Grab this weekend's Wall Street Journal. For my first "Playlist" column in the paper's Review section, I interview Joy Behar on her favorite song as a kid growing up in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. It's Frank Sinatra's All the Way—and her story is priceless! She had me in stitches. Go here.
JazzWax in Toronoto. Last call! If you're in Toronto on Thursday, May 30, I'll be giving a multimedia talk at the studios of JAZZ.FM 91 at Long & McQuade Performance Hall. I'll be detailing the unlikely events that caused jazz styles to change so often between 1942 and 1972—the subject of my book, Why Jazz Happened. For information and tickets, go here.
Best thing I saw last week: The French thriller Touchez Pas au Grisbi (1954). Jean Gabin had quiet presence.
Coolest thing I did last week: Tony Bennett asked me to give a jazz talk at Frank Sinatra High School of the Arts in Astoria, Queens. I spoke on why pop and jazz singers flourished between 1954 and 1964—and why it all came to an end. Hats off to educator Tom Sandri and his terrific students—who correctly guessed every single one of the vocalists I played, including the obscure ones.
Harry Carney. You may have heard baritone saxophonist Harry Carney on Duke Ellington's records. But unless you were lucky enough to see the band, you probably have no idea what he looks like or how he held his instrument. Well, here he is in a color film funded by a corporate sponsor in the early '60s. Thanks to reader John Cooper and his sharp eye...
Chic alors! Sidney Bechet. National Jazz Museum of Harlem director Loren Schoenberg found this mega montage video of Sidney Bechet and loads of other jazz greats. I thought Charlie Parker only turned up in only two films—one with Dizzy Gillespie playing Hot House on Dick Hyman's TV show and with another with Coleman Hawkins. And yet, at 1:52 of this clip, there's Bird with bassist Chubby Jackson on WPIX, which began broadcasting in New York in 1948. Is this legit? And if so, what's the story?
Jazz radio. Raoul van Hall of Oregon Public Broadcasting, hosts a superb jazz show on KMDH every Saturday from 6 to 9 p.m. (EST). You can tune in on your computer from anywhere in the world by going here.
CD discovery of the week. The problem with many Oscar Pettiford albums is you can barely hear him playing the bass. In many cases he was with a large ensemble or simply keeping time with instruments that overshadowed him. Now, on Oscar Pettiford: Germany 1958-1959 (Jazz Haus), you can hear the robust player in all his thumping glory. During Pettiford's stay there in the late '50s, he was recorded playing bass and cello with German and American musicians—including Lucky Thompson, Attila Zoller, Kenny Clarke, Rolf Kuhn and Dusko Goykovich. But the engineer on these lost-tape recordings was the real hero—wisely miking Pettiford so he stood out. The results tell you a great deal about Pettiford's big modern feel and swinging time.
Oddball album cover of the week. Design ideas come from the strangest places—even record libraries! I found the one below (top)—The Guido Manusardi Trio from 1967—on a Swedish jazz site. Oscar Peterson's Night Train was released by Verve five years earlier.