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December 21, 2008


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Alan Kurtz

The LIFE photo archives newly available via Google are a tremendous resource, but the absence of editorial accountability is alarming. Specifically, check out this link:

The caption states: "Bebob king, Dizzy Gillespie, a Mohammedan, is bowing to Mecca from his Hollywood apartment."

Bebob? That may be the style of music favored at Turkish wedding receptions as shish kebab is served, but I'm not sure. In any case, the rest of this caption is even more problematical, since Mr. Gillespie was never a Muslim. In his memoirs he claimed that Life magazine had conned him into stripping to the waist and bowing towards Mecca. "It's one of the few things in my whole career I'm ashamed of," wrote the trumpeter. Musicologist Scott DeVeaux has insisted that Gillespie needn't have apologized, since the era's prevailing racism virtually guaranteed "that any expression of high-spirited frivolity by an African American at mid-century would be instantly and willfully misread." But mocking Muslims at prayer is frivolous only if you consider Islam a barrel of laughs.

Significantly, the labels affixed to this offensive online photo of the Bebob king include "Religion, Religions, Prayer, Services, and Moslem," meaning that Dizzy's insult to a great religion is now electronically linked to images of actual Muslims at worship. I shudder to think of such sacrilege being spread across the worldwide web. Doesn't America have enough enemies without begging for more?

Alan Kurtz

Mike Milner

Bill Evans DVD

I don't have the Jazz Icons DVD of Bill Evans, however I just purchased one from a different company containing 2 TV shows Bill did with his trio in London in 1965. I really have enjoyed viewing it. There is lots of room given to Chuck Israels for soloing on bass and Larry Bunker is marvelous on drums, using brushes exclusively for both sets! I would like to add from a personal view point, as a bassist who does a lot of trio work, I wish more drummers would play like this. I think the Jazz Icons series are quite good generally, I have the Charles Mingus one and it is outstanding.

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  • Marc Myers writes regularly for The Wall Street Journal and is author of "Anatomy of a Song" (Grove) and "Why Jazz Happened." Founded in 2007, JazzWax is a two-time winner of the Jazz Journalists Association's best blog award.

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