Every Now and Den
Pier 9, A New Spot
A new jazz spot in Manhattan is Pier 9, at 802 Ninth Avenuea cavernous Italian restaurant and long bar, with a resident trio of Ed Vodicka, piano, Steve LaSpina, bass, and Tony Tedesco, drumswith occasional bass subs. Nice trio, with special guests. We caught cornetist Warren Vaché, in fine form, inspired by the presence of trumpeter Joe Wilderthese two are a mutual-admiration society. When in the mood, Vaché has few peers today, and he did indeed shine on "My Shining Hour," offered a tender "Embraceable You," and drew laughs with one of his vocal (and instrumental) specials, "Fat Man Blues," aka "A Waist is a Terrible Thing to Mind." A happy evening, and thanks to Ed Berger, fellow Institute of Jazz Studies emeritus, for bringing Joe.
The Second Annual Gala for the Armstrong House Museum and Archiveand what could be a better causewas as big a success as the first. It took place at the Manhattan Penthouse, a venue unbeknownst to most of the attendees, on Fifth Avenue at 14th Street, with great views of the city by night and excellent catering. The honorees, Stanley Crouch, Jimmy Heath and George Wein, were individually celebratedCrouch introduced by trumpeter Wynton Marsalisand responded with remarks, among which Wein's reminiscences of Armstrong stood out. Music was provided by David Ostwald's Gully Lowers of Birdland fame, this incarnation including Bria Skonberg, who can do a mean "West End Blues" cadenza, on trumpet; the inimitable Wycliffe Gordon, trombone; Anat Cohen, clarinet; James Chirillo, banjo (who can coax more music out of, and keeps better time on this instrument than anyone else I've heard), and young Marion Felder, drums. They did a rousing "Jubilee," and of course capped it with "Swing That Music." David draws on a pool of exceptional players. A recent Wednesday at Birdland had Randy Sandke on trumpet, joining Anat Cohen and Wycliffe Gordonand his band is now in its 13th year at Birdland.
Year of Heavy Losses
The past year was one of great losses, some very personal. Jersey Jazz has noted most of these passings, notably that of Mat Domber (Jersey Jazz, November), founder of Arbors Records and producer of so many memorable festivals. I can only add that Mat was one of the best friends it was my good fortune to meet rather late in life. We were contemporaries and had comparable tastes in music (and food). Mat was one of the kindest and most generous men I've known, and will be sorely missed. His legacy will live on.
There was no New York Times obituary for Donald L. Maggin (July 5, 1927August 31, 2012), nor was his death noted in the jazz press or online. He should be known to our readers for his outstanding biographies of saxophonist Stan Getz (Stan Getz: A Life In Jazz (Harper Perennial, 1997))) and Trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie (Dizzy: The Life and Times of John Birks Gillespie(IT Books, 2005)), and he had almost completed a biography of drummer Max Roach. But these were late-in-life accomplishments for Maggin, whom I came to know when he began doing Getz research at the Institute of Jazz Studies. It was clear to me from the start that this was someone special, though it was only gradually that he revealed more about his backgroundsuch as when he presented IJS with a tape recording of Gillespie's monumental funeral service at St. John's Cathedral, mentioning in passing that he had organized it. I also took Maggin for much younger than he was. And while we did become friends, it was only posthumously that I learned he had been active in Washington under several Democratic administrations, starting with Lyndon Johnsonhe was National Field Director of Project Head Startand continuing under Jimmy Carter. He also took part in Robert Kennedy's runs for the Senate and White House.
Maggin was a graduate of the Horace Mann School in New York, where he befriended Aram Avakian, George's younger brother and remarkable filmmaker-to-be, who introduced him to jazz, taking him to the Commodore Music Shop, and to Nick's, where one night he heard Billy Butterfield, "so brilliant that he hooked me forever on jazz." He then went on to Princeton and Oxford, and worked for a while for a famous management consulting firm, living in Europegarnering experience that proved useful when he entered politics. There is so much to this fascinating man's life that someone should write his biography. Maggin was also a poet, and editor of a literary magazine, The Reading Room. He authored Bankers, Builders, Knaves and Thieves (Contemporary, 1990), a book about the savings and loan scandals.