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September 2021

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A few places where the legends of 20th-century jazz once lived have had the good fortune to be preserved for posterity by forward-thinking benefactors. Many more haven’t, and others are somewhere in the middle. Morgan Enos examines a sampling of the most noteworthy cases, from Louis Armstrong’s house to Cecil Taylor’s.

On June 28, 1965, John Coltrane and 10 colleagues went to Rudy Van Gelder’s studio in Englewood, N.J., and recorded an album that would launch a new musical era—and divide listeners for decades. Colin Fleming looks back at the making of Ascension and the continuing significance of its undimmed power to shock.

Jazz biopics are notoriously unreliable when it comes to factuality, but Lee Daniels’ recent film on Billie Holiday took that several steps further than normal. As Lewis Porter shows, despite what the movie claims, there was no U.S. government conspiracy to suppress the landmark song “Strange Fruit”—and that’s just the biggest thing they got wrong.

Four decades since her passing, the great Mary Lou Williams is just beginning to be recognized as a crucial contributor to the history of jazz. Shaun Brady asks Dave Douglas, Carmen Lundy, Aaron Diehl, Allison Miller, and others why it’s taken us so long to get here and what more can be done to raise this giant’s profile.

JT Notes
Opening Chorus: Julius Hemphill’s legacy grows; jazz festivals return, including the Leopolis Jazz Fest in Lviv, Ukraine; Maria Muldaur has a soft spot for New Orleans; plus Simon Moullier, Roxana Amed, and farewells
Chronology: Quincy Jones in the 1950s
Before & After: Jim Keltner
Overdue Ovation: Todd Cochran

Audio Files: Brent Butterworth on the meaning of product specs
Chops: Min Xiao-Fen improvises on the pipa and other traditional Chinese instruments
Gearhead: The story of the sarrusophone
Artist’s Choice: Gregory Porter cooks up some gumbo

Reviews: Lee Morgan, Miles Davis, Roy Brooks, Khan Jamal, Tony Allen, Sound Prints, Judy Wexler, Orrin Evans, and more

Cover image of Mary Lou Williams by William P. Gottlieb/Library of Congress