Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Bird quotes Satchmo

When Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie burst into the jazz scene in the mid-1940s, much was made of the presumed animosity between the new and the older generations of musicians. Although there were some noises in that direction, let's just say that jazz journalism paid a lot off attention to celebrity status, fans and gossip.

Back in 1928, Louis Armstrong recorded this classic cadenza as the opening for his "West End Blues":



Charlie Parker must have paid attention, since he used it twenty years after Armstrong, at least twice on record, both times while playing the blues, one at Carnegie Hall on Christmas day, 1949:



the other at St. Nicholas Arena in New York (St. Nick's), a couple of months later:

Friday, August 24, 2018

Zoot greets Getz

Zoot Sims, Tião Neto, Stan Getz at A&R Studios, NYC. March 18/19, 1963
(Photo by Jim Marshall. Source: JazzTimes.)

Zoot Sims (left) and Stan Getz (right) had a common history beginning in the summer of 1947 in a rehearsal band for which Gene Roland wrote the arrangements. This eight-piece group led by trumpet player Tommy DeCarlo and also comprising Herbie Steward and Jimmy Giuffre was spotted by Ralph Burns and eventually led to Woody Herman's signing of the saxes minus Giuffre—Herman had already signed Serge Chaloff for the bari chair.

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Gil Evans recycles

Before the career-changing album that was Miles Ahead for both Miles Davis and Gil Evans, the latter was making a living out of odd jobs and small assignments. Like this arrangement of "Miss Brown to You" for Kent Harian, for instance (the only one by Evans in the album Echoes of Joy):




When Harian recorded his album, in December 1956, Evans was already hard at work on Miles Ahead, which would be released the following October. Some weeks earlier, he was in the studio, courtesy of Prestige—Miles's previous label—, to do Gil Evans & Ten, his first album as a leader, at age 45. One of its better known tracks is his reading of the bloody ballad "Ella Speed", with a classic solo by Steve Lacy, and this passage for the ensemble:



Monday, July 16, 2018

Image and sound: Webster Hall, 1956

One satisfaction of researching jazz photography—for it is a lot of fun—is the rare occasion when the images can be married to sounds. The book The Sound I Saw (Phaidon Press, 2011) by Roy DeCarava (1919-2009) includes a beautiful collection of black and white images, many of jazz musicians, with no credit whatsoever. Checking faces, names and discographies like this one, there are two photographs which can be pinned down, taken at the magnificent Webster Hall, RCA's regular studio in NYC at the time. These:
Tony Scott and orchestra, Webster Hall, NYC,
Friday, December 14, 1956
Left to right: Frank Foster, Danny Bank (with back to the camera), Frank Wess, Sahib Shihab,
Gigi Gryce, Tony Scott; same date and location.

Monday, May 14, 2018

Musiciansʼ quotes: Carla Bley on (im)perfection

Photo by Lauren Lancaster / NYT/Redux
“Well, youʼre not going to get very far in the musical world without some kind of a defect.”
Carla Bley's reply to the late Lew Soloffʼs assertion that he could (indeed) play “everything and anything”, quoted in this profile by Ethan Iverson.

Thursday, November 23, 2017

For the love of George


George Avakian, Coleman Hawkins and Sonny Rollins
Newport Jazz Festival, July 6, 1963
©Burt Goldblatt/CTS Images
George Avakian has died. He was 98. He lived a long, good life. For us, music lovers, the important bit is that he was a record producer, and a pioneer at that. Trying to give a fair overview of his whole career is almost impossible, and you will notice that, more often than not, the focus is on less than a decade, from 1950—when he produced Benny Goodmanʼs Famous 1938 Carnegie Hall Jazz Concert—till 1958, when he left Columbia Records. Not all eras deserve the same attention, and those years were very intense for Avakian: he signed Dave Brubeck, Erroll Garner and a certain Miles Davis into the big time, and relaunched the careers of Louis Armstrong and Duke Ellington. But before that, he established, or helped establish, the concepts of the jazz album and the reissues of older recordings, a paradigm still extant. After those heady times at Columbia, he produced Sonny Rollinsʼs comeback in the sixties, beginning with The Bridge, all the studio recordings of Paul Desmond with Jim Hall—one LP for Warner Bros., the rest for RCA—and launched the careers of Charles Lloyd and Keith Jarrett. And still, this doesnʼt make him justice (Discogs.com, as good as it is, barely scratches the surface).

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Barbara Carroll's first gig in NYC

(All the photos below are by William P. Gottlieb, and are available at the Library of Congress website.—click on them for a larger view.)

Pianist and singer Barbara Carroll passed away on February 12. She was 92, and hadn't quite retired. She was a two-handed pianist, as Hank Jones and Billy Taylor were, with big ears, and was active throughout her life, with a pause in the 1960s to raise a child. She has plenty of music available, much of it in trio format. Her "repertory" recordings for SESAC from 1959 (available as a download or via streaming through the "... And More Bears" label) are well worth a listen.

Carroll had piano lessons from a very early age, and attended the New England Conservatory, although her enthusiasm was aimed at jazz. During World War II, she toured her all-fermale trio around army camps in that part of the country, and after that, when she was just 22 years old, she landed her first gig in the Big Apple, almost by chance...
"When I came to New York, I knew nobody there except one musician, who introduced me to an agent, and immediately he was fortunate enough to get me a job opposite Dizzy Gillespie’s big band. I had a trio of my own, which consisted of Chuck Wayne on guitar, Clyde Lombardi on bass, and myself. Needless to say, I was so impressed with these two marvellous musicians I was working with that I was practically overwhelmed. Plus sharing the engagement with Dizzy’s band, which at that time included some great players like Ray Brown on bass, John Lewis on piano. Really fantastic."

Barbara Carroll, Clyde Lombardi, Chuck Wayne
Downbeat Club, c. 14-20 August 1947