RIP, Nat Hentoff

The other day I was listening to Giant Steps, yet again, and this time I pulled out the album and re-read the liner notes. I was amazed at the prescience and knowledge of the writer. Here are the first two paragraphs:

“Along with sonny Rollins, John Coltrane has become the most influential and controversial tenor saxophonist inn modern jazz. He is becoming, in fact, more controversial and possibly more influential than Rollins. While it’s true that to musicians especially, Coltrane’s fiercely adventurous harmonic imagination is the most absorbing aspect of his developing style, the more basic point is that for many non-musician listeners, Coltrane at his best has an unusually striking emotional impact. There is such intensity in his playing that the string of adjectives employed by French Critic Gerard Bremond in a Jazz-Hot article on Coltrane seemed hardly at all exaggerated. Bremond called his playing ‘exuberant, furious, impassioned, thundering.’

“There is also, however, an extraordinary amount of sentimentality in Coltrane’s work. Part of the fury in much of his playing is the fury of the search, the obsession Coltrane has to play all he can hear or would like to hear — often all at once — and yet at the same time make his music, as he puts it, ‘more presentable.’ He said recently, ‘I’m worried that sometimes what I’m doing sounds like just academic exercises and I’m trying more and more to make it sound prettier.’ It seems to me he already succeeds often in accomplishing both his aims, as sections of this album demonstrate.”

I looked down at the bottom to see which Jazz journalist had written this piece back in 1959 and, to no surprise at all, it was the great Nat Hentoff. When I woke up this morning, there was news in The New York Times that Nat Hentoff had died at age 91.

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See You in Brooklyn?

Spent the day in Brooklyn yesterday with a table at the WFMU Record Fair, which is being held at the Brooklyn Expo Center in lovely downtown Greenpoint, where my father spent his youth and learned to love jazz. It was a weird day, a bit unlike the other record fairs I’ve attended. Usually, there’s a ton of action before the doors open, with a lot of transactions between dealers, but even more among the dealers and heavy-duty collectors who don’t have tables but purchase expensive early admission passes or pretend to be with dealers that have tables. There was none of that yesterday, and not even a lot of action when the doors opened for early admission at 4 p.m. There was a full crowd at 7, but not a preponderance of jazz collectors.

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Clark Terry, RIP

clark copyWoke up this morning to the news that the great trumpeter Clark Terry has passed away at age 94. He certainly lived a full and fulfilling life, inspiring musicians right to the very end. If you want some inspiration yourself, I urge you to see the documentary Keep on Keepin’ On. The film is both a loving biography of Terry, with quotes and appearances from some of his proteges, including Quincy Jones and Miles Davis, and it is also a story of Terry’s ongoing passion for sharing and teaching the music — in this case his mentoring relationship/friendship with a young blind jazz pianist named Justin Kauflin. I saw the movie several weeks ago with The Lovely Mrs. JC and when we got home she wanted me to play some Clark Terry on the turntable. I took out the album Duke With a Difference, Riverside 246. I hadn’t listened to it in years and what a joy it was to hear it again. Great, great record with very interesting arrangements and terrific playing. Terry was one of the last links to an era in jazz that we’ll never see again. We were fortunate to have had him for so long as a player, teacher, mentor, innovator, ambassador and giant of the jazz world.

Sonny Rollins and The New Yorker: YIKES!

I’m back from vacation and what am I greeted with — a real-life and genuine, if fully trumped up, jazz controversy. I am referring to the fervor being generated over a column several days ago in The New Yorker titled: Sonny Rollins: In His Own Words. The article appeared in the “Shouts & Murmurs” section, which is a longtime humor column in The New Yorker. In the article a writer under the pseudonym Django Gold attributes a number of ridiculous statements to Sonny. Samples: “The saxophone sounds horrible. Like a scared pig.” And: “Jazz may be the stupidest thing anyone ever came up with.”

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Who Picked the Sidemen?

A couple of items from the Jazz Collector mailbox.

One of our readers and regular commenters, Japhy, send a note with the following question:

“Sidemen — who picked em?

“Something I’ve long wondered is — if an artist without a regular working band came in to can an album, how were the sidemen chose? At Blue Note, for example, did Alfred and Frank assemble the players, or would a guy with some pull like Dexter Gordon say, “Hey this is who I want to play with?” Could a name artist veto a sideman? Maybe the leader would come in with a couple of guys and then Lion would fill in the holes? It’s pretty clear that a lot of artists tended to record together, but overall it’s just something I’ve always wondered about.”


Another reader sent me this article:

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How Much of a Vinyl Addict Are You?

A couple of quick things before I get down to a real post about real jazz vinyl.

My son sent me this article 18 Signs You Are Addicted to Collecting Vinyl. You’ll enjoy. Everyone here pretty much knows that he’s an addict, so it’s not a question of which of these applies to you, it’s a question of which ones apply the most to you. I counted about half for me, including all the ones about home decor.

For those of you in Manhattan next Monday (not me, unfortunately), there will be a memorial service for Horace Silver at 7 p.m. downtown on the Lower East Side at the St. Augustine of Hippo Episcopal Church. I’m assuming that, because it is being publicized, it will be open to the public. Maybe I’ll change my plans and try to get there.

Here’s one to break your heart. It certainly broke mine. I was having dinner with a friend last night and he said he recently knew of a family wherein someone passed away who had a collection of about 20,000 records. The family didn’t make much of an effort to sell the records or find a home for them. The tried a couple of libraries, but didn’t even call any record stores. My friend forgot to tell them about me. The records ended up in a dumpster. Seriously.

Song For My Father, Again

horaceI’ve told this story in broader strokes, but I have these very etched and very early memories of sitting in the living room of our very small garden apartment in Bayside, Queens, where we literally had plastic wrap covering the sofa and chairs, and hearing the sounds of Horace Silver coming from my father’s Fisher hi-fi console. My father was a big jazz fan and Silver was probably his favorite musician. He would play the Blue Note albums Blowin’ the Blues Away and Song For My Father constantly, and in my head I can still clearly picture him tapping his feet and taking a drag on his cigarette and taking a hearty sip of whatever alcoholic beverage he had concocted for himself. So when I got into jazz, the music of Horace Silver was already familiar to me and, like my dad, I loved it as well. There was an infectious joy in Horace Silver’s music and it always seemed as if he and all of the musicians were having a blast, loving what they were doing, and inspiring one another to higher levels of creativity. I also realized later on that Horace Silver was not just a great bandleader and composer, he was also a great pianist, one of the true greats of the post-bop era.

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