Author Archives: Valerie Rice

The Sound of Jazz

On December 8th, 1957 The Sound of Jazz aired live on CBS. It was an episode in the program The Seven Lively Arts. Producer Robert Herridge convinced Count Basie, Coleman Hawkins, Thelonius Monk, Gerry Mulligan, Billie Holiday, Henry Allen, Jimmy Giuffre, Roy Eldridge, Dicky Wells, Vic Dickenson, Pee Wee Russell, Lester Young, Ben Webster, Danny Barker, Milt Hinton, and Jo Jones to appear together for an hour long live jazz performance. The Sound of Jazz was one of the first programs featuring jazz made for television and is still considered one of the best.

The Sound of Jazz

Bessie Smith’s Last Set

Bessie Smith made her last recording session on November 24th, 1933. She recorded “Gimme A Pigfoot”, “Do Your Duty”, and “Down In the Dumps”. Among the musicians backing her for these numbers are Jack Teagarden, Chu Berry, Frankie Newton, and Benny Goodman.

“Gimme A Pigfoot”
“Do Your Duty”
“Down In The Dumps”

Birthdays of Jazz: Scott Joplin, November 24th

Scott Joplin was born November 24th, 1868. He was a composer and pianist who popularized the ragtime genre through his music. Two of his best known compositions are “The Maple Leaf Rag” and “The Entertainer”. Joplin was raised in Texarkana, Texas. He played his music at the 1893 World’s Fair in Chicago, setting off a national ragtime craze. While Joplin’s ragtime compositions made him famous he also wanted to be recognized as a classical composer. He wrote a ballet and two operas which combined his knowledge of classical music and his innovative usage of syncopated rhythm. Joplin spent the last years of his life attempting to get his second opera Treemonisha performed publicly. He suffered a nervous breakdown in 1916 and had to be institutionalized. He died in 1917. Scott’s work regained widespread popularity in the 1970’s after the release of the film “The Sting” which used his ragtime compositions as the basis for the film’s score.

Oldest Existing Recording of “The Maple Leaf Rag”
The Houston Grand Opera Production of Treemonisha

The Birthdays of Jazz: Hoagy Carmichael, November 22nd

Hoagy Carmichael was born November 22nd, 1899 in Bloomington, Indiana.  He was a pianist, actor, and composer best known for writing the jazz standards Stardust, written in 1927, and Georgia on My Mind, written in 1930.  Carmichael moved to Los Angeles in 1936 and began composing for films and acting in supporting roles.   He won an Oscar in 1951 in the Best Song category for In the Cool, Cool, Cool of the Evening.  Carmichael died in 1981.

Hoagy Carmichael playing “Stardust”
First recording of “Georgia On My Mind” from 1930
Hoagy Carmichael performing “Am I Blue” in the film To Have And Have Not

On This Day In History: November 18th

John Coltrane recorded “Alabama” in 1963 in response to Birmingham Church bombing. On September 15th, 1963 members of the Ku Klux Klan placed sticks of dynamite under the front steps of the church. The dynamite ignited during the church service, killing four young women and injuring many members of the congregation. The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. said the eulogy for the victims at their funeral later that week. Coltrane composed “Alabama” as his response to the bombing, and he patterned the music on the speech inflections in King’s eulogy. The piece was released on the album Live In Birdland in 1964.

“Alabama”
Video meshing the audio of King’s eulogy and Coltrane’s “Alabama”

The Birthdays Of Jazz: Diana Krall, November 16th

Diana Krall was born November 16th, 1964 in Nanaimo, British Columbia.  She is a jazz pianist and vocalist.  Some of her better known albums include All For You: A Dedication to the Nat King Cole Trio (1996) and Live in Paris (2002).  Her most recent album is Love is Here to Stay (2018), with Tony Bennett.  Krall has won three Grammy awards.  She is married to British musician Elvis Costello and has two children.

Interview on the Canadian Broadcast Corporation
Performing “Cry Me a River”

Notable Recordings in November

November 3rd

Tenor saxophonist Sonny Rollins records A Night At The Village Vanguard in 1957 with drummer Elvin Jones and bassist Wilbur Ware

A Night At The Village Vanguard

November 9th

Pianist Oscar Peterson records” If You Could See Me Now” with guitarist Joe Pass, 1983.

“If You Could See Me Now”

November 12th

Louis Armstrong and his Hot Five record their first piece,” My Heart”, 1925.

“My Heart”

November 26th

Charlie Parker records “Koko” at his first session as a leader, 1945

“Koko”

On This Day in History: November 7th

In 1940 Duke Ellington and His Orchestra played at the Crystal Ballroom in Fargo, North Dakota.  Jack Towers and Dick Burris were two local radio broadcasters for the U.S. Department of Agriculture who were also huge Ellington fans.  They asked if they could record the performance and were granted permission provided they did not use it for commercial purposes.  The recording was unusual for a number of reasons.  At the time, live recordings were almost always made in concert halls or night clubs.  It is rare to have a recording of a musical ensemble playing dance music live.  Further, live jazz recordings at the time were rarer still.  Towers and Burris brought a portable Presto-S disc cutter which they set up next to Ellington’s piano.  The disc cutter could record fifteen minutes a side on sixteen inch discs.  Most records at the time could only play three minutes a side, but Towers and Burris had access to the Presto because the UDSA used it to create lectures that could be played in farm colleges and extension services.  The recording is significant because it captures Ellington’s Orchestra in its prime with the natural flow of the performance by not forcing the musicians to stop playing due to recording time constraints.  The discs sat in Towers’ basement until the 1970s when Towers retired and took up record restoration as a hobby.  He remastered the discs and got permission to release them commercially.  The remastered album , Duke Elligton At Fargo Live, 1940,  won the Grammy Award For Best Large Jazz Ensemble Album in 1980. 

Duke Ellington At Fargo Live, 1940 Album

Notable Birthdays For Jazz: October 18th

Esperanza Spaulding

Esperanza Spaulding is a jazz vocalist, bassist, and composer from Portland, Oregon.  She is currently a professor of music at Harvard University.  Spaulding has one four Grammys.  She is the first jazz artist to win in the best new artist category.

Grammy Win

White House Performance

Wynton Marsalis

Wynton Marsalis is jazz and classical trumpeter and composer from New Orleans, Louisiana.  He has recorded over eighty albums and has nine Grammys.  He is the only musician to receive a Grammy for both his jazz and classical work.  Marsalis was the first jazz musician to win the Pulitzer Prize for Music and he received the National Humanities Medal from President Barak Obama in 2015.  He co-founded the Jazz program at Lincoln Center in 1987.  Marsalis is active in jazz education worldwide and was named an international ambassador of goodwill for the United States by the U.N. in 2001.
His youngest brother, Jason Marsalis will be playing in the Lionel Hampton Big Band during the 2020 Lionel Hampton Jazz Festival in Moscow, Idaho.

60 Minutes Interview

Second Line