In a few minutes, the Bad Plus will head to Vancouver while Obama is still technically president and return tomorrow under the rule of Trump.

That is, of course, if the nice Canadians let us in! Hard to blame them if they just start turning Americans away…

While there’s plenty of blame to go around within our borders, we can’t blame our friends in other countries. Many people everywhere love American arts and entertainment. Specifically, jazz is in large part subsidized by Europe. To all those fans and family: We are sorry. We have got to do better.

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!

Universal Remonster 5


Rational Funk fans, rejoice! Dave King returns in Lights, Cameron, Jackson, a new series written by Dave and directed by Noah Hutton. James Diers also stars…

More tributes to Hentoff: Terry Teachout, Hank Shteamer, David Reaboi, David A. Graham.

Ryan Rifai: KKK members leave Klan after befriending black musician Daryl Davis.

Ira Madison III: Damien Chazelle’s tribute to jazz music is a trojan horse white savior film in tap shoes.

Adam Shatz: Frank Kimbrough’s album Solstice and the late Paul Bley.

Alex Ross on Daniil Trifonov.

David Menestres reviews Free Jazz, Harmolodics, and Ornette Coleman by Stephen Rush. I’m looking over a copy of the book myself. When it comes to decoding Ornette, the more the merrier.

The long interviews with Ornette are great, but I wonder if Rush gives enough credit to Ornette’s collaborators. Ornette was a sage, but his best music was a group effort. My own essay attempts to set the record straight; also relevant is this recent passage from the NYC Jazz Record interview with G. Calvin Weston (image stolen from a tweet by Hank Shteamer):



Peter Avellino’s amusing and discursive review of The Nice Guys taught me a lot.

I don’t read much literary fiction but Christian Lorentzen’s big essay about “Obama Lit” makes a lot of sense.

Finally, Bliss Bowen asked some good questions in this interview previewing  TBP’s Santa Monica show next week (which is the closest we are getting to LA this season).

Blues for the Old Man of Jazz

The late Nat Hentoff was one of the most important jazz scribes from the era of greatness and the era of innocence. For a moment he was even a record producer, with his Candid label making several stone classics including Charles Mingus Presents Charles Mingus and The World of Cecil Taylor. As a magazine editor he helmed a few wonderful years of the Jazz Review, the glories of which remain surprising to those first discovering the archive. There are also several hundreds of liner notes and a few notable books. Hear Me Talkin’ to Ya with Nat Shapiro remains essential for historians and the young adult novel Jazz Country had wide circulation.

The Hentoff I know best is his summation and valediction, Jazz Is from 1976. These philosophical and metaphorical essays about various legends are liberally sprinkled with evocative quotes and photos. Mark Stryker still recommends it as the best gateway book into jazz.

There’s no good reason to be in this profession unless you have an essentially romantic relationship to the heroes of the music. In Jazz Is, the chapter on Charlie Parker is called “The Great Speckled Bird.” I was so happily verklempt poring over that title and that chapter while still a teenager.

Hentoff had riffs, and eventually those riffs might have become predictable. However, Hentoff had a right to those riffs, for he was there.

In Jazz Is and on many other occasions Hentoff told of being in the room the last time Lady Day and Lester Young played the blues together, for the television show The Sound of Jazz produced by Hentoff himself. Damn, that Pres chorus is simply unbelievable. But really everyone participating is wonderful.

For Nat Hentoff, one more time:

The Last Days of the Mikado

Michael Cooper’s recent article in the New York Times prompts introspection.

Probably live performances of The Mikado will last only another decade or so, as this classic operetta is incontrovertibly racist.

This classic operetta is also an authentic work of human genius, arguably the finest example of its kind. But there’s a lot of great music out there; I guess we can afford to lose this particular item.

On the positive side, proper documentation of The Mikado will always exist. There are many recordings and the movie Topsy-Turvy is wonderful.

However, no record really will ever measure up to live performance, especially since The Mikado might be best served by enthusiastic amateurs in a collegiate or community theater who transcend their circumstances to produce a humble miracle of drama, comedy and music.

That’s really the sad thing, to lose amateur Mikados, but collegiate or community companies are the most vulnerable to political pressure.

Postmodern Mikados will now have their day in major venues, but it’s hard to imagine them maintaining much interest for too long. It’s only Gilbert and Sullivan, after all, not Wagner or someone else who can bear the weight of soul-searching investigation.

In Modern Music and After, Paul Griffiths writes of Cornelius Cardew’s move to the extreme left in the 1970’s:

“…The musical quality was not the point….Progress now, for Cardew and composers who thought like him, could only be political progress, and music must relinquish all its own hopes and histories in order to serve that cause.”

Shirley Henderson in Topsy-Turvy: