Chris Robinson @crmusicwriter

mostly music, sometimes books


So What

The false and the true
The plausible and the patently absurd
The unknowable and unconfirmable

Lesser known is Louis Armstrong’s Hot Three group with Lil Hardin Armstrong and Baby Dodds, which predated popularity of the horn/piano/drums trio by decades. Sadly, the shellac discs carrying the masters were dropped and subsequently shattered. /// Monk asked Miles to reharmonize “Round Midnight.” He desperately wanted a hit and knew that what he was hearing in his head was getting in the way. /// Duke Ellington loved Johnny Hodges so much that he used a special microphone whenever he introduced Rabbit to the audience. “Johnny Hodges, ladies and gentlemen, Johnny Hodges.” Hodges was buried with that microphone. /// Grant Green transcribed all of Mary Osborne’s recordings and played a different one each day as part of his warmup routine. /// Wynton Marsalis took a Blindfold Test and failed. It was never published.[1] /// While Peter Brotzmann’s Nipples and Balls got past the censors, the trilogy’s capstone Taint was a bridge too far. It was subsequently renamed Machine Gun. /// Other than the musicians, Teo Macero, and the janitor who happened to be working that night at Capitol studios, nobody ever knew that Miles and Hendrix recorded an album called Experience Miles. To hide it from Columbia they put the masters in a box labeled “Guy Lombardo, Des Moines, IA, 1932.” /// The decision to coronate Benny Goodman as the King of Swing was focus-grouped, with Goodman edging out each of the Dorsey brothers. /// The story of how Charlie Parker got his nickname has nothing to do with hitting a chicken with a car. In one of those early, disastrous Kansas City jam sessions at the Reno Club where Joe Jones threw his cymbal at the fledgling Bird, he had a bad reed that squawked like a hoarse crow every time he put air through the horn. “Bird” was an epithet transformed into legend. /// Serge Chaloff was Miles’s first choice for the Birth of the Cool band but on the day of the first rehearsal Chaloff slept through his alarm and was promptly replaced by Gerry Mulligan. /// Even on his death bed, Lorenz Hart couldn’t believe that people were still taking his lyrics to “My Funny Valentine” seriously. /// Lester Bowie never performed in the same white lab coat twice. Following his death, thrift stores were inundated with white lab coats, as Bowie hadn’t thought to bequeath them to the local medical school. /// Keely Smith was Louis Prima’s illegitimate daughter. /// In putting together the press materials for Masada’s Live in Jerusalem 1994 album, John Zorn actually admitted to his publicist that the Masada book only has three compositions: the fast one, the slow one, the crazy one. /// Sun Ra promised Anthony Braxton that when he got back to Saturn he’d premier Braxton’s piece  that was to be performed simultaneously on different planets. /// Trane was a pool shark. /// Louis Armstrong once appeared in a print advertisement, sitting on a toilet, pants around his knees, tag line reading “leave it all behind ya.”[2] /// Strangely enough, two of the first English words Jan Garbarek ever learned as a child were “nude” and “ants.” The first time he said them together in succession he liked the sound of them in his mouth so much that he kept saying “nude ants” “nude ants” “nude ants.” When Keith Jarrett needed a name for his live double album he recorded with Garbarek, Palle Danielsson, and Jon Christensen at the Village Vanguard in 1979, the saxophonist suggested Nude Ants. ECM owner Manfred Eicher liked it, and it was so. /// Whenever possible, Sarah Vaughan ate a tuna fish sandwich before each performance. /// Lena Horne’s favorite city to play was Buffalo. /// In the early 1970s the FBI attempted on several occasions to recruit Archie Shepp to be their man inside free jazz. /// In the late-50s the Blue Note Records rec league softball team won the Newark amateur municipal league three years running. Over that stretch Hank Mobley led the team in hitting, batting .413. Tina Brooks was nearly unhittable from the rubber. /// Lester Young was traded to the Basie band for cash considerations and a player to be named later. /// We still don’t know why Kenton played all those Wagner charts. /// Symphony Sid drove taxi on the side. /// Buddy Rich slept with a teddy bear. /// Lee Konitz practiced playing certain notes ever so slightly out of tune. ///

On the evening of his legendary solo performance of “Body and Soul,” Coleman Hawkins was considering playing several other tunes instead. Decades later we could have very easily been enraptured by his virtuoso reading of “The Sweetheart of Sigma Chi.” /// “Miles wants to call his new album Bitches Brew. Please advise.” “See if he will accept Witches Brew.” “I already suggested that. He told me to tell you that he’ll cut any motherfucker who tries to change the title and will buy out his contract.” “Ok, Miles gets what Miles wants.” /// When Paul Desmond wasn’t smoking within view of anyone he put down his Pall Malls to become a Marlboro Man. /// Mary Lou Williams wrote nearly as many arrangements for Ellington as Billy Strayhorn did. /// Chet Baker was pushed. /// When he wrote “Giant Steps” Coltrane wasn’t even sure he’d be able to play the changes. /// Herman Leonard rehearsed his photographs. He spent hours with Dexter Gordon, trying different poses, different lighting, even different cigarette brands to see if there was any difference in how the smoke would swirl through the air. For the final flourish, Leonard had the club owner play with the HVAC settings to get the air circulating just right. There wasn’t much that was spontaneous or easy about that and other of Leonard’s iconic images. /// One of the first suits Dapper Dan ever made as he was learning his craft was a leather three piece ordered by Albert Ayler. /// When Ornette would walk around Hollywood Boulevard young children would see him, point, and exclaim to their moms: “look mommy, it’s Black Jesus.” /// While serving his sentence at San Quentin, Art Pepper worked in the prison as an accountant. /// Michael Cuscuna only agreed to produce twelve albums by Anthony Braxton for Arista after losing to Braxton in a high-stakes chess game. /// Manfred Eicher doesn’t care either way about reverb, but when he started ECM he knew that the label would benefit from having a unique sonic identity. And the ECM sound was born. /// Rudy van Gelder was never happy with how his studio sounded, but everybody loved the acoustics so much he couldn’t bring himself to make changes. /// Les McCann ate cold duck soup once a week. /// Eddie Davis never did like being called Lockjaw. During his hiatus during which he worked as a publicist, he asked everyone to stop calling him Lockjaw, insisting he be called Edward. /// Growing up the Jones brothers each showed promise on piano, drums, and trumpet, but always fought over who was going to play which. So their parents determined who would play what by drawing instruments out of a hat. /// Trumpeter Jacques Coursil was the only musician to record for BYG Actuel who felt his contract was fair.[3] /// Melba Liston could have played any chair in the band, but stuck to trombone because she was always attracted to things that were often the target of derision. /// Albert “Tootie” Heath liked his nickname. /// Even though they wouldn’t admit it, most critics like Keith Jarrett’s soprano playing. Jarrett, however, was never quite convinced, so he gave it up.[4] ///

Contrary to what her husband would have us believe, Audrey Hepburn did not actually listen to Paul Desmond play “Audrey” every night before bed. /// After they split up, Ornette Coleman and Jayne Cortez made a series of militant recordings that had they not been destroyed when the water main in Coleman’s apartment broke, would have caused his support among white critics and fans to dry up. /// William S. Burroughs wrote record reviews on the side for Downbeat under a pen name.[5] /// If he had had his way, Ramsey Lewis would have rather been playing free jazz, but he was so commercially successful that he didn’t want to risk losing that steady stream of income. /// Dizzy Gillespie hated salted peanuts. /// In one of the many salons she held in her NYC apartment during the development of bebop, Mary Lou Williams played chord voicings on the piano that were initially questioned for being “too far out.” /// “Klactoveedsedstene” was code for “Leonard Feather is gonna be at the gig tonight, so nobody better talk shit about him while he’s here.”[6] /// Stan Getz initially turned down Verve’s suggestion to make those bossa records, fearing it would start an unfortunate trend in which everyone would feel the need to release a bossa nova album, regardless of quality. Turns out his fears were well founded. /// On the off nights he wasn’t playing with Basie, Freddie Green moonlighted as a pedal steel player for whatever honky tonk band happened to be playing in whatever town he happened to be in that night. /// Whenever their paths crossed, Don Byas made a point to get a lesson with Vi Burnside. /// Even though their playing sounded nothing alike, Gerry Mulligan had deep respect for Jimmy Lyons, thus, “Line for Lyons.” /// At the time of his death, Eric Dolphy was writing a requiem mass. /// Mary Osborne and Kenny Burrell played duets together any time they could. /// On Tuesday afternoons during the late 1960s, Los Angeles’s studio musicians got together at Shelley’s Manne-Hole for free improv sessions that rivaled anything that would later be heard in NYC’s loft scene. /// Whenever he was in town with the Kings to play the Knicks, Wayman Tisdale would go down to Birdland and sit in on bass. /// Yankees outfielder Bernie Williams was nearly absolutely paralyzed with nerves before going into the studio to record Moving Forward, which featured his heroes Dave Koz, Mike Stern, and Jon Secada. /// Kareem Abdul Jabbar taught himself to play “Donna Lee” on his Fender bass but never had the confidence to perform it in public.[7] /// Ruby Braff owned a customized trumpet that was studded with rubies, but he never took it on a gig for fear of dinging it up or having it stolen. /// Deep down, John Hammond felt guilty that he was given so much credit for “discovering” so many musicians, but his ego was such that he could never bring himself to publicly admit that he didn’t discover shit. /// The phone number that inspired “Pennsylvania 6-5000” was actually “Pennsylvania 6-5607,” but 6-5607 didn’t just roll off the tongue during the band sing along, so it had to be changed. In an odd coincidence, the woman who could be reached at Pennsylvania 6-5607 was named Penny. /// Even Lionel Hampton himself would be creeped out if he saw how the statue of himself set behind his vibes onstage at the annual jazz festival named in his honor. /// Archie Shepp recorded an album of bossa nova tunes but Impulse! realized early on that it was trite, saccharine garbage, so they shelved it and promptly destroyed the masters.[8] /// Leonard Feather once led a short-lived critic’s quintet featuring himself on piano, Nat Hentoff on drums, Dan Morgenstern on bass, Whitney Balliett on tenor, and Martin Williams on trumpet. The band split up after Hentoff repeatedly, and very vocally, protested every time Feather called one of his own compositions. The tension between the two men made continuing the group untenable. Feather never spoke to Hentoff again.[9] /// Joe Morello couldn’t stand it when Dave Brubeck and Paul Desmond would get into one of those contests to see who could out-quote the other during their solos. Things came to a head one night in Palm Springs in 1957, in which Brubeck and Desmond somehow got into a contest to see who could quote the most Glenn Miller tunes. During “Tangerine” Desmond managed to recite “Pennsylvania 6-5000” in its entirety. Disgusted, Morello threw his sticks on the ground, left the stage, and the band finished the set as a trio. /// When his local Cadillac dealer heard Dizzy’s “Swing Low Sweet Cadillac” he gave Dizzy a pink El Dorado. /// Count Basie was obsessive in his search for the perfect peanut butter and banana sandwich.[10] /// Stan Getz turned down numerous requests to be the official spokesman for Royal Crown cola. /// During one of his hiatuses, Sonny Rollins mowed yards. /// After releasing Jutta Hipp with Zoot Sims and both volumes of At the Hickory House, Blue Note had Jutta Hipp signed up for three more albums but problems with her visa prevented her from being able to record them. /// Toshiko Akiyoshi was offered the first ever professorship in jazz piano and composition at Juilliard but the offer was rescinded after a prominent donor complained to the administration; he said women were incapable of playing jazz and if she would be hired he would take his donations elsewhere. /// Like Anthony Braxton, Peter Brotzmann is a Paul Desmond devotee. /// Whenever they got together, Anthony Braxton and Willem Breuker traded bootleg recordings of the US Marine Corps President’s Own band playing John Phillip Sousa marches. /// Sven-Ake Johansson wore out his Buddy Rich and Gene Krupa records. /// Michel Foucault never went to Copenhagen without stopping at the Montmartre Jazzhus to hear Dexter Gordon. His applause can be heard on the two live albums Gordon made with Jackie McLean for SteepleChase. /// One of Ralph Ellison’s greatest regrets was that he didn’t spend more time shedding his trumpet. /// Chu Berry was flattered but ultimately uncomfortable that the model of Conn he played became known as the “Chu Berry.”[11] /// Willie “The Lion” Smith was allergic to cats.[12] /// Mal Waldron was trained as a civil engineer. /// Bill Perkins used his engineering background to customize his saxophone mouthpieces. /// The International Sweethearts of Rhythm softball team absolutely stomped the Blue Note team when they met up. /// Valaida Snow briefly endorsed SmoothGlide valve oil. She ended her relationship with the company after they demanded her picture in the advertisements be accompanied by the moniker “Little Louis,” an appellation that Snow abhorred. /// Vi Redd recorded three albums’ worth of material with Elvin Jones and Ron Carter. United Albums shelved the sessions after Redd refused to record a few vocal tunes. /// Dottie Dodgion was a consultant for Istanbul Mehmet cymbals. Her feedback was instrumental in developing the model of ride cymbal that Tony Williams favored.[13] /// Just before he died homeless and largely forgotten, Hank Mobley had managed to purchase a tenor and was planning a comeback. /// During set breaks Bud Powell worked on Bochner Riesz operators and Hilbert modular forms. /// Christy Brinkley owns signed, first pressings of Cecil Taylor’s entire catalog. Billy Joel’s disdain for Taylor’s playing was a source of friction in their marriage. /// Before each performance at Studio Rivbea Sam Rivers would cook up a huge pot of spaghetti for the performers. /// Growing up, Charles Brackeen was known as “Lil’ Chucky.” Miraculously, he was able to hide his childhood nickname from his fellow musicians and even his wife Joanne. /// Carlos Ward and Abdullah Ibrahim recorded a total of six sets at Sweet Basil. Given the strength of Vol. 1, the only possible explanation for not releasing the subsequent five volumes is that the masters have been lost. ///

The Four Brothers fought like hell. /// While they were in Miles’ quintet, Tony Williams loved hiding Wayne Shorter’s reeds. Shorter was finally able to put a stop to it by hiding Williams’ ride cymbal so well that Williams couldn’t find it in time for the group’s live performance for Dutch national radio. /// Gato Barbieri was more of a dog person. /// Circle broke up after Chick Corea tried one too many times to convert his bandmates to Scientology.  /// Paul Motian loved Daffy Duck. /// One night at the Village Vanguard Charles Mingus set up a card table and instead of playing their set, played five card stud for two hours. When Max Gordon asked Mingus what the hell he was doing, Mingus pointed out that “you hired me to play, you didn’t say what we were supposed to play, so we’re playing cards.”[14] /// Frank Foster took a six-month sabbatical from the Basie band to study poetry at Black Mountain College with Charles Olson and Robert Duncan. /// Rashied Ali turned down a scholarship to play tail back at Penn State in order to pursue music. /// Dizzy Gillespie witnessed Chano Pozo’s murder. /// Pete Jolly started out as an accordionist, but as a teenager, he would get laughed off the stage every time he went to a jam session. At one of these sessions Hampton Hawes introduced himself and told Jolly that he had the talent and musicianship to make it as a pianist. Shortly thereafter, Jolly put down his accordion for good. /// Terri Pollard always resented the fact that she shared an instrument and first name with Terry Gibbs. She was sickened every time she heard someone mention her name and have the other person ask “don’t you mean Terry Gibbs?” /// When the Tonight Show moved to Los Angeles, many of the band members were reluctant to uproot their family and follow the show. Johnny Carson offered to pay the moving expenses for the band members, a gesture that convinced them to move. Carson wouldn’t have had any problem filling spots for his band in L.A., but he couldn’t imagine not doing his show without his original band. /// After a disastrous show in Shreveport, the sax section of the Casa Loma Orchestra staged what would ultimately be a failed mutiny attempt to wrestle power from Glen Gray. /// Charlie Haden’s first love was the viola. /// Before Mary Lou Williams took over as music director, Andy Kirk’s Clouds of Joy were a notoriously grouchy bunch. /// One night Harold Jones got food poisoning and couldn’t make the hit with the Basie Band. Luckily, the Count was on a split bill with Dinah Washington, who was a more-than-capable drummer. It didn’t take much convincing on Basie’s part to get her to sit in. /// After losing a bet with Alfred Lion, Jackie McLean was obligated to pose with Francis Wolff’s monkey for the cover of Capuchin Swing. /// In the months preceding Cecil Taylor offering him a job, David S. Ware was so disillusioned with music and unhappy with his sound that he nearly retired. With few other options, he was fully prepared to work for his brother’s HVAC repair service. /// Members of Jimmy Giuffre’s family, who emigrated from Sicily to Chicago in the 1910s, ran an illegal dice game during Prohibition. /// Toots Thielemans was a trumpet virtuoso, but given how many trumpet players were on the scene, he thought he’d be better able to make his mark on the harmonica. /// Billy Higgins left the Ornette Coleman quartet to pursue study as a pastry chef. /// Ornette never understood why Atlantic declined to release the other sixteen tunes recorded during the This Is Our Music sessions as stand-alone albums. For Nesuhi Ertegun, it was a purely business decision. While the market and critical establishment could absorb several new albums per year from Miles and Trane and Duke, six tunes from Ornette’s Quartet was enough to saturate the market for a year.[15] /// Even though Willem Breuker’s sound concept was light years away from Chu Berry’s, that didn’t stop him from playing a Chu Berry tenor. /// The appropriately named Knitting Factory was located at the former site of a massive textile mill. /// Whenever Maynard Ferguson toured the South he stocked up on Moon Pies. He would give one out after each gig to the member of his band who he felt played the strongest solo that night. /// Boots Mussilli preferred penny loafers.[16] /// The World Saxophone Quartet initially called themselves the Galactic Saxophone Quartet, but Hamiet Bluiett felt that “Galactic” was too grandiose. /// Stanley Crouch turned against free jazz after his avant-garde peers stopped calling him to play drums on their gigs. What initially began as a personal grudge ended up shaping the whole trajectory of jazz and jazz criticism in the 1980s. /// Ace Cannon played the shit out of “Giant Steps.” /// The brothers Jones and Heath had a decades-long standing 3-on-3 basketball game. Despite his diminutive size, Jimmy had no problem breezing past the defense on his way to the tin. Elvin’s game was just like his drumming—strong and powerful; he was relentless on the glass. Hank had an incredible handle. As they aged, the brothers relied more and more on the jump shot. Eventually, the game evolved into a friendly, leisurely game of HORSE, where more stories were told than shots taken. /// Buddy Bolden actually played the Sousaphone. History knows him as a cornetist, but history was altered because the first great jazz soloist couldn’t be a Sousa player. /// When he wasn’t playing on 52nd street, Bird could be found in a Lower East Side dive bar playing hours of raucous, spirited, and raggedy barrelhouse piano. /// When Joseph Jarman returned home after serving with the Special Forces in Vietnam he turned to Buddhism to help him come to terms with the atrocities he witnessed there. /// Beryl Booker never booked a gig for her trio on Thursday nights. /// Art Pepper’s horn was literally held together with rubber bands and duct tape during the Art Pepper Meets the Rhythm Section session. /// Herb Geller gained much of his harmonic knowledge from his wife Lorraine, a pianist. Lorraine turned down a multi-album contract with Contemporary Records in order to take care of their children. /// As a boy, Dean Martin dreaming of being a Wagnerian tenor. /// Sadly, none of the recordings of Hazel Scott and Art Tatum playing four-hand piano survive. /// Vic Firth approached Art Blakey on numerous occasions to seek his endorsement. Blakey would have, but for one important point: every time he played Vic Firth sticks he couldn’t get through a gig without breaking at least one pair. /// Horace Tapscott was an even better trombonist than he was a pianist. /// In high school, Wayne Shorter was known as “Mr. Weird.” His older brother Alan, who played trumpet, was called “Doc Strange.” /// To the bewilderment of his saxophonist peers, Dave Liebman never met a plastic reed he didn’t like. /// Roswell Rudd’s earliest trombone influence was Jack Teagarden. /// During her brief return to Pittsburgh between leaving Kansas City and moving to New York, Mary Lou Williams gave piano lessons to a young man named Fred Rogers. /// Peter Brotzmann learned to play the saxophone by copying Sidney Bechet, whose 78s were the only recordings that were available in East Germany at the time. One of Brotzmann’s favorite Bechet recordings was a 78 of “Petite Fleur” backed with “Dans Les rues D’Antibes” /// For each state dinner Nikita Khrushchev booked a local Moscow big band, Jivin Ivan and his Swinging Cossacks, for an evening of dancing and light entertainment. /// For years and years the RCA design department wanted to scrap the dog logo, but they were consistently overruled by their marketing colleagues, who knew that such a move would alienate a large segment of their customers who were attached to the doggie cocking his head to “his master’s voice.” /// In the early days of the AACM, each meeting was opened by a collective reading of Joseph Jarman’s poem “Non Cognitive Aspects of the City.” /// Pharoah Sanders never swabbed out his tenor because he believed the muck and grime that lived inside was a central element of his sound. After he finished the tour with Trane that yielded the Live in Seattle album he had his horn overhauled and repadded. By that time, his shop knew well enough alone to not clean his horn whenever it was in for work. On this occasion, however, the shop had a new apprentice, who without knowing any better, saw that Pharoah’s horn was disgusting, and subsequently put it in the shop’s sonic cleaner. When Pharoah came back to get his horn and saw that it was clean, he wasn’t angry, but rather mournful that the relationship he had literally cultivated with the microbiota in his tenor over many years was gone. Not long after, he went to repair school and from thereafter, made all future repairs to his horn himself. /// Sidney Bechet composed “Petite Fleur” while sitting on the toilet.[17] /// Inspired by the success of Blue Note’s softball team, Duke Pearson tried but ultimately failed to get Alfred Lion and Francis Wolff to sponsor a basketball team. Rudy van Gelder, who won a New Jersey state championship in high school, was the only person interested in playing. /// Wayne Shorter showed each of his compositions to his wife—who was a classically trained pianist—to get her feedback. /// Whenever he toured Italy, Mel Lewis never saw a pair of Forzieri wingtips he didn’t want to buy. /// Marty Paich bred champion border collies. /// Nelson Riddle was Nancy Sinatra’s godfather. /// Noah Howard won three state high school swimming titles in the 100, 200, and 400 meter butterfly. /// Alan Dawson was a widely respected engine builder in the hot rod and drag race scene. His modifications to the heads of his 429 Cobra Jet powered ’69 Fastback Mustang gave him enough extra horsepower to set speed records in his class at Speed Week at the Bonneville Salt Flats. /// Han Bennink and Oscar Peterson’s one recording session was interrupted by a thunderstorm. Lighting hit a transformer down the street from the studio, which sent a power surge through the recording equipment, frying the board and reel to reel and ruining the master tapes. The duo could never get back together for another session because they couldn’t make their schedules work. /// Saxophonist Jerry Dodgion always told his wife, drummer Dottie, that he would take care of doing the dishes so that she could go and practice. /// Joanne Brackeen brought her dog Fi-Fi to every recording session she participated in during Fi-Fi’s lifetime. Brackeen named her first album she made after Fi-Fi’s death Fi-Fi Goes to Heaven. /// Clifford Brown had initially planned on taking the train on the day he was killed in the auto accident. But the train was delayed, and needing to get to his gig on time, he decided to rent the car that he went on to die in. /// Leonard Feather went to primary school with Mr. Acker Bilk. /// Alfred Lion and Francis Wolff insisted that Lee Morgan use the take of “The Sidewinder” that appeared on the album. If it was up to Morgan, he would have used the third take, which has not been released in any form. /// Coleman Hawkins’ rider included a clause that required there be a platter of bean burritos in his dressing room before each gig. /// Part of Bill Evans’ daily practice warmup routine included playing through all of Bach’s Two-Part Inventions. /// While in the Army, Albert Ayler was trained as a heavy equipment operator, specializing in earth movers. /// Before Miles went onstage at the Fillmore West to play his opening set for Led Zeppelin, John Bonham invited him to sit in with the band on “When the Levee Breaks.” Miles responded: “man, I’m not gonna play with you honky-ass British motherfuckers.” /// To the utter dismay of the basketball coach at his high school, Dexter Gordon never put his rangy 6’5”frame to great use on the basketball court. He was, however, an unstoppable force in front of a volleyball net. /// Art Pepper was one of the first customers to ever eat at McDonalds. /// The stereo on Wu Tang Clan’s tour bus was almost always pumping The Jazz Crusaders. /// Sandy Koufax was great friends with Shelley Manne. So much so that whenever the Dodgers had a night off, Koufax could always be found hanging out backstage at The Manne Hole. /// Mary Osborne began each practice session by shedding “Giant Steps” at a lightning fast tempo. /// After stepping back from performing full time in order to teach in the LA public schools, Vi Redd gave saxophone lessons at Horace Tapscott’s /// For a brief two-year period in the mid-70s, Milwaukee had a thriving and vibrant loft scene. Musicians from the AACM in Chicago and the BAG in St. Louis regularly made the drive to play with the city’s finest—and largely forgotten—free improvisers. /// Even though his music might not suggest it, Iannis Xenakis studied Duke Ellington and Billy Strayhorn’s scores in depth in an attempt to understand what made the pair’s voicings and textures so unique. /// Cecil Taylor transcribed many of Conlan Nancarrow’s works for player piano and often quoted from them to a largely unaware audience during his solo piano performances. /// Kool Keith developed the rhythmic elements of his flow by studying Thelonious Monk, Jackie McLean, and Woody Shaw. /// Gary Foster’s favorite gig of the year is performing in the pit orchestra for The Oscars. /// Whenever his workload became too heavy, Nelson Riddle farmed out charts to Melba Liston, who orchestrated and arranged them based on Riddle’s sketches. /// Herbie Manne was a virtuoso timbales player. /// J Dilla’s favorite jazz drummer to sample was Clifford Jarvis, whose drums can be heard throughout Common’s Like Water for Chocolate. /// Chick Corea was an avid beekeeper and sold jars of the honey his bees produced at each Return to Forever show. He had previously attempted to bring them along on tour with Circle, but Dave Holland wouldn’t allow it. A strict vegan, Holland objected to Corea’s use of bees to produce food, and so to stave off conflict, Corea left his honey at home. /// Tony Oxley learned to play drums listening to Baby Dodds and Papa Joe Jones recordings. /// Derek Bailey was an early Freddie Green devotee. /// As proud as he was with his playing in the acclaimed trio with Peter Brotzmann and Han Bennink, Fred van Hove gained the most satisfaction playing organ for the services at his local church. /// As legendary as Umberto Eco’s 20,000 volume library was, his expansive collection of 35,000 78s went often unremarked. /// All of the royalties and licensing for “Take Five,” along with the rest of Paul Desmond’s catalog, all goes to the Red Cross. When setting up his estate he couldn’t pick a beneficiary, so as a placeholder he wrote in the Red Cross. He never bothered to update it. /// As a youth in St. Joseph, Missouri, Coleman Hawkins turned down an offer from the Kansas City Monarchs to come out of the bullpen as a long reliever. The break on his curveball routinely buckled the knees of opposing batters. /// Lee Konitz hated working his first name into his song and album titles (“Subconscious-Lee,” “Lone-Lee,” etc). But he thought it was an essential part of his brand identity, so he kept up the practice. /// Albert Ayler became livid any time he heard someone call him Little Bird. /// Marjorie Hyams was an accomplished fly fisher. She spent each vacation in Western Montana catching buckets of brook trout with her hand-tied flies in the Missoula River. /// Babs Gonzales on Norman Granz: “Norman Granz is a waiter and a dog, he fetches me a drink when I tell him. I made up a song about Norman Granz and he won’t be able  to stop that record even if he has got ten million dollars, everyone will be able to hear it. I cracked him over the kneecaps once, broke both his kneecaps with Kenn Clarke’s drum kit when I was working at Birdland because he wouldn’t give me any money.”[18] /// At one concert in 1972, a character named “Recorder Wade” wandered onstage while Don Cherry and his group were performing. “Recorder Wade” promptly took out his flute and joined the group. ///

[1] Downbeat was all set to publish it, but Wynton threatened legal action if they did. Left with a tight production deadline and without Wynton’s test, Downbeat ended up reprinting one of Miles Davis’s legendary tests.

[2] One must assume, then, that Armstrong did indeed, leave it all behind him.

[3] As Coursil told the French magazine Le Jazz Hot: “I mean look at the history of Black music in the marketplace. White folks have been exploiting Black musicians since the first wax cylinder was made, so why should BYG’s contracts be any different? And lets face it, the audience for my music is small, so there is very little to be made anyway. So if you put my contract in the historical and socioeconomic context of Black musicians, my contract—in which I received no payment beyond the advance, most of which went to paying for studio time—is fair insofar as it is exactly in keeping with what every other Black creative musician has ever dealt with.” Interview with Franck Jean-Luc Delacroix, Le Jazz Hot, June 1971, 9.

[4] Before going onstage at the Village Vanguard to record what would be released as Fort Yawuh, Jarrett was unsure whether to bring his soprano or not—he couldn’t find a reed he liked and his chops felt weak. Paul Motian convinced him to play it, telling Jarrett: “Come on Keith, you really shouldn’t give a fuck what anybody thinks about your soprano, it’s happening man.”

[5] Burroughs used the opportunity to write jazz criticism as an exercise in what he called “square writing,” which allowed him to practice a form of writing so narrow in genre, voice, and stylistic conventions that it would allow him to better see and appreciate the possibilities for his fiction.

[6] The code word originated when Max Roach overheard Feather at the piano attempting to get through the changes of “Klactoveedsedstene.” He kept getting tripped up by the bridge, so Roach thought the image of Feather hacking his way through a tune was a fitting symbol.

[7] Unlike Leonard Feather struggling with the bridge to “Klactoveedsedstene,” Jabbar never had a problem getting through the bridge of “Donna Lee.”

[8] A year after that recording date Shepp ran into Getz at a festival, walked up to him and asked “man, why’d you have to record all that Brazilian shit? You know that Impulse! made me record a bunch of Don Sebeski’s sorry-ass arrangements of Gilberto tunes? If it wasn’t for you none of us would have had to make those dates.” To which Getz replied, “I’m really sorry Archie. I had a feeling it was going to start a fad, and I initially told Verve no, but after I made that first one the genie was out of the bottle and every A&R man and producer just had to make a bossa record. And besides, the money was nice.”

[9] It should come as no surprise that the critic’s quintet did not play “Klactoveedsedstene,” or any other Charlie Parker tune for that matter.

[10] In the letters he exchanged with Sarah Vaughan, Basie always kept the singer apprised of his search for the perfect sandwich and never forgot to inquire as to whether Vaughan had found her ideal tuna melt.

[11] As many saxophonists know, one of the defining features of the Chu Berry Conn was the “finger-nail file” pattern on the G# key. While many players like it because it helped keep their left pinky from slipping off the key, Chu Berry couldn’t stand it because it kept him from easily moving back and forth between G# to C#, so he filed it smooth.

[12] Written by Dan Ruccia.

[13] Despite Dodgion’s centrality to the cymbal’s creation, she is not currently credited on the Istanbul Mehmet website for the company’s “Tony Williams Tribute” line of cymbals.

[14] Story told by Paul Motian to the audience in between songs during a performance at the Village Vanguard. August, 2006.

[15] In a letter to Coleman, Ertegun wrote: “Dear Ornette, I hear and understand your frustration that we won’t be able to release more cuts from the This Is Our Music session. First and foremost, Atlantic is a business, and nobody knows better than you the divisiveness of your music, and I have to be careful not to give the critics too many targets. As unfortunate as it is, you’ve become a punching dummy for all things related to free jazz, and even though it might not seem like it, I firmly believe that holding this music back is not only in Atlantic’s best interest in financial terms (you also know better than I that your records rarely earn back their advance), but in your best interest as an artist. I’ve always believed in your music, and that belief will never waver. I’m committed to getting that music out there, and you have to trust me that it will be released; it just can’t appear as a stand-alone album at this time. With love and respect, Nesuhi,” Nesuhi Ertegun to Ornette Coleman, September 15, 1961. While Ertegun’s claims that holding this music back was in Coleman’s “best interest” is questionable at best, true to his word, Atlantic released additional recordings from the This Is Our Music sessions over several subsequent releases.

[16] Mussilli’s parents started calling him Boots after their cat—also named Boots—who he loved so dearly as a toddler.

[17] As John Chilton writes in his biography of Bechet, “Drummer Moustache Galepides was visiting Bechet’s home when he heard Sidney’s voice commanding Elisabeth to bring his soprano saxophone to the toilet. Elisabeth did what she was asked and soon the magic sounds of a new opus drifted out from the tiny, secluded room. Bechet emerged triumphant, explaining that the melody had entered his head at a most unlikely moment. Moustache suggested the work should be called “Petite Fleur” and Bechet delightedly agreed.” John Chilton, Sidney Bechet: The Wizard of Jazz, pg 251.

[18] Don Cherry Organic Music Societies, pg 482

Disc and Sessionography

Armstrong, Louis. Hot Three Recordings. Rec. 1917, unreleased.
Bechet, Sidney. “Petite Fleur / Dans Les rues D’Antibes.” Vogue Pop 45-V 9141. 1959.
Bennink, Hans and Oscar Peterson. Lost recording session, Amsterdam, July, 1969.
Brackeen, Joanne. Fi-Fi Goes to Heaven. Concord Jazz CJ-316. 1987.
Braxton, Anthony. The Complete Arista Recordings of Anthony Braxton. Mosaic Records MD8-242. 2008.
Brotzmann, Peter. Machine Gun. BRÖ 2. 1968. (originally called Taint)
Brubeck, Dave. Brubeck Time. Columbia Records CL 622. 1955.
Coleman, Ornette. This Is Our Music. Atlantic Records SD 1353. 1961.
Coleman, Ornette and Jayne Cortez. Five unreleased ¼” reel to reel home recordings. 1965.
Coltrane, John. Giant Steps. Atlantic Records SD 1311. 1960.
Common. Like Water for Chocolate.
Coursil, Jacques. Black Suite. BYG Actuel 529.349. 1971.
Davis, Miles. Bitches Brew. Columbia Records GP 26. 1970.
Davis, Miles and Jimi Hendrix. Experience Miles. Rec. spring 1969, unreleased.
Gillespie, Dizzy. Swing Low, Sweet Cadillac. Impulse! Records AS-9149. 1967.
Hipp, Jutta. At the Hickory House Volume 1. Blue Note Records BLP 1515. 1956.
_____. At the Hickory House Volume 2. Blue Note Records BLP 1516. 1956.
_____. Jutta Hipp with Zoot Sims. Blue Note Records BLP 1530. 1956.
Ibrahim, Abdullah with Carlos Ward. Live At Sweet Basil Vol. 1. Ekapa E.K. 004. 1983.
Jarrett, Keith. Fort Yawuh. Impulse! AS-9240. 1973.
_____. Nude Ants (Live at the Village Vanguard). ECM Records ECM-2-1171. 1979.
Masada. Live in Jerusalem 1994. Tzadik TZ 7322. 1999.
McCann, Les and Eddie Harris. Swiss Movement. Atlantic Records SD 1537. 1969.
McLean, Jackie. Capuchin Swing. Blue Note BLP 4038. 1960.
McLean, Jackie featuring Dexter Gordon. The Meeting Vol. 1. SteepleChase SCS-1006. 1974.
_____. The Source Vol. 2. SteepleChase SCS-1020. 1974.
Miller, Glen. “Little Brown Jug / Pennsylvania 6-5000.” Brunswick 82 806. 1954.
Morgan, Lee. Sidewinder. Blue Note Records BLP 4157. 1964.
Parker, Charlie. “Klactoveedsedstene,” Dial Records 1040. 1949.
Pepper, Art. Art Pepper Meets the Rhythm Section. Contemporary Records C 3532. 1957.
Scott, Hazel and Art Tatum. Lost four-hand recordings. New York. Rec. 1943.
Shepp, Archie. Shepp Goes Brazilian. Rec. 1967, unreleased.
Williams, Bernie. Moving Forward. Reform Records FRM-61217. 2009.

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