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Archive for Night Lights Classic Jazz

December 31, 2007

Favorite Reissues and Historical Releases of 2007

Take with the usual grain/caveat of subjectivity-that said, here are some titles from a year-for-the-ear in review...

December 31, 2007


When Mood Jazz Was Cool: Moodsville 2

On this edition of Night Lights it's "Moodsville 2," a followup to the Moodsville 1 program about the Prestige Records early-1960s series that was a sort of "jazz-ballads-for-thinking-lovers" concept.

December 29, 2007


Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers: Class of '57

Drummer Art Blakey led the Jazz Messengers, one of jazz history's most noted and longest-running collectives, for four decades. The lesser-known 1957 edition included saxophonist Jackie McLean and trumpeter Bill Hardman, whose chemistry one writer described as "beautiful, tart...their brash, peppery tones created a distinctive front-line sound."

December 28, 2007

Paul Robeson, "Ol' Man River," And "Jazz Impressions of Showboat"

On December 27, 1927, the Jerome Kern-Oscar Hammerstein musical Show Boat made its Broadway debut at the Ziegfield Theater. Show Boat, based on Edna Ferber’s novel, was one of the first musicals that wasn’t just a loose revue of unrelated songs; the songs in Show Boat actually helped establish characters and storylines.

December 27, 2007

Oscar Peterson: More Remembrances and Reactions, Plus More News From Mosaic

As expected, many more Oscar Peterson articles and tributes have appeared in the past two days. Here are a few of them:Lots of love and spirited dissension in this Organissimo discussion...

December 24, 2007

Goodbye, O.P.: Oscar Peterson, 1925-2007

Canadian pianist Oscar Peterson has passed away at the age of 82. He was, as Doug Ramsey observes, "one of the great piano figures of his time... an inspiration to virtually every jazz pianist who followed him, his influence equaled only by his slightly younger contemporary Bill Evans."

December 23, 2007

Music for the Holidays: Nat King Cole

Season's greetings from Night Lights via holiday ambassador Mr. Cole:

December 22, 2007


Ask Me Now: Takes on Jazz and Literature

Ever since Louis Armstrong's trumpet sound became a symbol of musical revolution and Bix Beiderbecke died tragically young in a New York City apartment, writers have been responding to jazz and the musicians who make it.

December 17, 2007

The Night Before Christmas: Holiday Jazz

Our annual invocation of holiday jazz this year calls upon the talents of Fats Navarro (”A Bebop Carol”), hipster vocalist Babs Gonzales, tenor saxophonist Gene Ammons, trumpeter Donald Byrd, guitarist Joe Pass, and many other propagators of classic jazz, blowing joyous tidings unto you all. Happy holidays from all of us at Night Lights and WFIU–may you find many great books, movies, CDs, and other “items of interest” under your holiday tree.

December 16, 2007

Who's the Bill Evans Cover Girl?

One of the albums featured in this week's show, After the Vanguard: the Return of Bill Evans, is the 1962 Riverside LP Moonbeams. Can you name the model who posed for the cover? (Hint: she went on to greater fame in the mid-1960s with a certain artistic entrepreneur. And no fair Googling.)

December 15, 2007

Jazz Quotes: Bill Evans

"Jazz is not a what, it is a how. If it were a what, it would be static, never growing. The how is that the music comes from the moment, it is spontaneous, it exists at the time it is created. And anyone who makes music according to this method conveys to me an element that makes his music jazz."-Bill Evans

December 14, 2007

Frank Morgan RIP

Word from the Jazz Programmer Listserv that alto saxophonist Frank Morgan has passed away:his 74th, birthday, December 23....

December 10, 2007

Jazz for the Holidays: Shorty Rogers and "Greensleeves"

From the "DVDs-we're-sorry-we-missed" dpt.: a clip from trumpeter Shorty Rogers' appearance on the too-hip-to-last early-1960s TV show, Jazz Scene USA. Quite likely inspired by John Coltrane's recording of the song the year before for his album Africa/Brass.

December 8, 2007


Donald Byrd: The Hardbop Years

In 1956, 25-year-old trumpet great Clifford Brown died unexpectedly in an automobile accident. Some critics and fans looked to a recent Manhattan arrival from Detroit as a possible successor: Donald Byrd.

December 7, 2007

Blue Note Reissues for 2008

Despite online speculation about what grim things EMI might have in mind for the Blue Note jazz program, it appears there will be another round of RVG and Connoisseur reissues, as reported at the Organissimo board:Ike Quebec – Blue And Sentimental...

December 7, 2007

Ornette Coleman in Rolling Stone

First a Pulitzer, then a Grammy and a presentation on the Grammy TV show (somewhat akin to seeing a holy man appear in the temple of Babylon), now a feature in Rolling the age of 77, Ornette Coleman has finally received the...

December 3, 2007

Benny Goodman Mosaic Coming Out Late Spring '08

Scott Wenzel at Mosaic Records says that the long-rumored Benny Goodman Mosaic set will be out in time for Father's Day 2008. It will consist of the big-band instrumental sides that Benny recorded for Columbia between 1939 and 1958, amounting to 7 CDs.

December 1, 2007

Later Ellis: Don Ellis' Score for "The French Connection"

Previously on Night Lights: Don Ellis and The French Connection. It offers more than a taste of later, larger-ensemble Ellis, heard at the dawn of the 1970s...

November 28, 2007

Cecil Payne RIP

There are several confirmed reports from yesterday evening and this morning that baritone saxophonist Cecil Payne, an unsung hero of the bebop era, has passed away:

November 25, 2007

Early Ellis: Don Ellis At The Dawn Of The 1960s

Trumpeter Don Ellis is best-known today for the big bands he led during the late 1960s and early 1970s and their use of odd time signatures, but he made his first impact on the jazz world at the beginning of the 1960s, leading several progressive small-group dates that drew both praise and criticism from the jazz media.

November 25, 2007

Sunday Noir: The Big Steal

Robert Mitchum, Jane Greer, and screwball noir in late-1940s Mexico.

November 23, 2007

Roscoe Mitchell in print, Dick Twardzik on the air

Brief notes for the holiday weekend:*Copacetic Night Lights friend Bill Kirchner is taking his monthly turn on WBGO's Jazz From the Archives this Sunday evening with a program on pianist Dick Twardzik...

November 21, 2007

Louis Armstrong: the Wonderful World That Almost Wasn't

Annals of broken-limbs-and-books dpt.: recently I broke my right arm in a bike accident. The only good thing that ensued from said accident was a chance to spend several days catching up on my reading (kids, don't try this at home), and one of the books I got around to was Ashley Kahn's story of Impulse Records, The House That Trane Built. Kahn, who's previously written books on the making of Miles Davis' Kind of Blue and John Coltrane's A Love Supreme, focuses as much on Creed Taylor and Bob Thiele, the producers who successively oversaw the rise of Impulse, as he does on the musicians such as Coltrane, Charles Mingus, Archie Shepp...

November 19, 2007


Dick and Kiz Harp: Down at the 90th Floor

Dick and Kiz Harp were a husband-and-wife, piano-and-vocals duo who ran their own nightclub (converted from a warehouse and called "The 90th Floor," after a lesser-known Cole Porter song they performed) in Dallas, Texas at the end of the 1950s. They've developed a cult following among jazz-vocal aficionados ...

November 17, 2007

Advertisements for Norman Mailer On the Way Out

Reading Norman Mailer while at sea-literally and existentially.

November 17, 2007

Archival Suggestions: Jazz Goes to the Cold War and Jivin' With the DJs

This week on Night Lights it's "Jazz Goes to the Cold War," a program about the U.S. State Department's sponsorship of international jazz tours during the 1950s and 1960s. In 1956, as both the Cold War and the civil-rights movement heated up, the American government asked Dizzy Gillespie to assemble a new big band to promote the image of American freedom around the globe. Gillespie obliged, although he made it clear...

November 9, 2007

Music Is My Life, Politics My Mistress

A couple of years ago I did a Night Lights show about Oscar Brown Jr., a singer and songwriter I'd long admired for his compositional skills, his vocal verve, and his cultural and political activism.

November 6, 2007

NPR launches new jazz multimedia site

NPR has launched a new multimedia jazz and blues page as part of a larger new musical site. The site offers content produced by NPR and a number of contributing stations, including interviews, reviews, blogs, and streaming music. A first glance reveals...

November 4, 2007

Quincy Jones and Lionel Hampton Mosaic sets up for pre-order

Just in time for Christmas: Mosaic Records has discographical information and audio clips up for their forthcoming Quincy Jones and Lionel Hampton sets, out later this month. The Hampton includes the vibraphonist's remarkable late-1930s small-group dates...

November 2, 2007

Night Lights: a live broadcast this weekend! Miles Davis, J.J. Johnson, Art Blakey, and how you can support the program.

This week on Night Lights I'll be playing jazz from a new Miles Davis concert release-MONTEREY '63, featuring the then-new rhythm section of Herbie Hancock, Ron Carter, and Tony Williams...along with Mosaic Records reissues of classic hardbop J.J. Johnson/Kai Winding and Art Blakey albums... the never-before-released Ella Fitzgerald LOVE LETTERS, featuring the singer in small-group settings, with big bands, and with the London Symphony Orchestra...and much, much more. And I'll be broadcasting live, because this is the beginning of...

October 31, 2007

From the Archives: Jazz for Halloween

Beware... Strange Enchantment: Jazz for Halloween, replete with the story of the jazz-loving New Orleans Axeman, from the Night Lights archives. Me, I'll be spinning lots of jazz CDs this evening to ward off any axe-wielding apparitions while I put...

October 30, 2007

Jazz Quotes: Lee Konitz

That's my way of preparation-to not be prepared. And that takes a lot of preparation!-alto saxophonist Lee Konitz, from the new book Lee Konitz: Conversations on the Improviser's Art. You can read an online excerpt here.

October 29, 2007


Charles Tolliver On Strata East In The Early 1970s

In the early 1970s, as recording opportunities for more adventurous hard-bop musicians dried up, trumpeter Charles Tolliver and pianist Stanley Cowell started their own label, Strata East, partly in order to document the activities of their quartet Music Inc. The aesthetic results were in some ways an extension of the music Tolliver had made in the 1960s with artists such as Jackie McLean, Max Roach, and Andrew Hill...

October 27, 2007

Ran Blake's Halloween film and jazz performance...and Harry James, the MGM Years

From piano-noir master Ran Blake, just in time for Halloween-New England-area readers and listeners, take note: Ran's fall student performance focuses on one of his favorite films, the psychological murder mystery Spiral Staircase. Fittingly, the show falls on Halloween...

October 26, 2007

The Riddle of Raintree County: How a Young Indiana Author Gave His Life for the Great American Novel

For Raintree County is not the country of the perishable fact. It is the country of the enduring fiction. The clock in the Court House Tower on page five of the Raintree County Atlas is always fixed at nine o'clock, and it is summer and the days are long. -Ross Lockridge Jr.

October 24, 2007


Before Colbert, There Was Dizzy: Gillespie's 1964 Run for the Presidency

Trumpeting his stand on the issues: Gillespie's run was both a jest and a bid to highlight civil rights.

October 22, 2007


Second Magic City: Sun Ra In Chicago

The story of Sun Ra's Chicago years, when he formed his Arkestra, forged his new identity, and wrote some of his most compelling music.

October 19, 2007

David Baker: Quincy Jones Mosaic out soon

One of the great things about working at WFIU is having David Baker stop by occasionally for appearances on Joe Bourne's weekday afternoon program "Just You and Me". As busy as he is, he's always been incredibly generous with his time, and I'm always grateful for any chance to speak with him. He's full of stories, insights, and good will; a few minutes in his presence and you'll understand why he's been such a successful jazz educator.David came in today to chat about the inauguration concert for Indiana University president Michael McRobbie that he'll be conducting Sunday night...

October 17, 2007

Phil Ford on the Jack Kerouac and John Clellon Holmes jazz acetates

Indiana University Jacobs School of Music professor Phil Ford, heard recently on our Night Lights program Jazz and Jack Kerouac, will be giving a talk this Friday (Oct. 19) on private acetate recordings that Kerouac, John Clellon Holmes, and Allen Ginsberg made in the late 1940s and early 1950s. I've had occasion to hear a brief bit of one of the acetates, which featured Keroauc, Holmes, and Seymour Wise doing scat/bop vocalese accompaniment...

October 16, 2007

Jazz around the Internet...and George Avakian speaks with Night Lights

Notes and tones from around the web:On the heels of his fantastic Hal McKusick series, Marc Myers follows up with a profile of David Amram...

October 12, 2007

Muhal Richard Abrams: music and interview before Night Lights at Blue news of Nessa Records reissues

Michigan's Blue Lake Public Radio carries Night Lights every Sunday evening at 10 p.m. EST. This Sunday, October 13, Blue Lake jazz DJ Lazaro Vega will be offering up a three-hour special on pianist Muhal Richard Abrams from 7-10 p.m, preceding the Night Lights Portrait of Max...

October 11, 2007

A listener Writes Re: Jack Wilson

Listener David Berk writes :I first started listening to him at a small bar on La Brea off Crenshaw in L.A. in the mid to late 60s. A brilliant composer/arranger, Jack toiled in relative obscurity despite several marvlous dates for Blue Note that included Lee Morgan, etc.

October 9, 2007

Jack Wilson RIP, Sonny Rollins at Carnegie reviewed, a Hal McKusick interview, and new jazz books

Word has come via Mosaic Records that pianist Jack Wilson has passed away. Wilson's best-known albums were two 1960s Blue Note dates, Easterly Winds (featuring the hardbop dynamic duo of Jackie McLean and Lee Morgan and Something Personal. He's also present and accounted for on several...

October 8, 2007

Max Roach

Portrait Of Max: Max Roach, 1924-2007

Max Roach was a revolutionary bebop drummer, a leader of the classic Clifford Brown-Sonny Rollins hardbop quintet, a social activist, jazz educator and intellectual, a forerunner of Do-It-Yourself recording, and an explorer of the avant-garde...among other things. Max Roach contained multitudes, and his death in August of 2007 reverberated across the jazz world as if it were a long solo being played on a cosmic drumset. This program, an audio snapshot of his career on record, features his work with pianists Herbie Nichols and Bud Powell, his hardbop configurations with Clifford Brown and Sonny Rollins...

October 6, 2007


Side Monk: Thelonious Monk As Sideman

What happened when this powerful musical personality performed on other artists' dates?

October 6, 2007

Regional jazz sites

Following up on recent posts about the rise and fall of the Indiana Avenue jazz scene in Indianapolis, I've started a new category on the links page for websites devoted to significant jazz cities or regions and their histories...

October 5, 2007

Still Waiting On the Corner, Or, We Want Miles V. 4

It just wouldn't be a Sony/Legacy Miles Davis box-set without some strange, inexplicable delay. In the meantime, the Village Voice has a review up, based on an advance copy (reportedly slightly different than what's going to come out now).

October 3, 2007

Pianist George Cables Recuperating

There's a report from a reputable jazz-world source that pianist George Cables is recuperating from a liver and kidney transplant. He'll certainly be in my thoughts. Cables, who's always caught my ear on sideman dates with Dexter Gordon, Art Pepper, Woody...

October 2, 2007

Indiana Avenue: From Glory to Decline

(This is a continuation of a previous post, Along the Avenue: the Legacy of Indianapolis Jazz.) Indianapolis in those days was sharing in the euphoric glow of the post-World War II economy. Lockefield Gardens, the expansive and beautiful housing complex built during the Depression to provide...

September 29, 2007


East Meets West: Ahmed Abdul-Malik And World Jazz

Bassist Ahmed Abdul-Malik played with pianists Randy Weston and Thelonious Monk in the 1950s before going on to make a handful of dates that helped forge a path for the fusion of jazz with world music.

September 28, 2007

Duke Ellington: The Treasury Shows, August 1945

In August of 1945 the United States' war with Japan ended suddenly, and the war bonds that Ellington promoted every Saturday turned into "Victory Bonds."

September 27, 2007

Duke Ellington: The Treasury Shows, July 1945

This edition of our ongoing Duke Ellington Treasury series features mid-summer performances from an Ellington appearance at the Apollo Theater in Harlem.

September 26, 2007

Duke Ellington: The Treasury Shows June 1945

Duke Ellington was on the road during the summer of 1945 and some of this program's selections come from an Evansville, Indiana concert.

September 26, 2007

Miles Davis and the Mysterious Case of "So What"

The remarkable Marc Myers on whether or not the Prince of Darkness was...

September 25, 2007

Duke Ellington: The Treasury Shows, May 1945

The "May 1945" edition finds World War II ending in Europe, something we hear Duke Ellington acknowledge several times throughout this program...

September 24, 2007

Unsung Heroes: 20th-Century High School Jazz Teachers

A Los Angeles City Beat article sings the praises of Jefferson High, the school that gave us alto saxophonist Marshall and trumpeter Ernie Royal, drummer Chico Hamilton, saxophonist Jackie Kelso, drummer Bill Douglass, tenor saxophonist Dexter Gordon, trumpeter Lamar Wright, singer Ernie Andrews, violinist Ginger Smock, alto saxophonist Sonny Criss...

September 24, 2007

Louis Armstrong and Little Rock, Midi-on-Tatum, and more in the Monday round-up

The day Louis Armstrong told the U.S. government to go to a very choice place: David Margolick's article in the New York Times yesterday provides some historical elaboration. (Margolick is the author of Strange Fruit: the Biography of a Song.) There's also an online NPR story, Remembering Louis Armstrong's Little Rock Protest. For more about Armstrong and how the politics of the era mixed with jazz, check out our previous program Jazz Goes to the Cold War.

September 24, 2007

Duke Ellington: The Treasury Shows, April 1945

As World War II finally began to draw to a close, Duke Ellington began his series "Your Saturday Date With the Duke."

September 21, 2007

Isn't It Ironic? The Bad Plus and the Jazz Canon

The Bad Plus, who are performing at Indianapolis' Jazz Kitchen Saturday night, have posted a collective statement in response to some of the reviews they got during their recent swing through the UK. Said reviews often hit upon the Plus' choice of songbook (Black Sabbath's "Iron Man," Blondie's "Heart of Glass," Nirvana's "All Apologies," etc.) as tired irony, a joke being run into the ground, etc. BP's sincere and spirited defense is...

September 18, 2007

Along the Avenue: the Legacy of Indianapolis Jazz

Street of dreams: Indiana Avenue was a world unto itself that sent out artists such as J.J. Johnson and Freddie Hubbard to the wider world.

September 17, 2007

Tenor Madness: Sonny Rollins, John Coltrane and More

Ignore the terrrible headline (boy, that's dignity for ya, after playing certain parts of your southern anatomy off for the past 60 years): Sonny Rollins is back in trio form tomorrow night at Carnegie Hall. The performance will be coupled on CD with Rollins' debut at Carnegie 50 years ago for a Voice of America concert. In the meantime, a previously...

September 15, 2007


The Connection: The Living Theater And Hardbop Jazz

The Connection was a groundbreaking 1959 off-Broadway play from New York City's Living Theater group, written by Jack Gelber, that cast jazz musicians as heroin addicts waiting for a score. Artists that passed through the play included pianist Freddie Redd, alto saxophonist Jackie McLean, tenor saxophonist Tina Brooks, and pianist Cecil Taylor.

September 14, 2007

Night Lights Archive Connection: Jazz From Rehab

This weekend's upcoming program, The Connection, takes a look at the music and movie version of Jack Gelber's award-winning play about heroin addicts, a number of whom are jazz musicians. As a companion Night Lights program from our archives, check out Resolution: Jazz From Rehab, which features two early-1960s albums made by jazz musicians either in recovery or emphasizing...

September 11, 2007

Joe Zawinul and Ben Webster's "Soulmates"

Reaction to the death of keyboardist and composer Joe Zawinul will undoubtedly be pouring in today from around the jazz blogosphere for the man who wrote "Mercy, Mercy, Mercy," "In a Silent Way," and "Birdland." Zawinul's European and conservatory background, his key role in the great Cannonball Adderley soul-jazz groups of the 1960s, his time with Miles Davis, and, of course, his legacy as co-architect of Weather Report make him an important figure in post-1960 jazz-especially in the realm of electric piano, a still oft-disparaged instrument.Zawinul had been enjoying a resurgence of attention in the past year, what with...

September 11, 2007

Joe Zawinul RIP

The AP and Reuters are reporting that keyboardist, composer, and Weather Report co-founder Joe Zawinul has passed away:

September 11, 2007

Sonny Berman Archived and Other Updates

The Incomplete Sonny Berman, last weekend's show about Woody Herman's young trumpet star from the First Herd, is now available for online listening, along with many more previous programs in the Night Lights archives.

September 10, 2007

Billie Holiday Revisited

I listen to a lot of Billie Holiday. This, given the fact that she's ubiquitous (as a friend once said a few years ago, explaining why he liked her but rarely sought out her recordings, "She's kind of like the Beatles"), part of the coffee-chain soundtrack for the 21st century (not sayin' that that's necessarily a bad thing either).

September 8, 2007

Sonny Rollins Broadcast with Clifford Brown and Max Roach

In honor of tenor saxophonist Sonny Rollins' 77th birthday-and his upcoming Carnegie Hall concert is putting up a track every day from a previously unreleased June 1956 performance of the Max Roach-Clifford Brown Quintet, featuring Sonny in the tenor spot...

September 6, 2007

Another Lost-Legend Trumpeter: Freddie Webster

Jazz history is full of hidden heroes and lost legends, players who made significant, influential or interesting contributions, but who, for one reason or another, didn't get their due-bad luck, music industry issues, personal problems, and/or early deaths resulting from any combination of the preceding. There's undoubtedly a certain romantic streak to jazz fans' interest in such musicians, a forgotten-poet mythology at work, in which the very obscurity of the artist's legacy provides some of the attraction. Often, however, the attention we now pay is justified; and sometimes, as in the case of Herbie Nichols, the hidden hero eventually...

September 4, 2007

Early Hip and Hemingway: Chandler Brossard's Who Walk in Darkness

Papa of the Beats? A study of downtown Manhattan hip circa 1948.

September 4, 2007

Jazz and Jack Kerouac II

"Jazz and Jack Kerouac" is now archived...apologies for the one-day holiday delay. For more jazz-and-Jack-Kerouac, check out our previous show, The Subterraneans, which explores the jazz score for the only film to be adapted from a Kerouac novel to date, as well as the story behind the movie and some dialogue clips from it. (The film itself...

September 3, 2007

The Incomplete Sonny Berman

Woody Herman called trumpeter Sonny Berman "one of the warmest soloists I ever had." His sound was humorous, lyrical, and harmonically adventurous, with a penchant for bitonality. Berman died at the age of 21 in 1947, leaving behind only a few brilliant solos, most of them recorded with Herman's big band.

September 1, 2007


Jazz And Jack Kerouac

On the Road, like many of Kerouac's other writings, celebrated and invoked the music of Charlie Parker, Lester Young, and many other jazz greats. We'll mark this weekend's 50th anniversary of the publication of Kerouac's best-known book with a program that explores his relationship with jazz.

August 29, 2007


The Basics of David Baker, Part 2

More of our 2007 conversation with jazz educator David Baker, who passed away on March 26, 2016 at the age of 84.

August 29, 2007

Bird's Birthday: Charlie Parker

Let us now praise famous avises: Charlie Parker, born August 29, 1920. Parker's been in the air a lot lately, what with the death of his bebop compatriot Max Roach. Like Billie Holiday, his art is still somehow strong enough to defy all of the categorization and commodification that's been heaped onto it. A hipster saint he may be, but burn your candles for the hard grace of his music. Suggested Night Lights listening: our August 2005 At the Birth of Bop program...

August 28, 2007


The Basics of David Baker: a Conversation

A 2007 interview with composer, trombonist/cellist, and jazz educator David Baker, who passed away March 26, 2016 at the age of 84.

August 27, 2007

Monday update

Do the Math reports that jazz writer Richard Cook, co-author of The Penguin Guide to Jazz and author of books about Blue Note Records and Miles Davis, has passed away at the age of 50. Cook was a fine and interesting writer, and I've turned to the Penguins many times for insight and information about various artists and albums; it's the best of the jazz CD guides around. His efforts will be missed.There's a good article in the August 27 issue of the New Yorker by Alex Ross, discussing Aaron Copland's political difficulties during the Cold War...

August 25, 2007

Frank Morgan on "Piano Jazz"

Alto saxophonist Frank Morgan, born in 1933, is one of the last great bop storytellers and living connections to that age of music. He's also one of the last musicians left from the glory days of Los Angeles' Central Avenue scene, a school-of-the-streets from which Dexter Gordon, Charles Mingus, Art Farmer, and many others graduated...

August 24, 2007

What do Paul Anka, Mel Torme, and Mamie van Doren Have In Common?

Nuns, teen idols, and the Velvet Fog as a rather mature-looking juvenile delinquent.

August 23, 2007

Reboppin' With The Wild One

The Wild One Marlon Brando's 1953 motorcycle-gang movie, was based on a real-life 1947 incident in which thousands of bikers, many of them blue-collar World War II vets from Los Angeles, descended upon a northern California town and frightened its inhabitants.

August 22, 2007

ESP is back...

...gotcher Brooklyn right here. My colleague Joe Bourne received a box full of ESP disks the other day, including gems from Albert Ayler, Pharoah Sanders, Don Cherry, Billie Holiday, Charlie Parker, and much, much more. Evidently he's been living right, and I've been... well, erm, coming up short in the jazz karma department or something. But it's good news...

August 20, 2007

From Monday On...

"The Duke Pearson Songbook" is now archived for online listening. Extracurricular track: the Art Farmer Quintet doing Pearson's "Is That So?", available on The Time and the Place/the Lost Concert.

August 20, 2007


"I Want To Live!"

Based on the true story of accused murderess Barbara Graham, the 1958 movie I Want to Live! employed a jazz soundtrack written by Johnny Mandel. We'll hear music from both versions of the soundtrack that were released, as well as more background on the story behind Barbara Graham and the making of the movie.

August 18, 2007

Kerouac Unrolled: the Scroll Edition of "On the Road"

Hot on the heels of Jack Kerouac's entry into the Library of America comes news that the "scroll" version of his most famous book is going to be published. I actually got to see some of the scroll-which is 120 feet long-several years ago...

August 17, 2007

More Max

I brought in a stack of Max Roach CDs today, everything from the early sides with Parker and the civil-rights thematic works to Birth and Rebirth. Thousands of people around the world today are listening to this great man's musical legacy... his art was a liberating force, and today it unites us.

August 16, 2007

Different Drummer Stops the Beat: Max Roach, 1924-2007

RIP posts are a drag, for obvious reasons, and this one is a major bummer-Max Roach has left us. Another giant gone. The New York Times has an obituary up, and WKCR has begun a memorial broadcast that will continue through August 22. (Also check out the tribute at Who Walk in Brooklyn.) Word is that he passed away in his sleep early this morning, that his family was...

August 16, 2007

Live From Monterey: Louis, Miles, Dizzy, Joe and More

The Monterey Jazz Festival is coming up on its 50th anniversary, and I'm assuming that's why a series of CDs featuring performances by Thelonious Monk, Louis Armstrong, Miles Davis, Dizzy Gillespie, Joe Henderson, Sarah Vaughan, and others is coming out next week. I'm listening today to a highlights promo...

August 14, 2007

Herb Pomeroy

Remembrances for trumpeter, bandleader, educator and Boston jazz mainstay Herb Pomeroy are beginning to appear around the Internet as news of his death this past Saturday spreads. Marc Myers ruminates on Pomeroy's musical legacy over at Jazzwax, and there's an obituary in today's edition of...

August 13, 2007


The Duke Pearson Songbook

Duke Pearson was a pianist, composer, and arranger who helped craft the sound of many of the Blue Note label's classic mid-1960s releases. He had a gift for writing quickly and coming up with memorable melodies that could be bright, poignant, or Sidewinder-style funky.

August 11, 2007

Mondo Monk

Last week I was working on the Night Lights schedule for the rest of the year and ran into what I thought might be a bit of a snag. Show topics are usually plotted well into the future (right now we have programs slated through the end of February 2008), but I'd realized that a certain sequence was going to bring a lot of Thelonious Monk listeners' way for several weeks in a row. Well, far worse things could happen, right?...

August 11, 2007


The King At Midpoint: Benny Carter

Big-band veteran and arranger, author of jazz standards such as "When Lights Are Low" and "Blues in My Heart," pioneer for black composers in Hollywood, master of two instruments (alto sax and trumpet), and inspiration and mentor to many young jazz musicians, Benny Carter came to be known as "the King."

August 9, 2007

Jazz books in the pipeline Pt. 2

A few days ago I posted a list of jazz biographies and books that some fans are eagerly awaiting. (Right now I'll add another-as well as the appended Bob Porter book on soul-jazz-volume two of Gary Giddins' Bing Crosby bio.) Well, here's some background on why it's rough going these days...

August 7, 2007

On the Corner With Miles Davis (Complete)

Release of Miles Davis' On the Corner box is imminent, as Howard Mandel notes at his new blog. Has a domestic label ever covered an artist's career so exhaustively? Put together, the Davis Sony sets equal roughly double the amount of music in the Duke Ellington RCA Victor box. Street date: Sept. 25. In the meantime, you can tap our archives...

August 6, 2007

Art Davis R.I.P.

Reports have been circulating on the Internet for the past several days that bassist Art Davis had passed away-confirmation now from the Los Angeles Times. Some good discussion ongoing over at Organissimo about Davis' work with Max Roach, John Coltrane...

August 5, 2007

Jazz Books and Bios in the Publishing Pipeline

Inspired by a recent thread at Organissimo, here's a list of jazz biographies and books that are in various stages of completion, nearing completion, or nearing publication: Peter Pullman's book on Bud Powell. Pullman has been at work on this ever since overseeing the impressive booklet for the great jazz pianist's Complete Verve Recordings...

August 4, 2007

Makin' The Changes 2.0

No, this isn't about Jackie McLean's Prestige years, though one of these days we're going to do a show on that very topic. Night Lights recently marked its third year on the air, and the third anniversary of the website's launch is just around the corner...

August 2, 2007

The 1942 Recording Ban and Today

My jazz-DJ colleague <Joe Bourne noted yesterday that it was the 65th anniversary of the American Federation of Musicians recording ban, which began on Aug. 1, 1942 and didn't completely end until major labels Columbia and Victor came to terms with the union in late 1944. (Decca, the other of the "Big Three" during...

August 1, 2007

"No one sets out to be a smooth jazz musician..."

I've drifted away from reading the satirical newsweekly The Onion in recent years, but there's a good piece making the Internet rounds this week. Laughing to keep from crying, no doubt:

July 31, 2007

Mingus Mingus Mingus (and Some Pepper too)

The new Charles Mingus/Eric Dolphy release from Blue Note, Cornell 1964, arrived at the station last week. Along with the recent reissue of the little-known 1970 Complete America Session and last year's ragged but vital At UCLA 1965 (aka Music Written for Monterey, 1965 Not Heard...played in its entirety), it's been a good run lately for Mingus fans. The Monterey and America dates give us glimpses of Mingus from a period...

July 30, 2007

That Devilin' Tune Pt. 2

Compilations are usually anathema to jazz connoisseurs, aficionados, and like-minded fanatics. But the sheer scope of the Allen Lowe's Devilin' Tune project puts it safely out of such realms, and longtime listeners who have undoubtedly heard a number of these tracks before may find unexpected pleasure (one of many) in Lowe's smart sequencing.

July 29, 2007

Emily Remler, artist sites, and that "issue"

Several days ago I got a very nice e-mail from the person who runs All Things Emily, a fantastically-detailed site devoted to the late guitarist Emily Remler. She had happened upon the March 2007 Night Lights show "Emily Remler: a Musical Remembrance"</a>, which included an interview with Remler friend and sometime musical associate Robert Jospe. Some clips...

July 29, 2007

Jazz pianist Sal Mosca 1927-2007

I received word this morning from bassist Don Messina that pianist Sal Mosca passed away yesterday afternoon at the age of 80. Mosca, whose story as a musician is inevitably linked to teacher/mentor Lennie Tristano, was...

July 26, 2007

Back in Black: Jack Kerouac Makes the LOA

The Library of America to publish The Road Novels. First Philip K. Dick<, now JK... can Burroughs be far behind? I've always had mixed feelings about Kerouac (though The Subterraneans held up...

July 24, 2007

Aug/Sept. Blue Note & Concord RVGs

Jazz fans still commiserate online over the self-imposed suspension of Alan Lankin's Jazzmatazz site, which provided an in-depth, wide-ranging rundown of forthcoming jazz releases. All About Jazz maintains a new-release page, as does Jazzitude; if readers are aware of any...

July 23, 2007

Like Sonny: the Story of Sonny Rollins and John Coltrane

Jazz documentarian Bret Primack has made a short film about the musical relationship of tenor saxophone greats Sonny Rollins and John Coltrane that includes interviews with Rollins and Jimmy Heath, as well as footage...

July 18, 2007

Hank Jones on NPR

Pianist Hank Jones on NPR's All Things Considered. (There's more...

July 18, 2007

Mal Waldron/Woody Shaw 1984

Ubu Roi has posted a very tasty 1984 concert by the Mal Waldron Quintet, featuring Waldron on piano, Woody Shaw on trumpet, Charlie Rouse...

July 15, 2007


When Betty Met The Duke: Betty Roche

"Betty Roche was an unforgettable singer," Duke Ellington wrote of his former vocalist in 1973. "She never sounded like anybody but Betty Roche." Roche, the so-called "blues specialist" whom some consider to be one of the best vocalists Ellington ever had replaced the popular Ivie Anderson in Ellington’s band in late 1942.

July 14, 2007

A.K. Salim

A good post from Doug Ramsey's Rifftides blog about composer/arranger A.K. Salim, a rather mysterious figure from the 1950s/60s jazz world who's intrigued me ever since I came across a used copy of his Savoy album Blues Suite...

July 14, 2007

David Baker this Monday night

For south-central Indiana readers of the blog: David Baker will be leading the Festival Jazz Orchestra, a top-flight group of IU jazz faculty &amp; students, in performance Monday evening. To hear Baker in some classic small-group sessions...

July 12, 2007

Makin' the Changes

No, this isn't about Jackie McLean's Prestige years, though one of these days we're going to do a show on that very topic. Night Lights recently marked its third year on the air, and the third anniversary of the website's launch is just around the corner...

July 12, 2007

Bud Powell in Paris

Just ahead of this weekend's Bastille Day salute to the expatriate African-American jazz community-more video of Bud Powell in Paris:

July 10, 2007

When Taylor Met Braxton

A meeting of gigantic musical minds, from one who was there.

July 9, 2007

Henry Grimes book of poetry

Henry Grimes, poet

Back in the early 1990s, when I was in the first throes of becoming a passionate jazzhead, a friend made me a mix tape called "Henry Grimes, Where Are You?"

July 9, 2007


Paris Noir: African-American Jazz Musicians In France

In the years following World War II, a number of African-American jazz musicians took up residence in France, inspired by the relative lack of racism, the working opportunities, and the appreciation that French audiences showed for their art. Jazz greats spent long periods of time on the European continent.

July 9, 2007

Remembrance of the Antique Past

David Sedaris in the New Yorker on his youthful longing for things from before his time. (I could swear that Douglas Coupland coined a term for this in Generation X, but a quick perusal of several online lexicons didn't turn it up.)As a jazz fan, I think it's easy to be nostalgic, in whatever manner...

July 7, 2007

Hank Mobley: 77 on 07-07-07

As some posters at Organissimo have noted, tenor saxophonist Hank Mobley, if still alive, would have turned 77 today-on 07/07/07, that lucky date of destiny. Maybe Mobley, the so-called "middleweight champion" of his instrument, will posthumously reap the good fortune that eluded him in his lifetime. At least the tenor saxophonist, like fellow Blue Note recording artist...

July 7, 2007

Jazz Messenger

Japanese novelist Haruki Murakami on his introduction to jazz and what it meant to him. (If you're interested in jazz and post-WWII Japan, check out...

July 7, 2007

That Devilin' Tune Pt. 1

A few years ago writer Joe Milazzo hipped me to a sort of underground jazz history-That Devilin' Tune, written by musician Allen Lowe. An impassioned, non-canonical, and smartly written work, it makes the case for many musicians who've been left by the wayside on the lost highway of American music. So many jazz histories telescope...

July 3, 2007


Late Pee Wee: Pee Wee Russell In The 1960s

Clarinetist Pee Wee Russell's career on record stretched all the way from the 1920s, when he played with musicians such as Jack Teagarden and Bix Beiderbecke, to the 1960s, when he appeared with Thelonious Monk at Newport and made albums that included compositions by modernists such as Ornette Coleman and John Coltrane. Although he was pegged as being Dixieland by some and trumpeted as an elder hero of the 60s avant-garde by others, Russell remained a school unto himself...

July 2, 2007

Lennie Tristano Quintet 1964 on film

In lieu of the proverbial time machine that could take us back to 52nd Street circa 1950, or the Plugged Nickel circa 1968, there's always YouTube. Recently videos of the Lennie Tristano Quintet performing Subconscious-Lee, 317 E. 32nd St., and Background Music at New York City's Half Note club in 1964 have been posted. This was-if I'm not mistaken-one of the last times that alto saxophonist Lee Konitz performed with Tristano, and tenor great Warne Marsh was there as well.

July 1, 2007

New DVD releases from Jazz Icons

The very cool Jazz Icons DVD series has announced the release of seven more titles, including concerts by Duke Ellington, John Coltrane, Sarah Vaughan, Dexter Gordon, Wes Montgomery, Dave Brubeck, and Charles Mingus.

June 26, 2007

Willis Conover: new biography of the VOA jazz DJ

Terence Ripmaster has published a new biography of longtime Voice of America jazz DJ Willis Conover. Conover's broadcasts were heard around the world (though not in America, due to Congressional restrictions) and brought jazz into Eastern bloc countries where...

June 26, 2007

The Nocturne Records Story

In the early 1950s musicians Roy Harte and Harry Babasin, eager to document the ascending West Coast jazz scene, started a Los Angeles label called Nocturne Records. Babasin and Harte said they wanted to "broaden the nation's views of our activities out here in Hollywood...

June 25, 2007

Sonny Rollins returning to Carnegie to record new CD

Remember all the hoopla (well-deserved) a couple years back over the 1957 Voice of America concert that featured John Coltrane with Thelonious Monk? It came out on CD via Blue Note (rather quickly, as things go in the oft-difficult world of jazz reissues and estate rights) to much acclaim, and it still...

June 23, 2007

Perfectly Frank: Sinatra's Small-Group Jazz Recordings

It was a longstanding disappointment with Frank Sinatra's fans that he didn't do more small-group jazz recordings. This week on Night Lights we present some of the ones that he did do, including...

June 9, 2007


Andrew Hill, who died at the age of 75 on April 20, 2007, was a highly original pianist and composer who recorded a string of stunning albums for Blue Note in the short span of eight months, constructing his own musical universe, much like Blue Note predecessors Thelonious Monk and Herbie Nichols. His compositions, which employed...

June 2, 2007

Full Nelson: Oliver Nelson's 1960s Big-Band Recordings

"Full Nelson" looks at the 1960s studio big-band recordings of saxophonist, arranger, and composer Oliver Nelson, who would have turned 75 on June 4, 2007. Nelson is best-known in the jazz world for his small-group Impulse LP.

May 26, 2007

The James Dean Story

In 1957 a young Robert Altman (future director of Nashville, MASH, and The Player) co-directed a documentary about James Dean, with a soundtrack written by Leith Stevens (who also scored The Wild One...

May 19, 2007


Jivin' With the DJs: Jazz Tributes

In the 1940s and 1950s the jazz format emerged on radio, and with it a number of colorful, laidback on-air personalities who helped disseminate the new sounds of bebop and early R &amp; B. In response, musicians sometimes wrote and recorded tributes to these DJs.

May 12, 2007


Jackie McLean And Lee Morgan: The Dynamic Hardbop Duo

Jazz writer David Rosenthal called Jackie McLean and Lee Morgan "a frontline match made in hardbop heaven."

May 5, 2007


Sonny Rollins: Live In London

It's been a long-standing paradigm in the Sonny Rollins story that his live recordings, particularly from the 1960s on, reflect a more adventurous and exciting performer than do his studio albums.

April 28, 2007


Bop! Go the Big Bands

As the swing era gave way to new and challenging sounds, a generation of bandleaders was forced to take notice.

April 21, 2007


Slide At 75: Slide Hampton

On "Slide at 75" we celebrate a landmark birthday of trombonist, composer, and arranger Slide Hampton. Hampton, like fellow trombonists J.J. Johnson and David Baker, emerged from the Indianapolis jazz scene of the 1940s and early 1950s, playing with his prolifically talented family's band before going on the road with Buddy Johnson, Lionel Hampton, and Maynard Ferguson...

April 14, 2007


Later: Bobby Hutcherson In The Mid-1970s

During the mid-1970s Hutcherson was able to maintain and lead a strong working group, and to also bring in talented colleagues for studio dates;

March 31, 2007


Emily Remler: A Musical Remembrance

Emily Remler was a brilliant guitarist, at ease in musical idioms from Brazilian to bop. She passed away just as she was entering the prime of her career.

March 24, 2007


Here Comes The Sun: Nina Simone On RCA

In late 1966 the fiercely individualistic singer and pianist Nina Simone signed with RCA Records and continued her genre-bending explorations of jazz, blues, pop, folk, and soul, recording songs such as Burt Bacharach and Hal David's "The Look of Love," Leonard Cohen's "Suzanne," and occasional standards.

March 17, 2007


The International Sweethearts Of Rhythm

The International Sweethearts of Rhythm, considered today to be the most renowned of the 1940s "all-girl" bands, emerged in the late 1930s from the Piney Woods School, a foster-child institution for African-American children in Mississippi.

March 10, 2007

Miss Peggy Lee, Songwriter

Many listeners know Peggy Lee as a great jazz singer, but she was also a prolific writer of songs—composing or co-composing nearly 200 of them, including hits such as “I Don’t Know Enough About You” and “Manana” as well as lesser-known gems like “That Ol’ Devil Won’t Get Me” and “There’ll Be Another Spring.”

March 2, 2007


Alice Coltrane, Ascending

John Coltrane's wife was a musician in her own right. What artistic path did she take after her husband passed away in 1967?

February 17, 2007


Come On Down To Central Avenue: Jazz In Mid-20th Century L.A.

In this program we explore the sounds of the mid-20th-century Los Angeles jazz scene with historian Steve Isoardi. Jam sessions, bebop, r and b, big bands, visits from Hollywood celebrities-as the center of African-American culture in L.A., Central Avenue had it all.

February 10, 2007


Soulful Days: The Cal Massey Songbook

Trumpeter Cal Massey was an African-American jazz composer, little-known now and in his lifetime, but whose work was recorded by musicians such as John Coltrane, Freddie Hubbard, Charlie Parker, Lee Morgan, Jackie McLean, McCoy Tyner, and Archie Shepp.

February 3, 2007


We Shall Overcome: Civil-Rights Jazz

There was a strong relationship between jazz and civil rights in 20th-century America; musicians and many critics as well were advocates for equal rights for African-Americans, and jazz provided a cultural bridge between blacks and whites that helped to work as a force for integration.

January 27, 2007


Return To Blue Note: Tony Williams In The Late 1980s

Tony Williams was renowned as one of the great drummers of jazz. His late-1980s acoustic quintet highlights his compositional skills as well.

January 13, 2007

The Best Tenor You Never Heard: J.R. Monterose

J.R. Monterose is a saxophonist rarely heard even by jazz fans, and his most well-known recording is one that Monterose himself later all but disowned. He recorded only sporadically as a leader and withdrew from the jazz world several times, woodshedding or playing in towns distant from the music's metropolitan centers.

January 6, 2007


Resolution: Jazz From Rehab

Jazz and recovery meet on two unique early-1960s albums made by guitarist Joe Pass and pianist Elmo Hope.

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