Sidney Bechet

The Creator of

We’ve long recognized the leading role jazz played in breaking down racial barriers in the U.S., but credit Sidney Bechet for effecting a rapprochement between the English poet Philip Larkin and the people of France. Bechet made his home in Paris and Juan Les Pins for the last decade of his life, and…

Duke Ellington Welcomes Don Byas and Archie Shepp

A Solo Apiece with Duke in Paris

When I visited the University of Massachusetts in 1975 to look into returning to college, one of the first faculty members I met with was Archie Shepp.  I’d been astonished when my cousin Tara told me earlier that year that Shepp and Max Roach were…

Aurora Nealand and Tom McDermott

A Debut Release From a Seasoned Duo

Aurora Nealand and Tom McDermott are a New Orleans phenomenon who play Buffa’s on Esplanade Avenue every Thursday. They usually begin their opening set improvising over the Buster Keaton silent film masterpiece, “One Week.” Whenever I’m asked to advise on a NOLA itinerary for travelers…

Ella Fitzgerald

The First Lady of Song, April in Paris, and Wild Bill Davis

April is book-ended, give or take a few days, by the birthdays of Billie Holiday and Ella Fitzgerald; Billie on April 7, 1915, Ella on […]

From Frazier to Angell to Newton to Hobsbawm

How the Idle Mention of a Word in The New Yorker Resounds to a Few Links in the Jazz Chain

I wrote about George Frazier last summer for the NEPR jazz blog. Roger Angell offered this sweet recollection of his friendship with Frazier on The […]

Charles Mingus in Greenwich Village

Thomas Reichman made this fascinating cinema vérité documentary on Charles Mingus in 1966.  It was filmed during a particularly unsettled period in Mingus’s life and documents his eviction from the Lower East Side loft at 22 Great Jones Street where he had intended to open a music school.

Bravo for the Paul Butterfield Blues Band

Peter Wolf Inducts PBBB into the Rock'n'Roll Hall of Fame

The Paul Butterfield Blues Band is being inducted into the Rock’n’Roll Hall of Fame tonight in Cleveland. The Hall is 30 years old, which makes […]

Nat Hentoff

A Documentary on the Jazz Advocate and Candid Records Producer

I asked the 57-year-old spouse of an in-law who was visiting over Easter weekend if Nat Hentoff’s name rang a bell? “Sure,” she replied, “I learned about jazz reading his liner notes.”  I could have answered the same if asked that question at any time in the past 45 years.

Billie Holiday

Lady Day's Centennial

Today is Billie Holiday’s 100th birthday anniversary. Billie was born Eleanora Fagan on April 7, 1915, in Philadelphia. She died at Metropolitan Hospital in New York on July 17, 1959, chained to a hospital bed under police guard charged with possession of heroin.

Duke Jordan

The piano favorite of Bird and Max

With all due respect to the great records he made as a leader, whenever Duke Jordan comes to mind, I think first of the intro he played on Charlie Parker’s “Embraceable You.” The Gershwin standard was all but reinvented by…