At the Jazz Band Ball

At the Jazz Band Ball: Sixty Years on the Jazz Scene

Nat Hentoff
Foreword by Lewis Porter
Copyright Date: 2010
Edition: 1
Pages: 272
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.1525/j.ctt1ppqm7
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  • Book Info
    At the Jazz Band Ball
    Book Description:

    Nat Hentoff, renowned jazz critic, civil liberties activist, and fearless contrarian-"I'm a Jewish atheist civil-libertarian pro-lifer"-has lived through much of jazz's history and has known many of jazz's most important figures, often as friend and confidant. Hentoff has been a tireless advocate for the neglected parts of jazz history, including forgotten sidemen and -women. This volume includes his best recent work-short essays, long interviews, and personal recollections. From Duke Ellington and Louis Armstrong to Ornette Coleman and Quincy Jones, Hentoff brings the jazz greats to life and traces their art to gospel, blues, and many other forms of American music.At the Jazz Band Ballalso includes Hentoff's keen, cosmopolitan observations on a wide range of issues. The book shows how jazz and education are a vital partnership, how free expression is the essence of liberty, and how social justice issues like health care and strong civil rights and liberties keep all the arts-and all members of society-strong.

    eISBN: 978-0-520-94588-3
    Subjects: Music

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-x)
  3. FOREWORD
    (pp. xi-xvi)
    Lewis Porter

    If you’ve ever had the chance to speak with Nat Hentoff, you won’t be surprised to learn that he has a background in radio—he speaks clearly and decisively, with never an “um” or “uhh.” As he recounted in a 2007 interview with jazz musician and historian Loren Schoenberg:

    By luck I got into radio. I had worked in a candy store with a guy named Ed Blackman, who later became an announcer before he became a professor of religion, and there was an opening at this radio station. I was a staff announcer. I also covered politics. . ....

  4. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
    (pp. xvii-xviii)
  5. INTRODUCTION
    (pp. 1-6)

    Cecil Taylor, an exhilaratingly uncategorizable pianist, whom I’ve known for more than half a century, has said of the musicians who first showed him what he was here for—Duke Ellington, Fats Waller, Chick Webb, Jimmie Lunceford—“They were beacons. There was a way they looked, a way you felt when you heard what they did, that you wanted to become part of. And youstroveto become a part of It. It’s a question of trying to capture that magic in sound, in thought, in feeling, inbeing.

    Since the day Artie Shaw’s “Nightmare”—from the open door of...

  6. PART ONE WHAT AM I HERE FOR?: THE RULES OF MY JAZZ ODYSSEY
    • 1 Who Owns Jazz?
      (pp. 9-10)

      Clark Terry, a vital presence for so much of jazz history, is one of the most unswervingly honest and truly democratic persons I’ve ever had the privilege of knowing—in and outside of jazz. There is a story he tells that illuminates his continuous involvement as an educator, in and out of the classroom, in helping to form new generations of jazz musicians.

      For Clark’s story, I am indebted to Hank O’Neal—another multiple influence on the jazz scene as record producer at Chiaroscuro, photographer, educator and historian. In 1997, the French publisher Editions Filipacchi released O’Neal’s bookThe Ghosts...

    • 2 My Debt to Artie Shaw
      (pp. 11-12)

      If it hadn’t been for Artie Shaw, I might not be writing about jazz here (or any other place). When I was eleven years old, walking down a street in Boston, heard music coming out of a record store that made me shout aloud in excited pleasure. I rushed in, demanding, “What is that?” Artie Shaw’s “Nightmare,” I was told. Before then, the only music that had affected me so viscerally was the passionate, mesmerizing, often improvisatory singing of the hazan, the cantor in Orthodox synagogues on the High Holiday days. The hazan sounded at times as if he were...

    • 3 The Family of Jazz
      (pp. 12-14)

      Years ago, I took my daughter, Miranda, to a rehearsal of Count Basie alumni the morning of a Carnegie Hall tribute to their former leader. Some of the musicians were in their sixties and seventies. As is usual in the jazz life, most had not seen each other for some time and greeted each other warmly, jocularly, and started riffing on the times, good and bad, they’d had together.

      Among the musicians was drummer Gus Johnson, whose crisply elegant riding of “the rhythm wave,” as Basie’s guitarist Freddie Green used to call it, has never gotten the fullness of recognition...

    • 4 Beyond the Process
      (pp. 14-16)

      The only negative review I’ve seen so far of my bookAmerican Music Is(Da Capo, 2004) was by Don Heckman in the July 4, 2004,Los Angeles Times Book Review.He titled it “Grabbing Music by the Tale.” I’m grateful because Heckman exactly right why I have presumed, all of these years, to write about this music that never ceases to be a large part of my life.

      “More often,” Heckman wrote, summing up the book, “Hentoff’s worthy perceptions are swallowed up in his emphasis on the personality of the artist rather than on the process. . . ....

    • 5 Playing Changes on Jazz interviews
      (pp. 16-18)

      I expect that if anything I’ve written about this music lasts, it will be the interviews I’ve done with the musicians for more than fifty years. My books on jazz consist mainly of interviews, as do the liner notes I’ve written. My hope is that some of them become part of jazz histories. And I learn a great deal from interviews done by others—particularly by the actual makers of this music.

      For example, the late Art Taylor, an extraordinary drummer, wrote a book,Notes and Tones: Musician-to-Musician Interviews(Da Capo, 2004). The late tenor saxophonist Don Byas (much underestimated,...

  7. PART TWO IN THE PRESENCE OF ELLINGTON
    • 6 Inside the Ellington Band
      (pp. 21-22)

      Ruby Braff used to say that when he was very young, he entered the Louis Armstrong University, an educational institution from which you could never graduate because there was so much to learn. Duke Ellington’s sidemen—those who stayed and those who left—felt the same way. And now, in the Jazz Oral History Project of Mark Masters’s American Jazz institute (at Claremont McKenna College, Pasadena, California), a reunion of Ellington alumni provides further illumination of what it was like to be inside that band where, as I’ve written, Clark Terry told me the music was always in a state...

    • 7 Duke Ellington’s Posthumous Revenge
      (pp. 23-24)

      Long ago, I worked part-time at a Boston radio station that mostly played what its announcers solemnly called “serious music”—Bach, Beethoven, Bartók and other such cats. That reverential term was common around the country on such stations. On the air, I refused to categorize only European-derived classical music as “serious”—as if Armstrong, Ellington, Basie and Billie Holiday were only transient forms of impermanent cult music.

      In 1965, the three-man music jury of the Pulitzer Prizes decided, for the first time, to acknowledge Duke Ellington as a somewhat serious composer, awarding him a token award “for the vitality and...

    • 8 Essentially Duke (and Wynton)
      (pp. 24-26)

      Last November I was in Boston to be designated the Distinguished Graduate of the year at the alumni dinner of Boston Latin School (BLS), the oldest public school in the country, founded in 1635. Previous alumni—somewhat before my time—have included Samuel Adams, John Hancock and Ralph Waldo Emerson. For me, the highlight of the evening was the vivid presence of the Boston Latin School Jazz Band, brilliantly directed by faculty member Paul Pitts (BLS class of 1973).

      The band was there because my award citation included my involvement in jazz, which began, at age eleven, the year I...

    • 9 Ellington’s Band Is Heavenly in These “Live” Forties Recordings
      (pp. 26-28)

      I now have a sense of what heaven could be like. For those of us for whom Duke Ellington is rejuvenatingly contemporary, Storyville—the legendary Danish label, a cornucopia of ageless jazz— has releasedThe Duke Box.The 1940s Ellington Orchestra (his most exhilarating) is heard entirely in “live” performances—from dance halls (where, as Duke told me, the dancers became part of the music), nightclubs, concert halls, and radio remotes from around the country.

      In the forty-page booklet—with photographs by Herman Leonard and William Gottlieb, masters of decisive jazz moments—Dan Morgenstern notes that the sound of Ellington...

  8. PART THREE JAZZ CREDENTIALS
    • 10 Is Jazz Black Music?
      (pp. 31-33)

      In January, I was on a panel at Jazz at Lincoln Center. The subject, “Is Jazz Black Music?” is still a lively and even combative one in some quarters. When I was invited, what first came to mind was Duke Ellington’s telling me long ago that in the 1920s he went to Fletcher Henderson and said, “Why don’t we drop the word ‘jazz’ and call what we’re doing ‘Negro music’? Then there won’t be any confusion.” Henderson took a pass. But years later, when Louie Bellson was in Ellington’s band, Duke said he was the most extraordinary drummer he’d ever...

    • 11 No One Else Sounded Like “Pee Wee” Russell
      (pp. 33-35)

      When I was a teenage fledgling clarinetist studying with an alumnus of the Boston Symphony Orchestra, I was startled to hear on a 1929 jazz recording by the Mound City Blue Blowers sounds I had never imagined coming from a clarinet: vocal-like cries and intimate whispers, breaking into triumphant, glowing lyricism in solos building to the edge of a cliff. It was Charles Ellsworth “Pee Wee” Russell.

      Also on that 1929 session was Coleman Hawkins, who invented the jazz tenor saxophone. But in the years after that record date, while Benny Goodman and Artie Shaw became major clarinet influences, it...

    • 12 Just Call Him Thelonious
      (pp. 35-40)

      The most frequent word used in relation to the personality—musical and otherwise—of Thelonious Sphere Monk has been “enigmatic.”

      Part of the reason for this supposed opaqueness about Monk lies in the man himself, for he seldom verbalizes about his music.

      His conversation on most subjects is spare enough. But with regard to his own work, his feeling appears to be that whatever communication there is in his music can be obtained only by listening, and that words only obscure the issue. Monk, therefore, has written no articles about his credo and engaged in no public debates. When he...

    • 13 Remembering Dizzy
      (pp. 40-41)

      Of the jazz web sites I visit, the most far ranging—and therefore, most offten surprising—is Jerry Jazz Musician at Jerryjazz.com. The publisher, editor, interviewer and selector of the relevant music is Joe Maita, based in Portland, Oregon. He tells me the title comes from a Woody Allen stand-up routine in the early 1960s: “When riding the subway to his clarinet lessons, Woody described himself as being dressed ‘Jerry Jazz Musician style.’”

      The Web site encompasses what could be called American civilization with jazz as the centerpiece— ranging from such guests as Gary Giddins to Donzaleigh Abernathy, daughter of...

    • 14 Oscar Peterson: A JAZZ “BEHEMOTH” MOVES ON
      (pp. 42-43)

      Only when it was absolutely necessary, Oscar Peterson wrote, would he go on stage before a concert to check out the piano, because doing so “might lead to preconditioned ideas, and they can in turn interfere with the creative process so essential to a creative jazz concert.”

      For Peterson, who died on December 23, 2007, at age eighty-two, his full mastery of the instrument enabled him to keep striving for what to him was his ultimate reason for being. In his equally masterful autobiography,A Jazz Odyssey: The Life of Oscar Peterson(Continuum, 2002), he said of the “dare-devil enterprise...

    • 15 A Great Night in Providence for Jazz and Snow
      (pp. 43-45)

      Once in a while, a jazz person has told me of an unexpected and exceptional listening experience at a jazz club somewhere. Eagerly I always ask, “Was there a tape recorder?” Almost invariably, the rueful answer is: “No.” But a wondrous exception, finally released in February 2005 on the Hyena label, isJoe Williams/Havin’ a Good Time! Featuring Ben Webster.

      As Junior Mance, the pianist on the 1964 gig at Pio’s, a club in Providence, Rhode Island, tells the story: “In the middle of the week we were there, the city got hit with a blizzard. Enough people showed up,...

    • 16 The Perfect Jazz Club
      (pp. 45-47)

      There should be a book about those jazz clubs that have been a vital part of the evolution of the music—Lincoln Gardens in Chicago, Birdland and the village vanguard in New york City and the various clubs in Philadelphia, Detroit, Los Angeles et al.—with reminiscences by the musicians who played and hung out there.

      Kenny Barron’sThe Perfect Set: Live at Bradley’s II(Sunnyside, 2005) is a tribute to the New york club that, while owner Bradley Cunningham was alive, was a home away from home for musicians—and for me. The music is also a tribute to...

    • 17 Anita O’Day: THE LIFE OF A MUSIC LEGEND
      (pp. 47-49)

      During the sixty years I’ve been reporting on—and participating in—the jazz scene, there has been a perennial debate among musicians, critics and aficionados about the definition of a jazz singer. The answer couldn’t be more clear: Anita O’Day.

      Richard Cook, in his essentialJazz Encyclopedia(Penguin, 2007), gets to the core of the joyful excitement of hearing, and remembering, Anita:

      “At fast tempos, she was incomparable, lighter and more fluent than Ella (Fitzgerald). Less regal but more daring than Sarah vaughan, she could scat with a dancing ease.”

      And she had a signature sound. From the first note,...

    • 18 The Music of the 1930s Is Back in Full Swing
      (pp. 49-51)

      Having discovered jazz in the late 1930s, I was in time for the big bands I heard on the radio from ballrooms and nightclubs around the country. I was lifted out of the Depression by the soaring reeds and strutting brass; the romantic fantasies that were an obbligato of the ballads; the verve and wit of Count Basie, Duke Ellington, Tommy Dorsey; and even the playfulness of the “sweet bands” (Russ Morgan, Sammy Kaye, Kay Kyser).

      There have been attempts to bring back the swing era, including touring “ghost bands” playing the scores of deceased leaders of the past, but...

    • 19 The Expansive Jazz Journey of Marian McPartland
      (pp. 52-54)

      Pianist-composer Marian McPartland’s ninetieth birthday celebration took place at Jazz at Lincoln Center in Dizzy’s Club Coca-Cola on March 19, 2008. The guest performers—of diverse styles and jazz eras—included violinist Regina Carter, singer Karrin Allyson, trumpet player Jeremy Pelt and pianist Jason Moran.

      Having heard and known Marian for nearly sixty years, I can attest to a tribute by another master pianist who was also there, Bill Charlap, who said: “Her singular musical voice encompasses the past, present and future of jazz.”

      It was her late husband, the exuberant cornetist Jimmy McPartland, who transported the young English music-hall...

    • 20 Going Inside Jazz with Wynton
      (pp. 54-56)

      Of the many books on jazz I’ve read, much of the permanent illumination has come from those written by the musicians themselves. I can add to the list Wynton Marsalis’sMoving to Higher Ground: How Jazz Can Change Your Life(Random House, 2009). I don’t look for analysis of techniques. That’s obviously not my bag. I want to know more of the musicians, and how they hear one another. Wynton gets into the jazz experience from the inside. (Geoffrey C. Ward helped in the structure of the book; Wynton wrote it.)

      A perpetual student, “I’m always reading,” Wynton has said....

  9. PART FOUR THE JAZZ LIFE ON AND OFF THE ROAD
    • 21 Memories Are Made of This: A CONVERSATION WITH CLARK TERRY
      (pp. 59-66)

      At the 2006 International Association of Jazz Educators conference,JazzTimessponsored a panel featuring veteran journalist Nat Hentoff and legendary trumpeter Clark Terry. A masterful player and dedicated educator, Terry recalls a lifetime spent guiding young players—several of whom became major forces in jazz history.

      NAT HENTOFF: For many years you’ve been working with young musicians—sometimes very young—who want to become jazz players. I want to go back some years now, to Seattle, when a young kid came up to you. He was playing trumpet; he was composing a little.

      CLARK TERRY: Quincy Jones.

      NH: you were...

    • 22 Man, I’m So Lucky to Be a Jazz Musician: PHIL WOODS
      (pp. 66-74)

      Nat Hentoff interviewed Phil Woods at the 2007 conference of the International Association for Jazz Education.

      An unstoppable carrier of the bop torch, saxophonist Phil Woods has watched jazz education transform from informal mentoring in the back of the tour bus into a series of world-class, big-dollar institutions with a highly refined pedagogy. Here, acclaimed journalist andJazzTimescolumnist Nat Hentoff helps Woods reflect on a lifetime spent performing, teaching and learning—Woods’s own development came from all angles: as a pupil of the unsung innovator Lennie Tristano, as a clarinet student in the classical program at Juilliard, as a...

    • 23 Conventional Unwisdom about Jazz
      (pp. 74-76)

      A doomsday statistic I hear often—and, I confess, have used myself—is that jazz record sales are only 3 percent of the total in this country, proving the very limited popularity of the music. I have now been disabused of that misleading factoid by a letter from Bill Kirchner in Gene Lee’s invaluableJazzletter.Said Kirchner: “As Dan Morgenstern has pointed out, the oft-cited figure applies to only major labels. It doesn’t include independent labels, or imports, or bootlegs, or sales of used records.” And, I would add, it doesn’t include musicians’ increasing use of the Internet to sell...

  10. PART FIVE WHO IS A JAZZ SINGER?
    • 24 Are Krall and Monheit Jazz Singers?
      (pp. 79-80)

      As long as I can remember, there have been bristling arguments among musicians, critics and aficionados about the qualities that define jazz singers. Was Bing Crosby among the elect? yes, by my criteria, whenever he wanted. In any case, he was a natural swinger, even when he talked. Frank Sinatra? My suggestion to any aspiring singer, male or female, is to listen toFrank Sinatra with the Red Norvo Quintet: Live in Australia(Blue Note, 1959) andSinatra and Sextet: Live in Paris(Reprise, 1994). Meeting Billie Holiday on the street and hearing her say “Hello” was jazz to me....

    • 25 Billie Holiday, Live: A BIOGRAPHY IN MUSIC
      (pp. 80-82)

      “Billie must have come from another world”, said Roy Eldridge, often heard accompanying her on trumpet, “because nobody had the effect on people she had. I’ve seen her make them cry and make them happy.” Lady Day, as tenor saxophonist Lester young named Billie Holiday, still has that effect through the many reissues of her recordings, includingLady Day: The Master Takes and Singlesof the 1933–44 sessions (Columbia/Legacy, 2007) that established her in the jazz pantheon.

      I grew up listening to those sides, which infectiously demonstrated—as Bobby Tucker, her longtime pianist, noted—that “she could swing the...

    • 26 This Daughter of Jazz Is One Cool Cat
      (pp. 83-85)

      After listening to a continuous stream of releases by purported rising jazz singers—who couldn’t have lasted through a chorus in a contest with Ella Fitzgerald or Betty Carter—it’s a delight to hear the real thing in Catherine Russell. After many years on the road with rock, blues, jazz, soul and gospel bands, Ms. Russell—who turned fifty in September 2006—finally has her own album as a leader:Catherine Russell—Cat(World village, 2006).

      Cat, as she is called by fellow musicians, hits a groove (or, as she calls it, “the pocket”) from note one on whatever she...

    • 27 The Springtime of Frank Sinatra
      (pp. 85-87)

      In 1940, I was fifteen, and my jazz record collection included the popular big dance band of Tommy Dorsey because “The Sentimental Gentleman of Swing”—as the trombonist-leader was called—had such sidemen as Bunny Berigan, Buddy Rich and the silvery clarinetist Johnny Mince. On ballads, I was also drawn to Dorsey’s twenty-five-year-old vocalist Frank Sinatra, who had just joined the band that year.

      He was not yet a jazz singer, but his phrasing—which he later said had been influenced by Billie Holiday—and his rhythmic ease flowed into the pop-jazz mosaic that Tommy Dorsey nurtured. As Sinatra later...

    • 28 Sinatra Sings in Vegas, and you Are There
      (pp. 87-89)

      Years ago, I wrote inHolidaymagazine that Tony Bennett was the true heir of Frank Sinatra. Soon after, to my surprise, I received a note—from Frank Sinatra: “you’re right about Tony Bennett,” he said. I greatly admire Tony Bennett’s continually self-surprising singing, and I’ve gotten to know him, impressed by his knowledgeable interest in national and international affairs. But there is no heir to Frank Sinatra—any more than there is an heir to Fred Astaire or Billie Holiday.

      One afternoon, at the home of Lester young, the “president” of the jazz tenor saxophone, my host told me...

    • 29 She’s on the Road to Renown
      (pp. 89-91)

      Years ago, working at a Boston radio station, I was often at ringside, covering boxing bouts. I regularly saw exceptionally skilled local fighters who never broke through to become headliners. In the trade, they were called “club fighters.” Similarly, in jazz, there have always been regional players, respected by their peers, who never became widely known. Coming off a road trip, Coleman Hawkins, the inventor of the jazz tenor saxophone, would tell me about some of those “club jazzmen.”

      Amanda Carr, a true jazz singer in a time of wannabes—after playing gigs around New England for years—is now...

    • 30 Bing and Guests Swing on the Air
      (pp. 91-94)

      As a child, I’d listen in my room for my mother’s favorite song as, in the kitchen, she’d wait for Bing Crosby’s first network radio program and his theme “When the Blue of the Night Meets the Gold of the Day.” Soon, he had gentled me to sleep.

      Years later, after being immersed in jazz, I learned of the jazz credentials of the “crooner” (as he was called). He was one of Paul Whiteman’s Rhythm Boys from 1926 to 1930, and his roommate on the road had been the precisely lyrical cornetist Bix Beiderbecke, with whom he had gone to...

  11. PART SIX THE LIFE FORCE OF THE MUSIC
    • 31 The Joyous Power of Black Gospel Music
      (pp. 97-99)

      Many years ago, as an announcer at a Boston radio station, WMEX, I became immersed in multiculturalism. There were regular italian, Swedish, country music and Jewish hours—the last featuring renowned cantors who, I told Charles Mingus at the time, were the Jewish version of deeply resilient blues singers.

      Saturday nights were a celebration, in one of our studios, of live black gospel music, with performers from churches in the Boston area. The disciplined, often virtuosic fervor of this witnessing has often regenerated me from then on. I collected gospel recordings; and one Sunday morning, during a Newport Jazz Festival,...

    • 32 The Healing Power of Jazz
      (pp. 99-101)

      In 1969, Louis Armstrong told his longtime friend and associate, Phoebe Jacobs, the grande dame of the New york jazz scene, that he wanted to start a foundation “to give back to people some of the goodness I’ve had from them all these years.” Thus began the Louis Armstrong Educational Fund, of which Ms. Jacobs is vice president.

      Among its projects, including the Louis Armstrong Public School Jazz Outreach Program in New Orleans, the nonprofit foundation has added to Armstrong’s huge role in the shaping of jazz history a significant contribution to the history of medical music therapy in hospitals...

    • 33 Old Country Jewish Blues and Ornette Coleman
      (pp. 101-103)

      There’s a country music song, “Will the Circle Be Unbroken?” of which I never tire, and it jumped to mind when I read Ben Ratliff’s characteristically illuminating new book,The Jazz Ear: Conversations Over Music(Times Books, 2008). You may have seen some of them in Ratliff’s “Listening With” series in theNew York Times.He not only has a deep, far-ranging knowledge of jazz but, like Count Basie comping his band, Ratliff leaves breathing and feeling space for the musician with whom he’s talking.

      He asked fifteen musicians for a list of five or six pieces of music he...

    • 34 The Jewish Soul of Willie “The Lion” Smith
      (pp. 103-106)

      In the morning, the first thing I see in my office is a photo of willie “The Lion” Smith at the piano, wearing his derby, with a cigar jutting challengingly from his mouth. Soon after I became part of the New york jazz scene in the early 1950s, one of my great pleasures was to pick up the phone at home and find the Lion calling just to chat. That other grandmaster of stride piano, James P. Johnson, once said, “When Willie Smith moved into a place, his every move was a picture.” So were his stories on the piano,...

  12. PART SEVEN FINDING THE FIRST AMENDMENT GROOVE
    • 35 Satchmo’s Rap Sheet
      (pp. 109-111)

      The FBI is proposing a new computer-profiling system, STAR (the System Assess Risk), which, as National Public Radio reported on July 17, 2007, will sifting through some six billion pieces of data by 2012, “about twenty records for every man, woman and child in America.” Many of those “persons of interest” suspected of terrorism links will be databased for additional scrutiny by the CIA and other intelligence agencies. They won’t know they have FBI files.

      Back in J. Edgar Hoover’s reign, even without databasing, the FBI amassed files on great numbers of Americans with purported ties to Communism and other...

    • 36 The Constitution of a Jazzman
      (pp. 111-113)

      Early one morning years ago, I was at the Blues Alley Jazz Club in Washington, D.C., to do a television interview with Max Roach. As always, I was early. There was no one in the club except Max, alone at the drums, practicing for the night’s gig. He played with as much intensity—and as many surprises—as if he were before hundreds of listeners.

      Like Roy Eldridge and Phil Woods, Max always played as if it were his last gig on earth. With Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, Thelonious Monk and another drummer—Kenny “Klook” Clarke—Max changed the direction...

    • 37 How Jazz Helped Hasten the Civil Rights Movement
      (pp. 113-117)

      On January 19, Martin Luther King’s Birthday, Jazz at Lincoln Center and the Rockefeller Foundation, also focusing on the next day’s presidential inauguration, presented at Kennedy CenterA Celebration of America.Headlining the cast were Sandra Day O’Connor and Wynton Marsalis. As Jazz at Lincoln Center declared, Dr. King called jazz “America’s triumphant music,” and the presence of Mr. Marsalis is to “illustrate that American democracy and America’s music share the same tenets and embody the same potential for change, hope and renewal.”

      This focus on jazz as well as on then President-elect Barack Obama (who, I was told, has...

    • 38 The Congressman from the Land of Jazz
      (pp. 117-119)

      Since 1964, seventy-five-year-old John Conyers—a long-serving Democrat in his nineteenth term, a founder of the Congressional Black Caucus and a leading critic of the U.S. Patriot Act—has represented the Fourteenth Congressional District of Michigan, which includes Detroit. His legislative record includes the passage of a 1987 resolution declaring “the sense of Congress that jazz is [a] rare and valuable American national treasure.”

      Mr. Conyers told me once that he often communicates with his “spiritual musical ancestors” by playing recordings in his office of John Coltrane, Miles Davis and Charlie Parker. He adds, “This really helps me in my...

    • 39 Jazz Musicians in the Public Square
      (pp. 119-121)

      In 1955, when the late Nat Shapiro and I put togetherHear Me Talkin’ to Ya: The Story of Jazz Told by the Men Who Made It—in which only musicians spoke—a primary reason was to counter the notion at the time that jazz players were only articulate on their instruments but otherwise had little to say of interest about public issues.

      Since then, of course, Max Roach, Charles Mingus and others have spoken vigorously and publicly about controversies outside of music. Particularly notable was Louis Armstrong’s reaction to Arkansas governor Orville Faubus’s blocking the integration of public schools...

    • 40 Quincy Jones—Past, Present and Future
      (pp. 121-124)

      When I left Boston in 1953 to become New york editor ofDown Beat,the first musician I came to know well was Quincy Jones. He was twenty and already writing crisply uncluttered arrangements for a variety of jazz record dates, and soon was contributing some of them to Count Basie, who had no patience for excess notes.

      Quincy was so guileless that at first he appeared naive; but as he became a key part of the jazz scene, it became clear that he was interested in, and quickly knowledgeable about, all of music, and uninterested in the stiff categories...

  13. PART EIGHT ROOTS
    • 41 King Oliver in the Groove(s)
      (pp. 127-129)

      When I was in my teens, reading about the storied sites of early jazz, I envied the Chicagoans of the 1920s who were hip enough to spend nights at the Lincoln Gardens café where King Oliver’s Creole Jazz Band was in residence, shortly joined by Oliver’s young New Orleans protégé, Louis Armstrong. But the few recordings I could find sounded as if time had worn the music down and dim, including the clicks and scratches of those used early discs.

      Now, however, in a remarkable feat of sound restoration,King Oliver/Off the Record: The Complete 1923 Jazz Band Re-Recordings(Archeophone...

    • 42 Giants at Play
      (pp. 129-131)

      During television’s early years, jazz was infrequently seen, except when its few popular “names,” such as Benny Goodman and Louis Armstrong, appeared on variety shows like Ed Sullivan’s. But on December 8, 1957, live on Sunday afternoon, many members of the jazz pantheon appeared on CBS TV’sThe Sound of Jazz,among them Billie Holiday, Count Basie, Thelonious Monk, Lester young, Coleman Hawkins, Red Allen, Gerry Mulligan, Pee Wee Russell and Roy Eldridge.

      Because nearly all the legendary originals on the program are dead, videos of this historic (and never to be equaled) event have been played and replayed around...

    • 43 Barrelhouse Chuck Goering Keeps the Blues Alive
      (pp. 131-133)

      For two weeks, the children at the Braeside Elementary School in Highland Park, Illinois, near Chicago, had been listening to Barrelhouse Chuck Goering play the piano, sing and tell stories about historic blues masters he’d known. He’d come, a teacher explained to theChicago Tribune,“because we wanted to show the kids the roots of American music.” At one point, a nine-year-old said: “I didn’t know any of those famous names he talked about. It was like they were keeping a secret from us.” And another youngster, brand-new to the blues, added, “I really like the songs.”

      Those lively teaching...

    • 44 Jazz’s History Is Living in Queens . . .
      (pp. 133-135)

      No book on jazz history that I’ve seen includes the deeply rooted, living history of this music in the borough of Queens in New york City. years ago, I interviewed Lester young (“president of the tenor saxophone”) in his home there; and I’ve visited the Louis Armstrong Home (a National Landmark, administered by Queens College) and the Armstrong Archives at Queens College. But until recently, I had no idea of the scores of jazz makers who have lived in Queens, and those who have died there.

      The list is long, but among them: Count Basie; Bix Beiderbecke; Dizzy Gillespie and...

    • 45 Uncovering Jazz Trails
      (pp. 136-138)

      The headline inAllegro,the newspaper of New york’s Local 802, American Federation of Musicians, heralded the presence of the jazz tribe—“over 8,000 educators, musicians, industry executives, media and students from forty-five countries”—attending the thirty-fourth annual conference of the International Association of Jazz Educators (IAJE). And when the annual photo of the National Endowment for the Arts Jazz Masters in the hotel’s lobby got under way, there were so many paparazzi you’d think jazz is a popular music.

      And a long piece by Nate Chinen in the January 7, 2007,New York Timeswas headed: “Jazz Is Alive...

    • 46 Expanding the Map
      (pp. 138-140)

      With regard to “Uncovering Jazz Trails” (chapter 45), my hope is that as local newspapers, radio and television stations, and Web sites discover the depth of their cities’ and regions’ jazz roots, there will be more work for emerging local jazz musicians and for their elders who are still an active part of the scene. Along with more of the population, jazz players are lasting longer.

      Maybe a consortium of freestanding jazz schools, like the Berklee College of Music in Boston, and the growing number of colleges and universities seriously involved in jazz education could coordinate further research expanding the...

  14. PART NINE THE SURVIVORS
    • 47 The Thoreau of Jazz
      (pp. 143-144)

      When I was a teenager in Boston, one of my heroes—after Duke Ellington—was a fellow New Englander, Henry David Thoreau, who, as an unyielding abolitionist and opponent of the Mexican-American War, went to jail rather than pay six years of back taxes.

      years later, I learned that Martin Luther King, Jr., was first turned on to nonviolent resistance by reading Thoreau’s 1849 essay “Civil Disobedience.” King wrote, “Fascinated by the idea of refusing to cooperate with an evil system, I was so deeply moved that I reread the work several times.”

      Art Davis, who died of a heart...

    • 48 A Living Memory of Dr. Art
      (pp. 145-146)

      A thirteen-year-old whom Dr. Art invited to sit in with him at a gig later sent me this letter about a musical—and human—experience he will not forget:

      I can always remember the name Dr. Art Davis being mentioned by my teachers and family. Around the summer of 2004, my piano teacher Jan Jordan was playing weekly gigs with Dr. Art at both the Napa Rose restaurant and Ritz Carlton Hotel here in Orange County, California. Jan always talked about what a spectacular bass player Dr. Art was and what a pleasure it was to play with him. I...

    • 49 Barren Days
      (pp. 146-148)

      Having criticized National Public Radio (NPR) for cutting down its network jazz programming—some affiliate stations keep the faith—I have to commend the network for doing what no other radio operation, let alone broadcast and cable television, would have done: A four-part series by Felix Contreras on NPR’s afternoon programAll Things Consideredabout the problems that face older jazz musicians. (For jazz writers and historians, the dates of the series were April 19–21, 2005.)

      Having been on the scene for so long, and having written here about the New york-based Jazz Foundation of America—which brings an...

    • 50 Keeping Jazz—and Its Musicians—Alive
      (pp. 148-150)

      In the moviegoing years of my youth, there was often, between double features, a short film showing ill and elderly entertainers with tuberculosis being regenerated in a residence named after Will Rogers. Ushers would then come down the aisles for contributions, and I’d put in my quarters. And the Will Rogers Institute still exists.

      When I became part of the jazz scene and learned that very many jazz musicians do not have medical insurance or pensions, I often wondered why there was no place for players in need to go when threatened with eviction from their apartments or faced with...

    • 51 In New Orleans, the Saints Are Marching In Again
      (pp. 150-152)

      Years ago in New Orleans, as I was going to Preservation Hall—with music swinging into the street from every nightclub on the way—I heard, coming from the hall, that joyous high-stepping jazz anthem “When the Saints Go Marching in.”

      Now, the devastation of Hurricane Katrina continues to lie heavily on the city—unstable levees, broken neighborhoods, broken families, and 250,000 residents still gone. But the spirit of the city—embodied in its music, long reverberating around the world—is rising. Many of the musicians, including brass bands, are back.

      Much of the credit for their determined presence, so...

    • 52 The Beating Heart of Jazz
      (pp. 152-154)

      The Bush administration miserably failed New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina in 2005, but the Jazz Foundation of New york hasn’t failed thousands of New Orleans musicians. On March 4, 2008, in recognition of how the foundation’s Wendy Oxenhorn and other saints came marching in, Jazz at Lincoln Center awarded the organization a grant from its High Ground Hurricane Relief Fund: “Since Katrina alone, the Jazz Foundation assisted over 3,500 emergency [New Orleans] cases and has created employment for over 1,000 musicians in crisis with the Agnes varis/Jazz in the Schools program.”

      Said Wendy, in gratitude: “We will be able to...

  15. PART TEN THE REGENERATORS
    • 53 Bridging Generations
      (pp. 157-158)

      Having known jazz musicians off the stand from my teens on, I was struck—contrasting them with most of the adults I knew—by their dedication to their life’s work. Louis Armstrong, for example, distilled how he and the music were one in an interview long ago with Gil Millstein of theNew York Times.Armstrong said, “When I pick up my horn, that’s all. The world’s behind me. I don’t feel no different about that horn now than I did when I was playing in New Orleans. That’s my living and my life. I love them notes. That’s why...

    • 54 The Rebirth of the Hot Jazz Violin
      (pp. 159-161)

      Until I heard the now legendary Stuff Smith (1909–76), I had no idea that a jazz violinist could more than hold his own in a powerfully swinging jazz combo’s front line. Smith, who had played with Jelly Roll Morton, recorded with Nat “King” Cole and Dizzy Gillespie and toured with Norman Granz’s dueling horn virtuosi, told jazz historian Stanley Dance: “You can swing more on a violin than on any instrument ever made. You’ve got all those octaves on the violin. You can slur like a trombone, play staccato like a trumpet, or moan like a tenor.” As Jo...

    • 55 The Newest Jazz Generation
      (pp. 161-162)

      Jazz has given me many unexpected startling pleasures. Years ago, at Basin Street East in New York, Sonny Stitt suddenly broke into a stop-time chorus, without the rhythm section, and all conversation stopped. It was as if time itself had stopped but was still swinging.

      Five years ago, at Arbors Records’ March of Jazz in Clearwater, Florida—a tribute to Ruby Braff on his seventy-fourth birthday—Sonny LaRosa’s “America’s Youngest Jazz Band, Featuring Musicians Ages 6 to 12” was scheduled first on one of the mornings. Remembering what Charlie Parker famously said, “Music is your own experience. . . ....

    • 56 Born in Israel
      (pp. 163-164)

      Randy Weston can’t be mistaken for anyone else. As he once said, “I don’t like the electric piano because my sound is my voice, and my voice is what makes me unique. A personal sound is the most difficult thing to achieve—it’s an extension of yourself.”

      I have been listening often to the unmistakably personal voice of pianist-composer Anat Fort on her ECM CD,A Long Story.Like Anat Cohen and other Israeli musicians who came here from the lively Israeli jazz scene, Fort has worked New York clubs.

      Fort assures me that she also does not play electric...

    • 57 Theo Croker Arrives
      (pp. 164-167)

      I first got to know twenty-three-year-old Theo Croker after he returned from a gig in China (Shanghai’s House of Blues and Jazz). He was so impressive there that he was later booked in the city’s jazz club. On first hearing his trumpet on this immediately distinctive recording, I was struck by his “signature sound”—personal and indeed “in the tradition,” but also contributing to its future.

      It’s a voice speaking directly to the listener, and his avoidance of showboating technique reminded me of what Count Basie once said to Buck Clayton: “I’d give a thousand dollars to find a trumpet...

    • 58 The Ladies Who Swung the Band
      (pp. 167-172)

      In 1776, not long before John Adams would help draft the Declaration of Independence, Adams’s wife, Abigail, told the future second president of the United States, “Remember the ladies.” Yet it wasn’t until 1920 that the ladies gained the right to vote with the passage of the Nineteenth Amendment. And the battle for equality is still to be won by women in jazz, black and white.

      For decades, the conventional, dismissive wisdom was embodied in the statement of the longtime dean of jazz critics, George Simon: “Only men can play good jazz.” It was as if the black trumpet player...

    • 59 Nineteen-Year-Old Saxophonist Verifies Future of Jazz
      (pp. 172-174)

      For more than sixty years, I’ve seen recurring obituaries of jazz. The threnodies are being prepared again—in the National Endowment for the Arts’ latest survey on public participation in the arts and in such articles as “Can Jazz Be Saved?” (Wall Street Journal,August 18, 2009), in which widely respected music critic Terry Teachout wrote regretfully, “I don’t know how to get young people to listen to jazz again.”

      Both the survey and Teachout’s column attracted rebuttals in print and on the internet, of course. But the most exhilarating one I’ve heard is musical—Confeddie,the debut CD of...

  16. PART ELEVEN THE MASTER TEACHERS
    • 60 A Complete Jazzman
      (pp. 177-178)

      I am greatly indebted to Thomas Bellino, whose Planet Arts—a not-for-profit company involved in a network of educational and culturally awakening projects—includes Planet Arts Recordings. His 2007 releaseTurn Up the Heathby the Jimmy Heath Big Band, made me realize that in all these years writing about this music, I have ignored one of the most deeply satisfying and personal arrangercomposers in jazz—especially evident when his instrument is a big band.

      Jimmy Heath is hardly unrecognized. A 2003 National Endowment for the Arts Jazz Master, he is greatly respected by his jazz peers. As George Wein...

    • 61 The Lifetime Teacher: JON FADDIS
      (pp. 178-193)

      NAT HENTOFF: This is Nat Hentoff from the internationally renowned Blue Note Jazz Club in New York. The most exciting musical experience I’ve ever had, I think, any kind of music, was in 2003 when Louis Armstrong’s home in the borough of Queens, which is in New york, was made a National Historic Landmark. All kinds of people were there from all over the world, the neighborhood—kids in the neighborhood—when Louis was there the kids knew him, they talked to him. All of a sudden above the crowd, from a balcony next to where Louis’s den used to...

    • 62 A House of Swing—for All Ages
      (pp. 193-196)

      When I became the New york editor ofDown Beat(then the “jazz bible”) in 1953, Birdland, named for Charlie Parker, proclaimed itself in its advertising “the jazz corner of the world.” Now, a half century later, the multidimensional Jazz at Lincoln Center (JALC) in the Time Warner Center could well become the hub of the global jazz community under Adrian Ellis, its exceptionally creative and pragmatic executive director as of October 2007.

      “The purpose of Jazz at Lincoln Center,” Mr. Ellis told me, “is to help secure a vital future for jazz,” and that requires “an informed and receptive...

    • 63 Inside the Jazz Experience: RON CARTER
      (pp. 196-210)

      NAT HENTOFF: This is Nat Hentoff from the internationally known and visited Blue Note Jazz Club in New York City. Our guest has been rightfully described as the musician’s musician. He’s a bassist, cellist, composer, leader. Now, to start, John Coltrane told me once that he always wanted to know more of how his music affected the listeners. Does that ever occur to you at all?Isthat a factor in your reaction?

      RON CARTER: Well my feeling is it’s always nice to know whether the listener takes something away from the performance. A melody, a rhythm, a certain intensity....

    • 64 These Little Kids Think Coltrane Is Cool
      (pp. 210-212)

      At Harvard’s Graduate School of Education, Howard Gardner has long taught his theory of multiple intelligences to enable his students, when they enter their own classrooms, to understand and nurture these various strengths in the youngsters they teach. As explained by a Gardner practitioner, second-grade teacher Christine Passarella, in last fall’s Adelphi University newsletter: “In the past, if you had linguistic intelligence, if you could read and write, you were smart. If you had mathematical and logical intelligence, you still got credit for that. But what if you had musical intelligence or what if you had kinetic intelligence? You see...

  17. EPILOGUE: MY LIFE LESSONS FROM THE JAZZ “SOULS ON FIRE”
    (pp. 213-222)

    John Coltrane once described for me the meaning of his existence: “This music is the whole question of life itself.” My first sense of how my own life would be formed by music was when I was a kid, sitting next to my father in the synagogue during the High Holidays as the cantor (the chazan)—in his black robes and high black skullcap—took over the service.

    In my memoir,Boston Boy,I told how his music went all the way through me: “What he sings is partly written, largely improvised. He is a master of melisma—for each...

  18. CREDITS
    (pp. 223-226)
  19. INDEX
    (pp. 227-246)