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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Win A Free Record: Billie Holiday at Carnegie Hall

Okay, it is time for our next Jazz Collector free collectible give-away contest. We always try to find interesting items for you, and this time we are offering up this: The Essential Billie Holiday Carnegie Hall Concert, Verve 8410. This is an original pressing with the MGM label and the gatefold cover. The record is in nice condition, although there are some marks at the end of side two. It’s an interesting record in that it was recorded in 1956 and issued here in 1961 as part of Verve’s Essentials series, which were tributes to jazz greats on the Verve labels, several of whom, unfortunately, had died. These included Lester Young and Charlie Parker. This LP was recorded live at Carnegie Hall as part of a concert in which Holiday sang and in which she also  had several sections of her autobiography, Lady Sings The Blues, read aloud to highlight various aspects of her life and to

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What is Soul in Jazz?

Quote of the Day:

      “What is soul in jazz? It’s what comes from within: It’s what happens when the inner part of you comes out. It’s the part of playing you can’t get out of the books and studies.  In my case, I believe that what I heard and felt in the music of my church was the most powerful influence on my musical career. Everyone wants to know where I got that funky style. Well, it came from the church. The music I heard there was open, relaxed, impromptu – soul music.” — Milt Jackson, from the liner notes to the LP Plenty, Plenty Soul, Atlantic 1269, liner notes by Nat Hentoff.

 

One of the criticisms of the Modern Jazz Quartet was that the structure of the band held back the playing of the brilliant vibist Milt Jackson. This was Jackson’s response when he was asked if, indeed, being in the MJQ held him down:

            “No, not actually. It may not sound or look like it when you’re listening out front because it’s all so well planned, but I still get to play more or less what I want to play. I’m relaxed. I’ve always been able to adjust myself to a situation. When I first joined the MIQ, there were times when I looked at the planning as a handicap, but now I’ve come to look on it as an asset. In terms of the business, and musically too. Discipline can be a good thing and having been under discipline can be a help when you do let loose.” — Source: Liner notes to the LP Milt Jackson, Plenty, Plenty Soul, Atlantic 1269. Liner notes by Nat Hentoff.

 

 “Lester was a one or two take man. He’d say, ‘I can’t do anything better than that,’ and usually that was it. His statements were emotional ones and when they were done, they were done.”

            Norman Granz on Lester Young. Liner notes from the album The Lester Young Story, Verve MG V-8308, 1960. Liner notes by Nat Hentoff.

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: Read more