The Jazz Life

The Jazz Life is a monthly column that aims to be a different take on how we write and read about jazz–stories of individual experiences, funny, sad, maddening and profound. A community talking to itself about what’s really important, or at least interesting to its members.


Harvie S: Building A Better Jam Session

Read "Harvie S: Building A Better Jam Session" reviewed by Peter Rubie

Jam sessions are strange creatures. A friend recently told me a story about a session he went to in a private home where a visiting pianist had basically come loaded for bear and would not relinquish the piano chair until she was finally thrown off by the host so others could have a turn. “I don't know about you," she apparently said somewhat haughtily as she left, “but I'm here to PLAY." Which is interesting, because I've found ...


Songbirds: An Interview with Singer Judy Niemack

Read "Songbirds: An Interview with Singer Judy Niemack" reviewed by Peter Rubie

Apart from their mutual respect for each other, and the fact that they are jazz singers, there isn't a lot, superficially, that you would think Judy Niemack and Jay Clayton have in common. But you'd be wrong. Both have a classical music background, Clayton at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, before moving to New York City in 1963, and Niemack, who studied Bel Canto singing for three years when a teenager living in Pasadena, Ca., and ...


One of the Boys in the Band: Discovering my Dad

Read "One of the Boys in the Band: Discovering my Dad" reviewed by George Gozzard

George Gozzard was the baby of a pretty large family the jazz trumpeter Harry Roy Gozzard raised. Harry was one of those great working musicians we heard about in the 1930s and through the 1950s who played jazz and dance band gigs interchangeably. These were the days of months long (if not longer) engagements musicians would have, where you could play jazz and make a living doing it.. And in this piece, George talks about finally beginning to understand who ...


My 'Other' Brother -- Remembering Jack Wilkins: 1944-2023

Read "My 'Other' Brother -- Remembering Jack Wilkins: 1944-2023" reviewed by Peter Rubie

Prologue This piece, in a shorter form, appeared as a post on my Facebook page a few days after my friend Jack Wilkins died on May 5, 2023. On behalf of a group of close friends I also helped write a remembrance piece for WBGO, one or two quotes of which are also included here. I thought that was it. I had written out my grief, certainly in terms of public displays anyway. Then we discovered that the ...


I Hear a Rhapsody

Read "I Hear a Rhapsody" reviewed by David Caudill

We put out a call to visitors to AAJ to tell us their stories about how jazz has impacted, indeed shaped their lives. David Caudill heard the call. David has lived in Cincinnati for three decades and spent a long career writing, both in journalism and for a short while in corporate communications. He has two sons who mostly listen to hip-hop, but he's trying to persuade them to give jazz a chance. This essay is partly the ...


It's Not Your Fault—Just Evolve

Read "It's Not Your Fault—Just Evolve" reviewed by Christian Howes

Christian Howes is arguably one of America's finest jazz violinists, standing alongside past masters such as Joe Venuti, Stuff Smith, and John Blake. Many contemporary jazz violinists embrace a broad range of non-jazz styles as players because of choice or circumstance. They think of themselves as improvising violinists who play jazz. But like Jean-Luc Ponty before him, Chris thinks of himself as a jazz musician who happens to play the violin, and he has been acclaimed all over the world ...


Fit As A Fiddle: How the Violin Helped Shape Jazz, Part 2

Read "Fit As A Fiddle: How the Violin Helped Shape Jazz, Part 2" reviewed by Peter Rubie

Part 1 | Part 2 This is Now I hate to confess this, but I've never been that keen on Stephane Grappelli's playing, as masterful and brilliant as he assuredly was. ("He plays with an accent," violinist and Berklee professor Rob Thomas confided to me when I hesitantly mentioned this to him. What Rob meant was that Stephane used a lot more vibrato than most other jazz violinists.) “It was that gypsy, slightly classical style," Detroit-born ...


Fit As A Fiddle: How The Violin Helped Shape Jazz, Part 1

Read "Fit As A Fiddle: How The Violin Helped Shape Jazz, Part 1" reviewed by Peter Rubie

Part 1 | Part 2 That was then... Considering jazz is an art form that mostly makes it up as it goes along, it's ironically appropriate that printed records--i.e., data--from the days of its birth are decidedly sparse. We know, at least, that during the 18th and 19th Centuries in New Orleans white plantation owners, one afternoon a week, allowed their African slaves time off to play their music and dance together. This music, direct from Africa, albeit ...


Some Kind Of Normal—The new, East Coast Jazz Festival

Read "Some Kind Of Normal—The new, East Coast Jazz Festival" reviewed by Peter Rubie

Todd Barkan is a Jazz Club owner, which is a bit like saying Sonny Rollins is a saxophonist. It doesn't really tell you very much unless you already know about them. But it's a start. After a year of the plague (Covid-19 in case you're in doubt), being a club owner is not unlike being a vegetarian waiter in a steak house. (Yes, they do exist. I once met one years ago at Peter Luger's, the famed New York steakery ...


My Early Years With Bill Evans, Part 3

Read "My Early Years With Bill Evans, Part 3" reviewed by Chuck Israels

Bassist and composer, Chuck Israels was raised in a musical family. Paul Robeson, Pete Seeger and The Weavers were visitors to his home and the appearance of Louis Armstrong's All Stars in a concert series produced by his parents in 1948 gave Chuck his first opportunity to meet and hear jazz musicians. Chuck studied the cello and played guitar in junior high school. Later musical training took place at Indian Hill, a summer workshop in the arts directed by his ...

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