Interesting Quotes from ’50s Downbeat Issues

I couldn’t sleep again the other night so I went into my music room and started poring through the batch of 115 Downbeat and Metronome magazines I bought at the WFMU Record Show in New York last week. Most of the magazines are from the 1940s and 1950s, with a few Downbeats from the 1960s thrown in. I love these things because they give you a real view of the history of jazz as it was happening. I’m always surprised that so few people seem to be collecting the old magazines. It’s okay, because the prices are always reasonable and it would be nice if they stay that way. Anyway, over the next few weeks I’ll be sharing some of the interesting items I find as I go through the magazines. Here are a few snippets:

 In the Dec. 12, 1957 Downbeat Sonny Rollins was given The Blindfold Test by Leonard Feather. This is Feather on Rollins: “He was a very conscientious blindfoldee, taking copious notes and reading off his comments in the tape recorder after each number was played.”

 This was Rollins on Duke Ellington: “This record is immediately recognizable as having a Duke Ellington sound. It’s very important to have a sound that you can recognize immediately, and of course Duke is an institution now in music. He’s one of my particular favorites. Always has been a great inspiration to me.”

 In the August 10, 1955 Downbeat, Dave Brubeck fought back against what he said was unfair criticism based on his growing popularity and appearance on the cover of Time Magazine:

 “Just what do the critics want from me? In the first place, I can think of very, very few critics with the musical training to do their jobs properly. I don’t expect critics to be great musicians. But I do think they should have put in a number of years studying music and they should know what they’re trying to evaluate. They should know, for one thing, that our group is always improvising. They should know that we never play the same tune twice the same way.  The critics say I don’t swing. I say we always swing – sometimes we don’t swing very much, but it’s always enough to be considered jazz. That much I guarantee.”

 For the July 25, 1956 Downbeat, Thelonious Monk sat down with Nat Hentoff for an interview. Here’s an excerpt:

 “Do I think I’m difficult to understand? Well, like what? Tell me a particular number. Some of my pieces have melodies a nitwit could understand. Like, I’ve written one number staying on one note. A tone-deaf person could hum it.

”My system of composing? I compose as it comes, as I hear it. I have no foruma for composing. For people who’ve never heard any of my work before and would like to know where to start, I’d say just listen to the music in the order that I’ve recorded it. Get the records, sit down, and dig.”

That’s it for today. See you tomorrow with our newsletter. — 

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