It was the 50’s

Feast your eyes on this detailed post at Darwination offering scans of the first issue of Duke, a short-lived men’s magazine aimed at an African-American audience. The literary content is astonishingly strong. So are the images, including an example of Esmond Edwards‘s photography.

Of special interest to jazzers is a fairly long and provocative essay by Gene Krupa. (When working on my Whiplash essay a few years ago this would have been helpful.)

Krupa starts on a strange note, a kind of half-assed rebuttal to Stan Kenton’s infamous 1956 telegram to DownBeat claiming the critic’s poll created “a new minority group, white jazz musicians.”


Throughout the article a lot of what Krupa says is correct, but in the end I feel like he’s not owning up to his massive stardom. At his height Krupa had much bigger name-recognition and made much more money than any great(er) black drummer. If Krupa is making an effort to give back, he’s not really doing enough. Still, it is an interesting read, and an interesting venue for such a missive.

There’s lot to be found in 20th century African-American periodicals about jazz: This would be a worthy research topic, as these sources are often overlooked. (Apparently Duke only lasted six issues. Two decades later another skin mag, Players, was more successful. The Players music critic was Stanley Crouch.)

Thoughts of the late Nat Hentoff prompted another look at some of The Jazz Review. David Reaboi tweeted the June 1960 issue. The tensions of the era are on full display, tensions that in some ways remain unresolved today. While the Review is hip enough to have a lot about the authentic blues, there are also broadsides more or less against the form from an unlikely pair, Leroi Jones (Amiri Baraka) and Gunther Schuller.

Most fans today consider Cannonball Adderley’s Quintet in San Francisco to be a classic disc. But at the time:


In his way, Gunther Schuller is just as condescending about Thelonious Monk’s Alone in San Francisco:


Frankly, I think there is only one response to hearing Thelonious Monk play a blues: reverence.

We should also bow down before Bobby Timmons on the Adderley date, especially on his classic “This Here,” which Cannonball describes in his spoken introduction as, “A jazz waltz…however, it has all sorts of properties. It’s simultaneously a shout and a chant.”

These two famous critics try and fail to make these records fit their own needs as historians and gatekeepers. In their defense, all of jazz was really incredible in 1959. A peak moment in human art. It is easier to miss the forest for the trees when there are so many beautiful trees!