Magazine article IAJRC Journal

Bob Porter on Books

Magazine article IAJRC Journal

Bob Porter on Books

Article excerpt

Murray, Willet, Central Avenue, How Music Got Free, Guy

ime spent in the company of the late Albert Murray was time well spent. An intellectual of great passion, Murray was capable of expounding on a variety of topics, jazz being one of them. During the course of MURRAY TALKS MUSIC (edited by Paul Devlin, University of Minnesota Press, 2016) we get Murray's highly evolved opinions on Count Basie, Duke Ellington and The Blues among other things.

While we don't think of Murray as a great fan of bebop, there is an exceptional interview with Dizzy Gillespie included which gets deep into his cultural roots. It is unlike any interview with Gillespie that I know. Conversations with Wynton Marsalis, Loren Schoenberg and Stanley Crouch yield much in understanding what matters to Murray.

Murray is deep and he will make you think about things you think you know. Take this a bit at a time and forget trying to rush through it. Some nice photos of Ellington, Basie and the MJQ. Recommended.

BLUE RHYTHM FANTASY by John Wriggle (University of Illinois Press, paperback, 2016) is an interesting study of the black arrangers of the swing era centered around the career of Chappie Willet. There is much discussion of how a living was made, what jobs actually paid and who owned what nightclub. Arrangers were hired for record dates but also for stage shows, theater engagements and radio. Willet also wrote for white bands, notably Gene Krupa and Red Norvo. Wriggle is a musicologist and there is a lot of printed music included although not so much that it would detract from the story being told

There is an especially fascinating discussion of Harlem night clubs such as Connie's Inn (later the Club Ubangi), Small's Paradise and The Cotton Club. Manhattan locations such as the Strand Theater, Café Zanzibar and the Kit Kat Club are also included. Along the way you'll encounter Don Redman, Sy Oliver, Eddie Durham and others, mostly in passing. There is a list of copy written works by Willet or his publishing company and an additional four pages of those thought to involve him with attributions noted. For those with an interest in this sort of thing, it is hard to imagine a better job.

I wrote a piece for Jazz Monthly (London) back in 1967 on Sonny Criss. I heard from many people afterward that this was the first look at the black side of the jazz business in Los Angeles ever published. Having known a lot of musicians in LA, I have always kept an interest in the goings on there so I approached SWINGIN' ON CENTRAL AVENUE by Peter Vacher (Rowman & Littlefield, 2015) with considerable enthusiasm.

The work consists of interviews with sixteen black musicians born between 1898 and 1920 who worked in southern California from the 1920s through the 1980s. While all these players were elderly when interviewed each of them seemed to have retained remarkable memories. The stories are fascinating and there is a certain amount of similarity in each tale. Mutt Carey and Kid Ory are leaders who hired many of the older players while Teddy Buckner and Jack Me Vea are two who are mentioned frequently by some of the younger ones. In all cases, we are referring to swing musicians.

Most interesting to me are interviews with Billy Hadnott, Jesse Sailes and John "Streamline" Ewing because they worked in a variety of settings under diverse leadership. …

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