• Dan Morgenstern's Career: An Eyewitness to Jazz

    April 27, 2012. Posted by Simon Rentner.

    Nobody doubts Dan Morgenstern’s storied life. His 8 Grammy awards, NEA Jazz Master honors, and other laurels back up this fact. But when we see him at WBGO – every time he co-hosts Jazz from The Archives – we witness his character. All of the awards and compliments in the world could never turn him into a blowhard. His friends and close peers all know about his sensitivity in his writings and compassion for his subjects, and they also rely on his insight and analysis.

    Dan Morgenstern
    Dan Morgenstern

    That lightness of being is reflected in WBGO’s recording studio, the way he smiles, bobs his head, and dances to the music he plays on the radio.  His enthusiasm for jazz is “Olympic” in its brightness and scope.  His work ethic -- unyielding.  The torch within just keeps burning, and he passes all of that fire and knowledge to the next person so effortlessly.

    As Morgenstern prepared to step down from his longtime role as director of the Instutitute of Jazz Studies at Rutgers University-Newark's Dana Library, he sat down with me in our studios for an extended conversation. We talked about his childhood, growing up Jewish during World War II.  He hesitatingly talks about when he was saved by the Danish how that experience shaped him.

    He also talked about his early musical encounters, one with composer Albam Berg, who befriended Morgenstern’s father.  And, he shared the epiphanous moment that changed his life, the moment he saw Fats Waller.  He also spoke candidly about being the editor of Down Beat Magazine in the 1960s, when America was being torn apart by civil rights unrest, and how he, as “Mr. Whitey” – was perceived by some as a symbol of America’s institutional racism.

    His story, as rich as it is layered, is well worth telling and hearing. And it may be fully told one day.   Now that he’s stepped down from the IJS, he told me, he may find time to write that autobiography.

    In the meantime, Dan, thanks for sharing your thoughts with us, so we can share them with our listeners here. We featured a segment of our conversation on Friday's WBGO Journal, and are happy to share our conversation in its entirety with you now. Enjoy! – Simon Rentner

  • Author Tad Hershorn on New Norman Granz Biography

    April 12, 2012. Posted by Tim Wilkins.

    Add new comment | Filed under: Interviews, RIP

    Author Tad Hershorn talks with Gary Walker about his new book, Norman Granz: The Man Who Used Jazz For Justice (University of California, 2011), and Granz's legacy in music and civil rights.


    Granz, who died in 2001, was the founder of Clef, Verve and Pablo Records, and the organizer of the Jazz at the Philharmonic concert tours and albums. A staunch supporter of racial equality, Granz made sure that his artists were well-paid and well-treated when they traveled and worked with him.

    Hershorn  interviewed Granz and his close associates extensively over a decade while he was writing the book. Hershorn, an archivist at Rutgers University-Newark's Institute for Jazz Studies, has  organized an exhibit of Granz memorabilia which will be on display until April 25 at the Institute.


  • WBGO's Gary Walker Remembers Phoebe Jacobs

    April 9, 2012. Posted by Tim Wilkins.

    Add new comment | Filed under: Interviews, RIP

    In recent years someone gave Phoebe Jacobs one of those hi tech mini recording devices and said “Phoebe, just speak your stories. We’ll make the book”. She responded a short time later, “I can’t get this damn thing to work”.

    As a result, we’ll not read the book about a lady we lost this week at 93; a lady who hat checked as a young girl in her uncle’s jazz joint on 52nd Street while Billie Holiday sang or Artie Shaw played. She worked with Norman Granz, Duke Ellington, Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong. It was Phoebe who was instrumental in carrying on Armstrong’s legacy in her role as vice-president of The Louis Armstrong Educational foundation.

    Although there was no book, on occasion Phoebe Jacobs would sit still long enough to share some of her wonderful life. Below is a chat I had with Phoebe a few weeks before The 2007 JVC Festival would present a musical tribute “Phoebe Jacobs, A Life Well-Lived: A Work Still In Progress." -  Gary Walker