Last week, in support of my new book Why Jazz Happened (University of California Press), I was interviewed by Jeffrey Siegel for his Straight No Chaser online jazz show (go here) up in Massachusetts. You can listen for free to the podcast, though you may have to crank up the volume a bit, since the interview was conducted by phone. Jeff knows his stuff, and he featured quite a few jazz tracks to illustrate the periods we discussed and the points being made. [Cover photo of Dizzy Gillespie by Herb Snitzer]
With the holidays approaching, now's the time to buy a copy of Why Jazz Happened for yourself or family members and friends by going here.Andre Previn, comic foil. Following my post last week on pianist, composer and conductor Andre Previn, Philip Andrews sent along this humorous clip...
Kickstarter star. Just weeks after I posted on Jessica Ferber's drive to raise funds for her book on the late jazz photographer Bob Campbell, she's closing in fast on her financial goal. When we first spoke, Jessica had 77 backers and a total of $8,000. Now, with less than a week remaining, she has over 180 backers and is just a few hundred dollars short of her $23,000 goal. Bam! The power of JazzWax! Go here to view Jessica's Kickstarter video and make a last-minute donation.
Rhythm and Blues Revue update. After posting about the Rhythm and Blue Revue, a TV film that aired in 1955 but clearly was made earlier based on my analysis, I received the following insightful note from Stan Jones...
"While I am sure you are correct about the date of the Basie segments, my impression is that the film is actually a composite of segments that Snader filmed at various times and locations. For example, the Lionel Hampton segments probably were filmed in Los Angeles in September 1951.
"Tom Lord in his Jazz Discography has an entry for Snader Telescriptions in that month and Hampton was in Los Angeles in the fall of 1950 while Basie was doing his Snader Telescriptions at the Apollo in New York. Lord also lists dates of 1951-1955 for Sarah Vaughan's Snader Telescriptions but does put them in New York.
"The thing that clinches the various dates idea for me is that Shake, Rattle, and Roll, sung by Big Joe Turner, wasn't written until 1954. Turner's first recording is also from that year. Ruth Brown did record Teardrops from My Eyes in 1950, but I don't think that is Budd Johnson (who did the tenor on the record), playing in Paul Williams' band behind her in the film.
"If it is various independent segments, then they did a good job of having Willie Bryant tie it all together as emcee (though it looked to me as if the audience shots were looped and at some point Bryant changed his tie)."
Shaynee Rainbolt and Donn Trenner. The singer and legendary pianist will be performing together at the Metropolitan Room on December 11 at 7 p.m. They also will be there on December 9, 15 and 16 at 4 p.m. This will be Trenner's first New York major engagement in 25 years. For more information, go here.
Bonnie Bowden. In Los Angeles on December 9, singer Bonnie Bowden [pictured above] and the Paul McDonald Big Band will be at Vitellos, performing at 2 and 5 p.m. Arrangements by Sammy Nestico, Nelson Riddle, Tom Kubis, John Clayton, David Berger and more. For more information, go here.
DVD discovery of the week. If you dig Woody Herman, you're going to love Blue Flame: Portrait of a Jazz Legend (Jazzed Media). This documentary traces Herman's various bands and herds from the "Band that Played the Blues" onward, touching on his sad end—being hounded by the IRS for back taxes. Though the 110-minute DVD runs a little long (multiple talking heads say virtually the same thing in places), kudos to producer-director Graham Carter for finding amazing footage of all the bands. Here we get to see and hear Lemon Drop from The Ed Sullivan Show in 1949, featuring bop scatting by Herman and vibist Terry Gibbs as well as solos by baritone saxophone soloist Serge Chaloff and trombonist Earl Swope. A sharp and potent portrait of the big band era's third clarinetist and, along with Dizzy Gillespie, a paternal figure who mentored quite a bop brood.
CD discoveries of the week. Houston Person seems to be everywhere these days. The tenor saxophonist often tours and records with jazz masters, but he also uses his down time to encourage, record and perform with younger artists. On his new release, Naurally (HighNote), he's joined by pianist Cedar Walton, bassist Ray Drummond and drummer Lewis Nash. The album features a gorgeous spread of standards—including That's All, How Little We Know, It Shouldn't Happen to a Dream, Namely You and Sunday. Person's big rich tone is on display here, as always, but as you listen you realize he's also a wizard of pace—knowing exactly how fast or slow to take a tune to tease out its natural juices. Each tune on the album is cradled or jettisoned just right, proving yet again that Houston fully understands a song before he even starts to blow lines.
California surf music had a fairly long run—from the late 1950s to the late 1960s. Unlike the contrapuntal West Coast jazz scene of mid-decade, the stripped-down surf sound relied on the sharp attack of the electric guitar and bass and a drummer who could keep a frantic, bongo-like beat. Much of this shift by the Pacific Coast youth culture from laid back to laying it on thick was a result of surfing's rising popularity and the proliferation of fast cars. As you listen to Surf-Age Nuggets: Trash & Twang Instrumentals—1959-1966 (Rock Beat), a four-CD set, you quickly realize that the Beach Boys were really the Glenn Miller Orchestra of this genre, that most of the one-off Vox bands had a much harsher, garage sound. From the Velvetones and Rick-a-Shays to The Five More and The Elite UFO, the salt-water, strip-mall sound is here in all its amplified glory.
Most people come in contact with Portuguese only when listening to Brazilian ablums. But Portugal also has a thriving music scene. A prime example is Fado em Si Bemol's new release, QB (Vidisco). The quintet consists of guitarists Miguel Silva and Paulo Goncalves, vocalist Pedro Matos, bassist Nuno Campos and percussionist Manuel Santiesteban. This is acoustic music with passionate vocals and an Iberian folk identity. Sample Fado and Matilde. I have no idea what the lyrics mean, but it doesn't matter. The music is fascinating.
Oddball album cover of the week.
I have no idea what tracks are on this one, but the whole package seems mighty blue. The roads are empty except for this lone rig, and the guy (or gal) driving is working on Christmas Day (one would assume). What's more, I'm not quite sure how they expected the long-hauler to listen to this one while wheeling along the interstate. Then again, I guess this cover, with missing apostrophe and all, beats an image of a driver dining alone at a rest stop.