2008 will always be remembered fondly in the world of jazz because it's the year of this music's greatest discovery. Buddy Bolden's only recording is no longer stuff of legend and lore, but a reality. The story of this great find sounds almost fictional: A graduate student at the University of Kansas while helping a local man clean out his attic came across a box of old phonograph LPs. One of those turned out to be the legendary single recording made by the great Buddy Bolden, the man who has been credited for inventing jazz.
Smithsonian/Folkway label has released the CD The Sky Is Blue, that includes an interview with the young man who made this discovery and six later versions of the tune recorded by others. The single two minute recording, made in 1903, is of course that of his most famous piece, "The Sky Is Blue and So Am I." The liner notes only also identifies in addition to Bolden, clarinetist Frank Lewis. The sound, despite recent technology and digital re-mastering, is still quite "boxy" but the sheer power of Bolden playing is palpable.
His cornet can be heard clearly over that of the rest of the musicians and if one listens carefully, one can hear the exciting virtuosity of his musicianship. The inclusion of the other later versions allows one to appreciate the timelessness of the tune itself. This is of course the most significant and historical recording of jazz. It is almost the equivalent of hearing Johan Sebastian Bach play his own toccatas. The LP was of course museum bound and the CD allows us to experience a piece of history again and again in the comfort of our homes.
Track Listing: The Sky Is Blue and So Am I (1903 original); The Sky Is Blue and So Am I (version 2); The Sky Is Blue and So Am I (version 3); The Sky Is Blue and So Am I (version 4); The Sky Is Blue and So Am I (version 5); The Sky Is Blue and So Am I (version 6); interview.
Personnel: Buddy Bolden: cornet (1); Frank Lewis: clarinet (1); various artists (2-6).
I was first exposed to jazz when I was tiny. My earliest memory is watching Ella Fitzgerald scat on a Christmas special when I was no older than four. Like many who are from tiny towns, my first extended exposure was listening to the high school jazz band when I was a kid
I was first exposed to jazz when I was tiny. My earliest memory is watching Ella Fitzgerald scat on a Christmas special when I was no older than four. Like many who are from tiny towns, my first extended exposure was listening to the high school jazz band when I was a kid. For some reason I remember an arrangement of Hey Jude they did. My first real exposure was Stan Kenton in the Smithville, MO high school gym. Kenton and the band director there were old friends, so he would play there from time to time. My dad took me without telling me where we were going and it was the only show he ever took me to. I remember that Bobby Shew played Send In Clowns and I damn near levitated I was so excited. The huge sound and amazing chords floored me. I believe I was 13 at the time. I immediately started practicing and taking lessons. Music became a passion and nearly a career. I also listened to Dick Wright's Jazz Show on KANU every night. I can't even start to explain what I learned lying in bed listening to Dick talk about jazz. I met him once when I was struggling to put together a solo for Joy Spring playing in a combo at KU. Stopped by his office and asked for recommendations. He showed up at my jazz ensemble rehearsal the next day with a tape with example solos. What a kind man Dick Wright was.
My advice to new listeners is to stop worrying about what music is important and focus on music you like. I spent quite a bit of my music life listening to important music I didn't necessarily like. Must say I have quite a bit more fun now listening to music that I deeply enjoy. Some of it is even important.
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