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Cardenza: Jump for Gioia

For sheer emotional resonance, the highlight of the National Endowment for the Arts’ Jazz Masters ceremony-concert at Jazz at Lincoln Center’s Rose Hall, in October, was probably the opening procession, as past and present recipients of the $25,000 prize marched down the aisles to their seats. Accompanied by a sustained, standing, often roaring ovation, the … Read More “Cardenza: Jump for Gioia”

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Cadenza: Summer Nights

Between the JVC Jazz Festival in New York and Umbria Jazz in Perugia, Italy, there was much to treasure and contemplate, including a few surprises mixed in with the anticipated highs. Having set out not to take notes at events I initially had no intention of reviewing, I rely here on the failings and advantages … Read More “Cadenza: Summer Nights”

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Cadenza: Player Piano Man

The magnificent Art Tatum album, Piano Starts Here, which combines his first four solo recordings from 1933 with a slightly abridged version of his 1949 Shrine Auditorium concert, has been chosen as the second “re-performance” release in a series created by Zenph Studios for Sony Classical. The most prosaic question it raises is this: In … Read More “Cadenza: Player Piano Man”

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Cadenza: Jazz’s Other Louis

A few months ago, I interviewed Sonny Rollins on stage at the City University of New York’s Graduate Center (you can hear it at www1.cuny.edu/forums/podcasts/). Surveying his early years, Rollins said, “My first idol was a chap named Louis Jordan. Now Louis Jordan was an entertainer as well as a great instrumentalist and if you … Read More “Cadenza: Jazz’s Other Louis”

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Cadenza: Shipp Shape

Bet on it: Just about every Matthew Shipp album will spur someone to write that it is more accessible than its predecessors, an observation that says more about the observer than Shipp, who has never been all that inaccessible. His reputation for obscurity, as opposed to, say, obliquity, of which he is indeed a master, … Read More “Cadenza: Shipp Shape”

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Cadenza: Goin’ Down South

Sometimes you have to leave home to find yourself most at home. My recent trip to Brazil, culminating with the sixth annual Festival Tudo é Jazz in Ouro Preto (Sept. 13-16), provided a too brief but intense immersion in the marvels of Brazilian jazz, yet, in truth, the most unforgettable set was provided by homeboy … Read More “Cadenza: Goin’ Down South”

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Cadenza: A Life of Reinvention

Max Roach, the most ingenious drummer to rise with and define the nature of modern jazz, died on August 16. The news was hardly unexpected: He was 83 and had long battled that dreadful disease, Alzheimer’s. He rarely recorded or appeared in public during the past decade; his final bow, a 2002 collaboration with Clark … Read More “Cadenza: A Life of Reinvention”

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Cadenza: Projecting Jazz

It would be easier to grouse about the paucity of great-or good or tolerable or watchable-jazz-themed feature films if Hollywood had done any better by classical music or rock. It hasn’t. Most American musicals, from The Jazz Singer and The Broadway Melody to Moulin Rouge and Dreamgirls, are concerned with the backstage tribulations of show … Read More “Cadenza: Projecting Jazz”

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Cadenza: Pilgrim’s Progress

When he had the wind in his sails, which was pretty often during a tragically curtailed career (he died at age 33 from complications incurred in a car accident), Chu Berry was a terror. Few musicians combine, as effortlessly and consistently as he, fearless aggression with sensible demeanor. Jazz in the prewar era was often … Read More “Cadenza: Pilgrim’s Progress”

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Cadenza: Oliver Overhauled

The conductor Otto Klemperer once said, “Listening to a recording is like going to bed with a photograph of Marilyn Monroe.” Recordings have long been demonized-accused of destroying amateurism and live music, promoting soul-killing perfectionism, cheapening appreciation. The jeremiads have a grain of truth, but only a grain. We would no more give up on … Read More “Cadenza: Oliver Overhauled”

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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 is writing of a starry, fragrant, moonless evening-a good night for music. And, thanks to … Read More “Cadenza: Shuffle Along”

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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 tax dollars, went double-platinum. One of the things that made it newsworthy was the cooperation of … Read More “Cadenza: Beyond Labels”

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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 on 78s, fetishized ancient blues and jazz guys. Justin Green went … Read More “Cadenza: Swinging the Funnies”

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Cadenza: Incomparable!

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 Times Hard Times (written with George Eells), that detailed her ingestion … Read More “Cadenza: Incomparable!”

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Cadenza: Ornette!!!!

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. No fool, he is reduced to silence, unable to “comprehend why melodies that cheered him up or moved … Read More “Cadenza: Ornette!!!!”

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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 its brief flirtation with coolness, Los Angeles. Yet no matter where they came from or how … Read More “Cadenza: New York’s Lofty Intentions”

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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 in 1965), 25 years after his death. This past April, it happened upon … Read More “Cadenza: It’s Always Monk’s Time”

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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 tracks and 11 misguided … Read More “Cadenza: Call Him Lucky”

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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 in the 1930s and the source of comedies set in exotic locales in the 1940s. … Read More “Cadenza: Travels With Bill”

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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, if a bit more prominent than usual. It included Alma Micic, who moved to New York … Read More “Cadenza: New Dutch Swing”

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