Wardell Gray

Today is Wardell Gray’s 93rd birthday anniversary. The saxophonist was an iconic figure of modern jazz in the 1940′s, but his death in 1955, most likely from a drug overdose, brought to a sudden end what was already a career in precipitous decline.

Walter Page: Big ‘Un of the Bass

Count Basie begins his autobiography, Good Morning Blues, with the story of how he was pleasantly roused from a sleep-it-off hangover by Walter Page’s Blue Devils playing outside the rooming house where he was staying in Oklahoma City in 1925.

Gillespie & Stitt in Concert

Is there a little tension between Dizzy Gillespie and Sonny Stitt at the beginning of this concert? Does Dizzy tell Stitt to back off during his solo on the opener, “Blues After Dark”?

A Sense of Wonder: Ricky Jay, The Magic Arts and Jazz

As I watched Ricky Jay’s amazing sleight-of-hand in the new documentary Deceptive Practice: The Mysteries and Mentors of Ricky Jay, I thought about Charlie Parker’s reputed ability to roll a cigarette with one hand.  Bird’s dexterity lent itself to the title of one of his tunes and continues to inspire awe in virtually everyone who hears his music.

John Coltrane plays “Alabama” on Jazz Casual

Here’s the John Coltrane Quartet playing “Alabama” on Ralph J. Gleason’s public television series, Jazz Casual. Coltrane composed the elegy in commemoration of the four girls murdered in the fire-bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham on September 15, 1963.

Duke Plays Ellington

Adam Gopnik’s New Yorker review of Terry Teachout’s Duke: A Life of Duke Ellington includes the outlandish charge that Duke “played no better than O.K.