1950s

Dr. Billy Taylor's Online Video Archive

Dr. Billy Taylor, at 86, is still a great broadcaster. The good doctor has been spreading the jazz message on multiple broadcast platforms for more than half a century. In the 1950s, he was one of the first jazz musicians to have a daily radio program. He also hosted a weekly television show, The Subject is Jazz. He was the jazz correspondent on CBS Sunday Morning. He hosted two NPR programs, Jazz Alive and Jazz at the Kennedy Center. He founded Jazzmobile. And he's had a web presence for the last seven years. Dr. Billy Taylor's website now includes many classic videos culled from an extraordinary life in jazz. Here's one of the many gems you'll discover - a performance with Billy Taylor, Duke Ellington and Willie "The Lion" Smith:

 

While you're here, dig this interview with Dr. Taylor and WBGO's Gary Walker.
-Josh

Thumbs Up for Wes Montgomery

Happy birthday today to Wes Montgomery. Any guitarist worth his or her salt has at least ONE album from Wes Montgomery, the master non-plectrist. No, I didn't invent that word, plectrist. It's actually derived from plectrum, which is what guitar nerds and speakers of dead languages call a pick. [Incidentally, another great guitarist, Billy Bauer, made a record in the 1950s called Plectrist. But I'm getting even more off topic here.]
Wes Montgomery, however, was a non-plectrist. He didn't use an external tool to pick the strings. He used his thumb. That's what makes Wes Montgomery's sound so identifiable - warm, casual, and about as 'natural' as an amplified electric instrument can sound without using algorithms or superhero powers.
Check out this video of Wes playing Thelonious Monk's "Round Midnight." About two minutes in, you'll see the closeup on his hand. Not plectacular, but spectacular. - Josh

 

PS - Anyone have a favorite Wes Montgomery album, song, or solo?

Barrett Deems

Today is the birthday of drummer Barrett Deems, called "The World's Fastest Drummer" by his contemporaries Buddy Rich and Gene Krupa. I can't say that I would call Barrett Deems a jazz giant, but I always found him entertaining. Have you ever seen High Society with Grace Kelly, Bing Crosby, Frank Sinatra, and Louis Armstrong? If you answered yes, then you've seen Barrett Deems. He played drums for Louis Armstrong's All-Stars during the 1950s, and his hyperkinetic drumming was an excellent foil to the super-cool swing of Pops.
Here's "The World's Fastest Drummer" playing the drums, the stage, and a chair.