In Search of An Obscure Article

OK, we’re going to see if we can use the collective wisdom, expertise, knowledge and possible collections of the community to see if we can solve a mystery for a friend. In this case, we are looking for a specific article in Downbeat. All we have is a partial headline and story, pictured here. To me this looks like a Downbeat from the early 1950s when it was still in a newspaper format. We are looking for the issue date of the article and, if possible, a copy of the article itself. My friend says we will not be successful in this quest, that the reference is too obscure. I say never underestimate the power of the Jazz Collector community. Let’s see.


  • This should definitely be DownBeat,hence Jack Tracy was the editor until the end of the 1950ies.

  • I forgot to add, that writing to Jack Mayer could be an idea, but he passed away last december.
    But why not emailing Downbeat?

  • could be 1956, when he was chosen by the downbeat critics as best guitarist, or mayby 1958 when he retired??

  • Hmm..from what I can make out the article says he “plays with the Red Norvo trio,if you haven’t heard”. So,when was Tal so engaged,and what stories from that period-with Farlow as the focus- carry a Jack Tracy byline?

  • Left side, about 9 lines down, the word Charlie is visible. Unless I am major mistaken, did not Charles Mingus, Red Norvo and Tal Farlow work as a trio in the Fifties? This would probably be before 1956.

  • It’s easy to find online that “in 1956 Tal Farlow was named by Down Beat magazine critics as the very best jazz guitarist in the world”, but the only thing we need now is someone with a copy from that Down Beat mag and a good scanner!

  • I saw a mention of Downbeat Vol 26, issue 16.. a 1959 issue.

    It’s in Google Books, but I’m having problems opening it.

  • Down Beat, XVII ( Dec. 29, 1950)

    Got this from a citation to the article in a book called A Bibliography of jazz.

  • Page 2.

    By the way, I think this is my first time commenting here, but been lurking for a while and enjoy your site.

  • Rob — Brilliant! Welcome as a comment person.

  • Down Beat, XVII (Dec. 29,


  • Ok,Al-so what does Rob win? And please don’t say “our undying gratitude”! (lol)

  • Thanks Rob-
    I’m a friend of Al’s putting the finishing touches on a memoir about Tal Farlow that will be out later this year. That story played prominantly in a personal anecdote, and I had no idea where to locate the original document.

    Through your tenacity and generosity, I found out the date of the mag and already purchased an ebay copy (four issues from ’50 were listed, and by a stroke of luck, Dec 29th was one of them)

    As a side note, I didn’t think there was a snowball’s chance in hell of finding this article here or anywhere, but Al knew his site better than me and with the Perlman smile that I’ve known since we were six years old old,he assured me that someone will come across with the info-
    Dan Axelrod

  • So Rob will be blessed with that new book I guess šŸ˜‰
    I’m just kidding. The community has solved the puzzle and it’s just good to see!

  • Just a side comment to answer Lennib’s question about when Farlow, Mingus, and Norvo played as a trio.
    it was in 1950 and most of 1951, until Mingus, and then Farlow, left the group.

  • CeeDee — you make a good point. Remember when I used to give away free records on the site? I could do that again. Rob, let me know your interests and I’ll prepare a little reward.

  • strike out !
    the jazzcollector community strikes again !
    wellcome Rob: you backed the right horse.

  • That was fast. Nice work Al and Rob.

  • Wow, I’m flattered by all the attention.


    Glad to hear you were able to find a copy. I actually did a quick ebay search last night but didn’t see it.

    Just out of curiosity, how is it that you have that partial photo or clipping and nothing else? Or do I have to wait for the book to get that answer?

    As for the reward, anything from the $1000 bin will do. Seriously though, it’s not necessary..just glad I could help.

  • Good question Rob- I pulled a partial still shot from a documentary film about Tal, but even the filmmaker didn’t have the original article anymore.
    If there’s an ironic capper to this tale, it’s that after a second look at that Down Beat cover, I realzie I own it, but my house is so full of collectibles and crap, I have no idea where my Down Beat collection is! But the ebay issue will be here soon and once again Rob, I thank you-
    Dan Axelrod

  • Since this bit of obscurity panned out so well, I’ll place a second request.

    In the early to mid 90s, Les Paul was featured in a Down Beat article. In it he states that Tal “stole his style” from Jimmy Raney – a bit of obvious nonsense, but not an unusual comment from the king of pop guitar regarding the king of bop guitar.
    If anyone out there has a 90’s down beat collection and can take a look at the date,I’d be grateful
    Dan Axelrod

  • I think there are a few albums where on the surface Jimmy and Tal sound somewhat alike but I would say they are quite different. I think Tal was unique due to his tremendous technical abilities. I’m just surprised that Les Paul would say something like that.

  • Dan:

    There was an interview with Les Paul in April 1992 per this link.

  • Amazing community here. I already received the 1950 Downbeat Rob dug up…and began to chase down BigBear’s helpful link. Will report back soon.
    a million thanks-
    Dan Axelrod

  • “Iā€™m just surprised that Les Paul would say something like that.”

    Not surprising to someone who knew him Mike. He was a character who despite acclaim and fortune, could be intimidated by musical innovation… since’s Les’ own innovations were primarily in electronics and peripheral areas.

    I delve quite a bit into this in the Tal book, with personal anecdotes that a jazz fan would find no less than captivating. But in a memoir, you tell the truth and don’t look back.
    Dan Axelrod

  • Dan, I look forward to your Tal memoir.

  • Bingo Big Bear! Thanks for being on the case. Success!

    And to Mike- it was a blindfold test, Jimmy Raney was playing and Les says this:

    “I would say this is Tal Farlow. or maybe Jimmy Raney. Tal copied Jimmy a lot. He idolized him. But they both stray too far from the melody. Once in a club, I heard Tal. He was playing “How High The Moon” but I was the only one who knew it. Case closed”

  • Oh, and Dan: how about scanning the entire copy of your Down Beat from Dec. 29, 1950 and maybe share the scans through Al so he can publish them on the site? This whole conversation has made me a curious person šŸ˜‰

  • I’m learning things about Les Paul I didn’t know. I do think that sometimes when Tal played standards that he would stray from the Melody but I don’t see that as bad. He didn’t stray like say a late era Coltrane would or anything. I guess Les is coming from a different aesthetic.
    I’m just a little taken aback, I always found Tal to be on a different level than Jimmy Raney. One problem I have with Jimmy is that he covered the gauntlet of jazz idioms and played some stuff that I just can’t get into. Tal touched other idioms but I primarily think of him as a Bebop guitarist. I haven’t heard much by Tal that I couldn’t enjoy. This is not to say that I don’t enjoy many of Jimmy Raney’s albums as well. I just get flustered by baseless comparisons. I understand the need to compare A to B, so one familiar with B can better understand A, but don’t like the comparison Les made.

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