Settling a Film Score. I received quite a few emails on Friday and Saturday in response to my interview with arranger and composer Russ Garcia on his score for Charlie Chaplin's Limelight. Many readers were appalled to read that the 1972 Oscar for best dramatic score was given posthumously in error to Larry Russell, an arranger who had nothing to do with the film. Nearly all of the emails ended with the same line: "I hope the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences does the right thing and gives Russ his Oscar." [Pictured: Russ and his wife, Gina]
I couldn't agree more.
During my interview, Russ was too modest to make a big stink about the 35-year old error. Apparently, when the Academy was verifying the nominees in 1972 before handing out awards in 1973, not enough double-checking was done to ensure that the deserving arranger of Limelight was recognized. In all fairness to the Academy, the mistake was likely an innocent case of name confusion (Larry Russell v. Russell Garcia).
The Academy is an honorable and venerable institution. Everyone enjoys watching the televised ceremony each spring, from the red carpet and glamour to the stars and envelopes. Like the Super Bowl, the event has become part of our culture as the movie industry has grown in size and influence over the past 30 years.
But an institution is honorable only if it is magnanimous when it errs, not just when it celebrates itself. Otherwise a great institution becomes petty and seems to lack self-confidence. Not to mention the damage the institution does to its own image and brand. This is a time for character, not correctness. Fresh research should be undertaken by the Academy to verify claims made innocently by Russ Garcia, and if proven accurate, a belated award should be given.
Admitting an obvious and innocent mistake and rectifying the situation by awarding Russ an Oscar surely would not hurt the Academy's good name or image. Whatever occurred (or didn't occur) happened more than 30 years ago and taints the reputation of no one. Stuff happens.
And no one is suggesting that the Academy dash over to Larry Russell's house and rip the statue off his family's mantel. What's done is done. But surely Russ Garcia [pictured], the person who actually worked hard and long on the Limelight arrangement, deserves some official recognition.
At 92 years old, Russ is too humble to make a fuss.
Richard Sudhalter (1938-2008). I learned of Richard's passing on Friday from JazzWax reader Albert Haim. Richard had apparently been suffering from pneumonia for several weeks and died Thursday night. Dick was a mighty jazz musician and scholar. He also was a jazz translator, meaning he was able to plumb the depths of research and emerge with a simple tale loaded with detail, enabling readers to understand and appreciate the subjects he wrote about.
Two of my favorite Sudhalter books are Bix, Man and Legend and Stardust Melody: The Life and Music of Hoagy Carmichael. I know his book Lost Chords: White Musicians and Their Contribution to Jazz 1915-1945 created much controversy when it was published in 1999. As readers know, I don't tend to look at music in those terms (it's all jazz to me). But whether you love the premise or hate it, Dick's book was rich with detail, and few could argue with its fluidity and research.
The best way I know to pay tribute to Dick is to quote from his book on Bix (whose own death in August 1931 also occurred on a Thursday night following a bout with pneumonia). Here's Dick's use of Louis Armstrong's quote in Bix:
"[After hearing Bix in late 1927] I had to go backstage and say hello. And that's something I don't usually do. You know, some people don't act the same—oh I don't know...maybe it's nervous tension or something...but not Bix. He received me with opened arms. I told that I was playing over at the Sunset Club out on the South Side. When he finished work that night he came directly to the place and stayed till the customers left. Then we locked all the doors and had ourselves a nice little jam session...Bix and his friends and my gang. Hmmm...I've never heard such good music since. Bix had a way of expressing himself—his music would want to make you go right up to the bandstand, shake his hand and make yourself known."
The same could be said for Dick's writing and playing. He's already missed by all those who strive to tell the story of jazz, in words and song. For more on Dick and his invaluable contributions to jazz and joy, Terry Teachout and Doug Ramsey offer loving tributes.
Bill Holman and Ira Gitler. Last Sunday I shared an email from legendary arranger Bill Holman that covered a bunch of topics. Bill's comments on Chubby's Blues caught the sharp eye of jazz critic and author Ira Gitler [pictured]:
"Hey Marc, great stuff on Benny Golson (Part 5). However, in your Holman segment, [Bill's mention of] Chubby's Blues puzzles me. Is Bill thinking of Tiny's Blues, first recorded by Serge Chaloff (with Red Rodney and Earl Swope) for Savoy under the title Gabardine and Serge? Chubby first recorded Tiny's Blues with his big band for Columbia.
Incidentally the shout chorus to this arrangement was written by Al Cohn, and that became part of the Tiny's Blues chart, although Al is not formally credited.
Kahn & Cohn—sounds like a deli or a haberdasher's. Which reminds me that Jimmy Raney appeared on Al Cohn's Mr. Music (RCA, 1954) as Sir Osbert Haberdasher. Jack Lewis, who produced the album, was zany with his pseudonyms for covering up artists under contract to other labels. My favorite was one he concocted for Thad Jones—Steel Cheops."
So I asked Bill about Ira's observation regarding Tiny's Blues:
"Marc, Yep, Ira's right. Tiny's Blues it is. Growing old is wonderful."
Bill Evans. Jan Stevens of The Bill Evans Web Pages here reviews Symbiosis (1974), the third and final album Evans recorded with arranger Claus Ogerman. Also at Jan's site is a vivid recollection of Bill's final hours in September 1980 by Laurie Verchomin, Bill's girlfriend at the time. The exclusive is from Laurie's forthcoming memoir, Time Remembered. Her moving eyewitness account will leave you stunned.
Benny Golson. People often ask how many hours I spend interviewing jazz artists, writing up interviews and blogging at JazzWax. I never answer directly, since the time I devote to the site is irrelevant. What's more important is celebrating jazz legends and capturing their stories first-hand. And whatever time I devote to preserving the stories of jazz is instantly forgotten the moment I receive a gracious note of thanks. Like the one I received from Benny yesterday:
"Marc, In all of my career I've never before been involved in any interview ever like yours. It's absolutely unbelievable! Where in the world did you get all those photographs? Fabulous! I've received a few calls about your interview. I can't believe what you've done."
I don't write these posts to extract such remarks. I write about the artists I love most, period. But it sure is rewarding to receive such heart-felt thanks.
"I just finished your interview with Golson—well done! I particularly love Benny's album Free. I think it's very underrated. His solo on Sock Cha Cha is amazing! And great compositions."
Bret Primack. Last week videographer Bret Primack sent me a series of links to videoclips from the historic 1958 TV show The Subject is Jazz. Click on the following individual links to see clips of Mundell Lowe, Ed Thigpen, Doc Severinsen, Jimmy Cleveland, Tony Scott and Billy Taylor [pictured].
Sonny Rollins. Bret also sent along a clip of footage he shot to support Sonny's upcoming CD release of Road Shows, Vol. 1. You can see it here.
Hank Mobley and John Coltrane. Today, disc jockey extraordinaire Sid Gribetz presents a five-hour special radio broadcast reviewing the career of tenor saxophonist Hank Mobley [pictured]. You can tune in today from anywhere in the world at WCKR.org starting at 2 PM (New York City time).
Then on Tuesday, September 23d, WKCR will be playing the music of saxophonist John Coltrane around the clock for 24 hours in celebration of his birthday. Again, you can tune in from anywhere in the world via the web. If you're in New York, WKCR is at 89.9 on the FM radio dial.
Art Blakey. In response to my post on Art Blakey's Africaine, which I feel is among the Jazz Messengers' best recordings, reader Gary L. Gray managed to track down this rare recording as a download here.