? There’s relationships. They never stop until it’s complete.

My aesthetics put it together. Hopefully, it does some work as a machine to you. And that’s personal between you and it.

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55 Plus: Love to rock? Listen to these tunes – News – recordonline.com – Middletown, NY

55 Plus: Love to rock? Listen to these tunes – News – recordonline.com – Middletown, NY

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55 Plus: Love to rock? Listen to these tunes

Jim Eigo laughs as he points out an old Shaun Cassidy album in his store, Original Vinyl Records, in Warwick. According to Eigo, if you like “hardcore funk – Prince meets the Neville Brothers meets the Meters” – check out Sons of Kemet, the British group whose latest album is “Your Queen is a Reptile.” [ELAINE A. RUXTON/TIMES HERALD-RECORD]
 

Have the times changed one too many times for you to keep up with new music?

Do you still love to rock, but don’t really keep track of what’s goin’ on?

It’s time for the 55 Plus Guide to New Music for Older People – according to six folks in the musical know about everything from rock, folk and jazz to country, Latin music and hip hop.

Our experts include Greg Gattine, 57, program director of one of the hippest, boundary-breaking commercial radio stations around, WDST-FM in Woodstock; Jason Tougaw, 50, host of Jeffersonville public radio station WJFF-FM’s genre-bending Friday night Mix Tape show; Bobby Olivier, 29, a contributing writer for Billboard magazine; Don Lefsky, 59, the owner of one of the region’s pioneering independent record stores, Jack’s Rhythms in New Paltz; Rene Campos, 62, owner of the hip hop/Latin music record store/electronics shop in Newburgh, DMU; and Jim Eigo, 72, a record business veteran and owner of Original Vinyl Records in Warwick and the jazz promotion company, Jazz Promo Services.

They’ve listed some of their favorite new music, with musical reference points for us older folks.

Greg Gattine

If you like rootsy Americana soul, ala the Band, Nathaniel Rateliff’s “Tearing at the Seams” might just be for you.

If you’re into the Allman Brothers’ southern guitar jams, you’ll rock to a favorite of many of our panel, the Tedeschi-Trucks Band, featuring Derek Trucks, the son of the late Allman Brother Butch Trucks. Their latest is “Signs.”

If smart, sassy country singers like Loretta Lynne and Tammy Wynette move you, you’ll be swayed by Brandi Carlile’s provocative and soulful “by the way, I forgive you” and Margo Price’s new one, “All American Made.”

If you dig that “old Lou Reed, Bowie, Stones vibe,” you’ll like The Nude Party and their self-titled album.

And if you’re a fan of Willie Nelson, check out his son, Lukas, and his rockin’ rootsy band, Promise of the Real, whose new album is “Turn Off the News (Build a Garden).”

Bobby Olivier

If you’re a Bob Dylan fan – and love soaring African vocal music – you’ll like Kenyan native J.S. Ondara’s “Tales of America.” “He feels like the next Leon Bridges.”

If you shimmy and swoon over Curtis Mayfield and Marvin Gaye, you’ll be moved by Bridges, whose latest album is “Good Thing.”

If female indie folk rock meets the Traveling Wilburys sounds intriguing, why not try boygenius, the “emo folk supergroup” of Julien Baker, Phoebe Bridgers and Lucy Dacas.

If you’re just born to love Bruce Springsteen, you’ll dig Gaslight Anthem and its lead singer Brian Fallon’s “Sleepwalkers.” “He’s the millennial Springsteen.”

The Phoebe Bridgers-Conor Oberst collaboration “Better Oblivion Community Center” is Olivier’s favorite album of the year and it sounds like what would happen “if Sonny and Cher grew up on garage bands.”

Jason Tougaw

If you’re sweet on the Mamas and the Papas, you might swoon over the “eclectic orchestral pop with country folk elements” of “Case/Lang/Veirs” (Neko Caso, k.d. Lang and Laura Veirs).

If you’re into the smooth soul of Al Green, you’ll melt over Curtis Harding’s “Face Your Fear.” “This isn’t neo soul; it’s pure soul.”

If you like the Zombies and the Byrds, you’ll dig Ages and Ages’ “Me You They We.”

Johnny Cash meets Sly and the Family Stone? Check out The Tall Pines’ “Skeletons of Soul.”

Can’t get enough of that rootsy Band sound? The new album by the rock country duo of Shovels and Rope, “By Blood,” could be for you.

Is “very classic country like Patsy Cline” enticing? Then listen to Laura Cantrell’s tribute to Kitty Wells, “Kitty Wells’ Dresses.″

Don Lefsky

Do you still bang a gong for the late Marc Bolan? Then check out the garage rocker who not only sounds a bit like the T Rex front man but recorded a bunch of T Rex songs – Ty Segall, whose many albums include “Manipulator” and “Melted.”

Can’t get enough of that psychedelic garage rock – maybe with a harder Black Sabbath-like edge? The band with the ever-changing members and “huh?” name, Thee Oh Sees, might tickle your fun lovin’ fancy on albums like “Castlemania” and “Ork.”

If you like Young Marble Giants or the Raincoats, the “mellow but quirky” Cate Le Bon may tempt you. The Welsh singer who sings in Welsh and English has a new album, “Reward.″

If your taste runs to guitar-accented African-based world music, check out Mdou Moctar of Niger, whose latest album is “Ilan: The Creator.”

Jim Eigo

If you dig “hardcore funk – Prince meets the Neville Brothers meets the Meters” – check out Sons of Kemet, the British group whose latest album is “Your Queen is a Reptile.”

Soul, funk and jazz rolled into one is the scintillating sound of Ghost Note, co-led by two percussionists from Snarky Puppy. Their new album, “Swagism,” features Prince’s former bassist, MonoLeon.

Kamasi Washington may sound “kind of like warmed-over Pharoah Sanders, but it’s really good, some deep stuff.” The sax player’s latest is “Heaven and Earth.”

Dave Stryker’s “8 Track” features the guitarist and his Hammond organ heavy band reworking classic pop tunes from the ’70s like “I’ll Be Around,” “Wichita Lineman” and “Never My Love.”

Black roots music ala Taj Mahal comes alive via the Ebony Hillbillies, who use old-timey instrumentation like washboard, violin and banjo. Their most recent album is 2015′s “Slappin’ a Rabbit.”

Rene Campos

If you’re into salsa with a Columbian accent, check out Grupo Niche, the veteran salsa group that’s still shaking and swaying with live performances and albums like “Tocando El Cielo con Las Manos.”

Reggae with a Spanish accent? Then the reggaeton music of Puerto Rico’s Bad Bunny is the place to go. The superstar who collaborated with Drake and Cardi B has an album, “X100PRE,” and a host of videos.

Merengue blended with hip-hop, rap and R&B? Might sound familiar if you’ve heard Pitbull or Shakira, but the Dominican singer-songwriter Omega is the pioneer and his latest album is “Mi Libertad.”

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Jim Eigo Jazz Promo Services T: 845-986-1677 E-Mail: jim@jazzpromoservices.com
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Chicago jazz masters take a bow at 41st annual Jazz Festival – Chicago Tribune

Chicago jazz masters take a bow at 41st annual Jazz Festival – Chicago Tribune

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Chicago jazz masters take a bow at 41st annual Jazz Festival

Howard Reich

Chicago Tribune |

Aug 23, 2019 | 8:00 AM 

Chicago jazz masters take a bow at 41st annual Jazz Festival

Nonagenarian guitarist George Freeman will be among the Chicago musicians stepping into the spotlight at the Chicago Jazz Festival. (John J. Kim/Chicago Tribune) (John J. Kim/Chicago Tribune)

One of the charms of the Chicago Jazz Festival – dating to its inception in 1979 – has been the spotlight it aims at Chicago musicians.

For while out-of-town stars help draw crowds, Chicago artists get to reach a wider public than at any other time of the year.

This year’s festival will underscore the point during downtown events at Millennium Park’s Pritzker Pavilion and adjacent stages Aug. 29 through Sept. 1 (plus daytime shows Aug. 29 at the Chicago Cultural Center). 

Legendary Chicago jazz guitarist George Freeman, 92, performs regularly in the city’s jazz rooms (and beyond), and blues harmonica master Billy Branch works the Chicago scene when he’s not touring the world. But rarely do you get to hear them performing live together, a seasoned jazzman riffing with a profound upholder of the city’s blues traditions. 

They collaborate on Freeman’s latest album, “George the Bomb!” (on the Chicago-based Southport label), Freeman’s slashing guitar lines enriched by Branch’s raspy vocals and full-throated harmonica work. Two generations and musical idioms meet up here, exchanging ideas and reminding listeners that the blues remains the root of it all. 

George Freeman and Billy Branch play at 4:15 p.m. Aug. 30 at the Pritzker Pavilion. 

It may seem hard to believe, but the Art Ensemble of Chicago marks its 50th anniversary this year with a two-disc recording and a Jazz Festival appearance. Original members Lester Bowie, Malachi Favors Maghostut and Joseph Jarman have passed away, leaving multi-instrumentalist Roscoe Mitchell and percussionist Famoudou Don Moye as surviving members. 

But the open-eared sensibility, historically informed improvisation and stylistically far-reaching character of the Art Ensemble endures and flourishes, thanks to Mitchell and Moye’s collaboration with new generations of experimenters on the double album “We Are on the Edge: A 50th Anniversary Celebration” (Pi Recordings). The lineup includes flutist Nicole Michell, cellist Tomeka Reid, bassists Junius Paul and Silvia Bolognesi, trumpeter Hugh Ragin and many more. The music transcends category, conveys a spiritual core and extends beyond instrumentals to embrace spoken word and chant. 

The Art Ensemble of Chicago performs at 7:45 p.m. Aug. 30 at the Pritzker Pavilion.

Chicago’s jazz traditions stretch back to the dawn of the 20th century or earlier, depending on how you view the chronology. But surely no ensemble in the city today illuminates the emergence of jazz as a sophisticated popular music or revives its historic performance practices more persuasively than the Fat Babies. The band lays claim to that era anew on its latest release, “Uptown” (the group’s fourth album on Chicago-based Delmark Records), which combines vintage scores with newly composed work penned in period style. 

The recording’s title, of course, refers to the neighborhood where the band has held forth for years in an appropriately historic room, the Green Mill Jazz Club. Listen to the gorgeous reed and brass voicings in Bennie Moten’s “Harmony Blues,” the bristling syncopation that drives Jesse Stone’s 1920s vintage “Ruff Scufflin’” and the sheer rhythmic buoyancy and joyous spirit of the Andy Kirk band’s “Traveling That Rocky Road,” and you’re encountering vintage repertory performed with felicity to the era but buoyed by contemporary energy. To hear this music with the acoustical clarity unavailable to early-period jazz musicians is to gain deeper understanding of the inner workings of these scores.

Then, too, the Fat Babies offers newly composed work that very sounds as if it might have been penned about century ago – but without wallowing in nostalgia, as in the ebullient title track. Yes, the album’s vocals suggest a nostalgic throwback, echoing the era before Frank Sinatra forever altered our expectations of what jazz singing can be. But the Fat Babies’ instrumentals are nonpareil.

The Fat Babies perform at 1:50 p.m. Aug. 31 at the Von Freeman Pavilion.

Other Chicago attractions not to be missed:

Mike Reed’s “The City Was Yellow.” Chicago drummer-composer-impresario Reed has been working for years on creating a kind of “Real Book” – or catalog – of compositions created by Chicago artists between 1980 and 2010. Reed gives the project its highest profile presentation yet with cornetist Rob Mazurek, flutist Nicole Mitchell, saxophonists Ari Brown and Geof Bradfield, trombonist Steve Berry, guitarist Jeff Parker and bassist Matt Ulery. 6:30 p.m. Aug. 29 at the Pritzker Pavilion.

Miguel de la Cerna Trio. Perhaps best known as Chicago singer Dee Alexander’s pianist and music director, de la Cerna stands as a versatile soloist and bandleader who deserves our attention. He’ll be joined by bassist Dennis Carroll and drummer Greg Artry. 11:30 a.m. Aug. 30 at the Von Freeman Pavilion.

After Dark. This sextet explores and revels in the music of Chicago jazz hero Von Freeman – who died in 2012 at age 88 – and his era. That means music steeped in the realm of bebop. The all-star Chicago band features guitarist Michael Allemana; saxophonists Geof Bradfield, Scott Burns and Rajiv Halim; and bassist Clark Sommers and drummer Dana Hall. Noon Aug. 30 at the Jazz and Heritage Pavilion.

Kenwood Academy Jazz Band. How many other high school jazz ensembles can claim to have performed, recorded and played the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. with pianist and MacArthur Fellowship winner Jason Moran? Here’s hoping this set will include excerpts from Kenwood’s famous collaboration with Moran, “Looks of a Lot.” 2:10 p.m. Aug. 31 at the Young Jazz Lions stage on the Harris Theater Rooftop Terrace.

Frank Catalano Quartet. A herculean saxophonist who divides his time between Chicago, New York and the road, Catalano makes most venues sound too small for his immense sound and galvanic force. He’ll be joined by drummer Mike Clark, pianist John Roothaan and bassist Greg Geary. 3 p.m. Aug. 31 at the Jazz and Heritage Pavilion.

Ryan Cohan’s “Originations.” It’s hard to say what Chicagoan Cohan does better – play the piano or compose. Listeners can judge for themselves as Cohan and several top Chicago musicians perform Cohan’s “Originations,” a multi-movement suite for jazz sextet and string quartet. Among the players: reedists John Wojciechwoski and Geof Bradfield; trumpeter Tito Carrillo; bassist James Cammack; drummer Michael Raynor; and the KAIA String Quartet. 5:25 p.m. Aug. 31 at the Pritzker Pavilion.

Russ Johnson Quartet. Though he teaches at the University of Wisconsin, trumpeter Johnson long has been a vital contributor to some of Chicago’s most innovative groups. On this occasion, he’ll be joined by saxophonist Greg Ward, bassist Clark Sommers and drummer Dana Hall. 1:50 p.m. Sept. 1 at the Von Freeman Pavilion.

Howard Reich is a Tribune critic.

hreich@chicagotribune.com

Howard Reich

Howard Reich is the Tribune’s Emmy-winning arts critic; author of six books, including “The Art of Inventing Hope: Intimate Conversations with Elie Wiesel”; and writer-producer of three documentaries. He holds two honorary doctoral degrees and served on the Pulitzer music jury four times, including for the first jazz winner, “Blood on the Fields.”

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Jim Eigo Jazz Promo Services T: 845-986-1677 E-Mail: jim@jazzpromoservices.com
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Connie Lester, Soulful Saxophonist and Quiet Anchor of the Newark Jazz Scene, Dies at 88 | WBGO

Connie Lester, Soulful Saxophonist and Quiet Anchor of the Newark Jazz Scene, Dies at 88 | WBGO

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Connie Lester, Soulful Saxophonist and Quiet Anchor of the Newark Jazz Scene, Dies at 88

By  • Aug 22, 2019 

Connie Lester, whose robust and affirming style on saxophone proved a perfect fit for the soul jazz of the 1960s and beyond — notably in organ combos, and especially around a thriving scene in Newark — died on Tuesday in Edison, N.J.

He was 88. His death was confirmed by his daughter Toni Lester, who did not provide a cause.

An authoritative voice on alto, tenor and soprano saxophones, Lester also played clarinet and piano. He formed a sterling reputation as a sideman, over the course of a long career largely based in his home state of New Jersey.

He appears on a 1962 album by singer Joe Carroll, Man with a Happy Sound, alongside some of the leading musicians of the era, like pianist Ray Bryant and guitarist Grant Green.

But found his strongest niche with Hammond B-3 organ players, including Larry Young and Rhoda Scott. He appears, credited as Conrad Lester, on two Blue Note albums by organist Freddie Roach. On the first of these, a classic 1963 outing called Mo’ Greens Please, Lester’s rhythmic poise and bebop fluency are apparent with every phrase he plays. Here is the album closer, a cover of the Top 40 pop hit “Two Different Worlds.”

 

 

Lester is also featured on Roach’s 1964 Blue Note album All That’s Good, in a band that includes guitarist Calvin Newborn, drummer Clarence Johnston and vocalists Phyllis Smith, Marvin Robinson and Willie Tate.

As the swinging soul-jazz era of the ‘60s led to a more backbeat-driven model in the ‘70s, Lester didn’t lose a step. He did some stalwart work in that decade with organist Jimmy McGriff, notably on a 1974 album for the Groove Merchant label.

That album, Main Squeeze, features Lester with two of his fondest musical partners, guitarist Jimmy Ponder and drummer Eddie Gladden. The balance of strength and elegance in Lester’s sound is well captured on this version of “Misty”; he begins his alto solo two minutes into the track, snapping a dreamy reverie into focus.

Whatever the stylistic requirements of the gig, Lester was known for an emotional directness in his style — a quality that spoke to the depth of his training in the black community, as Bob Porter articulates in his book Soul Jazz.“If the history of soul jazz must be told in the music of its biggest stars and most successful performers,” reflects Porter, “it doesn’t mean that there were not dozens of others who contributed quality music to the scene.”

Samuel Conrad Lester was born in Roselle, N.J., on June 12, 1931. He was mostly self-taught as a musician, picking up the clarinet and the saxophone during his elementary years. Among his early heroes were Lester Young and Charlie Parker, respectively the leading saxophonists of the swing and bebop eras; his own style would draw from both examples.

Lester happened to come up at a time when Newark was exploding with jazz talent and well stocked with clubs like the Key Club and Sparky Js, on the same stretch of Halsey Street. He was in his early 20s when he got his first gig at Lloyd’s Manor, a bebop stronghold on Beacon Street.

According to Barbara J. Kukla’s history Swing City: Newark Nightlife, 1925-50, Lloyd’s was a headquarters for three jazz modernists who fed off each other’s vibe — James Moody, Babs Gonzales and Danford (Larue) Jordan. Of the three, Jordan made the biggest impression on young Lester. “A lot of my phrasing comes from Larue,” he told Kukla. “He did some strange things.”

Lester’s bond with the Newark scene of his youth was abiding, even as he became a veteran and mentor himself. He was a member of the Newark Jazz Elders, formed in 2002 by reporter and historian Guy Sterling, as a showcase for Lester’s valiant peer group. (“A quiet, dignified man and a thorough professional” is how Sterling characterized the saxophonist this week.)

Lester is survived by his wife, Melba; two daughters, Toni and Traci Lester; a granddaughter, Hailey Lester; and many nieces, nephews and cousins.

Among his honors was a proclamation from the City of Newark, for “decades of contributions to the residents of this great metropolis through music and the sounds of jazz.” In 2007 the state of New Jersey issued a proclamation to the Newark Jazz Elders, citing “their extraordinary contributions to the cultural richness of our largest city, our state and our country.”

Throughout his career, Lester took particular pride in his early experience on the bandstand, at places like the Key Club. “If you didn’t know your horn,” he says in Swing City, “you couldn’t come to Newark.”

Jim Eigo Jazz Promo Services T: 845-986-1677 E-Mail: jim@jazzpromoservices.com
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(Un)happy Partners: On Jazz and Independent Film – Los Angeles Review of Books

(Un)happy Partners: On Jazz and Independent Film – Los Angeles Review of Books

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(Un)happy Partners: On Jazz and Independent Film

By Daniel Felsenthal

AUGUST 17, 2019

IN BASIL DEARDEN’S 1962 FILM All Night Long, a husband and wife celebrate their first wedding anniversary. The husband is black. The wife is white. Both are American jazz musicians living in London. The couple arrives at a surprise party hosted by a friend at his spacious loft on the south bank of the Thames. Iconic bandleader and composer Charles Mingus is at the party, drinking scotch and playing his double bass. Pianist Dave Brubeck arrives a bit later, led by British saxophonist Johnny Dankworth. Guests of the married couple step out onto the fire escape to smoke joints and chat about their complicated romantic lives. On the bandstand, the musicians incorporate Brazilian rhythms into their bebop. All Night Long depicts the urban scene of avant-garde jazz, its characters several steps ahead of the era’s conservative status quo.

Dearden’s film wasn’t the first to use jazz as a means of staking out a counterculture frontier. Since the advent of sound, movies treated jazz as a marker of modernity and youth, a soundtrack to a fledgling America further distancing itself from Europe and charting a path through its second century. Examples include the first feature with synchronized dialogue, The Jazz Singer (1927), about a young man during the “Roaring Twenties” reconciling his dreams of musical success with his European-Jewish, immigrant family background; Blues in the Night (1941), about a band of boxcar-riding jazz musicians raised on Depression-era poverty; and New Orleans (1947), a historical fantasy about how a society of symphony-attending, top-hat-wearing Southern aristocrats come to enjoy the jazz they hear played by their black household help.

These films all share a glaringly obvious issue: race. Even the most deliberate and self-aware, Blues in the Night, is less than thoughtful about the problems of portraying a predominantly African-American art form in a movie that casts white people as both the lead actors and the most visible musicians. In large part, the reason for these deficiencies was censorship — until a series of landmark First Amendment cases during the 1950s, the Hays Code prevented filmmakers from showing, among other activities, the weirdly clinical-sounding “miscegenation” — as well as studio intervention. Take New Orleans: the project was originally planned as a vehicle for Billie Holiday and Louis Armstrong, two of the most celebrated musicians in the world at the time, yet the studio worried about the commercial viability of a film led by black superstars, employing several screenwriters to minimize Armstrong and Holiday’s roles. In the final cut, Holiday is relegated to playing a singing maid and Armstrong a musician beholden and subservient to the white man who owns his club.

By the time All Night Long was produced, government censorship was far less common and far-reaching. (The British Board of Film Censors became increasingly lenient contemporaneously with the United States’s MPAA.) The reticence of studio executives to make progressive films persisted, however, which is why the social utopia of All Night Long turns bizarrely dystopian by its end. The anniversary party fizzles out when the husband takes his wife to an upstairs bedroom and chokes her, racked with jealousy about a perceived affair, before he hits the saxophone player in his band repeatedly, sending him flying over the banister of the spiral staircase in the center of the apartment. How could the loft be anything besides an opportunity for an action-packed climax? It’s the movies, after all. Just like Chekhov said: the gun hanging on the wall in the first act must go off in the third.

¤

That is, of course, unless you’re making a movie with jazz form. Just as jazz and other avant-garde movements in the 20th century — atonal music, for example — freed musicians from long-ingrained compositional assumptions, jazz cinema freed filmmakers from such constructs as the three-act screenplay. These structural innovations undermined the rigid Hollywood production model, leading to more dynamic and intuitive collaborations and scripts rewritten according to the on-set improvisations of the cast and crew. The independent film movement of the 1950s and the introduction of a jazz sensibility to movies were part and parcel of the same phenomenon. In New York City, a dense hotbed of artistic collaboration where independent film experienced a renaissance in the postwar years, artists learned from other art forms. The thriving jazz scene taught two luminaries of independent cinema, Shirley Clarke and John Cassavetes, new methods of approaching their films.

Trained as a dancer, Shirley Clarke, who referred to her cinematic practice as “a choreography of editing,” began her career making movies infused with the sensibilities of other disciplines. Her first short, Dance in the Sun (1953), was a highly influential attempt to capture the feeling of modern dance on film. Her 1958 short Bridges-Go-Round consists of two versions, the first scored by jazz saxophonist Teo Macero, the second by electronic musicians Bebe and Louis Barron. Using music and architecture as a theme, rather than dance, Clarke’s metaphor of choreography holds true.

Released in 1961, her debut feature, The Connection, is essential and instructive in its forging of a jazz form. Based on Jack Gelber’s 1959 play of the same name and acted by members of the experimental theatrical troupe The Living Theater, The Connection follows a group of multiracial musicians as they jam, hang out, and wait for their heroin dealer to arrive at a friend’s Manhattan apartment. The narrative structure is multifaceted: much of it leads up to the arrival of the dealer (Carl Lee), but after he appears, the film follows each character as, one by one, they get a fix in the bathroom. Neither hired guns instructed to read a script, nor stars insisting on being shot from only one side, Clarke’s actors are players in an ensemble — a band — familiar with each other’s idiosyncrasies and styles. Because many were in the original play, the cast is also intimate with the source material: they know how to riff and expand on Gelber’s story, complementing its essential qualities. Like the “free jazz” that composers such as Ornette Coleman were developing during the period, which advertised itself (falsely) as improvisational, the tension between the appearance of improvisation and the reality of composition is essential to Clarke’s movie. Clarke is a bandleader holding tight reins over her players, feigning looseness so that their personalities can come through naturally.

The apparent autonomy Clarke gives to her cast is in part a product of her self-consciousness about being a white filmmaker whose films are largely about black people. Later movies of hers include The Cool World (1963), a Dizzy Gillespie–scored drama about youth gangs in Harlem, and Portrait of Jason (1967), a documentary about a black gay prostitute that consists entirely of him monologuing about his life and experiences. She also directed a brilliant amalgam of fiction and documentary, Ornette: Made in America (1985), about Ornette Coleman.

In Clarke’s career alone, we can see a logical future for jazz form in film. While it originated in films with jazz content, the vocabulary of jazz form became as amorphous and progressive as jazz itself, a tool kit that enabled filmmakers’ adventurous instincts, rather than a set of standards tying them to the methods and aesthetics of their 1950s forebears. Still, The Connection is interesting in part because it teaches viewers exactly how to make a film in Shirley Clarke’s way. Woven into the story is a metanarrative about a director, played by William Redfield, who wants to film a documentary depicting the real experience of smack-shooting musicians; unfortunately for Redfield’s character, he makes his subjects feel unnatural every time he turns his camera on them. The director’s mistakes are countered by the approach of his cameraman, J. J. (Roscoe Lee Browne), who is considerably more relaxed, letting the musicians act and move freely, and reacting, improvisationally, to their movements in turn.

The influence of this vérité-adjacent style is obvious and pervasive in film, particularly in the work of documentarians such as Frederick Wiseman — who helped fund The Connection and produced The Cool World — and Errol Morris, whose The Fog of War (2003) is heavily indebted to Portrait of Jason. Yet The Connection was not widely seen in the United States, in large part because of censorship. The police shut the film down after a couple of showings in New York, arresting the projectionist. Clarke’s later movies were also suppressed. If jazz is a good barometer for freedom, to cite Duke Ellington, then clearly America’s midcentury needle was quivering somewhere in the low numbers.

¤

In the late 1950s, Clarke lent her filmmaking equipment to a young Greek American from Long Island who had recently graduated from the American Academy of Dramatic Arts and started his own acting workshop, having been denied entrance to Lee Strasberg’s prestigious Actors Studio. Admirers today like to call John Cassavetes “The Father of Independent Cinema.” He earned the title based on a series of pointedly character-driven domestic dramas, most notably A Woman Under the Influence (1974), The Killing of a Chinese Bookie (1976), and Opening Night (1977), all of which exhibit an original jazz form, as well as a movie that was actually about the jazz scene in New York, Shadows (1959). Unlike Clarke’s, Cassavetes’s oeuvre has been posthumously, thoroughly revived.

Cassavetes got the money to make Shadows because he went on Jean Shepherd’s Manhattan-broadcasted, hipster-beloved radio show and pleaded with listeners to help him usher in a less studio-dominated American cinema. Oddballs from all over began to show up at his workshop, bringing donations, a desire to help out, and little idea what this undertaking might entail.

Akin to Shirley Clarke, Cassavetes innovated the form and process of filmmaking largely in order to create a movie about an interracial society in an era when studio films had provided virtually no precedents. Shadows centers on three siblings, played by actors of different races, all of whom were enrolled in Cassavetes’s workshop. The narrative is based on an exercise from class: a light-skinned black woman, Lelia (Lelia Goldoni), has sex with a white man, Tony (Anthony Ray), who assumes she’s Caucasian; the next day, she brings him home to the apartment she shares with her siblings, where Tony meets her jazz-singer brother Hugh (Hugh Hurd) and his manager (Rupert Crosse), both of whom are clearly African American. Cassavetes asked his cast to imagine what happens after Lelia introduces Hugh as her brother.

The film ends with a title card informing its audience that the entire narrative was improvised. As Ray Carney writes in his essential resource Cassavetes on Cassavetes (2001), this boast was a lie, a canny piece of advertising Cassavetes used because he knew that improvisation — from the “first thought, best thought” claims of the Beat poets to bebop soloing — was en vogue. The truth is much more complicated: Cassavetes rewrote his screenplay constantly, building scenes based on the spontaneity of his ensemble. The moments of improvisation in Shadows were largely ones of motion. Freestyle acting, rather than blocking or storyboarding, determined the film’s cinematography, with the cameramen intuiting and reacting to the movements of the ensemble around the set.

Like Clarke, Cassavetes, who referred to himself as a “tyrant” of a filmmaker, encouraged his cast to express themselves within the context of his direction, the way even the biggest control-freak of a bandleader sometimes takes cues from the musicians on his bandstand. Perhaps this is why Shadows is an effective movie about race: the movie’s black characters are given the freedom to bring their own experience to bear on the narrative, rather than following scripted choices set down by a screenwriter and director.

Cassavetes developed a style out of his own limitations, which were many. He was an unconfident and unhoned writer, composing later movies by performing the various parts in front of an assistant, who transcribed. He was unable to afford filming permits, so he filmed street sequences at night when he could avoid the police, capturing his actors from the distance of bright restaurant interiors and the cover of theater marquees. He forgot to hire a script supervisor and ended up with a disorganized jumble of takes and a narrative that lurches, as though plot points were unintentionally elided. The score rarely syncs up with the action, and in certain sequences the music and images are entirely dissonant. The incidental noise in the soundtrack, a huge influence on later generations of independent filmmakers, was an accident Cassavetes and his crew spent many hours trying to correct.

The filmmaker and archivist Ross Lipman has cataloged how Cassavetes’s various attempts to score the film failed. At one point, the director asked Charles Mingus, already a famous jazz musician who was about to release his classic Mingus Ah Um (1959)to record an accompaniment in several hours, believing that jazz artists played on feeling alone, never writing their compositions down. Clearly, Cassavetes was thinking of his own practices, not Mingus’s.

Cassavetes felt galvanized by the looseness and freedom he (mis)read into jazz, which enabled him to make a film with little knowledge or money. At the very least, he shared one quality with Mingus — an ability to bully the people he worked with into doing what he wanted them to do. In a functional sense, both the radical filmmaker and the radical jazz composer were as domineering and rigid as the mainstream structures they railed against.

When Shadows premiered at New York’s Paris Theater in 1958, Cassavetes and most of the attendees considered it a complete failure. Mingus was so mad about the music that he stormed out of the theater and told a fawning photographer to go fuck himself. An early and important champion, Jonas Mekas raved about the film in The Village Voice, writing that it had the power to “influence and change the tone, subject matter, and style of the entire independent American cinema.” Cassavetes spent an exhausting year reworking the movie, before it premiered again at the very end of 1959. The second cut garnered a lot of attention, including the interest of Hollywood studios, with whom the director made two films before he gave up. It only took him a few weeks on Paramount Pictures’s lot, where he was filming Too Late Blues (1961), before he tried to buck the studio’s culture:

Art cannot be accomplished under pressure. It’s a free feeling. So I bought some beer and kept putting it on set. Everybody kept on saying, “You can’t do that.” And the first day, everybody got drunk. And the second day, half the people got drunk. And the third day, there was an occasional glass of beer taken. And the fourth day, everybody just knew it was there and was proud of it because they felt that they were entitled to some kind of reward for their effort and they weren’t being treated like children, like employees — that they were part of the effort.

Paramount had told Cassavetes he would receive a five-movie deal if Too Late Blues was successful, but they issued a number of injunctions that prevented him from completing a movie he believed in. One of the most constraining of these had to do with deadlines. Shadows had taken the director two years to finish, but he had only six weeks to film Too Late Blues. Cassavetes wanted to cast his wife, the actress Gena Rowlands, and the older star Montgomery Clift in the lead roles, but the studio insisted on featuring an up-and-coming Stella Stevens alongside teen idol Bobby Darin. The director also wanted to shoot in the familiar bars and clubs of New York, but the studio demanded he shoot on backlots; as a result, he changed the location of the film to Los Angeles. This wasn’t necessarily a bad thing — after all, the band of musicians at the center of Too Late Blues was played by Caucasian actors, and the West Coast jazz scene had a reputation for being much whiter than the New York scene at the time. Still, Cassavetes was largely compelled to work without a cast who knew his method, and Paramount made things worse by demanding that the filmmaker, as unsure about his own writing as ever, stick rigidly to the screenplay.

A bona fide example of how jazz form fails in the context of a studio system, Too Late Blues is nonetheless a much better film than its director believed. The movie follows a jazz pianist, Ghost (Darin), who plays parks and orphanages with his quartet, subsequently sabotaging a record deal that might have given him his big break when he quits his band in the studio. He ends up meeting a middle-aged rich woman named “Countess” (Marilyn Clark), apparently basedon the proudly unconventional jazz patron “Baroness” Pannonica de Koenigswarter, who supports his music in exchange for sexual favors. The film’s caustic portrait of the music business also includes a culturally ignorant record executive, Milt Frielobe (Val Avery).

Cassavetes’s take on the music business is prophetic. After all, the industry would open up during the 1960s, largely removing “in-house” creators like Frielobe from the studio so that producers, recording engineers, and artists could work more independently. In a similar vein, the film industry would eventually create faux-independent “sister” studios to capitalize on independent filmmakers making personal movies on low budgets. Yet even if the flat people that populate Too Late Blues are of historical interest, they’re unfortunate missteps for Cassavetes, a director whose movies rely on actors developing surprising, realistic characters. He reflected later on his experience at Paramount:

There is no such thing as a low-budget picture at a major studio. At least not from a director’s point of view. Once you say it’s a low-budget picture it’s like being a man with no credit in a rich neighborhood. In a huge studio like Paramount, a small-budget film means absolutely nothing. The film is always seen in terms of its immediate profit. As soon as you tell them you have any high ambitions for a low-budget picture, they look at you as if you were a complete fool. […] You cannot make a personal film under those conditions.

Cassavetes directed one more project for a Hollywood studio, the powerful A Child Is Waiting (1963), whose interesting qualities its director would never admit. He hated the film because the producer, Stanley Kramer, re-edited his footage after seeing a rough cut. Furious, Cassavetes purportedly physically assaulted Kramer, cementing his reputation as persona non grata in Hollywood. So he sat in the Laurel Canyon home he paid for with his studio contract and the money Rowlands was making from her own successful career, drinking and brooding about how he was going nowhere:

Look, I admit it. I was difficult. I love to be liked, but I’ll fight anybody who tries to stop me from doing what I want to do. I’m a bigmouth. A troublemaker. Temperamental. I only care about people who care about their work. Sure, Kramer and I are now enemies. But it was good for my self-respect to fight him every inch of the way. I lost, but he’ll think twice before hiring a young director again. It’s a question of manhood.

Cassavetes returned with the independent movie Faces in 1968, beginning the most productive and creative decade of his career. The film stars Rowlands, alongside John Marley, Seymour Cassel, and Lynn Carlin, who once said the director hit her on set in order to provoke the response he wanted in a scene. John Cassavetes fought everyone, every inch of the way — and then he died in his 50s from cirrhosis of the liver.

¤

Filmmakers like Clarke and Cassavetes were revolutionaries with strong personalities, which is perhaps why their films are so astonishingly artistically successful. How can art be collaborative and still express a singular vision? This question, which haunts both film and music, is one to which Cassavetes alludes in Too Late Blues. Not every director is a tyrant, but every director who isn’t a tyrant isn’t necessarily a fair-minded, democratic leader. The spectrum of artistic failure is as wide as the spectrum of personal failure, and neither comes into starker focus than in the system of studio filmmaking.

Remember All Night Long? How that cool loft party with all those famous people went south when the guy choked his wife and almost killed that other dude? Well, the scene was a rewrite of Othello, at the time one of the few stories about an interracial romance in the Western canon. The filmmakers’ decision to anchor a narrative about the contemporary jazz scene by citing a Shakespearean classic, instead of finding their own modern way of telling the story (à la Clarke and Cassavetes), was problematic enough — yet manageable, in the right hands. Othello ends when the titular character murders his wife, and the debate among the filmmakers about how to navigate the movie’s final act demonstrates how the forced collaboration of the studio system can prevent a film from adopting a jazz form.

The movie’s director, Basil Dearden, and his frequent collaborator, the set designer/producer Michael Relph, were the polar opposites of an auteur like Cassavetes. Tireless, consistent, and easy to work with, Dearden and Relph were known for being reliable company men who cooperated with the studio brass. In his obituary in the Guardian, Relph was cited as having “[p]owers of patience, tact and persuasion” — certainly, good practical skills for a studio filmmaker to have.

Dearden and Relph were notable among British filmmakers for making movies about taboo social issues, which did not mean that their perspectives on race were forward-thinking. When they signed onto All Night Long, the duo was fresh off of Sapphire (1959), a movie about the murder of a black London art student that was progressive in intent yet overly didactic and offensive in execution. One wonders what Dearden and Relph’s actual politics might have been — whether, for example, they were as broad-minded about queer rights as their best film, Victim (1961), about a closeted gay lawyer (and the first British feature to use the word “homosexual”), suggested. Dearden and Relph hid behind their movies, as well as behind their midcentury stiff upper lips.

One of the two screenwriters of All Night Long, Paul Jarrico, was decidedly more progressive. A former chairman of the Los Angeles chapter of the American Communist Party, Jarrico was blacklisted after he refused to testify before the House Un-American Activities Committee. Far more of a pariah in Los Angeles than Cassavetes ever was, the screenwriter fled to the New Mexico desert, where he and his exiled friends managed to make the socialist masterpiece Salt of the Earth (1954), in spite of the lead actress being deported to Mexico, the crew being assaulted on set, and laboratories refusing to process the film. Jarrico was largely unable to work during much of his prime, scrounging up the occasional job by using a fake name. Still, speaking to Patrick McGilligan in the 1990s, he claimed to have “personally found many positive aspects to being blacklisted. I don’t recommend being blacklisted to others. But it really allowed me to have experiences that I would not otherwise have had.”

Complementing Jarrico’s political convictions was the jazz knowledge of his co-screenwriter Nel King, one of many women who found a place in midcentury Hollywood as a film editor before she moved to Manhattan and began writing for television and editing books. King hung out at jazz clubs, palling around with Charles Mingus, whose classic memoir Beneath the Underdog (1971) she edited — a disastrous experience, since the notoriously single-minded Mingus was impossible to deal with. King got Mingus involved with All Night Long, his role being some mixture of actor, performer, and musical advisor. Of course, he clashed constantly with the film’s composer, Philip Green.

King and Jarrico had previously tried to produce the movie in the United States, but United Artists would only commit if the African-American star Lena Horne played the lead female role. According to Larry Ceplair’s The Marxist and the Movies: A Biography of Paul Jarrico (2007), UA did not want to be involved with a project that had an interracial relationship at its center. After refusing the studio’s demand, the screenwriting duo hooked up with Bob Roberts, another blacklisted American trying to begin a new career in England, who produced the film for The Rank Organisation.

Jarrico and King’s screenplay was altered, particularly at the end, and Jarrico apparently lost some faith in the project before production finished. Still, the film is propulsive, irreverent, and satirically intelligent, as well as being frank about race — until the problematic climax. Krin Gabbard’s 2016 book Better Git It in Your Soul: An Interpretive Biography of Charles Mingus describes the filmmakers’ debates over possible endings, all of which seem contrived and in desperate need of the intuitive jazz processes of Cassavetes and Clarke. Does the married couple stay alive? Do they stay together? Does Johnny Cousin call the husband a “nigger,” causing him to flee the loft in anger? Reading Gabbard’s account, one is struck by the absurdity of a bunch of white filmmakers arguing over the reality of a black person and a white person in love. The opinions of Paul Harris, who plays the husband, and Marti Stevens, who plays the wife, were either never recorded or never proffered by the actors.

¤

The sort of racial timidity that ultimately sank All Night Long would be unlikely on a film set today, but this does not mean that Hollywood has gotten braver. The economic concerns of the culture industries have always entailed a kind of social gradualism — at best — that ensures maximization of profit and preservation of the company image. Undoubtedly, studio executives weigh the risks of diminishing audiences every time they decide to include a black character, or a gay character, or a trans character in a film. The only constant is greed and economic shrewdness, and while it’s worthy of celebration that a more diverse range of experiences are being depicted on screen today, the greed of the powerful will always harm the less powerful.

For good reason, much attention has been paid in recent years to debunking the lionization of men like Cassavetes and Mingus, who had reputations for being brutal and belligerent. Yet consider the undisturbed (if decidedly smaller) legacy of Basil Dearden, who lived his public life protected by studios and their bureaucratic workings, before he died in a car accident near Heathrow Airport at the age of 60. Run a Google search for images of Dearden and one will find mostly stills from his movies, along with one prominent photograph of him on the set of All Night Long demonstrating to Paul Harris how to strangle Marti Stevens. Dearden is staring at someone off-screen while the actor watches and the actress lies expressionless and passive beneath her director’s hands.

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The vast majority of filmmakers end up like session musicians, moving from gig to gig without ever establishing control over their own expression, assembling a band, or releasing an album. The condition of being an artist in a complex society is to learn, over and over again, what it means to compromise with the circumstances at hand.

In a speech he gave in 2016, President Obama quoted Duke Ellington’s quip on jazz being a barometer for freedom, adding: “Has there ever been any greater improvisation than America itself?” I won’t begrudge Barack this line; after all, my entire essay is predicated on the notion that jazz makes a great metaphor. But America’s improvisation was always too improvised to be just, and the contributions of a number of artists have been sacrificed in the self-erasing venture that is the collaboration of a society. The screenwriter Nel King, for example, died without receiving the credit she believed she deserved for her work on Mingus’s autobiography. Paul Jarrico spent his life either compromising with film studios or reeling from the ways they compromised his livelihood and well-being. He devoted the end of his career to restoring the credits of writers whose contributions had been excised from movies because of the blacklist. He died in 1997, driving back from an event commemorating the 50th anniversary of the beginnings of the HUAC hearings. The event was organized as an apologia by the Screen Actors Guild, the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists, the Screen Directors Guild, and the Writers Guild of America, all of whom had sold out their members half a century earlier. Jarrico fell asleep at the wheel and hit a tree, dying instantly.

That same year, Shirley Clarke died in a Boston hospital, following a stroke. The New York Times ran an obituaryHopefully she knew that, unlike most jazz artists, she had managed to solo during the improvised narrative of her time.

¤

Daniel Felsenthal writes fiction and nonfiction. He lives in New York City. Read more at danielfelsenthal.com.

 

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Update On Bob Porter’s Condition

Update On Bob Porter’s Condition

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From: Linda Calandra Porter <lindacalandraporter@gmail.com>

Bob was transferred from ICU last night to a surgical floor. 
Considering he had hemmorhage of femoral artery  during 1st  crucial Aug 5th operation,  9 transfusions,  second surgery Aug 6th to save his right leg, he endured over 15 hours of  anuerysm surgery on both legs , he is finally doing well. 

Bob told me to tell everyone that he’s improving. 

He’s not taking calls however l read him txt, and email messages whenever possible.
Many thanks for your kind words and good wishes.

Linda

— 

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Forged in Bondage, Black Music is the Sound of Freedom – The New York Times

Forged in Bondage, Black Music is the Sound of Freedom – The New York Times

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Forged in Bondage, Black Music is the Sound of Freedom

By WESLEY MORRIS AUG. 14, 2019

Photo illustration by Michael Paul Britto

or centuries, black music, forged in bondage, has been the sound of complete artistic freedom. o wonder everybody is always stealing it.

By Wesley MorrisAUG. 14, 2019

I’ve got a friend who’s an incurable Pandora guy, and one Saturday while we were making dinner, he found a station called Yacht Rock. “A tongue-in-cheek name for the breezy sounds of late ’70s/early ’80s soft rock” is Pandora’s definition, accompanied by an exhortation to “put on your Dockers, pull up a deck chair and relax.” With a single exception, the passengers aboard the yacht were all dudes. With two exceptions, they were all white. But as the hours passed and dozens of songs accrued, the sound gravitated toward a familiar quality that I couldn’t give language to but could practically taste: an earnest Christian yearning that would reach, for a moment, into Baptist rawness, into a known warmth. I had to laugh — not because as a category Yacht Rock is absurd, but because what I tasted in that absurdity was black.

I started putting each track under investigation. Which artists would saunter up to the racial border? And which could do their sauntering without violating it? I could hear degrees of blackness in the choir-loft certitude of Doobie Brothers-era Michael McDonald on “What a Fool Believes”; in the rubber-band soul of Steely Dan’s “Do It Again”; in the malt-liquor misery of Ace’s “How Long” and the toy-boat wistfulness of Little River Band’s “Reminiscing.”

Then Kenny Loggins’s “This Is It” arrived and took things far beyond the line. “This Is It” was a hit in 1979 and has the requisite smoothness to keep the yacht rocking. But Loggins delivers the lyrics in a desperate stage whisper, like someone determined to make the kind of love that doesn’t wake the baby. What bowls you over is the intensity of his yearning — teary in the verses, snarling during the chorus. He sounds as if he’s baring it all yet begging to wring himself out even more.

The 1619 Project is a major initiative from The New York Times observing the 400th anniversary of the beginning of American slavery. It aims to reframe the country’s history, understanding 1619 as our true founding, and placing the consequences of slavery and the contributions of black Americans at the very center of the story we tell ourselves about who we are. Read all the stories.

Playing black-music detective that day, I laughed out of bafflement and embarrassment and exhilaration. It’s the conflation of pride and chagrin I’ve always felt anytime a white person inhabits blackness with gusto. It’s: You have to hand it to her. It’s: Go, white boy. Go, white boy. Go. But it’s also: Here we go again. The problem is rich. If blackness can draw all of this ornate literariness out of Steely Dan and all this psychotic origami out of Eminem; if it can make Teena Marie sing everything — “Square Biz,” “Revolution,” “Portuguese Love,” “Lovergirl” — like she knows her way around a pack of Newports; if it can turn the chorus of Carly Simon’s “You Belong to Me” into a gospel hymn; if it can animate the swagger in the sardonic vulnerabilities of Amy Winehouse; if it can surface as unexpectedly as it does in the angelic angst of a singer as seemingly green as Ben Platt; if it’s the reason Nu Shooz’s “I Can’t Wait” remains the whitest jam at the blackest parties, then it’s proof of how deeply it matters to the music of being alive in America, alive to America.

It’s proof, too, that American music has been fated to thrive in an elaborate tangle almost from the beginning. Americans have made a political investment in a myth of racial separateness, the idea that art forms can be either “white” or “black” in character when aspects of many are at least both. The purity that separation struggles to maintain? This country’s music is an advertisement for 400 years of the opposite: centuries of “amalgamation” and “miscegenation” as they long ago called it, of all manner of interracial collaboration conducted with dismaying ranges of consent.

 

Diana Ross and the Supremes with Paul McCartney in London in 1968. Getty Images

“White,” “Western,” “classical” music is the overarching basis for lots of American pop songs. Chromatic-chord harmony, clean timbre of voice and instrument: These are the ingredients for some of the hugely singable harmonies of the Beatles, the Eagles, Simon and Fleetwood Mac, something choral, “pure,” largely ungrained. Black music is a completely different story. It brims with call and response, layers of syncopation and this rougher element called “noise,” unique sounds that arise from the particular hue and timbre of an instrument — Little Richard’s woos and knuckled keyboard zooms. The dusky heat of Miles Davis’s trumpeting. Patti LaBelle’s emotional police siren. DMX’s scorched-earth bark. The visceral stank of Etta James, Aretha Franklin, live-in-concert Whitney Houston and Prince on electric guitar.

But there’s something even more fundamental, too. My friend Delvyn Case, a musician who teaches at Wheaton College, explained in an email that improvisation is one of the most crucial elements in what we think of as black music: “The raising of individual creativity/expression to the highest place within the aesthetic world of a song.” Without improvisation, a listener is seduced into the composition of the song itself and not the distorting or deviating elements that noise creates. Particular to black American music is the architecture to create a means by which singers and musicians can be completely free, free in the only way that would have been possible on a plantation: through art, through music — music no one “composed” (because enslaved people were denied literacy), music born of feeling, of play, of exhaustion, of hope.

What you’re hearing in black music is a miracle of sound, an experience that can really happen only once — not just melisma, glissandi, the rasp of a sax, breakbeats or sampling but the mood or inspiration from which those moments arise. The attempt to rerecord it seems, if you think about it, like a fool’s errand. You’re not capturing the arrangement of notes, per se. You’re catching the spirit.

And the spirit travels from host to host, racially indiscriminate about where it settles, selective only about who can withstand being possessed by it. The rockin’ backwoods blues so bewitched Elvis Presley that he believed he’d been called by blackness. Chuck Berry sculpted rock ’n’ roll with uproarious guitar riffs and lascivious winks at whiteness. Mick Jagger and Robert Plant and Steve Winwood and Janis Joplin and the Beatles jumped, jived and wailed the black blues. Tina Turner wrested it all back, tripling the octane in some of their songs. Since the 1830s, the historian Ann Douglas writes in “Terrible Honesty,” her history of popular culture in the 1920s, “American entertainment, whatever the state of American society, has always been integrated, if only by theft and parody.” What we’ve been dealing with ever since is more than a catchall word like “appropriation” can approximate. The truth is more bounteous and more spiritual than that, more confused. That confusion is the DNA of the American sound.

It’s in the wink-wink costume funk of Beck’s “Midnite Vultures” from 1999, an album whose kicky nonsense deprecations circle back to the popular culture of 150 years earlier. It’s in the dead-serious, nostalgic dance-floor schmaltz of Bruno Mars. It’s in what we once called “blue-eyed soul,” a term I’ve never known what to do with, because its most convincing practitioners — the Bee-Gees, Michael McDonald, Hall & Oates, Simply Red, George Michael, Taylor Dayne, Lisa Stansfield, Adele — never winked at black people, so black people rarely batted an eyelash. Flaws and all, these are homeowners as opposed to renters. No matter what, though, a kind of gentrification tends to set in, underscoring that black people have often been rendered unnecessary to attempt blackness. Take Billboard’s Top 10 songs of 2013: It’s mostly nonblack artists strongly identified with black music, for real and for kicks: Robin Thicke, Miley Cyrus, Justin Timberlake, Macklemore and Ryan Lewis, the dude who made “The Harlem Shake.”

Sometimes all the inexorable mixing leaves me longing for something with roots that no one can rip all the way out. This is to say that when we’re talking about black music, we’re talking about horns, drums, keyboards and guitars doing the unthinkable together. We’re also talking about what the borrowers and collaborators don’t want to or can’t lift — centuries of weight, of atrocity we’ve never sufficiently worked through, the blackness you know is beyond theft because it’s too real, too rich, too heavy to steal.

Blackness was on the move before my ancestors were legally free to be. It was on the move before my ancestors even knew what they had. It was on the move because white people were moving it. And the white person most frequently identified as its prime mover is Thomas Dartmouth Rice, a New Yorker who performed as T.D. Rice and, in acclaim, was lusted after as “Daddy” Rice, “the negro par excellence.” Rice was a minstrel, which by the 1830s, when his stardom was at its most refulgent, meant he painted his face with burned cork to approximate those of the enslaved black people he was imitating.

 

The blackface performer Thomas Dartmouth Rice (T.D. Rice) who pioneered the “Jim Crow” character, in a portrait from the mid-1800s. From The New York Public Library

In 1830, Rice was a nobody actor in his early 20s, touring with a theater company in Cincinnati (or Louisville; historians don’t know for sure), when, the story goes, he saw a decrepit, possibly disfigured old black man singing while grooming a horse on the property of a white man whose last name was Crow. On went the light bulb. Rice took in the tune and the movements but failed, it seems, to take down the old man’s name. So in his song based on the horse groomer, he renamed him: “Weel about and turn about jus so/Ebery time I weel about, I jump Jim Crow.” And just like that, Rice had invented the fellow who would become the mascot for two centuries of legalized racism.

That night, Rice made himself up to look like the old black man — or something like him, because Rice’s get-up most likely concocted skin blacker than any actual black person’s and a gibberish dialect meant to imply black speech. Rice had turned the old man’s melody and hobbled movements into a song-and-dance routine that no white audience had ever experienced before. What they saw caused a permanent sensation. He reportedly won 20 encores.

Rice repeated the act again, night after night, for audiences so profoundly rocked that he was frequently mobbed during performances. Across the Ohio River, not an arduous distance from all that adulation, was Boone County, Ky., whose population would have been largely enslaved Africans. As they were being worked, sometimes to death, white people, desperate with anticipation, were paying to see them depicted at play.

[To get updates on The 1619 Project, and for more on race from The New York Times, sign up for our weekly Race/Related newsletter.]

Other performers came and conquered, particularly the Virginia Minstrels, who exploded in 1843, burned brightly then burned out after only months. In their wake, P.T. Barnum made a habit of booking other troupes for his American Museum; when he was short on performers, he blacked up himself. By the 1840s, minstrel acts were taking over concert halls, doing wildly clamored-for residencies in Boston, New York and Philadelphia.

A blackface minstrel would sing, dance, play music, give speeches and cut up for white audiences, almost exclusively in the North, at least initially. Blackface was used for mock operas and political monologues (they called them stump speeches), skits, gender parodies and dances. Before the minstrel show gave it a reliable home, blackface was the entertainment between acts of conventional plays. Its stars were the Elvis, the Beatles, the ’NSync of the 19th century. The performers were beloved and so, especially, were their songs.

 

Sheet music of “Jim Crow Jubilee: A Collection of Negro Melodies,” published in 1847. Shutterstock

During minstrelsy’s heyday, white songwriters like Stephen Foster wrote the tunes that minstrels sang, tunes we continue to sing. Edwin Pearce Christy’s group the Christy Minstrels formed a band — banjo, fiddle, bone castanets, tambourine — that would lay the groundwork for American popular music, from bluegrass to Motown. Some of these instruments had come from Africa; on a plantation, the banjo’s body would have been a desiccated gourd. In “Doo-Dah!” his book on Foster’s work and life, Ken Emerson writes that the fiddle and banjo were paired for the melody, while the bones “chattered” and the tambourine “thumped and jingled a beat that is still heard ’round the world.”

But the sounds made with these instruments could be only imagined as black, because the first wave of minstrels were Northerners who’d never been meaningfully South. They played Irish melodies and used Western choral harmonies, not the proto-gospel call-and-response music that would make life on a plantation that much more bearable. Black artists were on the scene, like the pioneer bandleader Frank Johnson and the borderline-mythical Old Corn Meal, who started as a street vendor and wound up the first black man to perform, as himself, on a white New Orleans stage. His stuff was copied by George Nichols, who took up blackface after a start in plain-old clowning. Yet as often as not, blackface minstrelsy tethered black people and black life to white musical structures, like the polka, which was having a moment in 1848. The mixing was already well underway: Europe plus slavery plus the circus, times harmony, comedy and drama, equals Americana.

And the muses for so many of the songs were enslaved Americans, people the songwriters had never met, whose enslavement they rarely opposed and instead sentimentalized. Foster’s minstrel-show staple “Old Uncle Ned,” for instance, warmly if disrespectfully eulogizes the enslaved the way you might a salaried worker or an uncle:

Den lay down de shubble and de hoe,
Hang up de fiddle and de bow:
No more hard work for poor Old Ned —
He’s gone whar de good Niggas go,
No more hard work for poor Old Ned —
He’s gone whar de good Niggas go.

Such an affectionate showcase for poor old (enslaved, soon-to-be-dead) Uncle Ned was as essential as “air,” in the white critic Bayard Taylor’s 1850 assessment; songs like this were the “true expressions of the more popular side of the national character,” a force that follows “the American in all its emigrations, colonizations and conquests, as certainly as the Fourth of July and Thanksgiving Day.” He’s not wrong. Minstrelsy’s peak stretched from the 1840s to the 1870s, years when the country was as its most violently and legislatively ambivalent about slavery and Negroes; years that included the Civil War and Reconstruction, the ferocious rhetorical ascent of Frederick Douglass, John Brown’s botched instigation of a black insurrection at Harpers Ferry and the assassination of Abraham Lincoln.

Minstrelsy’s ascent also coincided with the publication, in 1852, of “Uncle Tom’s Cabin,” a polarizing landmark that minstrels adapted for the stage, arguing for and, in simply remaining faithful to Harriet Beecher Stowe’s novel, against slavery. These adaptations, known as U.T.C.s, took over the art form until the end of the Civil War. Perhaps minstrelsy’s popularity could be (generously) read as the urge to escape a reckoning. But a good time predicated upon the presentation of other humans as stupid, docile, dangerous with lust and enamored of their bondage? It was an escape into slavery’s fun house.

What blackface minstrelsy gave the country during this period was an entertainment of skill, ribaldry and polemics. But it also lent racism a stage upon which existential fear could become jubilation, contempt could become fantasy. Paradoxically, its dehumanizing bent let white audiences feel more human. They could experience loathing as desire, contempt as adoration, repulsion as lust. They could weep for overworked Uncle Ned as surely as they could ignore his lashed back or his body as it swung from a tree.

 

Ma Rainey, an early blues singer who performed in black minstrel shows, with her band. Redferns via Getty Images

But where did this leave a black performer? If blackface was the country’s cultural juggernaut, who would pay Negroes money to perform as themselves? When they were hired, it was only in a pinch. Once, P.T. Barnum needed a replacement for John Diamond, his star white minstrel. In a New York City dance hall, Barnum found a boy, who, it was reported at the time, could outdo Diamond (and Diamond was good). The boy, of course, was genuinely black. And his being actually black would have rendered him an outrageous blight on a white consumer’s narrow presumptions. As Thomas Low Nichols would write in his 1864 compendium, “Forty Years of American Life,” “There was not an audience in America that would not have resented, in a very energetic fashion, the insult of being asked to look at the dancing of a real negro.” So Barnum “greased the little ‘nigger’s’ face and rubbed it over with a new blacking of burned cork, painted his thick lips vermilion, put on a woolly wig over his tight curled locks and brought him out as ‘the champion nigger-dancer of the world.’ ” This child might have been William Henry Lane, whose stage name was Juba. And, as Juba, Lane was persuasive enough that Barnum could pass him off as a white person in blackface. He ceased being a real black boy in order to become Barnum’s minstrel Pinocchio.

After the Civil War, black performers had taken up minstrelsy, too, corking themselves, for both white and black audiences — with a straight face or a wink, depending on who was looking. Black troupes invented important new dances with blue-ribbon names (the buck-and-wing, the Virginia essence, the stop-time). But these were unhappy innovations. Custom obligated black performers to fulfill an audience’s expectations, expectations that white performers had established. A black minstrel was impersonating the impersonation of himself. Think, for a moment, about the talent required to pull that off. According to Henry T. Sampson’s book, “Blacks in Blackface,” there were no sets or effects, so the black blackface minstrel show was “a developer of ability because the artist was placed on his own.” How’s that for being twice as good? Yet that no-frills excellence could curdle into an entirely other, utterly degrading double consciousness, one that predates, predicts and probably informs W.E.B. DuBois’s more self-consciously dignified rendering.

American popular culture was doomed to cycles not only of questioned ownership, challenged authenticity, dubious propriety and legitimate cultural self-preservation but also to the prison of black respectability, which, with brutal irony, could itself entail a kind of appropriation. It meant comportment in a manner that seemed less black and more white. It meant the appearance of refinement and polish. It meant the cognitive dissonance of, say, Nat King Cole’s being very black and sounding — to white America, anyway, with his frictionless baritone and diction as crisp as a hospital corner — suitably white. He was perfect for radio, yet when he got a TV show of his own, it was abruptly canceled, his brown skin being too much for even the black and white of a 1955 television set. There was, perhaps, not a white audience in America, particularly in the South, that would not have resented, in a very energetic fashion, the insult of being asked to look at the majestic singing of a real Negro.

The modern conundrum of the black performer’s seeming respectable, among black people, began, in part, as a problem of white blackface minstrels’ disrespectful blackness. Frederick Douglass wrote that they were “the filthy scum of white society.” It’s that scum that’s given us pause over everybody from Bert Williams and Bill “Bojangles” Robinson to Flavor Flav and Kanye West. Is their blackness an act? Is the act under white control? Just this year, Harold E. Doley Jr., an affluent black Republican in his 70s, was quoted in The Times lamenting West and his alignment with Donald Trump as a “bad and embarrassing minstrel show” that “served to only drive black people away from the G.O.P.”

 

Tina Turner performing at a festival in Lake Amador, Calif., on Oct. 4, 1969. Robert Altman/Michael Ochs Archive/Getty Images

But it’s from that scum that a robust, post-minstrel black American theater sprung as a new, black audience hungered for actual, uncorked black people. Without that scum, I’m not sure we get an event as shatteringly epochal as the reign of Motown Records. Motown was a full-scale integration of Western, classical orchestral ideas (strings, horns, woodwinds) with the instincts of both the black church (rhythm sections, gospel harmonies, hand claps) and juke joint Saturday nights (rhythm sections, guitars, vigor). Pure yet “noisy.” Black men in Armani. Black women in ball gowns. Stables of black writers, producers and musicians. Backup singers solving social equations with geometric choreography. And just in time for the hegemony of the American teenager.

Even now it feels like an assault on the music made a hundred years before it. Motown specialized in love songs. But its stars, those songs and their performance of them were declarations of war on the insults of the past and present. The scratchy piccolo at the start of a Four Tops hit was, in its way, a raised fist. Respectability wasn’t a problem with Motown; respectability was its point. How radically optimistic a feat of antiminstrelsy, for it’s as glamorous a blackness as this country has ever mass-produced and devoured.

The proliferation of black music across the planet — the proliferation, in so many senses, of being black — constitutes a magnificent joke on American racism. It also confirms the attraction that someone like Rice had to that black man grooming the horse. But something about that desire warps and perverts its source, lampoons and cheapens it even in adoration. Loving black culture has never meant loving black people, too. Loving black culture risks loving the life out of it.

And yet doesn’t that attraction make sense? This is the music of a people who have survived, who not only won’t stop but also can’t be stopped. Music by a people whose major innovations — jazz, funk, hip-hop — have been about progress, about the future, about getting as far away from nostalgia as time will allow, music that’s thought deeply about the allure of outer space and robotics, music whose promise and possibility, whose rawness, humor and carnality call out to everybody — to other black people, to kids in working class England and middle-class Indonesia. If freedom’s ringing, who on Earth wouldn’t also want to rock the bell?

In 1845, J.K. Kennard, a critic for the newspaper The Knickerbocker, hyperventilated about the blackening of America. Except he was talking about blackface minstrels doing the blackening. Nonetheless, Kennard could see things for what they were:

“Who are our true rulers? The negro poets, to be sure! Do they not set the fashion, and give laws to the public taste? Let one of them, in the swamps of Carolina, compose a new song, and it no sooner reaches the ear of a white amateur, than it is written down, amended, (that is, almost spoilt,) printed, and then put upon a course of rapid dissemination, to cease only with the utmost bounds of Anglo-Saxondom, perhaps of the world.”

What a panicked clairvoyant! The fear of black culture — or “black culture” — was more than a fear of black people themselves. It was an anxiety over white obsolescence. Kennard’s anxiety over black influence sounds as ambivalent as Lorde’s, when, all the way from her native New Zealand, she tsk-ed rap culture’s extravagance on “Royals,” her hit from 2013, while recognizing, both in the song’s hip-hop production and its appetite for a particular sort of blackness, that maybe she’s too far gone:

Every song’s like gold teeth, Grey Goose, trippin’ in the bathroom
Bloodstains, ball gowns, trashin’ the hotel room
We don’t care, we’re driving Cadillacs in our dreams
But everybody’s like Cristal, Maybach, diamonds on your timepiece
Jet planes, islands, tigers on a gold leash
We don’t care, we aren’t caught up in your love affair

Beneath Kennard’s warnings must have lurked an awareness that his white brethren had already fallen under this spell of blackness, that nothing would stop its spread to teenage girls in 21st-century Auckland, that the men who “infest our promenades and our concert halls like a colony of beetles” (as a contemporary of Kennard’s put it) weren’t black people at all but white people just like him — beetles and, eventually, Beatles. Our first most original art form arose from our original sin, and some white people have always been worried that the primacy of black music would be a kind of karmic punishment for that sin. The work has been to free this country from paranoia’s bondage, to truly embrace the amplitude of integration. I don’t know how we’re doing.

 

Lil Nas X, left, and Billy Ray Cyrus perform in Indio, Calif., in 2019. Frazer Harrison/Getty Images

Last spring, “Old Town Road,” a silly, drowsy ditty by the Atlanta songwriter Lil Nas X, was essentially banished from country radio. Lil Nas sounds black, as does the trap beat he’s droning over. But there’s definitely a twang to him that goes with the opening bars of faint banjo and Lil Nas’s lil’ cowboy fantasy. The song snowballed into a phenomenon. All kinds of people — cops, soldiers, dozens of dapper black promgoers — posted dances to it on YouTube and TikTok. Then a crazy thing happened. It charted — not just on Billboard’s Hot 100 singles chart, either. In April, it showed up on both its Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart and its Hot Country Songs chart. A first. And, for now at least, a last.

The gatekeepers of country radio refused to play the song; they didn’t explain why. Then, Billboard determined that the song failed to “embrace enough elements of today’s country music to chart in its current version.” This doesn’t warrant translation, but let’s be thorough, anyway: The song is too black for certain white people.

But by that point it had already captured the nation’s imagination and tapped into the confused thrill of integrated culture. A black kid hadn’t really merged white music with black, he’d just taken up the American birthright of cultural synthesis. The mixing feels historical. Here, for instance, in the song’s sample of a Nine Inch Nails track is a banjo, the musical spine of the minstrel era. Perhaps Lil Nas was too American. Other country artists of the genre seemed to sense this. White singers recorded pretty tributes in support, and one, Billy Ray Cyrus, performed his on a remix with Lil Nas X himself.

The newer version lays Cyrus’s casual grit alongside Lil Nas’s lackadaisical wonder. It’s been No.1 on Billboard’s all-genre Hot 100 singles chart since April, setting a record. And the bottomless glee over the whole thing makes me laugh, too — not in a surprised, yacht-rock way but as proof of what a fine mess this place is. One person’s sign of progress remains another’s symbol of encroachment. Screw the history. Get off my land.

Four hundred years ago, more than 20 kidnapped Africans arrived in Virginia. They were put to work and put through hell. Twenty became millions, and some of those people found — somehow — deliverance in the power of music. Lil Nas X has descended from those millions and appears to be a believer in deliverance. The verses of his song flirt with Western kitsch, what young black internetters branded, with adorable idiosyncrasy and a deep sense of history, the “yee-haw agenda.” But once the song reaches its chorus (“I’m gonna take my horse to the Old Town Road, and ride til I can’t no more”), I don’t hear a kid in an outfit. I hear a cry of ancestry. He’s a westward-bound refugee; he’s an Exoduster. And Cyrus is down for the ride. Musically, they both know: This land is their land.

Wesley Morris is a staff writer for the magazine, a critic at large for The New York Times and a co-host of the podcast “Still Processing.” He was awarded the 2012 Pulitzer Prize for criticism.

Source photograph of Beyoncé: Kevin Mazur/Getty Images; Holiday: Paul Hoeffler/Redferns, via Getty Images; Turner: Gai Terrell/Redferns, via Getty Images; Richards: Chris Walter/WireImage, via Getty Images; Lamar: Bennett Raglin/Getty Images

Jim Eigo Jazz Promo Services T: 845-986-1677 E-Mail: jim@jazzpromoservices.com
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Miles Davis’ childhood home to be museum and educational center | St. Louis Public Radio

Miles Davis’ childhood home to be museum and educational center | St. Louis Public Radio

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Miles Davis’ childhood home to be museum and educational center

By Willis Ryder Arnold • Aug 10, 2016 

View Slideshow 1 of 4

Inside the shell of a modest house in East St. Louis, there is nothing to let a visitor know that one of the nation’s most noted musicians once called it home.

The interior of the one-story structure is skeletal — all bare studs and dust. But when Lauren Parks and Jasper Gery Pearson are inside, they can see the space where a young Miles Davis got his start in life, years before creating the music that would make him one of the biggest names in jazz. They hope to turn the trumpeter’s childhood home into a museum and educational space that will inspire children.

Outside, the site is a hive of activity as contractors remove trash, staple shingles to the roof and plan further cleanup.

Parks and Pearson decided five years ago to turn the structure into a museum and educational center. If all goes as they plan, it will open this fall.

“You know, I don’t see the concrete aspect of this structure,” Parks said. “I see children. I hear music. I see bustling of children and learning and excitement.”

The project began in 2011 but the real work began in earnest less than a month ago. That’s when contractors began gutting the structure in order to strip it down to bare bones before rebuilding it in the style of the 1920s, when Davis lived in East St. Louis.  Although the structure is stripped to the studs, Parks and Pearson have great plans for the future.

First, they intend the structure to be a repository of artifacts from Davis’ time in the city, from old shoes to objects that have yet to be determined.

Second, they want the completed museum to preserve anecdotes and stories from Davis’s childhood to which no other museum has access. These stories are meant to highlight how the jazz legend’s spirit and accomplishments remain ingrained in the city.

Third, Parks and Pearson expect to develop educational programs that includes music classes, history lessons, and community stewardship targeted specifically at 6- to 12-year-olds.  The project founders are working out a partnership with the local school district to develop concurrent programs in the classroom and at the museum. Once the building is complete, they hope to turn their attention to developing a small outdoor performance space so kids can share what they’ve learned with friends and family.

The project is not just an attempt to preserve Davis’ legacy. It’s also a bid to develop life-long community engagement and civic pride in East St. Louis.

“We’re looking to give our kids a little sense of home. That’s why we called this place HOME, House of Miles East St. Louis,” Pearson said. “So when you think of home you think not only about the front door and the back door but the whole community.” 

The demolition and renovation is primarily supported through individual donations and a grant from Lowe’s Home Improvement.  Founders are additionally seeking to crowd-source funding online. The project also has partnered with Creative Exchange Lab – Center for Architecture + Design StL to help develop a strategic plan for how best to engage residents and visitors.

Parks and Pearson will be presenting the project 5:30 p.m., Thursday, at Creative Exchange Lab in Grand Center in St. Louis. They’ll be discussing the development of the museum concept and making a case for why it’s integral to developing better infrastructure in East. St. Louis.

What: House of Miles: A Miles Davis Memorial Project

When: 5:30 Thursday, August 11th, 2016

Where: Center for Architecture + Design STL. 3307 Washington Blvd, St. Louis

Jim Eigo Jazz Promo Services T: 845-986-1677 E-Mail: jim@jazzpromoservices.com
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Miles Davis’ childhood home to be museum and educational center | St. Louis Public Radio

Miles Davis’ childhood home to be museum and educational center | St. Louis Public Radio

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https://news.stlpublicradio.org/post/miles-davis-childhood-home-be-museum-and-educational-center#stream/0
 

Miles Davis’ childhood home to be museum and educational center

By Willis Ryder Arnold • Aug 10, 2016 

View Slideshow 1 of 4

Inside the shell of a modest house in East St. Louis, there is nothing to let a visitor know that one of the nation’s most noted musicians once called it home.

The interior of the one-story structure is skeletal — all bare studs and dust. But when Lauren Parks and Jasper Gery Pearson are inside, they can see the space where a young Miles Davis got his start in life, years before creating the music that would make him one of the biggest names in jazz. They hope to turn the trumpeter’s childhood home into a museum and educational space that will inspire children.

Outside, the site is a hive of activity as contractors remove trash, staple shingles to the roof and plan further cleanup.

Parks and Pearson decided five years ago to turn the structure into a museum and educational center. If all goes as they plan, it will open this fall.

“You know, I don’t see the concrete aspect of this structure,” Parks said. “I see children. I hear music. I see bustling of children and learning and excitement.”

The project began in 2011 but the real work began in earnest less than a month ago. That’s when contractors began gutting the structure in order to strip it down to bare bones before rebuilding it in the style of the 1920s, when Davis lived in East St. Louis.  Although the structure is stripped to the studs, Parks and Pearson have great plans for the future.

First, they intend the structure to be a repository of artifacts from Davis’ time in the city, from old shoes to objects that have yet to be determined.

Second, they want the completed museum to preserve anecdotes and stories from Davis’s childhood to which no other museum has access. These stories are meant to highlight how the jazz legend’s spirit and accomplishments remain ingrained in the city.

Third, Parks and Pearson expect to develop educational programs that includes music classes, history lessons, and community stewardship targeted specifically at 6- to 12-year-olds.  The project founders are working out a partnership with the local school district to develop concurrent programs in the classroom and at the museum. Once the building is complete, they hope to turn their attention to developing a small outdoor performance space so kids can share what they’ve learned with friends and family.

The project is not just an attempt to preserve Davis’ legacy. It’s also a bid to develop life-long community engagement and civic pride in East St. Louis.

“We’re looking to give our kids a little sense of home. That’s why we called this place HOME, House of Miles East St. Louis,” Pearson said. “So when you think of home you think not only about the front door and the back door but the whole community.” 

The demolition and renovation is primarily supported through individual donations and a grant from Lowe’s Home Improvement.  Founders are additionally seeking to crowd-source funding online. The project also has partnered with Creative Exchange Lab – Center for Architecture + Design StL to help develop a strategic plan for how best to engage residents and visitors.

Parks and Pearson will be presenting the project 5:30 p.m., Thursday, at Creative Exchange Lab in Grand Center in St. Louis. They’ll be discussing the development of the museum concept and making a case for why it’s integral to developing better infrastructure in East. St. Louis.

What: House of Miles: A Miles Davis Memorial Project

When: 5:30 Thursday, August 11th, 2016

Where: Center for Architecture + Design STL. 3307 Washington Blvd, St. Louis

Jim Eigo Jazz Promo Services T: 845-986-1677 E-Mail: jim@jazzpromoservices.com
https://www.jazzpromoservices.com

HAVE A JAZZ EVENT, NEW CD OR IMPORTANT ANNOUNCEMENT FOR THE JAZZ COMMUNITY YOU WANT TO PROMOTE? CONTACT JAZZ PROMO SERVICES FOR PRICE QUOTE.

CHECK OUT OUR NEW YOUTUBE VIDEO
 

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Jazz Legend Louis Armstrong to Be Subject of Next Film From Imagine Documentaries

Jazz Legend Louis Armstrong to Be Subject of Next Film From Imagine Documentaries

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Jazz Legend Louis Armstrong to Be Subject of Next Film From Imagine Documentaries


Louis Armstrong
Photo by Jack Bradley, Courtesy of the Louis Armstrong House Museum

Following the release of “Pavarotti,” the next music-centric, documentary film from Imagine Documentaries will focus on the life of jazz legend, singer and trumpeter Louis Armstrong, the company’s president Justin Wilkes announced Monday.

Imagine will partner with the Louis Armstrong Educational Foundation to produce the “definitive” documentary on Louis Armstrong, also known as “Satchmo,” “Satch” and “Pops.” The foundation will provide access to hundreds of hours of audio recordings, film footage, photographs, personal diaries and ephemera for use in the film as part of the deal between the two companies.

Production is scheduled to commence on the currently untitled film this fall.

Also Read: What a Wonderful World: Louis Armstrong Is Getting a Bio Podcast From the ‘Inside Jaws’ Team

“I find it difficult to imagine a voice more globally recognized than that of Louis Armstrong,” Wilkes said in a statement.  “And yet, the story behind the voice; of the music, the man, and the impact he had on our world have never been fully recognized on film.  As the song goes, we’re honored to bring him ‘back to where he belongs.’”

“This is a perfect time to remind the world of the power, depth and beauty in Louis Armstrong’s music and story, especially as we celebrate fifty years of Armstrong’s generosity in establishing the Foundation,” Stanley Crouch, president of The Louis Armstrong Educational Foundation said in a statement. “He was born in poverty in one of the roughest neighborhoods in New Orleans, Louisiana. Absorbing the multilayered music and culture of that fascinating place and time, he went on to heal and educate the country and world with the depth of his playing, singing and undying belief in the value of our common humanity. The life and times, trials, tribulations and triumphs of Louis Armstrong still has much to show the world. He is an iconic genius whose rich musical, social and philosophical insights are timeless.”

Armstrong was also an avid biographer, keeping a daily audio diary on reel-to-reel tape from the early 1950s to the day he died in 1971, and the film will chronicle those audio diaries as well.

Also Read: ‘Pavarotti’ Film Review: Ron Howard Doc Humanizes Opera Legend

Armstrong was one of the most influential jazz figures of his day and a chart-topping performer known for his raspy, gravelly voice, scat singing and his offstage charisma and wit, as well as an explosive temper. The New Orleans-born musician made seminal recordings with his mentor Joe “King” Oliver and would even knock The Beatles off the top of the charts in 1964 with a number one record that successfully reached a diverse audience in a racially divided America. He won one Grammy award and was also recognized posthumously with a Grammy for Lifetime Achievement, and he was further inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Within the last year, Ron Howard and Brian Grazer’s Imagine Documentaries arm also kicked off work on “DADS,” a film about the recent California wildfires called “Rebuilding Paradise” and a film about NBA All-Star Dwyane Wade. The division recently teamed up with Apple to produce a slate of feature documentaries and docuseries, under an exclusive, first-look deal.

News of the documentary was first reported by Deadline.

14 Music Biopics in the Works After ‘Rocketman,’ From Elvis Presley to Aretha Franklin (Photos)

  • Music Biopics In the WorksGetty Images

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Carole King, Boy George, Celine Dion and more are looking for their “Bohemian Rhapsody” moment

With the box office and awards season success of “Bohemian Rhapsody,” music biopics are roaring back. “Rocketman,” based on the life of Elton John, just released this past weekend, and several others are currently in the works, including films about Elvis Presley, Aretha Franklin, Bob Marley, John Lennon and Yoko Ono. 

Jim Eigo Jazz Promo Services T: 845-986-1677 E-Mail: jim@jazzpromoservices.com
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The Night Charlie Parker Soared in South Central L.A. – Features – Lynell George – Alta Online

The Night Charlie Parker Soared in South Central L.A. – Features – Lynell George – Alta Online

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The Night Charlie Parker Soared in South Central L.A.

After spending six months in detox at Camarillo State Hospital, a reinvigorated Charlie Parker went to Jack’s Basket Room and gave what is considered by many to be the greatest performance of his life.
WILLIAM GOTTLIEB/REDFERNS

In Los Angeles the past is fragile. Yet, for all the fast-forward erasure—razed landmarks, dramatically altered vistas, and, more recently, the hard press (and anguish) of gentrification—the city still holds a cache of rich built history. One shortcut might reveal an inventory of off-the-beaten-path structures that have eluded developers’ desires, or tucked-away jewels lost amid a hodgepodge of architectural styles or on-the-fly renovations.

This has been, in certain respects, the case with 3219 South Central Avenue. For decades, the storefront has been one of those addresses that have nested various small enterprises—in this case, a sewing factory, a café, a butcher, office space, a discount store. Most likely, the proprietors of adjacent businesses and the neighbors who wheeled their metal fold-up shopping carts past it had little idea what one of its most glamorous identities had been.

Growing up in L.A., I learned long ago that to get back to the past, I’d have to rely on the power of story. I leaned hard on people’s stowed-away histories—their stray memories and their internal maps. They were a pathway, like the device in that old Ray Bradbury story “A Sound of Thunder” that allowed you to wander back in time to view history. The caveat: just be careful how you step, or you break the spell, change the future.

My path to this particular past was jazz musician and composer Buddy Collette. I popped up on his porch one afternoon 25 years ago with a notebook, a cassette recorder, and a lot of questions about the old jazz scene that had coalesced, from the 1920s into the mid-1950s, along Central Avenue—“Jazz Street,” as some of the older locals I’d grown up around called it. I was, as a reporter, working on a profile of Buddy, and he was always generous with his time and his stories. His memories were expansive. And because he was a musician, his ear was tuned to sense details of time and place that gave the stories a lush, surround-sound quality.

He had been a major figure in the amalgamation of L.A.’s segregated musicians’ unions, black and white, that integrated under Local 47 in 1953. Buddy was avid about places where musicians came to unify—to play, yes, but also to share and commiserate; how they got the word around about what was going on—musically and politically. Gossip, too. How they all “vibed.” Our initial meeting turned into many. Buddy was set on reanimating Central Avenue for me, its history and eminence, but also its meaning.

Jack’s attracted greats like Buddy Collette, Duke Ellington, and Dexter Gordon. Radio host Bill Sampson (standing at left microphone) and his band often played at Jack’s for KAGH.COURTESY OF THE TOM & ETHEL BRADLEY CENTER AT CALIFORNIA STATE UNIVERSITY, NORTHRIDGE 
Jack’s attracted greats like Buddy Collette, Duke Ellington, and Dexter Gordon. Radio host Bill Sampson (standing at left microphone) and his band often played at Jack’s for KAGH.
‘RELAXIN’ AT CAMARILLO’

That first afternoon, in 1995, we slipped into my car and from his mid-city home in Los Angeles’s Miracle Mile district wound east, then south on surface streets toward Central. The place he wanted me to see, first stop, was 3219, a place he referred to as “Jack’s Basket.” I drove, he narrated—a sweet, silky solo.

Central seemed wiped clean of any sentimental remnant of that former era, or so I thought. I’d taken myself there many times before, hoping to find some piece of the past: an awning, a staircase, a fading ghost sign. Buddy knew where to look; that was the difference. I had missed the building because I didn’t know what to focus on, but there it was hiding in plain sight: a brick facade—low-key, revealing nothing. This was true especially in neighborhoods that had been “abandoned” or “de-invested” in, as addresses and structures acquired new identities and rode incognito into the future—this was what had happened with Jack’s Basket, formally known as Jack’s Basket Room.

Street and jazz lore has long put forth that Jack’s Basket Room was operated by Jack Johnson the heavyweight champion. Jazz historian Steven Isoardi, who coedited Central Avenue Sounds: Jazz in Los Angeles, an extensive collection of vivid and essential oral histories about the scene, has been trying for years to uncover a sturdy link in that story—photos, business licenses, press clippings—but it’s all too tenuous. “That Johnson owned clubs on Central is indisputable, but Jack’s? It’s a bit of a mystery,” he says. City records add another layer of story, and record that in 1944 owner Sam “Jack” Jackson applied for a business permit and he sold the building in 1955. Jack’s had a listing until the early 1950s in The Negro Motorist’s Green Book, a guide pointing black travelers to businesses that were, in the era of Jim Crow laws, safe to visit and patronize.

The Basket Room hosted after-hours jam sessions that flew ’til dawn and was known for its fried-chicken-and-french-fry combos served in wicker baskets. They didn’t have a liquor license, Buddy recalled, but you could BYOB or be pointed a couple of doors down to pick up a package or two. Setups and mixers were provided in-house. As saxophonist Marshal Royal remembered in Central Avenue Sounds, “It wasn’t highly decorated or anything, was sort of the barny type, and had some tables in there. It didn’t have sawdust on the floor, but it was probably the next thing to that.”

If Buddy hadn’t flagged it, I would have once more sailed past that nondescript brick building. He signaled with one long index finger angled toward 33rd Street, suggesting we look for parking there. I found a slot, and then Buddy and I walked up to Central. It’s now been so long that I don’t remember what business was inside—or if there was one. I was filled up with Buddy’s stories about the street: The tiny galaxy of rooms—the Downbeat, Club Alabam, the Last Word, the Gaiety, the Jungle Room. Jack’s special late-Monday-night jam sessions that attracted local and visiting musicians to sit in after their club date at a down-the-street venue or across-town studio recording session was through. Buddy was mapping an L.A. that could just as well have been the moon. These places he described didn’t have much in common with romanticized jazz-life images of shadows and smoke; they were full of sweat, exhaustion, laughter, and the mustiness of a taproom—they hosted people mingling after a long day of work, and the music was always the connector.

“When Duke Ellington came to town, you listened for the word: ‘Well, is he going to be at Jack’s Basket or Ivie’s Chicken Shack?’ The word…was even stronger than the newspapers,” Buddy told me.

In its boom years in the mid-to-late 1940s, Jack’s hosted matinees and free Christmas banquets for “underprivileged children,” and of course, those famous late-night sessions that would run until four or five in the morning. “That was when the Basket Room was really clicking,” Buddy would write in his memoir, Jazz Generations: A Life in American Music and Society. “There was always gonna be a jam session…and everybody would come with their own story.”

The most famous night, hands down, occurred more than 70 years ago, in early 1947, when Charlie Parker was released from Camarillo State Hospital. Word on the street lit up with musicians reporting that he was suited up and headed for Jack’s, alto in tow. Buddy would recall the evening in his memoir: “[Bird] had been quite ill, having problems with drugs and going through other things. There was an announcement that he was going to come and jam.”

Players—local and those just passing through—thirty or forty, Buddy remembered, made sure to be front and center, “wanting to show Parker how they could play. All the tenor and alto players were there—Sonny Criss, Wardell Gray, Dexter Gordon, Gene Phillips, Teddy Edwards, Jay McNeely, and on and on. They all played and Bird sat there and smiled…. Finally, Bird got up there and I don’t think he played more than three or four choruses. But he told a complete story, caught all the nuances, tapered off to the end. Nobody played a note after that. Everybody just packed up their horns and went on home, because it was so complete, so right.”

Seems anyone in the know about the Basket Room lands on that Parker story. Since Buddy’s been gone (now almost 10 years), I still hear versions from musicians who were in the room and those who were far too young to be, the latter stories rendered in such precise detail that it’s like they were there. Jazz guitarist and composer Anthony Wilson, son of the late trumpeter and bandleader Gerald Wilson, recalls his father’s own excitement as he occupied one of those chairs, bearing witness to history. “[Jack’s] was like a sort of hub of the community. Word got out that Charlie Parker was coming. There was a huge crowd inside and outside the place. He said Bird looked strong and healthy and that it was a thrill to see.”

 

 

 

 

It was some phoenix move as only Parker could have managed: Bird passing through Los Angeles and, if only for a moment, turning his bad luck into gold in front of an astonished audience. Parker would go on to record a series of West Coast sessions for Dial Records in Southern California, including, in February 1947, “Relaxin’ at Camarillo,” his famous nod to that six-month detox stint. And his Dial dates in October and November of 1947 produced selections that are considered by many to be some of “the most lyrical in Parker’s entire output,” according to The Penguin Guide to Jazz on CD. “ ‘Bird of Paradise’ is based on the sequence of ‘All The Things You Are,’ with an introduction (Bird and Miles [Davis]) that was to become one of the thumbprints of bebop.” What gives that evening even more of an air of majesty is that it was a night of West Coast magic that doesn’t survive in formal recordings or published photos, but does still live vividly in stories.

Jack’s Basket Room, open from 1939 to 1951, and its after-hours jam sessions were at the heart of L.A.’s jazz scene.COURTESY OF THE TOM & ETHEL BRADLEY CENTER AT CALIFORNIA STATE UNIVERSITY, NORTHRIDGE 
Jack’s Basket Room, open from 1939 to 1951, and its after-hours jam sessions were at the heart of L.A.’s jazz scene.
PLAIN SIGHT

Jack’s was a joint, yes, but it was also a nexus. And arguably, of greater significance than that one incandescent night when Bird soared was the strength of the network the club linked and fostered—the conversations it spurred and the gigs it inspired. At the center was Jack’s, and at the center of Jack’s was music—from the clientele who were players to the radio broadcasts and the famous “cutting” sessions where musicians would display their prowess. Heavy hitters waltzed through: Ellington, Dexter Gordon, Wardell Gray, Lucky Thompson, Paul Gonsalves, Art Farmer, Barney Kessel. 

After-hours spots like Jack’s were essential one-stop catch-alls—a place to play, to find work, and to go get one’s head straight. By 1948 or so, postwar Los Angeles was changing. “There were a few jobs left and then eventually everything dried up,” bassist David Bryant told Isoardi in Central Avenue Sounds. “Musicians that played jazz also played other kinds of music…. I mean to live they had to. All the commercial, top forty and all that shit. They were good musicians. That’s why they used to have after-hour places so they could come in after they got off their gig. They had to get the shit out of their systems. So they’d go to sessions and play until morning.”

As I stood with Buddy that afternoon looking at a faded brick building, its facade and windows covered with a clutter of signage advertising new businesses, proprietors, and promises, we were both comforted to see that Jack’s was still standing through all the scene changes and neighborhood neglect and urban uprisings and population shifts. A quiet, open secret.

‘NUTHIN BUT A BIRD’

But Bird wouldn’t be the only figure to attempt a resurrection at 3219. Back in 2015, I received a call from Isoardi alerting me that something was stirring at the old Basket Room.

Isoardi had participated in a panel discussion at the South L.A. youth nonprofit A Place Called Home, a lead-up event to the annual Central Avenue Jazz Festival. He was sharing stories about the rich history of the avenue and how much of it had vanished. “Then I mention 3219 South Central and how it was one of the landmarks left…and this young couple sitting in back jumped up. ‘We just bought the place!’ Here was this energetic couple wanting to do something.”

In quick fashion, the couple, a designer and a general contractor, refocused their plan of rehabbing the building as an all-purpose, rentable community gathering space, bent on finding a way to honor the building’s history. They began to research wall and floor treatments in an attempt to re-create the interior, down to the checkerboard floor. They wanted to bring Jack’s back, they told Isoardi, to its full glory. 

I wanted a glimpse, just one glimpse, of all this in motion. I met up with Isoardi at the site one afternoon in early 2017 and stood, for the very first time, inside that empty “barny” room, amid a scatter of bricks and dust—just roof and frame—and tried to tune in the echoes of the past. I listened to Isoardi talk and imagined the future: concerts and open houses for neighborhood kids, a garden out back. Once some of the grime had been cleared away, you could make out tracings of Jack’s original signage laced along the top edge of the facade, including a chicken head logo and a lyric fragment from an old jump tune: “Chicken ain’t nuthin but a bird.”

About a year later, Isoardi visited again. “We’d been gathering photos and testimonies and hoping we could open with energy,” he told me recently. “They were talking about a June opening, and by early ’18 they were ready for the build. Everyone’s attitude was: What do you need? How can we help?”

That June opening would never take place. About three months after Isoardi’s visit, I received a jolting two-line email from him. “Jack’s burned down.” Apparently arson. How bad? We didn’t know yet. The years of work spent trying to re-create the spirit of Jack’s, literally brick by brick, were now rubble; the whole of it would be red tagged and ordered to be demolished within two weeks.

If tensions had been festering among any neighbors, the couple knew nothing of them, Isoardi noted. In fact, they’d been building solid goodwill, talking with local musicians and community members about offering the space for meetings and music education. If there was anti-gentrification animosity, they didn’t feel it. But a 2 a.m. fire certainly begins to stoke those fears.

The building that once housed Jack’s was destroyed by a mysterious fire in 2018.COURTESY OF THE TOM & ETHEL BRADLEY CENTER AT CALIFORNIA STATE UNIVERSITY, NORTHRIDGE
The building that once housed Jack’s was destroyed by a mysterious fire in 2018.
A FULL STORY

A year gone, the clock ticks; the owners still tread water in insurance-payout purgatory, Isoardi tells me. The site where Jack’s once stood is ringed by chain link, just a big dirt lot. What happens next is anybody’s guess.

I’m reminded again of that Bradbury story and how precariously positioned the past is. In that tale about time travel, participants are expressly ordered not to step off the path, not to change the course of history. The most minute alteration can have consequences. Did the restoration activity spark too much attention? Might Jack’s still be here if it was still riding incognito? It’s a question that has weight.

But what I know to be truer about Los Angeles is that even though Jack’s had cheated time, that building, in its weathered and frail condition, most likely wasn’t long for the world. If someone else had gotten to it, it might have ended up transformed into some mixed-use monstrosity, something soulless and disconnected to its past. What’s most tragic to me is that the new owners were trying to do it right, trying to give a gift back to the neighborhood—for residents to use and shape—as well as honoring a legacy. What was in the works, says Isoardi, was much more difficult and painstaking to do. It was from the heart.

But as I know Buddy would say to them: They now have a story—distinct and original—an arc that ties them, and their best intentions, to this place. They are now part of the lore of the avenue. Part of its history. And in time, they will tell their full story, “so complete, so right.”

Lynell George won a 2017 Grammy for her liner notes “Otis Redding Live at the Whisky A Go Go.” Her latest book is After/Image: Los Angeles Outside the Frame.

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Jim Cullum Jr., who brought classic jazz from the River Walk to the world, has died at 77 – ExpressNews.com

Jim Cullum Jr., who brought classic jazz from the River Walk to the world, has died at 77 – ExpressNews.com

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Jim Cullum Jr., who brought classic jazz from the River Walk to the world, has died at 77

News 

1of16Jim Cullum Jr. plays at the 2016 Distinction in the Arts awards ceremony, which honored him.Photo: Kin Man Hui / Staff file photo
2of16Jim Cullum Jr. plays in the second line after the the funeral for Pete Fountain, a jazz clarinet legend, in New Orleans, La., on August 17th, 2016.Photo: Bryan Tarnowski /Bryan Tarnowski for the San Antonio Express-News
3of16Local jazz great Jim Cullum, playing his familiar brass cornet, joins the rest of his group, The Jim Cullum Jazz Band, in a performance at the Pearl Stable to celebrate their 20th anniversary of their public radio program “Riverwalk Jazz” on Wednesday, October 7, 2009. They were playing in front of an audience during a taping for the show. Photo: KIN MAN HUI /San Antonio Express-News
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Jim Cullum Jr., who promoted jazz in San Antonio and San Antonio to the world, died at his Anastacia Place home Sunday of an apparent heart attack. He was 77.

Cullum led his eponymous jazz band for almost 50 years, had an encyclopedic knowledge of his chosen genre and helped spur development of the River Walk by bringing live music to its banks and sending that music to jazz lovers worldwide.

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“He loved this city,” said his longtime companion, Donna Cloud. “He was Mr. San Antonio, and he was always grateful for the love the city gave back to him. He never forgot that and he never took that for granted.”

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Bob Porter

Bob Porter

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WBGO is announcing that veteran DJ & record producer Bob Porter is in hospital, in critical but stable condition, with an undisclosed diagnosis.

Thoughts and Prayers for our dear friend and colleague Bob Porter

Bob Porter @ Original Vinyl Records Spring 2019

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What this music revival means for Polish cultural identity | CANVAS Arts

What this music revival means for Polish cultural identity | CANVAS Arts

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What this music revival means for Polish cultural identity

Transcript

Amna Nawaz: Young musicians in Poland are reviving what they are calling the country’s golden era, which was cut short by the Nazi invasion and Second World War.

1930s dances such as the fox-trot and tango are making a comeback, as people of all ages flock to listen to a number of ensembles playing songs that died, along with many of those who used to perform them.

Once known as the Paris of the East, the Polish capital, Warsaw, is pulsating again, as special correspondent Malcolm Brabant reports for our arts and culture series, Canvas.

Malcolm Brabant: In the courtyard of a trendy Warsaw bar, the small dance orchestra is starting to swing, as is its leader, Noam Zylberberg.

Noam Zylberberg: It’s an interesting time. It’s the beginning of pop music. It’s influenced by early jazz. But, at the same time, all the musicians who were working at the time were classically trained musicians.

So, it’s a very classical sound on the one hand. On the other hand, it’s this sound looking for itself, looking for its identity.

Malcolm Brabant: Family identity is at the core of this revival.

Zylberberg moved to Warsaw four years ago after studying conducting in Israel. His grandparents were Polish, but left before the Germans invaded. After their deaths, Zylberberg became curious about their past, and this led to a fascination with the pre-war music scene in Warsaw.

Noam Zylberberg: We don’t play so much concerts. We play for dancing, because we care about also preserving the original meaning of this music. This was music for dancing.

When we play, people enjoy, and this is the reaction that we get. And so we enjoy. It’s just a lot of fun.

We’re honoring the musicians, the composers, the arrangers, band leaders, all of those people who were involved in creating this very unique scene in Warsaw in the 1930s.

Malcolm Brabant: Many of the musicians who made Warsaw such a vibrant place in the 1930s were Jews. Some of them escaped the Holocaust. But others perished inside the Warsaw ghetto or in the death camps, and their music died with them.

The scars of war are plain to see in Warsaw. The Germans flattened the city before retreating from the Soviet Red Army. Arches containing the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier are all that remain of a fabulous palace.

The Polish capital was stunning before the war, but the Germans systematically destroyed it in revenge for the Warsaw uprising in 1944. This area, Warsaw Old Town, is anything but. It was meticulously reconstructed after the war.

There’s nothing left of the old Jewish quarter, just a pastiche of a neighborhood street and the museum of the history of Polish Jews, and an original recording of a song called “Abdul Bey.”

And this is jazz band Mlynarski-Masecki version of “Abdul Bey,” a crazy Polish-Jewish-Palestinian fox-trot about a chieftain with four wives and a camel.

Marcin Masecki started learning the piano when he was 3 years old. He’s a multitalented classical and avant-garde pianist.

Jan Emil Mlynarski trained as a drummer, but he also plays the banjo mandolin and sings.

Marcin Masecki: For us, there’s a feeling, definite feeling of something that was developing, brutally cut, you know? The American jazz standards is like a classic — classical music in the States.

For us, it was cut by the war and then covered by 50 years of communism. So, we never had a chance to build a relationship with that epoch. And it seems to me that we’re doing this now.

Jan Emil Mlynarski: My family comes from Warsaw. I heard stories about the old days. The Warsaw scene was huge.

It’s a beautiful, very complex music. I always wanted to be one of these guys from the, you know, black-and-white photograph. This is a very important part of my life. Of course, I’m a traditionalist. I love to wear a tuxedo and just be in that time.

Marcin Masecki: Just how important is history? History creates your identity.

So, for me, it’s a way of discovering our national identity. I’m not trying to sound nationalist. It’s not any better than any other, but it’s just something that we have been denied for quite some time as a nation. So, it’s kind of fascinating that we had this huge thing going on that is kind of forgotten.

We love this kind of music, and we love music from the ’20s and ’30s from every country, actually. But, for us, it has added value of developing our classical reference, you know, our golden era. So, it’s kind of a building some kind of legend almost.

Anna Wypijewska: It’s very enjoyable, very powerful, sensual. I really, really enjoy dancing with my friends. And I like the atmosphere and music and everything around.

Bogdan Popescu: It’s beautiful. It’s the best thing I could do on a Saturday evening, basically. They’re all young, and they’re basically playing music from the ’40s, from the ’30s.

So, that’s a really nice approach to it, basically. I mean, no one would expect a young orchestra to play such music. So, it’s ideal. I love it. It’s really nice.

Malcolm Brabant: This band is well-versed in American swing, but they had to unlearn that style to give this music its unique Polish accent, which heavily features the tango.

Noam Zylberberg: The Polish tango is based on the Argentinean tango. It is a sexy dance. It is a passionate dance, but in a more Central Eastern European manner. This means it’s more polite.

Malcolm Brabant: Despite trying to faithfully reproduce the sound of the ’30s, Zylberberg says he’s not turning back the clock.

Noam Zylberberg: It’s similar in the sense that people come to enjoy this music and dance together with this music. On the other hand, we live in a different world. It’s not going to be the same, and we don’t want it to be the same. We just want to keep this music alive, you know? Just keep it alive.

Malcolm Brabant: For the moment, they’re certainly succeeding.

For the “PBS NewsHour,” I’m Malcolm Brabant in Warsaw.

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Bob Wilber, Champion of Jazz’s Legacy, Is Dead at 91 – The New York Times

Bob Wilber, Champion of Jazz’s Legacy, Is Dead at 91 – The New York Times

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Bob Wilber, Champion of Jazz’s Legacy, Is Dead at 91

By Giovanni Russonello

Aug. 9, 2019

The clarinetist and saxophonist Bob Wilber, left, in an undated photo with Sidney Bechet, his mentor and biggest influence. &ldquo;I modeled myself after Bechet,&rdquo; he once said. &ldquo;He was very complimented by this because he felt time was passing him by.&rdquo;
The clarinetist and saxophonist Bob Wilber, left, in an undated photo with Sidney Bechet, his mentor and biggest influence. “I modeled myself after Bechet,” he once said. “He was very complimented by this because he felt time was passing him by.”William Gottlieb/Redferns, via Getty Images

Bob Wilber, a clarinetist and saxophonist who fell in love with swing and early jazz just as those styles were going out of fashion and then became an important carrier of their legacy, died on Sunday in Chipping Campden, England. He was 91.

The death was confirmed by his wife, the British vocalist Pug Horton, his only immediate survivor. He had lived in New York City for most of his life before settling in England.

Mr. Wilber began his professional career while still a teenager as the leader of the Wildcats, one of the first bands devoted to reviving the jazz of the 1920s and ’30s. His love for the old guard soon endeared him to the pioneering New Orleans musician Sidney Bechet, who became his mentor and biggest influence.

“I modeled myself after Bechet,” Mr. Wilber told John S. Wilson of The New York Times in 1980. “He was very complimented by this because he felt time was passing him by. All the talk then was of Dizzy Gillespie and Charlie Parker. He felt his music would die unless it was passed on to younger players.”

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Over a long apprenticeship, Mr. Wilber developed his own take on Bechet’s style, with its ribbony vibrato and stoutly articulated melodies, first on clarinet and then on soprano saxophone. For much of Mr. Wilber’s career his affiliation with Bechet would be both a calling card and a cross to bear; he would never fully escape his identity as Bechet’s top protégé.

The Wildcats — which sometimes employed a racially integrated lineup, a rarity for the era — recorded a number of well-received sides for the Commodore and Riverside labels, a few of them featuring Bechet as a guest star.

Mr. Wilber soon grew tired of the comparisons to Bechet, and of the murmurs he heard that he would never define his own approach. He studied briefly in the early 1950s with two leading modernists, the pianist Lennie Tristano and the saxophonist Lee Konitz, before being drafted into the Army in 1952. He spent two years playing in a military ensemble in New York while studying with Leon Russianoff, working to expand his identity on the clarinet.

Mr. Wilber performed at a Jazz at Lincoln Center concert in honor of Benny Goodman&rsquo;s centennial in 2009. He was best known for reviving the traditional jazz of the 1920s and &rsquo;30s.
Mr. Wilber performed at a Jazz at Lincoln Center concert in honor of Benny Goodman’s centennial in 2009. He was best known for reviving the traditional jazz of the 1920s and ’30s.Michelle V. Agins/The New York Times

After his discharge, Mr. Wilber and some Wildcats alumni formed a band called the Six, which aimed to interpolate recent developments in bebop and West Coast jazz into a traditional framework. The band released one album in 1955. Writing in DownBeat, Nat Hentoff commended it for playing “without regard to restrictions of schools or styles.” But the Six failed to catch on with listeners in either camp, and soon disbanded.

Mr. Wilber said that he had twice been invited to join Louis Armstrong’s touring band but declined because it would have required him to be on the road for a year at a time.

After making an album of Bechet’s music in 1960, he recorded only occasionally in the coming decade, most notably the album “Close as Pages in a Book,” a collaboration with the vocalist Maxine Sullivan.

In his searching, often self-lacerating autobiography, “Music Was Not Enough”(1987, with Derek Webster), Mr. Wilber described feeling underappreciated and at sea in the middle years of his career. His “mild and almost self-apologetic demeanor in a world that demanded dynamism and charisma,” he wrote, “were real and painful problems.”

But in 1968 he became a member of the World’s Greatest Jazz Band, a standard-bearing group devoted to Dixieland and swing, and it reinvigorated him. He began playing the alto saxophone more often — a clear attempt to put some distance between himself and Bechet — and gave himself a makeover, growing a beard and swapping his glasses for contact lenses. “For the first time the world was able to look into my face,” he wrote.

“He took off; he sparkled,” Ms. Horton said in an interview. “He was his own man again.”

Mr. Wilber’s work in the World’s Greatest Jazz Band helped solidify his reputation as a leading preservationist, just as jazz history was becoming a topic of broad academic interest. In the mid-70s he and Kenny Davern — also a clarinetist and soprano saxophonist — formed Soprano Summit, an all-star combo whose fervid renditions of old repertoire made it a favorite among fans of traditional jazz.

After their marriage in 1976, Mr. Wilber and Ms. Horton formed Bechet Legacy, a band devoted to his mentor’s music, which recorded intermittently over the next two decades.

Mr. Wilber became the musical director for George Wein’s New York Jazz Repertory Company in the mid-1970s, and the inaugural director of the Smithsonian Jazz Repertory Ensemble soon after. He won a 1985 Grammy Award for his arrangements of Duke Ellington’s music for the soundtrack of the Francis Ford Coppola film “The Cotton Club.”

Mr. Wilber at the Newport Jazz Festival in 2013. As a youth he slept on a couch in Bechet’s parlor for six months.Alan Nahigian

In his last decades, living primarily in England, he continued to tour and record frequently. From the 1980s to the 2010s he released dozens of albums.

Robert Sage Wilber was born on March 15, 1928, in New York City. His mother, Mary Eliza Wilber, died when he was less than a year old. His father, Allen, a partner in a publishing firm that sold college textbooks, remarried when Bob was 5 and moved the family to suburban Scarsdale, N.Y., north of the city.

Allen Wilber, an amateur pianist, encouraged Bob’s budding love of jazz and took him to Carnegie Hall in 1943 for Duke Ellington’s first concert there.

A shy student, Bob connected with classmates most easily through music, and in high school he started hosting jam sessions at his house. He and his friends sometimes sneaked into New York City to go to jazz clubs.

He spent a semester at the Eastman School of Music in Rochester before dropping out, frustrated with its focus on Western classical music.

“I said, ‘Well, Dad, I just want to hang around and listen to all these great musicians, maybe meet them, maybe get a chance to sit in and play with them,’ ” Mr. Wilber remembered in a 1998 interview with the Jazz Archive at Hamilton College in upstate New York. “He says, ‘Son, you want to spend the rest of your life blowing your lungs out in smoky dives?’ I said, ‘Yeah, yeah, that’s what I want to do.’ ”

In 1946, after Bechet refashioned his home in Brooklyn as a music school, Mr. Wilber became his first serious student. He also began sleeping on a couch in Bechet’s parlor and ended up staying for about six months.

Speaking to Whitney Balliett decades later for a profile in The New Yorker, Mr. Wilber remembered Bechet’s teachings.

“He was particular about form: Give the listener the melody first, then play variations on it, then give it to him again. And tell a story every time you play.”

A version of this article appears in print on Aug. 10, 2019, Section B, Page 14 of the New York edition with the headline: Bob Wilber, 91, Champion Of Jazz’s Legacy, Is Dead. Order Reprints | Today’s Paper | Subscribe

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Art Neville, a New Orleans Funk Fixture, Is Dead at 81 – The New York Times

Art Neville, a New Orleans Funk Fixture, Is Dead at 81 – The New York Times

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Art Neville, a New Orleans Funk Fixture, Is Dead at 81
By Neil Genzlinger
July 23, 2019
Art Neville performing with the Neville Brothers at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival in 2009. The group, formed in 1977, closed the festival for many years.
Art Neville performing with the Neville Brothers at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival in 2009. The group, formed in 1977, closed the festival for many years.Cheryl Gerber for The New York Times
Art Neville, the oldest of the Neville Brothers, the seminal New Orleans band, and a fixture of the Louisiana music scene for 65 years, died on Monday at his home in New Orleans. He was 81.
Among those announcing the death was Louisiana’s governor, John Bel Edwards, who said in a statement that Mr. Neville “took the unique sound of New Orleans and played it for the world to enjoy.” Mr. Neville’s brother Aaron, in a post on his Facebook page, called him “the patriarch of the Neville tribe, big chief, a legend from way way back, my first inspiration.”
The cause was not given, but Mr. Neville had experienced a variety of health problems in recent years. He announced his retirement last year.
The Neville Brothers, formed in 1977, consisted of Arthur, Charles, Aaron and Cyril Neville. The group, working a mélange of musical styles and influences, released a string of albums including “Fiyo on the Bayou” (1981) and “Yellow Moon” (1989).
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Although the band did not generate pop hits, it was known for propulsive live shows. The brothers performed all over the world and for years closed the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, popularly known as Jazz Fest.
Mr. Neville’s influence, though, predated the Neville Brothers and encompassed a series of groups — the best-known was the Meters — and solo recordings.
“With the Hawketts in 1955, he recorded the Carnival perennial ‘Mardi Gras Mambo,’ ” the singer and music historian Billy Vera said by email. “His early 1960s ‘All These Things’ is the all-time Louisiana slow-dance classic. His Meters’ gem, ‘Cissy Strut,’ was on every bar band’s set list in the early ’70s.”
The Meters in the 1970s, from left: the guitarist Leo Nocentelli, the bassist George Porter Jr., the drummer Joseph (Zigaboo) Modeliste and Mr. Neville. “The Meters may not have created New Orleans funk,” the author of the book “Funk” wrote, “but they certainly showed everyone what it was.”
The Meters in the 1970s, from left: the guitarist Leo Nocentelli, the bassist George Porter Jr., the drummer Joseph (Zigaboo) Modeliste and Mr. Neville. “The Meters may not have created New Orleans funk,” the author of the book “Funk” wrote, “but they certainly showed everyone what it was.”Gilles Petard/Redferns, via Getty Images
Arthur Lanon Neville was born on Dec. 17, 1937, in New Orleans to Arthur and Amelia (Landry) Neville. He played the organ, and in a 2000 interview with The State Journal-Register of Springfield, Ill., he recalled first encountering the instrument when his grandmother took him to a church that she cleaned near his home on Valence Street in New Orleans when he was about 3.
“She was on one side of the altar and I was on the other side, and I seen this big old thing and I said, ‘Aha, I want to find out what this is,’ ” he said. “And I turned the little switch and hit one of the low keys. It scared the daylights out of me, but that was the first keyboard I played.”
For him and his brothers, music was always part of the story.
“Ever since we were kids we were doing this,” he said. “Anything we’d get around we’d beat on and we’d sing.”
Mr. Neville was just a teenager when he joined the Hawketts. He sang lead on the group’s version of “Mardi Gras Mambo,” which had recently been recorded by the singer Jody Leviens, and a local disc jockey persuaded the group to record the song themselves. By 1955 it was charting locally; it went on to become a staple of Mardi Gras season in New Orleans.
“He started his solo career out cutting insane rockin’ R&B songs like ‘Cha Dooky-Doo,’ ‘Oooh-Whee Baby,’ ‘Zing Zing’ and ‘What’s Going On,’ ” Ira Padnos, a historian of the region’s music and founder of the festival the Ponderosa Stomp, said by email.
Mr. Neville spent several years in the Navy in the late 1950s. In the early ′60s he began working with the prolific musician, songwriter and producer Allen Toussaint, made soul records like “All These Things” (1962) and formed a six-piece group, the Neville Sounds, which in 1968 morphed into the Meters. Dave Thompson, in his book “Funk” (2001), called the Meters “the ultimate New Orleans funk combo.”
The band became a fixture in New Orleans clubs, backed bigger names like Dr. John (who died last month) and Robert Palmer on records, and toured with Dr. John, the Rolling Stones and others.
The Neville Brothers in 1981; from left, Charles, Aaron, Art and Cyril. Reviewing a performance that year, one critic said the brothers “rewrote the dictionary of soul, uniting funk, doo-wop, reggae and salsa under the banner of New Orleans rhythm and blues.”Paul Natkin/Getty Images
“The Meters may not have created New Orleans funk,” Mr. Thompson wrote, “but they certainly showed everyone what it was.”
The Meters’ songs, often sampled by later generations of musicians, “became the genetic building blocks of hip-hop,” Dr. Padnos said.
The Neville Brothers’ wide-ranging repertoire included politically tinged songs like “My Blood” and “Sister Rosa” (about Rosa Parks) as well as covers of “Will the Circle Be Unbroken,” Jimmy Cliff’s “Sitting in Limbo” and many more.
The brothers’ live shows were full of energy and innovation. Stephen Holden, writing in The Times, called their 1981 performance at the Savoy in Manhattan “one of the year’s more extraordinary pop events.”
“The four brothers — Art, Charles, Aaron and Cyril — rewrote the dictionary of soul,” Mr. Holden said, “uniting funk, doo-wop, reggae and salsa under the banner of New Orleans rhythm and blues.”
Charles Neville died last year. In addition to his brothers Aaron and Cyril, Mr. Neville’s survivors include his wife, Lorraine Neville; a sister, Athelgra Neville Gabriel; a son, Ian; and two daughters, Arthel and Amelia Neville.
In a 1987 interview with Rolling Stone, Mr. Neville talked about the Neville Brothers’ multifaceted music and drew a comparison to his grandmother’s apple cobbler, made memorable by a secret ingredient.
“You could taste it,” he said, “but you couldn’t identify what it was. That’s what made them apple cobblers so treacherous. That’s the same thing we do with the music.”
A version of this article appears in print on July 24, 2019, Section A, Page 25 of the New York edition with the headline: Art Neville, Part of Family That ‘Rewrote the Dictionary of Soul,’ Is Dead at 81. Order Reprints | Today’s Paper | Subscribe
 
 

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