April 21, 2008. Posted by Joshua Jackson.
A Billy Strayhorn melody is so very nice to hear on solo piano. A Billy Strayhorn medley is even better when there are two pianos. In 1983, at the Jazz Forum in New York, the lyrical master John Hicks and the underrated Albert Dailey put Strayhorn's music on display for more than twenty-three minutes. 'Star-Crossed Lovers' (aka "Pretty Girl") and 'Chelsea Bridge' were songs that I always believed Strayhorn had tailor-made for their respective soloists, Johnny Hodges and Ben Webster. However, these are such tremendous songs, all they require are the hands of any master musician. On this particular evening in September, they received four master hands, and 176 piano keys.
Listen to the Billy Strayhorn medley, from the WBGO Archives.
© 2008 WBGO
January 16, 2008. Posted by Joshua Jackson.
If I had a time machine (preferably a DeLorean with a Flux Capacitor requiring 1.21 jigowatts of juice), one place I would go to is Carnegie Hall. Specifically on the evening of January 16, 1938. That's because seventy years ago today, jazz giants roamed the stage at Carnegie, and jazz was finally getting some respect from the concert hall scene.What an extraordinary night in many ways. There are a million stories about this show, and historians have cleared most of the myth from the reality. That's important work, but at the end of the day, I just like the music. I've listened to this stuff over and over. When modern listeners' conceit gets in the way of hearing an "old sounding" recording like this, those folks are simply missing the point. It's the music.And the music is amazing. Benny Goodman with his trio (pianist Teddy Wilson, drummer Gene Krupa), his quartet (add Lionel Hampton), and his orchestra with Jess Stacy, Harry James, Ziggy Elman etc. With Fletcher Henderson and Jimmy Mundy arrangements. You can't go wrong with this. It's enough.
But it wasn't enough. Ellington sidemen Johnny Hodges and Harry Carney sat in. Not to forget Cootie Williams' muted trumpet on "Blue Reverie." That's my reverie. Plus, a jam session on "Honeysuckle Rose" that's crazy long, with Count Basie and most of his men. No Papa Jo on the drums, but Krupa turns the volume down a bit. Hell, even rhythm guitarist Freddie Green takes a two chorus "solo" of strumming the strings...
If I had my way, I'd post the whole show online, RIAA be damned. People need to hear it. If you haven't heard it, what exactly are you waiting for?
As for me, I'm waiting for lightning to strike the clock tower. It's 10:04 on November 12th, 1955. I'm in my DeLorean. Trying to get back home.
© 2008 WBGO