Jazz listeners may admit that early music got things to where they are now, similar to how the Model T made the Lamborghini possible. Most just prefer not to drive anything too old. For most listeners, early jazz remains an esoteric and even a strange experience. Perhaps it's all that monochromatic footage of tuxedoed fox trotters. Maybe it's those parades of straw-hatted, red suspendered and often white-haired Dixieland groups at amusement parks. It might be the kick lines of pinstriped gangsters and flappers on Broadway, or other images pointing back to some long gone, unfamiliar and seemingly ...read more
The word bass means bottom. It means support. That's the prime requisite of a bassist, support. Architecturally, it has to be the lowest part of the building, and it has to be strong, or the building will not stand. Musically, it is the lowest human voice. It is the lowest musical voice in the orchestra. It's identifying. If it's a B-flat-major chord, I have to play B-flat, or you won't know it's a B-flat-major chord. We are like Atlas, standing in support. class="f-right s-img">--Milt Hinton, interview with Gene Lees from You Can't Steal A Gift (Yale University, 2001)read more
In Lost Chords (Oxford University Press, 1999), Richard M. Sudhalter describes a humorous but powerful image of the working class jazz musician circa 1933: That most broadcast work was surely, in [Artie Shaw's] words, boring, mind- numbing garbage" is more than substantiated by a photograph recently unearthed by the Institute of Jazz Studies, at Rutgers University. It shows an orchestra led by veteran saxophonist Bennie Krueger...it's the brass, in the back row that catch the eye. Trumpeters Charlie Margulis and Manny Klein and trombonist Jack Jenney are playing their horns backward, left-handed and perfectly deadpan, while Krueger, ...read more
Even if the names William Shakespeare and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart ring some bells for contemporary audiences, chances are Thomas Marlowe or Giovanni Paisiello might not get a chime. Yet, Marlowe's plays drew droves of theatergoers in Elizabethan England, and Paisiello's operas packed 18th century houses. It doesn't take an English scholar or the Metropolitan Opera's management to explain what popular taste amounts to historically. Aside from being popular, Marlowe and Paisiello were also gifted. They just never changed the face of their art form in the manner of a Shakespeare or a Mozart. Geniuses ...read more
Teachers must find it hard to leave their job in the classroom, like Olympic runners find it hard to take their time. The best teachers educate out of reflex, and for Michael Steinman that reflex transcends classroom or course listing. Whether it's English at Nassau Community College or hot jazz on the World Wide Web, passion and pedagogy are one and the same for Steinman. Steinman's blog, Jazz Lives," honors the traditional jazz he's loved his whole life. He collects photos of legends past, and shoots his own video of legends in the making. Steinman calls it ...read more
Welcome to the inaugural column Jazz That Scratches, Swings and Pops We've all heard King Oliver, Jelly Roll Morton and Bix Beiderbecke on the Smithsonian Jazz Collection. We know the names because they're important," but do we ever listen because they're just plain good? What about Papa Celestin, Red Nichols or Jabbo Smith? Not exactly names jumping out of the radio or iTunes. Save for a precocious thesis or specialty store, the musicians that Louis Armstrong and Duke Ellington listened to, played with or even competed against suffer the same fate as Mozart's ...read more
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