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Nick Tosches, Fiery Music Writer and Biographer, Dies at 69 – The New York Times

Nick Tosches, Fiery Music Writer and Biographer, Dies at 69 – The New York Times


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https://www.nytimes.com/2019/10/20/books/nick-tosches-dies.html?action=click
 

Nick Tosches, Fiery Music Writer and Biographer, Dies at 69

By Neil Genzlinger

Updated Oct. 21, 2019, 8:40 a.m. ET

He brought a brash style to coverage of the rock world in the late 1960s and ’70s, then applied similar skills to novels and books on Dean Martin and Sonny Liston. 

Nick Tosches was part of a group of music writers labeled “the Noise Boys” for their wild, energetic prose. A critic once wrote, “Reading Tosches is like being mugged.”
Nick Tosches was part of a group of music writers labeled “the Noise Boys” for their wild, energetic prose. A critic once wrote, “Reading Tosches is like being mugged.”Kate Simon

Nick Tosches, who started out in the late 1960s as a brash music writer with a taste for the fringes of rock and country, then bent his eclectic style to biographies of figures like Dean Martin and Sonny Liston and to hard-to-classify novels, died on Sunday at his home in Manhattan. He was 69. 

The exact cause has not been determined, but he had been ill, a friend, James Marshall, said.

Mr. Tosches (TOSH-ez) and his fellow music writers Richard Meltzer and Lester Bangs were labeled “the Noise Boys” for their wild, energetic prose, a world away from fan magazines like Tiger Beat. Interviewing Debbie Harry of the band Blondie in 1979 for Creem magazine, he thought nothing of asking whether she shaved or waxed her legs. Neither, it turned out; she told him she plucked them, one hair at a time.

“We speak for many minutes of legs and their lore,” he wrote. “Each of us learns a great deal from the other. A mutual respect is born.”

In 1977 Mr. Tosches published his first book, “Country,” a well-researched look at some of country music’s lesser-known and often roguish figures. “Unsung Heroes of Rock ’n’ Roll” followed in 1984, with chapters on Ella Mae MorseSkeets McDonald and many more.

But by then Mr. Tosches had already begun to branch out. His first biography, “Hellfire: The Jerry Lee Lewis Story,” came out in 1982, and in 1986 he ventured beyond music with “Power on Earth: Michele Sindona’s Explosive Story,” about an Italian financier who was involved in assorted scandals.

One of his most attention-getting biographies followed in 1992. It was “Dino: Living High in the Dirty Business of Dreams,” about Dean Martin.

“Recordings, movies, radio, television: He would cast his presence over them all, a mob-culture Renaissance man,” he wrote of Martin. “And he would come to know, as few ever would, how dirty the business of dreams could be.”

For Mr. Tosches, Martin was a celebrity who beat the unrelenting fame machine, the one that often ground stars up and consigned them to early deaths. (Martin himself died in 1995 at 78.)

“I would describe Dean as a noble character in an ignoble racket in an ignoble age,” Mr. Tosches told The New York Times in 1992.

“Life is a racket,” he added. “Writing is a racket. Sincerity is a racket. Everything’s a racket.”

Mr. Tosches was born on Oct. 23, 1949, in Newark, to Nick and Muriel Ann (Wynn) Tosches.

“The things I wanted to be when I was a kid were an archaeologist, because of dinosaur bones; a garbage man, because they got to ride on the side of the trucks; and a writer,” he told The Times. “If I had become a garbage man, I could have retired by now.”

Mr. Tosches’ father owned a bar, and working there as a boy, as he often said later, provided him with the type of street-smart education that mattered. College was never a consideration; instead he held what he described to The Boston Globe in 2000 as “a bunch of strange jobs, both legitimate and illegitimate.”

He liked to tell of the few weeks he spent as a snake hunter for the Miami Serpentarium, which collected venom for research, even though he was afraid of snakes.

“You’d smoke out rattlesnakes by pouring gasoline down their holes and the fumes would drive them out,” he told Salon in 1999. “I did not make it too far in that job. Part of the con was anyone who brought in a rattlesnake over six feet would get a thousand bucks, and the thing is, there’s never been a rattlesnake over six feet. It’s a myth.” (Some experts, however, contend that six-foot rattlesnakes, though rare, do exist.)

At 19 he was living in New York and, as he often related, working for an underwear company on Madison Avenue.

“I was doing back then, in the days before computers, what they called paste-ups and mechanicals,” he told Vanity Fair in 2011. “You have a glue pot, a T-square, a razor blade, and you physically put together advertisements.”

Ed Sanders, who was a member of the underground rock band the Fugs and operated the Peace Eye Bookstore in the East Village in Manhattan, a counterculture hangout, befriended Mr. Tosches and gave him encouraging words about some poetry he had written, nudging along his budding interest in becoming a writer. In 1969 he sold his first article, to Fusion, a Boston magazine.

Through the 1970s and into the ’80s he wrote for that magazine as well as for Rolling Stone, Creem and other publications, practicing a free-ranging brand of journalism that fell under the label “gonzo.” Although his music-related books were obsessively researched, he didn’t always take his magazine writing so seriously, especially early on, when he was known to do things like review nonexistent albums.

“I was just using it as a rubric to get away with things in print, things that probably would be impossible to get away with now,” he told The Times. “Like making records up, which I’ve done. Reviewing records without even opening the shrink wrap.”

In 1988 Mr. Tosches published his first novel, “Cut Numbers,” about a small-time loan shark. Another, “Trinities,” about the international heroin trade, appeared in 1994.

In 1996 Mr. Tosches became a contributing editor to Vanity Fair, and an article he wrote for the magazine on the boxer Sonny Liston became the 2000 biography “The Devil and Sonny Liston.” That same year, he published “The Nick Tosches Reader,” a collection drawn from his three decades’ worth of work. 

His most acclaimed and most audacious work of fiction, “In the Hand of Dante,” was published in 2002. The story centered on a previously unknown manuscript of Dante’s masterwork, “The Divine Comedy,” and a more or less fictional character named Nick Tosches who is called upon to authenticate it.

“‘In the Hand of Dante’ weaves together the life of Dante with the life of a character named Nick Tosches,’” Will Blythe wrote in a review in The Times. “Fortunately, it’s not quite as postmodern as it sounds. In fact, it’s kind of a mess, but a splendid, passionate mess, with a moral fervor far exceeding most novels of better grooming.”

In his review in The Edmonton Journal of Alberta, Dennis Chute delivered a considerably more backhanded compliment.

“I think Tosches is a puffed-up buffoon whose bio is a pile of horse manure,” he wrote. “Let me tell you that he also has a prose style made up of pretty phrases that mean nothing, a fixation with the word dark, and a love for obscure words he doesn’t understand how to use. So why do I think this is a must-read book? Because Tosches is one of the few writers you can experience on a visceral level. Reading Tosches is like being mugged.”

 

"Me and the Devil” featured a character named Nick who bore similarities to the author. “Me and the Devil” featured a character named Nick who bore similarities to the author.

“Me and the Devil” (2012) also featured a character named Nick who bore similarities to the author, though one hopes not too many. This Nick enjoyed vampiric sex with young women. The book was not well received. In The Denver Post, John Broening called it “a series of self-aggrandizing pornographic daydreams intended to prop up the sagging legend of its author as an icon of below-14th Street duende.”

If his writing fell somewhat out of fashion, in late midlife Mr. Tosches cut a distinctive figure in that below-14th Street world, his natty dress inevitably commented upon by interviewers. One focused on his leopard-skin loafers, another on his silk homburg. 

“I always felt that that was one of the rewards of being 50,” he said. “You could wear a homburg.”

An early marriage, in 1972, was brief. Complete information on survivors was not immediately available. 

In 2006 the British publication Observer Music Monthly named the 50 greatest music books ever written. Mr. Tosches’ Jerry Lee Lewis biography, “Hellfire,” was No. 1. He sat for a question-and-answer session in conjunction with the honor.

“At the end of the book, you leave him very much alive, still roaming the earth, but pretty much facing the abyss,” the interviewer said of “Hellfire.”

“It’s the way we all live,” Mr. Tosches replied. “Shallow life, shallow ditch. Big life, big abyss.”

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 Oct. 21, 2019, Section A, Page 22 of the New York edition with the headline: Nick Tosches, Fiery Writer Of Music’s ‘Unsung Heroes’ And Biographer, Dies at 69. Order Reprints | Today’s Paper | Subscribe

 

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Jazz pioneer Cannonball Adderley made Tallahassee proud

Jazz pioneer Cannonball Adderley made Tallahassee proud


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Jazz pioneer Cannonball Adderley made Tallahassee proud

Cannonball Adderley playing the alto saxophone (Photo: Special to the Democrat)

In Tallahassee, in the early 1940s, one might have heard Glenn Miller’s “In the Mood,” or Frank Sinatra crooning a love ballad on the radio. But, if you were in the right place you might have heard Julian Adderley and his brother Nat playing the saxophone and cornet live.  

Julian Adderley Jr., or “Cannonball” as he was professionally known, was one of our most famous jazz musicians. He got there by having great parents, a solid education, and checking all the boxes along the way such as a stint in the Army and as a high school teacher. 

Early Tallahassee 

While he was born in Tampa in 1928, Julian’s family moved to Tallahassee when he was young. His father, Dr. Julian Adderley Sr., and his mother, Jessie, were educators and had obtained teaching positions at Florida A&M University. As a cornetist himself, Dr. Adderley instilled a love of music in his sons Julian Jr., and Nat.

By the time Julian was 14, he was playing with his own band at local venues in the historic Frenchtown section. By one account, he played with the great Ray Charles here before either were known. 

After graduating from FAMU in 1948, Julian became a high school band director at Dillard High School in Fort Lauderdale. Uncle Sam called in 1950 and he was drafted into the U.S. Army where he became the leader of the 36th Army Dance Band.  

The Big Apple 

With his military service over, he moved to New York City in 1955 planning to pursue graduate studies in Manhattan. However, one night his destiny changed after finding his way into the famous Cafe Bohemia in Greenwich Village accompanied by his brother Nat, a cornet player like their father, and was asked to sit in for the band’s regular saxophonist.

The Cafe Bohemia was considered the mecca for finger-snapping jazz and progressive music conception. At the end of the evening, the manager called out to Nat “Who is that guy?” Nat shouted back, “Cannibal!” which was a nickname he had been given because of his ferocious appetite. The manager misunderstood and introduced him as “Cannonball” to the jazz patrons. The name stuck.

The Adderley brothers prepare for a performances (Photo: FAMU Black Archives (Phil Sears))

Shortly thereafter, he began to be referred to as the next Charlie Parker, who died earlier the same year, and was later immortalized in the movie “Bird” directed by Clint Eastwood. 

Not unlike most musicians, Cannonball was involved with different bands performing with other fledgling performers such as John Coltrane, Miles Davis, and Sarah Vaughan for the next few years.  Along the way, he made his coast-to-coast television debut on NBC’s the Tonight Show, hosted by Steve Allen, in July, 1956.  

Julian Adderley or “Cannonball” is buried at Southside Cemetery in Tallahassee. (Photo: David Brand)

Performing with Nat 

In September 1959, Cannonball reunited with Nat and formed the Cannonball Adderley Quintet. The quintet recorded live one month later at the San Francisco Jazz Workshop and became an immediate success.  For the next 16 years the quintet performed in venues all over the country.

Cannonball’s personality also played a role in making the band popular. He loved to interact with the audience with commentary that explained the music. According to the New York Times, he once said, “I prefer nightclubs to concert dates because I dig the sound of laughter, the murmur of the crowds and that cash register – there’s something Freudian about the ringing of a cash register. I feel that when people pay to hear music, I owe them something.”  

John Coltrane, Cannonball Adderley and Miles Davis performing together. (Photo: FAMU Black Archives (Phil Sears))

One of Cannonball’s most famous record albums was “Mercy, Mercy, Mercy! Live at the Club” recorded in 1966 and received the Grammy Award for the best instrumental jazz performance in 1967.

Cannonball recorded 55 hits as the band leader, seven with his brother Nat, and 25 with other greats such as Sarah Vaughan, Dinah Washington, and Miles Davis. 

Back home 

Even after becoming nationally known, he took time to return to Tallahassee to perform at FAMU’s Lee Auditorium in February, 1957 at a benefit for a fraternity scholarship fund.  Tallahassee was his home. Though widely traveled, he visited his family often. First at their home on West Pensacola Street, where the FSU law school is now, and later on Young Street near FAMU campus.

Sadly, Cannonball passed away after suffering a cerebral hemorrhage while performing in Gary, Indiana on Aug. 8, 1975 at the age of 46. He is buried in Tallahassee at the Southside Cemetery. 

At the beginning of my senior year at Leon High School we had a new guidance counselor, Dr. Julian Adderley. I was a saxophone player, albeit a bad one, so he was like a god.

On the few times I interacted with him I was completely in awe and could barely speak. He was an experienced educator, used to dealing with kids, so instead of just staring at me like I had two heads he gently coaxed the responses he needed. 

Cannonball, you are remembered and missed. You did us proud!

David Brand (Photo: David Brand)

David Brand is a retired police officer who works for a nonprofit that represents the interests of law enforcement. He lives in St. Teresa Beach, Florida.

 
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The Photographer Who Found His Power in Shades of Gray – The New York Times

The Photographer Who Found His Power in Shades of Gray – The New York Times


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The Photographer Who Found His Power in Shades of Gray

By Roberta Smith

Oct. 10, 2019

Roy DeCarava famously turned Harlem into his canvas, but there is much more to see — and feel — in his new retrospective. 

Roy DeCarava’s “Progressive Labor,” from 1964.
Roy DeCarava’s “Progressive Labor,” from 1964.Estate of Roy DeCarava; via David Zwirner

One of the best exhibitions of the season is devoted to the work of the great postwar photographer Roy DeCarava. Split between the uptown and downtown galleries of David Zwirner, it was organized on the centennial of the artist’s birth by his widow, Sherry Turner DeCarava, an art historian. 

At Zwirner on the Upper East Side, “The Sound I Saw” concentrates on DeCarava’s photographs of musical subjects. At Zwirner in Chelsea, the much larger “Light Break” treats the full range of his interests, from the civil rights movement to images of urban workers, landscapes and parks. Totaling nearly 150 photographs, this is a museum-worthy undertaking seen in the more accessible, intimate spaces of the commercial gallery — the best of both worlds.

DeCarava’s work is itself the best of both worlds: visually rigorous yet incalculably sensitive to the human predicament and the psychology of everyday life, especially concerning but not limited to African-Americans. He studied painting and printmaking, before committing to the camera, which may have helped him enrich his new medium in terms of both appearance and meaning. DeCarava’s reputation began to grow in the early 1950s, based on his sympathetic portrayals of the residents of Harlem, where he was born in 1919 and raised by a single mother, and of the numerous musical luminaries pursuing blues or jazz, this country’s first modern art. These included Billie Holiday, Duke Ellington and John Coltrane, who figure in the uptown show. 

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

DeCarava, who died in 2009, tilted black and white photography away from social documentary toward aesthetic and personal expression. But he also intended to battle the problem, as he described it, of black people “not being portrayed in a serious and artistic way.” He did this with elegant vengeance favoring formal power over narrative while stinting neither on his subjects’ dignity, nor on the harsh realities that many faced. Looking at many of his images we cannot help being aware of what is today called systemic racism, but there is so much more to see, and feel.

 

Roy DeCarava’s “Four Bassists,” from 1965. Roy DeCarava’s “Four Bassists,” from 1965.Estate of Roy DeCarava; via David Zwirner

 

“Graduation”(1949), one of DeCarava’s most famous images. “Graduation”(1949), one of DeCarava’s most famous images.Estate of Roy DeCarava; via David Zwirner

 

DeCarava’s “Pepsi,” from 1964. DeCarava’s “Pepsi,” from 1964.Estate of Roy DeCarava; via David Zwirner

Sometimes his subjects seem simply to rise above these hardships, like the young woman in “Graduation,” one of his best known images; wearing a white gown, she seems to float majestically along a sidewalk flanked by an empty lot and a pile of trash. Sometimes obstacles are reflected, as in the grave determination on the face of a young freedom marcher in Washington in 1963. And at times they are described with throat-catching beauty and disturbing ambiguity, as in the man in “Pepsi,” who extends his arms and upper torso to lift a case of the soft drink. 

Blackness was the overarching theme of DeCarava’s art — his form, his content and the subject matter (the stories his images tell) all in one. His images constantly emphasize the beauty of black people, artists and culture. But first there is the striking darkness of his photographs as objects, regardless of subject, which he achieved by using innovative printing techniques. 

DeCarava’s work encompasses an extraordinary range of shadowy tonalities, from deep charcoal to pale haze. Illuminated by exquisitely spare uses of light or contrasting blocks of relative brightness, his photographs are at once alluring, mysterious and challenging. At close range, they reveal layered meanings that are variously psychological, social, cultural, even structural. The richness and diversity of dark tones enact the deep content of DeCarava’s art; they constantly flip between visual fact and a metaphor for difference of all kinds. 

The first image of the downtown show, “Wall Street, Morning” of 1960 demonstrates a tonal complexity commensurate with DeCarava’s exceptional printing skills. A narrow wedge of sky driven between seemingly opaque buildings casts the fernlike curl of a streetlight in stark silhouette. Below, an astounding panoply of deep soft grays emerges from the shadows: building facades, sidewalks, pavement. It is a tour de force in all senses. 

Sometimes it took many failures in the darkroom before DeCarava developed an acceptable print. This was the case with “Light and Shade,” an aerial view of a playground featuring two boys clutching toy pistols in a game of cowboys, although it may take a moment to make out the second child barely visible in the shadows. 

In “Progressive Labor” (1964) DeCarava acknowledges racial violence, but indirectly. Next to the drastically truncated sign for the Progressive Labor Party’s offices at the left of the image (it reads “ressive/BOR”) is a poster whose cartoonish vitality depicts several policemen, each attacking a child with a billy club. On the sidewalk below, another drama unfolds. A white man who wears some kind of badge glares as people walk past a storefront whose iron gate is viciously bent. 

Sometimes the differences captured by DeCarava concern class more than race. In “Man Lying on Park Bench, Bangkok” (1987), which could be from any place in the world, DeCarava shot across a narrow body of water. He captures a summery scene bathed in light: a lavish white dwelling perched over the water and the matching silhouettes of a man and a woman in a boat idling nearby. But this vignette is framed and enhanced by a darker one on the nearer bank, where DeCarava stood. Its shadowy silhouettes include the ground, a tree and a man who seems to be sleeping on a stony bench. He is outside the summer idyll, yet his presence and its odalisque-like grace is essential to the ambiguous beauty that distinguishes DeCarava’s art. 


Roy DeCarava: The Sound I Saw

Through Oct. 26 at David Zwirner, 34 East 69th Street, Manhattan; davidzwirner.com.

Roy DeCarava: Light Break

Through Oct. 26 at David Zwirner, 533 West 19th Street, Manhattan; davidzwirner.com.

Roberta Smith, the co-chief art critic, regularly reviews museum exhibitions, art fairs and gallery shows in New York, North America and abroad. Her special areas of interest include ceramics textiles, folk and outsider art, design and video art. @robertasmithnyt

 

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Booker T. Jones, Soul’s Ultimate Sideman, Takes the Lead at Last – The New York Times

Booker T. Jones, Soul’s Ultimate Sideman, Takes the Lead at Last – The New York Times


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Booker T. Jones, Soul’s Ultimate Sideman, Takes the Lead at Last

By John Lingan

Oct. 17, 2019

In a new memoir, “Time Is Tight: My Life, Note by Note,” the Stax studio wizard and acclaimed producer tells his own story and finds his voice.

Booker T. Jones was an architect of the Stax Records sound. But his time in Memphis is only part of his story.
Booker T. Jones was an architect of the Stax Records sound. But his time in Memphis is only part of his story.Erik Carter for The New York Times

LOS ANGELES — Blocks from the ocean-misted mountain views of Venice Beach, Booker T. Jones was hard at work on a late-summer afternoon. The 74-year-old musician, dressed in a black baseball hat and a bright-blue athletic pullover, sat behind his customary Hammond B-3 organ with his chin angled up slightly, like an emperor, as his current road group, which includes his son Ted on lead guitar and the longtime Tom Petty drummer Steve Ferrone, helped rerecord the various classics that provide the names for each chapter in his new memoir. 

“Time Is Tight: My Life, Note by Note,” out Oct. 29, is named for one of Jones’s hits as the leader and musical mastermind of Booker T. & the M.G.s, but despite the soul group’s fame in the ’60s and ’70s, this is the first time the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame inductee has truly spoken in his own voice. His creative statements have more typically come as an accompanist: first as an arranger and house musician for Stax during the label’s golden age, then as a producer, musical director and keyboardist for generations of American musicians. His body of work spreads across whole branches in the family tree of 20th-century and 21st-century pop — you can hear him underneath Sam & Dave, the Blind Boys of Alabama, Bob Dylan, Big Daddy Kane and Valerie June.

But about a decade ago, with eight children and stepchildren from his three marriages, Jones became reflective. His friends and collaborators, from Neil Young to Robbie Robertson, had found willing readerships for their life stories, but Jones, ever the sideman, didn’t think in terms of a hero’s journey.

 

Jones wrote his memoir himself, without a ghostwriter. Jones wrote his memoir himself, without a ghostwriter.

“I just started writing these little scenes,” he explained in his slow, deliberate manner. “Little memories of how I grew up, all the things I’ve seen.” The book’s structure isn’t chronological — Jones connects old stories to new ones, famous friends to unknown childhood ones. He wrote it himself, no ghostwriter, with the same unhurried process that he approaches all communication, from an interview to a horn chart.

The result emphasizes not only his Memphis roots and role in Stax’s reinvention of R&B but his second act here in Los Angeles — as a wide-ranging session man and producer who remains, in his eighth decade, a sought-after sonic guru.

“It’s really weird hearing my voice say those words,” he said. “But the words I use, the way I use English — I finally found my voice on the page.”

In the Venice studio, Jones showed off his more well-known facility with the language of music, working through “B-A-B-Y,” a perfect bit of Stax bubble gum by Carla Thomas from 1966. It’s filled with the sound of the B-3, a churchy keyboard that plays through a rotating speaker called a Leslie, granting it an emotive vibrato that, largely thanks to him, is synonymous with soul music. 

But even the master can’t just summon one of these songs. Jones listened to the old recording on YouTube, identifying all the underlying parts of the arrangement that make it click. It’s not a complicated song, but it’s airtight. The band had to find the tempo and the swing that would allow it to slink just right.

It was the same way 50-odd years ago, Jones later explained. The song as delivered by Isaac Hayes and David Porter was well-written, but the band couldn’t bring it to life.

“It was the same lyrics, the same melody, but the feel of it was wrong,” Jones said. On break from college, he pulled an all-nighter to whip up a finger-snapping beat and circular bass melody straight from Motown. He played the chiming piano part himself. A few months later: No. 3 R&B, No. 14 Pop. This was his side job. He was 20.

In Venice, Jones’s left hand played in unison with his bassist as always. With his right hand, he hit a series of quick stabbing chords that, on the recording, add a sense of dramatic rise-and-fall behind the repeating bass motif. Ferrone, a big, gentle Englishman known for his stability and power in the Heartbreakers, was having a little trouble finding the groove. Jones didn’t acknowledge it, he just kept nodding and pushing the two-chord verse vamp until finally, there, it snapped into place, and the song sounded like itself. 

No living musician is more closely associated than Booker T. Jones with Memphis, the Mississippi River city that fostered a world-changing generation of blues, gospel and soul music five decades ago. He spent 10 years as a house arranger, multi-instrumentalist and charting band leader for Stax Records during this period, and told me with little hesitation that this era’s music will be his legacy. 

Jones grew up in the Tennessee city, the only child of two teachers who both loved to play music. In “Time Is Tight,” his musical memories connect back to childhood, to the church, to funerals and kitchen hymns sung by elderly neighbors. 

“Memphis defined my life,” he said, “but I was always so busy.” He began “throwing the Memphis World” — working a paper route — when he was only 8. He left the city for the first time to attend Indiana University’s renowned conservatory program, already an active session player at Stax. One day he fell into a groove while playing with his beloved friend Al Jackson Jr. on the drums. The result, “Green Onions,” is one of the best-known and most-covered songs of its era.

“Green Onions” feels like a snarling 12-bar blues, but its structure is more complex, a result of Jones’s theory lessons at the time. “What if the bottom bass note went up while the top note of the triad went down, like in the Bach fugues and cantatas?” he remembers wondering in “Time Is Tight.” It was a fine demonstration of what he brought to Stax’s urban country-soul: compositional sophistication. 

“For years and years I have said that Booker T. & the M.G.s were the greatest rock ’n’ roll band of all time,” John Fogerty wrote in his own recent memoir. “I’m talking about soulfulness, deep feeling, the space in between the beats. How to say a lot with a little.”

Every garage band in the United States, including Fogerty’s, knew “Green Onions” in the mid-1960s. Booker T. & the M.G.s were equally revered by the Summer of Love crowd that watched them back Otis Redding for his star-making set at the Monterey Pop Festival.

But the respect of their peers and left-leaning Californians didn’t protect the M.G.s from racism, especially at home. The Stax offices in Memphis were a regular target of threats; they were located around the corner from the Lorraine Motel, where Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated in April 1968. As the first charting interracial pop group of the era, the M.G.s were also expected to act out a vision of racial harmony.

“The M.G.s did love each other,” he writes in the book. But “As we were held up more and more as an example to the world of how integration could work, it became more and more a veneer.”

In the late 1960s, the stresses of working for Stax were beginning to wear on Jones, who had begun to see a different kind of community — more welcoming and supportive — among musicians in Los Angeles.

In California, Jones said he was struck by “the immediate diversity” of the population: “It’s just amazing, the kind of people you can find here.” His first friend in the city’s creative world was Leon Russell, the prolific psychedelic ringleader behind a rising wave of roots music at the time, including Delaney & Bonnie and Joe Cocker’s Mad Dogs and Englishmen.

“I had a little phone book when I came out here and started adding to it, and that phone book was just unbelievable,” he recalled, naming Roger McGuinn, Elton John and the Beach Boys.

Given the opportunity to work with artists across genres and styles, Jones thrived. He found the perfect quiet, unmannered funk for Bill Withers’s debut, “Just As I Am,” and reinvented both the Great American Songbook and Willie Nelson’s career as the producer and arranger of “Stardust,” a shock hit record of big band-era standards released in 1978. By simplifying the arrangements and recording in an ultra-laid-back home studio in Laurel Canyon over 10 days, Jones made a Texan singing Tin Pan Alley sound like the quintessence of contemporary L.A. sophistication.

“When I was growing up, my dad only had about five records,” said the National’s Matt Berninger, who hired Jones to produce his upcoming solo record. “I remember Judy Collins, Roberta Flack, Waylon Jennings, and I remember ‘Stardust.’” Berninger wanted someone who could corral nearly 20 guest musicians, and someone who could provide the late-night, timeless atmosphere that “Stardust” conjures. He immediately thought of Jones, whom he had met during a collaboration with Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings in 2013, even though he didn’t realize that Jones was the co-visionary on Nelson’s album at first. It seemed impossible that the same person who created a new genre of Memphis soul in 1962 could also reinvigorate the standard 15 years later, then stay relevant into the 21st century as an elder statesman.

Jones has stayed active producing, recording and playing with younger musicians for decades now, many of whom aren’t obvious fits for his sound. In the early 1980s, Melissa Etheridge was “just a singer in a lesbian bar,” she said, before a Capitol Records executive set her up with a studio session to make a demo. She showed up and found Jones behind the board.

“This was back when you still had guitar solos in songs,” Etheridge said in a phone interview, “but our guitar player didn’t show up. So the engineer grabs a B-3, and Booker adds the most burning, scorching Booker T. organ solo over this rinky-dink demo.”

Patterson Hood, the co-leader of the Drive-By Truckers, heard M.G.s songs in hip-hop as a teenager — they’ve been sampled by Cypress Hill and Heavy D & the Boyz, among many others. About 10 years ago, Jones invited the Truckers to join him for a rare solo album, all instrumental, with Neil Young on third guitar just for good measure. Hood’s heavy-twang rock isn’t a natural fit for the kind of subtle groove-building that Jones specializes in, and after a few unsatisfying takes, Hood and his band mates gathered at the B-3, expecting to be fired. Instead, Jones told them a story about Thanksgiving.

“He described the food, what his auntie was wearing, even the tablecloth and how the food smelled,” Hood said. “It was beautiful, then when he was finished, he said, ‘Play that.’”

Jones believed the band played best based off lyrical content, and that the instrumentals were throwing them off, “So if he could give us something to visualize, we’d play better,” Hood said. He called the moment “literally life-changing.”

Jones has a simpler explanation for his approach. “I’m on cruise control,” he said. “I started on cruise control, being curious about drums and piano, and it’s the same exact force that moved me then, when I was 4 or 5, that’s moving me now.”

It’s an ethos he captures well in “Time Is Tight,” a book that reaches for that ineffable quality of music making. “It’s just a force that requires no effort at all,” Jones added. “I don’t put any effort into trying to make music my thing, it just happens.”

 

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Milcho Leviev, Bulgarian jazz great, dead at 81 | The Sofia Globe

Milcho Leviev, Bulgarian jazz great, dead at 81 | The Sofia Globe


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Milcho Leviev, Bulgarian jazz great, dead at 81

Milcho Leviev, award-winning Bulgarian jazz maestro, died on October 12 at the age of 81.

Leviev was born into a Bulgarian Jewish family in Bulgaria’s second city Plovdiv on December 19 1937, the son of Izak Leviev and brother of renowned Plovdiv artist Yoan Leviev.

Milcho Leviev graduated from the State Conservatory in 1960, the pupil of Pancho Vladigerov and Andrey Stoyanov.

He was appointed conductor of the Big Band of the Bulgarian National Radio from 1962 to 1966. From 1963 to 1968 he worked as a soloist and conductor of the Plovdiv and Sofia Philharmonic.

In 1970, Milcho Leviev, quit Bulgaria, then under communist rule, settling eventually in Los Angeles and working with famed jazz greats such as Don Ellis.

Leviev worked as a composer, arranger, and pianist for Don Ellis (1970–1975) Orchestra and the Billy Cobham Band (1971–77).

He toured the US and Europe; he was music director for Lainie Kazan (1977-80). He gave concerts and recorded with John Klemmer, Art Pepper, and Roy Haynes.

He toured Europe with Pepper (1980–82) and was one of the founders of the Free Flight fusion band.

In 1983, Leviev became Music Director of the Jazz Sessions at the Comeback Inn in Venice, California.

He gave concerts in Japan with bassist Dave Holland (1983–86) and organized solo jazz recitals in Europe (1985–86). He taught jazz composition at the University of Southern California and led master classes at the New Bulgarian University in Sofia.

Milcho Leviev composed symphony and chamber works, big band, and jazz orchestra music. In the 1960s he wrote film music. He was awarded the honorary Doctor Honoris Causa by the Academy of Music, Dance and Fine Arts in Plovdiv (1995) by New Bulgarian University.

Milcho Leviev’s only child, his daughter, artist Yana Levieva, died in December 2018 at the age of 51.

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How Nudist Vegans Sparked a Jazz Classic … and a Movement | www.ozy.com

How Nudist Vegans Sparked a Jazz Classic … and a Movement | www.ozy.com


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How Nudist Vegans Sparked a Jazz Classic … and a Movement

Kristina GaddyOctober 13, 2019

Mrs. Richter’s cookbook isn’t just about food. For Beauty Salad I, she recommends tender asparagus tips with mint sauce, not because it tastes good but because it will “induce light perspiration, aiding circulation and clearing the complexion.” In fact, all of Vera Richter’s recipes were about a way of life. “Food is the answer to our problem to have a sound mind in a sound body,” she wrote in the cookbook’s opening. She was one of the essential figures of the Los Angeles healthy living scene, opening a chain of famous raw vegan restaurants alongside her husband, John T. Richter.

They might have fit the perfect hippie image, only this was 50 years before the word entered the lexicon. But even the earliest hippies would be influenced by the Richters and their desire to promote the tenants of the German Lebensreform movement.

Richters
John and Vera Richter

Vera was born Verna May Weitzel to German parents in Pennsylvania. In 1903, at age 18, she graduated from the Butler Business College and accepted a job as a stenographer in Pittsburgh. By 1910, she’d moved to Los Angeles, where she met John. John had arrived in LA after working as a doctor of chiropractic and naturopathic medicine in the Midwest. They married, and perhaps it was Vera’s business acumen that got their restaurant, Eutropheon, started. However, it was John’s commitment to the ideas of Lebensreform, or life reform, that inspired the raw vegan cuisine they served.

John’s father, a German immigrant and pharmacist, had wanted him to be a doctor, but while studying at Rush Medical College in Chicago, John became more interested in natural methods of healing, including movement cures and the Battle Creek diet, a cooked vegetarian regime developed by John Harvey Kellogg to promote energy and general well-being. John saw great results with patients and even followed the diet himself, but he still felt a “general lack of energy.” That was when he learned about Dr. Benedict Lust and his uncooked food diet in a naturopathic magazine.

John Richter became a convert to a raw, vegan diet as a way to cure his ailments, which included dizziness, kidney problems and a habit of falling asleep while trying to give medical advice.

Lust created the cohesive concept of natural healing he called naturopathic medicine. “His natural healing methods used water, homeopathy, light, chiropractic adjustments, dietetic advice, exercise, baths and massage for health restoration and preservation,” writes Susan Cayleff in Nature’s Path: A History of Naturopathic Healing in America. Lust opened a health food store in New York and founded health resorts.

In Germany, where Lust first encountered natural healing, the Lebensreform movement had been popular since the mid-1800s as a way of countering industrialization. Those who followed the life reform principles subscribed to a meat-free, alcohol-free diet, usually combined with nudism, which allowed the body to get more sun and air. “The promises of the life reform movement were a way to offset the ‘degeneration’ and the degradation that comes along with modern life, big cities, industrialization,” says Peter Staudenmaier, associate professor of history at Marquette University.

Eutropheon ad 1926
Eutropheon ad from 1926

John Richter became a convert to a raw, vegan diet as a way to cure his ailments, which included dizziness, kidney problems and a habit of falling asleep while trying to give medical advice. In 1917, John and Vera opened a restaurant in LA that served only “live foods,” promising to “cure the diseases that come from cooked foods.” The name Eutropheon came from George Drews, a friend of John’s and a raw food advocate, who made up the word to mean a raw food restaurant.

Soon, the Richters had multiple locations in LA. Vera managed the restaurants and probably developed many of the recipes for dishes served, which she then compiled into her cookbook, Mrs. Richter’s Cook-Less Cookbook. One writer in the Los Angeles Times commented on the “scores of tasty salad combinations … dozens of fruit concoctions, nut mixtures, grain mixtures, raw soups, raw pies, raw cakes, raw confections …” at the restaurant. 

John would give lectures at the restaurant too, not only on diet but also general wellness, exercise and illnesses, topics that often touched on proper bowel movements. The restaurants and lifestyle they promoted became so well-known that LA Times columnist Lee Shippey lampooned restaurant-goers with the name “Trophers” and wrote, “They are so eager to spread their gospel that they don’t even charge admission” for John’s lectures.

They created a cultlike following. At their restaurants, the Richters hired others who believed in and would proselytize the natural-living message. This included the Nature Boys, a group of young men who lived outside in Los Angeles in caves and canyons. They grew their hair long and basked naked in the California sun. Some worked or played music at the Richters’ restaurants, and Vera’s food and John’s lectures influenced their diets and lifestyle. One of them, Eden Ahbez, would go on to write the famous song “Nature Boy” and sell it to Nat King Cole. Another, California hippie Robert Bootzin, who went by Gypsy Boots, opened a health food store in 1958 and was one of the early proponents of the smoothie.

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Au naturel: The Nature Boys.

While the Nature Boys and other Californians used the ideals of back-to-the-land ethos to pave the way for hippies, in Germany the Lebensreform movement continued as well, but the idea that it was “specifically German” led to a connection between the holistic movement and nationalism, says Staudenmaier. “They didn’t just see it metaphorically,” he says — they believed this holistic health approach should be part of the German nationalist ideology. Early members of the Nazi Party like Hanns Georg Müller were part of the Lebensreform movement and brought these ideals into the Third Reich. Müller played a role in the Nazi Party’s department of public health, while the Reich Committee for a New German Art of Healing focused on alternative healing methods and included doctors of homeopathic and naturopathic medicine. 

The Eutropheons lasted until the 1940s, not quite long enough to see the hippie era, but people still recognize their role as trailblazing vegans. Vera’s 1926 cookbook was recently republished as Vintage Vegan: Recipes From Inside the World’s First Vegan Restaurant, as the Eutropheon claims to be the world’s first vegan restaurant — something LA likes to add to its bona fides as the health food capital of the world.

 
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George ‘Pops’ Chambers, of Chambers Brothers, Dies | Best Classic Bands

George ‘Pops’ Chambers, of Chambers Brothers, Dies | Best Classic Bands


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George ‘Pops’ Chambers, of Chambers Brothers, Dies

George “Pops” Chambers, the oldest of the musical family that together formed the American soul-rock band the Chambers Brothers, and earned their biggest success with the 1968 single “Time Has Come Today,” died today (October 12). The news was announced on the band’s Facebook page.

A brief post, presumably by George Chambers’ brother, Lester, stated, “To all our fans, friends and loved ones, I was informed this morning at about 5:00 am, that my brother George, known as ‘Pops’ Chambers, has passed. We thank you for all your years of Love Peace and Happiness.” It was accompanied by a clip of the band’s song, “Heaven.”

George Chambers, the oldest, was born Sept. 26, 1931, who sang and played the bass; Willie, one of the two guitarists, followed in 1938; Lester, who sang, played harmonica and tick-tocked the cowbell, arrived next, in 1940; Joe, the other guitarist, was the youngest, born in 1942.

For most rock fans, the Chambers Brothers were a new group when they scrambled up the charts with their breakout single and album in 1968, but they were already veteran performers. Originally from Carthage, Miss., the brothers had started out harmonizing in their church choir. By the early ’60s they’d migrated to Los Angeles, where they turned pro. They built a reputation as a formidable gospel quartet and managed to get decent gigs on the budding folk circuit, playing all of the popular festivals and coffeehouses. The king of folk music himself, Pete Seeger, got the brothers booked at the 1965 Newport Folk Festival and they were soon on their way.

Listen to the Chambers Brothers’ “Heaven”

 

 

With a drummer, Brian Keenan, on board—making the Chambers Brothers one of the first interracial bands in popular music—they discovered a niche that was equal parts contemporary soul and the new rock, exemplified to impressive effect on their debut album, People Get Ready, recorded live at the Ash Grove in L.A. and the Unicorn in Boston, and released on Vault Records in 1965.

They got the encouragement they needed from their new label, Columbia Records—they’d sung backup there on an unreleased version of Bob Dylan’s “Tombstone Blues”—which assigned the hot producer David Rubinson to the group. Rubinson latched onto a song composed by Willie and Joe, “Time Has Come Today,” and went immediately about the business of transforming the Chambers Brothers.

The first version, recorded in August 1966 and released as a single, failed to chart, and the Chambers Brothers couldn’t seem to catch a break for the next several months, although their live shows were quickly becoming legend for the spirit and intensity the singer-musicians brought to their brand of soul-rock. By the summer of 1967, psychedelia had become all the rage, with the arrival of Sgt. Pepper, Jimi Hendrix and the San Francisco bands. The Chambers Brothers had anticipated the music’s growth with their original “Time” single (which included the line “my soul has been psychedelicized”) and Rubinson decided to give the tune a second chance. That August he let the band loose in the studio to recreate the wild, elongated version they’d developed during their nonstop touring. This time, the brothers went all out. An extended jam was inserted into the recording: wailing electric guitars; spacey, acid-infused effects; tons of reverb; maniacal shouting. It slowed down, speeded up again, went off into the stratosphere. Even the cowbell was put through the studio’s battery of gizmos, echoing until it barely resembled a cowbell anymore. It was acid-rock at its most lysergic.

Listen to the full 11-minute version of “Time Has Come Today”

 

 

Rubinson placed the 11-minute reboot of “Time Has Come Today” at the tail end of the band’s debut Columbia album, similarly titled The Time Has Come. The LP overall offered a cross-section of the brothers’ strengths, including original material plus a few well-chosen covers—a replay of “People Get Ready,” Bacharach-David’s “What the World Needs Now Is Love” and Wilson Pickett’s “In the Midnight Hour”—but it was the over-the-top long version of “Time Has Come Today” that intrigued disc jockeys at the newly emerging FM rock stations, where the motto was the more psychedelic the better. Listeners started to catch on.

Columbia didn’t see “Time…” as a single at first. Although the Doors had hit #1 with a stripped-down version of their own supersized “Light My Fire,” Columbia went instead with “Uptown,” an uptempo gospel-fueled raver that landed the Chambers Brothers their first Billboard single in the fall of ’67, although it topped out at #126.

Finally, in December 1967, more than a year after the first version was recorded, an edited version of “Time Has Come Today” was released as a single. This time, the radio stations that couldn’t play an 11-minute version took the reins. The single finally charted in September 1968, taking an enormous leap on Sept. 21 from #61 to #20. It ultimately rose to #11, giving the Chambers Brothers the biggest hit of their career.

Related: Our feature on “Time Has Come Today”

The Chambers Brothers remained a top live and recording act into the mid-’70s, placing another eight singles on the Billboard chart (including a bang-up cover of Otis Redding’s “I Can’t Turn You Loose”). The album The Time Has Come began its ascent to #4 in early 1968 and was followed by A New Time—A New Day ((1968, #16), Love, Peace and Happiness (1969-70, #58), a greatest hits collection in 1970 and New Generation (1971, #145), before the Chambers Brothers left the world of the charts for good.

Eventually, Columbia dropped the band and although they signed with other labels and added/subtracted additional personnel to augment the siblings, they never regained their commercial hold. Today Lester Chambers performs on his own with his band the Mudstompers, while Joe and Willie still perform as the Chambers Brothers. George returned to singing gospel again in his later years. Original drummer Brian Keenan died in 1985.

 
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WNYC Is Dropping ‘New Sounds’ After 37 Years. Musicians Are Mourning. – The New York Times

WNYC Is Dropping ‘New Sounds’ After 37 Years. Musicians Are Mourning. – The New York Times


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WNYC Is Dropping ‘New Sounds’ After 37 Years. Musicians Are Mourning.

By Michael Cooper

Oct. 11, 2019

The eclectic radio program that has influenced New York’s music scene since 1982 is going off the air. 

John Schaefer, the longtime host of “New Sounds” on WNYC-FM, at Lincoln Center in 2011. The station said the show would go off the air at the end of the year.
John Schaefer, the longtime host of “New Sounds” on WNYC-FM, at Lincoln Center in 2011. The station said the show would go off the air at the end of the year.Chad Batka for The New York Times

For your expanding “New York isn’t as cool as it used to be” file: WNYC-FM told its staff this week that it would end “New Sounds,” a genre-defying radio program that has played an outsize role in the city’s new music scene for nearly four decades.

“Why would they do that?” Laurie Anderson, the avant-garde composer and musician who was the first artist interviewed on the show when it began back in 1982, said by telephone.

The station said in an email sent to its staff on Thursday that it planned to close the program by the end of the year, along with most of its remaining music programming, as it shifts to more news and talk.

“This is a continuation of the momentum that began when we replaced daytime music on WNYC-FM with news/talk format programs in 2002,” the station said in the email to its staff.

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“New Sounds,” which has been hosted since its beginning by John Schaefer,eked out a distinctive place on the dial with programming that was truly eclectic.

It was one of the first, if not the very first, radio program to play Philip Glass’s 1984 opera “Akhnaten,” which is coming to the Metropolitan Opera this season. It featured the Bang on a Can collective in its early days. (“They were barbarians at the gate, and now two are Pulitzer Prize winners,” Mr. Schaefer said in a telephone interview.) It drew Brian Eno and the Pakistani singer Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan to its studio, and on any given night might feature Balinese gamelan music, country, avant-garde jazz or all of the above.

“What I set out to do was to give a home on the radio to music that was, I guess, homeless — that didn’t fit into any of the neatly defined categories back in the days of the record store,” Mr. Schaefer said. “I thought there were lots of people out there like me, who are just curious — and would like something if you just gave them the chance to hear it.”

The show’s disappearance comes as radio is changing dramatically, both nationally — where stations that play classical music and noncommercial genres are being eliminated in many markets — and locally, where public radio stations have been going through significant upheaval.

WNYC has become a powerhouse in recent decades, but in recent years it has been buffeted by the dismissal of some of its biggest stars, the long-serving hosts Leonard Lopate and Jonathan Schwartz, amid unspecified allegations of inappropriate behavior, which they have denied. This summer New York Public Radio, WNYC’s parent organization, announced a new leader: Goli Sheikholeslami, who previously led Chicago Public Media, took over from Laura R. Walker, who had led the organization for nearly 24 years.

The station said in its email to staff that it would “sunset the New Sounds brand (the radio program and digital stream)” as well as Soundcheck, another of Mr. Schaefer’s shows, which mixed live performances, artist interviews and talk, and which was moved online in 2014. It said that it would also end its Gig Alerts, its weekly music previews, and its Sunday afternoon show devoted to American standards by the end of the year. Its last remaining program featuring what it calls “playlist music” will be The Saturday Show, the American-songbook successor to Mr. Schwartz’s program, which plays on Saturday nights.

When “New Sounds” started, radio was still one of the few ways to hear new and offbeat music — a monopoly it has lost in recent years to the internet, and to streaming services. The station did not disclose its ratings, but said that other factors also played a role in the decision to end the program.

“The decision to sunset New Sounds wasn’t fueled solely by ratings,” Jennifer Houlihan Roussel, a spokeswoman for New York Public Radio, said in an email. “The WNYC audience is overwhelmingly a news/talk audience, and we are consolidating music to Saturday nights to better serve that listenership.”

Still, some artists were aghast. Julia Wolfe, a Pulitzer Prize-winning composer, said that a “New Sounds” program about the early days of Bang on a Can, which she helped found, helped them find new listeners at a key moment. 

“It was huge, because we were just kids, and we did this crazy thing, and there it was, on the radio,” she recalled in an interview.

“It’s like razing the house you live in — it’s a terrible thing,” she said of the decision. “John’s been the travel guide, and he’s taken us on all these incredible journeys.”

The station said it would work with Mr. Schaefer, who also presents live concert series around the city, to find “a new home for the New Sounds brand,” but it was not clear would that would look like. WQXR, New York Public Radio’s music station, remains committed to classical music, the station said in its email.

On Friday, Mr. Schaefer asked Ms. Anderson, his first guest, if she would also be his last. She agreed.

“I’m a little bit worried about the whole New York arts scene,” Ms. Anderson said. “I remember when John started, his studio was down on Chambers Street, and a lot of artists and musicians lived around there. Now very few do. It’s a lot of empty condos.”

But she was not ready to give up yet. “How about a ‘less news, more music’ campaign?” she wrote in a follow-up email a few minutes after hanging up. “I’d be happy to spearhead it.”

Michael Cooper covers classical music and dance. He was previously a national correspondent; a political reporter covering presidential campaigns; and a metro reporter covering the police, City Hall and Albany. @coopnytimes •Facebook

 

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Pittsburgh’s vibrant jazz scene in words, notes and pictures | Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Pittsburgh’s vibrant jazz scene in words, notes and pictures | Pittsburgh Post-Gazette


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https://www.post-gazette.com/ae/music/2019/10/10/MCG-Jazz-book-Spirit-to-Spirit-Pittsburgh-history/stories/201910020205
 

Pittsburgh’s vibrant jazz scene in words, notes and pictures

Jazz fans know that Pittsburgh’s well of musical and vocal talent runs deeper and stronger than the mighty Ohio River.

Now everyone can read about gifted veterans and emerging performers who make this town swing in a new book, “Spirit to Spirit: A Portrait of Pittsburgh Jazz in the New Century.”

With appropriately rhythmic prose from author Abby Mendelson and stunning photographs by David Aschkenas, the elegant volume designed by David Wachter is a hymn to jazz and an homage to the cool cats and chanteuses whose memorable performances stir our souls.

The book was six years in the making, and — remarkably — each member of this high-flying trio gave his time and talents for free. MCG Jazz, a venue for recording, preserving and showcasing jazz, paid for the book’s publication.

“SPIRIT TO SPIRIT: A PORTRAIT OF PITTSBURGH JAZZ IN THE NEW CENTURY”
By Abby Mendelson
MCG Jazz ($39.95).

Mr. Mendelson’s prose puts you in the rooms where the soloists soar and the band plays the notes hard and right. Here is how he describes trumpeter Ron Horton:

“Modest and moderate, calm and clear, firm against all comers, there stands Horton like a stone wall. In this maelstrom of music, in the rattle and hum of Roger Humphries’ rolling thunder drums, Max Leake’s impossible arpeggios on keyboard, Dwayne Dolphin’s thundering bass, Lou Stellute’s wall-shaking sax, Horton is the rajah of restraint.”     

From Agnes Katz Plaza to the Backstage Bar in Downtown’s Cabaret at Theater Square, from City of Asylum’s Alphabet City to Andys in The Fairmont, Mr. Mendelson and Mr. Aschkenas visit the venues, soaking up the sound and the stories. 

The book’s pictures show why jazz is so integral to Pittsburgh’s past, present and future. Music lovers as well as aspiring musicians, singers and teachers may come to consider it a kind of grail.

Why did Pittsburgh produce so many jazz legends? 

“My high school music teacher told me that jazz is indigenous to African American people,” Dolphin says in the book. “To tell that to a 15-year-old kid is completely empowering.”  

In the first half of 20th century, students took free music lessons at the Hill District’s Irene Kaufmann Settlement. Many families owned pianos, and public high schools such as Westinghouse, Schenley and Peabody emphasized music education. Back then, at least 30 night spots dotted the Hill District, notably the Hurricane, the Harlem Casino and the Crawford Grill Nos. 1 and 2.

Pittsburgh virtuosos who set a high bar for excellence include Ray Brown, Errol Garner, Mary Lou Williams and George Benson. A guitarist who started playing in clubs at age 7, Benson is still alive. The rest are gone but can be heard on recordings or seen on the internet. 

Today’s local jazz incubators include Homewood’s Afro American Music Institute, Pittsburgh’s High School for the Creative and Performing Arts, university music programs, the Pittsburgh Jazz Orchestra, and that harder than hard knocks school called the road.   

In the book, trumpeter Sean Jones offers this argument for Pittsburgh’s place in jazz history: “Pittsburgh, as the center of the Industrial Revolution, produced an enormous working class. And with it a great work ethic. That was the anvil. You worked. You worked hard. You won.” 

For African Americans, “jazz served the twin goals of self-expression and a better life,” Mr. Mendelson writes.  

Some readers will wonder about artists who are missing from the book, including vocalist Maureen Budway and Geri Allen, an arranger, musician and educator who influenced many young people. Both women died before interviews could be scheduled, Budway in 2015 and Allen in 2017. The same is true for keyboard player Donna Davis, who is pictured in the center of the book. She died in 2015.

The book will be released Thursday night at MCG Jazz when five musicians are inducted into the Pittsburgh Jazz Legends class of 2019. The inductees are percussionist George Jones, pianist Max Leake, drummer Chuck Spatafore, saxophonist Lou Stellute and guitarist Mark Strickland. 

The doors at MCG Jazz, 1815 Metropolitan St., North Side, open at 6:30 p.m., followed by an induction ceremony at 7 p.m. From 7:30 to 8:30 p.m, the Ralph Peterson Messenger Legacy Band plays a tribute to Art Blakey. The drummer and bandleader of the Jazz Messengers was born in Pittsburgh a century ago on Oct. 11, 1919. A reception follows the concert.

For more information, visit mcgjazz.org

Marylynne Pitz: mpitz@post-gazette.com, 412-263-1648 or on Twitter:@mpitzpg.

 
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Jim Eigo Jazz Promo Services T: 845-986-1677 E-Mail: jim@jazzpromoservices.com
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Make Your Own Vinyl Records With the $1,100 Phonocut | WIRED

Make Your Own Vinyl Records With the $1,100 Phonocut | WIRED


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https://www.wired.com/story/phonocut/
 

Cut Your Own Vinyl Records With This $1,100 Machine

The Phonocut is an at-home vinyl lathe, allowing anyone with a digital audio file and a dream to make a 10-inch record.

Boone Ashworth
10.10.2019 09:00 AM

 

vinyl recorder Photograph: Phonocut

Better clear out several shelves of storage space, vinylheads, because your record collection is about to expand into infinity. Soon, you’ll be able to get absolutely anything on vinyl. Even better—you’ll be able to make it.

The Phonocut is an analog vinyl lathe, the first consumer device capable of making custom records immediately, right there in your home (assuming you’re willing to pay $1,100 for the privilege).

The device cuts 10-inch vinyl records, which can hold about 10 to 15 minutes of audio on each side. It’s a connected device; a companion app helps with formatting and song arrangement to better fit your music onto the two sides. But at its core, the Phonocut was designed for simplicity. All you have to do is plug in an audio cable, like from a headphone jack, and press Play.

“It has to be idiot-proof,” says Florian “Doc” Kaps, an Austrian analog enthusiast and Phonocut cofounder. “Even I myself should be in a position to cut the records.”

The machine works in real time. As the music plays, a diamond stylus etches the sound wave straight into the surface of the vinyl. Theoretically, you could put any audio you want on there—a custom playlist, your own embarrassing electronica experiments, whale sounds—whatever. After a half hour of playback, you have a physical saucer of sound ready to pick up, hold, and toss on a turntable.

Kaps, who has a fascination with the ways that analog technologies engage the senses, dreamed up the machine with his business partners.

“Digital has a big problem, you know—it’s not real,” Kaps says. “You can very easily access it, but you only can see it, or you can hear it. You never can lick it, you cannot smell it, and you can’t touch it. We human beings do have these five senses. And at the end of the day, we need all these five senses to fall in love, to feel happy, to build trust.”

The resurgence of vinyl records in the past decade has once again made the sonic frisbees a viable medium of music. Third Man Records, Jack White’s label, has been cutting live studio performances to acetate for years. Other small presses are popping up to fuel the demand for vinyl product from independent artists. But if the Phonocut can live up to the great expectations it’s setting for itself, it could usher in a whole new era of the vinyl experience.

“People love records, but they don’t know anything about how they are produced,” Kaps says. “We have to inspire them to think about it and raise their awareness for the possibilities of what they can do with it.”

top down photo of a record player
Courtesy of Phonocut

The Phonocut unit itself is about the size of regular home turntable. It’s housed in a sturdy metal box that measures about a foot wide by a foot and a half long. It weighs around 18 pounds. (They’re still sorting out all the internals, so the specs could fluctuate a bit before final release.) The mechanics were created in partnership with a team of inventors and technicians, including Swiss lathe aficionado Flo Kaufman and audio engineer (and analog resurrection veteran) KamranV.

“When people are making these records, it’s about the meaning of them, the emotional process,” KamranV says. He compares cutting a custom record to assembling a mixtape: “It was the idea of making it and then taping it in real time and giving it to someone. That’s the same emotion that we dream of this machine bringing for others.”

In 2008, Kaps cofounded the Impossible Project, an ultimately successful effort to revive Polaroid film after the legacy US company discontinued its film production. That same love for analog technology has steered the creation of the Phonocut. For Kaps, there’s an undeniable appeal to a physical product.

“It’s not an art project,” Kaps says. “We really want to change the world of the music industry and offer a new option. It will never replace streaming or anything, but it will inspire people to create real beautiful, tangible pieces of music again.”

The Phonocut is available for preorder today, though it will still be some time before it is released. The company says it plans to ship the first run of units in December 2020. It might be a long delay, but Kaps isn’t worried about it. He says that the appeal will always be there.

“Even in a digital world, this hasn’t lost the magic,” Kaps says. “When you put a record on the turntable and you hear the noise—kshht—and then suddenly you dive into this beautiful sound of a record.”


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Jim Eigo Jazz Promo Services T: 845-986-1677 E-Mail: jim@jazzpromoservices.com
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The gospel according to Mama Lou | Music Feature | Chicago Reader

The gospel according to Mama Lou | Music Feature | Chicago Reader


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https://www.chicagoreader.com/chicago/gospel-fellowship-lou-della-evans-reid-clay-church/Content?oid=74474043
 

The gospel according to Mama Lou

Lou Della Evans-Reid spent nearly 40 years as minister of music for Fellowship Missionary Baptist Church, but even at age 89 this trailblazer isn’t done spreading the good news.

By  @writefelissa

Lou Della Evans-Reid takes the stage at First Church of Deliverance. When she directs a choir, she says, her chronic back pain falls away: "I feel like God is guiding my hands." - GEOFF STELLFOX FOR CHICAGO READER

  • Lou Della Evans-Reid takes the stage at First Church of Deliverance. When she directs a choir, she says, her chronic back pain falls away: “I feel like God is guiding my hands.”
  • Geoff Stellfox for Chicago Reader

This past Easter Sunday, Lou Della Evans-Reid walked across the stage at First Church of Deliverance, where the 89-year-old serves as a music adviser. Though she’s not quite four foot 11, when she leads that choir she transforms into a monumental presence. Dressed in a white robe, she stood underneath an illuminated cross and opened her arms wide like Moses parting the Red Sea, summoning a hundred singers to follow her.

Evans-Reid is known for directing not just the choir but the congregation as well. As she yelled out the next line, she spun around to bring the audience in, then turned back to herd her vocalists, shepherding a call-and-response exchange. The choir and congregation met in unison at the chorus, with piano and drums marching behind, ready to deliver God’s message. The harmonies of the crowd and the choir’s four sections collided, swallowing Evans-Reid whole—until that moment, you might not have realized that the microphones onstage were live, but the PA speakers suddenly seemed to blare with overwhelming massed voices. Evans-Reid raised her right hand, tossed her head, and let out one last roar to close the song. 

To watch Evans-Reid perform is to witness Black history. “I just ask the Lord to direct me,” she says. “You direct me, Lord, and I’ll direct the choir. Some days, I don’t know what I’m going to do until the spirit hits me.” 

  • Lou Della Evans-Reid and her choir released this live album in 2015.
  •  

In Chicago’s gospel scene, she’s a living legend, responsible for inspiring a fleet of musicians, producers, and choir directors across the city, the state, the nation, and even the world. A flock of fans—most of them loyal churchgoers from multigenerational families—often crowds around Evans-Reid after a Sunday service.

In 1950 Evans-Reid was one of five charter members of Fellowship Missionary Baptist Church, led by her older brother, the Reverend Clay Evans. “The Ship,” as it’s often called, has become a beloved south-side institution and a powerhouse in the world of gospel music, and it’s well remembered for its support of the civil rights movement in the 1960s. Evans-Reid served as its music director from 1963 till her retirement in 2000. 

Mama Lou catches up with church members before the 10 AM service at Fellowship Missionary Baptist. - GEOFF STELLFOX FOR CHICAGO READER

  • Mama Lou catches up with church members before the 10 AM service at Fellowship Missionary Baptist.
  • Geoff Stellfox for Chicago Reader

Retiring hasn’t taken Evans-Reid out of the church, though. She still works with three choirs: she’s a music adviser for the one at First Deliverance, of course; she’s an executive board member and music coordinator for the advocacy group Gospel Music According to Chicago (GMAC), for which she also directs a choir; and she leads a traditional community choir of her own, which rehearses at Fellowship.

“She’s gospel. She’s good news,” says Pam Morris-Walton, 69, formerly an event coordinator for the city of Chicago and lead producer for the Chicago Gospel Music Festival. Now host of a gospel radio program on iconic Black news and talk station WVON 1690 AM, Morris-Walton says Evans-Reid’s rendition of the hymn “A New Name in Glory” is still a favorite on her weekend broadcast.

In this community, Evans-Reid—in fact the whole Evans family—is a household name. Lou Della, her brother Clay, and Fellowship Missionary Baptist are usually mentioned in the same breath. 

Chicago is the birthplace of gospel music, and in the 1950s Fellowship became the epicenter for traveling gospel singers, musicians, and preachers. Bishop Walter Hawkins, a 1981 Grammy winner from the Oakland-based Love Center Choir, passed through the church, and in the 1950s so did the Reverend C.L. Franklin and his young daughter Aretha, who later became the Queen of Soul. Frequent visitors from the city itself included Sam Cooke and James Cleveland.

In fact, before Evans heard his calling to the ministry, he was a bright-eyed young singer from Brownsville, Tennessee, who’d come to Chicago in search of a better life and landed a chance to perform alongside Cleveland in famed gospel group the Lux Singers. 

The Reverend Jesse Jackson has been a member of Fellowship Missionary Baptist for more than five decades. Evans ordained him as an associate minister in the summer of 1965 and cofounded Jackson’s Operation PUSH in 1971. And last month Kanye West helped celebrate Fellowship’s 69th anniversary by performing at the church, following his morning gospel service on Northerly Island.

Like gospel music itself, the Evanses’ legacy is rooted in oral tradition. People love to tell stories about how Clay became a momentous figure during the civil rights movement, how Lou Della used to run up and down the church aisles, how a thousand people would gather for a live broadcast at Fellowship at 11 PM on a Sunday. This is history that’s not often spoken outside of the Black community, and it can easily be lost as soon as the song ends, the service comes to a close, and Evans-Reid picks up her purse and walks out the door.

Even the story of the construction of Fellowship’s current home (at 4543 S. Princeton) sounds like a parable from the Bible. In 1966 Evans defied Mayor Richard J. Daley to welcome Martin Luther King Jr. to the city. His decision to stand with Dr. King jeopardized his plans to give his church, then located in a converted garage on South State Street, a new building.

Jesse Jackson had cosigned the mortgage loan to finance the new church’s construction, but Evans-Reid says the city of Chicago put a stop to the project by interfering with building permits. For seven years—until it was finally completed in 1973—what’s now Fellowship was just a steel skeleton waiting for its body. While the city and the nation remained divided, Fellowship’s bare bones became a beacon of hope.

Mama Lou checks herself in the mirror before taking the stage at First Church of Deliverance on Easter Sunday. - GEOFF STELLFOX FOR CHICAGO READER

  • Mama Lou checks herself in the mirror before taking the stage at First Church of Deliverance on Easter Sunday.
  • Geoff Stellfox for Chicago Reader

“Reverend wasn’t afraid,” Evans-Reid says. “He wasn’t afraid. He says, ‘You can’t! You have to be courageous! You can’t be afraid as a leader. I stand for my folks.'”

“I found myself praying so much for him,” she says. “I prayed for the Lord to keep him on a straight and narrow path, and that he would be able to go head-on and become the pastor and the preacher, the man of God that God wanted him to be.”

Pastor DeAndre Patterson, 53, who serves at Destiny Worship Center on the west side and Miracle Revival Cathedral in Maywood, remembers those trials. “God be to glory that none of that steel rotted during that time, that the church is still standing here years later,” he says. He grew up in Christian Tabernacle Church at Prairie and 47th, a mile from Fellowship.

“I was a kid, but I do remember, because we had family on 53rd and Morgan, and we would drive past and I’d say, ‘Mom! Grandma! What is going on with the building?'” he says. “And they would tell us stories about the mayor, because Reverend Evans stood with Reverend King.”

During that time, Evans advised his followers to fast and pray, just as Jesus, his apostles, and countless other biblical figures had done as a way to seek God’s comfort, guidance, and protection. “When we fast and pray, we fast and pray to God,” Evans-Reid says. “We asked him to answer our prayers, if it’s his will and his way.”

Hundreds of Black Chicagoans sought refuge at Fellowship in those years, swelling its congregation. With their freedom and future at stake, they turned to Clay and Lou Della for strength. She believed that singing together could bring salvation. Gospel music had descended from African African spirituals, grown from slavery and carved out of struggle. Backed by her traditional choir, Evans-Reid used the power of praise to uplift.

“Sometimes, it’s just the words of the song,” she says, and recites the first hymn that comes to her mind. “What a friend we have in Jesus / All our sins and our griefs to bear / What a privilege, a privilege it is to carry.'”

“It just gives them hope,” she says. “It’s hope for you. That’s it. The church is hope. The songs are hope for the people.”

A stylized painting of Mama Lou hangs above the fireplace in her living room in southwest-side Wrightwood. Her niece bought it at a garage sale while on vacation in New Orleans 25 years ago. - GEOFF STELLFOX FOR CHICAGO READER

  • A stylized painting of Mama Lou hangs above the fireplace in her living room in southwest-side Wrightwood. Her niece bought it at a garage sale while on vacation in New Orleans 25 years ago.
  • Geoff Stellfox for Chicago Reader

In the family room of Evans-Reid’s home in southwest-side Wrightwood, a large portrait of her hangs above the fireplace. The gold frame forms a halo around her angelic figure, and she appears to be singing in a long, white robe before a congregation. It’s like a scene from the transfiguration: she basks in the light of the Lord.

Evans-Reid has a story that goes along with that painting. She laughs as she explains that her niece found it at a garage sale in Louisiana. Her niece paid $40 for it—Evans-Reid kept the receipt as proof.

Dozens of awards honoring her work as Fellowship’s most beloved music director hang on the walls, cover the tables in the living room, and rest on the lid of her piano near the front door. In her dining room, she’s hung a letter from former Illinois governor George Ryan congratulating her upon her retirement from Fellowship almost 20 years ago. And though she’s never met Barack and Michelle Obama, she got a letter from them in 2010 wishing her a happy 80th birthday.

Mama Lou laughs in embarrassment during her 89th birthday party this past July at the Greater Cathedral Tabernacle Church of God in Christ. Her birthday celebration brings together churches and choirs from around the city. - GEOFF STELLFOX FOR CHICAGO READER

  • Mama Lou laughs in embarrassment during her 89th birthday party this past July at the Greater Cathedral Tabernacle Church of God in Christ. Her birthday celebration brings together churches and choirs from around the city.
  • Geoff Stellfox for Chicago Reader

Evans-Reid loves to talk about her birthdays, because she believes that’s where her story starts. She was born on the seventh day of July, the seventh month, and she’s the seventh of ten children. In the Book of Genesis, God created the world in seven days. The number seven symbolizes completeness.

“This has been an enjoyable life,” she says. “I’m so glad that God decided—he decided this before I was born, that this is the way that he wanted me to go. I didn’t know about it, but I haven’t rebelled against it. Not at all.”

Although 14 years have passed since her 75th birthday, Evans-Reid likes to revisit it. She still has extra copies of the booklet and DVDs made for the party Fellowship threw for her in 2005. It’s not about bragging rights with Evans-Reid. It’s that she’s still overwhelmed by the hundreds of people who packed the church that night to be with “little old me.”

Mama Lou rests in her living room to give her aching back a break. "These last few days have been hard," she says. Despite her age, she stays active, going out for Chinese food with choir friends and taking daily walks on a treadmill. - GEOFF STELLFOX FOR CHICAGO READER

  • Mama Lou rests in her living room to give her aching back a break. “These last few days have been hard,” she says. Despite her age, she stays active, going out for Chinese food with choir friends and taking daily walks on a treadmill.
  • Geoff Stellfox for Chicago Reader
Mama Lou belts out the hymn "Pass Me Not, O Gentle Savior" on the piano in her home. "These old fingers don't play so well anymore," she says. - GEOFF STELLFOX FOR CHICAGO READER

  • Mama Lou belts out the hymn “Pass Me Not, O Gentle Savior” on the piano in her home. “These old fingers don’t play so well anymore,” she says.
  • Geoff Stellfox for Chicago Reader

In the eyes of many of those people, Evans-Reid is a trailblazer: she’s a Black woman who’s held leadership roles in the church. Of the five charter members of Fellowship, two of whom were Evans-Reid’s brothers Pharis and Joseph, she was the only woman. 

Evans-Reid served as the church’s first pianist, and when she became its minister of music in 1963 (a more formal way to say “music director”), she oversaw the senior, young adult, and youth choirs, which performed together on Sundays. By 1980, total membership in those groups had swelled to 200.

“A lot of people, especially the younger generation, don’t really know her,” says Fred Nelson III, 59, a family friend who’s musical director at New Faith Baptist Church International in Matteson. He’s also spent many years as a music executive, and served as conductor and musical director for Aretha Franklin from 2011 until her passing in 2018. “What’s more important probably at the end of the day is not Mama Lou, but what she brought to the platform, whether people ever know who she really was,” Nelson says. “What she brought to the movement is bigger than her little four-foot self. I mean, really, it’s what she brought, and they may never know.”

Evans-Reid was 20 years old when she followed in Clay’s footsteps and moved to Chicago from Brownsville, a small town an hour away from Memphis. With Pharis by her side, she arrived here on Labor Day weekend in 1950. She was newly divorced with a baby and in search of a new beginning. Her mother had encouraged her to leave Brownsville and their cotton farm behind and to make something of herself. Evans-Reid even changed her name: born Ludella Evans, she chose to split her first name in two. “I changed it to a capital L-o-u,” she says, laughing. “That’s a man’s name, but I didn’t know no different.” 

To this day, Evans-Reid looks up to her mother, who taught her strength and the value of hard work. While her father managed the cotton farm, her mother grew an acre of vegetables to sell. Evans-Reid likes to tell a story that illustrates her mother’s independence: she traded in her horse and buggy for a car, so she could get to the city faster with those vegetables.

“I’m like my mom,” Evans-Reid says. They both had that “go-getter” attitude, she explains. 

Between Lou Della and Clay, he was recognized as the great orator, towering over his podium, delivering sermons so powerful that Jesse Jackson still repeats the tale of the first time he heard Clay on the radio. It was July 5, 1965, and he was driving to church when he heard the reverend say “I must tell Jesus” in what he describes as the most “profound and spiritual way.” Jackson turned his car right around and headed for Fellowship. Lou Della, on the other hand, became known as an animated choir director with a knack for composing, handpicking talent, and putting on a show.

“Lou Della is an icon,” says Pastor DeAndre Patterson. “People went to see her. They didn’t only go to see her brother. They went to see her. They wanted to hear the music.”

A congregant lies on the floor after feeling the spirit during a Mama Lou choir performance at Greater New Mount Moriah Missionary Baptist Church in Detroit. - GEOFF STELLFOX FOR CHICAGO READER

  • A congregant lies on the floor after feeling the spirit during a Mama Lou choir performance at Greater New Mount Moriah Missionary Baptist Church in Detroit.
  • Geoff Stellfox for Chicago Reader
At Greater Harvest Baptist Church, Mama Lou jokes with her protege Malcolm Williams, who directs a choir for Gospel Music According to Chicago. - GEOFF STELLFOX FOR CHICAGO READER

  • At Greater Harvest Baptist Church, Mama Lou jokes with her protege Malcolm Williams, who directs a choir for Gospel Music According to Chicago.
  • Geoff Stellfox for Chicago Reader

Patterson, Nelson, and Malcolm Williams, a 12-year choir director for the Gospel Music According to Chicago, all remember a time when Fellowship’s weekly radio broadcast and one-hour TV special dominated gospel media. The church took to the radio in 1952 and stayed there for five decades; its first TV series, What a Fellowship Hour, launched in 1977 and ran till 1991. Both programs laid important groundwork for how gospel music should sound, look, and feel.

“Every Saturday night, my grandparents would watch Fellowship,” says Williams, 49. “I used to watch her as a choir director on the church broadcast, and as she would direct at church, as she ran across the stage, I used to run across the living room trying to be her.”

Williams says Evans-Reid’s “natural spirit” caught his attention. “She had such a way of just commanding the choir, and at the time they had a humongous choir, probably the biggest choir I ain’t ever seen. To be able to lift your hands and you have 200 people who will do exactly what you want them to do at the same time, it was just amazing to me.”

There’s something else about Evans-Reid that Patterson, Williams, and many others have found endearing: She clearly cared about her choir. If she found out that one of her own was sick, she’d pray for them, call to check up on them, send cards with donations, and visit them in the hospital—and she encouraged other members of the choir to do the same. 

Mama Lou is famous in the church community not just for her talent as a music director but also for her sweet potato pie. "I don't measure," she says, scooping sugar in her kitchen. - GEOFF STELLFOX FOR CHICAGO READER

  • Mama Lou is famous in the church community not just for her talent as a music director but also for her sweet potato pie. “I don’t measure,” she says, scooping sugar in her kitchen.
  • Geoff Stellfox for Chicago Reader

Evans-Reid also has a silly side, which tends to show up during the quietest moments of a church service. “You could be sitting there, and she’ll lean over and say stuff that take you,” Williams says. “And it’s so bad! I’ll be laughing and tears are rolling down my face, and she’ll be sitting there with a straight face like she didn’t say anything.” 

And it’d be an oversight not to mention her homemade sweet potato pie. The simple southern comfort dish is a coveted dessert at church gatherings. 

“That’s why they call her ‘Mama Lou,'” Nelson says. “Everywhere she goes, she makes you feel like you in her family.”

That nickname, “Mama Lou,” didn’t come from her choristers but instead from her coworkers outside the church. Evans-Reid was a surgical nurse for almost 50 years, securing her license in 1960 and retiring in 2007. Among the places she worked were Saint Anne’s Hospital on the west side and Saint Luke’s Hospital downtown, both now closed. She was used to being on call and on her feet for long shifts, and she loved taking care of people. She had a gift for healing. 

“You live for other people,” Evans-Reid says. “That’s what our lives was about. What can I do to help somebody to get to where they’re trying to go? We got a song that we sing, ‘If I can help somebody, then my living shall not be in vain.’ And that’s true.”

Mama Lou visits her 94-year-old brother, the Reverend Clay Evans, at his home in Roseland. "Half of him is me, and half of me is him," she says. "I know we're grown, but I still look up to him as my big brother. I can talk to him about my problems and ask for advice." - GEOFF STELLFOX FOR CHICAGO READER

  • Mama Lou visits her 94-year-old brother, the Reverend Clay Evans, at his home in Roseland. “Half of him is me, and half of me is him,” she says. “I know we’re grown, but I still look up to him as my big brother. I can talk to him about my problems and ask for advice.”
  • Geoff Stellfox for Chicago Reader
Behind Clay's head is a photo of him with the Reverend Jesse Jackson and Muhammad Ali. - GEOFF STELLFOX FOR CHICAGO READER

  • Behind Clay’s head is a photo of him with the Reverend Jesse Jackson and Muhammad Ali.
  • Geoff Stellfox for Chicago Reader

On Wednesdays, Lou Della visits Clay at his home in Roseland. She’s usually heading to or coming from a noon prayer meeting at Fellowship when she stops by. These days Clay, 94, can often be found resting in his shaded bedroom, tucked under burgundy sheets with his companion dog, Angel, napping beside him.

During these visits, the two often talk about family, friends, or people from their past, some of whom might have celebrated new milestones or have moved on to the next life. Other times, they just talk about their days.

“How did you sleep last night?” Lou Della asks, reaching for his hand.
”Pretty good,” says Clay.
”I prayed. I said, ‘Lord! Let him sleep like a baby,'” she says. 

For the most part, Lou Della says, she and Clay have been blessed with good health in their old age. Though they’ve both had serious scares since retirement (Clay in 2000 with pancreatic cancer, Lou Della in 2007 with thyroid cancer), they were both fortunate to catch the disease early. They had surgery and have been cancer free ever since.

But at their age, Lou Della says, they don’t move or even speak the same way they used to. There’s a softness in Clay’s voice now; he follows every word he utters with a pause. His caregiver is on standby to offer help with everyday tasks. As for Lou Della, she relies on hearing aids and sometimes a walker.

For them, these weekly visits are sacred. “We are so close. We look alike,” Lou Della says. “Tell you the truth, he and I have been together longer than anybody in the world that’s living.”

“My brothers in between us and above me, they all gone,” she continues. “He and I are now closer to each other. We five years apart, but we’ve been together all these years.”

Even when Clay and Lou Della retired from Fellowship, they did it together. The running joke is that Lou Della did it reluctantly—or that she didn’t really retire at all. “Didn’t happen,” Patterson says bluntly. “He’s retired, living life. She’s still taking care of a choir.”

Nelson offers a story to illustrate what separates Clay and Lou Della. A few years ago, he invited them to a gathering at his church in Matteson. “He sat up there,” Nelson says, pointing to the first pew at New Faith Baptist. “He didn’t even want to talk. He was just here in his white suit. They brought him in his Rolls Royce, and he was this grandpapa. She directed a song with the choir, ‘It Is Well,’ and lit up the place. And they came here to do what they did, and they just left.”

Mama Lou was recently invited to Greater Grace Church in Merrillville, Indiana, to direct the choir and teach its members new songs. - GEOFF STELLFOX FOR CHICAGO READER

  • Mama Lou was recently invited to Greater Grace Church in Merrillville, Indiana, to direct the choir and teach its members new songs.
  • Geoff Stellfox for Chicago Reader

“Keep-a-livin'” is Evans-Reid’s motto. Her mornings are split between walking on the treadmill in her basement and reading devotional books. Some nights, she might be over at Greater Harvest Baptist Church, where her GMAC choir rehearses, or working with the choir at First Church of Deliverance. Other days are reserved for Bible class, faith workshops, Sunday school, or church hopping with close friends. Recently Evans-Reid spent a weekend at Greater Grace Church in Merrillville, Indiana, answering the call of a pastor who’d asked for her help. She worked with the church’s small choir and taught them a couple songs. 

At choir practice or on Sundays, Evans-Reid still makes it a point to sit in the first seat in the front row. When a song starts, she tilts her head and lifts her right hand on cue, following the movement of the melody; she sings a verse or two before turning around to see if everyone else has joined in.

“Every night, it’s in my prayer,” she says. “I say, ‘Lord, I want to be pleasing and acceptable in your sight.’ That’s my prayer every night. . . . This has been a life. I’m always grateful to God and the people that helped me, that influenced me.”

For all her accomplishments, Evans-Reid hasn’t been canonized the way her most famous brother has. Photographs on shelves behind Clay’s bed tell the story of his decades of service. A black-and-white print directly above him looks like a page ripped from a history book: he’s joined by a young Reverend Jesse Jackson and by Muhammad Ali, a poignant reminder of Fellowship’s influence and the roles all three men played as political leaders.

This iconic image is woven into Fellowship’s history, but Lou Della’s contributions are mentioned in marginal notes if at all. Her story remains alive through song and praise on any given Sunday.

Lou Della can always tell when her visits with Clay have come to an end. She can see it in the way he nestles his head against his pillow. Before she leaves, she asks him if there’s anything else she can do. With a nod and a simple gesture, he gives her leave to move around his room quietly. She adjusts his pillow once more and straightens out his blanket. 

Drawing the curtain to close the day, Lou Della lets Clay sleep. She picks up her things and walks out the door, ready to tend to her work still left undone.  v

Lou Della Evans-Reid in her home - GEOFF STELLFOX FOR CHICAGO READER

  • Lou Della Evans-Reid in her home
  • Geoff Stellfox for Chicago Reader
 
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Stephen Swid, Music Licensing Innovator, Is Dead at 78 – The New York Times

Stephen Swid, Music Licensing Innovator, Is Dead at 78 – The New York Times


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Stephen Swid, Music Licensing Innovator, Is Dead at 78

By Ben Sisario

Oct. 10, 2019

After acquiring a series of businesses, including the “21” Club, he turned the obscure licensing organization Sesac into a force in the music industry. 

 
Stephen C. Swid in his office in 1988. He made his name as an aggressive young investor in the 1970s before entering the music business .Peter Freed

Stephen C. Swid, an investor and businessman whose varied career included deals for furniture and carpeting companies, an independent film distributor and the “21” Club, but who became best known for transforming Sesac, once an obscure licensing organization, into an influential force in the music industry, died on Sunday at his home in Manhattan. He was 78.

His family said the cause was complications of frontotemporal degeneration.

After starting his career as a Wall Street analyst and money manager in the 1960s, Mr. Swid teamed with a partner, Marshall Cogan, to take over a series of businesses that put them on the map as aggressive young investors.

First, in 1974, was General Felt Industries, a major producer of carpet padding — an unglamorous but lucrative business that served as their springboard. Three years later, the two men took over Knoll International, the designer furniture firm (now known as Knoll Inc.), and in 1985 they paid $21 million for the “21” Club, a watering hole for the city’s power-broker elite. Along the way, they also made unsuccessful runs at the Boston Red Sox and Sotheby’s.

By 1986, Mr. Swid had split with Mr. Cogan and was looking for new deals when he learned that CBS Inc. was selling its music publishing division, CBS Songs, which controlled the copyrights to about 250,000 songs, including classics like “Over the Rainbow” and “New York, New York.”

Joining with two music executives, Charles Koppelman and Martin Bandier, Mr. Swid led the purchase of CBS Songs for $125 million. The three formed a new company, SBK Entertainment World, and in early 1989, a little more than two years after the CBS deal closed, sold it to the conglomerate Thorn-EMI for $337 million.

It was the highest price that had ever been paid for a music publisher, and the sale raised eyebrows both in the music world and on Wall Street. But to Mr. Swid, it was simply a matter of finding the right price for an undervalued asset.

“It’s obvious now, in retrospect, that the $125 million price was lower than the true value of the company at that time,” he told The New York Times when the Thorn-EMI deal was announced.

In 1992, Mr. Swid led an ambitious deal to acquire Sesac for $15 million, and ended up turning it into a billion-dollar business that has had lasting effects on the music industry.

Sesac, founded in 1930 as the Society of European Stage Authors and Composers, had long been a marginal player in performing rights, the business of collecting licensing payments from radio and other outlets and funneling that money back to songwriters and publishers as royalties. By 1992, the industry giants Ascap and BMI were estimated to control 99 percent of the market between them.

But as part of a plan conceived by Freddie Gershon, a music executive, and joined by Mr. Swid and another partner, Ira Smith, a revamped Sesac would find ways to pay songwriters more than they were getting from Ascap and BMI.

“We were little Davids against these Goliaths,” Mr. Gershon said in an interview. In addition to the three partners, the investment bank Allen & Company contributed money to the deal.

To make Sesac more competitive, the new partners pursued genres like Spanish-language pop — they offered contracts in Spanish, a novel step at the time — and embraced new technologies to identify more accurately when their songs were being played on the radio.

But Sesac’s biggest coup came in 1995 when the company lured Bob Dylan and Neil Diamond from Ascap by offering them large advance payments. The size of those payments has not been disclosed, but was estimated at the time by Billboard, the music trade publication, to be about $5 million combined.

The presence of those two writers, whose songs are essential to radio programmers, instantly made Sesac a power in the industry, helping to attract more writers and giving the company leverage to demand higher license fees.

“We’re going to become a major player,” Mr. Swid told Billboard, “and Ascap and BMI will do everything they can to stop us.”

Sesac’s move did lead to increased competition among the performing rights societies to sign and retain top songwriters, a process that continues today.

Sesac now has more than 400,000 songs in its catalog, by songwriters and composers including Kurt Cobain, Adele, Randy Newman, Paul Shaffer, Ric Ocasek of the Cars and the members of R.E.M.

Stephen Claar Swid was born on Oct. 26, 1940, in the Bronx, to Dave and Selma (Claar) Swid. His father was a trucking executive who also helped build the New England Thruway. He graduated from Ohio State University in 1962, with many of his summers spent working as a parking attendant at the Astor Hotel in Times Square, his son, Scott, said. 

Mr. Swid is also survived by his wife, Nan, a founder of Swid Powell Designs, which focuses on housewares; two daughters, Robin Swid and Jill Rosen; eight grandchildren; and a sister, Carole Eisner.

In addition to his investments in Sesac and SBK, Mr. Swid held ownership stakes in Spin magazine and Cinecom Entertainment Group, an independent film producer and distributor, whose catalog included the 1990 version of “The Handmaid’s Tale.”

An art collector, he served as the chairman of the Municipal Arts Society and was on the board of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation for more than 30 years.

But the company he remained closest to, and where he had his greatestsuccess, was Sesac, which he ran as chairman and chief executive from 1992 until his retirement in 2013. Sesac, which is privately held, has always remained closely guarded about its finances. But according to Moody’s Investors Service, which has rated its debt offerings, its annual revenue grew from just $9 million in 1994 to $167 million by 2013, or about 8 percent of the American performing rights market.

In 2017, Sesac, which Mr. Swid and his partners had bought for just $15 million 25 years earlier, was sold to the Blackstone Group, the investment giant, for $1.2 billion.

Ben Sisario covers the music industry. He joined The Times in 1998, and has contributed to Rolling Stone, Spin, New York Press and WFUV. He also wrote “Doolittle,” a book about the Pixies. @sisario

 

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William FOLWELL Obituary – St. Petersburg, FL | Tampa Bay Times

William FOLWELL Obituary – St. Petersburg, FL | Tampa Bay Times


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William FOLWELL Obituary – St. Petersburg, FL | Tampa Bay Times

FOLWELL, William Sheldon “Bill” passed away October 2, 2019. He was born May 1, 1939 in Rochester, NY, to John H. and Margaret Folwell. He earned a degree in music at the Manhattan School of Music, served in the 79th Army band 1963 to 1965, played music with the Uni Trio, Ars Nova, The Insect Trust, Buddy Guy, John Lee Hooker, toured Europe with Albert Ayler, and was an original member of The Mystic Knights of the Oingo Boingo. He moved to Pinellas County, FL, in the 1980s and married Dorris Young Nave. He worked for Pinellas County Schools and was a member of Peace Memorial Presbyterian Church in Clearwater for over thirty years. He was a devoted husband to Dorris, a proud father of Carla, Charlie, and Lillian, and a musician ahead of his time. He brought joy, humor, and love to everyone he encountered.

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William FOLWELL Obituary – St. Petersburg, FL | Tampa Bay Times

William FOLWELL Obituary – St. Petersburg, FL | Tampa Bay Times


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William FOLWELL Obituary – St. Petersburg, FL | Tampa Bay Times

FOLWELL, William Sheldon “Bill” passed away October 2, 2019. He was born May 1, 1939 in Rochester, NY, to John H. and Margaret Folwell. He earned a degree in music at the Manhattan School of Music, served in the 79th Army band 1963 to 1965, played music with the Uni Trio, Ars Nova, The Insect Trust, Buddy Guy, John Lee Hooker, toured Europe with Albert Ayler, and was an original member of The Mystic Knights of the Oingo Boingo. He moved to Pinellas County, FL, in the 1980s and married Dorris Young Nave. He worked for Pinellas County Schools and was a member of Peace Memorial Presbyterian Church in Clearwater for over thirty years. He was a devoted husband to Dorris, a proud father of Carla, Charlie, and Lillian, and a musician ahead of his time. He brought joy, humor, and love to everyone he encountered.

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Ginger Baker, Superstar Rock Drummer With Cream, Is Dead at 80 – The New York Times

Ginger Baker, Superstar Rock Drummer With Cream, Is Dead at 80 – The New York Times


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https://www.nytimes.com/2019/10/06/arts/music/ginger-baker-dead.html
 

Ginger Baker, Superstar Rock Drummer With Cream, Is Dead at 80

By Peter Keepnews

Updated 10:22 a.m. ET

Ginger Baker, center, with Jack Bruce, left, and Eric Clapton in 1967 when their band, Cream, was leaving London for a trip to Los Angeles. Neil Peart, the drummer with the band Rush, said Mr. Baker’s playing was “extrovert, primal and inventive.”
Ginger Baker, center, with Jack Bruce, left, and Eric Clapton in 1967 when their band, Cream, was leaving London for a trip to Los Angeles. Neil Peart, the drummer with the band Rush, said Mr. Baker’s playing was “extrovert, primal and inventive.”George Stroud/Express, via Getty Images

Ginger Baker, who helped redefine the role of the drums in rock and became a superstar in the process, died on Sunday in a hospital in southeastern England. He was 80.

His family confirmed his death in a post on his official Twitter account.

Mr. Baker drew worldwide attention for his approach to the drums, as sophisticated as it was forceful, when he teamed with the guitarist Eric Clapton and the bassist Jack Bruce in the hugely successful British band Cream in 1966.

[Listen to 15 of Ginger Baker’s essential songs.]

Keith Moon of the Who was more uninhibited; John Bonham of Led Zeppelin — a band formed in 1968, the year Cream broke up — was slicker. But Mr. Baker brought a new level of artistry to his instrument, and he was the first rock drummer to be prominently featured as a soloist and to become a star in his own right. Mr. Clapton praised him as “a fully formed musician” whose “musical capabilities are the full spectrum.”

Both as a member of the ensemble and as a soloist, Mr. Baker captivated audiences and earned the respect of his fellow percussionists with playing that was, as Neil Peart, the drummer with the band Rush, once said, “extrovert, primal and inventive.” Mr. Baker, Mr. Peart added, “set the bar for what rock drumming could be.”

But Mr. Baker, who got his start in jazz combos and cited the likes of Max Roach and Elvin Jones as influences, bristled when the word “rock” was applied to his playing. “I’m a jazz drummer,” he told the British newspaper The Telegraph in 2013. “You have to swing. There are hardly any rock drummers I know who can do that.”

Mr. Baker’s appearance behind the drum kit — flaming red hair, flailing arms, eyes bulging with enthusiasm or shut tight in concentration — made an indelible impression. So, unfortunately, did his well-publicized drug problems and his volatile personality.

Mr. Baker, who by his own count quit heroin 29 times, was candid about his drug and alcohol abuse in his autobiography, “Hellraiser,” published in Britain in 2009.

He recalled driving from Los Angeles to San Francisco while on tour with the band Blind Faith in 1969 and being more amused than surprised when he heard a report on the radio that he had died from a heroin overdose.

Of a later tour, he wrote, “In 1983-84, I formed the Ginger Baker Trio with guitarist John Simms and bassist Ian Macdonald and we did a tour that included Malta, Spain and Germany; but I can’t remember anything about it due to the fact that I was drinking so heavily.”

He was also, by all accounts, not a very likable man. Journalists who interviewed him tended to find him uncooperative at best, confrontational at worst. The hostility between Mr. Baker and Mr. Bruce, which sometimes led to onstage altercations, was the stuff of rock legend. The 2012 documentary “Beware of Mr. Baker” — the title is taken from a sign outside the house in South Africa where he was living at the time — begins with footage of Mr. Baker physically attacking the film’s director, Jay Bulger.

“If they’ve got a problem with me, come and see me and punch me on the nose,”Mr. Baker says in that film. “I ain’t going to sue you; I’m going to hit you back.”

But if he was difficult to deal with, his talent was impossible to ignore. As A. O. Scott of The New York Times noted in his review of “Beware of Mr. Baker,” Mr. Baker’s music was ultimately “the only reason anyone should take an interest in him.”

Peter Edward Baker — he became known as Ginger during childhood because of his red hair — was born on Aug. 19, 1939, in the Lewisham area of southeast London, to Frederick and Ruby (Bayldon) Baker. His father, a bricklayer, was killed in action during World War II.

Drawn to the drums at an early age, Mr. Baker talked his way into a job with a traditional-jazz combo when he was 16 despite his lack of professional experience. Before long, he was well established on the London jazz scene. He also had a heroin habit that would dog him for decades.

In 1962 Mr. Baker joined Blues Incorporated, one of the earliest British rhythm-and-blues bands, beginning his contentious but musically rewarding association with Mr. Bruce. When the organist and saxophonist Graham Bond left that band in 1964 to form his own group, the Graham Bond Organisation, Mr. Baker and Mr. Bruce went with him.

Two years later they teamed with Mr. Clapton, whose work with the Yardbirds and John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers had made him one of Britain’s most celebrated guitarists, to form Cream.

Performing a repertoire that mixed original compositions with radical reinterpretations of old blues songs, Cream was an instant sensation. Within two years, the band went from nightclubs to stadiums and released four albums, whose total sales were estimated at 35 million. But in 1968, at the height of its success, Cream disbanded.

One reason for the breakup was the continuing animosity between Mr. Baker and Mr. Bruce. Another, Mr. Baker later said, was the extreme volume at which Mr. Clapton and Mr. Bruce played.

“For the first 18 months it was great,” he said in 2013. “But things got too bloody big and too bloody loud. They kept piling these huge Marshall speakers one on top of another. That’s why my hearing’s wrecked.”

Mr. Baker’s next band was, on paper, even bigger than Cream: Blind Faith, in which he and Mr. Clapton joined forces with the singer, keyboardist and guitarist Steve Winwood, known for his work with the Spencer Davis Group and Traffic. (The less famous Ric Grech was the bassist.) Hopes were high, but Blind Faith imploded after one album and one tour, the victim of excessive hype and conflicting egos.

Following the similarly brief life of his next band, Ginger Baker’s Air Force, a jazz-rock outfit with a saxophone section, Mr. Baker led a peripatetic life and stayed largely out of the spotlight.

He spent much of the 1970s in Lagos, Nigeria, where he built a recording studio and became immersed in African music, performing and recording with the singer, songwriter and political activist Fela Kuti. He also developed a love for polo that over the years would prove almost as costly as his drug habit: He drove himself into debt more than once buying and importing polo ponies.

In the ensuing decades he was in and out of various bands, ranging from the hard-rock group Masters of Reality to a jazz trio in which his high-profile sidemen were the guitarist Bill Frisell and the bassist Charlie Haden. He was also in and out of financial trouble and moved frequently, living in England, Italy, Los Angeles and South Africa, where he settled in 1999 and stayed until returning to England in 2012.

Mr. Baker and the other members of Cream were inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1993. The band reunited for concerts in London and New York in 2005 and received a Grammy Award for lifetime achievement in 2006.

Whatever hope there might have been for another reunion ended when Jack Bruce died in 2014.

Mr. Baker was married four times. He is survived by his wife, Kudzai Baker, a nurse from Zimbabwe with whom he lived in Kent, England, and three children: Nettie Baker, who has written several books about her relationship with him; Leda Baker, a business analyst; and Kofi Baker, a drummer. All were born in the 1960s during Mr. Baker’s first marriage, to the artist Liz Finch.

In 2013, although he had serious health problems, Mr. Baker toured and recorded with a quartet whimsically named the Ginger Baker Jazz Confusion. Interviewed that year on the BBC television program “Newsnight,” he claimed to have “lost everything six or seven times in my life” and suggested that the motivation for his return to music was more financial than artistic.

“I thought I’d retired,” he said. “Managed to sort of outlive my pension, as it were, so I had to go back to work.”

Asked in that same interview how he would like to be remembered, he paused for a moment and then gave a one-word answer:

“Drummer.”

Alex Marshall contributed reporting.

 

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Larry Willis, Pianist Who Crossed Genres, Is Dead at 76 – The New York Times

Larry Willis, Pianist Who Crossed Genres, Is Dead at 76 – The New York Times


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Larry Willis, Pianist Who Crossed Genres, Is Dead at 76

By Giovanni Russonello

Oct. 3, 2019

In a career that began in the early 1960s, he worked with a long and varied list of musicians and groups including Hugh Masekela, Carla Bley and Blood, Sweat and Tears.

Larry Willis performing in London in 2015.
Larry Willis performing in London in 2015. Robin Little/Redferns, via Getty Images

Larry Willis, a prolific pianist who nimbly traversed genres over a five-decade career, died on Sunday in Baltimore. He was 76.

The bassist Blake Meister, who played with him often, said the cause was a pulmonary hemorrhage. 

Mr. Willis became a trusted accompanist for figures like the bebop-and-beyond saxophonist Jackie McLean, the South African jazz trumpeter Hugh Masekela and the eclectic composer and arranger Carla Bley. He played in the jazz-rock band Blood, Sweat and Tears, and later in Jerry Gonzalez’s Fort Apache Band, a pioneering Latin-jazz ensemble.

He ultimately took part in sessions for hundreds of albums, including nearly two dozen of his own.

Raised in Harlem, Mr. Willis didn’t start playing piano until his late teens, but once he did, he soared. Immersed in a thriving New York music scene, he worked with some of jazz’s most prominent figures before branching out into Latin music, fusion and occasionally free jazz. The breadth of his career, he later said, reflected the world in which he’d been raised.

“Harlem was a melting pot of a lot of different ethnic people,” he said in a 2010 interview for the website All About Jazz. “There are so many valid schools of thought under the umbrella of this music that we call jazz.”

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

“Every time I sit down at the piano, the more I learn about it, the more I don’t know,” he added. “That keeps my interest in this music, in all forms. I’m trying to be not just a better pianist, but the best complete musician that I can be.”

Lawrence Elliott Willis was born in Harlem on Dec. 20, 1942, the youngest of Maggie and Peter Willis’s three sons. His brother Victor was a classically trained pianist, but Larry mostly ignored the family piano, focusing instead on his studies as a classical voice student at the High School of Music and Art in Manhattan.

It was only in his senior year of high school, when a friend started coming over to play Miles Davis albums on the Willises’ record player, that Larry became transfixed by the jazz piano. First it was Red Garland on “Milestones,” then Bill Evans and Wynton Kelly on “Kind of Blue.” 

“That was it,” Mr. Willis later said. He was determined to teach himself piano.

By the end of the school year he had done just that, and was working professionally in a trio with two classmates, the bassist Eddie Gomez and the drummer Al Foster.

Mr. Willis grew up playing basketball alongside his friend Lew Alcindor (who would soon become known as Kareem Abdul-Jabbar), and he was offered basketball scholarships to multiple universities. But he chose instead to study theory at the Manhattan School of Music. 

Mr. Willis was married and divorced several times. Both his brothers died before him. Information on survivors was not immediately available. 

At 19, Mr. Willis caught Mr. McLean’s ear. He joined Mr. McLean’s touring band and recorded with him throughout the 1960s, including on the now-classic album “Right Now!,” Mr. Willis’s debut on record. 

He composed two of the album’s four tracks, the minor-key ballad “Poor Eric— dedicated to the saxophonist Eric Dolphy, who had recently died — and “Christel’s Time,” an up-tempo number with a spiraling melody. Even on the other tunes, Mr. Willis’s bright, dancing accompaniment and perfervid playing in the middle-high register announced a personal style, although he was just 22 years old when it was recorded. 

He also began working frequently with Hugh Masekela, who had been his classmate at the Manhattan School of Music. Mr. Willis would appear on a handful of Mr. Masekela’s albums, including the standout “Home Is Where the Music Is” (1972); their musical partnership would continue until Mr. Masekela’s death in 2018.

In 1970 Mr. Willis made his first recording as a leader, “A New Kind of Soul,” for the small LLP label, incorporating elements of funk, Latin jazz and South African music. He followed it in 1973 with “Inner Crisis,” a similarly eclectic record, for Groove Merchant.

He joined Blood, Sweat and Tears in 1972 and stayed for five years. His jazz career continued apace, with work alongside Dizzy Gillespie, Carmen McRae, Art Blakey and Nat Adderley.

It would be 15 years before Mr. Willis released a third album of his own. But starting with “My Funny Valentine” in 1988, he recorded prolifically for the SteepleChase, Mapleshade and HighNote labels, often leading all-star bands. 

After moving to a Maryland suburb, he became a frequent presence on stages in Washington and Baltimore, and joined Mapleshade as its music director. On several releases he arranged music for orchestras, a challenge he found particularly rewarding.

In the late 1990s and early 2000s Mr. Willis was a member of the young trumpeter Roy Hargrove’s quintet, playing twin roles as accompanist and mentor.

After a house fire in 2007, he moved to Baltimore, where he remained a figure of broad renown among fellow musicians. He gave his final performance on Aug. 1 at the city’s newest jazz club, the Keystone Korner.

A version of this article appears in print on Oct. 5, 2019, Section B, Page 16 of the New York edition with the headline: Larry Willis, 76, Pianist, Who Criss-Crossed Genres. Order Reprints | Today’s Paper | Subscribe

 

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How Isaac Hayes Changed Soul Music | The New Yorker

How Isaac Hayes Changed Soul Music | The New Yorker


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How Isaac Hayes Changed Soul Music

Isaac Hayes’s legacy remains elusive. Even now, over a decade after the singer’s death, there is still no biography of him. Younger fans might remember him chiefly as the voice of Chef on “South Park,” while older ones might picture Hayes in his prime: as the voice of the hypermasculine Shaft, or the sultry Casanova who seduced fans with songs about heartache and fathered fourteen children.

But there was more to Hayes than humor and sex. Fifty years ago last summer, he released one of the most extravagantly beautiful musical manifestos of the modern era, “Hot Buttered Soul.” The forty-five-minute album, consisting of just four extended psychedelic-orchestral tracks, changed not only the sound of soul but also its scale. Hayes, by presenting himself with all the bravado of other soul men, but at half the volume, traded the big-voiced charisma that had defined soul in the nineteen-sixties for a more conceptual, introspective approach. Fittingly, the cover of “Hot Buttered Soul” featured the dome of Hayes’s shaved, bowed head.

“Isaac was just cool as shit,” said the drummer Willie Hall, who worked with Hayes at Stax Records, in Memphis. “He would look up in the top of his head, the third eye, trying to come up with an idea—boom, it would come—perfect.” Hayes is seldom remembered as an enigmatic, restless creative, and even less so as a political leader. But he was, in some ways, a race man cut from conventional cloth. He had been born into desperate poverty, and moved around to various parts of Tennessee, where his family nearly froze in the winters and starved all year long, and the experience radicalized rather than defeated him: he helped to register black voters in the South, pushed for greater black representation at Stax, and co-founded a group called the Black Knights, to protest police brutality and housing discrimination in Memphis. On “Hot Buttered Soul,” he expressed his belief in black power in more experimental terms: through ostentatious claims to musical space.

The album was both a product of and a departure from Hayes’s earlier work at Stax, where he had honed his skills as a pianist—he filled in for Booker T. Jones while Jones was away at college—and where he proved to be an especially gifted songwriter. Along with David Porter, Hayes wrote some of the label’s most iconic hits, including Sam and Dave’s “Soul Man” and “Hold On, I’m Coming.” Hayes wanted his own star turn, but, as he later explained, the Stax co-founder Jim Stewart thought his voice was “too pretty.” “At that time we were living in a James Brown era,” Hayes noted. “Rough singing . . . [but] I was a soft singer.” Sales of his 1968 solo début, “Presenting Isaac Hayes,” were unimpressive.

But then Martin Luther King, Jr., was killed, in Memphis. Hayes, who had considered King a friend, “flipped,” as he put it, and became more “rebellious” and “militant.” For a time, he also went quiet. “I could not create properly,” he said. “I was so bitter and so angry. I thought, What can I do? Well, I can’t do a thing about it, so let me become successful and powerful enough where I can have a voice to make a difference. So I . . . started writing again.” Hayes released “Hot Buttered Soul” in the summer of 1969, as part of Stax’s “Soul Explosion,” a release of twenty-seven albums designed to help the company recover from a disastrous distribution deal with Atlantic and the death of the label’s star, Otis Redding. But Hayes’s ambitions were less commercial than creative: “I didn’t give a damn if ‘Hot Buttered Soul’ didn’t sell,” he said, “because there were twenty-six other LPs to carry the load. I just wanted to do something artistic, with total freedom.”

The album contains no rage or protest in the conventional sense. Hayes mentions race only once, in a mystifying lyric on the track “Hyperbolicsyllabicsesquedalymistic”: “A slave’s on a horse every time she explores / Just heard a discussion about, uh, racial relations.” But the album’s very largesse was political: Hayes had internalized King’s death, one of the era’s preëminent signs of black vulnerability, and reëmerged as a giant.

Three quick drumbeats and the album opens, operatically, with the string arrangement of “Walk On By”: a velvet curtain pulled back to reveal a production that combines the opulence of chamber music with that of funk. The mounting orchestra is intercut with Harold Beane’s fuzz-heavy guitar. While the song, composed by Burt Bacharach, had been a 1964 crossover hit for Dionne Warwick, Hayes wanted his cover, he said, to target “the black listening audience.” That focus comes through in his ad-libs: he doesn’t just accuse his lover of “saying goodbye”; instead, he tells her, “You put the hurt on me! You socked it to me!” There is a delicious irony in Hayes’s decision to remake a song about wanting to go unnoticed into an epic tour de force. Don’t mind me, the lyrics say; I am inescapable, the music says.

“Hyperbolicsyllabicsesquedalymistic,” while it takes the concept of going big to an imaginative extreme, is another serious exercise in the refusal of fear and containment. Listen closely to Marvell Thomas’s piano solo, and you can hear the shaking of chains. When Hayes covers Jimmy Webb’s “By the Time I Get to Phoenix,” which had been a hit for the country singer Glen Campbell, he prefaces the song with a nearly nine-minute monologue about a man who leaves his wife after he catches her cheating on him eight times. The monologue not only epitomizes Hayes’s insistence on taking his time, it also changes the song’s narrative by making the man’s departure a response to continued betrayal. The theme of infidelity shapes Hayes’s cover of “One Woman,” as well: “One woman’s making my home / while the other woman’s making me do wrong.” To situate the album in the wake of King’s death is to hear its obsession with betrayal as not only personal but also social—as suggestive of the ways that black people have been consistently betrayed by the state and yet still rise, refuse, preen.

Hayes’s sartorial experiments were the visual counterparts to his sonic largesse. Whereas the cover of his début album pictured the singer in a top hat and a tuxedo, with “Hot Buttered Soul,” Hayes exchanged old-fashioned masculine glamour for flamboyant camp. The Jet writer Chester Higgins compared him to a “strutting, virile peacock” onstage, with luscious furs, colored tights, and his trend-setting bald head. Hayes’s most iconic outfit in this era was a gold-chained “suit,” which he variously described in pragmatic, political, and sexual terms—calling it a form of air-conditioning that helped him stay cool in the spotlight, as well as a symbol of the end of black bondage and “a sex thing.”

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The meaning of Hayes’s music was similarly complex. But his seizure of musical space—literalized in the LP jacket for “Black Moses,” which unfolded to reveal a full-length portrait of Hayes in a robe, his arms outstretched—made a political statement at a time when black people were being made to feel acutely unwelcome in the public sphere: patrolled by police in their own neighborhoods, maimed and killed for being “in the wrong place at the wrong time.” Hayes took up time and space as if it were owed him, and listeners responded. “Hot Buttered Soul,” despite being what the critic Phyl Garland called “probably the strangest record hit of the year,” became the first Stax LP to go gold. It sold a million records to black consumers alone.

How exactly Hayes emerged from poverty and trauma to fashion himself so deeply at home in the world is one of the miracles of soul music. But, if the source of his confidence is mysterious, its destination is clear: Hayes’s audacious claims to space and selfhood are everywhere in hip-hop. Countless tracks, perhaps most notably Wu-Tang Clan’s “I Can’t Go to Sleep,” sample “Walk On By.” We also see Hayes’s legacy in hip-hop fashion trends that explode and exploit America’s rags-to-riches mythos. We can even hear Hayes in the quieter aesthetic of conceptual artists like Solange and Sampha. These singers seem to have internalized one of Hayes’s key lessons, which was on display when, in the summer of 1972, he headlined the Wattstax Festival, in Los Angeles. What the scene of the velvet-voiced Hayes playing there, before a hundred thousand black fans, meant was that you don’t have to raise your voice to call an army. Sometimes you just have to stretch out your arms.

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Diahann Carroll, Actress Who Broke Barriers With ‘Julia,’ Dies at 84 – The New York Times

Diahann Carroll, Actress Who Broke Barriers With ‘Julia,’ Dies at 84 – The New York Times


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Diahann Carroll, Actress Who Broke Barriers With ‘Julia,’ Dies at 84

By Margalit Fox

Updated 4:20 p.m. ET

In addition to being a sitcom pioneer, she sang on television, in nightclubs, on recordings and on Broadway, where she won a Tony Award. 

Diahann Carroll in a 1972 publicity photo. She defended the ground-breaking sitcom “Julia,” but acknowledged that in portraying the black experience it made many concessions to the middle-class white viewers it hoped to attract.
Diahann Carroll in a 1972 publicity photo. She defended the ground-breaking sitcom “Julia,” but acknowledged that in portraying the black experience it made many concessions to the middle-class white viewers it hoped to attract.Jean-Jacques Levy/Associated Press

Diahann Carroll, who more than half a century ago transcended racial barriers as the star of “Julia,” the first American television series to chronicle the life of a black professional woman, died on Friday at her home in West Hollywood, Calif. She was 84.

Her publicist, Jeffrey Lane, said the cause was complications of breast cancer. Ms. Carroll had survived the cancer in the 1990s and become a public advocate for screening and treatment.

A situation comedy broadcast on NBC from 1968 to 1971, “Julia” starred Ms. Carroll as Julia Baker, a widowed nurse with a young son. The show featured Marc Copage as Julia’s son, and Lloyd Nolan as the curmudgeonly but broad-minded doctor for whom she worked. (“Have you always been a Negro or are you just trying to be fashionable?” he asks Julia in an audacious, widely quoted line from the first episode.)

Popular with both black and white viewers, “Julia” in its first season reached No. 7 in the Nielsen ratings, the highest position it attained in its three seasons on the air.

Reviewing the show in The New York Times, Jack Gould noted its penchant — then par for Hollywood’s course — for “tiptoeing around anything too controversial.”

However, he added: “At all events the breaking of the color line in TV stardom on a regular weekly basis should be salutary.”

Widely known for her elegant beauty and sartorial glamour, Ms. Carroll began her professional life as a singer and continued to ply that art. She sang on television, in nightclubs, on recordings and on Broadway, where she won a Tony Award.

Diahann Carroll won the Tony Award for best actress in a musical for her role in “No Strings,” playing an American fashion model living in Paris.

In films, she starred opposite the likes of Sidney Poitier, Paul Newman, James Earl Jones and Michael Caine. On television, she played the scheming, moneyed Dominique Deveraux on ABC’s prime-time soap opera “Dynasty” in the 1980s.

But it was for “Julia” that she remained most enduringly known. Created by the writer, director and producer Hal Kanter, the show was a novelty for its day: Black women, when they were seen at all in series television, had long been relegated to marginal roles. The few larger parts that came their way were invariably those of domestics. 

“Julia” divided critical consensus. It was praised in some quarters as groundbreaking and criticized in others as reductive, Pollyannaish and accommodationist — condemned, in short, for glossing over the stark realities of life that black Americans faced daily.

Though Ms. Carroll publicly defended “Julia,” she acknowledged that in portraying the black experience it made many concessions to the middle-class white viewers it hoped to attract. She also said afterward that her experience playing the character had been both a professional boon and a professional hindrance.

The series made her one of the most visible performers of her day, booked regularly on TV talk and variety shows. But in addition, it entailed her becoming a de facto spokeswoman not only for “Julia” but also seemingly for her race, an onus for which she had never bargained.

Child of Harlem

Carol Diann Johnson was born in the Bronx on July 17, 1935, to John and Mabel (Faulk) Johnson and grew up in Harlem. Her mother was a nurse, her father a New York City subway conductor. 

(Though Ms. Carroll sometimes stated publicly that her middle name was originally spelled “Diahann,” she confirmed through her publicist in 2017 that she had adopted that spelling as a teenager, when she began entering TV talent competitions.)

A gifted singer as a child, she was performing with the children’s choir of the Abyssinian Baptist Church in Harlem by the time she was 6. She was soon taking lessons in voice and piano, though she objected that they took precious time from roller skating.

As a student at the High School of Music and Art in Manhattan, she began modeling for Ebony magazine. She also began entering television contests, including “Arthur Godfrey’s Talent Scouts,” under the name Diahann Carroll.

In the early 1950s, while still in her teens, she won “Chance of a Lifetime,” a television talent competition, three weeks running. Her prize was a thousand dollars a week, plus an engagement at the Latin Quarter, the Manhattan nightclub.

Because her parents insisted on a college education, she enrolled in New York University. But she left before graduating to pursue a show-business career, promising her family that if the career did not materialize after two years, she would return to college. She never did.

In 1954, at 19, Ms. Carroll was cast in a small part in “Carmen Jones,” Otto Preminger’s all-black screen adaptation of Bizet’s opera “Carmen.” The film starred Harry Belafonte and, in the title role, Dorothy Dandridge.

That year she also made her Broadway debut, in the role of Ottilie, alias Violet,in “House of Flowers,” the Truman Capote-Harold Arlen musical set in a West Indies bordello. Captivated by her performance, the Broadway composer Richard Rodgers was determined to use Ms. Carroll in one of his own shows.

He tried to cast her in “Flower Drum Song,” his 1958 musical with Oscar Hammerstein II. But whatever makeup she was put into, she could not be got to look like any of the Chinese-Americans on whom the show centered, and it opened without her.

Ms. Carroll played Clara, the fisherman’s wife, in Preminger’s 1959 screen adaptation of “Porgy and Bess,” the opera by George and Ira Gershwin and DuBose Heyward. But because the film’s music supervisor, André Previn, deemed her voice too low, her singing — including the emblematic number “Summertime” — was dubbed by the soprano Loulie Jean Norman.

She met with particular acclaim in early 1962, when she at last starred in a musical by Rodgers, “No Strings,” written expressly for her. He composed both music and lyrics: It was his first show after the death in 1960 of Hammerstein.

In it, Ms. Carroll portrayed an American fashion model living in Paris who embarks on a romance with an American novelist, played by Richard Kiley. That the romance was interracial was largely incidental to the plot.

The performance won her the Tony Award for best actress in a musical.

The next few years brought a few guest roles on television shows. But jobs remained far between.

“I’m living proof of the horror of discrimination,” Ms. Carroll said in late 1962, testifying at a congressional hearing on racial bias in the entertainment industry. “In eight years I’ve had just two Broadway plays and two dramatic television shows.”

She added: “I’ve asked repeatedly why. Surely I’m not so difficult to include.”

Then along came “Julia.”

Rosy Picture of Black Life

Ms. Carroll’s portrayal of Julia Baker was generally praised for its poise and warmth. For the role, she received an Emmy nomination and won a Golden Globe Award.

But the show as a whole was criticized on several fronts. One was the fact that Julia’s elegant apartment, magnificent wardrobe and saintly, unruffled temperament were surely unrepresentative of the life of any single working mother of a young child.

More serious charges concerned issues of race. Though the show’s scripts dealt with various slights of racism — or “discrimination,” as it was called then — in a gentle, homiletic manner, many critics felt that “Julia” painted a far rosier picture of American racial amity than actually existed in 1968.

In an interview with TV Guide that December in which she addressed the portrayal of black characters on television, Ms. Carroll acknowledged: “At the moment, we’re presenting the white Negro. And he has very little Negro-ness.”

In a first-person article in Ladies’ Home Journal in 1970, Myrlie Evers, the widow of the slain civil-rights leader Medgar Evers, summed up the contradictions inherent in “Julia.”

“Of course, Julia bears little resemblance to me or any other flesh-and-blood woman,” Ms. Evers wrote. “She is a television fantasy like so many others. The significant difference is that Julia Baker is black.”

She continued: “Perhaps the most significant thing about ‘Julia’ is that it is carried by many stations in the South. My relatives in Vicksburg, Miss., watch it every week. Not so long ago, as I can testify, the appearance of a black face on a network program was a signal in Mississippi for the set to go dark. Then a sign would appear: ‘Circumstances beyond our control. …’”

Ms. Carroll went on to play a woman very different from Julia in the 1974 film “Claudine,” a drama also starring Mr. Jones. For her portrayal of the title character, a single mother of six in Harlem, she received an Academy Award nomination.

Among her other films are “Paris Blues” (1961); Mr. Preminger’s “Hurry Sundown” (1967); and “The Split” (1968), based on a novel by Donald E. Westlake.

Her television credits include the mini-series “Roots: The Next Generations” (1979) and the TV movies “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings” (1979), an adaptation of Maya Angelou’s memoir in which she portrayed Ms. Angelou’s mother, and “Having Our Say: The Delany Sisters’ First 100 Years” (1999), in which she played the indomitable Harlem centenarian Sadie Delany opposite Ruby Dee.

Ms. Carroll had recurring roles on several television series, including “A Different World,” “Grey’s Anatomy” and “White Collar.”

Onstage in the 1990s, she was Norma Desmond in the Canadian company of the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical “Sunset Boulevard,” the first African-American to play the role.

Ms. Carroll’s first marriage, to Monte Kay, a casting director and music impresario, ended in divorce, as did her second, to Fred Glusman, a Las Vegas boutique owner. Her third husband, Robert DeLeon, the managing editor of Jet magazine, died in a car crash in 1977, two years after they were wed. Her fourth marriage, to the singer Vic Damone, ended in divorce. (Mr. Damone died last year.) She also had highly public engagements to Mr. Poitier and the English television journalist David Frost.

She is survived by a daughter from her first marriage, Suzanne Kay; a sister, Lydia; and two grandchildren.

She was the author of two memoirs, “Diahann” (1986), with Ross Firestone, and “The Legs Are the Last to Go” (2008), with Bob Morris.

In one respect, Ms. Carroll said, she was a victim of her best-known show’s success: After she became widely associated with the motherly Julia Baker, her nightclub bookings as a glamorous chanteuse in slit-up-to-there evening gowns dried up for some years.

In mirror image, Ms. Carroll’s glamour had nearly cost her the role of Julia in the first place. Keenly aware of her glimmering image, Mr. Kanter, the show’s creator, was reluctant to consider her for the demure Julia Baker.

Knowing of his reservations, Ms. Carroll arrived for their first meeting, at the Beverly Hills Hotel, wearing a very plain dress. Granted, it was a Givenchy, but it had simple, modest lines.

When she entered the hotel, Mr. Kanter did not recognize her. But he pointed to her anyway.

“That’s the look I want for this character,” she later learned he had said to a colleague. “A well-dressed housewife just like that woman.”

Daniel E. Slotnik contributed reporting.

Margalit Fox is a senior writer on the Obituaries desk. She was previously an editor at the Book Review. She has written the send-offs of some of the best-known cultural figures of our era, including Betty Friedan, Maya Angelou and Seamus Heaney. 

 

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‘Ogresse’ Review: A Beauty About a Beast – WSJ

‘Ogresse’ Review: A Beauty About a Beast – WSJ


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‘Ogresse’ Review: A Beauty About a Beast

Cécile McLorin Salvant’s song cycle about a flesh-eating monster is a stunningly original epic that draws on myriad musical genres.

By 

Will Friedwald 

Oct. 3, 2019 2:33 pm ET

Cécile McLorin Salvant Photo: Mark Fitton

New York

In Cécile McLorin Salvant’s “Ogresse”—performed this past weekend at Jazz at Lincoln Center (and which will be presented around the country)—the title character is a “a big black beast,” as Ms. McLorin’s libretto describes her, who is born of darkness and shadows, retreats to the depths of the forest, and develops a taste for human flesh. She ultimately meets her downfall thanks to a man who wins her confidence and breaks down her formidable resistance by singing “songs, soft and sweet.”

“Ogresse” has been described as a “song cycle,” but it isn’t quite that—it feels more like one single, extended song that unravels for roughly 90 minutes, telling a story at once epic and intimate, full of unexpected detours. Virtually everything about it is staggeringly original. 

Indeed, the closest thing to a forerunner to “Ogresse” may be Jelly Roll Morton’s “The Murder Ballad,” a tall tale in blues form of crime, passion and explicit sex that the pioneering pianist and singer performed in New Orleans brothels at the turn of the 20th century. At the insistence of his patrons, who clearly enjoyed his graphic descriptions of violence and carnality, Morton kept extending the number. When he finally recorded “The Murder Ballad” in 1938, it was a half-hour long.

Ms. Salvant has performed “The Murder Ballad” in concert, including at JALC in 2017. Perhaps Morton’s blues-ballad whetted her appetite—and “Ogresse” is all about appetites—for long-form, deep-focus storytelling. Like “The Murder Ballad,” “Ogresse” feels like a simple piece, rooted in mythology and fairy tales, that grew, like Jack’s beanstalk, to epic proportions. 

The libretto to “Ogresse” contains few rhymes, and there’s nothing like conventional song form. But, as in opera and film scores, themes and melodies signify specific characters and ideas, frequently reappearing to illuminate the narrative. There’s nothing like familiar blues form either, but Ms. Salvant often uses repetition in the way a traditional folk song does.

The work is accompanied by a 13-piece orchestra, including woodwinds and the classical Mivos string quartet; there are occasional jazz soloists, as well as prominent parts for banjo and melodica. Ms. Salvant’s words and music were arranged and conducted by Darcy James Argue.

It would be hard to think of a musical genre not quoted in the work, from jazz, blues, musical theater, opera and other classical forms to bluegrass, folkloric and country styles; there are parts that bring to mind everyone from Leonard Bernstein to Bill Monroe. The work also incorporates French chansons, which turn out to be rather macabre recipes and cooking instructions. Yet “Ogresse” is remarkably cohesive. 

Ms. Salvant sings the entire hour-and-a-half work all by herself, though she embodies at least four perspectives along the way: those of the narrator, who tells most of the tale; a small girl named Lily (who is consumed by the monster); the unnamed man who leads the beast to her destruction; and, finally, the eponymous beast herself. Each of the four “voices” brings with it a different musical style, a different tempo, a varying set of instrumental backgrounds. It’s possible to imagine four different singers enacting each of these roles.

Just as the orchestral textures shift, so does Ms. Salvant’s vocal timbre: The folkish parts are delivered in something closer to a droning monotone (underscored by sustained notes from the cello); there are also wordless sections that are more like a coloratura soprano’s than, say, a jazz scat singer’s. 

The viewpoint constantly switches from the subjective to the objective, and singing of acts of violence sometimes necessitates a detachment very similar to that found in a traditional folk ballad like “Omie Wise. ” Ms. Salvant often seems disconnected—deliberately much less expressive than when, in the past, she has sung a standard like “I Didn’t Know What Time It Was” or a blues number like “Sam Jones Blues.” Like a TV journalist, she’s trying to report, not comment or pass judgment. We are still rooting for the Ogresse even after she dispatches a posse of villagers who had set out to kill her; after all, it was either her or them. But we are less sympathetic after she consumes the little girl. (Her thoughts: “How can there be skin so white / So white it’s diaphanous / It’s making me ravenous. / What is it about a white woman?”)

Ms. Salvant’s long-form narrative is further enhanced by the lighting and stage design by Maruti Evans, which makes it look as if she were telling a story by campfire. “Ogresse” is an unflinching work that’s at once lyrical and disturbing (all that people-eating), of great beauty and extreme shock value, that seems to revel in its own contradictions. 

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

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‘Common Practice’ by Ethan Iverson Review: Swinging Standards With a Contemporary Twist – WSJ

‘Common Practice’ by Ethan Iverson Review: Swinging Standards With a Contemporary Twist – WSJ


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https://www.wsj.com/articles/common-practice-by-ethan-iverson-review-swinging-standards-with-a-contemporary-twist-11568668360
 

‘Common Practice’ by Ethan Iverson Review: Swinging Standards With a Contemporary Twist

On an album recorded at the Village Vanguard, the pianist leads a quartet in revealing the unexpected in familiar songs.

By 

Larry Blumenfeld 

Sept. 16, 2019 5:12 pm ET

Ben Street, Tom Harrell, Ethan Iverson and Eric McPherson Photo: Monica Frisell/ECM Records

In 1969, a trio led by pianist Mal Waldron entered a German recording studio, thus inaugurating Manfred Eicher’s new label, ECM. In a brief note on the back of the resulting LP, “Free at Last,” Mr. Waldron explained that the album marked “a different approach to my music.” His playing there, and mostly thereafter, was stripped-down, percussive, built on vamps and drones, and highly emotional.

During the half-century since, through more than 1,600 subsequent releases, ECM (which stands for “Edition of Contemporary Music”) has itself marked a different approach—to recording jazz and what is now commonly called “creative music” (one might argue ECM has lent deepened meaning to that latter term). With pristine and spacious acoustics, a heightened sense of clarity (in everything from musical presentation to package design) and a genre-blurring aesthetic, ECM has built a dedicated following and helped shape jazz’s current landscape. To commemorate that legacy, the label will reissue “Free at Last” with previously unreleased tracks in November.

Meanwhile, ECM’s forward motion continues with “Common Practice,” the new release from pianist Ethan Iverson’s quartet, out Friday. If this doesn’t amount to a different approach for Mr. Iverson, it does extend the fresh path he’s taken lately. In 2017, after 17 years as a founding member, he left the Bad Plus, a trio that fused jazz modernism with indie-rock spirit in mostly extroverted and aggressive fashion. Mr. Iverson’s work beyond that group is far more nuanced. A thoughtful student of jazz’s history and current scene (whose blog, Do the Math, offers essential insights), he now makes music that innovates from the inside out.

Mr. Iverson, who is 46 years old, likes to experiment with distinguished players of his generation; his duets with tenor saxophonist Mark Turner on last year’s “Temporary Kings” walked an elegant line between jazz and chamber music. He has also made a habit of aligning with elder masters, recording with the likes of drummers Billy Hart and Albert “Tootie” Heath and bassist Ron Carter. For this quartet, he enlisted two contemporaries, bassist Ben Street and drummer Eric McPherson, to showcase another esteemed elder, trumpeter Tom Harrell, who, at 73, has lost neither his alluringly pungent tone nor his quicksilver reflex for improvisation.

“Common Practice” was recorded during performances at the Village Vanguard, the storied Manhattan club where the Bad Plus first caught the ear of a Columbia Records executive. Mr. Harrell’s recordings focus mostly on his own challenging compositions. Here, save for two blues-based pieces from Mr. Iverson, the program is jazz standards. The idea was to celebrate the peculiar magic Mr. Harrell brings to familiar songs—a combination of trance-like intensity and propulsive drive, of vulnerability and force.

Beginning with George and Ira Gershwin’s “The Man I Love,” which Mr. Iverson enters with a pensive statement of melody and low-end rumbles, Mr. Harrell captivates through tender, long tones that evaporate into thin air, phrases that speak as deeply through silences as through sound, and brief yet bracing double-time statements. On Denzil Best’s “Wee,” here set to a calypso rhythm, Mr. Harrell solos over chord changes in the bebop style that begot the tune, yet his improvisation transcends idioms and eras.

This album answers jazz’s current existential question—should we swing or not?—with an emphatic affirmative. Yet it doesn’t sound nostalgic or even terribly conventional, owing to the relaxed and elastic feel achieved by this rhythm section. Mr. McPherson’s work in pianist Fred Hersch’s celebrated trio may be more abstract, yet his embellishments are no less painterly here. Mr. Street’s authority in straight-ahead jazz situations sometimes makes him seem invisible, like a building’s foundation; still, his counterpoint on “Out of Nowhere” commands attention.

Mr. Iverson’s own wit and accumulated wisdom underscore these arrangements, which were negotiated on the bandstand. His overall approach to “Sentimental Journey” owes to Count Basie, but the clotted dissonance he introduces speaks of Thelonious Monk. His solo on “I’m Getting Sentimental Over You,” with harmonies stacked like cardboard boxes that should fall over yet don’t, is downright subversive.

Mr. Harrell’s playing is finely detailed and immediately charismatic, qualities accentuated not only by Mr. Iverson’s quartet but also Mr. Eicher’s production. Unlike many live recordings, which can sound flat or unbalanced, the music here is lovingly captured and engineered to create a satisfyingly immersive effect. The only thing that likely sounds just as it did at the Vanguard on those January 2017 evenings is the raucous audience applause, which was richly deserved.

Mr. Blumenfeld writes about jazz and Afro-Latin music for the Journal.

Jim Eigo Jazz Promo Services T: 845-986-1677 E-Mail: jim@jazzpromoservices.com
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Randy Weston Way

Randy Weston Way


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Thanks to Larry Blumenfeld for this.
 

• The spot where Grand Avenue hits Lafayette Avenue—where Brooklyn meets Africa—is now “Randy Weston Way.” 

At Sunday’s street naming ceremony, a bright sun shone on Randy’s widow, Fatou, and a gathering of Randy’s literal and figurative families. Had he been there, Weston, who died last September at 92, wouldn’t have been the oldest musician present (percussionist Cándido Camero, who is 98, took that honor). He wouldn’t have been the only pianist present—among others, Monty Alexander and Rodney Kendrick, who each performed on an upright, out on the street. Among the speakers, brilliant writers (including Robin Kelley and Ishmael Reed) and a bevy of local politicians echoed Weston’s lifelong themes of a transcendent African identity, personal empowerment, jazz’s spiritual heft and the joy of living.

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How I Saved A Coked Up Miles Davis After He Crashed His Lamborghini

How I Saved A Coked Up Miles Davis After He Crashed His Lamborghini


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https://jalopnik.com/how-i-saved-a-coked-up-miles-davis-after-he-crashed-his-5919954?utm_medium=sharefromsite
 

How I Saved A Coked Up Miles Davis After He Crashed His Lamborghini

James Glickenhaus6/20/12 2:00pm

 

Illustration for article titled How I Saved A Coked Up Miles Davis After He Crashed His Lamborghini

Jazz great Miles Davis loved his little Italian cars, but his reckless side took over one day and he crashed the car while carrying a few bags of white powder. Director and car collector James Glickenhaus just happened to be driving along the same stretch of road and jumped out to help.

Glickenhaus just opened up about his memory of the accident and his role in sparing Davis from the authorities. — Ed.

Someone posted in Ferrari Chat that Miles Davis had fallen asleep at the wheel and stuffed his Lambo. I was there and responded.

There was a bit more to it than that. He didn’t fall asleep at the wheel. He tried to make a right angle turn at 60 mph from the left lane of the West side Highway to the 125 ST exit across three lanes of traffic. He didn’t make it. He hit the WPA Stone exit ramp and the Lime Green Miura came apart like Brazilian plywood in the rain. I pulled over and ran back to his car. He was wearing leather pants and the bones of both of his legs were sticking through the pants. He was bleeding badly. 

 

He looked at me and said: ” Is my car ****ed up?” I told him the car was gone. He said: ” I got to take a look.” I told him both legs were broken and he wasn’t going anywhere. I ripped up a shirt I found on the floor and told him to hold the cloth over the bleeding with pressure as it was getting bad but not arterial.

There were two large plastic bags filled with white powder on the floor and one had broken open. The interior was dusted. I grabbed the bags and ran to the sewer and chucked them. He screamed: “What the **** you doing????” I used rain water to wipe down the car as best as I could.

The cops arrived. One of them asked me who I was. I told them just one of the guys he cut off. He looked at Miles and at me and told me to split.

 

Years later I was directing “Shakedown” with Peter Weller. Weller liked Miles’s music and I told him that story. One night he went to hear Miles. He went back stage where Miles recognized him. “Hey Robo” Peter told him the story and asked if it was true.

Miles got real quiet and said: ” I always wondered who that White Mother ****er was. You thank him for me and tell him to come by anytime.”

Miles was in the hospital for a long time and didn’t play for almost a year. He did make hours of basement tapes which he gave to Sal. One day maybe we’ll release them but they’re pretty raw…


This story originally appeared on the P4/5 Competizione Facebook page on June 20th, 2012 and was republished with permission.

 

Email us with the subject line “Syndication” if you would like to see your own story syndicated here on Jalopnik.

Photo Credit: Getty Images, Miles Davis and American Culture

 

Jim Eigo Jazz Promo Services T: 845-986-1677 E-Mail: jim@jazzpromoservices.com
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‘The Most Elaborate Wedding Ever Staged’: Rosetta Tharpe At Griffith Stadium : NPR

‘The Most Elaborate Wedding Ever Staged’: Rosetta Tharpe At Griffith Stadium : NPR


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https://www.npr.org/2019/09/25/763742547/the-most-elaborate-wedding-ever-staged-rosetta-tharpe-at-griffith-stadium
 

‘The Most Elaborate Wedding Ever Staged’: Rosetta Tharpe At Griffith Stadium

September 25, 201910:00 AM ET

Sister Rosetta Tharpe, circa 1950. In 1951, she got married in a baseball stadium and performed a concert in front of thousands of fans.

Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

In some ways, it was just like any other wedding. The organist played “Here Comes the Bride.” Bridesmaids and groomsmen lined up shoulder to shoulder. A minister presided. 

But that’s where the similarities stopped. Everything else was spectacle. For one thing, the couple getting married wasn’t in a traditional wedding venue; instead, they were in a massive major league baseball stadium in Washington, D.C. Tickets were sold. Vendors hawked souvenirs. And the bride was a gospel music superstar.

The date was July 3, 1951, and Sister Rosetta Tharpe was getting married in front of an estimated 20,000 strangers. Newspaper ads invited people to witness “the most elaborate wedding ever staged … plus the world’s greatest spiritual concert.” 

Music historian Gayle Wald, author of Shout, Sister, Shout!: The Untold Story of Rock-and-Roll Trailblazer Sister Rosetta Tharpe, spoke with Ari Shapiro about the event as part of NPR’s Turning the Tables series. Hear the radio version at the audio link, and read more of their conversation below.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

 


 

Ari Shapiro: Remind us who Rosetta Tharpe was, and where she was in her career in 1951.

Gayle Wald: Rosetta Tharpe was the first person to popularize black gospel music and bring it into the secular realm. She played an electric guitar when she sang. She started recording for Decca Records in 1938, and kind of had a breakout year that year. She played at the Cotton Club, the Savoy Ballroom — big New York clubs that were not usually the places that women who grew up in the Church of God in Christ played. She always marketed herself as a gospel musician, but she played for all different kinds of audiences.

By 1951, when the wedding took place, she had been through several phases of her career. She had fronted a popular swing band led by Lucky Millinder. She had a big hit in 1946 with a song called “Strange Things Happening Every Day,” which would later be important to Elvis Presley. And she had also teamed up with a younger singer named Marie Knight. Marie and Rosetta toured together for several years together in the late ’40s and were very popular as a duet. They were women who toured without men: Rosetta played piano and guitar, and Marie played piano and they harmonized. They were their own show.

Listen to new music, watch the latest Tiny Desk concerts and more, sent weekly.

Some people in the present day have even described Sister Rosetta Tharpe as a queer icon.

That’s right. When I was writing the book, there was a lot of discussion about Rosetta’s attraction to men and women. No one wanted to go on the record to talk about it. Marie Knight, who I interviewed for the book many times, went on record telling me that those rumors were untrue, so my reporting in the book includes her voice as well. 

By 1951, Sister Rosetta Tharpe had been married twice. And this marriage in a stadium in front of 20,000 people was basically a PR stunt, right?

Totally. Her career had taken a little tiny bit of a dip after the late ’40s, and she was looking for a way to boost her career. There were some concert promoters in D.C. who had an idea of using the baseball stadium, which had been used by African-Americans in D.C. for revivals. They thought, “Well, we’ve done revivals there and it’s a place where are shows; let’s put it all together. She’s not an evangelist, but let’s have something close to that —we’ll have a sacred ceremony. Let’s do a wedding!”

But they didn’t have a groom!

She went out and found one.

It was, like, in the contract: She had one year to find a man to marry.

It’s unclear whether she knew Russell Morrison before she decided, a year in advance, to get married to someone in Griffith Stadium. But she found her groom, whether she knew him before or not, and he eventually became her manager.

And the wedding had the trappings of a stadium show, from fireworks to a dress that cost what a car would have cost in 1951.

Exactly. Tharpe bought [the dress] at the most important department store in Richmond, Va., which was Thalhimer’s. At the time, black women couldn’t go into a department store and buy off the rack; they couldn’t try clothes on. She had already been arrested for shopping while black in the late ’40s at Thalhimer’s when she tried to pay for a fur coat with cash. So it was important that she purchased an $800 wedding dress from Thalhimer’s, and even more important that the store, in deference to her fame — and perhaps embarrassment, one hopes, for the earlier incident — sent the dress up in its own car with a fitter, who was a white woman. People who were around Rosetta Tharpe at that time remember that it was extraordinary that here, a dress had been driven up from Richmond for her, and that she was fitted in the dress by a white woman who had to button up all the little satin buttons on the back.

The event itself was such a spectacle. Can you just give us a sense of what it felt like to be in that stadium?

There was a stage on second base. They had a big platform set up. The musicians who had accompanied Rosetta Tharpe or were invited guests were playing the roles of the wedding party. So she had her backup singers; they were there to be her bridesmaids. Marie Knight, her old performing partner, was her maid of honor. And there was a local preacher from Washington, D.C. who came in to do the ceremony. He was a little flippant in marrying them; he was known as a joker. He made jokes from the stage about whether Russell had the money for a ring. 

Even though the whole thing was a stunt, it was a legally binding wedding.

It was, absolutely. They married according to D.C. statute.

And yet, it felt like everybody was in on the joke, judging from the audio of the event. You can hear people laughing!

It’s got this feminist piece to it where even the women — it’s primarily a female audience — recognize the rituals of marriage. There’s giggles at the “obey” part. There’s a kind of freedom to it.

Because if anyone’s gonna obey anyone in that marriage, she’s not gonna be the one obeying him.

Exactly! Who’s the star? Later on in Rosetta and Russell’s marriage, when they would send out Christmas cards, they said “Mr. and Mrs. Rosetta Tharpe Morrison.” So we knew who was in charge in that relationship.

The gospel community is a religious one. This seems a little bit blasphemous. Was there any blowback?

No, not at all. In fact, Ebony magazine did a giant photo spread about the wedding. It was covered in the African-American newspapers around D.C. It was kind of a mark of pride. It was a nice spectacle for everyone to be interested in.

So once they tie the knot, the show starts. Today, stadium shows are happening in big cities all over America all the time. How unusual was a concert of this magnitude in 1951?

The Beatles didn’t play Shea Stadium till 1965. The fact that there was a solo female artist filling a stadium is remarkable. And so it’s possible this is an early stadium rock concert, or an early stadium pop concert, at least.

Like when Beyoncé headlines Coachella or Kanye performs on a floating stage — that is a descendant of this wedding?

There’s a confluence of things going on here. Because the stadium had been used for massive religious revivals, which themselves contained spectacles — mass baptisms that included fireworks and costuming and music. There’s a way those two traditions — the spectacle of entertainment and the spectacle of religious observance — come together. I think without having Griffith Stadium being used as a site of black revivals, you couldn’t have really imagined [the wedding].

Did it give her career the boost that she was looking for?

In a minor way. By the 1950s, she was losing her traditional U.S. audience. There were bigger stars emerging in gospel music: Mahalia Jackson had overtaken her; Clara Ward and the Ward Singers were popular. And the younger audience was gravitating toward younger performers and being marketed rock and roll music, which she had helped to influence.

And I have to ask whether the marriage lasted.

The marriage lasted! Until Rosetta Tharpe died in 1973.

Unbelievable. Well, it just goes to show: You spend your whole life looking for somebody, and then you get a contract that you have to find a groom within a year. And that’s the one that sticks!

And maybe three was the charm. 

Third time’s the charm. 

That’s right.

 

Jim Eigo Jazz Promo Services T: 845-986-1677 E-Mail: jim@jazzpromoservices.com
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Obituary: Richard Wyands | Jazz Journal

Obituary: Richard Wyands | Jazz Journal


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https://jazzjournal.co.uk/2019/09/30/obituary-richard-wyands/
 

Obituary: Richard Wyands

September 30, 2019

Richard Wyands began studying the piano at the age of seven or eight and showed remarkable proficiency. By his own admission, “I was very good. Almost a prodigy”. He began to play gigs in the San Francisco area, and graduated from San Francisco State College with a degree in music in 1950.

At the Black Hawk club, where he became the house pianist, he played opposite Errroll Garner, Red Norvo, Dinah Washington and Art Tatum. It was Tatum who encouraged Wyands to develop his own style with the advice “You can’t compete with me anyhow. But keep it up”. Asked in 2000 about his pianistic influences, he cited Fats Waller, James P. Johnson, Teddy Wilson and Nat King Cole. In particular, he commended Wilson’s use of his left hand: “He didn’t overplay [and] was very tasty”. Cole had “great taste and good chops and good technique. Everything was fantastic”.

‘He just knows what to do and when to do it. He is somebody like Hank Jones who just comes in, takes care of business and after a while you start saying “Man, this cat can really play”.’

After moving to Hull, Quebec in Canada, where he worked with Ella Fitzgerald and Carmen McRae, Wyands went to New York in 1958. He then began a long and distinguished career as a sideman, recording with such major figures as Gene Ammons (Jug), Charlie Mingus (Jazz Portraits), Kenny Burrell, with whom he also toured for 10 years (God Bless The Child), Benny Carter (Cookin’ At Carlos), Oliver Nelson (Screamin’ The Blues), “Lockjaw” Davis (Trane Whistle), Roland Kirk (We Free Kings) and Gigi Gryce (The Rat Race Blues). He played in England (1969) and Japan (1971), joined Budd Johnson’s Quartet in 1974, and recorded with Zoot Sims (The Innocent Years) in 1982.

Because of the demands on his time, patience (and skills) as an accompanist, and an innate modesty, Wyands rarely recorded with his own trio, and only made his first record – Then, Here And Now– for Storyville in 1978. Seventeen years later, he made perhaps his finest recording – Reunited – with Peter Washington (bass) and Kenny Washington (drums). On a varied programme of classic songs – Easy Living, How Long Has This Been Going On, Yesterdays and Alone Together, Wyands displays remarkable dexterity, a vivid imagination and an idiosyncratic and elegant style. Among his other studio sessions as leader were The Arrival(1982), Get Out Of Town (1996), Half And Half (1999), As Long As There’s Music (2000), and Lady Of The Lavender Mist (2002).

In a conversation with Ted Panken, reprinted in the liner notes for Half And Half, Kenny Washington offered an informed and succinct summary of Wyands’ style and personality: “He just knows what to do and when to do it. He is somebody like Hank Jones who just comes in, takes care of business and after a while you start saying ‘Man, this cat can really play’. But he’s a very quiet person, a very pleasant person. He just says what he has to say”. 

Whether as an ensemble player or leader, Richard Wyands made notable, but until recently, largely unacknowledged contributions to jazz. His posthumous reputation can only grow.

Pianist, arranger and composer Richard Wyands was born in Oakland, California on 22 July, 1928; he died in New York on 25 September.

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Jessye Norman, Regal American Soprano, Is Dead at 74 – The New York Times

Jessye Norman, Regal American Soprano, Is Dead at 74 – The New York Times


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https://www.nytimes.com/2019/09/30/obituaries/jessye-norman-dead.html
 

Jessye Norman, Regal American Soprano, Is Dead at 74

By Daniel J. Wakin and Michael Cooper

Published Sept. 30, 2019

A multiple Grammy Award winner, she was a towering figure on operatic, concert and recital stages.

Jessye Norman performing in 1991 at the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam.
Jessye Norman performing in 1991 at the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam.Frans Schellekens/Redferns, via Getty Images

Jessye Norman, the majestic American soprano who brought a sumptuous, shimmering voice to a broad range of roles at the Metropolitan Opera and houses around the world, died on Monday in New York. She was 74.

The cause was septic shock and multiple organ failure following complications of a spinal cord injury she suffered in 2015, according to a statement by her family.

Ms. Norman, who also found acclaim as a recitalist and on the concert stage, was one of the most decorated of American singers. She won five Grammy Awards, four for her recordings and one for lifetime achievement. She received the prestigious Kennedy Center Honor in 1997 and the National Medal of Arts in 2009.

In a career that began in the late 1960s, Ms. Norman sang the title role in Verdi’s “Aida,” Wagner’s heroines, characters in Janacek, Poulenc, Bartok and Strauss operas, and Cassandre in “Les Troyens” by Berlioz, in which she made her Met debut in 1983. She went on to sing more than 80 performances at the Met. Its general manager, Peter Gelb, on Monday called her “one of the greatest artists to ever sing on our stage.”

Ms. Norman in her debut at the Metropolitan Opera in 1983 in the role of Cassandre in “Les Troyens” by Berlioz.
Ms. Norman in her debut at the Metropolitan Opera in 1983 in the role of Cassandre in “Les Troyens” by Berlioz.Metropolitan Opera

A keen interpreter as well as a magnificent singer, Ms. Norman had a distinctly opulent tone that sounded effortless, never pushed. It was especially suited to Wagner and Strauss.

In a review of a 1992 recital, Edward Rothstein of The New York Times likened her voice to a “grand mansion of sound.”

“It defines an extraordinary space,” he wrote. “It has enormous dimensions, reaching backward and upward. It opens onto unexpected vistas. It contains sunlit rooms, narrow passageways, cavernous halls. Ms. Norman is the regal mistress of this domain, with a physical presence suited to her vocal expanse.”

[Read our critic’s appraisal of Ms. Norman’s career.]

As an African-American, she credited other great black singers with paving the way for her, naming Marian AndersonDorothy Maynor and Leontyne Price, among others, in a 1983 interview with The Times. 

“They have made it possible for me to say, ‘I will sing French opera,’” she said “or, ‘I will sing German opera,’ instead of being told, ‘You will sing “Porgy and Bess.” ’ Look, it’s unrealistic to pretend that racial prejudice doesn’t exist. It does! It’s one thing to have a set of laws, and quite another to change the hearts and minds of men. That takes longer. I do not consider my blackness a problem. I think it looks rather nice.”

Ms. Norman in 1989 at the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam.Frans Schellekens/Redferns, via Getty Images

A new production of “Porgy and Bess” is now playing at the Met; the house said it was dedicating Monday night’s performance to Ms. Norman.

In her memoir, “Stand Up Straight and Sing!” (2014), she recounted meeting instances of racism. “Racial barriers in our world are not gone, so why can we imagine that racial barriers in classical music and the opera world are gone?” she told The Times in 2014.

Ms. Norman was born into a musical family on Sept. 15, 1945, in Augusta, Ga., growing up there in a segregated but close-knit world. Her mother, Janie King Norman, was an amateur pianist; her father, Silas Norman Sr., was an insurance broker. Jessye especially enjoyed visiting her maternal grandparents, fascinated by one particular piece of furniture.

“My grandparents were the only people I ever knew who had one — a grand pedal organ, or more accurately, a harmonium — right there in their house,” she wrote in her memoir. “It lived over in the corner of the front room, and I remember thinking that it was the most exotic thing I had ever encountered in my entire life. As far as I can recall, we were never stopped from playing it, nor admonished for disturbing the adults.”

She began listening to opera on the radio as a child.

“I remember thinking that opera stories were not very different from other stories: a boy meets a girl, they fall in love, they cannot be together for some reason, and most of the time it does not end happily ever after,” she wrote. “For me, opera stories were grown-up versions of stories that were familiar to me already.”

She earned a bachelor’s degree in music from Howard University and studied at the University of Michigan and Peabody Institute. Her career received its first big boost when she won a first-place prize at the Munich International Music Competition in 1968. The next year, she made her debut on an opera stage at the Deutsche Oper Berlin in Wagner’s “Tannhäuser,” as Elisabeth. 

Ms. Norman acknowledged an ovation at Carnegie Hall in May 2008.Richard Termine for The New York Times

Appearances at the Teatro alla Scala in Milan, the Royal Opera House in London, and other major opera houses followed, and she quickly became one of the busiest opera divas on the scene, a fixture of galas and benefits. An accomplished recitalist, she made records of vocal works by Mahler, Debussy and Strauss.

She also ranged backward in time to the Baroque, displaying a remarkable command of a broad range of styles. She was famous for saying “pigeonholes are for pigeons.”

It was not until 1983 that she made a belated Met debut, opening the company’s centennial season singing the role of Cassandre in a starry revival of Berlioz’s “Les Troyens.” By all accounts she stole the show, winning over “Monday night’s audience and Tuesday morning’s critics,” as The Times reported in its account of her “triumph.”

She rose early the next day to appear on NBC’s “Today” show. “The only person in my family who couldn’t come on Monday was my mother, who is ill and at home in Georgia,’’ she said at the time. “‘I wanted to give her a look at me.”

Her imposing stage presence and large, voluptuous voice made her ideal for certain parts. When she sang the title character of Richard Strauss’s “Ariadne auf Naxos,” one of her defining roles, John Rockwell described her in The Times as “one of our most musicianly singers” and added: “She has just the right voice for this role: a smoothly knit-together soprano that reaches up from plummy contralto notes to a powerful fullness on top.”

In a sign of her international stature, Ms. Norman was tapped to sing “La Marseillaise” in Paris on the 200th anniversary of Bastille Day — which she did, in dramatic fashion, at the obelisk on the Place de la Concorde before an array of world leaders, wearing a grand tricolor gown designed by Azzedine Alaïa. She also sang at the second inaugurations of Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton.

She became a major recording artist at the dawn of the compact disc era, leaving a rich catalog of opera, lieder, spirituals and recitals. One of her most acclaimed recordings was a classic account of Strauss’s “Four Last Songs,”backed by Kurt Masur and the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra. “Her generous heart, dignified manner and noble voice seem ideally suited to Strauss’s valedictory utterances,” Gramophone wrote in its review.

In person she cut an imposing figure, dressing dramatically and speaking with a diva’s perfect diction. When she entered a room, heads turned. And even after she left the opera stage she remained a restless, probing artist — collaborating with the dancer, choreographer and director Bill T. Jones in 1999 on a piece called “How! Do! We! Do!’’ and later singing anarchic music by John Cage

She was socially engaged. In 2003, Ms. Norman and the Rachel Longstreet Foundation created the Jessye Norman School of the Arts, a free after-school arts program in her native Augusta for underserved students. In October, that city will rename a street Jessye Norman Boulevard in October; she had planned to attend the ceremony.

Among her final projects was “Sissieretta Jones: Call Her By Her Name!,” a tribute to Jones, who in 1893 became the first African-American woman to headline a concert on the main stage of Carnegie Hall — and who had bristled at her stage name, “the Black Patti,” which compared her to the white diva Adelina Patti.

“Thirty years out of slavery for African-Americans in this country, here she was on the stage of Carnegie Hall,” Ms. Norman said in an interview last year.

In her memoir, Ms. Norman recalled one of her own earliest stabs at singing opera in front of an audience. She was in junior high school when, at a teacher’s urging, she performed the aria “My Heart at Thy Sweet Voice” from Saint-Saëns’s “Samson and Delilah.” She had been singing it in English at church functions and supermarket openings, but for the school performance her teacher had her learn it in its original French.

“I do think that if you can stand up and sing in French in front of an assembly full of middle-schoolers,” Ms. Norman wrote, “then you can do just about anything.”

Neil Genzlinger contributed reporting.

Daniel J. Wakin is an editor on the Obituary News Desk. He has been a reporter and editor in the Culture and Metro departments and has reported from three dozen countries. He is the author of “The Man With the Sawed-Off Leg and Other Tales of a New York City Block” (Arcade, 2018). @danwakin

Michael Cooper covers classical music and dance. He was previously a national correspondent; a political reporter covering presidential campaigns; and a metro reporter covering the police, City Hall and Albany. @coopnytimes •Facebook

A version of this article appears in print on Oct. 1, 2019, Section B, Page 11 of the New York edition with the headline: Jessye Norman, Regal American Soprano and Met Opera Luminary, Dies at 74. Order Reprints | Today’s Paper | Subscribe

 

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Larry Willis, Resourceful Pianist at Home in Several Divergent Styles, Has Died at 76 | WBGO

Larry Willis, Resourceful Pianist at Home in Several Divergent Styles, Has Died at 76 | WBGO


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https://www.wbgo.org/post/larry-willis-resourceful-pianist-home-several-divergent-styles-has-died-76#stream/0
 

Larry Willis, Resourceful Pianist at Home in Several Divergent Styles, Has Died at 76

By  • 4 hours ago

 

Larry Willis, whose ringing authority as a pianist extended to swinging post-bop, blaring jazz-rock, Cuban rumba and free improvisation, died on Sunday morning at the Mercy Medical Center in Baltimore, Md. He was 76 and lived in Baltimore.

His death was confirmed by Pierre Sprey, the owner of Mapleshade Records, for which Willis had served as music director in the 1990s and 2000s. Sprey, a close friend, said Willis had been admitted to the hospital for severe pneumonia on Friday, before suffering a pulmonary aneuorysm. 

An unerringly tasteful and often understated pianist, Willis had a prolific career as a sideman over more than 50 years. He was a close associate of South African trumpeter Hugh Masekela, and the anointed piano surrogate in a sextet led by Carla Bley. Among many others who sought out his sterling support were saxophonists Cannonball Adderley, Joe Henderson, Jimmy Heath, Clifford Jordan and Stan Getz.

“He was the perfect sideman,” attests Sprey. “He had that natural bent for accompanying, which a few people have. It’s not because they’re selfless; they just take pride in making other people play better than they would otherwise.”

Willis served stints in a several prominent bands, each highlighting a different facet of his musical persona. He was a member of Blood, Sweat & Tears for most of the 1970s, making his debut on the aptly named album New Blood. From 1988 through the mid-‘90s, he played pacesetting Latin jazz with Jerry González and the Fort Apache Band. And from the late-1990s well into the aughts, he embodied the avuncular elder in an impeccable Roy Hargrove Quintet.  

But to hail Willis as the ultimate team player, much as he was, runs the risk of slighting his achievements as a composer and bandleader. His own discography runs from the fiery jazz-funk of Inner Crisis (1973) to well over a dozen hard-bop sessions like Blue Fable (2007). He released a smart run of albums on Mapleshade, including Sanctuary (2003), an ambitious jazz-gospel project, and Exposé (2008), one in a series of freeform duo explorations with drummer Paul F. Murphy.

Willis’ book of originals includes a few that approach the threshold of new standards, at least for musicians who value post-bop literacy — songs like “To Wisdom, the Prize,” memorably recorded by Hargrove, and “Isabel the Liberator,” favored by trumpeter Woody Shaw.

A mournfully elegant Willis ballad titled “Ethiopia” was a staple of his tenure in Hargrove’s band, and he recorded it a few times himself. The most recent version appears on a 2008 HighNote album titled The Offering, with Eric Alexander on tenor saxophone, Eddie Gomez on bass and Billy Drummond on drums.

 

 

Lawrence Elliott Willis was born the youngest of three brothers in New York City on Dec. 20, 1942. He grew up in Harlem, shooting hoops with friends including Lew Alcindor, soon to be known as all-time basketball great Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. (They remained close over the years; Willis played Abdul-Jabbar’s 70th birthday party at Dizzy’s Club in 2017.)

Willis had a piano in the house throughout his childhood, though he barely touched it; one of his older brothers, Victor, was a classical virtuoso, so it may have been a matter of territorial pride. The youngest Willis aspired instead to be a classical singer, pursuing that major at the High School of Music & Art.

It was there that he met his first jazz peers, like Gomez and trumpeter Jimmy Owens. At around the same time, he fell in love with the Miles Davis album Kind of Blue, initiating what would be a lifelong infatuation with pianist Wynton Kelly. Following his instincts, Willis ditched his vocal studies for the piano, at the top of his senior year. It was a late start, and he was self-taught — but he made such brilliant progress that he received a scholarship to the Manhattan School of Music.

Willis met Masekela during their overlapping time in the conservatory. In fact, it was at Masekela’s urging that he took his first and only lessons, with a seasoned pianist and serious pedagogue named John Mehegan.

As a measure of how advanced Willis was by then, consider his first record date, with alto saxophonist Jackie McLean. He was 19 when he played on the album, a Blue Note release titled Right Now! — and he contributed two of its four compositions. One of these, “Poor Eric,” is a ballad for multi-reedist Eric Dolphy, who had died the previous year at only 36. The song is poetically terse, with a plaintive beauty that comes across even without that tragic context.

 

 

Willis — who is survived by a nephew, Elliott Willis, and a cousin, Trish Cooper — faced a life-disrupting challenge in 2007, when a fire consumed his home and most of his possessions in Upper Marlboro, Md. With assistance from Catholic Charities and the Jazz Foundation of America, he relocated to Baltimore; a benefit to offset his expenses featured admiring pianists like Randy Weston and Geri Allen.

In recent years, Willis embraced his own role as a jazz elder. He made two albums for Smoke Sessions Records with a supergroup called Heads of State, featuring longtime associates: saxophonist Gary Bartz, drummer Al Foster, and either Buster Williams or David Williams (no relation) on bass.

“There was something very unique about the way he played,” says producer Todd Barkan, whose club, Keystone Korner Baltimore, presented Willis in his final engagement. That gig, on July 31 and Aug. 1, featured bassist Blake Meister and drummer Victor Lewis. Both musicians later joined Willis in the studio, along with saxophonist Joe Ford and trumpeter Jeremy Pelt, to record what will now be his final album, a posthumous release on HighNote.

Though Willis approached music with utmost seriousness, he was unhindered by pretensions or preconceptions. “My piano teacher always used to impress upon me the need to approach music from an eclectic mindset,” he told Marian McPartland in 2007, for an episode of Piano Jazz.

The callback to John Mehegan went further: “He gave me some very, very good advice that I keep in my forefront,” Willis recalled. “He said, ‘Larry, the piano is the most complicated piece of machinery man ever invented. And I asked him why, and he said: ‘Well, for starters: every time you sit down at this instrument, the odds are always 88 to 10, and they don’t get any better.”

Jim Eigo Jazz Promo Services T: 845-986-1677 E-Mail: jim@jazzpromoservices.com
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Review: ‘jazz singer’ Looks to Complicate a Film’s Fraught History – The New York Times

Review: ‘jazz singer’ Looks to Complicate a Film’s Fraught History – The New York Times


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https://www.nytimes.com/2019/09/29/theater/jazz-singer-review.html
 

Review: ‘jazz singer’ Looks to Complicate a Film’s Fraught History

By Elisabeth Vincentelli

Sept. 29, 2019

A director and a composer play versions of themselves in a fascinating but frustrating reconsideration of a movie infamous for its use of blackface. 

From left, Nehemiah Luckett, Cristina Pitter, Joshua William Gelb and Stanley Mathabane in the multimedia show “jazz singer” at Abrons Arts Center.
From left, Nehemiah Luckett, Cristina Pitter, Joshua William Gelb and Stanley Mathabane in the multimedia show “jazz singer” at Abrons Arts Center.Ian Douglas
Jazz Singer
Off Off Broadway, Experimental/Perf. Art, Play
1 hr. and 40 min.
Closing Date: Oct. 12, 2019
Henry Street Settlement – Abrons Arts Center, 466 Grand St.
866-811-4111

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Few films are as culturally significant as “The Jazz Singer.” Starring Al Jolson and released in 1927, it was the first feature-length “talkie.”

History made!

Yet Alan Crosland’s picture is now mostly remembered, and discredited, for a scene in which Jolson performs his signature song, “My Mammy,” in blackface — a form of entertainment that has long stopped being acceptable.

Like much art, though, “The Jazz Singer,” based on Samson Raphaelson’s 1925 play, is not easy to entirely dismiss. It is a fascinating, complicated text dealing with assimilation and community, transgression and forgiveness, tradition and innovation. It’s that fraught terrain that the director Joshua William Gelb and the composer/music director Nehemiah Luckett are surveying in their jazz singer,”a new multimedia show at Abrons Arts Center.

In the first part, Mr. Gelb, Mr. Luckett, the performer Cristina Pitter and the onstage co-sound designer Stanley Mathabane play themselves, or at least versions of themselves; Ms. Pitter also appears as a composite character named Tracey.

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They are all working on what they call an “interrogation” of “The Jazz Singer,” and it’s not smooth sailing as they scrutinize the movie, issues of representation and artistic responsibility, and their evolving attitudes toward one another. 

Mr. Luckett, who is black, calmly says, “You’ve seen me perform. Why would you think I’m a jazz musician?” after Mr. Gelb blithely identifies him as such.

The original story involves the refusal of Jolson’s Jewish character, Jakie Rabinowitz, to become a cantor like his father; instead he achieves Broadway fame by performing “jazz” (actually more like Tin Pan Alley tunes) under the name Jack Robin. The performance of identity is at the heart of “The Jazz Singer,” and it is on everybody’s mind here.

Navigating the blackface segment raises yet more issues, and we see a short clip of Jolson coating his face and neck in greasepaint — except the image is safely cropped in such a way that you can’t quite tell what’s going on. (Having seen the film is not strictly required, but it does help.)

The first part of the show is fascinating, if self-indulgent, as we watch creators attempt to negotiate thorny material in the highly sensitized environment that is art-making in 2019. (Mr. Gelb enjoys recontextualizing historically notable art works. In 2016, he tackled “The Black Crook,” which is considered the first modern stage musical.)

The proceedings are not nearly as compelling in the messy second part, when the show moves into the retelling of the film. “Jazz Singer” meanders erratically as it tries to do too much at once: retrace the plot, superimpose a meta-commentary over the action, correct historical wrongs, insert the jazz that’s missing from the movie. (There is a different musical guest every night; on Thursday, it was the cornet player Linton Smith II, of “Playing Hot”).

At one point Ms. Pitter — an Off Off Broadway staple who brightens every show she’s in — sings a tribute to the black actress Carolynne Snowden, triggered by the fact that the one black woman in the 1927 film does not get a line and is not even fully seen. I was reminded of DJ Spooky’s “Rebirth of a Nation,” an audio and visual remix of D.W. Griffith’s racist magnum opus “The Birth of a Nation,” as well as of Lynn Nottage’s intricately plotted deconstruction of Hollywood’s racial fabrications, “By the Way, Meet Vera Stark.

Here, though, it feels as if the creative team was paralyzed rather than stimulated by their ambivalence and took refuge in a kind of florid obfuscation. Trying to cover all the bases and all the sensibilities, they ended up with a cautious show — and that doesn’t seem very jazz at all.

jazz singer 
Through Oct. 12 at Abrons Arts Center, Manhattan; 866-811-4111, abronsartscenter.org. Running time: 1 hour 40 minutes.

 

Jazz Singer

 

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Henry Street Settlement – Abrons Arts Center
466 Grand St.
Lower E. Side

 

866-811-4111
abronsartscenter.org

 

Category
Off Off Broadway, Experimental/Perf. Art, Play

 

 

Runtime
1 hr. and 40 min.

 

 

Credits
Conceived by Joshua William Gelb and Nehemiah Luckett; Music by Nehemiah Luckett; Directed by Joshua William Gelb

 

 

Cast
Joshua William Gelb, Nehemiah Luckett, Cristina Pitter and Stanley Mathabane

 

 

Preview
Sept. 24, 2019

 

 

Opened
Sept. 29, 2019

 

 

Closing
Oct. 12, 2019

 

Upcoming Shows
Wednesday October 2 8:00 pm
Thursday October 3 8:00 pm
Friday October 4 8:00 pm
Saturday October 5 8:00 pm
Sunday October 6 2:00 pm

This information was last updated on Sept. 30, 2019

A version of this article appears in print on Sept. 30, 2019, Section C, Page 2of the New York edition with the headline: For a 1927 Al Jolson Film, an Interrogation. Order Reprints | Today’s Paper | Subscribe

 

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Where We Live: Carl Henniger’s jazz photos | KOIN.com

Where We Live: Carl Henniger’s jazz photos | KOIN.com


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https://www.koin.com/entertainment-news/where-we-live-carl-hennigers-jazz-photos/
 

Where We Live: Carl Henniger’s jazz photos

Aug 6, 2019 / 07:08 AM PDT

Entertainment

Hundreds of photos of iconic jazz artists have been hidden away until now

Posted: Aug 5, 2019 / 01:00 PM PDT / Updated: 

 

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Portland’s reputation as a great jazz town goes back decades. The world’s top jazz musicians played Portland regularly in the 1940s and 50s. 

From Louis Armstrong to Ella Fitzgerald, Count Basie to Duke Ellington.

Dizzy Gillespie in Portland. (Courtesy of Carl Henniger estate)

Oregon photographer Carl Henniger captured incredible images of those performers — but most have never been seen by the public, until now.

The former military pilot worked in advertising sales for the Oregonian after World War II. He studied photography at Oregon State University, worked on the yearbook and eventually became a stringer for Downbeat Magazine.

“So what he was doing was he’d go out and take pictures of concerts,” Carl’s son, Michael Henniger said. 

Henniger took 385 photos, capturing legends like Charlie Parker with Chet Baker, Dinah Washington, Ray Brown and Dizzy Gillespie. 

“Portland was very highly regarded as a venue for musicians playing the West Coast,” Michael Henniger said. “In fact, Duke Ellington liked it so much he had his birthday here — twice.” 

They all played Portland, in clubs mostly along North Williams Avenue in Portland’s Albina District. They called it Jumptown.

Duke Ellington at McElroy’s in 1954. (Courtesy of Carl Henniger estate)

The jazz scene was as vibrant as any in America until Memorial Coliseum and I-5 wiped Jumptown away.

“It wasn’t rock and roll that killed jazz,” Michael said. “It was urban renewal, in my opinion.”

Carl Henniger’s photos

  • Charlie Parker in Portland. (Courtesy of Carl Henniger estate)
  • Stan Kenton with June Christy in Portland. (Courtesy of Carl Henniger estate)
  • Oscar Peterson with Ray Brown on bass. (Courtesy of Carl Henniger estate)
  • Charlie Ventura in Portland. (Courtesy of Carl Henniger estate)
  • Dizzy Gillespie in Portland. (Courtesy of Carl Henniger estate)
  • Dizzy Gillespie in Portland. (Courtesy of Carl Henniger estate)
  • Duke Ellington at McElroy’s in 1954. (Courtesy of Carl Henniger estate)
  • Errol Garner in Portland. (Courtesy of Carl Henniger estate)
  • George Shearling in Portland. (Courtesy of Carl Henniger estate)
  • Charlie Parker in Portland. (Courtesy of Carl Henniger estate)
  • Stan Kenton with June Christy in Portland. (Courtesy of Carl Henniger estate)

Henniger took jazz photos for a couple of years — long enough to make the money to move his family from St. Johns to Beaverton. 

His legacy was almost lost.

“They’ve been in a drawer for literally 60 years,” Michael said. 

Now he’s determined to share his father’s work.

“The reason I want people to see them is not only because the people are famous, but because they’re such good photographs,” he said.

Michael got a grant from the Regional Arts and Culture Council to exhibit the photos. Thirty selected photos will be featured in the atrium at Portland City Hall for 3 weeks starting September 13, then the collection will go into the archives at Oregon State University.

Jim Eigo Jazz Promo Services T: 845-986-1677 E-Mail: jim@jazzpromoservices.com
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Happy Rosh Hashanah L’Shanah Tovah

Happy Rosh Hashanah L’Shanah Tovah


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To All My Jewish Friends and Colleagues Wishing You Health-Happiness and Many Belly Laughs for The New Year

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THE COMIC GENIUS OF MICKEY KATZ

https://www.cantors.org/the-comic-genius-of-mickey-katz/

 

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Overlooked No More: Robert Johnson, Bluesman Whose Life Was a Riddle – The New York Times

Overlooked No More: Robert Johnson, Bluesman Whose Life Was a Riddle – The New York Times


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https://www.nytimes.com/2019/09/25/obituaries/robert-johnson-overlooked.html?te=1
 

Overlooked No More: Robert Johnson, Bluesman Whose Life Was a Riddle

By Reggie Ugwu

Sept. 25, 2019

Johnson gained little notice in his life, but his songs — quoted by the Rolling Stones, Eric Clapton and Led Zeppelin — helped ignite rock ‘n’ roll.

A photo booth portrait of the blues musician Robert Johnson. It was taken around 1930 and is one of two confirmed photographs of him.
A photo booth portrait of the blues musician Robert Johnson. It was taken around 1930 and is one of two confirmed photographs of him.© 1986 Delta Haze Corporation. All Rights Reserved. Used by Permission.

Overlooked is a series of obituaries about remarkable people whose deaths, beginning in 1851, went unreported in The Times.

Little about the life Robert Leroy Johnson lived in his brief 27 years, from approximately May 1911 until he died mysteriously in 1938, was documented. A birth certificate, if he had one, has never been found.

What is known can be summarized on a postcard: He is thought to have been born out of wedlock in May 1911 in Mississippi and raised there. School and census records indicated he lived for stretches in Tennessee and Arkansas. He took up guitar at a young age and became a traveling musician, eventually glimpsing the bustle of New York City. But he died in Mississippi, with just over two dozen little-noticed recorded songs to his name.

And yet, in the late 20th century, the advent of rock ’n’ roll would turn Johnson into a figure of legend. Decades after his death, he became one of the most famous guitarists who had ever lived, hailed as a lost prophet who, the dubious story goes, sold his soul to the devil and epitomized Mississippi Delta blues in the bargain.

In the late 1960s, the Rolling StonesEric Clapton and Led Zeppelin covered or adapted Johnson’s songs in tribute. Bob Dylan, who, in the memoir “Chronicles: Volume One,” attributed “hundreds of lines” of his songwriting to Johnson’s influence, included a Johnson album as one of the items on the cover of “Bringing It All Back Home.”

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In the 1990s, a lightning-in-a-bottle compilation of Johnson’s music — “The Complete Recordings,” released by Columbia Records in 1991 — revived interest in the blues for yet another generation, selling more than two million copies and winning a Grammy for best historical album. In 1994, a United States postage stamp in Johnson’s likeness memorialized him as a national hero.

The chasm between the man Johnson was and the myth he became — between mortal reach and posthumous grip — has marooned historians and conscientious listeners for more than a half-century. It would have made fertile terrain for one of Johnson’s own songs, many of which frankly and masterfully tilled the everyday hopelessness and implausibility of segregated African-American life.

Indeed, his story is no more or less than the handiwork of the country in which it was written; a country where the legacy of African-Americans has often been shaped by others.

“The Complete Recordings,” released by Columbia Records in 1991, sold more than two million copies and won a Grammy for best historical album.
“The Complete Recordings,” released by Columbia Records in 1991, sold more than two million copies and won a Grammy for best historical album.Columbia Records

Johnson was born in Hazlehurst, Miss., in the wake of the Redemption era, a period following Reconstruction when white supremacists across the South reversed many of the freedoms and rights granted blacks after the Civil War.

His mother was Julia Major Dodds, the daughter of slaves, who had 10 children with her husband, Charles Dodds, before conceiving another with a field hand named Noah Johnson.

When Robert was around 7, his mother married another man, and he moved with her to Robinsonville, Miss. It was there, in the town’s popular juke joints — segregated stores or private houses that doubled, after hours, as recreational places — that his now legendary music career began.

As recounted in Barry Lee Pearson and Bill McCulloch’s biography, “Robert Johnson: Lost and Found” (2003), Johnson, perhaps as a teenager, attended juke joint performances by the early Delta blues pioneer Son House. The young musician had trained on a diddley bow — one or more strings nailed taut to the side of a barn — and wasn’t much of a guitar player. But a surplus of ambition outweighed his lack of skill.

In a 1965 interview with the writer and academic Julius Lester, cited by Pearson and McCulloch, House recalled Johnson’s habit of commandeering the stage during intermissions in order to play songs of his own. Chastened by House — and the howls of his audience — Johnson reportedly left town. But he returned six months later eager to perform again, this time asking for House’s permission.

“He was so good!” House said of the new and improved playing style Johnson exhibited on the night of his re-emergence. “When he finished all our mouths were standing open. I said, ‘Well, ain’t that fast! He’s gone now!’ ”

Variations on House’s story — a mysterious sojourn, sudden virtuosity — are the source of the myth that Johnson, like Faust, sold his soul in exchange for his genius.

But friends of Johnson have given conflicting testimonies as to whether the singer himself ever endorsed the tale. And the two of his songs most often associated with the story, “Cross Road Blues” and “Hell Hound on My Trail,” make no mention of an unholy encounter. Historians now suggest that Johnson’s real benefactor may have been a guitarist in the Hazlehurst area named Ike Zinnerman (sometimes spelled Zimmerman).

As Johnson’s music began to find an audience in the years after his death, however, critics — many of them white and mystified by black culture in the South — leaned into the legend.

As the music historian Elijah Wald wrote in “Escaping the Delta: Robert Johnson and the Invention of the Blues” (2004): “As white urbanites discovered the ‘race records’ of the 1920s and ’30s, they reshaped the music to fit their own tastes and desires, creating a rich mythology that often bears little resemblance to the reality of the musicians they admired.”

What is true is that the guitar playing on Johnson’s recordings was unusually complex for its time. Most early Delta blues musicians played simple guitar figures that harmonized with their voices. But Johnson, imitating the boogie-woogie style of piano playing, used his guitar to play rhythm, bass and slide simultaneously, all while singing.

Another innovation associated with Johnson, as noted by the critic Tony Scherman in 2009 in The New York Times, is the walking bass. Appearing on the Johnson songs “Ramblin’ on My Mind” and “I Believe I’ll Dust My Broom,” the walking bass — a low, ambling rhythm that evokes a swaggering strut — became a building block of both Chicago blues and rock ’n’ roll in the hands of the Johnson apostles Muddy Waters and Elmore James.

Like many bluesmen who lived in the shadow of Jim Crow, Johnson was a wanderer for most of his adult life and performed in juke joints — often traveling with his fellow blues artist Johnny Shines — as far as New York City. He married twice — first to Virginia Travis, who died while giving birth to their child, who also died; then to Caletta Craft. In 2000, a court ruled that Claud Johnson, the child of a girlfriend of Johnson’s named Virgie Jane Smith, was legally his son.

What survives of Johnson’s short career is based on his only two recording sessions, arranged by the American Record Company executive Don Law in 1936 and 1937 in Texas. One song from the first session, the vibrant “Terraplane Blues,” sold a respectable 5,000 copies, giving the singer the only real taste of fame he would know in his life.

Another record executive, John Hammond of Columbia Records, championed Johnson’s music decades after his death. Hammond, who launched the recording careers of Billie Holiday, Aretha Franklin, Bob Dylan and Bruce Springsteen, issued a posthumous album in 1961, “King of the Delta Blues Singers,” which compiled most of the American Record Company recordings.

The album captivated a fledgling generation of musicians at the dawn of rock’s golden age. As Eric Clapton wrote in 2007 in “Clapton: The Autobiography,” describing his first encounter with “King of the Delta Blues,” “I realized that, on some level, I had found the master.”

The story of how Johnson died, like so many facts of his life, is contested.

A death certificate recovered by the researcher Gayle Dean Wardlow showed that he died on Aug. 16, 1938, at a plantation near Greenwood, Miss. The cause was complications of syphilis, according to a note on the back of the certificate that was attributed to the plantation’s owner.

But David Honeyboy Edwards, a contemporary of Johnson’s who is believed to have performed with him just days before his death, said that Johnson had been poisoned, and that he was probably targeted by the vengeful husband of one of his mistresses.

The location of Johnson’s grave has never been confirmed. Headstones at three different churches in the Greenwood area claim to mark his resting place — the final riddle of a man whose brief, turbulent life became a cipher nearly as sensational as his songs.

Correction: Sept. 26, 2019

An earlier version of this obituary misstated the title of the posthumous album that the record executive John Hammond issued in 1961. It is “King of the Delta Blues Singers,” not “King of the Delta Blues.”

 

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John Coltrane Took a Detour in 1964. Now It’s a New Album. – The New York Times

John Coltrane Took a Detour in 1964. Now It’s a New Album. – The New York Times


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https://www.nytimes.com/2019/09/25/arts/music/john-coltrane-blue-world-review.html?te=1
 

John Coltrane Took a Detour in 1964. Now It’s a New Album.

By Giovanni Russonello

Sept. 25, 2019

“Blue World,” culled from the sessions the saxophonist led for a film soundtrack, is a moment of looking back before he pushed even further ahead.

In 1964, John Coltrane was approached by Gilles Groulx, a Canadian filmmaker, about recording the soundtrack to a film.
In 1964, John Coltrane was approached by Gilles Groulx, a Canadian filmmaker, about recording the soundtrack to a film.Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

John Coltrane’s creative flame was burning at its brightest in 1964. The saxophonist had recently let go of his fixation on complex, layered harmonies, and he would soon pioneer a dry, squalling approach to group improvisation — nearly abandoning Western harmony altogether, and changing the course of jazz history.

Amid the transition, that year he recorded what would be his two most potent albums, “Crescent” and “A Love Supreme.” These works thrive at the crossroads: They are in touch with the driving, cohesive sound that his so-called classic quartet had established, but push into a blazing beyond.

Yet history is not this simple. Even for Coltrane — a symbol of tireless creative momentum, who is said to have never stopped hurtling forward — detours came up.

That spring, Coltrane was approached by Gilles Groulx, a young Canadian filmmaker at work on his first feature, “Le Chat dans le Sac.” Groulx asked his musical hero to record the film’s soundtrack, and to his surprise, Coltrane said yes.

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Between the springtime recording dates for “Crescent” and the “Love Supreme” sessions in late fall, Coltrane’s quartet — the pianist McCoy Tyner, the bassist Jimmy Garrison and the drummer Elvin Jones — found an afternoon to record four originals from his back catalog and one jazz standard, the Harold Arlen and Johnny Mercer ballad “Out of This World.” (Coltrane retitled it as “Blue World”, most likely out of copyright concerns.) 

“Blue World” is taken from a 1964 session for a film soundtrack.
“Blue World” is taken from a 1964 session for a film soundtrack.

Groulx inserted three tracks into “Le Chat dans le Sac,” which won the Grand Prix at the Montreal International Film Festival that year and remains a cult favorite, but the session tapes quickly fell into history’s dustbin.

When they came to light recently, Impulse! Records — still catching its breath from the success of last year’s “Both Directions at Once,” a revelatory “lost” Coltrane album from 1963 that has sold the equivalent of over a quarter of a million copies worldwide, according to the label — decided to compile the tracks into an album. It will be released on Friday as “Blue World.”

Calling this a full-on LP is a stretch: Without the two alternate takes of “Village Blues” and one of “Naima,” it would feature just five tracks, clocking in at roughly 25 minutes. (Alternates included, it runs 37 minutes.) And what do we want with a detour, when the creative seeking that Coltrane was doing in these years felt so rich and so pure?

Well, there’s something alluring about this odd little gift of a session, which for Coltrane must have landed somewhere between “just a gig” and “just a favor.” Supporting someone else’s low-budget film, obligingly revisiting items at Groulx’s request that he no longer even played live, the saxophonist sounds as if he was carrying a generous spirit and a relatively easy air into the studio that day.

That isn’t to say the group’s sound is not dark and deep, just as it was on “Crescent,” which the quartet had finished recording only weeks before. In the late 1950s Coltrane defined a swirling, “sheets of sound” approach, and when he did hold long notes he played them in a beaming, silvery tone. By 1964 that had all changed; he was using fewer notes, and each one took up more space, stating its case with subtlety but commanding greater attention.

Even on the relatively brief pieces here — particularly “Like Sonny” and the three versions of “Village Blues” — the quartet doesn’t hurry, and Coltrane plays beautifully carved lines over Jones’s sturdy, polyrhythmic strut. As on “Crescent,” Coltrane’s solos are defined by the weight and steady vision of his playing, as much as by the phrases themselves: a variety of long tones, pendulum-swinging repetitions and zigzagging runs.

Garrison’s bass is turned up rather high, giving the entire session a pulpy, magnetic aura. And the band is having fun. On the two versions of “Naima” — especially Take 1 — Mr. Tyner savors the piece’s strangely colorful harmonies, dancing and skipping in the buoyant style he often brought to ballads (and which he used in live renditions of this tune, the only one on “Blue World” that was still in the quartet’s stage repertoire). It is not as haunting a performance as the original, but it conveys how renewable this piece had become for Coltrane. Written for a soon-to-be ex-wife, it was no longer just a love song; “Naima” lived on as a prayer, and perhaps an issuance of gratitude for a partner who had done so much to help shape and support his creativity.

Like the rest of “Blue World,” these takes on “Naima” might first seem like a light-touch aberration from the work Coltrane was doing in that consequential year. But these performances are, in fact, deeply entrenched in Coltrane’s moment: He’s issuing a warm valediction to his old catalog, full of his characteristic seriousness and serenity, before charging even further ahead.

John Coltrane
“Blue World”
(Impulse!)

The Coltranes

John and Alice stretched the definitions of rhythm and harmony.

A version of this article appears in print on Sept. 26, 2019, Section C, Page 2of the New York edition with the headline: Coltrane Took a Detour in 1964. Now It’s a New Album.. Order Reprints | Today’s Paper | Subscribe

 

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Jason Moran’s Jazz Journey at the Whitney Upends Space and Time – The New York Times

Jason Moran’s Jazz Journey at the Whitney Upends Space and Time – The New York Times


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https://www.nytimes.com/2019/09/26/arts/design/jason-moran-whitney-museum.html
 

Jason Moran’s Jazz Journey at the Whitney Upends Space and Time

By Giovanni Russonello

Updated Sept. 27, 2019, 12:19 a.m. ET

The pianist and conceptual artist engages with the physical history of jazz in collaborations with Kara Walker, Joan Jonas and other art world figures.

Jason Moran performing with his trio, the Bandwagon, at the Whitney Museum of American Art. Performance is as much a part of his exhibition as his sculptures and drawings.
Jason Moran performing with his trio, the Bandwagon, at the Whitney Museum of American Art. Performance is as much a part of his exhibition as his sculptures and drawings.Sasha Arutyunova for The New York Times

At the Whitney Museum of American Art last week, Jason Moran and his Bandwagon trio had been playing for about 10 minutes inside a replica of the stage at the Three Deuces, a bebop club from 1940s New York, when he suddenly got up from the piano and snaked through the crowd assembled inside the museum’s eighth-floor gallery.

While the drummer Nasheet Waits soloed back at the Three Deuces, Mr. Moran and the bassist Tarus Mateen strode onto a different set, this one recreating the downtown ’60s haunt Slugs’ Saloon. Mr. Waits joined them there and the trio got moving again, from jagged-edged 21st-century blues to reworkings of Thelonious Monk. 

In the rollick and riot of the group’s performance, and the curious engagement of the riled-up crowd, these two stages came to life, just as the original clubs once had.

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The performance christened a new exhibition, “Jason Moran,” the first museum survey devoted to this MacArthur-winning pianist and conceptualist. (The show opened last year at the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis, and traveled to two other cities before arriving at the Whitney. It will be up through Jan. 5.) It is an undeniable — if unsurprising — milestone in the career of an artist who has always insisted on moving laterally between artistic practices, and up the art world’s ladder.

Three replicas of stages, including the one at Slugs’ Saloon, above, dominate the exhibition’s main gallery. Large screens show videos and stills from Mr. Moran’s collaborations.
Three replicas of stages, including the one at Slugs’ Saloon, above, dominate the exhibition’s main gallery. Large screens show videos and stills from Mr. Moran’s collaborations.Sasha Arutyunova for The New York Times

The Whitney show comprises works made with leading art world figures like Julie Mehretu, Carrie Mae Weems, Stan Douglas, Kara Walker and Glenn Ligon. “I was wondering: ‘Why are all these incredible artists linked to this one person?’” Adrienne Edwards, curator of performance at the Whitney and the exhibition’s chief creative architect, said in an interview. “He’s the common denominator, so I became interested in why.”

Mr. Moran and Ms. Edwards intend the exhibition as not just a welcoming of Mr. Moran’s creative conclave, but also as its own, living space. “It’s a solo show — ‘Jason Moran’ — but it’s also a group show,” Ms. Edwards said. “It was about how to keep all these things in the air and floating, as equal parts, in an exhibition format.”

Typically seeing a museum show might involve walking through a number of galleries, but in this one your relationship to space and time is turned sideways. The exhibition’s physical contents are mostly centered in one large room, yet because so many are music- and video-based, you spend a lot of time stationary, letting things play out, as if you were at a performance. And there will indeed be more performances. The stages here will be reactivated most weekends this fall by concerts from jazz groups selected by Mr. Moran. On Oct. 12, he will perform outside the museum on a giant, earsplitting calliope built by the visual artist Kara Walker, meant to evoke the horrors of slavery in the South, and on which Mr. Moran will play songs from the African-American canon. 

The main gallery is dominated by the stage sculptures — three in all — which Mr. Moran created with help from fabricators. They are large-scale dioramas of the rooms that once existed at Slugs’ Saloon in the East Village, the Three Deuces in Midtown and the Savoy Ballroom in Harlem. On the gallery’s navy-gray walls, three large screens show videos and stills from Mr. Moran’s collaborations. The visuals run without repeating for over two hours, and include footage of him working with Joan Jonas, Theaster Gates and others; video pieces he made with Ms. Walker, Ms. Weems and Lorna Simpson; and photos from his collaborations with others, accompanied by Mr. Moran’s piano playing, which wafts up spectrally from the Three Deuces’ baby grand (it has player-piano capabilities, so the keys are actually playing themselves).


A large-scale diorama reimagines a room at the Savoy Ballroom in Harlem.Sasha Arutyunova for The New York Times

Details from the exhibition (and a recent concert), which will feature weekly performances.Sasha Arutyunova for The New York Times

A small side theater shows Mr. Douglas’s six-hour-long music video, “Luanda Kinshasa,” a period-specific rendering of a 1970s recording session (suggesting a conversation with the intense nostalgia of Mr. Moran’s stages).

The foyer outside the gallery is lined with 10 works on paper, which Mr. Moran made by covering his keyboard with sheets, dipping his fingers in charcoal, and playing. The drawings operate as a kind of kinetic residue of performance, or an alternate notation system. (They have equal roots in the history of nonstandard musical notation, dating back at least to the jazz avant-garde of the 1960s, and in David Hammons’s basketball drawings.)

From his adolescent years, Mr. Moran felt a resonance between music and other forms of art. But as a student at Manhattan School of Music, he found that jazz’s history was largely passed down in the form of exercises and sheet music.

To escape those limitations he sought out painters and other artists, placing them at the center of his process in the way that early jazz musicians had dancers. “I had to see what somebody else thought about the music — not a jazz musician,” he said over coffee recently, in a restaurant near the Whitney.

But it wasn’t until he worked with Ms. Jonas, an art-world eminence, in the mid-2000s that he began to see himself as a conceptual artist. Ms. Jonas makes performance art that leans into questions of physical space and the limits of archival media. Mr. Moran was inspired to bring some of her methods into his own practice.

And Mr. Moran’s influence flowed back to her as well. In their performance she felt inspired to participate in the music-making process for the first time. “Jason, in a way, allowed me to become a musician, to become a percussionist,” Ms. Jonas said in a phone interview. “He’s a very generous collaborator.”

And thanks to her, Mr. Moran saw that a conceptual approach could lead him into an encounter with jazz’s physical history: the spaces and bodies that made its greatest moments possible. This, in effect, could become a way of celebrating the entire culture that the music sprang from — but which often finds itself erased in history, especially as the music rises into the academy.


Works by Jason Moran, from left, “Run 2” (2016), “Run 6” (2016), “Strutter’s Ball” (2016) and “Blue (Creed) Gravity 1” (2018). The first three are works of charcoal on paper; the last piece is made from dry pigment on paper.Sasha Arutyunova for The New York Times

“When I think about all that has happened in those clubs, in those venues, with those audiences, with all the ephemera that is left behind — that tells a fuller picture of what the music is,” Mr. Moran said, pondering his stage sculptures. “That’s without the sound.” At the show, each stage replica is juxtaposed with a small display of photographs, souvenir cards and other objects from the old clubs themselves. Mr. Moran acquired these items, mostly on eBay.

The big precursor to “Jason Moran” was “Bleed,” the weeklong residency that Mr. Moran and the operatic vocalist Alicia Hall Moran — his wife, and his first and most consistent collaborator — presented at the 2012 Whitney Biennial. Just like their recent stage production, “Two Wings: The Music of Black America in Migration,” which debuted this year at Carnegie Hall, “Bleed” too was a convocation of friends and collaborators, its form dictated by their intersections.

It worked as a subtle suggestion that the Whitney might someday become a rich home for performances. And it showed that as black visual artists steadily rise in the contemporary pantheon, more room will have to be made for their counterparts in music and performance, since the art of the African diaspora has always been, by its very essence, interdisciplinary. 

The museum has presented jazz and classical concerts since the 1960s, but it has never championed performance on the same level as visual art. Picking up on what “Bleed” put down, thinking and working together, Mr. Moran and Ms. Edwards have made that seem possible.


Jason Moran

Through Jan. 5 at the Whitney Museum of American Art, 99 Gansevoort Street, Manhattan; 212-570-3600, whitney.org

Performance highlights include the saxophonist Archie Shepp on Sept. 25-26; the vocalist Fay Victor on Oct. 18-19; the Onyx Collective on Nov. 1-2; the bassist Cecil McBee on Nov. 15-16; and the Tiger Trio on Jan. 3-4. Kara Walker’s “Katastwóf Karavan” calliope will be on display outside the museum on Oct. 12, and Mr. Moran will perform on the calliope at 6 p.m.

A Closer Look at ‘Katastwóf Karavan’

 

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How a Newspaper Article Saved Thousands of Black Gospel Records From Obscurity – Atlas Obscura

How a Newspaper Article Saved Thousands of Black Gospel Records From Obscurity – Atlas Obscura


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https://www.atlasobscura.com/articles/archive-saved-black-gospel-golden-age
 

How a Newspaper Article Saved Thousands of Black Gospel Records From Obscurity

A professor in Texas collects and digitizes rare recordings from across the country.

Santi Elijah HolleySeptember 24, 2019
The Soul Stirrers, Sam Cooke (left), JJ Farley, SR Crain, RB Robinson, and Paul Foster (right), in 1950. (Photo by Gilles Petard/Redferns)
The Soul Stirrers, Sam Cooke (left), JJ Farley, SR Crain, RB Robinson, and Paul Foster (right), in 1950. (Photo by Gilles Petard/Redferns) Gilles Petard/Getty

For the last dozen years, in the basement of a university library in Waco, Texas, a small team of audio engineers has been busy trying to save black gospel music. On a typical day, after delicately removing a scuffed vinyl record from its tattered sleeve, an engineer cleans the disc, places it onto a specialized turntable, and drops the needle. A moment later, an exhilarating music rises from the speakers, filling the small room with voices not heard in half a century. Once the song has come to an end, the audio file is loaded into a digital archive, and the record joins thousands of LPs and 45s that are stacked wall-to-wall in a climate-controlled room at Baylor University.

The current effort to preserve gospel recordings began in 2005, when Robert Darden, a journalism professor at Baylor, published an op-ed in The New York Times. He wrote that innumerable black gospel records, particularly from the “Golden Age” of the mid-1940s to the mid-70s, were at risk of being lost, whether because of damage or neglect. It was getting harder and harder to track down LPs of popular artists like the Soul Stirrers (who at one time featured a young Sam Cooke), to say nothing of 45s from largely obscure groups like the Gospel Kings of Portsmouth, Virginia. “It would be more than a cultural disaster to forever lose this music,” Darden wrote. “It would be a sin.”

The Congress of Racial Equality, or CORE, released this album of civil rights music in 1962.
The Congress of Racial Equality, or CORE, released this album of civil rights music in 1962. Robert Rogers/Baylor University

Soon after publishing the op-ed, Darden was contacted by an investment banker named Charles Royce. Royce confessed he didn’t know much about gospel music, but the opinion piece had convinced him that preserving it was a worthwhile endeavor. “You figure out how to save it,” he said, according to Darden. “Send me a plan, and I’ll pay for it.”


Darden first began to recognize the crisis facing classic gospel music while working on his book, People Get Ready!: A New History of Black Gospel Music. He had previously worked as the gospel music editor for Billboard, and had written extensively on the genre, yet he often struggled to find the music he covered. “I’d been frustrated time and time again throughout the writing of the book, when I would write about a very important gospel song that had been influential in the history of gospel music, in some cases in popular music, and I couldn’t listen to it,” Darden says. “I’d go to the used record stores, and online, and everywhere I knew, and there just simply would not be a copy available.”

Darden and other record collectors estimated that around 75 percent of all gospel vinyl released during the Golden Age was no longer available. The records had been completely lost, or only a few remaining copies were known to be in circulation. Darden was determined to know how many of these records could be found, and how many were lost for good.

After Darden came up with a plan to find and preserve these records, Royce provided a grant of $350,000. Darden got right to work, establishing the Black Gospel Music Restoration Project, or BGMRP, in 2007. Inside a sound-isolated room in the basement of Baylor’s Moody Library, gospel LPs, 45s, and 78s are cleaned, archived, and digitized by audio engineers, using state-of-the-art equipment. After each disc is processed, it becomes available to stream for free online, alongside any available original artwork and recording details.

 

One of the rare songs that Darden helped recover was “Old Ship of Zion,” recorded on a self-pressed 45 in the early 1970s by the Mighty Wonders, a group from Aquasco, Maryland. Darden recalls the first time he heard it: “Our engineer played it for me in the studio, and we both broke into tears.” Found in a box of miscellaneous 45s purchased on the East Coast, Darden spent the next five years trying to track down any information about it. During a public radio interview in Baltimore, a child of one of the original members of the group called in and introduced himself. Darden learned that the group itself didn’t even own a copy. Now one of the BGMRP’s most cherished finds, “Old Ship of Zion” is featured in the gospel section of the National Museum of African American History & Culture.

Most of the music in the archive was loaned by collectors across the country or purchased at record stores by Darden and his team, but some have come from individual donations. Anyone is welcome to send music, either as a permanent donation or a loan. Darden says that opening a new box of records is “like Christmas.” Many of the records now in Baylor’s library, like the “Old Ship of Zion” 45, are among the only known copies in existence, Darden says. He estimates that he and his team have digitized around 14,000 items, including songs, LP jackets, and photos.

Darden recognized the crisis facing classic gospel music while working on his book, <em>People Get Ready!: A New History of Black Gospel Music</em>.
Darden recognized the crisis facing classic gospel music while working on his book, People Get Ready!: A New History of Black Gospel Music. Robert Rogers/Baylor University

In a 2007 interview, shortly after launching the project, Darden told the public radio host Terry Gross, “We see it as kind of like those seed banks up around the Arctic Circle that keep one copy of every kind of seed there is in case there’s another Dutch elm disease. I just want to make sure that every gospel song, the music that all American music comes from, is saved.”

Darden, who is white, doesn’t come from a traditional church background. With a father in the Air Force, he grew up moving with his family from base to base. His parents owned a record of Mahalia Jackson singing Christmas songs, but Darden remembers first hearing gospel music in the homes of his black friends, whose parents were also in the Air Force. “That was the music that their parents were playing and singing,” he says. “I loved it from day one.”

Mahalia Jackson performs on stage in 1959.
Mahalia Jackson performs on stage in 1959. Giles Petard/Getty

The BGMRP focuses exclusively on music from gospel’s Golden Age, the roughly 30-year period that saw gospel music surge in popularity, owing to the musical innovations of artists such as Clara Ward, Mahalia Jackson, the Swan Silvertones, and the Dixie Hummingbirds. Darden points out that gospel’s Golden Age is also significant because it “corresponds with the era of the Civil Rights movement exactly, and it corresponds with the era of the greatest impact of the African-American church on the African-American community.” He adds, “They’re all intertwined. That’s why gospel matters. This was the music of the revolution.”

Reverend Clay Evans, a Baptist pastor in Chicago who has worked as a civil rights leader and gospel recording artist, has powerful memories of the Golden Age. He was born in 1925 and released his first musical project in 1985, with Savoy Records. “Gospel music motivated us,” Evans says. “Music gave us hope. Hope that we needed to continue to overcome. Hope that we were on the right trail to overcome the racism that existed. Hope that God was with us in the struggle.”

Reverend Clay Evans leads members into the new Fellowship Missionary Baptist Church for opening day celebrations in 1973.
Reverend Clay Evans leads members into the new Fellowship Missionary Baptist Church for opening day celebrations in 1973. Chicago Public Library, Special Collections

These days, selections from Baylor’s collection can be found in the National Museum of African American History & Culture, in Washington, D.C., as part of the museum’s permanent collection. But to access the entire collection in-person, visitors to Waco can drop by Lev’s Gathering Place, at Baylor University’s Crouch Fine Arts Library. Sitting on a reclaimed church pew and stained-glass windows, visitors can view photos and listen to thousands of songs on iPad kiosks.

In recent years, Darden and the BGMRP have begun another undertaking: archiving audio recordings of African-American preachers. Recorded sermons were once popular and profitable, especially leading up to and during the Civil Rights movement, but they too face the threat of being permanently lost. “Even less of that has been preserved,” Darden says. “From the Civil Rights movement, for instance, with the exception of Dr. King, virtually none of the sermons that changed America are preserved. Or, when they are preserved, they’re on somebody’s cassette in somebody’s warehouse in the South Side of Chicago.”

Visitors to Lev’s Gathering Place, at Baylor University’s Crouch Fine Arts Library, can sit on a reclaimed church pew and listen to thousands of classic gospel songs.
Visitors to Lev’s Gathering Place, at Baylor University’s Crouch Fine Arts Library, can sit on a reclaimed church pew and listen to thousands of classic gospel songs. Robert Rogers/Baylor University

Upon learning of this project, Reverend Evans dug out several boxes of his broadcast sermons, some decades old and long-neglected, from a derelict storage space near his church in Chicago. Now 94 years old, Evans has contributed over 900 tapes of his broadcast sermons to the archive. For him, digitizing and archiving these records is about not only preserving a fundamental part of American history, but also providing inspiration to present and future generations.

“We face the same issues today, and we still need encouragement,” Evans says. He sees parallels between today’s struggles for social justice and the civil rights struggles of the past. “It’s good for children to know what we’ve been through. Then they can be encouraged to make it through, too.”

Jim Eigo Jazz Promo Services T: 845-986-1677 E-Mail: jim@jazzpromoservices.com
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1940’s Jazz From Club Morocco. Heinie Beau, Rollie Culver – YouTube

1940’s Jazz From Club Morocco. Heinie Beau, Rollie Culver – YouTube


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https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5SzvAc3kW8Y

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Whistling is Fun – Fred Lowery The Blind Whistler – YouTube

Whistling is Fun – Fred Lowery The Blind Whistler – YouTube


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https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kP2iDKQLW3I

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Politically Incorrect Recording of the Day

Politically Incorrect Recording of the Day


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https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ANn7I5pcnsc

 

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Jazz 1959 – Switched on Pop

Jazz 1959 – Switched on Pop


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https://www.switchedonpop.com/jazz-1959/
 

Jazz 1959

September 24, 2019 Nate Sloan

Charlie’s out on parental leave, which means no one is here to stop Nate from going off the rails. And you know what means… JAZZ! As soon as dad left the room, Nate enlisted his favorite journalist, jazz and sports writer Natalie Weiner, to come on the show and discuss her incredible 1959 Project — a day-by-day chronicle of jazz during one of its most pivotal years. We listen to classic 1959 albums Miles Davis’s Kind of Blue and Dave Brubeck’s Take Out, discuss the complex legacy of Billie Holiday, and dig into some of the year’s forgotten gems.

Sixty years later, jazz is no longer the cultural juggernaut is once was — but it still has much to teach us about pop culture of the present.

Playlist:

•Miles Davis – So What
•Dave Brubeck – Take Five
•Billie Holiday – Blue Moon
•Billie Holiday – Billie’s Blues
•Erykah Badu – On & On
•Amy Winehouse – There Is No Greater Love
•Muriel Roberts – Sleigh Ride
•Terry Pollard – Laura
•Willene Barton and her Trio – Rice Pudding

Check out the 1959 and 2019 jazz cuts we’re listening to.

We are conducting an audience survey to better serve you. It takes no more than five minutes, and it really helps out the show. Please take our survey here: https://voxmedia.iad1.qualtrics.com/jfe/form/SV_ewVXHPZIsQNlxCR?Source=note

Jim Eigo Jazz Promo Services T: 845-986-1677 E-Mail: jim@jazzpromoservices.com
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Album Cover of the Day “Have Conns, Will Travel”

Album Cover of the Day “Have Conns, Will Travel”


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https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uBXzw7Llhpk

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A Jazz Man’s Tribute To The Shofar – The Forward

A Jazz Man’s Tribute To The Shofar – The Forward


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https://forward.com/culture/music/432161/doubling-on-the-shofar-a-high-holiday-jazz-story/
 

Doubling On The Shofar: A High Holiday Jazz Story

Stephen ProvizerSeptember 25, 2019Courtesy of Stephen Provi…

Since I was a boy, my musical heroes have been jazz musicians — Miles Davis, Dizzy Gillespie, Lester Young, John Coltrane. My own trumpet playing was good enough to get me the solo chair in the school band, but my taste far outstripped my talent and I would never stoop to play in a band that would have me as a member.

Because of that, all my playing took place in school auditoriums, gyms and my bedroom. Then, one particular High Holiday season, this all changed and my musical prowess was finally put to use, although in a way that this aspiring jazz musician would never have expected.

The old man who had always blown the shofar at the synagogue I attended had simply run out of breath. I’d been bar mitzvahed at this synagogue and it was known that I played the trumpet, so the rabbi and chazzan drafted me into service, via my mother.

Well, the gig was on New Year’s (Rosh Hashanah) and I was going to play a big room (capacity 2,500). So, while I was not precisely living out my fantasy of the jazz man who walks into the club and sits in with the house rhythm section, I could always remind myself of Harold Arlen, whose father was a cantor, who ended up as house piano player at Harlem’s Cotton Club and wrote tunes like “Blues in the Night” and “Stormy Weather.” True, I wasn’t going to be playing the trumpet, but most musicians have to learn to play more than one instrument, like trumpet and fluegelhorn. It just so happened I was learning to “double” on ram’s horn.

I began to learn the calls the chazzan makes to the shofar-blower during the service — tekiyah,shevorim,teruah — and what blasts I would have to make in response.

At the same time, I worked on getting the feel of my ancient instrument. The shofar is actually a hollow horn, with one end filed so it can be pressed flat against the mouth. It is blown not in the center of the mouth but in the corner and, as with the trumpet, sounds are produced by vibrating the lips. The shofar has been around for a while and served the needs of some other excellent musicians in the past — Joshua, for example, who made a particular hit during his engagement at Jericho.

When the day of the service arrived, I strode onto the bimah with my instrument in tow and surveyed the room. It wasn’t Birdland, but it was a start.

The service began and I had an immediate shock: from my new perspective on the bimah, I could see that the chazzan used a pitchpipe. This threw me for a moment. Maybe he also sang the blues in the shower (Actually, knowing that the cantor’s pitches didn’t simply descend from on high made me feel that perhaps we could work together).

I was called upon almost immediately to play and so I arose from the throne-like seat and made my way to the solo spotlight. Wetting my lips, I lifted the shofar to my mouth and prepared to blow the first of 100 blasts that I had to play that day.

“Tekiyah,” the canto said softly. “Pth…pth.” Nothing. “Oh God, I thought; “Maybe this sacred/profane mix just isn’t going to work out.”

“Tekiyah,” the cantor repeated patiently. I wet my lips again, as the unsettled buzz of the congregation grew louder. “De-a-ah!” A beautiful sound emerged from the horn.

“Teruah,” he called. “Da-a, Da-a, Da-a!” Now the crowd was starting to fall in line. He continued to feed me calls and I responded more and more confidently. The congregation, used to the more asthmatic (if more sanctified) sounds of an aging sexton, listened raptly to the full-throated roars this instrument can produce.

Each time that I strode out that morning to blow, I had to re-convince a nervous congregation but, as time passed, they were more and more on my side. Eventually, the entire congregation seemed to inhale simultaneously with me and would not release its collective breath until I completed the series of sounds I was making.

The Rosh Hashanah service is closed with a series of blasts that culminate in a tekiyah-gedolah, or “big tekiyah.” This is supposed to be as long a blast as you can manage, with a rising pitch tagged on to the end for good measure. If this note cracks or splinters, all the good work of the day becomes meaningless; as if you had circumnavigated the globe, only for cannibals to catch up with you at your final port of call.

Finally, all the hymns had been sung. The rabbi duly noted who’d paid for the beautiful flowers and who’d bought the knishes for the Oneg Shabbat. The stage was mine alone. I finished the preliminary calls in the last series and the chazzan at last called out: “Tekiyah gedolah.”

I reached down deeply into my adolescent diaphragm and filled that horn with all my breath. “De-aaaah…” A long note emerged, a call to grace and forgiveness. Then, the final push, from deep within: “Ahhhh — Ahhhh!” I lowered the horn slowly, as we all listened to the sound gradually fade away in that reverberant room. Then, at precisely the same moment, everyone released a breath in a massive sigh of satisfaction. I had tapped into an energy that, in some way, had purified everyone in that gathering and I distinctly felt the embrace of every member of the congregation enfolding me. I shook hands with the rabbi and chazzan and smiled.

When we spoke later, they offered to pay me for my work and I said that, if possible, I would like to keep the shofar.

Today it sits peacefully in my music room. It is bone-hard, gently curved and fluted at one edge; hollow, but heavy with the weight of centuries. It resonates still with the power of sound that can unlock the silence within us.

Stephen Provizer is a writer, musician and actor, living in Gloucester, MA.

This story “A Jazz Man’s Tribute To The Shofar” was written by Stephen Provizer.

Jim Eigo Jazz Promo Services T: 845-986-1677 E-Mail: jim@jazzpromoservices.com
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Music To Shave By – YouTube

Music To Shave By – YouTube


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