Dear All About Jazz Readers,

If you're familiar with All About Jazz, you know that we've dedicated over two decades to supporting jazz as an art form, and more importantly, the creative musicians who make it. Our enduring commitment has made All About Jazz one of the most culturally important websites of its kind in the world reaching hundreds of thousands of readers every month. However, to expand our offerings and develop new means to foster jazz discovery we need your help.

You can become a sustaining member for a modest $20 and in return, we'll immediately hide those pesky Google ads PLUS deliver exclusive content and provide access to future articles for a full year! This combination will not only improve your AAJ experience, it will allow us to continue to rigorously build on the great work we first started in 1995. Read on to view our project ideas...

69

Ralph J. Gleason's Jazz Casual

By

Sign in to view read count
(This article was first published at All About Jazz in May 1999)

Various Artists

Jazz Casual

Rhino / WEA

1999

In 1959, Ralph Gleason had made his reputation as one of the leading Jazz critics of his generation; writing out of his Berkeley home for the San Francisco Chronicle and syndicated in as many as sixty-five papers around the U.S. and Europe. He was the author of liner notes for dozens of Jazz albums and was respected by both musicians and the industry for his honesty and integrity, and for his encyclopedic knowledge and intimate perspectives on Jazz and Jazz history.

One of his dreams, though, was to create a television series devoted entirely to Jazz. One which would allow the musicians the freedom to play what they wanted, for as long as they wanted; and allow the television audience to experience Jazz in a much more personal style than was being presented on television at that time. Jazz, when it was presented on television at all, was usually presented in very structured, formal, variety show formats.

And so, Ralph J. Gleason's Jazz Casual was born. The series ran from 1960-1968, and aired on the NET network in the U.S. Thirty-one episodes were originally produced, of which twenty-eight survive. Three episodes, the pilot, which featured Duke Ellington and Billy Strayhorn, one featuring John Handy in 1965 and one a various artists "Jam Session," have been lost or destroyed. None of the surviving episodes have been seen in their entirety in over twenty-five years.

The pilot episode was broadcast in 1960, on KQED in San Francisco, only; and unfortunately, its master tape was destroyed immediately after the initial broadcast. A unique piece of video musical history was lost to the world. An audiotape of the program does survive, and hopes are that it will be made commercially available in the near future.

People ask me about some of my memories of the musicians who appeared on the series, well... Dizzy was kind of my crazy uncle-figure; he would do nutty things when my dad would take me to see him. My mom was his campaign manager for one of his write-in runs for the presidency. Carmen used to always order me a "Roy Rogers" (the male equivalent of a "Shirley Temple") or a glass of milk when I would show up at one of her club dates with my dad. She'd kiss me on the cheek and leave her lipstick lip imprint on my face. Woody Herman gave me a ride in his Corvette and Vince Guaraldi taught me tricks on the yo-yo (he was some kind of a former neighborhood champion).

I don't consider myself an expert on Jazz, or Jazz history, as my father was. But I've enjoyed what I've learned, and more often than not, it's the local Jazz station that's on my radio these days.

I make mistakes, as I did when I created an instant collector's item by letting it get by me that it was the Norman Simmons Trio, not the Vince Guaraldi Trio, that backed up Carmen McRae, as I mistakenly stated in the first printing's liner notes. It's been corrected for later printings.

In 1989, the Gleason Family decided to launch Jazz Casual Productions, Inc., in an effort to both protect and re-release the series, having seen it butchered many times by compilation documentary producers who utilized footage from the series without authorization from the Gleason Family and oftentimes without credit.

In respect to both the musicians and to the memory of my father (who died of a heart attack in 1975), the Gleason's have spent years tracking down the artists, their heirs or representatives, to obtain permission to release their performances on home video, culminating in the current, on-going Rhino Home Video release of the series.

Rhino, and future international distributors, will also have DVD products available of the Jazz Casual series and selected musical performances from the series may be released on audio CD.

Tags

comments powered by Disqus

Shop Music & Tickets

Click any of the store links below and you'll support All About Jazz in the process. Learn how.

Related Articles

Read Jazz and Assault Rifles: A Peace Barrage Opinion
Jazz and Assault Rifles: A Peace Barrage
by Victor L. Schermer
Published: March 26, 2018
Read Trumpet Miming in Film: Mostly Jive Opinion
Trumpet Miming in Film: Mostly Jive
by Steve Provizer
Published: June 23, 2017
Read NEA Dismantling: Let's Do The Time Warp Again Opinion
NEA Dismantling: Let's Do The Time Warp Again
by Homer Jackson
Published: April 12, 2017
Read Chuck Berry: 1926-2017 Opinion
Chuck Berry: 1926-2017
by C. Michael Bailey
Published: March 21, 2017
Read New York Times Downsizes Jazz Coverage: A Response Opinion
New York Times Downsizes Jazz Coverage: A Response
by Victor L. Schermer
Published: March 7, 2017
Read Hentoff helped pave way for jazz journalism’s acceptance Opinion
Hentoff helped pave way for jazz journalism’s...
by Jim Trageser
Published: January 12, 2017
Read "Anais Drago Interprets Zappa" Radio Anais Drago Interprets Zappa
by Bob Osborne
Published: November 29, 2018
Read "Ranky Tanky: African Rhythms Preserved" Profiles Ranky Tanky: African Rhythms Preserved
by Martin McFie
Published: January 18, 2018
Read "Charles McPherson: The Man and His Muse" Catching Up With Charles McPherson: The Man and His Muse
by Joan Gannij
Published: March 15, 2018
Read "Lajos Dudas: Ein Künstlerportrait" DVD/Film Reviews Lajos Dudas: Ein Künstlerportrait
by Mark Sullivan
Published: August 26, 2018
Read ""Pick Yourself Up" by Jerome Kern and Dorothy Fields" Anatomy of a Standard "Pick Yourself Up" by Jerome Kern and Dorothy...
by Tish Oney
Published: September 28, 2018
Read "15 Emerging Norwegian Jazz Musicians You Need To Know About" Building a Jazz Library 15 Emerging Norwegian Jazz Musicians You Need To Know About
by Luca Vitali
Published: January 26, 2018