We are the world. The Internet's greatest gift to jazz is allowing complete strangers to share their excitement and feelings for the music and form a bond of friendship. Nothing illustrates this shift in jazz appreciation better than the e-mails I receive from all over expressing thanks for posts or adding a few points I may have missed. It still blows my mind that people around the world can listen to the exact same recording, have similar sentiments and become dear friends—without ever having met or listened to the track in the same room. The true miracle of the web (and e-mail) is that everyone is an equal member in a universal club and that everyone can voice an opinion and be heard. The jazz Internet continues to astonish—and it's only the beginning.
Radio days. I received a sack of e-mails following my post on Friday clicking off four favorite New York jazz radio-show theme songs from the 1970s. Just as I suspected, e-mailers had their own personal favorites. Here's a sampling:
From Jim Wardrop...
From Nick Sigismondi...
"Growing up in Baltimore in the late 1950s and early 1960s, I listened to Harley Brinsfield's Harley Show." Harley owned a chain of local eponymously named sub shops. He was on station WITH-AM. I remember him opening his show with the great uplifting notes of the classic version of Duke Ellington's Things Ain't What They Used to Be."
From Don Brown...
"Ah, how well I remember back to the early 1950s, when I was in my twenties, listening every Saturday afternoon from 4 to 6 p.m. to the Canadian Broadcasting Corp.'s Jazz Unlimited with host Dick MacDougall. Dick used Duke Ellington's classic 1940 recording of Cotton Tail as his theme. That piece of music is so strong that even the constant weekly repetition couldn't wear out its welcome. It remains one of my all-time favorite recordings."
From Marla Kleman...
"I grew up in Chicago and listened to Dick Buckley on WBEZ. He used Louie Bellson's Skin Deep as his theme. That was a dramatic opening with Duke's reed section trilling, followed by the brass fanfare, and then swinging the theme so hard."
From Alan Meek...
From Ed Leimbacher...
"Jazz never got a good deal here in the U.K. in the 1950s from "Auntie" BBC, which was said to have banned both boogie-woogie and bop from the airwaves at one stage. So people like me turned to Radio Luxembourg that had a show called Jamboree Jazz Time. I don't recall the DJ's name—might have been Barry Aldiss—but I'll never forget his roarin' theme tune: Shorty Rogers and His Giants playing Sweetheart of Sigmund Freud. Of course, I wasn't in the right place to hear the legendary American DJs, but am so pleased that dozens of shows by the great Oscar Treadwell have been preserved here."
"In my early teens I built my own FM receiver that brought in a Bellingham,WA, radio station about 75 miles away. The station only played jazz late at night, and I stayed up far longer than I could afford to, considering there was school the next day. The DJ always opened the show with My Favorite Things by John Coltrane. Jazz has been my religion ever since wearing headphones over my ears, late, late into the evening."
Louis Armstrong. Terry Teachout's much anticipated Pops: A Life of Louis Armstrong (cover shown) is due out in December from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. Last week, Terry reflected in a post at his blog about reading the final proofs. He also talked briefly about The Letter, an opera that he and Paul Moravec collaborated on will be premiered on July 25. Go here to read Terry's post.
Carol Sloane. Last week, in response to my post on the possibility of Carol recording with just a guitar, Joel Pitcoff sent along the following:
Editor's note: On Friday I buzzed Carol and asked her about the session. She said she had just met Joe Puma that day, gave him a list of tunes, and they performed the songs together that night. "I was a little nervous because it was one of the first times I had performed with just one instrument in front of a crowd," she says. "But it came off well." Carol doesn't recall if the show was specifically set up as a Rodgers and Hart tribute. But she agrees that the program must have been a retrospective given the lineup of songs.
Frank Sinatra. In response to my post on Sinatra's cocky rockers of the mid-1960s and 1970s, big band arranger and blogger Darcy James Argue sent along the following:
"Did you know that Randy Newman originally wrote Lonely at The Top (which appears on Randy's Sail Away) for Sinatra? Frank rejected the tune—the lyrics were too knowingly ironic. But he really shouldn't have. It's perfect for him, and he would have killed it. His fans would have hated it, but it could have been a glorious "punk rock" moment for him—or at least, as close as Frank could legitimately get to that kind of attitude while still remaining true to himself."
CD discovery of the week. In December 1959, tenor saxophonist Jimmy Forrest recorded a little-known album for Delmark Records, a six-year-old Chicago label. Forrest, who had a firm, precise bluesy attack, was accompanied by Harold Mabern on piano, Grant Green on guitar, Gene Ramey on bass and Elvin Jones on drums.
This sleeper album was called Black Forrest and featured a handful of jumping original blues as well as heartbreaking executions of standards like These Foolish Things, What's New and But Beautiful. Like Lucky Thompson, Forrest could slip into a mood that caught your ear and held onto it. And like Eddie "Lockjaw" Davis, Forrest could swing like mad. Forrest is atop my list of forgotten artists who still matter. This album is swell on every level.
You'll find Black Forrest on CD here.
Oddball album cover of the week. Carmen Leggio, the saxophonist who played in Maynard Ferguson's best bands of the late 1950s and who passed away recently, recorded Sax After Midnight for Lovers in 1996. Based on the cheesy cover design, you'd think this one was cut in the mid-1950s. Beyond the retro feel, the design execution is painfully literal. Strangely, the ghostly sax appears to be playing by itself—or having a smoke in between sets. And based on the wattage of the spotlight (or is it the moon?), the photo session seems to have taken place in an interrogation room or prison yard. The editor in me can't help but note that "For Lovers" could have been dropped from the title. I think "Sax After Midnight" kind of says it all.