Sunday Wax Bits - JazzWax

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October 24, 2010


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Wow! I have never seen this photo of 'Hot Lips'. What a treat! -- Your article on the pains of jazz performers has reminded me of one recording with Dizzy from a Carnegie Hall Concert (1952) where he is obviously not feeling very well.

Anyway, "what still came out of his horn was impressing" (said Axel Dörner, my trumpeter colleague from Berlin after I'd played this track on the phone), though it's really not the Dizzy Gillespie we know.

It is obvious that he must have been a) sick, or b) tired or c) ... just drunk (it was a late night set).

I will post the tracks ("A Night In Tunisia" & a really rough, and disorganized "52nd Street Theme" with Bird and others) at my blog as soon as I find the time.

The music of your oddball cover would sound very hip for some of today's DJ's. The cover itself is priceless. Wonderful!

Michael Steinman

Thank you, Marc, for reminding us of how grateful we should be for what we have from jazz musicians. We know in some emotional way that they give us their whole souls, but we need to be reminded of just how much of jazz is pure athleticism, how their bodies must feel this hard work. We understand this when we see a drummer come off after a solo, the clothing soaked with sweat, but perhaps sometimes we should think of what the bassist's feet feel like at the end of the night, the trombonist's lips, the tenor player's neck and back. These men and women work so hard even now for what gets put in the tip jar! Bless each and every one of them, alive and dead.

Ed Leimbacher

All work and no play may make Jack a dull boy, but hard work and no-letup playing made Jazz a dulcet buck or two... and, so the story goes, allowed the lucky winners to just keep gigging till they paid off all their debts.

Rab Hines

Thanks, Marc, for reminding us of the adversities faced every day by these folk who are now recognized as artists. Add to the things you mention racism, irregular availability of proper nutrition, ... I can't even imagine some of it.

Great article.


Great tribute. Musicians who landed a spot in a successful big band considered themselves lucky to have a steady job, but found themselves living on a bus and were lucky to get a chorus or two. Charlie Barnett summed up the big band life eloquently in his memoir: "You stay tired, dirty, and drunk."


Fortunately, more Fontana small group recordings are surfacing all the time. The recently released "Trombone Heaven" by Carl and Frank Rosolino features an astonishing two bone cadenza on one track. My own favorite is "The Great Fontana" which is a collaboration with Al Cohn and a superb rhythm section.

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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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