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NEA Jazz Masters No More?

I recently received from the National Endowment for the Arts Jazz Masters 1982-2011, a large, handsomely produced history of the award that former NEA Chairman Dana Gioia worked hard to make the Pulitzer Prize of jazz. In his introduction, present NEA Chairman Rocco Landesman writes, “It’s hard to think of an aspect of our country’s … Read More “NEA Jazz Masters No More?”

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The St. Louis Blues

I’m too often startled by how much I’ve yet to learn about subjects I’ve covered throughout my life-for example, the blues. Along with writing sections on the blues in my books, I’ve recorded sessions with Otis Spann, Memphis Slim and Lightnin’ Hopkins. But never before have I learned so much about St. Louis’ powerful and … Read More “The St. Louis Blues”

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Jews in the Family of Jazz

For 60 years I’ve been waiting for a book that has finally been published in England: Jazz Jews by Mike Gerber (Five Leaves Publications; [email protected], contact: Ross Bradshaw). Ten years in the making-eight of them on research-with 7,000 names in the index, ample footnotes and an extensive bibliography, it is more comprehensive than I ever … Read More “Jews in the Family of Jazz”

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Vince Guaraldi: That Joyous Thing

Despite writing about jazz musicians for over 60 years, I am sometimes sharply reminded that I’ve essentially missed, or badly underestimated, a vital individualist. It happened again on Nov. 28 as I was listening to National Public Radio’s wide-ranging master interviewer, Scott Simon, on Weekend Edition. There was my old friend Doug Ramsey (Rifftides at … Read More “Vince Guaraldi: That Joyous Thing”

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Final Chorus: Jazz’s First Lady of Charity

When Phoebe Jacobs, longtime friend and associate of Louis Armstrong, says, “Don’t let anyone tell you Louis is dead because he’s not,” she’s not talking only about the continuing presence of his music all around the world. As the central force of the Louis Armstrong Educational Foundation, Phoebe keeps providing grants to a range of … Read More “Final Chorus: Jazz’s First Lady of Charity”

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Final Chorus: Jazz Revelations for Baby Boomers

A lawyer I know began his jazz listening with the bebop of Bird and Dizzy, although he knew they had forebears whom he intended to sample eventually. Upon hearing Louis Armstrong’s “West End Blues” on Newark jazz station WBGO, he excitedly called me: “Where can I get more records by Armstrong?” (The sobriquet “Satchmo” was … Read More “Final Chorus: Jazz Revelations for Baby Boomers”

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Final Chorus: New Finds for the Jazz Bookshelf

More than the rest of us who write about jazz, Whitney Balliett’s words describing music often turned into music. Yet the last book he wrote before his death last year was turned down by such mainstream publishers as Oxford University Press (which had published a number of his best-known volumes) and Random House. As a … Read More “Final Chorus: New Finds for the Jazz Bookshelf”

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Final Chorus: Satchmo’s Rap Sheet

The FBI is proposing a new computer-profiling system, STAR (the System to Assess Risk), that, as National Public Radio reported on July 17, will be sifting through some six billion pieces of data by 2012, “about 20 records for every man, woman and child in America.” Many of those “persons of interest” suspected of terrorism … Read More “Final Chorus: Satchmo’s Rap Sheet”

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Final Chorus: Expanding the Map

I am grateful for the considerable response from readers to my June column, “Uncovering Jazz Trails.” My hope is that as local newspapers, radio and television stations, and Web sites discover the depth of their cities’ and regions’ jazz roots, there will be more work for emerging local jazz musicians and for their elders who … Read More “Final Chorus: Expanding the Map”

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Final Chorus: Born in Israel

Randy Weston can’t be mistaken for anyone else. As he once said, “I don’t like the electric piano because my sound is my voice, and my voice is what makes me unique. A personal sound is the most difficult thing to achieve-it’s an extension of yourself.” I have been listening often to the unmistakably personal … Read More “Final Chorus: Born in Israel”

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Final Chorus: Uncovering Jazz Trails

The headline in Allegro, the newspaper of New York’s Local 802, American Federation of Musicians, heralded the presence of the jazz tribe: “over 8,000 educators, musicians, industry executives, media and students from 45 countries,” attending the 34th annual conference of the International Association of Jazz Educators. And when the annual photo of the National Endowment … Read More “Final Chorus: Uncovering Jazz Trails”

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Final Chorus: He Made Festivals Happen

I first met George Wein in 1949, when he was a pianist working with the renowned Edmond Hall at the Savoy Café, Boston’s “Home of Hot Rhythm.” In 2005, the National Endowment for the Arts designated Wein a Jazz Master (Jazz Advocate Division) “for dedication to the advancement (and perpetuation) of jazz,” adding that “Wein … Read More “Final Chorus: He Made Festivals Happen”

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Final Chorus: A Complete Jazzman

I am greatly indebted to Thomas Bellino, whose Planet Arts-a not-for-profit company involved in a network of educational and culturally awakening projects-includes Planet Arts Recordings. His latest release, Turn Up the Heath by the Jimmy Heath Big Band (planetarts.org), made me realize that in all these years writing about this music, I have ignored one … Read More “Final Chorus: A Complete Jazzman”

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