Interviewing Nat Hentoff at Barnes & Noble in New York last week was a gas. It's not often that you get to hang out with the people you admire most, let alone share a dais with them in front of an audience. As far as the SRO audience was concerned, Nat could have told stories all night. I was there merely to light the fireworks' fuses by asking short questions about his jazz career and new book At the Jazz Band Ball.
By the way, if you haven't read Nat's Boston Boy: Growing Up with Jazz and Other Rebellious Passions, you should (go here). The memoir gives you an up close look at where Nat came from, and the writing is as smooth as silk.
It's truly an honor to know Nat as a friend and a privilege that he asked me to serve as his interviewer. Then again, it's an honor to know all of the jazz legends I've come in contact with over the past three years. My role is simply to preserve their stories and share them all with you. Also gratifying was to hear Nat rave about JazzWax. There's nothing more thrilling than recognition and praise from a childhood hero.Von Streeter. The person who put up the following clip, from the film noir D.O.A. (1950), claims the saxophonist playing is Illinois Jacquet. Not so. It's Von Streeter, an r&b artist of the period, on-screen and, as readers point out, Maxwell Davis playing off-screen. I offer the clip to you here because it's so darn funny. Dig the actors playing audience hipsters...
Harvey Pekar (1939-2010), an underground comic-book writer whose autobiographical American Splendor series perfectly captured the voice of the 1960s male—complete with obsessions, fear, distractions and uncertainty—died in Cleveland Heights, OH, on July 12. He was 70.
Pekar reached a certain level of fame in the late 1980s when he appeared regularly on Late Night with David Letterman as something of an intellectual foil or modern-day Professor Irwin Corey. Pekar's life and struggles also became the subject of a 2003 movie, American Splendor, starring Paul Giamatti.
Like Robert Crumb, who illustrated many of American Splendor's early storylines, Pekar had a passion for jazz—albeit a more modern period than Crumb's focus. Pekar frequently wrote articles for jazz magazines as well as CD liner notes, including Sonny Stitt: The Bebop Recordings 1949-52.
Here's a jazz frame from one of Pekar's strips:
Gene Lees. Jazz musician Bill Kirchner will be featuring the music of the late Gene Lees on his Jazz From The Archives radio show tonight at 11 p.m. (EST). Lees wrote the lyrics to melodies by Antonio Carlos Jobim, Bill Evans, Milton Nascimento, Lalo Schifrin, Roger Kellaway, Charles Aznavour, Manuel DeSica, and others. Go here from anywhere in the world to access the show.
Nix stix. Jazz.FM91 CEO Ross Porter sent the following photo in an email bearing this subject line: "Session work definitely declining..."
Jimmy Rushing. Blues shouter Jimmy Rushing goes beautifully with the New York heat. Here he is with Billy Taylor and group in 1958, courtesy of Bret Primack:
Carol Sloane. If you're in New York on Tuesday, July 20, vocalist Carol Sloane will be singing with an all-star group: Ken Peplowski, Byron Stripling, John Allred, Bill Charlap, Ted Rosenthal, Sean Smith and Lewis Nash. For more information, go here. And for Carol's blog, SloaneView, go here.
CD discoveries of the week: Violin and Salsa? Absolutely, and the pair work together splendidly in the hands of violinist Susie Hansen on Representante de la Salsa. When I first saw this CD's cover, I must confess I worried that the contents would be light. Boy, was I wrong. This album is a first rate Salsa album—merging Hansen's electric violin with flute, horns, a strong percussion section and powerful vocals. If there's a Latin sleeper album of the summer, this is it. You have to love an artist who chooses to give Ides of March's 1960s soul-pop hit Vehicle a Salsa spin. If you dig Latin, I'm convinced this album will blow you away just as it did me. You can sample Susie Hansen's Representante de la Salsa at iTunes or here.Coin Flip is trumpeter Nathan Eklund's fourth album as a leader. Interestingly, the CD has both a hard bop and fusion feel. But rather than create instrumental mayhem, as so many new albums of this type do, Eklund and his group remain restrained, allowing the beauty of his nine originals to surface and seduce. The material is sophisticated, but there's a beauty and maturity to what you hear. Dig the moody The Supernatural or the lifting feel of Professor Dissendadt. Songs are intricate enough for the musicians to exhibit their chops, but the torque is geared for listeners rather than showboating. Also notable is Steve Myerson on Fender Rhodes, who gives the entire album a 1970s intelligence. You can sample Coin Flip at iTunes or here.
Oddball album cover of the week: Here's another one of those compilations on the Fontana label, a subsidiary of Dutch Phillips Records. The art director who produced this series had an odd habit of seating his blonde models in strange positions in relation to the superimposed background photo of the featured artist.