Gary Giddins

Gary’s Contributions

May 2007    Cadenza

Shuffle Along

One of my favorite Aldous Huxley essays is “Music at Night,” from his occasionally deranged but mostly illuminating 1931 collection of the same name. Only recently, however, did a parenthetical phrase leap from its moorings to command special interest. Huxley...

April 2007    Cadenza

Beyond Labels

It may be difficult to recall the incredible excitement that greeted the release, in 1973, of Martin Williams’ The Smithsonian Collection of Classic Jazz, a mail-order phenomenon that, to the slight embarrassment of the institution that financed it with...

March 2007    Cadenza

Swinging the Funnies

One of the delightfully weird things about the underground comix of the 1960s and 1970s was how retro they were musically. Sex and drugs were thematic constants, but rock and roll? Forget it. R. Crumb, who led an old-fashioned string band that issued recordings...

March 2007    Farewells

Sheldon Meyer

Writers in many disciplines are mourning the passing of Sheldon Meyer, the Oxford University Press editor who died Oct. 9, 2006, at 80. He published more prize-winning histories than any other editor ever, single-handedly turned the world’s oldest and stodgiest...

January/February 2007    Cadenza


Some 30 years ago, an editor asked me to interview and review Anita O’Day, who died Nov. 23, at 87, of complications from pneumonia. Even in the 1970s, her endurance was notable, and that was before she published a marvelous, jaw-dropping 1981 memoir, High...

December 2006    Cadenza

The Thrill of Brazil

The journey to Ouro Preto in Brazil is not easy. Even with short waits between the three legs of the trip, it takes most of a day. You fly from New York to one of the coastal airports, Rio or São Paulo (I did the latter), and board another plane inland to...

November 2006    Cadenza


In Thomas Mann’s Buddenbrooks, the upstanding dandy Thomas Buddenbrook dismisses his wife’s elitist devotion to music as a “rather tasteless snobbery.” Gerda remonstrates that the insipid pop ditties Thomas prefers merely requite a need for mindless gratification...

October 2006    Cadenza

Dizzy's Divine Comedy

Dizzy Gillespie: Is there a more resonant name in jazz or music or life? Think about it. He spearheaded a generation of musicians that demanded to be taken seriously as artists. No minstrel cavorting or bowing and scraping for them. They were the young Turks...

September 2006    Cadenza

New York’s Lofty Intentions

New York City has served as the primary locus for jazz’s evolution for 80 years, without quite engendering the mythological resonance of the cities that enjoyed intense associations with specific periods: New Orleans, Chicago, Kansas City and even, during...

July/August 2006    Cadenza

It's Always Monk's Time

In 1976, the Pulitzer Prize’s Special Awards and Citations division recognized Scott Joplin, 59 years after his death. In 1998, it honored George Gershwin, 61 years after his death. In 1999, it bowed to Duke Ellington (whom the board had notoriously snubbed...

June 2006    Cadenza

Jackie McLean, 1931-2006

In July 1975, Jackie McLean returned to action after a seven-year layoff spent teaching. The venue was New York’s briefly reawakened Five Spot, on St. Mark’s Place, packed every night with fans and musicians ignited by his combustible alto saxophone and...

May 2006    Cadenza

Call Him Lucky

A mental bank shot put me in mind of a musician I had not listened to in several years: Charles Luckeyth Roberts. Not that there’s much of him you can listen to. Despite a long and successful career (he died in 1968 at 80), he left no more than 12 dazzling...

April 2006    Cadenza

Travels With Bill

The delayed, coincidental arrival in the middle 1950s of two extremely dissimilar novels--Kerouac's hurried On the Road and Nabokov's fastidious Lolita--helped spur a renewal of the American picaresque. The idea of hitting the road had been an act of desperation...

March 2006    Cadenza

New Dutch Swing

One of the more inventive bookings in New York clubs is the Jazz Standard's "Voices and Songs," a Monday night, bargain-price ($15) series designed to bring attention to new, neglected, and otherwise below-radar singers. The December lineup was characteristic...


January/February 2006    Cadenza

Always Sonny

Some years ago, I took a friend to see a Sonny Rollins performance that proved every bit as thrilling as we anticipated, if not more so. High on Sonny, we floated to the exit, squeezed between many exultant-looking people and bumped into a colleague, who...


December 2005    Cadenza

Brand New Old Music

So I was lying back, listening to three of my favorite LP box sets on the old turn-table--Buddy Bolden's Funky Butts and Uptown Struts: Bootleg Recordings, Volumes 1-6, Fate Marable's Rollin' on the River, 1918-21 and King Oliver's Live! From Lincoln Gardens...

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About Gary Giddins