Under the Radar

Under the Radar is about jazz and creative music legends who have taken less-travelled paths. It's about relative unknowns and journeymen doing extraordinary, and sometimes under-recognized work; it's also about pioneers--the ones out front and those behind the scenes, experimenting with new ideas.

UNDER THE RADAR

Flame Keepers: National Jazz Museum in Harlem

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On 129th Street, in the heart of Harlem, Loren Schoenberg emerges from a crowded back room with an unusual looking recording. Aluminum discs like the one he holds, were the first instant, electrical means of recording. Invented in 1929 they were a means of allowing radio stations to record and archive live programs that could be played on a delayed basis or used for promotional purposes. The discs made for more convenient recording, compared to the standard wax discs of ...

UNDER THE RADAR

The Politics of Dancing: Jazz and Protest, Part 2

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Part 1 of Jazz and Protest took an in-depth look at two landmark artists and the songs that laid the groundwork for protest within the jazz community. Billie Holiday's “Strange Fruit" took a circuitous route from its origins as a poem to its successful recording on a small label that was not afraid to lend a voice to a progressive movement. Nina Simone's “Mississippi Goddam" followed a similarly indirect course, taking the singer/composer's career off the tracks. Though they were ...

UNDER THE RADAR

The Politics of Dancing: Jazz and Protest, Part 1

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In 1964, Civil Rights workers, known as Freedom Riders, were increasingly becoming the victims of violent attacks from the Ku Klux Klan as they initiated a program to register black voters in the Deep South. As members of the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) and the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE), the advocates were franticly racing against time in an effort to send representatives to the 1964 Democratic National Convention to push the party agenda toward a Voter's Rights Act. ...

UNDER THE RADAR

Jazz Education: The Next Generation, Part 2

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Part 1 of Jazz Education: The Next Generation explored how the early days of music and--specifically--jazz music was approached through various channels of formal education. The long, arduous process of creating an accepting environment for jazz education necessitated moving the art form from a vaudevillian status through a firewall of academic elitism and prejudice to a proper mainstream reception. The irony is that whether one ascribes the “Golden Age" of jazz to the eras of Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington or ...

UNDER THE RADAR

Jazz Education: The Next Generation, Part 1

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A Protracted Beginning Ken Prouty, an assistant professor of Musicology and Jazz Studies at Michigan State University and author of Knowing Jazz: Community, Pedagogy, and Canon in the Information Age (University Press of Mississippi, 2013) has written at length about the early history of jazz education in the US. In his writings, he has pointed to the period from the advent of U.S. jazz and into the 1940s, as one where written records regarding formal jazz training ...

UNDER THE RADAR

Dai Liang, aka A Bu: Beijing Prodigy

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In 1950, in the wake of World War II and the early years of the Cold War, the Chinese Communist Party under Mao Zedong founded the Central Conservatory of Music as a consolidation of several musical institutions. Located in Beijing, the school resides on the former site of the seventeenth century residence of one Prince Yixuan. The campus has developed into a global institution offering advanced degrees in a setting that mixes original building from the Qing Dynasty with state-of-the-art ...

UNDER THE RADAR

An Evil Clown and a Leap of Faith

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"I don't have a half-speed for music, if I do it, I'm all in..."--PEK If the Evil Clown record label is prolific on a per capita basis, then its founder is exponentially more inexhaustible. David Peck (aka PEK) founded the label--at first, unbranded--and its roots date back a little more than twenty years ago to Cambridge, MA. The musicians under the label could best be described as a “collaborative collective" and in various formations turn out twenty-five ...

UNDER THE RADAR

Eddie Durham: Genius in the Shadows

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On December 13, 1932, in the eye of the Great Depression that was devastating the record industry, the Bennie Moten Orchestra shuffled “on their uppers" into a converted church in Camden, N.J., and silently launched the Swing Era, three years before clarinetist Benny Goodman's formal inauguration as the “King of Swing" at the Palomar Ballroom in Los Angeles. While composer/bandleader Moten has vanished into the mists of history, his band boasted an assemblage of jazz legends: trumpeter Oran “Hot Lips" ...

UNDER THE RADAR

Don Redman: Setting the Template

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As someone who came to jazz as a young man in the 1970s, I can attest that subsequent generations of both its chroniclers and, even sadder, its practitioners, have succumbed to the peculiarly and regrettable American disease of a-historicism. They've shoved jazz history through a sieve, reducing it from an epic tale of heroic evolution with a cast of hundreds--if not thousands--to a denuded sliver of text that could fit in a single tweet--one that might read like ...


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