Deep Dive

Jonathan Chimene

To state the obvious, this was a year like no other.

Dr. Lewis Porter
Bill May for WBGO News

Jazz historian, pianist and retired Rutgers-Newark Professor of Music Dr. Lewis Porter plans to spend more time on his own music these days.

JB/Jim Marshall Photography LLC

A Deep Dive into an immortal song, recorded 57 years ago.

Jack Vartoogian / Getty Images

Candido Camero, a virtuoso percussionist who had a major hand — or more precisely, two of them — in the development of Afro-Cuban music, died today at his home in New York City.  He was 99.

Bob Thiele

We’ve covered a lot of ground in the previous two installments of our look into A Love Supreme.

In fact, I thought we’d only need two, but whenever I take a Deep Dive, I always come up with “pearls” I hadn’t anticipated. So here I am with further observations that are mostly not in my book John Coltrane: His Life and Music.

Courtesy of the artist

In my previous installment of Deep Dive, I discussed my personal history with A Love Supreme, and examined John Coltrane’s own planning notes for the suite. I should add, in response to some questions, that I had heard the piece many times before that day in 1978 when I suddenly understood the last movement and decided to write about it.

Chuck Stewart / Courtesy of the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History

My book John Coltrane: His Life and Music begins with A Love Supreme. One day in 1978, I “heard” Coltrane reciting the poem in Part IV, “Psalm,” and it blew my mind. That was the day that I decided I had to write about Coltrane. 

Jazz on a Summer’s Day opened in New York in March of 1960.

CBS Photo Archive/Getty Images

For some 60 years, beginning in the early 1950s, pianist-composer Dave Brubeck was one of the most famous jazz musicians alive.

Adam Ritchie / Redferns/Getty

Saxophonist John Coltrane was born on Sept. 23, 1926. On what would have been his 93rd birthday, scholar and historian David Tegnell offers this guest installment of Deep Dive with Lewis Porter.

Deep Dive: Putting Louis Armstrong in Context

May 3, 2019
Hoagy Carmichael Collection

As 'Bolden' opens in theaters, Dr. Lewis Porter peels back the mythology around Louis Armstrong, a central character in the film.

William P. Gottlieb / Library of Congress

We thank our readers for following Deep Dive with Lewis Porter.

Sometimes new information comes to light after I’ve posted, and at other times I simply think of something I’ve left out. So periodically I’ll collect these stray findings in an update, this being the first.

MCA/The Raymond Scott Archives

People all over the world can hum his tunes, yet relatively few have ever heard his name.

He was championed for creating a new sound in jazz, but never made it into jazz history books. His music was harmonically daring, but found its greatest audience through popular cartoons. A swing-era celebrity, he also stood at the vanguard of electronic music. These are among the dichotomies in the musical legacy of composer, bandleader, pianist, engineer and inventor Raymond Scott.

Juan Tizol Collection, courtesy of Steven Lasker

Duke Ellington was among the preeminent American composers of the 20th century, and the most exhaustively studied of all jazz artists. There are more books and articles about him than any other jazz musician, and collectors have pored over his vast discography — not just a prolific half-century studio output but also hundreds of hours of radio broadcasts, audience tapes, and film and television appearances.

Jim Marshall / Jim Marshall Photography LLC

You’ve surely seen reports about the newly discovered studio session by the John Coltrane Quartet, recorded on March 6, 1963.

Bruno Bernard

George Shearing became identified, even in the headlines of some of his 2011 obituaries, as the composer of “Lullaby of Birdland.”

Like many a trademark hit, this could be a mixed blessing. In his autobiography, Lullaby in Rhythm, Shearing struck a perfect chord of ambivalence: “I've played it so many times that it is possible to get quite tired of doing so — although I never tire of being able to pay the rent from it!”

Dave Dexter, Jr. Collection, LaBudde Special Collections, Miller Nichols Library, UMKC

When most people think of Walter Page, they think of a steady, driving rhythm. Yes, absolutely — but there was a lot more to his art.

FPG/Archive Photos/Getty Images

Gene Krupa has to be one of the most misunderstood musicians in jazz history.

In his time, he was a drummer whose energetic charisma propelled him into a rare level of celebrity. A marquee star from the 1930s on, he appeared not only onstage but also in Hollywood films. In 1959 he was even the subject of a major biopic, The Gene Krupa Story, starring Sal Mineo. As an emotional psychodrama with drumming at the center, it’s an obvious precursor to Whiplash, the 2014 Damien Chazelle film.

Sub Press /

When it comes to the origin of the word “jazz,” it seems that each person simply believes what she or he wants to.

Jim Marshall / Jim Marshall Photography LLC

Thelonious Monk and Dizzy Gillespie were both born a century ago, in 1917. In their honor, here’s a heap of information about “‘Round Midnight,” a bedrock jazz standard whose evolution reflects their mutual regard.

Chuck Stewart / Courtesy of the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History

The previous installment of Deep Dive with Lewis Porter concerned the sources that John Coltrane used to create one of his most famous works, “Impressions.” Here is a two-part coda: a final reflection on the bridge of that piece, and another on Coltrane’s composition “Big Nick.”

John Coltrane

John Coltrane, the revered saxophonist and composer, would be turning 91 this week. This year also marks the 50th anniversary of his death, at the age of 40.

Had he lived, he might have been astonished to witness how the power and impact of his musical legacy continues to grow. This year, a documentary film by John Scheinfeld, Chasing Trane, has been screening worldwide to considerable acclaim. (Full disclosure: I appear in the film several times.) And just this month, a beautiful mural of Coltrane was unveiled in North Philadelphia, near his childhood home.

Bill May

Dr. Lewis Porter has been busy since penning the biography John Coltrane:  His Life and Music.  Porter, an author, musician, and educator is bringing his extensive knowledge and insight to a new project. 

“What I have are a number of short lessons about individual jazz performers, certain jazz techniques, the origins of be-bop is one of them.”

The first “Deep Dive with Lewis Porter” takes a look at pianist Art Tatum.

Columbia Pictures/Handout/Getty Images

Few figures in jazz loom as large as Art Tatum. Plug his name into any search engine and you’ll find page after page calling him “one of the greatest jazz pianists of all time,” or “one of the greatest technical virtuosos in jazz,” or something to that effect.