Behind the scenes at JazzWax, there are friends who help me look good—whether catching errors, passing along vital leads, noting little-known albums or suggesting additional information that I may have missed. One of these dear pals died on February 4th. [Above, the Boston skyline]
Since JazzWax's founding in August 2007, Jon Foley [pictured] has diligently provided me with a valuable overnight read—catching typos from the San Francisco area. I write JazzWax in the evenings, after my workday is done, so while my heart is eager, my eyes aren't always as sharp as they were in the morning. Jon's morning emails over the past years have been a big help, along with others who have a look each day in New York.
My last email from Jon arrived on January 19, in response to my asking how he was feeling. Jon had told me late last fall that he was ill and no longer able to proof JazzWax. He didn't say much more despite my questions. His last email had a resigned feel...
"Unfortunately, this illness is something that's going to be with me until the end. Unless there are some secret curative powers you have, I'm afraid there's nothing you can do—but thanks for asking, and thanks for being a caring friend. Enjoy your trip to Boston, and I know exactly what you mean about the city at this time of year. I'll stay in touch as much as possible. Enjoy life!"
I was in Boston this past weekend at lunch when I received an email from Val, Jon's niece, with the sad news. Jon had died of lung cancer at age 76 several weeks earlier. Jon loved jazz. He had an enormous album collection that he had reduced to CDs in sleeves to save space. He also was an expert on Boston jazz, having lived in the city and area for many years and gone to all of the great clubs and performances up there in the 1950s and '60s.
Jon was a very private person. We never met and never spoke by phone. Instead, we became friends by extensive email exchanges, just as I've become friendly with many of you. I suppose this is the enduring power of the written word—that people with similar interests can get to know each other without ever seeing or hearing each other.
Jon Patrick Foley was born on March 17, 1937 in Cleveland, Ohio. He was raised with his only sibling—his brother Edward—in Worcester, Mass. He worked as a video producer, director and editor. While in Worcester, he worked at Clark University from 1964 to 1969, WTEV-TV in New Bedford, MA from 1971 to 1977 and again from 1979 to 1995, and the University of Rhode Island (URI) from 2001 to 2005.
Jon had left WTEV in 1977 and returned in 1979 when it was under new ownership and had become WLNE. He stayed with the station until 1995, when he left to relax and do freelance TV work. A few years later Jon moved to California for a few years and then relocated to Northampton, Mass., returning to Providence in 2000. He remained at his video producing, directing and editing job at URI until 2005, when the grant money that had funded the job ran out. He remained in Providence for another year before moving to Sonoma County in California in 2006.
In addition to jazz, Jon loved the Red Sox. He moved to the West Coast to be closer to his brother and many nieces and nephews. Val told me that Jon enjoyed the warm weather, being near the ocean and the beautiful hiking trails close to his home. He lived a very simple life: He loved good food, good drink, good books and jazz. His favorite city was Boston.
After I read the news from Val in Boston and told my wife seated across the table, I ordered a chilled dry gin martini with a lemon twist and drank to Jon. It was only fitting that I was in Boston, Jon's favorite city. For a moment, I felt as though Jon was there with me and with all of you. I'm going to miss Jon and those email and reflections on Boston, a favorite city of mine as well.
Bob Porter on Chris Connor. Legendary producer Bob Porter sent along the following email following my post last week on Chris Connor's 1957 Gershwin songbook album...
"My first encounter with this album was about 1988. Nesuhi Ertegun and I had a meeting about CDs. Atlantic was very late getting into re-issues, and he knew that I, as house re-issue producer, would be involved. He wanted to make his ideas known and he expected me to follow through. This was his favorite Chris Connor album. It was also one of a half-dozen albums where both Erteguns and Jerry Wexler were co-producers. I suggested that we re-sequence the album in chronological order. He agreed. Then we added But Not For Me from an earlier album, They All Laughed from her live album, and second versions of Summertime and Strike Up the Band from the album Chris in Person as bonus tracks.
"Nesuhi died either just before or after the album was re-issued. I didn’t think much about it and went on to the next project. About a year later, I was contacted by our Japanese label, which had heard what we did and proposed a reissue series of Atlantic female singers for Japan only called Ladies Sing Jazz. I suggested that they employ Kiyoshi Koyama as their local guy on the production end. There were more than 30 albums in the series, including all of Chris's work. This was my last project for Atlantic and I left within a few weeks of its completion. [Photo above, from left, Ahmet and Nesuhi Ertegun]
A couple of years later, after I had left Atlantic, I stopped in to hear Chris at the New York restaurant Tavern on the Green. During our chat on one of her breaks, she mentioned that based on Ladies Sing Jazz, every one of her albums went into the black for royalty purposes. It turns out that Ladies Sing Jazz was a spectacular success, and her stature as a touring artist in Japan went through the roof. From that point forward I could do no wrong in her eyes, and we became good friends. I think Nesuhi would have approved." [Photo above: Tavern on the Green in New York's Central Park]
Jackie Cain. Dana Kral, singer Jackie Cain's daughter, sent along the following card from the Crystal Palace—the St. Louis club that Jay and Fran Landesman opened in the early 1950s and where pianist Tommy Wolf and Jackie and husband Roy Kral had performed. The card was from Jay Landesman to Jackie & Roy. The front says: "New Year's Eve. Crystal Palace, 3516 Olive, No cover charge, Reservations Lu 9908. The back says "Lest we forget. Thanks for everything. Jay XX." [Above, Jackie Cain with Charlie Ventura in the late '40s]...
Wall Street Journal alert! In today's paper, I interview Joe Maddon, manager of the Tampa Bay Rays baseball team, on his favorite song—Bruce Springsteen's Kitty's Back—from 1973. Go here or please buy the paper.
Soul Jazz Festival. If you're in New York March 14 and 15, check out 92Y's Soul Jazz Festival. On Friday, March 14, DJ Logic & Friends, Brian Landrus and Kaleidoscope, and the Joey DeFrancesco All-Star Band will perform. On Saturday, March 15, New Songs and Esperanza Spalding [pictured above] will be on the bill. Tickets start at $20. For more information and tickets, go here.
Free jazz book. Ever wonder where the jazz greats were laid to rest? Jaap van de Klomp in the Netherlands and Scott Yanow have collaborated on a book that provides biographies and locations of grave sites, along with color photographs of tombstones in Jazz Lives. A PDF of the book is free. Simply email Jaap directly and he'll send you a link to a download. The email is email@example.com. Just type "JazzLives" in the subject bar.
More Jack Teagarden. Philip Andrews in the U.K. sent along a link to a clip of the fabled trombonist...
Movie of the week. I started this weekly feature a few weeks ago with the help of reader John Cooper because, as we all know, there's nothing worthwhile to watch on TV. Recently I've been on a kick of U.K. films between 1938 and 1944. Here's I Thank You from 1941, courtesy of John. The film shows the irrepressible optimism, humor and grit of the British during the bombing of London and World War II...
More jazz radio. Check out Bill Ewell's jazz radio show, Bop & Beyond, Saturdays from 5 to 7 p.m., on WSLR 96.5 FM in Sarasota. Fla—which you can hear from anywhere in the world by going to wslr.org.
Oddball album cover of the week.
This Dutch release on the Timeless label was recorded in Monster, Holland, in November 1983. I don't know why, but I keep imagining it's a violin.