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Hey, George Frazier--I’m 10 Years Old Over Here

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I went a little crazy when I discovered jazz as an 8-year-old kid. I already played trumpet in the school band, but none of that music swung. My ears begged for something with more energy and urgency. The family record collection was of little help. We owned precisely five albums, the jazziest of which was Herb Alpert & the Tijuana Brass. Herb and the boys kept some decidedly mixed company in my house. I remember a Barbara Streisand LP only ...


Yogi Berra Explains Jazz

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In memory of the man who came to the fork in the road, and took it. Interviewer: What do you expect is in store for the future of jazz trumpet? Yogi: I'm thinkin' there'll be a group of guys who've never met talkin' about it all the time... Interviewer: Can you explain jazz? Yogi: I can't, but I will. 90% of all jazz is half improvisation. The other half is the part ...


Top Five Funniest People in Jazz

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Despite that serious expression you often see on a jazz musician's face, the truth is that laughter gets him through the day. The late, great pianist Horace Silver knew it. If you didn't see it in his impish smile, you could hear it in his music. Especially in his last studio album, which knowingly proclaimed Jazz Has A Sense of Humor (GRP, 1999). We've gotten to know lots of musicians over the years, and though we ...


Hot Rod Jazz God, Part 2: An Open Letter to Rod Stewart

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Um, Mr. Stewart, if you're reading this, first I want to apologize. In the past I wrote some things that you may have found slightly offensive.Like those bits about harmless Uncle Rod who shows up on holidays with a bottle-shaped microphone and comparing your interpretation of standard jazz melodies to a bull in downtown Pamplona. Sorry, mate. I take it back. I admit I was bitter.Bitter because I'm a jazz musician. And like most jazz musicians, ...


Hear Me Talkin' to Ya: Jazz Aphorisms

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For artists who express themselves in a non-verbal medium, jazz instrumentalists have come up with a bundle of choice aphorisms. Here are four attributed to, or about, tenor saxophonists, which were coined too late for inclusion in Nat Shapiro and Nat Hentoff's Hear Me Talkin' to Ya (Holt, Rinehart & Winston, 1955). If you feel like sharing some favorites of your own, you can post in the comment box below. Frank ...


Motel 5: As For You

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The phone in my office rang twice. I let the machine get it. The voice on the other end sounded desperate. “Hey, West, I need a band to play Bill Gates' house. Rough life, I mused, planning private parties for billionaires. Imagine all the stress involved in picking out the hippest flower arrangements, trendiest color schemes, fanciest hors d'oeurves, and ice sculptures shaped like a school of humpbacked whales in full breach. All on ...


Sinatra Slang

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Based on The Frank Sinatra Scrapbook by Richard Peters (1982) with additions from Sinatra fans on the internet.

18 KARAT All the way, full-out: “An 18 karat idiot." BABY Used as an exclamation as well as a term of endearment. BAG As in “my bag," a person's particular interest. BARN BURNER A very stylish, classy woman. BEARD A male friend who acts ...


Paul Desmond-isms

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Alto saxophonist Paul Desmond worked with pianist Dave Brubeck for 18 years. He's best known for his composition “Take Five," which helped make Brubeck's record Time Out a mega-hit. Desmond's saxophone playing was always marked by an unusual fluidity and warmth. Through a number of solo records, he expanded on a relaxed but sophisticated sound.Who would have guessed that Paul Desmond had a wickedly acerbic wit, ironic and self-deprecating at the same time?“I have won several ...


Rod Stewart: Hot Rod, Jazz God

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That smirk. That roguish, self-satisfied, da-ya-think-I'm-sexy smirk. It's back and getting bigger everywhere you look. On Leno. On Letterman. In fashion magazines. Holiday TV specials. What's next--a Super Bowl halftime smirkfest?2000 should have been the end of The Smirk. His rock star career, which started in swingin' London during the late 1960s and peaked artistically in 1971 with Every Picture Tells A Story, skyrocketed with the disco craze. Eighties hip-pumping video hits strengthened The Smirk's sex-symbol status, before ...


BugHouse: Pages 11-13

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Pages 1-5 | Pages 6-10 | Pages 11-13 | Purchase BugHouse

About BugHouse Set in an “insect noir" Manhattan of the early fifties, BugHouse is the tumultuous story of Tenor saxophonist, Jimmy Watts, as he leads his talented jazz band of “bugs" from the swing era into the uncharted maelstrom of Bop. And as he ...