You don’t know W. Eugene Smith…but he is generally considered to be the greatest American photojournalist. From 1957-1965, he opened his New York city loft to the jazz musicians of the era and shot stills pictures, 40,000 of them!
Plus, he recorded 4000 hours of audio (not all of it is music). It was just released as a documentary movie called The Jazz Loft According To W. Eugene Smith.
Back when I was in photojournalism school in the late 1980s, my instructor at San Jose State University, Jim McNay, had me read a book about Smith. McNay’s contention was that many of our greatest artists are essentially crazy. Smith could certainly be seen in that light. Continue reading
As a fan of 1950s American television, I was intrigued by this record, from a show I had never heard of, M Squad (RCA LPM 2062, mono). The cover told me all I needed to know about it, however. A hard boiled Lee Marvin, with pistol in hand, blasting away at some unseen criminal. Marvin, a terrific actor, could play a role like this easily, so I bought the LP and hoped for the best. The music, like Marvin, was excellent.
It reminded me of a more famous TV show from the same time period, Peter Gunn. Dark, smoky jazz, set in a simpler time. There were criminals, sure, but most of them were small time hoods, looking for a quick buck. Continue reading
Folk music encompasses many a style. If you’re interested in the simple and elegant, Leon Bibb Sings Folk Songs (Vanguard VRS 9041, mono) is a good one. Bibb isn’t a part of the late sixties hippie scene that combined folk with rock. Bibb, guitarist Fred Hellerman and orchestrator Milt Okun provide the deep feelings that folk music is supposed to be about without the backbeat. Continue reading
“It was the last time Miles Davis and Bill Evans would ever record together.”
There are hundreds of pivotal moments in the history of music. But that line, written by author Ashley Kahn on page 145 of Kind of Blue: The Making of the Miles Davis Masterpiece (2000) is the one line in the book that shocked me. I just didn’t know, didn’t realize the significance of it until Kahn’s words appeared before me…that Davis and Evans never recorded together again, after the making of Kind of Blue. Continue reading
I have a general recollection of the first time I heard the piano of Horace Silver. There was an odd (but likeable) funk and his left hand tended to hit somewhat dissonant block chords I wasn’t used to. But mostly, it was his melodies that stood out. I believe that’s why Silver will be remembered long after his death on June 18, 2014. It was Bud Powell’s prowess at the keys that made you stop and listen. With Silver, it’s the melody. Not that all his melodies were happy and bright. His minor mood often came through in memorable ways, too. Continue reading
These days, there’s a newly remastered something-or-other every week. But what about the guy who was the original recording engineer on the session? Let me make a case for Roy DuNann being the best engineer that perhaps you have not heard of. If you saw my post on The Three jazz trio, I mentioned that Shelly Manne’s 1950s work on the Contemporary label (in Los Angeles) is worth seeking out. One of the reasons is DuNann was the engineer.
One drop of the needle from an LP he engineered is all you need to hear. Continue reading
Is there anything wrong with a lightness to the mood, a bouncy quality that seems to say beaches of SoCal, white wine with salmon and let’s have a good time while driving down the avenue flanked by palm trees? And so it is with Today’s Jazz, an LP by the Bob Brookmeyer and Zoot Sims Quartet (Jazztone J1239, a mono LP, 1956). Continue reading