"Many books have been written on how jazz happened, but few have focused on why jazz happened. In Marc Myers' new book, Why Jazz Happened, he does just that: explore the economic, technological, and social forces that allowed jazz to flourish. This is not a book about the artists that shaped what jazz became, but rather a book dealing with people on the fringes: inventors, promoters, label reps, and those involved in cultural movements.... Myers' angle on jazz is welcome, and Why Jazz Happened makes a convincing argument about the forces that shaped jazz behind the scenes."
Bethlehem Records. Verse Music Group, the company that now owns the Bethlehem catalog, has created a page that lets you see what they've made available thus far at iTunes. Then you can click to be taken there to listen to samples and download. Available now from the Bethlehem catalog are albums by Zoot Sims, Charlie Persip, Urbie Green, Johnny Richards, Sal Salvador, Claude Williamson, Roland Kirk and others. Go here.
Airmen of Note downloads. JazzWax reader Kurt Kolstad alerted me to a fabulous site that offers all of the Airmen of Note albums from 1962 to 2010 as downloads. The Airmen of Note, of course, is the crackerjack jazz ensemble of the United States Air Force created in 1950 to continue the tradition of Glenn Miller's Army Air Corps dance band. You simply make a donation of $20 to the site via PayPal (one click) and you receive a user name and password by email that you enter to download whatever you want. What a treasure! Go here.
Singer Marlene VerPlanck kicks off a tour of Britain and the Netherlands on Thursday, February 22, and will be appearing at 17 venues—including Ronnie Scott's in London on March 17. If you're in London, book early. Last time around her shows were sold out. For more information about Marlene's European tour, go here.
David Stone Martin [pictured], the '50s jazz LP cover illustrator, is featured at length at a blog here.
The greatness of John Graas. Susan McKeever, the niece of the late French hornist and arranger John Graas, sent along three YouTube clips featuring her uncle. Go here, here and here (Graas is in the orchestra on the last one).
Link to Miles Davis book. Last week I featured Miles Davis: The Complete Illustrated History (Voyageur Press), but I neglected to include the link to Amazon for those interested in buying. Just click on the title now.
Ella on Facebook. Fran Morris Rosman, executive director of the Ella Fitzgerald Charitable Foundation—which makes grants to promote the late singer's work and contribution—hipped me to Ella's official Facebook page. Go here. [Photo above by George Konig/Hulton Archive]
Wardell Gray, the bop tenor saxophonist from Los Angeles, now has a fan site. Go here.
Nova Collective is a bossa nova group from Dublin, Ireland...
CD discoveries of the week. The history of the jazz piano can be found in Dick Hyman's fingers. Last year, at 92Y's Jazz in July festival in New York, Dick played duets with pianist Bill Charlap that knocked out the audience. He authentically covered virtually every decade's piano jazz style. And at age 85, Dick seems to be just warming-up. On Lock My Heart (Red House), he's joined by singer Heather Masse. There are actually three participants here—Masse's voice, Dick's right hand and Dick's left hand. An octopus of a player, Dick sounds like a trio—running a bass line, a tempo-keeping rhythm line and melody line. All of which presents Masse with a challenge—to keep up with it all. And she does a solid job, gracing standards like Lullaby of Birdland; Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered and a compelling original—Morning Drinker.
Man, I love Bex Marshall. The blues-rock singer-guitarist can wail! On House of Mercy (Continental), she turns up the heat on 11 originals. Think Janis Joplin meets Ace of Cups. What makes this album special is Marshall's authenticity and conviction. Take Gone Fishin' for example: Pure pickup-truck radials on a dirt road. Or the smooth and easy ramblin' roots instrumental Big Man. Best of all, the joke's on us. Marshall is from Devonshire, U.K. A wondrous blues-rock album with died-in-the-wool singin' and playin'—even if it is by an artist from afar. One of my favorites of '13.Songs from This Season (True Melody) is saxophonist-composer Tim Green's debut album. Green has a late-night sound, and his horn is constantly finding corners in songs to explore. What I dig about this CD is Green's moodiness, Orrin Evans's piano and Fender Rhodes, and Warren Wolf's vibes—they gel beautifully. Sample Chitown and Peace—both originals. Delightfully engaging and perfect for slipping into your car CD player when driving home in the wee small hours.
Singer Rebecca Paris is musical director and producer of Louise Van Aarsen's album, Destiny (LAvanA). Van Aarssen has written the music and lyrics—or just the lyrics— to all of the CD's songs. Each tells a different personal story. Like vocalists of another era, Van Aarsen's voice is deeply committed, with a hint of Carly Simon. Dig Someone and the lightly Latin Miss You Till I See You. Van Aarsen's originality and songwriting chops make this a tender choice.
Oddball album cover of the week.