Dig A-Jazz: Appreciating the music now in Viral Format: Sum Jazz Cats and Blues Songbirds
Old Cats and Young Lions
Jazz appreciation is one of the most least talked about subject and it is a way of life that is still going on in the world. Jazz appreciation, or listening to jazz, and reading about it is one of the cornerstones of jazzing or jazz-netting, or jazz-hanging and listening, i.e., where we all meet as Jazz lovers and 'dig' and read the threads on the sleeves or jacket of the album or CD - nowadays on the video and the Internet. Today with so many genres of popular music, Jazz is no more at the pinnacle of all music.
Nonetheless, we will appreciate some artist and their feats, influence and compositions. We will dig Jazz by recognizing some giants and understand their humanity beneath soulful, rhythmic and spiritual jazz rendering. Jazz is the kind of music that lets you hold and lay back and let the music speak for itself and the artist show you where he/she is coming from, and how his/her life inspired this kind of music.
Jazz Music is without flaw and the artist made recordings that were signposts marking high points, and churning points and moments of sheer genius. In short, their music required a lot of listening and reading; their lives need to be known in some depth to be able to appreciate their artfully soulful/spiritual renditions
We had Explosive drummers who were funky; pianists with unusual signatures; some had mesmerizing and and beautiful melodies and riffs; others crossed different musical genres; one gets to listen to superb composers and arrangers who knew how to put together monster arrangements and improvisation; then there were those who managed to define their instruments in tandem with the jazz music composition and performance.
We had and still have musicians who have a serene touch and wonderful innovative ideas; there are artists who worked from simple structures and they laid out wonderfully and lyrical and extended improvisations; then there was the spiritually moving and uplifting recordings imbued with the celebration of divine love, with equal measures of devotion and exploration rendered by the artists.
We should by now be aware that the folklore of black Southerners was a process of artistic communication, exemplified in recurring performances of music, folk tales, and material culture. These performances reflect both continuity with Africa and creativity in the New World. The oral traditions of black southerners included creole language such as Gullah and a variety of dialects generally known as "lack speech." Southern black people's speech has also included special linguistic forms such as jive talk, with African-derived slang words such as "guy," "jive," "hip," and "dig" and so forth.
More especially notable red such known forms such as rapping, toasting and ritualized linguistic interactions such as signifying and playing the dozens. Bakari Kitwana put it this way in explaining rap music in 1994: "The development of rap music and other forms of black music is a discussion that is often intense, and it never fails to generate a colorful range of emotions and opinions. This is a debate that can be heard in our homes and schools, in barbershops, beauty shop,and coffee shops,at work,alongside basketball courts, our playgrounds and in Congress. However, much of what has been said, written and continuously discussed opens a lager void than it fills."
Jazz Origins and Influences
Jazz is commonly thought to have begun around the turn of the century, but the roots of where jazz originates from are much older. Blues is the parent of all legitimate jazz, and it is impossible to say how old Blues is - certainly no older than the presence of Africans in the United States. It is a native American music, the product of the black man in this country: or to put it more exactly, blues could not exist if the African Captives had not become American Captives (LeRoi Jones) [At this point, it would be important to read about the Gnawa Master Musicians] in the Hub, "Music is the Soundtrack of Our Lives: Breaking and Breaching The Musical Sound Barrier."
The immediate predecessors of Blues were the African Americans/American Negro work song, which had their musical origins in West Africa/ (and North Africa- ala Gnawa Musicians of Morocco). The religious music of the Africans in America also originates from the same African music. Afro-American work songs came came about more quickly in slavery than any other type of song, because even if the individual who sang it was no longer working for himself, most of the physical impetuses that suggested that particular type of singing were still present.
So, the music which formed the link between pure African music and the music which developed after the African slaves in the United States had had a chance to become exposed to some degree of Euro-American culture was that which contained the greatest number of Africanisms and yet was foreign to Africa. And this was the music of the second-generation of slaves, their work songs. The African slave had sung African chants and litanies in those American fields.
His sons and daughters, and their children, began to use America as a reference. As late as the nineteenth century, pure African songs could be heard, and pure, African dances seen in the Southern United States. Congo Square, in New Orleans, would nightly rock the "master Drums" of new African arrivals. In places like Haiti, Guyana, these drums still do remind the West that the black man came from Africa, not Howard University.
Bakari Kitwane adds his analysis,which is part of the discussion that takes place between Jazz enthusiasts and rap musicians, who, in essence, are simply saying the same thing about these different types of music, and this is a dialogue, as I have appointed out above, which has been going on form the beginning of Jazz music in the south. Bakari adds: "Rap, and other forms of black music intend to promote more careful, critical thinking on the part of the artists, genre enthusiasts and the general public.
These types of music provided definitions for difficult, often unapproached, misunderstood, and misrepresented concepts such as hip-hop culture and hardcore, among others; and with jazz, as to its relevance to today's generation. Attempts are being made to place the discussion of rap, jazz, soul, R&B into the larger concerns of Black Culture women's struggle, the great disparity between America's minority economic elite and majority poor, and the extensive impact of white supremacy(racism) on Black world Development. Its about rap, jazz, soul, R&B, rock and toll; Its about Signifying; the dozens; Black Culture; music; definition; blacks; race; gender; Black art; sexuality; community; consciousness; creativity; youth; adults; elders; ancestors; words; politics; economics; Media History; spirituality; healing; liberation; life and Rap, Jazz, Soul, R&B, Gospel and so on."
Jazz, as a music form and genre, emanates and is expressed form all these shared experiences. Jazz has influenced and is influenced by a variety of factors. Jazz has, from the time of its inception in the 20th Century, and through incorporating music from the 19th century, spawned a variety of other genres form New Orleans, Ragtime and New Orleans music from 1890s to 1910s, Dixieland from the 1910s, big band style swing from from the 1930s and 1940s, Bebop from the mid 1940s, along with Latin Fusions, such as Afro-Cuban and Brazilian jazz, from the 1950s and 1960s, jazz-rock fusion from the 1970s and late 1980s we saw the development of acid jazz, which blends jazz influences into funk(Known in some quarters as Afro-jazz) and hip-hop. We also some variants of European and and Asiatic jazz; we also have cool jazz, Hard Pop,soul Jazz, Post bop, Jazz fusion, Modal Jazz, Free jazz and so on.
This experience come from trickster folk tales and their themes of the struggle for mastery between the trickster and a small animal like Brer Rabbit and a bigger and more powerful adversary. Folklorists like J. Mason and others who collected a cycle of stories featuring the never -ending contest of the slave trickster and old Master.
And in both cases, the trickster defeats the his rival through intellect and not physical attributes. In the same, but different way, Black Southern music originated in the plantations, affected and influenced by the hardships of plantation life; some from field hollers of plantation workers; at times from the street cries of of Black urban peddlers; other songs came from southern prison.
From haunting spirituals of slaves, black gospel developed music. The Blues evolved from rural performers, right up to the reels and buck dances of slave fiddlers and banjo pickers evolved through fife and drum bands of Mississippi, jug bands of Memphis and Charleston, and brass bands of New Orleans into early Jazz.(Charles Joyner)
Jazz was also influenced by folk belief that is strongly influenced by African patterns of folk belief, as is the music of Jazz. The South was the principal arena in which various African cultural traditions were transformed into an Afro-American culture. Jazz then grew into a world-wide musical phenomenon that there are jazz bands, quartets, quintets, ensembles, big bands, duets, solos and so on. In this piece we would like to appreciate jazz from many fronts, epochs or eras.
There is speculation in the Jazz realm as to whether a certain narrative is suitable for its history. What Jazz does is to tell story of a complex and nuanced musical form that is several centuries old and has rapidly changed and developed. But there are tales, often told of heroic and tragic figures who led bands or played most solos is no more so frequently narrated in the music and cultural lore and world.
In this case, one cannot recount the history of Jazz musicians through the prism of one type of genre, instruments or lyrical sounds of artist. It would be instructive and better to talk about Jazz musicians from different eras, without any sequential dates or times. It would be like appreciating music form a vinyl, tape, CD player. iPods or even videos, just going with the flow, and not concerned with the order they have to come in.
The artist we will follow will maybe shed the light as to the progression of Jazz form earlier in history, right up to contemporary times. Jazz is nothing if not interactive and improvisatory and a leader or soloist can't go it alone, not all the time, anyway. The following artist contributed immensely to Jazz and we appreciate them as we appreciate the music they have made, by writing about them.
Some Jazz Greats
Louis "Satchmo" Armstrong
Louis Daniel Armstrong (August 4, 1901 - July 6, 1971), nicknamed 'Satchmo' or 'Pops', was an innovative trumpet and singer. He came to be known i in Jazz in the 1920s with an innovative approach towards playing a cornet or trumpet. He was born into a a poor family but at age 5 managed to attend Fisk School for boys, where he was exposed to Creole music. After a short stint as a paper boy, he began to hang out in dance Halls and got to see licentious dancing to the quadrille. He also go to listen to bands like Joe "King" Oliver band.
At the age of 11, Bunk Johnson said he taught Louis how to play the cornet. He also showed gratitude to the Jewish family that took him into their household, fed him and natured him. He eventually ended being sent multiple times to a home for juvenile delinquency. Under the strict discipline of Captain Joseph Jones. He got his first dance hall gig at Henry Ponce's and Black Benny became his protector. He resigned from the Kid Ory's band and joined and married Daisy Oarker from Louisiana. In 1922 he joined Joe "King" Oliver's Creole band.
He worked with many other artists and made his first recordings on the Gennett. He married the second, a lady pianist Lil Hardin. In 1924 he parted company with Oliver in a cordial manner and went to New York to play with the Fetcher Henderson band. In Fletcher's Band he influenced Tenor Saxophonist Coleman Hawkings. Lewis made many recordings at this time arranged by his friend Clarence Williams. He got criticized for accepting the title of King of the Zulus given to him by the people of New Orleans.
People tried to emulate him and got their lips cracked for the effort. He recorded with his Hot Five combo;; Dukes Band admired him and followed his shows. He had a great fondness for Marijuana. He played with Earl Father Hines; Erskine Tate's little Symphony; played Fats Waller's music; played with Lionell Hampton. He divorced in 1937 and married his long-time girlfriend, Alpha. Joe Glasser, Armstrong's manager dissolved the Armstrong band and established a six piece band.
This group featured Armstrong with Jack Teagarden, then next it was Father Earl HInes and the top swing dixieland musicians, and most of them were ex-big band leaders. This group, The All Stars, at various times included Earl 'Fatha' HInes, Barney Bigard, Edmond Hall. Jack Teagarden, Trummy Young, Avrell Shaw, Billy Kyle, Marty Napoleon, Big Sid Catlett, Cozy Cole, Tyree Glenn, Barett Deems and the Philipino percussionist, Danny Barcelona. He was the first musician to appear on Time Magazine. He toured Africa, Europe and Asia.
The nickname Satch is short for Satchelmouth(describing his embouchure). In the Airport in London, Melody Maker Magazine greeted Armstrong with "Hello. Satchmo. this name has stuck since then. He sang with brakeman Jimmie Rodgers, Bing Cosby, duke Ellington, Fletcher Henderson, Bessie Smith and with Ella Fritzgerald. He recorded Three albums with Ells: Ella and Louis. Ella and Louis Again and Porgy and Bess for Verve Records.
His hits record include "Stardust", "What a Wonderful World", "When the Saints go Marching In", "Dream a little dream of Me", "Ain't Misbehaving", 'Stomping on the Savoy", "We have all the Time in the World", "Hello Dolly",(which Nearly toppled the Beattles from the Bill Boards Top 100 charts). He also had Grammies with these tunes:"St. Louis Blues"(1929), "Weather Birds", "Blue Yodel #9(Standing on the Corner) [1930), "All of Me"(1932), "Porgy and Bess"(1958), "Hello Dolly"(1964), Heebie Jeebies"(1926), "What a Wonderful World"(1968), "Mack the Knife"(1955) and "West End Blues"(1928)
He was born on May 14th, 1897 and passed on on May 14, 1959. He was born in a wealthy Creole family. He was a jazz musician who played a saxophone, Clarinet and was also a composer. He had a forceful delivery, well constructed improvisations, and a unique, and wide vibrato which was his signature. Despite is prowess as a Clarinet player, he was well-known and dubbed the first grandmaster of the saxophone. He left New Orleans at twenty and travelled between New York and Chicago.
He was arrested in Paris for being in the scene of a shooting of a woman, and served time. He was deported afterwards. Ken Burns, in his documentary, says 'the shootout started when Sidney was arguing with another musician who told him he played the wrong notes. Betchet challenged the man to a duel, but others say he was ambushed by this other musician.'
The highlights of his life as a jazz musician when he sided with "Tommy Ladnier " session "Weary Blues". "Really the Blues were with Louis Armstrong in "Clarence Williams Blue Five"; In the 1940s with "New Orleans Feetwarmers"; and in a 1938, and various of his compositions. In 1940 he made an appearance on NBC's The Chamber Music Society of Lower Basin street and played his masterpieces "Shake it and Break It" and St Louis Blues along with Henry Levine's dixieland band.
He has also recorded a pop version of the song "The Sheik Araby" playing six different instruments: clarinet, soprano saxophone, Tenor saxophone, piano, bass and drums. Sidney Betchet said: "I started by playing The Sheik on piano, and played the drums while listening to the piano, I meant to play all the rhythm instruments, but got mixed up and grabbed my soprano, then the bass, then the tenor saxophone, and finally finished up with the clarinet.
Duke Ellington observed thus: "Bechet to me was the very epitome of jazz... everything he played in his whole life was completely original. I honestly think he was the most unique man to ever be in this music." Robert Palmer, the music reporter for the New York Times wrote of Bechet that: "By combining the 'cry' of the blues players and the finesse of the Creoles into his 'own way,' Sindney Bechet created a style which moved the emotions even as it dazzled the mind." Bechet did some private recordings found in Max Miller's archives in 1944, 1946 and 1953 and all have never been released. In 1968 Bechet was inducted into the Downbeat Jazz Hall of Fame.
Unlike other leaders of big bands, Edward Kennedy "Duke" Ellington (1899-1974), personally created and composed all the music his orchestra played. With his insight and sensitivity he composed,designed and set it up for specific players and emphasized the individuality of his band members. His is America's greatest all round musicians- composer, orchestrator/arranger, songwriter, bandleader/conductor, accompanist and soloist. Duke is the most influential artist in the history of recorded music.
He is also recognized as one of the greatest figures in the history of jazz and his music was in the categories of blues, gospel, movie sound tracks, popular and classics. His charisma and refined public manner elevated the perception of jazz to an artistic level on par with classical genre. In 1999 he received a special award citation from the Pulitzer Price Board. Some of the most well known musicians in jazz were melded into playing with Duke, and his was one of the most well known jazz orchestra units in the history of jazz.
At age seven, he had started taking piano lesson from Marietta Clinkscales. His smother taught him how to be dignified and reinforced manners and to live elegantly. His friend, Edgar McEntree, thought in order for him to be eligible for constant companionship, gave him the title of Duke. In his autobiography, he said he thought he attended less of his piano lesson that he was supposed to , he composed in 1973, "Music is my Mistress", because at that time he had felt that playing piano was not his talent.
When he vacationed with is mother during the summer moths, he started listening to, and watching and imitating ragtime pianists in Philadelphia, Washington D.C. and Atlantic City. Throughout, the guidance of Oliver "Doc" Perry, he was taught in private lessons in harmony, learned to read sheet music, project a professional style and improve his technique. He was also inspired by pianist like P. Johnson and Luckey Roberts. He later took advice from Will Marion Cook, Fats Waller and Sidney Bechet. He continued to play in clubs around Washington D.C. and his attachment grew very strongly that he turned down an art scholarship to the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn.
He joined with Sonny Greer, his drummer when they were invited to join the Wilber Sweatman Orchestra in New york City. He moved into Harlem and became one of the figures of the Harlem Renaissance. He joined the African-American theatre when the dance craze, the Charleston, emerged in Harlem. they also played at the rent-house parties for income. He finally returned to D.C. very discouraged. By 1924, Ellington made eight records and received a composing credit on three including "Choo Choo". For a time he played with Sidney Bechet and attracted the biggest names in jazz like Paul Whiteman. Ellington, was thrown into prominence by the arrangement made by Mills at Brunswick, Viktor and Columbia labels.
At the Cotton Club, Ellington's band performed all the music for the revues which mixed comedy, dance numbers, vaudeville, burlesque, music, and illegal alcohol. Weekly radio broadcasts from the Club gave Ellington national exposure. He was featured with Ruby Keeler and with the music and lyrics by George Gershwin and Gus Kahn. In the 1930s he was having gigs at the Roseland Ballroom, Americas most noted ballroom. Things began to improve for Ellington in 1938 when he moved-in with a Cotton Club employed, Beatrice "Evie" Ellis. After splitting with his agent, he signed with the William Morris Agency, and ended up with the end of the 1930 with a successful European Tour.
Duke Ellington composed some big hits in the 1930s helped greatly by his reputation. These songs include: "Mood Indigo"(1930), "It Don't Mean a Thing(If It Ain't Got That Swing"(1932), "Sophisticated Lady"(1933), "Solitude"(1934), "In a Sentimental Mood"(1935), "Caravan"(1937), "I let A Song Go Out Of My Heart"(1938), "Take The A Train", made a hit in 1941 and was composed by Billy Strayhorn. Strayhorn contributed his original lyrics, arranged and polished many of Ellington's songs , and became Ellington's doppelganger, and always filled-in for Ellington.
His most well known compositions were specifically for a the style and skills of the players, such as "Jeeps Blues" for Johnny Hodges, "Concerto for Cootie", for Cootie Williams, later it became "Do Nothing Till you hear from Me" with Bob Russell's lyrics, and the "Mooche" for Trick Sam Nanton and Bob Miley. He made hits by recording pieces from his bandsmen such as Juan Tizol's "Caravan and "Perdido" which brought the "Spanish Tinge" to big band jazz. The Due made his appearance in 1956 at the Newport Jazz Festival and this returned him to wider prominence and a new audience. Johnny Hodges had rejoined the Band and this gave a renewed Ellington renewed the impetus which the Newport appearance made possible and help to create.
In the 1960s, as Ellington was between recording contracts, this exposed him to record with a variety of artists not previously associated with him. Both Ellington's and Count Basie's Orchestras recorded with Coleman Hawkings, Frank Sinatra, Charles Mingus and Max Roach, Lawrence Brown(Trombonist) and Cootie Williams. He also recorded with Bea Benjamin in 1963/1997, the song "A Morning In Paris". Ellington said: "The writing and playing of music is a matter of intent.... You can't just throw a paint brush against the wall and call whatever happens as art. My music fits the tonal personality of the player. I think too strongly in terms of altering my music to fit the performer to be impressed by accidental music. You can't take doodling seriously.(H. W. Wilson company)
Ellington married his high school sweetheart Edna Thompson in 1918. The had their first son Mercer Kennedy Ellington, who when grown up played trumpet and led his own band and worked as his father's business manager and took full control of his father's band, and an important archivist of his father's musical life. Ruth(Ellington's sister) later ran Tempo Music, Ellington's music publishing company.
Fats Waller was born on May 21, 1904 and was the youngest of eleven children born to Edward and Adeline Waller. His father was a lay-preacher at Harlem's Abyssinian Baptist Church. Fats accompanied them on Piano and earned the nickname "Fats" due to his size. Waller's flexibility in his playing and compositional mindset came from his years as a silent film accompanist, having acquired this skill too by being trained by Miss Mazie Mullins and eventually played with films at the Lincoln and Lafayette Theaters in Harlem.
Waller's first wife was Edith Hatchett, and was well-schooled in the Bible. When his mother died, Waller struggled to shoulder adults responsibilities, but his enthusiasm for jazz got him kicked out by his father for playing what he called the 'devil's creation'. And, form playing for silent movies, he developed his ability to compose tunes very quickly, because of his "reflex" ability - fitting the right cord, melodic gesture, or rhythmic scheme to the appropriate visual situation or character.
He became a skilled pianist and master of stride piano. He was one of the most popular performers of his era, and found commercial success in Europe and America, including Africa. He was a prolific composer and many songs he wrote are still popular such as "Honeysuckle Rose", Ain't Misbehaving" and "Squeeze Me". He also composed many novelty swing tunes and sold them for next to nothing.
Fats Waller copyrighted over 400 tunes, and many of them co-written by his closest collaborator Andy Razaf. Gene Sedric observed that: "Fats was the most relaxed man I ever saw in a studio, and so he made everybody relaxed. After a balance had been taken, we'd just need to make a side, unless it was a kind of difficult number."
He played with from Gene Austin to Erskine Tate to Adelaide Hall, and his greatest success came with his own five or six piece combo. "Fats Waller and his Rhythm".(Waller ,Maurice and Anthony Calabrese) He enjoyed success touring the United Kingdom and Ireland in 1930 and appear in one of the first BBc Television broadcasts. It is told that he was once kidnapped after a show and at gun-point was made to play for Al Capone, and he got paid a thousand dollars for playing for three days for the mob boss.
He wrote a Broadway hit "(What did I Do to Be So Black and Blue" in 1929) which became a hit for Ethel Waters and Louis Armstrong. Waller influenced Count Basie and Errol Garner and today Dick Hyman, Mike Lipskin, Louis Mazatier and other jazz pianists perform in the Waller idiom. Waller contracted pneumonia and died on a cross country train trip in Kansas City, Missouri on December 15, 1943. He has been inducted into the the songwriters Hall of Fame(1970; Big Band and Jazz Hall of Fame(1989); Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award(1993); Jazz at Lincoln Center: Nesuhi Ertegun Jazz Hall of Fame(2005) and Gennett Records Walk of Fame in 2008.
Jelly Roll Morton
Jelly Roll Morton, according to his baptismal certificate, he was born on October 20, 1890, and both Morton and his half sister claimed he was born on September 20, 1885; his World War I draft registration listed his birth date as September 13, 1884; his California death certificate listed his birth date as September 20, 1889. He was born to F.P. Lamothe and Louise Monette. His parents were in a common-law marriage and not legally married. He used his step-father's name, Mouton and changed it to Morton.
Morton was regarded as one of the greatest pianists in Storyville district in the early 20th century. He started playing piano, at the age of 14 working as a piano player in a brothel(sporting house) and had convinced his church-going grandmother that he worked in a barrel factory. The New Orleans had many brothels in the early twentieth century that were white/Black and Creole divides, and were the famous melting pots of musical influences inherent therein.
Morton made a claim that he single-handedly invented Jazz in the early part of the century. Looking at his musical recordings and composition, this may not have been further from the truth. When his grandmother found out that he had been playing in brothels, she kicked him out of the house. His major influence was Tony Jackson and according to Morton, Jackson was the only pianist better than him; he was also a pianist at whorehouses, as well as an accomplished guitar player.
In 1904 he started working in the American South with minstrel shows, gambling and composing. His works, "Jelly Roll Blues," "New Orleans Blues," Frog-I-More Rag," "Animule Dance," and "King Porter Stomp" were composed in the 1900s. In 1910 he was in Chicago and 1911 in New York where Willie "The Lion" Smith saw his act. . He toured with girlfriend, Rosa Brown in 1912-1914 as a vaudeville act, three years before the blues were played in the north. He started writing his composition in 1914 and in 1915 his "Jelly Roll Blues" was the first jazz composition ever published, recording as sheet music the New Orleans traditions that had been jealously guarded by musicians.
In Chicago in 1923 arrived there to claim authorship of his recently-published rag, "The Wolverines", which had become as hit as the "Wolverine blues. Here in Chicago he released his first of the commercial recordings, first as piano rolls, then on record, both as a piano soloist and with various jazz bands. In 1926 he got a contract with Viktor records. This gave him a chance to play his arrangements, with his band Jelly Roll Morton and his Red Hot Peppers and these tunes are regarded as the classics of 1920s jazz.
In New York City he married showgirl Mabel Bertrand in Gary Indiana, and moved to New York His band recordings suffered, compared to Chicago where he could get man New Orleans musicians. He was able to record with such great artists like clarinetists Omer Simeon, george Baquet, Albert Nicholas, Wilton Crawley, Barney Bigard, Lorenzo Tie and Artie Shaw; trumpeters like Bubber Miley, Johnny Dunn and Harry "Red" Allen; saxophonists Sidney Bechet, Paul Barnes and Bud Freeman; bassist Pop Foster; and drummers Paul Barbarin, Cozy Cole ad Zutty Singleton.
Whilst in New York, he had a brief stint in a radio show, and continued playing less prosperously , he toured in a band of burlesque act and his compositions were recorded by Fletcher Henderson, Benny Goodman and others, and he never received any royalties from these recordings.
He then became a manager and piano player at a dive which at various times was called the "Music Box", Blue Moon Inn" and "Jungle Inn". He was master of ceremonies and bouncer in this African American neighborhood. The club was owned by a woman named Cornelia, who let her friends come in and drink freely which impeded business success. One of these people, disgruntled friend stabbed Morton in the head and chest, and his wife demanded they leave DC, and it is speculated that it may be these wounds that caused his early demise.
Worsening Asthma affliction sent him to a New York Hospital for three months,and he was carrying a series of manuscripts and new tunes and arrangements and was thinking of starting a new band to restart his career when the ailment got the better of him. He died on July 10, 1941 at age 51 or 56 after an eleventh day stay in Los Angeles County Hospital.
Morton often played the melody of a tune with his right thumb, while sounding a harmony above these notes with other fingers of his right hand. This added a rustic or "out-of-tune" sound(due to the playing of a diminished 5th above the melody). He also walked in major and minor sixths in the bass, instead of tenths or octaves. He played basic swing rhythms in both left and right hand.
Some of his songs were: "Gig Foot Ham," "Black Bottom Stomp," "The Crave," "Creepy Feeling," "Doctor Jazz Stomp," "The Dirty dozen," "Fickle Fay Creep," "Freakish," "Genjam," "Good Old New York," "Jungle Blues," "London Blues," "Mint Julep," "New Orleans Bump," "Southern Town," "The Pearls," "Pep," "Pontchartrain," "Sidewalk Blues," "Sweet Substitute," and Wolverine Blues."
William James Basie was born to Harvey Lee Basie, and Lillian Ann Childs and lived on Mechanic Street in Red Bank, New Jersey on August 21, 1904 - April 2, 1984. He was an American jazz pianist, organist. composer and bandleader for 50 years. He was given his first piano, and for doing baked cakes and did laundry, she was paid 25c which she used to pay for his piano lessons. Many musicians came to be well known and musicians in their own right under his direction, and some of these are zlester Young (Tenor saxophonist), Herschel Evans(Trumpeter) Buck Clayton(Trumpeter), Harry "Sweets" Edison(Trumpeter) Jimmy Rushing(Singer) and Joe Williams(Singer).
Basie was not much of a scholar but preferred to dream of traveling life, and was inspired by carnivals whenever they came into his town. He hung-out at the Palace Theater in Red Bank and did chores for the manager and this got him free admission In the Theater he learned how operate spotlights for the vaudeville shows. One day he took the place of a piano player who did not arrive by show time, and Basie played by the ear and quickly learnt to improvise music for silent movies. In the end he played in the end because of encouragement from Sonny Greer, who later became Duke Ellington's drummer from 1919-1951. Both he and Greer then began playing with pick up groups for dances, resorts and amateur shows like the Harry Richardson's Kings of Syncopation.(Count Basie 1985)
Around 1924, Basie went to Harlem where Jazz was very popular, and he bumped into Greer, by then Dukes drummer, and he met with some jazz cats like Willie "The Lion" Smith and James P. Johnson. He toured with several band act between 1925 and 1927 including Katie Krippen and Her Kiddies, and on Keith, the Columbia Barlesque and the Theater Owners Bookers Association(T.O.B.A. vaudeville circuits). He was at one time an accompanist and soloist for Katie Krippen and Gonzelle White.
Basie toured Kansas Cit, St. Louis, New Orleans and Chicago and he met many great musicians including Louis Armstrong. In 1925 Harlem, most musicians winged their way through without sheet music(Using "head arrangements"). He met-up with Fats Waller who taught him how to play the piano and later Basie got to playing the organ.
Willie "The Lion Smith introduced him to survive when the time were hard financially for Basie by arranging gigs at house-rent parties, and introducing him to some great musicians, and taught him some piano techniques In 1928, he was invited to Tulsa by Walter Page and His Famous Blue Devils which featured Jimmy Rushing, among one of the first Big Bands and played mostly in Texas and was at this time that he began to be known as "Count" Basie.
In 1929 he became a pianist for Bennie Moten's band based in Kansas. As a piano player he became a co-arranger with Eddie Durham. During his stint with Moten, he met with Ben Webster who was added to the band. Moten died in 1935 and Basie began to form a band using Moten's players, added Lester Young and their playing at the Reno Club was broadcast live on local radio. They began to improvise on the tune now known as the "One O'Clock Jump".
His band set up the D-Flat but went on playing the song in F and this became his signature tune.(Basie) His band became well-known for its rhythm section and was now billed as Count Basie and his Barons of Rhythm, and eventually moved to Chicago. Lester Young helped him improve on two tenor saxophones whom he split apart and put each on different sides and had them involved in "duels", and many bands eventually adopted the 'split tenor' arrangements(Basie)
Basie's Decca recording session, which was Lester Young's earlier recordings, in 1937 were "Sho Shine Boy," "Evening," "Boogie Woogie," and "Oh, Lady Be Good." Basie's sound had by now came to be characterized as his march, "jumping" beat and contrapuntal sounds and accents of his piano. By 1937, his personnel included Lester Young and Herschel Evans(Tenor Sax), Freddie Green(Guitar), Jo Jones(Drums), Walter Page(Bass, Earle Warren(Alto sax), Buck Clayton and Harry Edison(Trumpet) Benny Morton and Dickie Wells(Trombone). Basie also liked the blues and had notable blues singers like Billie Holiday, Jimmy Rushing, Big Joe Turner, Helen Humes and Joe Williams. He also worked with arrangers like Eddie Durham and Jimmy Mundy.
The Count swung hard in New York City, and was booked at the Roseland Ballroom for Christmas show. His band lacked the polished look and presentation, to which, through Hammond, they came up with some adjustments including softer playing, more solos, more standards and saving their hottest songs for later on in the show and give the audience a chance to warm up. He officially recorded "Pennies From Heaven" and "Honeysuckle".
He got introduced to Billie Holiday and Jimmy Rushing was their hot performance, and they replayed repeatedly numbers they had worked on in rehearsal and, as a group they were able to repeat a song they found that they liked too, using their band collective memory. In 1938 they played at the Savoy which was also known for its 'Jitterbugging' and Roseland was know for then for 'Fox Trots' and congas.
They gained wider public acceptance and support after their band battled with such aggression, and Basie maintained his tantalizing arpeggios which teased Chic to more forceful drum beating, which had audience up, dancing and trying to catch their breadths and steps and it was here where he encountered Ella Fritzgerald. Benny Goodman eventually recorded "One O'Clock Jump" afterwards.(Basie)
Billie Holiday left for Artie Shaw's band and was replaced by Helen Humes. During the war years the band was fully booked, and made little money. Basie quit MCA and signed up with the Million Morris Agency who got them better paying gigs. The war years saw a drop in hall bookings, and swing began to fade-out.
The Bebop era had just started and the era of pop singer was about to get started. In 1946 Basie disbanded the the band, and for a while performed in combos at times into orchestras. After headlining in the Universal-International and 'Sugarchile' Robinson, Billie Holiday, Count Basie and his Sextet, Billie Holiday, in 1952 he re-formed his group as a 16 piece orchestra.
Norman Grantz helped him get stints into Birdland club and big band recording companies like Mercury, Clef and Verve Labels. This was at the time of the beginning to the Juke box era, and Basie shared the limelight with Rock 'n 'roll and Rhythm and Blues artists. He grew the group into an ensemble, with fewer solos, and relying on "head" and more written arrangements.
He added some Bebop he thought made sense and had feeling. He was sharing headliners at Birdland with Charlie Parer, Dizzy Gillespie and Miles Davis. He kept a strict rhythm pulse and let soloist and others do their thing. He started touring and his band also included Paul Campbell, Tommy Turrentine, Johnny Letman, Idris Suleiman, Joe Newman(Trumpet); Jimmy Wilkins, Benny Powell, Matthew Gee(Trombone); Paul Quinichette and Floyd Johnson(Tenor Sax); Marshall Royal and Ernie Wilkins(alto sax); and Charlie Fowkes(baritone sax).
He was able to capture the audience that listened to these bands in the 1938 era. In 1945 he toured France, the Netherlands and Germany. He backed every recognized artist up to that time. The Birdland of 1955 toured with artists like Sarah Vaughan, Errol Garner, Lester Young, George Shearing and Stan Getz. In 1957 he released a live album "At Newport.'
He made two tours in the British Isles and put up a splendid performance for Queen Elizabeth II, along with Judy Garland, Vera Lynn and Mario Lanza. He also worked with Frank Foster and Quincy Jones, both as arrangers. He also performed at one of the five J.F Kennedy Inaugural balls. Count and Duke combined their forces and recorded First Time! The Count Meets the Duke, and each provided numbers from their play books.
During the balance of the 1960s the band toured, recorded, made television appearances,played in Festivals, performed in Las Vegas Shows and traveled abroad. Somewhere around 1964 he began wearing his trademark yachting cap(Basie). He ket on changing personnel right into the 1970s. He made a few more movie appearances with Jerry Lewis, Mel Brooks and played his arrangement of "April in Paris". Count Basie died of pancreatic cancer in Hollywood, Florida on April 26, 1984.
Count Basie got the following awards: Down Beat Jazz Hall of Fame, Inducted 1958; late 1970s Honoree at 6508 Hollywood Blvd.., Hollywood Wall of Fame Category; Kennedy Center Honors, Honoree 1981; Grammy Trustees Award, winner 1981; NEA Jazz Masters, Winner 1983; Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award, Winner 2002; Nesuhi Ertegun Jazz Hall of Fame, Inducted 2005; Long Island Music Hall of Fame, inducted 2007.
There so much more about Count, in the near future I will expand this Hub in order to recuperate some of the fantastics stories about the Count, those I have already listed, and some which I would like to be adding to the Hub. As for now, we need to move on and dig some more artists and Great Jazz Masters.
Charles Parker, Jr. was born in August 29, 1920 and passed away March 12th, 1955 was an American jazz saxophonist and composer. He was born in kansas City, Missouri,and was the only child of charles and Addie Parker. His father was an alcoholic and little Parker attended Lincoln High School. He enrolled in September 1934 and withdrew in December 1935, and at that time he registered with the local Musicians Union. Charlie jr., was influenced as a musician by his father, who played piano, and was a dancer and singer on the T.O.B.A. circuit. His mother worked at the local Western Union.
Parker started playing the saxophone when he was 11 years old and at age 14 he joined his house school band using rented school instrument. Because he did not have formal playing, he was thrown out of the band. Parker had several set backs with his playing over the years, and in 1936 Parker participated in a 'cutting contest' that included Jo Jones on drums. Parker worked very hard and practiced, learning the blues, "Cherokee and rhythm changes" in all twelve keys.
During this learning experience, he improved and mastered improvisation and developed some ideas of Be-bop. It has been said that he played for three to four years practicing 15 hours a day. He often played in an unconventional concert pitch key signatures, like E (which transposes to C for alto sax).
He was influenced by groups led by Count Basie and Bennie Moten. He continued to play in local clubs and his technique was honed by Buster Smith, who had dynamic transitions to double and triple time, really influenced Parker's style. He paid to his peak whist on this band and showed his virtuosity without implying a lack of musicality. When he was a teenager, he developed a morphine addiction after being hospitalized in a car accident, and in the end ended up being addicted to heroin.
In New York City he worked as a dishwater at Jimmie's Chicken Shack, and Art Tatum performed there. Charlie's style echoed Art Tatum with dazzling, high speed arpeggios and sophisticated use of harmony. In 1942 he played with Earl HInes for a year. He played too in the band of Dizzy Gillespie.
Due to the strike in 1942 and 1943 by the American Federation of Musicians, Parker kept on playing by joining other musicians in after-hours clubs in Harlem, such as Clark Monroe, Monroe's Uptown House. It is said that Monk said that they wanted to play music that white bandleaders would not play because they had taken over swing and profited from it. Bebop is a method the musician developed his solo that enabled him to play by building on the chords' extended intervals, such as ninths, elevenths and thirteenths.
Whilst still with the McShann's orchestra, Parker had by this time the twelve tones of the chromatic scale can each be quickly led melodically to any key, breaking some of the confines of simpler jazz soloing. Amongst the criticism about this new genre of jazz, Coleman Hawkings and Benny goodman were more positive about its development, and participated in jam sessions and recording dates in the new approach with its adherents.
When the 2 year strike and the recording ban was lifted that Parker was able to collaborate with Dizzy Gillespie, Max Roach, Bud Powell and many others that they began to have a serious impact on the world of Jazz. It was around this time that Parker had a serious bout with heroin that eventually had him confined ad committed to Camarillo State Hospital of six months.
Charlie Parker's style of composition involved interpolation of original melodies over pre-existing forms and standards, which is still the common practice in jazz today. Parker also contributed to a vast rhythmic vocabulary to modern jazz, one in which triplets and pick-up notes were used in (then) orthodox ways to lead into chord tones.
He was well noted for his unique style of phrasing and innovative use of rhythm. Yesteryear and today's musicians and students use and transcribe his concepts and ideas and unique 'riffs' and 'licks' as part of their basic jazz vocabulary.
Staff Notated or Improvised
The musicians of this generation were old enough to have been impressed as adolescents by the Negro music of the forties, and they are certainly old enough to have understood the reactions, like Dixie, progressive, cool, and hard bop, that have, to varying degrees, served to obscure the valuable legacies of that music. They were mature enough to produce a highly articulate musical language that makes profound use of the vital music of the forties.
In doing this, they were also re-emphasizing the most expressive qualities of Afro-American musical tradition, while also producing an American music which has complete access to the invaluable emotional history of Western art. Pianist Cecil Taylor and alto saxophonist Ornette Coleman are the most important of these important innovators.
What these musicians have done, basically, is to restore to jazz its valid separation from, and anarchic disregard of, Western popular forms. They have used music of the forties with its jagged, exciting rhythms as an initial reference and have restored the hegemony of blues as the most important basic form in Afro American music.
They have also restored improvisation to its traditional role of invaluable significance, again removing jazz from the hands of the less than gifted arranger and the fashionable diluter. Coleman's music is that of an improvising soloist; like Charlie Parker, he was a brilliant soloist, and his purely extemporaneous statements cannot be reproduced by any notation.
Taylor's music seems to lend itself more to notation - in fact, he has scored quite a few works for larger groups. But even though the music is arranged, there is still the feeling of freedom and unmeasured excitement that only the musician who has developed as an extemporaneous artist can produce.
While the music, with its contemporary dependence on older forms, is in many ways similar of the forties, there are also reinterpretations of the uses of formal musical definitions, though these are not necessarily based on any theoretical re-evaluations. The music has changed because the musicians have changed. And it would be absurd to suppose(as many jazz hobbyists have done) that anything else could be the case.
There is no basis in social, psychological, economical, cultural, or historical fact for assuming that Ornette Coleman or Cecil Tylor should be playing Jazz that sound like the Fletcher Henderson orchestra: "The Boppers were tired of the same old chords and explored new ones. but essentially, most of them were still playig a riff style; it is just that their kind of riffs were built on a new approach to harmony - but not really so new as one thought. Again,the best of them learned on the melodic background of the blues for a melodic form and unity of mood."(Moody)
Chords have always helped the jazz player to shape melody, maybe to an extent that he is now over-dependent on the chord. Ornette seems to depend mostly on the overall tonality of the song as a point of departure for the melody. By this I don't mean the key the music might be in. His pieces don't readily infer key.
They could almost be in any key or no key. I mean that the melody and the chords of his compositions have an overall sound which Ornette seems to use as point of departure. This approach liberates the the improvisor to sing his own song really, without having to meet the deadline of any particular chord. Not that he can't be vertical and say a chord he chooses.(George)
According to Amiri Baraka, "Engels talks about the development of the vowels at the same time that the fingers developed. He(Engels) talks about the development of a-e-i-o-u, the vowels; at the same time that's traced to the pentatonic scales. You're talking about music, about language, about anthropology. so that at the same time it becomes possible for you to not be a cheetah to pick it up. With that kind of articulation, it becomes possible for you to say ah, eh, ii,oh uu. That is the beginning of language."
"It means a lot of things," continues Amiri, "First, if you read Paul Robeson, does anyone know Paul Robeson's work, not his work as a singer, he was a great artist, but he was also an aesthetic theorist? His work on backgrounds of Afro-American music was very interesting and important. You can see that in his selected works. He talks about the pentatonic scale, the blues, the black notes. that is why the blues singers could play that easy, because they were the black notes.
But what Robeson said, and this was interesting, was that you can trace the development of pentatonic, whether you're listening to the Volga boatmen in Russia and the Ukraine or Deep River in the South. It's essentially the same scale, the same chords. Robeson goes through the whole whole technical, musical thing. This can be found in in the book, Selected Writings of Paul Robson, on Afro-American music. Why music?
Music is the motion of rising and changing, as thought given form, feeling as an object, the living reflection of material life, the thoughts I see, I hear, sonographics, drama itself Afro-American, Black Americans. You cannot speak an American sentence without going from Europe to Native America to Africa. We're one people. Even though the social thing keeps us separated and sometimes hateful and not understanding each other, we're still one people. A wild, wild thing. We have the history to kill each other off or learn to be human beings. that's the way it is." (Amiri Baraka)
Statesmen of Jazz-Living Legends Keeping Jazz Alive For All Ages
Backed by trombonist Al Grey and his sextet, trumpeter Irvin Stokes eases into an elegant version of "What's New?" Pianist Jane Jarvis displays her improvisational skills with a chorus of "In a Mellow Tone." Grey and fellow trombonist Benny Powell engage in some mischievous dueling on the Duke Ellington classic, "C Jam Blues. By this time the Jazz aficionados at New York's famed Blue Note Jazz club are wholly caught up in sounds they hadn't expected.
They are delighted. Butt hey are also surprised. After all, they have come to hear the Blue Note's headliners, trombonist Al Grey and his sextet, an intergenerational combo. But no sooner does Grey take the stage than he pulls a surprise: He invites to join him for some hastily improvised, pre-show jamming a small band of performers not much heard from these days.
Suddenly, the blue Note audience is looking at performers who helped shape the music they've come to hear. The players aren't missing a beat. Besides Stokes, 71, Jarvis, 82 and Powell, 68, the group includes the celebrated bassist, Milt Hamilton, 88; trombonist Siegel Wilcox, 95; and drummer Eddie Locke, 68, who played with jazz immortals Coleman Hawkins, Earl "Fatha" Hines and Roy Eldridge.
"I couldn't get these people here except for being friends," says the 72-year-old Grey, once a Count Basie soloist now fronting this sextet at the Blue Note. That's not all. Grey also is a member of the Statesmen of Jazz, a unique organization of some of music's most distinguished older players.
Formed in 1994 by the American Federation of Jazz Societies, the group's 30 member include artists whose careers go back to the 1920s, '30s and '40s-the glory days of Jazz. some are living legends. In addition to those who performed recently at the Blue Note, the Statesmen included: Clark Terry, 77, flugelhorn and trumpet; Joe Wilder, 76, flugelhorn; Buddy Tate, 83, tenor saxophone; David "Panama" Francis, 77, drums; Claude "Fiddler" Williams, 90, violin and Benny Waters, 96, alto sax. Waters, patriarch of the Statesmen, still plays and sings with incredible skill and jauntiness, possibly because, as he puts it, he still practices
at least an hour a day.
The Statesmen come together for all kinds of resons. They want to keep the older Jazz tradition alive. They want to pass their knowledge and experience on to future generation. And they want to infect new audiences with their enthusiasm for the music. But mostly they come together to enjoy each other's company and, quite simple, to play Jazz. So they go on tours, cut records together and show up - as they did recently at the Blue Note - whenever they are invited. "It's not that we need work or anything," says Grey, the exuberant sextet leader. "we just have it in our hearts to play. It keeps us alive."
The Statesmen make it clear they aren't trying to impose their style of play on anyone else. . they do't like labels-on their age or music. "If you're a good musician, age has nothing to do with it," says drummer Locke. He adds that labeling music "mainstream, progressive or whatever" is misleading "because you're making something better than something else. I played with the great musicians,the guys who made Jazz and they never talked like that," Locke points out "They taught me that you can't have tunnel vision. that's why I'm still here. Whatever situation comes along, I play to suit it." Powell concurs "we're like chameleons," he says. "We take off on our surroundings and incorporate them."
Locke and Powell, like most of the Statesmen, are heavily involved in education.Locke teaches three days a week at an after-school music conservatory in Manhattan. "I learn a lot because I have a good relationship with young people," he says.You can teach math, geometry and science through Jazz," Powell says. Hinton, though slightly frail these days, also conducts clinics when possible because "I learned from other musicians, ad I want to give back."
For the most part, the Statesmen decline to pass judgement on newer styles of Jazz heard today. trumpeter Stokes, however, admits that, to him, "the new stuff doesn't swing. Everything now is from this technical standpoint,but there's no real swing." But to judge from the reviews they get, the Statesmen have that swing. "They are the history of Jazz on the hoof, alive and timelessly fresh," wrote Los Angeles Times critic Charles Champlin after the group's debut at the Sacramento Jazz Jubilee in 1995. Other critics cited cited the "seamless interplay" and "contagious energy" generated by the Statesmen when they played festivals in New York, New Jersey, Arizona and Florida.
They continue to be in demand. Not only do they have more gigs lined up in various places, but they are fully booked for years to come, so long as they play and still survive and live. Trumpeter Terry says he's looking forward to the upcoming gigs. The statesmen are proving that in Jazz,"age can be a plus, not a handicap," he says. "If you just keep dong something long enough,it's gotta keep getting better."
Swing Jazz live and it also lives in these men so long as they are there to play, one can count on the fact that Jazz will have a longer lease as sound and in time and space.
Sum Blues Queens: Their Blues History
For us to fully understand the origins of Jazz, we should not only listen to it, but read the historic origins of the music. Much of the Hub above has been about Male Jazz composers and performers. in tis part of the Hub, we will explore the stories and histories of some rare and unknown Women who were singing the blues way back when.
"The Blues," described by Paul Oliver, as arguably the most significant form of folk music to have emerged in this this country," is deeply embedded in the Black musical experience. rich in its use of language and poetic imagery, varied in its multiple attraction, varied in its multiple attraction to the deepest tragedies and most ribald comedies of human existence, and, musically, the source for the chord structure and harmonic patterns used in much American popular music and jazz, the blues is as important to the musical history of this century as black spirituals were to the 19th century.
Two major blues forms-urban and rural- are widely recognized by blues scholars. The performance of the blues involves very subtle communications processes. The music is a vehicle for sharing complains, exorcising sorrow, laughing at the worlds's absurdities, mocking whites, and maintaining the integrity of black culture.A number of vocal techniques distinguish Afro-american singing from the popular, operatic, and theatrical styles of the 19th century.
Black performers are described by literary sources as capable of producing a wide variety of vocal effects: ascending or descending glides or run, frequent use of the head and falsetto voice (especially in quick leaps from low robust tones to high piercing ones), vocal imitations of natural and animal sounds.
Most of these stylistic traits are well-known to black speech, changes in pitch and dymanics directly related to the emotional content of a musical phrase, and a sometimes, and sometimes completely arhythmic vocalizing in the the manner of an extended free-form sung meditation. Most of the stylistic traits are well-known to black and white audiences today, but there were virtually unknown in the the popular music in the North prior to the 1920s, even in the minstrel shows that claimed to be "authenitc" imitations of black behavior.
Black southerners, like black Americans elsewhere, adopted many of the same values as whites, but the Afro-American musical style reflects most vividly the inherent dichotomies blacks have faced in being Americans. The tendencies to view the style in terms of its various genres-sprittuals, blues, ragtime, gospel songs-sometines obscures the fact that black musicians still treat music as an oral rather than a written art because black culture is still largely an oral culture in both North and South.
The real strength of southern black music is its diversity, its ability to capture the tensions as well as the achievements of blacks,its indebtedness as well as its contribution to other forms of southern music, and its heritage of preserving older performance practices after the great black exodus from the South. Without Southern culture as a stimulant to music acculturation, the Afro-American style would not have produced the unique fusion of traditions that have made it a potent fore in this century's popular music. It is at this juncture that I talk about the Unknown heroines of the Blues.
Prologue to the Blues Ladies
The women singer came to the forefront when the recording industry discovered their high profit potetntial in the race market in 1920, for their records were sold exclusively in the black community. Their careers were influenced greatly by the record industry, and in most cases, the industry also contributed to the demise of their careers as the shift was made to the recording of male blues singers and the increasingly popular dance bands of the last years of the 1920s and early 1930s. In his sociocultural treatise on the evolution of Black American music, LeRoi Jones states that phonograph records by women blues singers actually created whole styles of blues singing.
It is easy to see how this must have affected the existing folk tradition and created another kind of tradition that was unlike any other in the past," states joes. Linda Dahl asserts that the blues women "held and molded the power of the word in black music," implying that while they were faithful in nature and spirit of the blues they also added innovations." These included increased improvisation on melodic lines, unusual phrasing which altered the emphasis and impact of the lyrics, and vocal dramatics using shouts, groans, moans and wils. The Blues women affected changes in other types of popular singing that had spin-offs in Jazz.
Lawrence Levine stated: "Whatever the style is called it was closer to traditional blues than anything else on records, it fir in with the eclecticism so characteristic of black music, and it obviously had great appeal to Africans in America North and South." The tradition begun by the women singers-especially those who had vaudeville experience-brought a new emphasis and importance to musicianship, varied repertoire, and a sense of artistry. Their live performances influenced local, lesser-known artists, and their recordings set the standards for the performance and interpretation of traditional material and and creation of now old Blues styles and standards.
Resuscitating The Female Blues Amazons
She toured with the Raisin' Cain Company fro Chicago to Oklahoma City, From Houston and Dallas to Birmingham, Atlanta, Baltimore, Norfolk, and Philadelphia, was a premier blues singer, whose style was robust, yet mellow and blended the country tradition with the sophisticated city elements. Paramount Records dubbed her the "uncrowned Queen of the Blues. She was born Ida Prather in 1896 in Toccoa, Georgia and was raised in nearby Cedartown, and her musical experiences began in the African Methodist Church.
She ran away from home with a minstrel show playing the "pickaninny" role as she explains: "I began my theatrical career as a comedienne back in 1915. ... The next year I was taught to sing torch songs ... we called them blues back in those days." (Ivorey Cobb).
In 1922 gained her experience with the Florida Orange Blossom Minstrels, the Silas green Show, and the Rabbit Foot Minstrels, and by this time she was an already established professional in the TOBA weekly listings, and recoded eight seventy-eight titles for Paramount from September 1923 to October 1929.although Paramount had Cox under an exclusive contract, she recorded for both Harmograph and Silvertone labels simultaneously, and used pseudonyms like Julia Powers, Jane Smith, Velma Bradley, and Kate Lewis.
Lovie Austin and her Serenaders accompanied Cox on the early recordings, producing some excellent sides. Cox's third husband, Jesse Crump, was her music director on tour and also played piano on some of her recordings (Chicago Defender).
Harrison writes: "Graveyard Dream Blues" typifies the subject matter frequently used by Cox when she was singing ity-style blues and not vaudeville. Her choice was not as powerful as Rainey's or Bessie Smith's but it was as penetrating and convincing. "Chicago Monkey Man Blues," "Mama Doo Shee blues," "Mama Do Sheer Blues," "Kentucky Man Blues," "Death Letter Blues" and "Wild Women Don't Have the Blues" were characteristic of the topics and style that made her a favorite in the South and Midwest.
Cox used what in most circles would be considered a vibratoless voice to convey audacity and intensity equality well. "Death Letter" and "Kentucky Blues" are traditional twelve-bar blues sung in a mournful manner laden with regret. She drew the listener into the situation and rivets attention until the final sobbing note fades. In contrast, "wild Women" is more of the city-vaudeville ilk, and extends the twelve-bar with an eight bar verse and one bar bridge. The brash arrogance of the test is sustained by her swaggering vocals.
These clearly demonstrate her ability to orchestrate moods through vocal and textual manipulation. cox had a peculiar way of placing stress or emphasis on the verb,article, adjective, or conjunction rather than on the subject of object. This gave her phrasing unusual rhythmic pulse, added an expressive flavor to simple melodies, and thus deepened the emotional impact.
Harrison notes that boogie-woogie and blues pianist Sammy Price rated Cox as one of his favorites and considered himself honored to have been selected to play with the trio that recorded her final release in 1961: "I liked her sound> I like that flowing blues sound. ...good melodic lines, words that make sense, decent diction, or decent diction colloquially, you know. I am speaking now about colored diction ... you didn't miss anything that Ida sang. When she said, "way down yonder in Atlanta, G.A.," she said it soooo plain, and so clear, that you had to be affected by it in some way (Price Interview)
In 1929, Cox's "Raisin' Cain Revue was chosen to open at the Apollo Theatre in early 1929 (Chicago Defender 1929). She kept busy in the 1930s barnstorming throughout the South, drumming up business in New Bern, Hickory, and Charlotte, North Carolina: along the red dusty roads of Milledgeville and Macon, Georgia; through hills and mountains of Alabama and Tennessee; along the route of the Mississippi to Memphis, Natchez, and New Orleans. And when she was lucky she would hit Dallas's Ella Moore Theatre where they had clamored for tickets just a few years earlier (Chicago Defender 1934-1936's Routing Notices).
In 1939, Vocalian recorded several sides of Cox with al all-star ensemble that included "Hot Lips" Page, J.C. Higginbotham, James P, Johnson,Charlie Christian and Lionel Hampton. (Godrich and Dixon) That same year, Columbia Record scout John Hammond, whose love for Blues and Jazz carried him allover the eastern seaboard scouting for talent,spotlighted Ida Cox in his 1939 "Spirituals to Swing" Concert at Carnegie Hall (Hammond Interview). In 1060 she had suffered disabling stroke, and Hammond tried to coax her back into the studio, but by them the stroke had forced her to retire.
At that time, Cox was reluctant to leave Knoxville where she was actively involved with her curch. She protested repeatedly that "she was a regular church-goer and she didn't feel that it would be right for her to sing he blues again." fortunately, Cox relented and in 1961 recorded what was to her final album for the Riverside label (Riverside Record review for Jazz Report, May 1961). Richard Price remembers: "Ida Cox, now when we recorded Ida here in New York...she had the same [feeling].
I think this can be due to ...[my] having learned how to play the piano based on Jesse's [Crump] piano playing, this had a deep influence on me. so naturally, some of this musical style, and blending of her voice, I acquired. And there was a certain quality, texture, that she had not lost. That still inspired me. This is probably why I was able to play for her as well as I was-(Price Interview).
John Wilson in the New York Times wrote: "[the] artfulness of her phrasing is just as entrancing as it ever was. The personal quality that made her singing immediately identifiable in a crowded field in her young days remains." She was the queen of the blues, who, with the regal bearing, dignity, and beauty befitting her position, mesmerized and bewitched her audiences with her compelling rhythms."
It was this sense of self, understanding of the art, and awareness of her udeinces' needs and desires that gained Cox such a high level of appreciation by audiences, fellow musicians and critics.she was confident of her singing ability and was aware of her people's standard of physical beauty. I know Ida Cox knew how to dress, she was regal, she knew how to wear costumes, she had a tiara, and a wand with rhinestones and a cape and all this (Price's interview) Cox sustained a tradition of singing and a standard of musical integrity long after its popularity had faded.
The "Uncrowned Queen of the Blues" died of cancer in mid-October 1967, leaving a legacy of dine showmanship, tireless dedication to her art and her audience, and a body of blues literature that reveals her deeply personal view of life. she outlived her esteemed colleagues-Bessie Smith, The Empress of the Blues, Ma Rainey, the Mother of the Blues-but had kept alive their legacy (Harrison). This partly fills one of the seven track(other women blues singer who remain some of the unsung heroes of this genre.
Lucille Hegamin, "The Cameo Girl"
Lucille Hegamin, born toJohn and Minnie Nelson of Macon, Georgia, in 1897, grew up singing in church and theater prograns (Leonard Kundstadt). She left her family to tour with Leonard Harper at the age of 15. Around the 1900s, stranded in a town near Chicago, she left to go sing in Chicago, and thus began her slow climb up the show business ladder. By 1917, because of her complexion was billed as "The Georgia Peach" when she performed on the Chicago cabaret scene. In 1914 she got married to Hill Hegamen, who was her pianist, at the Deluxe, the Elite #2, and Bill Lewis's Mineral Inn for a while.
She also appeared at the Panama Cafe with a trio of soon-to-be famous women, Florence Mills, Ada "Bricktop" Smith, and Cora Green and performed with Tony Jackson at the Elite and Jelly Roll Morton at the Deluxe. The Hegamins moved to the Eest Coast in 1918, and her reputation as a cabaret perfomance led to engagements in Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Seattle. The blues craze had struck the Coast, so patrons demanded them rather than the popular ditties she had been singing in Chicago. "My biggest songs hits were 'Corina,' 'Beale Street Blues,' and 'Tishomingo Blues." (Kunstadt)
Back on the East Coast and in New York City, the couple joined the bourgeoning number of Black entertainers, writers, and artists in their struggle fro recongition. Cabarets were the main source of employment for Hegamin. Her career was given a boost when she was featured on a Spring Spectacular at the Manhattan Casino sponsored by Happy Rhone, the bandleader. spectaculars, combination of a dance followed by a midnight Cabaret, attracted hundreds of Harlemites who paid $.75 [which] was sufficient to keep the undesirable element away."
Those appearances led to recording sessions with the Arto Label. By the time her first record hit the stores. Hegamin was already firmly established in the New York pantheon of popular stars. Her version of "Arkansas Blues was so popular that it was copied on Banner, Bell, Black Swan, Hytone, globe, and four other labels. (Godrich and Dixon)She identified and used as her theme song "He May Be Your Man," which was identified with Edith Wilson many years later. (Kunstadt)
Hegamin's theater dates began after her first recordings were released, but she did not tour widely. although she performed with many distinguished musicians, her longest association were with Bill Hegamin and, after their divorce, with Cyril Fullerton, another pianist. The Blue Flame Syncopators listed on may of her recordings in 1921 and 1922 included at one time or another:
Wesley Johnson, trumpet; herb Flemming, Trombone; don Redman, Alto Sax; Sam Wooding, Bill Hegamin, fullerton, and Fred Tunstall, Piano; and Maud Jones, violin. Switching to Cameo in 1922, she cut about thirty five sides, some of which were issued by Muse and Tremont under her pseudonym, Fanny baker (Godrich and Dixon)
The Blues "craze" caused her to shift her priorities to promote her career. Hegamin appeared in a few revues in New York and Philadelphia. she was featured in a Club Alabam' show as "The Cameo Girl" and the name stuck. Her stage career ended in 1934 with her final performances in atlantic City clubs. she retired from stage and became a registered nurse in New York. Her performances on the Spivey label in the 1960s are those of a mellowed artist with a fine sense of swing, but the voice is still merely pleasant, not especially distinctive and with little emotion. Hegamin, "The cameo Girl," died at seventy-three in March 1970 after a protracted illness.
Rosa Henderson, Edmonia Henderson, Mary Dixon, and Monette Moore are among the dozens of other women who achieved some notoriety as recorded blues singers during the 1920s. Of that group, some were unfairly dealt with by historians and critics of popular music. One was Rosa Henderson, considered by Hammond as an underrated artist who was victim of the glutted market (Hammond interview).
A Kentucky Songbird, She was born rosa Deschamps in Henderson, the source for one of her many professional recording names. Her output was prolific (approximately 100 sides, of which 8 were rejects) and involved the use of at least twelve pseudonyms, including Flora Dale, Mae Harris, Gladys Waite, and Sally Ritz. Josephine Thomas. Rosa Green, Sara Johnson. Victor and Paramount were among the labels that that captured her voice.
Of course, these also account for her lack of a strong identity,although she appeared at major houses and with revues such as the Quintard Miller Company. Two of her titles are of historical interest in that they illustrate the political awareness of blues composers and singers. "Barbadoes Blues" and "The Black Star Line Blues" were of topical interest because Marcus Garvey had raised the political consciousness of many black.
Bertha "Chippie " Hill
When she was twenty, in 1925, Bertha "Chippie" Hill burst in the recording scene on the Okeh label. By then, she had accumulated eight years of of professional musical experience which she gained as a singer with the Rabbit Foot Minstrels, along with her performing in various cabarets and whiskey joints in New York City's rough waterfront neighborhoods.(John S. Wilson)
Hill was born in Charleston, South Carolina, to Ida and john Hill, who were parenting sixteen children, and she[Hill] received her first exposure to music in local churches. Like many of the blues women, she left home as a teenager, and started working in New York City's Tenderloin district by the age of fourteen. Because of her youth and tiny size, she was dubbed "Chippie" by the owner of Leroy's, where she used to work as a dancer at the Cabaret with Ethel Waters.
Chippie Hill's career was minor compared to singers already discussed previously, but her small record output was prestigious. She had a deep, heavy voice as big Bessie Smith's but not as refined. The hard edge was developed from her experiences singing and dancing in dives and fending for herself in the city. A hard worker, Hill moved to Chicago in the mid-1920s and performed at the Plantation and Dreamland with the musicians Armstrong, Oliver, and Austin.
Hill's style does not evoke images of the bereft, helpless female. Instead, one hears a woman who has seen and heard it all, who can be down, but refuses to be counted out. she sings more like a blues man than any of the women of her time, concentrating the melody in the lower range, using little vibrato in her simple melodic units with few variations. An aggressive, belting, shouting style that deemphasizes moaning distinguishes Hill from the Smiths, Wilson, Rainey and Spivey. Her voice was especially suited for the subject matter she chose to sing about. "Leavenworth Blues," Streetwalker Blues," and "Pratt City Blues" have the biting grittiness of the city streets.
Backed by Armstrong and richard Jones on piano, her "Trouble in Mind" conjures up a smoke-filled, crowded room, tables littered with whiskey bottles, ashtrays, and half-filled glasses, a piano and trumpet player, sweaty and bleary-eyed, and a huge woman whose voice defies any may male aggression. Her small stature dispelled that stereotype. Armstrong's cornet and Hones's piano interlace, scoot in and out, ripple up and down and around Hill's crisp, hard voice, creating marvelous contrast and helping to make the recording a classic in Blues discography (Goodrich and Dixon).
Chippie married John Offet in early 1930s and settled down in Chicago to raise seven children. She worked in clubs sporadically in the 1930s but was inactive during World War II. somehow she was convinced to give the club circuit another whirl in 1946 and, with the Lovie Austin Blues Serenaders and Montana Tayor. she cut what was to be her last album on the Circle Label in Chicago.
On that issue, she swings "Trouble in Mind," this time with a few minor changes in the text. The voice is still vibrant, authoritative, and straight Chicago-style shout. This album fills one with regret that such a magnetic, dynamic, forceful singer and fine swinging musician had such limited exposure. From 1946 to 1950, Hill worked in clubs in Chicago and New York and appeared in concerts at the Ziegfield theatre, Carnegie Hall in New York, and in Paris.
She was booked for a run at a Greenwhich village club in 1950 when a hit-and-run accident took her life (Harris, Blues Who's Who) Some stories and musical histories need to be put into a viral mode so that they live into the next centuries.
Sara Martin, "The Colored Sophie Tucker"
Sara Martin was born around 1884, and by the time she reached forty, she began recording.Martin was the daughter of William and Katie Dunn, , and worked locally before she started out as a singer on an Illinois vaudeville circuit on the outskirts of Chicago around 1915. She was singing in the cabarets and clubs of New York City when Clarence Williams hired her for the Okeh label (Harris) She and Willliams collaborated on several Blues during her tenure with Okeh, the earliest being "Uncle Sam's Blues," which was immortalized by Ida Cox, and "A Green Gal Can't Catch On."
General phonograph ads promoted Martin as a "famous moaning moaning mama" because the veteran stage for years before she recorded (chicago Defender, 1923; The Afro-American, 1923 Martin's voice had a pleasant richness and falls somewhere between Bessie Smith's and Ma Rainey in texture. Her ability as a moaner was not evident in the early Okeh issues, which used Sylvester Weaver on guitar and Clarence Williams on piano, but the beauty of her voice contrasts well with the delicate and simple instrumentation.
"I got to Go and Leave My Daddy," and "Got To Leave My Home blues" sound like citified country blues, innocent and worldly in the same instant. The voice is not heavy with pleading and moaning, as the lyrics might suggest, but pure and lear like that of ballad singers, reflecting her cabaret and vaudeville background. Both these blues depart from the usual twelve-bar and sixteen-bar structure, which lends them the country ballad flavor."I Got to Go and Leave My Daddy" is in extended couplet form with lilting melody, contradicting the gravity of the situation, which juxtaposes distress with arrogant bravado (Harris)
On fox-trots Martin demonstrated why she was called "The Colored Sophie Tucker," displaying a lively, brassy style reminiscent of Tucker's as well s Rainey's. she began to use that billing in the early 1920s to capitalize on Tucker's popularity (See the Ads, Afro-American 1922).
Her repertoire ranged from the traditional twelve- and sixteen-bar blues such as "Tired of Waiting Blues," "Sweet Man Blues" and "Goodbye Blues." to such vaudeville comedy songs as "Squabbling Blues" and "take Your Black Bottom Out Of Here."(Paramount 1928). Martin's popularity on the TOBA show circuits from 1922 to 1924 certainly indicates a performer who l, and made two or three costume changes per show lived up to the Audience's expectations.
She wore lavish gowns to compliment her buxom figure, and changed her costumes twice or thrice in one show. One photo in a review in Indianapolis showed her in a lace gown, her head crowned with a tiara; the stage was draped with shimmering gold curtains lined with pink satin. A gold -and-black valance down one side side proclaimed "Sara Martin sings for OKEH Records." (New York Public Library, Lincoln Center, Music Division, Vertical files, c. 1924).
Evidently such costuming was her trademark in an already crowded field, because her reviews usually devoted more space to how she looked rather than how she sounded (Harrison).
Martin's acting flair and personality were the source of her continued popularity on stage throughout the 1920s. she used special gimmicks to highlight her singing, including a family act with her three-year-old son and her banjo playing husband, William Myers. Leigh Wippers's "Golden Brown Reasons of 1926: provided a loose plot as a foil for her dramatic singing. she appeared in many revues and musicals from 1927 to 1929 in New York, Detroit, and Pittsburg, as well as Cuba, Jamaica, and Puerto Rico" (W, Ransom Jazz Archives).
Mamie Smith and Eva Taylor were also featured in the New York shows. One film appearance is credited to her, "Hello Bill." (Harris) Although Martin remain with OKEH until 1928, she also recorded undertow synonyms, Margaret Johnson and Sally Roberts, on other labels. Her religious recordings with Sylvester Weaver on guitar displayed her full, rich voice. After a few recording sessions in early 1928 on QRS with Clarence Williams, Martin retired from the show scene for almost a year.
Her featured role in Dark town Scandals Review in 1930 was her last major appearance in show business. She retired from the stage and turned to the church. Her attempt at gospel singing was not successful as it might have been if she had started earlier, according to Thomas Dorsey, with whom she worked in Chicago churches in 1932 (Dorsey interview). He final years were spent in her hometown, Louisville, where she operated a nursing home. She died there in 1955 after a full life.
Trixie Smith, a southerner who migrated North while still young, was born in 1895 in Atlanta. She supposedly attended Selma University in Alabama before her trek to New York City at age twenty (The Afro-american 1926 and 1927). Initially she performed under cork as a single on the "colored time. ...a pleasing singer of humorous Negro songs, to which she imparted a trick delivery that kept her in demand by the managers ...[she] admitted that she had no ambitions other than to keep the 'pot' boiling and merely drifted from one theatre to another to earn a living."
The 1922 Manhattan Blues contest changed all that for her, making fame and better fortune a reality for a few years. She had already received recognition as a blues singer with vaudeville shows when her first recordings were issued by black Swan in later 1921. One of the sides, "Trixie's blues," was the number that won her the silver cup in a contest sponsored by the 15th Regiment at Manhattan Casino.
The event was staged fro such illustrious persons as the then-governor, Nathan Miller, Enrico Caruso's widow; and Irene Tremaine Castle, who along with her husband Vernon, had become wealthy from teaching high-society patrons how to do the 'Charleston', 'Eagle Rock' and other dances based on black dane forms (Erenberg)
Mrs. Castle presented the trophy to Miss smith (Chicago defender 1922) Trixie, described s the "dark horse" on contest probably because she was the lone black contender, was discovered by Bob slater, producer of stage show (Chicago Defender 1924). She used that victory for promotional purposes throughout her career (Harrison).
Smith's voice leaves less to be desired when judged entirely on its timbre, depth and resonamce. she recorded fewer than fifty sides between 1923 and 1939 on several labels under three names: Trixie Smith, Tessie Ames, and Bessie Lee (Rust Jazz Records). Among the many musicians on her early recordings on the ill-fated Black Swan label were Fletcher Henderson, James P. Johnson, and Louis Armstrong. Unfortunately, the 1922-23 recordings reveal that since much of the material Trixie sang is rather vacuous, her lightweight voice does not make the songs particularly memorable.
"Love Me Like You Used to do" was a foxtrot torch song, as was My Daddy likes It Slow" (Paramount 1925). She evidently sang these songs, and others, as a vaudeville star whose value was enhanced by the contest she had won. When the Black Swan was taken over by Paramount, she moved to that label; later she went to Decca. The Paramount issues of "Freight Train Blues" and "Railroad Blues" are probably her best and most well-known on that label. Her sessions with Paramount were in 1925.
She faded into obscurity except for a brief return to the club scene in New York in the late 1930s. The texts of Smith's train blues are interesting because of what they tell us about the itinerant life of young women. The backing by Buster Bailey, clarinet; Howard Chambers, cornet; Charlie Green, trombone, and Fletcher Henderson, piano, on "Choo Choo Blues," a 1924 release, is commendable, but it comes off as a jejune novelty number rather than a hard blues. "Railroad Blues" (1925) is so much better that the listener cannot help wondering if these are by the same person.
There is a superb shouting quality to the latter which indicates that Smith probably could have produced a higher caliber of recordings had she had a steady contract with a company such as Columbia. The unevenness in her recordings may not provide an accurate picture of her abilities, but that they are all we can rely on. she sounds amateurish no "Choo Choo" and professional on "Railroad." Two version of "Messing Around" recorded with Freddie Keppard also lack distinction in the vocals (Harrison).
Smith's vocal abilities probably did not develop early enough to enable her to produce better recordings during the 1920s and the shift to recording blues men encroached on her career as it did on other blues women. Her "Freight Train Blues" in 1938 makes it clear that she was just beginning to bloom as an artist. Her best recordings were toward the end of the 1930s when her second version of "Freight Train Blues" came out.
Hear her voice had matured and mellowed and she was swinging with confidence, belting out in the style of Helen Humes. a newcomer of the 1930s. The fine interplay between Smith's steady, solid vocals and the superb interpolations of Sidney Betchet and Carlie Shavers on clarinet and trumpet makes this recording a gem. Still , she did not bring the same level of real grief to it as Clara Smith did in her 1924 recorings.
Price, who played piano on that set, considered Trixie to a good blues singer but he felt that a drinking problem was instrumental in her uneven performances. He claimed that she often would not start a recording session without a few drinks under her belt (Harris)
Trixe Smith was representative of singers who perfomred the blues in the context of vaudeville comedy routine, such as Susie of "Butterbeans and Susie" and "Sweet Pease" Spivey. Vaudeville remained her mainstay until 1930s when she toured for a while with Mae West (Billy Jones). Most of her performance reviews emphasize her versatility, whether she was headlining a revue or appearing with others.
Perhaps her early blackface routines were the basic training that equipped her for endurance on the TOBA time. Comic talent sustained her performing career in revues and musicals, sometimes in non-singing roles, throughout the decade of the 1930s. She appeared in one film, "The Black King," in 1932. she also had minor roles in a few Broadway plays. From 1940 until her death, Smith performed occasionally for benefits (Harris).
Lizzie Miles, "The Creole Songbird"
Born Elizabeth Landreaux, 31 March 1895, on New Orleans's famed Bourbon Street, Lizzie Miles was the daughter of a musical mother who occasionally sang traditional folk and creole songs on public programs. The only New Orleans native in the array of artists to achieve acclaim nationally, Miles was a fair-skinned creole who raised as a Catholic. She stated that she began singing with other little children after catechism school, and on Sundays was taught along with other youngsters by a Mrs. Atkins, who gave concerts in her backyard.
(This was a common practice in black neighborhoods.) As she became better known, she earned fifty cents with more singing at picnics, house parties, and Saturday night fish fries. Her first job as a band singer in a cabaret was in Bucktown, the black section of New Orleans, where she said she made good money Storyville was "going full blast" and people would leave there after work to come to BucktownW. Ransom Jazz Archives, Tulane Univetsity, 1951.
Later Miles sang in various New Orleans Halls with such noted musicians as King Oliver, Kid Ory, Bunk Johnson, and Alphonse Picou. She earned her strange name because she was always smiling: "Miles of Smiles from Lizzie Smith." She left Chicago, made her way to Dreamland where Oliver's band was playing, and was hired after singing "I wish I could Shimmy Like My Sister Kate." Louis Armstrong, Lil Hardin, and Babby Dodds were members of Oliver's band at that time, which places it late in the decade before 1920. She also sang at the famed Elite #2, and at the Entertainers, where trumpeter Freddy Keppard was playing, (W. Ransom Jazz Archives").
After working briefly with a circus, Miles was stricken with the flu and had to retire from singing for a year. She went home for a period sometime around 1918, then returned to the cabaret scene in Chicago, before going to New York with Oliver to try the recording field. A few test recordings netted zero, so she named sought work in the New York Cabarets. Thanks to Lucille Hegamin, with whom she lived, miles got on at Dash's In. Next, when worked at the Capital Club on Lenox avenue for two or three years.
In 1924, pianist Danny Wilson, saxophonist Ollie Lee Gaire, and Lizzie decided to give Paris a try after Ada "Bricktop" Smith wrote about her financial success there. Miles was known as "La Rose Noir," The Black rose." (Chicago Defender, 1929). She sang in English and French and fit the French ideal of black beauty, just as did Edith Wilson, alberta Hunter, Florence Mills, Josephine baker, and "Bricktop"-either light (Mediterranean) or swarthy (African) complexion, dark wavy hair, and a sensual cosmopolitan performance style.
All of them were fluent in more than one language, were versatile in their choice of material and styling, and were able to sing risque lyrics without bawdy lewdness. although it was reported that she experienced difficulty with labor permits while in France, Miles disclaimed the problem in a letter to the black newspapers (The Afro-American).
That was the same period, however, in which most singers like Miles, Hunter, and Wilson were experiencing displacement by younger jazz singers, such as Ella Fritzgerald, billie Holiday, and Maxine Sullivan. for the first time, she was not working as a singer but as a barmaid who occasionally sang with the jukebox. Like Wilson, Miles had bit parts in a few movies either as a maid or a performer during the 1930s (Miles interview)
She returned to the stage in a New Orleans lounge around September 1950, wearing the exotic dresses she had purchased for her mother three decades earlier. Miles did not record prolifically but all her sides are topnotch. She admired Sophie tucker and went to her her often as a young singer.
Tucker's influence is evident in Miles belting vaudeville style, as is that of her own sister, Edna Benbow Hicks; this is obvious in Mile's rendition of "Some Of Those Days" or "I Hate a Man Like You." Hers was not a light torch-song type of voice, such as Hegamin's or that of the earthly edith Wilson and Mamie smith,but full-bodied with a rich gravelly edge that gives it a bounce and energy.
Her recording output was small, comparatively speaking, but of consistently good quality, most likely because of her long years of experience with first-rate musicians before her first release in 1922. "State Street Blues" by spencer Williams, who got Miles her contract with OKEH, was coupled with George Thomas;s popular "Muscle Shoals Blues." (Chicago Defender 1922)
She also had the distinction of being the first Blues woman to ha a record released in England. "You're Always Messin' Round with My Man" HMVCE) in 1923 (Chicago defender 1933). She eventually recorded for OKEH, Columbia an RCA Victor. A throaty growl is characteristic in all of her singing whether in it bawdy vaudeville songs, fox trot ballads, or blues.
Although not a dyed-in-the-wool singer, Miles did justice to blues when she chose to perform them. she might have found a place in the renewed interest in blues, just like Wallace and Hunter, had she lived longer. Her delivery and style in her last recording demonstrated that age mellowed rather than diminished her performing ability.
She officially retired in 1959 with the following comment to jazz buffs at the New Orleans Jazz Museum: "I have chosen to live a life of a nun, not a modern one, but an old-fashioned Godly one and have given up the outside world. I take part in nothing. I only attend chruch and spend the rest of my time in prayers for these troubled ties all over the world, making penance for my past sins and trying to serve God as I should. It is my way of thanking him for all His wonderful blessings."Roy de Coverley) "The Creole Songbird died on 17 March 1963, after attending mass at the Lafon Old Folks Home in New Orleans ("Chicago Defender 1934)
Harrison provedes us with a list of others who thrived briefly over the decade included the following:
- Ajax: Bessie Brown, Josephine Carter, Helen Gross, Ethel Hayes, Edna Hicks, Leitha Hill, Edith Johnson, Virgina Liston, Nettie Potter, susie Smit (a.k.a. Monette Moore), grace Wislon, Lena Wislon.
- Black Swan: Fae Barnes (a.k.a. Maggie Jones.
- Brunswick: Mary Johnson, Viola McCoy, Lena Wilson.
- Columbia: Eliza Brown, Martha Copeland, Mary Dixon, Dorothy Everett. Lillian Glinn, Hattie Hudson, Ann Johnson, Maggie JOnes (a.k.a. Fae Barnes) Jewell Nelson, Ethel Ridley, Louise Ross, Mary Stafford, Leona Williams.
- Emerson: Lillyn Brown, Ethel finney, Hazel Mayers.
- Gennett: Josie Miles
- OKEH: Helen Baxter, Gladys Bentley, Lucille Bogan, Lela Bolden, Ada Brown, Kitty brown, Martha Copeland, Fanny Goosby, Elizabeth Johnson, Margaret Johnson, Daisy Martin, Hattie McDaniel, Sally Roberts, Irene Scruggs, Lura Smith.
- RCA Victor: Edna Benbow HIcks.
- Paramount: Marie Bradley, Gladys Bryant, Memphis Julia Davis,Sodarisa Miller, Priscilla Stewart, Lena Wilson.
- Pathe`: Lavinia Turner.
- Perfect: Mamie Harris, Caroline Johnson, Mary Stafford, Nettie Potter Ia.d.a. Monette Moore).
- Vocalion: Mae Harris,Mamie Harris, rosa (Rose) Henderson, Sara Johnson, Hazel Myers, Lulla Miller, sally Ritz, Gladys White, Bessie WilliamsSome
Notes On A Jazz Historical Institution
The following article was written by Gene Seymour:
"Listening to the Blu Note Years in one sitting is like...well, let's make something clear at the outset: It's impossible to listen to 14 compact discs in one sitting, even if every one of them is uniformly, unequivocally great. What can be said with some assurance is that having this deluxe set close by is like having an imposing corporate museum share your living space.
Where were you when you heard Herbie Hancock's "Maiden Voyage" or Horace silver's "Song For My Father"? Or Coltrane's "Blue Train"? Or the once-in-a-lifetime, dead solid performance of "Autumn Leaves" by Cannonball Adderley and Miles Davis? They're all collected in this boxed set, as are a host of other great artists from the label's past Thelonious Monk, Bud Powell, Clifford Brown, Art Blakey, Lee Morgan, etc.) andvits present (Cassandra Wilson, Jacky Terrasson, Joe Lovano, Renee Rosnes, US3).
It's a big legacy, deserving a big birthday blwout. And by the time you read this, the party will have been well underway, with many of these aforementioned stars of the Blue Note stable having spent most of January performing in New York clubs in a special citywide celebration. Doubtless there will be more such packages throughout the year(s) all over the world as the company tales a well-deserved bow for hanging in there as long as it has.
As the liner notes for the "Blue Years Note Years" make clear,"hanging in there" wasn't always easy. The Jazz Record Industry began its slow-motion collision with a brick wall sometime in 1967 when Lion left the label for what archivist-producer Michael Cuscuna describes as "reasons of health as well as disdain for corporate ways of Blue Note's owners."
By that time, rock and pop were pushing jazz that made Blue Note famous inexorably towards the margins of culture. Blue Note wandered the 1970s looking for direction - and fresh ears. By 1981, Blue Note finally had hit the wall and it wouldn't recover consciousness until Bruce Lundvall brought it back to life with new artists and waves of reissues of its finest albums.
There's a lot about Blue Note these days that tempts me to apple a a happy ending to this story. After all, Wilson is releasing her much-anticipated tribute to Miles Davis on Blue Note and many of last year's albums bore the blue-and-white logo.
Still, after listening to the contents of Blue Note Years, part of me wishes for some of the aggression and bravado that powered Silver, Blakey, Monk and others who gave Blue Note it golden era to show up in the personalities and performances of those now recording for the label.. Not that there's any lack of such qualities in the new breed. Terrasson, for instance, is a demon piano virtuoso who may yet have a classic or two in him.
But for the most part, I find that as well-educated and savvy as the younger musicians are, I miss what can be called an "attitude." Horace Silver didn't wait for the audiences to come to him way back in the 1950s. He knew they were there, and he went out and grabbed them where he knew they'd feel his down-home brew of funky hard drops of bop. blue Note knows this, andvit's doing its best to bring back that swagger. Try harder guys. It's getting tougher than ever to keep people's attention out there."
As I have noted in the topic of this Hub above, Jazz has gone viral with the advent of YouTube. Since the emergence of Facebook, I have been steadily unearthing some of this golden classical Jazz tunes, and the response is great for the watchers/listeners have been gravitating towards my Wall and are loving every minute of it given the swamping effect of the other genres proliferating on the Video site.
This is another Hub in the Work that will be dealing with the role played by YouTube and its effects on resuscitating Jazz and presenting it to the new generation and the older Jazz appreciators, and there is a lot that still needs to be said about Jazz in the Age of YouTube and the appreciation thereof on Facebook.
When I started this article, I noted above that this was "SIDE A" of Jazz appreciation and understanding of history of the artist and his music and awards. Side A has been dealing with a few selected artist of the earlier jazz era. This Hub has also laid down tracks on the women and the Blues. I
n my next upcoming articles, I will be dealing with "SIDE B", as in vinyl(LPs) of the most modern Jazz artists. The effort here is to lay ground for the historical synopsis of Jazz and more or less the path it has followed over the years and some of the few key players that affected and effected this form of music we call Jazz. This is still an ongoing riff on the Old Cats and Established Songbirds, and this will be the next licks of the Young Lions andLionesses that we are still listening to up to today.
Out To Lunch! - Eric Dolphy [FULL ALBUM]
The Jazz Of Eric Dolphy
Front And Center, With soul To Spare
Gene Seymour wrote:
"I like Jazz," a sister once told me. I like it best when it stays in the background. some of it jumps off the wall...which makes me nervous."
"Eric Dolphy's name never came up in conversation. But I'm guessing his music is the kind she has in mind. Even now, more than 30 years after it was first recorded and 32+ years after his death, Dolphy's music refuses to stay in the background and make nice, cozy humming noises. It insists on being heard, spiking expectations with its edgy dissonance, its startling power, its headlong pursuit of the new. It isn't always pretty. But it is often beautiful.
Dolphy's go-for-broke challenges to musical conventions were very much in tune with the insurgent energy of the early 1960s. Listening to the recently released nine-disc-collection, Eric Dolphy: The Complete Prestige Recordings (Prestige), is like dropping on an era when anything seemed possible, thus, anything could (and should) be done.
"The box covers just two years in Dolphy's brief life, from 190to 1961. But it was an astonishingly varied and prodigious period with sessions running the gamut from down-home blues with saxophonists oliver Nelson and Eddie "Lockjaw" Davis to Latin Jazz with percussionists Manny Ramos and Juan Amalbert. Even on the more-conventional-than-usual engagements for Dolphy, you can hear his astringent, ballistic sound pushing against jazz boundaries like a rocket cruising the edges of space.
"Dolphy's choice of instruments was, by itself, groundbreaking. His alto saxophone playing combined the kneeing reach of Ornette Coleman with the agile virtuosity of Charlie "Bird" Parker. But it was his work on bass clarinet and flute that made him almost unique for his time and influence beyond it. Few jazz flutists before Dolphy did more than lean on their instrument's naturally pretty tone. Which is why it's still a jolting experience to hear what happens after Dolphy delivers a straight forward reading of a melody such as "Glad To Be Happy," "Left Alone" or "High Fly."
"His subsequent variations are beyond bebop. The notes and phrases accumulate, explode, recombine and explode again like a chain reaction. Or maybe a post-modern novel. His solos vibrate as if they were living organisms acting in their own logic, shifting keys, motifs and time signatures with seeming abandon.
"Still`, Dolphy retains control of the forces he's unleashed, the serene eye of his own storms. You have the suspicion, listening to Dolphy's flute playing, that he was using nature itself as a role model more so than other musicians.
"As for the bass clarinet, it wouldn't be exaggerating to say that Dolphy gave this woodsy-sounding instrument its jazz voice. Many contemporary players, notably David Murray and Don Byron, have expanded Dolphy's legacy. The Prestige Collection, however, includes bass clarinet recitals that sound inimitable and imposing. the 'a cappella' recitals of "Tenderly" and "god Bless The Child" make the skin tingle and heart soar. However agile Dolphy's intellect was, such performances leave a little doubt that he had plenty of soul to spare.
Dolphy died in 1964, just nine days after his 36th birthday, from a heart attack brought on by undiagnosed diabetes. As the Prestige collection indicates, he squeezed in a lot of playing in a short time. And this isn't all of it. He frequently performed with such fellow rebels as Coleman, John Coltrane and Charles Mingus.
The year he died, he recorded what many consider his best, most fully realized album, "Out To Lunch", with such players as Freddie Hubbard and bobby Hutcherson along for the ride. A lot of muisc. And sadly, not enough.
Nevertheless, Dolphy, like Bird and Trane, lives. Especially, as noted earlier, in the more daring experiments of contemporary artist like bassist Jerome Harris, whose Dolphy tribute album, "Hidden In Plain View" (New World/Countercurrents), features cutting-edge players such as Byron, saxophonist Marty Ehrlich, drummer Bobby Previge and vibraphonist Bill Ware,in performances that both enhance and expand Dolphy's legacy.
Murder Gonna Be My Crime : Sippie Wallace
The Stomping Bluesman: Albert Murray
It would be appropriate at this point to point out to a fascinating definition and account of the Blues Idiom, to add to the Hub and edify the reader's understanding and appreciation of Jazz history and Jazz(Blues) as a musical idiom. Understanding and learning about this definition as penned by Murray, we will take the summary of Rob Gibson in his articulating and analyzing the Blues as as a Jazz idiom which with all it brings and makes us do/react, should be done so with some elegance, dignity and serious appreciation. We pick it up from Rob Gibson who informs us thusly:
"For nearly a quarter of a century the book by Murray has remained a preeminent source for those of us working within, and dedicated to the proliferation of, the field of American music in which blues serves at the foundation, most commonly referred to as Jazz. It ageless quality is such that it simultaneously furnishes the most eloquent and simplest explanation of the blues, and interprets the universal implications of jazz in ways never done before or since.
"And for folks associated with jazz-be they musicians, aficionados, producers, collectors, club owners, educators, deejays, or simply lovers of the music itself-Albert Murray makes clear that the basic aesthetic and philosophical underpinnings of any artistic action as a response to the human condition are never more profound than when a musician is "swinging the blues." The greatest Jazz artists have always understood this notion implicitly, though few if any have been able to articulate it so effectively in prose.
"More often than not, a look of confusions adorns the faces of students reading the works of Muuray. In point of fact, the word Jazz never actually appears, but only later in the book, which is an equally important source of their trouble is the topic of "The Blues as Such." Everyone knows and understands the devilment of the blues quite well, though few are wont to share that in a classroom setting.
"After all, who really want to confess their innermost demons or their plain and simple troubles, let alone concede to maintaining them on a daily basis? And what could said demons possibly have to do with jazz anyway? But the serve as a universally familiar starting point for Murray's discussion of the "blues idiom," which is central to understanding the many connection between the blues-orientated music(s) and musicians have helped shape American life as we know it,
"During the years in college spent programming our student radio station in the late 1970s and the early 1980s, we made it a mandate to broadcast a diversity of music that included John Coltrane, Slave Shouts songs, James Brown, Louis Armstrong, Leadbelly, Aretha Franklin, Duke Ellington, assorted Gospel singers, Jimi Hendrix, Bessie Smith, Robert Johnson, and Miles Davis. When a friend introduced "Stomping the Blues" to some of us, we first thought Albert Murray was some sort of sage, sent to clarify the essence of our mission for the airwayves. The book transformed our understanding of the intellectual implications of what we were trying to achieve.
"More importantly, it gave us a new lease on life. It made clear, although life was indeed a low-down dirty shame, we could confront it with our determination and dogged persistence, our sense of humor and our dignity, and do it all with elgance. So profound was this message that we literally had to rethink not just the music, but the nature of human life, in new and different ways, all of which seemed wholly appropriate for college. And although it didn't change our financial picture (being flat and broke is quintessential component of the blues as such), we sure felt a whole lot richer.
"At its most basic level, Albert Murray's "blues idiom statement" begins with the premise that "art is the process by which raw experience is stylized into aesthetic statement." While all art, including the blues, begins at the folk level, as one develops a greater mastery of the means of stylization-sophisticated technique, more refined perceptions, etc.-one moves to a different level.. Thus,, in the 1930s of Louis Armstrong, when jazz as popular music of the day, Armstrong was creating masterworks such as "Mahogany Hall Stomp," which transcended popular music and took his art into the province of elegant taste and intellectual refinement. Therefore, the blues as music was Armstrong's method of making an aesthetic statement with sound, specifically by "swinging the blues," which is to say keeping the blues as such at bay. It is precisely the blues as such that requires some type of vaccination, which is to say a remedy, one that Armstrong was so adept at creating nightly on his bandstand.
"Like the best work of Armstrong, "Stomping the blues" serves as a timeless antidote for the Blues. Whether a month, a year, or three more than that pass by, its words always ring out loud and clear when you pick it up at the beginning of any paragraph, and it seems that you're off again; riffing, tapping, chugging, or swinging your way down the aisle in hot pursuit of these same demons that were just dogging you.
"This fact was further amplified for me ten years ago when my good fortunes put me in direct contact with Albert Murray on a regular basis. He had been gracious in discussing, listening to, and even occasionally sharing the blues. Most importantly, we have been able to embody many ideas that define this treatise in the numerous concerts, lectures, films, and programs for the young people with have hosted at Lincoln Center in New York. what better place to make people feel good, which is to say in high spirits, than in the center of the jazz universe.
"For Albert Murray(before his passing in2013) he lived a little further Uptown in the same down-home setting that brought us al of the words in his bookThough his reservoir of knowledge has grown, he was still extending, elaborating, and refining his writing skill based on the tradition of blues, stomps, ragtime, jumps, and swinging. Moreover, what Duke Ellington himself said of this undertaking when it comes appeared still holds true today; Albert Murray was an authority on Soul from the days of old. He doesn't have to look it up; he already knows. And, if you want to know, look him up."
A History Of Phone Calls With Yusef Lateef
The Man, His Music and Innovation and Eclectic Vibes/Grooves-Yusef Lateef
The Passing Of A Jazz Giant Is Like a Musical Library Burning Down or Wiped Out
The multi-instrumentalist Yusef Lateef, famed in the jazz world for embracing tranquil spiritualism and non-Western sonorities in his own music, died Monday at his home near Amherst, Mass. The death was confirmed by several members of his family.
In one light, Lateef was a deeply bluesy saxophonist who grew up among a fertile, mid-century, African-American Detroit jazz community, then toured with musicians like Cannonball Adderley and Dizzy Gillespie. In another, he was a natural experimentalist: He was an early adopter of jazz flute and an even earlier adopter of oboe and a variety of instruments from the Middle East, Africa and East Asia. He was guided by a desire to develop his own brand of "autophysiopsychic" music — he disdained the term "jazz," and saw his own art guided by physical, mental and spiritual realms — as well as his devout Muslim faith.
Lateef was active to the end of his life, especially as a composer and professor at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst. He was 93.
Photographer John Rogers was a close friend. He shares his memories of capturing these photos below. —Patrick Jarenwattananon, NPR Music
Before I came to New York City for good, I spent a summer in Lancaster, Penn. I wasn't in a good way at the time: I was battling homelessness and had developed a serious drinking problem. But a man named Ed Craig and his family took me in. I stayed in their house and worked in their grocery store. Ed and his wife Lorna had two children, Aziza and Kwame. After work, Ed played me records and taught me about jazz history. I came to realize that Yusef Lateef was Ed's lifelong hero. He had even named his son Kwame Lateef Craig.
When I landed back in my hometown of Nashville, Tenn., I hosted a late-night jazz radio show on the now-defunct WRVU-FM. A friend suggested that I contact Yusef Lateef, who was born in Tennessee, for an interview. I got a number, so I cold-called it. Yusef seemed unsure at first, questioning who I was and how I got the number. However, after talking to me for a while, that initial apprehensiveness went away.
It was the first of many calming phone conversations I'd have with Yusef Lateef.
Some time later, I dreamed up the idea of taking Ed to meet his hero. So in the summer of 2001, Ed drove up from Lancaster in his car, picked me up in Brooklyn and headed to Amherst, Mass. The plan was to meet Yusef for lunch at a deli called The Black Sheep. But on the way there, we encountered a torrential downpour, which coincided with a flat tire. As Ed was fixing the tire in the rain, we realized there was an additional problem with the car, so we stopped at the local Goodyear Tire shop in Amherst. I asked to use the phone and looked up the number for The Black Sheep in the phone book. I asked the person who answered to see if someone matching Yusef's description was waiting, and a few seconds later Yusef was on the phone. I explained our dilemma, and Yusef offered to meet us at the repair shop. A few minutes later, we were all laughing and smiling.
The Passing of a Master Musician-Yesef Lateef
Yusef signed all of Ed's records — there must have been at least 20 of them — and Ed got to tell Yusef all about his life and how Yusef's music was always a part of it. He waited with us, and we chatted the entire time the car was being repaired. I snapped a photo of Yusef under an umbrella standing in the parking lot as we drove away.
Yusef in the Rain
We stayed in touch with Yusef. Ed traveled with his family to a Muslim retreat in Washington, D.C., that Yusef paid for Ed to attend — both food and lodging. (Yusef invited me, as well, but I declined the invitation.)
Around that time, I started to call Yusef every week, sometimes multiple times. He became a guiding light for me — like a best friend, in terms of honest and open advice. I saw him at shows and conferences over the years in New York, and even rented a car and drove back to Amherst once, but it was on the phone that the friendship was always the strongest.
He seemed to always remember everything that was going on in my life. How was my mother, or how was work? If I had been sick, he would call multiple times checking to see if I was feeling better. I remember many times being alone, depressed and unsure about my life, walking around for hours in Manhattan talking to him on the phone. He was a great listener and never seemed to mind any of it.
In return, I would always call him when I was with people he knew. Countless times, I reconnected him with the late Frank Wess, or Harold Mabern, or Ornette Coleman. In 2012, I was shooting photos for Tootie Heath and I mentioned to Tootie that I was friends with Yusef. We called and I put them on the phone together. It was joyous — I don't think they had talked in a long while. Tootie seized the moment and later traveled with a film crew to Amherst to interview Yusef on camera.
The last time I saw Yusef in person was this spring. He had been telling me for a few weeks that he was coming to Brooklyn to play. I went to the soundcheck and was able to shoot freely the entire time. Afterwards, we chatted, and he said he was thrilled to hear musicians playing some of his compositions. I told him I wanted to take his portrait outside as the sun was starting to set — the photo at the top of this story. I did, and afterward, as he was climbing into his car, I hugged him and I said, "I love you, brother." He smiled and looked me right in the eyes and said, "I love you, too." I can't think of a better way to say goodbye to anyone.
The Lasting Image Of A legend and Master Musician: Yusef Lateef
May the Circle Stay Unbroken
I had written a response to Benjamin's article about Duke, and Benjamin took the response I had made into the following article on his Blog:
"Jazz and Modern Black Culture in South Africa"
It is interesting to read Playthell’s article, “An Evening with Edward Kennedy Ellington;” it got me thinking of life in the Ghetto of Soweto, in South Africa. The Townships might not have had the architectural wonders of New York and its chic urbane life-style, but, Duke still affected and influenced the life, music and self-esteem of Africans under Apartheid. There has long been a struggle against Apartheid by the indigene refuting the claim that we were uncouth and backward.
As the Township of Soweto expanded and grew, so did the music scene: the South African Jazz Scene. Some of the jazz groups had “American” as their names. There were Jazz big bands; the fashion of the day were Dobbs brim hats, Florsheim shoes – some two tone – double breasted jackets with broad lapels and the whole dress code as was worn by the Americans of the ’30s, 40s and 50s. I guess what I am saying is that, because of the inhumanity of Apartheid we witnessed an oppressed people immerse themselves in the American Jazz music and African American culture, language and mannerism as a way of keeping our souls intact.
Louis Armstrong Master Musician and Fashion Plate
The sleeve jackets of the LPs were the point of discussions from the Shebeens – Taverns/Speak Easies – of the day. Discussion about music, styles, musical signatures of The “Duke”, the “Count”, Hodges, Archie Shepp, Philly Jo Jones(some People even renamed themselves after their favorite artist here in Mzantsi), Coltrane, Monk, Miles, Bessie Smith, Sonny Rollins, Stitt, Sidney Betchet, Stachmo, Jelly roll Morton, Fats Waller, Charlie Parker, Ida Cox, Lucille Hegamin, Rosa Henderson, Bertha “Chippie” Hill, Sara Martin, Trixie Smith, Lizzie Miles, Sarah Vaughn, Mahalia Jackson, Mamie Smith, Josie Miles, Edna Benbow HIcks, Eartha Kitt, Mae Harris, Lulla Miller, jimmy Lunceford, Billie Holiday, Etta James, Charlie Christian, Ron Carter, Yusef Lateef, Ella Fritzgerald, Scot Joplin, and a host of other many American musicians-too numerous to list here.
Virtuoso Trumpeter Miles Davis
The American Jazz idiom was dominating thoroughly and completely here in Mzatnsi. How do I know all these name of all these musicians. Well, as kids in the early sixties, we would sit with our Uncles and fathers and hear them argue and debate that was the best on drums, saxophones, composition and arrangements, and passions would rise to pitch level.
There were people who never thought of other artist as deserving mention or to be listened to because they did not meet their standard of what was Jazz or the like. So as we grew up in the late sixties, we were exposed to a variety of different artists of this American genre. Well, in most cases, my generation was scoffed-at by our old timers for not listening to real and classic Jazz when we listened to Jimmy Smith, John Patton, Harold Mabern, Blue Mitchell, Lou Donaldson, Billy Cobham, Booker T., Soul Music and funk.
We were ridiculed by these stalwarts and keepers of the Old Jazz, as me and my peers referred to Classical jazz as “not listening to Jazz,” and knowing nothing about it. But today, with most of them gone, and many of those who survived apartheid – the old timers I referred to above – have formed Jazz Clubs here in South Africa. They meet on weekends and bring out their best collection and spend the whole day listening to jazz, eating and imbibing large amounts of alcohol.
And whilst engaging in this celebration of jazz here in Mzantsi, you would hear talk like Playthell’s, whom I will cite below, as being what was said about these musicians by our elders. Most of the other stuff was learned and read from the LP liner notes by some Jazz critic or aficionado, andFrom Down Beat Magazine and so forth. It would go something like this passage from Playthell’s essay:
“Some of these people had crossed an ocean to attend the concert earlier in the day. After a while, it was clear that several of the guests had seriously followed Duke’s work for thirty to forty years. … As Duke responded to requests and moved from one tune to another, I was impressed by the fact that most of these songs were now part of the standard repertoire of American music. … I wondered at the artistic sensibility that could conceive these elegant tone poems, based in sophisticated urban blues and surrounded by consistently inventive orchestrations…. ….When he composed his suites to various regions of the world he never wrote the music when he was in those places.
‘I don’t want to be overly influenced by the local musical traditions, so I always wait until I’m back home to write my impressions.’ And he also confessed to me after a few rounds of Champaign: ‘I’m a sophisticated savage.’ Before I could persuade him to elaborate on his colorful claim our conversation was disrupted by others demanding the attention of the great man. I understood and bowed out. That enchanted evening in July, 1974 demonstrates that rest the world has long recognized the extraordinary creative contribution of the Duke. It is long past time this prophet became s hero in his own land.”
To be honest, what Playthell wrote above would be taken by these Jazz aficionados, turned on its head, made theirs. And included in their folklore about Jazz, as if it was they who spun the yarn above, and had experienced it, so that they have a one-up on their fellow Jazz buffs.. But, with time, those with the means, have been visiting The Newport Jazz Festival, Montreux Festival, and many of those in Europe.. And the comeback with fantastic tales of their visits and so forth, today (Most of it exaggerated, somewhat, but with some kernel of Truth.
A Paragon of Male Elegance
Our Elders copied many of Duke’s mannerism that Playthell describes above, which he observed on his visit to the Maestro’s apartment. As you can imagine, many have tried, albeit not on par with Playthell’s analysis, to be what the Duke represented and even added they own spin to the act. Apartheid, in its evil intent to dehumanize us, failed dismally because many Africans in South Africa knew that their Nazi-like oppressor’s claims of racial superiority were lies.
We lived our lives full of Jazz and our spirits danced above the concentration camps they built for us Called Townships… Like the humongous one called Soweto (Southern Western Townships) Digging jazz is still the way to go.. although the present-day youth in south Africa – as in the United States – are out of sync and do not know any better.. Some of us still know what time it is when it comes to Jazz music…
Young South African Jazzmen
Letta Mbulu Letta Full LP 1970...
On The Jazz Tilt... Harlem Jazz Giants - The Story of Jazz is one of epic proportions
A Short History Of American Jazz
At this juncture in the Hub, I would like to use and borrow what was a response on one of my Jazz Hubs by Rashid "The Jazz Aficionado" Booker to buttress the Jazz discourse below:
The Great African-American Classical Art-Form
The Beginning of The Great Art-Form; Be –bop
The Rashid Project ~ Be-bop (1940-1955) — with Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie in New York, New York Bop style of so-called jazz, was sometimes called bebop or rebop, but common usage shortened it to bop. One explanation for the name is that players sang the words bebop and rebop when vocalizing their new way of phrasing.
Developed between the early and mid-1940s - "bebop" expanded upon many of the improvisational elements of the swing era. Young musicians including Dizzy Gillespie, Charlie Parker, Bud Powell, and Thelonious Monk, influenced by the innovative compositions of soloists of the swing era (e.g., Art Tatum, Coleman Hawkins and Lester Young) began exploring more advanced harmonies, altered chords, and chord substitutions.
* A revolutionary style changed from swing era of so-called jazz.
* Inspired by the most advanced swing styles.
* A new vocabulary of musical phrases and methods of matching improvisation to chord progressions.
* Mastery of this style is considered the foundation for competence as a so-called jazz improviser to this day.
The Climate of Change
A combination of social and economic events helped to usher in bebop era. As World War II ultimately drafted many of the veteran musicians needed for the popular big bands of the swing era, many teenagers too young to be drafted were instead enlisted into the ranks of the touring road bands. Young musicians like Gillespie and Parker, as well as Stan Getz and Red Rodney, developed their craft at an early age by working with established swing masters.
There were hundreds of big bands and although a few played so-called jazz, such as Ellington, Basie and Goodman - others played none. This stimulated a need for the so-called jazz artist to find a new means, beyond the big band, for development. In New York City, many afterhours’ clubs became breeding grounds for small group explorations, especially in Harlem. Clubs like Minton's Playhouse witnessed the development of this new music by bebop innovators including guitarist Charlie Christian, bassist Jimmy Blanton, and pianist Thelonious Monk.
A different social climate existed for the Generation of African-American musicians born around 1920. The 1930s saw a growing consciousness among whites, especially on the political left that in a democracy African-Americans could not be treated as second-class citizens. Unlike the disrespect so-called jazz musicians received in previous years, by 1940, music critics were calling so-called jazz musicians artists who were worthy of respect.
This resulted in the development of a strong distaste by young African-American so-called jazz artist for the show-biz antics associated with commercial music and turning away from the swing style of the big bands whose commercial tendencies made it suspect. However, this was not a reaction against the true so-called jazz artists of the swing era, but it was a catalyst to further the development of the musical language.
The war also forced cut backs in dance halls and cabarets due to the Government issued the Cabaret tax, which collected money from any nightclub or restaurant which permitted dancing.
Due to these issues and the fact that in the 1940s the United States was entering a war; there was more tension in the music of this era than in the music of the swing era. So-Called jazz, as well as the other arts, has always been influenced by the mood of the times. The musical tension was created by tonal clashes, unusual harmonies, and fast tempos with complex rhythms.
Rashid "The Jazz Aficionado" Booker
New Orleans Jazz In The Mix
Jazzed Up Yarn
This is what Ted Unseth posted his thoughts about Jazz In the following manner:
Some say it's the Jazzers' own fault: they got too fancy pants; they forgot how to reach the average Joe(Jo). Even Duke Ellington said he always made sure not to forsake the dance-beat because you lose a lot of your crowd when you do that. This is not to say that there isn't a place for just-listening Jazz--of course there is. And I'd be very happy to see a lot more people really listening to Jazz. But I'm afraid the number of people on this planet who know how to really listen (to Jazz or any substantive Music) do not a Majority make.
I don't worry about the Classical Music scene--it's had hundreds of years to get its support group effectively organized; there will always be a monied elite to keep it going.
I don't worry about the Pop Music scene--Jane and Joe Average will always be there, en masse = megabucks.
But I think there should be a lot more support for Jazz Music than there is. It's such a phenomenally diverse, creative and intrinsically American musical idiom. I think Americans in-particular should be a little ashamed for knowing less about Jazz than do the peoples of most other countries around the world (American Jazzers have been leaving this country for years and years--simply because they get more work and genuine appreciation abroad than they do at home). More than that, I just think a lot of Americans don't know what they're missing; they've never been motivated to explore it much. Too bad. The reading material alone (on Jazz) provides a seemingly endless source of fascinating true-life drama--heroes, heroines, the whole bit. Even Hollywood has missed the boat--I don't think there's ever been a Jazz film made that truly captures the Spirit and Magic that's evident in the writings. (Some have come close, true; but I've never seen one that hits the nail on the head.) [Ed. Note: 2001. A tip of the hat goes to Ken Burns for his PBS series on Jazz--it's a truly valuable addition to the Story of Jazz.]
I speak of Jazz music in particular, but I also want to say a few things about music and art in general. Art can cause people to muse, to ponder thoughtfully. I like that notion. Art can also cause people to feel agitated, restless, even destructive. Though I believe there's a place for this kind of art in the whole scheme-of-things, I prefer to concentrate on what I consider to be constructive art, fired by constructive passion.
There are elements in society who question the validity of the 'ultimate importance' of art. To them, art is nothing more than diversion and entertainment. Beyond that, it has no worthwhile application toward the nitty-gritty realities of civilization (creating jobs, saving lives, etc.). My premise is that art is the Saving Grace of Humanity. It is an integral, important aspect of society and we need art to reconvince ourselves that we're not entirely dishonorable co-existants on this planet. (As much as Humanity has accomplished, it still owes Mother Nature an apology.)
I find in the Jazz Story a Jazz Ethic that inspires, uplifts and ennobles. John Steinbeck once said of Jazz musicians:
"They are hard to buy and if bought they either backslide into honesty or lose the respect of their peers. And this is a loss that terrifies them. In any other field of American life, great rewards can be used to cover a loss of honesty, but not with Jazz players--a slip is known and recognized instantly. And further, while there may be some jealousies, they do not compare with those of other professions. Let a filthy kid, unknown, unheard of and unbacked sit in--and if he can do it--he is recognized and accepted instantly/"
The only thing Jazz musicians dont have enough of is jobs. Perhaps you can trace that back to the observation that a lot of people have either lost interest (from the 1920s through the 1940s, Jazz was big-time popular) or weren't particularly interested in the first place (I was in the latter category for almost 25 years). I'd like to see this changed and I have a two-part plan:
1st, the Audience. "The more you know the more you grow" into wider appreciation. Motivate yourself to be intrigued by the Jazz Story. I don't quite know how to get this across, but if you don't have some sort of historical perspective (via books and album-jacket liner-notes) there's a tendency to dismiss or ignore the Story of Jazz. Every distinct syle of Jazz (from ealy Syncopation to Modern) is a piece of the whole story; once you have an overview of it you can flip to any page and it'll have significance.
Tied to this knowledge should be an awareness that Jazz requires a great deal of sacrifice and discipline; that it's physically as well as mentally demanding (as Bop saxmaster Eddie Berger might say: "If people realized how physical it really is and saw it more as a sporting event, you'd have unhuddled masses cheering their favorite Jazzers on to new heights." Something like that, right, Eddie?).
2nd, the Performers. The ultimate dream of every creative artist is to be an 'original', 'one of a kind', perhaps even 'visionary'. As philosopher/historian Will Durant said:
"Yes, believe it or not, there is One Thing more thrilling than Sex: an Original Thought." To my mind, the art of the future is the greatest challenge; and in music, I see Jazz as a way for coming up with a New Music that speaks to all in a meaningful way. We should look beyond the feeling that "it's all been done and there's nowhere to go from here"--that feeling has been disproved periodically for thousands of years.
Also, Jazz performers/jobbers could perhaps put a little more thought into their Presentation. Sometimes, a jobbing Jazz band appears almost morose ("we're serious about this stuff, man; and it's a lot of work, too"). I'm not suggesting Show Biz buffoonery; just a little more Showmanship.