The Jazz Singer premiered on October 6th, 1927. The film, starring Al Jolson, tells the story of a second generation Russian American who wants to become a popular jazz singer. His father wants him to become a cantor in the local synagogue and believes being in show business is sinful. Jolson’s character must choose between his parents’ Russian-Jewish culture and pursuing his dream. The film is controversial today because of Jolson’s use of blackface throughout the film. However, the film is undeniably an important part of American culture because it was the first successful “talking” picture with synchronized dialogue and sound effects. The success of The Jazz Singer pushed all of the American motion picture studios into “the talkies” and effectively ended the age of silent pictures.
The October Revolution In Jazz
The first Free Jazz music festival took place from October 1st to October 4th in 1964. Organized by musician Bill Dixon, the four day festival had over twenty artists and ensembles performing and discussing their work. Headliners included Sun Ra, Paul Bley, and Cecil Taylor. The festival helped introduce the general public to the free jazz style.
Source: Anderson, Iain. This Is Our Music : Free Jazz, the Sixties, and American
Culture. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2007. Accessed October
8, 2019. ProQuest Ebook Central, p. 122
Next week, the saxophonist Ravi Coltrane and vocalist Neneh Cherry will both release new records. Coltrane’s Spirit Fiction is his sixth studio album. Cherry’s The Cherry Thing is a collaboration with Scandinavian trio The Thing. Both albums are available for a full preview this week via NPR Music’s First Listen series.
The two artists share more than a release date. They were born less than a year apart and became top names in their respective fields. Their new albums may not sound much alike but both feature abstract saxophone improvising. Both musicians are also the children of jazz legends: Ravi is the son of saxophonist John Coltrane, and Neneh is the stepdaughter of cornetist Don Cherry. Indeed, their fathers even recorded an album together in 1960, entering the studio nearly 52 years before next week’s releases.
I’m not sure if Neneh and Ravi have ever met, but it turns out their lives have plenty of parallels. I’ve compiled them in a short timeline of important dates from their fathers’ birthdays all the way up to their new albums. Continue reading →
One of the great things about jazz is that it bridges generations. Because it relies on interactive improvisation and live performance, and thus can’t be completely taught in a classroom or with a book, aspiring younger musicians seek the direct guidance of older, wiser ones. And more experienced musicians have plenty of reasons to take fresh talent under their wings, like gaining new bandmates with fresh skill sets, or helping future torch-bearers to thrive.
Such mentorship has changed a lot in the last half century. Collegiate and even post-graduate jazz education has become a huge engine of talent cultivation. Meanwhile, performing opportunities have greatly diminished. So the previous model of mentorship, where promising musicians learn “on the job” by joining the bands of established musicians, is becoming less common. But as Nate Chinen’s recent New York Times article explains, plenty of “apprentices” are still “availing themselves of counsel” — they’re just taking different paths to it. Continue reading →