From Spirituals to Swing.

From Spirituals to Swing.

in 1938, producer John Hammond decided to present an ambitious concert documenting the history of “American Negro music, from spirituals to Swing.” Hence the name, and hence the historic night at New York’s Carnegie Hall that December. Intended as a tribute to Bessie Smith, who had died the previous year, the concert ended up being […]

Posted in: Jazz
The famous alto break.

The famous alto break.

Dial Records was one of the many small, specialty record labels that popped up after World War II. Unlike some of the others, Dial was focused almost exclusively on jazz. Owner Ross Russell was an ersatz novelist, reporter and music journalist. He served in the Merchant Marine during the war, and while stranded in the […]

Posted in: Jazz
By March 30, 2016 0 Comments Read More →

Fiddle me this: violinists in jazz, an addendum

After not posting anything here in a long, long time, we received a nice e-mail from across the pond today. All the way from Poland, in fact. A certain Maciej Afanasjew, unknown to us until today, had apparently read the blog here, and decided to introduce himself. He provided links to his music on YouTube, […]

Posted in: Jazz
By February 14, 2014 0 Comments Read More →

Individuality: a case for Erroll Garner, part 1.

As we’ve lamented here ad nauseum, individuality has become a lost art in jazz and other improvisational music. We talked earlier about tenor sax and trumpet players in that narrow temporal window between the demise of Swing and the birth of modern jazz, and how an immediately recognizable, unique style seemed to be an essential […]

Posted in: Iconoclasts, Jazz, Videos
By February 12, 2014 0 Comments Read More →

Sid Caesar checks out.

Sid Caesar–who was NOT in our dead pool–left us today for that Borscht Belt in the sky. Sid’s “Your Show of Shows” on NBC in the early 1950’s was fairly edgy for its time, and the writers for that show–Carl Reiner, Neil Simon, Mel Brooks and others—are all icons. Sid, in addition to using his […]

Posted in: Iconoclasts, Jazz, Videos
By February 7, 2014 0 Comments Read More →

Merv Griffin “auditions” Jim Hall.

In 1965, even with Johnny Carson already entrenched as the king of late night television, other networks kept trying to establish their own bedtime talk shows. One that had relative success was that of Merv Griffin. After a brief run on NBC, Griffin’s syndicated show began in May of 1965. Like all talk shows of […]

Posted in: Jazz, Odds & Ends, Videos
A conversation with my idiot twin.
By January 28, 2014 0 Comments Read More →

A conversation with my idiot twin.

Idiot Twin: “I see where Bob Seger died.” Me: “No, that was Pete Seeger who died. The folksinger.” Idiot Twin: “I didn’t know Bob Seger had a brother. A folksinger, eh? Like Marshal Dillion?” Me: “You’re thinking of Bob Dylan. Marshal Dillon was a character on TV. You know, Matt Dillon, on the old ‘Gunsmoke’ […]

Fiddle me this: violinists in jazz (part 3), and a playlist.
By January 25, 2014 2 Comments Read More →

Fiddle me this: violinists in jazz (part 3), and a playlist.

(left to right) Jerry Goodman, Stuff Smith, Regina Carter (continued from part 2) Jean-Luc Ponty, like Stephane Grappelli before him, was something of a teen prodigy among French violinists. As early as 1960, Ponty was wowing his countrymen with his biting, complex, hard bop lines, and by the late 1960’s, he had garnered international attention. […]

Fiddle me this: violinists in jazz (part 2).
By January 18, 2014 0 Comments Read More →

Fiddle me this: violinists in jazz (part 2).

(left to right) Joe Venuti; a couple of fair fiddlers, Stephane Grappelli and Yehudi Menuhin; Frankie and Johnnie: Frank Zappa and Jean-Luc Ponty (continued from part 1) It wasn’t until the very late 1920’s that the first real jazz violinist showed up on records and—in a twist—he turned out to the very talented—but also very […]

Posted in: Jazz
By January 17, 2014 0 Comments Read More →

Fiddle me this: jazz on the violin (part 1).

The video here features Stuff Smith’s extroverted violin with Kenny Drew’s trio, filmed at the Club Montmarte in Copenhagen in 1965. Hearing Smith in typically fine form here reminded us of the rarity of great jazz fiddlers. Not only have they worked the peripheries of jazz since its inception, they almost exist in spite of […]


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